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Ask the Pastor

† Theological musings and answers to selected questions by a confessional Lutheran pastor.

12 July 2005

Homosexuality, Genetics, and Original Sin

Q: While the Bible has strong passages against homosexuality, there seems to be scientific evidence that many people are inclined this way because of genetics. How do you square science with the Bible?

A: I won’t try in this brief area to square all of science with the Bible. Whole libraries are filled with the efforts of others to do so. However, in the area of homosexuality, let’s focus first on the clear word of Holy Scripture. Homosexuality is condemned, often in very harsh language, in both the Old and the New Testaments.

Nowhere does the Bible say that some people don’t have an inborn inclination for same-sex relationships. In fact, the Bible says that there is an inborn predisposition for all sin. For example, Psalm 58:3 says, “The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray from birth, speaking lies.” Yet it is not only the overtly wicked who carry sinfulness from the womb. King David lamented about himself in Psalm 51:5, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” This sinful desire Saint Augustine called concupiscence; we normally use the term “original sin.” It is the passing to each generation the sinful stain of Adam.

Some people exhibit violent tendencies at a very early age. If they beat, maim, or kill someone else, should we& — even more, should God — excuse them because of a predisposition for violence? Others show inclinations toward enriching themselves at the expense of others even as young children. Yet they are held accountable if they embezzle, burgle, commit armed robbery, or such. Society judges these people criminals needing arrest and punishment while the Lord judges them sinners needing repentance and forgiveness.

You could draw parallels with any such vice, sin, or crime. Yet no other actions inflame us as does sexual (mis-) behavior. A society that seems increasingly tolerant dismays those opposed to any deviance from God’s Law. Meanwhile, those who say, “You can’t legislate morality,” are frustrated by what they deem archaic, superstitious laws. Even Christians find themselves divided.

You need to be convinced by God’s Word in matters of right and wrong. From the Church’s earliest days, Christians have often lived in societies that allowed what the Bible condemned. The believers we remember best — those commended for their faithfulness — are those who did not conform themselves to the world, but were transformed by the Word (see Romans 12:2). This happens as God in Christ forgives makes us more like our Savior through the work of the Holy Spirit. The same forgiveness was won at Calvary for all who transgress God’s commandments, and can transform all of us conceived and born sinners.

Notice that I didn’t touch on the “science” itself. This was intentionally done for two reasons. First, and more importantly, God’s holy Word is not normed or defined by science, philosophy, or any other human invention. To allow this to happen is to misuse God’s gift of reason. As Paul wrote, “The wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, ‘He catches the wise in their craftiness,’ and again, ‘The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.’” The intellect should serve and be subject to Scripture and the Christian Faith; this is called the “ministerial” use of reason. If we allow human thought to control our understanding of the Faith — the “magisterial” use of reason — we pretend to be wiser than God and thus make total fools of ourselves.

Secondly, some debate continues years after the initial “science” was completed. Both the methodology and the results were questioned by many, not all of whom were Christians who believed the Scriptures concerning homosexuality.

Note: Topic was continued in the next post.

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles.

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Walter Snyder is the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Emma, Missouri and coauthor of the book What Do Lutherans Believe.


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