The Misplaced Identity of Gay Christianity

by Dr. Rosaria Butterfield on April 1, 2021
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The hopeless gospel of gay Christianity is a deceptive faith we must guard against.

Is it wrong for Christians to call themselves gay even if they don’t act on their sinful impulses? If this person is a Christian living in chastity, isn’t voicing his sexual identity a potentially helpful blessing, perhaps useful to ward off unwanted matchmaking or awkward questions from well-intended but misguided church members? And if all of this is true, shouldn’t our churches have support groups for gay Christians so that they can encourage one another and have a community of people who can identify with their feelings and struggles? After all, Pope Francis came out in October 2020 in favor of civil unions for gay couples, exhorting Christians to follow his lead using this argument: “Homosexuals have a right to be a part of the family. They’re children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out or be made miserable because of it.”1

Even if you don’t go as far to the left as Pope Francis, it seems that the argument is a slam dunk: sexual identity is one of the most important aspects of a person’s life.

“Gay” Christianity—whether a person is sexually active or not—is a different religion from biblical Christianity.

As someone who lived as a lesbian for a decade while advocating for LGBTQ rights and causes as an activist and tenured English professor in New York, and now as someone who is a biblically married pastor’s wife with children and grandchildren, I can emphatically declare that gay Christianity is a trap set by Satan, whether you are acting on sinful impulses or not. “Gay” Christianity—whether a person is sexually active or not—is a different religion from biblical Christianity. The Pope’s words find a sweet spot in a culture that says sexual identity (LGBTQ) is who you really are, and sexual difference (male and female) is a psychological choice.

Though the Pope elevates culture over Scripture, a true believer has no such right. Gay Christianity adds things to the gospel (specifically Freud’s idea that sexual orientation is immutable and describes who you really are) and subtracts things from the gospel (the Genesis account in which being born male or female is an eternal feature of our imagebearing). Gay Christianity presents the church with serious, even deadly, errors.

In order to address this issue, we need to look at two related aspects of the gay Christian movement within the church: a deceptive faith and a hopeless gospel.

Deceptive Faith

Christians are called by God to “be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble” (2 Peter 1:10, NKJV). The Lord is speaking through Peter to ask a simple question: Are you really a Christian? How do you know?

Conversion means that we have surrendered our lives to Christ—the real Christ—the Christ of the Bible, not the Christ of our imagination. A surrendered person does not set the terms of that surrender. A surrendered person must know who he really is in God’s eyes. The Lord has given us one category of personhood: we are either male or female. That is, we reflect the image of God by living out our creation ordinance as a person born as a man or as a woman.

The idea that gay is who you are comes from Satan (via Freud). Gay is not “who” you are, even though you believe it represents how you feel. If you believe that gay is who you are, it is impossible to war against your homosexuality as a sin because this sin has morphed into other areas, like personality and persistence of attractions. As a Christian, your job is to learn how to hate your sin without hating yourself. And you simply cannot take a clear aim at your sin if you call yourself a gay Christian and you have interposed your sin into your personality, all because it is unchosen.

For a Christian struggling against the sin of homosexuality, this means living in God’s reality and fighting sin using God’s weapons.

All sin comes to us through the fall of Adam. In Adam, we all are born desiring something that God hates. For some of us, that means sexually desiring members of our own sex. Christians are called to deal with sin—including our unchosen sin—in Christ and on Christ’s terms. For a Christian struggling against the sin of homosexuality, this means living in God’s reality and fighting sin using God’s weapons. There is no dual citizenship in Christ. A Christian cannot have one foot in the world (embracing a gay identity) and one foot in the church. But because the gay Christian considers himself a “sexual minority” in the church, he claims Christ’s comfort to victims and outcasts rather than forgiveness for the sin of homosexuality. This misguided view is a trap especially seductive for our therapy-driven culture.

There is no dual citizenship in Christ. A Christian cannot have one foot in the world (embracing a gay identity) and one foot in the church.

Romans 1 sets out three ways that Christians could lose the battle against homosexuality. Paul represents these as “exchanges”:

First, we exchange glory for corruption (Romans 1:23). We do this by saying that homosexual desire is an immutable part of our lives. By trying to fit Christ and the church into our gay identity, we exchange glory for corruption.

Second, we exchange truth for lies (Romans 1:25). We do this by saying that homosexuality is who we are, not just how we feel. It’s our core truth. Our life depends on it. This is a lie. What is true about you is that you are a male or female image bearer of a holy God, and you will be male or female for eternity. Your sexual difference is what is ontologically true (originally and eternally), not your psychological choices.

Third, we exchange the creation ordinance (Genesis 1–3) for a dysfunctional sexuality that is “against nature” (Romans 1:26–28, NKJV). The creation ordinance majestically establishes a role for all of humanity. Built into the true core of our personhood is our sexual difference—male or female. And sexual difference comes with a command and calling from God to participate in the creation ordinance. We do so as parents, but we also participate in the creation ordinance as sons and daughters, aunts and uncles, and brothers and sisters who embrace the clear teaching of Genesis 1 and 2 and take up our high calling to support biblical marriage and its call to procreation.

Don’t miss the progression of these exchanges: the corrupt identity of “gay” becomes the lie that we will die for, which solidifies a sterile life bereft of procreation (which is what “contrary to nature” means). But because gay Christians march under the banner of a civil rights protection to a culture— even a so-called Christian culture—that has abandoned scriptural inerrancy, these exchanges do not so much register transgression as they do progress.

In contrast, a believer living in the victory of Christ deals with sin in God’s way—by mortifying it. The great Puritan John Owen in The Mortification of Sin offers a mighty treatise for defeating this deceptive and seductive enemy. Four points are especially instructive for the person trapped in the sin of gay Christianity.

First, we must starve sin. This means we must not cultivate gay friendships, live in gay culture, call ourselves gay Christians, or engage in sin of any kind that fuels and feeds our affinity for homosexuality. No participation in gay pride parades, Revoice conferences,2 or gay porn (obviously).

Second, we must categorize our sin properly. We must call sinsin.” We must not fall into the trap of seeing ourselves as manifestations of our feelings. We must see our sin on the cross, under the blood of Christ, remembering that Christ did not die for a sin that he intends his children to befriend.

Third, we must mortify our sin. We must be willing to kill our sin and to leave no room for anything else. We must wake up every morning ready to pierce a hundred fresh nails into our choice sins minute by minute. This is war, not a party.

Fourth, we must cultivate life in Christ and feast on the Word, living deeply and daily in the life of the church, attending and hosting prayer meetings, fellowshipping, practicing hospitality, joining a Bible-believing church through the covenant of church membership, and taking up our covenantal duties as grown-ups who know the value of self-control and modesty. And in the life of the church, your elders and a few close friends should know the deep struggles you shoulder and should hold you up in prayer. But if you foolishly think that the whole world needs to know about your homosexual feelings, you are dangerously wrong. In a world that has given civil rights status to the sin of homosexuality, it is not safe for the Christian to follow the ways of the world and “come out.” Your job is to come to Christ—again and again. The difference between you and an unbeliever who calls himself gay is this: You have the Lord. And your union with Christ is spiritual, unbreakable, irreplaceable, and eternal.

A Hopeless Gospel

Change is at the heart of the gospel. Biblical change is the sweet spot of sanctification.

The gospel of gay Christianity is a different gospel from that offered in the Bible. It claims that homosexuality is immutable. It calls into question the honesty of those of us whose conversion initiated a radical change in all areas of life, including sexual desire. It despises the idea that Christians are changed people. But change is at the heart of the gospel. Biblical change is the sweet spot of sanctification.

There is no place in Scripture where we see that God loves and bestows the blessings of saving faith without rigorous change to the person crying out to God for salvation. That change is exacted at the cross of Christ and the redemption that flows from it, and not from behavior modification or moral improvement on some outside matters. Colossians 3:5 calls the believer to put to death not just outward behavior but the evil desire that fuels it.

Genesis 6:5 and Mark 7:20–23 bring to light that the fall of man and the original sin it bequeathed drives corruption deep into the cavernous desires of our hearts. And Ephesians 4:22–24 calls for the transformation of our inner being to conform to Christ’s righteousness.

Sin no longer defines us. “Consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Jesus Christ,” Paul remins us in Romans 6:11.

At the same time, the Bible compassionately reveals that all true Christians feel this inner war: “For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish” (Galatians 5:17, NKJV). But sin no longer defines us. “Reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord,” Paul reminds us in Romans 6:11 (NKJV). Our call is not to despair, but to hope in Christ and to drive a fresh nail into our choice sin every day (Colossians 3:1, 3:5).

None of us is free from the seductions of our choice sin until glory. And this is the crossroad for the Christian who identifies as gay: are homosexual desires, capacities, and/or practices expressions of illicit sin which we need to wage an irreconcilable war against with the power of the Holy Spirit, or are they merely diverse expressions of social good? The Bible issues a clear answer to this.

How can the Christian who struggles with the sin of homosexuality best bring glory to God? By struggling against sin in Christ’s way. While we know that all things are possible with Christ, we also know that none will be completely sanctified until glory. It is here that the words of Jonathan Edwards are a balm to our conscience:

Indeed, allowances must be made for the natural temper: conversion doesn’t entirely root out the natural temper: those sins which a man by his natural constitution was most inclined to before his conversion, he may be most apt to fall into still. But yet conversion will make a great alteration even with respect to these sins. Though grace, while imperfect, doesn’t root out an evil natural temper; yet it is of great power and efficacy with respect to it, to correct it. . . . If a man before his conversion, was by his natural constitution, especially inclined to lasciviousness, or drunkenness, or maliciousness; converting grace will make a great alteration in him, with respect to these evil dispositions; so that however he may be still most in danger of these sins, yet they shall no longer have dominion over him; nor will they any more be properly his character.3
Rosaria Butterfield (PhD, Ohio State University) is an author, speaker, pastor’s wife, homeschool mom, and former professor of English and women’s studies at Syracuse University. She is the author of The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert; Openness Unhindered; and The Gospel Comes with a House Key.

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Footnotes

  1. Wall Street Journal, Thursday, October 22, 2020: A10.
  2. Revoice organizes conferences for “gay Christians” who want the church to better understand them as “sexual minorities.”
  3. The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Volume 2, Religious Affections, ed. John E. Smith (New Haven: Yale UP, 1959), p. 341–43. Quoted in the RPCNA publication, The Gospel and Sexual Orientation, 19.

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