Matthew Vines and others supporting the LGBTQ perspective have argued for a Moral Permissive View on sexual orientation. The argument has been two-tiered: (1) that the more traditional Moral Prohibitive View is based on six Scriptures that are ultimately not relevant to the present discussion, and (2) that in the absence of Biblical data for or against healthy homosexual relationships, Christians should choose the more inclusive, affirming approach rather than condemn such relationships.
In order to advance the discussion beyond the stalemate of these two models, and in order to apply a solidly Biblical hermeneutic, this paper proposes a third approach: The Inherent Design Model. This third model considers God’s particular design for identity, sex, and sexuality in Genesis 1 and 2, Jesus’ affirmation of that model in Matthew 19, Paul’s recognition in 1 Corinthians 7 that the design offers only one inherent alternative (celibacy), and his explanation in Romans 1 of other alternatives as violating God’s design. The Inherent Design Model concludes that LGBTQ applications violate God’s design, and the model contextualizes the ethical implications so that believers can respond in a way that honors all people (including LGBTQ), and can demonstrate the love of Christ while not compromising Biblical truth.
In a 2014 episode of the TV series Blue Bloods, a dialogue between a reporter and the series’ Catholic lead character, NYPD Commissioner, Frank Reagan drew attention to the perception of the RCC’s stance on same-sex relationships:
Reporter: The Catholic Church condemns homosexuality as a sin and the Commissioner is famously Catholic. How do you line up your anti-gay faith with your role as an equal-opportunity employer?
Reagan: What my men and women do in private is their own business.
Reporter: So you only condemn homosexuality on a Sunday?
Reagan: Well, I do believe that the Church is a little behind the times on this, but then I still miss the Latin Mass.1
While numerous commentators disagreed with the show’s representation of the RCC view of homosexuality,2 the dialogue illustrated the friction present even among the most ardent followers regarding issues related to same-sex relationships. What once was a din has now become a crescendo of public opinion that the Judeo-Christian model for sexuality is no longer correct or beneficial.
The Barna Group reports that “the decades-old trend that Christianity is irrelevant is giving way to the notion that Christianity is bad for society.”3 More than 80% of adults in the US believe it is very or somewhat extreme to refuse to serve someone because the customer’s lifestyle conflicts with their beliefs. Between 50 and 79% believe it is very or somewhat extreme to believe that sexual relationships between people of the same sex are morally wrong. The same percentage perceives it to be equally extreme to teach children that sexual relationships between people of the same sex are morally wrong.4 The increasing divide between culture and Christianity is perhaps more evident in the area of same-sex relationships than in any other context. Just as same-sex advocates have been active in trying to expose the disconnect, the Christian community has engaged the issue, but has neither been definitive nor particularly effective in holding back the groundswell. In 2003, for example, 12% of Protestants considered same-sex relationships to be morally acceptable, up to 15% in 2013. Among Catholics the 2003 number was 19%, and nearly doubled to 37% in 2013. In both groups a growing minority approves of same-sex relationships, while those who associate with no faith approve homosexuality at a rate of 71%.5 As faith is perceived to be increasingly irrelevant, it is fairly clear that the trend toward acceptance of same-sex relationships will continue.
Among Evangelicals there are two prominent arguments, one for and one against the morality and acceptability of same-sex relationships. The Moral Permissive View, proposed by advocates of homosexuality and supported by a cultural distance argument, postulates that because there are no explicit prohibitions in the New Testament, the overwhelmingly negative mood toward homosexuality is cultural, and is specifically targeting inappropriate homosexual activity, and is not addressing committed and monogamous homosexual. On the other hand, in more traditional Evangelical circles, the longstanding Moral Prohibitive perspective abides, supported by legal restrictions in the Mosaic Law that are presupposed and uncontradicted in the New Testament and thus remain applicable for today.
This writer suggests that a third approach, an Inherent Design View, provides a superior argument, 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. If the Inherent Design approach accurately represents the Biblical record, then readers can have confidence even if the Biblical record itself is contrary to current streams of prevailing culture. In that case, the solution would not be found in conforming the Bible to culture (as does the Moral Permissive View), nor in condemning culture based on Mosaic norms (as does the Moral Prohibitive View), but rather in recognizing the Creator as the Sovereign and Designer, to Whom we should look for our identity, definition, and purpose.
In any consideration of such matters of great controversy, it is appropriate to remember why we are engaging the discussion in the first place. Paul provides an important preface to such discussions when he reminds Timothy that “the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”6 The discussion, rightly engaged, ought to produce an expression of Christlike love that is rooted in purity, goodness, and sincerity. In other words, love is the vital conclusion—not love in a general sense, but rather a certain kind of love—a prescribed kind of love designed by our Creator for accomplishing His purposes. As we compare the merits and limitations of these three perspectives, we are reminded that there is no room for hatred of or disrespect toward people,7 nor is there room for compromising truth,8 lest we show hatred of and disrespect toward our Creator.
Presented to the Bible Faculty Summit, International Baptist College and Seminary, Chandler, Arizona, August 7, 2019. The full title of the paper is “Three Views on Same-Sex Relationships: Addressing LGBTQ: A Biblical Teleological Argument for Identity, Sex, and Sexuality.”
1 Blue Bloods, “Burning Bridges ,“ Directed by John Behring, Written by Willie Reale, CBS, October 10, 2014.
2 E.g., Jane Chastain, “Blue Bloods Has People of Faith Seeing Red,” JaneChastain.com, October 15, 2014, viewed at https://janechastain.com/2014/10/15/blood-bloods-has-people-of-faith-seeing-red/, and Susan E. Wills, “Blue Bloods” Blooper Exposes Confusion about the Church and Gays,” Aletia.org, October 12, 2014, viewed at https://aleteia.org/2014/10/12/blue-bloods-blooper-exposes-confusion-about-the-church-and-gays/.
3 The Barna Group, “Five Ways Christianity is Increasingly Viewed as Extremist,” Barna.com, February 23, 2015, viewed at https://www.barna.com/research/five-ways-christianity-is-increasingly-viewed-as-extremist/.
5 The Barna Group, “America’s Change of Mind on Same-Sex Marriage and LGBTQ Rights,” Barna.com, July 3, 2013, viewed at https://www.barna.com/research/americas-change-of-mind-on-same-sex-marriage-and-lgbtq-rights/.
8 Ephesians 4:15.
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.