Why Christians can’t compromise on human sexuality

April 30, 2020

This summer will mark five years since the Obergefell v. Hodges decision legalized same-sex marriage in the United States. Ahead of that decision, Christians were facing mounting cultural pressure to embrace the aims of the sexual revolution. Specifically, Christians were being challenged to jettison the traditional sexual ethic that has been a marker of orthodoxy throughout the church’s history, which spans two millenia. But if anything, in the years since the Supreme Court found its way to recognize a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, the pressure upon the church to compromise its views of human sexuality has only increased.

Some Christians have, in fact, evolved on the issue. One of the more shocking things to me personally was watching author and pastor, Josh Harris, take up the mantle of the LGBT movement. Growing up, I was profoundly shaped by Harris’ ministry, particularly his works on relationships and sexuality, so seeing his marriage come to an end and his subsequent overtures toward pro-LGBT causes has been both painful and disillusioning. Others, of course, were less shocking. There have always been Christians, even in positions of leadership and influence, who appeared uncomfortable with the Bible’s sexual ethics. Over the last several years, dozens of these men and women have either signaled or publicly announced that they no longer hold such views.

But even as some have forsaken the Bible’s teaching on issues related to sexuality, the majority report is just the opposite. Across the United States, millions of Christians have shown no signs of softening their commitment to the Bible’s teaching on human sexuality. And while this is surely puzzling to some observers, there are at least three reasons that we should expect this to remain the case — not simply in the short term, but forever.

1. A Christian view of sexuality isn’t subjective

The first reason that Christians won’t opt for a different view of sexuality is because this isn’t actually an area where choice is a significant factor. Those who are committed to a high view of Scripture recognize that God’s revealed Word is the only standard for our faith and practice. We are not free to revise or ignore the testimony of Scripture. And in matters related to sexuality, whether speaking of sexual orientation or sex and gender, the Bible sets forth clear and ample instruction.

The Scriptures declare that God has, from the beginning, made each person male or female (Gen. 1:27). A person does not choose his or her sex; existing as either male or female is a matter of biology. But more than that, it is a matter of design. Human beings are not simply the products of reproduction, but creatures that exist because of a Creator. And we don’t get to choose our sex any more than we choose to be created.

In the same way, the Bible only has one conception of marriage: the union of man and woman (Gen 2:24). As the Scriptures teach, the marriage bond is reflected in the sexual union. Sexual intimacy between husband and wife is the manifestation of the reality the Bible calls the “one flesh” union. And like one’s biological sex, the biblical vision of marriage is not subject to revision.

2. Compromising on sexuality is unloving

God is our Creator. And the God who created us is benevolent and kind. In his Word, he instructs us about how we are to live our lives. And the instructions we find in the Scriptures teach us how to live according to the “grain” of God’s design. Conforming one’s life to the pattern of God’s design is the key to flourishing. This is especially true when it comes to issues of sexuality, which have so much to do with our sense of identity and fulfillment.

Conforming one’s life to the pattern of God’s design is the key to flourishing.

All around us the culture says that freedom and satisfaction are found in the absence of constraints. In terms of sexuality, the message is even more specific: embrace your impulses, follow your heart, and seek pleasure wherever you believe it to be found. But God’s Word offers a completely different vision. Rather than solemnizing our search for pleasure, the Bible presents an ordered vision of sexual fulfillment. Sexual pleasure is not to be sought with abandon, but reserved for a relationship marked out by a covenant. More than this, seeking pleasure beyond the bounds of God’s design leads to brokenness.

To sin is to miss the mark, or to deviate from God’s design. And Christians are never free to bless deviations from God’s design. Same-sex marriage will undoubtedly grow familiar to our society, but even so, Christians holding to the ethics of Scripture will not substitute what seems normal with what is true. Whether facing pressure to compromise concerning same-sex marriage, transgenderism, or other issues, Christians must continue to dissent while lovingly pointing back to the goodness of God’s design. To do otherwise is to sow confusion into the hearts and minds of those who are out of step with God’s design.

3. The Judgement Seat is worse than criticism

Given the enormous pressure to accommodate alternate expressions of human sexuality, there will no doubt be more Christians who capitulate to these pressures in the future. But most will not, because to do so is terribly short-sighted. As Russell Moore often remarks, Christians do not live in view of the next 50-100 years, but the “next trillion.” Being on the right side of the culture at any given moment in time may bring temporary relief from one’s burdens, but much more important is the goal of being on the right side of Jesus. And his judgments on these matters have not changed.

Christians must always be cognizant of the fact that they will one day stand before God to give an account, for their lives, their actions, their beliefs (Heb. 9:27; Rom. 14:12). To deny or reject what God says is true in order to satisfy one’s critics or win the applause of men is to fundamentally miss the call of discipleship. Jesus’ words to those who would follow him are well known: deny yourself and take up your cross (Matt. 16:24). No amount of praise is worth embracing the sins for which Christ died.

There is no excuse for calling good that which is evil, and leads to hell. And for this reason, we can have confidence that the people of God, both now and in the future, will continue to stand firm not only with regard to human sexuality, but the entire witness of Scripture. This is because one cannot remain in submission to God’s Word while compromising the truths his Word clearly declares. God forbid we ever try.

Josh Wester

Joshua B. Wester is the lead pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Greensboro, North Carolina. Read More by this Author

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24