A Biblical Teleological Argument for Identity, Sex, and Sexuality, Part 4

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Inherent Design View (Design Theology)

When we read culture through the lens of the Bible, rather than the Bible through the lens of culture, we often find clarity. Genesis 19 (when coupled with Jude 7) and Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 are all strongly negative toward same-sex activity. With forcefulness the Mosaic Law prohibits homosexual activity, however, in a literal grammatical-historical handling of Scriptures pertaining to the Mosaic Law, we must conclude that this was a conditional covenant exclusively for Israel, and that it was completely fulfilled in Christ, and now it serves the purpose as a tutor leading people to Christ.41 The Christian is not under the Mosaic Law in any way—not for justification, and not for sanctification. Further, the Mosaic Law is not ethically applicable to the church beyond the purpose spelled out expressly in Scripture.

Consequently, it is evident that God can change (or fulfill) His legislation, and His use of that ability creates no friction for the literal grammatical-historical understanding, as God is clearly presented as Sovereign over all His creation. Thus, His authority is over law—law does not emanate from His character, it emanates from Him, when He chooses to give it. In this understanding there is no theological need for the threefold division of the Law, and since there is no exegetical warrant for inferring such a division, this approach is not guilty of eisegesis in this regard. Further, there is only one ethical standard for the Christian, and it is not the Mosaic Law (though it is referenced in that Law42), it is the holiness of God.43 In light of God’s holiness there are two distinct sets of ethical applications—one set for unbelievers (respect the sanctity of life44 and believe in Christ),45 and one set for believers (essentially, be holy). Unbelievers are not called to live holy lives according God’s design—they are called to believe in their Creator, and then to walk in holiness. This concept helps us understand how 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10 are vitally connected to the design issue.

In 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10 are found characterizations that arsenokoitai are unrighteous and contrary to sound teaching, and as such, will not inherit the kingdom of God. The solution is also identified in 1 Corinthians 6:10—be washed, sanctified, justified. Neither passage is teaching that homosexuality (or any other sin) is unforgiveable, on the contrary, some of the Corinthian believers were involved in exactly that, and yet they were redeemed. The implication is not that if one engages in any of these acts they will lose access to the Kingdom, rather the characterization is of the unrighteous (by nature) who express their unrighteousness in these particular symptomatic ways. The challenge in both of these passages is for believers not to live in the contrary absurdity as if they are positionally and by nature unrighteous, doing the deeds of unrighteousness—why should one who is redeemed and empowered by the Holy Spirit live like someone who will not inherit the Kingdom? That would be as illogical as not presenting our bodies a living and holy sacrifice—because that is our logical service of worship.

Both of these passages are clear enough in describing homosexuality (along with lists of other activities) as displeasing to God. And if all we had were Genesis 19, Leviticus 18:22, 20:13, 1 Corinthians 6:9, and 1 Timothy 1:10, those passages alone would provide an incredible weight of clarity regarding the wrongness of homosexual activity. But when we examine the teleological component that God reveals in Scripture, especially in light of the culminating pericope of Romans 1, we can draw no other conclusion than homosexuality is a violation of God’s created order,46 and that is why it is presented so negatively in the other passages.

Six Teleological Elements

As we consider God’s design for humanity, six aspects are evident.

First is the Design Question—In Genesis 1:27 we read that God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male (zaqar) and female (negebah) He created them. But why did He create two sexes, male and female? He could have done anything He wished, and yet it was His plan to create male and female. The simple answer is that there is no answer given in Scripture, so we leave it to the Designer to maintain His trade secrets. He has the authority to have chosen the design He did.

Second, we consider the Design Deficiency. God built into His creation an inherent deficiency. The first time in history we see anything referred to as not good, it is God’s observation of Adam’s aloneness. Adam did not have a helper (an opposite) corresponding to him.47 It is worth noting that the male sex already existed. Why didn’t God just create another one of the same kind so that Adam would have companionship? Part of the answer may be seen in God’s parading the animals before Adam so Adam could recognize how they were designed—male and female as counterpart, for procreation and other apparent reasons. Surely Adam would have also noticed the physical differences in the way the two sexes were built beyond their sexual capacities. Their anatomies were designed differently. The two would fulfill different roles and purposes, far beyond simply procreation. By contrast, Adam was at that point unique in that he had no counterpart.

Third, we see the Design Resolution in Genesis 2:18b-24. God said “I will make him a helper suitable for him.”48 That helper (ezer) was a woman. She was corresponding to or opposite (neged) him. Notice the prescriptive element in 2:24—“For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” The proper expression of the design for togetherness is accomplished in marriage. It is stated simply and rooted in the created order.

Fourth, we encounter the Design Affirmation, as Jesus affirms the veracity and foundational nature of the creation story and how God Himself has joined man and woman.49 Jesus affirmed the design in the created order, and affirmed monogamous, heterosexual marriage based on that design. If that is the design, then what of those who are not married? Are they in violation of that design? Are they dysfunctional in some way?

Paul addresses that question in the fifth point, providing the Design Alternative. In 1 Corinthians 7:8 and 17 Paul extols the high value of celibacy. Humanity is designed for marriage, but some are gifted, even called for celibacy. There are few giftings and callings actually spelled out in Scripture. It is rather remarkable that being single is referenced by both terms. The designed alternative for the design of marriage is to remain single or celibate—these are the two provided and positively stated paths for proper expression of sexuality.

One might ask at this point whether or not God has called or gifted any to homosexuality. If the design includes one positively stated alternative, then is it possible there is a second alternative? This is where the Inherent Design View avoids the argument from silence and instead argues from revelation that the single and exclusive alternative to the original design is revealed quantifiably in 1 Corinthians 7. Is it possible there is a second alternative? No, because the alternative is based on God’s gifting and calling, and to be certain of God’s gifting and calling in this context requires that He has revealed that there is such a gifting and calling. How can one walk in a supposed calling or gifting if they have no evidence that calling or gifting has come from Him? On what basis could they claim it is a calling or gifting at all? On the other hand, if one is married, they have that gifting and calling. If one is single/celibate they have that gifting and calling. If one is engaging in homosexual activity, that is defined neither as gift nor calling, but is, in every single instance in Scripture, presented as contrary to the design, not as a legitimate alternative.

That contrary activity is the sixth component: Design Abandonment. In Romans 1:18-20 is described how the truth of God is suppressed in unrighteousness. Verses 21-23 explains how a rejection of the Designer results in an obvious rejection of the design. Verses 24-25 identify consequence #1—the unrighteous are given over to desires—allowed to pursue their own alternatives, since they have rejected their Creator and His design and the inherent alternative (celibacy) within His design. Verses 26-27 identify consequence #2—the unrighteous are given over to that which is unnatural. They are allowed to take things to their logical conclusion. The Designer and the design are utterly rejected, and all that is left is the pursuit of the unnatural (that which violates the design) and the final consequence (#3) listed in 1:28—they are given over to brokenness of mind. While God has gifted, assigned, and called humanity with marriage and some individuals with celibacy, those that have rejected Him and His design He has given over to pursue their own design along with all the associated brokenness that comes with that pursuit.

As a culminating discussion of God’s design for humanity, it is obvious that there are no alternatives besides heterosexual marriage or celibacy commended or prescribed—and those two options are explicitly prescribed. Further it is evident that the homosexual “option” is presented in context not as a legitimate alternative, but as a total distortion of what God designed. Romans 1 completes the teleological cumulative case that provides certainty in Christian ethics regarding same-sex activity. To insure that none us can boast or condemn from a perch of innocence, the context of 1:29-2:2 reiterates that we all are universally guilty, and that we have all committed acts against God that render us worthy of death. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each to his own way, but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall upon Him.50

While the Inherent Design View overcomes the limitations of the other two views, namely in that it (1) is more methodologically consistent with a literal grammatical-historical approach to the Scriptures, (2) draws exegetically justifiable conclusions about the character of God and the origin of morality, and (3) recognizes the progress of revelation allowing for both a cogency and discontinuity in God’s revelation on the matter, there is an additional element that this writer finds compelling. This is not a device for justifying or condemning a particular lifestyle, rather it is an attempt at simply understanding what and who our Creator has designed us to be, and how we can be restored to right relationship with Him when we fail to walk as designed. God isn’t a hateful Creator who has excluded those who identify as LGBTQ from intimacy and joy. On the contrary, He has put in place a design wherein we can all experience the richest of His blessings through His grace as we come to know Him and the pattern He gave to us, so that we might see His fingerprints in our lives, submit to Him as our Designer, and rejoice. It is when we encounter the profound nature of our Designer, as revealed in His design, that we can respond as prescribed with the right kind of love toward Him and toward others—love from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith.

Presented to the Bible Faculty Summit, International Baptist College and Seminary, Chandler, Arizona, August 7, 2019.

Notes

41 Galatians 3:24-25.

42 E.g., Leviticus 11:45, 19:2, 20:7, 20:26, etc.

43 1 Peter 1:15.

44 Genesis 9.

45 Genesis 15:6, Habakkuk 2:4, John 20:30-31.

46 Going far beyond Aquinas’ and the RCC’s appeal to natural law.

47 Genesis 2:18.

48 Genesis 2:18b.

49 Matthew 19:4-6.

50 Isaiah 53:6.

Christopher Cone 2016


Dr. Christopher Cone serves as President of Calvary University, and is the author or general editor of several books including: Integrating Exegesis and Exposition: Biblical Communication for Transformative Learning, Gifted: Understanding the Holy Spirit and Unwrapping Spiritual Gifts, and Dispensationalism Tomorrow and Beyond: A Theological Collection in Honor of Charles C. Ryrie. Dr. Cone previously served in executive and faculty roles at Southern California Seminary and Tyndale Theological Seminary and Biblical Institute, and in pastoral roles at Tyndale Bible Church and San Diego Fellowship of the Bible.

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