Is speaking English genetic? Is heterosexuality a learned orientation and behavior? Are all people either male or female? Does the Gospel, which is the power of God for salvation for everyone who has faith Romans 1: Is nature still what God originally created it to be in Genesis 1?
Our biblically informed views on LGBT issues, then, are informed also by what the sciences now tell us and do not tell us about these matters. This article will identify four key areas of study in what is called biopsychosocial research that can help us appreciate the protracted confusion about gender and LGBT issues.
Awareness of this research assists the church and our ministry in three ways.
Inresponding to student interest in genetic and brain research reports in the popular press, I created a unit of instruction on homosexuality for our Psychology course. This curriculum describes the hypotheses and lines of inquiry have sought—without success—to explain homosexual orientation and behavior and the current state of the research.
With updates, this curriculum is now 20 years old, and I have presented it to thousands of students and other interested groups at conferences and congregations. They have found it helpful. When I first began teaching the unit in the s, I had to weight the presentation and discussions a bit toward mercy. Most participants were conscientious young Christians and were not especially condemning toward gays and lesbians, but they were wary.
The AIDS epidemic was at its peak, the biblical texts on same-sex relations were clear to them, and gay pride was not yet a cultural norm.
While these participants did not share the vitriol expressed by most of their culture and many in the church at that time, they did tend to isolate homosexual behavior for selective condemnation from our larger fallen and sinful condition. This serves as preparation for appreciating divine grace and spiritual growth rather than settling for some transient version of social tolerance or capitulating to any current politics of radical gender identity.
The cultural landscape has "Nature or nurture homosexuality in christianity," and our teaching ministry must adapt, just as Paul adapted his ministry while sustaining his aim in the Gospel. Yes, but before we examine those four areas of the biopsychosocial research, we must first note an important gap in all the LGBT research: To put it plainly: For example, if one identical twin brother is gay, a significant correlation exists that the other brother will be gay but not a percent correspondence.
This correlation indicates a component while leaving open the influence of nurture and environment. Another interesting finding is that homosexuality in men is correlated to their having a greater number of older brothers, whether homosexual or heterosexual.
Despite these and other findings, causation remains an unknown and, for reasons we will consider below, is likely to remain unknown.
This knowledge gap is no longer news, but many participants in the discussions remain unaware of it. Given this absence of any causal explanation for sexual orientation, the cultural LGBT discussions in both the popular press and academic journals have now turned from the choice-or-born-that-way debate to contingencies in biology and genetics, development, and environment.
For example, a standard search of the Academic Search Premier database for — lists only seven articles related to causation but 48 studies about social attitudes, identity, and behavior. While choice about sexual conduct remains an important topic, the church needs to be aware of the research and not perpetuate claims regarding choice in sexual orientation about which the research is clearly inconclusive.
Paul devotes the entire first part of his letter to the disastrous consequences of sin on everything human. However we may exegetically handle the same-sex material in Romans 1: We can help our congregations and classrooms better to understand these pervasive effects of the fall on humanity, including our sexuality, by alerting them to four areas of study about nature and nurture. We Nature or nurture homosexuality in christianity with 1 the neural complexity of the brain.
The neurosciences have advanced rapidly over the past two decades through research in brain imaging and microbiology. Information about brain studies is now common in the popular media, but the brain basics remain astonishing.
Roughly speaking the brain has about a hundred billion neurons. Depending on the type, that neural cell can make upwards of ten thousand dendrite connections with other neurons.
Nature or nurture homosexuality in christianity those neurons use more than one hundred different neurotransmitters to chemically communicate with each other.
Meanwhile, many of our most common features remain a complete mystery. For instance, we still have no explanation for why most of us are right-handed Latin, dexterbut some of us are left-handed Latin, sinister.
Next we consider 2 the Human Genome Project. When the Project began ingeneticists expected to map aboutprotein-encoding genes in our DNA. Early on, researchers were pondering whether even this number could account for our complex behavior and different characteristics.
When the mapping was completed, project scientists were stunned: How can our heart, soul, mind, and strength reflect the very imago Dei? And how then does the human body have so many different kinds of cells and organs in the body and, remarkably, so many different kinds of neural structures and networks in the brain?
To appreciate the significance of this research, we need to recall the famous double-helix structure of DNA. We know that our genome contains approximately three billion base pairs. The Human Genome Project mapped the coding genes used by the DNA-RNA process to replicate the various proteins which form our different tissues such as skin cells, liver cells, and brain neurons.
These regulatory functions include a number of complex processes such as switching systems and folds in the molecules and are far more complex than had
Nature or nurture homosexuality in christianity expected. Disruptions in the regulation of gene activity and protein production result in anomalies in cell processes.
And with three billion base pairs and multiple functions involved in continuous replication and cell reproduction, things can sometimes go wrong. Researchers are exploring some answers in the study of 4 epigenetics. Coding genes are not always active.
But genes are also turned on and off by epigenetic factors, that is, external environmental elements that act upon epi the coding genes and the other DNA regulatory functions. These influences include such factors as nutrition, toxins, and even the weather. Some set of dynamics to act on and determine the role of a not-yet-differentiated stem cell—each with the same 20, coding genes—that has the potential to become any kind of cell the body needs.
But only in the past few years have researchers begun to decipher the switching systems and detect a few of the environmental factors that turn coding genes on or off. Depending on when and which genes get turned on and off, the results can be imperceptible but can also be dramatic. Epigenetic influences have been demonstrated in studies on cognitive development and cancer, are being investigated in autism and stress and hypertension, and appear to be implicated in predispositions for depression and addiction.
The research understandably pursues an emphasis on disease, but on the positive side, epigenetics is also being applied to studies in immune system resiliency and in temperament and personality. Relevant to our discussion, of course, is how these four areas of study inform our understanding of atypical sex orientation and gender dysphoria.
Nature Nature or nurture homosexuality in christianity nurture constantly combine throughout development and even across generations, sometimes to determine our characteristics but also to influence our cognition and conduct in complex and subtle ways. For this reason, the choice-or-born-that-way debate about homosexuality has been set aside, and research projects dedicated to locating a cause for homosexuality are few.
The picture also includes the fall and our recognition that nature, including the human genome and all its processes, is no longer what God originally created it to be.
Genesis 4—11 broadly but vividly sets out the comprehensive consequences of sin on all of creation. In these ways, we exercise vocation and serve our neighbor, acting as stewards of all that God continues to entrust to us. As stewards of this left-hand kingdom knowledge, we understand that the genome and its replicating systems are complex beyond our current ability to describe, that the processes work well, but that the processes are susceptible to internal and external influences which lead to atypical results—sometimes unimportant, sometimes harmful, sometimes different.
The XX female exhibits ambiguous genitalia, a generally male appearance, and masculinized behavior. this maternal condition called Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia or CAH is now understood, little is known about its underlying causes.
And these sorts of conditions and outcomes bring us back to the genome, the coding genes, the regulatory DNA, the internal and external switching systems, epigenetics, and the neural complexity of the brain. A lot can go right, wrong, and sideways.
As noted earlier, the research has not yet arrived at any causal explanation for homosexuality or other LGBT conditions. We do have a biblical framework for understanding that our sinful human condition distorts sexuality, including heterosexuality: And we have a research framework for better understanding some dimensions of our human condition. The processes in genomic replication and cell division are not always entirely precise.
These processes can be influenced and altered by both biological and environmental factors, particularly at critical periods in prenatal and perinatal development. And these critical periods of development are especially important for the neural complexity in early brain organization.
If, due to some context of deprivation—deprivation being part of our post-Eden condition—we do not learn any language by about age 12, our brain will no longer be able to learn to process any language in a typical way because its critical period of development for language has now closed.
Our sexuality is "Nature or nurture homosexuality in christianity" integrated into our being in multiple and complex ways including our biology, anatomy, neurology, gender roles, and social structures, all of which are now distorted by sin. What issues does this raise for Christian education? Many of our students and other fellow Christians now tend to perceive an LGBT life as merely circumstantial and a matter of personal disposition. By contrast, Paul concludes his case for sin and grace for both Jews and Gentiles in Romans To assist with addressing these perceptions, we conclude with a summary sequence of ten presentation and discussion items on LGBT concerns in terms of both complex nature-nurture sin and a heart for the Gospel.
These topics can be expanded, adapted, and varied for discussion and disputation according to the needs and interests of participants.
The writers and
Nature or nurture homosexuality in christianity of this edition of Issues hope our content will be helpful in your reflection, study, and ministry. Some Instruction Inresponding to student interest in genetic and brain research reports in the popular press, I created a unit of instruction on homosexuality for our Psychology course.
Four Levels of Complexity We begin with 1 the neural complexity of the brain. The Fall and Its Fallout Relevant to our discussion, of course, is how these four areas of study inform our understanding of atypical sex orientation and gender dysphoria. Eden and Calvary As noted earlier, the research has not yet arrived at any causal explanation for homosexuality or other LGBT conditions.
Yet homosexuality, like other sin especially sexual sin? Notice also that heterosexual male lust is quite natural postlapsarian but not good.
Scripture and our liturgy distinguishes among sins of thought, word, and deed. That is, they all diminish our trust relationship with God. Contemplating investment fraud is not the same as depriving others of their life savings. An orientation or inclination or predisposition toward homosexuality "Nature or nurture homosexuality in christianity" not itself homosexual conduct or behavior.
An orientation or inclination or predisposition toward male heterosexual lust is not itself rape, adultery, fornication, or even lust. We may or may not make choices about sexual orientation. The research is not at all clear about this.