Is Homosexual Orientation Sinful? -- By: Denny Burk

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 58:1 (Mar 2015)
Article: Is Homosexual Orientation Sinful?
Author: Denny Burk


Is Homosexual Orientation Sinful?

Denny Burk*

* Denny Burk is professor of biblical studies at Boyce College, 2825 Lexington Road, Louisville, KY 40280.

My aim in this article is to ask and answer the question, “Is homosexual orientation sinful?”1 I realize that even to ask the question raises eyebrows. In fact, I have found that to raise the issue in such terms arouses suspicions of people on both sides of the larger cultural debate over the ethics of homosexuality. On one side, you have those who view sexual orientation as an unchosen, immutable attribute that has no more moral dimension to it than skin or eye color. Same-sex orientation is simply another element of human diversity to be acknowledged and celebrated and certainly not to be subjected to stigmatizing moral opprobrium. For those who hold this view, we might as well be asking, “Is it sinful to have brown hair?” For them, it is offensive even to ask the question. On the other side, you have those who believe that homosexuality is a choice and that even to grant the existence of something called “sexual orientation” is to concede too much to the sexual revolutionaries. On this view, if it is granted that certain people are born with same-sex attractions, no moral culpability can be assigned for acting on those attractions. And for some Christians, the category of sexual orientation would therefore overturn the logic of the Bible’s clear prohibition of same-sex behavior. So even to ask the question “Is same-sex orientation sinful?” raises the hackles of both sides of the debate.

I would also acknowledge the existence of another group who might have a negative response to this question. And perhaps this group is the one that is on the ascent right now in conservative circles of the evangelical movement. Today you will find many evangelicals willing to grant the distinction between same-sex attraction and same-sex behavior. And among those who do is the clear affirmation that Scripture treats same-sex behavior as sinful. But many of them are reluctant to say that same-sex attraction itself is sinful. They are rightly concerned about placing an undue burden of guilt upon chaste Christians who nevertheless continue to experience ongoing same-sex attraction. These dear brothers and sisters struggle faithfully and practice chastity, but they cannot eliminate same-sex attractions that well up within them spontaneously and uninvited. So it is cruel and unusual to call their unchosen and unwanted attractions sinful. To call their attractions sinful while they are otherwise living a life of faithfulness and chastity seems to confuse temptation with sin. It seems to load these brothers and sisters up with burdens too heavy for ...

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