Just a quick comment on a post by Matthew Lee Anderson on the inter-evangelical discussion of whether Christians can self identify as “gay,” that is, being attracted to the same sex, while remaining staunchly committed to the norms of chastity outside of marriage and monogamous heterosexual marriage. In other words, the question is: Can a faithful Christian man or woman be oriented to the same sex as opposed to the opposite sex in a way that is not inherently sinful? For example, World Magazine recently ran a story on the Wheaton College hire of Julie Rodgers who self identifies as gay, describing her experience as: “with certain women I feel the ‘it’ factor: that sense of chemistry that longs to share life with them. … Most women feel that chemistry or longing for other men … while I usually feel like ‘bros’ with men.”
There’s tons being written about this topic at the moment, and I don’t pretend to be up on the conversation, but I’d just point out that at least one missing element in Anderson’s post, which Owen Strachan was attempting to articulate here, particularly under his numbers 7 and 8 is that men and women are not interchangeable pieces on a chessboard. Strachan rightly understands that there is something different about men appreciating the attractiveness of women in general and with that, women delighting in the gift of their beauty and attractiveness. Strachan insists that this general appreciation must remain a brother-sister like respect and honor. But Anderson objects, questioning Strachan’s brother-sister standard by wondering how a brother can find a sister “attractive” while not being “sexually attracted” to her which would obviously be sinful. In other words, how do we distinguish meaningfully between heterosexual orientation which is morally acceptable and homosexual orientation which Strachan argues is always immoral. Anderson, if I understand him correctly, is questioning whether that distinction is even possible and therefore wants to defend the notion that there can be a homosexual orientation that remains chaste and pure.
But the missing element is the fact that the Bible says that men and women as classes of human beings are fundamentally different sorts of human beings. The woman is the glory of man (1 Cor. 11:7). Women as a class of human beings were created by God to be beautiful. They were created to be honored and admired for their attractiveness. And men are required by God to protect, defend, and honor that glory. This is not a proto-sexual desire; it’s a recognition of the way God made the world. It’s what men and women as brothers and sisters are for. Sexual desire is a desire for intimacy; it is by definition a desire for a unique exclusivity and proximity which is intended by God to be guarded by the covenant of marriage. Monogamous heterosexual marriage is built on the foundation of this creational reality, but it is a distinct act from this fundamental recognition of the way God made the world. Of course human sexuality is not always acted out towards those ends, but that’s what sexuality was created for. It is meant to picture God’s desire for an intimate and exclusive relationship with His people.
In other words, there is an inherent asymmetry in the world between men and women. To miss that asymmetry is to see the world with a distorted vision. This is why a man who feels naturally oriented to other men even while refusing to indulge any lust or to perform an immoral sexual act is still already dealing with sin. The sin is a blindness to the fact that God has identified the woman as the glory of man. In this sense, it’s not at that point a sexual sin strictly speaking but a philosophical and categorical sin. But as a categorical sin, it’s a failure to name the world rightly. And refusing to name the world rightly is rebellion against God and is a set up for all kinds of confusion. We cannot lie about the nature of what it means to made male and female and expect that to turn out OK. And this is why Strachan’s other post insisting that we not pretend to derive virtues from our rebellion is spot on.
Any virtue derives from God’s grace driving out our sin, forgiving our guilt, washing us clean. Our identities are not found in our sinful proclivities (1 Cor. 6:11). The gospel does not name us by our sins or temptations. The gospel names us by our Savior and calls us by our unbreakable identity in Him.
Matthew Anderson says
Thanks for the thoughts. FWIW, I am totally on board with the idea of asymmetry that you lay out: I don’t think that it necessarily leads to Owen’s position, though.
Thanks much for the reply and clarification. Care to elaborate at all?
In fact, because I believe that my exclusion is unjust and anti-Christian, my identity in Christ gives me greater boldness to give voice to my exclusion, to draw attention to the injustice, and to demand repentance from those who have marginalized me and others like me. That s not to say that I m asking the church to turn a blind eye to gay sex or bless same-sex unions.