Why are People Gay?

Justin Lee, well known founder of the Gay Christian Network, both defines “gay” and then sketches typical claims about reasons why people are gay. He details this in his book Torn.

“Gay” for Justin Lee means that someone is “attracted to the same sex” (52-53). It does not refer only to same-sex sexual relations or to behavior. So when asking “Why?” the issue is about why some people are attracted to people of the same sex.

What do you think? How do you explain the reasons for homosexuality? Do you think the Bible ponders this question? Where? 

Big one: If being gay is biological, do you think that is a game-changer?

Here are the reasons typically given:

First, some people choose to be gay. Justin did not want to be gay; it is commonly said that no one would “choose” to be gay, but for him also there’s a definition issue: most who say people “choose” to be gay are not defining gay by attraction but by behaviors. People, he would argue, do not choose to be gay when it comes to attraction; he would agree people choose their behaviors. Some people are involuntarily attracted to people of the other same while some are involuntarily attracted to the same sex.

Second, some people are seduced or tricked into being gay. Some connect being gay to being teased as a child. Sexual abuse, studies show, is not in the background of the majority of gay people. Justin himself was not abused.

Third, some people are gay because of their parents. Sometimes this is called the “reparative drive.” In the Freudian model young boys want to kill their fathers to marry their mothers, and distorted parenting caused this development phase to fail. Gay males had fathers who were distant and detached and hostile with mothers who were overprotective. So Bieber, a Freudian, saw the problem for gay males to be parenting. The psychology community no longer believes this theory is supported by the facts. Many Christians still adhere to this older theory, and he points to Elizabeth Moberly and Joseph Nicolosi. The evidence, though, does not support the theory: Justin himself had loving parents and a good relationship with them. Justin suggests gays have about the same ratio of good/bad parents as straights.

Fourth, some people are gay because of their biology, including brain development differences. “Just because an attraction or drive is biological doesn’t mean it’s okay to act on, so whether behavior is sinful or not doesn’t tell us anything about whether the related attraction has biological roots” (62). So for Justin “Is it a sin?” and “Does it have biological roots?” are two different questions. Yes and Yes could be the answers, he says.

Some gay males have brain development more like straight females; some lesbians have brain development more like straight males. He means some specific structures, not whole brains. Some research suggests gays may have been exposed in different ways to hormone levels during pregnancy. Also, gays tend to have some skills (verbal, spatial) characteristic of the opposite sex. Research among animals may suggest being gay is biologically shaped. Gay men tend to have more older brothers, and this one appears also to have some biological connection.

Justin Lee’s conclusion: “… many scientists now believe that sexual orientation is related to the hormone levels a baby experiences during its development in the womb” (65). Simon LeVay’s research is what he cites (“prenatal sexual differentiation of the brain” — 66). Justin Lee is not an ideologue: “Researchers haven’t definitively proven that hormones are the cause…” (67) and “the evidence makes it look very likely that biology has something to do with sexual orientation.”

His conclusion: “We don’t know for sure.” He warns about choosing a theory on the basis of what we want to be true. “I believe our goal should be truth, no ideology” (68).

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • http://markcaudill.me Mark

    What makes people straight? What makes people bisexual? Since we obviously don’t have the answers right now, I think the more important question is whether or not we’re treating each other like we should. If the source of homosexuality were critical to our faith then I would think it would be better outlined in scripture. That’s what I enjoyed most about Torn; Justin focused mostly on what the Bible *does* say-like how we should treat each other-and not so much on reading into the voids.

    I wrote about Torn here: http://markcaudill.me/blog/2013/01/ten-things-i-learned-from-torn-rescuing-the-gospel-from-the-gays-vs-christians-debate/

  • mike h

    What an excellent book. Justin was extremely gracious in sharing his story. Regardless of the ‘why,’ the biggest contribution was to point out the need of the Church to deal with gay people and to offer some concrete ways of doing that.

  • Jeff Straka

    Why does the “why” matter? It is time to move beyond this “debate” and realize that neither the same-sex attraction or the loving, committed relationship is a “sin”.

  • Rick

    Jeff #3-

    Based on what?

  • Jeff Straka

    Based on the teachings of Jesus and based on a rational thought-process.

  • Rick

    Jeff #5-

    I was not aware that Jesus condoned it, and it would appear other parts of Scripture condemns it. So does our rational thought-process supercede that?

  • Jeff Straka

    He said, “love God, love Others. That’s the whole Law”. He said the God wants justice and mercy and not purity codes and ritual. And if you’re talking condemnation in the Hebrew Bible, it also condemned disobedient children to stoning. My thought process (and hopefully yours) supersedes that nonsense.

  • Joe Canner

    “If being gay is biological, do you think that is a game-changer?”

    Unfortunately, yes. People who think that gays choose to be gay tend to think that gays can be berated, insulted, persecuted, and denied rights because of their choice. Of course this flies in the face of Jesus’ command to love one another, but being able to show that same-sex attraction is largely a function of biological factors at least helps to remove some of the rationale for the hate. Baby steps…

  • Ron Fay

    The New Testament condemns homosexual relationships as well (read Romans). Marriage in the Bible is defined as one man and one woman, and any sexual relationship outside of that is not allowed. I am not condemning homosexuality over and above other sins, just pointing out that homosexual relationships by biblical definition cannot occur other than in sin since sex outside of marriage is sin and marriage is defined specifically by the Bible (and Jesus) as one man and one woman.

    And by the way, loving God includes obeying his commandments, since Jesus defines love as obedience. Please do not pick and choose the teaching of Jesus as if you alone can interpret him.

  • Rick

    Jeff #7-

    I was thinking more of the New Testament passages, as Ron in #9 mentions.

  • Jeff Straka

    The Biblical Definition of marriage is…

    - An arranged marriage—Genesis 24:1-4 (and many other passages)

    - A levirate marriage (If a man died leaving no male heir, his brother was required to marry his widow and produce children)—Deuteronomy 25:5-10

    - A polygamous marriage—1 Kings 11:3 (and many, many other passages)

    - Not inter-racial—Deuteronomy 7:14; 1 Corinthians 7:39; 2 Corinthians 6:14

    - Filled with sexual prohibitions—no intercourse during menstruation (The woman is unclean. Yet another degradation of women.) —The woman cannot withhold sex from her husband; she has to fulfill his desire for sex when he wants it. (And another example of the Bible’s misogyny)

    - Not allowed to be dissolved, i.e. NO DIVORCE—Matthew 5:31-32; Mark 10:2-12; Luke 16:18

    - Except when the man wanted to because his wife had become ‘displeasing’ to him—Deuteronomy 24:1-4

    - Between a rapist and his victim—Deuteronomy 22:28-29

    - An arranged marriage by a slave owner for his slaves—Genesis 24:4

    - Can be between brother and sister—How else do you explain where Cain’s wife came from!

    - Intended to produce children—Without children a woman was:
    Shamed—a barren woman was looked upon as cursed by God
    Unable to be saved—1 Timothy 2:15

  • JoeyS

    Ron, I think you would be hard pressed to demonstrate where the Bible uses that definition of marriage and sexuality. There are many cultural and moral expressions of marriage in scripture, including marrying widows (multiple wives) in order to protect them from the poverty relegated to single women.

  • http://piratetopastor.com Patrick Green

    The Bible also condones slavery and accepts women as property. But love and the Greatest Commandment have moved us beyond such silliness. Love will one day be the ruling aspect of this mess in the church. While we debate it, the rest of the world has socially evolved for the better and we look rather like we are still anticipating the return of 1952. I am sorry, but the ‘Bible sez’ argument on this issue is no longer relevant….unless you also wanna know how to be a good slave owner and know how many goats your daughter is worth to the right guy.

  • Josey

    It’s time to move beyond questions posed as only having binary answers (Either the Bible is true about _____ or it is absolutely wrong and must be thrown out). We are not called to judge as “little Christs.” Even pastor Paul points out the vital imperative of not being judgmental in his letter to the church in Rome (Romans 2:1 and following) after writing about men and women and unnatural desires and such.

    The levitical passage concerning ‘man lying with man’ has nothing to do with a loving, monogamous relationship- it has to do with makin’ babies- lot’s of Israelite babies to strengthen the ancient hebrew nation.

    I would also add that if “homosexuality” is so unnatural then why are there so many gay/bi/hermaphroditic animals in the wild, semi-wild, and captivity? Are reptiles sinning when there are no male reptiles around and a female changes her sex in order to procreate? Oh, and let’s not forget that there are even some mammalian species that are known for same gender lifelong partnerships (penguins and giraffes come to mind.)

  • Jeff Straka
  • http://www.twitter.com/justindeweese Justin Deweese

    There may be argument over lack of definition here again.

    Can someone can be attracted to men and not act on it in a sexual way and be a follower of Jesus and be in obedience to him? Yes
    I think Justin does a great job outlining this in his book.

    One of my concerns is for people like me who have not understood that all sexual attractions to the same sex is not a choice. I read and assumed that everyone that is gay was abused, bad parenting and needed Gods help and grace through prayer and counseling. I do believe some do need those things, but people like Justin are seeking Jesus daily and cannot help their same sex attraction. Thirty years of counseling may never “fix” him. He is gay- meaning attracted to same sex, and he is choosing not to act on it in sexual relationship and is remaining pure and obeying the scriptures.

  • Rick

    What I have seen so far in the comments on this is:

    Christians should put reason 1st.
    Christians should recognize that whatever animals do is ok.
    Christians should recognize that certain parts of the Bible are not relevant.
    Christians should just keep up with society.

    In the tone Jack Nicholson uses with Tom Cruise in A Few Good Men: Please tell me you are not basing your arguments for accepting homosexuality on those.

  • Jeff Straka

    Well, I for one am glad Christians didn’t stick with the idea that the earth was flat and the center of the universe, and that owning women and slaves was not a good thing.

  • Rick

    Jeff #18-

    Those are unrelated, and not encouraged in the NT

  • Christian

    Why are people gay? Obviously, there’s two reasons – biological and choice. For both, I’d quote Jesus in John 9 – So that the works of God might be revealed in him. God is magnified when we triumph over our struggles and choose Him above all whether it be rage, sexual immorality, lying, etc.

  • Phil Miller

    If being gay is biological, do you think that is a game-changer?

    For the Christians I know who are the most outspoken against homosexuality, most of them have already said it wouldn’t change anything for them. They would simply consider homosexuality something like a predisposition to alcoholism. So to answer the question, I think for some people it may be a game-changer, but for others it won’t matter.

  • dopderbeck

    Rick — well, the NT does in fact imply a three-tiered universe — Paul does so, in fact (e.g. 2 Cor. 12) — so it isn’t that simple.

    Anyway — it amazes me that Scot’s question was about the possible causes of being “gay” or having same sex attraction, and immediately, without pause, the comments went to arguments about whether “the Bible says” homosexual practice is “a sin.”

    To Scot’s question: it seems to me that we don’t have enough evidence to establish “a cause” of homosexual feelings. It further seems to me that the whole picture is likely to be rather complex, like all human behavior. The important thing is that we move beyond the silly reductionism that says all homosexual feelings stem from child abuse or neglect, and the equally sill reductionism that says there must be a “gay gene.”

    As to the “sin” question, I think we ought to move beyond the drive to enumerate whether homosexual practice is “a sin,” as though “sin” were simply a matter of listing Pharisaical prohibitions. If we are going to articulate a rich Christian theology of sexuality, we need to do much better than that. (For the record, my views on this are “traditional,” so I’m not advocating some kind of radical revisionism here).

  • Josh

    Jeff, are you comfortable with saying that God smiles upon homosexual sex acts. That this was his intent from the beginning that men would have sex with men, and woman have sex with women?
    And if were not his intent, then wouldn’t we have to say that it is missing the mark of God’s Holiness?

  • Phil Miller

    In some sense, homosexual behavior is the “perfect sin” for Christians to rail against. It’s something that the majority of people won’t ever be tempted with, so it insulates them from having to have empathy for those they are condemning. It has always surprised to hear some of the dehumanizing things come from the mouths of Christians who otherwise seem like decent people.

  • Jeff Straka

    Josh – God is not a man with a face and a mouth.

  • Rick

    Doperbeck #21-

    “so it isn’t that simple”

    I said such positions were not encouraged, by which I meant they were not being promoted as a teaching that should be adapted and implimented by the church. Perhaps I was too vague.

    Phil #23-

    “homosexual behavior is the “perfect sin” for Christians to rail against”

    Good thoughts on how we should conduct ourselves in this discussion. However, one difference with this issue, that leads to such unfortunate responses, is that this behavior is being promoted by some as being ok/not a sin. That makes it somewhat different than many other sins that are discussed.

  • Jeff Straka

    Josh – God has no “eyes” that see how one “naughty part” is interacting with another “naughty part”. I think you have him confused with Santa Claus.

  • Rick

    Jeff #24-

    I am interested in hearing your answer (a serious one) to Josh.

  • Jeff Straka

    Evolution obviously prefers male/female for procreation purposes, but all species (yes, we are one among many species) have a certain percentage that, for unexplained reasons, have a preference for the same sex.

  • Jeff Straka

    The church repeatedly tries to deny science and biology (think Galileo and Darwin) and then wonders why people end up leaving the church in disgust and frustration.

  • Phil Miller

    Good thoughts on how we should conduct ourselves in this discussion. However, one difference with this issue, that leads to such unfortunate responses, is that this behavior is being promoted by some as being ok/not a sin. That makes it somewhat different than many other sins that are discussed.

    I don’t think the church labeling specific sins really makes it any less likely that people in the church will commit those sins. Just look at the statistics when it comes to premarital/extra-marital sex. People in churches aren’t much different than the rest of the population. Yet most churches are kicking people out or harassing their members because of this sin.

    It all comes down to whether or not we trust the Holy Spirit to convict people of sin or not. I have heard some gay Christians say they know God doesn’t condemn their homosexual relationship or whatnot, and I don’t think there’s anything that a Christian can say to convince them otherwise. I don’t think these people need to be treated a cause that needs to be fixed, though. I guess my feeling is that if we want the church to be a place that is worrying about the sinfulness of everyone who attends, then we need to start addressing a whole lot of other issues before we can address this issue.

    Regarding whether homosexual behavior is sinful or not, I tend to fall along traditional lines as well, but I am will to admit that I don’t have all the answers. The one thing I will say is that arguments on the sexual behaviors of animals do absolutely nothing to convince me. Though I have no problem accepting evolution as true, reptiles, penguins, and giraffes were not created in the image of God in the same way we are told humans are. Actually, I think that argument just ends up giving ammunition to the other side. There a lot of things animals do that if humans did we would consider evil. So just my unsolicited advice on that particular bit – it’s not helping.

  • Rick

    Jeff #29-

    “The church repeatedly tries to deny science and biology”

    That certainly is not the case at this blog. Scot and RJS love to discuss science.

  • http://www.faithforthefainthearted.com/ TriciaM

    Whether or not we have a definitive explanation for the cause of same sex attraction, I think we can safely reject the claim that it’s simply a lifestyle choice. I’ve never met a gay person whose story includes the line, “So one day I realised that I just really fancied joining the gay community, you know, so I could have that lifestyle everyone is talking about.” Never ever.

    I’m so grateful to Justin for telling his story.

  • John Evans

    Rick @ 17. I think you are mischaracterizing. A more accurate version would be:

    1.) Reason should be in Christian’s toolbox, and when they encounter something which is contradicted by real-world observations, it is beneficial to pause and consider the observations rather than dismiss them out of hand.
    2.) Christians should recognize that what animals do is NATURAL. Natural is not synonymous with good, or ethical.
    3.) Christians should admit that they already recognize certain parts of the bible as not relevant.
    4.) Christians should accept that should they choose to use a different standard of ethics than is held by the majority population, then the consequence of that choice is to be perceived as an outsider in many ways by the majority population.

  • dopderbeck

    I think making this strictly an issue of “science” is seductive but incorrect. As others have noted, many species of animals exhibit “homosexual” behaviors. But humans are not _merely_ animals. We are moral, believing creatures in ways that are unique among the species of the earth. That is not a fashionable thing to say in some circles, but it is both empirically true and warranted by the traditions of both our best philosophies and our best theologies (Christian, Jewish, and Muslim). Indeed one of the basic roots of all moral philosophy and moral theology / ethics is the claim that human beings can and should in many cases curb “animal” instincts through reason, culture, community, law, religion, etc. A purely “animal” culture would be anti-humanistic. This doesn’t settle the question of how church and society should treat gay people, but it does make it far more than a “science vs. faith” issue.

  • http://www.chuckroberts.blogspot.com/ Chuck Roberts

    “Third, some people are gay because of their parents. Sometimes this is called the “reparative drive.” In the Freudian model young boys want to kill their fathers to marry their mothers, and distorted parenting caused this development phase to fail. Gay males had fathers who were distant and detached and hostile with mothers who were overprotective. So Bieber, a Freudian, saw the problem for gay males to be parenting. The psychology community no longer this theory is supported by the facts.”

    That last statement about this theory no longer being supported by the facts deserves some attention. It is a fact that a very vocal minority years ago bullied the APA into changing their position on homosexuality.

    Also, as a counselor, I used to work with men with same-sex attractions who wanted to be rid of them, along with some adolescents whose parents wanted them to change. In every case, every case, there was a detached and sometimes hostile father and an overprotective mother. I understand that’s not Justin’s experience.

    As a counselor I was always very up front with my clients or the parents of clients that all I could do was to help them learn how to have good relationships, with their parents and friends, with God. I wanted them to know they were deeply loved by God. I never tried to change anyone’s sexual orientation because I can’t. I think what’s true is that, like many things, how homosexuality develops is a mystery. And I think it’s more important to pursue God than to pursue the answer to this mystery.

    Lest I come across to some as homophobic I am not. The man who has cut my hair for 12 years, and now my wife’s and daughter’s, is gay. He has become a dear friend. There is a gay couple who have a child in my daughter’s class at school. I enjoy him. I have no interest in changing him.

    Just a few thoughts.

  • http://rwtyer.blogspot.com Rory Tyer

    The fact that it is possible (for whatever reason) to be born with a homosexual orientation is a game-changer, but only in some ways. It is a game-changer for those whose ideas about human sexuality are too simplistic, and it is a game-changer for people who use the Bible in this area as a sledgehammer, forgetting that Scriptural truth must always be contextualized for a specific situation – simple proclamation usually does more damage than thoughtful, wise, and loving explanation. It ought to change the way people love and interact with the “other” and it ought to make Christians recommit to knowing and loving people, in the strength of the Gospel, prior to attempting to engage them on what are very difficult and personal issues. And it ought to move us to lament, because ultimately this is a theodicy issue: If there is an “ideal,” and if God is real and powerful and loving, why do things happen that are less than ideal?

    But it is not a game-changer in the sense that if the biblical narrative paints a certain picture of intention and design for human sexuality, then this narrative is true and most conducive to human flourishing regardless of whether or not someone was born with propensities that make it more difficult to see or practice that narrative. (Those here who simplistically throw around various OT examples of marriage relationships are engaged in a fun rhetorical exercise that proves little about what the Bible, as canon situated in the life of the church, actually witnesses to on this subject. Such arguments prove more about one’s knowledge, or lack thereof, about the Bible, than about the Bible’s contribution to reasoning about this subject. Or maybe such examples show more about the failure of churches to consistently articulate a thickly-described biblical theology of human sexuality.)

    I think the most effective way to think about this issue is as part and parcel of just such a thick biblical theology of human sexuality; and the best context for this is loving and sacrificial local churches, where people are learning to actually engage others as people (regardless of what they believe or how they live) rather than bundles of wrong ideas who need to hear a barrage of correct ones. I’m in the midst of leading a three-week discussion at my church on these issues and what I’m finding is that Christians crave guidance on the very basic imperative to speak (or live) truth in love. There are prejudices to be gotten over, to be sure (e.g. using “gay” as an adjective to mean “stupid”, or thinking gay sex is just gross); but if it really is true that the Bible teaches a certain narrative about human sexuality – which is difficult to discount – then the question becomes how one best lives into such a narrative, regardless of where you find yourself on the spectrum of human sexuality and relationships. In this regard I can’t stop recommending Wes Hill’s “Washed and Waiting.”

    Thanks, Scot, for blogging through Torn and providing a forum for discussion of these important and timely issues.

  • http://rwtyer.blogspot.com Rory Tyer

    I should add that I speak as a straight male who experienced several homosexual feelings and situations growing up, and as someone who tirelessly advocates for churches to be places of frank transparency and love around these subjects, and as someone who is pointedly aware of the church’s failure in this area and of the necessity of thinking more adequately about human sexuality generally and the Bible’s involvement in the discussion specifically. And, yes, I do have a very close friend who is openly gay; which is unfortunately not always the case for straight Christians who have opinions on this issue.

  • LexCro

    With respect to the biological data cited in the Justin Lee quote/paraphrase, I do believe that this material is very inconclusive. Even gay scientists like Simon LeVay and Dean Hamer have conceded this. If I remember correctly, LeVay (at least back in the 90′s) claimed that he hadn’t found the genetic, causal smoking gun for homosexual orientation. I realize that LeVay has recently compiled more research in his book “Gay, Straight, and the Reasons Why,” but has he conclusively demonstrated the biological hypothesis or merely stated ideas amounting to “well homosexuality could be caused by this, could be caused by that…”? Hamer (again, in the 90′s) also conceded that he’d failed to find the “gay gene” and even expressed some level of pessimism about future discovery of such a thing. And pro-gay researcher Michael Bailey (chair of Northwestern Psych. Dept., I believe) weighed in by saying that even if we were to find a “gay gene,” said gene would only predispose people to homosexuality rather than determine that they be practicing homosexuals. Also, the appeals to the animal kingdom (at least the ones that I’ve seen) don’t help biological determination arguments. The same-sex mounting habits of dogs and chimpanzees are more reasonably attributed to social and relational hierarchies in the animal kingdom rather than anything resembling human same-sex coitus (I’m not kidding or being derisive here about this zoological research).

    Also, so what if there is some level of biological influence with respect to homosexual orientation? That wouldn’t make it like race (and I mean “race” only in the sense of what is biologically heritable, not in the socially constructed sense). Race is 100% heritable. A Black man and a Black woman will produce Black offspring 100% of the time. Like most men, I was born with a tendency towards promiscuity. Not to be vulgar, but I’ve felt the pull towards promiscuity since about age 10. I didn’t choose this tendency, but by the grace and power of Christ and His Gospel, I was able to enter into marriage a virgin and have been able to enjoy marriage in fidelity. Biological factors (to whatever extent they exert influence) need not rule the roost in one’s life. And they don’t trump the will and Word of God.

  • TJJ

    The current research seems to indicate sexual attraction and preference is complicated and Multi layered and involves a combinations of factors, one of which is most certainly biological and/or genetic. Which makes sex a lot like other types of human behavior.

    But I do not usually hear people make the claim that a peronal preference for murder/homicide is ok, even though that too is no doubt in part also biological and/ or genetic.

    So no, the fact that a behavior is in part biologically based is not a game changer. Lots of things that are considered bad, wrong, immoral etc are in also in part biologically based. A certain percentage of the world population has a inclination or preference or desire or drive to do a great many bad, immoral things. Being born, raised, or traumatiized to think or act or be a certain way does not confer upon such ways absolution or make such ways amoral.

  • http://www.psephizo.com Ian Paul

    There are already a lot of comments here, but there’s something really important that I think everyone is missing. I noticed that the author depends on the worktop Simon LeVay. I have always been interested in LeVay’s work, because he and I went to the same school in London, though not at the same time.

    The LeVay’s work was greeted rapturously by the gay community when it was published. However, it was very quickly discredited, because of its poor science. He chose a very small, biased sample set. This critique was recorded very fulsomely for example on the Wikipedia page about him. However, this has since been edited out, presumably by one of LeVay’s supporters. Ironically, you can see what used to be there, by looking at the LeVay’s response to this on his own website.

    All this points to the fact that the questions of the origins of gay orientation are completely subsumed in the current ideological culture wars. It is impossible to have objective discussion of this, even though it is an important part of the debate. My experience in the UK is that the gay hobby simply refuse to allow anyone to discuss this.

  • Christian

    If we were able to determine that gay is always biological, it’s still not a game-changer. No matter when the homosexual attraction or behavior starts, God is still the creator. He intimately wove together each person’s being – that would include inclinations toward homosexuality. The real question, as has been pondered for centuries (and has been adequately answered by the Bible), is why do we face trials we must overcome (i.e. why do “bad” things happen to good people)?

  • CGC

    Hi Everyone,
    I keep hearing the same things repeated by both sides of this debate but two that always stick out to me as problematic are:

    1) Christians must deny there is any biological connection to homosexuality (bad move)

    2) Christians affirm the gay lifestyle but mean monogamous committed relationships. Unfortunately, Christians sound like they endorse all gay lifestyles and once they have gone down this road, can not even really say to gay people anything about promiscous gay lifestyles without sounding like they are as anti-gay and mean spirited as those who wave the banners and yell slogans.

    3) And then there are people who are bi-sexual or have sex change operations, or oriented towards group sex, etc. Again, I suspect Christians don’t know how to really deal with people who find themselves in these places.

  • Christian

    CGC, what I tell bi-sexuals, trans-sexuals, etc, is the same thing I tell anyone: the cross is sufficient for all.

  • Adam

    If being gay is biological, do you think that is a game-changer?

    First, “being gay” is only dealing with attraction from a visual sense. This is an important distinction, visual attraction is the dominating factor in this discussion. And I question that this visual attraction has any real foundation. Our society is very good at mistaking many things for love. Specifically the word Cathexis.

    In psychoanalysis, cathexis is defined as the process of investment of mental or emotional energy in a person, object, or idea.[1] The Greek term cathexis (κάθεξις) was chosen by James Strachey to render the German term Besetzung in his translation of Sigmund Freud’s complete works. For Freud, cathexis is defined as an investment of libido.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cathexis

    Also, look at how sexuality and beauty have changed over the last century. The 100 most attractive women of today would be seen as sickly and unattractive in other times and other places. And all of this is visual.

    Another contention is that other societies on this earth do not see sexual orientation as an identity. I even believe that Scot has posted on this idea before.

    The ancient Greeks did not conceive of sexual orientation as a social identifier as Western societies have done for the past century. Greek society did not distinguish sexual desire or behavior by the gender of the participants, but rather by the role that each participant played in the sex act, that of active penetrator or passive penetrated.[5] This active/passive polarization corresponded with dominant and submissive social roles: the active (penetrative) role was associated with masculinity, higher social status, and adulthood, while the passive role was associated with femininity, lower social status, and youth.[5]
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homosexuality_in_ancient_Greece

    And a final contention is that I personally know people who are gay because of sexual abuse in their childhood. One woman said, “I can never be close to a man again”.

    So, all of this is to say, our sexual identity is highly malleable and it is being used a core identifier. This way of treating identity and sexuality seems to be a bad way of having the conversation.

  • Tim

    Dopderbeck @ 35,

    “As others have noted, many species of animals exhibit “homosexual” behaviors. But humans are not _merely_ animals. We are moral, believing creatures in ways that are unique among the species of the earth…Indeed one of the basic roots of all moral philosophy and moral theology / ethics is the claim that human beings can and should in many cases curb “animal” instincts through reason, culture, community, law, religion, etc.”

    I would argue that to discuss human sexuality as some sort of base “animal instinct” to be “curbed” is missing the point. Certainly like any other desire, excess and harmful expressions are to be avoided. And certainly “reason, culture, community, law, religion, etc.” can be of great use in doing so. But our sexuality is really an integral aspect of who we are as a human beings. It is an essential ingredient for an enormously important, core, central aspect of the human experience. To find one’s mate, bond with them, share life’s journey with them, and raise a family. These are not minor footnotes of the human experience. Certainly there are those that do without all this, for various reasons. But they are the exception to the rule, not the norm. For the vast majority of humanity our ability to bond and mate is central to our experience.

    The issue of homosexuality cannot honestly be addressed as if the primarily concern is whether some base “animalistic” sexual “instinct” ought or ought not be “curbed”. As if the issue is one of simply engaging or abstaining from same gender sexual acts. The more central issue, and what is more near and dear to the hearts of the LGBT community, their quality of life, and their hopes and dreams is how can they pursue and realize the romantic love, the bonding with a mate, that so many of us heterosexuals take for granted. How do they participate in this core aspect of the human experience? Being shut out from that is not just some matter of chastity, taming the beast of sexual urges, but rather a saying goodbye to so many hopes and dreams for romance, love, and family. This alone is enough to push a number of homosexuals to the brink, and over, of suicide.

    So discussing the issue as one of sexual instincts, or the curbing of them, I think misses the point.

  • Percival

    Going by the answers that have been offered here, it seems that the question should have been “Why are some western people gay?” I have not seen any cross-cultural studies on this topic, but I can say that people from non-western cultures have completely different viewpoints on this subject. But I suppose we can continue to ignore other cultures because the post-modern West is the gold standard when it comes to human nature and behavior. What WE think is all that matters.

  • Marshall

    What Phil Miller said #24. Tie this in with Scot’s fence-building post … the Bible condemns “sexual immorality” (just as it condemns getting drunk, not moderate drinking). I don’t think a committed life-long loving relationship is easily called that. Whereas divorce/remarriage mostly gets a pass …

    Really it seems to me that all the obsessive fence-building around details and nuances of God-created human sexuality consumes a huge amount of energy that could be better used for feeding the hungry, comforting the afflicted, setting the captives free, and sowing seeds for the next generation to harvest. I suppose that’s exactly why some like it.

  • RobS

    I’ll go back the original question: yes, I think that if being gay was biological (& biological only) then the argument against sin being part of the influence is largely challenged (not that I agree with the argument, but I think gaining leverage from pushing that argument is going to be common in the cultural debate). That may explain why many people here don’t seem to buy the idea that homosexual tendencies are biological only. It’s hard to push past Romans 1:25-27 on this one. The “natural” relation being the traditional male-female one. The “unnatural” being the same gender partner.

    Thankfully, every person (gay or straight) can be thankful that they were born into this world as the result of a male-female relationship. God may have made other creatures of the animal kingdom differently, but our God is very creative.

  • Gary Lyn

    I cannot imagine God giving someone a desire that is inherently part of who they are, a part of their idenity, a part of their being…and then declaring that there is absolutely no condition or circumstance under which this desire can be expressed at any point in your life, without my displeasure, because it is a sin.

  • Christian

    Gary #50. What about people that have an inherent desire for young boys, or young girls? Animals? Rage? Alcoholism? Drug use?

    Perhaps it’s generational sin…perhaps something else. But we are brought forth in iniquity. The iniquity is in us from conception.

    Proverbs 5 talks about engaging a prostitute/adulteress, but the final verse is applicable to many things I feel: “For lack of discipline they die, led astray by their own great folly.” God programs weaknesses, proclivities for evil, in us; it’s our responsibility to engage Him for help, to choose Him above all else and find joy.

    p.s. I know comparing homosexuality to bestiality and rape initially sounds like I hate homosexuals or something, but I hope you see past that and see my point. I don’t hate or dislike homosexuals. I actually have a couple of great friends who are gay, and they are two of the most awesome people I know.

  • Rick

    Gary #51-

    “I cannot imagine God giving someone a desire that is inherently part of who they are, a part of their idenity”

    Did God give them that desire, or is that part of all humans being “broken eikons”?

  • EricW

    45 Adam says:
    Feb 6, 2013 @ 11:05 at 11:05 AM
    First, “being gay” is only dealing with attraction from a visual sense. This is an important distinction, visual attraction is the dominating factor in this discussion. And I question that this visual attraction has any real foundation.

    Do we have any studies of blind persons as to what extent visual observation affects or is inconsequential re: same-(homo)-sex or other-(hetero)-sex attraction?

  • Dan Arnold

    As for if sexuality is biologically driven, I think it depends more on how one reads the handful of verses in the Bible that talk about what we are calling homosexuality, something I look forward to seeing how Scot treats Justin’s interpretation of the relevant texts.

    Ron Fay (#9), things may not be as clear cut as you seem to assume. RobS (#49), just a quick note on the natural/unnatural reference in Romans (meaning I don’t have time to post the exegesis behind my understanding). While we tend to usually see these verses as referring to same sex relations, I think a very strong case can made that what is being referred to as unnatural is anal penetration (of either men or women). Read the verses very carefully and see if they actually talks about same-sex relations between women.

    How I understand Romans 1:25-27 was actually the game changer for me.

    Shalom uvrecha

  • Gary Lyn

    Rick,
    I am basing my statement on what has been discussed above: that there are a lot of people who have desire for the same sex, and they, in no way, experience it as a choice but as something that has always been there. I accept the complexity of all that has been discussed. But the idea of accepting that homosexual desire is not a choice but a given, and then saying that you can’t act, in any way, upon that given, is wrong for me.

  • Alan K

    Tim @ 46,

    “But our sexuality is really an integral aspect of who we are as a human beings. It is an essential ingredient for an enormously important, core, central aspect of the human experience. To find one’s mate, bond with them, share life’s journey with them, and raise a family. These are not minor footnotes of the human experience. Certainly there are those that do without all this, for various reasons. But they are the exception to the rule, not the norm. For the vast majority of humanity our ability to bond and mate is central to our experience.”

    Agree with all of it, but it is nevertheless a psychological anthropology. To map this understanding onto the Word of God is to mythologize.

  • LexCro

    @ Dan Arnold (#54): You said, “While we tend to usually see these verses as referring to same sex relations, I think a very strong case can made that what is being referred to as unnatural is anal penetration (of either men or women). Read the verses very carefully and see if they actually talks about same-sex relations between women.”

    Actually, I’ve heard this view before and it doesn’t pan out. Rom. 1:27, which speaks to male-male intercourse, start with “…And in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another”? With the phrase “in the same way,” Paul is making a comparison. The men abandoned what was “natural” (an allusion to Gen. 1-2) to copulate with one another (1:27) just as the women did (1:26). Contextually, this comparison only makes sense if lesbianism is in view in Rom. 1:26. What is “natural” is the male-female sexual complementarity in Gen. 1-2, not a certain kind of divinely-sanctioned sex-act (namely, penile-vaginal intercourse). In light of this, the deviation that Paul refers to in Rom. 1:26-27 is same-sex erotic intimacy, not a specific divinely-prohibited sex-act.

    Lastly, lesbian scholar Barbara Brooten (who I believe heads up Jewish Studies at Brandeis) is a world-class expert on lesbianism in antiquity. She concludes that Paul’s condemnation of homosexual sexual unions in Rom. 1:26-27 speaks to same-sex homo-erotic sexual unions between men and women.

  • LexCro

    With respect to my last post (#57), that’s “lesbian scholar Bernadette Brooten…”

  • Tim

    Rob S @ 49,

    ” It’s hard to push past Romans 1:25-27 on this one. The “natural” relation being the traditional male-female one. The “unnatural” being the same gender partner.”

    But are you being consistent with how you understand “natural” to function with other culturally-bound passages in the Bible?

    Take 1 Corinthians 11:14-15 for instance:

    “Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him, but if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her? For her hair is given to her for a covering.”

    In both Romans 1:25-27 & 1 Corinthians 11:14-15, the same Greek terminology is used to describe what is natural (physis / physikos) vs. unnatural (para physis).

    Yet the vast majority of Christians today read 1 Corinthians 11:14-15 as culturally relative – not deeming it as it were a perversion against nature for a man to where his hair long, or for a woman to wear it short.

    But this interpretive strategy is flipped on its head for Romans 1:25-27, where prohibitions as to what is unnatural vs. natural, using the same terminology, in the same culturally bound context, is deemed to speak to eternal truths proclaiming the sinfulness / unnaturalness of homosexuality.

    I have yet to hear a good case for why, on exegetical grounds alone, this is not fragrantly inconsistent. Though certainly it does play to cultural sensibilities still present today against homosexual behavior, while conveniently disposing of prohibitions against behaviors no longer considered taboo in today’s society – such as length of hair between the genders.

  • Jeff Straka

    So…let me understand this. You have a god that commands this barbaric, genocidal act of his people:
    “…Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.”
    WOMEN? CHILDREN? INFANTS? And you want to trust this god for your moral guidance on sexuality?!

  • Adam

    @EricW #53

    I have been asking that question and haven’t found any good studies. There are blind people who claim to be gay. This place has limited space to really discuss but I’m trying to say that visual attraction is the DOMINATING factor, not the ONLY factor. One of the reasons I say this is because a person’s reproductive organs are fully functional without any correlation to the partner. We don’t ever claim that people are born beastial and yet humans are capable of having sex with animals. Biology in this conversation doesn’t seem to have much to add.

    This makes the conversation primarily about identity and relationship. Is relationship a matter of biology? Does my biology mean I’m incapable of being friends with asians? Do we believe that it’s biology that makes us attracted to red heads vs blondes? I do know there are studies out there (it would take a while to find them) that show men who watch porn in their early teens can develop an aversion to women later in life that are similar looking (watching porn with blondes creates an aversion to blondes) (this isn’t an absolute but the pattern has been distinctly marked, I know men who have confirmed this to have happened to them).

    Attraction is too variable and too heavily influenced by cultural norms, development patterns, and unconscious biases to be called “biological”.

  • Tim

    Percival @ 47,

    “I have not seen any cross-cultural studies on this topic, but I can say that people from non-western cultures have completely different viewpoints on this subject. But I suppose we can continue to ignore other cultures because the post-modern West is the gold standard when it comes to human nature and behavior. What WE think is all that matters.”

    The criticism is perhaps apt in part, but certainly less than charitable given that I would presume even your own perspective, outside of perhaps focused study in certain areas, is informed almost exclusively through the lens of our shared Western cultural heritage. I don’t think the issue is one of pride and hubris so much as just a fact of life that we will always tend to be vastly more familiar with our own culture than those of others with whom we have limited contact. We can always learn more, and many of us do try. But despite the most vigilant of efforts there is a limit to what can be achieved in broad terms.

    Having said that, I’d be very interested as to the findings of the other studies you referenced, and what insights they provide.

  • LexCro

    @ Jeff (#60):

    You should be more consistent with respect to how you approach the Bible. In some earlier posts you appealed to the teachings of Christ, with a more specific appeal to Jesus’ love command, which you summed up as “love God, love others.” (your comments #5 and #7). You seem to think that appealing to Christ rescues your view on homosexuality. Here are some problems with that:

    1. Jesus appealed to the same “genocidal” god’s Law when He gave the love command. Christ’s love command is a quote from Leviticus 19:18 (same corpus where we find Lev. 18:22). This was given by the same God who commanded that the Amalekites be destroyed. If you’ve got a consider-the-source problem with the biblical prohibitions against homosexuality because of the destruction of the Amalekites, then why do you care so much about obeying the love command which comes first from the mouth of the God whose character you call into question?

    2. You can’t obey the teachings of Christ without respect for the OT moral law. Keep in mind, Jesus (because of the New Covenant He ushered in) only did away with the ceremonial aspects of the Law, not the moral ones. This is exactly how Jesus’ apostles saw things. In fact, it was Jesus’ tendency to INTENSIFY the moral aspects of the Old Covenant Law. This is why for Jesus wrath towards someone is tantamount to murdering them, and why lust of the heart is tantamount to adultery.

    3. Before and after Jesus, Jews unilaterally condemned homosexuality as sin under Torah. If Jesus took another view, why didn’t He say so? He had no problems with trenchant disagreement with His religious contemporaries, so why mum on this issue (assuming He had your view about it)? This point is made more powerfully by the fact that Jesus condemns “sexual immorality” (porneia) in general in Matt. 15:19/Mark 7:21. For Jews before and after Jesus this umbrella term included any and every sexual act prohibited under the Torah–including homosexual sex-acts. If He thought as you do, why didn’t He qualify His denunciation of such activity in light of the beliefs of His religious contemporaries?

    4. For Jesus, driving a wedge between Him and the OT God whom He called “Father” was unacceptable. Please show me anywhere in the Gospels where Jesus endorsed such a view of His relationship to God.

  • Jeff Straka

    #63 – LexCro: I do not consider Jesus to be god.

  • LexCro

    @ Jeff (#63): My point is not contingent on you believing in Jesus’ divinity. Even if you believe that Jesus was not divine, Jesus still spoke about the Jewish God as His Father. And Jesus still had a high regard for Torah, which He either lived by and commended or intensified.

  • John I.

    While it is true that the Apostle admonishes us not to be judgmental, he still declares that we are to judge and exercise judgment. Consequently, we are to judge behaviour as sinful or not.

    Furthermore, sin is not merely individual and limited thereto, but also communal with an impact on community. Sin affects the community, which Paul the Apostle addresses many times in his letters–even to the point of indicating that exclusion from the community is necessary in the face of constant, rebellious, unrepentant sin. We are to be our brothers’ keeper, and to be concerned with their relationship with and discipleship to Jesus.

  • Jeff Straka

    #65 Lexcro: No, I see where Jesus completely revised/reformed the Torah so that it was entirely about love of the other (Laws of Justice). If you will note, the laws Jesus tended to break were the ritual/purity ones (Laws of Jobs).

  • Jeff Straka

    Justices
    (Love your neighbor)
    Do not murder
    Do not steal
    Do not lie
    Do not rape
    Do not commit adultery

    Jobs
    (Ritual and purity)
    Do not eat shellfish
    Do not wear garments made out of two fabrics
    Men with genital injuries cannot enter the congregation
    Do not engage in homosexual intercourse
    Do not have sex with your wife during her menstrual cycle

    Jesus talked a lot about the Justices. Show me where he harped on the Jobs.

  • Richard

    Percival, 47.

    Could you elaborate from your context in a non-western culture? Help us with some other voices.

  • Dan Arnold

    Lexcro (#57),

    First off, thank your the reference to Barbara Brooten. I am unfamiliar with her work, so I look forward to reading her perspective. And if we’re going to have dueling experts, I might suggest reading Sarah Ruden, an expert in Classical Greek. Her book, Paul among the People is what first alerted to me to this alternative understanding.

    Some of this depends on how one interprets the Greek word ὁμοίως (homoios). It is a comparative term for the purpose of showing similarity, but not necessarily equality. So what are the things that are similar? You say it is about sexual attraction using Genesis 1 as your reference but the reference to natural/unnatural would be hard pressed into that mold (cf Tim, #59). What exactly is the natural function of women here and who are they exchanging it with? That’s really the question. Are the men doing, “in like manner” (homoios) with men as with women or are women doing in like manner with women as the men are with men? It seems to me that the most probable interpretation (and hardly anything is completely assured when it comes to interpretation), is that men were doing with men (anal penetration) the same thing they were doing with women (anal penetration). It makes the most sense since women couldn’t do the same thing with other women as men could could do with other men.

    Shalom uvrecha,

  • EricW

    @57 LexCro
    and
    @54 Dan Arnold says:
    Feb 6, 2013 @ 13:16 at 1:16 PM

    As for if sexuality is biologically driven, I think it depends more on how one reads the handful of verses in the Bible that talk about what we are calling homosexuality, something I look forward to seeing how Scot treats Justin’s interpretation of the relevant texts.

    Ron Fay (#9), things may not be as clear cut as you seem to assume. RobS (#49), just a quick note on the natural/unnatural reference in Romans (meaning I don’t have time to post the exegesis behind my understanding). While we tend to usually see these verses as referring to same sex relations, I think a very strong case can made that what is being referred to as unnatural is anal penetration (of either men or women). Read the verses very carefully and see if they actually talks about same-sex relations between women.

    How I understand Romans 1:25-27 was actually the game changer for me.

    Shalom uvrecha

    Yep, that’s what James Miller argues in his paper. Register and read it here online or go to your local seminary library and read it: http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/1561233?uid=3739920&uid=2129&uid=2&uid=70&uid=4&uid=3739256&sid=21101620322963

    The Practices of Romans 1:26: Homosexual or Heterosexual?
    James E. Miller
    Novum Testamentum
    Vol. 37, Fasc. 1 (Jan., 1995), pp. 1-11

  • LexCro

    @ Jeff (#68): I’m confused by your argumentation. Earlier I cited where Jesus condemned sexual immorality (Mt. 15:19/Mk. 7:21). I have given you the background: Jews before and after Jesus unilaterally believed that sexual immorality (porneia) included any and all sex-acts prohibited under Torah. Even Jesus’ apostles maintained the Jewish ethic here. If Jesus disagreed, then why doesn’t He say so? Also, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus intensified Torah (the “justices”, as you call them). Anger = murder (Mt. 5:21-26); lust = adultery (Mt. 5:27-30); no-fault divorce = adultery (Mt. 5:31-32); and oaths in God’s name = take no oaths at all (Mt. 5:33-37). In light of this, it is far more reasonable to conclude that Jesus would have intensified (not lessened) the Torah prohibition on homosexual sex-acts. Please explain why this would not be the case.

    On another note, being that issues of sexual purity (like adultery) fall under the so-called “justices”, then why are you asking me about Jesus harping on the “jobs”? I posted earlier that the Torah’s ceremonial law was done away with once Jesus ushered in the New Covenant. This wasn’t accomplished until after His resurrection (which explains Jesus’ instructions to a particular leper in Mk. 1:43-44). But for Jews the issue of homosexual sex-acts was no more ceremonial than adultery was. It fell under the moral law (your “justices”). I’m not sure how this “justices”/”jobs” split rescues your view.

  • John I.

    It should be noted that Le Vay’s research is nondeterminative, even in respect of the possible interpretations of the facts he observed. Furthermore, Michael Bailey’s twin research (one twin is gay, the other is not, etc.) indicates that the relationship between the various factors of nature and the various factors of nurture are very complex and not determined inevitably by genes. It is also worth noting that homosexuality / heterosexuality is not simply binary, but that there are ranges of sexual attraction and self definition that vary over time. A useful article on the various nature and nurture factors, though now a bit dated, can be found at http://www.bri.ucla.edu/bri_weekly/news_050812.asp

    In universe that has been physically as well as spiritually damaged by sin, we cannot discount too easily the possibility that even our sexuality may be damaged and that homosexuality could be evidence of such damage. Surely if there can be anencephalic humans, and humans born with various degrees of mental disability / limited intelligence, other areas of our biology may not be as God intended, nor as they will be in the resurrection. Consequently, determinative biological findings are not determinative of our theology or our morality or our discipleship. When we are to love God, we are to consider not just His original intent but also His teleological objects for the post-resurrection world. In this world God intended that we procreate. In that world, we are no longer given in marriage.

    Even though a chaste existence for a homosexually oriented christian may suck, it doesn’t suck any worse than the lives of many other christians who have endured great hardships and disappointments. We are not called to an easier life, but to persevere. Consequently, our theology cannot be based on the difficulty or unpleasantness of the life we face in Christ.

  • EricW

    After letting Gareth Moore in his book (which I’m nearly finished reading) examine and deconstruct and analyze my own and others’ scholarly and non-scholarly interpretations of the Biblical texts and arguments against homosexuality and/or same-sex activities:

    A Question of Truth: Christianity and Homosexuality
    http://www.amazon.com/Question-Truth-Homosexuality-Gareth-Moore/dp/0826459498

    I have halfway concluded that Christianity is overly obsessed with and/or fixated on sex.

    While I may not fully agree with Moore, I don’t think I’ve read any other book on the subject (and I’ve read LOTS of them on both sides, including Torn) that so intricately examines the arguments used (specifically by the Roman Catholic Church, but just as applicable to Evangelicals) against homosexuality and same-sex activities and/or same-sex marriage, as well as the unconscious presuppositions and eisegesis that most people bring to the texts and the table, some of which are evidenced in the comments here.

  • EricW

    @72 LexCro:

    Here’s the whole “Justices vs. Jobs” argument:

    http://www.jesusonhomosexuality.com/

  • LexCro

    Dan Arnold (#70) and Eric W (#71)

    But the problem with Tim’s (#59) comparison of Paul’s use of “nature”/”(un)natural” in 1 Cor. 11:14-15 and Romans 1:26-27 is this:

    In 1 Cor. 11:14-15, Paul’s referrent is indeed culturally bound. What’s natural and self-evident about what Paul is saying? I’ve read the material dissecting the culturally-bound views on human physiology that are the foundation for what Paul is saying. We’re in agreement here.

    But while both passages use the same word to refer to what’s natural/unnatural, they don’t have the same referent. In Romans 1:26-27, Paul’s appeal to Gen. 1-2 for what’s natural is not time-bound, but trans-cultural and universally binding. Why? Because the reference is to God’s ideal, which is humankind prior to the fall. This is the way Jesus reasons when asked about divorce in Mark 10. Jesus appeals to Gen. 2 as a trans-cultural norm for marriage (Mk. 10:6-9). This is Paul’s logic here as well. With respect to Rom. 1:26-27, what natural in Paul’s eyes is the inter-gender complementarity of Gen. 1-2.

  • Tim

    LexCro @ 76,

    “But while both passages use the same word to refer to what’s natural/unnatural, they don’t have the same referent. In Romans 1:26-27, Paul’s appeal to Gen. 1-2 for what’s natural is not time-bound, but trans-cultural and universally binding. Why? Because the reference is to God’s ideal, which is humankind prior to the fall.”

    This is an example of isogesis, as opposed to exegesis. You are reading your “referents” into the text, rather than the other way around. Paul does not refer to the Genesis passages on Adam & Eve in the text of Romans 1, nor does he elevate his discussion in idealistic or transcendent terms over and above what we see in 1 Corinthians 11:14-15.

    Again, you are reading what your conclusions into, rather than from the text.

  • Tim

    …*correction: eisegesis

  • dopderbeck

    Tim (#46) — I didn’t say sexuality is something to be curbed, per se. But it is true that all of our desires have to be disciplined — whether for sex, money, recognition, power, love, etc. That is a fundamental truth of moral theology / ethics. “Sexuality,” and sexual desire, in the abstract, are part of the “very good” of creation. But that desire, like all desires can be trained to proper or improper ends.

  • Karl

    I didn’t read all the comments, but to answer the question of whether it’s a game changer if being gay is biological, I’d say:

    No, in the sense that there are biological “pushes” or predispositions toward any number of behaviors, traits, etc. and the determination re. whether it’s appropriate to act on those unchosen, biological predispositions is a separate question than whether they are biologically caused or not.

    Yes, in the sense that hopefully we can do away with the notion that people “choose” to be gay or can be deprogrammed from being gay, and the harm that the church (and others) have done to gay people through reparative therapy and other wrong headed notions.

    But when identical twins – who share the same genetics/biology – can be and sometimes are (1) straight and (1) gay, then it’s clear that even if gay-ness isn’t something that can be “chosen” or “un-chosen” it also ISN’T 100% genetic/biological. Because if it was, then in every set of identical twins that had gay biology present in one twin, both twins would be gay as they share identical genes/biology.

    I think Justin’s “we don’t know” is the best we can do. And, other than saying sexual orientation is NOT something that can be chosen or just cast aside or de-programmed, I don’t think it’s very profitable for the church to preoccupy itself much about the causality question.

  • Tim

    Dopderbeck @ 79,

    While I appreciate you clarifying / nuancing your view on curbing of desires, I don’t see that you’ve addressed any of my other points in #46.

  • Christian

    Tim @78

    Eisegesis is inevitable and necessary. Assuming “natural” means the same thing in two letters written at different times strikes me of what has come to be known as “Word Search Theology”, wherein someone searches for all the usages of a word (usually in the Greek) and tries to build a one-size fits all definition of it. This doesn’t work. See the word “soma” (body). Many different uses in Scripture.

  • EricW

    80 Karl says:
    Feb 6, 2013 @ 15:20 at 3:20 PM

    But when identical twins – who share the same genetics/biology – can be and sometimes are (1) straight and (1) gay, then it’s clear that even if gay-ness isn’t something that can be “chosen” or “un-chosen” it also ISN’T 100% genetic/biological. Because if it was, then in every set of identical twins that had gay biology present in one twin, both twins would be gay as they share identical genes/biology.

    Don’t forget about epigenetics: http://www.time.com/time/printout/0,8816,1952313,00.html

  • LexCro

    @ Tim (77),

    Not true at all. Romans 1 has within it what are called “inter-textual echoes” from Gen. 1-3. In fact, Rom. 1:26-27 is an extension of the argument Paul starts in Rom. 1:19, where Paul states that what is

    “…Known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” (Rom. 1:19-20)

    This is connected to Rom. 1:26-27 in that what is known is male-female complementarity. This is what is natural in this context. Notice the phrase “since the creation of the world” in Rom. 1:20. I believe I’m justified in taking that as a reference to Gen. 1-2. There’s no warrant for disconnecting Paul’s nature argument in Rom. 1:26-27 from his overall creational argument starting in Rom. 1:19 as the his “therefore” in v. 24 and “For this reason” in v. 26 demonstrate. Rom. 1:18-32 is linked powerfully to Gen. 1-3 in this way. Notice also that what is known about God is evident WITHIN THEM (verse 19). That refers to what is intrinsic to humankind. This backs up my assertion that Paul’s understanding of what’s “natural”/”unnatural” hearkens back to Gen. 1-2.

    Also, this view comports well with the other Genesis material found in other parts of Romans. And even if you remain unconvinced on this score, Jesus was explicit about the fact that Gen. 2 was His standard.

  • EricW

    Read Romans 1:18ff. alongside Wisdom of Solomon 13-15. It may largely be a recitation of a common Jewish view of Gentiles.

  • Jeff Straka

    #72 Lexcro: porneia is better translated “consensual sexual intercourse between two people not married to each other”. The literal root of porneia is prostitution. Yeah, Jesus would not be down for that as it is not loving you neighbor as yourself.

  • Tim

    Christian @ 82,

    “Eisegesis is inevitable and necessary. Assuming “natural” means the same thing in two letters written at different times strikes me of what has come to be known as “Word Search Theology””

    Eisegesis, like bias, may well be unavoidable. That doesn’t mean we cannot or should not try to minimize it, if we have any concern for the original intent of the text. Alternatively, if you happen to see Scripture as some sort of spiritual Rorschach ink blot test to project your predetermined conclusions and prejudices upon, then go nuts with the Eisegesis I suppose.

    As far as the common terminology between Romans 1:26-27 & 1 Corinthians 11:14-15, my point is not one of “same terminology, ergo same meaning.” I’m not advocating for a brain-dead reading of scripture. But rather I am pointing out the similarities between the passages, their use of natural vs. unnatural to describe cultural taboos, and how we as readers respond to them. I am arguing the point that if we are to interpret one as culturally relative and the other as transcending cultural, we ought to have a good reason – and none insofar as I can tell readily recommends itself.

  • Tim

    LexCro @ 84,

    Thanks for providing more substance on this, I’ll look into your points.

  • Tom F.

    1.) If being gay is biological, would that be a game-changer?

    Yes and no. I would hope that if it could definitively be shown to be biological, that would at least increase the empathy of those opposed to its practice. But even if it is environmentally influenced as well (and most things are a mix of both), that still doesn’t translate into a choice . Do people “choose” to be straight?

    But, conservatives on the issue seem to be backing away from the “choice” idea anyway. They reason that “choice” is not logically necessary in order to justify a prohibition, and they reference alcohol addiction. I think they greatly underestimate the emotional significance of this move. People are familiar with alcohol addiction, and they will become increasingly familiar with same-sex relationships. As it becomes clear that same-sex relationships are nothing at all like alcohol addiction in terms of destructiveness, and that these relationships can indeed be life-giving rather than life-destroying, that argument will seem increasingly silly, perhaps even devastatingly embarrassing for defenders of the traditional argument. So, a philosophically valid move that seems likely to come back and bite traditionalists hard.

    But I will concede that, no, simply saying something is biological doesn’t mean that we can stop doing moral reflection on a topic.

    2.) Does the Bible ponder the question of why someone becomes gay?

    Well, yes, it does, sort of. As the discussion has already made abundantly clear, Romans 1 seems to connect idolatry to it. I don’t know what to make of it, though. If one makes idolatry the cause, does that mean someone like Justin had to be idolatrous in some way? As a child? Within a Christian family? You can debate the scriptural meanings of something like Romans 1 all you want; but if you can’t connect scripture to people’s real experience of gay people and gay relationships (which is increasingly positive), than at the end of the day, scripture will be the loser. I’m not saying that experience trumps scripture, I’m saying that a radical disconnect between experience and scripture is very dangerous for the ongoing life of the church, and will have serious repercussions, some of which we are already feeling.

    doperdeck in #22 says that we shouldn’t look to have a rich understanding of Christian sexual ethic, not just rules. I agree. Perhaps someone can recommend a richer ethic that would account for the biblical prohibition. I have read (a few) very rich evangelical takes on a Christian ethic of sexuality; for example, Chris Hayes is often a “go-to” evangelical on this issue (and I have been referred to Hayes a couple times). But even Hayes ends up just appealing to authority on this particular issue, basically saying that it isn’t up to us to decide what is authoritative in scripture. Ethics is reduced to one’s attitude towards scripture: is it inspired or not? And if it is inspired, than ethical reflection is over; all that is left is obedience. The anxiety about how this discussion on sexuality related to the status of the text seriously damages any possible headway on the ethical issue. I might go as far as to say that for many, it is the issue.

    At the end of the day, this is a unique paradox of evangelical ethics; at least some attempts to defend parts of that ethic (such as a prohibition against homosexuality) in fact undercut the ethic, because such defenses end up showing that scripture has definitely not reflected on its prohibition (there is no systematic reflection on homosexuality in scripture, like there is on say, economic justice), and that these parts of the ethic must stand on authority alone. Rather, the biblical writers simply assumed the rightness of their assumptions in some cases. I think this is why so many feel that this discussion should simply be stopped; continued discussion makes the lack of reflection on the part of scripture excruciatingly apparent.

  • EricW

    While one may see/read in Romans 1 an explanation of how and why God at some time or at some times gave people up to the practices and behaviors and attitudes described therein, I think one has to do some selective and fancy exegetical footwork to apply the passage ipso facto to many people who, as in Torn, are trying to reconcile their same-sex attraction or same-sex relationships with their Christianity.

  • Stephen Hesed

    As someone who 1) is a Christian, 2) is gay/bisexual, 3) believes in the traditional position on homosexuality, and 4) actually holds a degree in biology from prestigious institution, I feel somewhat qualified to speak on this issue. First of all, it’s definitely not a choice. You can trust me on that one. Secondly, the current research points toward the formation of sexual orientation being a product of genetic predispositions, intrauterine conditions, and early life experience, with this last aspect being the least understood of the three. Thirdly, reparative therapy is widely and rightly discredited. I’m not going to unequivocally say it’s never caused any change in anyone ever, but for the vast majority of people it makes no difference.

    Finally, I really think Christians need to be a LOT more sensitive regarding how they talk about this issue. You don’t need to go around trumpeting what you think is sinful – trust me, LGB people already know. Instead, try putting yourself in the shoes of a queer person, and think about how you would feel about whatever you’re saying on the topic. I believe it’s entirely possible to hold to traditional moral convictions while loving queer people radically and unconditionally – I just also believe we haven’t done a great job of it.

  • Phil Miller

    Regarding Romans 1, has anyone else read Douglas Campbell’s The Deliverance of God? (http://www.amazon.com/Deliverance-God-Apocalyptic-Rereading-Justification/dp/0802831265) A good portion of the book is based on his assertion that Paul uses the rhetorical technique of impersonation in Romans, and many times Paul imagines himself arguing with a Jewish interlocutor. This in and of itself isn’t really controversial, but Campbell believes that Paul engages in this more than most other commentators give him credit for. Campbell would say that Romans 1:18-32 Paul is speaking in the voice of a Judaizer who is trying insist that the Torah still holds power of the churches where Paul been preaching a Torah-free Gospel.

    Campbell’s book is massive, and I know that many other scholars took issue with his handling of Romans. But I just thought I’d throw this out there.

  • Justice

    For all of this talk to have any merit one has to believe in sin. Sin is a man-made concept.

  • MatthewS

    #91 Stephen, I have an ongoing interest in learning more about how to do just that (holding a traditional view of morality while communicating love to those who don’t, including those who identify as gay).

  • BradK

    Stephen #91,

    Thank you so much for your comment. It is so insightful and helpful that it deserves its own post/topic. All Christians should read it and take it to heart. This issue really should not be incredibly difficult for us Christians to understand. I recall twenty years ago having a discussion with a gay person about this very issue – why are people gay? He told me it was an aesthetic like any other. Why do some people like green bean casserole and others find it repugnant? Why do my wife and all her siblings despise the taste of coconut while both of her parents like it? (Who doesn’t like Almond Joy?) Why do people like a particular piece of art while others find it insipid or banal? Why do (some) gentlemen prefer blondes? At the time I wasn’t sure if I believed this fellow as I had never really thought about the issue and had never had a discussion with a gay person about anything like that. But it seems correct. If we really think about it, aren’t we all predisposed to certain kinds of preferences and behaviors?

    Closer to home, if God intends monogamy between one man and one woman, then why am I as a straight man attracted to women other than my wife? When we each consider our own natural tendencies to be drawn to certain types of behaviors that are contrary to traditional moral convictions in the church, it should cause us all to do as you ask and love queer people radically and unconditionally. Your comment stirs in me a desire to make a greater effort to do just that, Stephen. Thanks again.

  • Alan K

    Phil @ #92,

    Thank you for bringing up Campbell’s tome and his read of Romans 1. He provides the most coherent reading of the entire letter of Romans I’ve ever come across. It is hard to square the non-Christological foundationalism of Romans 1 with the rest of the Pauline corpus.

  • http://www.naturalspirituality.wordpress.com Howard Pepper

    I read the majority of the comments, having read the entire post. Most of the comments are thoughtful, with at least an attempt to understand and to look from another’s perspective (especially a gay person’s). So, so often, whether in Christians or not, I’ve seen that an ability to empathize and thus to not be judgmental and presumptive about same-sex attraction has been initiated when it comes “close to home,” especially to a son or daughter. One would wish more Christians would take a caring, open perspective without needing this; and admit our level of general ignorance (though SOOO much more is understood via research and open communication now that was even 25-30 years ago).

    To me this is quite clear: Authors of the Bible repeated what were the prevailing moral standards of the time/place surrounding them. There is almost no questioning this as to the many detailed laws of the OT on various aspects of sexuality. marriage, childhood rebellion, etc. The few NT references to homosexuality are in the context of social mores also, with no good reasons to contend that God was “revealing” something particular about what “he” declares as moral or immoral in regard to committed homosexual relations. People tend to project onto God their own fears or lack of comfort with things that are “out of the norm”…. They also irrationally exaggerate those fears, as though the human race might soon stop procreating enough to sustain itself! (BTW, the fearful ones could/should take this comfort in the “biologically-driven” theories: if they are correct [as I strongly suspect], there is really no chance your child is going to pick homosexual attraction up by “influence” from a gay teacher, scout leader, etc.)

  • John I.

    re H. Pepper @ 97, “Authors of the Bible repeated what were the prevailing moral standards of the time/place surrounding them. ”

    1. if the prevailing moral standards of 2nd temple Judaism reflected the moral character of God (and it did in so much as it was based on the “Law”), then “repeating the moral standards of the time/place surrounding them” is also repeating the moral standards of God.

    2. if God inspired the Bible’s authors at all, then there is significance to be attached to how the authors portrayed moral standards and to their attitude to the moral standards of the day.

    3. Jesus tightened moral standards, not loosened them (e.g., divorce). Moral issues such as divorce, adultery, homosexuality, etc. do not display nor are part of any interpretive or moral arch. This is unlike issues such as freedom from slavery, which has an arch of expanding scope from the Israelite treatment of slaves, their freedom from slavery, and Paul’s discussion of Onesimus.

  • John I.

    RE the LexCro/Tom/Jeff etc. thread on Romans.

    Intertextuality is a norm for 2nd Temple Judaism writers (and indeed throughout the eastern Mediterranean cultures), so it is not surprising to find it. Indeed, not looking for it would be a faulty methodology.

    The connections Paul makes to Genesis are evident from more than just echoing of words. He also adopts the structural framework of Genesis in its declaration of God as the builder of our universe in contrast to other “gods”. Gen. 1:26, “Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,[a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” (NIV).

    Romans 1:23 “and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.”

    1. note the correspondences vis a vis humans: images, like(ness), and mankind/human

    2. note the correspondences to nature / creation: birds, fourfooted animals, crawling animals

    Paul is making a clear connection to the created order. Furthermore, both concepts “created” and “order” are significant. In contrast to the other ANE creation myths, Yahweh revealed to the Hebrews that he alone created all. God’s “word” is the most powerful of all (“word” is a concept of power in the ANE). Order is important becaause that is what gods do — create order and preserve order against the forces of chaos. That is what Yahweh does in Genesis, and what the prophets and poets refer to when they speak of seas, chaos and monsters in the cosmic battle against God.

    Consequently, God is putting his stamp, his form of order, on creation. Part of that ordering is the duality of biological sexuality and social gender. A departure from that is a disordering, a prevailing of the forces of chaos against the intended creational order of Yahweh. The disordering that has been experienced by creation since at least Adam (and possibly earlier, depending on when angels fell) is what makes the whole creation metaphorically cry out (as the apostle Paul notes).

    Homosexuality, then, is part of the very painful disordering of creation that some of us experience. Others of us experience other pains (slavery, divorce, impotence, torture, death of children, mental disorders, etc.). No one is fully satisfied in this life; no one will be until the resurrection.

  • Dan Arnold

    John I,

    Thanks for this, it does much to clarify the intertextual links to Genesis 1.

    Shalom uvrecha,

  • Casey Taylor

    I’ve been pondering two things about homosexuality:

    1) What does it mean for present sexual desire and behavior if these are not destined to be essential to human nature in the New Creation? Jesus says as much and many of the Church Fathers agree.

    2) What if the “unnatural desires” of Romans 1 is removed from the argument? As I’m sure Dr. McKnight knows, New Testament scholar Douglas Campbell has argued that much of Romans 1 and 2 traditionally attributed to Paul may not actually be his thinking but that of a rival missionary (cf. “The Deliverance of God”). I’m still not sure if Campbell’s case is convincing, but it is growing on me. And if the deprecating comments of Romans 1 are not Paul’s, that certainly undermines the natural law theology of much Western theological thinking about homosexuality. It does not remove all NT references to homosexuality or homosexual behavior, but it would seem to change the conversation.

  • Dianne Berry

    My dear friends:

    I hate the tangle that exists, for it is in our family as well. ( We love him no less!) But, once the Holy Spirit dwells, we are unequivocally in agreement even if we don’t know why. Perhaps it is that those who are drawn from the beginning with same gender attractions have a “higher calling” to surrender, or turn it over. This makes what is “unnatural” all the more superfluous and exalts our Mighty God! After all, there are more than a few situations that make up the “Jobial Inclusion” of what appears as contradictory to His demand of gender origins. Where sin is, nothing is exempt from His Grace.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X