Monday, December 11, 2006

Homosexuality, Creation, and the Fall: A Response to The New York Times

The New York Times has run an article called "Gay and Evangelical: Seeking Paths of Acceptance," which cites several examples of men and women who purport to hold orthodox beliefs about the Bible and who love Jesus, but who believe that God made them homosexuals. Thus, they want to be evangelical and practice homosexuality. This fits the postmodern proclivity to mix and match beliefs and behaviors apart from any received moral or theological tradition. But two deep theological concepts are missing from the article: creation and fall. (Leave it to The Times to omit the essential when covering religion.)

The Times gives heart-wrenching accounts of people who beg God to take away their sexual attraction to the same sex, who do not change, and who then end up believing that God made them homosexual. This is false. Genesis chapter two teaches and Jesus reaffirms (Matthew 19:4-6) that sexual intimacy is reserved for heterosexual monogamy. This is the God-ordained pattern, the definitive norm, for life-long, sexually involved coupling. Homosexual desires and actions stem from the fall of humanity into sin, wherein the human person is radically disoriented and fragmented (Genesis 3; Romans 3). These categories of creation and fall are clearly discerned in Paul's discussion of the pattern of sin in Romans chapter one.

But what of the woman or man who confesses Christ and still has homosexual desires, even after asking God for healing? First, solitary pleading, however earnest, may not be sufficient for change. Various programs and support groups exist for the purpose of helping those tempted by homosexuality to find sexual restoration. Exodus Global Alliance is one such group. Second, even if protracted efforts fail to change one's sexual desires from homosexual to heterosexual, biblical morality does not allow for the physical expression of these desires, since all homosexual activity is forbidden in Scripture. The Bible never depicts any homosexual inclinations or behaviors as godly. (In fact, illicit sexual thoughts are harmful as well; see Matthew 5:27-30). Here again, the doctrine of the fall gives us wisdom. God may wonderfully deliver people from homosexual inclinations at conversion or quickly after. I once met with a man who told me he was delivered from a lifetime of homosexual desires in an instant by God's power. Nevertheless, we must remember that it is a very fallen, broken, and bent world (see Roman 8:18-26). Those justified by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone (Ephesians 2:8), still struggle with various kinds of sins (1 John 1:8-10). A homosexual may never completely leave that sinful tendency behind until he or she meets the Lord face to face. Nevertheless, a Christ-follower must resist acting out those desires or dwelling on them. That means that a Christian who is sexually injured in this way must be celibate. Since Christ calls us to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow him (Luke 9:23), denying a strong inner urge is intrinsic Christian discipleship. Of course, we also seek to have our desires transformed so that we can enjoy God and God’s creation as they should be enjoyed.

Yes, it is quite a sacrifice for one to never be able to act on one's sexual desires. But the ultimate question is not one's sexual desires or one's honesty, but whether Christ is truly Lord. Since the creation is now fallen, Jesus Christ came as its divine Redeemer. If he is Lord, then no practicing homosexual (who unrepentantly insists on homosexual expression as a divine right) can authentically claim to follow the Jesus Christ of Holy Scripture. Jesus may redeem homosexuals from their inclinations in this life or help them cope with unhealed homosexual proclivities. Christ can redeem the homosexual! But if he does, that person will seek divine deliverance and will submit to biblical teaching. “You will know them by their fruits” (see Matthew 7:15-23). But Christ does not and cannot redeem homosexuality itself, since it is rooted in the fall, not in creation.

5 comments:

Caleb W said...

I think it's very important to carefully distinguish between orientation, behaviour and identity. The tendency in our culture is to conflate these together. So when Christians object to the practice of homosexuality, it is seen as an attack on the identity of homosexuals and an attack on their sexual orientation which they did not choose.

I don't think we should be glib about orientation change. A friend of mine who is both an evangelical Christian and is homosexual in orientation, who works for True Freedom Trust, is pretty convinced that actually completely changing someone's sexuality is well-nigh impossible barring a genuine miracle from God. God can work miracles, of course, but we shouldn't presume to say that he will change people's orientations - that's up to him, and most of the time it doesn't happen. This seems to me to be in line with scientific and psychological studies.

The important thing is to explain to people that our orientation needn't define our behaviour and your identity: you can't choose your nature, but you can choose what you do with it and about it. As damaged as all of us are by sin, we still have the ability to choose.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Hey Caleb,

I think I agree with the general point you make, however, I'm not sure that you can go so far as to say that attacking a practice is not an attack on an identity. Oftentimes practice = identity.

Imagine if someone were to tell you that they thought your practice as a Christian was offensive, but they embraced your idetity as a Christian. But Scripture clearly fuses practice, faith, and identity in Christ together. We cannot claim to be Christ-followers and yet deny Christ in practice.

So, while I agree with you that people need to choose, regardless of nature I also want us to be real about what we are saying here. By attacking a practice we are also attacking the core identity of a homosexual. I think we need to understand this at the outset. It is a very threatening gesture, in most cases.

Fletcher said...

For those of you who are interested, there is a blog called "Debunking Christianity" located here:

http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/

Need I comment on its' content or purpose?


There are two recent conversations about this same topic, but from an entirely different perspective, as one can imagine. Here is one of them:

http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2006/12/homosexuality-and-christian.html

Jonathan Erdman said...

I used to drop comments over there.

Be warned: There are a lot of knuckleheads posting over there! Not all of them, of course, but there are several who are about as sharp as a spoon....

Tim said...

Jonathan,

I've read some of Loftus's stuff. It's really sad to see someone persuaded that he's come over to the side of reason when his own blogging and his book reveal that he's pretty much clueless historically and philosophically. It's also a sad and puzzling commentary on what our seminaries are (not) doing. Obviously there's a serious problem when someone can study apologetics at the graduate level at a respected school and come away with as sophomoric a view of the whole enterprise as Loftus has.