If any topic is at the forefront of the current moral revolution in America it is the issue of same-sex marriage. At its core, this discussion is theological. What does it mean to be “male” and “female” and how to do we live out those identities in ways that promote human flourishing?
In response to these issues, Evangelicals need a thoughtful, pastoral, sensitive, and theologically robust articulation of gender and sexuality. John Piper and Wayne Grudem address the issue of homosexuality in their book Fifty Crucial Questions and connect it to the larger complementarian theology of gender.
Question 41: Why do you bring up homosexuality when discussing male and female role distinctions in the home and the church (as in question 1)? Most evangelical feminists are just as opposed as you are to the practice of homosexuality.
We bring up homosexuality because we believe that the feminist minimization of sexual role differentiation contributes to the confusion of sexual identity that, especially in second and third generations, gives rise to more homosexuality in society.
Some evangelicals who once disapproved of homosexuality have been carried by their feminist arguments into approving of faithful homosexual alliances. For example, Gerald Sheppard, a professor of Old Testament Literature at Emmanuel College in the University of Toronto, was nurtured in a conservative evangelical tradition and attended an evangelical seminary. In recent years he has argued for the ordination of women to the pastorate. He has also moved on to say, On a much more controversial matter, the presence of gay and lesbian Christians and ministers in our churches is for me a similar issue. . . . I believe that the Gospel – as Evangelicals Concerned recognizes – should lead us at least to an affirmation of gay and lesbian partnerships ruled by a Biblical ethic analogous to that offered for heterosexual relationships.”
Another example is Karen J. Torjesen, who argues that removing hierarchy in sexual relations will probably mean that the primacy of heterosexual marriage will have to go:
It would appear that, in Paul, issues of sexuality are theologically related to hierarchy, and therefore the issues of Biblical feminism and lesbianism are irrefutably intertwined. We need to grapple with the possibility that our conflicts over the appropriate use of human sexuality may rather be conflicts rooted in a need to legitimate the traditional social structure which assigns men and women specific and unequal positions. Could it be that the continued affirmation of the primacy of heterosexual marriage is possibly also the affirmation of the necessity for the sexes to remain in a hierarchically structured relationship? Is the threat to the “sanctity of marriage” really a threat to hierarchy? Is that what makes same-sex relations so threatening, so frightening?
The Evangelical Women’s Caucus was split in 1986 over whether there should be “recognition of the presence of the lesbian minority in EWCI.” We are glad that many evangelical women distanced themselves from the endorsement of lesbianism. But what is significant is how many evangelical feminists considered the endorsement “a step of maturity within the organization” (e.g., Nancy Hardesty and Virginia Mollenkott). In other words, they view the movement away from role distinctions grounded in the natural created order as leading inevitably to the overthrow of normative heterosexuality. It seems to us that the evangelical feminists who do not embrace homosexuality will be increasingly hard put to escape this logic.
Paul Jewett, too, seems to illustrate a move from Biblical feminism toward endorsing certain expressions of homosexuality. In his defense of equal roles for men and women in Man as Male and Female in 1975, he said that he was uncertain “what it means to be a man in distinction to a woman or a woman in distinction to a man.” That seemed to us to bode ill for preserving the primacy of heterosexuality. In 1983, he reviewed the historical defense of homosexuality by John Boswell, who argued that Paul’s meaning in Romans 1:26-27 was that the only thing condemned was homosexual behavior by heterosexuals, not by homosexuals who acted according to their “nature.” Jewett rejected this interpretation with the words, “For [Paul] the ‘nature’ against which a homosexual acts is not simply his individual nature, but the generic human nature in which he shares as an individual.”
This was gratifying, but it seemed strange again to us that he would say homosexual behavior is a sin against “generic human nature” rather than masculine or feminine nature. Then, in 1985, Jewett seemed to give away the Biblical case for heterosexuality in a review of Robin Scroggs’ book, The New Testament and Homosexuality. Scroggs argues that the passages that relate to homosexual behavior in the New Testament “are irrelevant and provide no help in the heated debate today” because they do not refer to homosexual “inversion,” which is a natural orientation, but to homosexual “perversion.” Jewett says, “If this is the meaning of the original sources-and the scholarship is competent, the argument is careful and, therefore, the conclusion is rather convincing-then what the New Testament is against is something significantly different from a homosexual orientation which some people have from their earliest days.”
Not only have we seen evangelical feminists carried by the logic of their position toward endorsing homosexuality, but we also see the clinical evidence that there is no such thing as a “homosexual child.” George Rekers, Professor in the Department of Neuropsychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Medical School of the University of South Carolina, has argued this in many technical journals and some popular works. (For example, Shaping Your Child’s Sexual Identity [Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1982]; The Christian in an Age of Sexual Eclipse [Wheaton: Tyndale House, 1981]. See also Chapter 17.) What Rekers means is that there are dynamics in the home that direct the sexual preferences of the child. Especially crucial is a father’s firm and loving affirmation of a son’s masculinity or a daughter’s femininity. But, we ask, how can this kind of affirmation be cultivated in an atmosphere where role differences between masculinity and femininity are constantly denied or minimized? If the only significant role differentiation is based on competency and has no root in nature, what will parents do to shape the sexual identity of their tiny children? If they say that they will do nothing, common sense and many psychological studies tell us that the children will be confused about who they are and will therefore be far more likely to develop a homosexual orientation.
To us it is increasingly and painfully clear that Biblical feminism is an unwitting partner in unravelling the fabric of complementary manhood and womanhood that provides the foundation not only for Biblical marriage and Biblical church order, but also for heterosexuality itself.
Other posts from Fifty Crucial Questions include: