Asking the Wrong Questions About Homosexuality
Recently, I was asked why God makes homosexuals the way they are. That, after sharing concerns about people—even Christians, mind you—who prayed for deliverance to no effect. I responded by recounting a feature story (ten-columns long!) that my local newspaper ran some years ago about a clergyman who asked the same thing.
As a Southern Baptist minister, Matt Nevels knew all the biblical injunctions against homosexuality. He believed that same-sex orientation was a choice and that homosexual practice was a sin. Until, that is, his 30-year-old son, Stephen, came down with AIDS.
It turns out that Stephen had been living a gay lifestyle for some time. He told his father of sexual abuse as a teenager and of his lifelong attraction to men. He was now in a committed relationship that he had no intention of severing.
Stephen went on to tell about friends who were rejected by church and family, bullied, and condemned to live double lives. At that point Matt wondered, who would choosesuch a thing? Maybe homosexuality wasn’t a choice. But if it wasn’t, “Why would [God] make someone like this?”
It was the wrong question—not because it caused the minister to reconsider everything he believed and the historic church taught about homosexuality, but because, as will be explained later, it ensured the wrong answer.
Seeking to reconcile God’s love with his son’s lifestyle, Nevels turned to revisionist interpretations of Scripture, arguing that the proscriptions in the book of Romans, for example, were not about same-sex practices but pedophilia and rape. It’s the wishful exegesis promoted by gay advocacy groups, like Soulforce, that claim there is nothing unnatural, abnormal, or immoral about homosexuality; it is a gift of God.
For the seasoned minister, Isaiah’s warning “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil,” should have come to mind. But for a father who didn’t want to tell his dying son that he was “in sin,” those readings helped him reach the unsurprising conclusion that “there was no conflict between homosexuality and Christianity.”
With that, the veteran churchman decided there was nothing wrong with his son. Instead, for two millennia the church had had it wrong about homosexuality. Thus, gays don’t need to change, church teaching needed to change.
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The problem with asking “Why does God make people gay?” is that it contains a false premise which, necessarily, leads to a false conclusion.
Consider the following syllogism:
Major premise: Everything God created is good.
Minor premise: God created homosexual orientation.
Conclusion: Therefore, homosexual orientation is good.
For the conclusion to be valid, both premises must be true. But while Scripture supports the major premise, it does not support the minor one. God has not created homosexual orientation or made people gay any more than He has created cleft palates and made children deformed.
Whether it is Down syndrome, autism, club foot, or homosexual desire, it is not a “good” created by God but, rather, an abnormality resulting from the Fall: abnormalities because they are distortions of their original design that interfere with normal functioning; results of the Fall because sin, once loosed, spawned a moral virus generating a cascade of pathologies that have left mankind, and all of creation, frustrated from the good life the Creator intended.
The good news is that a homosexual bent is not, of itself, a sin. Same-sex attraction is no different from other desires that run counter to the created order: all are products of the Fall propagated by an unsettled combination of nature and nurture.
The bad news is that the effects of the Fall are universal, such that we all have a sinful bent, whether to anger, violence, gossip, homosexuality, or “fill in the blank.” The good news is that our desires are just that and nothing more, until acted upon; and even then, they are forgivable for the repentant offender. So, the issue is not whether we have a sinful orientation, it is what we do with the orientation we have.
If I rationalize that my propensity for anger is “a gift of God” and excuse my outbursts as products of my genetic makeup, I am not living in accordance with the teachings of Jesus. The same holds for those who profess to be Christian while embracing their homosexuality as a divine blessing.
The central message of Jesus’ ministry was the Gospel of the Kingdom. But that Gospel had a condition—a radical call to repentance. Thus, the defining marks of a Christian include a commitment to transformation followed by a growing (but not complete) capacity to overcome temptation.
That’s a kingdom apart from the gospel of Soulforce which says that the only thing we need to overcome is guilt.
A person who asks the wrong question is like a man who boards a train heading in the wrong direction. All of his onboard movements will not put him one step closer in the right direction, with each whistle-stop another leg removed from the correct destination.
But it’s worse than that. The wrong question leads to falsehoods that perpetuate further falsehoods and the compounding of negative consequences.
For if same-sex orientation is a moral good, then so are same-sex desires, practices, committed relationships, and “marriage.” If God is good and God made people gay, then homosexual attraction is not a temptation to resist but a gift to embrace, enjoy, and celebrate. In fact, it is not only natural and wholesome for homosexuals to have gay sex; it is unnatural, dangerous, and even sinful for them to have heterosexual sex.
But this is nothing new; turning the tables on God and His commands goes all the way back to Eden.
When Adam was confronted by God about his sin, he tried to exonerate himself with scapegoating: “the woman you put here with me gave me some fruit from the tree and I ate it.” In other words, “You can’t hold me culpable for a situation you put me in!”
That defense didn’t work for Adam, and it doesn’t work for us. For, as St. James warns,
While experiencing temptation, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, and he himself tempts no one. Rather, temptation occurs when someone is attracted and seduced by his own desire. Then the desire conceives and gives birth to sin, and that sin, when it reaches full growth, gives birth to death.
Consequently, the right question about any temptation, desire, disposition, or “orientation” is not why God made me this way but, rather, what He expects of me. For the important thing is not why I have it or where it comes from but what I do about it: Do I accept it as an inescapable part of “who I am” that must be satisfied lest I whither away as a human being? Or do I reject it as an unnatural, abnormal, and dysfunctional pathology that must be overcome if I am to be, in the words of St. Irenaeus, “the glory of God…a man fully alive?”
One choice leads down the death spiral of ever-increasing demands and ever-diminishing satisfactions; the other, to life abundant.
[Photo Credit: Unsplash]
By Regis Nicoll
Regis Nicoll is a retired nuclear engineer and a fellow of the Colson Center who writes commentary on faith and culture. He is the author of Why There Is a God: And Why It Matters.