Debating Bible Basics Duncan Heaster  


11-2-3. Are Some People Born Gay?

This seems to be the key issue in the minds of many. Having read both sides of the debate, biologically, psychiatrically and neuro-chemically, it is evident that there is no conclusive proof of this. The proof would only mean anything at all in scientific terms if homosexuality as a heritable trait could be replicated- and this is impossible to do. In any case, genes in themselves do not specify behaviour or thought processes- which is what the Biblical prohibitions of homosexuality are concerned with. I am not the only one to come to the conclusion that there is no clear proof that people are born gay:

" In neither male nor female homosexuals is there convincing evidence of abnormality in sex chromosomes or the neuroendocrine system" (6).

There is no evidence to support the hypothesis that " homosexuals or bisexuals of any degree or type are chromosomally discrepant from heterosexuals" (7).

" There is no evidence that treating male homosexuals with male hormones significantly alters the sexual preference. The clear implication of these results is that sexual preference is predominantly a socially learned response, not an orientation fixed from the outset by genetic or hormonal factors" (8).

The claims that some are 'born gay' are considered in Appendix 1. If some people are born gay, the Biblical reasoning so far presented, especially from the Genesis record, has to be answered. It seems difficult to do this without renouncing our belief in God's word. And even if it is accepted that some are born gay, this does not of itself mean that homosexual behaviour can be tolerated in the church. We are all born with a nature that tends towards sin; some sin appears to be almost involuntary, and yet we are asked to grapple with it and overcome it (Rom. 3:10; 5:12; Gal. 3:22; 5:17; James 3:8). Our nature being sinful as it is, does not mean that sinful behaviour or lust is thereby justified. It is widely argued by gay 'Christians' that their homosexual behaviour is an inborn trait that is loving, natural and therefore desirable. But tendency to alcoholism is also an inborn trait in some people; possessing an inborn trait does not of itself mean that the expression of that trait is desirable or good.

Most homosexual 'Christians' are educated people. They need to be, because there is explicit condemnation of homosexual practices in the Bible, and for any Christian to even begin to justify indulgence in them requires a fairly complicated level of reasoning. There is a sense of 'getting round' each anti-homosexual passage, rather than facing up to it. The intellectual desperation of many of these attempts (considered in Appendix 1) is proof in itself of the fact that those who have devised them have been driven to them by the need for personal justification, rather than being lead to them by honest Bible study. Most of the homosexual 'Christian' arguments depend upon drawing a distinction between those who are (as they claim) born homosexual, and those who practice homosexual rape and other perversions. It is this latter category, they claim, to whom the Biblical prohibitions refer.

If there is such a differentiation between those 'born gay' and those who acquire this behaviour, the Bible ought to reflect it. But it doesn't. It's no use claiming that the Bible writers (e.g. Paul) were ignorant of this distinction; because their writings were by the inspiration of God, through His Spirit. God knew of this distinction, if it existed, and He would have reflected His knowledge of it in the way He wrote. Whilst the Bible is not a scientific textbook, as God's word it frequently makes reference to scientific truths which were beyond the grasp of its contemporary readership. The homosexual 'Christian' must at the very least admit that some homosexual acts are condemned in the Bible. If this distinction between orientation and acquired, perverted behaviour was so crucial to our moral acceptability, surely this distinction would be clearly made.

Rom. 1:32 teaches that the Christian has a duty not to consent with believers who claim to be homosexuals; and that if he fails to do this, he will be judged like them. Under the Law of Moses, homosexuals were to be killed (Lev. 18:22). If in fact the Bible does not condemn those 'born gay', then it becomes a vital issue to decide whether an individual believer is 'born gay' or is in the other category of homosexuals which the Bible condemns. Not only does the Bible not make such a categorization, but it impossible to analyze whether someone is 'born gay' or not. Israel were not told to only kill certain homosexuals after submitting them to some kind of test to reveal whether they were 'born gay'. According to the gay 'Christian' position, if we fellowship some categories of homsoexuals, we will be condemned (Rom.1:32). Yet there is no way we can analyze homosexual believers and achieve this categorization. We must therefore conclude that we are not meant to make this categorization, and therefore the Bible's condemnation of homosexuality must be applied to all so-called 'categories' of homosexuality.

The Bible is not ignorant of the concept of inherited propensity. It teaches that we inherit the propensity to do evil, through our hard, deceived heart and nature (Dt. 10:16; Prov. 17:20; Jer. 9:26; 17:9; Hos. 10:2; Mt. 15:19; 19:8; Eph. 4:18). Never does the Bible suggest that some sins are simply the result of being 'born like it'. We must crucify the lusts of our flesh nature, and walk in the Spirit (Gal. 5:24). This means that to have and nourish homosexual lust but not physically express it, is a denial of the basic spirit of Christianity: to crucify the lusts of our nature. And yet some churches teach exactly this: that homosexual lust is OK, as long as it isn't expressed. " The thought of foolishness is sin" (Prov. 24:9), and there can be no doubt that the Lord Jesus saw sexual fantasy as equivalent to sexual behaviour (Mt. 5:28 cp.Prov. 6:25). Devising wicked plans against our neighbour (Prov. 6:16-18; Zech. 7:10; 8:17), envying dishonesty (Ps. 37:1,7), planning deceit (Am. 8:5), loving false oaths (Zech. 8:17), coveting (Ex. 20:17); indeed, all sinful desires are condemned as sinful, indeed just as sinful as the actions (Rom. 13:14; Col. 3:5; 1 Pet. 2:11). Paul's condemnation of homosexuals is not just because of their actions; but because of their " desires" , " impure lusts...shameful passions" (Rom. 1:27,24,26).

As with our attitude to Biblical authority, we are in an all or nothing situation. The Bible teaches that all homosexual lust is just as sinful as the action; and therefore the whole mind of the homosexual must be cleansed if they are to be acceptable before God. Simply insisting on their physical celibacy cannot be enough. Homosexuals turned from their homosexuality and were converted to Christ, in whom they were sanctified at baptism (1 Cor. 6:11).

Whatever we postulate concerning human nature, we state about the Lord Jesus Christ, since he was completely of our nature (Heb. 2:14-18; 4:15 cp. James 1:13-15). If within our very nature there are inbuilt passions which God's word condemns, then the Lord Jesus Christ was a constitutional sinner. Although human nature is the source of sin, it is not in itself sinful; otherwise the Lord Jesus would have been a personal sinner on account of having human nature. If you cut my head off and lay it on a table, it would be inappropriate to point at it and say: " Look at all that sin!" . Likewise a new born baby is scarcely a " sinner" just because it is human. The capacity for temptation, and sin, are evidently different things. Homosexual lust / passion is sinful. The argument that some are born constitutionally homosexual, essentially created with lusts which are of themselves sinful, would mean that God creates people who by the very reason of their existence are 'in sin' and therefore subject to His wrath. " A just God and a saviour" will not do this. For a man not naturally yearn for a woman and become one flesh with her is as God intended (Gen. 2:24); to leave the natural use of the woman and lust for a man is not the outworking of the human nature we are born with. Such desire is homosexual lust, which is a sin (Rom. 1:24-27). The whole differentiation between 'orientation' and 'behaviour' appears false, once it is appreciated that the homosexual lusts are what is seen by God as the real sin. Even in terms of psychiatry, it is difficult to identify a psychological disposition (e.g. 'born gay') apart from its manifestations. Because the 'born gay' position cannot be clearly defined, it is impossible to certainly identify it or test for it. And yet this identification must be made, for the Bible condemns homosexual acts. The gay 'Christian' argument is that this condemnation does not apply to those who are born gay. And yet it is impossible to define whether someone is born gay or has acquired their homosexuality.

The Biblical condemnation of homosexual desire leads us back to the creation, and the question of whether God really creates human beings with the insuperable biological orientation towards homosexuality. It is often thought (wrongly) that God creates some people with this homosexual tendency in the same way as we are all born with sinful tendencies. And yet we are expected to battle with and overcome those tendencies; it is possible to put them to death, through the Spirit (Gal. 5:24). If homosexual tendencies are due to inborn genetic orientation, then they cannot be overcome. It's like being born with white skin, or left-handed. These things can't be changed; it's part of our inbuilt, God-created structure. If homosexuality is like this, then we cannot change it. The way the Corinthians changed from it just has to be ignored. The condemnation of homosexual desire therefore becomes unreasonable- it would be like God condemning people for being born left-handed. The answer to this question of whether people are born homosexual is found right back in Genesis.

The following points are each nails in the coffin for the 'born gay' argument.

- There are many identical twins in which only one is homosexual. This means that the homosexual twin cannot ascribe his homosexuality to genetic factors (9).

- There is undeniable association between homosexuality and environmental factors, social and emotional distress. This of itself would suggest that it is acquired through environment, by nurture, rather than inherited by nature. Thus plants of the same genes grow completely differently in different environments or at different elevations. There is a correlation between homosexuality and neurotic instability (10), religion of parents etc.

- Numerous studies have associated homosexuality with over dominant mothers and absent or weak fathers. It has also been reported that there is a greater incidence of homosexuality among the black rather than white American community- associated with the matriarchal society-structure in Afro-American culture? (11). Homosexuality is also associated with certain socio-economic groups. Thus an American survey found that the average annual household income of homosexuals was $55,400 compared to $32,100 for heterosexuals. 60% of American homosexuals were found to have college degrees compared to 18% nationwide; 49% of homosexuals had professional or managerial positions, compared to 15% of the population (12). If homosexuality is inherited or inborn, one would expect the spread of homosexuals to be much wider than this. The suggestion is that education and workplace has an influence on homosexuality. Likewise homosexuality among male prisoners is much higher than average.

- The degree of homosexuality varies between cultures and over time. This is inconsistent with the theory that it is genetically inherited. The concept of homosexual orientation from birth is almost nonexistent in pre-industrial societies (13). The implication is that the idea of 'gay from birth' has been developed more recently, and once aired it has 'caught on'. A 1948 survey of gay people reported that 9% claimed to have been " born that way" (14); in 1983, a survey in the same area found that 35% thought they had been " born that way" (15). A survey of (e.g.) whether people were born left-handed would not have produced the same difference. It is evident that public opinion has influenced perception of whether people are born gay.

- The fact change from homosexuality to heterosexuality is possible indicates that homosexuality is not an intrinsic, unalterable aspect of a person's being. It is therefore acquired behaviour as a result of a certain background environment. With a different (spiritual) environment and lifestyle, heterosexual behaviour can be acquired. There are numerous personal testimonies to this (16). Academic studies support this. Socarides reported a 50% success rate in achieving full heterosexual functioning (17) ; Patterson and Patterson report converting 50% of a group previously categorized as born homosexuals, who had only known same-sex relationships from childhood (18) . This is evidence that demands a verdict. Until it can be answered, the notion of 'once gay always gay' ought to be shelved. Patterson's conclusion is worth quoting: " Our data suggest the importance of ideology, expectation and behavioural experience in producing change...when homosexuality is defined [in the mind of the patient] as an immutable and fixed condition that must be accepted, the potential for change seems slim. In our study, however, when homosexuality was defined as a changeable condition, it appears that change was possible" . It is a sad fact that gay 'Christians' claim that such change is impossible, and that gay people ought to rejoice in the 'gift' of sexuality which they have. This is utter perversion, and denial of the power of the Gospel of the risen Lord Jesus, and the fact that this power is dependent upon confession and repentance of sins like homosexuality (Acts 2:38-41).

- The majority of homosexuals have changed to this behaviour from heterosexism. One study found that 81% of gay men and 93% of lesbians admitted this (19). Around 50% claimed to have shifted their sexual orientation twice. The same study reported that 80% of lesbians said they were sexually aroused by men at times. This makes a nonsense of the suggestion that some people are born irreversibly gay with no attraction to the opposite sex.

- There is no a priori reason why every male attracted to other males should share the same genetic or brain structure.

- If hormones affect sexual 'orientation', hormone responses in lesbians should be in some ways masculine. This would mean that they would not menstruate or bear children. This is not the case.

- Genes only specify proteins, not behaviour or psychological phenomena. Even if homosexuality is genetic, this doesn't mean that homosexuality is therefore normal behaviour. The same reasoning would lead us to conclude that people born with genetic deformities were " normal" .

Why Do People Feel They Were Born Gay?

The question must be faced, however: Why is it that many homosexual people sincerely believe that they were born that way, and feel they can do nothing to change their orientation? One observation that has been correctly made is that such homosexuals have fallen victim to 'definition by desire'- i.e. because we desire something, it is easy to define ourselves as that. Thus a man may desire alcohol and therefore reason that he is an alcoholic by nature, and thereby justify his alcoholism. And so it can be with homosexuals. They define themselves by their desire; because they have homosexual desire, they define themselves as constitutional homosexuals, and thereby justify their behaviour.

However, I would suggest that the main answer is that once we start on the downward spiral of sin, God will confirm us in this until we become convinced that our sinful state is natural and even righteous. Appendix 2 discusses this in more detail. It's rather like a baby bird learning the song of its surroundings; once it's learnt the song, it can't easily unlearn it to learn another one. Because people feel their homosexuality is natural and even God-given doesn't mean that it is. We will show later that Rom. 1:22-28 teaches that God gives people a homosexual mind in response to their sexual perversion. What genetic and neuroanatomical traits may be associated with homosexuality are doubtless used by God in this process. It may be that we are all born with some of these traits, which God then develops as a punishment upon those who indulge in homosexuality. These traits would then be the result of homosexual behaviour, not the prime cause of it in the first place (20). In any case, genetic analysis at best can only describe how things are, not how they ought to be. The paradigm of science has no instruments to analyze the power of sin, whereas the Bible presents sin as a terrible force that has enslaved humanity. If we analyze the human condition through science rather than through the Bible, we will find nothing wrong with us, no mention of sin, simply a description of us as we are, with no recommendation for moral change. Gay 'Christians' have sadly given science credence over God's word; they look at themselves as they think they 'are', they define themselves by their own desires, rather than seeing themselves as committing homosexual acts. And yet the Biblical analysis of homosexuality focuses on acts (Rom. 1:18-32) rather than talking about what homosexuals are.


- The research evidence is inconclusive as to whether people are born gay

- If proof is made available, the research evidence against this position must be answered

- The phenomena of homosexuals changing, both in the literature and also in 1 Cor. 6:11, must be accounted for

- Most importantly, the Biblical implications of God creating people constitutionally homosexual must be answered

- Being 'born gay' is no excuse for homosexual behaviour or lust, and is no reason for this to be accommodated within the true church.


(6) Richard Winter, " Problems Of Sexuality" inOxford Textbook Of Psychiatry (Oxford: O.U.P., 2nd Ed., 1989).

(7) John Money, " Genetic And Chromosomal Aspects Of Homosexual Etiology" in J. Marmor, ed., Homosexual Behaviour (New York: Basic Books, 1980), p. 66.

(8) John Jefferson Davis, Evangelical Ethics (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed, 1993), p.99.

(9) John Horgan, Gay Genes Revisited , Scientific American, Nov. 1995 p.26.

(10) E.M. Pattison and J. Kahan, The Deliberate Selfharm Syndrome, American Journal Of Psychiatry, 140 (1983): 867-72.

(11) See A.P.A. Monitor, Oct. 1992 Vol. 23 No. 10 p. 36.

(12) The Simmons Gay Media Survey (Plainfield, NJ: Rivendell Marketing, 1989).

(13) J. Carrier, " Homosexual Behaviour In Cross-Cultural Perspective" in J. Marmor, op cit. pp. 100-122.

(14) P. Gebhard & A. Johnson, The Kinsey Data (Philadelphia: Saunders, 1979).

(15) K. Cameron, P. Cameron and K. Proctor, Effect Of Homosexuality Upon Public Health, Psychology Reports, Vol. 64 (1989) pp 1167-79.

(16) E.g. Jeanette Howard, Out Of Egypt (Speldhurst, Kent: Monarch, 1991).

(17) W. Masters and V. Johnson, Homosexuality In Perspective (Boston: Little & Co., 1979). Many other such studies are listed in John Jefferson Davis, op cit.

(18) E.M. Patterson & M.L. Patterson, " Ex-Gays" : Religiously Mediated Change In Homosexuals, American Journal Of Psychiatry, Vol. 137 (1980) No. 12.

(19) Bell and Weinburg, op cit.

(20) This is the conclusion of William Byrne, Homosexuality: The Biological Evidence Challenged , Scientific American, May 1994 p. 50.