The Bible and "Gay Christians"—Are We Sending the Right Message?

Debate over whether there can be such a thing as a “gay Christian” has raged for a while now, and it’s not going away anytime soon. Much of the conflict is over deeply incompatible views on the authority of Scripture, and the right basic approach to interpreting it. Some of the conflict, though, might not be necessary at all—because it arises from a combination of unclear language and slightly (but consequentially) faulty interpretation.

If we could clear some of this up, we’ll relate the Bible better to the times we live in and—as much as possible—avoid sending the wrong message. Three principles may help.

1. Scripture doesn’t condemn anyone for an “orientation.”

The currently popular idea of sexual orientation as a person’s unalterable sexual wiring has no equivalent in Scripture. Many of us doubt that orientation, in this sense, is even a thing. That aside, what’s clear is that the Bible nowhere judges anyone for unbidden feelings of attraction toward those of their own sex rather than (or in addition to) those of the opposite sex.

Some passages may seem to do that.

Some cite Leviticus 18:22, but this Mosaic Covenant Law prohibited sexual activity between two men, not orientation or same-sex-attraction (SSA). Genesis 19 doesn’t work for this purpose either. The passage reports that the men of Sodom (a city that was decadent in multiple ways: Isaiah 3:9, Ezek. 16:49) attempted to publicly gang rape what appeared to be two young men (actually angels). Once again sexual behavior is in view—and violent, forced behavior, at that.

Romans 1 is more often cited as condemning people for who they’re attracted to, but this passage is also not really making that point. Correct understanding of the passage requires that we follow the flow of thought from 1:18 all the way to 1:32. If we do that, we find that the degradation of 1:26-28 is the result of the passage’s condemnation, not its cause. Further, although both same-sex desire and same-sex activity are characterized negatively, the passage doesn’t claim that all who experience this sort of attraction “got that way” through the Romans 1:18-28 sequence of events.

Some also believe they see experiences of attraction identified as sin in Matthew 5:28, but this, too, is a misunderstanding of the text (more on this passage below). In every case, what Scripture identified as sin is an act of the body, an act of the mind, or both—not merely an experience of attraction.

2. In the Bible, temptation is not sin.

Denny Burk’s recent work on sexual ethics includes much I agree with and appreciate, but he blurs some important distinctions, including the biblical distinction between temptation and sin.

In an ERLC statement, he writes:

[A] man who experiences a sexual attraction to another man may be experiencing feelings that are spontaneous and uninvited. His attraction may well reflect what he perceives to be his natural “orientation.” But that does not absolve him of having sexual feelings he ought not feel. The Bible judges such attractions as sinful lust—as coveting someone sexually. (Is Homosexual Orientation Sinful?)

Later, in the same document he writes:

Sometimes it is claimed that we must make a moral distinction between mere desireand active lust—the former being morally neutral and the latter being sinful. But this is not a particularly biblical distinction.

Elsewhere he writes,

If same-sex attraction were morally benign, there would be no reason to repent of it. But the Bible never treats sexual attraction to the same sex as a morally neutral state. Jesus says all sexual immorality is fundamentally a matter of the heart (Mark 7:21). Thus it will not do simply to avoid same-sex behavior. (If same-sex attraction is sinful, then what?)

Burk is no slouch or a hater, nor is Heath Lambert, who co-wrote Transforming Homosexuality with Burk in 2015. The book is on my reading list, and maybe they’ll persuade me to agree with them on this point. But to do that, they’ll have to resolve some problems—in brief, these:

  1. Temptation is always distinct from sin in Scripture. The classic example is James 1:14-15, where a clear sequence is described: desire à temptation à sin à “death.” The sequence may not always be conscious, but if desire precedes sin, there some point at which desire—even in a sinning dynamic—is not yet sin.
  2. Desire to do something that would be a sin under the present conditions can be an innocent experience. Matthew 4 and Luke 4 inform us that during His temptation, Jesus was hungry. Because He wasn’t supposed to eat at that time and place (or at Satan’s bidding) eating would have been a sinful act. He did not sin by experiencing hunger (Heb. 4:15).
  3. Some desires are “sinful” in the sense that they are the special product of our corrupted sinful condition (e.g., Mark 7:21, Gal. 5:19-21). Even in these cases, desire to sin and temptation to sin are distinct from sinning.
  4. Though, in our natural state, we’re all guilty and condemned “in Adam” (1 Cor. 15:22) for what we are (Eph. 2:3), we’re also responsible in a distinct way for what we do. This is evident in how the Judgment is described: “so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Cor. 5:10; see also Ecc. 12:14, 1 Pet. 1:17).
  5. Inward action is still action, still behavior. Contrary to Burk and Lambert, this is what’s actually going on in Matthew 5:28. It’s also what’s going on in the Exodus 20:17 law forbidding “coveting.” A man has not sinned by randomly seeing his neighbor’s house or wife and feeling desire for them. He sins when he decides to indulge that desire by intentionally wanting them or intentionally wanting them more (intentionally doesn’t necessarily mean consciously). Though the line can indeed be fine, we all know when we’ve experienced a random desire vs. when we’ve inwardly indulged one. For this reason, when we’ve avoided sinful behavior, that really is enough.

Because temptation and sin are distinct, and uninvited desire is distinct from both temptation and sin, it’s a bit much to say that spontaneous SSA is “sinful desire.” Burk claims his views show that people who experience SSA are like all the rest of us sinners, but this seems unlikely to be the perception—because most of us really don’t believe that the random impulses that cross our minds are sins we must be “absolved” (in Burk’s words) from.

3. Human beings are much more than their urges.

The current social narrative is that whatever your orientation is, you must also have an identity and a lifestyle to go with it. So we routinely see the terms “homosexual” or “gay” used in reference to both inclinations and behavior as though they were one in the same.

As Christians, we have a different narrative, and our communication should reflect that. We don’t know biblically that someone can’t be “born gay” or that SSA can’t, for some people, simply be part of the brokenness of the world. What we do know is that humans don’t have to do what we’re inclined—even strongly inclined—to do. We know that life in a fallen world is often unfair, and that people, through no choice or specific fault of their own, enter into all sorts of suffering, struggle, loss, and disadvantage. We know people have to live without things every day that no one should have to live without. We know that God graciously transforms sinners who come to Him in faith, but we also know that He doesn’t choose to heal all forms of brokenness—not just yet.

The Bible reveals God’s design for marriage, family, and sex—and tells what kind of conduct is right and wrong in upholding that design. Isn’t that where our focus should be?

One final clarification: It’s not my purpose here to side with Revoice (good thoughts from both Burk and Dalbey on that) or Living Out (probably mostly agree with Tom Ascol on that). I know little about what these groups are trying to accomplish. My concern is that we draw the lines where Scripture draws them, and articulate that in a way that has the right emphasis … and at least a chance of being understood for what it is.

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AndyE's picture

Aaron, I'd like to push back on your first two points.

First, regarding Romans 1:26-27, both the act (“committing shameless acts”) and the desire (“dishonorable passions” and “consumed with passion”) are contrary to nature, shameful, and wrong, and thus will be judged by God as sin (“receive in themselves the due penalty for their error”). In Col 3:4-7, we are told to put to death what is earthy in us, including our passions, evil desires, and covetousness.  Surely one of the passions we are to put to death are those dishonorable passions that Paul mentions in Romans 1:26-27.  If those passions are not wrong, why put them to death? It seems Romans teaches pretty clearly that the very yearning that is contrary to nature is wrong.  Whether someone “got that way” through the Rom 1:18-28 sequence of events or not is besides the point. 

Also, an experience of attraction is an act of the mind.  Attractions that are natural do not have to be sin if they are not indulged in; unnatural attractions, though, are corrupt, sinful, and need to be mortified.  Jesus never had an unnatural attraction.  He had natural attractions and urges (like hunger) that were not wrong in themselves but acting on those attractions or urges outside of the will of God would have been (and that he did not do).  I think it is helpful to consider if Jesus could have had a particular attraction or desire.  We don't have to mortify those types of legitimate desires, like hunger. We do have to mortify desires for relieving hunger that fall outside of God's will.

That leads me to your second main point. I would suggest that not all temptation is sin, but some certainly is. Some temptation is rooted in our own sin nature and sinful actions. Like being tempted to lie to cover up for some other sin.  Romans 7:8 says, sin produced in me all kinds of desires (by taking advantage through the commandments). Are these desires or attractions or urges that sin produces fine and dandy unless they are acted upon?  I don’t think so. They lead to death,

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Thanks, Andy.

I think one of the reasons there is confusion on the topic has to do with definitions. There are many things about all of us that are "bad" and are either in the process of being transformed or await transformation when our salvation is completed (Phil 1:6, 1 Pet 1:5).

So SSA, along with attraction to people of the opposite sex (OSA?) who don't belong to us, is a desire that ought to be "transformed away"... along with a host of inherently corrupt desires, such as greed and malice. 

But some tend to view OSA as contextually wrong (wrong person, wrong time) but view SSA either as a sinful act... or at least speak in terms that give that impression.

However, sinful character is not the same thing as committing sin. The experience of temptation is, by definition, a precursor to the act of sinning. It's to be resisted, not repented of. It is sin that leads to death, not temptation or desire.

As for the NT sin lists (e.g., Col. 3:5-9, 1 Cor. 6:9-11, Gal. 5:19-21), they're packed with action words. Some of the action is clearly outward, some is clearly inward, then you have a few terms that could be seen as referring to attitudes, affections, passive desires--but I don't believe that's the intent. These terms are also meant to refer to behavior--though clearly inward behavior.

There is no off-switch for desires that we passively experience. We do the positive things we're called to do, and either these spontaneously-experienced desires change or they don't. But we're not sinning when they occur. We're sinning when we feed them, create opportunities for them, obey them.

So as far as SSA goes, my main concerns are that we're communicating to a group of Christians that they're sinning just by being the way they are. Secondly, we're holding them responsible to change something they don't have any revealed recipe for changing... only the general "how to grow in grace" truths we all have

Most mornings I have a desire to stay in bed and not get up and go to work. I have no power to alter that desire. I do have power to resist it, and not indulge it. I can weaken it in various ways, but it's still there. And I'm not sinning when the alarm goes off and I feel the desire to roll over an keep sleeping.

Lots of desires are like that. Some want to put SSA into a unique category as far as how it relates to actually sinning. The biblical case for that seems week to me.

Ed Vasicek's picture

Aaron, I so appreciate you tackling this relevant subject.  I think we are all formulating the best approach to address the new version of "morality" that is engulfing our society -- what was formerly called "immorality."  Thank you for tacking this!!!  Good job.  But I have a few comments and differences to share.

Genesis 19 doesn’t work for this purpose either. The passage reports that the men of Sodom (a city that was decadent in multiple ways: Isaiah 3:9, Ezek. 16:49) attempted to publicly gang rape what appeared to be two young men (actually angels). Once again sexual behavior is in view—and violent, forced behavior, at that.

I do think, though, that homosexuality is worse than many others sins (I have long rejected the idea that all sins are alike, see http://www.highlandpc.com/articles/allsins.php) and was the main reason for judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah.  A sinful state can be both a cause and result at the same time (as in Pharaoh hardening his heart and then God hardening Pharaoh's heart in judgment).

The Genesis 19 passage, technically, does not specifically say Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed for the practice of homosexuality, but New Testament interpretation of the passage does. Consider Jude 1:7 (NASB):

just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire.

The Jude passage suggests the sin was perverted sexual practice with the result being fire. I would also suggest that Paul has Sodom and Gomorrah in mind (and a section of Romans 1 is a midrash on the Sodom and Gomorrah event), but that is not provable.These were not Sodom and Gomorrah's only gross sins, but Jude has no qualms about isolating them as the cause and example of God's judgment.

This may be a sacred cow, but has anyone every considered how much weight we give to one verse in Matthew's Gospel, Matthew 5:28.  This teaching is not repeated in any of the other Gospels or anywhere else.

All Scripture is inspired, and one clear verse can be enough, I understand. But this verse is in the context of Jewish Midrash, Jesus commenting on the Torah.  It simply means that sin -- whether murder or adultery -- begins in the heart.  Therefore, that is where it must be checked.

This is part of the rabbinic custom of building a fence -- a safety barrier -- around a Torah commandment (in this case, adultery).  The purpose of a fence is to keep one from violating the command by keeping one on the other side of the protective fence.  You can see this within Judaism to an extreme degree with the command not to boil a kid goat in its mother's milk.  To be safe, Jews do not consume dairy and meat in the same meal. The difference, of course, is authority. What Jesus says goes.  But we put way too much weight on adultery in the heart as thought it were equivalent in God's eyes to actual physical adultery.  The text only says that it is a sin in the heart -- not an equivalent sin.  The lesser sin (in the heart) can produce the greater sin (in action).

The same might be said for those who struggle with lust for the same sex.  Still, I would argue that the Scriptures suggest  that unnatural sin is worse than natural sin.

 

 

 

"The Midrash Detective"

Mike Harding's picture

Aaron,

You are correct in making an important distinction between a desire that is sinful/contrary to the created order and a behavior that ensues from it.  A desire for food, however, is not inherently sinful.  A desire for same-sex relations, on the other hand, is a sinful desire.  There are other sinful desires contrary to the created order which are mentioned in Scripture. There are no conditions by which a same-sex sexual desire could ever be righteously fulfilled.  There are conditions by which a natural heterosexual desire can be righteously fulfilled.  I think we have to make this clear.  You are correct by insisting that we should be judged by our behavior.  At the same time we must be careful in not normalizing the desire for sexual perversion or equivocating it with sexual desire consistent with the created order.

Pastor Mike Harding

TylerR's picture

Editor

I'll be preaching a sermon soon entitled "What Should Christians Think About Homosexuality?" I want to avoid having it be a two-part sermon, but it probably will be - too much foundation work to do.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

AndyE's picture

Aaron, I agree that definitions are part of the problem here and I’m not completely sure if I disagree with what you are saying or not.

I think most people think of temptation like this:

Desires lead to temptation and if one acts on that temptation it is sin; thus, sin only occurs when one acts on a temptation

Desire -> Temptation -> Action -> Sin

The Bible teaches, though, that there are evil desires. I would argue that we don’t have to mortify non-sinful desires.  The fact that we are told to mortify certain desires means that those desires are sinful.

That means in our diagram above, there are actually two types of desires that lead to temptation.

Sinful desire -> Temptation -> Action -> Sin

Non-Sinful Desire -> Temptation -> Action -> Sin

Jesus was never tempted by a sinful desire, only non-sinful desires. Those of us with a sin nature, though, are tempted by both.  If you want to say temptation is never sinful, fine, but what leads to temptation is sometimes sin itself, like sinful desires.

What are we supposed to do with our sinful desires? The temptation is to do nothing, i.e., accept that is just the way I am. But if we are a new creature then we have the power of the Spirit to help us mortify those sinful desires. We are not called to just have clean hands but clean hearts as well (James 4:8).  It’s not just our actions that are sinful but the thoughts and desires of our hearts (cf., Mark 7:21). Is the Holy Spirit not able to change our hearts?  “But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed.” (Rom 6:17)

Your passive desire for rest is not inherently sinful, but that is not the case for all desires. Let’s say we have a group of Christians that are passively greedy, or passively full of malice, or passively wanting the preeminence. Are we supposed to tell them that’s OK; that’s just the way they are; that there is no revealed recipe for change?  Just don’t act on it?

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Some points of agreement...

  • There is biblical evidence that homosexual conduct is different form other sins in some ways
  • There are "sinful desires" that are sinful because they're inherently sinful/come from the corruption of sin within us.
  • There are also desires that are "sinful" only in that various circumstances would make it sin to yield to them (such as where there is a marriage relationship or not, harm that would result, legality, authorization, etc.)
  • It would be good to be rid of the first kind, and certainly more peaceful to be rid of the second kind, too.

So I would pose two question to those who are convinced that I'm wrong about the rest of it (or just to whoever)...

  1. How we tell which desires are in the first category (inherently sinful) and which are of the second? (Do "natural" and "unnatural" adequately distinguish them?)
  2. Assuming it's desires and not just conduct (including inward conduct) that is to be "moritfied," how does one moritfy desires?

 

Kevin Miller's picture

AndyE wrote:

What are we supposed to do with our sinful desires? The temptation is to do nothing, i.e., accept that is just the way I am. But if we are a new creature then we have the power of the Spirit to help us mortify those sinful desires. We are not called to just have clean hands but clean hearts as well (James 4:8).  It’s not just our actions that are sinful but the thoughts and desires of our hearts (cf., Mark 7:21). Is the Holy Spirit not able to change our hearts?  “But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed.” (Rom 6:17)

It seems to me that Romans 6:17 is saying that their obedience to correct standards was from the heart. Does this necessarily mean that God is going to remove the desires from the heart? I know when my son was growing up, he prayed and prayed and prayed that God would eliminate his same sex attraction. He didn't want to have it. He even dated a girl for over a year hoping that God would give him the attraction that God wanted him to have. What is the Christian supposed to do if God doesn't change the desire?

Ed Vasicek's picture

AndyE wrote:

What is the Christian supposed to do if God doesn't change the desire?

I know Christopher Yuan argues that the opposite of homosexual sin  is not becoming heterosexual, but the opposite is holiness.

I Corinthians 6:11 reads:

  And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

In previous verses (I Corinthians 6:9-10), it listed several sins, including homosexual behavior. So what does "and such were some of you" mean?  For a long time, we assumed it meant that those who practiced homosexual sin became heterosexual.  I don't know that most of us believe that is what it means nowadays.

In our culture, it is so very difficult to not be sexually active.   Everything is about sex. Total bombardment.  Although straight young people can sometimes wait until marriage, the hope of future sexual activity makes this easier; the idea of being celibate for a lifetime is a tough pill to swallow.  Yet it seems that this what God has called Christians to do who have same sex desire. I often wonder if monasteries and convents were originally populated by such people.

I have known of situations where people struggled, married someone of the opposite gender -- only later to have the marriage  dissolve and the same-sex attracted person going openly gay or lesbian.  I thing in years gone by, a lot of this was hushed up.  Couples remained married, but (just like heterosexual affairs), spouses had same sex partners on the side. Of course, in other situations where a Christian man or woman struggles, the marriage may work -- those folks don't advertise their previous struggle. I think this is especially true with women, who can more readily move between lesbian and straight.  Men, it seems, tend to stay put.

I personally find it hard to advocate celibacy, a standard that I don''t think most of us would eagerly embrace.  But I do think that his is God's will for those with same sex attraction, in most instances.  In the past, many "single" men and women were probably in this category -- but they would not announce the reason why.

 

 

 

.

 

"The Midrash Detective"

Ed Vasicek's picture

Aaron asked:

How we tell which desires are in the first category (inherently sinful) and which are of the second? (Do "natural" and "unnatural" adequately distinguish them?)

Assuming it's desires and not just conduct (including inward conduct) that is to be "moritfied," how does one moritfy desires?

The first question is a lot easier than the second.  A few passages in Leviticus may guide us in the first question:

You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination. And you shall not lie with any animal and so make yourself unclean with it, neither shall any woman give herself to an animal to lie with it: it is perversion.  (Lev. 18:22-23)

If a man lies with his daughter-in-law, both of them shall surely be put to death; they have committed perversion; their blood is upon them. (Leviticus 20:12)

The words "perversion" or "abomination" seem to indicate acts that are especially detestable, therefore the desire to do them cannot be right in any context.

How does one mortify desires?  A lot written on that, but I think if we look at it all (spiritual nurture in the Word and prayer, fellowship, the fruit of the Spirit, considering ourself dead to sin, replacing bad habits with good ones, etc.), none of these eliminate our sinful desires.  Instead, they help us keep these desires at bay.  The focus, I believe, needs to be positive -- pursuing God.  If we focus on overcoming a sin, I think we are doomed to fail.

I have great sympathy for Christians who have this struggle.  It is so easy for the rest of us to tell them, "Just get over it."  That's not how it happens. No easy answers.

"The Midrash Detective"

AndyE's picture

Kevin,

Thanks for this pushback. It’s helpful, especially when talking about sanctification issues, to not give the wrong impression regarding expectations.  When we get saved we don’t lose our flesh – it stays with us our entire earthly lives. It is that flesh that produces these sinful passions and desires.  The mortification of the flesh does not mean we get rid of it, never to have to worry about it again. There is going to be a struggle between our flesh and the spirit all of our lives.  I don’t believe that our sinful desires will ever completely go away until we are glorified. At the same time, though, it seems like a believer ought to see gradual improvement.  I’m not completely sure how best to articulate that yet with the verses that I quoted earlier, but I wanted to respond at least briefly.

Aaron,

Whole books have been written on the mortification of sin. I probably ought to get around to reading John Owen’s work on that subject.  Anything I say here will be too simplistic, just because it will have to be brief.  In broad terms, I would say we have to renew our minds, while putting off wrong actions and putting on right actions. Part of renewing our minds is tells our minds the truth about our situation – you have died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. You thus have a new identity and should not succumb to the idea that you are to be characterized by a sinful heart desire. You have to set your mind on things above, not on things that you should not have that are on the earth.   Col 3:1-17.  So that is where I would start. 

On the other hand, as I am thinking through this, I think you do have a point and that is in regard to my concession to Kevin.  The desires of the flesh are never going to go away, and so Gal 5:16 comes into play --- walk in the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.  Yet at the same time we are told to mortify those sinful desires.  I'm still thinking through how best to resolve these ideas in my mind.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Someone mentioned "abomination" in reference to my first question. I could say several things about that but it might suffice to note that eating forbidden foods and several other seemingly "small" offenses were also "abominations": See Deut. 14:3, and Deut. 25:16 as a couple of examples. The vast majority of references to "abominination" in Deuteronomny are clear references to idolatry, which may tell us something about the others.

My second question: I raised it because--and I think the responses bear this out--the way a person with SSA should "mortify" the deeds of the flesh (yes, "deeds" is the word in Rom. 8:13; Col. 3 says "members," which is a very interesting word choice) is exactly the same way all of us should mortify sin in our lives. In short, we should live the Christian life and let He who has begun a good work in us complete it until the day of Christ. (Phil. 1:6). 

So, we live the life, and let God fix in our character what He chooses to fix... and let Him not fix what He chooses not to fix. (Which, in my experience, tends to vary considerably from one person to another.)

Back to the specialness point...

I noted as a point of agreement that there is biblical evidence that homosexual conduct is different from other sins in some ways. What I didn't note at the time is that there is biblical evidence that lots of sins are different from other sins in various ways. Meditate on what's revealed about pride, for example. And idolatry. Recall what Jesus said about harming the little ones. How about the hypocrisy of the Pharisees? Many of these really stand out in the catalog of sins. Homosexual sin doesn't even appear in the list of "six things the Lord hates; seven that are an abomination to him" (Prov. 6:16). 

I could go on and on. I don't mean to say sexual immorality of any kind is trivial. Not at all. Just let's have some perspective.

Ed Vasicek's picture

Homosexual sin doesn't even appear in the list of "six things the Lord hates; seven that are an abomination to him" (Prov. 6:16). 

That list, I think,is not a reflection of which sins God hates MOST.  For example, no sexual or sexually related sins (beastiality, incest, adultery, rape, etc.) are mentioned in that list.  But the list of seven things God hates is a study in its own right.

The fact that some sins are worse than others is provable, but to organize them in a "from greater to lesser" is a difficult task.  In my paper about "Are All Sins Alike," I argue that the sins the church must practice discipline for are the types of sins that are most serious; in addition, the OT penalties show the severity of sins, IMO.

Aaron wrote:

several other seemingly "small" offenses were also "abominations": See Deut. 14:3, and Deut. 25:16 as a couple of examples. 

Yes, you may have a  point about this. I stand corrected. However, I don't think it is true for the word "perversion," which is more relevant to the discussion at hand.

 

"The Midrash Detective"

Ed Vasicek's picture

This whole issue has burdened Christians leaders down -- at least i feel it.  I guess I wanted to say that I so appreciate this article and the comments shared.  I am struggling within myself, trying to understand what our response should be.  

I have not had the stress that some of you have experienced with close family, etc.  I am sure those of you who have to face this daily have more practical insight than I do on this matter.

I am wondering how helpful my "ranking" of sin really is in these situations, so I asking Aaron to pull my posts.

"The Midrash Detective"

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Ed, we should maybe chat offline... I think they're helpful posts though. It's clear that your aim is to understand what the truth is. I could unpublish and summarize them I suppose. Or maybe just edit a bit?

Agree that it's a tough thing and many leaders are struggling with how to respond to it. That's good. Unfortunately, it's one of the defining issues of our time, and there's a lot we should have thought through in the wake of the sexual revolution, foreseeing these times. But mostly we didn't. And I think there are many, many leaders who are either taking a very simplistic approach (having never interacted with a believer they knew well who experiences SSA) or are still looking the other way and hoping it will all go away.

We both know that won't happen any time soon.

I think Burk and Lambert, though I disagree with them (so far) on some points I believe are important, are basically on the right track--because they're really trying to figure out how to be both biblical and compassionate, and how to truly be helpful to sinners of all sorts.

I can't claim vast experience in counseling people who experience SSA, but there's no question that the few I've had conversations with about it have influenced how I look at the matter. For some, that might be an argument against my views on it... but I do think written revelation assumes influence from experience. And with this--and many other issues--I've tried to step back and look at it the biblical evidence as objectively as I can.

On ranking sins in general...

What we discover when we try to rank sins is that it depends on what factors you're using... impact on other people, tendency to fuel other sins (some sins seem like "gateway" sins), motivational factors and accompanying attitudes, degree of instinctive horror (a function of conscience). Then you have different kinds of evidence: biblical case examples of God's reaction, Jesus' preaching, various sin lists, etc. So ranking isn't easy and certainty drops off quickly because of the complexity. That said, some things are obvious. ... and some seem obvious until suddenly they don't anymore!

Bert Perry's picture

I've been using this as an opportunity to contemplate how to think about this.  One thing that's very striking in my view is that the Scriptures call a number of people "goodly" or "beautiful", and of course we cannot accuse the Holy Spirit of lusting!  (or if we do, that just might have consequences!)  And so we might infer that we too can notice someone's beauty without lusting after them.

And at that point, we might wonder whether that desire or lust automatically becomes at least in great part volitional.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Dave White's picture

Start by using Biblical terms:

  • "Gay" is not and connotes myth of "born that way"
  • Term "homosexual" was coined in 1868

Use terms like sodomy and sodomite / pervert

As in "to commit sodomy is perversion"

Bert Perry's picture

My stepsister's ex-husband came out a few years back, and one thing that strikes me on thinking of his and other stories is that there is a certain point where a lot of this seems rather opportunistic, not innate, in nature.  My former step-brother-in-law put a lot of effort into pursuing my stepsister, even driving several hours to take her to prom and courting her through college, including a year or two at different schools.  It does not appear that it was a simple matter of finding some halfway willing woman to keep up appearances, to put it mildly.   Over the next 20 years or so, things did of course go bad, and he took the opportunities he found.  

I've seen a fair amount of other cases like this.  "Lesbians" who write adoringly about their heterosexual experiences and dreams, things like that.  Now there are probably many out there who come of age and never seem to have had any attraction for the opposite sex, but unless a bunch of people are really very good actors, there's another side of this that appears to be based on "this is what was available for me to satisfy my desires."  If we do a better job of listening, we might hear more of these stories, and perhaps even help people out of that.  For example, Rosaria Butterfield.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

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