Pastor Bob O'Bannon
Below is the seventh post from Pastor Bob in an ongoing blog series designed to help Christians think through the issue of homosexuality in a careful and Biblical way. For more on the reason for this series, click here.
Question 7: How can you say homosexuals are wrong when they are born with their sexual orientation?
This is one of the most commonly used arguments for the idea that homosexuality is morally permissible: If some people are born with a sexual orientation that is directed toward people of the same gender – if, in other words, God “made them that way” – then how can anyone possibly blame them for doing what is normal to them?
First of all, it has not been decisively concluded that homosexuals are born with their particular sexual disposition. The American Psychological Association, for instance, wrote in 2013 the following: “Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors.”
Of course any pro-LGBT representative could produce a number of studies that would suggest that homosexuality is indeed genetic, to which I could respond with my own selection of studies showing the contrary. But “battle of statistics” games are cumbersome and rarely productive, and quite frankly, whether homosexuality is biologically genetic or not is beside the point.
What I mean is this: theologically speaking, every single person is born into this world with a disposition toward sinful behavior. We don’t become sinners only when we get around to committing our first sin; instead, we sin because by nature we are sinners. We enter the human race with rebellion in our bloodstream. Paul says we were all infected with this sinful disposition by the disobedience of Adam, the very first man (Rom. 5:19). David wrote that he was “brought forth in iniquity” and was conceived “in sin” (Ps. 51:5).
Therefore, it doesn’t really matter if there is a “gay gene,” because the more fundamental problem is that all of us, whether homosexual or heterosexual, are born with a sin gene. The most relevant factor in this discussion is not our sexual orientation, but our sinful orientation. This sinful orientation is the fountain from which spews all kinds of sins – theft, slander, adultery, murder, and all kinds of sexual immorality, including homosexuality (Mat. 15:19).
Bottom line is that every sin committed in human history can be traced back to the sinful disposition that we all inherited from Adam, and yet this fact does not excuse anyone from the sins he commits. If anyone says he is without sin, he lies to himself (1 John 1:8). The whole world is accountable to God for its sin (Rom. 3:19).
Our orientation toward sin does not get us off the hook. We can’t exonerate our adultery or slander or theft by saying we were “born that way” – even though we actually were born that way! If anything, this only magnifies our malady – we are a race of creatures with a profoundly serious problem, a sickness that is in our moral DNA, and one from which we can not find freedom apart from a radical act of redemption by Jesus Christ himself on our behalf.
Lately there have been several reports that alcoholism may be genetic, but I don’t think anyone would suggest that this gives license to individuals to “come out” and proudly identify as alcoholic. A genetic disposition toward alcoholism is not permission for the alcoholic to freely indulge in his addiction. No amount of genetic causation gives permission to indulge or celebrate immoral behaviors. As Robert Reilly says, “The immutability of the condition or of the inclination is irrelevant to the moral character of the acts to which they are predisposed.”
One reason why gay activists want so badly to show that homosexuality is genetic is so they can conclude that the behavior is irreversible. Already, states are passing laws that ban “conversion therapy” – the attempt to change the sexual orientation of gays and lesbian minors. I fully understand that it is rare for homosexual desires to be completely changed into heterosexual desires, and that some who have been “converted” end up going back to the gay lifestyle, but we should not ignore the fact that successful conversions do take place. It is possible. And to deny that it is possible robs homosexuals of the hope that they can be different.
Check out the story of Rosaria Butterfield, a former lesbian English professor at Syracuse whose academic focus was feminist and queer theory, but who was converted to Christianity and is now married to a man. Or Jackie Hill-Perry, a poet and hip-hop artist who once engaged promiscuously in the lesbian lifestyle but also became a Christian and is now in a heterosexual marriage. Or Allan Edwards, a PCA pastor who has struggled with same-sex attraction but is happily married to a woman. You can here an NPR interview with Edwards here.
All of these individuals have found that through the Gospel, change is possible. For some, change is slow, painful and perhaps small. We shouldn’t expect that everyone’s experience will be like Rosaria Butterfield’s or Jackie Hill-Perry’s, nor should we shun the person for whom same-sex attraction remains strong and seemingly unchanged. But the logic of Hill-Perry in the following quote should give everyone hope, no matter what is their sin struggle:
“I think we’ve made God very little if we believe that He cannot change people. If He can make a moon, stars and a galaxy that we have yet to fully comprehend, how can He not simply change my desires?”