Mark Jones Just Misses the Train on Same-Sex Attraction and Sin
Mark Jones has an article up at reformation21 on how same-sex attraction is itself sin. In general the article is solid, but Jones makes two crucial missteps that handicap its overall usefulness.
First, after Jones spends a larger portion of the article arguing that desires and temptations for sinful things arise from our sinful nature, he begins to address how the sinless Jesus was tempted. He says “Given the above, I hold that Christ was not ‘liable to temptations from within.’ If I may summarize the basic view of Reformed theologians, 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…” That “typically” gives away the whole argument. Yes, temptations to sin usually arise from a sinful nature within us, but not necessarily and not always.
Which dovetails into the second mistake, which is that Jones equivocates temptation, desire, and attraction :”If temptation is understood this way, then a proposal towards that which is evil (e.g., same-sex attraction) is sinful.” And,
Homosexual lust, even if it is not acted upon, is sinful. Even homosexual attraction must 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. In this way, the justified child of God is freed more and more from resolutions to sin.
Of course anything sinful arising from within our corrupted nature, including sinful thoughts, desires, and temptations needs to be repented of and mortified. And same-sex desire can fall into that category. However, gay Christianity’s Side-B (which acknowledges/embraces same-sex attracted identity in some form while also committing to chastity in the historic, orthodox sense of the term) argues that same-sex attraction is a temptation or condition that arises from outside us just as Jesus also faced temptation that arose from outside himself. Jones is either refusing to engage with Side-B thought, which means that he is not addressing their real arguments or concerns and is therefore talking past them, or ignorant of the specifics of their arguments.
In practice, the difference in application is whether we tell people they need to repent of the temptation or mortify the temptation. But telling people they are sinning without even acknowledging their theological framework means they probably won’t hear anything else you have to say.
And same-sex desire can fall into that category.
Does your use of the word “can” mean that your sympathies lie with Camp B?
I am sympathetic to Side B, but disagree with them on enough key points to not be in their camp. Dogmatically, there is a distinction between temptation to sin arising from within a person (always sinful) and outside a person (a result of a sinful world). The success of external temptations is dependent upon either weakness (e.g. Adam and Eve) or appealing to an already sinful nature. What Jones does not recognize is that the Side B group holds out that same-sex attraction can be an external temptation. My concern with Side B is that they tend to say that same-sex attraction is only an external temptation, which inevitably leads to a refusal to repent or mortify the sin/temptation and has practically lead to towards approving same-sex relationships (an essay by Bethel McGrew was published today on this subject). In this regard Jones’ position is a welcome critique. Experientially, because unlike Jesus we do have a sinful nature, it is nigh impossible to distinguish between an internal temptation or an external temptation, and they should probably always be treated as the same thing.
I’ve written a lot on this subject on the blog, but this post on 10 theses on mortification and the gay Christian is the best summary of the camp I’m in and an entry point into the rest of my writing on the subject.