When I posted Why I’m Not a Christian, it sparked a discussion between Courtney Whitaker and I about homosexuality. She sent me an article by Preston Sprinkle, a Christian theologian, called Is Same-Sex Attraction Sinful?
“[Some argue that] if Paul did not know of any gay people acting out their fixed sexual orientation within a consensual marriage, then Romans 1 cannot not apply to same-sex marriages today. In short, Paul didn’t know about SSO; therefore, his words can’t apply to people with a fixed SSO.”
A friend of mine held a position similar to this. I disagreed based on my understanding of theology and Christian teaching and the traditional interpretation of the text.
The article contains some examples explaining how the concept of inherent, ingrained, or unchanging sexual preference was not unfamiliar to Romans in the first century AD which are really interesting.
“We can’t use these texts to show that homosexuality as a sexual identity existed as such back then. It didn’t. As is widely acknowledged and almost universally agreed upon by scholars of all persuasions, the Greco-Roman world did not have the same category of what we call homosexuality or gay/lesbian as a sexual identity.”
It may not have been the same, but it seems that they certainly conceptualized it similarly to today, even if they didn’t frame it exactly the same. There’s some following clarification about this that explains the Greeks and Romans thought in terms of “manliness” and “womanliness.”
“Whether such sex is pederastic (man on boy), exploitative, consensual, forced, extra marital, marital, or the byproduct of a fixed sexual orientation established at birth—it goes against the Creator’s intention; it’s ‘not the way it’s supposed to be.’”
My main problem with this is that someone can have a fixed sexual orientation established at birth and it would still be considered sinful for the person to have gay sex. Once I reached the conclusion that my attraction to women was out of my control, it didn’t make sense to me why it would still be sinful. If I were only ever attracted to women, I would not have any desire to marry a man; if I followed the biblical teaching on this, I would still refrain from any homosexual relationships, but I could very likely find myself unfulfilled in the romantic/sexual area of life. That’s not to say that freely choosing abstinence is a bad thing, but freely choosing it is what matters.
“I don’t think it’s accurate to equate what people mean by same-sex attraction to what the Bible says about sexual desire. SSA is a general disposition, regardless of whether someone is acting on, or even thinking about, it.”
This is actually different than what most Christians I’ve been close to have believed. Based on conversations in small groups and teaching from youth group leaders and even some slightly veiled mentions from the senior pastor, the majority position at the Baptist church I attended was that being gay was wrong.
“[L]iving in the constant state of opposite sex attraction isn’t sinful, even though it’s only okay for me to act on that attraction with one member of the female species. Likewise, living in the constant state of same-sex attraction doesn’t mean that someone is living in a 24/7 state of morally culpable sin.”
The difference is that you are “allowed” to act on your sexual desires, with your wife. Homosexuals, based on what I know and what you’ve included in your piece, are not “allowed” to act on their sexual desires with anyone ever.
“SSA is not just about actively wanting to have sex.”
So what? This is relevant to your argument, but I think this whole thing is you trying to justify having a dissonant position. It doesn’t mesh to say that it’s perfectly fine to be gay but it’s very much not okay to have gay sex, especially if you agree that at least some people were or may as well have been born gay. That would mean God created them gay and forbid them from ever having sex.
He then continues to talk about how SSA is more than just a desire for sex. It’s a bit excessive in my opinion.
“Romans 1 appears to conflate desire and action. That is, Paul doesn’t seem to view a naked desire apart from a sinful action.”
And you follow that with this, a couple paragraphs down.
(James 1:13-14) “James distinguishes between a desire, and desire that “gives birth to sin.” A woman may give birth to a child, but the woman herself is not the child. Likewise, in James’ own words, desire may give birth to sin, but this means that desire itself is not sin.”
So which is it? Paul doesn’t distinguish between the two, but then you pull out a different, unrelated passage that you explain as contradicting that.
The article contains some interesting historical information about the time period in which Romans was written. That part is fantastic, I really enjoyed it. Throughout the article, there is a strong emphasis on same-sex attraction being separate from a sexual desire for someone of the same sex. Followed by an ambiguous conclusion about whether such a desire is sinful. Romans 1, the passage the article primarily deals with, deals with them as though they are one and the same, but James 1:13-14 has a different perspective. It is unclear which is the correct perspective on homosexuality.
I would like to point out that Preston Sprinkle’s interpretation of the passages encourages my opinion that Paul and James presented divergent and contradictory perspectives. Take that to mean what you will.