Sexual Identity: An Ontological Problem
Over the last several years, some in the church have argued that a person may be oriented toward homosexuality but not act on the inclination or tendency. That may or may not be the case. However, the burden of this article is not that. In this article, I will demonstrate that to claim that homosexual orientation is benign or neutral is an ontologically impossible position. Let’s flesh this statement out a bit more with the following scenario, “Say there’s a single man who has been teaching music in the local Christian school for 20 years or so. He is an excellent teacher and has a good rapport with the kids. He has been active in church, was a deacon, is now an elder. He has an unassailable reputation in church, school, and community. Then one day someone asks him if he is homosexual, and he says yes.” Notice the formulation of this question. The man is asked “if he is homosexual.” Here we must see that we are speaking in ontological categories, the basic categories of being, categories that make man what he is. Now, some argue that a man like in the above scenario is either homosexual or heterosexual, and it makes no difference since both orientations are neutral.
However, to deny that sexual orientation, and specifically heterosexuality, is a basic ontological category of human existence is to deny two basic truths. First, it is a denial of the Bible's teaching specifically with regard to the imago Dei. According to Herman Bavinck, the human body belongs integrally to the image of God. The body was created for the soul and the soul the body, the body is an instrument of the soul. Bavinck says that it is “the same soul that peers through the eyes, thinks through the brain, grasps with the hands, and walks with the feet.” Thus, the body and soul are ontologically coterminous.
We must also remember what the image of God entails, what constitutes this body soul relationship. Reduced to the lowest common denominator the image consists in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness. Original humanity possessed these from the start. Man was not created a neutral being. God made Adam physically and ethically mature, with knowledge in the mind, righteousness in the will, and holiness in the heart. Bavinck says it well when he writes, “Goodness, for a human being, consists in moral perfection, in complete harmony with the law of God, in holy and perfect being, like God himself (Lev. 19:2; Deut. 6:5; Matt. 5:48; 22:37; Eph. 5:1; I Pet. 1:15-16). Thus, man, body and soul, was created morally upright and in perfect accord with the law of the Lord. In other words, the soul exercised righteousness in and through the body.
However, when God created He established a distinction within the human race that is reflected in the human body: “male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27). Hence, there are two sexes, male and female. Thus, the human body was deliberately shaped male and female – the Hebrew words referring specifically to biological, sexual distinction. We should also bear in mind that this basic distinction is what gives rise to the “one flesh” union of marriage. The soul working in and through the body must function according to the righteous way in which it was constituted. Thus, humanity, created in God’s image, was created to function in a heterosexual manner.
Second, homosexuality is a denial of the natural order that God created. It is impossible for heterosexuality and homosexuality, as descriptive conditions of sexuality, to be neutral positions because homosexuality is contrary to nature (Romans 1:26, 27). By contrary to nature I mean that homosexuals are not able to procreate because reproduction belongs to the male/female relationship. Thus, to say that homosexuality is simply a neutral ontological condition like heterosexuality is a denial of Scriptural teaching and a misunderstanding of the unnaturalness of homosexuality. Therefore, it is quite clear from Scripture and the natural created order that heterosexuality is the basic ontological category of human existence. So, when the man is asked “if he is homosexual,” he is being asked what he is. And according to the man, as described in the story, he is homosexual. Therefore, this statement in and of itself is rebellion.
But let me now take up my case from another angle. Let us look at sexual orientation through the perspective of the doctrine of sanctification. But before I begin let me once again clarify what I am not arguing. I am not arguing how one overcomes homosexual temptation. Rather, I am arguing against the position that homosexuality is a basic and neutral orientation of human existence.
Consider first the doctrine of sanctification. Vital to understanding sanctification is the relationship between the indicative and imperative. The indicative describes what God has done in Christ for us and is the ground of the imperative to be what we are in Christ. In other words, we are becoming in Christ what we already are in Christ.
Now, let me pose the question. If homosexual orientation is a neutral condition that does not need the eradicating work of the Spirit (which is the obvious implication), then at the consummation, when we will be what we were becoming, will there be those oriented toward homosexuality? Perhaps the objection will be offered from Matthew 22:30, “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.” However, this verse does not mean that humanity will become sexless. Perhaps it simply means that the command to procreate will no longer be needed in the new heavens and new earth. Nevertheless, if sexual orientation is neutral, does that mean that there will be glorified gays in the new creation? Obviously, such a position would be, as we have already witnessed, contrary to Scripture and nature.
Jeffrey A. Stivason is the pastor of Grace Reformed Presbyterian Church in Gibsonia, PA. He also holds a Ph.D. in systematic theology from Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, PA. Jeff is the author of From Inscrutability to Concursus (P&R), he has contributed to The Jonathan Edwards Encyclopedia (Eerdmans) and is the Executive Editor for Place for Truth.
 "Homosexuality, the Culture, and the Gospel," The Reformed Presbyterian Witness, January 2004.
 Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: God and Creation, v. II (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2004), 559.
 Ibid., 557.
 Greg Bahnsen, Homosexuality: A Biblical View (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1978), 28.
 W. D. Davies and D. C. Allison, Matthew 19-28; International Critical Commentary (NY: T & T Clark, 2004), 226-230.