Do You Have to Be Heterosexual to Be a Christian?

Yiannis Papanastasopoulos
Yiannis Papanastasopoulos

Just asking a question here. The past several years we’ve seen LGBT rights come front and center in American society, including church. Rhetoric on both sides have amped up, with the latest salvo coming from the conservative side and the Nashville Statement on sexuality and gender (my reaction to it and why I won’t sign it although I don’t necessarily disagree with it can be read here).

Here’s what I’d like to do with this post: let’s play out some of the logic from the Nashville Statement and see if it leads us to a place that we’re comfortable with. Here’s the language from Article 10, the one I have the most trouble with:

“We affirm that it is sinful to approve of homosexual immorality or transgenderism and that such approval constitutes an essential departure from Christian faithfulness and witness.

We deny that the approval of homosexual immorality or transgenderism is a matter of moral indifference about which otherwise faithful Christians should agree to disagree.”

As I wrote previously, the language here is frustratingly vague and can lead to some very serious implications. If we take this particular Article at face value, I interpret it as saying that any approval of homosexual immorality or transgenderism is an essential departure from the Christian witness. And just to reaffirm, the second portion says we can’t just agree to disagree. This is an essential (or foundational) issue to Christianity.

So, let’s take this article to its logical conclusion. It’s natural to assume that anyone who identifies as homosexual or transgender approves of “homosexual immorality or transgenderism,” meaning that anyone claiming to be a Christian but is also LGBT has essentially departed the faith.

Which leads to this troubling question: Does one have to be heterosexual to be Christian? As the Article reaffirmed in the second portion, this isn’t something to agree to disagree about, this is essential. What troubles me so much is that once again it seems like we’re adding requirements to salvation on top of faith in Jesus Christ (which from my reading of Scripture is THE essential thing about Christianity). I say ‘once again’ because several months ago I wrote a blog that reacted against some of the very same people from the very same camp who were seemingly arguing that belief in all the Bible was also a pre-requisite for salvation. So, within the last year some from this camp have argued that in order to be a Christian, one must:

  1. Believe in Jesus Christ
  2. Believe in the infallibility of all of Scripture
  3. Be a heterosexual and disapprove of all homosexual immorality and transgenderism

Does this strike anyone else as concerning? Should we expect other requirements to come out in the coming months? How about “one must be an Evangelical to be Christian” or “one must vote Republican to be Christian”?

The question I’m simply trying to ask is: are we really comfortable declaring certain people as incapable of being Christians and at the same time adding requirements in addition to faith in Jesus Christ? Can a practicing homosexual be a Christian, or do they have to become heterosexual first? If we wanted to keep things fair to both sides, shouldn’t we also affirm that any approval of heterosexual immorality constitutes an essential departure from Christian faith and witness? Because the Bible sure talks about heterosexual immorality as well. So if a pastor marries a couple with previous unbiblical divorces, have they all left the faith? If a couple claims to be Christian but are living together unmarried, has their approval of and engagement in heterosexual immorality constituted an essential departure from the faith? What about the guy you’re counseling that just cheated on his wife? At what point do you tell him his act constitutes an essential departure from the faith? Or is that just reserved for the homosexuals? It’s a lot easier to making sweeping declarations against segments of the population that typically avoid your church. But if you play this logic out on the heterosexual side towards people you actually have a relationship with, it leads to some troubling conclusions.

Full disclosure: I’m a heterosexual Christian and hold to the traditional biblical teaching on sexuality. I’m not arguing that the Bible approves of homosexuality. I’m arguing against the language used in the Nashville Statement that seems to imply that your salvation is in part determined by your sexuality.

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