There is so much confusion about homosexual behavior within Lutheran circles, that I shall try again to explain what was once thought obvious by Christianity: Homoerotic behavior, like many other human behaviors, is sinful. That this is true ought not to be startling to Lutherans who know that human beings perpetually sin against God in thought, word and deed. Curiously, however, Lutherans have increasing difficulty confessing the sinfulness of such acts, and indeed, of many types of sexual behaviors and practices.
The Lutheran position on the rectitude of homosexual behavior should be straightforward. After all, the great theological tradition has always held that there is an order of creation. The order of creation is the direct artifact of God’s design; it instantiates God’s primary intentionality for existence as such. The Biblical tradition has affirmed that it is part of God’s primary intentionality that a man and woman should leave their parents and dwell in life-long relationships with each other. God is the author of creation so it bears an imprint of his “eternal law” that can be apprehended through conscience as “natural law.” The natural law tradition expresses what God has objectively ordered nature to be.
Under the conditions of existence, the order of creation has fallen into sin from which it cannot free itself. Things that are, are not what they ought to be. Accordingly, human beings by their own natures (fallen human natures) are not, and cannot be, what they are by nature, by that which has been ordered by God. Natural law expresses God’s universal objective ordering; natural human natures instantiate the particular subjective ordering of individuals after their own ends, ends that are not part of God’s primal intentionality.
Given that the Biblical record unambiguously places man and woman together in the paradisical state within the order of creation, the question becomes what can the redeemed church support and proclaim as consistent with this order of creation. Obviously, human beings naturally are not who they are to be by nature. As fallen human beings living the redeemed life, what ought they to think about nature and about their natural acts that are not natural?
There are two choices: One can say that the orders of creation must be adjusted or accommodated to what is naturally possible. Some individuals are obviously natured and nurtured not to desire sexual and romantic relationships with members of the other sex. This is obvious. Moreover, some individuals are obviously natured and nurtured not to be able easily to avoid sexual promiscuity, sexual objectification, masturbation, serial monogamy, premarital sexual activity, etc. This is obvious as well. One can thus say that that which is not attainable, must be not be regarded as sinful, or must be differently understood as sinful.
The other option, of course, is to follow the tradition and claim that what we are sexually not who we ought to be. This option identifies divorce as sin, and understands how humans can be divorced - - particularly in a society like ours. This option identifies the addictive masturbation, pornographic consumption, and sexual promiscuity (especially serial monogamy) as sinful, but still understands how humans could be engaged in these behaviors - - particularly in a society like ours. Finally, this option finally identifies homoerotic behavior as sinful, yet understands how humans can be engaged in these behaviors - - particularly in a society like ours.
The fundamental question is whether we want to regard homoerotic behavior as consistent with the order of creation or not. To my mind, groups like the WordAlone Network have never claimed that divorce is consistent with the order of creation. If they were to have said that, and claimed that homoerotic behavior was inconsistent with it, then the WordAlone Network would be guilty of unfairly picking a particular sin to scorn. Questions about sex and sexuality are driven by society. General cultural forces generate the question of the propriety of homoerotic behavior, and it is this question which confronts the churches now; it is this question that needs a response. I do not believe there are many at synodical and churchwide conventions who want to claim that divorce, masturbation, and sexual promiscuity ought to be blessed within a liturgical context. This point must be seen clearly.
Unfortunately, Lutherans have abandoned any effort to think ontologically about divine law. They squirm at words like 'eternal law' and any attempt to identify a teleologically-ordered creation with divine law. They want to talk about the law only in so far as it confronts us, thus confusing the experience of being curbed by the law with the ontological contour of the law itself. But acting merely in accordance with the law, or acting due to the law does not change the meaning or ontology of the law. The law is the universal objective will of God for His creation, an objective will that is almost wholly obscured under the conditions of existence, an objective will grounding the promulgation of particular divine laws.
The time has come for Lutherans to rescue the divine law from its security within the phenomenology of human existence, and make again the bold and risky claim that the divine law really is God's, and that human apprehension of that law does not that law make.