Volume 14, Number 1
Homosexuality in the Church: Should This "Born-a-Gay" Lifestyle Be Baptized?
Non-Biblical Arguments for Homosexuality
1. "To learn the truth about homosexuality, talk to real homosexuals"
For many advocates of gay theology, it is not sufficient to trust the Bible writers as the dependable source of truth on this matter. They argue that in order to "learn the truth about homosexuality," we must update our knowledge by actually listening to homosexuals themselves. This seems to be the point in some recent Adventist publications.
For example, one Adventist mother wrote that after she had spent "years of reading, observing, and eventually talking to people," her homosexual son finally confirmed to her that indeed, "homosexuality is a condition, not a behavior. Whatever may cause a homosexual orientation, it is not something a person chooses." Her son "told us that from his earliest memories he knew he was `different.'" She also reported learning that God may change a person's sexual orientation only "on rare occasions," and that one can be a homosexual and be "deeply spiritual."4
A Princeton Theological Seminary professor of Old Testament Language and Literature, an ordained elder in the Presbyterian Church (USA), best articulated why we supposedly need to go to homosexuals themselves to learn the truth about homosexuality: "I used to believe that homosexual acts are always wrong. Listening to gay and lesbian students and friends, however, I have had to rethink my position and reread the scriptures. . . . I have no choice but to take the testimonies of gays and lesbians seriously. I do so with some comfort, however, for the scriptures themselves give me the warrant to trust that human beings can know truths apart from divine revelation."5
We must offer a sympathetic ear to the pains and genuine struggles of homosexuals. But Bible-believing Adventists need to ask whether the testimonies and claims of homosexuals are an adequate basis to learn the truth about homosexuality. Are homosexuals, by virtue of their experience, more qualified than the Bible writers to speak on homosexuality? The inspired writers of the Bible served as dependable spokespersons for the Creator of human sexuality. Is the attempt to justify homosexuality on the grounds of personal experience or empirical studies, rather than biblical revelation, a legitimate starting point for any investigation regarding sexual morality? Are the testimonies and claims of homosexuals necessarily true?
We are dealing with the fundamental question of how to know truth, a study philosophers call epistemology. I will restate my response: Does one really have to be a homosexual in order fully to understand the truth about homosexuality? Must we experience a particular kind of sinful tendency in order to understand that sinful reality? Even if we assume that homosexual orientation is part of a person's constitutional make up (just as a person's color or gender is), can true knowledge about that condition only be accurately obtained by persons with that kind of sexual identity? If so, does this mean, for example, that one has to be black, African, and a woman in order to fully understand and accurately address the pains of people in that category? By analogy, could Jesus, a single Jewish male, have understood the experience of, say, Maria, a single-parent Hispanic woman?
2. "People Are Born Homosexual"
When advocates of pro-gay theology assert that people are born gay, they actually go beyond the generally accepted view that genetics and environmental factors influence a person's behavior. They suggest that homosexuality is largely caused by a person's genes. They cite "scientific studies" which allegedly offer conclusive proof that people are born gay.
First, although future studies may one day bear this out, the research findings often cited as evidence of the "born a gay" condition are, at best, inconclusive and are questionable at worst.6 I am not suggesting that genetics has no influence toward a homosexual predisposition. I contend simply that the studies often cited for the claim that "people are born gay" are not as conclusive as proponents would have us believe.
Second, even if one could prove that homosexuality originates in the genes, the hormones, or the environment, would this make homosexuality morally legitimate? Does being "born" alcoholic, pedophiliac, or gay make alcoholism, pedophilia, or homosexuality right? It seems that "the studies" are put forth to imply that homosexuality is not a sin to be repented of, but a mark of one's identity to be celebrated.
Third, the studies are flawed because they are based on the deterministic philosophy of behaviorism. In such a view, people have practically no choice in their moral actions and therefore may not be held morally accountable for their actions. Human behavior, according to behaviorism, is largely predetermined by one's environment and genetic code. But behaviorism or biological determinism is incompatible with the Bible's view of man. Human beings are created in the image of God and endowed with freedom of choice. We cannot reconcile a belief in behaviorism's naturalistic philosophy with the biblical doctrine that we are accountable to God for our conduct (the doctrine of judgment). Furthermore, this "I did not choose, I cannot change" philosophy raises serious questions about Christ's power to help us "overcome all hereditary and cultivated tendencies to evil" (The Desire of Ages, p. 671; cf. The Ministry of Healing, pp. 175, 176).
3. "Homosexual Orientation Is Natural or Normal"
Based on the debatable assumption that homosexuality is inborn, that is, of genetic origin, advocates argue that we should accept homosexuality as a natural or normal human condition.
Leaving aside the important issues of the manner in which the scientific "research" is conducted and the kind of interpretation given to the research "findings,"7 even proving that homosexual orientation is inborn will not make homosexuality normal or desirable. Many defects or handicaps today are inborn, but hardly anyone would call them normal on the basis of that reason alone. Why should homosexuality be considered natural or normal, even if it might be inborn?
When we say that something is natural, we refer to what happens repeatedly in the world of nature; we do not assign moral judgment to it. For example, spiders kill and eat other spiders, including their mates. "But as a moral category natural refers to something that is in accord with God's intention. Actions are good or bad: for example, people sometimes kill and eat other people. But the fact that cannibalism happens in the world--perhaps in satisfaction of deeply held religious beliefs or peculiar culinary tastes--does not make it natural in the sense that it conforms to God's will. In summary: that which is natural to human experience or human desire is not necessarily natural in God's moral design."8
4. "Homosexual Orientation Is God-given"
Many homosexuals claim that since childhood they have always had homosexual feelings. Hence, they say, their "natural" homosexual tendencies are from God.
Scripture nowhere suggests that if a thing seems natural it is inevitably God-given. On the contrary, the Bible teaches that many "natural" states and desires are not of God and are contrary to His will.
For example, "The natural man does not receive the things of God" (1 Cor 2:14). Before conversion, we "were by nature the children of wrath" (Eph 2:3). "The carnal mind is enmity against God, for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be" (Rom 8:7). Scripture teaches that we are a fallen race, born in sin: "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity" (Ps 51:5; cf. Jer 17:9; Rom 5:12). Sin has marred our physical and spiritual natures (1 Cor 15:1-54; Jn 3:5, 6). We cannot therefore assume that because something is natural or inborn, it must be God-ordained.
5. "Homosexual Orientation Is Morally Neutral"
From the assumption that people are born gay, proponents argue that we should view homosexuality as a neutral expression of human sexuality. Like heterosexuality, they claim, homosexuality can be rightly used or abused. The abuse is wrong. But, they argue, homosexuality within a loving, consensual, and monogamous relationship is morally right.
Just because homosexuality may be natural or inborn (an unproven assertion), is it morally neutral or legitimate? If we could demonstrate conclusively that adultery, incest, pedophilia, violence, and lying are inherited, would we be justified in considering them legitimate or neutral? Should the standard for morality be determined by what is inborn?
Contrary to this teaching of the "born a gay" gospel, the Bible teaches that homosexuality is immoral. Like other sexual deviations, any such practice or lust outside the context of a loving, consensual, monogamous, heterosexual marriage is an abomination (Lev 18), whether that practice or "orientation" is inborn or acquired. "And immoral behavior cannot be legitimized by a quick baptism in the gene pool."9
Morality is not determined by what is, even if inborn. The Ten Commandments and God's pre-fall order provide the moral guidelines for whether homosexuality is moral and immoral. The leap from what is (alleged "facts" of the homosexual condition) to what ought to be (the morality of homosexuality) is too large for us to make.
6. "Changing the Homosexual Orientation Is Difficult and Rare"
Proponents claim that because homosexuality is an inbred condition, the homosexual has no (or very little) prospect of ever changing. And since there is no possibility for the homosexual to change, any changes must come from the institutions of society, including education, law, and religion.
The oft-repeated claim that "changing one's homosexual orientation is difficult and rare" almost suggests that it is impossible to change one's sinful tendencies.10 This may indeed be the case if transformation is a human work. But if God performs this operation, as Scripture and Ellen G. White teach, then changing a person's sinful orientation is not "difficult and rare."
Even if we suppose that it is "difficult and rare" to change the homosexual condition and that no amount of prayer, counseling, and effort of any kind can make a homosexual easily change his orientation, do the "difficulty and rarity" of change make homosexuality less sinful? Definitely not. The statement of one former homosexual is worth quoting: "There is no contingency factor in any scriptural reference to any kind of sin, in either the Old or the New Testament. We never read anything like: `Thou shalt not do thus and so! (Unless, of course, you tried hard to change, went for prayer and counseling, and found you just couldn't stop wanting to do thus and so. If that's the case, then thus and so is no longer sin. It's an inborn, immutable gift and you can [feel free to] indulge in it!)'"11
Second, the "it's difficult and rare to change" doctrine, if accepted, leads to a "once a sinner, always a sinner" doctrine. Since I will deal with this argument in the next section, here I will simply mention that this cardinal pillar in the "born a gay" doctrine challenges Christianity's "born again" promise. It implies that even after conversion, an addict to drugs or alcohol, or a habitual or compulsive liar, or a sexual pervert will always remain as they were. But thousands of miraculous conversions and transformed lives in our day negate this pro-gay argument that changing one's sinful orientation is "difficult and rare."
7. "Once a Homosexual, (Almost) Always a Homosexual"
This is where the logic of biological predestination eventually leads: People are born gay; it's difficult and rare to change their condition; therefore, they will always remain gay. If anyone has to change, it must be the institutions of society and the church, not the homosexual. The laws of society and the Bible must change to accommodate the homosexual who, once gay, will always be gay.
Perhaps the most important question the issue of homosexuality raises is whether Christ has power to help people overcome sin in their lives. This is of course an important question if homosexuality is sin. It forces us to answer the question whether the transforming power of God is more effective than the impotent power of psychological therapy.12 The testimony of Scripture exposes the lie that "once a homosexual, always a homosexual." Homosexuals can be, and actually have been, changed through the transforming power of Christ.
Writes the apostle Paul: "Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were [past tense]. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of God" (1 Cor 6:9-11 NIV, emphasis mine).
Similarly, Ellen G. White stated unequivocally that "a genuine conversion changes hereditary and cultivated tendencies to wrong" (Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, 6:1101). Indeed, "Those who put their trust in Christ are not to be enslaved by any hereditary and cultivated habit or tendency. Instead of being held in bondage to the lower nature, they are to rule every appetite and passion. God has not left us to battle with evil in our own finite strength. Whatever may be our inherited or cultivated tendencies to wrong, we can overcome through the power that He is ready to impart" (The Ministry of Healing, pp. 175, 176). Again, "Christ has given His Spirit as a divine power to overcome all hereditary and cultivated tendencies to evil, and to impress His own character upon His church" (The Desire of Ages, p. 671).
8. "There's a Difference Between Being a Homosexual and Practicing Homosexuality"
Discussions on homosexuality often define it in two ways: (a) homosexual orientation, inclination, or tendency--an inborn sexual attraction, predisposition, or desire toward a member of one's own sex, and (b) homosexual behavior or practice--an erotic activity with a member of one's own sex, whether one judges such activity to be morally right or not.13
On the basis of this distinction, some writers argue that homosexual orientation or condition (also referred to as "ontological" or "constitutional" homosexuality or "inversion") is a permanent and unchangeable part of the individual's constitutional make up. It is like the color of a person's skin--a non-behavioral trait, morally neutral, and a condition from which no one can change. On the other hand, they argue, we must judge homosexual practice or activity according to morally acceptable norms. "Being a homosexual is not sin," they claim, but "homosexual sexual activity is sinful--it is apart from God's will."14
Many have embraced this argument uncritically. But the argument is meaningless, if not misleading and erroneous. Is homosexuality something that you are (like being black, elderly, handicapped, or female), or is it something sinful you do, cherish, or lust for (like adultery, incest, or lying)? This question goes to the heart of the pro-homosexual claim that "there is a difference between being a homosexual and practicing homosexuality."
Let's think a little more carefully: Can a person really be a homosexual without practicing homosexuality?
The fallacy of the above statement becomes obvious when we change the sin of homosexuality to that of adultery or polygamy. The statement will then read: "There is a difference between being an adulterer and practicing adultery"! "There's a difference between being a polygamist and practicing polygamy"! These statements are meaningless. An adulterer is a person who practices adultery; a polygamist is one who practices polygamy; and a homosexual is one who practices homosexuality!
But more than this, the argument that makes a difference between being a homosexual and practicing homosexuality is also a subtle error. Though few realize it, this pro-gay argument elevates the sin of homosexuality to a morally-neutral mark of a person's identity. Rather than distinguishing between being a homosexual and practicing homosexuality, it is more theologically sound to distinguish between the temptation to act upon one's sinful homosexual tendency (being tempted itself is not wrong) and actually choosing to cherish and act upon that temptation (a wrongful choice). If allowed to stand unchallenged, the distinction made by pro-gay advocates between "being homosexual" and "practicing homosexuality" would raise a number of theological and ethical questions.
First, the Bible writers do not adopt today's distinction between homosexual orientation (condition) and homosexual practice (behavior)--between inversion (constitutional homosexuality) and perversion (the abuse of homosexuality). Biblically, such a dichotomy is a questionable rending of actions from attitudes. For how can the practice of homosexuality be wrong, and yet the cherished inclination toward or the longing for that action be neutral? Jesus dismissed this argument when he stated that the sin of adultery includes lusting in the heart after a woman (Matt 5:27, 28; cf. 1 Jn 3:15). Obviously, a person with an orientation or strong desire toward a sinful act needs as much help to overcome that inclination as the individual who has already acted upon that sinful desire--whether it be lying, stealing, adultery, or killing, etc.
Second, homosexuality is no more inborn than adultery, polygamy, bisexuality, or bestiality. They are all distortions of human inclinations and sexuality. If homosexual orientation excuses the sin of homosexual desires, does it not imply that other sinful orientations (such as compulsive lying, compulsive adultery, compulsive racism, compulsive stealing, compulsive disobedience to authority, etc.) should all be excused as irreversible sinful conditions? Wherein, then, lies the power of God's transforming grace?
Third, we are all born morally corrupt, with weaknesses and tendencies to evil (Ps 51:5; 143:2; cf. 14:3; 1 Kgs 8:46; Prov 20:9; Rom 3:23; 7:14-24; 1 Jn 1:8). But does the universal human sinfulness mean that our sinful tendencies or propensities are morally neutral, and therefore, not something to be repented of or overcome by the power of Christ (Rom 7:25; 8:1; Eph 2:1-10; Jn 1:13; 3:5; 2 Cor 5:17)? Because we are all morally corrupt, provision has been offered for rebirth ("Ye must be born again" [Jn 3:5]). This spiritual rebirth is an actual rebirth at the moral level. When homosexuals (or adulterers) are born again, they cease to be homosexuals (or adulterers; see 1 Cor 6:9, 10). They may be tempted by those sins; but unless they cherish, yield, or act upon them, they cannot legitimately wear those sins as badges of identity (Jas 1:12-15)! "If anyone be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new" (2 Cor 5:17).
9. "God Does Not Want Homosexuals to Give Up 'Who They Are'"
Based on the assumption that people are born gay, and on the basis of texts like Psalm 139:13 ("For you created my inmost parts") and Psalm 100:3 ("It is he that hath made us and not we ourselves"), pro-gay advocates maintain that people's homosexual orientation or condition is part of their identity, defining who they are as sexual human beings. Consequently, they argue, "Since God made me the way I am, and since I have had my orientation from my earliest memories, why shouldn't I express my God-given sexuality? Why would God ask me to change something which He Himself has given me?"15
The truth is, God wants every one of us, including homosexuals, to give up something we have had all our lives--our selves, our sinful selves. The Bible condemns all forms of self-love or self-indulgence as expressions of idolatry and presents self-denial as the hallmark of Christian discipleship (Lk 14:26, 27; cf. Rev 12:11). The only way really to find one's self is by losing it (Mk 8:34-37). We cannot change ourselves; but Christ can change us if we truly want to be changed from our besetting sexual tendencies.