Sunday is the Christian Sabbath, it is a day on which Christians set aside time to pray, to gather for corporate worship, and to think and speak about God. So, in that regard, the remarks this past Sunday by Pete Buttigieg, the Mayor of South Bend, IN and an announced candidate to become President of the United States. “Mayor Pete,” as he is known, professes Christian faith and has publicly identified himself as a homosexual with a husband. This past Sunday Buttigieg gave a speech at the LGBTQ Victory Fund Champagne Brunch where he attacked the current Vice President of the United States (and the former governor of Indiana, with whom he reportedly had an amicable working relationship) and announced that he did not choose to be gay.
Then he said something that has gotten some attention. He added:
“If me being gay was a choice, it was a choice that was made far, far above my pay grade…And that’s the thing I wish the Mike Pences of the world would understand. That if you got a problem with who I am, your problem is not with me—your quarrel, sir, is with my creator.
In the 1970s, comedian Flip Wilson used to say, “The devil made me do it.” Mayor Pete has turned that adage on its head. According to Buttigieg, the devil is not responsible for his sexual orientation, God is.
This claim warrants examination. This claim is already being affirmed by some in the media (I heard talk show hosts on KFI in Los Angeles doing so today) and will doubtless be affirmed by many others but is it true? Is God responsible for Mayor Pete’s sexual orientation? To address this question we need to ask another question: in what sense?
In What Sense?
The Scriptures teach and the historic Christian faith has always taught that God spoke creation into existence and he upholds and governs it by his providence. This is the ecumenical doctrine of creation and providence. It is not peculiar to Reformed theology. All Christians confess, “I believe in God the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth.” This is the first article of the Apostles’ Creed. In the Heidelberg Catechism (1563) Reformed Christians confess that by this article we mean to say:
That the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who of nothing made heaven and earth with all that in them is, who likewise upholds and governs the same by His eternal counsel and providence, is for the sake of Christ, His Son, my God and my Father, in whom I so trust, as to have no doubt that He will provide me with all things necessary for body and soul; and further, that whatever evil He sends upon me in this vale of tears, He will turn to my good; for He is able to do it, being almighty God, and willing also, being a faithful Father.
The first thing it means is that God is my Father, for Jesus’ sake, and I can trust him to care for me. By it we also mean to say:
The almighty, everywhere present power of God, whereby, as it were by His hand, He upholds heaven and earth with all creatures, and so governs them that herbs and grass, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years, meat and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, indeed, all things come not by chance, but by His Fatherly hand.
There is nothing outside of the sovereign providence and care of God, including Mayor Pete but when Buttigieg implicitly invokes the providence of God to justify his homosexuality he assumes some facts that are in dispute and he fails to distinguish between those things we may attribute to God directly and those things we may not.
Buttigieg assumes that homosexuality is approved by God. As a Christian he must know better than to attribute sin or evil to God. To be sure, the problem of evil is a great one—perhaps the most difficult problem in the Christian faith—but Christians are agreed that we may not say that God is the author of sin.
Belgic Confession (1561) art. 13 speaks well to this problem:
We believe that this good God, after he created all things, did not abandon them to chance or fortune but leads and governs them according to his holy will, in such a way that nothing happens in this world without his orderly arrangement.
Yet God is not the author of, nor can he be charged with, the sin that occurs. For his power and goodness are so great and incomprehensible that he arranges and does his work very well and justly even when the devils and wicked men act unjustly.
We do not wish to inquire with undue curiosity into what he does that surpasses human understanding and is beyond our ability to comprehend. But in all humility and reverence we adore the just judgments of God, which are hidden from us, being content to be Christ’s disciples, so as to learn only what he shows us in his Word, without going beyond those limits.
God is sovereign and he is good. Nothing escapes his providence but that does not make God morally liable for the sins we commit. As Scripture tells the story, it was Adam, not God, who sinned. God came to Adam after fall and prosecuted him for his sin. Wisely, Adam did not take Mayor Pete’s line: You made me this way. In fact, God did not make Adam sinful. God created Adam good (Gen 1:25), righteous, and holy.
Adam made Adam a sinner. Mayor Pete may not have made a conscious choice to be gay but a same-sex orientation. How people develop a same-sex orientation is a complicated question. Contrary to popular belief, however, science has explained how some develop a homosexual orientation and others do not. Experience tells us that there is often a connection to nature or lack thereof. Whatever the cause in any specific case Scripture makes it clear that humans were created heterosexual:
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them (Gen 1:27; ESV).
The divine intent was that males and females would be sexually united:
Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh (Gen 2:24; ESV).
We may be sure what these passages mean because our Lord himself explained them:
…Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate (Matt 19:4-6; ESV)
So, the unstated premise of Mayor Pete’s claim is false. The divine intent and the pattern established in creation is a heterosexual orientation.
The Natural Norm
Still, there have always been deviations from the creational sexual norm and those deviations run the gamut. Scripture plainly addresses some deviations, e.g., “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination” (Lev 18:22); e.g., “And you shall not lie with any animal and so make yourself unclean with it, neither shall any woman give herself to an animal to lie with it: it is perversion” (Lev 18:23; ESV). The New Testament also explicitly addresses Lesbian sexual behavior: “For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature…” (Rom 1:26; ESV). Paul speaks to male homosexuality as well: “and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error” (Rom 1:27; ESV). Paul was even more direct, even explicit in his warning to the Corinthian congregation: “Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor adulterers, nor the passive member of a homosexual relationship (μαλακοὶ) nor he who fulfills the dominant sexual role in a homosexual relationship (ἀρσενοκοῖτα) shall inherit the Kingdom of God” (1 Cor 6:9).
Scripture has a category that Mayor Pete omits: nature. Paul invoked it explicitly in Romans 1:26–27. So did Jude: “just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire” (Jude 1:7; ESV).
Whether in the Old Testament or the New, Scripture takes a rather different attitude toward sexual immorality and deviance from the creational (natural) pattern from the attitude taken by Mayor Pete.
What God Does
Romans 1:26, 28 also gives us a category of explanation that Buttigieg overlooks, reprobation. Pete was partly right. God did so something but he did not do what Pete claimed. Scripture does not say that God created Pete with a same-sex orientation but in both verses Paul says that “God gave them up…” (παρέδωκεν αὐτοὺς ὁ θεὸς). Reprobation was the old-fashioned way of saying “given up to dishonorable passions and “to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.”
Mayor Pete’s homosexuality is within God’s mysterious providence but Scripture always lays the blame for our sins and vices at our own feet. Perhaps Buttigieg was born with a homosexual orientation and perhaps there are other causal factors but he did choose to act on his inclination. It is difficult to see why the pedophile cannot make the same argument: “take it up with God.” Why cannot the pederast blame God for his orientation? Of course Buttigieg would complain about this comparison but on what basis? Certainly Scripture offers no support for his claim.
We all, heterosexual and homosexual sinners, sin as we do for a variety of reasons but the most basic is our corrupt intellect, affection, and will. We do what we do because we are what we are: sinful. The good news is that there is grace for sinners of all sorts, for you, me, and Pete. The grace of God is powerful enough to open blind eyes and soften hard hearts. Those who have been renewed by God’s grace, who have been given the gift of faith in Christ recognize their sinfulness and sin and they look to Christ alone as their righteousness. The same Holy Spirit who gives faith and unites us to Christ also grants us grace to mortify (put to death) our sins, to seek forgiveness for them, and to live to Christ. He can do that for Mayor Pete and he can do it for you.