A Peculiar Disapproval of Gay Pride
I am not interested in making common cause with non-Christians in my disapproval of the celebration of homosexual desires or acts. The reason is that truly Christian disapproval of sin is rooted in, sustained by, and aimed at spectacular realities for which non-Christians have no taste.
Distinctly Christian disapproval of sin is rooted in the sin-covering blood of Jesus Christ. It is sustained by the supernaturally transforming work of the Holy Spirit. And it aims at the glory of God in the Christ-exalting joy of as many transformed sinners as possible. The ability to experience a distinctly Christian disapproval of sin is a miracle from God.
The non-Christian world can feel disapproval of many things. But it cannot feel blood-bought, Spirit-empowered, God-honoring disapproval. That is a gift of grace through faith in Christ. It is absolutely unique among a thousand worldly ways to disapprove.
When a person becomes a Christian, he undergoes a transformation not just of what he disapproves, but of how he disapproves. There is nothing peculiarly Christian about the mere disapproval of any human behavior. Therefore, disapproval of sinful behaviors is no evidence of saving grace. Becoming a Christian is far more profound than changing what we disapprove of.
Becoming a Christian is a miracle — sometimes called new birth. It involves putting our trust in the death of Jesus to cover our sins, and relying on the Holy Spirit to help us walk in Christlike love, and bending all our behavior to the glory of God. Only then will a human being be capable of the natural impossibilities involved in a peculiarly Christian disapproval.
All of this I have discovered in the Bible. It is found nowhere else. I have seen, like millions of others, that these spectacular realities — the cross of Christ, the gift of the Spirit, and the magnificence of God’s glory — coalesce in the pages of Scripture with such self-authenticating truth that I am bound joyfully to embrace this book as the revelation of God.
In what follows I will try to explain from Scripture why biblically faithful Christians disapprove of homosexual desires and practices. Then I will try to illuminate the nature of homosexual desires, showing how they relate to my own sinful desires. Finally, I will try to show what a peculiarly Christian disapproval is. This last part includes the question whether revulsion at the act of sodomy is a morally appropriate, or Christian, response.
Why Is There Disapproval at All?
The apostle Paul locates the origin of homosexual desires in the humanity-wide exchange of the glory of God for the glory of man. He argues that, because of this humanity-infecting exchange, men and women exchange natural relations with the opposite sex for unnatural relations with the same sex. In other words, this valuing of humans over God finds one expression in valuing the kind of human in the mirror over the opposite sex.
They exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man. . . . For this reason . . . their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. (Romans 1:22–27)
“Truly Christian disapproval of sin aims at spectacular realities for which non-Christians have no taste.”
Paul knows that thousands of people — men and women — exchange the glory of God for the glory of self without experiencing homosexual desires.
The correlation between exchanging the otherness of God for the sameness of man does not always result in homosexuality. There are millions who prefer self over God, but who are not homosexual. Homosexuality is only one expression of the distortions that have entered the human race because of idolatry. All sinfulness flows from this primal idolatry in the heart.
Therefore, the experience of homosexuality is not always rooted in one’s personal idolatry. Paul is not saying that everyone who experiences homosexual desires has made a conscious decision to prefer man over God. There are idolatry-renouncing Christians who experience homosexual desires. Paul’s point is that God has given the human race over to futility, and corruption, and the disordering of our affections because of this primal, God-demeaning exchange. Homosexuality is one form of that disordering.
Why Write About Homosexuality?
How do homosexual desires relate to other kinds of disordered desires? It is important to ask this, because it will affect the way we talk about the disapproval of homosexual desires.
One way to answer this question is to pose another one: Why are you writing about homosexuality, and not about theft, or greed, or drunkenness, or reviling, or swindling? I mention these sins because the Bible lists them alongside homosexual practice as sins that will keep us out of the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9–10), unless we are forgiven and justified by faith in Christ (1 Corinthians 6:11).
My answer: I am writing about homosexuality because millions of people this month are celebrating it. My hope is to help Christians disapprove of it in a distinctly Christian way. I will focus mainly on men, whom I know better, with the expectation that readers can make appropriate applications to women.
You may be sure that if millions of people gather around the world to celebrate the beauty of covetousness during “Covetousness Pride” month, I will write about it. In fact, I have written ten times as much about covetousness as about homosexuality, because (to be conservative) ten thousand times more people will be in hell because of unrepentant covetousness than because of homosexuality.
No sin must keep a person out of heaven. None. What keeps a person out of heaven is the unrepentant pursuit of sin, and the rejection of God’s provision for its forgiveness in Jesus’s death and resurrection.
How Are Homosexual Desires Like My Sinful Desires?
Homosexual desires are like and unlike other sinful desires. Let’s be specific: they are like and unlike my sinful desires. To name a few of mine: pride, anger, self-pity, sullenness, fear of shame, impatience, judgmentalism. I have little doubt that my own brain wiring and genetic makeup are part of what inclines me to these sins. I can’t prove it. It just seems obvious.
Whether or not that’s the case, physiological roots do not remove the reality of my corruption and guilt. This is true even though these sinful desires arise unbidden and fully formed in my heart. I do not choose them. I do not plan for them. I do not want them. I am ashamed of them. They simply present themselves in ways that I strongly disapprove of and regret. Not just because I am prone to coddle them, but also because of the sheer fact that they are there. They are part of my natural condition. Apart from Christ, they are who I am.
By God’s grace, I turn against them. I renounce them. By the blood of Christ, and by the power of the Spirit, and for God’s glory, I seek to obey Colossians 3:5: “Put to death . . . what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” I take hold of long-tested strategies of spiritual battle (for example, A.N.T.H.E.M.) and make war.
I would locate homosexual desires on this same battlefield of the human soul. They may or may not have physiological roots. The desires need not be chosen, planned, or wanted. They are simply there. We either engage them as the enemy, or we make peace with them and risk our souls. In this sense, homosexual desires are like my sinful desires. I am just as likely to perish from embracing anger and self-pity as my neighbor is from embracing homosexual desires. That’s how serious all sin is.
How Are Homosexual Desires Unlike My Sinful Desires?
But homosexual desires are also unlike other sins. Paul calls them “dishonorable passions” because they involve “[exchanging] natural relations for those that are contrary to nature” (Romans 1:26). Homosexual desires are different because of the way they contradict what nature teaches. I think this may be seen most clearly if we reflect on the question, What is the moral significance of the emotion of revulsion at the act of sodomy?
“Christians do not base what we ought to do on what we feel like doing — or not doing. Desires can be deceitful.”
I’m using the word sodomy not as equivalent to homosexuality, but as emblematic of the kinds of practices involved in homosexual relations — in this case, a man’s insertion of the organ through which life is meant to enter a woman, into the organ through which waste is meant to leave a man.
Neither the feeling of desire for sodomy nor the feeling of revulsion at sodomy is a morally reliable guide. That sentence is a Christian conviction. Christians do not base what we ought to do on what we feel like doing — or not doing. Desires can be deceitful (Ephesians 4:22). Rather, we are to “understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:17). God’s truth, not our desire, points the way to freedom: “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).
Some non-Christians may argue that the desire for sodomy is enough to make it good. But by that same principle, the feeling of revulsion toward sodomy is also good. If it feels good, it’s okay. Therefore, sodomy is okay, and revulsion at sodomy is okay.
A Christian does not think this way. We do not argue that revulsion at this act makes the act wrong — no more than we think that a person’s desire for the act makes it right. Sodomy is good or bad depending on whether God says it is good or bad. We have seen that he says it is bad. And it is not only bad: if not forsaken and forgiven through faith in Christ, it will destroy the soul.
What Is the Moral Status of Revulsion at the Act of Sodomy?
There is a natural fitness in revulsion at sodomy. In sexual relations, the penis was not made for the anus. It was made for the vagina. In sodomy, the distortion of that natural use is so flagrant as not to be a mere diversion of the male sex organ from its natural use, but a perversion of it. Revulsion is the emotional counterpart to that linguistic reality.
For the sake of careful distinctions, we should observe here that even the unnaturalness of homosexual desires is not absolutely unlike all other sinful desires, because all sin is contrary to the way things ought to be. And every sin, more or less, ruins what is natural. Other sins, besides homosexual ones, may awaken our sense of unnaturalness with intense disapproval, or revulsion. For example:
A man who takes the last life jacket, leaving women and children to drown, arouses in us not just the moral disapproval of selfishness, but a more visceral reaction that this man has made a detestable wreckage of his manhood.
Or consider a mother whose lover won’t have her and her child. So, she throws her 1-year-old into the river. That act is not only morally evil, but also arouses in us a sense of visceral repugnance that she has butchered her natural motherhood.
Or suppose a man spends a lifetime in miserly hoarding gold, while ignoring all the needs of others. Then to keep his gold from beggars, he ties it around his waist, and drowns crossing a river because he won’t untie the bag. We look upon that life not only as greedy, but as an utter distortion of his humanity, as if a bag of gold is his life.