A couple of weeks ago (February 5, 2020) Spectrum Magazine published a very provocative article written by Dr. Bryan Ness entitled, “THERE IS MORE TO HUMAN SEXUALITY THAN XX AND XY“.
Dr. Ness has been teaching biology, genetics, and biotechnology classes at Pacific Union College for the past 30 years. Bryan, and his wife Judy, are two of the sponsors for the Gay-Straight Alliance group on the PUC campus – and serve on the SDA Kinship Advisory Council. They also have a lesbian daughter, who left her husband in 2014 for another woman, which certainly has helped to propel Bryan and Judy toward even stronger LGBT+ advocacy (Link). Not surprisingly then, Dr. Ness strives to show that homosexuality is on a normal spectrum of human sexuality (produced by random genetic mutations as part of God’s plan) that is no more right or wrong than are blue eyes vs. brown eyes or being left vs. right-handed.
As a relevant aside, other professors at PUC have been promoting this same idea for quite some time. Back in 2014, there was a rather public controversy over the support of the homosexual lifestyle, in a committed monogamous relationship, by Aubyn Fulton (a psychology professor at PUC). Dr. Fulton said that if a student asks for his opinion, he’ll share his conclusion that “the Bible does not condemn, as sin, loving and committed homosexual relationships” (Link). Even the PUC Chaplain, Jon Henderson, gave a Week of Prayer talk entitled, “Adam and Steve”, in which he also supported committed homosexual relationships. (Henderson, 2014)
At the time, the President of PUC, Dr. Heather Knight, opposed such teachings as being out of harmony with the position of the SDA Church on this topic. So, she tried to rein in Dr. Fulton and others who were teaching the same thing. Of course, these professors resisted, citing “academic freedom” to teach, essentially, whatever they wanted to teach – even if it opposed the clearly stated fundamental goals and ideals of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and Pacific Union College.
“Several department chairs wrote a letter indicating displeasure with the president’s actions in a number of areas, including breaching academic freedom, particularly in Psychology and Social Work. Several faculty in that department took retirement or resigned in protest of Knight’s interference in teaching methods and classroom discussion of lesbian and gay rights and other church orthodoxy issues.” (Jiggs Gallagher, 2016)
This, along with some financial issues, eventually led to the resignation of Dr. Knight in December of 2016…
It is also interesting to note that the enrolment for PUC has been declining since 2014. Many have blamed Dr. Knight for this, but why would Seventh-day Adventist parents send their children to an expensive private church school where the teachers are attacking the fundamental values of the church? – when they could send their children to a much less expensive state school to get the same type of education? – if not better? Certainly, other Christian schools are often a better fit. Sometimes, I think that our own professors and school administrators forget, from a strictly financial perspective alone, where their bread is buttered…
Table of Contents
- 1 The Basic Argument in Favor of the Amoral Nature of Homosexuality:
- 2 Genetic Arguments:
- 3 Religious Arguments:
- 3.1 No moral harm:
- 3.2 Not ideal, but still Ok:
- 3.3 Men and women complement each other in marriage:
- 3.4 The ethics of undermining one’s employer:
- 3.5 Homosexuality no different than being right or left-handed:
- 3.6 Becket Cook’s Christian conversion and transformation:
- 3.7 “Common Sense” morality – independent of the Bible:
- 4 Dr. Bryan Ness responds to this article:
The Basic Argument in Favor of the Amoral Nature of Homosexuality:
Without mutations humans would all look alike, with the same eye color, hair color, skin color, facial shape, etc. Mutations are the basis of the nearly limitless variation observed in the human family. It is impossible to conceive of a genetic system without mutation, and if God is the architect of life and of the genetic systems that support life, He must have incorporated the process of mutation to provide the diversity needed to produce a vibrant human population … Why should genetic variation in sexual development be any different, labeling any variation that deviates from the average as somehow negative and due to the effects of sin?
Flawed Initial Assumptions:
Although this is a popular argument, the basic concepts behind it are flawed.
First off, random genetic mutations are not required to produce human variation. Rather, Mendelian variation forms the basis of rapid and efficient phenotypic variability (the same is true for plants and animals that undergo sexual reproduction). Another fairly recently discovered form of designed and well-controlled variability within the human gene pool includes numerous epigenetic controls – which rapidly govern genetic expression (turning off and on the expression of individual genes and genetic regions). Such forms of genetic variability can produce vast phenotypic differences in the expression of genetic information that has been entirely “front-loaded” within the original gene pool of options.
Consider, for example, that practically all of the hundreds of modern breeds of dogs were produced within the past 300 years or so – from the chihuahua to the Great Dane. How is that possible? Darwinian-style evolution doesn’t work that fast. Well, it happens because of something known as Mendelian genetics where rapid changes or variations in phenotypes can be produced without any change in the underlying gene pool of functional options. No new alleles need to be evolved, Darwinian-style, at all. It’s all based on the pre-programmed potential for phenotypic variability that was originally pre-programmed into the gene pools of such animals. The problem is, from a Darwinian perspective anyway, is that Mendelian genetics has specific limitations to the changes that can be realized – limitations that cannot be transgressed. In other words, using Mendelian genetics alone, you’re not going to turn a dog into a cat or a lizard into a bird. This kind of variation would require the evolution of novel alleles and other functional genetic elements that go well beyond what was initially present within the ancestral gene pool. (Link)
In comparison, uncontrolled random genetic mutations (the basis of functionally novel genomic changes for Darwinian evolution) strongly tend toward functional genetic deterioration. The problem here is that the vast majority of random mutations (that have a functional impact on the gene pool) are functionally detrimental – not advantageous at all. In fact, it is this very high “detrimental mutation rate” that is driving the human gene pool, as a whole, toward inevitable genetic meltdown and eventual extinction – and always has been. The same is true for all slowly-reproducing species (like all mammals for instance). Link
Beyond this genetic problem with Dr. Ness’s basic genetic argument, there is also a problem with the idea that just because something is “natural” or “genetic” that it is “good” or “Ok” or part of God’s ideal plan for humanity. That simply isn’t true. A lot of diseases and disorders and harmful tendencies within humanity have a “natural” or genetically-inherited and/or an environmentally-nurtured basis. This doesn’t make them “good” or “ideal” or part of God’s plan for humanity. Rather, God wishes to save us from our degenerated state, with all of our cultivated fallen and sinful tendencies and put us back in line with what is in fact best for humanity. He wants to save us from our degenerated and sinful state, not in our degenerated and sinful state…
My discussion of these points with Dr. Ness is as follows:
Sickle Cell Anemia:
As any geneticist could explain, the genetic diversity contained within just two individuals is insufficient to produce the kind of diversity we see today, unless you also have mutations to continually produce new diversity? How allelically different do you think they were, anyway? There many loci that have dozens of different alleles and more across the human population. A single diploid pair of individuals can possess a maximum of four alleles per locus. Where have all those other alleles come from if not via mutation?
For your contention to be correct, either Adam or Eve would have had to have had sickle-cell trait, thus enabling their African descendents to have resistance to malaria. Oh, oops, that’s a detrimental mutation (unless, of course, you live in Africa where malaria runs rampant). This is the kind of quandary that happens repeatedly with your kind of reasoning about genetics. (Ness, 2020)
Sickle-cell is a classic example of a genetic mutation that disrupts the original function of a system (hemoglobin in this case) which results in a survival benefit in certain environments. However, this type of survival benefit is like cutting off your arms to avoid a monster that only eats people with arms. In this particular case, the malaria parasite is less able to survive in an oxygen-poor environment. This produces a survival advantage in malaria-infested regions of the world for those humans who have defective hemoglobin functionality – a survival advantage that is produced via a loss of pre-existing functionality is no way to fight genomic degeneration over time.
Again, such mutations that are based on a loss of original functionality are very easy to achieve in short order, but will eventually add up to result in genomic meltdown and eventual extinction of a species. They simply aren’t helpful over the long haul because there are only so many pre-existing functions you can lose before you have nothing more to lose (i.e., you’re dead).
The origin of different genes:
There many loci that have dozens of different alleles and more across the human population. A single diploid pair of individuals can possess a maximum of four alleles per locus. Where have all those other alleles come from if not via mutation? (Ness, 2020)
Many novel alleles have come from mutations. However, the functionally novel human alleles that have been produced by random genetic mutations (outside of Mendelian or epigenetic variation) have not produced functional advantages over the original gene pool of options. Rather, such mutations have resulted in an overall functional detriment to the human gene pool (Link).
This is known as downhill evolution, not the other way around.
How could humanity of started with just four alleles and ended up with dozens without mutations. If you understand genetics, it is simple common sense. (Ness, 2020)
Yes, mutations do produce new alleles, but these new alleles are functionally detrimental compared with the original state (by a ratio of over a million to one). You claim that some mutations are functionally beneficial and that the “diversity” produced by these mutations is vital for human survival, but these beneficial mutations are extremely rare (and never happen at all when it comes to levels of novel functional complexity requiring a minimum of more than a few hundred amino acid residues – for a protein-based system – Link).
The real problem, of course, is that the rate of detrimental mutations so far outpaces the extremely rare rate of beneficial mutations that natural selection is powerless to keep up – to sort out the bad and keep the good remotely fast enough to stop the detrimental mutations from piling up in each and every generation.
This completely does in the Darwinian notion of uphill evolution, or even neutral evolution, over millions of years of time. That just cannot happen. Statically, it is inevitable that we devolve as a species due to our very high detrimental mutation rate. How do you get around this fundamental problem for your argument?
Also, as far as creating the potential for huge phenotypic diversity, you know as well as I do that this is easily doable given that most traits are governed by multiple alleles and other genetic elements – even non-coding genetic sequences as well as epigenetic controls. This allows for amazing phenotypic diversity to confront rapidly changing environments without the need to slowly produce new alleles with random mutations that are almost always detrimental and which end up rapidly degrading the functionality of the gene pool over time…
Perfection requires uniformity?
If God created the first two humans as perfect beings, then clearly when one considers the concept of perfection, some alleles are inherently more perfect than others, and one allele would presumably be the best and most perfect, then Adam and Eve must have been homozygous for all the same alleles across their entire genome, all 22,500+ genes. (Ness, 2020)
I don’t follow you. Why would one particular allele be more perfect than some other version that allows for variation in various environments that might be encountered in this world? I would argue, that such pre-programmed variability would be highly advantageous – a more ideal/perfect system compared to your concept of original uniformity within a non-uniform world. The fairly new study of epigenetic controls only adds to this potential for pre-programmed phenotypic variability.
How far have we fallen?
Obviously mutations would have supply that variation, which would be saying that all variation is bad, because it is represents alternatives to perfection. This is the fully corrupted, fallen world view of so many. I find such a dim view problematic, as even after the fall God seems to remind us that nature is still his creation and it is good, even though there are obviously some faults. (Ness, 2020)
While some good does remain from God’s original creation, so that we can still since His signature within what remains – it has rapidly degenerated since Eden. It’s not that there are “some faults” here and there that have come along, on rare occasions, to plague humanity since our time in Eden. Rather, almost everything that God originally created and called “very good” has been corrupted in some way or another – and it’s getting worse and worse as time goes on.
The problem is that random mutations almost always mess things up. This happens way more often than they come up with some truly new and beneficial function – as would be expected in any complex functional digital-type system (like computer code) undergoing random mutations to the original code. The real kicker here is the rate at which these detrimental mutations pile up within the human gene pool. They just happen far far too quickly to keep up with them. That means that they build up more and more and more in each and every generation.
How is that an “ideal design” for God to have created? I’m telling you, we get old and die, not because God created it to be this way originally, but because He is no longer maintaining the system as He did originally since we stepped away from Him and His constant care for us as it was originally intended to be. That’s why things get old, wear out, and eventually die – because they are not maintained and repaired. The very same thing is happening to our human gene pool as a whole. It’s wearing out. It will eventually die and go extinct if God doesn’t step in and save the otherwise dire situation that we’re currently in.
“I was informed that the inhabitants of earth had been degenerating, losing their strength and comeliness. Satan has the power of disease and death, and in every age the curse has been more visible, and the power of Satan more plainly seen. . . I was informed that those who lived in the days of Noah and Abraham were more like the angels in form, in comeliness and strength. But every generation has been growing weaker, and more subject to disease, and their lives of shorter duration. Satan has been learning how to annoy men, and to enfeeble the race… As Adam came forth from the hand of his Creator, he was of noble height, and of beautiful symmetry. He was more than twice as tall as men now living upon the earth, and was well proportioned. His features were perfect and beautiful. His complexion was neither white, nor sallow, but ruddy, glowing with the rich tint of health. Eve was not quite as tall as Adam. Her head reached a little above his shoulders. She, too, was noble—perfect in symmetry, and very beautiful.” (Ellen White, Spiritual Gifts, Vol. 1, 69.2 and Vol. 3, 33.2)
Cain and Able must have been perfect clones?
I presume they would have to be exact genetic clones of their parents, anything else would be less than perfect. What a boring world that would be. (Ness, 2020)
How can you say this knowing even the basics about genetics? Do you really think that Cain and Able had to have been not only identical twins, but also identical in nature and appearance to Adam? – identical clones of him? If so, you must not understand that most traits are governed by multiple different alleles and genetic regions that can be mixed and matched via Mendelian-style variation (not to mention variable epigenetic controls) to produce an enormous variety of phenotypic differences within human offspring (as well as with plants and animals). Your notion that variation would have been impossible within an Edenic state for humanity is based on a very poor understanding of the potential variability for pre-programmed genetic information within the human genome.
Evolutionary arguments “not germane”?
I am not interested in arguing this point or any other related points, as they are not germain to the main points I make. I am not making any kind of evolutionary argument, and for some reason you seem obsessed with arguing about evolution and the doom of the human race due to the overwhelming effects of mutation. I just see your ideas in this regard as way off base, and they disagree with the great bulk of the evidence, but I do not care to further argue the point here. I will just leave you with your ideas and move on. (Ness, 2020)
Why then even bring up the argument of random Darwinian-style genetic mutations producing novel alleles and greater “human diversity” if this evolutionary concept really isn’t “germane” to your main argument?
No moral harm:
No one is making hell for an alcoholic by wanting to help him get treatment for the addiction. There is a moral argument against encouraging someone to go ahead and live as an alcoholic. There is moral harm, since we know that being an alcoholic leads to many negative health outcomes. The same cannot be said for same-sex marriage, there is no moral harm you can identify, and since there is no moral harm, why prohibit it, except because it makes you uncomfortable, or it doesn’t reach some ideal you have determined to be important? (Ness, 2020)
I don’t think same-sex “civil unions” should be legally prohibited. That being said, I don’t think one can honestly argue that the Bible supports such a union as being the ideal for humanity. Rather, the Bible clearly supports only a marriage between one man and one woman as being the ideal situation before God.
Now, I’m not the one making such claims here. It’s the Bible making such claims. The very concept of marriage was invented by God and is described in the Bible quite clearly – including the ideal parameters, rights, privileges, and restrictions set for marriage by God. The very concept of marriage is, therefore, a religious concept in its very essence. Secular governments cannot, therefore, reasonably define marriage or dictate regarding something that is inherently religious in nature. They can define “civil unions” all they want, but God is the Creator and Definer of “marriage”. And, if God says that there is a problem with homosexual relationships, then who are we to argue? Do you know more than God on this topic? How can you be so certain, then, that there really is “no moral harm”? – if God is saying otherwise?
Not ideal, but still Ok:
It’s obvious that the original plan is for men and women to marry and procreate. I have never suggested that this is not the case. Just because that is the ideal does not mean it is the only way things can be oe should be done. Same-sex marriage does not detract from that ideal at all. It’s just that because they have same-sex attraction they do not have the option of that ideal arrangement, but allowing them same-sex marriage gives them as close to that ideal as is possible. Same-sex marriage meets all the goals of heterosexual marriage except for procreation, and not even all heterosexual couples reach that ideal. (Ness, 2020)
If it’s not “ideal”, then why would anyone strive for it? Why strive for or promote something that is inherently harmful as compared to what is, admittedly, the more ideal goal? From the Biblical perspective, an effort to do something that God doesn’t consider ideal for you or me to do is defined as “sin” (James 4:17) – a form of rebellion against what God has in mind for you and for me.
I am not acquainted with that definition of sin. I suppose it is a useful philosophical definition of sin, but it isn’t very practical, since in almost every sphere of life there are ideal ways to do things, but such ideals are often not possible. By that kind of definition we are all sinners, gays no less or more than straight people, so what’s the point. Why make a big deal about one particular ideal, i.e. heterosexual marriage, and say that anyone who does otherwise is a sinner and therefor disallow it, when the very “less than ideal” state, i.e. same-sex marriage is not morally wrong. You can certainly argue that same-sex marriage does not match the ideal, but that does not Make it automatically wrong. It must be shown to be morally wrong, which you have not done. (Ness, 2020)
I agree with you that God’s ideals for humanity are not possible through human effort. That’s certainly true. However, God is not asking us to free ourselves from our own less-than-ideal state. Not at all! Rather, He is offering to recreate us, to give us a “new birth”, where He forms us into the ideal image that we were originally intended to have – if we only allow Him to do it for us.
Men and women complement each other in marriage:
As far as something being “morally wrong”, again, striving for anything that God says is not ideal, is not ultimately “good” as He defines it, is a moral wrong – a sin. There are aspects of men and women that complement each other that simply cannot be achieved in a “marriage” between same-sex couples. Therefore, striving for such a non-ideal situation, when God offers a more ideal path to us, is a moral wrong.
Even were this to be true, how does that address same-sex marriage. No one is implying that same-sex marriage is the same as heterosexual marriage. Just because something does not meet some specified ideal, does not mean that alternative approaches or variation should not be allowed. If there is nothing morally wrong with same-sex marriage, why not allow it, especially if it can help gays live more fulfilled and sexually responsible lives? If you are uncomfortable with it, don’t get married to a man yourself, but why prohibit others. Heterosexual marriages loses nothing by also allowing same-sex marriage. (Ness, 2020)
Again, from the Biblical perspective, an effort to do something that God doesn’t consider to be ideal for you or me to do is defined as “sin” – a form of rebellion against what God has in mind for us (James 4:17). So, we should always point people toward God’s ideals for humanity.
Originally, God designed marriage to be reflective of the very image of God Himself (Genesis 1:26-27). Therefore, any distortion of this original design between one man and one woman living in a marriage relationship is a distortion of the very image of God. It is impossible to fulfill God’s original design to make mankind in His own image via a homosexual relationship because such a relationship cannot produce the same type of interaction that a marriage relationship between one man and one woman can produce. This is not a hateful idea, it’s simply a matter of reality – of how humanity was originally designed, according to the Bible, to reflect the image of God. This image of God can be achieved in no other way. Men were simply not designed to fulfill the role of women and women were not designed to fulfill the role of men in the marriage/family relationship. That is why any effort to do so is a distortion of the image of God – which is certainly not a good thing to do. It is for this reason that every effort is made, on the part of Satan, to attack the family relationships that God originally design – for in so doing he is directly attacking the very image of God Himself.
That being said, no civil law should be enacted to enforce such “Christian Ideals” onto society at large. Everyone should be free to choose to align themselves with such ideals, or not, at will – without any fear of civil reprisals of any kind. All should be able to freely choose to be a part of a particular Christian community that strives to live according to the Bible (like the Seventh-day Adventist Church) – or not.
It’s interesting how Ravi Zacharias puts it in this video clip:
The ethics of undermining one’s employer:
My problem is with those who wish to forcefully promote ideas and philosophies that run counter to the stated goals and ideals of the Seventh-day Adventist Church – while being paid employees of the Church!
For example, you teach your students and publicly proclaim ideas that strike against the very heart of what you are actually being paid to teach. In the past, you’ve suggested to your students that the Noachian Flood described in the Bible was probably just a local Mesopotamian flood and that the Darwinian story of origins is becoming more and more well-supported by scientific evidence all the time (Link). Now, you’ve started publicly promoting the idea that the Church is wrong to teach that homosexuality is presented in the Bible as being out of line with God’s plan for humanity, that it is not a “sinful” behavior after all. You claim that there is nothing actually morally wrong with monogamous homosexual relationships – despite the lack of biblical support for this position of yours and despite the consistent claims of the Bible that appear to strongly counter your position on this topic.
Of course, you can believe and teach and promote whatever you want on your own dime. However, when you’re working as a paid representative for the church, how can you think to go around directly attacking the fundamental goals and ideals of your employer whom you claim to represent? That, in my book anyway, is unethical. It would be far better for you to simply resign your position and join any other of many organizations that are naturally more in line with your views.
Homosexuality no different than being right or left-handed:
Let me redirect the conversation to the religious contention that “Anything other than what God has determined is in error.” My question still stands, what is God’s will in regards to laterality. Right handedness or left handedness and does the wrong answer mean going against God’s will? (Elmer Cupino, 2020)
Clearly there are mutations that are quite negative. But for those mutations that are not so negative, some can be lived with, like being left-handed, and others like myopia can be corrected with glasses or contacts. Many of the differences in sexual development that exist are in the first category, they can be lived with. (Ness, 2020)
How are you so sure that the option for being either right or left-handed, or even completely ambidextrous, wasn’t originally included by God in the first human gene pool of options? You’re suggesting here that such options could only be achieved via the Darwinian-style evolution of novel genetic alleles and traits. Again, such an assumption is simply unwarranted.
Beyond this, where, in the Bible, is there any statement against being either right or left-handed? This cannot be said when it comes to homosexual activities. Both the Old and New Testament writers cite homosexual behavior as being out of line with God’s desires for humanity – as being sinful. The Scriptures that testify against homosexual behavior ( including Leviticus 18:22, Leviticus 20:13, Romans 1:26-27, 1Corinthians 6:9-10, and 1 Timothy 1:9-10) are so clear and specific that they defy reinterpretation. It is intellectually dishonest to say that conservative individuals and leaders “interpret” such clear verses as “Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable”, presented as a direct quote from God Himself, out of simple prejudice against homosexuals. Styling these verses as “clobber passages” doesn’t change what the Bible actually has to say on this topic.
If God had really meant to say, “only non-monogamous sexual relationships are a problem”, why didn’t He just say that? After all, it wasn’t like homosexuality was something new in that day and age in the surrounding nations. Why then didn’t God just say, “Homosexuality is perfectly fine as long as it is part of a monogamous marriage relationship”? The problem is, such a statement is nowhere to be found in the Bible – nowhere. There simply are no such countering passages anywhere that cite God as being at all favorable to any kind of homosexual relationship – within or outside of a monogamous “marriage-style” relationship. In fact, the passages dealing with homosexuality in Leviticus, Romans, 1 Corinthians, and 1 Timothy are presented within the wider context of all heterosexual immoral behavior outside of the marriage relationship. This strongly speaks against the common argument that Scripture really only condemns homosexuality outside of a monogamous relationship – as you propose.
Some try to counter this lack of commendation for committed homosexual relationships by citing the friendship of David and Jonathan as being homosexual in nature. Of course, this is more than a stretch since both David and Jonathan were about as heterosexual as one can get – especially David. Some even think to cite the relationship between Jesus and His disciples as being homosexual in nature – which is just as ridiculous.
Becket Cook’s Christian conversion and transformation:
But if you insist, can you direct me to a clinical case where a homosexual was successfully treated through the power of having a divine relationship with God? (Ness, 2020)
There are many examples of this, but perhaps one of the most striking examples I’ve come across lately is the case of Becket Cook – a very well connected and well-known homosexual man, in the Hollywood scene, who experienced Christian conversion in a most dramatic manner – and changed his whole lifestyle because of it. While he still has homosexual feelings and tendencies, these are no longer so strong that they control his lifestyle or stand in the way of his relationship with God.
There are a number of very interesting videos and programs produced about him and by him, where he gives his personal testimony and what is it like for him to follow Christ, compared to what it was like for him to be living his previous homosexual lifestyle (Link, Link).
Video clips of Becket Cook’s story:
“Common Sense” morality – independent of the Bible:
Here is the center of the argument:
- Mutations are a fact of genetics, and I have no problem conceding that the majority of them are detrimental, but a large number are also either inconsequential or only mildly detrimental. It is these mutations which I am most interested in, because I contend that these largely inconsequential mutations, or maybe I should call them variations, since many of the traits of interest are certainly caused by more than a single allelic variant at a single locus. . . Anyway, these inconsequential variants need not have value judgments placed on them, unless they lead to behaviors that are properly recognized as morally wrong.
- Differences of sexual development represent some of what I am classifying here as inconsequential, since they are not inherently detrimental. Due to some of these differences, gays, for example display same-sex attraction, leading many of them to desire entering into marriage.
- Because same-sex marriage, and same-sex sexual relations within such a context are not morally wrong, the church should not prohibit members from entering into a same-sex marriage.
And there you have the central argument. All the other debates over other other issues we have been having are peripheral. In fact, in the end it doesn’t even matter whether you agree that same-sex attraction represents a genetically based variation, since same-sex, monogamous relationships are not morally wrong.
If you believe that same-sex, monogamous relationships are morally wrong, then please direct your arguments to that. What about such relationships makes them morally wrong? And just pointing to the Bible’s “clobber texts” is insufficient to prove that such relationships are morally wrong, as the same Biblical key test approach could just as easily be used to prove that slavery is acceptable (which runs counter to the common-sense argument that slavery is morally wrong) or that eating meat with the blood still in it is wrong. You need to show that same-sex, monogamous relationships have features that cause moral harm in order to consider such relationships morally wrong.
I would go even one step further. I think a moral argument can be made against people who do all they can to prevent same-sex marriage. When you do what you can to prevent SDA LGBTQ+ people from getting married with the church’s blessing, telling them that they must remain celibate or they are living in sin, you are preventing those individuals from fully experiencing a fulfilling life. You may even be damaging their ability to have a positive spiritual experience. These outcomes represent moral harms, and thus strong opposition to same-sex marriage for SDA LGBTQ+ members is itself morally wrong.
Now, I am willing to be more understanding than that, however, as I think God is too, of those church members who oppose same-sex marriage. I am willing to be compassionate and merciful toward those displaying such moral failings because I recognize how complicated the issue is. Many are ignorant of the deeper issues faced by LGBTQ+ people and are also often ignorant of how deep a spiritual experience many of these individuals have. They love God deeply, have struggled with their identity as LGBTQ+ individuals, and have finally come to a place of peace and reconciliation with God. If only those who oppose same-sex marriage could observe these spiritual struggles first-hand, they might finally come to realize how much moral harm we are doing when we oppose full affirmation of LGBTQ+ people and same-sex marriage. I think Jesus made it abundantly clear when he quoted Hosea saying, “for I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”
It is my fervent hope that many who are now so opposed to same-sex marriage and full affirmation of LGBTQ+ people in the church will get on their knees and ask God to humble them and listen to God’s words of love to all, including the LGBTQ+ among us. We should not label evil what is morally acceptable. if we would let this sink into our hearts, we could make the path much easier on the LGBTQ+ young people currently growing up in the church, and they would not have to face the same sense of rejection that many older LGBTQ+ members have experienced, many of whom have left the church in despair and some who became so discouraged they committed suicide. We can do better. (Ness, 2020)
It seems to me that you are, in practical terms anyway, suggesting here that it doesn’t actually matter what the Bible has to say on a particular topic. You can determine the morality of a situation, on your own via your own “common sense”, without any real need to refer to the Bible. Given such an outlook, what relevance does the Bible hold for you regarding the morality of anything?
Now you claim, as an illustration of your “common sense” argument, that slavery is actually promoted by the Bible. Of course, all would agree that slavery is a clear moral wrong regardless of what the Bible says about it – right? You think to use this as a clear example of Biblical guidance that can be disregarded in light of a more modern “common sense” understanding of morality. Yet, historically, it is the Bible and the Christian perspective that, more than anything else, spoke to the equality of all people being all of “one blood” and one salvation before God, all being equally made in the image of God Himself, and all being equally fallen and in need of a Savior. Therefore, we are all commanded to “love one another” – to love our neighbors as ourselves, even valuing them greater than ourselves (Acts 17:26, Ephesians 5:21, 1 John 2:2, Genesis 1:27, John 13:34, Mark 12:31, Philippians 2:3, Proverbs 22:2, Psalm 67:4, Romans 2:11, James 2:8-9, Leviticus 19:33-34, Luke 14:13-14, Acts 10:34-35, Colossians 3:10-11, James 2:1-4 . . . ).
Such Christian views of essential equality before God eventually overwhelmed the forces upholding slavery in countries around the world where the Christian influence was most strongly felt.
This same philosophy of essential equality for all peoples cannot be realized from other philosophical perspectives – such as the Darwinian perspective, for instance, where some individuals or groups of people are inherently and naturally “superior” and should dominate and enslave all others…
“Ideas mattered, and the leading abolitionists cannot be understood without reference to their Christianity. They believed that all people are God’s offspring and bearers of the divine image; they believed that you must love your neighbour as yourself and do to others as you would have them do to you; they believed in a God who heard the cry of the oppressed, and a Messiah who had come to bring deliverance to captives; and they believed that sooner or later, God would punish a nation that failed to repent of its iniquitous exploitation of another race. These simple religious convictions lent a special intensity to the campaign against the slave trade, turning it into a sacred cause. If we doubt the power and promise of Christian beliefs, we should remember the abolitionists.”
John Coffey, The abolition of the slave trade: Christian conscience and political action, Cambridge University, June, 2006 (Link)
Of course, God is sympathetic to all of our fallen natural tendencies. Because of His love for us, He offers us a way out of our fallen state – a better way to live as we were originally intended to live and love. God’s love and offer of grace and a new life through a New Birth in the Spirit is also offered to those who have homosexual tendencies as well. God says there is a better way. You can believe Him, or not. However, if you choose not to believe Him and what he tells you is the best way for us to live, you will never experience it for yourself…
Dr. Bryan Ness responds to this article:
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About the author:
Dr. Sean Pitman is a pathologist from Redding, California with a particular interest in the topic of Creation vs. Evolution (Link), as well as other widespread interests regarding numerous issues involving the Seventh-day Adventist Church and spreading the Good News of the Gospel message of God’s amazing transforming love and grace for fallen humanity during these last days of Earth’s history. His father, Tui Pitman, is a retired pastor, teacher, high-school principal, missionary and trust services director from the Gulf States Conference.