Christianity,  Theology/Bible

Evangelicals meet to discuss sexual orientation in San Diego this week

This week the 66th Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) will be held in San Diego, California. I will be there to participate in a special session on sexual orientation. As I have said elsewhere, I think that we evangelicals have not yet thought our way through to biblical clarity on this issue. Among evangelicals who are otherwise close to one another confessionally, there is still a range of opinions about how to think biblically about sexual orientation. There are some who recognize same-sex orientation as an identity category that is beyond moral scrutiny. There are others who deny that Christians can even make faithful use of the category. There are some who view same-sex attraction as morally benign, and others who do not.

So for our special session we’ve gathered together three New Testament professors who are publishing in this area and who are coming at this question from different perspectives: Wesley Hill, Preston Sprinkle, and yours truly. The three of us will present papers and then sit for a panel discussion moderated by Owen Strachan. These are good brothers, and I am looking forward to be sharpened by them. If you are in or near San Diego during this year’s ETS meeting, I would love to see you there. Here’s the info on our session:

Session: “Issues in Sexuality & Gender”
When: 2:00-5:10pm, Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Where: Hampton, Town and Country Resort & Convention Center, San Diego, CA

DENNY BURK, “Is Same-Sex Orientation Sinful?”
PRESTON SPRINKLE, “Sexual Orientation in Paul’s World: It’s Not What You Think”
WESLEY HILL, “Is Being Gay Sanctifiable? Scripture and the Great Tradition on Same-Sex Love and Christian Friendship”
OWEN STRACHAN, moderator of panel discussion


  • Joshua Newton

    Hi Professor Burk. I will be praying that this is fruitful. I hail from NC and am a blogger myself who is trying to think through these things as lovingly and biblically as possible. I appreciate all of the effort and thoughts coming from the SBC, ERLC, as well as what you guys are about to do. I do hope resources will be available from this discussion in one form or another. Many thanks and prayers. Joshua Newton

  • Ryan Davidson

    Before we start thinking biblically, we should at least make clear distinctions.

    Sexual orientation merely describes the general orientation of one’s sexual desires. And, until the late 1800s, this was viewed as a rather unimportant characteristic. After all, for the first 1900 years of Christianity, we expected sexual restraint, even within the context of marriage. So, in a culture where sexual restraint is normative, sexual orientation exists, but is simply insignificant.

    That began to change in the late 1800s. As medicine emerged as a more rigorous science, researchers sought to construct a clinical view of human sexuality. With that, he notion of “heterosexuality” was born and was held up as the model of sexual health. Any departure from “heterosexuality” was deemed to be a medical ailment susceptible to clinical diagnosis. Influenced by Freud, researchers stumbled upon sexual orientation as an indicator of whether one was sexually healthy (i.e., conformed to heterosexuality) or whether one was defective in some way. Sexual orientation suddenly became significant because it was often used as the indicator of sexual health. The “heterosexual” identity was born. And, with that, sexual orientation became the indicator by which “heterosexuals” could be confident that they indeed were normal. Sexual orientation became an important marker of identity and of privileged status.

    The science underlying these theories has been disproven time and again. But this debunked science has stayed with us culturally. That’s probably due, in part, to our culture’s excessive emphasis on sexuality and sex.

    So, several points are worth noting.

    1. Sexual orientation exists. The relevant question relates to whether it is significant or not. I’ll stand with the first 1900 years of Christianity and say that it isn’t.

    2. Heterosexuality (and certain concomitant views of masculinity and femininity) is not biblical. It grew out of a flawed attempt by Freudian medical practitioners to subject human sexuality to clinical analysis.

    3. The heterosexual identity came first. The emergence of other identities in the LGBTQA spectrum emerged as a response to people’s being rejected as non-heterosexual.

    4. Scripture describes a complementarity between the sexes (i.e., between male and female), and provides some general guidance on what this complementarity means in terms of gender roles. Scripture lends no credence whatsoever to the modern concept of “heterosexuality” or the other gendered social identities adopted by non-heterosexual people. Further, Scripture lends no credence whatsoever to the narrow views of masculinity and femininity set forth by the Freudian proponents of heterosexuality (i.e., the typical familiailist gender roles generally associated with the 1950s).

    5. The church cannot adequately critique homosexuality without also critiquing heterosexuality. After all, you cannot have the former without the latter. Our challenge is to articulate a biblical way of getting over Freud, and return to a world where we are male and female and where sexual orientation is rather insignificant. Something like Christian queer theory?

  • Curt Day

    One could close the gap of what evangelicals think on sexual orientation by presenting two positions: a position on sexual orientation in the Church and a position on sexual orientation in society.

    • Jonathan Charles

      If you think scripture lends no credence to men being responsible for provision and women being oriented to the home
      go read your bible again…
      unless when you said 1950’s you were talking about the other cultural problems of that day..

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