John Frame has written a very helpful article on this issue here. He puts it so much better than me. This is my attempt to summarise his salient points.
Homosexuals claim that they cannot help the experience of same sex attraction (SSA). They argue that this experience is natural. It’s not a lifestyle choice but an innate condition. It could be genetically predetermined in which case the ‘condition’ would be inescapable. Asking someone to stop being homosexual would therefore be equivalent to asking an Asian person to stop being Asian or a left-handed person to stop being left-handed. We should not condemn people therefore for being what they are.
The Christian ‘spin’ on this is that ‘God made me this way’. And so it’s especially reprehensible, some argue, for Christians to criticise a condition that God Himself created. When you put it like that, it sounds plausible, doesn’t it?
Simon LeVay, a gay neuroscientist, has found that there’s a correlation between a particular genetic combination of the brain and homosexual activity. In other words, there’s a genetic predisposition towards homosexuality, or as some have said there’s a ‘gay gene’. But this has yet to receive widespread scientific acceptance. A rather obvious point is that even if there is such a condition it’s not possible to say whether this is the cause or the effect of homosexual thought and behaviour.
But if we were to accept that there’s an innate physical basis for homosexuality, as there might be for alcoholism or general criminal behaviour, what ethical conclusions should we draw?
1. We cannot say that the discovery of an innate condition is sufficient reason to describe the activity it leads to as normal. Many diseases are genetically determined but we wouldn’t dream of calling them normal. On the contrary, we’d throw the full weight of medical scientific resources behind the enterprise to discover all we could about the genetic makeup of this disease in order to cure it. Without wishing to be unnecessarily provocative, we might say that the homosexual condition is the sexual equivalent of MS in the medical world.
2. Not everyone who has a genetic predisposition ‘actualises’ their condition. It’s quite unlikely that should a ‘gay gene’ exist it would determine someone’s activity. The data suggests that it’s possible for someone to overcome their temptation to a particular behaviour. It’s probably more accurate to say that genes do not determine patterns of behaviour but influence them. It’s not the same direct correlation as with the colour of eyes. As Frame puts it, ‘genes may impel, but they don’t compel’.
3. There are much stronger influences on our patterns of behaviour than our genetic inheritance. The smoker’s craving for a cigarette would be one example. If we’re prepared to excuse homosexuality on the basis of a strong influence then we ought to be consistent and excuse all kinds of behaviour patterns. But we don’t, because we recognise that influence alone is not a sufficient reason to rule something as ethically appropriate.
4. The existence of strong influences does not force us to do anything contrary to our desires. They do not compromise moral freedom. I remain free to do what I want even if what I want is influenced by other things. On that basis I can be held responsible for my actions. Understandably the presence of a strong influence will create a moral weak spot where I’m especially vulnerable to temptation. But our weak spots arise from heredity, environment, experiences and past decisions.
5. The genetic case for homosexuality does not remove the element of choice. If I’m predisposed to alcoholism I still make a decision to have a drink. Likewise with same sex attraction. Those who succumb to the temptation to homosexual activity do so willingly. No one is forcing them to do anything they don’t want to do. And nothing inside them is forcing them to do something they don’t want to do. They are simply doing what they desire to do. The issue is whether that desire is ‘natural’ because it’s in accord with God’s intentions.
6. The Bible presupposes that it’s possible for someone facing same sex attraction, through the work of the Spirit, to desire holiness above ungodliness. Christian ministries exist to help those struggling with same sex attraction to live a life of holiness. Whilst resisting perfectionist claims of total victory over homosexual temptation, nevertheless the Bible does hold out the hope of transformation. The Apostle Paul described a group of people who’d experienced partial transformation so much so that he could describe their homosexual lifestyle as something of the past (1 Corinthians 6:0-9-11).
And so, on balance, the argument that same sex activity should be declared holy because of the apparent existence of a genetic predisposition is utterly unpersuasive. We cannot find in this line of reasoning just cause to sanctify sin. The gospel still declares that repentance not acceptance remains the way to forgiveness and transformation.