I received a phone call some time ago asking for my opinion on homosexuality. “Is a person born that way?” I think my answer surprised the caller. “Yes.” I went on to say, “While I happen to be attracted to women, other men are attracted to men. Some are born homosexual; others heterosexual.”
I went on to explain. “Not only am I attracted to women, I am also attracted to other people’s things. I like nice cars, big houses, and the latest computer technology. Coveting comes naturally to me. Others have an inordinate desire for food, alcohol, wanting to be popular or taking revenge. None of these ‘attractions’ are chosen either. We are born with them. It is called human depravity.
The Bible teaches original sin. In Adam’s transgression against God in the Garden of Eden, all humankind fell. As a result, his nature was passed on to us—a nature which is attracted to evil (see Rom. 5:12 ff.).
I understand that there are factors in our personal histories which may ignite or fuel these inward compulsions to new levels. But the “nature vs. nurture” debate is beside the point. As the psalmist wrote, “In sin did my mother conceive me” (Ps. 51:5).
We are born homosexuals, adulterers, thieves, liars, gluttons, gossips, racists, sexists, materialists, idolaters.
Of course, these attractions do not absolve us of guilt or sanction certain behaviors. God’s holiness makes demands on us. I do not have the right to do whatever my feelings urge me to do. I am a heterosexual. I am attracted to women, but that does not mean I am entitled to act out my feelings however I want. The same holds true with regard to my covetous instincts. They must be held in check. My desires cannot be trusted. They are corruptible.
So why is this important?
The doctrine of total depravity confronts us with our sinfulness. It smashes all of our illusions of grandeur and breaks our pride. It brings us face to face with the sobering reality that we are fundamentally flawed. One pastor notes, “Any sin that any sinner ever committed, every sinner under proper provocation could commit.” We are walking time bombs, capable of doing anything. This is humbling news.
But this news is preparation for other news—the gospel.
The doctrine of total depravity tells us that we need more than medication and therapy for our recovery. We need more than accountability and support groups. As sin-ridden people, we need forgiveness and redemption. We need salvation.
Education is not enough. Self-esteem training can take us only so far. Behavior modification, cognitive restructuring, and psychoananlysis fall short. Not even exorcism can undo the evil within. Our hearts are deceitful, wicked above all else (Jer. 17:9). We need a Savior.