Emerging Conclusions (LGBT 5)

As I examine the Seventh-day Adventist literature on LGBTIQ, I do see an emerging consensus on a number of challenging issues. My report is not the final word, by any means. But it is better to have an educated position on difficult topics than a knee-jerk or naïve position. I am open to further research and deepening understanding, but there has developed a strong political element in relation to this topic. There are many issues researchers will not touch because of their fear that the results may work against the political consensus, or that they may be ostracized by their research community. So the research needs to be attended to, but with a certain amount of healthy skepticism in a politically-charged research and educational environment. Give appropriate deference to those who have spent their lives researching on issues of sexuality, but think for yourself and don’t buy conclusions where the evidence seems suspect. And be very suspicious of any result that is clearly contradictory to Scripture.

Having said that, many ideas that claim to be based on the Bible are actually based on either selective reading or a distorted reading lens. One of my teachers loved to say, “It isn’t hard to have strong convictions on any topic, as long as you are willing to ignore some of the evidence.” On top of that, all readers of the Bible, including conservative ones, tend to read the Bible through a hermeneutical lens that can distort the outcome of their study. I have spoken to this latter point at some length in chapters three and four of my book The Deep Things of God. I refer you there for more detail. Below I share some things that Seventh-day Adventists (and other conservative Christians) who are knowledgeable on both the Bible and science are coming to agree on. I believe these kinds of agreements need to be the foundation of further study and practice.

One emerging consensus among educated Adventists (including both conservative and liberal) is that one’s sexual orientation in most cases is not a choice. The behavioral sciences have always debated the issue of nature versus nurture. Is a condition inherited or does it exist because of experience and training (intentional and otherwise)? Is a homosexual orientation genetic or otherwise inherited? Or is it something that happens because of parental relationships, abuse, or certain family dynamics? Is it a choice or is it determined in some way? From my experience and understanding, these debates often swing back and forth between the two options, but most often the evidence leads researchers to “both/and.” Most conditions can be traced to a combination of both inheritance (genes, etc.) and upbringing. And inheritance does seem to play a role in same-sex attraction and orientation. Be that as it may, even if homosexuality was solely a result of nurture rather than nature, Adventist understanding is that the character of a child is largely formed something between the ages of three and seven. And how many seven-year old children got to choose their parents?

So while the adoption of a gay or lesbian identity involves a choice, homosexual orientation is rarely, if ever, a choice. There are some exceptions and we will address those in the following blog. This conclusion is very significant for the church. Regardless of how it happened, if orientation is not a choice in most instances, the church must be careful not to demand of people something that they are not capable of, even with prayer and fasting. If the science is correct, that would be like demanding that someone born without a leg produce a natural one before they can be accepted into the church. To require such would be abusive and cruel. At the same time, orientation should not be confused with identity. To accept a person with physical, mental or emotional challenges is not the same thing as “condoning sin.” To accept a person who is “different” through no choice of their own is not “condoning sin.”

When I shared this consensus with an Adventist friend, he became upset with me. “To live with a homosexual orientation and not try to change it is to live in sin,” he proclaimed, “I believe that it is a choice that people make, and wrong choices are sin.” While I have not met a homosexual person who felt that they had a choice (many have prayed for years that God would change them) that story would not be convincing to him. So I simply asked my friend, “When did you choose to be heterosexual?” He had no answer. Where we stand on this issue determines to a great degree how we treat all kinds of people whose life and struggles are different from our own.

8 thoughts on “Emerging Conclusions (LGBT 5)

  1. Jennifer Jill

    I think I agree with this. However, in my observation “orientation” can range from fixed to quite flexible. This even very politically correct people acknowledge in the existence of bisexuality–some people go both ways, so to speak. Others can’t imagine anything other than their preference. I have a once-lesbian friend who is now getting married to a man and a gay friend who has never been attracted to a woman. Some “orientations” won’t change, but some will, making “orientation” a word that can sometimes create its own limitations.

    What I want to affirm, though, is that people don’t have to identify themselves by their inclinations. Preston Sprinkle’s book A People to Be Loved talks about primary and secondary identity. He says, in so many words, that for a gay person whose primary identity is in Christ to identify themselves secondarily as someone with same sex attraction, is healthy and appropriate. But a line is crossed when a gay person’s sexual preference becomes a primary identity. I’ve thought long and hard about the identity question and this is where I’ve landed thus far.

    By the way, I’m 100 percent down with people can do what they want, identify how they want, and love who they want. We should love, respect, and value people regardless. But as an ordained church elder I have to have some kind of opinion about whether things are biblical or not, and as a mental health provider I have opinions about what’s healthy. I’m speaking from those perspectives. But in the social and legal realm, and in non-church employment situations, love, respect, kindness, and acceptance are in order.

    1. Jon Paulien Post author

      I love your work, you are making such a difference. I think we are on the same page. Bisexuality throws a wrench into the choice vs. no choice debate. But the best evidence from someone who believes the Bible is Yarhouse, whose has documented change in about 11% of his cases after six years. That number could easily be accounted for by bisexuals who thought they were pure homosexuals. But I’m no expert here, I’m just reporting the best evidence presented in SDA sources and if they say choice is rarely an option I want to keep that in mind when dealing with real people. Keep up the good work.

  2. Robert Whiteman

    You write as if there is no God or that He’s not to be involved in this matter. Or are you planning to get to that later? Who is demanding from others that they do the impossible? A servant of God will point to the Lord “that health thee” who has been given “all power”, through whom we “can do all things”.

    What do you see in Psalm 103?

    It would be refreshing to see this, or any matter that reveals the need to overcome sin, addressed as if God and His “exceeding great and precious promises” are real. God seeks those who will worship Him in Spirit and truth. Or are you suggesting that “with God, [only most] things are possible”?

    You wrote: “if the science is correct…”, so this is now a “science” matter? Is faith irrelevant here? Are God’s promises invalid? Would science support the notion that one born blind could have their sight restored in the eyes they were born with, or that a man could walk on water?

    Lastly, do you know anyone who was born with the orientation to be perfectly “sober, righteous, and Godly in this present world”?

    1. Jon Paulien Post author

      The SDA view is that God is so committed to human freedom that He allows the consequences of sin to work themselves out, intervening rarely (see the story of Job, for example). On of the consequences of sin is homosexual orientation. He allowed Cain to murder Abel. As you note, everyone is messed up and God calls them to trust Him for guidance and healing. The timing of the healing is often at the resurrection.

  3. Robert Whiteman

    (Hello Jon, I may have already written a comment to this post, but don’t see it posted here. If so, you can ignore this comment, or choose between the two which one you prefer to use if either.)

    What exactly is the main point in this post? That sexual orientation is something that is beyond any choice? That this fact must lead the church to be accepting of what God’s Word does not accept? I’m not real clear, but this seems to be where the post is heading. Correct me if I’m wrong in this conclusion.

    Yet it seems to me that you write/conclude as if there is no Word of God, which includes His “exceeding great and precious promises whereby [we all] might be partakers of the Divine(sinless) nature”.

    Consider the following: “if the science is correct”, could one born blind be expected to ever see with the eyes they were born with again? “If the science is correct”, could any man expect to walk on water? “If the science is correct”, could we expect one who was dead for 4 days be brought back to life?

    See the pattern that defies “science”?

    Have you read Psalm 103 lately? If you have, what does it tell you? Are you suggesting that “with God, [only some] things are possible? Is there no Gospel to consider in all this discussion? Can God create a “new leg”? Do you need to see it done before you believe, and if so, is that faith?

    If I read the Bible correctly, all humans are born with “impossible” expectations if they would even see the Kingdom of God, so why are you seeming to buy into the idea that only sexual deviations are the exception, in the midst of all the other deviations from the character of God that could be named? All are born with a “carnal mind”, and are “at enmity with God, and [are] not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be”(on their own). So what hope did the apostle hold forth with this being the fate of all men? Didn’t he write: “I thank God by Jesus Christ”?

    God’s standard for righteous, and thus, eternal life in glory, cannot change and never will. So please, hold out the ‘blessed Hope” rather than pretend that compromise will work, since it can’t. There is no hope save in Jesus, and that hope extends to EVERY believer. Their specific iniquities or diseases don’t matter with Christ, through whom anyone can “do all things”, “Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases;”(Ps 103:3).

    Try as we might, we cannot change the law of God or it’s demand upon every sinner to “repent and believe the Gospel”. Please focus on this since it is every sinners only hope. There is no other way than Christ.

    1. Jon Paulien Post author

      I fully believe that God could change someone’s orientation just as he could give sight to the blind and supply a leg to an amputee. But the evidence is overwhelming that all three are rare. Orientation is not a sinful choice, it is evidence for the brokenness of humanity as a result of sin, just as some have an inclination to alcoholism. If you have credible evidence to the contrary, I’d love to see it. Otherwise we are discouraging people who would love to be freed but are not. I encourage no one to give in to their defects, but if orientation is not a choice in 90% of cases (research finding) it is cruel to demand change when it is not a sinful choice.


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