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Tim Cook: Is being gay a gift of God?

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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Apple CEO Tim Cook poses for a photo with Apple employee, Justyna Horwat, at pre-parade festivities before the 2014 San Francisco gay pride parade, June 29 ,2014 (Credit: Justyna Horwat via Twitter)

Apple CEO Tim Cook recently announced, “I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me.”

Why would he consider homosexuality a gift from God?  I can find nothing about his religious beliefs online, so I don’t know if he’s making the theological argument that God makes some people LGBT and endorses such sexual identity.  From what he wrote in making his announcement, it seems that his reasoning is more practical than theological:

“Being gay has given me a deeper understanding of what it means to be in the minority and provided a window into the challenges that people in other minority groups deal with every day.  It’s made me more empathetic, which has led to a richer life.  It’s been tough and uncomfortable at times, but it has given me the confidence to be myself, to follow my own path, and to rise above adversity and bigotry.  It’s also given me the skin of a rhinoceros, which comes in handy when you’re the CEO of Apple.”

Cook makes a compelling argument, doesn’t he?  So many of the traits that have enabled him to succeed in life and at Apple, he attributes to his sexual identity.  We can see why he might think that being gay is a gift of God.  And why others who endorse homosexuality would adopt his reasoning as theirs.

So let’s ask: can he be right?

Absolutely not, for one critical reason: God never contradicts his word.  Every time Scripture addresses homosexual activity, it forbids it.  The first time God’s word describes humanity, it says that God made us “male and female” (Genesis 1:27).  Genesis 2 adds that God made woman to be a “helper” to man (v. 18) so that the two would live together in marriage (v. 23-24).  Jesus cited these facts in endorsing heterosexual marriage (Matthew 19:5-6).  Not a single verse in Scripture supports homosexuality as a sexual identity or as a lifestyle.

As an aside, let’s also note that homosexuality is not the unpardonable sin.  When the Bible addresses this issue, it always includes it among other sins that God equally forbids.  For instance, Paul warns in 1 Corinthians 6 about theft, greed, drunkenness, and swindling as well as “men who practice homosexuality” (vs. 9-10).  God loves LGBT people as much as he loves heterosexuals.  Jesus died for us all, and is willing to forgive every sin and restore every sinner.

Returning to Tim Cook’s announcement, many claim that they did not choose their sexual identity, so God must have made them the way they are.  Sexual identity is a very complex issue, part nature and part nurture.  Environment plays an enormous role in our makeup and character.  And we live in a fallen world.  It’s impossible to say what contributed to Tim Cook’s homosexuality—the Fall, his life experiences, and/or his own psychosexual makeup.

But the origins of his sexual identity are not my point.  Rather, it is his claim to know that God gave this identity to him.  He reasons that the good which has come from being gay means that being gay must have come from God.  Such an experiential approach to defining God’s will is extremely popular today.

Over the years I have encountered this method in a variety of contexts.  A couple who has the spiritual gift of tongues once tried to convince me that I should pray for this gift as well.  They believed that everyone who is “filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18) would speak in tongues, since they did.  It’s easy to find preachers on television who promise us that we will be rewarded financially by God if we donate to their ministry, since others have been so blessed (they claim).  When we read Scripture through the lens of our experience, the Bible usually says what we believe.

The right way to seek God’s will is to ask first what Scripture intends to say, then apply that intended meaning to our context.  Since Scripture teaches that not all speak in tongues (1 Corinthians 12:30, where “do all speak with tongues?” requires the negative answer in the Greek), we can know that tongues are not a guaranteed proof of the Spirit’s work.  Since Scripture nowhere guarantees financial rewards for obedience (and in fact warns that “in this world you will have tribulation,” John 16:33), we can know that such assurances are not from God.  Since the Bible teaches that homosexuality is not God’s will, we can know that it is not God’s gift.

My point is not to criticize Tim Cook.  Were I to do so, I am required by Scripture to speak to him before I speak about him (Matthew 18:15).  Rather, it is to discuss the important theological question his announcement raises.  To know God’s will, first consult his word.  And never endorse what it forbids, or forbid what it endorses.

It’s been said: “God said it, I believe it, and that settles it.”  Here’s a better approach: “God said it and that settles it, whether I believe it or not.”