Are Homosexual or Pedophilic Desires Sinful?
Are homosexual or pedophilic desires sinful?
Most people don’t sexualize their awareness of the beauty of children or of other people of the same sex. But for reasons that aren’t entirely understood, the sexual longings of some people are drawn towards persons of the same sex or towards children. This desire is clearly not a natural expression of the mating instinct, as it can’t result in reproduction, and medical and psychological evidence shows that people who struggle with such desires do so for a constellation of physical, environmental, and cultural reasons.1 For such people, these desires feel natural, even though they are clearly unnatural in terms of instinctive purpose and reproductive design. However, the fact that the desires feel natural is usually no comfort to people who experience them, but is the source of deep feelings of confusion, shame, and guilt. (See the ATQ articles, Do People Choose to Have Same-Gender Sexual Attractions? and What Does the Bible Say About Homosexuals Who Were Born That Way?)
This tendency to sexualize feelings towards children or people of the same sex is an aspect of fallen human nature in a world tainted by sin. Yet by itself, unnatural sexual temptation isn’t a sin we will be held accountable for, nor can it harm us and others if we don’t yield to it. As in the case of people with heterosexual desires, only willful surrender to temptation is sinful.2
Although no one will be held accountable for unnatural desires alone, they must be taken with the utmost seriousness. There is a sense in which yielding to the temptation to do something that is inherently unnatural will have even more serious emotional, spiritual, and physical consequences than succumbing to heterosexual temptation. Since yielding to any kind of temptation increases both temptation and the compulsive power of wrongful desire, one who yields to paraphilic or homosexual temptation will inflame his/her unnatural desires still further. The sexual desires of such people may become so badly distorted that it might become impossible for them to ever experience the kind of wholesome heterosexual marriage for which sexual feelings were designed, and the psychological damage inflicted on the objects of unnatural desire—whether children or vulnerable adults—will be profound. (See the ATQ article, >What Should Our Approach be Toward Homosexuals?)
- David Greenberg, for example, sides with the dynamic view in that he rejects the idea that homosexuality is a fixed, pre-social given common to different societies and different periods of time. Against the “static” theorists, he notes that sexual practices and the conceptual categories through which people understand them—including practices involving persons of the same sex—vary greatly from society to society. Hence, the contemporary Western concept of homosexuality as a fixed, biologically based sexual orientation that is “normal” for a select group of people is in fact the product of a constellation of ideas present in our society and not the transcultural reality proponents assume it is. Like other proponents of the dynamic view, Greenberg argues that homosexual behavior is learned. But he quickly adds that this learning always occurs within a specific social context. In his view, cultural conditioning is able to override whatever seemingly innate factors might otherwise be operative in a person’s life. He writes, “Where social definitions of appropriate and inappropriate behavior are clear and consistent, with positive sanctions for conformity and negative ones for nonconformity, virtually everyone will conform irrespective of genetic inheritance and, to a considerable extent, irrespective of personal psychodynamics” (Welcoming But Not Affirming, pp. 29-30). Back To Article
- In its widest sense, “sin” refers to every aspect of human life that fails to reflect the design of God. Viewed from this perspective, fallenness means that we are sinful in the totality of our existence. At the same time, we generally use the word more narrowly; thus, we speak about “sins,” that is, specific actions, even transgressions.The word sin immediately conjures up another idea that likewise carries two related yet distinct meanings: “judgment.” On the one hand, insofar as God will one day transform every dimension of creaturely fallenness, human fallenness comes under divine judgment. On the other hand, the biblical writers consistently reserve the idea of a divine judgment leading to condemnation for sinful acts (e.g., Rom. 2:3; 2 Cor. 5:10; Rev. 20:12).Putting the two together leads to the conclusion that as the great physician, God will heal our fallen sinfulness in the new creation, and as our judge, God will condemn our sinful actions. Hence, our fallen disposition is sinful in that it is foundational to our sinning. But it is our sinful acts—which bring God’s condemnation upon us—that are what mark us as guilty before God (Stanley Grenz, Welcoming But Not Affirming, p. 120). Back To Article