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The homosexual movement has come out of the closet and clamored onto center stage. There’s no avoiding it. Much of the current debate focuses on tolerance and private choice, but much more is at stake. How should Christians respond?
The homosexual movement is a stark challenge to all sectors of American society and, indeed, modern civilization. It has become the driving engine of a social revolution that will influence or transform every institution of life, from the family to the state.
Even beyond this, such a revolution is an attack upon the foundations of gender, family, sexuality, and morality—all of which are central issues of the Christian worldview based on the Word of God. Thus, this is a challenge evangelicals cannot fail to meet with both grace and honesty.
Few modern concepts have been as influential as the psychosocial construct of sexual orientation. The concept of sexual orientation was an intentional and quite successful attempt to redefine the debate over homosexuality, from same-gender sexual acts to homosexual identity—that is, from what homosexuals do to who homosexuals are.
Yet this concept is actually quite recent. Even within the past decade, the more common concept employed by the homosexual movement was sexual preference. The reason for the shift is clear. The use of the term preference implied a choice. The clinical category of orientation was more useful in public arguments.
The recent notion of homosexuals as a category of persons constituted by sexual identity helps eliminate the idea of a voluntary choice.
The very notion of homosexuals as a category of people constituted by sexual identity is a recent invention. The argument would now be that homosexuals exist as a special class or category—a “third sex” alongside heterosexual men and women. The new notion of sexual orientation has pervasively shaped the current cultural debate. It is still the most effective tactical concept employed in the debate.
Evangelicals must not allow this category to frame the debate. We cannot allow people to be reduced to any sexual “orientation” as the defining characteristic of their identity. If the idea of orientation is based in reality, then what is its cause? Biological destiny? Genetic factors? Cultural conditioning? Parental influence? Environmental factors?
No adequate scientific data exists to prove any one of these—or any combination thereof—as the source of homosexual orientation. It is important to note that the hypothesis preceded any scientific proof, and yet it has been accepted as virtually self-evident. Evangelicals must reject the category as a therapeutic construct employed for ideological and political ends.
While it is not necessary for evangelicals to resist all scientific research, science is often enslaved to ideological agendas, as has been evident in some scientists’ recent claims to have established a genetic basis for homosexuality. Evangelicals tend to overreact to such reports, some accepting the claims at face value and others running scared as if science could overthrow the moral structure. Neither response is proper. Evangelicals should look critically at such research, and carefully consider its unsubstantiated claims.
Yet we must avoid the overreaction which implies that such research—even if verified to the satisfaction of all—would subvert God’s command. The Christian understanding of sexual morality is not based on scientific grounds, and it is not open to scientific interrogation or investigation. Scientists cannot discover anything that can call into question the authority of God’s command.
A genetic basis—unlikely in the extreme—would, if objectively established, not carry great theological import. A genetic link may be established for any number of behaviors and patterns, but this does not diminish the moral significance of those acts nor the responsibility of the individual. After all, genetic links have been claimed for everything from diabetes and alcoholism to patterns of watching television.
Evangelicals must reject the therapeutic construct of “sexual orientation” and yet point to a biblical model. I believe that the lack of a mature biblical model for understanding homosexuality has diminished our ability to sustain a consistent moral argument in an adversarial culture.
We must continue to bear faithful witness to the clear biblical injunctions concerning homosexual acts—that such acts are not only inherently sinful, but also an abomination before the Lord. But the evangelical approach must be far more comprehensive, for the Bible is itself more comprehensive in approach. Scripture does not address mere homosexual acts; it communicates God’s design for all of human sexuality, and thus provides a basis for understanding the implications of homosexuality for the family, society, and the church.
First, as Romans 1 makes absolutely clear, homosexuality is an act of unbelief. As Paul writes, the wrath of God is revealed against all those “who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (v. 18). God has implanted all humanity with the knowledge of the Creator, and all are without excuse.
Paul continues: “For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason, God gave them up to degrading passions; for the women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error” (Romans 1:25–27, NASB).
The broader context of Paul’s rejection of homosexuality is clear: homosexuality is a rebellion against God’s sovereign intention in creation, a gross perversion of God’s good and perfect plan for His created order. God created human beings in two distinct and complementary genders.
Here the confessing church runs counter to the spirits of the age. Even to raise the issue of gender is to offend those who wish to eradicate any gender distinctions, arguing that these are merely “socially constructed realities,” vestiges of male-dominated past.
Scripture will not allow this attempt to deny the structures of creation. Romans 1 must be read in light of Genesis 1 and 2. As Genesis 1:27 makes apparent, God intended from the beginning to create human beings in two genders—”male and female He created them.”
The text does not stop with the mere creation of woman. Rather, God’s creative intention is further revealed in the joining of the man to the woman.
This bond between man and woman was marriage (Genesis 2:24–25). This biblical assertion, which no revisionist exegesis can deconstruct, clearly places marriage and sexual relations within God’s creative act and design.
How will evangelicals respond to the challenge of the homosexual movement?
Christians must establish our understanding of homosexuality on the Bible and rest upon an undiluted affirmation of biblical authority. Then we must speak in love, never in hatred.
Evangelicals must establish our understanding of homosexuality on the Bible and rest upon an undiluted affirmation of biblical authority. The Bible is clear on the issue of homosexuality.
Christians must neither cringe nor cavil in the face of secularism and its ideological manifestations. We speak on the basis of divinely revealed truth.
A growing number of evangelicals are tempted to shift the debate and base their arguments on natural law.1 But to revert to natural-law reasoning is to retreat from the high, unassailable ground of holy Scripture to the contested terrain of nature and the cosmos. From such an abdication there is no recovery.
The cultural elites and generations raised in the aftermath of the sexual revolution are no more moved by natural-law arguments than by explicitly Christian assertions. Natural-law reasoning is no more welcome in the U.S. Congress or among the media than a recitation of the Ten Commandments.
The order of ethical reasoning is critical: evangelicals can turn to nature as illustration after basing the moral argument on Scripture. Our trust must be in the sovereign God who is the Creator and Sustainer of all. He and He alone holds the prerogative to define and limit sexuality.
Evangelical Christians must affirm sexuality’s goodness without embarrassment, give thanks for the gift and its enjoyment, acknowledge without hesitation that God intended sexual relations for pleasure as well as for procreation, and never retreat from the clear biblical teaching that sex is intended only for the context of committed and monogamous heterosexual marriage.
This model of sexual wholeness, lived daily in the lives of millions of families and couples, will bear eloquent testimony before the world—even when it is ridiculed.
To the homosexual, as to all others, we must speak in love, never in hatred. But the first task of love is to tell the truth, and the sign of true hatred is the telling of a lie. Those who genuinely love homosexuals are not those who would revolutionize morality to meet their wishes, but those who will tell them the truth and point them to the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6).
—Adapted from Desire and Deceit © 2008 by R. Albert Mohler, Jr. Used by permission of WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc.
Brokeback Mountain, winner of three Oscars in 2006, presents the homosexual romance between two cowboys as a relationship to be admired. The movie insinuates that if our society could be freed of its hang-ups about homosexuality, these two could have gone on to live together happily ever after.
Anthony Esolen, professor of English at Providence College, warns that this breakdown of the natural sexual order has actually led to the death of true friendship—particularly to the death of male friendships.1
Consider a scene from J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Sam Gamgee, having followed his master into Mordor, finds him in a small cell lying half-conscious. “Frodo! Mr. Frodo, my dear!” Sam cries. “It’s Sam, I’ve come!” Frodo embraces his friend, and Sam eventually cradles Frodo’s head. A reader or viewer is likely to jump to a rather perverse conclusion: “What, are they gay?”
This question is unfortunate but inevitable in today’s world. Similar attacks have been made against Shakespeare and many other great authors who spoke of non-sexual love between men in strongest terms. Similarly, when David is told of the death of his friend Jonathan, he cries: “Your love to me was more wonderful than the love of women.”
The corruption of language has contributed to this confusion. When words like love, friend, male, female, and partner are transformed in a new sexual context, what was once understood to be pure and undefiled is now subject to sniggering and disrespect.
The most vulnerable victims of friendship’s demise are boys. Boys are no longer free to develop close friendships with other boys because of fears that they will be tagged as homosexuals.
Boys need the uncomplicated camaraderie of other boys to channel their energy in shared activities. In the process, they learn valuable lessons about self-sacrifice, leadership, teamwork, and personal accountability. Instead, in today’s world, they are left with surface relationships that do not edify or help them to become better men.
Imagine a society in which the taboo against incest has been removed, as it has against sodomy. Under such circumstances, no uncle would be free to hug his young niece without an accusation of sexual interest. Relationships between parents and children, brothers and sisters, and relatives of all varieties would be corrupted and undermined by the imposition of sexual suspicion.
This is exactly what is happening as homosexuality is normalized. Society at large is corrupted. Remember all this as Hollywood prepares to celebrate its latest cultural “achievement.”
1 Throughout the body of this section, Dr. Mohler summarizes content and ideas from Anthony Esolen’s “A Requiem for Friendship: Why Boys Will Not Be Boys and Other Consequences of the Sexual Revolution,” Touchstone (September 2005).
Brokeback Mountain pushes viewers to accept a romantic relationship between two men as admirable. (left) The wholesome friendship portrayed in Lord of the Rings can easily cause speculation about their relationship. (middle) In today’s culture, even the biblical example of David and Jonathan seems to make us uncomfortable. (right)