Sexual Identity: Doing What Comes Naturally

Since the fall not one of us, in our natural state, and to greater or lesser degrees depending on our sanctification, can rely upon what feels natural to guide us or what we think seems normal.

If our inclinations or desires (or habits, to use the technical philosophical term) are infected with sin then what comes naturally to us whether with regard to our relationship to God, to one another, or to our environment, needs both the Word of God spoken to us from outside of us and we need the Holy Spirit working inside of us to make us receptive to the external Word and pliable to the divine commands which call for our obedience. 

 

The surging waves of the sexual revolution continue to crash on the shores of our culture and threaten to wash the Christian church, supporting institutions, and believing individuals and their families out to sea. This is not really new. While scholars often point to the 50s and especially the 60s as the groundswell of the sexual revolution in the West, human rebellion against God’s revealed sexual ethic goes back to the garden when our first parents rebelled against God. I am not suggesting, like St. Augustine, that the first sin was sexual. But we need to recognize that sexual sin in all its various permutations, like all sin, goes back to the primal sin recorded in Genesis 3 and our inheritance of a sinful nature.

The fall has wreaked havoc on every aspect (nook and cranny, if you will) of our humanity. Of course, there are limits to the effects of the fall due to God’s common grace. Adam did not become not-Adam after the fall. He went from being holy and righteous Adam to being sinful Adam. The fall was, as Cornelius Van Til reminded us, ethical. That is, human nature was not destroyed in the fall. To put it another way, not even the image of God was destroyed. Human nature/the image was twisted, tarnished, defaced, and perverted. But it was not utterly destroyed. We could not be human otherwise. As Genesis 9:6 and James 3:9 attest, even though fallen and utterly corrupted by sin, we are still images of God. Historically humans have been understood as complex beings made up of bodies and souls. Our soul, heart or personality involves a nature, habits, and acts. The nature has remained intact in the fall. It is the habit or inclination and the acts that flow from our inclination or habit that are sinful. Adam (and Eve, of course) was created with a holy habit or inclination and it is this that was perverted in the fall and now is sinful rather than holy and righteous.

With the fall our whole personality has been plunged into sin and our hearts are dead in sin. As the prophet Jeremiah told us, our hearts are “desperately wicked” so that even we cannot know them rightly nor can we trust an unregenerate self-assessment of our hearts (Jer. 17:9). In Scripture, the heart is the seat of our personality, our soul. While in the West, we have typically thought of the heart as the seat of emotions, in the Bible the heart is the center of what one scholar has called our “dispositional complex.” Our heart involves the intellect, will, and emotions. These are all implicated in the fall and are being restored in progressive sanctification. The truth of the matter is that since the fall not one of us, in our natural state, and to greater or lesser degrees depending on our sanctification, can rely upon what feels natural to guide us or what we think seems normal.

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