Rueger, Matthew. Sexual Morality in a Christless World. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2016.
Chapter 5, “A Mixed Bag of Objections” pp. 119-156.
Rueger acknowledges that there are objections to his position regarding a Christian sexual ethic. While he has made efforts to hear out the case of those who disagree with him, he finds that his opponents, by and large, are unwilling to give his point of view respect or fair treatment. They assume his conclusions are poorly reasoned or his evidence is nonexistent, without making an attempt to investigate (Rueger 2016, 119). As a result, Rueger urges people who take all sorts of positions to approach discussion with openness and to leave hostility behind (Rueger 2016, 120). He discusses a series of objections to his point of view, though making it clear that he is not presenting an exhaustive list.
A common objection is that Christians misrepresent the Law of God by holding to biblical sexual morality but not to other issues, such as the dietary laws (Rueger 2016, 121). However, Christians confess that the ceremonial laws of Israel, dealing with worship, foods, and sacrifice, among other things, have passed away. They normally point toward elements of Christ as Messiah until he came. Since he has come and completed his work, those laws have been fulfilled. They no longer need to be observed, though they may. The civil law was likewise bound by time and place. Laws about lending, property damage, harvest, and contracts were obligations placed on the people of Israel to ensure civil order, rather than to describe eternal and international obligations (Rueger 2016, 123). While moral offenses remained moral offenses in the New Testament, they were not attached to the same specific penalties. The moral law in the Bible, dealing with attitudes and behaviors in societies, is understood as applying to all people in all times and all cultures (Rueger 2016, 124). Rueger observes that Jesus applies many moral laws of the Old Testament in the New Testament period. Yet the New Testament pattern is slightly different from that of the Old Testament. Because Jesus has fulfilled the law, even though our crime against the moral law grieves God, it can be foregiven. The Christian is identified by repentance and faith, which normally results in obedience (Rueger 2016, 126).
Another object Rueger hears is that Christians object to homosexuality as “an extension of an older Christian failure to accept racial equality” (Rueger 2016, 127). This argument, first, is based on the idea that sexuality and its expression is immutable. Further, it describes Christianity as uniformly pro-slavery, and never admitting slavery as a sin to be put aside. However, Christians have a long history of rejecting and opposing slavery. It is not a uniform picture at all (Rueger 2016, 129). The Bible does not condemn slavery, but it does condemn inhumane and cruel treatment (Rueger 2016, 132). It advocates an equality in Christ which ultimately breaks down racial discrimination (Rueger 2016, 134).
One objection Rueger deals with is the alleged scientific evidence that homosexuality is genetic in origin (Rueger 2016, 135). In fact, this evidence remains stubbornly elusive. There are examples of abnormalities but those are relatively rare and come from clearly defined physical causes which can be identified (Rueger 2016, 136). But studies which purport to find a physical, genetically based, variant that provokes non-heterosexual attraction have typically been overturned as additional factors are studied. Cadaveric studies have not isolated differences in brain structure which could lead to different attitudes or behaviors (Rueger 2016, 137-138). Studies of identical twins have not found identical orientations (Rueger 2016, 138-139). In fact, the rates of same-sex attraction in twins tend to show a strong influence of socialization rather than biology (Rueger 2016, 140-141). Furthermore, studies of genetic markers have been unable to identify a reliable marker (Rueger 2016, 142).
Rueger further asserts that even if a biological cause for same-sex attraction could be found it would not require people to follow their urges. He lists numerous areas of life in which we routinely decide to live in such a way as to resist certain desires (Rueger 2016, 143). Rueger observes that he has been asked why anyone would “choose to adopt a lifestyle that invites persecution and discrimination” (Rueger 2016, 144). His short answer is that people in our current culture are rewarded and applauded for “coming out.” Furthermore, people often choose to live in a way that may involve some social stigmas, whether consciously or not.The question itself defies a reasoned answer. Yet the very idea that some people’s attraction is the result of a conscious or unconscious decision should lead to hope for those who are not pleased with their tendencies. It means that it may be possible to change unwanted attitudes, given time, effort, and support. Rueger is clear that he is here speaking about giving hope to people who are dissatisfied and wish for change (Rueger 2016, 145). Rueger cites the work of psychoanalysts Edmund Bergler, Charles Socarides, and Joseph Nicolosi, who conclude that some same-sex attraction is rooted in conscious or unconscious reactions to hurtful events in the past. With caring help, many who wish to pursue change are successful (Rueger 2016, 146-147). As a Christian, Rueger adds that the historic view of the Holy Spirit working healing, in part through confession, forgiveness, and the means of grace, suggests that the work of the Church is an element of healing, not harm (Rueger 2016, 148).
Rueger notes that some object that the removal of homosexuality from the DSM list of mental disorders in 1973 indicates it is perfectly normal. However, the change was made due to lobbying, not due to research (Rueger 2016, 148). The change has subsequently resulted in divisions within the psychoanalytic community, going even so far as to form a separate national association which continues to consider same-sex attraction as a disorder (Rueger 2016, 149). The APA has not entirely removed the situation from its diagnostic manual, as it added “sexual orientation disturbance” at the same time, indicating that there is a valid category for those who are troubled by their sexuality (Rueger 2016, 150). This was changed again in 1980 to “ego-dystonic homosexuality” which allowed for a therapist to help a patient move from attitudes and behaviors which troubled the patient (Rueger 2016, 151). This was removed by the time of the DSM-IV, which avoids reference to homosexuality as a potential problem at all (Rueger 2016, 152). These moves strike Rueger as being politically and socially motivated, rather than having a basis in scientific evidence.
The last of the common objections Rueger hears is made mostly by Christians, based on Matthew 7:1-5, James 4:12, Romans 14:3-4, 10, 13, and 1 Corinthians 4:5, where people are, in one way or another, not to judge (Rueger 2016, 153). However, the context of all these passages indicates that we are to make legitimate evaluations of right and wrong, not based on our selfish biases. If God warns against something, it is necessary to repeat and heed that warning (Rueger 2016, 154). This requires sensitivity and gentleness, as Rueger frequently sees in his role as a pastor. But in the end, when God has warned us, we need to pay attention. A failure to do so caused many problems which are addressed in 1 Corinthians 5:1-7 (Rueger 2016, 155). This holds true for every sin that God speaks of. It is to be brought up so as to lead to repentance and forgiveness. The relationship with God can be restored, but not if the sin is ignored. It is compasisonate to confront what God has condemned (Rueger 2016, 156).