He speaks of being “‘biblically inclusive’ of sexual minority groups.” Let us be perfectly clear. All sinners are welcome in Christ’s church. They are welcome to visit. Indeed, we implore all sinners to come join with us sinners, to bow the knee to King Jesus with us, to acknowledge with us the greatness of their sin and misery and their need for the Savior. This is what Christians do Lord’s Day by Lord’s Day. We read and hear the moral law. We are again convicted of our desperate need for Jesus. The minister announces Christ’s grace and forgiveness to all who know their sins and who trust in Jesus alone for their righteousness before God.
In a recent interview posted to the Australian edition of a very popular evangelical website, Ed Shaw, co-founder of the Living Out website, where it is argued that same-sex attraction (SSA) is “natural” and that SSA is not per se sinful. This is the essence of the so-called “Side B” or “Gay Christian” approach to Christianity. In this interview, Shaw said some remarkable things.
Among the controversial things Shaw said, was this comment in reply to a question inviting him to respond to “emotional” debates in Australia and elsewhere over SSA and to “hostility.”
Sometimes it is confusion around the terminology we use and other times because we have pushed back on investing in methods and thinking of the past in terms of reparative therapy; or thinking that to be godly you have to be heterosexual; and that healing, in the here and now, must mean getting married and having 2.4 children. But overt hostility actually comes from very few people, really.
I do not know who is advocating actual “reparative therapy,” if by that he means an aggressive, intensive attempt to “re-program” someone’s sexual orientation. Faithful pastors and counselors, must, however, encourage Christians to die to sin, including the sin of desiring to have sex with anyone outside of marriage (between a man and a woman) and same-sex sexual attraction. In his reply, Shaw begs the question, i.e., assumes what he must prove: that SSA is not sin.
As has been argued in this space (see below and on the Heidelblog) at length, Scripture plainly describes same-sex attraction as sin. Romans 1:24–27 teach us to think that the very act of desiring to have sex with someone of the same sex is inherently sinful. Paul calls speaks of “dishonorable passions” (πάθη ἀτιμίας) as translated in the ESV or “vile affections” as rendered in the King James Version.
Next we should have to discuss the distinction between a “sexual orientation” and desires or passions. One difficulty here is that “sexual orientation” is not a biblical category. Scripture knows about desires and actions that are natural and unnatural. Paul calls homosexuality (same-sex attraction and behavior) unnatural and sinful in Romans 1. In 1 Corinthians 6:9 he delineates further by distinguishing two kinds of homosexual behavior (μαλακοὶ οὔτε ἀρσενοκοῖται), namely the passive, effeminate partner in a same-sex relationship and the dominant partner. Perhaps most importantly, Shaw approach cannot account for Paul’s clause, “And such were some of you” (1 Cor 6:11; ESV). According to Paul, those who have been given new life by the Holy Spirit, who have been given true faith, are united to Christ. They have been “washed,” “sanctified,” and “justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (v. 11).
This is not to say that Christians never struggle with sin. Romans 7 says that they do but we should be careful about adopting the category “sexual orientation” and then reading that back into Scripture. Further, we should doubt the notion that people are simply born with a SSA. Typically, people become homosexuals, i.e., develop a same-sex attraction for a variety of reasons, most of them environmental. Studies have repeatedly shown that most homosexuals were themselves sexually abused or raised in the midst of greater than average dysfunction, e.g., alcoholism, physical abuse, emotional abuse, or with an absent father. Sometimes people respond to a failed romance by turning to members of the same sex. In other words, it is not just another normal, ordinary sexual orientation which becomes sin only when acted upon. The very desire to have sex with someone of the same-sex is disordered, unnatural, and sinful. It is what the older Reformed theologians called “concupiscence.” See the resources below for more on this.
We should also reject Shaw’s assertion that heterosexuality is not a part of godliness. Being heterosexual does not make one godly but heterosexuality is normal, it is natural, and governed by God’s moral law, within the bounds of a natural marriage, heterosexuality is part of a godly life for believers.
In the interview he also addressed the problem of inclusion. He speaks of being “‘biblically inclusive’ of sexual minority groups.” Let us be perfectly clear. All sinners are welcome in Christ’s church. They are welcome to visit. Indeed, we implore all sinners to come join with us sinners, to bow the knee to King Jesus with us, to acknowledge with us the greatness of their sin and misery and their need for the Savior. This is what Christians do Lord’s Day by Lord’s Day. We read and hear the moral law. We are again convicted of our desperate need for Jesus. The minister announces Christ’s grace and forgiveness to all who know their sins and who trust in Jesus alone for their righteousness before God.
Scripture, however, knows nothing of “sexual minority groups.” This is an artificial category intended to re-describe sin as a socio-political problem, as if the chief problem faced by those who are same-sex attracted, bi-sexual, transgendered, or “queer” (pan-sexual, rejecting categories altogether) is that their sins are not treasured by the church. Of course sins should not be treasured or valued by the church. They should be acknowledged for what they are, violations of God’s holy law and repudiated. The first public word out of our Lord’s mouth was “The time is fulfilled. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15; ESV). For more on a biblical view of inclusion see the essay below in the resources.