A Treatise on Homosexuality, Part 3: In the Image of God?
Part next in my series on homosexuality, written in response to the honest inquiry of a friend, whom I’ll call “Bob”, instead of his actual name, Aloysius. That’s a joke. Take a pill. “Bob” writes:
For the moment, and I would ask you to bear with me if my thinking is not cutting edge theologically, let’s assume that there are many who hold to a “change paradigm”, and see the very nature of being (a self-described) homosexual as sinful; that is, the homosexual is a sinner, by definition. Since we are all made in His image, and all equivalently worthy, how can that be? Are we to believe that God made a mistake when he caused so many of us to be homosexual or, worse, that he did it just to cause suffering in those who do not conform to the heterosexual ideal? In order to pose these questions, of course, you have to believe that homosexuals are born, not made, and that is certainly my contention.
Bob, you’ve repeated something here that I’ve heard on many occasions, and I welcome the chance to try to give a clear explanation of a sometimes-misunderstood Bible truth.
Several points need to be made here (with all due patience with regard to your theological thinking, my friend!):
- We need to understand what is—and what isn’t—meant by the term “made in the image of God”. Of course, you refer to the first chapter of Genesis, which tells us that God did create man and woman in His image. The couple of questions that are germane to our discussion here involve, first, what is meant by “in the image of God”, and second (perhaps wrapped up in the first), is the question as to what the extent of “in the image of God” means. Let’s rule out something right off the bat: man doesn’t “look like” God. “God is spirit”, the Scripture says in another place, and while we recognize that Jesus took on flesh and lived among us as a human being, we don’t “look like” God. When we say that man—in the aggregate, not a given, individual person, which is one key to the question—is “created in the image of God”, we refer to “personality”, as opposed to non-personality (as in the animals, etc.). Intellect, emotion, and will; self-awareness; conscience, and a sense of right and wrong; these and perhaps a few others we could name are the stuff of personhood, and man reflects God in these key respects. And so when we say this, we are referring to “mankind” as opposed to all other forms of God’s creation.
- This, then, helps us to answer the “if God made me this way” question. The simple answer is, “God didn’t”, at least not in the sense meant when we speak of “the image of God”. Of course I’ve already attempted a definition of the very term “homosexual”; a person with a strong temptation toward homosexuality is not, in the Bible’s definition, a homosexual; this is not his identity. He only becomes a homosexual when he commits a homosexual act (or, as I suggested in my previous article, we might not even label a person a “homosexual” as a result of one or two isolated acts, though the person would be guilty of sin in those acts). But that’s old ground. The main point is that “I’m created in the image of God”, and “God created me a homosexual”, are not by any means equivalent terms (nor is the latter true). The Scripture is clear that God does not tempt a person to sin (and that is an across-the-board statement with regard to any/all sin). Were God to be “guilty as charged” of “causing” people to be homosexual”, then we would indeed have the conundrum you describe.
- I do not pretend to understand why some people are tempted with some things and other people with other things. I’ve never been tempted by homosexuality, nor with substance abuse; neither of those things has ever been even remotely of interest to me. Why are they such temptations to some people, and none to others? I think that for anybody to suggest that they know definitively is presumptuous to the max. Nor do I have any guess as to why some temptations are stronger for some people than for others—check that, this much can be said: when a person gives in to a given temptation, the likelihood is that it will become easier to do so the next time; i.e., the temptation will be stronger, in that respect. That said, I don’t concur with your contention that “homosexuals are born, not made”—I don’t believe the evidence is nearly so clear on that point as you might think, as popular as it is to say and hear that. Throckmorton has done a whole lot of digging into this very thing, and I believe you’d be surprised at some of his findings as to the fluidity of sexual attraction. That may sound funny, even contradictory, given his stated belief that the majority of people with same-sex attraction do not change, but there seems to be enough fluidity to suggest that things aren’t nearly so cut-and-dried as we are led to believe.
It seems to me, Bob, that the above points will help us to answer some of the other questions you raise—but alas, those questions will have to wait for another day! Thanks again for the stimulating spur to my thinking!
A couple of the ideas Bob puts forth just stick in my craw; it’s like my throat just will not allow them to enter my body – another way to think of that is the entrance to my mind is a revolving door, and some ideas just spin around and get spit back out before they have a chance to get in.
Those ideas are: 1. God made a mistake. 2. God does something just so we will suffer.
To anyone who can think this I say; have you READ the Bible? WHERE in the world would you get such ideas? Sorry, but as far as I’m concerned those ideas bubbled up out of the pit of hell. Now, I realize Bob is being facetious and saying, in essence, that to believe the Bible literally when it directly contradicts what homosexuals and their supporters are trying to tell us (that they are born, not made) would require us to have those 2 ideas about God – but, that presupposes they are right, and would also require us to ignore what the Bible clearly says.
The Bible tells us that Adam and Eve were created PERFECT. When they sinned, though, that changed and neither they nor their offspring were perfect. We desire to sin because of our sin nature, which is not something God created Adam and Eve with; it was something that resulted because of their sin.
We can’t blame our sinful desires on God; we must blame it on sin/nature, and we must accept responsibility for the choices we make if we act on our desires.
Do understand, Laurie, that my friend Bob comes from somewhat of a different place than do we; I don’t say that, of course, to say that I agree with him, but from my good, honest conversation with him, I doubt he’s ever had explained to him the perspective that I (and many evangelicals) take on the subject. New ground for him, most likely, and to present a winsome defense of what we believe will go, I think, a long ways toward, if not winning over folks like Bob, at least helping them gain an understanding of what the Bible teaches, and why we believe as we do.
I think you did a good job of presenting a winsome defense of what you believe, and if I were speaking directly to Bob I would probably have tried to word my opinions a little differently as it’s not my intention to deliberately offend any more than necessary.
I’ve had conversations with such people and they were already offended with my point of view before they ever heard me express it.
So far my conversations have been with people who were arguing from a religious standpoint; I don’t say biblical because they didn’t use the Bible to defend their views. These were people who believe being a Christian doesn’t conflict with being homosexual.
What’s frustrating to me is their willingness to disregard what the Bible says about this, and believe everyone else. We should be brothers in Christ, yet we’re perceived as an enemy – unloving and judgmental. How sad that they don’t see us warning them of the consequences of practicing sin as love.
That’s exactly right, Laurie. I have a whole lot of patience for folks like my friend “Bob”, who comes at things from a different perspective and who, though expressing his opinions, has a genuine interest in mine, whereas I have almost none for people who profess to be Christians yet for whom the Bible’s teaching is, effectively, moot. Isn’t that in the spirit of Paul, who said that we need to withdraw, not from people who don’t profess to be Christians (though they may live a profligate lifestyle), but rather from professing Christians whose manner of living is anything but.
That’s what I’ve done (withdraw) once I realize their interest is not in discussing what the Bible has to say but to sway me away from what it says.
Yes, I agree this subject should be approached differently when discussed with someone who is not a Christian.