1 Christian Theology, Psychology, & Homosexuality : Foundations for Loving Your NeighborDallas Theological SeminaryWorld Evangelization ConferenceMarch 12, 2013C. Gary Barnes, ThM, PhDAdapted from Stanley Grenz, Mark Yarhouse and Tim Keller
2 I. Theology of Sexuality: A Foundation for a Sexual Ethics Four Stages of Redemptive History in the Bible:1) Creation2) Fall3) Redemption4) Glorification.For our present purposes, two themes for each of the four stages will be identified.
3 CreationIn the creation account we uniquely see what life was like before the negative effects of the fall. In the creation account we see that:1) Sex is Glorious2) Sex is Greater than the individual.
4 Creation 1) Sex is Glorious Sacred Sex is a reflection of the joyous self-giving pleasure of love within the very life of the triune God.Sacred Sex gives us a glorious living object lesson of oneness that is not based in sameness.Sacred Sex demonstrates oneness that is deepened with difference. This depth of intimacy is experienced physically, emotionally and spiritually.Sacred Sex moves us to deeper levels of truth about three persons and one being in the Trinity.
5 Creation 2) Sex is Greater than the Individual. Sacred Sex is primarily a relationship builder, with God and also with another.Sacred Sex is greater than just one person.Sacred Sex creates a glorious joint experience for a husband and wife in covenant relationship to give their entire selves to one another.Sacred Sex is an ultimate “one another” dynamic, rather than a solo focused, self-centered, or self-absorbed endeavor.
6 FallAs a result of the fall, all of creation has been tarnished. Under this condition, sin disconnects all things that God designed to be connected and disconnects all things from their deeper true meaning and purpose. As a result of the fall:1) Sex is not dirty, but2) Sex is derailed.
7 Fall1) Sex is not dirtySacred Sex after the fall, does NOT teach that sex is a part of our lower physical nature, distinct from our higher, rational or more spiritual nature.Sacred Sex does NOT teach that sex is simply a necessary evil to be tolerated in the act of procreation.Sacred Sex does NOT teach that sex should NOT be ecstatically pleasurable. It describes, and celebrates, holy eroticism in accordance with God’s design.Sacred Sex DOES teach that our sexual experiences are intended for mutual pleasure that transcends us for greater heavenly purposes.
8 Fall2) Sex is derailed.Sex is naturally tied to separation through sinful selfishness, self-elevation, self-debasement, self-absorption, self-hatred, self-worship, self-protectionSelf-centered sex leads to demeaning individuals and relationships. Our communities and societies become fragmented as we think of human souls as interchangeable objects for personal sexual gratification.Since the fall, our experiences and expressions of sex are in dire need of redemption.
9 RedemptionChristian theology teaches us that God in His mercy did not leave us in our sin. The good news of the gospel is that God intervened through His Son Jesus Christ. This redemption has transforming power on the natural ill effects of sin on sex, and now, we may see1) Sex as a Celebration2) Sex as a Crucible
10 Redemption 1) Sex as a Celebration The redemptive work of Christ in our lives frees us from self in a way that our experience and expression of sex becomes a celebration.It transforms us primarily to become gracious givers, as we have graciously received from Christ. Sex freed from self-centeredness is a true celebration.
11 Redemption 2) Sex as a Crucible Sex must be experienced and expressed through fidelity in marriage and chastity outside of marriage. So then,Sex may serve as our crucible, NOT that we manage sex with a morally restrained heart, but that we become free to celebrate it from a supernaturally transformed heart, compelled by the love of Christ.
12 GlorificationGlorification is the last major act of redemptive history, culminating with Jesus returning as rightful ruler over all things. Since the negative effects of the fall will be fully redeemed, we can see1) Sex as an Earthly Reminder2) Sex as a Heavenly Pointer.
13 Glorification 1) Sex as an Earthly Reminder Future glorification reminds us now that the church family is our “first family.”Sexuality is important for a number of reasons, but it is not our first identity.Our primary identity is that we are part of a body of believers who are wed to Christ.It is my identity as a new creation in Christ that gives me hope for the journey as a redeemed sexual being.
14 Glorification 2) Sex as a Heavenly Pointer Sex points us to the transcendent truth of not only the joy of the Trinity, but also to our future eternal delight of the soul that we will have in our relationships with one another and God.Sex according to God between a man and a woman in covenant relationship can be a sort of “embodied, out-of-body” experience.Sacred Sex is “…the most ecstatic, breathtaking, daring, scarcely-to-be-imagined look at the glory that is our future.” (Keller)
15 II. Psychology of Sexuality: A Context for a Sexual Ethic The most significant and useful psychological end point of the conversation, dialog or debate on homosexuality is NOT on causes or changes or cures for homosexual orientation, NOR is it the “normal healthy outcomes” of homosexual practice.
16 II. Psychology of Sexuality: A Context for a Sexual Ethic The most significant and useful psychological end point is sexual identity. Under this primary focus of sexual identity, four points will be discussedA) definitionB) distinctionsC) developmentD) decisions.
17 American Psychological Assoc. “There is no consensus among scientist about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay or lesbian orientation. Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings emerged that permit scientist to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors. Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles; most people experience little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation.” (www.apa.org/topics/sorientation.html#whatcauses)
18 DefinitionSimply put, sexual identity is how you label yourself by your sexual preferences. Common sexual identity labels include straight, gay, lesbian, and bisexual.Public sexual identity is how you identify your sexual preferences to other people or how other people label you.Private sexual identity is how you identify your sexual preferences to yourself. These identities can be the same, or they can be different.
19 DefinitionA partial list of factors contributing to one’s identity may include:Your sexual attractionsWhether you were born male or femaleDevelopment within family of origin factorsHow masculine or feminine you feelWhat you intend to do with the attraction you haveWhat you actually do with the attractions you haveYour beliefs and values about your sexual attractions and behaviors .
20 DefinitionComplications on defining and labeling one’s identity are increased by the fact that different influences are weighted differently for different people.One young man with same-sex attraction identified himself as gay and Christian.Another young man with same-sex attraction identified himself as Christian, but not as gay.Yet of all the influencing factors identified, the only ones they differed on were their beliefs and values about their sexual attractions and behaviors.
21 Definition labeling of sexual identity is simple, understanding the source of the labeling is quite complicated.the possibility exist that there is much mislabeling and confusion by those giving themselves the label, as well as those giving others the label.also there is a greater likelihood of an incongruence of the public and private sexual identity.so how should we think about sexual identity as it relates to sexual orientation and sexual practices.
22 Distinctions: A Three-Tier Model The first tier is same-sex attraction.This is the most descriptive way people can talk about their feelings.This is the part of the equation they can’t control.The occurrence of same-sex attraction doesn’t say anything about either their identity or their behavior.
23 Distinctions: A Three-Tier Model The second tier is homosexual orientation.This is an evaluative labelThis is an experience of a same-sex attraction that is strong enough and durable enough and persistent enough for them to feel that they are oriented toward the same sex.homosexual orientation- only towards same sexbisexual orientation- toward both sexes.homosexual orientation doesn’t say anything about either their identity or their behavior.
24 Distinctions: A Three-Tier Model The third tier is gay identity.This is the most prescriptive label.This is a sociocultural label that people use to describe themselves, and it is a label that is imbued with meaning in our culture.Only contemporary Western culture has used the self-defining gay label.Taking on a gay identity is identifying with and taking on a part of a modern contemporary movement.
25 Distinctions: A Three-Tier Model With the three-tier distinction, researcher Mark Yarhouse recommends that our language and understandings should try to be more descriptive.Talking to people in specific terms about their attractions is more helpful than presuming that an identity has already been shaped around these attractions.
26 Development: Three Stages Sexual identity emerges through a developmental process.It begins typically with attraction and then it leads to a behavior of some kind.This may then lead to a questioning of identity, which results in the act of self-labeling.Research indicates that this developmental process can take as long as fifteen years to go from initial attraction to labeling and sexual identity.
27 Development: Three Stages Yarhouse reports from his own research that sexual identity synthesis for Christians can take even longer due to the weight that Christians give to their faith and their religious identity.This interplay of the development of a sexual identity along with the development of a religious identity can bring about deep internal personal conflict as well as interpersonal conflicts.
28 Development: Three Stages Generally, researchers agree that young people who experience same-sex attraction will find themselves going through three stages:Identity Dilemma Stage: where something is different from what other people are experiencing.Identity Development Stage: a process of sorting out sexual identity and sexual attraction.Identity Synthesis Stage: a sense that a person feels they’ve comfortably arrived at their identity.
29 Development: Three Stages The church must understand and facilitate, not complicate this difficult developmental process. When the church attempts to control it, They complicate it!
30 Decisions: Two Sexual Identity Scripts It is only when an individual comes to developing a sexual identity and sexual practices that they have come to points of decision.There are no decisions involved in determining whether or not a person experiences sexual attractions or a sexual orientation.The research from Yarhouse further identifies that the key to this decision process for young people will be the influence of two different sexual identity scripts.
31 Decisions: Two Sexual Identity Scripts Gay ScriptSame-sex attractions signal a naturally occurring or “intended by God” distinction between homosexuality, heterosexuality, and bisexuality.Same-sex attractions are the way you know who you “really are” as a person (emphasis on discovery).Same-sex attractions are at the core of who you areSame-sex behavior is an extension of that core.Self-actualization of your sexual identity is crucial for your fulfillment (behavior that matches who you really are)
32 Decisions: Two Sexual Identity Scripts Identity in Christ Script.Same-sex attraction does NOT signal a categorical distinction among types of persons, but is one of many human experiences that are anomalies.Same-sex attractions may be part of your experience, but they are NOT the defining element of your identity.You can choose to integrate your experiences of attraction to the same sex into a gay identity.
33 Decisions: Two Sexual Identity Scripts Identity in Christ Script.On the other hand, you can choose to center your identity around other aspects of your experience, including your biological sex, gender identity, and so on.The most compelling aspect of personhood for the Christian is one’s identity in Christ, a central and defining aspect of what it means to be a follower of Jesus.
34 Decisions: Two Sexual Identity Scripts The discovery metaphor assumes that the attractions tell us who the person “really is.”The integration metaphor on the other hand, begins with a description of the attractions to the same sex and then recognizes that a young person has choices to make about both behavior and identity, even though they do not have choices about attraction and orientation.
35 Decisions: Two Sexual Identity Scripts In a set of studies conducted by Yarhouse, Christians who adopted a gay identity label were compared to Christians who chose not to adopt a gay identity label.Both groups experienced same-sex attraction.Both groups identified themselves as Christians.Both groups were interested in living in a way that was consistent with their beliefs and values.But they had two very different ways of doing it
36 Decisions: Two Sexual Identity Scripts Christians who adopted a gay identity made their beliefs and values line up with their identity and behavioridentify and behavior came first, and their beliefs and values had to be adjusted to themChristians who did not adopt a gay identity made their identity and behavior line up with their beliefs and valuesFor this group, beliefs and values came first.
37 Decisions: Two Sexual Identity Scripts The Christians who adopted a gay identity talked about worshiping God as gay Christians.They said that doing so was what it meant to be authentic before God.In contrast, the Christians who did not adopt a gay identity indicated that authenticity meant worshiping God on God’s terms.For them, worshiping out of a gay identity would not reflect true authenticity.
38 III. Psychology of Christ: A Motivation for a Sexual Ethic The key question for all of us is this:“How do we relate with each other when our beliefs, practices, values and views, deeply differ, distress and even offend each other?”My great hope for us is that we all would be able to move forward with this question.To facilitate this movement, I’d like to highlight the contrasts between the Psychology of Christ and the Psychology of the Cosmos.
39 Psychology of the Cosmos The world says, “We need to be tolerant.”Many would say that tolerance is the only absolute left.The only moral absolute left is to insist that no ones morals are absolute.In actuality, this plea for tolerance and inclusiveness translates to outcomes of exclusion.
40 Psychology of the Cosmos Exclusion can occur in three different ways:Expulsion: says, “Get away from me, or I’ll get away from you.”Subjugation: says, “If we are going to relate, I’ll have the power.”Assimilation: says, “I would love to have a relationship with you, if you become like me.”
41 Psychology of the Cosmos The intolerant person excludes with expulsion and subjugation.The tolerant person excludes with assimilation.In the modern world, “tolerance: is saying that no one has the truth.We are only going to get along if everyone admits that everything is relativeThe modern tolerance approach is basically saying the same thing as the traditional approach.Both are power plays. Both are excluding.
42 Psychology of ChristChrist and the Apostle Paul are calling us beyond tolerance and intolerance, to something greater.They call us to what Keller describes as receptive grace, (I will be describing as connecting grace).This is not the old intolerance:“I have the truth and you don’t and we can’trelate until you get my truth.”This is also not the new, detached tolerance: “No one has the truth, so we can be together without the problem of excluding truth.”
43 Psychology of ChristWith this tolerance you are accepting of others beliefs, however you continue to live your life the way you want to live it.With connecting grace, you make an honest evaluation of others beliefs, however you enter into a relationship with the person who you think is wrong in such a way that you are willing to actually change your life in order to have that relationship.
44 Psychology of Christcompels us to apply connecting grace in four ways:Make space for a person who does not believe in Christianity or a person with whom you deeply differ within Christianity, by being willing to take time to understand them.Make space in your life by being willing to change, to learn from others of a need for change.Make space in your life by expecting to be misunderstood, by expecting to be misconstrued.Make space in your life by accepting that God is working in others lives in His way and time.
45 Psychology of Christ compels us to be a Gospel Person rather than a tolerant or intolerant person.The overtly intolerant person says: “I’m special because I have the truth and you don’t.”The so called “tolerant” person or the covertly intolerant person says: “I’m special because I’m open minded and I know there is no truth, and I feel superior to those who think there is.
46 Psychology of Christ “In contrast, the Gospel Person says: “I’m special because when I was deeply differing from Him, Jesus Christ came and entered into my reality, my weakness, my flesh.He did not wait for me to believe or do right. I did not have to first think like him or act like him before he received me.He radically adjusted His life for me to make space in it for me.I should do the same for others.”
47 Psychology of Christ compels us with the ultimate example of connecting grace in the Cross of Christ.On the cross, Christ was not tolerant.On the cross, we received our most critical evaluation.Christ had to die for us, but we were so loved that he wanted to die for us. He chose to adjust his life for us to connect us in grace.The more we are gripped by this connecting grace, the more we will show the world the way of connecting grace.
48 Psychology of ChristA dialog of homosexuality in our culture today has become one of our most divisive and damaging topics. The dialog cannot be avoided.But it must NOT be characterized by either intolerance or tolerance.Many, in the name of Christ, have seriously damaged sexual minorities with their intolerant moralistic rejections.as followers of Christ we must to go way beyond intolerance, but also to go beyond tolerance.
49 Psychology of ChristMay we be characterized by the connecting grace of Christ as we adjust our lives for others and at our cost make room for one another.Regarding homosexuality or any other divisive issue, as followers of Christ, as Gospel People, may we receive one another, just as Christ received us.Romans 15:1-7
50 For copies of Presentations: Love thy Neighbor: WEC 2013Compelling Love: WEC 2014MABC administrative assistantRoscelee Lubina