Recently, best-selling author and HGTV star Jen Hatmaker infuriated conservatives by posting her continued support for gay unions on Facebook. Starting back in April of 2016, she began tweeting on the subject [ref]Christian author Jen Hatmaker takes stand for LGBT inclusion (religionnews.com)[/ref], but in an Oct 25 interview, she came out strongly affirming gay unions. [ref]The politics of Jen Hatmaker: Trump, Black Lives Matter, gay marriage and more (religionnews.com)[/ref] In that interview, she addressed this very important question from a Biblical perspective:
RNN: Do you think an LGBT relationship can be holy?
HATMAKER: I do.
Her publisher, Lifeway Christian Resources, responded this week by pulling her books out of its bookstores:
“In a recent interview, [Hatmaker] voiced significant changes in her theology of human sexuality and the meaning and definition of marriage, changes which contradict LifeWay’s doctrinal guidelines,” spokesman Marty King told Baptist Press. [ref]Christian Author Jen Hatmaker Responds After Books Pulled Because Of Pro-LGBT Views (christianitytoday.com)[/ref]
What does all the hoo-ha mean?
It’s not a new thing that noted evangelicals have changed their position on homosexuality. From Ex-gay ministry leaders like Randy Thomas and John Smid to theologians like David Gushee, you can find a host of new converts to pro-gay perspectives. Why should we care about some popular author as if she is authoritative? [ref]Randy Thomas, Formerly Of Exodus International, Comes Out As Gay In Emotional Blog Post (huffingtonpost.com)[/ref][ref]Former â€˜ex-gay’ leader comes out, says he â€˜can no longer condemn gays’ (lgbtqnation.com)[/ref] [ref]Leading evangelical ethicist David Gushee is now pro-LGBT. Here’s why it matters. (religionnews.com)[/ref]
The answer is, she is not, but she is a type of bellweather. As yet another high profile evangelical departs from centuries of orthodoxy on the issue, we have to ask ourselves, what is happening, and should we question our own position on the issue? If the tide of public opinion is shifting against the traditional view, should we join it or get ready to defend against it?
4 Views on Homosexuality and the Bible
Many of the most contentious and hot button issues in society and Christianity have competing truth claims that can be discussed. The excellent Zondervan Counterpoint Series covers many of these debates, including their “Two Views” book on homosexuality. However, there are actually at least four possible views one could take, which I call:
- The Complete Sin View
- The Partial Sin View
- The Accommodation View
- The Normal Variant View
1. Complete Sin View: Homosexual practice and orientation are sinful
This is the long held traditional view:
All gender variance, including same-sex orientation, is unnatural, immoral, and represents deliberate rebellion against God, thus making it both a disorder resulting from the Fall and a personal moral failing requiring repentance and healing. This view, at its most charitable, calls Christians to â€œhate the sin but love the sinner.â€[ref]Classis Grand Rapids East Study Report on Biblical and Theological Support Currently Offered by Christian Proponents of Same-Sex Marriage, January 2016 (p. 39)[/ref]
Evangelicals admit that even if this view is true, they have not been loving or charitable to such “sinners” as they should have been. But perhaps they should go a bit farther.
2. Partial Sin View: Homosexual practice is sinful, orientation is not
Also known as the “disorder but not a sin” view, it holds that:
Homosexual orientation, while not sinful in itself (as contrasted to same-sex sexual behavior), is not a part of God’s original design but rather constitutes a postlapsarian disorder, part of the brokenness of the world. Many evangelical churches take this position, as does the Catholic Church, which holds that the â€œinclination of the homosexual person is not a sin,â€ but that the inclination itself â€œmust be seen as an objective disorderâ€ (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 1986). This contemporary perspective of homosexuality, which distinguishes between sexual orientation and sexual behavior, perhaps arises from a twentieth-century understanding that homosexuality may have biological components and/or that it may arise out of socialization beyond an individual’s control. [ref]Classis Grand Rapids East Study Report on Biblical and Theological Support Currently Offered by Christian Proponents of Same-Sex Marriage, January 2016 (p. 39)[/ref]
This view is bolstered in no small part to the relative failure of ex-gay therapy, which boasts at best an 11-37% success rate.[ref]Can Some Gay Men and Lesbians Change Their Sexual
Orientation? 200 Participants Reporting a Change from Homosexual to Heterosexual Orientation (Archives of Sexual Behavior, Vol. 32, No. 5, October 2003, pp. 403â€“417 (°C 2003)[/ref] However, this “Spitzer study,” as you might expect, is highly controversial, and no better studies have been done since, in part because of the ethical questions behind such therapies, now banned in a few states.
Christian, gay, and celibate
Many Christians who have this same sex orientation and a conviction that homosexual practice is forbidden by scripture typically commit to sexual celibacy, waiting for the full redemption at resurrection to correct if God will not heal it now. Practitioners of this view, like Seminary Professor Wesley Hill, author of Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness & Homosexuality and Spiritual Friendship: Finding Love in the Church as a Celibate Gay Christian, and contributor at SpiritualFriendship.org, says regarding the failure of ex-gay therapy:
The Christian tradition as we read it has never promised that kind of categorical change.[ref]Gay and celibate: Some Christians affirming their homosexuality but pledging to forgo sex (post-gazette.com)[/ref]
Hill argues that even in marriage people are lonely, and that celibacy is not any more lonely than marriage, it’s just another mode of living. Advocates of this view also present biblical arguments for celibacy based not only on Paul’s admonition that it is better spiritual path (1 Corinthians 7:8-9) but on Jesus’ claim that some are born “eunuchs for the kingdom” (Matthew 19:12).[ref]The Plausibility of the Celibate Life for the Same-Sex Attracted (thegospelcoalition.org)[/ref] [ref]Same-Sex Attraction and the Church: The Surprising Plausibility of the Celibate Life[/ref]
Another advocate of this position is Eve Tushnet, author of Gay and Catholic: Accepting My Sexuality, Finding Community, Living My Faith, has remarked:
There’s a perception that [LGBT] people who choose celibacy are not living authentic lives….Celibacy allows you to give yourself more freely to God…The focus of celibacy should be not on the absence of sex but on deepening friendships and other relationships, a lesson valuable even for people in heterosexual marriages.[ref]Gay Christians choosing celibacy emerge from the shadows (washingtonpost.com)[/ref]
3. The Accommodation View: Homosexuality is not God’s intention, but acceptable in a broken world
In this view, homosexuality is still a defect of human character, but a necessary accommodation must be made for it, like for divorce:
While homosexuality was not part of God’s original design, covenantal life-long same-sex unions may be accommodated as a â€œconcession to brokennessâ€ similar to the â€œredemptive accommodationâ€ made for remarriage after divorce. [ref]Classis Grand Rapids East Study Report on Biblical and Theological Support Currently Offered by Christian Proponents of Same-Sex Marriage, January 2016 (p. 39)[/ref]
This view, while still containing a negative value judgment on homosexuality, admits that the alternatives of therapy or celibacy only work for a few, and this weakness should just be accepted as part of the human condition – not valued as normative, but as acceptable in society, regardless of what religious convictions and practice dictate.
Viewing Homosexuality as a (Correctable) Disability
At first glance, this view seems as pejorative as the previous two. However, not only does it largely negate any negative moral judgment, it opens the door to corrective surgeries or therapy, such as those used in the case of transgender people.
Why is it unacceptable to seek medical intervention for homosexuality, but acceptable for transgenders? You can’t have it both ways – either you allow medical intervention for both orientations, or you disallow them for both.
While this is another entire discussion, we should realize that as long as we continue to think of homosexuality as a defect, we should expect that medicine can treat it. And if we consider transgenders to have a defect (which they readily admit, though not a moral one), we should also consider that homosexuality should logically fall in the same boat.
The Difficulty of Defining “Normal” and “Dysfunctional”
While the simplest argument from nature is that alternate gender and sexual preferences do not yield natural progeny, and therefore are “unnatural,” there is a little subjectivity here. We see gender and sexual variation in nature – are these also unnatural or “unintended by the Creator”? What if you believe that evolution and accident created things, not God? That there is no ideal creation or norm? As the Classis report, which I have been quoting, mentions:
Identifying something as a type of congenital â€œdefect,â€ â€œmalfunction,â€ or inherent disorder (as manifestations of a broken world) requires subjective reasoning around what constitutes the normal, particularly if the condition does not involve extraordinary physical pain or suffering. Because genetic variation is quite common throughout nature (e.g., green eyes result from a genetic â€œmalfunctionâ€), at what point may those variations be considered defects that will disappear in the new age? The case of intersex conditions provides a good example of the difficulty involved in such determinations. Biological sex exists on a spectrum (among humans and other animals), so identifying what constitutes a genetic defect along that spectrum is problematic. [ref]Classis Grand Rapids East Study Report on Biblical and Theological Support Currently Offered by Christian Proponents of Same-Sex Marriage, January 2016 (p. 40)[/ref]
This area of ambiguity should make the humble and inquisitive at least consider the fourth possibility, even if they ultimately decide to reject it – that gender and sexual normal are artificially constructed, and are actually normal variants.
4. The Normal Variant View: Homosexuality is just another normal variant with no disability or moral stigma attached
This is the view that Hatmaker has now embraced. But even more, she is claiming that God could bless gay unions as “holy,” that is, intended by God. To her credit, Hatmaker is tentative in her decision, and motivated by compassion for gays:
And my views here are tender. This is a very nuanced conversation, and it’s hard to nail down in one sitting. I’ve seen too much pain and rejection at the intersection of the gay community and the church. Every believer that witnesses that much overwhelming sorrow should be tender enough to do some hard work here.
But to many Evangelicals, she does represent the evolution of Christianity, but a liberalization that throws out the Bible with the bathwater.
The Biblical territory on this subject has been extensively explored in many places (see resources below), so let me instead just mention a few consequences of accepting this type of theology.
Consequences of A Pro-Gay Theology
- All LGTBQ Orientations Must Be Accepted: Unless some other limiting principles are introduced, there is no reason that this logic and manner of explaining away the scriptures should not apply to all LGTBQ orientations.
- Other sexual deviances must now be considered as normative: If the only principle we now follow is “love and do no harm,” then incestual unions of siblings or parents and children, or between first cousins should be accepted. And if they can get pregnant, the argument against that is still strong – why not let them try to have the same joy others have (children)? If they child has a disability, they can just abort. Polyamorists too are pushing for acceptance based on the same logic. This is not fearmongering, these are real consequences which we must be prepared to defend or argue against. And bestialists (“zoophiles”) and adult/child sexual relationships, though edge cases, are pushing for the same acceptance based on the “do not judge” approach demanded by the LGBT movement. Bestiality is currently Denmark. Indeed, there are actually legal animal brothels in the nation. [ref]Those Who Practice Bestiality Say They’re Part of the Next Sexual Rights Movement[/ref] [ref]Bestiality Now Making US Headlines, Not Always Illegal (charismanews.com)[/ref] [ref]Denmark’s Bestiality Problem: It’s Legal (thedailybeast.com)[/ref]
- Disagreement with this position must be criminalized: If this is a civil rights issue, you get penalized or jailed for disobedience, even if only in speech. Welcome to Babylon.
- Children are being hurt by gender ideology: Certain forms of gender non-conformity end up really hurting children, especially supposed transgender kids who undergo hormone treatment. Not only does this make them sterile, statistics show that as many as 98% of gender confused boys and 88% of gender confused girls eventually accept their biological sex after naturally passing through puberty. There could be safeguards put in, but this is just the tip of the analysis of how uncritical LGBT acceptance can play out. [ref]Gender Ideology Harms Children (acpeds.org)[/ref]
These four positions are offered for your consideration. I subscribe to the first position, your mileage may vary. In the end, at least we have these to discuss.
- Classis Grand Rapids East Study Report on Biblical and Theological Support Currently Offered by Christian Proponents of Same-Sex Marriage (PDF) – If you are interested in a more detailed scholarly examination of this subject from a theological perspective, this report is well done.
- Unavoidable question #1: Can a same-sex relationship be holy? Understanding the Jen Hatmaker controversy (almohler.com)
- Jesus on Homosexuality. Jen Hatmaker Should Read This. (christianpost.com)
- Love Your Neighbor Enough to Speak Truth: A Response to Jen Hatmaker (thegospelcoalition.org)
- Media Myths of the Homosexual-Transgender Agenda (aim.org)
- Homosexuality and Christianity: The Kirk/Gagnon Debate, Part 1 (wholereason.com)
- MasteringLife.com – informative videos for healing and sexuality