The False Paradigm that Distorts our Discussions

I get into conversations all the time (for example today here) about how God moved me from homosexuality to a happy marriage (with baby on the way). I wrote back in the Spring what I personally meant by “post-gay” and I suggest that before you continue here you make sure that you’ve read that essay and that even if you don’t agree with it you understand what I’m trying to say there.

Read it? Lovely. Let’s continue.

Part of the problem with this debate is that we’re discussing the wrong things. Take for example this diagram on the right (and I apologise right now for the poor quality, but I’ve yet to find a great freeware programme to do these kind of diagrams – ideas gratefully received). This is the way that the argument is normally phrased, that one is on an axis of gay to straight and that “healing” involves moving from the left to the right.

The problem I have with this bi-polar axis is that it is an entirely un-Biblical anthropology. The Bible has absolutely nothing to say about this bipolar description that seems to dominate our Western society. Furthermore, unlike sex or race we have absolutely no way of qualifying where someone is on this spectrum. There is no biological test that will tell you someone’s position on the scale. You can’t take a blood sample and explore the chromosomes or DNA to discover whether one is 95% gay or 22% heterosexual. It is entirely self-reporting and assumptive, yet this false paradigm of human anthropology dominates any discussion on the issue of same-sex practice and re-orientation.

Please note that this criticism of mine is not just aimed at those on the more liberal side of the theological discourse. This bi-polar model controls and distorts the argument of most traditionalists. They are equally prone to using these labels and wanting to describe change as a movement on this continuum.

Let’s try and rectify that by putting in a y-axis and seeing whether that improves our picture. Now we have a 2-dimensional model that adds the dimension of chaste versus porneia. I want to use that specific word because Jesus (and other) clearly use it to cover all forms of sexual behaviour and practice that violate the intent of God for our sexual expression. Porneia covers (to use a cliché) a multitude of sins from adultery (and sex outside of marriage) and homosexual practice to lust and promiscuity. Chastity indicates God’s desire for our active sexual expression – healthy married sex and nothing else.

Once again though we have a problem, because even in this model most traditionalists see the marked point on the diagram (the red diamond) as the area to aim for. This leads to disappointment and disillusion amongst many who enter the healing journey. “It’s not good enough to simply want to live a chaste life”, is what they hear. “What we really need for God to demonstrate he is at work is for a change in your orientation to occur”. Suddenly our second axis of sexual practice (“It’s not about orientation, but behaviour”) is relegated again to second place. The un-biblical bi-polar anthropology has reared its ugly had again and we are back where we started.

The solution to this (and the path to true healing) is to remove the bi-polar sexual orientation axis altogether from our model and replace it with something else entirely, something far more Biblical and eternal. Here then is the correct Healing 2-Dimension axis.

The red diamond is now in the right place and indicates the true desired destination. Notice straight away though that this new axis demonstrates something that many people miss – it is not good enough for us to simply call people to a life of chastity. One can live a chaste life but still be far from God, and in terms of the healing journey this is a detrimental situation. True healing and wholeness encourages both of these things and supports and nurtures them equally.

Note also that now our gay/straight spectrum has gone, one may be at the red diamond regardless of one’s sexual orientation. Where one is on the gay/straight spectrum isn’t in any sense an indicator of one’s progress on the journey of wholeness. In fact, it isn’t really an indicator of anything to do with one’s spiritual journey. It’s not a Christian descriptor in the slightest.

I’m often asked whether a bit of the Bible stuck out for me in my journey of healing. The answer is that it wasn’t any of the clobber passages on sexuality or healing. Rather, it was Galatians 3:28 that freed me from the constraints of “gay”. If you look carefully at that verse you’ll see clear anthropological markers that God uses to help us understand the differences among human beings (and therefore by their absence the descriptors that are not Godly).

In Christ, the verse states, there is neither male nor female. From this we see that human patriarchal separations between male and female are ungodly, but we also learn that those sexual distinctives are ones that are recognisable in front of God. God designed and created us male and female and as such we declare his glory, and we also declare his glory by fighting against and bringing down ungodly barriers between the sexes. Similarly, Jew and Greek are the same in Christ. Yes, their are racial differences and all the peoples and tribes will worship God together in front of the throne, but the human distinctions that we make between races are not of God and Christians like Martin Luther King Jr have been at the front of movements to eradicate them from within the church and without.

From Gal 3:28 we learn that slave and free are all the same in Christ, and so Christians have always worked for communities that include all economic strata and exclude none. Though Jesus told us that the poor would always be with us, men and women like Wilberforce have battled against forced bondage and in the 21st Century we continue the fight against the slavery of trade inequity and financial exploitation. These are struggles for justice that stem out of a clear exegesis of Scripture, not an attempt to create a loose theology of love that has no clear groundings.

Compare this then to the issue of sexuality. Does the Scripture say that in Christ there is neither gay nor straight? No. In fact the issue never arises because the anthropology of the Bible doesn’t address the issue. This is isn’t because its authors came from a time when such notions were intellectually and socially absent, but rather because they are not valid descriptors of human identity in the way that sex, race and economic existence are. Sexuality descriptors simply don’t fit into the way that human beings are designed to operate. Why? Because they are the emotive response to a fallen environment and not natural and god-ordained fundamentals of human existence.

Despite this though we let these labels dominate our thinking and our responses on this issue. Let me give you a clear example. I get asked time and time again what I think of when I make love to my wife. The question is normally posed by those on the liberal camp and the reason is that they are seeking to some how discredit my claim to have seen change in my life. they ask it waiting to pounce with the response “Aaah – you think of men so you’re really gay”. The answer to their question though is very simple – when I have sex with my wife I am thinking of how best to pleasure her. Interestingly enough, what I found was that as I did that I had a pleasurable experience as well – the attempt to turn on my wife turns me on (and it seems, vice-versa). Once I started having sex on the basis of the healing 2 dimensioned model above and not on the basis of my specific sexual attraction or emotional response I discovered the truth behind Paul’s command “husbands love your wife”. I wasn’t having sex on the basis of how it made me feel, or how I felt before we had sex, I was simply having sex to love my wife. In godly sex I discovered that I was neither gay or straight or anywhere in-between. I was simply “male” operating as God intended males to operate – to love their wives (if they have one). I was not operating as a straight man. I was not operating as a gay man acting in a straight way. I was simply operating as a man in the way his Creator designed him to.

For me that is true healing. It’s not about being more heterosexual then you were a year ago. Such a claim is rooted in that paradigm of sexual orientation that sidesteps God’s true intent for creation. True healing is when one lives closer and closer each day to God and when one’s life is lived according to his call upon it. In short, true healing is found in the pain of dying to self and resurrecting as the human God intended us to be, not the one that society prescribes us to be. It requires nothing more of us then to see Christ as he truly is – the Lord of all and one who tells us who we truly are, a radically different perspective to what the world tells us we are.

I hope and pray you will find such a healing in your life, that if you are reading this and struggling with your sexuality, that you will see that it is not a determinative thing in your life, that God calls you beyond it. Use the contact form on the website to get in touch if you need help or want to know more.

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  • http://exgaywatch.com Dave Rattigan

    I don’t know how you can say the gay-straight continuum is fundamentally flawed as *one* way of looking at sexuality. I mean, I could produce a diagram of two poles – vegetarians and meat-eaters, and then place everyone somewhere along the scale. It might not be adequate for every purpose, but it’s *one* way of looking at things. Similarly, unless you deny that people have sexual attractions (and that, after all, is the most basic thing that it tries to describe), how can there be something fundamentally incorrect about the gay-straight continuum?

    I find the argument that because it’s not in the Bible it’s wrong very disturbing. How much of modern medicine and science follows biblical paradigms? Is there such a thing as genetics in the Bible, for example (without resorting to eisegesis)?

    I also find the “anthropological model” you wrest from Galatians 3:23 very dubious. If by their presence in Galatians male and female are ipso facto fundamental categories of anthropology that God recognizes, why not slave and free?

    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

      Dave,

      Thanks for your comment. Let’s take it para by para.

      I don’t disagree with you that placing people on the spectrum is a good way to describe people’s emotional state. The issue I have with it is that it’s a very anthropomorphic descriptor. It’s simply not a way that the Bible uses to describe people and that when people use it in the context of a theological discussion its a red herring, because we start discussions about movement along the spectrum which don’t fit into a Scriptural anthropology.

      So this leads into your second para and here I think you’re misunderstanding me. No, there is nothing in the Bible about genetics (or nothing explicit at least) but genetics helps illuminate certain Biblical distinctions (such as sex or race) in a way that it doesn’t help us understand sexual attraction and behaviour.

      But of course I’m not claiming that if something isn’t in the Bible it isn’t true. What I am arguing that if something isn’t in the Bible it cannot be the crux of our moral argument, and such a thing is the bi-polar descriptor model of sexuality.

      As to your third category (in Gal 3:28 I think you meant to write), I think you missed the subtlety of my point (or perhaps, more likely, I didn’t express myself well enough). When we translate “slave” we take the Greek “doulos” and give it a particular meaning – that of bondage. But beyond that a doulos is simply a servant, indicating social and economic hierarchies (so in the same way if I was writing a nice formal letter I might finish it ‘I remain, your servant’). It demonstrates that while a factor of human existence created by God is hierarchical structures (i.e. government where we delegate authority to certain men and women) and that those structures should be understood as part of the good that God has created, one’s position in those structures themselves do not indicate superior status i Christ.

      So in this sense I can produce a male theology, a female theology, a doulos theology and the like, for all are valid Biblical descriptors of the human condition. But to create a gay or queer theology is to have a descriptor that is an unbiblical concept.

    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

      In addition I think it’s also fair to say that an argument that says (and I paraphrase) “The Bible has little to say about consensual same-sex relationships” but then rejects focusing on the bits of anthropology that are clear in Scripture is on a sticky wicket.

  • Susan

    Sorry if I’m being pedantic…. but I think you mean “porneia.”

    Lots of good stuff here. I’d write more, but I’m worn out from JoMo’s birthday parties! Ah, things to look forward to! ;-)

    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

      Ooops Susan. Yes, you’re absolutely right.

  • Clint

    I happened on your blog through a link a friend sent to me. I read the above post and, as a pastor, I appreciate your approach to this challenging topic. However, I am also a graphic designer and as such I am writing with a slight criticism that is intended to be constructive: in the third diagram above, “The Healing 2-dimensional Axis,”  it works in all quadrants except for the bottom right one. I do not believe one can be “near to God” and simultaneously involved in “porneia”! Back to the proverbial drawing board!?

    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

      Hi Clint, Good point!!! However I’m not sure that it’s incorrect to have positions on the chart that are in practice rarely obtained. I think I’d also want to raise the issue that some people who are close to God *do* fall big time. David (with Bathsheba) for one…

  • Robert Simpson

    Also, of course, in this context it might be worth remembering that Our Lord once had to point out to the pharisees (or whoever it was) that the prostitutes were going into the kingdom ahead of them – perhaps the latter had been bottom right and so found it easier to respond to God’s message than the pharisees in top left? Like any good work, remaining chaste brings with it the danger that the person doing it may think it improves their standing with God, and so of course they will end up further from him; although of course I wouldn’t give that as a reason against chastity!

    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

      Good points Robert (and I think that also amounts as a suitable response to Clint’s point)

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  • http://webvoice.vox.com/ Lori

    You’ve posted some excellent discussion on the topic here, and given me a lot to think about.  Up until recently, my only exposure to this type of discussion was from my friend who was involved with an Emmaeus ministry in Florida, but his teaching wasn’t laid out any where as neatly and clearly as you have here.  I think you’re doing a great thing, and hope that your work can help lead others to the Cross.

    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

      Thanks Lori, glad my thoughts were some help.

  • Mike

    While the lower right corner of the graph is plot-table, I think it is spiritually impossible to occupy that corner.  I think intimacy with God (being near to Him) helps keep one chaste and out of the Hypocrite’s corner.

  • Zak

    @Robert Simpson
    “…the prostitutes were going into the kingdom ahead of them – perhaps the latter had been bottom right and so found it easier to respond to God’s message than the pharisees in top left?”

    Good observation. I agree that the prostitutes, lacking arrogance, were more responsive to God’s message. But it is important to note that their lack of arrogance made them more responsive, not the fact that they were prostitutes. also, I don’t think they were bottom-right. Before hearing God’s message, they would surely have been bottom-left, correct? and then–in response to the message– began to move to the top-right? Wouldn’t that be movement be the proper response, according to John 8:11?

  • barbara

    I’m enjoying your blog and your studies on the subject of homossexuality.. I was actually just googling to find out about the greek word PAIS when I bumped into your blog and kept reading… I like that you go deep in Scriptures …
    I’m what people may call “lesbian”…I don’t like this labels as I don’t consider sexuality to define the identify of anyone or put them in boxes… I don’t identify with this labels because of what the word carries and the stereotyped idea people have in their minds…the same way as I don’t call myself a “christian”, but a simple sinner who loves and follows Jesus and who is deeply thankful for His Grace…
    I thought to leave a comment on this specific post, because your words touched me when you spoke about the way you love your wife…
    for it is the same way I love my partner… I don’t see her as a woman even, but the person I truly love, my best friend and companion… we both follow and love the Lord Jesus, and I believe God has blessed our relationship… together we grow closer to God… where does that put us in your axis pictures?
    One thing I know…God loves me and accepts me the way I am…with my good bits and bad bits…in the end God will be my judge and no one else…and Jesus my advocate…
    Bless you…and thanks for the time you take to study and post your opinions.
    PEACE

  • Joe

    This is a silly conversation. I’ve consistently prayed to be guided on the path that GOD — not other “Christians” — wants for me. Deep in my heart, I’ve felt assured over and over again that it would be an act of cowardice and self-deception to separate from my partner in order to live as a “straight” person. I’m shocked by the arrogance of the author in equating being in a committed same-sex partnership to being “far from God.” “For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men….”

    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

      Thanks for your comment Joe. Perhaps you could explain how this picture (which I believe is the one you are referring to) equates ‘
      being in a committed same-sex partnership to being “far from God.”‘?

      Could it be that in your haste to react to what you thought this post was saying you haven’t actually read it properly?

    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

      Thanks for your comment Joe. Perhaps you could explain how this picture (which I believe is the one you are referring to) equates ‘being in a committed same-sex partnership to being “far from God.”‘?

      Could it be that in your haste to react to what you thought this post was saying you haven’t actually read it properly?

      • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/LMH7GXHN6AB52C7IYJGXTGQCZY Will

        Peter, I guess that the crux of the matter is this: do you
        think that someone in Joe’s situation (or anyone else in a gay sexual
        relationship) can be at the spot on your chart represented by the little red
        diamond?

        • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

          No, but that is not what Joe wrote. He said,
          I’m shocked by the arrogance of the author in equating being in a committed same-sex partnership to being “far from God.”
          That’s a misunderstanding of what I wrote.

          • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/LMH7GXHN6AB52C7IYJGXTGQCZY Will

            O.K. So perhaps it would be helpful and clear up any
            misunderstanding if you were to plot the position(s) on your chart which you
            think that someone in Joe’s situation CAN be at.

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