What if they can’t help it?

Over at Theonomy, Kobra has written a provoking post that at first glance would doubtless make many Evangelicals very uncomfortable. The bulk of his post makes some very sound and biblical observations concerning homosexuality and the church’s attitude toward homosexuals (with which I agree completely). Before getting to his main idea, he lays the foundation of his argument by suggesting that sexual orientation is not a matter of choice, contra Dobson (and other conservative integrationists), many in the ‘biblical counseling’ world, and many Evangelicals at large. From experience, I know that this assertion alone is enough to cause a firestorm within many churches, seminary classes, and Christian gatherings…leaving the one who made the suggested branded ‘liberal,’ ‘heretic,’ or worse.

Personally, I think the jury is still out on whether or not homosexuality is a matter of preference or predisposition, but regardless of what we ultimately discover it seems this is the wrong question for Christians to ask/answer as we participate in the discussion. Kobra points out what is probably the prevailing societal opinion concerning homosexuality in his paraphrase of Pelagius, “If they can’t help it, we can’t hold them accountable for it.” While this assertion may have the appearance of correctness to some, it fails on two primary counts:

  1. A Religious perspective: Unless we are to adopt a Pelagian view of humanity and sin, which by the way has been condemned as heretical since the fifth century, orthodox Christianity has never proposed rejecting God’s perfectly righteous demands in the Law on the grounds that that no person can keep them. Simply because we cannot keep the Law does not lessen its requirements. After all, isn’t the overarching purpose of the Law to point us to Christ precisely because it reveals our unrighteousness and sin? Of course. Now, since non-Christians and society as a whole quickly reject this argument, let us look at…
  2. A Biological perspective: Science has found unique brain formation/function in serial killers that are not found in ‘normal’ people (i.e., non-serial killers), pointing to a potential biological disposition toward their killing sprees. To my knowledge, no one has seriously disputed these findings, though extensive research is still ongoing. Does reasonable society for one second, however, suggest that these people not be held accountable because ‘they can’t help it’? Of course not. Assuming for a moment that science discovers a bona fide predisposion to homosexuality, what would be the difference between a biological bent toward homosexuality and one toward serial killing? Absolutely nothing except that it is not (yet) socially acceptable to be a serial killer. To condemn one but not the other from a purely naturalistic worldview is logically inconsistent, which is why we must ultimately appeal to Scripture for morality, not utilitarianism or some other philosophical system.

So the basic question to be asked and answered concerning homosexuality (or any other thought/word/deed) is not whether or not we ‘can help it’ but whether or not God considers such behavior sinful. If he does, then our responses must be:

  1. To not excuse sin but call it what it is, sin…like Christ
  2. To have compassion on sinners, while calling them to repentance…like Christ
  3. To bear their indignation and hostility graciously…like Christ

Like other sins with which we struggle daily, God may or may not remove the temptation from our lives and ‘give us victory’ over it. By his grace, however, as we wrestle with sin against the passions of the flesh he will assure us of his mercy and forgiveness in Christ as we seek to walk like our Savior, stumbling repeatedly along the way!


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