We’re all ‘born that way’
J.J. from Australia wrote in with a question:
Hi. Just wondering if you could tell me from a Christian standpoint whether homosexuality is genetic? I saw an article on Wikipedia supposedly defending it. I’d like to be able to debate using the most up-to-date evidence, but I’m not very scientifically-minded. Any suggestions would be appreciated!
Information Officer Lita Sanders responds:
There’s been no firm evidence that there’s a genetic basis for homosexuality. But that’s never been one of our main points in arguing against homosexuality. We believe that people are born with all sorts of inborn tendencies that are sinful. Lots of heterosexual men don’t find monogamy very natural, but we don’t change God’s commands to allow for their sinful tendency. Many people find lying and cheating more advantageous in certain situations, but we still maintain that they are wrong. So to ask a somewhat politically-incorrect statement, if ‘I was born that way’ makes homosexuality okay, what else does it make okay? What if there’s a genetic basis for paedophilia or incest?
But in fact, we’re all ‘born that way’ with regard to something—as descendants of Adam, we’re all sinners, and that’s precisely why Jesus had to come. Some people struggle with homosexual desires, some people struggle with wrath and unforgiveness, some people struggle with being truthful. Jesus saves us from the eternal consequences of our sin—I deserve Hell for the wrong things I’ve done, but Jesus has saved me from that by taking the penalty in my place. But Jesus isn’t content to stop there. He makes us legally righteous by taking the penalty on Himself so we can have His ‘innocent’ sentence. But then He works in us to make us actually righteous—that’s called ‘sanctification’, and it takes time, and we won’t reach the goal of full sanctification (sinless perfection) in this life.
So what answer do we give homosexuals? I think we have to give them the Gospel:
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the Kingdom of God … (1 Corinthians 6:9–10)
That’s the bad news. And you know what? All of us fit somewhere in that list. Who isn’t guilty of greed? Who hasn’t reviled? None of us deserve to inherit the Kingdom of God. But too many people stop there when they cite that as an anti-gay verse; the Bible continues:
And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (1 Corinthians 6:11, emphasis added).
The Apostle Paul is talking to former idolaters, former homosexuals, former thieves, former swindlers—former sinners, who aren’t sinners anymore because they have a new identity in Christ. And I find it significant that Paul uses the past tense: “And such were you … but you were sanctified”. We know from other places (and from experience) that sanctification is actually an ongoing process, but Paul’s confidence in that work is such that he refers to it in the past tense.
In contrast, ‘my genes made me do it’ is really reducing the person to an automaton, a mere animal driven by instincts. It’s dehumanizing, really, and robs the person of any alternative life or change (which many people struggling with this issue want). And in fact, there is evidence that change is possible; see Study: Gays can change sexual orientation (2011). Indeed, for anyone in Christ, change is inevitable:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
This is a wonderful hope for all sinners caught up in sinful behavior that they feel trapped by.
Studies that look at differences between people engaged in homosexual behavior, (such as reactions to male or female sweat, etc.) are useless because our behavior affects our tastes/likes/dislikes, etc. We become what we do. Our brains are ‘plastic’, as stroke researchers know. And the fact that many people successfully reorient their sexual preferences shows that these are not ‘innate’ but learned, albeit there are things that influence towards ‘learning’ certain behaviors. Also see narth.com/gay---born-that-way on the implications of identical twin studies, which are the only truly scientific way to check for a genetic basis for homosexual behavior.
So in summary, it’s not a genetics issue, it’s a Gospel issue. For some of our articles on homosexuality, please see our Morality and Ethics Questions and Answers page. I hope this is helpful.