What Does The Bible Say About Sexual Orientation?
Editor's Note: As I mentioned yesterday, I would welcome other voices from within the CBOQ to use this forum to discuss the complicated issue of LGBTQ affirmation. What does it mean to affirm? What are we affirming? What if some churches affirm what the Bible condemns? What is sin? What effect do we expect the grace of God to have in the life of a saved person? These are just some of the subtopics we need to discuss as a wider body on our way to agreement or principled separation. This submission comes to us from Pastor Marc Bertrand of Walsh Baptist Church. While I am in substantial agreement with Pastor Marc on this issue, I would also welcome articles from pastors/elders/deacons/members of CBOQ churches who hold the opposite view, provided those articles are text based and respectful in tone. And may God alone be glorified. - Paul Carter
What Does The Bible Say About Sexual Orientation? (By Marc Bertrand)
In the 21st Century, for the first time, the church has faced revisionist theologians who want to normalize the practice of homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle for Christians. The difficulty has come in addressing the five or six passages in scripture which forbid homosexuality and call it a sin. The response of the revisionist theologian has been to argue that the Bible is not addressing the issue of orientation but only the practice of homosexuality.
This article seeks to address this issue.
The purpose of this article is to:
1) Establish the Meaning of Sexual Orientation
2) Establish that the Bible Speaks Both to Behaviour and Orientation
3) Establish that Orientation Doesn’t Excuse Disobedience
1. What Is Meant by Sexual Orientation
It has been stated, I believe rightly, that until very recently, most people have spoken of homosexuality primarily in terms of a behaviour, rather than as an orientation.
That is to say, that we have thought of homosexuality as a behavior that a person chose as an equal choice. As if a man or woman – let’s call them ‘Person X’ – had chosen to express themselves in a homosexual act, but that they were acting against their own desires for the opposite sex.
What is most often argued today is that ‘Person X’ has always felt inclined or ‘oriented’ towards persons of the same sex. When ‘Person Y’ was tempted sexually, he or she was tempted by the opposite sex. But when ‘Person X’ was tempted, he or she felt tempted by the same sex.
We have good reason to believe that this is actually the case, although, no one has yet found a ‘genetic’ link that would indicate this person is going to develop in this way.
Now, let us be clear, that temptation to an act is not in and of itself sin. Jesus was ‘tempted’ in the wilderness and yet was without sin. In fact, the Bible says that ‘Jesus was tempted in every way as we are, yet was without sin.’
When Jesus condemns lust, is not the temptation to lust, but the choice to indulge the temptation. He does not say, ‘He who is tempted to lust after a woman, has committed adultery in his heart.’ The gospel records Jesus words, But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:28)
Now the revisionist theologian makes this bold claim, ‘The Bible says nothing about sexual orientation.’ What they mean by this, is that whenever the Bible speaks of homosexuality and forbids it, it fails to comprehend that there are people who have only ever known a pattern of desire for their own sex. They would argue that scripture is forbidding homosexual acts enacted by those who are not so oriented. (They would discount the acts of the men of Sodom and Gomorrah as being ‘against natural orientation’, and therefore not addressing those of homosexual orientation.) They argue that neither Moses writing Leviticus, nor Paul writing the books of Romans, I Corinthians and I Timothy, knew anything about how people were oriented, so it is unfair to apply these passages to people who find that their desires are only oriented towards their own sex.
With this in mind, they press the issue further, stating that it would be unjust of God to forbid something which is natural to a person. They reason that if a person has only ever known an orientation for their own sex, then God must have made them this way, and so God intended them to live as a ‘gay’ man or woman.
Finally, they almost always point out that Jesus was known as the friend of Prostitutes and Tax Collectors – the social outcasts of his day. The revisionist postulate that if Jesus were on earth in the 21st Century he would be known as the friend of homosexuals and lesbians – the social outcasts of our day.
I believe this argument is biblically flawed.
II. Establishing that the Bible Implicitly Speaks to Orientation
Even if Paul and Moses did not speak about sexual orientation as the revisionists have described it, this does not nullify the universal rejection of homosexual acts. They did not need an understanding of modern psychology in order to record the Word of God, because they had a more thorough knowledge than the soft sciences can provide. They were carried along by God’s Holy Spirit and inspired to write the very words of God for his people.
Let us ask a few pertinent questions:
a) If sexual orientation exists today; did it not exist then? No one is making the case that people suddenly began to be oriented this way at a recent time. If they are so oriented today, there were those so oriented in Paul’s day also.
b) While the writers of scripture were not aware of certain facts about the universe (as indeed we are still unaware of certain facts today) was God, the one behind the inspiration of the scriptures equally ignorant of the workings of the human psyche?
c) If some people find themselves always oriented towards the same sex, and God, being omniscient forbade the practice of homosexuality, how can anyone make the case that the scriptures do not say anything about sexual orientation?
The issue throughout scripture is more simple than behavior or orientation, it is indulging a desire for any purpose. Rather than giving pages and pages of teaching on every occasion that may lead to a particular act, the Lord gives a general prohibition and it effectively covers all the bases.
Throughout history there may have been people who engaged in homosexuals acts who were not oriented towards their own sex; but we must presume equally that many who desired to act in this way did so because they were only oriented in this way. Scripture addresses both with a prohibition against the act of homosexuality, making no distinction.
Here then, is the pressing question: How can the revisionist theologian declare that the Bible does not speak to sexual orientation?
In order to make such a statement they must either deny the authority of scripture, deny the inspiration of scripture, or deny the omniscience of God. Each of these claims have been made at various times by various revisionists, and each of these claims represents a religion that is not actually Christianity at all.
III. Establishing That Orientation Doesn’t Excuse Sin
Finally we must ask the question, if a person is born with a pattern of behavior, or becomes aware of a pattern of behavior that they did not choose, is that not simply their identity? Can I be blamed or condemned by God for a pattern of desire in my life that I did not choose but was born with?
However, this is the issue of every person who has been born. We are all born with a pattern of behaviour that scripture declares to be sinful. We are born ‘oriented’ to sin.
Scripture describes the state in which all humans enter the world:
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at working in the sons of disobedience – among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. Ephesians 2:1-3 (Italics Mine)
What does it mean to be by nature ‘children of wrath’? It means to live according to the passion of the flesh. Paul gives us a listing of these things in Galatians: Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivlaries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19-21
Now, what is the effect of salvation upon a person born dead in sin and walking in the course of this world? Do they continue in the sinful pattern of behavior as they knew apart from Christ? Not according to scripture: For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. Titus 2:11-14
People may be born with a pattern of anger, or pride, or greed – and surely most find in our own heart a pattern of sexual desire that God has declared outside of the intent for which he created that drive. We are born sinners, but our orientation to sin does not excuse us to indulge our desires. This is why it is so important that the church proclaim the gospel, not only in hope that members of the LGBTQ community be delivered from their sinful desire, but that all who believe will be delivered from their particular orientation to sin, whatever that sin might be.
To declare that the Bible does not address the issue of sexual orientation is to restrict the range of biblical topics to a miniscule and insignificant subject area. If we apply this particular filter to this subject we would also have to apply the same filter to all of scripture. The result would be that we have no instruction we can apply to modern finance, modern politics, modern environmentalism or many other issues that scripture addresses.
There is no way around the teaching of scripture without rejecting scripture. To reject scripture is to declare oneself as some other religion. The scripture rejects homosexual action and orientation as sin, as do we.