Christian Theology, Psychology, &
Homosexuality :
Foundations for Loving Your Neighbor
Dallas Theological Seminary
World Evangelization Conference
March 12, 2013
C. Gary Barnes, ThM, PhD
[email protected]
Adapted from Stanley Grenz, Mark Yarhouse and Tim Keller
I. Theology of Sexuality:
A Foundation for a Sexual Ethics
Four Stages of Redemptive History in the Bible:
1) Creation
 2) Fall
 3) Redemption
 4) Glorification.
For our present purposes, two themes for each of the four
stages will be identified.
In 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 Glorious
 2) Sex is Greater than the individual.
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.
2) Sex is Greater than the Individual.
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
selfabsorbed endeavor.
As 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, but
 2) Sex is derailed.
1) Sex is not dirty
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.
2) Sex is derailed.
Sex is naturally tied to separation through sinful
selfishness, self-elevation, self-debasement, selfabsorption, self-hatred, self-worship, self-protection
Self-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
Since the fall, our experiences and expressions of
sex are in dire need of redemption.
Christian 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 see
1) Sex as a Celebration
2) Sex as a Crucible
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 selfcenteredness is a true celebration.
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.
Glorification 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 see
 1) Sex as an Earthly Reminder
 2) Sex as a Heavenly Pointer.
1) Sex as an Earthly Reminder
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.
2) Sex as a Heavenly Pointer
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)
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.
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 discussed
 A) definition
 B) distinctions
 C) development
 D) decisions.
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.” (
Simply put, sexual identity is how you label yourself
by your sexual preferences. Common sexual
identity labels include straight, gay, lesbian, and
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.
A partial list of factors contributing to one’s identity
may include:
Your sexual attractions
Whether you were born male or female
Development within family of origin factors
How masculine or feminine you feel
What you intend to do with the attraction you have
What you actually do with the attractions you have
Your beliefs and values about your sexual
attractions and behaviors .
Complications 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.
labeling of sexual identity is simple,
understanding the source of the labeling is quite
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.
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
 The occurrence of same-sex attraction
doesn’t say anything about either their
identity or their behavior.
Distinctions: A Three-Tier Model
The second tier is homosexual orientation.
This is an evaluative label
This 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 sex
bisexual orientation- toward both sexes.
homosexual orientation doesn’t say anything about
either their identity or their behavior.
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.
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
Development: Three Stages
Sexual identity emerges through a developmental
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
Decisions: Two Sexual Identity Scripts
Gay Script
Same-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 are
Same-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)
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.
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
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
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.
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
Decisions: Two Sexual Identity Scripts
Christians who adopted a gay identity made
their beliefs and values line up with their identity
and behavior
identify and behavior came first, and their beliefs
and values had to be adjusted to them
Christians who did not adopt a gay identity
made their identity and behavior line up with
their beliefs and values
For this group, beliefs and values came first.
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.
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.
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.
Psychology of the Cosmos
Exclusion can occur in three different ways:
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.”
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 relative
The modern tolerance approach is basically
saying the same thing as the traditional approach.
Both are power plays. Both are excluding.
Psychology of Christ
Christ 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’t
relate 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.”
Psychology of Christ
With 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
Psychology of Christ
compels 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.
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.
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.”
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
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.
Psychology of Christ
A 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.
Psychology of Christ
May 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
For copies of Presentations:
Love thy Neighbor: WEC 2013
 Compelling Love: WEC 2014
Email: MABC administrative assistant
Roscelee Lubina
[email protected]

sexual identity - Dallas Theological Seminary