While I don't believe that the Scripture explicitly teaches that some people are born with the inclination to homosexuality, I do believe that it is implicit in the biblical concept of original sin: we are all born dead in trespasses and sin. We have a nature that is bent toward evil and unable to do what is right apart from grace, but the bondage of the will does not mean that we are not responsible for our actions. (For an expansion of this, click here.)
I believe that within the concept of original sin is a measure of diversity in its outworking -- an idea that is not inconsistent with biblical revelation.
Where I cannot be dogmatic has to do with the interaction of the material and non-material aspects of the human person. One of the most fascinating courses I ever took was physiological psychology and neurology. In the human personality, where does the soul/spirit end and the brain begin? I don't know. But I do know this: all of us were born with twisted hearts, bent toward sin, unable to please God or to change ourselves by our own efforts. For some of us this radical evil expresses itself in a stronger tendency to lie; for others, it is a stronger tendency toward violence; still others struggle with bizarre sexual thoughts, even from early childhood.
Taking into consideration original sin and the diverse ways that it expresses itself has implications for how we deal with the inclination to homosexuality. That means we must treat it in the same way as other deviations from biblical standards: we must condemn the sin, while at the same time extending a loving and compassionate hand to all those who struggle with it.
Perverse sexual acts are clearly condemned in a number of places in the Bible, as for example in Leviticus 18:22, 23: "Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable. Do not have sexual relations with an animal and defile yourself with it. A woman must not present herself to an animal to have sexual relations with it; that is a perversion." Under the jurisprudence of Israel, it was a capital crime: "If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads." (Leviticus 20:13.)
The New Testament upholds the moral standards of the Old, and so it, too, condemns homosexuality. Consider, for example, Romans 1:18-31, especially verses 26 and 27: "Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion."
Our Lord Jesus did not remove the moral standards of the Old Testament; he came to give us grace to change us so that we have the desire to keep it and new power to put that desire into effect. And he died to forgive us for our failures to do so. (Matthew 5:17-20; 15:19; Romans 3:31; 6:1-23.) [i]
To what extent is the electro-chemical, genetic stuff that forms the brain affected by original sin? To what extent does it, in turn, influence human behavior? I don't know. I do know that I am responsible for my sins, including mental sins.
On my next anniversary I will have been married for thirty-eight years; we have three daughters and two sons, so I've had a fair opportunity to observe cyclic patterns of behavior. Just before the onset of menses some people have a harder time being cheerful and gracious than they do at other times. This is due to hormonal changes in the chemistry of the brain.
I am a diabetic; if I don't watch my blood sugar, I can be very snappy and am more likely to say something in an ugly way. I am not denying responsibility for my conduct, only saying that I am more likely to say something I shouldn't when my chemical balance is off. I'm not saying that those sinful responses are justified, nor am I inferring that I'm the victim of chemical processes; I'm simply saying that I have to be more on the alert to my tendency to sin with my tongue at those times when my blood chemistry is off.
At those times when my testosterone is high, I may have a bit more trouble dealing with the invasion of an immoral thought than at other times, but that's never a justification for sin, because I don't live in a Skinner box; I am not, in the final analysis, materialistically determined.
In my experience as a pastor, as I have dealt with hundreds of cases of sexual sin, I have found that some people had vile sexual thoughts from their earliest childhood memories. Why? I don't know. It can all be traced back to Adam and the generational curse he bequeathed to us. But can it be traced more immediately to generational patterns accruing from the sins of a person's parents or grandparents?
Where does demonic activity enter in? The gospels record more than one incident of childhood demonization. (Matthew 15:22-28; 17:14-18.) [ii] And I've yet to deal with a male homosexual or lesbian where there was not at least some degree of demonization.
Over the years I have prayed with people whose earliest dreams they remember are sexual in nature, and some of those dreams were homosexual in orientation. Many people would say that this is strictly due to some unknown environmental factor, as, for example, someone having been molested early in life, the memory of which he has repressed. While I'm not ruling that out, neither do I think that we should dogmatically accede to that paradigm for explaining this problem. Here is this person, and he has now become a Christian. Having been born again, he now desires to please God and obey his commandments. He has found supernatural power to resist temptation, but he still faces temptation.
What kinds of temptations does he face? One of the members of my church, a former homosexual, (1 Corinthians 6:9-11.) [iii] told me that when he saw a scene in a particular film he had to shut his eyes because he found himself tempted to have immoral desires for the actor. The point is that he shut his eyes. That's evidence of the Holy Spirit's working in him, making him into a new person in Christ. This is in keeping with what we are told in 1 John 3:4-10.[iv]
What hope can I offer this man? The same hope I offer every believer: victory in Jesus. But we do not yet see all things underneath his feet, and while we are in this world, still having this sinful nature and still being assailed by the devil and his minions, we will have to struggle. Christians, after all, are not perfect people. In fact, as a general rule, they have a keener sense of the struggle with their own sinfulness than other people do. Someone has said that a Christian is a person who is more sinful than he wants to be.
Some former homosexuals will progress to the point where they cease to be tempted in the sexual area; others will not. But one sweet day, none of us will ever be tempted again. For those who continue to be assaulted by homosexual temptation, as with all other temptations to sin, the coping strategy of Ephesians 6:10 ff.[v] works very well.
James 3:15 states, "This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic." Bad thinking arises within us either through the world, our own sinful nature or demons. It is normally the product of all three working in conjunction: so we can never say, "The devil made me do it."
From my perspective, all evil thoughts, generally speaking, are simply some of Satan's fiery darts (Ephesians 6:16.), making use of the world-view to which we are daily subjected in our culture, and the residue of human autonomy in our minds.
Let me share how I have dealt with atheistic thoughts, because the same means work for any other mental barrage of evil.
The last part of my undergraduate education was at a denominational college where the idea that the Bible is an authoritative revelation from God was pretty much rejected by the faculty of the Religion Department. I majored in philosophy and religion and also took a lot of psychology, studying Freud, who, of course, secularized biblical concepts. (For example, he turned God's speaking through the human conscience into the internalized parent of the superego.) For years, words that I had heard and read would be vomited into my conscious mind, especially when I would be in prayer. I would then take time to argue with myself, reexamining the evidences for the Christian faith, which, of course, ruined my prayer time.
Then one day it "dawned" on me that this was all nonsense. The day I came to Christ, September 4th, 1964, I had resolved my doubts. During the eight years I spent in college and seminary (1965-1973.), I had never found one thing that disproved the existence of God, the deity of Christ or the absolute trustworthiness of the Bible. So I concluded these doubts about the existence of a personal, knowable God who hears prayer or about life after death were simply demonic distractions, designed to hinder my enjoyment of God.
When I am assailed by such obsessive thoughts, I realize that they do not arise from legitimate intellectual questions but are demonic distractions, making use of the worldly and carnal residue within me. I bind these defiling spirits in Jesus' name and command their insinuating doubts to get out of my mind. In other words, I take authority over them in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, claiming the liberty and cleansing of his precious blood.
When we speak with the authority of faith to wicked thoughts, the deliverance is quick; the fog of confusion is gone. Once we have taken authority in faith, we are then able to pray effectively for protection. But most folk think that prayer works without taking authority over the devil; it doesn't. Satan hates prayer, but he will call for a time of prayer when it is time for us take our stand and engage in warfare against him by exercising the authority the Lord Jesus has given to every believer over the Powers of darkness.
Someone has said that we cannot help a little bird from alighting in our hair, but we can prevent him from building a nest there. This we do by making use of the means of grace, drawing near to the Lord Jesus through them and using the authority that he has given us in his name. As a believer determines to walk in freedom, using the "weapons of our warfare," the frequency of such attacks diminishes. However, we must remember that the time to take off our armor is not in this life but in the world to come, because as long as we are in this world, fiery darts come, sometimes out of the blue, when we least expect them and haven't wrestled with them for some time.
A great, old work dealing with the Christian's struggle against the evil one is William Gurnall's The Christian in Complete Armor. (Originally published in 1680.) (London: The Banner of Truth Trust.), 1979. Gurnall said of the danger of meditating on evil thoughts: "Our hearts are of that colour which our most constant thoughts dye into it. Transient, fleeting thoughts, whether of one kind or another, do not alter the temper of the soul. Neither poison kills nor food nourishes, unless they stay in the body; nor does good or evil benefit or harm the mind unless they abide in it."
I try to remember that my mental VCR has an eject button: the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and the authority of his blood.
What works for one area of sin, works for all others. You may never find yourself taken captive by atheistic thoughts; your master may be sexual temptation. It makes no difference whether that temptation is heterosexual or homosexual in nature. Jesus died and rose again to give you the power to reject evil. Through him, you can be free to think what you want to think. You have the power to command thoughts of atheism, sexual sin, despair and the pull to suicide to get out of your mind. Through the power of a Holy Spirit empowered will, by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, you can choose to think what you want to think. You can be free.
If I can be of any help to you, please feel free to contact me.
[i] "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:17-20.)
"For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander." (Matthew 15:19.)
"Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law." (Romans 3:31.)
"What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? The end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 6:1-23.)
[ii] 'And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, "Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon." But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, "Send her away, for she is crying out after us." He answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." But she came and knelt before him, saying, "Lord, help me." And he answered, "It is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs." She said, "Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table." Then Jesus answered her, "O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire." And her daughter was healed instantly.' (Matthew 15:22-28.)
'And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and, kneeling before him, said,"Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him." And Jesus answered, "O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me." And Jesus rebuked him, and the demon came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly.' (Matthew 17:14-18.)
[iii] "Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." (1 Corinthians 6:9-11.)
[iv] "Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.
"Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother." (1 John 3:4-10.)
[v] "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints." (Ephesians 6:10-18.)
Bob Vincent has been the pastor of the Grace Presbyterian Church in Alexandria, Louisiana since 1975. He and his wife Sandy were married in 1968; they have...