There’s a lot of talk and press these days about the LGBTQIA movement. This letter string represents an acronym of the first letters in a growing list of sexual identities such as Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgendered/Queer/Questioning/Intersexual/Asexual/Androgynous. With all the confusion and politicization surrounding the issue, it’s very hard to know where to begin and, like the expanding list of initials in the moniker, where it will all finally end.
The movement raises a number of important challenges to the traditional ways people understand what it means to be human, challenges that deserve thoughtful responses from the Christian community. Many of the issues pertain to the following questions and problems:
- What does the Bible say about human sexuality in general, and the moral status of homosexual behavior in particular?
- How did the LGBTQIA movement come to hold their views on these issues?
- What relationship does human sexuality have with personal identity?
- Can people who struggle with sexual identity truly change their orientation?
- From a pastoral perspective, how should Christians respond and what should they expect and prepare for as the LGBTQIA movement continues to gain cultural acceptance?
In this mini-series, we will briefly address these and other relevant concerns regarding the difficult but important issue of human identity and sexuality. I will especially try to touch on aspects of the debate that in my estimation are often not raised or adequately dealt with in the Christian community. Before looking more closely at the complex question of human identity and its relationship to sexuality, we first will touch on some general biblical issues regarding it.
I begin by admitting that dealing in detail with every passage of scripture addressing homosexuality in particular or human sexuality in general is not possible in a piece like this. Whole books have been written on the subject. For those who care to look more deeply at the question, an excellent recent example is Kevin DeYoung’s, What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality? We can, however, make some initial observations about the Bible and the question of human sexuality.
First, biblical teaching on sexual purity should incorporate broader questions of human nature and identity, not merely atomistic passages dealing with specific sexual issues, as important as these are. There is a tendency to quote individual verses of scripture and forget that they are part of a broader coherent complex of biblical teaching on human sexuality. If we fail to give a fuller Christian perspective and carefully construct a more compelling narrative of what it means to be genuinely human, we likely will only succeed in further alienating, confusing, and talking past our non-Christian audiences.
Second, biblically speaking, sexual ethics flows out of the loving and righteous character and will of God. When God gives a prohibition in this area, it is neither capricious nor arbitrary. There is always a good reason for the prohibitions God gives, even when that reason is not spelled out for us, and even when we fail to see what it could possibly be. Usually time reveals the reason, but even if it doesn’t, we trust God is far wiser and more righteous than any of us can dream or imagine. As the One who made and designed us, He knows what is ultimately best for every human being.
Third, all attempts I have read to provide biblical justification for homosexual activities and unions (for example) have worked very hard to redefine words and bring socio-historical backgrounds to bear in a way that sounds more like an exercise in hermeneutical gymnastics than a genuine attempt to hear what the text is actually saying. In seminary we called this process “eisegesis,” the attempt to read into the text what was not really there in order to make it say what we want it to say. Instead, we must always submit ourselves to the divine authority of God’s word, hearing and obeying what it actually says, no matter how hard or countercultural it might appear.
Fourth, and closely related, it is significant to mention that throughout history, the vast majority of biblical interpreters and scholars have taught that the Bible condemns homosexual sex, as well as a number of other related sexual behaviors, which are described together as aberrant and inappropriate expressions of human sexuality. It should always give us serious pause when we are tempted and encouraged to sweep away the overwhelming majority position of church history simply because contemporary ethical mores on human sexuality have changed and because some Christians in the church have become advocates of that new morality.
Technological advance has sometimes tempted us to conclude that whatever is new is “better,” an improvement over the old and out-of-date. In Christian ethics, however, “progressive” moral campaigns, far from being ethical advances, are frequently ethical regressions. They end up acquiescing to the spirit of the age, rather than submitting to the Spirit of the Lord.
As G. K. Chesterton put it so eloquently on page 159 of The Everlasting Man, “We cannot pretend to be abandoning the morality of the past for one more suited to the present. [Christian morality] is certainly not the morality of another age, but it might be of another world.”
In the next installment, we will examine in more detail some biblical perspectives on the complex question of human identity, especially as it relates to human sexuality.