(Don’t) Come As You Are

We must stop telling LGBT youth they’re inherently unworthy of intimate relationship.

I remember sitting down with my parents after I came out to them and having a conversation that is familiar to many LGBT Christians who come out to their parents. My mom looked at me with tears and said, “You are going to have to make some hard choices in your life. You cannot be in a relationship with Jesus and another man at the same time.”

I was fifteen and while this was the first time this had been laid out in such simple terms, it was a message that I had been aware of since I was little. Gay people cannot be Christians. By the time my Mom told me, I had already spent years internalizing this shame message:

There is a part of me that is dirty that even Jesus cannot love. If I love Jesus, I cannot love a man. If I love a man, Jesus won’t love me.

To hear my parents say it out loud only confirmed it. The choice was clear: singleness or hell.

I cannot fault my parents for this shaming. They were operating under the larger cultural understanding in the church that homosexuality equates to sinfulness. As faithful Christians, it was their responsibility to share that hard reality with me.

“Because of my orientation, my desire for intimacy is sinful.”

At this point, at least where I lived in rural Iowa, there wasn’t a separation between sexual orientation and practice. I could either be “same-sex attracted” and sinful or be straight and okay. Thus, I spent the next five years focusing on trying to change my orientation. This, of course, was unsuccessful despite pouring my entire faith and being into it.

When I moved away from home and started undergrad in northwest Arkansas, my new therapist taught me about separation, which was the university’s official position. By making a distinction between sexual orientation and practice, one can affirm the permanence of orientation without advocating sexual activity.

It made sense to me — I am gay and I don’t have a choice about that. I do have a choice in the way I live my life. This model of looking at homosexuality is now one of the main teachings in our churches. I operated under these ideas for a couple years, but the internal message was still the same: because of my sexuality, I am unworthy of intimate relationship.

One of the world’s leading shame researchers, Brené Brown, defines shame as “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.”

As I have started looking at the effects of shame more intentionally in my graduate studies at The Seattle School, I’ve realized that this is the exact message we are telling our lesbian and gay sisters and brothers in the church. Due to something inside of us, we are inherently unworthy of relationship. Because of my orientation, my desire for intimacy is sinful. There is something wrong with me.

This is easy to protest. I hear it frequently: “We are asking these people to live to a higher calling” or “Following Jesus requires us to lay down our crosses” or “Paul says being single is better than being married anyway.” However, as we understand more of how sexual orientation works, I think there are people in the church that understand the damage this is causing.

“Healthy sexuality is deeply integrated into human life.”

The shift from calling “being gay” a sin to separating orientation from action is proof of this. It’s an attempt to condemn actions without condemning people — to put “hate the sin, love the sinner” into our theology of sexuality. The words change from “You are gay therefore you are bad” to “You are gay, that cannot change, but acting on that is bad.”

This shift alleviates discomfort because we no longer have to tell all lesbian and gay people that they’re going to hell. But the messaging still hasn’t really changed: intimate relationships are not an option. The distinction between orientation and activity is more insidious than flat-out condemnation because it masks shame in subtlety and creates an environment where we promote damaging psychological splitting.

Separation is something that doesn’t happen naturally — healthy sexuality is integrated deeply into human life. Yet, for LGBT Christians, we manufacture little boxes and tell them to put desire/sexuality in one and the rest of themselves in another. While I was often told that my desire itself wasn’t sinful, it became increasingly clear that any expression of desire would be met with contempt.

Thus, I was encouraged to completely split myself from my desire. It was something to be squashed and managed. Mental castration. New Testament theologian, James Brownson puts it this way:

“It is in the area of shame that the traditionalist approach to gay and lesbian persons becomes fraught with deep problems. The typical slogans clearly express the ambivalence: ‘Welcoming, but not affirming’; ‘Hate the sin, but love the sinner.’ On the surface, the gay or lesbian person is welcomed into the traditionalist fellowship; but the desires and the emotional orientation or disposition of the person’s sexuality are shunned. Ironically, in this context, the more deeply the gay or lesbian person is welcomed and loved by the fellowship, the more profound the problem of shame becomes.”

He continues:

“When desires for others of the same sex persist, the result is a deeply internalized sense of shame, frustration, and self-loathing. The self is divided, and shame becomes toxic. Shame always becomes toxic when it is constructed out of double messages (e.g., ‘We love you, but we abhor the way you operate emotionally’). These conflicting messages create divided souls, and those inner conflicts, precisely because they are so shameful, powerfully resist the light of day. They remain submerged, manifesting themselves in depression, scapegoating, sickness, anger toward others, or even suicide.”

We are not designed to split off certain parts of ourselves — we are designed to live as fully integrated beings.

Splitting and shaming also does something else: it kills hope. We are created to be relational. The first thing that God calls “not good” in creation was that the adam was alone. When we encourage suppression instead of healthy expression of desire, we perpetuate aloneness.

“If shame is the byproduct of our church teachings, are they of God?”

For gay and lesbian youth in our churches, a double shaming can happen. Not only do we ever so clearly teach specific sexual ethics (“intimacy with another human is not an option”), we question all relationships. A lesbian teenager cannot hang out one on one with another girl without having her parents or youth leaders worry that there might be something more going on. An adolescent gay man cannot spend large amounts of time with girls because it is socially unacceptable and may damage his “masculinity” more so than it already is.

This doesn’t just come from authority figures, it comes from peers as well. Social ostracization immediately happens when one comes out. With each of these interactions, the message is being conveyed: relationships are off limits. As this happens again and again, it kills hope for healthy friendships and romantic relationships. When this happens in formative years such as adolescence the negative effects can be lifelong.

My freshman year of college, I walled myself off. I barely talked to any of the guys on my hall. I was too embarrassed and scared of what would happen if they found out I was gay. My therapist and I worked hard on learning how to reach out for friendship.

Since then, I’ve made huge progress. However, this is something that my current therapist and I are still working on. When the church continuously sends messages of shame instead of hope, it should be no surprise that people leave in droves.

I think that people are slowly waking up to the true impacts of the church’s current rhetoric on sexuality. For the affirming church, those who believe that God blesses same-sex relationships, combating these impacts is not an issue. Yet, for people who are non-affirming, this creates a problem.

Is there a way to affirm the worth of a person and their relational value while still holding to a traditional sexual ethic? Is it possible to maintain teaching God’s condemnation of same-sex relationships while also combating the shame that these teachings hold?

If we’re going to hold a traditional sexual ethic, this is where work needs to be done. God is not a God of shame and fear. The church should not be a place of shame and fear. If shame is the byproduct of our church teachings, are they of God?

As followers of Christ, we need to be combating shame in every form instead of perpetuating it. There are no easy answers here, but if our teachings are truly of Christ they will not force people into closets. Instead, they will invite us into integration and fullness.

May we be people who issue this invitation.

The opinions expressed in this piece belong to the author.
Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Matthias Roberts
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  • Rita

    Matt,

    Saying that sodomy is sinful is not a “cultural understanding,” it is a Biblical one. As I have shared with you before, the Bible has much to say about this particular sin: (Lev. 20:13, 1 Cor. 6:9-11, Rom. 1:26-27, Jude 1:7, 1 Tim. 1:9-10, 2
    Pet. 2:6-8 to name a few) So ultimately this issue is between you and God, who has Himself declared that sodomy is sin.

    The “desire for intimacy” is not what is sinful, but rather the way in which a person intends to fulfill this desire. God said “it is not good that man should be alone” and proceeded to create a woman for man, not another man.
    But when the desire for intimacy is twisted and perverted by man, and he attempts to “re-create” God’s original design to fulfill it,
    it becomes sin. So it is man who “perpetuates aloneness” when he refuses to find intimacy in the way that God has provided for it.

    It is not that “God is a God of shame and fear” or the church “a place of shame and fear,” but rather that sin brings shame and fear. After Adam sinned against God, “he was afraid and hid himself.” This is where shame and fear were born. So it is sin that “forces men into closets,” not the church, not other men. The church is called by God to be faithful to Scripture above culture in defining sin, and to call men out of their sin closets to live in conformity to Jesus Christ, where the love and acceptance they long for is truly found.

    The Bible does not define sin as merely an action, but rather as a condition of the heart that produces the actions. “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these things come from within, and defile the man.”
    (Mark 7:20-23) (Read Matthew, chapter 5) Therefore the heart is the root of the problem. That is why we need Christ to give us a new heart, one that wants to find intimacy, love and acceptance in all that He is. The more we become satisfied with Him, the less we find the need to demand from men what He alone can provide.

    • http://www.notboringyet.com Matthias Roberts

      I agree with much of what you’re saying, especially the last paragraph. I’m making a distinction in this piece: often the way this is taught (your first paragraph) in the church places shame in areas where it shouldn’t be. We are telling LGBTQ people that because of their orientation they are inherently unworthy of relationship. This is a major issue and one that warrants some work in our faith communities to overcome. If our teachings perpetuate shame instead of freedom something needs to change.

      There are some great people who are doing this work from a traditional standpoint: Wesley Hill stands out to me as one who engages well with this question. He has a new book called “Spiritual Friendship” that I haven’t read yet but looks really promising.

    • Michael Edwards

      Haha, Rita, I love how you produce the same verses always quoted against gay people and then say, “to name a few”, as if there are dozens. No doubt you constantly quote verses against divorce-and-remarriage to all your divorced friends, to remind them they will be living in adultery if they dare enter another intimate relationship. No doubt you have spoken to every divorced person in your church and neighborhood, warning them of God’s judgment (for surely your ministry of instruction is not limited to homosexuals), and doubtless your divorced friends relish your kind correction and beg you to lay more heavy burdens on them they are not able to bear. Thanks so very much for the lavish compassion you radiate.

      • http://www.notboringyet.com Matthias Roberts

        Michael, this feels harsh to me. While I understand that Rita’s words are triggering, I think responding in sarcasm only perpetuates pain. We are all people behind our keyboards. Let’s be people of grace.

        • Michael Edwards

          You are right, Matthias. Is there a way for me to delete this? I suppose I am just weary of the relentless attacks, and the post angered me particularly after you wrote such a beautiful article.

      • Rita

        Michael,
        One verse alone should be enough for any professing Christian (which I addressed my comment to) to get serious about what God says….There is a time for compassion, a time for warning and a time for judgement. God destroyed a whole city because of the sin of Sodomy. I do not believe He was exercising compassion at the time…

        The Word of God becomes a “heavy burden” when we rebel against it. But it becomes our freedom when we agree with it and find new life in it. Jesus said, “Come unto me all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest for your soul.” When we agree with God about our sin and confess it to Him and turn away from it (repent) then we find the rest Jesus promises and instead of feeling anger towards His Words, we embrace them as the life of our soul.

        We need Jesus to be able to stand in our place before God, for He alone has defeated the power of sin and earned for His own the perfect record of righteousness needed to become friends with God. “God has made him (Jesus) to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” (2 Cor. 5:21)

        God’s Word of Truth is what condemns those who rebel against it. Jesus said, “He that rejects me and does not receive my words, has one that judges him: THE WORD THAT I HAVE SPOKEN, the same shall judge him in the last day.” (John 12:48)

        • Michael Edwards

          Rita, you sound very concerned about Divine judgment smiting gay people. Perhaps you overlooked all of my post, however. Do you also preach like this to your divorced friends, on a regular basis, in person and online? If not, why not? I know my bible well and could converse with you (Your understanding of Sodom is entirely mistaken), but honestly you do not sound open to any ideas besides your own interpretation. Suffice it to say I stand before my Lord Jesus, and he is able to make me stand.

  • Sam Seefeld

    The message of the Gospel is nothing and is meaningless without the conviction of the law. Rita is right; ‘the Bible does not define sin as merely an action, but rather as a condition of the heart that produces the actions.’

    This article also makes the assumption that all churches engaging in any form of shame are wrong. In reality, the law (which we are all sinful of breaking) acts as a curb (bumping us back on track – and yes, the bump hurts at times; a mirror (showing us our sinful nature), and a guide (as how to live a life for Christ). However, thanks be to God that He does not stand in judgment of our sinful actions, but rather sees us through the saving grace of His son, Jesus, for all who would believe.

    Our thoughts, words, and deeds are all inherently sinful. Period. This includes the heart; whether (as, Matt, you assume) one is ‘born’ with an orientation or not. Again, thanks be to God that He does not stand in judgment of our sinful thoughts, words, or deeds, but rather sees us through the saving grace of His son, Jesus.

    Additionally… Matt, your comment ‘If our teachings perpetuate shame instead of freedom something needs to change’ is far too broad and misleading. You ought to specify what “freedom” the Church should be teaching; that statement otherwise sounds like it glorifies the action of man over the action of Christ.

    Finally, the point of communicating God’s grace to the LGBT community is well taken. All have sinned and fall short of God’s glory; this means EVERYONE. The law is supposed to shame us, just as it did to Adam and Eve in the garden (check out their reaction to sin); but God’s grace through Jesus is more powerful than sin and the judgment we all deserve. This message must be shared! Thanks be to God!

    • http://www.notboringyet.com Matthias Roberts

      Thank you Sam.

      I feel as if a clarification should be made here. The point of this piece is to call the church into recognition that the way sexual ethics around homosexuality are being taught currently encourage hiding and splitting, not the integration that I believe Jesus calls us into. We have some work to do in order to help our youth not feel like they have to hide in a closet in order to be accepted and loved. I believe that this is important regardless of what one believes about Scripture’s teachings on sexuality. Great damage is being done in the lives of people all over the world as we force our LGBTQ youth into hiding. Yes, the law shames, but God calls us out of shame, as he did to Adam and Eve in the garden.

      We are called into light, not the darkness of hiding.

    • Aaron

      All have sinned and fallen short of Gods glory. If we take this out the church is a really sad country club.

      • http://www.notboringyet.com Matthias Roberts

        Indeed.

    • Michael Edwards

      I notice that in the parable of the prodigal son and the forgiving father, the father did not shame or scold the son, or tell him that all his thoughts, words and deeds are inherently evil. Instead he threw a party and put on the robe and ring of an heir. Personally, I think those of us who are LGBT have already endured more shame, exclusion and judgment than you can imagine. It would be helpful to receive some Good News of abundant joy, life and redemption instead of being ceaselessly and relentlessly beaten over the head.

      • Sam Seefeld

        Michael, I appreciate the conversation. I really do! I want to add that I enjoy getting ceaselessly and relentlessly “beaten over the head” with God’s law. In fact, at my church, EVERY week we BEGIN worship with these words (or some close variation, and with emphasis in caps)…

        “Most merciful God, we confess that we are BY NATURE sinful and unclean. We have sinned against You in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We justly DESERVE Your present and eternal punishment. For the sake of Your Son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us. Forgive us, renew us, and lead us, so that we may delight in Your will and walk in Your ways to the glory of Your holy name. Amen.”

        This confession is followed immediately by the words of absolution, showing us God’s mercy and grace. If THIS MESSAGE is not heard LOUD and clear every single church service, then we are doing our members and visitors a disservice. If this message is not told EVERY single day in our churches, then church becomes a feel-good factory for self-improvement instead of a place to hear about God’s grace for us and to receive HIS gifts. Our actions are then only a meager response to His love; and I don’t necessarily need a worship SERVICE to learn how to do that – I can get that in a self-help book or in a small group Bible study. At church, we receive.

        I don’t think there is a limit on how many times I should feel shameful or disgusted at my own actions; because I know that there is, likewise, no limit to the amount of Grace I am shown by a loving God who died for me. It’s not about YOU, it’s about HIM. And that’s the beauty of church (or at least what it should be); we are reminded of our sinful ways, and then immediately given the gifts of God in his Word and Sacrament for the forgiveness of sins.

  • Taylor D Barrett

    Does shame come from God? It can, if what your doing is disobedient. “It is shameful even to talk about the things that ungodly people do in secret.” Ephesians 5:12. I grew up a boy attracted to other boys. When I got older, i came out to my friends and family, lost all my friends and some of my family because of it. I was in many homosexual relationships, considering “marrying” another man, and even having a sex change. But when I became a Christian, Christ changed me. And out of love for Him, I try my best to obey Him. You may feel you were born gay, whether you were born gay or not does not matter, some people are born fornicators, some people are born killers, some people are born criminals, but when we come to Christ in true faith and willing to obey; then He grants us repentance.

    • Sam Seefeld

      Sam LIKES this.

    • Michael Edwards

      Best of luck and blessings, Taylor. Maybe you are sufficiently bisexual that you can pull this off. Lord knows, I tried myself and was married to a wonderful woman for twelve years. But in the end, it killed me. I was so clinically depressed I was a mess, and the reason was because I am gay. Men give me emotional energy and the joy of attraction; women just do not. Sadly my marriage ended because I could not endure the dissonance and could no longer stand sleeping with her; but I do know a couple guys in mixed-orientation marriages who actually are working it out and healthy, and I am very happy for them! I believe in commitment, and clearly you love your wife a lot! You are one of the fortunate ones. But I know dozens of gay men who tried the ex-gay path, and it did not work, not because they didn’t try. I know myself I did fasting, prayer, counseling, binding temptation in Jesus’ name, but I could no more turn myself straight than I can turn myself left-handed. And I do trust in our dear Lord and Savior. I sincerely wish God’s blessing on you and your dear wife.

      • Taylor D Barrett

        I am sorry to hear that you struggle so much to overcome your sin. But that does not give you the right to sin. We all struggle to resist temptation, some maybe more than others, but God calls us to pick up our cross and follow Him. That means we must “hate our mother, our brother, our sister, and even our own life” or else we can not be His disciple. If you love your sin more than you love Jesus, then your going to hear “Away from me evildoer, I never knew you”. The God of the bible, Jesus Christ, does not approve of sin. If you are trusting in a Jesus which approves of your sin, then the Jesus you are trusting in is not JESUS but just a jesus of your imagination. But I want you to know that there are many people who have been delivered and saved from their sins after trusting in Jesus and repenting. Jesus never promised that being His disciple would be easy. Just because you prayed and resisted temptation for a while does not mean that you can give in to temptations after a while because they never went away. If that was the case, we would all be justfied in being hateful, greedy, fornicating, committing adultery, idolatry, etc.. all we need to do is just resist for a while, pray about it, and if our temptations dont go away then that means our sins are ok and we can stop resisting? No, thats not the case, just because your still tempted even after praying does not mean that you can give in to the temptation. God gave up His only Son for you, now you can give up the sin in your life for Him. God bless

        • Michael Edwards

          Listen to yourself, Taylor. I am not the enemy, and you sound wound up pretty tight, warning me that I will be consigned with the evildoers and worship a false Jesus. Gee, thank you. Talk to me again in 20 years; perhaps you will understand.

          • Taylor D Barrett

            I am only telling you what God told both you and me. If I am wound up tight it is because the vast majority of every human being who has ever lived is going to end up burning in hell forever, and the love of God compels me to preach God’s Word in an effort to save souls from that eternal torment which awaits all unrepentant sinners. Jesus said the way is narrow that leads to life, and few find it; but the way is broad that leads to destruction and many enter through it. Jesus says “Beware of false prophets who come to you as a wolf in sheeps clothing. you will know them by their fruits”. the fruit of The Holy Spirit is obedience and submission to the word of God, and not everyone who says “Lord, Lord!!” to Jesus Christ will enter into Heaven, but only those who do the will of The Father in heaven will enter. Indeed, there is a great danger in worshiping a false Jesus, as the word of God says. And men are glad and happy to receive the false Jesus, the false Jesus who accepts their sins, who does not demand repentance, but allows for humans to live their life whatever way they please.

            Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! The sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, passive homosexual partners, practicing homosexuals, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, the verbally abusive, and swindlers will not inherit the kingdom of God.

            (1 corinthians 6:9-10)

            this concept of homosexuality is nothing new. it was more popular, more widely accepted, more openly practiced in ancient rome than it is today. Paul was well acquainted with the behavior, and he knew just as much about it as you do. More than that, The Holy Spirit who wrote this scripture through Paul is the very same omniscient God who you claim to worship; and He surely knows the deepest recesses of you heart. now i urge you, repent. the days are short and you are bound for destruction. The Lord Jesus Christ truly does exist, truly was crucified, and truly is resurrected and seated at the right hand of God waiting for you to believe and be saved.

          • Ed The Oregonite

            Thank you, Taylor, for standing up for biblical Christianity. Sadly, many folks will always want to make God in their own image, and imagine that their deeds and their obedience to Christ have no impact on God’s judgment. I believe we have free will to make our own decisions, but to call one’s self a ‘Christian’ and reject New Testament rules and instructions is a grave error.

        • Raphael Revels

          The bible says you cannot hate your brother and love God.

          • Taylor D Barrett

            Yes it does! 🙂 And Jesus also says “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.” (Luke 14:26)

          • Taylor D Barrett

            Yes it does! 🙂 And Jesus also says “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.” (Luke 14:26)

  • Rita

    Our “feelings” do not determine morality, the Bible does. We may feel sorry for people who we see as “excluded,” but this should not be what moves us to determine our ideas of right and wrong.

    What if someone decides there should be a movement for “Covetous Christians”? Should the church just accept them and integrate them without calling on them to repent, as they declare their desire to have anything they want and no one has the right to try and stop them because “they were born this way?” Should we all just nod our heads in approval and give them special rights to practice their sin? How about a movement for “Lying Christians?”

    There is grace for the repentant soul, those who are willing to agree with what God says about their sin and with that grace, turn away from it. It is through that grace that God begins to change the heart and bring a man/woman into conformity to Christ, not culture/the world. Condemnation and shame are the natural consequences of living in the darkness of sin. Repentance is what brings you out of the darkness and into the light. The Bible is very clear that a sodomite lifestyle is a sinful lifestyle and it does not call anyone to “come out of the closet” but rather to come out of the sin.

    “This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. Everyone that does evil hates the light, neither comes to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.
    But he that does truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.” (John 3:20-21)

    • Pedro Filipe Custódio

      So tell me is adultery a sin? Is slavery a sin? Is sex slavery a sin? Is polygamy a sin? What does the Bible says about this? How should women behave / dress / talk in the Church / minister men??
      What is a sodomite lifestyle? Is that term even in the original Bible?
      Did the Bible portrayed the same moral code through out its books? Did the writers of the New Testament interpreted the Old Testament the same way Jews of that time did? Was the Bible as we know now always interpreted the same way as today?
      If the Bible is to determine morality as a rule-book then something is very wrong when we see so many changes though out its history. Why does God change His mind so many times?
      Let me tell you something, you are at the level of the pharisees of Jesus time, full of the law empty of Jesus and His Holy Spirit.

      • Michael Edwards

        I agree with you, Pedro. The Lord accepted polygamous men with wives and concubines, and prostitutes, and slave owners, as the original chosen people. While I don’t recommend polygamy, God is patient with us silly human beings. I believe Christ shows us that God’s true nature is love, and two men or two women can certainly share love. Pharisees worry about rules, but Christ wishes us to love.

    • Georgia

      There is no ancient Greek word for homosexuality. Your point is moot, and YOU need to learn to live in the light and be more accepting, as Jesus was.

  • Martin Hughes

    We clearly have a duty to shape our inner lives, as far as we can, so that good deeds emerge and bad ones are minimised: to be, as far as we can, good trees bringing forth good fruits. We may feel shame for what we have done wrong, including our failure, where it is a genuine failure, to make the best of ourselves inwardly of which we are capable. But shame meets with God’s forgiveness, as many examples in the Bible show, and then must not continue, since that would be a rejection of God’s goodness.
    Our inner selves or inner lives must be balanced between good and bad elements, since there is imperfection inherent in human nature, the source of our need for salvation. There is something good about restraint of bad elements in our nature by good ones: thus the sinners who change, even ‘publicans’, have something good about them compared with those who get into no serious moral struggles.
    Which means that the impulse to do something sinful is not itself a sin if balanced by sound moral beliefs and so on. It would make no sense to say that nothing is added to the sin if the impulse is finally carried out – unless perhaps the restraining influence is also something bad. I might ‘commit adultery in my heart’ if my only reason for not committing it ‘in full0’ is that her husband would horsewhip me.
    Which means that there can be no shame in the continuation of dispositions if they are such that one ought not to act upon them and does not in fact act on them. To call for shame is to commit the sin of judgement where we should not judge.

  • Ryan M.

    Hi Matt,

    In some sense I agree with what you’re saying; the church has a long history of approaching the LGBT (or any other non hetero-, non cis- group that could otherwise be added to the initialism) population in a way that shames them. Even now, in the movement to teach separation rather than outright condemnation, there is often very little empathy in the way it’s communicated. Essentially, the message ends up something like, “It’s easy for me to choose not to seek romantic relationships with people of the same gender, so it’s not that terrible of a thing for me to be telling you that you shouldn’t either”. As a heterosexual male, I struggle with singleness, even though I know that orthodox Chrisitan teaching on sexuality says that, if or when I find a partner, as long as she’s a Christian I can pursue a relationship with her. I can try imagining what it would be like to not even have that hope, but at some level the fact that I have that hope will always dull my ability to truly imagine what it would be like to be told that, in my life, faithfulness to Christ involves remaining single simply because of who I’m attracted to. I’ve never found myself in a position of having to talk to a Christian struggling with that; I’m fairly young, so there’s plenty of time left for that to change. Nevertheless, should I ever find myself having that conversation, it’s a conversation that will weigh heavily on my heart. If the Christian community is going to tell the LGBT population that their call is to celibacy, it is paramount that we don’t take it lightly.

    Stepping back from the ways in which the church hasn’t gotten it wrong, however, and I find a fairly major point of disagreement with you. The narrative you adopt about what relationships are for seems to be more of a cultural narrative than an orthodox Christian one. Yes, Jewish commentators interpreted the creation proclamation of “it is not good for man to be alone” to mean that the natural state of human beings is to be married (bearing in mind that this entailed heterosexual marriage). Generally, Christian commentators have viewed this more broadly, that humans are not made to be individualistic, but closely intimate in community with other people. From a broader perspective of why marriage is what it is, we have Paul’s (or whoever you take the pseudographical author of Ephesians to be, if you sit in that camp) teaching in Ephesians 5:22-33. Now, regardless of how you define “submission” here, how you view it in context of 5:21 from whence the verb is supplied, how you view it on a complementarian vs egalitarian spectrum or how you view it in light of its culture, Paul here links the purpose for marriage (and, by extension, romantic relationships) to something far bigger than our own personal fulfillment or simply being a deeply ingrained part of ourselves. Paul says that all marriages were created to point to *the* marriage, the marriage at the climactic point of all of history when Christ is united with his Bride. The job of our marriages in this life is not to fulfil us, it’s to proclaim that there is a far greater marriage than our own, between a perfect husband and his perfected Bride. I believe that Ephesians 5:22-33 says that gender differences are essential to achieving this purpose; same sex marriages (or relationships) therefore distort the message relationships are designed to proclaim although, as I’ve gotten into a little trouble from saying around more conservative evangelicals, nowhere near as badly as divorce does. If we view romantic relationships as being primarily for us, it becomes difficult to argue that there should be a prohibition against LGBT relationships; if heterosexual, cisgendered people get to benefit from them, why should those who are LGBT be excluded? On the other hand, if we place all romantic relationships within a far bigger narrative of, “how well does this relationship communicate the differences between Christ and his Bride while also illustrating the relationship between them?”, then only the relationships that fulfil their designed intent can be affirmed. It’s also essential to remember that, within this narrative, every Christian eventually experiences marriage, and in the perfect experssion of what marriage is supposed to be. Whether we experience the imperfect snapshot that is marriage in this life, none of us are excluded from the real thing.

    All that being said, I return to agreeing with you that we need to figure out how to teach that perspective without creating ostracisation. Conservative, orthodox Christianity tends to have a pretty warped view of human sexuality in general; it’s unsurprising that any type of friendship with an LGBT person is frowned upon when platonic male/female friendships are, themselves, barely tolerated. It’s as though our sexualties are these barely restrained beasts that will escape and wreak havoc the moment they are allowed to even come close to an object of their desires. This view renders LGBT people the worst of the worst – if they associate with people of their own sex, they may become attracted; if they associate with people of the opposite sex, the people they’re becoming friends with might become attracted (or the LGBT person might become “even more LGBT” because they’ll become more likely the sex they’re associating with and less like the sex they’re supposed to be). Before we can fix the way LGBT friendships are perceived, we’d have to fix the way platonic male/female friendships are perceived, and thus fix how sexuality as a whole is perceived. If it is simply part of us that we learn to recognise but exercise discipline over, then we encounter no more problems associating with the gender we are attracted to than Jesus did when he ministered to prostitutes. I don’t say this in an attempt to diminish your experiences, simply to state that they are a sad symptom of an even deeper, sadder disease.

    I guess my final comment would be that the other thing churches need to be prepared for if they’re going to hold to the orthodox position on sexuality is that we don’t get to just tell someone what’s true and walk away; if we want to say something as hard to bear as that, we have to be prepared to go on the journey with them. We have to actively work against shame, to keep people encouraged and to be there in the times when it gets hard (this is true of everyone in the church, regardless of their temptation, but it’s completely applicable here). Just because someone seems to be handling celibacy well doesn’t mean they’re actually handling it well and, even if they are, it doesn’t mean they always will. Before we can even think about teaching that celibacy is what’s demanded of the LGBT population, we need to be prepared to bear the burden with them, not just for a short time, but for the entire duration of their walk through life.

    God bless,
    Ryan

    • http://www.notboringyet.com Matthias Roberts

      Thanks Ryan, excellent ideas here! If you’d be interested in looking a slightly different perspective on the purpose of marriage, I’d highly recommend Eugene F. Rogers book “Sexuality and the Christian Body.” I really appreciate your thoughtfulness.

      • Ryan M.

        I had a look for the book online; unfortunately, there doesn’t appear to be an ebook version and the hard copy is a tad pricy once you add shipping to Australia. I did seek out a few resources online by the same author, including a document titled “An Argument for Gay Marriage” (hosted on Religion Online) and a paper from the journal ‘Modern Theology’ titled “The Liturgical Body” (I’ve omitted URLs in both cases because I’m not sure of the comment policy here), and they both seem to be articulating the major arguments presented in the book you’ve referred to. His approach is more naturally grounded in a high church thought world than that of my evangelical Baptist surroundings; I imagine, for example, that Roman Catholic, Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, high church Reformed and high Lutheran Christians would be more naturally attuned to such an approach that I am. I give that as a disclaimer because it would, therefore, make sense that I would be bringing a natural bias against his case. Keeping that in mind, I still find difficulties reconciling his approach with 1 Corinthians 7, verses 32-35 in particular. It would seem that, if there were a sanctifying dimension intended for marriage, 1 Corinthians 7 would have been as good a time as any for Paul to mention it. On the contrary, rather than seeing concern for one’s partner as sanctifying, Paul seems to treat such concern as a potential diversion from the source of true sanctification. It’s true that he clarifies that marriage is not a bad thing, but it’s seen as being a greater risk of distraction than it is a source of sanctification. Perhaps Rogers addresses such an argument in his book; if so, I may have to more seriously consider purchasing it but, based on what I’ve read of him thus far, he has not yet won me over. I find the general Biblical testimony to point more torwards marriage as placing outward example as its first priority rather than inward effect (nowhere more explicitly than in the book of Hosea); on top of this, while sanctification absolutely needs to take place in community, the Biblical example seems to emphasise that the church should be such an intimate community that the type of sanctification Rogers describes can take place there.

    • Michael Edwards

      Ryan, I would suggest being a tad bit less literal in how you view imagery. The Church is the Bride of Christ — and half of us are men and boys (hello!). While I agree that our relationships point beyond themselves, I would say that same-sex relationships can point to the eschatological life of the Spirit, for there is no childbirth and giving in marriage in the world to come, but love endures forever, and two women or two men can embody such faithful love. I would also remind you that on the practical level, sometimes it really is better to marry than to burn, for one does not automatically have the gift of celibacy by virtue of being gay.

      • Ryan M.

        We are likely to find ourselves disagreeing here, given that I lean towards the complementarian end of the spectrum; I absolutely don’t take the image of the Bride of Christ overly literally, but I do ask what critical features create the analogy between marriage and Christ’s relationship with the Church that allows for the metaphor to be used at all. It could be argued that love is the only defining characteristic that creates the analogy, but I would argue that the distinctions Paul draws between husband and wife are part of what allows the analogy to be used (that is to say that the analogy of Christ as wife and the Church as husband would not be equally valid). Love is but one dimension of the roles Paul defines; submission in love characterises the role of wife, while leadership in love characterises the role of husband. There is, therefore, something about the role of husband that makes it a metaphor for Christ (and God in general, going back through the Old Testament) that the role of wife lacks, and something about the role of wife that makes it a metaphor for the Church (and God’s people, once again taking into account the OT) that the role of husband lacks. Marriage is ultimately prophetic, acting as a symbolic representation of something bigger. Love is one dimension of its prophetic purpose, as is enduring commitment. This is why I say divorce does greater harm to prophetic marriage than homosexual marriage does, because divorce violates these dimensions while homosexual marriage does not. However, I also believe that the specific roles of husband and wife, including the complementary partnership of genders, also has a part to play in completing this prophetic message, and it is here that homosexual marriage falls short.

        As for it being better to marry than to burn, this is true, but marriage isn’t always an option even for those who are burning. For a single man whose only marriage options are non-Christian (either due to lack of interest from Christian females or due to them already being married), he must choose to burn rather than marry because we’re not to unequally yoke ourselves. Such a person doesn’t necessarily have the gift of celibacy simply by virtue of not having the option of marriage, but faithfulness requires that he choose celibacy in his circumstances. I’m at risk here of trivialising the psychological difference it makes to choose hypothetically finite celibacy (as in the straight male example) compared to choosing lifelong celibacy, but the similarity is created by the fact that, in those circumstances, people who do not have the gift of celibacy must nevertheless choose it.

  • ccws

    When I count my blessings, LGBT Christians are high on the list – starting with the pastor who got me connected with an excellent psychiatrist during one of the worst depressions of my life. (I was 42 and had been fighting depression at least since I was 8 but had never been officially diagnosed or treated.)

    The church I was attending at the time was one of the founding members of the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists, and soon became a magnet for LGBT people from all over. One of the things that struck me about our new members was how many of them were involved in one or another of the “helping professions.” It was as if they’d taken their experience with non-acceptance and oppression to heart and expanded it to cover anyone who’d experienced those and other hurts and their consequences. I’m in awe of people like them, who refuse to become bitter but instead keep on keeping on in faith, hope, and love despite it all.

    In particular, the LGBT couples the church attracted could have taught straight couples a thing or three about
    relationships and commitment. Some of those couples had been together for 20 years or more. Even now I’m left speechless by a love that says, “I love you so much, I’m willing to risk having the whole world hate me for it” and makes it work while straight couples are falling apart over pressures that seem trivial by comparison.

    So I say, those who take the 19th century word “homosexuality” and try to plaster it onto the Bible to condemn people and things they don’t understand can go take a flyer. I’ve experienced amazing Christlike love in action in my LGBT Christian friends, and I only wish more straight people could be more like them.

  • Šimon Leška

    First thing you need to focus on, is to accept yourself for who you are. There are more than 1,500 species that have gay behaviour, and there is nothing wrong with it. There are a lot of people who are homosexual and the only way they can be happy, if they learn more about themselves and how they can live a normal life. If you believe in God, then you have to make him understand, dont feel humble, because if he created you, how could he hate you? When you Christians say, that god is all loving and all that, that dont feel bad because you are sexually attracted to guys. You will never be happy, if you dont understand this.

  • Ed The Oregonite

    I suppose there are churches that emphasize ‘shame’ towards LGBT, but I’ve never been in one. An objective person could make the argument that the American church should hold higher, biblical standards for both leaders and members. Without those standards, American congregations look much like the world…high divorce rates…drug, alcohol and gambling addictions…fornication, etc.

    On the other hand, Paul was ready and willing to shame the Corinthian Christians (1 Cor 6:5, 15:34). He also told the same church to imitate him (1 Cor. 4:16, 11:1). So, according to the Bible, shame can and does have a part in bringing about God’s will in the church.

    Also, the essay says ‘God is not a God of shame and fear.’ If that’s true, why does Paul tell the church to ‘work out your salvation with fear and trembling’ ?? (Phil 2:12).

    As Christians, we are called to be humble people, and to confess our sins to each other (James 5:16). If a man is unwilling to confess a sin, the instructions given by Christ are quite clear in Matthew 18: 15-17.

  • Raphael Revels

    I’ll say this first I didn’t read the whole article because I was getting irritated. The fact is that homosexuality is in itself a sinful spirit that enhabits people and causes them to think they are homosexual, the prevailing belief is that nothing can be done about this, that is a lie and every real Christian knows it. The reason homosexuals who go to church to get healed aren’t, is because of doubt they doubt that they can be delivered from the spirit of homosexuality because they believe that that is who they are not that it is a spirit attacking them in order to keep them from having a closer relationship with God. And for those of you who have doubts God will love you in spite of what you do Jesus ministered to the sinners as well as the saints because God loves you, what he hates is sin itself why else would he be willing to forgive all maner of sin if you ask for forgiveness.

    • Ryan M.

      Raphael, I have a few issues with what you’ve said here. Firstly, while I agree with you that homosexual practice is sin, this is not universal among Christians nor, more specifically, among the Christian commentors here. To say that “every real Christian” knows that homosexuality is “a sinful spirit” is to deny the reality that many Christians who bring forth good fruit in many other areas of their lives disagree with you. There have been Christians throughout the ages who have been wrong about many things while being incredibly faithful and devoted in others; from the Church Patriarchs to the Reformers and beyond, misogyny was (sadly) never far away from the teachings of the Church. Racism has been considered Biblical at various points in history; sex has been considered almost inherently lustful, redeemed primarily by its reproductive potential. The Christians who believed these things can have been mistaken without having ceased to be Christians. As it currently stands, there is a debate within the Church regarding homosexuality. Both sides have people who base their stance primarily on what feels right, and both sides have people who are busy seriously discussing the evidence. I believe the weight of evidence comes out in favour of the traditional stance, but I don’t deny that, among those who disagree with me, there are brothers and sisters in Christ with whom I will spend eternity.

      As for healing of sexuality, even taking homosexuality as a sin for granted, since when are we promised that our temptations will be removed? Where in the Bible are we told that being a Christian means being free of temptation? God promises us that we won’t be given any temptation that we aren’t also given the strength to overcome, but that pretty much accepts a priori that we’re going to be tempted. It’s commonly said that there’s no such thing as a former addict, only a recovering one; someone can see the hold sin has over their life broken and subsequently live a holy life in God’s strength, while at the same time being all too aware that the path back into that sin would be all too easy to walk down, and could begin with something as small as a single step. If homosexual practice is a sin, homosexual orientation is a temptation no different to those of us with any other native temptation; sinful people born into sin-marred bodies in a fallen world can hardly expect to be free of temptation until we are resurrected into our perfect, eternal bodies. I believe that the reason we like to treat homosexuality as a different, special category of sin is because, for somewhere between 90-99% of us (depending on whose research you listen to), it’s the easiest sin in the world not to commit. If ever there was a sin that appealed to that Pharisaical spirit in us, it’s one that we can almost guarantee we’ll never be guilty of, and therefore we can be completely safe holding up as something that makes us better than those filthy publica-, I mean, homosexuals, who sin. Everyone is born with an innate set of temptations that we may gain victory over, through God, without being completely released from in this life. Such temptations do not justify sinning; temptation is not sin, but giving into temptation certainly is. We can ask God to remove those temptations, and sometimes he does, but most often it is not a lack of faith that prevents such healing; we live in a fallen world, and we must bear the consequences of that until Christ comes again and completely restores it.

    • Ryan M.

      Raphael, I have a few issues with what you’ve said here. Firstly, while I agree with you that homosexual practice is sin, this is not universal among Christians nor, more specifically, among the Christian commentors here. To say that “every real Christian” knows that homosexuality is “a sinful spirit” is to deny the reality that many Christians who bring forth good fruit in many other areas of their lives disagree with you. There have been Christians throughout the ages who have been wrong about many things while being incredibly faithful and devoted in others; from the Church Patriarchs to the Reformers and beyond, misogyny was (sadly) never far away from the teachings of the Church. Racism has been considered Biblical at various points in history; sex has been considered almost inherently lustful, redeemed primarily by its reproductive potential. The Christians who believed these things can have been mistaken without having ceased to be Christians. As it currently stands, there is a debate within the Church regarding homosexuality. Both sides have people who base their stance primarily on what feels right, and both sides have people who are busy seriously discussing the evidence. I believe the weight of evidence comes out in favour of the traditional stance, but I don’t deny that, among those who disagree with me, there are brothers and sisters in Christ with whom I will spend eternity.

      As for healing of sexuality, even taking homosexuality as a sin for granted, since when are we promised that our temptations will be removed? Where in the Bible are we told that being a Christian means being free of temptation? God promises us that we won’t be given any temptation that we aren’t also given the strength to overcome, but that pretty much accepts a priori that we’re going to be tempted. It’s commonly said that there’s no such thing as a former addict, only a recovering one; someone can see the hold sin has over their life broken and subsequently live a holy life in God’s strength, while at the same time being all too aware that the path back into that sin would be all too easy to walk down, and could begin with something as small as a single step. If homosexual practice is a sin, homosexual orientation is a temptation no different to those of us with any other native temptation; sinful people born into sin-marred bodies in a fallen world can hardly expect to be free of temptation until we are resurrected into our perfect, eternal bodies. I believe that the reason we like to treat homosexuality as a different, special category of sin is because, for somewhere between 90-99% of us (depending on whose research you listen to), it’s the easiest sin in the world not to commit. If ever there was a sin that appealed to that Pharisaical spirit in us, it’s one that we can almost guarantee we’ll never be guilty of, and therefore we can be completely safe holding up as something that makes us better than those filthy publica-, I mean, homosexuals, who sin. Everyone is born with an innate set of temptations that we may gain victory over, through God, without being completely released from in this life. Such temptations do not justify sinning; temptation is not sin, but giving into temptation certainly is. We can ask God to remove those temptations, and sometimes he does, but most often it is not a lack of faith that prevents such healing; we live in a fallen world, and we must bear the consequences of that until Christ comes again and completely restores it.

      • Raphael Revels

        Firstly the easiest sin to commit is to lie it takes almost little thought or time and can be done simi-consciously, to commit the sin of homosexuality you need a partner a time and a place. I say all real Christians know that homosexuality is a sinful spirit because all real Christians believe in demons and know they are the cause of all temptations, if you don’t believe they are real then you aren’t a real Christian because you don’t believe God when he says they are real. God says in this world you shall have trials but to be of good cheer for I have overcome the world, so yes you are right we will all be tempted but he can also deliver us from those temptations so that they can no longer affect us. There are times when “straight” men are tempted to lay with other men as they lay with women and when “straight” women are tempted to lay with other women as they would lay with women as they would lay with men it is a normal temptation just like any other, but when someone starts believing that they are naturally attracted to the same sex that is the time which ther become inhabited by the spirit of homosexuality which is no longer a normal temptation at that point the spirit needs to be cast out from them

        • Ryan M.

          I’m not sure where you get the idea that demons are “the cause of all temptations”; Galatians 5:17 seems to say that our own fleshly nature is more than sufficient to cause us to oppose the Spirit. Yes, demons exist, and yes they do work against us and tempt us; nevertheless, we give them far too much credit when we attribute every single temptation we experience to them. It is often dangerous to say that every instance of a particular event can be grouped into the same category; some temptations may be demonic, but some are almost certainly born from our own fallen flesh. There may be some people who are homosexual because of spiritual affliction, but I’d argue they’re almost certainly the exception; there is nothing unbiblical about the idea that somebody could have a body which is naturally, via its system of hormones and pheromones, attracted to people of the same sex. That does not give an excuse to act on such an attraction, but nor do we need to claim that it could only come from a demonic source. Not everyone who boasts is attacked by a boastful spirit; not everyone who is greedy is attacked by a spirit of greed. We’re plenty capable of sinning without assistance; it’s what we do best as human beings. So, even if homosexual practice is a sin, there is no reason to believe that people can’t be born with with a homosexual orientation as part of their flesh.

          • Raphael Revels

            Adam gave dominion over all the earth and all things in and of the earth to satan when he committed the original sin and ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil this includes dominion over the flesh. Give me an example of someone in the bible that is “naturally via a system of hormones and pheromones, attracted to people of the same sex” since you say its not unbiblical. Regardless of weather or not you can (which you can’t) find this example, any affliction, imbalance, sickness, or impropriety in the body is not of God and therefor is of the devil, therefor that improper system of hormones and pheromones which you speak of is of the devil.

          • Raphael Revels

            I’m not sure who decided to delete my reply but I’m going to say it again. Adam gave his dominion over the world and the fullness there of (meaning everything in and of the world) to satan when he committed sin and ate of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, that includes dominion over the flesh of man. Any affliction, sickness, imbalance, or impropriety in the body and/or mind or spirit is not of God and therefore is of the devil, therefore the system of improper hormones and pheromones which you speak of is of the devil. And I challeng you since you say it’s not unbiblical to find a passage in the bible which talks about a system of hormones and pheromones that makes someone attracted to the same sex.

          • Ryan M.

            Not everything that is not of God is of Satan; nowhere in the Bible is Satan held up as anything near an equal, opposite adversary of God. Sure, whatever is not of God finds agreement with Satan, but Satan’s status as lord of this world is not comparable to God’s lordship over all that is good. The last enemy to be defeated is not Satan, but death (1 Cor 15:26); the curse did not grant power to Satan (although it did promise his subjugation), but it did begin death’s reign over creation. Man received his sovereignty over creation by virtue of the imago dei; Satan lacks that, and therefore was ontologically incapable of receiving that dominion from Adam. We are slaves to sin, not to Satan; when Eve was tempted, while Satan was an agent of temptation, it was sin itself that she chose as her lord, not Satan. Satan is an agent of sin, a tempter, looking to drag creation down to his own level. Afflictions and sickness are products of sin and death; those are the tools that Satan plays with, but they originated from man, not from Satan. Satan is a wicked tempter, and we must never lose that perspective; nevertheless, let’s avoid empowering him by giving him more credit than he’s due; he is an angel who rebelled, who persuaded the first man and woman to join him in his rebellion, and who continues to try to persuade their descendents to remain with him in rebellion. He is that, but he is no more than that.

            As for finding a Biblical example of hormones and pheromones, it should be fairly obvious that there isn’t one, just as there isn’t anything in the Bible regarding the vast majority of disease pathologies. Biblical descriptions of ailments tend to focus on the outward symptoms (simply describing someone as blind or lame) rather than describing the cause of those symptoms. Similarly, the Bible rarely speaks about the motivations that cause us to sin, focusing more immediately on the reality of sin. Rarely do we learn whether those who drink excessively do so because they were overwhelmed by the pressures of life and were seeking to numb the pain, or whether they were genetically predisposed to alcohol addiction, if they were simply lacking in self-control and enjoyed the sensation of being drunk, or if they were oppressed by a spirit that tempted them strongly towards alcohol. The reason behind the temptation never justifies giving into it, but that doesn’t negate the fact that the reasons themselves can be many and varied.

          • Ryan M.

            Not everything that is not of God is of Satan; nowhere in the Bible is Satan held up as anything near an equal, opposite adversary of God. Sure, whatever is not of God finds agreement with Satan, but Satan’s status as lord of this world is not comparable to God’s lordship over all that is good. The last enemy to be defeated is not Satan, but death (1 Cor 15:26); the curse did not grant power to Satan (although it did promise his subjugation), but it did begin death’s reign over creation. Man received his sovereignty over creation by virtue of the imago dei; Satan lacks that, and therefore was ontologically incapable of receiving that dominion from Adam. We are slaves to sin, not to Satan; when Eve was tempted, while Satan was an agent of temptation, it was sin itself that she chose as her lord, not Satan. Satan is an agent of sin, a tempter, looking to drag creation down to his own level. Afflictions and sickness are products of sin and death; those are the tools that Satan plays with, but they originated from man, not from Satan. Satan is a wicked tempter, and we must never lose that perspective; nevertheless, let’s avoid empowering him by giving him more credit than he’s due; he is an angel who rebelled, who persuaded the first man and woman to join him in his rebellion, and who continues to try to persuade their descendents to remain with him in rebellion. He is that, but he is no more than that.

            As for finding a Biblical example of hormones and pheromones, it should be fairly obvious that there isn’t one, just as there isn’t anything in the Bible regarding the vast majority of disease pathologies. Biblical descriptions of ailments tend to focus on the outward symptoms (simply describing someone as blind or lame) rather than describing the cause of those symptoms. Similarly, the Bible rarely speaks about the motivations that cause us to sin, focusing more immediately on the reality of sin. Rarely do we learn whether those who drink excessively do so because they were overwhelmed by the pressures of life and were seeking to numb the pain, or whether they were genetically predisposed to alcohol addiction, if they were simply lacking in self-control and enjoyed the sensation of being drunk, or if they were oppressed by a spirit that tempted them strongly towards alcohol. The reason behind the temptation never justifies giving into it, but that doesn’t negate the fact that the reasons themselves can be many and varied.

          • Raphael Revels

            Misinformation is the biggest problem people have when it comes to faith, satan is not an agent of sin he is the father of sin in other words without him sin doesn’t exist just as without your father you would not exist. Death is a consequence of sin without sin death is no longer necessary which is why it is last. There is no such think as a predisposition to an addiction that is scientific (natural world) misconception that bolsters the belief that humans lack control over their lives. There is such however such a thing as a predisposition to spirits because the spirits of the father are passed to his children by way of his seed as are blessings and curses, so there is the likelihood of children to be tempted by the same spirits as the ones tempting their father.

            For whatever reason you seem to be eager to equate being the lord of the world to being the lord over everything which isn’t what I said, satan is the lord of the world, God is the lord over all things nothing is equal to him.

          • Ryan M.

            I’ll answer your points in reverse. “Imago dei” is the Latin term for “image of God”, commonly used in theological circles to package up the ideas related to that doctrine. If you take the Biblical text on its own and read it only through our modern cultural lens, it’s reasonable to conclude what you have about the relationship between dominion and being made in God’s image. However, it’s a grave abuse to read any text that way; it’s only by trying to understand texts within their parent culture that we can understand what they were intended to mean. In the case of man being made in God’s image, there is a strong parallel to a common practice by Ancient Near East kings in far flung parts of their kingdom. They would build statues, or “images”, of themselves which were to be treated with the respect that would be accorded to the king himself, and would constantly remind the kings subjects who their sovereign was (there is a Biblical example of this sort of behaviour in the book of Daniel). God creating humanity in his image was then placing us in his creation as a sign of his sovereignty over creation; we are given dominion because we are God’s image in God’s creation. We are in the image of the king, so the subjects of the king are required to treat us with the respect due to the king.

            Satan, then, could not truly receive that dominion. He could, via deception, convince people that he had, but he doesn’t actually have it; he’s not the image of the king, he’s a different claimant to the throne altogether. Satan is a rebel seeking to destroy the king’s kingdom; he does whatever he can to draw others into rebellion with him and to destroy what is good within the kingdom. He doesn’t have ownership over anyone or anything within the kingdom except for those who choose to join his rebellion. Now, because of the damage he has already done, we make that choice very early on in our lives, and it is through Jesus that we have a way to change that choice and walk a different path. Nevertheless, Satan doesn’t own us until we voluntarily give ourselves to him, and he certainly doesn’t have dominion over creation.

            You seem to make the opposite error to the materialists, bordering almost on Gnosticism; if I’m interpreting correctly, you believe that everything has a spiritual cause, and that the physical world is basically just a place where the effects of the spiritual world play out. Humans are created both physical and spiritual, and there is an interplay between the two that cannot be denied; nevertheless, effects can flow both ways. Consider depression: some depression has purely mental origins and can be healed by conversational therapy; some depression has spiritual origins, and requires prayer and intercession to be healed; other depression is connected almost entirely to incorrect brain chemistry, and can only be addressed via medication or miraculous healing from God. Treating all of those types of depression the same way ends up missing the point. Sometimes we’re afflicted by evil spirits; trying to get rid of them by treating the body is pointless. However, when it’s the body that’s broken, our treatment should focus on fixing the part of the body that has broken; sometimes, temptations arise because our bodies are broken and our brain has a greater predisposition towards those things than it should. Our bodies are not blank slates, they’re part of the originally good but fallen world; why wouldn’t we expect them to been originally good but show signs of fallenness?

          • Raphael Revels

            First off I didn’t say satan owned us I said he has dominion over the world, we are in the world but not ice the world, we are souls enhabiting physical shells that are flesh and are of this world.

            Secondly “imago dei” this is Latin for image of God you say and then you say we should look to the culture of the bible to back up what you say about us having dominion over the world because of it and then you go on to talk about how kings made statues of themselves that were treated as the king himself. You don’t seem to understand what you yourself are saying, imago dei is Latin, which means it’s roman and it comes from Romans worshipping statues of false gods as though they were those gods. The bible’s culture isn’t roman it’s Hebrew, the closest they ever come to the roman belief of imago dei is the arc of the covenant which isn’t even close to God’s image but was the symbol of God’s covenant and his power on earth.
            You go on to say that we are signs of God’s sovereignty on earth, the earth and all it’s creatures know who God is, he doesn’t need man to remind everything else of himself man was created for the same purpose as all other creations, we were created to worship God. But we are special we were given the ability to choose to worship him or not, we were made in his image but we are not worshiped like he is. You think any creature on this earth besides man would hesitate to bow to God if they saw him? How many creatures do you know that bow to man? We had that power once not because we are in the image of God but because God gave it to us, we gave it away, if we had that power simply because of who we look like then we would still be able to use it even without worshipping God, we can’t. Mathew chapter 1 satan tempts Jesus saying he will give him all the kingdoms of the world, Jesus doesn’t rebuke him saying that it isn’t his to give, he knows it’s his because Adam gave it to him.

            Thirdly I’ve said this before anything that is not of God is of the devil depression in any of the forms as you have described is a sickness depression period is a sickness, weather the devil has spoken to you and talked you into being depressed, or weather a spirit of depression has taken up residence in your body and mind, or if the devil has used his dominion over your flesh to make it chemically imbalanced, it is all of the devil.

            Also I just wanted to let everyone who doesn’t realize it know, when you pray you are speaking to God, you are actively carring on a conversation with God and if you listen and have the ability to hear he will answer you.

          • Ryan M.

            I’m not sure that continuing this discussion is altogether fruitful – you’ve horribly missed the point of a whole lot of what I’ve said in ways that suggests you’re not particularly well read on the issue. “Imago dei” is a term that developed within the theology to refer to the proclamation in Genesis 1 that we were to be made in God’s image. The actual Biblical teaching about our image bearer status is very much rooted in the Hebrew culture of the Old Testament, including passages such as the reference later in Genesis that bases the prohibition on murder on humankind’s image bearer status. Church theologians found it to be convenient to be able to refer to those ideas collectively with a single technical term; Latin was the dominant scholarly language for much of the history of the Church, and thus Latin was the language used. It’s no more tied to Roman culture than “Trinity” is (also a word that emerged theologically from Latin).

            You also seem to have missed the example in Daniel of an Ancient Near East (that is, the nations around Israel during the Old Testament era) King making a statue in exactly the way I’ve referred to. Israel didn’t exist in a cultural bubble; they were familiar with the cultural customs of the lands around them. Deuteronomy is written as a Hittite suzerain-vassal treaty between God and Israel; it is a distinctly Israelite document with distinctly Israelite theology, but the structure of the document shows clear awareness of the genre patterns of the surrounding nations. To reference “the image of” one’s sovereign would have been to evoke the same ideas as Israel knew existed in the surrounding nations; it would have been incredibly shocking hearing that applied to humans as the image bearers of the divine King (when such an idea existed in other ANE cultures, it was usually only the human King of the nation who claimed to bear the divine image), but it’s the idea that would have been communicated. I’m not sure you’ve done a lot of reading about the cultural contexts into which the Bible was written; I exhort you to do so, because there’s so much that gets missed and misinterpreted when that context is lacking.

            As I mentioned in my previous comment, you have a borderline Gnostic view of the world, with the material world basically subordinated to the the immaterial world. We’re not going to agree on most of what you’ve written simply because I don’t share that view of the world; our initial assumptions differ, so it should hardly come as a surprise when our conclusions differ as well. Such debates are also substantially tangential to the main purpose of this article; there is a time and a place for them, but it’s not here and now. Once again, I encourage you to investigate scholarship regarding the development of theological concepts throughout Church history and the contextual background of the Biblical texts, and I hope that you’ll find such study fruitful if you do pursue it.

  • ErinErin

    Matthias, thanks for sharing your journey: both the pain and the hope. I pray that your relationship with your parents has evolved as well.
    Shalom
    Erin

  • Joel Sutton

    I was led to this post from a post I replied to earlier, and I find the same thing happening. You are leading the church right to the cusp of real change and transformation, and then giving them an “out.” You are taking us right to the point that we need to address and then shifting the conversation in a way that affirms, or at least lets us affirm the very thing we need to change.

    You ask, “Is there a way to affirm the worth of a person and their relational value while still holding to a traditional sexual ethic?”

    The answer is a resounding, NO! The church needs to re-examine it’s sexual ethic. Just because something is traditional doesn’t mean it cannot be debated and changed. If you want to go way back in our tradition, what the Bible teaches about sex is not what we are teaching today. The Bible celebrates sex, but condemns the use of sex to dominate or objectify another person. That’s where our focus should be in these discussions, not on the gender of those involved. Is this a discussion we can have in the church? I hope so.

    • Ryan M.

      You seem to be jumping to a lot of conclusions without stating a whole lot of reasoning here. Why is the only way to affirm someone’s worth to say that they can have sex with who they want? On what basis do you say that the Bible only condemns sex that dominates or objectifies another person?

      The Bible says a fair bit about how we affirm the worth of a person, but it doesn’t say much (if anything) about sex being an essential part of that. Biblical worth comes through little things like being adopted into God’s family, appointed as heirs in Christ, or trivial matters like being created in the image of God. Given that our long term future involves a world without sex (based on what Jesus says about individual marriages not being present in Heaven), sex can hardly be seen as something crucial to a person’s worth in the Biblical narrative.

      As for the Bible condemning certain types of sex, you’re taking as a given the most liberal interpretations of pretty much every “clobber” passage by saying that it only condemns dominating or objectifying sex. If that is not the case, then one has to allow for the possibility that there are certain types of sexual activity that don’t involve domination or objectification that can nevertheless be wrong simply because they fall short of what sexual relationships were designed for. If, for example, masculinity and femininity carry specific roles in sexual relationships that are essential to fulfilling the purpose for which such relationships were designed (as would be suggested by Ephesians 5:22ff), then homosexual relationships can’t do what relationships are designed to do (discussions elsewhere in this article’s comments provide other possible reasons for the existence of relationships, so I won’t pretend they don’t exist, but to speak with the confidence you do you have to at least make clear what you believe the good purpose of sexual relationships actually is).

      The debate around this issue continues not because of obstinate hearts but because people on both sides are genuinely convinced that Biblical teaching supports the position they hold. You do the debate a disservice by treating as cut-and-dried issues that are still very much under discussion.

  • Lorena Moreno

    Nobody is created to be “homosexual.” It is sin, period. It is a manifestation of brokenness just like adultery, porn addiction, drug addiction, etc.