In a recent column that appeared in the Idaho State Journal (found here: “Hard Times for the Homophobic:”, 5-19-13), a caricature of the Christian worldview on human sexuality was created, in which modern popular opinion based on selective types of scientific research is supposed to be discrediting what has always been taught regarding the nature of humanity and human relationships. Somehow, holding to a traditional view of human sexuality inherently equates to a psychological disorder, with those who disagree having an irrational fear/anxiety disorder (“phobia”). This betrays a certain type of faith in naturalistic thought, in which those who hold to the traditional classic Judeo-Christian worldview have to be explained away in “scientific” language, and labeled as mentally sick. In addition, the universal church and its teachings are supposed to have been “confounded” by these new developments, in which biology somehow proves that God is the author of desires that He condemns. This requires a response.
First, something that is often ignored in these sorts of discussions is that the concept of “orientation” is inherently one of desire and resultant actions. Theologian Jonathan Leeman (“Love and the Inhumanity”) notes that this means it is subject to moral evaluation, something that is not true of something like ethnicity. To somehow claim that a biological factor automatically means that race and orientation are equivalent is a category error, since actions of desire are not the same as one’s natural physical appearance. So even if it is granted that biological factors are primary (of which there is still significant debate, in spite of what might be popularly portrayed), there is a fundamental difference between acting on every desire that feels natural, and what organs one may have been given. This is why it is perfectly legitimate for the church to make a distinction between a desire and acting on a desire, and it is not a “phobia” to believe that certain actions are not morally acceptable. The heart of the issue however is not finer points of biology or philosophy, but rather confusion on what the Scripture and the church teaches in regards to the nature of humanity, sin, and God’s salvation.
The most significant part of the problem is a misunderstanding of the nature of humanity’s condition, and the underlying assumption that all “natural desires” are inherently good, divinely ordained, and should therefore be acted upon. Instead, Christianity recognizes what is often called the “fall” of humanity, in which the original innocent, good, and blessed condition of mankind in which there was perfect fellowship with God, was lost because of disobedience and rebellion against God (called original sin, see Genesis 3). This sin nature, which sets us against God and inclines us “naturally” to do the selfish and wrong thing, means that we are unable to save ourselves or to restore our relationship with our creator. This means that while God certainly gave humanity certain desires, needs, and wants, these have become disordered, so that even what seem to be positive human experiences such as love, hope, faith, and the like, can be improperly acted upon, misplaced, and vehicles for rebellion against God’s will and created order. In fact, what seem to be “natural desires” can be in fact unnatural, since they repudiate God’s law and original intent for humanity. This has been recognized by Christians from the Apostles to Chesterton, who noted that this doctrine is the most easily proven empirically, since all one has to do is look at the world and how every person has experienced some form of profound brokenness (Chesterton, Orthodoxy). One does not have to teach a child to be selfish, and even good deeds are often the result of selfish motives. While perhaps not the therapeutic moralism that many crave, the Christian worldview is at least honest about the human condition.
In classic Christianity across the different traditions, it has also been noted that “all creation groans and struggles” (Rom. 8:22) because of this fall and separation from God. This would include the human genome. With this in mind, the orthodox Christian worldview would not be shocked in the least to find that there are genetic or hormonal factors that lead people to sinful behavior. If anything, we should expect it! Finding genetic defects proves exactly that, we have genetic defects. But rather than reduce humans to the sum of their genes and the resultant desires, implying that you might as well embrace this as “who you are,” the Christian worldview has a much higher view of humanity. Since humans are created in the Image of God, and are the pinnacle of creation, even fallen humanity is much more than just another animal reduced to one’s instincts and inclinations. Instead, the great God of the universe took on human nature to restore the Image of God that was corrupted by the fall and to endure the punishment for our sins in the person of Jesus Christ. God did (and does) not leave us to simply wallow in our own muck as if this is part of his created order and design, which is what people who say “God made me this way” or “my genes made me do it“ are saying. God instead says that even though that both by nature and by choice (not either/or, but both ) we are rightly called sinners who are and act in opposition to God’s will, in His love and His mercy there is a way to still be saved. Those who reduce the gospel to some sort of social justice program are missing out and how great and powerful God’s message is!
In 1 Corinthians 6:9-13, the Apostle Paul lists many different behavioral sins that will cause one not to inherit the Kingdom of God. This list includes idolaters, thieves, drunks, swindlers, slanderers, adulterers, and yes, both the “passive” and “active” participants in a homosexual relationship. Every person in the world that reads this can say “guilty as charged” for at least one, if not multiple sins that are listed here. Yet the gospel is very much present in that Paul mentions “and such were some of you, but you have been washed, you were sanctified etc…” Notice the past tense here. The modernistic and deterministic “gospel” would have us say something like “and such are some of you, since you were made that way.” What a depressing message, and what a grave misunderstanding of the nature of God and the nature of humanity. Christ transforms lives. He meets us and heals us and says “Go and sin no more,” not “Go and keep sinning because I made you that way.” Thanks be to God that He both accomplishes more and expects more of us, than whatever some sort of naturalistic determinism would have us believe.
Aaron Hayes has a Master’s degree in Theology and teaches Church History and Apologetics in Pocatello. He is the author of the “Apologia and the Occident” blog at hayesworldview.wordpress.com, and can be reached there.