Is Same-Sex Attraction Sinful?

This is a conversation that a lot of different Christians are having in evangelicalism right now

“There is a vital connectedness to the family of God that happens for every single believer and so same-sex attracted persons should not view this as a sentence of loneliness if they are pursuing celibacy in their life.”


Lambert: In our contemporary culture the problem of homosexuality is one that the church has been forced to address in unprecedented ways. Currently, one of the issues that the church is addressing is not just the problem of same-sex behavior, but the attractions and desires that lead to that behavior. Our guest to help us think through the issue of same-sex attraction is Dr. Denny Burk. Dr. Burk is the professor of Biblical Studies at Southern Seminary and their undergraduate institution, Boyce College. He’s also the author of the book, What is the Meaning of Sex as well as the forthcoming book, Transforming Homosexuality: Living Faithfully with Same Sex Attraction. I am glad Denny is here with us today to talk with us about this important issue of attraction and desire that precipitates same-sex behavior. Dr. Burk, what is same-sex attraction and why is it sinful?

Burk: Same-Sex attraction is just what it sounds like; it is sexual attraction to persons of the same sex. If you listen to the medical authorities they will define sexuality as one of three things: a person can experience attraction to the opposite sex, the same sex, or both sexes. Many people experience exclusive attractions to the same sex, while some people experience attractions to both sexes. The issue for us as Christians is to know what the Scripture teaches us about our attractions and if the Bible teaches us how to think about them. The answer to that is yes. The answer is that our attractions have a moral component to them and Jesus Himself is perhaps the one who spoke the most clearly about this in Matthew 5:27-28 when speaking of the ten commandments. In particular, he referenced the seventh commandment when He said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” What Jesus was teaching us is that it is not just the doing of the sin that’s a problem, it’s the desiring of it that is sinful. So, if you find yourself in any condition of desiring immorality or any kind of sinful sex, then that would be an occasion for repentance. So when you think about same-sex attraction, what same sex attraction is, is a persistent kind of desiring of sexual contact with people of the same sex. This of course is prohibited in Scripture, so biblically speaking, same-sex attraction itself becomes an occasion for repentance.

Lambert: This is a conversation that a lot of different Christians are having in evangelicalism right now, and there is not complete agreement between evangelicals on the sinfulness of same-sex attraction. Help us understand why it’s so important to be having this conversation right now.

Burk: Well there is some disagreement about this. Some people who are Christians and who otherwise would be very close to us confessionally, in terms of what they believe in their evangelical faith, are having disagreements about this. There is a sector within evangelicalism of folks who, whereas we all agree that same-sex sexual behavior would be sinful, would argue that same-sex attraction itself is not. You may have certain kinds of attractions but those aren’t necessarily sinful; they are not necessarily something you need to repent from. There are some within the movement who are saying that same sex attraction can be used for good purposes, such as to achieve better emotional connectedness and relatedness to people of the same sex even though you may be living a celibate lifestyle. They sort of use same-sex attraction as a pivot to holy ends, yet I would argue that biblically that is not a very helpful way to think about the issue. Same-sex attraction doesn’t enable and enhance holy friendships, it is an impediment to them. Yes, we can have holy same-sex friendships and even people who struggle with same-sex attraction can have holy same-sex friendships. That is able to happen because they are repenting and setting themselves aside from sexual attractions that are unholy. I just want to be careful that we don’t communicate to people that somehow unholy sexual attractions can be used for holy ends.

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