Post #13 Understanding Homosexuality meets Straight Into Gay America, a dialogue between Pastor Dave Glesne and Pastor Lars Clausen
Because of schedule I have not been able to log in to this blog since my last post of November 9. When I logged on yesterday (November 17), I see that I have been missing a lot of reader activity! Feeling the pressure of sending in my next post, I actually wrote the majority of this post before reading the comments. Only then did I sit down to read the 22 entries of the last two posts. I’m probably a fool for not running for cover!
Although my last post obviously provoked a strong but not totally unexpected reaction, I am encouraged that there seems to be some agreement at least that we were able to get to at least one root of the differences. As a rookie blogger, while I see the positives of writing exchanges back and forth, I also see the inherent weakness in not being able to sit face to face with a reader and clarify meanings, agreements, misrepresentations, nuances, etc. I’m not sure how finally successful that can be by the very nature of the medium we are using.
In spite of a barrage of comments, the best I can do is to focus on our exchanges, Lars. I’m sorry if that is not acceptable to some. So I am responding to your last post here.
Identity vs. Behavior: heterosexuality and homosexuality – a response: Following up on the statement that there is no scientific, medical, or biological evidence that homosexuality is inborn or unchangeable, you ask the question whether or not the same could be said of heterosexuality.
I believe there is a difference and would cite the following: As I state on page 82f of my book, from God’s revelation in the Scriptures I understand that when God created Man (collective noun) in his own image, he created male and female. In other words, there is a sexual differentiation within Man. Man is properly understood when seen as ‘male and female.’ So as created by God, then, Man is heterosexual by nature. Science then shows us that this sexual differentiation within Man is biological. An XY chromosome combination is a boy and an XX chromosome combination a girl. Genetically, we are born either male or female. (I speak to the issue of hermaphrodites in this section.) So I see science and biology (which investigates created reality, i.e. natural revelation) confirming the truth of the Scripture’s teaching on creation (which we know as special revelation). I am suggesting from this that within the worldview of Christian revelation science and biology give evidence that heterosexuality is inborn.
Having said that, I go on and say (page 83) that from creation there is something even prior to our creation as male and female. I say that from creation, gender precedes sex. By ‘gender’ I mean masculine and feminine, a wider concept than sex, something more like an ‘emotional identity’. There is an identity that is rooted in ultimate reality, the very being and nature of God. God is Spirit. As such there is no physical or sexual aspect to God. But there appears to be an emotional identity in God (maleness and femaleness) which is the pattern for our sexual nature as male and female. This gender pattern is our true gender identity because this is the way God created us and sees us. (This is what I would understand as objective reality). Gender then is a given. It is given in the most secure and purposeful way possible, in the very image of God Himself. It is a gift from God. The first man and woman’s gender identities were consistent with their biological sex – their sexual identity as male and female. This is why, on the basis of Scripture and the testimony of science, I am saying that our true identity is heterosexual, for this is the way God created us (natural revelation and the testimony of science) and this is who God tells us we are (special revelation), image bearers of God – male and female.
But the fall into sin has spoiled everything. Everything in creation is now marred and abnormal. Now in this fallen, abnormal world biological abnormalities appear (as with the phenomenon of hermaphrodites). Sexual identity can also become touched and marred and twisted. The very image of God in Man is marred and spoiled (but I don’t believe destroyed). At this point I’m going to quote myself on page 84:
“Our true nature then is not what presently exists, but what God originally created and intended. After the fall, the nature that existed was no longer pure. Neither human beings nor the created earth escaped the curse. Identity, sexuality, and all the created order are now broken and disordered. Nowhere does nature now reflect the perfect will of God, and the divine intent can never be established merely by observing human behavior. That is why our true nature as human beings cannot be known apart from revelation nor separated from the Doctrine of creation.”
The comment is made that if I argue that no one can authenticate that he or she is homosexual then no one can authenticate the he or she is heterosexual either. If we are talking about identity here I would agree. I cannot authenticate that I am heterosexual. In this fallen, abnormal world I can look at my human experience and declare myself heterosexual but is this my true identity and nature? It is only a self-declared identity wherein I am trying to make sense of and give meaning to my experience. I do not think that human experience is finally self-authenticating for it never breaks out of the circle of the finite.
As I have stated in a previous post, my true identity is communicated to me through divine revelation in God’s view of me, that I am a human being made in His image and likeness. My identity then is not rooted in my sexuality, in the created, in being a heterosexual man. For me, drawing my identity from my sexuality, i.e. from something created, would be to shift the ground of my identity subtly and idolatrously away from God. Rather, my identity is drawn from having been created in God’s image and then that broken image (because of sin which separates me from God) being restored in Christ – the very image of God Himself. That is why I state above that our true nature or identity as human beings – male and female – cannot be known apart from revelation nor separated from the Doctrine of creation.
It may be worthy of note here that in the Scriptures there is no Hebrew or Greek word for a homosexual person as such. Scripture simply does not identify people by their sexual orientation as our culture does now. It does not identify any of us by our besetting temptations or sins. Rather, all of the bible’s references to homosexuality specify homosexual behavior or acts.
You state, Lars, that “biblically, I hear you saying heterosexuality is good. Homosexuality is bad.” I am saying that, as above, God created us male and female in his image and that creation is good. I am also saying that since the fall into sin, ALL OF US to some extent are sexual deviants with aberrations of fantasy and behavior. There is not one of us that are the perfect sexual being that God intended us to be when He made us male and female. We are ALL broken and fallen. I am saying that the norm for sexuality is heterosexuality which is firmly rooted in the Scriptural teaching on creation and reinforced over and over again by the negative condemnation of homosexual behavior. Homosexual tendencies like, for example, extreme expressions of anger are the result of the brokenness of the fallen world. Homosexual practice represents a move away from the one flesh ideal that God intends for the most intimate of human relationships and heterosexuality represents a move toward the one flesh ideal God intended. So if we allow our homosexual orientation to govern our lifestyle, our behavior is moving us away from God’s ideal. If we allow our heterosexuality to govern our lifestyle – within the right context – our behavior is moving us toward God’s ideal. Then I would add that sexual sin (heterosexual or homosexual) basically is not worse that other sins. In fact, Jesus condemns sins of the spirit (pride, self-righteousness, etc) more strongly than he does sins of the flesh. Obviously, heterosexual and homosexual sin does involve other people and therefore it can and most assuredly does produce worse effects but before God sins such as pride and jealousy are just as bad.
Women and black people: I think we both agree on the rightness of equal rights for women and black people. I would understand those rights to be rooted in women and black people being equally created in the image of God and as such equally valued in the eyes of God. I would disagree with your statement, however, that the Bible says it’s fine to regard women as property and to hold people as slaves. I would not understand that as God’s intention from the beginning. I do not believe it is his intention for life within the Christian community, the church, which exists in this in-between time between the “already” and the “not yet”. It will not be a reality in the new heavens and earth. In this in-between time, the Bible records realities, many of which are descriptive of life lived under the burden of sin and injustice and brokenness and which are not prescriptive of the way he desires us to live with each other.
When the bible says to the woman after the Fall, “Your desire shall be for your husband and he will rule over you” (Gen. 3:16), I believe that is descriptive of what life lived under sin will be like not prescriptive of the way God desires it to be. Likewise, in dealing with the slavery analogy on pages 136-137, I point out that nowhere does Scripture command or encourage or sanction slavery. There is no enforcement of slavery in Scripture the transgression of which would incur a penalty. Rather, the Scriptures regulate existing situations. The Bible’s teaching is always in the direction of the curtailment and eradication of slavery. The Church, to be sure, has at times in its history failed miserably in appropriating the bible’s teachings and living out those teachings and we are all undoubtedly glad when we see progress being made in bringing its practices more closely in alignment with God’s desires. We are glad also for the progress towards equality that has been made in society in these areas.
Looking at social policy: Gender and race are categories of persons who display unchangeable characteristics of being. History would testify that it has been in the best interests of societies to legislate protection for such classes of people. A growing number of ex-gay persons today are testifying to the reality, however, that homosexuality is not an unchangeable characteristic such as gender or race. (This is not to speak to the degree of difficulty in changing or to the numbers who do so.) So what we are being confronted with in the drive for equality with regard to homosexuality, it seems to me, is something entirely new. For the first time we are confronted by a group of persons who are demanding special laws because of their behavior – having sex with partners of the same sex. (The argument that same-sex marriage is about loving relationships – which few would deny - rather than sex doesn’t change the sexual aspect of the relationship and what is involved here). Persons who engage in same-sex behavior already have the same legal protection against abuse and the same rights as other citizens. The question before us then is, “Because of the moral, health, and social issues involved with homosexual behaviors, should this group be allowed special legal protections?” Were we to open the door by giving special legal protection to this group based on their behavior rather than on state of being, there also would be no logical reason for denying special protections for other minority groups such as polygamists, etc.
Orientation and behavior: I’m a bit confused as to meaning when you say that, “Now I see you writing about gay orientation as a lethally dangerous pseudo identity.” But let me take a stab at clarification. I do make a clear distinction between homosexual orientation and homosexual behavior. Individuals do not choose their sexual orientation but they do choose their sexual behavior. The homosexual condition is a result of being part of a broken, fallen world just as the male heterosexual propensity to promiscuity is a part of a broken, fallen world. It is the practice of homosexuality (as with illicit heterosexual practice), however, rather than the orientation which is contrary to the will of God. So I am not saying that the orientation in itself is medically risky but rather the behavior (i.e. anal intercourse, etc.) that physically expresses itself from out of that orientation.
Relook at my understanding of homosexuality: Your challenge to relook at the way I understand homosexuality is a good one. That ought to be something that one does ever so often lest one becomes locked into a mode of thinking that is not open to other information, lest we find ourselves saying, “My mind’s made up, don’t confuse me with the facts.” That’s why this discussion we are having with each other – and our readers – is so good and healthy. It is a good challenge.
The argument that it is the quality of the relationship (i.e. loving, caring, nurturing, faithful, etc.) rather than the kind of relationship (man and man and woman and woman) that is all important at first has such appeal because in God’s eyes and in human experience love and care is so central and good and it seems so in sync with the two great commandments of our Lord – loving God and neighbor. And indeed, love is the greatest good. But love separated from truth is not love and as I understand it, God’s revelation says that sexual love is to be expressed only within the bonds of the marriage of a man and a woman. The quality of the relationship is extremely important and always needs to be worked at but the kind of relationship is equally important.
The book of creation still confronts me with the complimentarity of the male and female bodies, that the structure of our bodies does not appear made for homosexual intercourse, and that the medical consequences of homosexual behavior – AIDS, STD’s as gonorrhea, syphilis, hepatitis A and B, anal cancer, amoebic “gay” bowel disease, and herpes, to name a few - are destructive of human life. These medical conditions do not come from homosexual orientation but from sexual behavior. In his book Straight and Narrow, Thomas Schmidt rather meticulously documents the myriad of health problems connected to gay sexual behavior and the reason why male homosexual life expectancy, even without AIDS, is so much shorter than heterosexual male life expectancy. Readers might also benefit from looking at The Health Risks of Gay Sex by John R. Diggs, Jr., M.D., a board-certified Internist.
The book of Scripture confronts me with the teaching that God created us male and female and his desire and intention for the human race is that human sexuality be expressed within the marriage relationship of a man and a woman. This teaching on creation is then reinforced over and over again by the negative condemnations of homosexual behavior.
Science tells me some of the reasons ‘why’ a compassionate and loving God does not approve of same-sex behavior. However, Scripture alone can answer the moral question. I am not persuaded either by Scripture or science as yet, however, to begin saying ‘yes’ to what God has said ‘no’.
As with many of the people you met on your fascinating journey, I too am happy that gay and lesbian persons that I know have not outwardly appeared to experience health consequences of homosexual behavior. I hope that that will continue in the future as well. We and they are still faced with the moral question, however.
Where do we go from here? Although I will be traveling over Thanksgiving, I will try to steal time and work on a response to your concern about science and data.