Is homosexual orientation sinful?

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Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Excellent article.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Ian Columba's picture

I very much sympathize with the conclusion Denny is arguing for as detailed in his "Pastoral Implications" section. 

All of us are born with an orientation toward sin in all its varieties. Homosexual orientation is but one manifestation of our common experience of indwelling sin—indeed of the mind set on the flesh (Rom. 7:23; 8:7).  For that reason, the Bible teaches us to war against both the root and the fruit of sin. . . The ordinary means of grace must be aimed at the heart as well. Prayer, the preaching of the word, and the fellowship of the saints must all be aimed at the Holy Spirit’s renewal of the inner man.

However, I'm not sure this article is very helpful overall. In order to establish that an "orientation" is sinful, Denny necessarily uses the term "sinful" so broadly as to include every part of the fallen nature as well as active sinful choices.  Here is his support:

The Bible says that our sexual desires/attractions have a moral component and that we are held accountable for them. Jesus’ remarks on the nature of heterosexual desire are a case in point:

Mathew 5:27-28 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; but I say to you, that everyone who looks on a woman to lust for her has committed adultery with her already in his heart.”

We need to point out here that Jesus is addressing an active sin, a choice to look and lust. That is not the same thing as having a fallen nature with a proclivity to lust.

It is absolutely important for all of us to be proactively fighting the flesh and fortifying ourselves in areas of weakness.  But this is not the same thing as assigning guilt to someone for having a sin nature. Our sin nature is worthy of condemnation, to be sure, but that condemnation was born by Christ on the cross.  What we don't want to do to a Christian who struggles in this area is to constantly direct his attention to his guilt.  Rather we should direct his attention to the gospel and help him lay claim to the truth that his old man died with Christ and he is free to live through Christ's resurrection power.

Certainly we are all sinful to the core, but we should not lump our sin nature and sinful choices together as if they are the same thing. Denny Burk offers some needful caution to not ignore the tendencies of our fallen nature.  But he needs to nuance his argument in order to avoid confusing and overwhelming his weak, struggling brethren with guilt. 

Empathetic Apologist

iancolumba.com

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Ian, 

Being a sinner is sinful, to answer your title question. We are born condemned by God as part of the fallen race inheriting a sinful nature and the condemnation of sin. The reason we commit personal acts of sin is because we are sinful. Any deviation from God's prescribed order for creation is sinful, including a desire for sin. I think you may be conflating the outward temptation of sin and the inward desire for sin. One is an opportunity to sin that does not have to produce the fruit of wickedness, but the other is the very fruit of wickedness at work in our heart rebelling against what God has decreed.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Ian Columba's picture

Chip,

I think it depends on what you mean by "sinful."  As I said, "We are all sinful to the core." 

Please notice that I did not suggest that desire for sin is not sinful.  A desire is a thought, which Jesus equates to an internal action.  Instead, I'm objecting to Denny Burk's assumption that the particular wiring of someone's sin nature is the same thing morally as a desire or an action.

Denny Burk is conflating the sin nature and the sinful act. The real problem is that he assigns guilt for both.  I understand that we are accountable for our sin nature as well as our desires and acts, but treating those two as the same is unhelpful. 

Empathetic Apologist

iancolumba.com

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Ian, we are guilty for both. The "wiring" you speak of is not innate by order of creation as, say, the color of a person's skin. It is a learned rebellion. It is a personal desire that is in open conflict with God's decree of what is good and right. It is sin.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Ian Columba's picture

Chip,

The wiring I spoke of (the sin nature) is innate by inheritance.  It is thoroughly depraved, but not technically sin (sin is a verb that can only describe an action).  As such it merits condemnation (though there is no condemnation of those in Christ), but not guilt, which is defined as 1. "the responsibility or culpability for having committed an offense"  or  2. "the feeling of culpability for an offense."  

 

Empathetic Apologist

iancolumba.com

Greg Long's picture

Chip, is temptation sin, and if not, how do you distinguish between temptation and the desires that you call sinful?

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Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Greg,

I see the temptation as being external but the desire, in this case homosexual orientation, as being internal. While I am not responsible for the things others may present me with, I am responsible for the response of my heart toward what is presented.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Greg Long's picture

I have a desire for sex with heterosexual women--any and all of them.* Is that sinful?

*Given that I am a heterosexual male with normal sexual desires, that I of course channel into a monogamous loving relationship with my wife.

-------
Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

You actually aren't desiring sex with any and all heterosexual women. What you really have is a desire for a physical relationship with your wife, and only your wife. This is good and right. If your desires wander to focus on other women, it is sin. 

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Greg Long's picture

No, Chip, I have desires within me that temptation can prey upon. If I only had desire for my wife, then there would never be any temptation for any other woman. Temptations don't cause desires; temptations prey upon desires. I am able to channel and control (by God's grace) my desires so that they are only focused on and acted upon my wife.

I am talking about basic, natural physical desires (sexual attractions), not desire in the sense of actively lusting.

-------
Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

DavidO's picture

Greg Long wrote:
I have a desire for sex with heterosexual women--any and all of them.

If a desire must be channeled and controlled by God's grace, then would it not itself be a perversion of normal desire and therefore sinful?

I suggest that, had there been more women than Eve around pre-fall, Adam's love would have been impossible to awaken except at the appropriate time.

Greg Long's picture

Do you think Jesus was tempted by any of the women around him, yet without sin? And if so, how did that temptation come about?

Remember, he was tempted to turn stones into bread because he was hungry. The outward temptation played upon his natural human desire, which in and of itself was not sinful.

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Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

DavidO's picture

Can we affirm that Jesus was tempted in all points like as we are without necessarily affirming He wanted to but was able to control Himself?

Greg Long's picture

I think Jesus wanted to turn stone into bread because he was hungry, but he was able to control himself. I'm not sure it would be a temptation, otherwise.

And just to be clear, I do not think it was possible for Jesus to sin.

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Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

DavidO's picture

Greg Long wrote:
I think Jesus wanted to turn stone into bread because he was hungry, but he was able to control himself.

Would you say then that Jesus was similarly tempted by women?

The Pulpit Commentary offers a solutions somewhat but importantly different than yours:

That Christ was not only subjected to πειρασμὸς in this latter sense, but was also directly assailed by the tempter to sin (ὁ πειράζων), appears from the Gospel record. But here comes in a difficulty. There can, we conceive, be no real temptation where there is no liability to the sin suggested by temptation, still less where there is no possibility of sinning. But can we imagine any such liability, or even possibility, in the case of the Divine and Sinless One? If not, wherein did the temptation consist? How could it be at all like ours, or one through his own experience of which he can sympathize with us? It was for maintaining, on the strength of such considerations, the theoretic peccability of Christ, that Irving was expelled as heretical flora the Presbyterian communion. The question has undoubtedly its serious difficulties in common with the whole subjeer of the Divine and human in Christ. The following thoughts may, however, aid solution. That Christ, in his human nature, partook of all the original affections of humanity - hope, fear, desire, joy, grief, indignation, shrinking from suffering, and the like - is apparent, not only from his life, but also from the fact that his assumption of our humanity would have otherwise been incomplete. Such affections are not in themselves sinful; they only are so when, under temptation, any of them become inordinate, and serve as motives to transgression of duty. He, in virtue of his Divine personality, could not through them be seduced into sin; but it does not follow that he could not, in his human nature, feel their power to seduce, or rather the power of the tempter to seduce through them, and thus have personal experience of man's temptation.

Greg Long's picture

I will, in turn, quote from Millard Erickson's Christian Theology (p. 614):

Humans have certain desires. These, at root, are legitimate. In many cases their satisfaction is indispensable to the survival of the individual or the race. For example, hunger is the desire for food. Without the satisfaction of this desire or drive, we would starve to death. Similarly, the sexual drive seeks gratification. Were it to go unsatisfied, there would be no human reproduction and hence no preservation of the human race. Without attempting to deal here with the question of the propriety of eating for enjoyment or of having sex for pleasure, we may assert that these drives were given by God, and that there are situations in which their satisfaction is not only permissible but may even be mandatory.

...

Note that in Jesus' temptation, Satan appealed to legitimate desires. The desires that Satan urged Jesus to fulfill were not wrong per se. Rather, the suggested time and manner of fulfillment constituted the evil.

To answer your question, yes, I believe Jesus "was in all points tempted as are" (Heb 4:15 NKJV; "in every way" NIV, HCSB; "in every respect" ESV; "in all things" NASB). This, of course, does not mean that Jesus was tempted with every specific sin that any human being has ever been tempted with (for example, He was never tempted to look at pornography on the internet). But how could it possibly not mean that He was tempted in every major category of sin, however you want to define them, in which human beings in general are tempted, including sexual sin.

Let me be clear that I do not deny the sin nature and total depravity. In fact, I do not deny that homosexual desires are, in and of themselves, twisted perversions of natural human sexual desires. But the question is, are people guilty of committing sin simply for possessing homosexual desires that are not acted upon? I do not believe so.

James 1:14-15 is very instructive here. It says:

14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.

Notice that desires in and of themselves are not sin (the desires may or may not be "sinful" in the sense of corrupt and depraved, but that is not the same as committing actual acts of sin). Sin only happens when inward desires and external enticement join together ("conceive" and "give birth to sin"). So when someone who has, for whatever reason, homosexual desires, is externally tempted toward lustful thoughts or actions, but resists that temptation, he has not sinned. If he gives in to that temptation, then the desire and the temptation have conceived and given birth to sin.

-------
Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

Greg Long's picture

Similarly, Louis Berkhof distinguishes between original (inherited) and actual sin in his Systematic Theology (p. 251):

Original sin is both a state and an inherent quality of pollution in man. Every man is guilty in Adam, and is consequently born with a depraved and corrupt nature. And this inner corruption is the unholy fountain of all actual sins. When we speak of actual sin or peccatum actuale, we use the word "actual" or "actuale" in a comprehensive sense. The term "actual sins" does not merely denote those external actions which are accomplished by means of the body, but all those conscious thoughts and volitions which spring from original sin. They are the individual sins of act in distinction from man's inherited nature and inclination. Original sin is one, actual sin is manifold. Actual sin may be interior, such as deceit, theft, adultery, murder, and so on.

-------
Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

It does all come down to clear, sharp definitions of terms.

If "sinful desire" means "any desire that to indulge would be a sinful act," then, in the right context, ordinary hunger for food would be "sinful." For example, when Satan urged Jesus to turn stones into bread. The Scriptures specifically draw our attention to the fact that Jesus was hungry, meaning He desired to eat. However, to eat on that occasion would have been a sin (as Ericksen quote above also notes). Therefore, Jesus had a "sinful desire," by this expansive definition. At this point the term ceases to have any useful meaning because there is nothing at all wrong with the desire itself in this case (in fact, the term becomes misleading).

On the other hand, there are desires that are sinful in character. Ever felt drawn to an act just because you knew it was wrong or you desired it more because you knew it was wrong? The proverbial forbidden fruit. The desire to rebel against legitimate authority is another example of inherently sinful desire--and desire Jesus did not possess. (Satan seems to have not realized this in at least one of his temptations, because he seems to be trying to leverage these desires--but not in the stones-to-bread temptation).

What should we conclude then? That temptation is always predicated on desire (James 1) but the desires may be innocent ones or inherently corrupt ones. Temptation itself doesn't prove anything one way or the other.

alex o.'s picture

Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.

 

Aaron, since you brought it up, I disagree with your statement:

Aaron Blumer wrote:
On the other hand, there are desires that are sinful in character. Ever felt drawn to an act just because you knew it was wrong or you desired it more because you knew it was wrong? The proverbial forbidden fruit. The desire to rebel against legitimate authority is another example of inherently sinful desire

So, the British Colonists in the New World were wrong to rebel in 1776?

Satan is a master of creating false forbidden fruits in his attempt to control and be a god over the image bearers of the true God. "Over lording" (desire to control) by humans is inherently sinful in my book.

"Our faith itself... is not our saviour. We have but one Saviour; and that one Saviour is Jesus Christ our Lord.  B.B. Warfield

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