Why the focus on homosexuality, abortion, evolution? Aren’t all sins the same in God’s eyes? Part 1

By Scott Fowler

I am frequently asked if all sins are equally bad or if some sins are worse than others. Sometimes I just hear the statement being made in passing, “Well, we know that all sins are equal in God’s eyes.” Usually, this idea is tied to the sentiment suggesting the Church should not spend so much time harping against homosexuality, abortion, and evolution (the “big 3”), and spend more time dealing with Christians who lie, cheat on their taxes, and commit adultery. Surely those things are just as destructive as the big 3.

Without a doubt, sin separates us from God. And, barring a discussion on the possibility that the punishment of hell will be intensified upon its inhabitants by degrees based on the degree of their sinfulness, we can agree that once a person goes to hell it may not matter at that point whether it was murder or lying or tax evasion that sent him or her there. He or she is separated from God.

So, why does the believing Church spend so much time talking about the big 3? Aren’t all sins equally bad in God’s eyes? Let’s gradually get to the first question by starting with the second. And let’s begin the discussion by asking a series of questions and by considering a few different scenarios.

Is there a difference between the sin being committed by a young man and woman, both single, both unmarried, who are engaging in premarital sex, and a man and a woman, both married to other people, having an affair with one another? How do we normally feel about the young couple that doesn’t want to wait compared to how we feel about the couple cheating on their spouses? There is something categorically different between the sin of the young couple and the sin of the adulterers. Both couples are engaged in damnable sins,1  but there is something extra deceitful and hurtful happening with the adulterous couple. They are in deeper. They are not only disobeying God but they are breaking their vows and hurting their children and living a lie! Perhaps the question is not “Is one sin is worse than the other?” but rather “How deeply mired in bondage is one couple compared to the other?” or “How many people are hurt by the sin of either couple?” Let’s keep going with more questions and another scenario.

Is there anything inherently different between the sin of adultery happening between a man and a woman and the same-sex sexual relations happening between two gay men? Both “couples” are committing damnable sins,2 but something is different. While we could never condone or justify the sins of the adulterous couple, we are not surprised when people find themselves in the midst of emotional and physical attraction and falling into the trap of adultery. Why? Because, while an adulterous affair is shameful and sinful, we understand that men are attracted to women and vice versa and, given the right set of circumstances, they can all too easily find themselves in a weakened state and falling into the grossest of sins. And while we would condemn such acts, we would not normally say that there was something unnatural about what they are doing, beyond the view of what is natural for believing Christians, because it is normal for men to be attracted to women, etc. The issue in this case is that the man and the woman have failed to stay faithful to God and to the ordained relationships they have already committed to. Similarly, we do not say that a man has sinned because he has the capacity to be tempted by looking at another woman, but we would say that he is responsible for what he does with the temptation.

But when it comes to homosexuality and two men or two women in same-sex sexual relations with one another, we do not simply say that they have done the wrong thing with temptation. Much more is involved. While it is true that the man and the woman who are having an adulterous affair with one another have indeed gone against God’s laws by giving themselves to forbidden sexual relationships, their violation is different in kind than that of the two men or two women involved in forbidden same-sex sexual relationships. The homosexual relationship represents a twisting of God’s laws in a much deeper, more deviant way. God certainly condemns sex outside of marriage and sex that violates the marriage bed and vows, but He has not condemned human heterosexual sexuality. He reserves the right to decide for us who we should mate with, but He has not condemned the human sexual act between a man and a woman. He has, in fact, endorsed it and encouraged it within the bounds of His laws. In the case of homosexuality, He has condemned the act altogether; forbidden it. So, homosexuality is in a different category because it twists what God originally intended in a way that premarital sex and adultery between a man and a woman does not. There is no way for the homosexual act to ever be sanctioned by God.

If we imagine a person simply making a random decision to engage in a same-sex sexual act, we could also imagine saying to that person, “Don’t choose to do that anymore. It’s wrong.” We might not understand why a person would do such a thing, but there it is. But when we come to the realization that gays and lesbians have this desire (not born with it but somehow mired in it) and that they approve of it, now we are dealing with individuals who, in the face of God, are not just saying we want to have sex, but we want to have sex in a way that you have said is not natural, normal, or accepted.

As mentioned above, perhaps the question is not degrees of sinfulness, but degrees of bondage. The stronghold of homosexuality is different in its intensity than, say, a little boy of four who has trouble telling the truth, although Stephen Charnock wrote,

“All sin is founded in secret atheism. Atheism is the spirit of every sin; all the floods of impieties in the world break in at the gate of a secret atheism, and though several sins may disagree with one another, yet, like Herod and Pilate against Christ, they join hand in hand against the interest of God. Though lusts and pleasures be diverse, yet they are all united in disobedience to him. All the wicked inclinations in the heart, and struggling motions, secret repining, self-applauding confidences in our own wisdom, strength, &c. [sic], envy, ambition, revenge, are sparks from this latent fire; the language of every one of these is, I would be a Lord to myself, and would not have a God superior to me.3 

For this reason, we don’t take lightly the little boy who tends to lie. But we understand that little boys and girls sometimes have trouble with the truth and need teaching concerning the reason the truth matters. And although we have all known people who are liars, it is rare to find someone who vouches for lying or claims that a life based on falsehood is a noble path to choose.

What I am trying to say is that at least one of the reasons that homosexuality is seen differently than other behaviors that the Church considers to be sinful is that the bondage and the stronghold that it represents is significantly different and arguably more difficult to deal with than the occasional temptation to swear when one hits his or her thumb with a hammer.

I will deal with the first part of the question in Part 2, but let me finish this article by saying that I am more and more sensitive to the argument against the believing Church that when it speaks against sin, particularly against homosexuality, that it is of necessity spewing hate out for homosexuals outside of the faith and now more and more inside even the evangelical church. To those arguments I would say that indeed many Christians have spewed hatred for the sin and that hatred of sin has been virtually indistinguishable from the feeling they have expressed for the homosexuals themselves. For that I am deeply sorry and in agreement that Jesus loves the homosexual and so does the true believing Church. However, in our present culture, any expression of disagreement is seen as hate. But the believing Church has no choice but to speak the truth. So, all I know to do is to genuinely love people, declare the truth from that genuine love, and become sensitive to ways in which we can better communicate that genuine love.

Stay tune for Part 2.

1 Revelation 21:8 says: But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”

2 Along with Revelation 21:8, Romans 1:18-32.

3 Stephen Charnock, B.D., Discourses Upon the Existence and Attributes of God, Volume I (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1987; reprinted from the 1853 edition by Robert Carter & Brothers), page 93, emphasis mine

 

Scott Fowler is the founder of the Christ and Culture Initiative. He is a pastor/theologian living in New York. You can learn more about him at:  http://scottythinks.wordpress.com/about/

 

13 thoughts on “Why the focus on homosexuality, abortion, evolution? Aren’t all sins the same in God’s eyes? Part 1

  1. Clare Flourish

    Hello, Scott.

    I follow your distinction between pre-marital sex and adultery: in adultery, the partners are betraying their spouses and children. But- when two women love each other, there are no victims like that. I would say that therefore, because there are no victims, the sin is less- or nonexistent. I am delighted that my church lobbied the UK government to allow church weddings for gay people, and the Government will allow that for any denomination which opts in. Many churches will.

    Jesus said that if a man look at a woman with lust in his heart, he had already committed adultery. He did not say the same if a man look at a man.

    • cscottfowler

      Hi Clare. Well, I can at least appreciate the opportunity to dialogue with you about this issue. I hope you will contribute often to the thoughts here.

      to your point, of course, if sin is involved, even if a person sins independently of others,there is still a victim: the person who sins.

      I’m sure you know what I am going to say. The reason your example of two men and two women does not work is that you are choosing to ignore that the issue is sin, not simply victims. The problem is sin. It matters little if we feel we have not victimized anyone if we have still disobeyed God. Simply legalizing same sex marriage does not do away with the sin because homosexuality is not a sin because marriage is not legalized between same sex couples in places, it is a sin because it is wrong for men to be with men working that which unseemly. And if Jesus did not specifically mention a man looking at a man or a woman looking at a woman, Paul certainly did in no uncertain terms.

      You are right that many churches are going to follow suit with your church but that does not make it right.

      Out of curiosity, how do you deal with Romans 1? Thanks again for commenting. I will check out your blog.

      • Clare Flourish

        My lot have arguments on all the verses. Romans 1:

        25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator – who is for ever praised. Amen.

        26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

        Paul is talking about idolatry, which was ubiquitous in the Roman Empire. All sorts of false Gods were worshipped, and some of that worship involved sexual acts. “abandoned natural relations”: this cannot apply to gay men, who are born that way.

        Having gone round various blogs I have seen answers to these points on all the passages. Jude 7 is argued on Sodom even though I think gang rape is as far from ordinary gay men’s experience as from that of straight Christians.

        • cscottfowler

          The one part you chose to refer to “abandoned natural relations” is incomplete. It actually says “men also abandoned natural relations with women.” Paul defines what natural relations were: men with women not men with men. So, the idea that men should be with men sexually is not supported in scripture, nor can you you superimpose the idea that men are born that way simply because you find men today who say that. We are not invited to read our subjectivities into the biblical text.

    • L Sammy

      Gen 2: 22-24… God’s intended marriage seems pretty clear. If Im not mistakin, I do not read any where in scripture of any other option, strange how we dont find same sex couples mentioned or approved of. We certainly know that homosexualality is nothing new, so why would we not clearly see Gods aproval for it in his written word to us? But we certainly do see passages, painted over or not, make mention against it. We do not get to write the rules. Instead of trying to get scriptures to fit our views, we need to be of ” Lord, why am I off in this area and who told me it was right ” – .

  2. Bob

    I don’t believe all sins are equally sinful, but there is still a major overemphasis in evangelical churches on what you term “the big 3” (we could add Islam to make it the “big 4”). I challenge you to find such a lopsided presentation of sin in Scripture. When Paul was listing some major areas of sin (I Cor. 6, Ephesians 5, etc.), he went far beyond sexual immorality and murder. So did Christ. I don’t buy the often heard argument that our present culture warrants the heavy emphasis on abortion and homosexuality. Ancient Corinth was just as corrupt. Our evangelical churches are really lacking a Biblical balance.

    • cscottfowler

      Thanks for commenting Bob. As I have said many times, and probably said in the article, there are not government supported lobbies trying get the Church to accept lying, or trying to pass legislation for the approval of adultery or murder. The Church confronts sin where it finds sin, but like it or not the front lines between the church and the culture are drawn along the lines of abortion, homosexuality, and evolution. And frankly, it is frequently the culture that draws the line when it meets unapproval by the church.

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