Hope for the Homosexual
By Travis Allen
Homosexuality has emerged as the newest symbol of American indulgence. As a cultural force, it is demanding equal rights, social acceptability, and respect. As a sin, it is a terrible beast that degrades society and destroys individual lives with ferocity. It must be reckoned with, and the only worldview capable to confront and overcome it is Christianity.
When homosexuality first began to appear on America’s cultural scene in the 1960s and 1970s, Christians responded in indignation. At that time, few Christians in America had ever known or met anyone struggling with homosexuality and those who practiced the sin were few and quiet—it was taboo. Many Christians’ initial exposure to homosexuality was from a distance; it was something they heard of, read about, or saw on television as a defiant demonstration against biblical morality. Christians were rightly angered by the public celebration of a sin that God so clearly abhorred.
Some Christians, perhaps most, were quietly appalled and chose not to engage the issue. They stayed out of the public discourse and away from homosexuals, not considering that God had them on the earth for just such a time to be His ambassadors. Other Christians, however, reacted in like hostility and were labeled ‘self-righteous,’ ‘bigoted,’ and ‘homophobic.’
Here in the twenty-first century the situation has changed. What was formerly considered militant activism has become the modus operandi of those who work at moral deregulation to “define deviancy down” and expand the boundaries of tolerance. The more homosexuality is tolerated and promoted, the more people embrace it as an option to express their inward idolatry. Therefore, many Christians today have been exposed to homosexual sin at a very personal level. There are some who have themselves struggled with homosexual lusts and many others who know someone who has struggled or embraced the sin. Christians today are more inclined toward compassion.
But compassion can go beyond biblical allowances. Some professing Christians downplay the severity of the sin and offer alternative interpretations of condemning biblical texts. That should never happen. When God’s condemnation of homosexuality is minimized, dying people remain in bondage to a soul-destroying sin with no hope of release—all that remains is despair. What is necessary is a truly biblical response, one that balances the accurate identification of the sin with a compassionate response toward the sinner. What is required is for Christians to follow the example of the Lord Jesus Christ whose mission it was to seek and save the lost by proclaiming the truth.
Homosexuality has hit the culture like wave with incredible force; it is highly visible and relentlessly vocal. But coming in with the tide are people, hollow and hurting. Christians must confront both. They cannot engage the social force without engaging people, and they can’t deal with people apart from the social force that influences and shapes their thinking. Understanding the cultural influences behind homosexuality as well as discerning the true nature of the sin of homosexuality are vital for counseling the person who struggles with these tendencies.
The social revolution of the 1960s was a widespread sign that the American family, an institution that had traditionally been defined in biblical terms, was eroding. The family was under attack—many men failed in their God-given task to love their wives, lead their families, and teach their children; many women increasingly resented, questioned, and abandoned their God-given role of submitting to their husbands, keeping their homes, and raising their children. The departure from biblically authority in the home left children without moorings. Children came to see the constraints of religion as pointless and, in the academic atmosphere of new ideas—like evolution, humanism, and deinstitutionalization—, they cast them off wholesale. Virile young men and rebellious young women sowed to their own flesh in the infamous sexual revolution; society continues to reap the corruption of it (Gal. 6:7-8).
The sexual revolution has had a devastating effect on the family in America. The late senator from New York, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, cited these statistics in his 1993 essay, “Defining Deviancy Down”: “Thirty years ago, 1 in every 40 white children was born to an unmarried mother; today it is 1 in 5, according to Federal data. Among blacks, 2 of 3 children are born to an unmarried mother; 30 years ago it was 1 in 5.” The catastrophe has resulted in irreversible social consequences: a drastic increase in crime, alcohol and drug abuse, and sexual promiscuity.
A little over a decade before the 1960s sexual revolution, Alfred C. Kinsey founded the Institute for Sex Research. He worked to overturn society’s prohibitions against sexually deviant behavior and sought to redefine them as legitimate. He produced two reports—known as the Kinsey Reports, “Sexual Behavior in the Human Male” and “Sexual Behavior in the Human Female”—that suggested that “of the total male population in USA 37% engaged in at least some overt homosexual experience to the point of orgasm between the start of adolescence and old age, and that 4% of all (white) males are exclusively homosexual throughout their lives after the onset of adolescence.”
Writing in 1979, David Atikinson said, “much, but by no means all, medical and psychological opinion has … shifted considerably from the majority verdict of 15 years ago that homosexuality was a questionable and treatable condition to the view which promotes and seeks to sustain in good health the homosexual lifestyle as a ‘natural alternative.’” Rather than honestly attributing cultural ills to the abandonment of biblical standards for the family and human sexuality, sociologists and educators have chosen to redefine sinful behaviors as normal. For instance, the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychiatric Disorders in 1973 because of political pressure. To ensure the proper indoctrination of the next generation, educators started to change the language in textbooks. Senator Moynihan quoted Barbara Dafoe Whitehead’s 1992 essay, “The Expert’s Story of Marriage,” where she retells “the story of marriage as it is conveyed in today’s high school and college textbooks.”
The life course is full of exciting options. The lifestyle options available to individuals seeking a fulfilling personal relationship include living a heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual single lifestyle; living in a commune; having a group marriage; being a single parent; or living together. Marriage is yet another lifestyle choice. However, before choosing marriage, individuals should weigh its costs and benefits against other lifestyle options and should consider what they want to get out of their intimate relationships. Even within marriage, different people want different things. For example, some people marry for companionship, some marry in order to have children, some marry for emotional and financial security. Though marriage can offer a rewarding path to personal growth, it is important to remember that it cannot provide a secure or permanent status. Many people will make the decision between marriage and singlehood many times throughout their life. Divorce represents part of the normal family life cycle. It should not be viewed as either deviant or tragic, as it has been in the past. Rather, it establishes a process for “uncoupling” and thereby serves as the foundation for individual renewal and “new beginnings.”
The original participants in the cultural revolution of the 1960s and 1970s are all grown up now. Those who advocated sex, drugs, and rock and roll now occupy public office, propose legislation, provide entertainment, and bring America its evening news. For many of them, the years have only solidified their commitment to an anti-biblical worldview, and they’ve raised their children to walk in their footsteps.
Scientific studies by Simon LeVay in 1991, J. Michael Bailey and Richard C. Pillard in 1991, and Dean Hamer in 1993, along with others, continue to look for evidence of a physiological cause for homosexuality. Though their research consistently yields inconclusive results, political activists continue to seek legislation to entrench homosexuality in America as a legitimate lifestyle and to protect it from those in opposition. The most recent examples come from San Francisco, Canada, and Massachusetts. San Francisco’s mayor Gavin Newsom ordered the city and county to issue same-sex marriage licenses (on February 12, 2004). Canada’s Svend Robinson, a homosexual activist politician, gained a major legislative victory when Canadian Parliament passed his Bill C-250, adding sexual minorities to its list of groups protected from hate propaganda (on April 29, 2004)—some preachers have already been cited and fined. And Massachusetts became the first state in the union to allow same-sex couples to marry (on May 17, 2004).
News outlets put the most positive spin on homosexuality by providing uncritical and often positive coverage. According to a June 3, 2004 article by correspondent Randy Dotinga, liberal reporters, editors, and media executives at the local level outnumber conservatives two to one; at “national news organizations, the gap is even wider—7 percent conservative vs. 34 percent liberal.” And while the news media must strive to maintain objectivity, the entertainment industry feels no such compelling; it is aggressive in its promotion of the homosexual agenda. Programs like “Will and Grace,” “Queer as Folk,” and “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” are very open in legitimizing homosexuality. And coming soon from MTV Networks is a cable channel, LOGO, which will actively target lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender viewers.
Predictably, opportunists see the recent popularization of homosexuality as a chance to make money. According to one article, it appears that MTV Networks created the homosexual channel because their marketing experts identified a large, relatively untapped market. “[M]arket researchers estimate the gay and lesbian population at 15 million adults, with a projected buying power $485 billion … and it is increasingly the target for many Fortune 500 companies.”
A final component in rounding out the picture of homosexuality as a social force is a religious one—the development of gay theology. One of the earliest attempts to defend pro-gay Christianity was D. Sherwin Bailey’s 1955 book, Homosexuality and the Western Christian Tradition. Because pro-homosexual authors since then haven’t improved much on his ideas, it is worthwhile to note David Atkinson’s succinct summary of Bailey’s arguments against the Christian condemnation of homosexuality.
[Bailey] distinguishes between genuine homosexuality as a condition (inversion), and ‘perversion’ which implies the engagement by heterosexuals in homosexual practices […]. Bailey argues that there is no foundation for the prevalent belief that Genesis 19 and Judges 19 refer to homosexual sin. On the contrary, he believes, God punished the men of Sodom and Gibeah for breaching the rules of hospitality. The ‘homosexual’ conception of the sin of Sodom first appeared, he argues, in the second century BC among Palestinian rigorists, and seems to have been inspired by hatred of the Greek way of life […]. Bailey blames the traditional Christian hostility to all homosexual practice on the very profound effect the (wrong, he says) interpretation of the Sodom story had ‘on the fears and imaginations of the Christian West’. Bailey further argues that the prohibitions against homosexual practice in Leviticus are not relevant to our contemporary culture. Furthermore, the New Testament authors were unaware of the distinctions between inversion and perversion (says Bailey), so that while the Apostle’s teaching (in Romans 1, for example), gives decisive Biblical authority for censuring the conduct of those ‘whom we may describe as perverts’, the New Testament can hardly be said to speak to the expressions of affection which may take place between ‘genuine inverts.’ These themes, among others in Bailey’s important book, are now common currency in the Christian homophile movement.
Equipped with Bailey’s arguments, a homosexual minister named Troy Perry founded the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) in Los Angeles, California in 1968. He, along with other openly homosexual clergymen and clergywomen, worked to further to develop a pro-homosexual apologetic against fundamentalist Christians using the Bible. His radical and unfounded approach to Scripture, one that mimicked Bailey’s, had largely been dismissed until recently, when scholars from more conservative circles started promoting similar conclusions.
Lacking biblical justification, the pro-homosexual ‘Christian’ movement sought to strengthen their cause with the support of conservative evangelical scholars. In 1996 Choon-Leong Seow edited a compilation of articles on homosexuality by a group of Princeton scholars called Homosexuality and Christian Community. Seow, “an Old Testament scholar and author of the widely used beginning Hebrew grammar A Grammar for Biblical Hebrew … authored a chapter titled ‘A Heterosexual Perspective’” in which he speaks as a scholarly advocate for Christian homosexuality. Roy Clements, a widely respected evangelical pastor in England, left his wife in 1999 to move in with a young man, his research assistant. He had received endorsements from respected evangelicals like John Stott, Don Carson, Ravi Zacharias, and Phillip E. Johnson. The late Dr. Lewis Smedes, professor emeritus of theology and ethics at Fuller Seminary, teamed up with Mel White, Executive director of Soulforce (a gay advocacy group) to produce the video, “There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy.” In the video, Dr. Smedes is enlisted to “[demonstrate] clearly why that ‘clobber passage’ in Romans 1 cannot be misused any longer to condemn God’s gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender children.” Mel White was also a professor at Fuller Seminary who was married with a child, did some writing for Billy Graham and Pat Robertson, and was a friend of Jerry Falwell. He left his wife, family, and ministry to move in with his gay lover and become one of the more articulate spokesmen for the homosexual movement.
Homosexuality as a social force began with a love for sin and a rejection of biblical Christianity. As it has grown in strength, it has successfully redefined homosexuality from a psychiatric disorder, to a genetic flaw, to a genetic issue, one that is God-given and therefore acceptable and pleasing in His sight.
The social forces listed above have influenced those who struggle with homosexuality and thus there is much to unravel when attempting to counsel them. But apart from the cultural clutter, each person struggling with homosexuality presents a different set of circumstances, a specific background, a unique personality, and an individual blend of sins. Consider these different types of people who struggle:
Some are more emotional and relational; others are more physically driven. Some are immersed in the depth of homosexual perversion; others have never allowed the temptation to go beyond the level of mental fantasy. Some exhibit flamboyant and feminine mannerisms; others appear wholly masculine. Some are militant, left-wing activists; others are more reserved and shy away from political activism. Some are catapulted into homosexuality through the trauma of childhood abuse; others have been hurt emotionally. Some have lived the homosexual lifestyle for years; others experienced a limited number of encounters and fled. Some are very religious, come from Christian homes, and know the Bible quite well; others are irreligious and demonstrate an antipathy toward religion. Some have come to hate religion because they’ve witnessed hypocrisy, double-standards, and a sliding scale of sin; others love religion and dive into it as a means of escape from the enslavement of their desires. Some hate God because they cannot escape the mechanism He implanted—the conscience—that accuses them day and night; others are sensitive to the accusations of their conscience and live in continual despair.
Though there are differences among individuals, many similarities exist as well to which several have testified. Most homosexuals have swallowed the genetic argument—it seems to be verified by their experience (i.e., “I didn’t choose homosexuality; it chose me.”). Within the framework of that error, they are left to make sense of their life. Many adopt a victim mentality and live in self-pity. Many live in continual fear of sexually transmitted diseases, especially AIDS. Many live lonely, dissatisfied lives and are ashamed even when they find acceptance among others. Many men are so ravaged by one another so that they suffer from serious physical problems. Many women are enslaved to their feelings and are emotionally dependent on one anther. Both men and women experience the frustration of living outside God’s complementary design for human sexuality described in Genesis 2—the first human sexual relationship.
Whatever the unique circumstances, background, or personality, the uniting factor for every person who deals with homosexual temptation is the fact that they are sinners struggling with same-sex attraction, biblically defined as a sin. To be sure, there will be sins that led to homosexual attraction and sins that result from it, but they are sins nonetheless. It is this fact that gives the homosexual hope. Homosexuals do not need healing; they need forgiveness.
COUNSELING and HOMOSEXUALity
As with every Christian ministry, counseling requires personal preparation. The pastor/counselor is a teacher who must first understand how to interpret Scripture accurately (2 Tim. 2:15) and then he must discern principles that he can apply to everyday life (Col. 1:9). This is perhaps nowhere more vital than when preparing to counsel someone who struggles with homosexuality. People who have practiced homosexuality often enter the counseling office from a world of manipulation and greed, and from years of stifling an accusing conscience, they have become quite adept at deceiving themselves and others—including counselors.
Personal preparation is both internal and external. That is to say, the pastor must look to his own heart when he prepares to counsel, and he must anticipate and train himself to answer and destroy the “speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God” in order to take “every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5).
Galatians 6:1 says, “Brethren, even if a man is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, lest you too be tempted.” For those whose life before Christ includes homosexual temptations and lusts, that warning is especially important. But even those who are not tempted toward homosexual lust can find that they are more susceptible to sexual temptation when counseling on this issue. Although homosexual temptation is an extreme deviancy, all sexual temptation is deviancy from God’s original design for human sexuality (Gen. 2:18-25; 1 Cor. 7:1-5). The sinful flesh, a burden every Christian bears, is utterly deviant and waits for an opportunity to strike. The wise counselor must enter the arena prepared.
For the pastor who is not tempted toward homosexual lust and is on the lookout with regard to his own weaknesses, the threat of temptation still looms in two ways. First, he can err in sympathizing more with the sinner’s plight than with God’s truth. Every Christian must keep his role as Christ’s ambassador in the forefront of his mind (2 Cor. 5:20) and demand that all his sympathies and loyalties belong to Him. Sympathy to and loyalty for the sinner instead of Christ is a very real temptation, and a serious sin.
A second temptation a pastor faces is to treat the person struggling with homosexuality with sinful attitudes (i.e., contempt, ridicule, disgust, disdain, harshness, etc.). Jude commands Christians to engage in rescue work with an attitude of mercy (vv. 22-23). Peter says, “make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience” (1 Pet. 3:15-16). Gentleness and reverence, even toward the most flamboyant and militant homosexual activist, is the obedient attitude of the Christian counselor. One other passage speaks of the godly attitudes one must display in counseling. 2 Timothy 2:24-26 reads:
The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.
That text ought to be committed to memory and used for continual meditation throughout the counseling process. The pastor who counsels someone in the area of homosexuality, then, must watch that he not be tempted toward sexual deviancy or unbalanced attitudes toward the sinner—both involve unbiblical attitudes regarding compassion. One’s love for God and His holiness must manifest itself in love for people (1 John 4:20-21).
The second area of personal preparation is far more involved since it requires exegetical work to develop an apologetic against the culture and against pro-gay theology. The following is a suggested plan in completing that task.
As in any apologetic endeavor, begin with the Bible. Since Christianity is a revealed worldview, the pastor/counselor must think within that paradigm if he is to have the wisdom to counter contrary arguments and worldviews. Once he understands what God has to say, the counselor is better prepared to assess the sinful thinking of the culture.
When approaching Scripture the counselor should study human sexuality, not by examining the counterfeit first, but by first examining God’s original design—he should begin where God begins. The Bible teaches that God originally designed human sexuality to function within the context of a one man, one woman, complementary relationship for life (Genesis 2:18-25). Jesus presupposes that paradigm for human sexuality in His discussion with the Pharisees in Matthew 19:1-12 and He recognized only one acceptable alternative lifestyle apart from marriage—celibacy. Both Paul (1 Corinthians 7, Ephesians 5, and Colossians 3) and Peter (1 Peter 3) also assume a one man, one woman complementary relationship for life.
It is always fascinating to see how homosexuals in their rebellion are unable to escape God’s design for human sexuality. In ‘committed’ relationships with one another and when performing sexual acts on one another, one plays the part of the male and the other of the female. Paul’s terminology in 1 Corinthians 6:9 highlights that: “Do not be deceived, neither the … effeminate, nor homosexuals… shall inherit the kingdom of God.” Those terms signify the one who takes the female role (malakoi.) and the one who takes the male role (avrsenokoi/tai).
The Bible is clear in teaching that human relationships are to be based on sacrificial love, not selfishness. To love another means that one must give of himself to seek the greatest good of the other, and that is to be pictured at the most intimate human level in a marriage. In loving a wife, a husband applies the strengths and gifts in his role of leadership and headship that God gave him to serve his wife; likewise, a wife applies her complementary sets of strengths and gifts in her role as a helpmeet to the love and service of her husband. God specially designed a man with a need to be completed by his wife, and He specially designed women to be dependent on the strengths of the husband. Marriages are therefore an expression of mutual dependency and promote self-sacrificial love.
Homosexual relationships stand contrast that design in every way. Whereas God designed human relationships, especially intimate ones, to be motivated by love, homosexual relationships are motivated by self-fulfillment and self-gratification—they therefore can never promote the God ordained good of the other. Whereas God designed marriages for the expression of complementary strengths, homosexual relationships have overlapping, and therefore wasted and unused gifts—at least one of the members cannot function in their God-ordained role. Whereas God designed marriages as an expression of mutual dependency and mutual care, homosexual relationships are celebrations of independence and promote selfishness.
After understanding those texts fully (and others could be included), the counselor should turn his attention to the perversion of God’s design. That begins where every sin begins—in Genesis 3. Satan was the first proponent of an alternative lifestyle, one bent on self-fulfillment; and he sold it to Adam and his wife. Their sin resulted in three things common to every human sin—they became sinfully self-aware, experienced immediate shame, and immediately desired to hide themselves (v. 7). They tried to hide themselves from God (v. 8) and from accountability (vv. 12-13). All of these patterns, common to every human sin, are replete in homosexuality.
Because of God’s judicial curse, there is now marital tension—“yet your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you” (v. 16). God designed an essential unity worked out harmoniously in differing roles—the husband as the head of the wife and the wife as the helpmeet to the husband; the Fall destroyed the harmony. Women sought to usurp their husband’s authority and role; men sought to quell the rebellion of their wives through selfish domination. As the same sad drama plays out over and over in marriage, men and women separate from one another. Men go outside of God’s design seeking sexual satisfaction; women go outside of God’s design seeking emotional satisfaction. When men totally forsake women to seek intimacy with other men, and women with women, they’ve gone about as far from each other as they can go—only bestiality represents a further departure.
The sexual perversions resulting from the Fall and the war between men and women are demonstrated in the book of Genesis. Polygamy begins in Genesis 4:19, unnatural unions in 6:1-4, harems in 12:15, adultery in 16:2, homosexuality in 19:5, incest in 19:33-36, rape in 34:2, prostitution in 38:15-18, and seduction in 39:7-12. Sadly, there is nothing new under the sun.
Although homosexuality is one of many sexual perversions, it is the only one God singles out as an abomination, something detestable to Him, in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13. The Hebrew word generally means the “persons, things, or practices that offend one’s ritual or moral order.” Homosexuality constitutes a departure from God’s established order for human sexuality, a point that Dr. Michael Grisanti makes in his article.
[It] is apparent that homosexuality was a prominent part of Canaanite practice, most likely an element of their worship (cult prostitution). This practice of a man lying with another man “after the manner of lying with a woman” … was abhorrent to Yahweh because it perverted the heterosexual relationship ordained by him (Gen. 2:24; 4:1). Anyone who committed this abomination must be executed (Lev. 20:13).
Greg Bahnsen also points out that “homosexual lust is in a sense even worse [than heterosexual ones]; while heterosexual drives are God-given, promote the cultural mandate, and are fulfilled within marriage, homosexuality is always immoral in any context.”
God used the Israelites to judge the Canaanites who regularly practiced homosexuality, and He promised to drive them out as well if they were to take up the same customs (Lev. 18 :24-30). The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, cities that are presumably at the bottom of the Dead, became a perpetual reminder to Israel of God’s attitude toward such wickedness. To be sure, Sodom and Gomorrah were cities filled with wicked, self-indulgent behaviors (Ezek. 16:49-50), but homosexuality crowned them all and plays a prominent role in the Genesis 19 account.
Before turning to New Testament texts on homosexual sin, there are some noteworthy observations about the Genesis 19 account that help the counselor better understand the strong and irrational passions of homosexuality. Genesis 19:4 says, “Before [Lot and the angels] lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, surrounded the house, both young and old, all the people from every quarter.” The verse emphasizes the men of Sodom, perhaps indicating how men dominated the homosexual community in Sodom, and they are extremely aggressive and driven. In fact, the text shows the irrationality and strength of their passions when the angels strike the men with blindness. Verse 11 says they just kept coming, “so that they wearied themselves trying to find the doorway.” When a man comes in for counseling who struggles with these tendencies, he has raging within him passions and desires that are often completely out of control—he is in bondage to them. Another observation that elucidates homosexuality is this: domination, at least among males, plays a big part in homosexuality. Homosexuality had completely overrun the town of Sodom; that seems to be the direction of modern day homosexuality as well. One man who was exposed to a particular homosexual community described the scene as predators going after prey, much like what appears to have happened in Sodom.
If there is any doubt that the context surrounding Leviticus 18:22 (vv. 21-30) reveals God’s universal condemnation of homosexuality, Romans chapter 1 should make that quite plain. In verses 18 to 32, Paul describes how “the wrath of God is revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (v. 18). Three times Paul says, “God gave them over,” clearly showing how homosexuality is God’s judgment on those who have committed themselves, contrary to God’s clear revelation of Himself (vv. 19-21). He therefore gave them over to homosexual passions because they had exchanged the truth of God for a lie (lit. “the lie”) and worshipped and served what had been created rather than the Creator (v. 25).
A number of observations in this text are significant for understanding homosexuality. First, and this is terribly obvious, Romans 1 fits into a larger context of universal condemnation (1:18–3:20). The whole point of Romans 1 is so that all men, whether Jew or Greek, will recognize their condemnation under God’s law (3:9), cease from attempting to establish their own righteousness based on the law (3:19-20), and turn to the revealed righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ (3:21-26).
A second point is this: no matter how it looks on the surface, all men have some knowledge of God from the clear evidence God set before them in the creation (vv. 19-21), a fact acknowledged and attested to in each man’s conscience (2:14-15). Cornelius Van Til writes,
[M]an has round about him the clearest possible evidence of the power and divinity of God. […] Men cannot get away from this evidence. They see it round about them. They see it within them. Their own constitution so clearly evinces the facts of God’s creation of them and control over them that there is no man who can possibly escape observing it. If he is self-conscious at all he is also God-conscious. No matter how men may try they cannot hide from themselves the fact of their own createdness.
A third observation from Romans 1 is the phrase, “the due penalty of their error,” in verse 27. In the context, mankind’s error was the rejection of the worship of the true God. Suppressing the truth, men refused to “honor Him as God or give thanks” (v. 21) and “exchanged the truth of God for a lie” (v. 25). What was the lie? The believed they could find satisfaction and worth by worshipping the creation, rather than the Creator; they believed they could find happiness and joy in serving self rather than in serving God. They opted for self-worship rather than the worship God made them for.
God chose an appropriate judgment, one that would help men see graphically what they were doing in their idolatry. As a fitting, reciprocal judgment for rejecting His original design for worship, God allowed them to reject His design for human sexuality as well. That is why there is such an emphasis in this section on reciprocity (i.e., phrases like “for,” “therefore,” and “for this reason”). Men and women most graphically pictures the corruption and sadness that results from idolatry when they practice homosexuality. Homosexuality is a fitting penalty for idolatry (1:27).
A fourth observation is about the nature of homosexuality among women. The King James translators note what appears in the Greek to represent an over-the-top situation—“even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature” (v. 26, KJV). It would seem to imply that women are somewhat less prone to homosexual lusts than men, perhaps because their attraction is primarily at the emotional and relational level. Men, on the other hand, are under the influence of strong, degrading passions, such as those demonstrated at Sodom (Gen. 19:11).
A final observation from this important text is the repeated reference to that which is natural and unnatural (v. 26). The term “natural” means “according to the natural order,” a clear reference to God’s original design for human sexuality. When speaking of that which is “unnatural,” Paul uses the same term but introduces it with a preposition that in context means “contrary to” or “against.” The King James Version rendering best communicates the sense (“against nature”). Heterosexual attractions, desires, and acts are natural, according to God’s design; homosexual attractions, desires, and acts are unnatural, contrary to God’s design.
Having briefly examined some of the biblical data, it is necessary to have accurately diagnose of the problem. Put simply, homosexuality is a byproduct of the sinful human nature. It is a sin that must be confessed as such, repented of, and put off in order to put on obedience. That said, every theory that explains homosexuality in terms of upbringing, lack of male affirmation and love, sexual violation, etc., “can only be viewed as discussing a possible contributing factor and not a cause of homosexuality.”
Edward Welch cites Elizabeth Moberly’s book, Homosexuality: A New Christian Ethic, as providing a deficient psychological explanation of homosexuality.
… Elizabeth Moberly suggests that behind almost all homosexuality, male or female, is a deficit in the relationship with the same-sex parent. The theory is that there is a God-designed need for same-sex love, affirmation, acceptance, and bonding. When these allegedly normal attachment needs have been left unmet, the needs become eroticized at puberty. Homosexuality is a drive to make good this relationship.
The problem with Moberly’s suggestion is that, similar to genetic theories, “the orientation is still established by forces outside of ourselves, and orientation precedes sin (Figure 1).”
Welch goes on to explain the difference between Figure 1 and 2:
A biblical view acknowledges that there may be psychological and biological influences in the development of homosexuality. In fact, the Bible would warn us not to be too limited in considering the vast number of possible influences. However, the Scripture is adamant that it is not what influences us that makes us “unclean.” Instead, “from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality … All these evils come from the inside and make a man ‘unclean’” (Mark 7:21-23) (Figure 2). This means that our sinful orientation has innumerable expressions in our lives. With some it is greed or jealousy, with others it is sinful anger, and with others it can be expressed in homosexual desire.
Some find it difficult to believe that they are responsible for their attractions. “I didn’t choose homosexuality; it chose me” is the common refrain. So why does homosexuality feel so natural for so many? Welch answers the question this way:
Like many other sins, homosexuality does not have to be learned. […] Homosexuality is natural in the same way that anger or selfishness is natural. They are embedded in our humanness. Indeed, homosexuality is “natural,” but only in the sense that it is a natural expression of the sinful nature rather than some sort of morally neutral, God-given constitution.
Greg Bahnsen argues similarly:
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 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 born, but a pattern of behavior to be thrown off with the old man and his lusts.
Does a fish that spends its entire existence swimming through the ocean ever feel wet? Similarly, a homosexual may truly testify that he hasn’t made a choice to be homosexual, but along the way in his formative years, he made sinful choices, responded in sinful ways, sought to gratify sinful yearnings, or sought to satisfy natural longings in sinful ways. That he cannot remember the choice doesn’t make him any less responsible for the sin. Therefore, a counselor should not make an artificial distinction between homosexual practice and homosexual orientation/desire.
One final point of personal preparation is with regard to cultural influences. In reality, this is the least important of all preparation since the Bible is so clear in explaining the problem. The social forces opposing the biblical worldview will always manufacture excuses for sinful behavior that are fundamentally irrational, because sin is irrational. One must understand that the purpose behind the argument is merely to provide an excuse for those who love their sin, to silence an accusing conscience, and to draw others into their sin (Rom. 1:32). Jesus said it this way, “And this is the judgment, that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil” (John 3:19). But when people cling to lies, they cut off their only means of escape from the enslavement of homosexuality. One must “answer a fool as his folly deserves, lest he be wise in his own eyes” (Prov. 26:5) and remain shackled in his sin.
There is very little substantial argumentation from homosexual apologists. Rather, they rely on personal testimony, straw man arguments, and pressure from a changing political attitude toward homosexuality. Homosexual advocates often appeal to the exception over the rule—i.e., they ask how anyone could argue against two people loving one another in a monogamous, committed relationship. Many former homosexuals would testify that lifetime commitment and strict monogamy is rare in the homosexual community. And there is no biblical sense in which the word “loving” could ever apply to a homosexual relationship.
Homosexuals who argue from the Bible maneuver around clear biblical teaching condemning homosexuality in two ways according to J. I. Packer: (1) special exegesis (i.e., “What Paul is condemning is not my sort of same-sex union.”); and (2) experience judges the Bible (i.e., “Gay is us; our experience is—in other words, we feel—that gay unions are good; so Bible prohibitions of gay behavior must be wrong.”).
As for the scientific studies that so many cite as ‘proof’ of a genetic or physiological reason for homosexuality, to date they are inconclusive. Each study has major problems with its research and there are many resources in print detailing the problems and the lack of solid, scientific ‘proofs’ that are believed at the popular level to exist. The various physiological studies, like those cited earlier from LeVay, Bailey and Pillard, and Hamer, are on the World Wide Web.
Equipped with an accurate, biblical diagnosis of homosexuality, the pastor is ready to counsel the person who comes to him with homosexual temptations in order to lead him through repentance. Essentially, the pastor counsels a person as he would anyone else with a life-dominating sin—the goal is to identify idols of the heart that produce sinful patterns of behavior; to expose heart idols to the light of Scripture in order to confess and repent of them; and to develop new habits of behavior. To do this, the counselor will need to gather data, interpret it, and instruct the person in righteousness.
Because homosexuality is a complex sin involving a whole lifestyle, data gathering is absolutely crucial. The pastor must take his time with thorough intensive (specific inquiries about homosexuality) and extensive questioning (specific inquiries about every other area of life). Often homosexuals struggle with other life dominating sins (depression, gluttony, drug/alcohol abuse, fear and anxiety, sleeping problems, etc.) because of the tremendous guilt that accompanies the homosexual lifestyle and the complete lack of self-control.
It is very easy for people who are struggling to by myopic about homosexuality, and sometimes difficult for them to want to focus on other areas of their life. People who struggle tend to think homosexuality is the cause of all their problems, when in reality they have an idolatrous heart like every other sinner. It is the idolatrous heart beneath it all that worships security, protection, affection, control, self-image, etc. The counselor’s job is to help the person identify and repent of whatever idolatrous worship he is engaged in and to redirect his worship to Jesus Christ. That will take time and patient instruction, but that is the goal for every Christian.
A pastor must be very intent on confronting the person since, as is the case with all sexual sin, the sin seeks the darkness that pride and deceit provide. As was mentioned before, the person has become quite adept at deceiving himself and others. Further, because sexual sin is deceptively attractive and the person accustomed to the pleasure of it, he sometimes is slow to desire repentance. Pride, deceit, and reluctance to repent must be clearly identified and continually confronted in order to help the person to keep moving toward repentance and so that he will learn to identify it for himself.
While gathering data, the counselor should be making observations about the person’s spiritual condition—i.e., is this person a true believer? According to 1 Corinthians 6:9, no one can counsel someone who is still a homosexual since homosexuality is the condition of an unbeliever. Those who remain committed to the life-dominating sin of homosexuality, whether in thought or in deed, are not Christians. If they are not Christians, not only are they unable to understand spiritual truth (1 Cor. 2:14-15), they are fundamentally hostile to it (John 8:42-47; Rom. 8:6-8). So it is absolutely indispensable that one ascertain the true heart condition of the person seeking counseling.
For those who manifest no evidence of genuine saving faith, they get the gospel. If a person has not walked through the doorway of initial repentance unto salvation, they cannot submit to the subsequent lifestyle of repentance that characterizes the Christian life. A true Christian will profess a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, will manifest genuine Christian affections (love of righteousness and hatred of wickedness), will demonstrate an ability to apprehend truth, will joyfully adhere to what they learn, and will strive to obey it. Those things may take time to discern, but they should be manifest after the first few meetings.
After gathering sufficient data through intensive and extensive questioning, the counselor must prayerfully interpret his findings. The pastor should identify the heart-level idols that the person has sought to satisfy in worship, and then prioritize the list according to those that seem to have the most extensive affect—those that spill over into other parts of the life. The pastor should present his list before the counselee and talk it through; perhaps there is more data that must be considered; perhaps he has misdiagnosed the root issues.
The next step is to attack each issue, one by one. Whether the issue is a faulty self-image, bitterness toward a childhood abuser, sexual lust, etc., instruction in righteousness should follow the model of 2 Timothy 3:16-17—“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” To teach doctrine is to teach God’s truth about the issue; to reprove is to point out how the person is not conforming to the truth; to correct is to teach about how to set it straight; and to instruct (or train) in righteousness is to help them develop a new, obedient pattern of living.
The one struggling with homosexuality must be taught what God promises in the gospel (the forgiveness of all sins and the guarantee of eternal life) and what to expect regarding biblical sanctification (slow change). Since the experience of Romans 7 can be very discouraging for any Christian, the pastor must explain that there are no quick fixes, no instant, turn-a-switch-and-I’m-healed solutions, but that he must daily embrace a lifestyle of repentance. He should teach him about the mortification of sin and the relentless pursuit of Christ (Col. 3) and warn him about possible pitfalls, temptations, and dangerous situations (Rom. 13:14).
The pastor must teach him what victory over sin looks like, and that sin doesn’t go away until the Christian is forever in the Lord’s presence. He must also teach him how to be completely honest about sin and confess it quickly so that he can learn how God intended him to deal with the guilt of sin. He should explain how to seek forgiveness from others and make restitution if necessary. The pastor should help him retrain his conscience by renewing his mind with Scripture, filling it with good things (Phil. 4:4-9). These basic fundamentals of Christian living are absolutely vital for the person who has lived for so long with a defiled and accusing conscience—one can never overstate the blessing of a clean conscience (1 Tim. 1:5).
As with any life-dominating sin, what the counselee needs is total life restructuring. As they are taught what it is to be a Christian, to embrace a lifestyle of repentance, to walk in the Spirit and not in the flesh, they will experience gradual but lasting change. Christlikeness is the goal, daily is the fight, and the battle is the Lord’s—if Christ is present in the life, victory and change are guaranteed.
From the very first day, the pastor should assign homework so that instruction can begin right away. Homework should begin during the data gathering process, taking the same path as the pastor’s preparation (i.e., God’s design for human sexuality, the departure from God’s design, the results of rejecting God’s design, etc.). And each homework lesson should force the counselee to analyze the cultural lies through the lens of Scripture.
Here are some practical points in counseling someone with homosexual temptation; they are in no particular order. First, get other people involved in their life for the purpose of assistance and perspective for the counselor, and needful accountability for the counselee. Dealing with a life-dominating sin like homosexuality can be very taxing and it is helpful if more than one person is watching the person’s life. Second, get the counselee involved in serving others out of an attitude of genuine Christian love. Many who struggle with homosexuality are tremendous people-pleasers, an activity that is often mistaken for a servant’s heart. In fact, many people who struggle with the sin seek refuge in the church and are among the most noticeably servant-hearted members. The counselor should wisely work through the person’s motives to serve to ensure that he isn’t working for some sort of payoff; and that takes time for both to see. Third, help the counselee how to interact with people. Entering in to homosexuality in the first place was an outworking of a sinful heart that has never understood the distinctions and characteristics of the sexes. The person needs to learn, therefore, how to have appropriate same-sex and opposite-sex friendships.
In conclusion, two things are encouraging in this task of confronting the sin of homosexuality. First, the gospel is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16), including the homosexual. Second, the gospel has saved homosexuals before: “Neither … effeminate, nor homosexuals, … shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:9-11). And God is still saving homosexuals …
My first close interaction with someone trapped in homosexuality was in 1996. Though I didn’t understand the depth or breadth of homosexual sin, I was convinced of one thing: Jesus Christ could save and transform the homosexual.
The man I met in 1996 had struggled with homosexuality his whole life. He had been severely abused by those closest to him and had tried everything he could to escape ‘the struggle.’ He had invested in marriage, religious cults, career success, and materialism, but everything had failed. He came to me after yet another ‘fix’ had let him down. His psychiatrist gave him some psychotropic drugs and encouraged him to move close to his family where he could give up the struggle and ‘come out.’ I shared the gospel of grace with him, and that began a relationship that has continued to this day.
I made many mistakes in trying to disciple this friend, mistakes I hope to help others avoid. There was so much I didn’t understand, so much I wish I could do over. But the Lord planned to teach me through it all to better understand the issue and to help others. I have seen what can happen when the Holy Spirit is working in a person’s life, and I have seen what will never happen when the Holy Spirit is not present in a person’s life—both observations have proved invaluable lessons for me.
This project has been an opportunity for me to clarify my own thinking on the subject of homosexuality. It has been an opportunity for me to put down on paper what has been rolling around in my head for years. It has also revealed what I hope to do better next time, and I am convinced there will be a next time. The more our society departs from the knowledge of God, the more Christians will encounter people who are trapped in life-dominating sins like homosexuality. This project has also revealed some areas I hope to study more in depth in the future, areas I had neither the time nor the experience to complete—i.e., more in-depth exegesis, a more detailed plan on repentance, etc.
As I continue to grow in Christ, I hope to see His life worked out through me to reach people who struggle with homosexuality. I hope to be a fitting representative who will introduce them to His love and grace that will break the soul-destroying bondage under which they suffer that they may experience the glorious freedom and real joy of life in Christ.
1The late U. S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan from New York first coined the phrase “defining deviancy down” in his 1993 essay in The American Scholar, “Defining Deviancy Down.”
4See the book by James H. Jones, Alfred C. Kinsey: A Public/Private Life, that exposes Kinsey’s life and research methodology. The Kinsey Institute has a review of Jones’ book by Martin Duberman posted on its website (http://www.indiana.edu/~kinsey/publications/duberman.html.
5David Atkinson, Homosexuals in the Christian Community (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1981), 7.
Simon LeVay tried to find a physiological cause for homosexuality by studying the hypothalamus’s of homosexual men. Dr. LeVay’s home page has links to other work http://members.aol.com/slevay/.
J. Michael Bailey and Richard C. Pillard sought to discover a genetic cause for homosexuality by studying homosexuality in identical twins (http://articles.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2372/is_4_37/ai_72272304).
Dean Hamer tried to locate a chromosome that represented the homosexual trait. A bibliography and other links can be found at his website http://rex.nci.nih.gov/RESEARCH/basic/biochem/hamer.htm.
Randy Dotinga, “Newsroom Conservatives Are a Rare Breed,” The Christian Science Monitor (3 June 2004) http://www.csmonitor.com/2004/0603/p02s01-usgn.html.
“MTV Networks to Launch LOGO, A New Television Network for Gay, Lesbian Viewers,” U.S. Newswire (25 May 2004) http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/usnw/20040525/pl_usnw/mtv_networks_to_launch_logo__a_new_television_network_for_gay__lesbian_viewers__advertiser_supported_cable_network_with_a_mix_o, from http://www.usnewswire.com/.
Ibid. Market researchers have recognized another target group that has recently emerged in the society sympathetic to homosexuality. It is identified by the term, “metrosexual.” Schuyler Brown, associate director of strategic trendspotting and reseach at Euro RSCG Worldwide, said, “The metrosexual male is more sensitive and in some ways more effeminate than his father probably was … [and] willing to push traditional gender boundaries that define what’s male and what’s female.” See Richard Trubo, “Metrosexuals: It’s a Guy Thing!”, MSN Health (28 July 2003) http://content.health.msn.com/content/article/71/81366.htm.
James R. White and Jeffrey D. Niell, The Same Sex Controversy (Minneapolis, Minn.: Bethany House Publishers, 2002), 183.
Clements still keeps their endorsements posted on his website, even though they would vehemently oppose homosexuality (http://www.royclements.co.uk/publications00.htm).
“Vatican Waging Holy War Against Sexual Minorities,” Soulforce, Inc. (5 Dec 2000) http://www.soulforce.org/vatican.html.
Darlene Bogle says 85% of the women with whom she counsels have been the victims of some sort of abuse, and all of them “share at least one common element in their struggle. They have tried to find that one person who could meet all their yearnings, and they have invested themselves emotionally in that person when they thought they had found the right person.” Darlene Bogle, “Healing from Lesbianism,” in The Crisis of Homosexuality, ed. by J. Isamu Yamamoto (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1990), 30.
Bernard J. Klamecki, “Medical Perspective of the Homosexual Issue,” in The Crisis of Homosexuality, 115-30.
Ex-gay support groups, where homosexual temptations are easily stirred and enflamed, do not take this verse seriously enough in the opinion of this writer.
Michael A. Grisanti, “b[t” in New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis, ed. by Willem A. VanGemeren (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Publishing House, 1997), 4:314.
Greg L. Bahnsen, Homosexuality: A Biblical View (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1978), 68.
Cornelius Van Til, cited in Greg L. Bahnsen, Van Til’s Apologetic: Readings and Analysis (Phillipsburg, N.J.: P&R Publishing, 1998), 190-91.
The Greek word translated “due penalty” (avntimisqi,an) “expresses the reciprocal (avnti.) nature of a transaction as a requital based upon what one deserves.” Walter Bauer, William F. Arndt, and F. Wilbur Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd ed., rev. and ed. by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 90.
Edward T. Welch, “Homosexuality: Current Thinking and Biblical Guidelines,” The Journal of Biblical Counseling, 13/3 (1995), 27.
J. I. Packer, “And ‘No’ to Same-Sex Unions,” Evangelicals Now, November 2002, http://www.e-n.org.uk/same-sex.htm (11 July 2002).
An excellent article that soundly dissipates homosexual arguments is from Dr. Jeffrey Satinover of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH). It was his expert testimony before the Massachusetts Senate Judicial Committee regarding homosexuality and the future of the family in America. Cf. the article at: http://www.narth.com/docs/senatecommittee.html.
John Ankerberg has a concise treatment on his website of LeVay’s hypothalamus study (http://www.johnankerberg.org/Articles/streams-of-life/SL0703W2.htm) and the Bailey and Pillard study on identical twins (http://www.johnankerberg.org/Articles/streams-of-life/SL0803W2.htm). A concise explanation of the problems with Dean Hamer’s genetic research can be found at http://members.aol.com/qbchoice/HAMER.html.
Wayne A. Mack, A Homework Manual for Biblical Living (Phillipsburg, N.J.: P&R Publishing, 1979), 105.
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