The Act / Orientation Distinction
and Causes of Homosexuality
It is necessary at this point to discuss certain recent claims that tend to qualify, if not dismiss the relevance of, the biblical data. According to a popular modern dogma the Bible cannot be thought to address what is understood as homosexuality today, for Scripture draws no distinction between the outward homosexual act and the inward homosexual orientation. It is precisely the latter (sexual inversion) that is taken as genuine homosexuality in current discussion. Moreover, the Bible does not seem to consider what causes the homosexual condition (inversion), and many today see ethical significance in such considerations. According to this theory the condition of inversion with all of its special problems was unknown in biblical times, and therefore Scripture's pronouncements must apply only to homosexual acts (or, others say, to homosexuality of the sort found when a constitutional heterosexual perverts what is natural to him).
Recent studies about homosexuality instruct the moralist to keep in mind the distinction between homosexual activity and the homosexual condition. The former may be transitory, situational, or traumatic behavior, and not necessarily the expression of the genuine homosexual condition as an inward orientation.
Thus to pass judgment on homosexual practice is not thereby to speak to the question of the inner homosexual propensity. There is a difference between external homosexual behavior and some inner factor, variously called a "predisposition, orientation, psychic condition, constitution, propensity," etc. This inner factor is described as a preferential attraction to the same sex, and emotional and physico-sexual propensity toward others of the same sex, a sexual desire directed toward gratification with the same sex, eroticism directed toward the same sex, a way of thinking and feeling, etc.
Because this psychological condition was allegedly unknown in the time of the Bible's composition, such inversion was not a subject discussed by its writers. However, modern science has recognized the existence of inversion, and the theologian must seriously consider what has now been learned through common grace and modify his conclusions about homosexuality accordingly. Most homosexuals are inverted either from the start or long before they understand what is happening within them. Whether a subconscious reaction, an involuntary tendency of the psyche, or an accident of personal development, the inner homosexual orientation is not something for which the individual is morally responsible. It is morally neutral, the ethical equivalent to being born lame or accidentally handicapped. Proponents of this viewpoint are divided over whether this inversion is a sickness or not, and whether overt acts following from it are likewise blameless or not.
What evaluation should be made of this distinction, upon which many writers insist? Perhaps the most important response is this: even granting the premise that the Bible never distinguishes between inversion and homosexual acts, the inference to be drawn may be just the opposite of that suggested. We are told that the Bible's condemnation of homosexuality pertains only to outward acts, since it does not isolate and discuss the inward orientation. However, one should draw the opposite conclusion:
if Scripture does not distinguish between orientation and act, the distinction is not morally relevant. Under the category of homosexuality, Scripture is to be understood as condemning both orientation and act, for there is no need in ethics to distinguish them.
Moreover, not only is their inference questionable, but the premise on which they rely is open to challenge also. They claim that inversion as a constitutional condition or psychic orientation was not recognized in biblical times, and that the Bible's teaching on homosexuality is therefore irrelevant in the light of recent discoveries. The Bible simply does not say anything about sexual orientation, which is the subject of modern discussion. Such a premise is faulty in at least two ways.
First, it seems to suppress the relevant fact that the primary Author of Scripture was God Himself, who is omniscient, and therefore does not need to have His revealed will in Scripture replaced or qualified by modern psychological guidance. Surely God knows man's inner life and the truth about his psyche. Man was formed by God, and all of man's life is lived in the environment of God's providential government of nature and history. But the fact remains that He does not distinguish between acceptable and unacceptable aspects of homosexuality in Scripture, and in Scripture is to be found everything sufficient for "training in righteousness, that the man of God may be fully equipped for every good work."1
It must not be forgotten that the law of God and the apostolic teaching both drew careful ethical distinctions and qualifications, indicating mitigating circumstances that affect one's judgment. However, unlike pagan writers who condoned or criticized homosexuality in different circumstances, Scripture allows no excuse but categorically condemns it. If it were crucial to our moral judgments that we distinguish between innocent inversion
and culpable homosexual acts, then certainly God would be aware of that distinction and bring it to light in His inspired Word for us. Without a doubt modern science can help us to understand our world better and thereby help us apply God's norms to life; however, science cannot establish ethical norms or alter those delivered by God the lawgiver. The utility of modern scientific research cannot be understood in such a way as to ignore the omniscience of God and the sufficiency of Scripture.
Second, the premise that the Bible does not address the issue of sexual orientation or propensity (inversion) is faulty in the most direct way. That the Bible shows no recognition of inner dispositions, firmly rooted character traits, or inherited propensities is a claim that is not sustained in reading. Scripture teaches that all men inherit a depraved, fleshly nature: a principle of sin operates in their members and captivates them,2 the fleshly nature brings forth fruit unto death,3 and it lusts against the Spirit so that men cannot do the things they would.4 The flesh gives rise to certain forms of evil,5 so that by nature men fulfill the desires of the flesh and mind.6. It would be hard to understand such teachings apart from some notion of inner disposition and inherited orientation. The same holds for the doctrine that "out of the heart are the issues of life";7 the Bible portrays man's heart as stiff, crooked, uncircumcised, deceitful, divided, hard, blind, and darkened.8 Such metaphors demonstrate that biblical writers recognized an inner, spiritual depravity in men a disinclination to good and a propensity for evil.
According to God's Word, man's psychological predisposition is calloused9 and defiled;10 men are enemies in their minds
against God and cannot be otherwise.11 Therefore, we cannot deny that an inner, inherited, irresistible orientation of man's psyche was recognized in Scripture, and this condition was viewed precisely as the source of man's sinful activities. Men are drawn away by their own lusts, which conceive and bring forth sin.12 As Jesus declared, "Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies."13
Thus there is an inner predisposition in all men that inescapably inclines them to evil and is the source of all their actual transgressions. Moreover, this general depraved nature common to men can be worked out into an habitual and besetting indulgence of specific sins; men can dwell upon and develop particular sins as forming a certain character. Reference to individual inner traits or personal dispositions is evident when the Bible speaks of men who lack self-control, are soon angry, have feet swift to shed blood, are presumptuous and self-willed, have eyes full of adultery that cannot cease from sin, are stubborn and obstinate.14
Consequently the notions were readily available by which the biblical writers could make reference to an inner propensity toward homosexuality; one cannot preclude the Scripture's ability to speak of inversion in some way, although not with the specific vocabulary of a recent science. If an alleged inner predisposition for homosexuality was relevant to drawing moral distinctions and making moral judgments, the Bible would not have been completely without ability to indicate so. Moreover, the fact is that God's revealed Word condemns homosexual desire itself, seeing it as sinful as well as homosexual acts.
To maintain that a person is not sinful for having homosexual attractions, feelings, or erotic orientation overlooks the clear biblical
teaching that it is not only evil to do immoral acts, it is also evil to desire to do immoral acts: e.g., devising wicked plans or evil against your neighbor,15 anger leading to violence,16 malice,17 envying dishonesty,18 planning deceit,19 loving false oaths,20 coveting.21 God's Word forbids sinful activities, but it equally forbids fleshly lusts or evil desires.22 The classic passage in this regard is Matthew 5:27-29, where Jesus declares that everyone who looks on a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery in his heart. However, homosexual lust is in a sense even worse; while heterosexual drives are God-given, promote the cultural mandate, and are fulfilled within marriage,23 homosexuality is always immoral in any context. Heterosexual desire is evil as lust (outside the marriage commitment), whereas homosexual desire is evil in itself (a perversion). In Romans 1 Paul does not restrict his censure to overt homosexual practices or "unseemly deeds." His condemnation extends specifically to the homosexuals being "inflamed with desire" for each other.24 They are censured for having "impure lusts"25 and "shameful passions."26
Therefore, it is plainly incorrect to hold that Scripture speaks only of homosexual acts and not of the homosexual desire and inclination. In forthright language Paul holds men and women morally responsible and under God's wrath for burning with homosexual desires, which he ethically describes as vile affections. The act / orientation distinction, then, does nothing to mitigate
the Bible's censure of homosexuality. We cannot agree with those who claim that Scripture knows nothing of sexual inversion, nor with their baseless judgment that a homosexual disposition is morally neutral.
Now in response to the preceding considerations, an adamant defender of the thesis that the homosexual has an involuntary psychological orientation that is unknown to the Bible and for which he is not morally responsible might contend that this inner condition cannot be identified with the desires condemned in the Bible. One might hold that what is taken as "inversion" today cannot be simply identified with homosexual affections or lusts, but is rather an inner, psychological disposition that lies behind and causes those desires (and acts, inevitably). The contention would be that a third factor must be admitted into the present discussion, a psychological orientation that is in addition to the inner homosexual passions and outer homosexual practices. And it is this third thing that some defend as morally neutral. The predisposition to homosexual attractions and behavior is not something for which the individual can be held responsible in ethical discussions.
What should be made of such a thesis? In a theological context it might mean that the depraved nature with which men are born is for some individuals specifically oriented to the sinful perversion of homosexuality. However, the Scripture does not support the idea that each person receives a sinful nature with a peculiar bent toward particular transgressions of God's will. Every man inherits a general depravity of heart, a fundamental disinclination to good, a pervasive misdirection, which affects every aspect of his person without discriminating emphases; there is a wholesale, general pollution operating in everything he is and does. Nevertheless, the ways in which individual sinners develop their depraved natures, the particular sins upon which they focus and around which their characters are formed, will differ from person to person. Thus everyone is born with a depraved sexual nature
(i.e., a sinful predisposition that is expressed in the area of sex, as in all others); but individuals express this in various ways, be it lust, voyeurism, adultery, flirtations, exhibitionism, rape, frigidity, bestiality, sodomy, etc. No one is inherently immune from any one of these sins, and no one is specifically impelled toward any one of them on the basis of some distinctive complexion or form of that original sin that he individually inherits. Such an idea is foreign to the biblical doctrine of man.
However, even if it were somehow shown that this idea has biblical warrant, this fact would not lead in itself to the conclusion that the individual who has a distinctive sinful bent (say, toward homosexuality) in his inherited depraved nature is somehow less personally responsible for the corresponding desires and acts than for other sinful desires and acts. Adherents of the view in question have to show biblical support for the idea that the individual cannot be held specifically responsible for those particular sins that are ingrained in his depraved nature. Since everyone must recognize that original sin (however one views its characteristics and its manner of functioning) is itself sinful in character and something for which its inheritors are held personally culpable,27 the notion that men are not specifically responsible for their particular ingrained sins can only mean mitigated culpability for the resultant desires and behavior proceeding from their distinctive depraved bent. But God's Word never offers such a mitigation of guilt for our lusts and practices; therefore the present theory contributes nothing to an ethical evaluation of homosexuality.
The secular version of the theory that homosexual orientation lies behind both desire and action asserts that something internal to certain men determines their homosexual attractions and actions. This "something" is labeled "a psychic condition, psychological disposition, physico-sexual orientation, or constitutional predisposition."
Proponents of this view often insist that we distinguish between this orientation and overt acts of homosexuality. It is appropriate, then, to ask these proponents to draw the distinction that is, to characterize or describe just what this third thing actually is that they want conceptually isolated and recognized. If the distinction is so very important, then someone ought to distinguish the underlying orientation for us. But this is precisely where proponents of the secular view turn out to be so sketchy in their discussions. It is as though they expect readers to be somehow automatically able to identify, understand, and use the mysterious notion of an "underlying psychological disposition." Just what is this supposed to be? Of course physicalists or materialists propounding this theory have particular trouble with analyzing psychological dispositions in general. Even apart from that, serious questions remain. Can a psychological disposition be identified apart from its manifestations? Can it be analyzed apart from necessary reference to desires and acts? Is this just another way to speak of homosexual desires and acts in summary fashion, while attributing independent substantival reality to this summary expression?
One possible account of dispositions is that they are conditional properties: e.g., to have a homosexual disposition means that if certain circumstances come about, then the person will manifest homosexual desires and/or practices. But then they are not causes at all and cannot be identified in isolation from actual manifestations of behavior. In that case the concept of dispositions becomes useless as an explanatory device, and the identification of a "disposition" involves circular reasoning.
Another account of dispositions is that they are actually properties of some definite state akin to the structural qualities of physical objects that is responsible for the person manifesting certain behavior. Since this view reduces what a person can be or do to what he is or is doing, we would expect that the character of the disposition actually would be manifested all the time. This is
clearly contrary to the facts about homosexuals. No one holding this theory wishes to suggest that homosexuals are always having such desires and engagements. A further account of dispositions in the history of philosophy rests on an unpopular Aristotelian metaphysic of potentiality, wherein dispositional properties or predicates would not abide by the logical law of excluded middle (e.g., S is potentially having homosexual desire and is potentially not having such desires) and is extremely unclear.
Enough has been said to illustrate the point: dispositional analysis is an obscure question in philosophy to begin with. If psychologists who speak of "the homosexual disposition" are not referring to a conditional or actual property (with the attendant problems mentioned above), then what exactly are they referring to? What do they wish to distinguish for us? Moreover, what is it that allegedly has this disposition? Ordinarily we would think of the person having the disposition, but proponents of the present view often speak as though the disposition were attributable to some element of the person. Such an ambiguity allows for unwitting shifts in reference between some causal factor within the person, an orientation, and a characterization of the person himself. But a reference to orientation must either be taken as metaphorical shorthand, or it must be specified more exactly. Is it a physical or locatable thing that is thought to be constituted or oriented in a particular direction? If not, what is it? Finally, if persons are said to have a disposition to manifest homosexual desires and acts, can they also be said to have a disposition to have that disposition? Can they be disposed to have homosexual desires? To put it basically, how can dispositions be distinguished from each other, and how do discrete dispositions relate to each other?
The relevant point of the above critique is simply this: If the distinction between homosexual orientation and acts is not a distinction between homosexual desires and overt acts, then those who insist upon the distinction must be thinking of some third thing
apart from desires and acts an alleged psychological disposition. However, those who so strenuously insist that this disposition must be distinguished have not distinguished or defined it clearly for us. And until they do, nothing can be made of their claim that it is morally neutral. Moreover, such a third thing apart from homosexual desires and acts is really inconsequential for ethics, in view of the fact that, whatever hidden factors may or may not be operative, Scripture holds the homosexual fully responsible for his desires ("impure lusts") as well as his overt activities ("unseemly deeds"). If a further third facet of the homosexual syndrome should be clarified conceptually and evidenced empirically, the Christian would still conclude that its nature cannot cancel culpability, for the teaching of God's infallible Word prevents drawing such an inference. Thus the existence of the alleged propensity would be beside the point ethically.
Let us now recapitulate the main points of our reply to the allegation that there is no distinction drawn in Scripture between outward homosexual acts and inward homosexual orientation (which was unknown at the time), and that therefore its condemnation must be restricted to homosexual practices (rather than propensities). First, even if the premise were accurate, the inference drawn would not be legitimate; we should rather conclude that the Bible addresses both act and orientation since it did not qualify its pronouncements, exonerating and setting some aspect of homosexuality apart from its condemnation. Second, the premise itself is taken in a way that conflicts with other theological truths, such as the omniscience of the primary Author of the Bible and sufficiency of Scripture for every judgment pertaining to the standards of righteousness. Third, the premise is straightforwardly mistaken: the ordinary metaphors and common-sense notions were available by which Scripture could have made reference to a homosexual disposition (understood as characteristic inner lust), and in actual fact we find that God's Word explicitly censures homosexual desires and habits. Finally,
the attempt to isolate the homosexual disposition as a different, third type of entity (apart from homosexual desires and acts) in both its theological and secular versions fails to demonstrate its distinct existence or its moral relevance.
This brings us to the question of what causes homosexuality. Differences of opinion have flourished here, and the "authorities" have been in conflict. Homosexuality has been attributed to a wide range of factors, from biological (e.g., one's body build) to psycho-social (e.g., oral regression). The only general fact to be acknowledged is that there is an utter absence of scientific agreement about homosexuality's cause and incidence. Many views that have been propounded have turned out to be unproven speculation usually with implications that are contrary to Scripture. Although we will pay some attention to the debate over the cause of homosexuality, in the long run we must still ask what difference it makes in terms of morality. Even if we could identify with assurance the cause (or causes) of homosexuality, we would still have to confront the ethical question of its acceptability.
The two basic kinds of causes popularly put forward today to explain homosexuality are congenital and psychogenic. Is the homosexual born that way, or does he learn to be that way? For a long time the first was the central tenet of the permissivist stance regarding homosexuality, which claimed that glandular imbalance or some other biological factor was responsible for the homosexual's reactions. Thus he should be tolerated, as is anyone else who is born with a certain condition beyond his control. Some theologians, resting on such theories, reasoned that homosexuality was a part of creation or a result of the creation itself, and thus natural and futile to oppose. However, since this theory suggests that homosexuality is a physical abnormality or some form of sickness, it has lost popularity recently amidst public attempts to portray the homosexual condition as normal and dignified.
Meanwhile the congenital theories have lost nearly all semblances of scientific credibility. Empirical tests have failed completely to confirm any pattern of correlation between hormone levels and homosexual / heterosexual preferences; when male homosexuals were treated with estrogen, homosexual activity was found to slacken but heterosexual drive was reduced as well. Attempts to redirect male homosexuality through injections of the male sex hormone have resulted simply in strengthening homosexual desire. Hormone experiments have not turned out to affect sexual orientation.
Another highly publicized conjecture was that homosexuality is a hereditary condition, but work done by recent geneticists has overwhelmingly refuted the idea. Not only has the view that homosexuality is a chromosomal anomaly been overthrown, but so also have many of the alleged "scientific" methods once used to bolster the view. Techniques developed for viewing all the chromosomes of a cell in connection with chromatin-sexing studies have found no abnormality relating to homosexuality. Research by sexologists has discovered that in studies of gender identity, non-genetic hermaphrodites are as free of homosexuality as individuals suffering from chromosomal disorders involving an absence in females or addition in males of the feminizing X chromosome (Turner's syndrome and Klinefelter's syndrome respectively). This evidence has definitely shown that homosexuality is a developmental condition and not constitutional.
Further, neuro-endocrine research has moved away from simple formulas and mechanical programming ideas for any behavior condition, including homosexuality. Genes and neuro-endocrine circuits are only a part of a creature's behavior system, and that portion is smaller and smaller in the higher species, reaching a minimal level for human beings, for whom adaptation and complex learning procedures assume immense explanatory significance. Biologically rooted concepts of homosexual "latency" have been recognized as begging the question by "explaining"
everything (both the absence and presence of homosexual manifestations) while clarifying nothing and lacking operational value in hard science.
Finally, the last plank of the theory of homosexuality's biological normality has been removed by the most advanced ethological studies, which have shown homosexuality to be uniquely human. For years it was popular to think that many animals engage in homosexual practices, but recently the evidence for such a view has been found to rest on faulty observations, on anthropomorphic misinterpretations, on confusions with heterosexual mating rituals and attempts to identify a sexual partner, or on a truncated or special use of the term "homosexual." The fact is that no mammal in its natural state seeks and prefers same-sex sexual gratification (copulation, orgasm). This is found uniquely among human homosexuals. Therefore, among many contemporary scientists the theory that homosexuality is a biological condition (congenital, hereditary, or constitutional) is deemed a theory without support, a conjecture demolished by hard empirical evidence.
We turn, then, to the psychogenic theories of homosexuality. But first, let us pause to consider the turn of events in this century relative to the homosexual polemic. Paul taught in the first century that homosexuality was a sinful preference. For this, Christ's apostle was viewed as an ignorant bigot earlier in the twentieth century. Psychologists said earlier in this century that homosexuality was an involuntary maladjustment, and thereby beyond moral accountability. Current defenders of homosexuality want a little of both. They now want to agree with Paul that homosexuality is a chosen pattern of desire and behavior, but they also want to side with earlier psychologists that it is beyond objective moral censure. Thus homosexuality would not be viewed as either an involuntary affliction or an immoral option. Instead, it is set forth as an innocent preference. Propounding this hybrid view suggests that the discussion of homosexuality can now be carried on simply
in an ethical framework, without much concern for its causes. However, even if psychogenic theories are becoming unpopular or only selectively utilized, we should still consider them on their own merits.
Among the adherents of the psychogenic theories one finds an emphasis on psychological (subconscious reactions) and environmental interaction. Some view homosexuality as a psychopathic condition, either emphasizing the constitutional component or stressing the experiential component. The difficulty with the former has already been discussed. The experiential component pertains to the emotional disturbance that has developed within the homosexual as he attempts to adjust to his various situations and social pressures. The difficulty with accepting the opinions of psychiatrists who view homosexuality as such an emotional disturbance is that they tend to have contact with only the individuals with personality conflicts and neurotic disorders, and not the "hidden" majority of homosexuals who have learned to get along with social and personal needs. Moreover, if the homosexual syndrome is taken as a neurosis or psychosis, it represents an individual's reaction to his society and vice versa; and it turns out that the very traits that such psychologists associate with homosexuality are also the emotional problems of individuals who identify with a persecuted minority in a society. That is, it is questionable whether those psychologists who view homosexuality as an emotional disturbance have been dealing particularly with same-sex orientation or rather with the person's response to society's harsh attitude (in this case, to homosexuality).
The practice and theorizing of many schools of psychology entail questionable assumptions such as the cogency of "subconscious" notions, the understanding of man that is utilized, the moral and evaluative presuppositions that are applied, the view that psychoanalysis brings a patient to recognize his operative beliefs rather than bringing him to new beliefs about himself, etc.
Further, psycho-social learning theories often operate with unclear, if not confused, notions of will and choice. It is not surprising, then, that the field is hopelessly divided today with respect to the question of homosexuality. One would hope in vain if he expected to receive some well-supported theory about the causes of homosexuality from modern psychology. Psychologists strongly differ over questions as to whether homosexuality is abnormal, is a sickness, is reversible, or is detrimental in itself to being well adjusted. Thus those who argue that homosexuality is constitutional or determined by complex and intricate psychological forces can legitimately be asked, just where is the evidence that this is so?
There are plenty of conflicting theories, but little more than speculation for each of them. To claim that one has "learned from the sciences" that homosexuality is often a condition deeply rooted in psychological aberrations for which the individual cannot be held responsible is a token of minimal familiarity with the state of modern psychology, or it is hasty bravado. Moreover, it must be recognized in the current discussion that modern psychology for the most part is concerned with how to handle homosexuality, not specifically what and why it is.
Turning to the social side of psychogenic theories of homosexuality's causes, we can note first the recent work done by interdisciplinary studies, making use of the research by ethologists into the sexualized dominance-submission (dependence) expressions of animals and men. It has been thought by some writers that insights gained here would explain the psychodynamic core of homosexuality, since the homosexual condition can be extensively correlated with social and interpersonal attitudes pertaining to aggression, competition, dominance, humiliation, insecurity, dependence, and submission. While studies in this area are often quite imaginative (and one has the suspicion that subjective or arbitrary explanatory patterns are imposed on the data), the fact remains that even the more dependable work here is at best a
discussion of concomitant and contributing factors to the homosexual condition. Advanced scholars do not claim to be laying down the single key to homosexuality and adducing its cause, but only to be discerning connections with interpersonal relations and expressions.
Another popular tradition explains homosexuality in terms of the social environment of the family. It is suggested that factors in the relationship of the homosexual to his or her parents in early childhood led to the later condition of sexual inversion. For a boy this would mean a father who was absent or detached, one who was often hostile to the child or who minimized him in important ways, and/or a dominant mother (often frigid toward the father or other men) who tended to be overly intimate with the child and draw him into alliances with her against the father. While such a theory is popular today, and even fostered by some Christian writers, it can only be viewed as discussing a possible contributing factor and not a cause of homosexuality. As to its methodology, it can be questioned whether this explanation even says anything distinctive about homosexuality. Too many homosexuals have strong, loving fathers and non-dominating mothers, and too many heterosexuals have extremely maladjusted family environments, to think that any obvious correlation can be seen between homosexuality and early family relations.
Furthermore, some professionals have asked the telling question whether a person's homosexuality is the effect or the cause of what is later seen as the unfavorable parental atmosphere. Might not the father of a son who tended for other reasons to homosexuality become detached, disappointed, or hostile in response to a son he does not understand? "Homosexuality begins in the home" must be viewed as a dangerous and ambiguous platitude, even when used by Christian writers; it is certainly not supported by specific, solid evidence. Moreover, those advocating this position are usually less than clear on the question whether or not the homosexual (or his parents) is responsible for
his behavior and response. For example, it has been said by some who attribute homosexuality to the home environment that society does not have the right to condemn an individual suffering from inappropriate choices resulting in homosexuality; yet the individual, according to the same authors, is responsible for learning new patterns. One aspect of this outlook establishes what another aspect has precluded.
We must conclude that psychogenic theories of homosexuality are no more conclusive or persuasive than congenital theories. There is neither scriptural support nor solid medical evidence that homosexuality is a constitutional, involuntary, or irreversible condition. Moral responsibility for homosexuality has not been dissolved through scientific study.28 The natural and human sciences have not, contrary to a widely publicized polemic, rendered any agreed-upon or individually substantiated verdict about the cause of homosexuality.
Perhaps in the future they will. But whether they do or not, the Christian will keep certain scriptural truths in mind. With reference to congenital theories, it must not be forgotten that God's Word teaches that homosexuality is not "natural" at all. Whatever physical factors may influence it, homosexuality cannot be viewed as biologically innate. It is artificial and learned contrary to what a man is by God's creation. Even in a fallen world with all of its distortions and miseries, Paul categorized homosexuality as "against nature" as "improper," an "error," a fundamentally wrong way to live and use the human body. With reference to psychogenic theories, we would recognize that at base they make
homosexuality out to be some form of learned behavior, a matter of one's reactions to social influences, environment, training, or exposure. This may or may not help some day to see which influences uniquely contribute to homosexual reactions, but the fact will remain that such learned behavior can be unlearned and altered.
One's personal reactions are crucial to psychogenic explanations of homosexuality, and Scripture always holds men accountable for how they react to their circumstances. No circumstance makes someone unavoidably sinful in his reactions, for there is always a way of escape pleasing to God.29 All sin can be seen as having causes of one sort or another; no transgression arbitrarily "comes from out of the blue." However, these various causes, whatever they may be in individual cases, in no way remove a person's culpability before God. All sin is eventually traced by God to our hearts.30 Whatever the external and internal circumstances, no one will be excused for his reactions if they transgress the revealed will of God.
Paul teaches that even the inward homosexual lust is sin,31 and therefore in relevant respects it is engaged willfully and knowingly not as an involuntary, ingrained, unavoidable orientation. Being sinful, homosexual desire is something for which men are held responsible by God. It may begin in various ways and under a variety of influences, but in the end it is nevertheless learned behavior which is abhorrent to the Lord. The homosexual's delight in and recommendation of his sexual perversion to others32 indicates how willful is his participation in it. His homosexual deeds and desires are no more determined than are another man's heterosexual lusts and adultery. It is an unacceptable rationalization for a man to plead, "I am a constitutional
adulterer, my lustful imagination is involuntary, and thus my misdeeds must be excused."
Scripture teaches us that our physical inclinations are to be subordinated to God's moral direction, not used as an excuse for transgressing it. And therefore the homosexual must channel his sexual drives in the right direction and exercise them, mentally and physically, under the limits set by God's will; toward his sinful and perverse condition he needs to assume the biblical attitude of repentance,33 resistance34 and redirection.35 The common bisexuality among homosexuals (as well as the free adaptation of heterosexuals to homosexuality in certain circumstances, e.g., prisons) and actual results of proper pastoral counseling demonstrate that homosexuality is not an irreversible fixation. It is a willful orientation and adopted way of life that can be changed.
Of course homosexuality may not be a conscious and remembered choice any more than is heterosexuality. There may not have been a process of explicit deliberation, weighing the options, and coming to a decision in either case. But that does not make homosexuality or heterosexuality any less chosen, in the sense of a voluntary, willful, and personal preference. The occasional homosexual defense, "I can't help it," cannot be acceptable in light of the Word of God. Homosexuality is not a cross to be borne, but a pattern of behavior to be thrown off with the old man and his lusts. Any Christian discussion of the act/orientation distinction or the cause of homosexuality that suggests that the inner desire is involuntary and perhaps irreversibly determined, and thus immune from responsibility, is contrary to the scriptural portrayal. Further, any such discussion that goes on to say that, although his inversion is unavoidable and permanently fixed in his disposition, nevertheless any outward expression of his
homosexuality in overt acts is sinful and condemned, straddles the moral fence and is cruel to the sinner. God's Word portrays homosexual deeds and desires as willful, culpable, and able to be renounced through God's power. Such discussions as have been mentioned here offer the homosexual not redemption and release, but reinforcement or frustration.
The fact that homosexual desires and deeds are willful sins for which the person is morally responsible is overwhelmingly important if there is to be any hope in the Christian perspective on homosexuality. When responsibility for homosexuality is removed, hope for homosexuality is also destroyed. Authors who present homosexuality as an unchangeable inner domination by those drives or desires doom the sinner to despair. And such despair is unnecessary, unwarranted, untrue to Scripture. Because homosexuality is sinful, there is divinely guaranteed hope for its reversal. Christ came to die for sinners and to deliver them by His Spirit from their sins. Not only has our guilt been removed, but also our moral pollution is being set right.
Those who come to Christ are no longer slaves to sin and need no longer obey its lusts. In the power of the Savior's resurrection, effected by the Holy Spirit, sin no longer has dominion over believers.36 They are now slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification of heart, mind, and bodily behavior. Because a person is a homosexual by will, and not by constitutional necessity, he can be changed and can reform his life. Having listed homosexuality among the things that exclude a person from God's kingdom, Paul says, "And some of you were these things" but now they are washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of God.37 Therefore, on inspired and infallible grounds, the Christian can say that it is possible to turn from homosexuality and leave it behind;
it can take place in the name of Christ and power of the Holy Spirit. What seems so impossible to men is possible with God. Moreover, He sanctifies men wholly, in both their desires and behavior.38
In summary, scholars with a naturalistic bias are in conflict over the homosexual's inner abnormality, cause, and cure. In the current discussion, divergent answers are guided by each scholar's particular presuppositions (e.g., his view of man, his criterion of normality, what he takes as warranting hope). This is true for the Christian as well. He has distinctive presuppositions derived from the revealed Word of God. They are the basis and guide for his view of homosexuality. With respect to the nature of man, the Christian sees him as a creature of God, given his definition and direction by the Creator, and thus always accountable to the Lord for the use of mind and body. With respect to a criterion, the Christian is firmly committed to the ethical standards of God's Word, and thereby sees homosexual desires and deeds as rebellion against the will of God. With respect to hope, the Christian looks to God's grace and power as able to change sinners and release homosexuals from the guilt and power of their willful perversion. These presuppositions, over against those fostered outside of commitment to God's Word, settle the issues pertaining to homosexuality's abnormality, cause, and cure for the Christian.
Chapter 4 || Table of Contents
1. 2 Timothy 3:16-17.
2. Romans 7:23.
3. Rom. 7:5.
4. Galatians 5:17.
5. Gal. 5:19.
6. Eph. 2:3.
7. Proverbs 4:23.
8. Deut. 10:16; Prov. 17:20; Jer. 9:26; 17:9; Hosea 10:2; Matthew 19:8; Eph. 4:18.
9. Eph. 4:19.
10. Titus 1:15.
11. Romans 8:7; Col. 1:21.
12. James 1:14-15.
13. Matthew 15:19.
14. 2 Tim. 3:3; Prov. 14:17; 16:32; Romans 3:15; Isaiah 59:7; 2 Peter 2:10, 14; Ezek. 2:4.
15. Proverbs 6:16-18; Zech. 7:10; 8:17.
16. Genesis 4:7,8; Matt. 5:21,22.
17. Eph. 4:31.
18. Psalm 37:1,7
19. Amos 8:5.
20. Zech. 8:17.
21. Exodus 20:17.
22. Romans 13:14; Col. 3:5; 1 Peter 2:11.
23. 1 Cor. 7:2-5; Proverbs 5:18-19; Song of Solomon 7:1ff.; Hebrews 13:4.
24. Romans 1:27.
25. Romans 1:24, where the word akatharsia literally pertains to refuse.
26. Rom. 1:26.
27. Rom. 5:12, 15-19.
28. Because commitment to these theories is often quite strong (even though decided in advance of the evidence), it is not surprising that some theorists resist relinquishing them. Thus some now suggest that the cause of homosexuality is not either environment or heredity, but rather both in interrelation with each other. However, the discussion and analysis of such interrelations is a far from exact science (since interrelations are difficult to measure or confirm). Instead of offering hope of a scientific explanation of homosexuality, such a diehard suggestion appears simply as a doubly leaky bucket.
29. 1 Cor. 10:13.
30. Matthew 15:19.
31. Romans 1:24, 26, 27.
32. Romans 1:32.
33. Ezek. 18:30, 31; Psalm 32:5; Luke 13:3, 5.
34. Eph. 6:10-12; 1 Peter 5:8-9; James 4:7.
35. 1 Peter 4:2-6; Ephesians 2:2-10; 4:17-24; Col. 3:5-10.
36. Romans 6:1-22.
37. 1 Corinthians 6:11.
38. 1 Thess. 5:23; Gal. 5:24; 2 Cor. 7:1.
Chapter 4 || Table of Contents