Is there a “gay gene”? Is our “sexual orientation” determined by biology? Most people today would probably say “yes” to those questions. But is it supported by reliable scientific research? And regardless of the answers to those questions, what should our attitude and response be toward the homosexual community?
We live in a part of the country where we cannot ignore the very public nature of homosexuality and gay marriage. Rarely does a week go by that I do not see or speak with someone who is either part of this community, or is interacting with someone who is. Even more frequent is the barrage of information and opinions about this social phenomena from the various forms of media that so directly influence society — we are talking about television, movies, radio and our various news outlets.
We need to be careful to have a discerning spirit as we listen to this information. And we need to be even more diligent to maintain a thoroughly loving and Christian attitude as we interact with others about it. In an effort to help you be discerning, careful and loving in your evaluation and interaction about this often biased information, I want to pass along some information and articles that will both inform your understanding, as well as help shape your attitudes toward others who may not agree.
In the Fall 2008 “Master’s Seminary Journal” there was a series of articles on the topic of homosexuality from various angles (scroll down to the Fall 2008 section to find the articles on homosexuality). There is certainly merit in reading them all, but I would like to draw your attention to two of them in particular. The first because it aims to correct common misconceptions and misinformation that is often promoted as fact. The second because it is an excellent and practical encouragement for how we must minister the grace and truth of Scripture to lovingly address this issue.
Cultural and Medical Myths about Homosexuality, by Michael A. Grisanti
The first article, by professor Michael A. Grisanti, assesses and evaluates the plethora of research that attempts to identify and describe the biology of homosexuality. Particularly, he aims to clarify what current research concludes about what “genes” can and cannot tell us about homosexuality.
He first chronicles the day in 1993 when NPR (National Public Radio) reported that a new study to be released the next day suggested that “someone had finally discovered the gene that causes homosexuality.” This report was quickly and widely circulated through other news outlets, despite clarifications by the researchers themselves, and caveats issued by other geneticists, that even if they had found a correlation, “this gene might only be associated with homosexuality and not the cause of it.”
The study ventures into a very tenuous and controversial field of research called “behavioral genetics,” the linking of complex human behaviors to particular genes or chromosonal regions. Grisanti cites one popular author, Charles Mann, who offers the bold clarification that these kinds of studies (linking genes with behaviors) have never been able to be replicated (repeated and proven). Mann says, “All were announced with fanfare; all were greeted unskeptically in the popular press; all are now in disrepute [in the academic community].”
Despite their disrepute in the academic community, the trumpeting of these ideas in the popular press, and the widespread public acceptance of these theories, has virtually sealed the irrefutable nature of these so-called “truths” with the majority of Americans. Not only that, but these unprovable theories have become the foundation and justification for a wide variety of legislative actions (gay marriage, hate crimes, etc.), public outcry against those who disagree, and a level of social acceptance for homosexulaity that goes far beyond the biblical mandate to show mutual respect for fellow humans. Instead, it demands the acceptance of their lifestyle as “alternative” rather than “deviant.”
Grisanti helpfully details other studies that have also been widely embraced by the public, while being flawed and inconclusive from a scientific standpoint. These include studies regarding homosexuality among twins, differences in brain structure, studies of genetic scans and linkages, and prenatal hormone exposure. He concludes this section by saying:
All of the above research did not “discover” a gay gene, although many have suggested that. However, these studies that suggested some biological cause for homosexuality significantly influenced public perceptions. As Yarhouse points out [Mark A. Yarhouse, “Homsexuality, Ethics and identity Synthesis,” Christian Bioethics 10 (2004):241], “The more people believed that homosexuality was a biological ‘given,’ the more likely they were to support a variety of issues deemed important to some in the gay community (e.g. ordination of practicing gay, lesbian, or bisexual clergy; gay rights legislation, etc.).
Grisanti then goes on to discuss the modern research and opinions regarding the possibility and effects of a person “changing” their sexual orientation. This is another topic about which the academic community, and particularly the fields of medicine, pyschiatry, psychology, and sociology often disagree.
While some have stated it to be impossible, Grisanti cites studies that conclude, “that change in sexual orientation can happen and that change in sexual orientation does not harm the participant who changes.” Again, the very fact of change being possible suggests that the theory of “biological determinism” is wrong — a person’s sexuality is not “determined by their biological makeup.”
Grisanti concludes by outlining various ways this prematurely embraced research combined with public sentiment to influence our modern culture, as well as both domestic and international legislation. Despite the fact that it is not justified by any reliable research, he concludes corectly that the influence of the this agenda far surpasses their actual numbers.
Now, how should we respond? What should Christians think and do in response to this influential segment of society?
It is John MacArthur’s article in the series that most clearly explains the biblical teaching on the subject of homosexuality. He includes a brief discussion of how the concept of “homosexual love” contributes to the confusion, and concludes with a helpful “pastoral perspective” addendum that briefly outlines how we should respond.
However, it is Professor Alex D. Montoya’s article that thoroughly describes how we should think and respond, and it is his article I would commend for that information.
The Church’s Response to Homosexuality, by Alex D. Montoya
My purpose is simply to reproduce the basic outline of his encouragements for the universal Church of Jesus Christ. He says there are four biblical mandates for the church as a proper response to the influence and agenda of the homosexual community.
1. The Church Must Expose Homosexuality as a Sin Against God
While MacArthur’s article thoroughly addresses this, Montoya points out the basic arguments, which clearly parallel and overlap at points. First, he shows that homosexuality is against God’s created order (Gen 1:27-28; 2:22-24; Matt 19:4-6; Heb 13:4) and is a perversion of that created order (Rom 1:24-27). Second, it is stated clearly that homosexuality is a violation of God’s moral law (1 Tim 1:8-11). Third, homosexuality is a sin against God’s Kingdom (1 Cor 6:9-10). And fourth, homosexuality is a sin against God’s holiness (1 Thes 4:3; 1 Pet 1:15-16). It is called unrighteous and ungodly (Rom 1:18; 1 Cor 6:9; 2 Pet 2:9; Jude 4).
Because of these truths, Montoya reminds us that, “Christians are under obligation to know and to make known the sinfulness of homosexuality. They cannot be swept away by the tide of public opinion or public decrees; nor can they remain mute concerning the terrible consequences of those who practice homosexuality.” Christian, let us not remain silent!
At the same time, if homosexuality is indeed a sin against God (and it is), then it is also a sin for which Christ died.
2. The Church Must Extend the Grace of God to Homosexuals
Montoya outlines five ways the church must be prepared to extend the grace of God to homosexuals.
First, the church must learn to show compassion to the homosexual. We must not be like the Pharisees who showed no concern or compassion for those who were lost.
Second, the church must be willing to associate with homosexuals. He points out that this is the point where many Christians show their “ignorance and arrogance when it comes to reaching out to homosexuals.” He exhorts us to “dispel the label of being ‘homophobic’ by not refusing to befriend and associate with homosexuals. We have nothing to fear and everything to gain for the gospel’s sake.”
Third, the church must have the conviction of the power of the gospel to convert the homosexual. The Bible clearly teaches that homosexuals can be powerfully transformed by the gospel (1 Cor 6:11).
Fourth, the church must provide special discipleship for homosexuals. Repentance from homosexuality, and overcoming the powerful lusts that once controlled them, will require help and encouragement. There are many evangalical ministries that are providing such help, and local churches must be willing to expend the effort necessary to help those in their midst.
And fifth, the church must effectively incorporate converted homosexuals into the Body of Christ. When men and women come to Christ, repenting of their homosexual practices, they should be discipled and embraced, rejoicing that God has saved them, and be carefully incorporated into the life of the church.
However, there are those who may be associated with the body, who refuse to repent of this sin. How must the be dealt with?
3. The Church Must Expel Practicing Homosexuals from the Fellowship
This is only one form of sexual immorality that may be present in the church, and all of them must be dealt with similarly. Montoya outlines a number of moral principles that must guide the church in its necessary actions.
First, we must recognize the church today is faced with the problem of moral compromise. The Bible’s admonition is to “remove the wicked man from their midst” (1 Cor 5:13).
Second, the church must have the courage to to confront the homosexual activist within and outside the church. The homosexual community has an agenda aimed at undermining and destroying the biblical definitions of sexuality and marriage. Many Christians, churches and pastors are falling prey to the intimidation of these activists and either wittingly or unwittingly compromising the truth. We must embrace and stand for truth.
Third, the church must have the conviction to practice excommunication on its own membership. This is a biblical mandate (1 Cor 5:13; Matt 18:18-20), and it is a sad commentary on the state of the evangelical church that most do not deal with the unrepentant sin within their walls. Montoya challenges us whether we can properly deal with homosexuality if we are not dealing with other forms of immorality.
4. The Church Must Resist the Assault of the Homosexual Community upon Society
Montoya states, “What Christians in America need to know is that the homosexual community has an organized agenda to change the moral fabric of American society.” It is a “purposeful effort to sell the homosexual lifestyle to America.” Christians need to not only be aware of these efforts, but must resist their impact on the political process and the growing changes they are making on our body of legislation, both at the state and national level. Not only is it redefining terms, it fails to be honest and forthright about the many dangers of the homosexual lifestyle, both in matters of public health and in matters of public safety.
I encourage you to read the articles in order to be informed and equipped to begin fulfilling your responsibilities as Christians.