The Debate over homosexuality was reignited this week by the comments of Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Peter Pace and the blog musings of well-known Southern Baptist theologian Albert Mohler.
General Pace said to the Chicago Tribune he personally believes homosexual acts between two individuals are immoral. Dr. Mohler wrote:
“Christians must be very careful not to claim that science can never prove a biological basis for sexual orientation. We can and must insist that no scientific finding can change the basic sinfulness of all homosexual behavior. The general trend of the research points to at least some biological factors behind sexual attraction, gender identity, and sexual orientation. This does not alter God's moral verdict on homosexual sin (or heterosexual sin, for that matter), but it does hold some promise that a deeper knowledge of homosexuality and its cause will allow for more effective ministries to those who struggle with this particular pattern of temptation. If such knowledge should ever be discovered, we should embrace it and use it for the greater good of humanity and for the greater glory of God.”
He went on to recommend that should a chemical “cure” be found for homosexual orientation, Christians should embrace it.
Wow! Talk about the perfect storm. The President’s top uniformed military advisor and a well-known Baptist seminary president in the same week!
I responded to the General’s pronouncement in two statements and during a news conference in front of the White House.
(See http://www.christiannewswire.com/news/553152465.html, http://www.christiannewswire.com/news/240692485.html,
http://www.christiannewswire.com/news/725042500.html.) I responded to Dr. Mohler in an interview with the Washington Post’s Lynne Duke, who asked me specifically if I agreed with his proposition (that there may be a biological cause for homosexuality) and his hypothetical cure, the application of a hormone patch to a pregnant mom’s abdomen.
My conversation with Ms. Duke lasted about 30 minutes. My guess is if she uses anything I said in her article, it will be one or two lines long. That’s always my frustration with the media, friendly or otherwise. They play to the average American’s attention span, which isn’t very long.
Doubtless, whatever is printed will cause trouble for me from one side of the argument or the other, as did a previous interview I granted with the Post a year ago. (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/06/14/AR2005061401531.html.) Back then, reporter Alan Cooperman took great license with what I said and constructed a non-reality—that is the appearance of a partnership between me and pro-homosexual advocates.
So, let me revisit the whole matter again. It is of paramount moral importance. Here are my positions on all these questions, namely:
Do I believe, as Dr. Mohler apparently does, that we may soon discover a biological contributor to same-sex sexual attractions?
Would such a discovery change my opinion of the moral nature of homosexuality?
Do I endorse Dr. Mohler’s hypothetical use of a medical treatment to “fix” a pre-born child’s sexual orientation?
I will begin by going back to last year—in fact, almost two years ago—when I started reading through the research material on investigations into animal and human same-sex sexual behavior. That led me to correspond with one of the top genetic scientists in the world. (He will remain nameless to protect his job.) Believe me, if I can ever disclose who he is, you will see just how qualified he is to opine on this. One of his peers told me, “If you want to know more about genetics than he knows, you need to go to God.”
It happens this revered scientist is also a born-again, Evangelical Christian. He told me it will be only a few years before a gene affecting sexual orientation is identified. Now, before anyone goes apoplectic, he also said this gene will only pre-dispose the carrier toward certain sexual behavior, it will not pre-determine that behavior. My scientist contact explained that sexuality is extremely complex and depends on many factors.
As a result of this information (and much more that I read) and now Dr. Mohler’s commentary on sheep studies, I am convinced that IN SOME PEOPLE, biological factors such as genes, hormones or other anatomical and bio-chemical contributors COULD play important roles in making THESE PEOPLE vulnerable to homosexual SIN.
Note my use of the word SIN. The Bible is quite clear, the Christian church has consistently taught, and virtually every major religion holds that sexual activity between persons of the same sex is WRONG; it is contrary to God’s moral law for human beings and to nature. In my book, Ten Words That Will Change A Nation, on the Ten Commandments (revised and updated version due out soon), I point out homosexual sex is a form of adultery—a behavior explicitly prohibited, whether homosexual or heterosexual in nature. (See Exodus 20:14.)
My answer then to the first question is a cautionary, yes; cautionary because it is still largely hypothetical. The evidence points there (as Dr. Mohler notes), but it is not yet concrete.
On the second question, about the moral nature of homosexual behavior, my answer is an unequivocal, no. Such a discovery of a biological contributor to same-sex attractions does not change the nature of homosexual behavior from immoral (or sinful) to moral (or righteous.) The Bible clearly condemns sexual intercourse of any kind between persons of the same sex. (See Leviticus 18:22 and Romans 1:26-27.) In both these cases, however, the proscription is on the actual behavior—the acts. Temptation, while it is rooted in our sinful nature, is not immoral or sinful in and of itself. But neither is it normative or Godly:
“Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he himself tempt anyone. But each is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.” (James 1:13-15 NKJV)
My point here is that some persons will be especially vulnerable to certain sinful desires or temptations, while others will not. According to St. Paul’s instruction in Romans 7, as I quoted at the beginning of this post, there is no doubt there is a physical dimension to sin and temptation. It may be hormonal, it may be genetic, it may be some other bio-chemical or even anatomical anomaly, but it expresses itself physiologically. That shouldn’t surprise us. But this biological factor might explain why some people have persistent temptations no matter how much prayer, discipline, counseling or spiritual experiences they may have. As one great Christian leader has said, “Once a homosexual, always a homosexual.” (I know some will refute this and will convincingly testify to an actual change in sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual. I don't doubt that. But in many, temptations toward the same sex persist in spite of subsequently happy heterosexual lives, marriages and sexual experiences.)
On the last question about a possible future “cure,” I am much more cautionary. Again, I believe we will discover in the near future that sexuality is one of the most complex aspects of human nature. There will never be a quick, easy, strictly physical “cure” for sexual disorders and dysfunctions, hetero or homo. I’m convinced we will learn that spiritual, psychological, relational, experiential and environmental factors all combine with biological factors to produce certain human sexual proclivities and predilections—as is no doubt true of ALL human behaviors. Ultimately, of course, such dysfunctions are linked to the Fall and our resulting sinful state and consequent alienation from God the Creator. The cure for that underlying cause has already appeared. As we sing in Toplady's great Hymn:
Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee, Let the water and the blood from Thy riven side which flowed, Be of sin the double cure, cleanse me from its guilt and power.
I think we need to be extremely careful and prayerful about any attempt to physically change a nascent child. This comes dangerously close to violating the sanctity of human life. There is the question of the science itself, its long-term affects, its unintended and unpredictable consequences. And there is the question of INTENT. And here lies the rub: In the end it is intent that matters most. If our intent is to help a child develop normally and to enjoy a life designed by God for his or her happiness in service to the Lord and to His moral will--and there is a reasonable and demonstrable possibility of doing so with limited risk, then we should pursue it. On the other hand, if the intent is to experiment on a child, manipulate him or her, or change them in some way simply for our enjoyment, that is immoral and must be rejected.
None of this is simple, but then mankind is the crown of God’s creation, made in His image, and is therefore enormously complex by design.
I don’t know a lot about this right now, but what I do know is we must prayerfully have this conversation NOW so we are not caught off guard in the near future, ill-prepared and unable to give critically important spiritual, biblical and moral insight into whatever discoveries are made, and whatever proposals or actions follow.
Let’s all keep praying, reading and talking; talking, reading and praying.
Thanks to Dr. Mohler for keeping the conversation moving forward!