Is Homosexual Orientation Sinful?

In contemporary discussions of homosexuality, it is commonplace to distinguish homosexual orientation from homosexual behavior. Usually, the distinction goes something like this: Orientation refers to one’s inner disposition while behavior addresses one’s moral choices. John and Paul Feinberg state it this way:

Homosexuality as a sexual orientation means that a person has a strong and abiding preference for members of the same sex and desires to act on that sexual preference… Homosexual behavior refers to specific sex acts between members of the same sex.[1]

Some Christian ethicists take this observation a step further and argue that we must make a moral distinction between orientation and behavior. On this view, homosexual behavior is a choice and thus morally blameworthy. Homosexual orientation is not a choice and thus not morally blameworthy. This point of view has become routine even among some who identify themselves as evangelical. A couple examples to illustrate the point. Dennis Hollinger writes:

I would suggest that orientation is not the primary ethical issue. From a theological perspective, it is a result of the fallenness of our world… But orientation is not usually a result of a person’s willful, sinful choice. Hence, the ethical judgment on homosexuality is not about orientation or homoerotic impulses.[2]

Likewise, Joe Dallas and Nancy Heche write:

If a person’s primary sexual attractions are toward the same sex, the person’s orientation is homosexual… If a person’s sexual attractions are toward both sexes, the person’s orientation is bisexual… The Bible does not condemn homosexual or bisexual orientation as a deliberate sin, but any deliberate expression of homosexuality, through actions, sexual fantasy, or lust, is biblically prohibited.[3]

I do not dispute that there is a legitimate distinction to be made between orientation and behavior. I do question, however, whether the Bible supports the notion that only homosexual behavior is sinful while homosexual orientation is not. Evangelicals would generally agree with Hollinger that homosexual orientation in some way stems from the Fall. But in what way? Does homosexual orientation comprise a natural evil only? Or is it also a moral evil? Is it something that primarily requires healing (like cancer), or is it something that requires vigilant repentance (like pride)? How we answer these questions has enormous pastoral implications for those brothers and sisters who experience same-sex attraction. What follows is my attempt to answer these questions biblically and to suggest some pastoral implications.

Does the Bible address sexual orientation?

It is sometimes claimed that sexual orientation is a modern concept that would have been completely foreign to the writers of scripture.[4] But is that really true? It depends entirely on how one defines the term “orientation.” The American Psychological Association defines sexual orientation in this way: “Sexual orientation refers to an enduring pattern of emotional, romantic and/or sexual attractions to men, women or both sexes.”[5] Notice that orientation involves a person’s enduring sexual attractions and that sexual attraction is a virtual synonym for sexual desire.[6] Thus sexual orientation is one’s persistent pattern of sexual desire/attraction toward either or both sexes.

If that is the definition, then the term “orientation” does not somehow take us to a category that the Bible doesn’t address. The Bible says that our sexual desires/attractions have a moral component and that we are held accountable for them. Jesus’ remarks on the nature of heterosexual desire are a case in point:

Mathew 5:27-28 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; but I say to you, that everyone who looks on a woman to lust for her has committed adultery with her already in his heart.”

The word that Jesus uses for “lust” is the exact same term used in the tenth commandment’s prohibition on coveting: “You shall not desire/covet your neighbor’s wife” (Ex. 20:17; Deut. 5:21 LXX).  Thus both Jesus and the tenth commandment censure not merely adulterous behavior but also the desire that precedes the behavior. The locus of such desire is the “heart.” As Jesus confirms elsewhere, adultery and every other kind of sexual immorality proceed from the heart (Mark 7:21).

The married man who experiences an adulterous lust for another woman is a man who experiences unwholesome attractions. His attraction may indeed be spontaneous and uninvited. It may indeed reflect his sexual orientation to be attracted to the opposite sex. But that married man may not appeal to his heterosexual “orientation” to absolve him of having feelings that he ought not feel. Jesus says such feelings are adultery within the heart. Likewise, a man who experiences a sexual attraction to another man may be experiencing feelings that are spontaneous and uninvited. His attraction may well reflect what he perceives to be his natural “orientation.” But that does not absolve him of having sexual feelings he ought not feel. The Bible judges such attractions as sinful lust—as coveting someone sexually. Thus the scripture does in fact speak to one’s enduring pattern of sexual attractions.

Is there a difference between desire and lust?

Sometimes it is claimed that we must make a moral distinction between mere desire and active lust—the former being morally neutral and the latter being sinful. But this is not a particularly biblical distinction. The word Jesus uses for lust in Matthew 5:28 (epithumeō) is used elsewhere in neutral and even positive ways.[7] For example, Jesus says that “many prophets and righteous men desired (epithumeō) to see what you see, and did not see it” (Matthew 13:17). The word clearly means “desire,” and in this case the desire is a good thing. Whether the desire is good (as in Matt. 13:17) or evil (as in Matt. 5:28) depends entirely on what it is a person desires. That is why the same Greek term is rendered “desire” in some texts and “lust” in others. If you desire something good, then the desire itself is good. If you desire something evil, then the desire itself is evil. Same-sex attraction is clearly a desire that God forbids. How then can we possibly treat a persistent and enduring desire for the same-sex as morally neutral? Biblically, we cannot.

The apostle Paul also addresses the propriety of same-sex desires in Romans 1:26-27. To be sure, Paul says that homosexual behavior is sinful:

Romans 1:26-27 “Women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman… men with men committing indecent acts.”

But he also says that the desires themselves are equally morally blameworthy and stand as evidence of God’s wrath against sin: “For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions… and [they] burned in their desire toward one another” (Rom 1:26-27). Sexual desire that fixates on the same-sex is sinful, and that is why God’s judgment rightly falls on both desires and actions. Again, the issue is not merely sexual behavior but also one’s enduring pattern of sexual attraction.

Answering an Objection

A common objection to the foregoing goes like this: “If a person cannot control whether they have same-sex attraction, how can that attraction be considered sinful?” This objection bases moral accountability upon whether one has the ability to choose his proclivities. But this is not how the Bible speaks of sin and judgment. There are all manner of predispositions that we are born with that the Bible nevertheless characterizes as sin: pride, anger, anxiousness, just to name a few. Why would we put same-sex attraction in a different category than those other predispositions that we groan to be delivered from and that we are morally accountable for? As we mentioned above, Jesus says that all such sins proceed from the heart and that we are therefore morally accountable for them (Mark 7:21). And this assessment is in no way mitigated by the fact that we come by it naturally or were born that way. As Richard Hays writes,

The Bible’s sober anthropology rejects the apparently commonsense assumption that only freely chosen acts are morally culpable. Quite the reverse: the very nature of sin is that it is not freely chosen. That is what it means to live “in the flesh” in a fallen creation. We are in bondage to sin but still accountable to God’s righteous judgment of our actions. In light of this theological anthropology, it cannot be maintained that a homosexual orientation is morally neutral because it is involuntary.[8]

Pastoral Implications

My conclusion is that if sexual orientation is one’s enduring pattern of sexual attraction, then the Bible teaches both same-sex behavior and same-sex orientation to be sinful.[9] If this is true, there are numerous pastoral implications. I will mention just two:

1. This truth ought to inform how brothers and sisters in Christ wage war against same-sex attraction. Sin is not merely what we do. It is also who we are. As so many of our confessions have it, we are sinners by nature and by choice.[10] All of us are born with an orientation toward sin in all its varieties. Homosexual orientation is but one manifestation of our common experience of indwelling sin—indeed of the mind set on the flesh (Rom. 7:23; 8:7).  For that reason, the Bible teaches us to war against both the root and the fruit of sin. In this case, homosexual orientation is the root, and homosexual behavior is the fruit. The Spirit of God aims to transform both (Rom. 8:13).

If same-sex attraction were morally benign, there would be no reason to repent of it. But the Bible never treats sexual attraction to the same sex as a morally neutral state. Jesus says all sexual immorality is fundamentally a matter of the heart. Thus it will not do simply to avoid same sex behavior. The ordinary means of grace must be aimed at the heart as well. Prayer, the preaching of the word, and the fellowship of the saints must all be aimed at the Holy Spirit’s renewal of the inner man (2 Cor. 4:16). It is to be a spiritual transformation that puts to death the deeds of the body by a daily renewal of the mind (Rom. 8:13; 12:2). As John Owen has famously said, “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.”[11]

This is not to say that Christians who experience same-sex attraction will necessarily be freed from those desires completely in this life. Many such Christians report partial or complete changes in their orientation after conversion—sometimes all at once, but more often over a period of months and years. But those cases are not the norm. There are a great many who also report ongoing struggles with same-sex attraction.[12] But that does not lessen the responsibility for them to fight those desires as long as they persist, no matter how natural those desires may feel.

Wesley Hill is a Christian who experiences persistent same-sex attraction, and he describes his struggle in such terms. He writes,

For me and other gay people, even when we’re not willfully cultivating desire, we know that when attraction does come… it will be attraction to someone of the same sex. And in those moments, it feels as though there is no desire that isn’t lust, no attraction that isn’t illicit… Every attraction I experience, before I ever get to intentional, willful, indulgent desire, seems bent, broken, misshapen.[13]

Wesley goes on to describe his experience as a daily struggle against indwelling sin. His sexual orientation, therefore, is an occasion for vigilant repentance and renewal through the Holy Spirit:

My homosexuality, my exclusive attraction to other men, my grief over it and my repentance, my halting effort to live fittingly in the grace of Christ and the power of the Spirit—gradually I am learning not to view all of these things as confirmations of my rank corruption and hypocrisy. I am instead, slowly but surely, learning to view that journey—of struggle, failure, repentance, restoration, renewal in joy, and persevering, agonized obedience—as what it looks like for the Holy Spirit to be transforming me on the basis of Christ’s cross and his Easter morning triumph over death.[14]

The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit can bring about this kind of transformation in anyone—even if such progress is not experienced by everyone in precisely the same measure. As the apostle Paul writes, “Thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed” (Rom 6:17).

2. This truth ought to strengthen our love and compassion for brothers and sisters who experience same-sex attraction. For many of them, same sex attraction is something they have experienced for as long as they can remember. There is no obvious pathology for their attractions. The attractions are what they are even though they may be quite unwelcome. It is naïve to think that these people are all outside of the church. No, they are among us. They are us. They have been baptized, have been attending the Lord’s Table with us, and have been fighting the good fight in what is sometimes a very lonely struggle. They believe what the Bible says about their sexuality, but their struggle is nevertheless difficult.

Is your church the kind of place that would be safe for these dear brothers and sisters to come forward to find friendship and community? Does your church have its arms wide open to them to come alongside them, to receive them, and to strengthen them? Jesus said that the world would know us by our love for one another (John 13:35). One of the ways that we show love for one another is by bearing one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2). Can you bear this burden with your brothers and sisters who are in this fight? Is your church ready to offer help and encouragement to these saints for whom Christ died? If not, then something is deeply amiss. For Jesus has loved us to the uttermost, and he calls us to do the same (John 13:34).

[1] John S. Feinberg and Paul D. Feinberg, Ethics for a Brave New World, 2nd ed. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010), 364.

[2] Dennis P. Hollinger, The Meaning of Sex: Christian Ethics and the Moral Life (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2009), 173.

[3] Joe Dallas, “Terms, Definitions, and Concepts,” in The Complete Christian Guide to Understanding Homosexuality: A Biblical and Compassionate Response to Same-Sex Attraction, ed. Joe Dallas and Nancy Heche (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 2010), 98-99.

[4] E.g., John Boswell, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980), 109, 117.

[5] “Answers to Your Questions: For a Better Understanding of Sexual Orientation and Homosexuality,” American Psychological Association, 2008,

[6] In this essay, I will treat sexual attraction as a synonym for sexual desire. I believe this is justified by common usage of these terms in the literature. For example, Hollinger says that persons with homosexual orientation experience “ongoing affectional and sexual feelings toward persons of the same sex” (Hollinger, The Meaning of Sex, 172). Likewise, Grenz describes homosexual orientation as “the situation in which erotic feelings are nearly exclusively triggered by persons of one’s own sex” (Stanley J. Grenz, Sexual Ethics: An Evangelical Perspective [Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 1997], 225). See also Jenell Williams Paris’ book in which orientation, attraction, and desire are all three used as virtual synonyms (Jenell Williams Paris, The End of Sexual Identity: Why Sex Is Too Important to Define Who We Are [Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2011], 99).

[7] BDAG confirms that the preponderance of this term’s use in the New Testament mean’s simply “desire,” not “lust.” See BDAG, s.v. “ἐπιθυμέω” 1: “to have a strong desire to do or secure someth., desire, long for.”

[8] Richard B. Hays, The Moral Vision of the New Testament: Community, Cross, New Creation, A Contemporary Introduction to New Testament Ethics (New York: HarperOne, 1996), 390.

[9] Feinberg and Feinberg, Ethics for a Brave New World, 385: “We stand firmly committed to the position that Scripture teaches that homosexual and lesbian orientation and behavior are contrary to the order for human sexuality God placed in creation. Hence they are sinful.” So also James B. DeYoung, Homosexuality: Contemporary Claims Examined in Light of the Bible and Other Ancient Literature and Law (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2000), 293-94: “Homosexual orientation was known in the generations in which Scripture was written. Paul gives no indication that it does not fall under the general condemnations of homosexuality in Romans 1, 1 Corinthians, and 1 Timothy.”

[10] E.g., The New Hampshire Baptist Confession, III: “All mankind are now sinners, not by constraint, but choice; being by nature utterly void of that holiness required by the law of God, positively inclined to evil.”

[11] John Owen, “Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers,” in Temptation and Sin, The Works of John Owen 6 (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1967), 9.

[12] Mark A. Yarhouse, Homosexuality and the Christian: A Guide for Parents, Pastors, and Friends (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 2010), 93-95.

[13] Wesley Hill, Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010), 136-37.

[14] Wesley Hill, Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010), 145.

About the Author

Denny Burk is an Associate Professor of Biblical Studies and Ethics at Boyce College, the undergraduate arm of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He also serves as an Associate Pastor at Kenwood Baptist Church, which is in Louisville as well. He also writes a daily commentary on theology, politics, and culture at He is also the author of What Is the Meaning of Sex? (Crossway, 2013).


  1. hebrews 4:15 and james 1:14-15 lend themselves well to same-sex attraction. Jesus was “tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” so, the temptation, the inner desire, is, by itself, not sinful. what we do about the desire is most important. if we are led away and enticed, if we give in to the desire, sin is born. Same-sex attraction is one of many desires with which human beings struggle. having same-sex attraction does not make a person a homosexual anymore than the desire to steal makes one a thief.


      A temptation is an external enticement. desiring or lusting after a temptation comes from within; that is sin. christ was tempted as we are but was without sin because he never allowed sinful desires to take root in his heart and give birth to sin.

      christ jesus, as the sinless son of god, never desired anything that he ought not to have. he always loved god with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength and his neighbor as himself. That means complete and total obedience to god in thought, word, and deed.

      sinners in need of a perfect substitute need such a savior.

      • Bill Velek Reply

        What is it with people who are too lazy to capitalize sentences and proper names … and especially the name of ‘Jesus Christ’? I would think that any believing Christian would do at least that much out of respect for God, regardless of rules of grammar.

    • Brent Reply

      Edmond, consider James 1:14 “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin.”

      Obviously, James differentiates between temptation and sin; however, notice that temptation is a evil desire at work. While desire “unconceived” may not, in one sense, be called sin, the desire itself is still obviously evil and wrong. How can we say that there is nothing wrong when someone really wants to murder someone, that is when he is lured and enticed by that desire. Are we to say that that “temptation” is not bad?

      By the way, I don’t think James’ definition of temptation here is the same as the author of HEbrews in the text you quoted. I think Jesus was tempted not in the sense that he really desired evil (as James says), but rather that the temptations simply presented themselves to Jesus. Or we can say the OPPORTUNITY to sin was presented to Jesus, but Jesus had no desire to do that.

  2. Jonathan Reply

    I can’t help but be frustrated by this article. I feel like any sensible person can recognize the difference in finding someone attractive and lusting after someone. Also, the author lists anger among pride and anXiousness to make a point that you cAn’t put homosexual attraction in a different category. But in that very statement he lists two different categories! The bible PROHIBITS pride and anxiousness, but says to be angry and sin not. Isn’t that the exact same thing? Be homosexual and sin Not? We must recognize homosexual desire as a product of sin in the world, but to say that the attraction itself is an act of sin is juSt not a valid argument. I appreciate the intentions here, but i coulDn’t disagree more.

  3. Walter Reply

    Thank you, Denny, for a thoughtful biblical piece. I agree whole-heartedly. Lust is by definition a wrong desire.

  4. Bonnie Reply

    a fascinating piece by Michael W. Hannon at First Things debunks the entire notion of sexual orientation, claiming that it hinders Christian witness: Against Heterosexuality.

    • Dwight Gingrich Reply

      Thanks, Bonnie. That Hannon article is indeed fascinating.

      And thanks, Denny burk, for your article, too.

      Both articles (and the comments here) give lots of material worth pondering.

    • Julia Soler Reply

      Yes, Bonnie, that is an interesting article. As I’ve pointed out in another venue, now that Christians (even Exodus) have found they can’t “pray away the gay” they have decided to “say away the gay”. We shall see how that works out.

  5. Brent Reply

    Denny, thank you for your post. I struggle with same-sex attraction, and I think I agree with everything you said. However, I would want to add one caveat.

    The word “same-sex attraction” is a bit misleading because if we suggest to others that “same-sex attraction” is sinful, they (especially those experiencing it) may be led to believe that all kinds of attraction to the same sex are sinful. That, however, is not true. In fact, same-sex attraction is commanded in the Bible.

    “Love one another with brotherly affection.” (Rom. 12:10)

    There are other references to “brotherly love” in the Bible, as well. Here in Romans, he commands men to have affection for one another. That is to say, they are commanded to be attracted to one another. Obviously, he is not commanding sexual affection. But he is commanding affection nonetheless.

    It’s my experience that some dealing with SSA go to the extreme of believing that all kinds of attraction to the same sex are bad, and as a result they beat themselves up for feeling anything “special” toward the same sex. But, in fact, the very thing that will “cure” their evil sexual inclinations is a healthy, robust attraction to the same sex. If homosexuality is simply twisted desire for the same sex, then our goal ought to be to untwist the desire — not remove it completely. When a man experiencing SSA is able to experience true friendship and camaraderie — same-sex attraction as God designed it — they are able to find those deep longings they have for same-sex intimacy fulfilled, and they don’t need to find expression in sexual activity.

    I think it is unfortunate that we’ve coined the term “same-sex attraction” to refer to same-sex sexual attraction because it suggests that all attraction to the same sex is bad. However, since it’s probably too late to coin a new term, I think it’s helpful that we carefully explain our meaning of the term so as not to suggest that a Christian man experiencing a desire for affection with another man is inherently wrong. Rather, this desire is both commanded and demonstrated in Scripture (think David hugging and kissing JOnathan, for example).

  6. Brian Reply

    To those objecting: what if we were talking about desiring to murder someone? What if, closer to the core issue, we were taking about wanting to reject God’s authority and live for yourself? Wanting what God says is wrong is sinful. If I want a woman that is not my wife, even if I manage to stop the “wanting” prior to sexual fantasy, I am sinfully wanting. It is wrong to want that woman. Would you be comfortable if I said that it’s right for me to want that woman? Or even that it’s neutral?

  7. Brent, i think you have a good point. i often try to distinguish between affinity, affection (meaning that our emotions are touched) and Attraction, being drawn (usually sexually) to another person. We are to have affinity and affection (which includes compassion, empathy etc) for others, male or female. When that affection becomes sexualized, it is sinful if it is for the same gender or if it is covetous/lustful.
    I often wonder is some SSA comes from an over sexualized culture telling young people that all affection and affinity is attraction. I think guys do have a thing called “male bonding” which draws men together in fellowship. Our culture so heavily loads everything with sex, it is possible that for some, that desire for comrade re is distorted to be sexual.
    Terminology is so important, as you say. Unfortunately, often the conversation can’t get that far without anger and hurt, so real issues can’t be picked apart. ps, not sure why this is in caps, my caps lock is off…..

  8. Wayne Reply

    This is utterly preposterous! Being tempted by sin is not the same thing as sinning! The sbc i constantly attacking people who have same sex attractions. Why is this? I don’t see too many pastors who aren’t overweight because of their gorging themselves with food: gluttony. For you to say that to be tempted by anything is of Utmost absurdity.

  9. Karen k Reply

    This article makes me sad because the burden this theology places on people who experience persistence same-sex attraction is devastating.

    Fortunately, this theology is not correct. in fact, it promotes a form of docetism, a heresy condemned by the church.

    burk suggests that any sexual attraction not to one’s spouse is morally evil. he implicates heterosexuals in this as well: “The Bible says that our sexual desires/attractions have a moral component and that we are held accountable for them. Jesus’ remarks on the nature of heterosexual desire are a case in point: Mathew 5:27-28 ‘You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; but I say to you, that everyone who looks on a woman to lust for her has committed adultery with her already in his heart.’

    too hold to this position is to assert that jesus never had any sexual attractions ever in his life. he was completely asexual. jesus was never married and thus by burk’s logic, any sexual arousal jesus would have felt would have been morally evil. this would be an argument that denies that jesus was fully human because our sexuality is a part of what it means to be a human being.

    burk confuses basic biology with morality. we were created as sexual beings. that means we feel sexual desires and attractions from at least the time of puberty (and even before).

    burk also misinterprets desire in Romans 1. like philo, paul perceived these same-sex desires as heterosexual hypersexuality–excessive lust pouring over proper boundaries. philo writes: “Not only in their mad lust for women did they violate the marriages of their neighbors, but also men mounted males without respect for the sex nature.”

    not only is this poor theology. but the fruit of this teaching is bad fruit. i have seen so many return to the gay community because they could not bear the psychological burden of always feeling they are dirty and not right before god and others.

    • Dave L. Reply

      Well put, Karen. This article pulls sin down upon people who are not sinning but only living life. Attractions come and go–it’s what you do with them that brings accountability.

  10. Karen K Reply

    PS: I should add that Burk does not provide a good rationale for why a homosexual orientation cannot fall into the realm of something that is in need of physical healing. our sexuality is biological/physiological. This part of our body is subject to birth defect just as anything else. Some studies show that a man with several older brothers is more likely to be gay. the percentage increases proportionately with the number of older brothers. There appears to be something going on in utero and the mother’s body having multiple male fetuses. We can also see plainly with intersex conditions that our sexuality can be the result of prenatal factors. I have a friend who is genetically female but was born with testicles and an enlarged clitoris (these were removed/modified) at birth. She has four times the testosterone in her system than the typical woman. When you look at her you do a double take because you are not quite sure if she is female or male. Not surprisingly she feels more male and is attracted to women. obviously, birth defects fall into the realm of need for physical healing. no amount of sanctification will change the effects of something that occurred in utero or a birth defect. Only a miraculous physical healing would result in change. To try to tell such individuals to pray and fight any sexual desire they have is like constantly urging a paraplegic to try harder to walk. Talk about despair! I am not suggesting that all people who experience same-sex attraction do so because of a birth defect–since etiology can vary. But there is absolutely no rational reason to believe that our sexual organs, glands, hormones, neurochemistry related to sexual functioning and desire is somehow the one part of our body that is not subject to congenital conditions.

    • TJ Reply

      I think you’re are right on in this critique. If we were to apply this logic universally then attraction becomes equivalent to lust and any time I, as a straight man, see any woman who isn’t my wife and find her attractive, no matter how I respond to this recognition, I have sinned. If that is his real point then this article should be deleted and replaced with one arguing why all sexual attraction to anyone other than one’s wedded spouse is sin.

      I think the problem is that Burk is conflating the two theological categories of guilt and corruption. It is certainly correct to say that all homosexual attraction (as well as all sexual attraction to anyone other than one’s spouse) is a result of the corruption of our nature brought on by the fall. However, that is not equivalent to moral failure or willful sin. To imply that it is is not only false but brings great condemnation on those who long to live godly lives, though they are broken by the fall.

    • Maceo Reply

      Yeah, I was thinking that this was a form of docetism too. And to what end I can only speculate. its an intriguing theory which ultimately fails for lack of a dictionary. attraction, temptation, COVETOUSNESS, and lust are simply not interchangeable. they do not mean the same thing. sexual attraction is in no way the same as lust, and any dictionary proves this.

      this would simply be a fun debate were it not for the serious practical consequences. people who suffer from same sex attractions could well read this and conclude that no matter how much they control their desires they’re going to hell anyways merely because they are tempted. why then would they even bother with discipleship? this is a redefinition of the scriptures with dangerous consequences.

      the focus on orientation–which ensnares homosexual as well as heterosexual orientation–seems to be part of a broader argument that any sexual desires–even sexual desires between spouses–is wrong, or at best, ‘dirty’. this line of argument appears to be redefining traditional protestant notions of sexuality into a more catholic-aligned doctrine which maligns everything sexual. this line of thinking appears to think any marital relations not expressly open to procreation is sinful. this twisting of scripture seems to be nothing more than a reactionary counter attack on the 1960s. I hope he and his fellow adherents re-think this unwise, unsupported-by-scripture course.

  11. Michael Reply

    1st Corinthians 10:13 is simply not addressed in this article, most likely because it would wreak havoc on the conclusions reached here. Many of the points are true, but I can’t help but feel that the Denny is stretching the biblical evidence in order to suit his worldview…

  12. george Reply

    when people make conclusions like this author, I get desire to ask several questions, and I hope I can get answers:

    1. according to apostle Paul 1 Corinthians 7: 8

    Now to the unmarried[a] and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do. 9 But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

    if a man with same sex attraction can not control himself, and now he is up to 40, since childhood he prayed, fasted, but nothing changed, what can he do?
    2. are you same sex attracted? if not , how do you know what they feel?
    3. what would you tell your daughter (for example), if an exclusively same sex attracted man wants to marry her?
    4. is celibacy a gift?
    5. can you imagine your life living alone and depressed and ding alone?
    6. is anger, gluttony, pride and theft as same as loving a person?

    thanks in advance for your answers.

  13. It’s a matter of degree. Just as one can look at a woman, but not look lustfully, so too one can have a more natural bent towards the same sex, and not simply let their thought life run away. I just don’t believe in the whole “heterosexual” or “homosexual” dichotomy. I think it’s much more a sliding scale and there are not people on one side or the other. It’s not like being attracted to “women” is a good thing, I need to be attracted to a “woman” namely, my wife. There is a major distinction in the vocabulary of action and your “inner life” but I think most (honest) people get the distinction between when you’re struggling to be pure in your thought life and when you’re clearly sinning (regardless of the gender of the individual[s] running through your mind).

  14. Gene Chase Reply

    The Roman Catholic Catechism makes a distinction between homosexual inclinations as “intrinsic moral evil” on the one hand and homosexual behaviors whether mental or physical behaviors as “sin” on the other hand.

    Dennis Hollinger cited above–a Protestant like me–, James 1:15, and I agree with this distinction. When Jesus talks about heart adultery (Matt. 5:28) He is lumping together mental and physical behaviors as distinct from trials, temptations, inclinations, attractions, orientation, or propensities.

    Denny Burk is putting too much weight on a word (“strong desire,” epithumia even in the LXX) and not enough weight on its various contexts. Jesus “strongly desired” to celebrate the Passover supper with His disciples. Strong desire can be good or evil, but when evil it must “take control” (a good translation of “conceived” sullambanó) of a person to be “sin,” as James tell us.

  15. Bruce Reply

    Discover a unique perspective from David Nixon – “Born That Way After All”.

  16. K. Reply

    Yet another misconstruing of the Word to condemn and demoralize people, even if unwittingly.

    It would be important to note the context in which Jesus spoke of “having committed adultery in your heart” – he wasn’t saying it to an obvious sinner, a social outcast or even the everyman. Nay, he was speaking to a Pharisee – someone who took PRIDE in keeping the Law of God, and the purpose of what he said was to humble the Pharisees, make them understand that they were no better than any other sinner.

    Remember the words of 1 Corinthians 15:56 “The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law”.

    2 Corinthians 3:7 goes on to say, “But if the ministry of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away…”

    What is this Ministry of Death? Well, if the “sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law”, then the Ministry of Law is Death! You are unwittingly killing your congregation slowly by worrying them about the law – a law that demoralizes everyone and causes them to fall away from the Church into the hands of Death.

    Now, note Romans Chapter 7:7-13

    “What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting.”

    [The law is so adept at stirring up sin that by mere mention of ‘don’t do this!’ if already plants the seeds of desire in you to disobey – remember that the Israelites, in coming out of Egypt, were NEVER tempted to build a Golden Calf until AFTER God gave the Ten Commandments – including that one shall not have other gods before Him.]

    “For apart from the law, sin was dead. Once I was alive apart from the law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death. So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good.”

    [Many people who are saved for the first time feel geat joy and elation at the abundant grace and forgiveness of Jesus Christ, but the church immeadietly comes in a burdens them with a lot of rules and regulations – no doubt out of good intent, but in so much focus on the letter, they violate its spirit, which should be LIBERTY, not more bondage by being held to an impossible standard! In fact, many Christians seem to acquire NEW sins AFTER they get saved, simply because they are suddenly too conscious of things not-to-do.]

    “Did that which is good, then, become death to me? By no means! Nevertheless, in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it used what is good to bring about my death, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.”

    [The law is perfect, but attempting to keep it using one’s human strength is an exercise in vanity. Rather, the law exists only to expose one’s propensity to sin and one’s helplessness to it when USING ONE’s OWN EFFORT – whether it is the sin of murder, of sexual immorality, or of stealing a cookie from a jar. Remember too, that perfection is inflexible – if you are guilty or ONE sin, you are guilty of ALL.

    There is nothing wrong with the law, but it has been twisted into a tool of the devil for Christians to unwittingly condemn others and one-another. When people think they do not measure up to it (and to be frank, none of us really do), they become demoralized, fall away from the church and become susceptible of all sorts of sin – not just one or two.

    The truth is that Christians should recognize that they do not have any lasting victory over any kind of sin if they are going to worry about the law – an inward-focus on one’s own (fallible) effort. This is the whole point of Jesus’ sacrifice, so that we may look to HIM and his Grace for Salvation and Righteousness, not at OURSELVES and our own measly efforts.

    The fact that people even have to think about whether the church is a welcome environment for homosexuals means that we have got priorities totally wrong – we are still absorbed in looking at people’s sinful nature! We should not be like the world, who knows your name but calls you buy your sin; rather we should be like Jesus, who knows your sin but calls you by your name.

    I am not going to go into whether homosexual inclinations are a sin; rather, how about we just put aside the labels and see Christians for what they are, first and foremost – CHRISTIANS.

    Not “Gay Christians”;
    not “Smoker Christians”;
    not “Liar Christians”;
    not “Gossipy Christians”;
    not “Hypocritical Christians”;
    not “Secretly-Don’t-Brush-Their-Teeth-At-Night-Like-Mommy-Told-Them-To Chirstians”,
    not “Adulterous Christians”;

    …just “Christians”.

    • Drew Reply

      A homosexual orientation is a physiological condition just as a heterosexual orientation is. You can argue whether or not the expression of that orientation is “sinful.” You might regard it as an unfortunate consequence of the fall. But because it is essentially biological and certainly unchosen it doesn’t make sense to put it in the same list as adulterous Christians, gossipy Christians, etc. You may as well put “heterosexual Christian” in that list.

  17. Drew Reply

    Wow. God help those who come to Burk for pastoral care. One might as well feel guilty for simply existing. Nice job of crushing and demoralizing people already heavily burdened.


  18. Eric Reply

    Nice discussion. First point –The bulk of the article relies upon an example of an already married man feeling lust toward another (or unmarried man toward a married) woman, which in this case would be a sin against marriage, not a sin of human nature, so I think the article generalizes its conclusion while jumping over a crucial logical step. Second point — I think it might be “OK’ to have a quote healthy disregard for some of the Bible’s proscriptions, as in the proper treatment and care of slaves, for example, and apply a little common sense. The lesson I get from the Bible really has nothing to do with what’s gay and what’s not.

  19. Scott Reply

    I am an evangelical Christian pastor and couldn’t disagree more with the author. To say that same sex attraction — in and of itself — is a sin logically and naturally leads to the statement that opposite sex attraction — in and of itself — is a sin. The logic of the author’s argument is inherently flawed.

    Good job of taking selected passages and twisting them to support a conclusion that was made before consulting Scripture…

  20. Alan Reply

    Today came across your post at the Radical website. Left much of what follows in a comment there but couldn’t get it out of my mind all day so thought I’d comment here. Have taken comfort that in the face of attractions that don’t go away, that being celibate gave hope. . . not as a work giving merit but as faithfulness of heart that Jesus is worth it. To be candid, in agreeing with the article get this sinking feeling. Same sex attraction may be like other sins and come from a sinful heart but something in the struggle seems different, at least to me. Maybe because it touches body as well as heart and soul but it’s a greater struggle for me than against anger or greed or a whole host of things that over time have found in Christ the strength to overcome. Compared to before, I’m genuinely less angry and less greedy and more Christlike, but in terms of same sex attraction, moreso. God may grant grace someday to be straight, but maybe Christlike in this world in terms of sexuality is/will be only that I don’t have sex with guys. Sometimes convince myself that straight guys have the same struggle outside of marriage but at the heart of it, they’re still straight, they’re OK. What’s tough/discouraging about the post is that if the orientation is itself sinful, regardless of the struggle and being celibate, I’m not OK. What’s depressing is that I’m thinking the post is right.

    What’s encouraging is the quote at the end asking church to be church. It is tough being celibate and gay in the church. Continuing to follow Jesus, being gay has meant endless private battles and long nites, it’s just not helpful when the church feels the need to convince me that my faults are faulty. So many churches I’ve had to leave couldn’t get past gay to see that celibate means I love Jesus too. Church, I’m not expecting anyone to hold my hand on the journey, just hoping to share the way with you. Besides, the resource found in Christ to be celibate may minister to the church.

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