First, the statement of the Heidelberg Catechism:
Question 87. Cannot they then be saved, who, continuing in their wicked and ungrateful lives, are not converted to God?
Answer. By no means; for the holy Scripture declares that no unchaste person, idolater, adulterer, thief, covetous man, drunkard, slanderer, robber, or any such like shall inherit the kingdom of God.
In modern translation (by the PCUSA)-
Question 87: Can those who do not turn to God from their ungrateful, impenitent life be saved?
Answer: Certainly not! Scripture says, “Surely you know that the unjust will never come into possession of the kingdom of God. Make no mistake: no fornicator or idolater, none who are guilty either of adultery or of homosexual perversion, no thieves or grabbers or drunkards or slanderers or swindlers, will possess the kingdom of God.”
This translation has taken a lot of heat from various corners of the PCUSA- but the fact remains, it is in truth an absolutely accurate ‘dynamic equivalent’ of the underlying German wording. It isn’t, to be fair, a strictly literal translation, but again, it is absolutely on the mark as a dynamic equivalent.
There are a number of reasons why the text should be understood in that light- all of which are superbly described in the very best (and utterly fair and balanced, in truth and not in the ‘Fox News-ian’ sense) treatment of the subject of the 16th century’s attitude towards ‘sodomy’, Sodomy in Reformation Germany and Switzerland, 1400-1600, by Helmut Puff. It is essential reading.
The EXPOSITION of Ursinus, the author of the Catechism, asserts, accordingly,
This Question naturally grows out of the preceding one; for since good works are the fruits of our regeneration—since they are the expression of our thankfulness to God, and the evidences of true faith; and since none are saved but those in whom these things are found; it follows, on the other hand, that evil works are the fruits of the flesh—that they are manifestations of ingratitude, and evidences of unbelief, so that no one that continues to produce them can be saved.
Hence, all those who are not converted to God from their evil works, but continue in their sins, are condemned for ever, according to the following declarations of the word of God: “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? be not deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, &c., shall inherit the kingdom of God.” “Of the which I have told you in times past that they which do such things, shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” “For this ye know; that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God; for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.” “He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.” (1 Cor. 6:9. Gal. 5:21. Eph. 5:5, 6. 1 John 3:14.)
We may also observe, that another reason for good works may be deduced from the consequence which results from evil works; viz., that all those who perform evil works, and continue in their wicked and ungrateful lives, cannot be saved, inasmuch as they are destitute of true faith, and conversion.
Ursinus’ use of the these-days-supercharged-term ‘effeminate’ encapsulates the 16th century’s view as well as demonstrating its hesitancy to come right out and talk about a subject which it found so utterly lamentable.
I have posted previously on this topic, at the outbreak of the discussion brought on by Prop 8. Back then I was asked about the Reformers views of homosexuality. Here is my response: