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Humanity, Desire, and the Church

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.       

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9 Comments

  1. Ralph & Rochelle Lillig says:

    A brilliant answer to the ‘modernist’ church leaders and those whom they deceive. Scholarly and well presented. This piece puts the humanity back in the God ordained nature of man, rebuilding, so to speak, the image of God in man.

    • Rosanna Andersen says:

      Very good analysis. I have been pondering on many of these same issues. First, when a good christian tells me God made them (homosexuals, etc.) that way, I go back to Genesis where it says God created them male and female (I didn’t see anything about homosexual, transgender, bisexual, or any of the rest). I am aware that for many years this Humanist promoted idea has been introduced in the schools and through modern practice of psychology ($$) at a time when children are most vulnerable, feeling somehow “different” or being convinced because they have more affinity with those of their own gender (normal especially during the “I hate girls/boys” but I really love my friend of the same sex, period). The recruitment is not unlike recruiting into gangs. There is a need to feel accepted and belonging. Usually it begins with “I feel different, and think I might be gay”. From there comes the affirmation with stating “I am homosexual”.

      Regarding behavior…well, again, Humanism 101 teaches there is no God, or he is irrelevent, therefore there is not sin..do what feels good. The roots of what is wrong in our society.

      The “too great to hate” seems to flow only one way when you see the hateful rhetoric toward our Mayor for voting against them, and declining from making the ordinance a criminal violation. I also recall in CA when Proposition 8 became a hot issue, the proponents of “Gay” marriage began hateful vandalizing of homes with yard signs. It also became necessary to have armed guards around the LA temple to protect the patrons and property.

      Keep up the good fight…we are right there with you.

      Rosanna

      • Thank you for your feedback Rosanna. The creation account is indeed important for this discussion, especially since Christ himself refers back to it when discussing marriage (Matthew 19:4). It is fallacious to assume that after the fall of humanity all of our desires are inherently good and worth pursuing and acting upon. The article by Jonathan Leemen points out that children think it is good to act on every natural impulse, but adults should thankfully know better. But our culture as a whole values perpetual adolescence, so confusion on this should not be a surprise.

        Of course I must also hasten to say that speaking the truth on these issues is out of love, not vindictiveness. If we truly love our neighbor, we speak the truth. To simply go along with the program because it seems “inevitable” or for the sake of progress for progress’ sake, without considering the moral and societal consequences is what is truly hateful.

  2. greeklogic says:

    Hitchcock’s article to which you are responding begins with a self-refuting premise: ‘It is also increasingly a matter of general awareness that scientific research has established that being gay is the result of biological causes…[but]…a complete and comprehensive biological explanation has not yet been achieved’

    His answer lies in the question he’s asking: Why are people against homosexuality when science has, in the opinion of many, proven it is gene-driven?

    Since he is unable to recognize the answer to his question he begins his ad hominem rebuttal: Those who think homosexuality is a sin have a diagnosable personality disorder, i.e. ‘homophobia’.

    Once he has undermined the character of his ‘opponents’ it is only a short hop, skit, and jump to assert that the ‘gay community’ is being treated as less than human: He compares the ‘gay community’ to Native Americans, African Americans, the disabled, women, etc., saying ‘…it was simply because we didn’t believe they deserved to enjoy the same civil and political rights as the rest of us’ (i.e. they were treated as less than human).

    This assertion is really the only thing we can assess in his argument, and yet even in this assertion he doesn’t use examples that fit his conceptual signified. He compares the ‘gay community’ to groups which were treated as less than humans (i.e. sold as slaves; rounded up like animals). However, what he means is that the ‘gay community’ should have the right to live however they want. He points to the rights of human equality while fighting for the privilege of social equality.

    His assertion is flawed. The only right that we have as citizens of the United States is to be treated like human beings. Almost everything else is a privilege: marriage, employment, education, health care, etc. To equate the humanity one deserves with the privileges one is allowed is to equate apples to duckbill platypuses.

    When a person is treated as less than human then those responsible should be brought to justice according to our nation’s laws which already protect a person’s humanity. But to claim that someone is treating you as less than human because you didn’t get the job you wanted or because you can’t live wherever you want to live? That is not being honest about what it means to be a human being.

    – Macellarius Sus

    • “But to claim that someone is treating you as less than human because you didn’t get the job you wanted or because you can’t live wherever you want to live? That is not being honest about what it means to be a human being.”

      He who has hears, let him hear. The difference between a right and a privilege is something that is never discussed, but needs to be brought to the forefront. Because if all of the things you describe are “rights,” then the list truly never ends, or is perhaps beholden to whatever is popular. But a “natural right” out of the Christian tradition and perhaps the early modern tradition, is supposed to be timeless and self-evident based on our humanity. Making privileges “rights” waters true natural rights down, and actually opens the door to true natural rights being analyzed in the same arbitrary manner.

    • The original article also seems to make the typical “democratic” assertion that since a majority believe that something is true, it therefore means that it is true, and makes good policy. Majority votes and court cases do not decide truth, truth is truth, which of course emanates from THE truth, the blessed Triune God. Those who argue that we should simply go along with it because of popular opinion or selective types of research probably do not realize the dangerous and subjective nature of such argumentation. It is better to be in the minority and right, than in the majority and liked.

      Good point also on another category error being made, that human equality and social equality are considered the same thing when they are not. Even the term “discrimination” is being branded about as if it is always a negative word, when in fact the “spirit of discrimination” was considered a great virtue from the Ancient Greco-Roman world to the Desert Fathers to the Medieval era. Of course this also opens up the idea of virtuous living, and the state’s role in encouraging such virtue, but that’s another topic…

  3. Doug Hayes says:

    did the newspaper print?

    ________________________________

    • I believe a more concise version will be published in the near future…I was asked to reduce it a bit. So unless something strange happens, it should be in the paper shortly.

  4. […] Related Post: Humanity, Desire, and the Church […]

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