“God made me this way”? Not exactly [REPOST]

(The original of this post is from 2009.  I need to get back to blogging the Heidelberg soon.)

Heidelberg Catechism
Q & A 6
Q. Did God create people so wicked and perverse?

A. No.
God created them good1 and in his own image,2
that is, in true righteousness and holiness,3
so that they might
truly know God their creator,4
love him with all their heart,
and live with him in eternal happiness
for his praise and glory.5

Note: mouse over footnote for Scripture references.

There’s a real tendency these days to appeal to genetics to explain behavior—and increasingly, to excuse behavior, as action is reframed as identity. The church can’t appeal to the word of God with regard to homosexual activity without someone (usually a good many someones) standing up and saying, “God made me this way, and therefore this is how I’m supposed to be, and therefore God can’t really have meant that.” Unfortunately, the steady repetition of that assertion has convinced a lot of folks (especially younger folks) who consider themselves evangelicals that it must be true. That has done considerable damage to the authority of Scripture in the American evangelical church.

I have no interest in the debate over whether or not or to what degree homosexual desires are a matter of genetics. To be blunt, I consider the whole question a red herring. We recognize this when it comes to other issues. From the studies I’ve seen, the heritability of alcoholism is about the same as the heritability of homosexual preferences, but nobody uses that as a defense for driving drunk. Certain cancers, we well know, come to us through our genes, yet we don’t tell cancer patients, “God made you this way, so he must want you to die of cancer.” (The federal government might, if Obamacare passes, but that’s another matter.) It would be quite consistent to label same-sex erotic desires just another inherited disease—but we don’t do that. This makes it clear that it’s not the genetic element that’s driving the argument, it’s the affective element. It’s the fact that those who practice such behaviors don’t want to give them up.

Since the appeal to genetics has been effective (whether logical or not), we can expect to see it raised as a defense for other behaviors as well. In time, it will become impossible for the church to call people to holiness without hearing, “God made me this way!” As such, it’s important to remind Christians that the Scriptures give the church a firm answer to this, to which the Heidelberg bears witness: No, he didn’t. We are all sinners, we are all bent to defy the will of God and to prefer evil to good in at least some areas of our lives, and all of our natural tendencies, preferences, orientations and desires arise out of sin-distorted hearts—but God didn’t make us that way. God created us good, in his own image. Our sinful desires are someone else’s fault altogether.

Just because something is natural to us doesn’t make it right. Just because we inherited it along with our hair and eye color doesn’t mean that God approves of it. All it means is that we’re born sinful—just like everybody else.


Photo © 2006 Joonas L.  License:  Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic.

Posted in Catechism, Presbyterian/Reformed, Religion and theology, Scripture.

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