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!