Saturday, June 27, 2015

Extra-Biblical Defense For Heterosexual Marriage

   Given the decision on Friday by the SCOTUS in favor of same-sex "marriage," our sermon series, "Marriage Hot Topics," that starts tomorrow is very timely. Over the next four Sundays we will set forth the biblical view of marriage, which will include on the last two Sundays of the series biblical teaching about homosexuality.
   Since we will cover the biblical defense for heterosexual marriage and against same-sex "marriage," I thought it might be helpful in this post to offer a defense for heterosexual marriage that goes beyond what the Bible teaches.
   The following is taken from a booklet I authored a few years ago. 
   We need to be reminded that even though the scriptures are the only ultimate authoritative source of knowledge by which all other knowledge is to be judged,[1] this does not mean that they are the only source of knowledge.  The Bible itself teaches us that we can learn a great deal about life, God, right and wrong, from extra-biblical sources or General Revelation.[2]  Since this body of truth also is from God, we can conclude that what we learn from scientific and historical inquiry, for example, if it is accurate, should not contradict the scriptures.  So, we should not be surprised to find that the teachings about heterosexual marriage, as well as the harmfulness of homosexual practice, can be confirmed outside the sacred text.

Homosexual Practice Is Not Natural, Normal, or Inborn, Thus It Is Not A Civil Rights Issue
   Where we need to begin in our consideration of this extra-biblical knowledge is by responding to a foundational affirmation by many homosexual proponents.  Many claim that persons who have homosexual desires and/or who act upon those desires are born as homosexuals and therefore, for them, the desires and practice are natural, amoral, just the way it is, and they cannot change.  In other words, to be a homosexual is as much a part of the person as being heterosexual or as the person’s race.  Additionally those same-sex advocates who are at least minimally interested in the faith element, will argue that based upon this reality, God makes people homosexual and He approves of the practice.
   If it is the case that people are born as homosexuals such that this is the way they are and they cannot change, then it stands to reason that it is heartless, cruel, bigoted, in fact a civil-rights issue, to oppose same-sex practice or to say that such is somehow morally wrong.[3]  We must understand, then that this tenant is crucial to the debate.    Let’s examine the evidence.

Scientific Arguments
   It has become common to refer to the American Psychiatric Association’s removal of homosexuality from the list of abnormalities and their general advocacy of homosexual rights and repudiation of opposition of same-sex practice as proof that the scientific community has found homosexuality to be normal.[4]  Therefore, following the experts, the rest of society should accept homosexual practice.  The problem with this conclusion is twofold.  First, most of the research done prior to the APA’s 1973 removal of homosexuality from its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual had supported the conclusion that homosexuality was an orientation and  practice that should and could be changed.  The current reader needs to understand that since their moratorium on gay-critiquing, little research on the problems linked to homosexual practice, as well as evidence for the change possibility of homosexual practice, have been published in professional journals.[5]  Bottom-line, there is little evidence that the APA made their decision or has preserved their stance based upon scientific evidence.
   This leads to the second problem with referring to the APA’s official position on same-sex practice and that is the political nature of the decision.  In the view of Jeffrey Satinover (Homosexuality And The Politics Of Truth [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1996], 32-36), sordid politics were behind the resolution.[6]  In other words, the push for the change came far more from personal worldview and desire than it did from well-researched and carefully argued evidence.  And in no way did it express the views of a large majority of psychiatrists.  According to Joseph Nicolosi the poll conducted among APA members that led to the removal of homosexual desires and practice from the DSM resulted in 5,834 for the removal and 3,810 against.[7]
   The point is not that the calling into question of the APA’s conclusion “seals the deal” in favor of the traditional view toward homosexual practice.  The point is that a person should think very carefully about advocating the normal or amoral nature of this lifestyle simply because supposed experts have come to that conclusion.  The fact of the matter is this, those “experts” did not arrive at that decision in a non-biased scientific manner.
   Yet, there is more that can be said regarding the supposed scientific evidence for homosexual practice.  Not only should we question the APA’s decision, there is also ample reason for questioning much of the alleged homosexual scientific support that has emerged in the past two decades.  The following is a brief overview:[8]

·         When carefully considered, there has been no evidence that there is a distinct homosexual brain or distinct homosexual genes.  For example, in 1991 Simon LeVay (at that time with the Salk Institute and afterward founder of the Institute Of Gay and Lesbian Education) studied an area of the hypothalamus known as INAH386.  He concluded that it was two times larger in the heterosexual male (.12) than in females (.056) and homosexual males (.051).  Two problems can readily be identified with this study:
ð  There are six deficiencies with the study:  (1) It was a single author study.  (2) His sample size was so small that it could not be reasonably concluded that there was a representative sample of the population.  (3) He may have misjudged the sexual orientation of some of he individuals.  (4) The study did not confirm that all homosexuals had a smaller INAH386.  (5) A more careful study by William Byne did not find a difference between homosexual and heterosexual male INAH386.  (6) Finally, there is no proof that INAH386 has any bearing on sexual orientation.[9]

ð  There is no proof that the size difference would be attributable to prenatal brain development.[10]

·         When carefully considered, identical twin studies have not supported a genetic element or influence behind homosexual practice.  “Because identical twins are a perfect genetic match, a genetic basis for homosexuality would have to show up in higher ‘concordance rates’ for identical twins in which at least one twin is homosexual.  If homosexuality were determined completely by the genes, we would expect the concordance rate in such cases to be 100%...much as eye color and sex in identical twins match 100% of the time.”[11]   Such studies have concluded that genetic contribution would be less than 10%.  In other words, research has not been able to confirm that a genetic element would have any more than a 10% influence and it most likely is less than this--virtually to the point of no influence at all. This is hardly confirmation of a “gay gene”.[12]  Elsewhere it has been affirmed:  “Since identical twins share the same chromosomal pattern, or DNA, the genetic contributions are exactly the same within the pairs.  Therefore, if one twin is ‘born’ homosexual, then the other should inevitably have that characteristic too.  That is not the case... The probability is only 50 percent that the other will have the same condition.”[13]

·         In response to those who have suggested that excessive or inadequate levels of testosterone or estrogen during birth can bring about either bisexual or homosexual desires and practices later on, we must answer: “To say that homosexual behavior is caused by abnormal hormone levels during pregnancy is to go beyond the current data, though some indirect influence may be possible.”[14]  We could also go on to say that even if a link was found between hormonal levels and homosexual desires, this is not the same as genetic influence, nor would it necessarily determine that a person is just that way and would have to give in to the urges.  The fact that through nature or nurture some people struggle with alcohol, anger, impatience, or even heterosexual lust, does not lead people to conclude,  “Well, that is just the way that person is, it is an amoral issue, and they can’t or should not do anything to change!”

·         Though there is not consensus on all the causes behind early childhood nonconformity with one’s same-sex peers, studies have shown that in a large majority of cases, those who identify themselves as homosexual admit that they had a sense of not fitting in with their same-sex peers while growing up.  In other words, females did not feel as feminine and males did not believe they measured up in the area of masculinity.  This leads one to see a “nurture” influence as more likely than a “nature” influence.[15]

·         Other evidence against viewing homosexual desires and practice as inborn, genetic, just the way a person is, comes from the contribution of cross-cultural studies for understanding environmental influence on homosexual behavior.  It is clear that the numbers of persons who practice this behavior vary from culture to culture.  If the desires and practice were inborn or genetic, it would seem that there would be similar percentages across the board from culture to culture.  However, this is not the case.  A culture that teaches homosexual behavior is a deviant and harmful  condition will have far less cases than a culture that advocates and accepts the practice. 

·         Similar to the last point, studies have shown that urban life and education increase the numbers of persons with same-sex desires and practices.  This also points to the influence of one’s worldview, environment, and training as central to why one leans in this direction or not.

·         There is strong evidence for the fact that homosexuals can change.  Though they may not be totally free from the homosexual desires (although some might be), nevertheless, they can live content, fulfilling heterosexual lives.  Again, this argues strongly against homosexuality being inborn or genetic.[16]

   In addition to the evidence that we have offered against the idea that homosexuality is inborn or genetic (just the way it is), we also must realize that there is significant biological evidence for the reality that men and women were created to differ and to complement each other and, therefore, we should keep intact this order.  Consider the following points:[17]

·         Ethologists[18] “point out that among most higher social mammals studied, males are more aggressive than females and take dominant leadership roles in social groups.”  Additionally, “males tend to build hierarchical social order.  They are more reactive and less cautious.  They are involved in breaking up squabbles with lesser ranking males, females, and juveniles.  Females are more involved in parenting as a result of the close dependence of infants on maternal milk supply.... [Females] tend to socialize more horizontally  and equally with other females.... They tend in their broader social contacts to be less confrontive and combative and more interested in building and maintaining social bonds.”[19]

·         “Anthropologists find...universal sex-specific behaviors among human cultures.  Of two hundred fifty cultures studied, males dominate in almost all.  Males are almost always the rule makers, hunters, builders, fashioners of weapons, workers in metal, wood, or stone.  Women are primary care givers and most involved in child rearing.  Their activities center on maintenance and care of home and family.”[20]

·         Many basic non-nervous system physiological differences are discovered in the biological profile of males and females--all of which seem to be influenced by testosterone and estrogen levels.  Consider some examples:

ð  The basal metabolic rate is 6% higher in adolescent boys than girls.  After puberty it is 10% higher.

ð  Regarding metabolism, girls convert more energy into stored fat and boys convert more into muscle and expendable circulating reserves.  At age eighteen, on average, girls have twice as much body fat and boys, on average, have 50% more muscle.

ð  Males have, on average, denser bones, tendons, and ligaments.  They also have more sweat glands.  Men have larger windpipes and branching bronchi with, on average, about 30% more lung capacity.

ð  Males have fewer sensory nerve endings and higher peripheral pain tolerance which may encourage greater risk taking.

ð  Women, on average, have more stored and circulating white blood cells.

ð  The male digestive system functions at a higher pace.[21]

·         We find differences between males and females, typically, in the peripheral nervous system.  For example, women have a more acute sense of touch, along with more acute senses of hearing, smell, and taste.  Women also have a finer discrimination of color,  can tolerate brighter lights, and can see better in dim light.  Men can read finer print and have better night vision.  Women, on average, are more perceptive when it comes to reading body language.

·         There are also, on average, differences between males and females in the limbic system.[22]  This system that regulates drives (hunger, thirst, sex, fighting and fleeing), as well as many involuntary responses (digestion, respiration, circulation).  The differences we see here may explain male tendencies, on average, to be more reactive and quicker to act and to make decisions.  It may also explain feminine patience and tolerance of more stimuli without reaction (more patience typically with children).

·         There is significant evidence that points to differences in cerebral organization.  Men’s brains, for example, tend to be more lateralized with a lesser communication between the two halves.  This may very well be why women are more in-tune with not only the content of a conversation, but also body language.  It also may explain why they can typically multi-task with greater success.

·         There seem to be male/female differences at birth.  “Female infants...orient and fix their focus more often on faces, are comforted by voices and touch, and vocalize more than boys.”  “Female infants, on the average, learn to talk sooner and, when learning to draw, tend to draw people subjects.”  “Male infants orient more to objects, lights, and toys, and are comforted more by patterned mobiles and ticking clocks.  They develop speech later, draw objects more than faces, and learn three-dimensional drawing faster.”[23]

   What conclusions should we draw from these typical biological differences?  First, we must be careful not to suggest that there would never be exceptions to the rule or that such typical differences would automatically define clear-cut role distinctions between the sexes or would automatically decide certain kinds of behavior in such a way as to negate responsibility (e.g. men can’t help being insensitive because....).  Yet, the amount of differences we see does suggest that males and females are contrasted with each other in more than mere anatomy.  Also, the differences are more than likely natural and not from the difference in nurture.  This contradicts the unisex idea of humans that suggests males and females are the same with the exception of our anatomy.  On average, there are significant differences which suggest that men and women (though sharing much because we share humanity and are both made in God’s image) are created differently to the core of their being.  This argues strongly against any sense of natural, amoral, that-is-just-the-way-it-is, view of homosexuality.  Homosexual practice is a deviation from the way that men and women are designed to function.
   Additionally, we see that what it means to be a male and what it means to be a female are very different.  Most-likely, then, based upon biblical and historical foundations, males and females are intended to complement each other.  This distinction and complementarity will be necessary not only for a marriage to function well and for the spouses to find their greatest joy and satisfaction (corresponding to how they are “wired”), it will also be necessary for raising healthy and well-adjusted sons and daughters who learn what it means to be a male/husband and female/wife respectively.  When this order is twisted (e.g. two moms or two dads), we can reasonably conclude that a great deal of gender and marital confusion will be experienced by such children.  As we will see below, such confusion will not only lead to pain for those children as they mature, but also will lead to greater societal chaos.
   Having said all this, should we conclude that a person could not have any inborn predisposition or bent whatsoever toward gay desires and lifestyle?  The answer is, “No”.  We are merely demonstrating that the predisposition would not be something that cannot be helped or changed, something that is on the same level as one’s race.  Consider the insightful comments of Joe Dallas (at the time president of Exodus, International., a network of ex-gay ministries):

We can easily allow that there are, in some cases, physical imperfections that predispose people toward certain behaviors.  That is not to say anyone is [predetermined] to [have to] engage in these behaviors; rather, some inborn tendencies could make it easier for a person to fall into them.
Even if it can be proven that genetic or biological influences predispose people toward homosexuality, that will never prove homosexuality is in and of itself normal.  It will only prove what we already know--that genetic variances can and do affect future behavior, sometimes in undesirable ways.  If some people have a genetic predisposition toward alcoholism, as the City of Hope research suggests, should we conclude the disease is a ‘normal’ condition and refuse to treat it?  Should the biblical prohibitions against drunkenness be nullified?
The principle is the same regarding homosexuality.  Let research conclude what it may about the [influences]; genetic origins do not justify sinful behavior.[24]

The Civil Rights Question
   It has become common in our society to view the acceptance of homosexuality and/or their legal ability to marry as a civil-right.  Barbara Catbagan writes:  “In 1967, not that far back in our history, the Supreme Court struck down all interracial marriage bans.  Like gays, interracial couples fought hard battles, and married in states where it was not forbidden.”[25]  The implication is that the present fight in behalf of same-sex marriage is a civil-rights issue.  After all, if people are born as homosexuals, then to say it is wrong or to say that they ought not be married does become equal to refusing rights to someone based merely upon their race.  Yet, is this accurate?
   The scientific evidence we have set forth should call into question the static view of homosexual practice that suggests this is just the way people are and which also suggests that for us to say the gay lifestyle is immoral, to suggest that it is destructive for society-at-large, or to deny  same-sex couples  the legal status of marriage is somehow a denial of their civil-rights. 
   The fact that it is a moral issue, one that deals with a deviant behavior that can and ought to be changed, was the reason that Alveda Celeste King (niece of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.) before the California assembly in 1997 affirmed that her uncle would not have approved of laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual preference.[26]  Charles Colson adds:

[Dr. Martin Luther] King repeatedly invoked the moral teaching that the Creator endowed all people with dignity and promised them life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness. King's preaching echoed the familiar truths of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution (to which he frequently referred). Yet he reached further, drawing deeply from the moral tradition that informed not only these documents but also shaped the moral values of many Americans at the time.
Drawing from this reservoir, King's appeal took on great clarity and power. He recalled and strengthened the shared notions of justice, fairness, opportunity, virtue, and other qualities found in American culture. White America, although not perfectly and not without conflict, embraced his message and segregation was eventually repealed.
When homosexual activists argue that restricting marriage to one man and one woman violates their civil rights, they invoke the memory of the civil rights movement and position themselves as disenfranchised Americans. The problem is that the moral tradition that informed the civil rights movement prohibits same-sex marriages. The association between the two movements is illegitimate.

So far, what we have seen, then, is not only that the Bible unequivocally calls homosexual practice a sin and defines marriage in heterosexual terms, but we also find that the scientific evidence supports these tenets.  What this means is that we should not equate the gay battle for marriage as equivalent with the civil-rights issue.  This should free us up to turn our attention to looking at the reasons why our society must preserve a traditional heterosexual definition of marriage.

[1]Cf. Matthew 15:1-9; Ephesians 2:20; 2 Timothy 1:13; 3:16-17; Acts 17:11ff.

[2]Psalm 19:1ff; Romans 1:19-20; Isaiah 28:23-29.

[3]An example would be Karen Vagley of the Lutheran Office Of Governmental Affairs of the Evangelical Lutheran Church In America who said in response to the possibility of a federal marriage amendment, “We see this as a civil-rights matter.  Our social statements are clear:  We do not discriminate.”  Taken from an Associated Press article by Jim Abrams, “Religious Groups Oppose Gay Marriage Amendment”.      A lesser outcome is also that homosexual proponents also see opponents of homosexual practice as uninformed and their beliefs as out-of-date with modern scientific knowledge.  See Patricia Bedinger, Ken Kassenbrock, “Fight Bid To Limit The Rights Of Minority,” Soapbox, The Coloradoan (Ft. Collins, Co., July 17, 2004): A8;   Jennifer Geraci, “No Compassion In Discrimination Against Gays,” Soapbox, The Coloradoan (Ft. Collins, Co., December 2, 2003): A4.

[4]For example, see Jennifer Geraci, “No Compassion In Discrimination Against Gays,” Soapbox, The Coloradoan (Ft. Collins, Co., December 2, 2003): A4.  Cal Thomas, “Pro-choice On Change?”  World (Sept.13, '97): 17: Psychologists have taken the approach it is not a choice.

[5]Gagnon, The Bible, 421-22.

[6]Cited in Gagnon, The Bible, 422.  The usually restrained Gagnon, who is not prone to vitriolic words, uses the phrase “militant gay-rights activism”.  James Dobson, Bringing Up Boys (Wheaton:  Tyndale, 2001), 115, adds:  “[The decision] was made not on the basis of science but was strongly influenced by a poll of APA members, which was initiated and financed by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.”  Dobson (117) continues while citing Malcolm Ritter, “Some Gays Can Go Straight, Study Suggests,” Associated Press, 9 May 2001:  “Dr. Robert L. Spitzer, a psychiatric professor at Columbia University, created a firestorm in May 2001, when he released the results of his research at a meeting of the American Psychiatric Association.  Spitzer, who had spearheaded the APA’s decision in 1973...says his findings ‘show some people can change from gay to straight, and we ought to acknowledge that.’” 

[7]Preventing Homosexuality:  A Parent’s Guide, cited in James Dobson, Bringing Up Boys (Wheaton:  Tyndale, 2001), 115.

[8]The following nine points and the accompanying material (unless otherwise noted) are taken from Gagnon, The Bible, 394-429.

[9]Anne Fausto Sterling (a biologist at Brown University) said of LeVay’s conclusions:  “My freshmen biology students know enough to sink this study.”  Quoted in Joe Dallas, “Born Gay?” Christianity Today, 36, 7 (June 22, 1992): 22.

[10]Regarding other alleged scientific evidence for a homosexual brain or gene, the 1993 finding of Dean Hamer which was called the “gay gene” could be cited.  “Almost immediately the alleged finding was greeted with considerable criticism from the scientific community.... Hamer was criticized for failing to check his results  against a heterosexual control group and inflating the statistical significance of his findings.  One of his young researchers accused him of neglecting to report findings that would have undermined the significance of his results.” (Gagnon, The Bible, 399-400).

[11]”Concordance rate” would refer to the rate at which the twins match each other or at which both were gay.

[12]See Gagnon, The Bible, 403-406 for the complete discussion.

[13]Dobson, Bringing Up, 116.   The classic study regarding twins and homosexuality came from Richard Pillard (Boston School of Medicine) and Michael Bailey (Northwestern).  Stanton L. Jones, Mark A. Yarhouse, “The Incredibly Shrinking Gay Gene,” Christianity Today, 43, 11 (October 4, 1999): 53, write about this research:  “Other research had failed to produce estimates of genetic influence as strong as those of Bailey and Pillard.  Now, Bailey himself (to his credit) has provided the crucial refutation of his earlier estimates.  To avoid possible sample bias, Bailey sent a questionnaire on sexual preferences and experiences to the entire Australian Twin Registry, an exhaustive listing of all twins born in its population. 
    “The influence of genetics on development of homosexual orientation would, on the basis of this superior research, appear to be half or less of the estimates of the earlier research.” 
    They add:  “It appears that the earlier, biased research actually found about one-third of the identical twin pairs to be concordant for homosexuality.”

[14]Gagnon, The Bible, 408.

[15]This is also discussed in Joseph  Nicolosi, Preventing Homosexuality, ch. 2, cited in Dobson, Bringing Up, 119.

[16]See Gagnon, The Bible, 418-429 for the specific statistics and studies.

[17]The following points are taken from Gregg Johnson, “The Biological Basis For Gender-Specific Behavior,” in John Piper, Wayne Grudem, ed’s., Recovering Biblical Manhood And Womanhood
(Wheaton: Crossway, 1991): 280-293.  Johnson (281) is quick to say about these points:  “We are speaking of averages and patterns that cannot be completely universalized.  It is always possible to discover individual uniqueness and variations that deviate markedly from the norm.  There are certainly females who are more aggressive than the average male or males who are more nurturant than the average female.  The data simply reflect trends and average differences seen between the sexes taken as groups.”

[18]“Ethologists are students of animal and human behavior who draw generalizations regarding social behavior across animal and human groups.”  Johnson, “The Biological,” 282.


[20]Ibid.  Johnson adds:  “The data point to biological predeterminants of gender-related behavior.  Indeed, as we survey the biology of mammals and humans in particular, we find sex-related differences in all of the organ systems, including the brain and nervous system.”

[21]Johnson, “The Biological,” 284, concludes after talking about these differences:  “Sex differences present in all the organ systems across various mammalian species go far beyond the superficial anatomical characteristics necessary for reproduction.  These differences are direct responses to the levels of circulating hormones, which differ significantly between the sexes.  It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that these physiological differences predispose males and females to certain behavioral and aptitude leanings.  The debate heats up considerably when we suggest that there are fundamental differences in the structure and function of the brain and nervous system that predispose the sexes to certain behaviors and capacities.”

[22]”The limbic system includes the hypothalamus and amygdala and several other nuclei of the midbrain and lower forebrain.”  Johnson, “The Biological,” 285.

[23]We need also to affirm that there seem to be differences between males and females based upon studies performed by psychologists.  If you are interested in specifics, refer to George Alan Rekers, “Psychological Foundations For Rearing Masculine Boys and Feminine Girls,” in John Piper, Wayne Grudem, eds., Recovering Biblical Manhood And Womanhood (Wheaton, Crossway, ): 294-311.

[24]Joe Dallas, “Born Gay?” Christianity Today, 36, 7 (June 22, 1992): 23.  Actually, the Christian has a strong basis for explaining why many people wrestling with homosexual desires feel as if they are inborn and feel as if they have always been with them.  Additionally, if there was ever a genetic or biological component discovered that suggested correspondence to those struggling with this temptation, it would arise from “original sin,” in other words, that is, the guilt and tendency to sin with which we are born” that comes from Adam.  Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000, repr.), 495.  Such a sinful bent works its way out different ways in different people (e.g. alcoholism, drug addiction, anger, impatience, stronger heterosexual desires and struggles, et al).  However, the bent clearly does not excuse us from our responsibility, nor does it excuse our behavior.  By God’s grace we can be transformed such that we no longer have to be enslaved by sin.

[25]Barbara Catbagan, “I Now Pronounce You...Equally Protected,” The Coloradoan  (Ft. Collins, Co.): B8. 

[26]World, 12, 16 (September 6, 1997): 10.