For in thy sight there is none free from sin, not even the infant who has lived but a day upon this earth.
– The Confessions of Saint Augustine
It doesn’t matter if you love him, or capital H-I-M, Just put your paws up, ’cause you were born this way, baby
– Lady Gaga
In parts 1 and 2 of this series, I wrote about how same sex sexual attractions first appeared in my life and about the origins of same sex sexual attraction from a scientific perspective. Personal experience and science suggest an interplay between genetic and environmental causative factors, most of which the homosexual person has little control over. For the Christian, however, the origins of homosexuality must also be understood from a spiritual perspective. While I will examine the morality of homosexual acts (namely sex between people of the same sex) in detail in a later post, I will assume that such acts are contrary to God’s will for the purposes of this post. The focus of this post will be on why being “born this way” is entirely consistent with the belief that homosexual acts are sinful.
The “tabula rasa” theory made popular by Western philosophers such as John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau holds that humans are born with a blank slate and that their personality, behavior, and intelligence are determined entirely by life experiences. The bible rejects this blank slate theory insofar as the bible propounds all humans are born with a sinful nature. Romans 5:12 states, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned”. Many other parts of the bible also speak of how the natural self is a slave to sin and that no human being is righteous before God apart from the redemptive work of Jesus. The quote from Saint Augustine above is but one example of how the church has historically viewed sin as impacting every human being, even a neonate. Hence, scripture teaches that we are born with a nature that seeks to disobey God and His holy and loving ways.
The next issue is whether same sex sexual attraction is one of these desires of the sinful nature. Here, definitions are very important. By “same sex sexual attraction”, I mean a sexual desire for someone of the same sex, namely an erotic desire. It should be noted that the often used broader term “same sex attraction” can encompass desires of platonic nature, which can certainly be godly, so the more specific term “same sex sexual attraction” is used in this blog. With the assumption that homosexual acts are sinful, the question then becomes whether a desire for something that is sinful comes from God or from our sinful nature. As Galatians 5:17 states, “For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh”, the source of a desire can be determined by whether the object of that desire is consistent with or contrary to the Spirit of God. As homosexual acts are sinful, the desire for such must then be viewed as coming from the sinful nature and not from God.
If we stopped our analysis here, the situation might look bleak for the homosexual and might even provide misguided justification for those who would want to condemn homosexuals. Here we must remind ourselves the teaching of Romans 5:12 that “all” sinned. Other verses also loudly proclaim the same station that every human being is in with regard to sin and righteousness. 1 Cor 6:9-10, which is often used to condemn homosexuals, states, “Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” When was the last time you met someone who hasn’t ever been greedy? When was the time you met someone who hasn’t lusted and has always been sexually pure? These, of course, are rhetorical questions as the answer is obviously “never”. Every human being is “born this way” with regard to sexual sins as well as every other sin (including greed which has particular acclaim in our culture). Thus every person is in the same position at birth with regard to righteousness, as scripture affirms the moral parity among all in stating, “There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:22-24)
The story would also not be complete unless there was a solution to this problem of inborn sinful nature and the resulting alienation from God. That solution, of course, is the gospel of Jesus Christ, which breaks the dominion of the sinful nature and makes us right with God. While 1 Cor 6:9-10 quoted above has been used to condemn homosexuals, the very next verse shows that salvation is equally available to homosexuals and heterosexuals alike, as 1 Cor 6:11 states, “And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” Homosexuals were among the redeemed people of God even from the very beginning of the church! It is this story of redemption I will explore in my next posts.