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Abandoning Nature:  Some Reasons Why Homosexuality is Wrong

WARNING:  This article contains sexually explicit language that may not be suitable for younger readers.—Editor

Author: Steve Cowan

Today homosexuality is considered by many people to be a normal and perfectly acceptable practice.  It is, they say, a legitimate “alternative lifestyle.”  The Bible, of course, says otherwise (see the article in this volume by Terry Wilder explaining the biblical view of homosexuality).  According to the Apostle Paul, homosexuality is the behavior of those who have “abandoned natural relations”; who have “exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones” (Rom 1:26, 27).

That Scripture speaks to this matter ought to be enough, especially for those who accept the authority of the Bible.  Unfortunately, not everyone bows to biblical authority.  Does this mean, then, that we must remain at a perpetual impasse with those who disagree on the morality of homosexual behavior?  I don’t think so.  I will argue in this article that we can establish the immorality of homosexuality from a purely philosophical perspective.  I will offer, that is, an argument from natural law which echoes Paul’s language in Romans 1 to the effect that homosexuality is an abandonment of the natural, created order, and for that reason is immoral.  But first, I will briefly examine the evidence that homosexuality advocates have advanced in their attempt to show that homosexuality is not contrary to nature, but is in fact natural.

The Alleged Case for the Naturalness of Homosexuality

The basic claim made by those who defend the morality of homosexuality is that homosexuals “are born that way.”  Homosexuality is alleged to have some genetic basis, and some scientific research has been conducted to try to establish the genetic link.^[1]^  Thus Michael Bailey and Richard Pillard assert, “Our own research has shown that male sexual orientation is substantially genetic.”^[2]^

Space does not permit a detailed response to these studies.  Suffice it to say for now that the research alleging to show a genetic basis for homosexuality is far from conclusive.^[3]^  The conclusions and even methods of these studies have been hotly contested, leading Columbia University psychiatrists Byne and Parsons to conclude:

There is no evidence at present to substantiate a biological theory, just as there is no compelling evidence to support any singular psychosocial explanation. . . .[T]he appeal of current biological explanations may derive more from dissatisfaction with the present status of psychosocial explanations than from a substantiating body of experimental data.  Critical review shows the evidence favoring a biological theory to be lacking.^[4]^

So we have no good reason, at least for now, to believe that there is any genetic or biological link to homosexual behavior.  Yet it must be added that even if such a link were established, it would not morally justify homosexuality for two reasons.  First, pinpointing a correlation between homosexuality and some biological factor does not by itself tell us which way the causal relationship runs.  Is the biological condition correlated with homosexuality the cause of the homosexual orientation, or is the biological condition caused by the homosexual orientation?

Second, even if one’s genetic makeup does cause or predispose one toward homosexuality, this again does not make such behavior good or morally permissible.  Some people reason like this:

​>(1)  Homosexuals’ genetic makeup predisposes (or causes) them to engage in homosexual behavior.
>
​>(2) Therefore, homosexual behavior is morally permissible.

However, we do not make this genetic-so-it-must-be-okay leap in other areas of life.  For example, researchers believe that there is a definite genetic basis for alcoholism.  Yet, we do not think that alcoholism is good, or that it is morally permissible for alcoholics to persist in drunkenness.  We believe that alcoholism is bad and that alcoholics should be “cured.”  So, supposing for the sake of argument that homosexuality is genetically based, why shouldn’t we seek to “cure” homosexuals rather than endorse their behavior?  Why shouldn’t we look for ways to eradicate the harmful homosexual gene?  Gay activists beg the question concerning the morality of homosexual behavior when they assume that a genetic basis for the behavior automatically establishes its moral permissibility.

It is interesting to note, in this connection, that recent research has in fact shown that homosexuality is curable.  Dr. Robert L. Spitzer, psychiatry professor at Columbia University, has concluded research which shows that “a percentage of highly motivated gay people can change their sexual orientation.”^[5]^  The study followed the lives of 200 gay persons who underwent therapy to change their sexual orientation.  Spitzer’s study found that 66 percent of men and 44 percent of women were able to achieve “good heterosexual functioning” as a result of the therapy.  And it is helpful to note that Dr. Spitzer does not have an anti-gay ax to grind.  He is not a Christian and has no sympathy for the efforts of Christians to defend the biblical view of homosexuality.  In fact, he was the leader of the 1973 campaign to remove homosexuality from the American Psychiatric Association’s list of mental disorders.  This study provides powerful evidence for the biblical view that homosexuality is a learned behavior.^[6]^

I conclude, therefore, that there is no good evidence that homosexuality is biologically based.  That is, there is no good evidence that homosexuality is “natural” in the sense that those who practice this behavior are genetically predisposed to it.

But might homosexuality be natural in some other sense?  After all, we can observe homosexual behavior in other animals.  For example, chimpanzees and other apes are known to engage in homosexual behavior.  So, it might be said, homosexuality occurs in nature.  It is natural in the sense that we find examples of it in the natural world.  So, shouldn’t we expect and permit such behavior among humans?  The argument goes something like this:

  1. Homosexual behavior occurs naturally among some non-human animals.
  2. Whatever behavior occurs naturally among some non-human animals is morally permissible for human beings.
  3. Therefore, homosexuality is morally permissible for human beings.

The problem with this argument is that premise (2) is so obviously false.  There are lots of behaviors that animals engage in that we do not think are permissible for human beings.  For example, many animals eat their young as soon as they are born.  Though this may be “natural” for the creatures in question, it is clearly not morally permissible for humans to eat their young.  Again, Black Widow spiders kill and devour their mates after mating, but I seriously doubt that any female human could use the “It’s natural” defense in court were she to kill and eat her husband.

Premise (2), if it were true, would imply that there is no moral difference between animals and human beings.  Now some committed atheists and evolutionists might believe that this is so, but most of us would not be willing to follow their lead.  What is permissible for animals is not always permissible for people.  So, just because some animals engage in homosexual behavior, this lends no support to the thesis that human homosexuality is either natural (in any relevant sense) or morally good.

We must also qualify premise (1) of this argument.  It is true that homosexual behavior occurs in nature—among apes, for example.  But, even in the animal kingdom there is a clear abnormality with regard to homosexuality.  Thomas Schmidt explains that

animals do not engage in long-term homosexual bonding as humans do.  Some monkeys and apes mount or fondle each other to the point of sexual arousal, but even this behavior involves numerous qualifications:  most important, the behavior does not continue when the individual matures and has a heterosexual option.^[7]^

So just because homosexual behavior occurs in nature, this does not mean that this is the norm in nature.  Nor does it mean that these occasional occurrences of homosexual behavior among animals make it natural for humans in the sense of morally permissible or morally normative.

The Case Against Homosexuality

I turn now to argue that homosexual behavior is immoral.  The reason it is immoral is that it is clearly unnatural.  Here I am using the terms “natural” and “unnatural” in a specific way.  By saying that homosexuality is unnatural, I mean that it is contrary to the purpose and design of God, our creator.  And I mean to argue that we can know this even apart from what the Bible says about it.^[8]^  My argument can be stated as follows:

  1. Whatever behavior is contrary to God’s created design for human beings is morally wrong.
  2. Homosexuality is contrary to God’s created design for human beings.
  3. Therefore, homosexuality is wrong.

Now what can be said in defense of the premises of this argument?  Let’s take a look at premise (1) first.  This premise, of course, assumes that God exists.  Some people on the pro-homosexual side of this debate will cry, “Foul!—You can’t bring religion into this debate!  You can’t bring your Bible verses into the public arena to decide this issue!”  First of all, take careful note that my argument does not quote any Bible verses, nor will I do so in defense of premise (1).

And it is not my intent to bring religion per se into the debate at this point.  I am merely appealing to the fact that most people in our society believe, or at least say they believe, in the existence of God.  To be sure, there are those who claim that they do not believe in God.  I think they are profoundly mistaken.  I think the evidence for God’s existence is overwhelming and that those who attempt to dismiss his existence are “without excuse” as Romans 1:20 states.^[9]^  But we can save that debate for another time.  Most of us—even those who are not particularly Christian, even those who do not believe in the divine authority of the Bible—nevertheless believe that the universe was created by a personal, all-powerful, all-knowing, and supremely good God.  More specifically, we believe that we were created by God.  And we believe that God gave us all of our faculties and abilities, physical and mental, for a benevolent purpose.

It follows from this that if I use the abilities and faculties that God gave me in a way that is contrary to his good intentions, then I have done something wrong.  For example, if I use the hands that God gave me for serving him and other people to strangle and kill my brother instead, then I have done wrong.  So premise (1) of my argument is true:  any behavior that is contrary to God’s created design for human beings is morally unacceptable.

Now we come to the crucial question.  Is homosexual behavior consistent with God’s created design for human beings?  Or does it run contrary to his design?  In premise (2) I have stated what I take to be the right answer to this question.  Homosexual behavior is clearly contrary to God’s design.

We believe that God created us male and female.  We believe, that is, that hetero-sexuality is God’s intent.  Otherwise, he wouldn’t have created two sexes!  And let us simply examine the biology of it all.  Who can reasonably deny that penises are designed to fit into vaginas?  And who can deny that vaginas are meant to receive penises?  And I am not using these biological statements to refer to reproduction.  Homosexuality advocates often remind us that sexual activity is not only meant for the purpose of reproduction.  It is also intended for pleasure and for emotional bonding.  I agree whole-heartedly!  But this does not justify homosexuality.

If you grant that there is a natural “fit” between penises and vaginas that is created by God (and this cannot be denied), then it is easy to see that God intends for sexual activity to bring men and women together, for the purpose of reproduction to be sure, but also for the purpose of creating a special union through the pleasure and emotional bonding that takes place in sexual intercourse.

And there are other things about men and women that tell us that this is God’s design.  It may not be politically correct to say this nowadays, but men and women need each other.  Because they bear and nurse children, and because they are the “weaker vessel,” women need the strength and bread-winning abilities that men are naturally disposed to provide.  And men need the nurturing and care that women are naturally disposed to provide.^[10]^  But, homosexuality undermines the God-designed interdependence of men and women.

Imagine, for the sake of argument that all human beings opted for homosexuality.  If homosexual behavior is morally permissible, then it would be morally permissible for everyone to be homosexual.  But, then, God’s clear intent for men and women to enter into intimate unions through sexual intercourse would be thwarted.  God’s intent that men and women cleave together in mutually dependent relationships would be thwarted as well.  And, by the way, so would God’s intent that humans reproduce.

So, I conclude that homosexual behavior is clearly inconsistent with God’s created purpose for human beings.  Therefore, it follows that homosexual behavior is wrong.

Steven B. Cowan is Associate Director of the Apologetics Resource Center.

This article is in the Areopagus Journal Calling Evil Good Volume 1 Number 4

NOTES

1 The two most important studies so far were published in Simon LeVay, “A Difference in Hypothalmic Structure Between Heterosexual and Homosexual Men,” Science 258 (Aug. 30, 1991): 1034-37; and J.M. Bailey and Richard Pillard, “A Genetic Study of Male Sexual Orientation,” Archives of General Psychiatry 48 (1991): 1089-96.

2 Michael Bailey and Richard Pillard, “Are Some People Born Gay?” New York Times (Dec. 17, 1991, p. A21).

3 See Thomas E. Schmidt’s helpful discussion and critique of these studies in his Straight and Narrow: Compassion and Clarity in the Homosexuality DebateHomosexuality Debate 142. Also see John and Paul Feinberg, Ethics for a Brave New World (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 1993), 185-205.

4 W. Byne and B. Parsons, “Human Sexual Orientation: The Biologic Theories Reappraised,” Archives of General Psychiatry 50 (March 1993): 228. Indeed, we should also point out that from the stance of evolutionary naturalism (a view which many homosexual activists hold) the argument for a genetic cause for homosexuality breaks down. For, if homosexuality were genetically based, “homosexuality would have become extinct long ago because of reduced reproduction” (Editorial, British Medical Journal (August 7, 1993), p. 1.

5 Robert L. Spitzer, from an unpublished research paper delivered at an American Psychiatric Association meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana, May 9, 2001.

6 Of course, the gay community is already challenging the results of this study. Believing that real change in sexual orientation is not possible, they attack the study by claiming that the sample of persons selected for the study was skewed by the fact that many of them had been recommended by Christian groups dedicated to “curing” homosexuals. But, how is that relevant? Regardless of where these people came from, they were self-professed homosexuals, and many of them are not now living the homosexual lifestyle.  How do the critics explain the changes in these gay people?  I suppose they could argue that the changes are only temporary, but that would be pure speculation.  Or they could argue that these people were not really gay to start with, but only thought they were.  But, then, how do we ever identify a “real” gay person?—apparently only because real gay people persevere in a homosexual orientation.  Such an answer, of course, would completely beg the question of whether or not homosexuality is genetic.

7 Thomas E. Schmidt, Straight and Narrow, 134.

8 Of course, I do not mean to say that what the Bible says about homosexuality is unimportant.  In fact, it is all-important.  I believe that the Bible’s condemnation of homosexual behavior is all that those who believe the Bible is God’s Word need in order to know that such behavior is wrong.  The problem is that many people on the other side of this debate do not adhere to the authority of Scripture.  My argument here aims to show that God’s will on this matter may be known to them even so, because God’s law “is written on their hearts” (Rom. 2:15; cf. 1:32).

9 In addition, I think that there are several good arguments for God’s existence which can put to rest any reasonable doubt about this matter.  See, e.g., William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 1994), 77-125; and J.P. Moreland, Scaling the Secular City (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1987), 15-75.

10 For a more detailed discussion of the interdependence of men and women, see Gregg Johnson, “The Biological Basis for Gender-Specific Behavior”; and George Alan Rekers, “Psychological Foundations for Rearing Masculine Boys and Feminine Girls,”  both in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, eds. John Piper and Wayne Grudem (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 1991).

[1] The two most important studies so far were published in Simon LeVay, “A Difference in Hypothalmic Structure Between Heterosexual and Homosexual Men,” Science 258 (Aug. 30, 1991): 1034-37; and J.M. Bailey and Richard Pillard, “A Genetic Study of Male Sexual Orientation,” Archives of General Psychiatry 48 (1991): 1089-96.

[2] Michael Bailey and Richard Pillard, “Are Some People Born Gay?” New York Times (Dec. 17, 1991, p. A21).

[3] See Thomas E. Schmidt’s helpful discussion and critique of these studies in his Straight and Narrow: Compassion and Clarity in the Homosexuality Debate (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 1995),  137-142.  Also see John and Paul Feinberg, Ethics for a Brave New World (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 1993), 185-205.

[4] W. Byne and B. Parsons, “Human Sexual Orientation: The Biologic Theories Reappraised,” Archives of General Psychiatry 50 (March 1993): 228.  Indeed, we should also point out that from the stance of evolutionary naturalism (a view which many homosexual activists hold) the argument for a genetic cause for homosexuality breaks down.  For, if homosexuality were genetically based, “homosexuality would have become extinct long ago because of reduced reproduction” (Editorial, British Medical Journal (August 7, 1993), p. 1.

[5] Robert L. Spitzer, from an unpublished research paper delivered at an American Psychiatric Association meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana, May 9, 2001.

[6] Of course, the gay community is already challenging the results of this study.  Believing that real change in sexual orientation is not possible, they attack the study by claiming that the sample of persons selected for the study was skewed by the fact that many of them had been recommended by Christian groups dedicated to “curing” homosexuals.  But, how is that relevant?  Regardless of where these people came from, they were self-professed homosexuals, and many of them are not now living the homosexual lifestyle.  How do the critics explain the changes in these gay people?  I suppose they could argue that the changes are only temporary, but that would be pure speculation.  Or they could argue that these people were not really gay to start with, but only thought they were.  But, then, how do we ever identify a “real” gay person?—apparently only because real gay people persevere in a homosexual orientation.  Such an answer, of course, would completely beg the question of whether or not homosexuality is genetic.

[7] Thomas E. Schmidt, Straight and Narrow, 134.

[8] Of course, I do not mean to say that what the Bible says about homosexuality is unimportant.  In fact, it is all-important.  I believe that the Bible’s condemnation of homosexual behavior is all that those who believe the Bible is God’s Word need in order to know that such behavior is wrong.  The problem is that many people on the other side of this debate do not adhere to the authority of Scripture.  My argument here aims to show that God’s will on this matter may be known to them even so, because God’s law “is written on their hearts” (Rom. 2:15; cf. 1:32).

[9] In addition, I think that there are several good arguments for God’s existence which can put to rest any reasonable doubt about this matter.  See, e.g., William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 1994), 77-125; and J.P. Moreland, Scaling the Secular City (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1987), 15-75.

[10] For a more detailed discussion of the interdependence of men and women, see Gregg Johnson, “The Biological Basis for Gender-Specific Behavior”; and George Alan Rekers, “Psychological Foundations for Rearing Masculine Boys and Feminine Girls,”  both in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, eds. John Piper and Wayne Grudem (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 1991).

 

 

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