Heterosexual lust and homosexual lust are not the same qualitatively. Though they are both fallen and fall short of the glory of God, they are not fallen in the same way or for the same reason, which distinction Johnson does not make clear in his writing. Here it becomes necessary to make a distinction between sins that are contrary to nature and sins that are not.
In the previous article, we saw how Greg Johnson used only select portions of his conversation partners’ comments on human sexuality for the purpose of holding them up as examples of heterosexual Christians who “have a very shallow view of their indwelling sin—their own internal corruption” (139). In reality, however, the two parties appeared to agree more than Johnson let on in writing. Further, whether or not one believes Johnson rightly interpreted their comments is immaterial to my point. The question that needs to be answered is this: does Johnson indicate in Still Time to Care that the sexual attraction of a man to a woman other than his wife is according to nature? The question is not whether it is a sin or whether it is “God’s good design for sexuality.” Let me be very clear and say that sexually desiring, longing for, or lusting after anyone other than one’s spouse is sin. Jesus said so in Matthew 5:28, “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” I agree with Johnson that God’s “good design for sexuality” is for it to “exist within marriage” and extend no farther. A man’s sexual attractions should be limited exclusively to his wife. This is the question: is the sin of sexually desiring a woman other than one’s wife contrary to nature? What does Johnson say?
At one point, he does use the word “natural” to describe heterosexuality, but not directly and not in the way that “natural” is traditionally used in discussions regarding human sexuality. Johnson writes:
Did God design Adam to feel an internal sexual pull toward his neighbor’s wife? To see another man’s wife and have sexual feelings for her? Was that our Father’s good design for sexuality? Or is that—like sexual attraction to a member of the same sex—also an effect of the fall? Is that not internal corruption? It that not overdesire? Is that not a natural longing for beauty or approval or intimacy that has been bent by the fall? (139; emphasis added).
In the first italicized statement Johnson draws a comparison between homo-sexual attraction and hetero-sexual attraction to a person that is not one’s spouse, saying they are both effects of the fall. With this I agree: sexual attraction to a member of the same sex and sexual attraction to a member of the opposite sex who is not one’s spouse are both sinful effects of the fall and require the blood of Christ to cover them. Praise be to God that, in Christ, when we repent and believe, he is faithful and just to forgive us of all our sin, whether it be expressed heterosexually or homosexually. Johnson and I agree on this point.
Let me also say, however, that heterosexual lust and homosexual lust are not the same qualitatively. Though they are both fallen and fall short of the glory of God, they are not fallen in the same way or for the same reason, which distinction Johnson does not make clear in his writing. Here it becomes necessary to make a distinction between sins that are contrary to nature and sins that are not.1
At its root, hetero-sexual desire is a natural, pre-fall gift of God that has become subject to the fallen imaginations and manipulation of sinful man. Heterosexuality is good in that it accords with nature (pre-fall), but it becomes bad whenever it is directed toward a person who is not one’s spouse (whether pre or post marriage). The compatibility of male and female reproductive organs, the potential for mutual pleasure when engaging in sex, and the ability to procreate are God’s way of indicating that this is the original, natural way, in which sex was designed to function—male and female. Heterosexual orientation is not the problem, in and of itself it is rightly ordered, natural, and good. It is only when heterosexual expression transgresses the bounds of monogamous marriage that we may talk about sinful heterosexuality, never before.
Though it is indeed a sad reality that hetero-sexual desire is often abused, the abuse of heterosexuality does not make the orientation per se disordered or contrary to nature as homosexuality is. Heterosexuality per se is not sinful. The abuse of heterosexuality is sinful. Heterosexuality is certainly subject to the consequences of the fall, but that does not make heterosexuality altogether fallen as an orientation. The abuse of a good thing does not thereby make the good thing cease to be good. For example, it is one thing to say that alcohol is a good gift from God and that one must be careful not to use it in a sinful manner (e.g., drunkenness) but it is another thing entirely to say that because alcohol, on this side of the fall, is so often abused that we should now regard it as a sinful, disordered substance. Yet, in multiple places, Johnson applies this sort of logic to heterosexuality as an orientation.
- See WLC Q.151. Notice that the prooftext for the clause, “light of nature,” is Romans 1:26-27.