Tag Archives: Homosexuality

Who am I and how do I know? Biblical Perspectives

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In part one of our series on human sexuality we began by giving some broad biblical perspectives regarding the LGBTQIA movement. These activists are pushing for the total acceptance and celebration of new ways to understand and express human sexuality. While much of the debate has centered around homosexuality in particular, the recent rapid expansion of the field of identified sexual expressions illustrates that what is at stake is a fundamental reordering of the way we understand what it means to be human.

Sexuality strikes at the very heart of our identity as human beings. Am I male, female, or something/someone else? What does it mean to be a man, a woman, or something/someone else? Perhaps more importantly, how do I know? In this installment, we will explore how sexuality relates to human identity by looking very briefly at some of the ways the Bible addresses and explains this important relationship.

The dynamics of identity are complex. In general, people gain their sense of identity from a variety of separate and interrelated sources like genetics, family, friends, and culture. For Christians, the question of identity appears, at first glance, to have a relatively simple starting point of reference. Genesis 1:27 tells us human beings are made in God’s image—male and female. Genesis 2 explains in more detail that because we are made in His likeness, we are lovingly endowed with unique responsibilities, capacities, and qualities not bestowed upon the rest of creation. In short, we have a distinctive nature and special role God has given us and called us to fulfill. Part of that mandate is fulfilled by bearing children within the context of a marriage relationship.

But there is more to the story than mere creation. In Genesis 3, we are also told of sin’s tragic entrance into the world along with its dreadful consequences: alienation; from God, from life, from ourselves, from each other, and from creation. We also get a glimpse at divine redemption and the promised restoration God will bring about through the coming messiah in verses 15 and 21.

From these foundational passages of scripture, several important implications follow.

First, we are not self-made gods but dependent, finite creatures wholly reliant upon God for our very existence and ongoing life. We are not self-contained, self-reliant beings, but require hospitable environments, food, drink, shelter, and social networks to exist and survive. These limits call us to both humility and gratitude—humility to see we are needy and dependent, and gratitude as we recognize the many faithful ways our needs are met by a loving and gracious God.

Second, to see the image of God accurately through image-bearing human beings requires both genders to fulfill their God-given nature and roles. The context of Genesis 1 and 2 shows that this singular divine image is only completely expressed through sexual dimorphism. In short, God made us in His image, male and female. Thus, even prior to the fall, for us to see God’s nature without distortion, both male and female genders must work in tandem with Him and each other to reveal His likeness in all of its glorious fullness. God is neither male nor female, but somehow through our unique human sexuality, His being and character is reflected and revealed.

Third, God created us to fulfill certain predetermined expectations and requirements. As David Naugle puts it on page 262 of his book, Worldview, if God exists as the ultimate reality, “The meaning of the universe and the authority to determine it are not open questions since both are fixed in the existence and character of God.” He is the nonnegotiable reference point for determining who we are as human beings and how we were designed to live our lives. Human nature and identity is not indeterminate but established by God. It is not fundamentally alterable by any social conventions or human ideologies.

Scripture tells us we were made to know God, become who He created us to be, and do what He calls us to do (cf. Micah 6:8). The life-goals we should set and choices we should make are not completely our own to determine. God has told us there are proper and improper ways to live and act that either honor or dishonor Him and can either hinder or contribute to human flourishing.

Biblically, then, we were not made to fulfill sexual desires beyond the bounds of marriage, and marriage is an institution instituted by God between one man and one woman for life. This institution is intended to provide a safe and nurturing environment for subsequent generations of divine image-bearers to be born, raised, and serve their Creator.

In a counterintuitive sort of way, our freedom comes not from the invitation or ability to do or be whatever we want, but from fulfilling the design God makes known to us in the Bible and through our passionate search to know Him, be like Him, and do His will (cf. Jeremiah 29:13). Only in this context can we make sense of the idea that we can know the truth and that truth can set us free from the bondage of stepping away from God’s purposes and plans for our lives (cf. John 8:32).

Fourth, sin has real consequences for our understanding and expression of human sexuality. The impact sin has on all human conceptions and relationships is profoundly important and deeply damaging. We are fools to ignore this fact, but we need not be overwhelmed by it either. In this life, sin’s impact is pervasive, but it can also be forsaken and forgiven through faith in Jesus Christ. Through Him, sin’s damage can be repaired and our lives restored to what God wants them to be and become.

Why take so much time and space to make explicit what may seem obvious to most Christians? In part three of this series I will contrast this theistic Christian vision with an increasingly secularist outlook, explaining some of the history of how and why contemporary society has significantly altered—and in some cases completely rejected—a biblical perspective of human life and existence. As a result, many people think the notion of finding one’s purpose and identity through a right relationship with God not merely incredible, but also oppressive and even detestable. The consequent loss of a divine perspective on human life and gender-related issues has led to widespread conflict, confusion, along with deeply dysfunctional expressions of human sexuality.

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The LGBTQIA Movement: Questions Needing Answers

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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.