Sexual Identity: What Does the Bible Say?
Unspoken assumptions make the argument. Debates become fruitful when unspoken assumptions get clarified. Many of us are accustomed to calling these assumptions presuppositions—controlling beliefs that determine how we think. In a culture that has largely accepted the belief that the only thing that really matters, the only thing that is actually real, is the individual’s feelings, opinions and choices, it is very easy for Christians to think and act according to this, even unconsciously.
To regard human feelings, choices and opinions as ultimate reality, or the only thing that really matters can rightly be called “subjectivism;” the knowing the subject is the ultimate determiner of how things are to be interpreted. In this way of thinking and living it is not the object being interpreted that matters most for what passes for knowledge and truth. In a culture controlled by subjectivism people can use terms like “truth,” “knowledge,” “right,” “wrong,” “good” and “evil,” yet those terms often mean whatever the individual decides they mean. The Bible presents us with a different view of reality, humans and knowledge.
Scripture reveals that the Triune God is the creator. The objects God has created are what they are regardless of what we think or feel about them or choose to do with them. According to Scripture, human knowledge is marked by a relationship between the knowing subject and the object known that was created by God. God knows everything because he created all things other than himself. We have true knowledge because God is truth, and he gives knowledge. Our understanding of this does not make it so. What we feel about it or choose to do in relation to it does not make it so. The opposite is also true—wishing that it were not so does not abolish it.
Humans can and do have true knowledge because God created them in his image. “True” does not mean “exhaustive”; we do not know everything. We know truly. Human knowledge is about the interplay between the knowing subject and the object known. In biblical Christianity God is presented as The Subject who creates and knows all his Objects. Humans are both subjects who know and objects God created. The Bible presents a view of humans and human knowledge that balances objectivity with subjectivity.
We currently live at a time in American culture where this balance between objectivity and subjectivity is seriously distorted. The very idea that an actual male with empirically verifiable male organs can “self-identify” as a woman reveals how extreme the situation has become. The knowing subject can simply choose how they should be objectively regarded, and they believe their actions (changing their physical anatomy in some cases) and how they feel about themselves determines who or what they are. The examples could be multiplied.
When someone thinks and lives according to the belief that their choices or behavior determine what they are—the reality that they are—they have turned the biblical view of reality on its head. In Matthew 7:15-20 we learn of Jesus warning of false prophets. When he did, Jesus said that by their fruits we would know them. He gave an analogy of a tree and the fruit it produces. Good trees bear good fruit. Bad trees bear bad fruit. Lesson? By their fruits you will know them (Mt. 7:16, 20). In other words, humans are like trees: what they are determines what they do; what they do reveals who or what they are. What humans and other things are is not determined by what they choose to do. Being and doing exist in an unbreakable union, but the living God must create being; The Triune God is the source of all created being. The God of Holy Scripture is the only uncreated being.
I used to ask my students: How many of you consciously chose to be? I wanted to know who exercised their will in order for their will to be created. The question is ridiculous. You don’t exercise your will to create your will. To exercise your will, your will must already be. But when people reject God (I AM) in their thinking the only way they can talk about the category of being is in terms of what they do, feel or think.
The bible does not present homosexuality, or any sin, as an essential trait of any human. Sin is actually subhuman. Adam and Eve were not created as sinners. Jesus is fully human and never sinned. It is a serious category mistake for a Christian to identify themselves by their sin. 2Cor 5:17 tells us that if we are in Christ we are a new creation. This is not merely a way of speaking. It does not mean we have become something other than human; it means God has given actual life to us as humans that we did not have before because of sin. To want to identify yourself as a Christian by placing your sin choice or tendency before the name “Christian” is to fundamentally misunderstand what it means to be a Christian. Perhaps you can begin to see how identifying one’s self as a Gay Christian indicates profound confusion. Those who do so are controlled by presuppositions that drive an ideology that while popular in America is hostile to the most basic doctrines of the Christian faith.
David P. Smith (Ph.D.) is the author of B. B. Warfield's Scientifically Constructive Theological Scholarship (Wipf & Stock) and co author with Ronald Hoch of Old School, New Clothes: The Cultural Blindness of Christian Education Wipf & Stock). David is Pastor of Covenant Fellowship A.R.P. Church in Greensboro, North Carolina.