Case in Point


This blog site will feature essays, columns and musings that deal with the intersection of Christianity and journalism and the American Songbook.

“Homosexuality: A dilemma in today’s evangelical church,” Part 2 (article: Presbyterian Guardian)

Presbyterian Guardian
June 1977

(Editor’s note: In the first portion of this two-part article, Mr. Case noted the three commonly held views explaining homosexuality: the oldest that saw it as a physiological or glandular problem, the Freudian or psychological explanation, and the more recent approach explaining it as due to sociological influences. He then went on to review Scripture teaching that clearly sees homosexuality as a sin-related problem. This concludes a two-part article by the Rev. Robert Case. He is a minister in the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod, and has served as the executive director of the Christian Action Council in Washington, D. C.)


In coming to a biblical view of homosexuality, one must begin with creation. It is here that the framework for considering this abnormality is given.

“And God created man in his own image, in the image of God lie created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27; cf. Genesis 5:2). Both “male” and “female” in the Hebrew are used exclusively to denote specifically either the male sex or the female sex. Wherever these words are used the sex of the person plays a prominent role in the context.

Genesis 2:18 then becomes a key pas- sage: “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper corresponding to him.'” And this “helper” of course was a woman and not a man (verse 22)! Adam’s response to this creation was delight: “At last! Bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh. This one shall be called ‘woman’ because she was taken out of man.” Again we have a clear delineation between the function, creation, and name of the male and female.

God’s own reaction to this fundamental distinction is that “God saw all that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). And Christ quotes with approval and authority Genesis 1:27 and 5:2 (in Matthew 19:4) as the beginning point in a discussion concerning divinely approved marriages.
What should the Christian’s attitude be towards this created difference? “Everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the Word of God and prayer” (I Timothy 4:4, 5). This bisexual nature of humanity is a created difference approved by God and sanctified by his Word and through our prayers. Our duty is to live within our identity (as male or female) and to rejoice in that individual distinction that is ours in the common humanity of mankind, for this is the will and law of God. To do otherwise is unlawful (1 John 3:4) and rebellious (1 Timothy 1:9) and to change the divine order of creation (Romans 1:26, 27).

Men and women only know themselves in relation to the other sex. Homosexuality is a rejection of our creatureliness and is therefore idolatry. That is, the other partner in the created order, who is co-humanity and created in God’s image, is exchanged for an image of one’s self in homosexual practice. Not only is it idolatry because it is self-deification, but it is idolatry because it denies God’s created distinctives and identity in favor of a “third sex” having characteristics of both male and female and yet not being a “helper” to either.

In 1 Corinthians 11:11 we read, “How¬ever, in the Lord, neither is woman without man, nor is man without woman” (cf. 1 Cor. 7:2). It is clear that Scripture condemns homosexual practice because it is idolatrous and lawless and a manifestation of the ethical chaos to which a rebellious judgment leads. Having said all this, what is to be the biblical response to homosexual practice?

Need for precision

First, the evangelical church must use precision in describing homosexuality. It is clear from studies made that there are no easy categories in which to group people. There is the overt homosexual who practices his or her sexual “inversion” as often as possible. There is the latent homosexual who has inverted sexual impulses but refuses to practice homosexuality. There is the basically heterosexual person who, while growing up, had homosexual experience but remained heterosexual. The normal heterosexual may also show deep and affectionate concern toward others of the same sex and need not be impugned for so doing (1 Samuel 18:1-4; 20:17; 2 Samuel 1:26: 1 Corinthians 16:20; Acts 20:37).

It is vital for the church to understand the complexity of homosexuality. Just to have homosexual impulses due to early, perhaps subconscious, reactions to one’s upbringing is quite different from having an active inverted sexual life due to disdain for God’s created order. Klaus Bockmuhl, writing in Christianity Today (February 16, 1973), says that “an early childhood homosexual fixation relieves the homosexual of accountability for his homosexual propensities, but it cannot relieve him of responsibility for his homosexual acts.”

None of this is to say that the homosexual is not accountable to God for any lusting after persons of the same sex just as every heterosexual is accountable for such lust toward those of the opposite sex. (See Matthew 5:21-28.) But it is to say that once a practicing homosexual does not mean always a practicing homosexual; Paul plainly states that some of the Corinthian Christians are substantially healed homosexuals (1 Cor. 6:11).

In other words, the church must realize that there is hope for every practicing homosexual just as there is hope for every drinking alcoholic. Once a homosexual begins to proceed back to the created order of sexual activities and desires (just like the alcoholic “on the wagon”), then the condition changes from one of sinfulness to one of a continuing need for support from the church.

Dealing with the homosexual

While no theory of the origin of homosexuality has yet been scientifically proven, it seems to me that a combination of the sociological and hamartiological (sin-related) approaches best fits the Scripture. I’m convinced that physiological inversion (the view that homosexuality has a physical cause) is not acceptable for a Bible-believing Christian. The psychological explanation does seem to answer some problems as long as the way is kept open for all homosexuals to change their sexual orientation. There is no indication in the Bible, however, that homosexuals are psychiatrically sick—unless one believes that adulterers, alcoholics, etc., are psychiatrically sick as well. So, if the homosexual is not physiopathic or psychopathic, then he or she has had a perverse social experience and has reacted to that experience sinfully and the church must deal with the invert at that level of sin.

The first social setting the church must deal with in the life of the homosexual is that of the family. If it’s not a case of closing the barn door after the horse is gone, then there may be hope. In any case, the problem of homosexuality may often be a graphic demonstration of the Israelite lament, “The fathers eat sour grapes, but the children’s teeth are set on edge” (Ezekiel 18:2; cf. Lamentations 5:7; Jeremiah 31:29; also Exodus 34:6-7). It is commonly agreed among psychiatrists and sociologists that a perverse or con¬fused family life will turn a potential homosexual into a practicing homosexual in search of security or an identity.

Truly, Ephesians 6:1-4 and Colossians 3:18-21 are more profound than we sometimes realize. (For further preventive medicine against sexual disorientation see Ephesians 5:22-33; 1 Peter 3:1-7; 1 Corinthians 7.) The church must preach and teach the biblical concept of the family to safeguard its members from homosexuality and to provide a climate whereby homosexuals coming into the church will be given an understanding of their condition.

The homosexual in the church

The second social setting with which the church must deal is the local congregation of believers. Through a ministry of preaching and teaching and counseling, the congregation should be brought to a biblical understanding of homosexuality. That is, most homosexuals are inverted before they even understand what took place in their sexual orientation. But, all inverts can redirect their sexual desires if they want (1 Cor. 6:11; 10:13; Heb. 2:17-18; 4:15-16; 2 Peter 2:9).

Furthermore, just because someone once had a homosexual experience does not make him or her a homosexual. And finally, a substantially healed homosexual (like a substantially healed alcoholic) is as “natural” as any heterosexual even though he or she will always bear the scars of the deviation. Notwithstanding Paul’s use of the past tense in I Corinthians 6:1 I (“such were some of you”), once a homosexual always a homosexual (in the same sense that once an alcoholic always an alcoholic). The church should not withhold membership from a converted homosexual, but it must realize that with every sexually inverted convert the church is in for a time of exercising patience, love, understanding and discipline in order for God’s will to be done in each homosexual’s life.

It goes without saying that the church must not hold the converted homosexual in a state of suspicion (Philippians 4:8, 9). The church has the obligation and responsibility, as it extends the right hand of fellowship (Galatians 2:9) — and all that that gesture implies—to require a biblical attitude on the part of the homosexual. Bockmuhl correctly states concerning the homosexual: “It is necessary for him/her to admit the sin in his/her past life, make confession, accept forgiveness, and begin to struggle against his/her past life, make confession, accept forgiveness, and begin to struggle against his/her impulses and for the cause of Christ, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, in the light of God’s plan of salvation for the world” (Christianity Today, February 16, 1973).

So the church, when it admits a homosexual to membership, has the obligation to require a change of direction in the homosexual’s sexual orientation. And the homosexual has the right to expect the congregation to labor with him or her in the fight to reconcile his physical impulses to the divine order of creation (Galatians 6:1-3; Ecclesiastes 4:9-10; Romans 15:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:14). The attitude of Paul in 2 Corinthians 2:4-11 must characterize the church if we are to deal effectively with homosexual Christians.

In society as a whole

The third social setting in which the church must deal is society at large. While the church always has spiritual obligations, no matter what the sphere, in the secular society its main task is one of political petition and preservation, not sanctification and edification.
Galatians 6:10 states the regulative principle for Christians in society: “So then, as we have the opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (cf. Proverbs 3:27).

As the church views the practice of homosexuality in our society, we must be concerned for the legality of the whole matter. We have seen that the Bible clearly and unequivocally condemns the homosexual who practices his or her inversion. We have seen that there is a great deal of difference between a homosexual who flaunts his or her malady and one who resists the inverted sexual impulses. And it has been noted that just because someone once had a homosexual experience this does not make him or her a practicing invert.

Further, just because something is condemned as a sin in the Bible does not automatically make it a crime against society. “Sin can be committed by thought and word as well as by deed. A man sins against himself, his neighbor, or his God. There must be another with (or against) whom he sins before the sin becomes a crime” (Alfred Gross in “Strangers in Our Midst,” Public Affairs, p. 162). What a person does that does not threaten or harm the common good of society should not be considered a crime (Romans 13:3, 4).

All this is to lay the groundwork for my belief that private homosexual acts between consenting adults could be legally sanctioned by the state. I see no legal or moral difference between allowing adults privately to engage in homosexual acts and allowing them privately to engage in adulterous acts or fornication or drunken bouts or lies or heresies or idolatries. (All of these are listed together in 1 Corinthians 6 and 1 Timothy 1; homosexuality is only one among these many.)

A Roman Catholic study committee put it this way: “It is not the business of the state to intervene in the purely private sphere but to act solely as the defender of the common good. Morally evil things so far as they do not affect the common good are not the concern of the human legislator.”

While I believe that homosexual behavior between consenting adults in private could be considered no longer a criminal offense, I do believe that public displays of homosexual activity should be made a crime because they flaunt an unnatural sexual orientation before the majority who are not unnaturally oriented and the many who understand the damnable judgment due to practicing homosexuals. Basically it is a matter of public decency, morality, and tranquility that is to be maintained and gross public offensiveness to be curtailed.

This is little different from prohibiting intercourse between man and woman in the public park. I would hold that any public soliciting or accosting by a homosexual should be a criminal offense, as it is in heterosexual cases. In general, I would maintain that homosexual activity should be no more a criminal offense than debauched heterosexual activity, bearing in mind that the common good of society, and not the freedom (i.e., rights; cf. Judges 17:6) of the individual, must be the starting point for the church’s political approach to legal injunctions. The evangelical church should, therefore, support legislation that would give the homosexual equal rights in employment (non-pastoral), housing, and public accommodation.

Reorienting the individual

Finally, we come to the individual who is the homosexual. If he or she does not want to change in order to conform to God’s created order, then all the church can do is to indicate with compassion, gentleness and firmness the biblical con¬demnation of homosexual acts.

But if the individual wants to change, then the church has several options in its approach to a meaningful ministry. First, it can counsel the homosexual to see if he or she might have the gift of singleness (1 Corinthians 7:7). It is quite possible that a converted homosexual might indeed be “assigned” by God to “walk in the manner” of singleness (verse 17). “And this I say for your own benefit; not to put a restraint upon you, but to promote what is seemly, and to secure undistracted devotion to the Lord” (verse 33).

If, however, an individual does not feel his or her calling is one of singleness, then I think the best help is a small group of heterosexuals (perhaps mixed with other homosexuals if there are any) to gather together for prayer, fellowship and edification (John 13:34, 35; Galatians 6:1-3; Romans 14:19). (A one-to-one relationship is just too risky and cruel for a converted homosexual.) This small group would or could act as Christian “encounter group” of a sort, with a trained Christian counselor as its leader.

The evangelical church must rethink its position on homosexuality if it is going to minister effectively (and biblically) to those oriented in that direction. But even more important than an “effective” ministry is the need accurately to portray the true biblical position concerning homo¬sexuality and to demonstrate the wisdom, consistency, and love of God towards his creation, and especially to those who have repented of their sins no matter how gross their conduct once was.


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