Response to Misty Irons

Last week I wrote a response to Wesley Hill’s article about Christian homosexuals and the struggles they face. Misty Irons also wrote a response to that article and to several blog comments related to it. Her response has been discussed on numerous blogs as well. This is my response to Misty.

I agree wholeheartedly with Misty that the way to reach out and minister to those struggling with SSA is to be their friend. Because SSA is a sin that is so entangled with one’s identity, simply offering a trite, quick fix will not suffice.

But we do a disservice to those struggling to overcome SSA by simply encouraging them to remain steadfast in their celibate homosexuality. This implies that God created them to be homosexual and then called them to suppress who He created them to be. Is that an accurate picture of the loving and just God we worship? We can help who we are attracted to through the redeeming work of Christ! We can help how we relate to those around us, both male and female.

I spent many years believing the lie that my cross to bear in life was one of loneliness and self-sacrifice because I was a homosexual Christian who was simply called to remain celibate. What a life of defeat! That is where the loneliness comes from. The Scripture is full of passages describing homosexuality as a past tense event in the life of believer. Paul tells us if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation. God did not create anyone homosexual. We cannot help how we are tempted, but we can help what we do with those temptations when they are exposed to the light and truth of God’s word.

Misty is right, there is a lifetime of relational issues to overcome, there is a worldview that must be radically shifted, there is a root heart issue that must be put to death. If the believer who views themselves as a homosexual continues to view herself as such, she is believing a lie.

1 Corinthians 10.13 says, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” The act of homosexual sex is not the only homosexual sin. Jesus said to lust after a woman is to commit adultery in your heart. Sexual sins have a root issue in the heart. The temptation to identify yourself as homosexual is a temptation to view yourself as something other than what God created you to be.

But these points are not things that should be launched from a distance at those struggling with SSA. Had someone sat down with me and given me a point by point analysis of this at the beginning of my journey from homosexuality, I would have balked at them and their high and mighty judgmental views. But there were people who were willing to struggle through Scripture with me. They answered hard questions, spent endless hours listening to me vent and self-justify my life. They walked with me as I demanded God prove Himself to be the all-sufficient sustainer.

People struggling with SSA need faithful Christians who are willing to walk with them with all of the grace and mercy and patience of Christ. But those faithful Christians must be equipped with the unwavering truth of who God is and who He created us to be.

3 thoughts on “Response to Misty Irons

  1. I think calling celibacy a “life of defeat” is insulting to every good, Godly, celibate man or woman who has ever lived. Paul said it was better not to marry, and Christ said that marriage was only for those called to it. Maybe celibates would have an easier time if Christians didn’t look down upon them so much. The fact that you saw celibacy as something that would defeat you or harm you shows your lack of trust in Christ to provide for your needs.

    Granted, I’m a Calvinist and believe in predestination. I have no doubt that God could create someone to be an active homosexual, just like He could create them to be a murderer or a liar or a cheater. I think He chose every aspect of my life and every decision I’ve made. He is Sovereign, after all. If he wanted me to be SSA forever, that’s His call, and it doesn’t take away from His law at all. I’m not scared about celibacy. If He wishes to change my orientation, he can. I would be grateful, but I vow to be content either way.

    As humans, it’s our job to obey, not to look to the potter and say, “Why did you make me like this?”

    • Please don’t misunderstand my intention when I say celibacy is a life of defeat. Celibacy is a calling God places on some. In my life, celibacy was self-imposed when I identified myself as being homosexual because I separated SSA from active homosexuality. In Scripture, we aren’t given the luxury of dividing the desires of our heart from the actions of our bodies. The celibacy is not the issue– at this time in my life I am not married and am therefore still living a celibate lifestyle. The issue is the cause and the intention of the choice to be celibate. There are many people who desire to be married, to be in loving sexual relationships. They are not called to celibacy in the least. But they also struggle with same sex attraction– they desire to be in a loving sexual relationship the Bible forbids. When someone chooses to live in celibacy rather than work through their struggle with SSA, that celibacy is a choice to live in defeat.

      Paul is clear in Scripture that to be single and celibate is better and I would agree with him. As a single adult in ministry, I have the time and the freedom to serve the Lord in ways that my married friends simply cannot. I am more able to have a singular focus on ministry and the Gospel. But I choose to be celibate because because my desire is to faithfully serve Christ, not because my desire is a behavior which is clearly condemned in Scripture.

      As to your comments concerning being both a Calvinist and a holder of the belief that God could create someone to be actively homosexual, I am afraid you are dangerously close to declaring God to be the author of sin, which would make you no longer a Calvinist but a heretic. God created man in His image; that image has been marred by sins of all kinds. But that in no way means that God desires His creation to be sinful. Our nature makes us fallen sinners; God enables His elect, through the sovereign work of His Holy Spirit, to overcome our sin and flesh.

      I’m curious to know which Scripture passages you have studied and which Calvinist writers and pastors you have read that have helped you reach your understanding of God’s sovereignty over your SSA. I have to admit your line of thought here is new to me; generally I see the exact opposite philosophy. Most of the time, the more people understand God’s sovereignty, the more they hate their sin and cling to Christ. You seem to be doing just the opposite by clinging to God’s sovereignty as a reason for not crucifying the desires of the flesh. I would be interested to discuss these things with you further through e-mail.

  2. Hey! E-mail would be fine. So would Facebook. You’re actually not that far from me, and I have cousins at Southeastern Baptist. I read John Piper, Al Mohler, Tim Keller, and the other great guys at Pyromaniacs. If anything I said has misinterpreted Calvinism, I apologize. I am, admittedly, a new Calvinist. I’m sure I could have said things a little more clearly. I was in a hurry (which is, of course, the worst time to respond to a blog).

    I don’t think I am not crucifying the desires of the flesh. I struggle against lust, pornography, and masturbation like any other man. I try to take every thought captive like every other man. However, even if I never lusted again (let alone acted out) for the rest of my life, that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t still be SSA. Perhaps I would become asexual, since I have known some SSA men to become that as they were further sanctified later in life. I may not have a problem with the term “homosexual,” but to me, “homosexual” is synonymous with “SSA.” I never lived the gay lifestyle. Perhaps if I had, I would attach more culture, identity, and experiences to “homosexual” and would thus not want to use the term. Terminology certainly isn’t an issue I would want to cause a divide over. People can call me gibberish words for all I care. Just listen to my story and treat me with respect. That’s what’s most important. “SSA” seems neutral and non-offensive enough, so I have no problems using it.

    I would disagree, though, that someone who desires to be married at one point can’t be called to celibacy. Many of us want to retreat away from our callings. And “callings,” might I add, aren’t always divine voices from the sky. They are a logical analysis of our circumstances. If someone is in a situation where circumstances of one form or another make things difficult to marry, would it be wrong to examine celibacy as a potential life path? The same goes for someone who seems to have a talent for understanding Scripture and leading other Christians. Shouldn’t he examine the pastorate as a calling? Most of the SSA folks I know (and I know over 100 through blogging) are celibate. Very few seem to marry. This doesn’t mean they aren’t working on their sanctification. However, some experience orientation change, some are attracted to one opposite sex person, and some experience full-fledged change. I think it’s horribly wrong to say that the ones who experience the most change are better Christians, while the ones who are still SSA didn’t try hard enough.

    This isn’t to say that marriage isn’t possible, but I think SSA folks generally tend to have gifts that would be best used in a celibate context.

    But just because someone might be called to celibacy doesn’t mean it will be easy. If there are struggles and wishes he/she had a spouse, does that mean that he/she wasn’t really called to celibacy? To me, that’s like saying that if a pastor has struggles and wishes he had been a banker, then he wasn’t called to be a pastor? No! They should just be helped through their struggles.

    I would encourage you to read the writings of Disputed Mutability. I think Misty Irons links to her as well. She is an ex-lesbian wife and mother, with a doctorate from MIT. She’s a five-point Calvinist and has great ideas about this journey. I don’t think anything she says is something I disagree with, so you should read up on her to learn more about me. 🙂

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