Recently, I wrote an article concerning both desire and same-sex attraction. The idea for the article came by way of reading Maximos the Confessor (d. 7th ce) on the topic of desire. In the article, I also discussed the NT’s use of the nouns desire and passion. What I did not realize was that a number of articles had been released recently online on similar topics.
In light of this, my article was (likely) understood to be engaging with this online debate. It was not. So I want to clarify three of the phrases and ideas that I had used to avoid further misunderstanding.
On neutral desire
When I called desire neutral, I meant that it belongs to humans essentially. The fact that we all have an organ of desire is neutral. When we do desire someone or something, we can have evil or righteous desires. I spoke in ontological (not ethical) categories since I was thinking along the lines of 7th-century theology.
On mortifying desires
When I wrote of same-sex desire, I did not exclude this desire from the possibility of being mortified. In fact, I wrote “Christians can and should mortify the desires of the flesh.” I also referenced 1 Corinthians 6:11 while talking about transforming same-sex attraction. God commands us to take every thought captive to Christ. Of course, this has to include our desires.
I did not distinguish between internal and external temptations. At this stage, I see neither as sinful if resisted. If I see a magazine cover in the mall and my mind turns to an inappropriate memory, I sin when I entertain that memory; I overcome sin when I resist it.
I now grant that it becomes troublesome when we consider that Jesus was tempted in all ways except never sinned (Heb 4:15). If he was tempted in all ways, does that mean he had internal temptations creep up from a fallen nature? I’d be aghast to affirm that. And if I am aghast to affirm that, it betrays a conviction that some temptation is itself sinful.
Given this particular problem and due to the comments I received, I plan to write on this idea in the future. But I want to spend the time working through the idea first. At the end of my article, I noted that this was “an initial reflection.” And so it was.