Thursday, April 28, 2016

Same Sex Attraction: Is It a Sin?

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I had not heard of the phrase "same sex attractions" (SSA) until I attended a Together For the Gospel conference a few years ago.  During one of the Q&A sessions a pastor addressed the subject is God anti-gay and other questions about homosexuality, the Bible and SSA (I believe Sam Allberry was a guest during one panel discussion). Allberry says that these SSA "are part of what I feel but are not who I am in a fundamental sense.  I am far more than my sexuality."

These questions have been raised again at the Gospel Coalition.  A recent article by Matt Moore titled, How I Discovered True Masculinity set the internet ablaze.

Pastor Phil Johnson of Grace to You responded to this article on Twitter and Facebook with these comments, "Yet another hazy, misleading sophism from TGC. Lusting for something sinful is not “obedien[ce] to God

In one of the threads, someone wrote back: “Desires are neutral until they are used sinfully.” 

To which Phil Johnson provided the following reply.  "This idea is apparently gaining popularity among evangelicals, but it is dead wrong and subversive to genuine holiness.  What is (impure) lust but sinful desire? What does the tenth commandment forbid if not all kinds of desires for things that cannot be righteously ours?

Here’s what started me thinking about this more than 30 years ago (and I am NOT making this up): During my first year at GTY (1983), a guy wrote our ministry looking for affirmation and encouragement. He wanted us to agree with his belief that mere _attraction_ to a forbidden object is not inherently sinful. He gave a convincing testimony about his conversion from a life of sin and rebellion. He said he was now serving as an AWANA leader in his church. Then he got specific about what he was asking us to sanction. He said he felt sexually drawn to “large farm animals” (his exact words).

I wrote back, cited Matthew 5:28, and told him it is our position that the desires he was describing are not morally neutral at all but a sinful perversion that he needed to repent of and seek to mortify through the means of grace. I’d give him the same answer today, even after reading reams of sophisticated evangelical reasoning trying to argue that “attraction” and “lust” are categorically different.

By the way, I would not single out homosexuality if our culture didn’t constantly insist on treating homosexual desire as a privileged category. I’m happy to assert, emphatically, that ANY evil attraction is sinful, including that heterosexual tendency to want to click on clickbait when the link features a picture of some scantily-clad tart.

But that’s not to suggest that all evil desires are the same, or equally wicked. Scripture clearly portrays certain sexual perversions (lesbianism and bestiality among them) as unusually and unnaturally perverse.

All of which raises the question: How far do the culturally-engaged evangelical trend-setters want to take this notion that mere attraction is neutral? As I said in an earlier comment, I hope we’d be concerned about the sanctification of someone who insisted on self-identifying as a pederast living a celibate life. Or my cowboy correspondent who harbored a secret desire for a closer relationship with his livestock. Or people drawn to any number of kinky fetishes too perverse to even talk about (Ephesians 5:12).

Yes, all of us struggle with evil desires. That’s part of our fallenness. Even Paul struggled with covetousness—evil desire (Romans 7:7-25). But Paul’s whole point was that those desires (even if never acted on) are sins to be mortified, not prize ribbons to be worn as badges of one’s identity."

This lengthy commentary by Phil Johnson is used with permission.

P.S.  "ALL lust is evil. I hope we'd all be equally offended if some overzealous TGC blogger wrote an article suggesting that sexual desire for women other than your wife is somehow compatible with being obedient to God. THAT's what I object to--the implicit message that an evil desire isn't really 'disobedient.'"