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The Moral Heresy of Sexual Immorality
In true Christianity — Orthodoxy — right faith and living go hand in hand. For instance, a person cannot confess that "Jesus Christ is not God" and be an Orthodox Christian. In confessing something contrary to the revelation of God in His Church, such a one is setting himself at odds with that revelation.
Of course, one may repent, that is, change his faulty confession and receive the true confession of Christ in His Church. Yet a person who willingly persists in a false teaching, willingly sets himself outside of Christ and His Body. A person who rejects the manifest teachings of true Christianity is not a Christian at all. Such a one subscribes to heresy and is a heretic. Yes, Christianity has standards; it has clear teachings.
From the very beginning, the Church has done battle with heresy (false teaching). In Galatians 5:20, St. Paul lists heresy as a work of the flesh, of the fallen man. He warns that “those who practice such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God.” St. Peter tells Christians, “There were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly (the Greek word is pareisago, which means to craftily introduce) bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them” (2 Peter 2:1).
We may glean a few things from these verses: first, heresy is a Scriptural idea and we are warned to guard against it. Second, heresy has its source in sin, evil and the devil. Third, heretics are not honest. They pose as “prophets” and “teachers” and seek to craftily subvert the truth. Fourth, in the long run, heresy is a denial of, a turning away from, the Lord.
Most commonly, it seems, people tend to think of heresy on the dogmatic plain, such as the example above regarding the Divinity of Christ. Yet, equally important is, I will call it, the moral plain. Please understand that the two are inextricably united and are equally essential to the fullness of Christian life.
A vital component of the current attack on True Christianity is the promotion of moral heresy. That is, the active attempt to undermine clear Christian teachings regarding human nature, living, actions – praxis. As Orthodox, we must soberly understand that a concerted effort is being employed from without and even from within the Church to overturn Christian moral teaching, or at least “soften” it (which is simply the first step in overturning it).
Christian moral teaching is revelation just as much as dogmatic teaching. The only way by which a person may truly know how to live is through the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Fundamental to this attack is the normalizing of sexual immorality and perversions. Secularism in all its manifestations understands that sexual “freedom and revolution” is vital in a war against true Christianity. For an interesting look at this topic, read From Russia With Love, which focuses on the Soviet experiments in sexual revolution.
The promotion and justification of sexual perversions is a vital tenet of the new religious order, as has been pointed out in an article, The Religious Phenomenon of LGBTQ-ism.
Those who promote sexual immorality are heretics. Let it be clear, Orthodoxy has always spoken against sexual perversions, fornication, adultery, homosexuality in all its variations, and all the other sexual perversions. Why? Because It understands that these sins will destroy a person. Christianity seeks to save persons. Even the Scriptures note the gravely damaging energy of sexual sins. See 1 Corinthians 6:15-20, for example.
What sane doctor would tell a cancer patient that they are just fine, and that they should celebrate their cancer? No, a true doctor, out of love and concern for the health of a person, warns of the fatal effects of cancer and offers proper treatment. A doctor who says cancer is natural and healthy would be labeled harmful, false, and even hateful. Sexual perversions are cancer for the soul. The Church in love warns everyone: just as untreated cancer will destroy the body, so untreated sexual immorality will destroy a person's soul and body. Love is not the condoning of sickness; love is the offering of a cure.
As a reminder, here is a Scriptural list of sins (sicknesses) which lead to death:
“Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like … those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:20-21).
“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed … you were sanctified” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).
Many who are now Christians came out of various wayward manners of living, but upon encountering Christ repented and began by grace to resist the deeds of darkness, the works of the flesh. Any sexually immoral person can repent and come to Christ, as any murderer or thief can. A murderer does not become a Christian and continue to murder, justifying it by saying “that is just the way I am!” No, Christianity is a change in the manner of living, a new creation, from darkness to light. The Christian struggle with sin is one thing, the active justification and normalizing of it another entirely. St. Cyril of Jerusalem says, “Sin committed in a state of ignorance is pardoned, but persistent wickedness is condemned” (Catechetical Lectures, III, 8).
“Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of which the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience” (Col. 3: 5-6).
To save on space, the reader could look up the following verses — Rom. 1:21-32; Eph. 4:17-19, 5:3-6.
In 1 Tim. 1:9-10, St. Paul explicitly says that the practice and condoning of sexual immorality, including homosexuality, is “contrary to sound doctrine.” Thus, it is clear that the above moral teaching is true Christian doctrine and anyone who seeks to undermine and change it is undermining and changing Orthodox doctrine. To subvert true doctrine is to be a heretic. In the book of Revelation active practitioners of the above immoralities, including the sexual, are found in the lake of fire (cf. Rev. 21:8). Elsewhere it is written, “Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood” (Rev. 22:15).
The Scripture, like a good doctor, warns us of the inevitable end of sin. Why? So that we can repent and be healed! Those who love their falsehood — which means willfully and stubbornly persisting in it and justifying it — are found outside of the kingdom of God. Or as it says elsewhere, “This is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (Jn. 3:19). (Space does not avail to list the teachings of the saints, which simply reaffirm the above Scriptures regarding true Christian moral doctrine.)
Moreover, moral doctrine is not simply a list of “do’s and don’ts,” or some strictly outward form. It is a reflection of the true inner life and is rooted in true Christian anthropology, which in Orthodoxy is always traced back to Christology. Christ Jesus is the True Man. Thus, if we accept the modern push for the normalization of sexual immorality in the Church, then we would have to conclude that these acts are natural to humanity. Thus, if homosexuality is natural and people are “just that way,” then this ascribes the source of that state to God, for God is the creator of human nature.
If one makes and believes such a claim, then a few conclusions are possible:
1) God asks us to completely repress what is natural to us (remember sin is unnatural and foreign to our nature). I have heard numerous times from some Orthodox people, “it is okay to be homosexual as long as one does not act on it” (imagine stating that it is okay to feel that you want to murder people, as long as you do not act on it!).
2) The Scriptures are making false claims about God and humanity.
3) God changes His mind.
If conclusion #1 is true, then God did not come to redeem our nature completely. We are only asked to totally resist sin and the passions, which are unnatural, and are a misuse of our nature. Remember Christ Jesus even endured and sanctified what are called the “blameless passions” (e.g. hunger, thirst, want). Also, the Church clearly teaches that Christ Jesus sanctified marriage between a man and a woman by His presence at the wedding of Cana in John 2. Christ is the new Adam, in Him we are made whole again, that is, we may live in the natural way for which God created humanity in the beginning; moreover in Christ we are called to deification, that is the supra-natural life by grace.
In the above scenario, God is also fairly cruel. You are naturally that way but you can never act on it! This varies greatly from voluntary chastity, in which a person willingly lays down a natural right for the Kingdom of Heaven. Imagine it this way, it is currently a blameless passion for us to hunger, but God commands – you may never eat food! This is torture, not goodness. God made certain people to naturally desire that which they can never have! What does this say of the character of God? (Remember in Christian Theology, God created humanity to naturally desire the good and act on it.)
If conclusion #2 is true, then the Scriptures are unreliable and cannot be trusted, and many other teachings should be up for revision also. Clearly a false teaching.
If conclusion #3 is true, then God Himself is mutable and not truly God, and He cannot be trusted. Again clearly false.
Also, sexual perversions are a type of iconoclasm, for they destroy the clear images and types that are represented in the human sexes — male and female — and in God revealed marriage. For more on this point, read The Theology of Gender.
Purportedly “Orthodox” groups such as “Orthodoxy in Dialogue,” “Fordham’s Orthodox Christian Studies Center,” “The Wheel,” and others who are either softly or forcefully promoting teaching that normalizes sexual immorality, specifically homosexuality and its variations, are heretical groups. They, and those like them, are false teachers and by their active promotion of heresy place themselves outside of the Church (even if for now they still may be physically in it). Specifically on this point, consider this article: Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing - Public Orthodoxy, Orthodoxy in Dialogue, & The Wheel.
St. Ignatius the God-bearer, in his epistle to the Trallians, provides this warning:
“These people, while pretending to be trustworthy, mix Jesus Christ with poison – like those who administer a deadly drug with honeyed wine, which the unsuspecting victim accepts without fear, and so with fatal pleasure drinks down death. Therefore be on your guard against such people.”
He also advises the following:
“I urge you, therefore – yet not I, but the love of Jesus Christ – partake only of Christian food, and keep away from every strange plant, which is heresy”
The gears of war are grinding against the Truth, and there are those from within who are working diligently to craftily introduce death bearing teaching — heresy.
Moral heresy is just as grave as doctrinal.
Let us trust the unchanging and infallible revelation of Jesus Christ in His Church, for as St. John says, “We know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ” (1 Jn. 5:20).
End note: clearly there are various pastoral issues when the Church strives to heal people of sin, but these very serious issues must never be used as a pretext to justify sin. Orthodoxy strives to save persons and understands that sin is foreign to humanity. It is a spiritual disease. It never conflates the person with the disease, but strives to heal at all times. Yet at the same time, a clear understanding and statement of the nature of the disease must be maintained. This is done, as in medicine, to save the person. It is a true manifestation of love.
Article published in English on: 27-11-2019.
Last update: 27-11-2019.