Articulating the four ‘Christian’ responses to homosexuality.

I think it’s helpful to divide the responses to the issue of homosexuality by the church to enable us to identify what we believe and why. I’m not going to comment on the rights and wrongs of each, just identify them to help people see the situation

  1. Being a Christian and to be attracted to people of the same sex is impossible. Deriving from an interpretation of the passage in 1 Corinthians 6 to include those tempted as well as those practice homosexuality, it takes the phrase ‘such were some of you’ to imply becoming a Christian will remove the orientation.

  2. Homosexual practice* orientation is inherently disordered, but is, in effect, a disability suffered by some people for reasons that remain a mystery; homosexual Christians are called to celibacy.

  3. Homosexual relationships are as valid as heterosexual, and should be approached with the same attitude.

  4. Sexual behaviour is a matter of indifference for Christians, and given that ‘there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus’, anything is acceptable.

Ultimately every Christian’s position will boil down to one of these.

  • My thanks to Philip for pointing out that faux pas
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6 thoughts on “Articulating the four ‘Christian’ responses to homosexuality.

  1. brucep66423 Post author

    I didn’t make clear enough that the standard for both position 2 and 3 is that sexual activity should only occur within the context of ‘marriage’, though position 2 rejects that a gay ‘marriage’ is a marriage.

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  2. randalluk

    I wish to articulate a fifth option:

    Being a Christian and to be attracted to people of the same sex is possible. Same-gender attraction occurs for a variety of reasons, some of which may not be presently understood by anyone. Therefore superficial responses to the realities of their experiences should be avoided, instead genuine love should be extended to Christians who struggle with this or other aspects of sin in their lives.

    1 Cor. 6 certainly makes clear that Paul (and the Holy Spirit) expected that those who previously engaged in homosexual practices, or any other sins in that list, had stopped doing so immediately after their conversion. However, it is not clear if that is all they expected, or if they also knew that some of them had found their thinking and their emotions changed as well as their behaviour. Jesus made clear when teaching one audience that His Father was as interested in their inner thoughts as He was in their outward actions (Mat. 5:21-48). This is why believers are promised “a new heart and a new spirit” as part of His new covenant.

    All Christian believers experience The LORD’s working to renew their hearts at different rates over different matters. Whilst some issues are dealt with almost instantly, and seemingly with little effort, others seem to drag on and are only overcome through repeated struggles. Those who have found the necessary strength to stop sinning outwardly in any particular matter, may still need extended support whilst they are faced with the inner temptations. Sadly, Christians too easily gravitate to the pole which expects God to wave His magic wand when a person vocalises the so called “sinner’s prayer” or to the one which seems to think that the Godhead has lost almost all their ability to redeemed whole people. Between these to extremes is a place where we appreciate that no matter what sin they struggle with the most serious disciples of Jesus Christ can know His on-going work changing them on the inside as well as on the outside.

    Western Christians seem to struggle with a God who takes His time to change people, but rarely consider how much our unbelief hinders His work. When a father of a demon possessed epileptic boy was challenged by Jesus over his expectations, he responded “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”. Later His disciples asked why they had been impotent when faced with the boy’s need. We might paraphrase Jesus reply as “You don’t take God seriously enough.” Unless homosexual attraction is a sin set apart from all others we can be confident that Jesus wants to redeem the whole person in the best way for them. This will mean an instant change for some whilst others will experience a longer journey to wholeness.

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    1. brucep66423 Post author

      In terms of responding to the issue of homosexuality, this response doesn’t break away from the four positions that I outline, which are mutually exclusive and cover all positions; from a Christian perspective either:

      Being same sex attracted is sinful in itself, or it is not. 1 or not 1.

      Given not 1, can homosexual practice ever be justified? 2 or not 2

      Given not 2, should homosexual practice be subject to the same judgement as heterosexual marriage or can it be practised more promiscuously (3 or 4).

      Randall’s position thus appears to constitute a subset of position 2, though one that may or may not have biblical justification, unless he wants it to be subset 1, which is far more dubious.

      A distinction that used to be drawn was the difference between ‘gay’ and ‘bi-sexual’. People who identified as gay are those who experience NO heterosexual attraction. Those who are bisexual experience attraction to both sexes.

      The use of 1 Cor 6 to suggest that gay people should cease to experience the attraction to people of the same sex seems flawed; the list of sins which are being warned about includes thieving. The idea that a good Christian will not suffer the slightest attraction to the idea of keeping the item that accidentally ends up in their bag is surely unrealistic. The temptation should be resisted, and is likely to be resisted with ease, but it will surely still exist, even if encountered only momentarily.

      It is important to note the many references to sexual immorality in the epistles. Paul’s response is always to condemn engagement with it; ‘flee immorality’, ‘abstain from fornication’ etc. Actually a verse in 1 Thess 4 is interesting in this:

      ‘For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality’

      so the term ‘sanctification’ is associated with ‘abstaining’ – i.e. resisting the temptation, not coming to the point where the temptation is no longer experienced. The temptation will remain.

      In this context it makes sense for being gay to be treated as a form of disability like any other; there is no biblical justification for the gay person to be expected to change as evidence of being a Christian; position 1 – as perhaps hidden in Randall’s position – is unsustainable. It’s also pastorally damaging.

      Can the gay person expect to change?

      This is where the issue gets HARD. However it is first crucial to say what our best case outcome is. There are two:

      1) That the gay person comes to ALSO be attracted to the opposite sex – i.e. becomes bisexual
      2) That the gay person ceases to be same sex attracted – i.e. becomes straight.

      Confusion over this is part of why the ex-gay movement got such bad publicity; they claimed a success if (1) occurred, but got pilloried because their ‘successes’ then succumbed to persisting same sex attractions, regardless of whether any change had occurred.

      We all expect to get more perfect as time goes on, and we believe that God heals. And yet Christians are not physically perfect – and as they get older they wear out like everyone else. Except that’s not what the bible can be taken as saying:

      “He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.
      Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall:
      But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”

      But it doesn’t happen. I’m watching the Christians I know get older physically. So the most appropriate interpretation of this passage seems to be that when there is a need for a person to have this spiritual super-charging, it will happen, but not otherwise. Or are all of us getting old to feel guilty because we are feeling their age?

      So should the gay person expect to be healed – at least to the point where they can have a heterosexual marriage? The appropriate parallel is surely that of physical disability; we don’t know the reason why some people are gay, but there is no reason to assume that it does not have a physical cause in at least some people. Given that, it makes sense to look for healing for gay people in the same way we look for healing in the disabled – with a great deal of hesitation about expecting it to happen.

      Will the bisexual cease having any same sex attraction? If same sex attraction is a taste for a particular sort of sin, then as with any temptation, once the temptation is there, it will always be there to some extent; the taste for this type of (spiritual) poison is present in the person, regardless of whether they remain clear or not.

      The starting point for any conclusions in this area must be a recognition that the church has made a pigs ear of this issue over the past 100 years. The fact that our liberal brethren have chosen to show their regret for this by endorsing sin has encouraged traditionalists to fail to engage with the enormous damage that their loose talk has done. It’s in that context that I offer my 4 positions to enable clarity of thinking on this difficult issue. They are logically binary; any position other than 2 is ultimately flawed by the standards of God presented in the bible.

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  3. Philip

    I would say none of the four responses really reflect the biblical view. Position 2 seems to come closest in terms of its conclusion, but I think it still contains various mistakes, from a biblical point of view at any rate, which make it misleading at best:

    1. “Homosexual practice is inherently disordered”

    I don’t want to make a big deal about this one, but I find it curious that you choose to use the abstract and somewhat nebulous term “inherently disordered” (makes me think of entropy!) rather than something less ambiguous – or even something biblical!

    2. “Homosexual practice is… in effect, a disability”

    First of all, I presume you mean the desire is a disability rather than the practice. If so, then you’re putting homosexual desire in the same class as a physical disability, which is not something that is done anywhere in the Bible, nor do I think it is legitimate, as I will explain in a moment. The Bible does however have something to say on the subject in 1 Cor 6:

    “Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.”

    A very familiar passage no doubt. Now from the Greek I’m happy to accept that this is referring to homosexual practice rather than desire (catamites, sodomites, etc.), but my point is that this means the other items in this list are being put in the same class as homosexual practice, and therefore homosexual desire should be considered to be in the same class as the desire to fornicate, to idolise, to commit adultery, to steal, to covet, etc., which are all part of the sinful nature, but it should not be considered in the same class as a physical disability, which although a result of the Fall, is not a part of the sinful nature (by which for the purposes of this I mean the wicked thoughts and desires of a man’s heart). Such a classification would be a category error, and provides an object lesson in why we need to be very careful when trying to supplement what the Bible says with extra-biblical concepts. Another way to look at it would be to ask the question: can you really describe the desire to fornicate, to idolise, to commit adultery, to steal, to covet, etc. as “in effect, a disability”? Because if you’re truly going by the biblical classification then you should be able to substitute any item from that list into your statement and it still make sense. Also if the desire is equivalent to a physical disability, then what is the practice equivalent to?

    So one common link between all of the items in that list is that they all stem from sinful thoughts/desires. Beyond that, some of them then provide additional parallels – if we look at the extreme cases of thieves and drunkards for example, could it not be said that homosexual desire is like the kleptomaniac’s desire to steal and the alcoholic’s desire to abuse alcohol? Some people are afflicted with it, some are not. Some may know where it comes from, some may not. Some would be able to trace a particular ‘life event’ that caused it, some may not. When you’re born again, the desire doesn’t necessarily go away, but you’re no longer in slavery to sin and thus there’s no excuse for continuing to act on it. These seem to be perfectly sufficient for analogous purposes (and I’ve no doubt that given more thought more parallels could be found), so on this point my question to someone who held Position 2 would be: why, given the Bible gives us various comparisons of its own, have you chosen to ignore them all and come up with your own, if it wasn’t that you found them all unsatisfactory in some way, and if so could that fact in itself be the reason you made the category error in the first place – because at some level you were unable to truly accept the biblical categories? The analogy with a physical disability seems to fail on various levels, not least of which is the absence of any moral element, but then that in itself may be indicative of the real reason the error was made – namely a desire to remove any moral element from the equation…

    3. “Homosexual practice is… suffered by some people for reasons that remain a mystery”

    Again presumably you mean the desire here rather than the practice, in which case to claim that the Bible gives no reason whatsoever for the existence of homosexual desire is simply not true. Take Rom 1:18-32 for example, another very familiar passage. First of all note the correlation with the previous passage I mentioned, in that pretty much all the items in that passage are covered in vv. 24-32, including homosexuality, and then note that in vv. 18-23 we are given the reason as to why these sinful thoughts/desires exist, namely our rejection of God and subsequent idolatry, for which we alone are culpable and thus have no excuse. Now some may try to map the penalty to the offence on an individual basis here rather than a corporate one, but that would presumably be the same mistake as in Lk 13:1-5 or those who claim that natural disasters are always ‘targeted’ – nonetheless the fact remains that the Bible does give reasons, and most importantly makes it clear that the culpability lies with us rather than with God. Now it may be that someone who who held Position 2 may agree with all of this, but in that case they should change the wording of their position to reflect what they actually do mean, because as it stands it is patently false from a biblical point of view, not to mention highly misleading. The attitude expressed in Position 2 on this point seems related to that of those who say that the existence of evil and suffering in the world is a mystery – it may well be a mystery if you’re not a Christian, but if you are then to say it is a mystery is to essentially deny the sufficiency of the Bible as a source of adequate answers to the basic philosophical questions of life, at which point you immediately lose your intellectual audience, or indeed anyone who is looking for real answers.

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    1. brucep66423 Post author

      Thank you for a thoughtful and challenging reply, which has sharpened my own thinking on the topic. However the issue that you fail to address is the reality of the orientation; for the gay person the experience is one of being NOT attracted to the opposite sex, but to the same. Your persistence in using 1 Cor 6 having admitted that ‘I’m happy to accept that this is referring to homosexual practice rather than desire’, you then persist in using it to base your understanding of homosexual orientation.

      Your criticism of it being a mystery is also mostly unhelpful; once you agree that Luke 13 rejects claiming that those who suffer the consequences of sin are in anyway individually ‘more sinful’, it is illogical to object to the use of the term when it is applied to suggesting that we don’t know why some people are gay. Perhaps changing the phrase to ‘part of the mystery of suffering’, is more accurate. However the purpose of the blog is to address a single issue; to insist on covering the full Christian understanding of suffering is set up an distraction from the purpose of the posting.

      But you’re right about the use of the word ‘practice’, not ‘orientation’ in the description of position 2. However the core of position 2 is that the gay individual needs to be seen as a person subject to a particular temptation and not as someone who is inherently sinful because of being tempted that way. This is a binary question; it is either true or not. The experience of many who are gay is that when they are tempted in this area, they are thereby sinful, rather than when they succumb. That they have absorbed from church culture such a perception of being in a worse state than the normal heterosexual who is also tempted, is a serious failure of the church. Such individuals need to hear the opposite as truth. The effect otherwise is to leave them under a persistent cloud of feeling sinful in a way that is debilitating. The church needs to do better; the effect of your post is to confuse this message.

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      1. Philip

        Hmm, I think we’ve been talking at cross-purposes here, and getting confused by the terminology being used. If we consider heterosexuality for a moment, we could break it down into three elements: attraction, lust and practice. Note the first two are both kinds of desire, but one is sinful and the other is not. Now on this basis, Position 1 is then equivalent to the question of whether all these three elements exist in homosexuality, in that some may argue that there is nothing equivalent to heterosexual attraction (i.e. a non-sinful desire) in homosexuality, but only lust and practice. As for Position 2, in my previous response I should have used the word lust rather than desire for clarity’s sake. I was basically looking at the list of sinful practices in 1 Cor 6, and noting that the connection can be extended to the corresponding lusts that lead to each of them, and that therefore homosexual lust cannot be compared to a physical disability. However on reflection I think that you would agree with this, but this wasn’t the comparison you were making – rather you were comparing physical disability with homosexual attraction (having assumed Position 1 was not true and that the lust and the attraction aren’t the same thing) and so my point was largely irrelevant.

        As for it being a mystery, again I think we were talking about two different things. Consider the following two statements:

        1. Why one person experiences homosexual attraction and another one doesn’t is a mystery.
        2. Why anyone experiences homosexual attraction is a mystery.

        In my previous response I essentially argued against Statement 2, but given your response I suspect what you actually meant was Statement 1 – if so then when reading that part of Position 2 I think what a lot of people will *hear* is Statement 2 (I certainly did), so again I think the wording needs changing there.

        Finally, if you’re really trying to give a complete case analysis of the different positions on the subject, then Position 2 should be something equivalent to “Homosexual attraction is not in itself sinful, but the lust and practice is” – your wording of Position 2 is really a sub-case of that because it introduces extra concepts that may or may not be valid.

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