It Was Not So From The Beginning: What Nature And Grace Teach Us About SSA

Is same-sex attraction (SSA) or homosexual attraction “natural;” that is, is SSA (sexual desire for someone of the same sex) per se sinful?


The Lord is not surprised by your disordered sexual attraction (heterosexual or homosexual) but neither does he approve of it. Christ obeyed in the place of sexual sinners but he did not die to ratify their disordered sexual desires. Rather, he is graciously leading his people, in his Word, by his Spirit, to order their affections in Christ, according to his moral law.


It is being argued in some evangelical quarters that same-sex attraction (SSA) or homosexual attraction is “natural” and that it SSA (sexual desire for someone of the same sex) is not per se sinful. One writer who defends this view quotes John Cheever who wrote that every attractive man was like a loaded pistol. He writes, “I think that will help me next time I see a beautiful man and find myself wanting to be united to him. I am, at one level, just responding to beauty as I am created to respond to it. There is little I can do to avoid this natural response. We are all wired to appreciate beauty. That’s just how we work.” This writer seeks to address this problem from the assumption that same-sex sexual behavior is sinful but SSA is not. As another writer puts it, SSA is a form of temptation but temptation is not sin. I respond by conceding that temptation is not sin. Our sinless Lord was “tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin” (Heb 4:15). What is in question, however, is whether SSA is temptation or whether it is in fact sin.

The Creational Order

First, we should not accept the premise that SSA is natural. What does natural mean? If by it we mean, “part of the creational fabric” or “reflective of the divine order in creation,” then certainly SSA is not natural. Advocates of the view that SSA is temptation and not sin agree that the creational pattern was heterosexual. God created humanity in two sexes, male and female (Gen 1:27). Our Lord himself confirmed this understanding of the creational pattern. When the Pharisees approached our Lord to try to trap him in a question regarding divorce and re-marriage, Jesus responded by measuring the temporary Mosaic laws against the permanent moral and natural law:

Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.(Matt 19:4–6; ESV)

There is a creational pattern. In Romans 1, Paul refers to the natural order. We will return to Romans 1 momentarily. Heterosexual sex within heterosexual marriage is the divinely intended order. It is the order that Jesus re-affirmed. When the Pharisees tried to leverage the natural pattern with the temporary Mosaic law again, Jesus replied by again appealing to his intention in creation: “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so” (v. 8).

That phrase, from the beginning it was not so” is, if the reader will pardon the pun, pregnant with significance for this discussion. When Jesus thinks of nature, he thinks not, in the first instance of what has happened to us after the fall, but the way things were intended and ordered before the fall.

It is true that people, after the fall, because of the vitiating power of sin, desire all manner of sinful things naturally, i.e., according to their fallen natures, but that does not make those desires righteous or normal. In the state of sin, in Adam, our inclinations are warped. Our intellect is warped. Our affections are warped. We do know, will, and love freely according to our corrupted natures but those objects of our affection, those things that we will, those things that we seek to know do not thereby become good or right.

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Abounding Grace Radio (AGR) is hosting a conference on issues addressed in this article, July 26, 2019; Rosaria Butterfield: From Victim to GuestFor more information and to register»