We must see the soul and the person in its ruined condition, with its malformed and dysfunctional mind, feelings, body, and social relations, before we can understand that it must be delivered and reformed and how that can be done.” Dallas Willard (1)
Sin’s Effect on Sexuality: Broken Desires, Broken Identity and Broken Relationships
God’s design for human sexuality was clear from the beginning, that a man and wife would come together in a marriage that would unite them for life, bring forth children and reflect the image and likeness of God.
Sadly, Adam and Eve did not trust God, tried to raise themselves to His level and disobeyed His command. In their fall, they broke their relationship with God, put the world under the enemy’s control, destroyed their communion with each other, and shattered God’s image in themselves.
- Broken relationship with God
The man and the woman hid from God as He looked for them in the Garden. In Romans, we read about how God was known to humanity, but man turned from God, did not acknowledge Him as creator and did not give Him thanks. The proper relationship between man and God was broken, and mankind turned to others, to experiences and to things for fulfillment. As a result, mankind now sees God through a lens of shame, guilt, fear and condemnation – rather than knowing and experiencing His deep love.
- Under the power of the enemy
Instead of taking dominion over the world, Adam and Eve gave control to the “prince of the power of the air,” Satan. Scripture describes him as a liar and an accuser. Thus we are born into a world that is in conflict between Satan and God. Because he hates God, Satan also hates the image of God in humanity and seeks to destroy people. Men and women can produce new life – something Satan cannot do. He works in the world to destroy life, and attacks people’s gender, identity and sexuality. He assaults marriage, families, and children with lies, destruction and accusations.
- Destruction of communion
Before the Fall, the man and woman were naked and not ashamed. After sin enters the world, they became aware of their naked and cover themselves. Pope John Paul II noted that after the Fall, Adam and Eve did not see each other through God’s eyes of love. They no longer believed that the other looked at with pure eyes of love. Fear and shame now reign where once love flourished.(2) Human understanding and expressions of masculinity and femininity become twisted by sin. The centuries of conflict between men and women began with the Fall, as the communion between Adam and Eve was destroyed.
- A Shattered Image
The image of God in man was damaged and broken. Before the Fall man had lived in physical, psychological and spiritual wholeness under God. Now he is subject to sin and sickness, decay and death. As mankind turns from the creator to the created, Paul notes that every kind of sin follows – including sexual sins. Sexual brokenness manifests in many ways – pornography, adultery, rape, sexual abuse, covetousness, lust and homosexual activity. God’s good intentions for our sexuality are marred by Adam’s sin, and homosexual desire and behavior are just part of the many manifestations of human sexual and relational brokenness.(3)
While sexual sin affects a person at a very deep level, homosexuality is not a special category of sexual sin, deserving extra condemnation or contempt. Men struggling with this sin are deeply loved by God. Christ’s death and resurrection provide grace and forgiveness – just as they can for any sin. And the Spirit brings grace to overcome and to transform the heart.
We can say with confidence, then that Scripture condemns homosexual behavior with both the Old and New Testaments, we can say with confidence that the New Testament describes homosexual passions as unnatural. And thank God we can also say with confidence that anyone – including the homosexual person – is an object of God’s love that He seeks to redeem. Joe Dallas (4)
Is Anyone Really Gay?
We were in the garden of one of the members of the church, and a girl asked what we should do if someone came for prayer and said they were gay. The vicar replied, “Well, of course, no one is really gay.”
It was as if someone had thrown a switch! Up to that point, even though I realized that the Bible never makes the distinction of gay or straight, and simply calls us to be the man or woman that God created us to be, I still felt identified internally as gay. It was what defined me, because I didn’t know anything else. But suddenly I thought, “That’s not my real identity! I’m called to be a man, not gay or straight. God doesn’t make that distinction, and therefore neither should I. The Reverend Peter Ould(5)
Behavior, Condition or Identity
Homosexual attractions and behaviors of have existed for thousands of years. What’s more recent, however, is the way that homosexuality has developed into an identity.
Throughout most of history, people didn’t generally think about “a homosexual” as a type of person. They thought of men or women, and they might also have thought about certain things people did sexually, or who they were attracted to, but individuals weren’t viewed as being gay or being lesbian. People weren’t seen exclusively through the lens of their sexual desires.(6)
This historical understanding is actually closer to the biblical view – God sees a person, made in His image, male or female. He also sees whether we know Him or don’t know Him. And He sees the damaging effects of sin in our lives. But He doesn’t identify us solely by our sexual attractions or behaviors. He knows we are made in His image, broken by sin and desperately in need of a Savior.
In the 1800s, the idea grew that people might be born a certain way, with inborn leanings toward same-sex behavior. Karl Ulrichs used the term “Urning” or “Uranian” to label men (like himself) who identified more with women and were attracted to other men sexually. Sometime later Karoly Marie Benkart used the term “homosexual” to describe men with these attractions, and it was this term which was eventually adopted. Benkart later coined the term “heterosexual” as its counterpart.(7)
Throughout the 1900s, as psychology grew in influence and importance, many saw homosexuality as a condition, an aberration in sexual attractions. But the idea also began to grow that homosexuality was just another sexual variation, and that the homosexual identity defined the person. Later, some took the work of Alfred Kinsey and misread it, espousing the false idea that 10 percent of the population is homosexual. With the advent of the gay-rights movement, this myth became part of popular belief.(8) And as the gay-rights movement grew, “gays” and “lesbians” were spoken of as if they were a type of person, distinct and separate from “straights” or “heterosexuals.”
As this view of homosexuality as an identity has spread, the acceptance and normalization of homosexuality has greatly increased. The reality is, however, that men struggling with same-sex attractions or behavior are not a special segment of creation. All humanity struggles with sexual and relational brokenness.
Language has been an important weapon in the gay movement’s very swift advance. In the old days, there was ”sodomy”: an act. In the late 19th century, the word ”homosexuality” was coined: a condition. A generation ago, the accepted term became ”gay”: an identity. Each formulation raises the stakes: One can object to and even criminalize an act; one is obligated to be sympathetic toward a condition; but once it’s a fully fledged 24/7 identity, like being Hispanic or Inuit, anything less than wholehearted acceptance gets you marked down as a bigot. Mark Steyn (9)
One difficulty in examining and writing about homosexuality is that the term is very imprecise, especially since there has been such a shift in language and in thinking about it. While some think about it as an activity or behavior, others see it as desire, attraction or lust. And while some view it as a type of person, others think about it in terms of sexual orientation. But what is a “sexual orientation”? How is it defined or measured? And how do you measure attractions or identity?
Researcher Edward O. Laumann co-authored a highly regarded study of sexuality in America.(10) He and his fellow researchers had great difficulty with this when they began their survey of sexuality. Here’s what they wrote about trying to find out how many men and women were “homosexuals”:
…estimating a single number for the prevalence of homosexuality is a futile exercise because it presupposes assumptions that are patently false: that homosexuality is a uniform attribute across individuals, that it is stable over time, and that it can be easily measured. (11)
The researchers questioned participants in the survey about same-gender desire, behavior and identity, in the past and in the present. Interestingly, they found that the three areas overlapped, but were not identical. For example, some people reported same-sex attractions, but did not identify as gay or lesbian. Others reported same-sex behavior, without attractions or identity. They also found that, for many individuals, these areas were fluid and changed over time. The study did not estimate how many “homosexuals” there are in America – the researchers could not scientifically define and count such a group.
This should give great hope to those struggling with same-sex attractions. Many in the world believe that attractions define the person, that people “are gay.” The church offers an alternative – men and women with same-sex attractions are just another part of fallen humanity. The group Homosexuals Anonymous has a good understanding of this identity issue. Here are steps four through six, from their website:
4. We came to believe that God had already broken the power of homosexuality and that He could therefore restore our true personhood.
5. We came to perceive that we had accepted a lie about ourselves, an illusion that had trapped us in a false identity.
6. We learned to claim our true reality that as humankind, we are part of God’s heterosexual creation and that God calls us to rediscover that identity in Him through Jesus Christ, as our faith perceives Him.(12)
The lie, in step five, believed by many struggling with this issue, is that being homosexual is their core identity. Christianity, however does not define people solely by their sin; the Christian faith offers true personhood and a God-given identity.
Men with same-sex attractions may wrestle with desires, behavior or identity, but this is where the church offers a rich history of bringing forgiveness and transformation. The good news is that overcoming sin is really the same for everyone: growing in managing unhealthy desires; changing sinful habits and behavior; and coming into a true identity – as children of the Father.
This is the third in a series of articles that explores some basic questions about male homosexuality: Understanding Male Homosexuality – God’s Power to Change Lives. Part 1 introduced us to the topic and described God’s good design for human sexuality. Part 2 explored masculinity and how it can become lost or distorted in a culture.
A series of this length is certainly not the final word on male homosexuality. Our hope is that it will lead to understanding and compassion about homosexuality and that those with same-sex attractions will be encouraged to pursue God’s design for healthy sexuality.
(1) Dallas Willard, Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ, (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress2002), p. 45.
(2) See Pope John Paul II, “The Man of Concupiscence,” Man and Woman He Created Them, A Theology of the Body,tr. by Michael Waldstein, (Boston: Pauline Books and Media, 2006), pp. 234,ff.
(3) For two excellent treatments of homosexuality in Scripture, see Joe Dallas, The Gay Gospel, and Dr. Robert Gagnon, The Bible and Homosexual Practice.
(4) Joe Dallas, “Understanding Male Homosexuality,” Love Won Out general session, available at <http://www.catapes.com/viewresults.cfm?searchresults=true>, (13 January 2010).
(5) The Reverend Peter Ould, “Post-Gay: The Transforming Power of God,” God, Gays and the Church: Human Sexuality and Experience in Christian Thinking, Lisa Nolland, Chris Sugden and Sarah Finch, eds., (London: The Latimer Trust, 2008), pp. 26-27.
(6) See Alan Medinger’s article, “You Are Not A Homosexual,” originally published in RegenerationNews, posted online at JONAH (Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality) online, 2003, <http://jonah.maxmizestudio.com/sections.php?secId=153> (12 February 2009).
(7) David F. Greenberg, The Construction of Homosexuality, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988), p. 408-409.
(8) Edward O. Laumann, John H. Gagnon, Robert T. Michael, and Stuart Michaels, The Social Organization of Sexuality, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press 1994), pp. 287-290. See also Dr. Jeffrey Satinover, “The Trojan Couch,” or the work of Dr. Judith Reisman to see how, despite his flawed research, Kinsey’s view has influenced and shaped our culture in many ways.
(9) Mark Steyn, “There’s No Stopping Them Now,” Chicago Sun Times, 13 July 2003, <http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/945379/posts> (12 February 2009).
(10) Edward O. Laumann, et al., 1994.
(11) Ibid., p. 283.
(12) “The 14 Steps,” Homosexuals Anonymous Fellowship Services website, <http://www.ha-fs.org/14-steps.htm> (19 October 2010).