Same Sex Attraction, Temptation, and Jesus
The Revoice conference is over. But we will continue to hear from Revoice, its various speakers and supporters. It is not my goal here to write a point-by-point rebuttal of the many troubling things that were stated in the conference. I have listened to the addresses from Nate Collins and Eve Tushnett and there is enough troubling material there to keep one busy for quite a while.
One of the central points of controversy with Revoice specifically and the Gay Christian movement in general is their understanding of sin and temptation. They have departed from the testimony of Scripture and the Protestant theological heritage. Is attraction to members of the same sex inherently sinful, morally neutral, or essentially good like attraction to mebmers of the opposite sex? If Jesus was tempted in every way as we are then does that mean he struggled against same-sex attraction? Some, even in the PCA, are saying yes.
Mark Jones recently posted the following helpful comments on his facebook page:
SSA and Christ's Temptations. A few thoughts...
Temptation and Sin
Lusting in the heart after that which is opposed to God’s law is opposition to that which is good. Here we are speaking of internal temptations, understood as the deliberation to sin. Thus sin has several stages, as follows:
A) Inclination and propensity;
B) Deliberation (via inward or outward temptation);
C) The resolution to sin;
D) The act itself;
E) A certain pleasure in performing the act;
Of course, not all stages are necessary for sin to take place. Temptation, inwardly, may be sinful. What is temptation? As John Owen notes,
“It is raising up in the heart, and proposing unto the mind and affections, that which is evil; trying, as it were, whether the soul will close with its suggestions, or how far it will carry them on, though it do not wholly prevail. Now, when such a temptation comes from without, it is unto the soul an indifferent thing, neither good nor evil, unless it be consented unto; but the very proposal from within, it being the soul’s own act, is its sin” (Works, 6:194).
If temptation is understood this way, then a proposal towards that which is evil (e.g., same-sex attraction) is sinful. We are distinguishing between proposals from within versus a proposal from without. And the distinction between the two is not a mere quibble, but the difference between heaven and hell.
As John Davenant notes, “although the faculty of desire itself is not sin, yet the inclination and propensity of it to evil is sin; even in one asleep, when it does not at all actually incline to sin.” This is similar to the act and habit of faith. As those who still have remaining indwelling sin, we have the habit of sin always that leads to acts of sin. We mortify not just the acts but also the habit, which means we repent not only for the act but the habit of sin. In other words, we repent for who we are, though forgiven, because we are still those who have remaining uncleanness in our very being.
Christ Tempted in Every Way
I hold that Christ was not “liable to temptations from within.” If I may summarize the basic view of Reformed theologians, and including the vast majority of the Puritans I have read, I would argue the following:
Our temptations typically arise from within us, as we are lured away by desires that give birth to sins such as unbelief and sinful lust (James 1:14–15). Jesus was free from these types of temptations. He did not have an inclination towards evil or the “inclination and propensity” of desire towards evil from within. For example, as the Sinless One, filled with the Spirit beyond measure, he did not experience lust in his heart towards a woman; however, that does not mean he did not find certain women attractive. As a man, he would have experienced a natural attraction to a beautiful woman. Beauty is necessarily attractive. Nevertheless, this “attraction” was always kept perfectly in check. Never once did it move to the realm of lust or covetousness.
The various outward temptations that Jesus would have felt may have had a certain appeal, but he fought ardently to repel them all. To depend on oneself or to give in for a moment to a lustful thought or action always carries an appeal, but Jesus could not and did not do that. He always entrusted himself to his Father. He always responded perfectly to any situation in which he found himself tempted.
There were, however, no sinful impulses in Christ that originated from within his human nature. Because Jesus had infirmities, he had natural human weaknesses that, for example, made him subject to hunger. Thus the devil tempted him in that area in the hope that Jesus would not depend on God but upon bread alone. The desire to eat when hungry is not sinful, but such a craving at the expense of faith in God’s provision is. As the sinless one, Jesus felt the force of temptation more than we can imagine.
As such, Owen and the Puritans would say that a homosexual lust, even if it is not acted upon, is sinful. Even homosexual attraction has to be mortified because it is not natural, but rather unnatural. It is a temptation towards that which is evil. So not just the act itself, but also the “deliberation” that arises from the “inclination and propensity” is sinful and needs to be mortified (Rom. 8:13). Inclinations need to be reoriented so that propensities are reoriented so that the justified child of God is freed more and more from resolutions to sin.
Christian faith has indeed seen homosexual orientation as perversion, or at least as a pathology, and its expression as a serious sin. But if people want to argue that inward temptation in the form of homosexual desires is not inherently sinful because Christ was tempted in every way as we are, they will have to do a little better than simply make that assertion.