Paul Copan is Chair of Philosophy and Ethics at Palm Beach Atlantic University. His book, WHEN GOD GOES TO Starbucks: A Guide to Everyday Apologetics is a goldmine of information on answering some of the tough questions of today. I want to share with you a summary of his chapter on “Aren’t People Born Gay?” This is a subject on which there has been a great deal written. His chapter is comprehensive but I only have room to give his summary.
1. In the 1970’s political pressure by gay activists forced a change about the perception of homosexuality. It wasn’t the result of “scientific” research; the medical community had previously considered it a pathology.
2. Biology isn’t fate. This is actually demeaning to homosexuals who are much more than biological/sexual beings.
3. Simply, because we’re born a certain way doesn’t mean we ought to affirm it. Furthermore, just because we are born with certain inclinations doesn’t mean we should carry them out (compare “tendencies” towards alcoholism, violence, pedophilia). We can’t legitimately move from “is” to “ought.”
4. The scientific support for people being “born gay” is seriously lacking. The media tend to stretch the evidence beyond what the scientific data warrant.
5. It’s easy for both sides to play the either-or game (“it’s either biology or environment, either nature or nurture, either determined or a choice”). The most appropriate and more obvious alternative is speaking of influences rather than causes. Homosexuality isn’t reducible to mere genetics; it also includes environmental factors (family upbringing, childhood experiences, reactions and choices, and the cultural environment).
6. Homosexuality is not the result of genetic necessity but results largely from dysfunctional same-sex relationships in one’s youth (or in the case of lesbianism, bad experiences with males who were abusive or violent).
7. The facts that same-sex attraction is not biologically based suggests the possibility of healing and wholeness, which many have found.
8. Change from homosexual to heterosexual attraction tends to be gradual rather than immediate, but stopping homosexual activity in itself is a significant step forward – comparable to stopping smoking, even if the cravings are still there.
Let me add my own perspective. We are all born with certain unique distinctives. King David reminds us that, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” (Psalm 51:5) A mother who smoked or drank or was addicted to drugs or suffered from other medical problems would pass on those afflictions to her offspring. People who experienced homosexual inclinations early in their lives, and were drawn to pursuits where they encountered others like them, e.g. in the arts or design world, would find those inclinations encouraged. However such inclinations do not have to be translated into sexual behavior. When they seek to resist those temptations there can be intense conflict and pain.
The person fighting any addiction finds that recovery is a daily struggle and requires a support group and a sponsor to maintain sobriety. From time to time addicts may relapse and need to recover again. They may never be completely healed in this life from their inclination. Nobody said that it is easy to recover from sin. We do not make a virtue out of a vice. We don’t encourage addicts to accept their addiction. We do not encourage sinners to indulge their sin because it is easier.
Jesus said that “if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away.” (Matthew 5:30) He was speaking metaphorically not literally but his meaning is clear. St. Paul in Romans 6:13 teaches us “not to offer the parts of your body to sin.” In Romans 8:13 he tells us that we are to “put to death the misdeeds of the body.” All of us struggle with sin in our lives and Christ offers us his power to overcome those sins. It is much easier to give in to temptation to sin than to resist it. We are all by nature born to sin. But by grace God gives us the opportunity to overcome whatever thorn in the flesh we suffer from. “Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Cor.12:9)
The first Christian church included those who were sexually immoral, male prostitutes, homosexuals, thieves, drunkards and swindlers. “And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Cor.6,10,11) Jesus Christ our Savior enables us to change, to be transformed, to overcome our sinful inclinations by the power of the Holy Spirit. This is true for all of us with no exceptions.