Homosexuality, Part 4: Orientation and Desire

Dr. James Emery White | Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary | Thursday, July 28, 2011

Homosexuality, Part 4: Orientation and Desire

This is the fourth installment of a six-part series (start here), a first for Church and Culture, on what is arguably the most pressing and divisive moral issue which faces our culture.  Rather than follow our normal Monday/Thursday postings, these will be posted every day for six straight days.

A few housekeeping matters:

*Feel free to engage each post individually, but please realize it’s a six-part series.

*As always, keep all comments civil.  Anything lacking in civility will be removed.

*Though a six-part series, I am under no illusions that this is a comprehensive treatment of such a very complex subject.

*If you are just joining this conversation, you would be well-served to read the other blogs.


Until now, the great argument against a biblical perspective on embracing a homosexual lifestyle has not been engaged.  The great argument is someone saying, “But this is who I am!  It’s how I was made!”

From this, many homosexuals will say that it is unfair, even cruel, to condemn them for how they naturally are.  The thinking is foundational:  "Why should I be condemned for following my natural desire!  How can God condemn me when He is the one who made me this way!"

This is important to acknowledge.  Many people who pursue a lifestyle of homosexual behavior didn’t set out to be sexually deviant; they really do have a very strong tendency toward that behavior.  They genuinely have a same-sex attraction. 

Why deny this?  To do so would be absurd.

There can be no doubt that some people have a homosexual orientation that can be brought to the surface and/or pursued through various psychological factors or life experiences.  There is little doubt that there is something present that can be cultivated, developed, catered to and indulged.

Having said that, a homosexual orientation is no different than any other orientation someone can have toward a particular lifestyle that may be outside of God's will.  Someone might have an orientation toward pride, another for chemical addiction, another for gambling or slander, someone else for stealing or lying.  All of us have a certain make-up that shapes us and makes us more prone to a particular temptation than others.

But does this orientation legitimate certain behaviors or lifestyle choices?

Let’s say you want to defend pursuing a lifestyle on the basis of orientation.  You say, "I do what I do because I am what I am. And because of who I am, this is what I must do."

Is this right?

Of course not.

It’s certainly not accurate from a psychological point of view.

Most would say that who we are is a combination of nature plus nurture.  It’s how we are put together and the choices we make in life.

It’s not accurate morally, either.

If your philosophy is that desire should shape values, then that means that whatever I desire to do is to be fulfilled without restraint.  If I have the desire, it must be a legitimate lifestyle.

But what if my desires are to murder? 

What if they have to do with molesting young children? 

You say, "You're crazy!  Nobody in the homosexual community is saying that!"

Of course they’re not.  But that’s beside the point; it is a question of where the philosophy can logically lead.  Such a philosophy is not selective in its application.  Once you make a philosophy such as this a guiding value-system, it applies across the board.  You can't pick and choose where you want to apply it. 

Either desire legitimates behavior, or it doesn't. 

And this is one philosophy that when pushed on, falls apart.  It becomes very clear how radical it is to say that an orientation toward something becomes an automatic case to legitimize it.

Little wonder that in 2006 over 300 lesbian, gay, and allied activists, educators, lawyers, and community organizers called for legally recognizing multiple sex partner (“polyamorous”) relationships.

What matters is not so much where you are tempted, but what you do with that temptation.  I may have moments when in my anger I desire to inflict bodily harm on someone.   In fact, a person who struggles with anger is very much oriented toward that very action. 

But that's very different than authorizing me to give in to the feeling.

This is very important; the Bible doesn't condemn anyone for homosexual desire, but like any other desire outside of God's will for our life, it calls us to resist the temptation.  The Bible makes this very clear in the book of James:  "The temptation to give in to evil comes from us and only us.  We have no one to blame but the leering, seducing flare-up of our own lust.  Lust gets pregnant, and has a baby: sin!  Sin grows up to adulthood and becomes a real killer" (James 1:14-15, Msg).

The progression is critical to note.

Temptation comes through our own desire.  But just because desire is there doesn't mean what we want to do is okay.  Each of us has our own unique areas of weakness, areas where we have desires that aren't of God.  As a straight man, I may have desires for sexual fulfillment outside of marriage with a woman who isn't my wife.   But that is no different in God's eyes than the homosexual temptations another person might have.  When faced with that temptation, it is up to both of us to choose – to either turn away from the desire, or to give in to it. 

The gay person might say, "Well, at least you can get your sexual appetite fulfilled in a marriage.  I can't!"

But that's going back and saying that desire is what determines everything.  That sexual fulfillment is the one area in our life that must be in charge and determine everything.  That somehow that is the one temptation that cannot be fought.

Remember what the Bible says on this:  "But remember that the temptations that come into your life are no different from what others experience.  And God is faithful.  He will keep the temptation from becoming so strong that you can't stand up against it.  When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you will not give in to it" (I Corinthians 10:13, NLT).

On the surface, the argument on the basis of orientation and desire is compelling. Underneath, it is among the most flawed of arguments running through our world.

James Emery White


Homosexuality, Part 5: Gay Marriage


Bogle, Darlene.  Long Road to Love: One Woman’s Healing from Lesbianism.

Cook, Colin.  Homosexuality:  An Open Door.

Comiskey, Andrew.  Pursuing Sexual Wholeness:  How Jesus Heals the Homosexual.

Davies, Bob.  Portraits of Freedom: 14 People Who Came Out of Homosexuality.

Field, David.  The Homosexual Way - A Christian Option?

Stafford, Tim.  Sexual Chaos.

Van Den Aargweg, Gerard.  Homosexuality and Hope:  A Psychologist Talks About Treatment and Change.

White, John.  Eros Defiled.

Editor’s Note

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Homosexuality, Part 4: Orientation and Desire