What do LGT (Last Generation Theology) and LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) have in common?
Some may consider the question strange, even bizarre, as quite clearly—if one takes the Bible seriously—the one is a definite disqualifier for the other. But many may not realize that more than one key teaching of what has come to be known as Last Generation Theology offers the answer to more than one dilemma faced by Christians who struggle with any number of the LGBT genre of desires.
First and foremost, Last Generation Theology bespeaks the eschatological crescendo of the Bible promise of complete victory over sin through God’s power, this side of heaven (Psalm 4:4; 119:1-3,11; Zeph. 3:13; Rom. 8:4; I Cor. 14:34; II Cor. 7:1; 10:4-5; Eph. 5:27; I Thess. 5:23; I Peter 2:21-22; 4:1; II Peter 3:10-14; I John 1:7,9; 3:2-3,7; Jude 24; Rev. 3:21; 14:5). Any sin with which the converted Christian struggles—be it impatience, a short temper, materialism, racism, dishonesty, or sexual immorality as Scripture defines it—can claim the promise of practical triumph over evil found in each of the above verses. The apostle Paul, in his writings, is clear that homosexual practice—like all other sins—is one from which the Christian can be set free through God’s grace (I Cor. 6:9-11).
The Nature of Sin and the Homosexual Controversy
But perhaps one of the most essential contributions of Last Generation Theology to the contemporary Christian debate over homosexuality is the clarity offered by Last Generation Theology regarding the nature of human sin. In contrast with the Augustinian doctrine of original sin, which teaches that the sinful nature humans inherit at birth is synonymous with sin itself, Last Generation Theology affirms the Bible truth that sin is an act of the will, not the mere possession within our being of wrongful fleshly urges.
The prophet Ezekiel writes: “The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son” (Eze. 18:20). This verse would be utterly false if in fact, as the doctrine of original sin teaches, human beings bear at birth the guilt of their father Adam.
The apostle James writes even more plainly:
Every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then lust, when it hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin (James 1:14-15).
Ellen White agrees:
There are thoughts and feelings suggested and aroused by Satan that annoy even the best of men; but if they are not cherished, if they are repulsed as hateful, the soul is not contaminated with guilt and no other is defiled by their influence (1).
Satan knows that he cannot overcome man unless he can control his will. He can do this by deceiving man so that he will cooperate with him in transgressing the laws of nature in eating and drinking, which is transgression of the law of God (2).
It is not in the power of Satan to force anyone to sin. Sin is the sinner’s individual act. Before sin exists in the heart, the consent of the will must be given, and as soon as it is given, sin is triumphant, and hell rejoices (3).
The light of life is freely proffered to all. Every one who will may be guided by the bright beams of the Sun of Righteousness. Christ is the great remedy for sin. None can plead their circumstances, their education, or their temperament as an excuse for living in rebellion against God. Sinners are such by their own deliberate choice (4).
In yet another statement, Ellen White is clear that humanity is not “by nature” totally depraved, and that the proof of this is that Jesus came to earth in “our human nature” and lived the life we as humans must live:
As we see the condition of mankind today, the question arises in the minds of some, “Is man by nature totally and wholly depraved?” Is he hopelessly ruined? No, he is not. The Lord Jesus left the royal courts and, taking our human nature, lived such a life as everyone may live in humanity, through following His example. We may perfect a life in this world which is an example of righteousness, and overcome as Christ has given us an example in His life, revealing that humanity may conquer as He, the great Pattern conquered (5).
Unfortunately, many who struggle with same-sex attraction believe that the mere presence of such desires in their fleshly nature—which many insist they have felt from their earliest moments of sexual awareness—is sufficient to warrant divine condemnation, and that unless these desires can be somehow eradicated, one cannot be saved. But the above inspired statements are clear that to feel like sinning is in no way equivalent to sin itself. Sinful feelings must be cherished, the will must give consent, in order for sin to take place.
Some years ago an article by an Adventist college chaplain in Ministry magazine, addressing the homosexual issue, drew attention to the Biblical teaching that a mere inclination to sin is not sin itself:
The apostle James recognizes a distinction between orientation and behavior. Every person “is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death” (James 1:14,15, NIV). For all who possess human nature and wrestle with a host of temptations, this should come as welcome news. Only, in the area of moral choices and behavioral responses to one’s inclinations is sin or the resistance of it possible by God’s grace. Inclination alone does not constitute sin (6).
In a recent critical review of the film, “Journey Interrupted,” a documentary produced by Coming Out Ministries (7) and featuring testimonies of victory over homosexual practice, considerable confusion was fostered as the review made little if any distinction between same-sex attraction and the choice to engage in, or contemplate, sexual intimacy between persons of the same sex:
In one breath, Blakely and Carducci stated that Jesus set them free from homosexuality. In the next, they stated that they are still attracted to men. Their orientation has not changed. . . . But the implication of their message is if you have not broken free from the “gay lifestyle,” you have not fully surrendered to the work of the Holy Spirit. This subtle message is the most dangerous one in the film. It has the potential to severely demoralize someone who believes that God requires a person to break free from same-sex attraction and has been pleading, to no avail, for God to remove this desire (8).
But the film in question in no way promises that God will remove this desire. The only thing the film—and the pen of Inspiration—promise with regard to any sinful desire is divine power to subdue it. Inspired counsel never equates freedom from sin on this earth with freedom from the struggle with sinful urges. When Christians who forsake homosexual practice speak of the “gay lifestyle,” they are not speaking of attraction, but of choices only. The aforementioned testimonies of freedom from homosexuality are no different from the testimonies of smokers and alcoholics who still wrestle with the desire to indulge these practices, but who by the grace of God have ceased to do so.
“Gay Conversion Therapy”
Controversy over so-called “gay conversion therapy,” in which counseling and various aversion mechanisms are employed in an effort to change one’s orientation from homosexual to heterosexual, has likewise brought into focus the issue of what in fact constitutes sin. On August 19, 2013, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed into law a bill outlawing such conversion therapy for minors in his state. Explaining his rationale for signing the bill, Christie stated as follows regarding homosexuality:
Well, my religion says it's a sin. But for me, I don't. I've always believed that people are born with the predisposition to be homosexual. And so, I think if someone is born that way, it's very difficult to say then that that's a sin. But I understand that my church says that. But for me personally, I don' t look upon someone who is homosexual as a sinner (9).
While Christie obviously differs from his Catholic faith in denying homosexuality to be sinful, he continues to follow the Catholic script—going back to the teachings of Augustine (10)—in equating tendencies toward a particular practice with the practice itself. But simply because one is born with homosexual urges doesn’t make one a homosexual, and therefore a sinner. Faithfulness to Scripture does not require conservative Christians to take sides in the argument over whether sexual orientation can or cannot be changed. In the Bible, orientation is not the issue when it comes to sin and righteousness. Choice is.
Understanding the nature of sin as taught by Scripture, the writings of the Spirit of Prophecy, and the doctrinal construct known as Last Generation Theology, is therefore enormously helpful in clarifying some of the deeply rooted emotional issues involved in the debate over homosexuality. Nowhere does the inspired pen promise freedom in this life from inner urges to sin. Some may indeed, in struggles with various sins, experience the eradication of certain sinful desires, but Inspiration nowhere guarantees or promises this experience prior to the Second Coming. Ellen White has written:
Appetite and passion must be brought under the control of the Holy Spirit. There is no end to the warfare this side of eternity (11).
So long as life shall last, there will be need of guarding the affections and the passions with a firm purpose. Not one moment can we be secure except as we rely upon God, the life hidden with Christ. Watchfulness and prayer are the safeguards of purity (12).
Just as long as Satan urges his temptations upon us, the battle for self-conquest will have to be fought over and over again; but by obedience, the truth will sanctify the soul (13).
Once we understand that such urges are not synonymous with sin itself (James 1:14-15), and that the incarnate Christ was constrained to subdue such desires through the same power available to us (Rom. 1:3; 8:3-4; Heb. 2:14-17), we can assure those who struggle with LGBT proclivities that such feelings neither make them sinners nor condemn them in God’s sight, provided the will claims God’s power to deny the clamor of these urges.
Even more important perhaps is the fact that for the converted Christian who has repudiated sinful desires and seeks by God’s grace to daily subdue them, such desires can never be affirmed as part of one’s identity. Concession to this aspect of the pro-gay thesis can be found even in the arguments of some who uphold the Biblical teaching that homosexual practice is always sinful. But the sanctified Christian cannot consider any fleshly desire that clashes with the written Word to be a part of his or her identity. The Christian who refrains from the indulgence of appetite while resisting the urge to thus indulge would be foolish to consider himself a “non-practicing glutton.” A former Ku Klux Klansman who accepts Christ and thereby embraces all ethnic groups as worthy of equal treatment before God and humanity should not consider himself a “non-practicing racist” because he still struggles at times against the bigoted thought patterns of his former beliefs.
Bible sanctification offers men and women an identity based on choice, not birth. This is true not only of those indulging in homosexual practice, but all who indulge in any practice or mindset forbidden by God’s written counsel. This choice is what establishes the Christian’s identity, totally apart from the clamors of one’s fallen nature, whatever these may be.
1. Ellen G. White, That I May Know Him, p. 140.
2. ----Temperance, p. 16.
3. ----Signs of the Times, Dec. 18, 1893.
4. ----From the Heart, p. 151.
5. ----Manuscript Releases, vol. 9, p. 238.
6. John C. Cress, “Compassion—an alternative lifestyle,” Ministry, November 1996, p. 8.
10. See Louis Berkof, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Erdmanns, 1977), p. 244; Ralph Larson, The Word Was Made Flesh: One Hundred Years of Seventh-day Adventist Christology, 1852-1952 (Cherry Valley, CA: The Cherrystone Press, 1986), pp. 330-350.
11. White, Counsels to Teachers, p. 20.
12. ----Prophets and Kings, p. 84.
13. ----From the Heart, p. 297.