“As Christians, we believe with deepest sincerity that the embrace of homosexual practice, along with other sins, keeps people out of the kingdom of God. And if our society celebrates it, we can’t both be caring and not say anything. Too much is at stake. This means it is an oversimplification to say that Christians — or conservative evangelicals — are simply against homosexuality. We are against any sin that restrains people from everlasting joy in God.” -Jonathan Parnell
Calling Sin, Sin!
I love the aforementioned quote by Jonathan Parnell, because I believe it truly gets to the heart of the argument I will aim to make in this blog post: homosexuality being sin, robs people of everlasting joy in God! I don’t intend to isolate homosexuality as the “unpardonable sin” that many in the conservative Evangelical camp have treated it as throughout the years. To be sure, homosexuality is a sin and should be seen and called out as such. However my goal is not to be condescending or condemning to homosexuals or those wrestling with sexual identity and orientation. My goal rather, is to bring biblical clarity to the widespread confusion in the Church around the topic of homosexuality. This confusion is owing in large part to an adopted abandonment of objective Scriptural authority among many professing Christians, even prominent Christian leaders. Without the objective unwavering truth of the Holy Scriptures to stand on, we naturally defer to science and culture’s moving-target philosophy to define anatomy and sexuality in their own subjective terms. This variability of philosophy becomes ultimately self-destructive since it is open to one’s own interpretation and subjective experiences. The Scriptures are clear as to what God says and how God feels about homosexuality, therefore being divinely authoritative they bring to bear upon our conscience the absolute standard of God’s moral law. Now at risk of sounding antiquated, I have to admit that I see an egregious arrogance in our modern culture that undermines the knowledge of those who have come before us. We do so by assuming our modern epistemology is absolute and far superior to any past generation’s, whereby emancipating ourselves from any submission to what has long been understood as orthodoxy. Consequently we are in a dilemma in the Church and our culture where our failure to stand for objective truth; namely the Word of God as binding on all people, has led to a repudiation of the notion that sin is a complete corruption of human nature. Instead it has led to sin being equated with nothing more than honest mistakes deserving of a slap on the wrist at most. I believe this is a fundamental flaw in the modern school of thought surrounding the widespread embracement of homosexuality. And it is also where I believe we must start if we are to engage in any meaningful understanding of how to help our friends and loved ones understand their own wrestling with this sin, as well as all sin for that matter.
A low view of God will always translate into a low view of sin, therefore rather than first driving home the point of the utter grotesqueness of sin (which we must do). We must first properly establish a sound understanding of the Grandeur and Holiness of God! God is the primary, singular and ultimate cause of the universe. As well as the transcendent being who exists from all eternity as three distinct persons (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) yet one Holy God (Gen 1:26,27;Isa 46:7-10;Matt 28:18,19). God is the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, and all things whether in heaven or on earth were created by him and for him (Col 1:16). God does whatever he pleases with what he has created for his own good pleasure and glory (Psalm 115:3). God has perfect freedom and autonomy and owes no one an explanation for anything that he does since he himself is the standard of truth and goodness and is the ultimate and Just Judge of the universe. God is omnipotent and complete lacking nothing whatsoever, he is omniscient and can learn nothing since he himself established all knowledge. God is preeminent and worthy of all glory and praise since he alone established all that there is and governs and gives life to all things. There is only one true and living God and he is the inexhaustible and eternal God of the Bible. God is perfect and holy in every way, and is himself the perfection of beauty. In God’s good pleasure he created all that is seen and unseen and established every law that makes up this universe, (i.e. Law of Gravity, Physics, Thermodynamics, Moral Law, etc.). God created all that we observe with our eyes and experience with our senses in such a way that his eternal invisible attributes are clearly perceived in nature, so that they are without excuse who claim there is no God (Rom 1:20). Yet even with this irrefutable evidence before us, many do only to their demise, assert that there is no God. This is the forlorn and logical end of the sinful heart. God is good and his plans and purposes are good. However, sin having entered the world through Adam (Gen 3) has so emphatically corrupted the human nature, that we naturally hate God and perpetually seek to establish ourselves as our own standard of truth and captain of our souls. It isn’t that there does not exist an objective universal truth that we are all subject to. It is that we hate that this objective truth exists and so we aim to suppress it at all costs. Sin is utterly atrocious to God because it is an affront to his holiness and goodness. Sin offends God because it undermines his authority and seeks to distort the truth about God. God being holy and eternal must punish sin eternally, therefore sinning is an eternal insult to God. When we underplay the seriousness and wickedness of sin, we prove that we do not truly understand the holiness and justice of God. To make light of sin is to make God out to be a small and tolerant god, rather than the perfect and demanding God that he is, rightfully so. God can not accept anything less than perfection, which is why he had to send his perfect and holy son to make atonement for sin once and for all, for those who repent of their sin and believe in Christ. The picture that the Apostle Paul paints of fallen humanity in Romans 1 is one of sheer depravity and we should really consider the implications.
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. (Rom 1:18–21).
God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against man’s ungodliness, because by man’s unrighteousness he suppresses the truth. Man seeks to abolish any notion of absolute truth as he propagate ideals of relative subjective truths. Human beings are not merely neutral beings who can be persuaded in either direction toward good or bad, not to the extent which God demands. No, that would be paying far too high a compliment. Mankind is dead in sin and is bent toward perpetual unrighteousness, only ever desiring sin and ungodliness. The inevitable end of this corruption of nature is delusion and destruction. This indictment is for all people everywhere and is not aimed at any one sin over against another. For we all have sinned and fallen short, eternally short in fact of the glory of God. God’s attributes, power, and divine nature are clearly perceived in all of creation so all are without excuse for their unbelief and impenitence. It is by God’s general revelation in nature that we know that there is in fact a God who exists. More than that we have God’s special revelation of himself in Holy Writ. This is the specific means whereby we can know God actually and accurately, yes even intimately. Still even with these means of knowing God, mankind does not honor him as God or give thanks to him for all his goodness to them. This waywardness leads naturally to futility of thought and darkened foolish hearts lacking any light of hope. This may seem harsh, but it is the objective truth regarding the human condition and the natural consequence of sin. Without a proper understanding of God’s holiness and mankind’s depravity, we will never arrive at an absolute congruent conclusion. Instead we will remain inconsistent and circular in our argumentation, further cementing mankind’s suppression of the truth.
Experience Is Not Absolute Truth
We must resist the natural temptation to make our experiences absolute. Doing so makes those experiences the lens through which we interpret reality and truth. This comes far too easily to the natural mind, which apart from divinely given spiritual life and awareness, can only think in terms of naturalistic ideologies. I mean by this that as we look at homosexual desire and gender neutrality, there is a God given order that is truly natural and meant to be embraced with thankfulness, which homosexuality just can not conform to. However due to the unwillingness to accept the truth of original sin which we all inherit from Adam, we lean into personal experience and scientific theory to explain why some feel a strong bent toward same sex attraction. Never willing to accept it as a corruption of human nature through sin they justify it as a biological reality wired into that person’s DNA. The necessary progression of this train of thought is to subject truth to our personal experience, and impose upon the Scriptures a naturalistic interpretation that validates our experience as not just endorsed by God, but actually a work of God. If we follow this type of reasoning to its logical conclusion the results will be truly horrifying, as to what people will be willing to excuse as God’s doing in their life, therefore celebrating it and repudiating any notion of repenting of and renouncing that lifestyle. We are seeing this very thing happening currently with the LGBTQ community, and as Christians we can not both be silent or worst yet celebratory about the destructive nature of their actions, and think that we are being loving to members of that community. It is actually a hatred of the worst sorts to endorse their sin, and we have to see that as a reality if we are to be helpful in any way. This is not to imply that our experiences are meaningless or irrelevant, but rather to say that our experiences are real and deeply meaningful in helping us see the reality of God’s testimony in Scripture. I will venture out on a limb to share a deeply personal and horrifying experience that I myself endured as just a small child. I do this not as a means of entreating your pity, but as an example of how experiences no matter how real, are still subject to God’s absolute truth.
I was only 5 years old when my mother met her would be husband. At first he seemed rather pleasant and the thought of having a father figure in my life gave me a sense of fulfillment and purpose. They dated seriously for about a year and before long he had moved in with us, their commitment to one another only ever appearing to strengthen. During this time of living with us he proposed to my mother and she gladly said yes. It seemed like a fairy tale of sorts right before my eyes, little did I know it would soon become more of a horror story than anything else. After several months of living together, my mother and I started to realize that my soon to be step-father was quite the enforcer and disciplinarian, yet she didn’t make much of it. It didn’t take much to get him excited, he often seemed like a drill sergeant than a caring father figure. His methods of discipline were certainly unique and nothing short of cruel. I recall one Saturday morning as a six year old cartoon fanatic waking up without making my bed. running to the kitchen to fetch bowl of cereal, and subsequently leaving the dirty cereal bowl on the table since I didn’t want to miss the start of the Power Rangers marathon. I was able to watch about 10 minutes of the first episode before I heard my name yelled so loudly that one would have thought I committed a murder and fled the scene. I ran to see what happened and upon walking into my room, I was met with a flogging from the metal part of my stepdad’s belt. He was furious that I hadn’t made my bed and that I left the dirty bowl on the table. He proceeded to finish beating me and then made me clean my room and the rest of the house, after which I was given the pleasure of kneeling on rice while holding up flower pots and thinking upon my actions. I’ll spare you the details of the other types of punishments he employed to discipline me. Suffice is to say, I often wished he’d just beat me and make me kneel on rice to avoid the other forms of punishment. I learned very quickly that I had to tread carefully around my stepdad, but I noticed that there were days where he was very kind and intrusively touchy with me. He would often send my mother off on errands and make me stay home with him so that she would “not be distracted.” During these isolated times, he would lay in their bed and make me lay with him as he would proceed to fondle me and rub himself against me in a very forceful and sexual manner. I was terribly confused as to what was occurring, but for fear of being severely beaten I would comply with his requests. This happened on and off for about 2 years from the ages of 6 to 8 years old. I never dared tell my mother because she seemed to think so highly of him that I thought she’d never believe me if I said something so horrible to her. Needless to say, before long I realized that I was experiencing something very unnatural and unhealthy. I became very confused in my sexuality, and wrestled with same sex attraction even into my adolescence. I never succumbed to my feelings of desiring a homosexual relationship, especially since the older I got I understood that my earlier childhood experience with my stepdad was the initial cause of my sexual confusion. Add to that the fact that it wasn’t the dominant pull of my emotional and relational desire, my interest and desires for the opposite sex were far stronger. Many years later I was introduced to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and I realized that what happened to me in my childhood wasn’t a matter of bad luck, but rather the result of being sinned against by a sinner who had a seared conscious and a depraved heart. Maybe you are gay or wrestle with same sex attraction and have never experienced childhood molestation or rape, well for that I praise God! However, I’m sure if you think back far enough, and for some it may be much further back than others, somewhere along the way you will likely be able to recall the moment where you were either sinned against or you engaged in blatant sin which fed your appetite for self gratifying pleasure.
Transformation Is Possible
In my interactions with family members and friends throughout the years who have homosexual desires and tendencies; I have found that their religious upbringing has often served in making them feel judged and condemned beyond any hope of freedom. This naturally has led many people who want very eagerly, at least outwardly, to be accepted by God and his people to give way to subtle compromises of biblical truth. They surround themselves with “loving” and “tolerant” people who affirm them in their sin and then they impose upon the word of God what Science and the Culture says is true of them. This leads to perpetual confusion and reluctance to see their sin and desires as the enemy of their true Joy. Many who still hold to a theistic world view, not necessarily christian, have gone as far as making bold assertions that God made them to be gay, and that they can not help their same sex attraction, therefore concluding that homosexuality can not be inherently wrong. The major problem with that logic is that it is fundamentally contradictory to Scripture. In fact Paul in Romans 1 proceeds in explaining the progression of those who suppress truth by their unrighteousness. He says:
22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. 24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. 26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. 28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. (Ro 1:22–28)
We see here that a simple exegetical exposition of this passage makes it clear that it is the result of self exaltation and exchanging the truth about God for a lie that brings upon the offender God’s judgement. Exchanging the truth of God for a lie is what leads to a false belief that God approves of and even creates people with homosexual desires. Once that lie is fully embraced, there is no need for the individual who has wedded the lie to feel the burden to change. What we must understand as Christians even if you are a professing christian who is living a homosexual lifestyle or wrestling with homosexual desires, or are simply approving of those who are; is that God sees those desires as dishonorable and the same sex relationship as contrary to nature. What same sex attracted people feel for the same sex is not love, it is actually self gratifying lustful passion. This lustful passion will produce destructive penalties either in this life, or ultimately in the life to come by being judged to Hell eternally. This goes for all sin that remains un-repented of, be it as trivial in our eyes as a “white lie” or as destructive as Homosexual intercourse that leads to HIV Aids and other potentially fatal STD’s. The Apostle Paul makes it clear that no one who practices homosexuality will enter the Kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:9,10), this is not analogical discourse, but rather matter of fact objective Truth. This ought to grieve us and cause us to be bold in speaking the truth in love and desiring to see the LGBTQ community realize that their lifestyle is not one to be celebrated but rather one that is evidence of a debased mind because they do not see it fit to acknowledge God.
This is not say then that there is no hope, we believe the Gospel offers real and lasting transformation, to die to our sin and live a life pleasing to God. God is not a cruel or unjust God, but he is kind and merciful and has made a way of escape for those who acknowledge their depravity and need for a Savior. We live in a fallen world, and we are subject to the curse that God has placed on this world. We aren’t exempt from the curse of sin, rather we endure the same hardships, trials, and temptations. This is to showcase to the world that there is indeed power from on high, to be transformed and to endure the woes of this life with patience and joy. I do not and can not blame God for the sins committed against me in my youth, just like I can not blame God for the sins I myself have committed or commit against others. I forgave my stepdad for his sin against me, and I pray that God had mercy on his soul now that he is deceased and has to stand before God in judgement. It is my eager hope that he was met by grace and reached repentance just as it is my hope for all sinners. We can not make the mistake of being self righteous in assuming that our sin no matter how inconspicuous, is any less egregious than the sins of those with blatantly conspicuous sins such as homosexuality. We must truly love those from the LGBTQ community, and love will translate into calling them to repentance because of God’s love and absolute objective truth revealed in Holy Scripture. We must proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ for it is the power of God unto Salvation (Rom. 1:16) and we must trust the Holy Spirit to remove the stony hearts of sinners who are dead in sin and place in them the heart of flesh as a free gift from God. If you feel trapped in your sin or know others drenched in LGBTQ lifestyles, don’t waver from the truth of God’s word. Instead often remind yourself and them that we were all at one time enemies of God and were under the wrath of God, but in due time through the proclamation of the Gospel, God made us alive with Christ. By Grace we have been saved and this not of ourselves (Eph 2). There is real objective transformation in God’s word and we must hold fast to that confidence. There were many homosexuals in Paul’s day and many were saved and transformed. Paul speaks of them in this way:
9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. 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. (1 Co 6:9–11).
Such were some of you he says, but he affirms the effectual work of God’s Spirit to wash, sanctify, and justify those who repent and draw near to Christ. So yes, there is real wrestling that occurs regarding homosexual attraction, and for many varying and unique reasons. However, we affirm that this is ultimately the product of sin, and not the working of God. God does not create people to be gay, nor does he endorse same sex attraction or homosexual action. We see clearly from God’s authoritative Word that God finds same sex attraction absolutely repulsive. This is not because he is a homophobic cruel God, but because it is contrary to his design and is an affront to the holiness of God. Homosexuality is a self destructive lifestyle that robs people of knowing the goodness of God, and ultimately being satisfied by the pleasure of God’s Joy. We can not both genuinely love our friends and family in the LGBTQ community while simultaneously embracing and celebrating their sin. Let’s call them in love to repentance and to the hope of the Gospel, that they may be washed, sanctified, and justified subsequently proclaiming with Paul: such was I, but I have been washed by Christ’s blood and the Holy Spirit and am thus no longer! Blessings to you from the LORD Jesus Christ in your pursuit of personal holiness!
Song For Reflection