Phil Johnson: Regarding "Sexual Orientation," Evil Desire, and the Question of Moral Neutrality

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Steve Davis's picture

Reminds me of this quote from 2012:

“The beautiful young things of the reformed renaissance have a hard choice to make in the next decade. You really do kid only yourselves if you think you can be an orthodox Christian and be at the same time cool enough and hip enough to cut it in the wider world. Frankly, in a couple of years it will not matter how much urban ink you sport, how much fair trade coffee you drink, how many craft brews you can name, how much urban gibberish you spout, how many art house movies you can find that redeemer figure in, and how much money you divert from gospel preaching to social justice: maintaining biblical sexual ethics will be the equivalent in our culture of being a white supremacist.” – Carl Trueman

 

Ken S's picture

Based on the articles referenced above, I am gathering that they are saying that same sex attraction in and of itself is a sin, or am I misunderstanding? Is it then also a sin for a heterosexual man to be attracted to women who are not his wife? I find it very hard to believe that most heterosexual men are physically attracted only to their wife.

Jim's picture

Ken S wrote:

Based on the articles referenced above, I am gathering that they are saying that same sex attraction in and of itself is a sin, or am I misunderstanding? Is it then also a sin for a heterosexual man to be attracted to women who are not his wife? I find it very hard to believe that most heterosexual men are physically attracted only to their wife.

I've never seen a conference with the theme ..."It's ok to be attracted to another man's wife"

Ken S's picture

Jim wrote:

I've never seen a conference with the theme ..."It's ok to be attracted to another man's wife"

I haven't either, and that's not really what I'm asking nor a helpful answer. I am asking if the attraction is wrong or is it what I do with the attraction that is sinful. I very much doubt that most men are attracted to only one woman (and if so and they are married, how very fortunate that they found the one woman in all the world to whom they are attracted). How they deal with that attraction can most definitely be sinful, but is it also sinful that they find more than one woman attractive? In other words, it is certainly sinful to entertain temptation, but is it also sin to even be tempted in the first place?

 

A different example, but along the same line of spiritual reasoning: I recently hear a message preached where it was stated that even the temptation itself was sinful. The example used was that if someone is punched in the nose for no reason, and their inclination is to be angry but they instead choose to be gracious and walk away, that even the first inclination was sinful and they should repent.  I'm not sure I agree, and I'm trying to determine if the person in this scenario had a spiritual victory or if they sinned instead.

josh p's picture

Steve Davis wrote:

Reminds me of this quote from 2012:

“The beautiful young things of the reformed renaissance have a hard choice to make in the next decade. You really do kid only yourselves if you think you can be an orthodox Christian and be at the same time cool enough and hip enough to cut it in the wider world. Frankly, in a couple of years it will not matter how much urban ink you sport, how much fair trade coffee you drink, how many craft brews you can name, how much urban gibberish you spout, how many art house movies you can find that redeemer figure in, and how much money you divert from gospel preaching to social justice: maintaining biblical sexual ethics will be the equivalent in our culture of being a white supremacist.” – Carl Trueman

 

That’s a great quote Steve. Thank you. 

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Ken S wrote:

A different example, but along the same line of spiritual reasoning: I recently hear a message preached where it was stated that even the temptation itself was sinful.

Obviously, that cannot be true, otherwise "in all points tempted like as we are yet without sin" is false.

Dave Barnhart

AndyE's picture

This article by Phil Johnson is outstanding and exactly the type of clear, Biblical teaching we need on what is becoming a muddled mess among many evangelicals and even some fundamentalists. 

I think it is important to distinguish between desires that are part of God’s plan that can be fulfilled under the proper circumstances and those that are contrary to Scripture under all circumstances.  The later are always sinful and need to be mortified whenever they occur.  Romans 1 call them dishonorable passions (ESV), vile affections (KJV), or degrading passions (NASB).  Jesus never had anything to mortify, so he never experienced any of these passions.  As a full human, he would have had a sex drive, but he never would have lusted after a woman. He may have been tempted to, but he never would have succumbed to that temptation.  He did not possess a fallen nature and so all normal human passions/drives would have been completely sinless and uncorrupted.

When the Bible says that “each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire”, we have to realize that some of those desires are neutral and some are not. Some, in fact, are sinful.  Jesus would never have been tempted by a sinful desire or from a corrupt fleshly desire, but only from non-sinful desires.  Thus, temptation is not just to commit a physical act but could also be toward an inordinate and sinful lust.

Greg Long's picture

I appreciate PJ's post, it is helpful. 

We do need to distinguish between not only lust and act, but also between temptation and lust and act. Temptation is never sin, no matter what kind of temptation it is. Temptation to heterosexual lust is not sin; heterosexual lust is sin. Temptation to homosexual lust is not sin; homosexual lust is 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

AndyE's picture

Thanks for bringing this up because I’ve been thinking that this conversation hasn’t highlighted the real issue here.  The key point in your first link this this statement:

“And I’ll grant, no debate, that SSA are disordered attractions. They are as much a result of the curse as earthquakes and dental cavities. But they are not sin unless and until they are indulged as lust or as sexual activity.”

First, SSA is not a “result of the curse” it is part of the fall and, in particular, is an aspect of the total depravity of man that we inherit from Adam. It is an aspect of the flesh that, I argue, must be put to death. It is a sinful corruption. It is a “disordered attraction” that exists because people have a fallen human nature. 

Second, Jason Harris says, “James points this out as well. Sin (desire-as-lust) comes when we are lured (temptation) by our desires (desire-as-attraction). The point is explicit. Sin follows the process of temptation based on attraction.”  The problem with this is that the “desires” in this passage could be neutral (like all the desires Jesus would have had when he was tempted) or sinful (because of our corrupt nature). In other words, sin can tempt to more grievous sin. Paul puts it this way in Rom 7:8, “but sin…produced in me all kinds of covetousness.”  We could put it this way, the sin of SS attraction produced in me all kinds of SS lust.  The fact of the matter is that the Bible refers to some desires as sinful and others not.  There is nothing in this passage here in James that limits the desires to neutral things.

The real question from Colossians 3:5 is what kind of desires need to be put to death.  Certainly not neutral desires, but inordinate desires or affections, the kind that Paul describes in Rom 1:26.  Desires that are contrary to nature and that, even Jason Harris admits, are disordered.

TylerR's picture

Editor

I'll probably be posting a short series at SI titled "What is Sin?" beginning next Monday morning (18 June). I'll likely conclude with some implications for this very issue, and others. I think everyone who has commented here would likely have something valuable to say, and we can have some constructive conversation about this topic.

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?