Can a Christian be Homosexual?December 21, 2008 Time: 00:20:52
Conversation with William Lane Craig
Can a Christian be Homosexual?
Kevin Harris: Dr. Craig, we often get questions on the topic of homosexuality and the Christian faith on our website ReasonableFaith.org. In fact, the question of the week deals with this area of homosexuality.  If I were to kind of combine the various questions that we get, they usually come down to this: can I be a Christian and homosexual? Immediately, that is problematic because it depends on what you mean. You may be asking, “Can I be a Christian and be faithful to Christ all the while engaging in the behavior?” or “I am a Christian yet I, for some reason, have this attraction to the same sex. Does that make me not a Christian?”
Dr. Craig: Definitions are critical here. If by homosexual you mean your sexual orientation – an attraction to members of your same sex – then that is quite distinct from saying that someone is engaged in homosexual behavior. You can be heterosexual and engage in homosexual acts. This was common in the ancient world, in fact, in which Paul wrote. So we need to distinguish between homosexual acts and a homosexual orientation. When we do so then I think we can see that what Scripture prohibits is homosexual acts. Engaging in homosexual acts is immoral, whether it is done by a person with a homosexual orientation or a heterosexual orientation. Sexual activity is to be protected within the bounds of heterosexual marriage. It is man-woman marriage that God has created for the expression of human sexual activity. So any activity outside of that bound would be immoral, whether engaged in by a homosexual person or a heterosexual person. Scripture does not condemn, however, simply having a homosexual orientation. In fact, this was probably unknown in the ancient world – it is a product of modern psychology that we think of people as having an orientation that is homosexual rather than heterosexual. In the ancient world, what they simply knew were homosexual acts. So what the Scripture is condemning are these actions or behavior. But if a person finds himself with a homosexual orientation, that is to say he is attracted to other members of his own sex, whether this comes through nature or nurture, that is whether it is a matter of biology or his upbringing, nevertheless those attractions are not themselves sinful. A person could be a Christian and be a homosexual in that sense. What he would simply do is attempt to live a chaste life and to keep those desires under control and to honor Christ in both his thought life and in his physical life.
Kevin Harris: By the grace of God.
Dr. Craig: By the grace of God, yes.
Kevin Harris: This is huge. This is so huge because we get confused about the choice aspect of homosexuality. That is, people choose their homosexuality. Perhaps they don’t choose that proclivity. Perhaps it was foisted upon them in some way – by nature, by nurture, perhaps by abuse, perhaps by other factors, whatever. But they do choose what they do with that, and that is what the Scripture condemns. 
Dr. Craig: Exactly.
Kevin Harris: Just like in heterosexuality, right?
Dr. Craig: Yes. Well, it is not all that different. A person who has a heterosexual orientation still has to choose whether or not he is going to go out and fornicate and engage in extra marital sexual activity, and it is that which is condemned by the Scripture, and we are commanded to live a chaste and holy life in thought as well as in action.
Kevin Harris: What if I have a strong genetic proclivity toward fornication?
Dr. Craig: Well, I think most men do! [laughter] Take a more neutral example. Say you have a genetic predisposition toward alcoholism. Some people have thought that that may have a biological basis – that you could be genetically predisposed toward alcoholism. Well, that would be no warrant or license for you therefore to drink to your heart’s content. Quite the contrary, that ought to be a warning to you that you need to really watch your behavior lest you become a drunk and someone who is on a path toward self-destructive behavior.
Kevin Harris: I had a friend who came to Christ at an early age. He was around 11 years old when he accepted Christ. He was very active in the church. When he was 9 years old, his father abandoned the family. He was left fatherless. When he was 13 he was seduced by a neighbor of his father’s while visiting there. At 18 he was seduced by an assistant professor in college. That was a 1-2-3 punch that ultimately gave him a total homosexual orientation. Now, what he told me he had to battle against was the desire to go out and act on it. Now he was a Christian, and he was a homosexual. But he knew from the Scriptures and from his convictions that he – just like a heterosexual who is going to remain celibate or chaste in a marriage – wasn’t to engage in the behavior. So he wasn’t a walking sinner for having the proclivity to sin.
Dr. Craig: No, for someone who suffered that sort of horrible abuse, he was a victim of those sorts of abuses.
Kevin Harris: That is not to say that all homosexuals come that way because of abuse. But he certainly did and a lot of people certainly do.
Dr. Craig: Yes. It is not our proclivities that really are at issue here. It is what we do with them. Do we seek the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives to heal us of these problems? Do we seek counseling and help from others? Or do we just say “This is nature for me” and therefore act out on them. It is the latter that is sin.
Kevin Harris: OK. Now suppose a person is homosexual and they get into a committed relationship with another homosexual and attend church together? The monogamy – does that make it OK then?
Dr. Craig: Not according to Scripture. Scripture is very clear that God created man and woman in the beginning to be the two pieces of the puzzle that fix together in heterosexual marriage. For two men or two women to try to duplicate that in a committed marriage relationship is really blasphemous. The heterosexual union between a man and his wife is an image in Scripture of the union of Christ with his church and therefore sacred. For there to be this sort of union between two men or two women is something that would be sacrilegious, really.
Kevin Harris: With a twisting of the model, of the creation model.
Dr. Craig: Yes, exactly. One should say in addition to that that this idea of these committed relationships is really a myth, at least among men. The percentage of homosexual men in such relationships is so small as to be statistically meaningless. Even those who choose to live with each other as roommates have what we would call marriages that are open marriages. That is to say you are free to go and sleep with anybody that you want to. So it is not a committed monogamous relationship.
Kevin Harris: Sadly, that is the truth. There is something about homosexuality, about homosexual proclivity, that does not lend itself to monogamy. There is something about it that promotes actually a sexual addiction and lots of partners. There is just no way around it.
Dr. Craig: Yes, there is a strange promiscuity that attends male homosexuality.
Kevin Harris: Some heterosexuals are that way but it is especially indigenous to most homosexuals. The vast majority. That tells us there is something going on there, too. Obviously, there has been kind of a homosexual movement in the country the last few decades, Bill. We have now people who either have the proclivity or who are coming out of the behavior, whatever, who are coming to our church. We often view them, I think, as somehow worse sinners. Is it a worse sin? 
Dr. Craig: It is not worse sin, I think, than fornication which seems to be blinked at by the church. A lot of Christian kids are engaging in premarital sexual relationships, and I am not sure that it is worse than that.
Kevin Harris: Perhaps some sin has further reaching consequences?
Dr. Craig: That’s right. I was thinking in the moral sense, Kevin, but certainly in terms of self-destruction, homosexual activity is incredibly dangerous and self-destructive. When you simply read about the medical risks and the sort of pathological damage that is inflicted through sodomy and through other male homosexual acts, for example, this is one of the most self-destructive lifestyles that you could encourage a person to get on. To encourage a person to embark on a homosexual lifestyle is like encouraging somebody to start chain smoking or mainlining heroin. It is that dangerous. This is evident from the fact that whereas the life expectancy for an average American male – heterosexual – is about 73 years of age. The average life expectancy for a homosexual American male, even apart from AIDS (not even counting AIDS) is something like 43 years old. If you count AIDS in, the number that die from AIDS, the life expectancy of the average male American homosexual is 39 years old. Think of that. This is one of the most dangerous sorts of lifestyles anybody could enter upon. So in that sense, yes it is worse because it is incredibly destructive both to you and the person you are engaging in these acts with.
Kevin Harris: Another emphasis on what you said earlier: Christians need to understand that even if it is a genetic proclivity (nature) Christians should understand that nature is fallen. Therefore, we are not going to trust our genetics over what God says.
Dr. Craig: If it is genetically based, then it is akin to a birth defect. It is like being born with a cleft palate. In my case I have a genetic neuromuscular disease that I inherited from my mother. There is nothing sinful about that but it is a genetic defect that has consequences in my physique. Similarly, if homosexual orientation were genetically based, this would just be like a birth defect is all. And a person would then need to learn how to cope with it and deal with it and get counseling for it.
Kevin Harris: Bill, I talked to a 19-year old young man who was raised in a Christian home and for all accounts and purposes seemed to be a Christian. This is really reflective as well, as two letters that we’ve gotten at ReasonableFaith.org. It came to the point where he either had to choose Christ or his homosexuality. And he chose his homosexuality, and now is claiming to be an atheist because that better supports his homosexual behavior. I think we can see some things in there, but he said something in addition and that is ,“Why would you Christians deny me love and sexual fulfillment? Because I am homosexual, if you tell me not to engage the behavior, that is what you are denying me – love and sexual fulfillment.
Dr. Craig: Certainly, it is not denying him love. That is very clear. Because to engage in homosexual acts is not love. You can find love without engaging in sexual activity. So no one is denying him love, I think.
Kevin Harris: Love is not the end all either. Because there are certain people we should not fall in love. Even heterosexuals fall in love with people that really shouldn’t.
Dr. Craig: Oh, man, yeah. Codependent relationships and things like that. Things that would be very destructive, that’s true. But really, there is nothing about saying that you shouldn’t engage in homosexual acts with saying that you can’t enjoy loving relationships with people – healthy loving relationships. But you are denying that he should engage in these homosexual acts because they are morally wrong. God says no sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage. So we deny to single people the moral right to engage in premarital sexual activity, to married people the right to engage in extramarital sexual activity, deny to all human beings the moral right to engage in sexual activity with animals. All of these things are prohibited by God because he knows what is best for true human fulfillment and flourishing. 
Kevin Harris: What is sad is that it is not fulfilling. Homosexual behavior, homosexual sex, is not fulfilling. Well, how dare I say that. I’m not the one who said it. Clinical studies of it and the homosexuals themselves who engage in the behavior – it is an itch you can’t scratch. It is not fulfilling.
Dr. Craig: No. That is very true. It is extremely self-destructive physically, and also mental disorders among homosexuals are also much higher than among the heterosexual population, particularly depression and other sorts of mental problems are much higher in that community along with things like drug abuse and alcohol abuse. So, boy, honestly, to a kid like that I would say, wholly apart from religious issues, if I were not a Christian at all, it would be crazy to enter upon this lifestyle. It would be like I am going to be a chain smoker, I guess. It is just nuts to do this. When you add the moral dimension, if God required me, say, to become a Christian he required me to become a monk and live an ascetic lifestyle of self-denying and no physical pleasures at all, you know, to gain eternal life and eternal happiness, why, that would be nothing to pay that price to gain such a thing. So a person who says, “I can’t make this sacrifice in order to gain eternal life, forgiveness of sin, and eternal happiness” is buying into a fool’s bargain.
Kevin Harris: The Christian who has homosexual proclivities or desires is in the same boat in a sense with the single heterosexual. Both of them, in following Christ and following the Scriptures, would hold to a celibate lifestyle and find the joy and fulfillment that God offers in other areas. That might be difficult for some people who just don’t have that gift of being single, but the Bible talks a lot about being single from time to time for some people.
Dr. Craig: Even those of us who finally do get married, during those years that we were single, we had to exercise that kind of self-discipline and be restrained.
Kevin Harris: If you are going to be [inaudible] and follow Christ.
Dr. Craig: Yes, exactly. So I would encourage folks who are in this situation – whether heterosexual or homosexual – to practice spiritual disciplines that will keep these sexual passions in check and under control. Scripture talks about this as mortifying the flesh – putting to death the evil desires that are in us. This would involve things like not attending certain kinds of movies, not watching certain kinds of television, avoiding certain sorts of magazines, because the visual images and so forth can get your mental life going and start these fantasies. We need to avoid fantasizing, not just physical activity but also keep our thought life pure. There are all kinds of very practical things one can do in this area to try to keep one’s passions in check. I remember as a younger man, I would avoid going near the newsstands just because of the magazine covers you would see on the newsstands. So I would be very careful when I went past the checkout counter at the cashier or when I was on the street and there would be a newsstand when I was waiting for a bus or something. Just to avoid them because of what you see there, as well as films and movies and things of that sort. You can take positive proactive action to try to live a chaste and honorable life before God in this area.
Kevin Harris: As people who have struggled with homosexuality, either the mere proclivity or the behavior and they’ve been involved in the acts or whatever, come into our churches, what advice do you give us in the church as we receive them and their discipleship. What do we need to do?
Dr. Craig: We need to, I think, treat these folks with compassion and honest. Vulgar words or jokes or names for homosexuals should never pass the lips of a Christian. We need to treat people as we would other brothers and sisters in Christ. I think also be sensitive to the fact of not putting them in positions of temptation or things that might be harmful for them. Just as if we knew some friend was an alcoholic, we wouldn’t invite him to meet us at a bar for lunch or something of that sort. We need to be sensitive to where they are in their Christian walk and struggle.