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Introduction

There are quite a few diseases and conditions that are known to be “genetically determined” – i.e., items that are caused by the exact makeup of a person’s DNA.

For example, the condition of color blindness is definitely genetic in nature. That disorder is passed from parents to children, through their “X” sex chromosomes.

Women have two X chromosomes, so in order for a woman to express the color blindness disorder, both of her X chromosomes need to contain that trait. (If only one of a woman’s X chromosomes has the trait, then she is known as a “carrier” of the disorder.)

However, men only have one X chromosome (and one Y chromosome) – so if a man’s one X chromosome contains that trait, then he will express color blindness. This author is quite familiar with that scenario.

In a very similar way, the disease of hemophilia is also genetically determined – again, through the X sex chromosome.

So, if a person has a genetically-determined disease or condition, then he was “born that way”, so to speak. (Or, to be more precise, he was “conceived that way”.)


Are genetic disorders “intentional”?

Since there are quite a few conditions that are genetically determined, that raises the question: “Did God design us, from the outset, to have these genetic problems?” To my knowledge, there isn’t any verse in Scripture which explicitly answers that question, but there are some “hints” about the answer to it.

First off, consider these verses:

Genesis 1:31 (ESV):

31 And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

When God finished His work of creation – including humans – He pronounced it “very good”. That seems to imply that Adam and Eve were created without any genetically determined disorders – because (for example) it would seem rather strange for God to call creation “very good”, if Adam were color blind and Eve had hemophilia.

Genesis 2:15-17 (ESV):

15The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. 16And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

God told Adam that if he did eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, then he would die. That certainly seems to imply that if Adam had not eaten from that tree, then he would not have died – i.e., he would have lived forever.

That, in turn, appears to indicate that Adam did not have any genetic diseases when he was created; because if he did – and if he had obeyed God – then he (presumably) would have had those genetic diseases for all eternity.

Genesis 3:17-18 (ESV):

17And to Adam he said,

“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
and have eaten of the tree
of which I commanded you,
‘You shall not eat of it,’
cursed is the ground because of you;
in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
18thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.

After Adam sinned, God told him that because of that sin, the ground would produce thorns and thistles. That seems to imply that there were no thorns or thistles, before Adam’s sin.

In other words, it seems to imply that thorns and thistles are a “corruption” of creation, which occurred because of Adam’s sin. In a similar way, the genetically-determined disorders that we see today may be a “corruption” of our DNA – which also came about as a result of Adam’s sin.

Next, consider these passages:

Isaiah 61:19-20 (ESV):

19 I will rejoice in Jerusalem
and be glad in my people;
no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping
and the cry of distress.
20No more shall there be in it
an infant who lives but a few days,
or an old man who does not fill out his days,

Isaiah 35:5-6 (ESV):

5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
6 then shall the lame man leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.

Revelation 21:3-4 (ESV):

3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

All of the above passages indicate that during the Kingdom, people will not have any disabilities of any kind – because God will remove all sources of pain.

That, in turn, implies to me that God did not “design” us to suffer from genetically-determined disorders – because if He did, then why would He take them away during the Kingdom?

So, to reiterate, genetically-determined disorders appear to be a result of human sin – i.e., they were not part of God’s original design.


Two other genetic conditions

Some other conditions, which are at least partially genetically determined, have a direct influence on our actions. Two such conditions are the disorders of alcoholism and compulsive gambling.

Since those disorders are genetically determined, the following question arises: “Since people are born with genetic conditions, does the presence of such a condition provide an “excuse” for bad behavior?”

For example, if a person is genetically predisposed to alcoholism, then does that give him a “free pass” to get drunk? Or, if a person is genetically predisposed to compulsive gambling, then does that “let him off the hook” for wasting all of his money gambling?

Scripture has quite a bit to say, about both drunkenness and about the proper use of money:

Proverbs 20:1 (NASB):

1Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler,
And whoever is intoxicated by it is not wise.

Proverbs 23:29-32 (ESV):

29 Who has woe? Who has sorrow?
Who has strife? Who has complaining?
Who has wounds without cause?
Who has redness of eyes?
30Those who tarry long over wine;
those who go to try mixed wine.
31Do not look at wine when it is red,
when it sparkles in the cup
and goes down smoothly.
32In the end it bites like a serpent
and stings like an adder.

Hosea 4:11 (HCSB):

11 Promiscuity, wine, and new wine
take away [one’s] understanding.

Ephesians 5:18 (HCSB):

18 And don’t get drunk with wine, which [leads to] reckless actions, but be filled with the Spirit:

Proverbs 13:11 (NASB):

11Wealth obtained by fraud dwindles,
But the one who gathers by labor increases it.

1 Timothy 5:8 (HCSB):

8 Now if anyone does not provide for his own relatives, and especially for his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

Hebrews 13:5 (ESV):

5Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

From what I can see, all of the above passages state that drunkenness and excessive gambling are sinful – without any exception.

In other words, those passages do not say, “Drunkenness and excessive gambling are sinful – unless you are genetically predisposed to those actions.” Instead, the passages simply state that those actions are sinful, period.


Is any sinful behavior “excusable”?

To my knowledge, there are very few Christian groups that officially “excuse” drunkenness or excessive gambling, due to genetic predispositions. For example, there are very few Christian groups which claim that drunkenness is actually “OK”, if a person is genetically predisposed to alcoholism.

In fact, from what I have seen, almost no sinful behavior is explicitly “excused” on genetic grounds, by any significant number of sincere Christians.

There is one specific “exception” to the above rule, though. In other words, there is one specific type of sinful behavior, which is “excused” on genetic grounds, by many Christians.

That one exception is, of course, homosexual behavior.

The basic argument that some groups make, about homosexual behavior, is as follows:

“God explicitly designed some people to be homosexual. Therefore, homosexual behavior must actually be OK with God – because otherwise He wouldn’t have made people that way.”

There are three specific issues to address, with the above argument. First of all, that argument claims that God purposely designed some people to be homosexual. As mentioned above, it appears that God did not design anyone to have any genetic disorders. Instead, all genetic disorders are a result of human sin – not because of God.

Some people claim that homosexual behavior is not a disorder at all. In other words, some people believe that homosexual behavior is a completely “normal” condition – i.e., that it is something that God wanted people to have, from the very beginning of creation.

However, take a look at this verse:

Genesis 1:28 (ESV):

28And God blessed them [Adam and Eve]. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

The phrase “be fruitful and multiply” is an idiomatic expression, which basically means “have lots of children”. Needless to say, homosexual behavior never produces any children. As a result, it certainly appears to me that God did not intend for anyone to be homosexual.

The second question to answer is: “Is there any genetic predisposition to homosexual behavior now?” In other words, if God did not design people with homosexual predispositions, then does that condition arise – at least partially – from genetic “corruption” of our DNA?

Some groups assert that there is no genetic link to homosexual behavior at all. Basically, those groups claim that homosexual predispositions are only caused by environmental factors – such as child abuse. In other words, those groups state that homosexual behavior is solely caused by learned, psychological issues – i.e., that is has nothing to do with genetic corruption.

However, it is interesting to note that homosexual behavior has been observed in many species of animals as well – including animals with extremely primitive nervous systems, such as flies. Do flies exhibit homosexual behavior due to learned psychological issues?

Not only that, but a few years ago some explicit tests were run on fruit flies. In those tests, researchers discovered that they could cause fruit flies to exhibit homosexual behavior, by manipulating the genes of those flies. In other words, the researchers were able to “switch” the fruit flies from heterosexual behavior to homosexual behavior – and back again – through genetic manipulation (as well as through the use of drugs.)

A summary of the research in question can be found at this link.

So, it appears that God did not design anyone to have homosexual predispositions. However, there does appear to be a genetic “corruption” of our DNA now – and that corruption does cause some people to have that disorder today.

As a result, the question becomes: if a person has a genetic predisposition to homosexual behavior, then does that mean it is “OK” for that person to engage in that behavior?

Needless to say, they are numerous passages in Scripture which explicitly condemn homosexual behavior. Here are a few of them:

Leviticus 18:22 (NASB):

22‘You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.

Romans 1:26-27 (ESV):

26For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27and 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.

1 Timothy 1:9-10 (HCSB):

9 We know that the law is not meant for a righteous person, but for the lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinful, for the unholy and irreverent, for those who kill their fathers and mothers, for murderers, 10 for the sexually immoral and homosexuals, for kidnappers, liars, perjurers, and for whatever else is contrary to the sound teaching

1 Corinthians 6:9-10 (ESV):

9Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

All of the above passages state that homosexual behavior is sinful – in fact, it is in the same category as murder and idolatry.

Also note that those passages do not provide any “genetic exception” for homosexual behavior. That is, those passages do not say that homosexual behavior is actually permissible, if a given individual has a genetic predisposition to it.

So, it certainly appears to me that homosexual behavior is always sinful – regardless of any given person’s genetic makeup.


Conclusion

From what I can see, God originally designed humans to be “perfect” – i.e., to not have any genetically-determined disorders.

However, due to Adam’s sin, our DNA has apparently become “corrupted” – so that now there are a quite a few diseases and conditions, which are genetically determined.

Some genetically determined disorders have a strong influence on our behavior. Three such disorders are predispositions to alcoholism, to compulsive gambling, and to homosexual behavior.

Since those conditions are at least partially genetic in nature, some groups claim that those conditions – especially homosexual behavior – are actually “OK”, if a person is genetically predisposed to it.

However, Scripture does not provide any sort of “genetic excuse” for sinful behavior. Instead, Scripture states that sinful behavior – including homosexual behavior – is always wrong.

So, the final question is: “If a person has a genetically determined disorder, which influences him to sin, what can he do about that disorder?”

I believe the answer to that question is: “Pray to God for assistance, in overcoming the disorder”. Consider these passages:

Luke 11:9-13 (HCSB):

9 “So I say to you, keep asking, and it will be given to you. Keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who searches finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. 11 What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead of a fish? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”

John 15:7-8 (ESV):

7If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.

James 5:13-15 (ESV):

13Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. 14Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

Finally, consider this passage:

Luke 9:23-24 (ESV):

23And he [Jesus] said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.

Notice what Jesus says there: if a person wants to be a follower of Jesus, he must deny himself, and take up his “cross”, daily.

The “conventional wisdom” about that passage is that all Christians must be prepared to be persecuted for being a Christian. I certainly believe that that is part of the meaning of that passage.

However, it occurs to me that an additional meaning of that passage is as follows: If a person wants to be a true follower of Jesus, then he must resist his own inclinations to sin. In other words, he must deny his own genetic predispositions to sinful behavior.

If the above meaning is true, then that provides even more evidence that there is no “genetic excuse” for sinful behavior.

5 Responses to “The “Genetic Excuse for Sin” Theory”

  1. on 20 Feb 2011 at 7:54 amWolfgang

    hi

    you mention alcoholism, gambling, homosexuality as possibly having a genetic disorder as their (partial) cause … you also mention that the Scriptures nowhere make a distinction or provide different solutions to overcoming sinful behavior whether it is based on supposedly genetic disorder or something else (what?)

    Perhaps the rather simple implication / conclusion is that these sinful behaviors are NOT based in or caused by genetic disorders in the first place (and any such claims are nothing but assumptions) ?

    Would James 1 add some insights to the process of how sinful behavor develops?

    James 1:13-16 (NASB)
    Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.
    But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.
    Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.
    Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.

    Things start out with “temptation” … and we should note, that one can’t blame God for being the tempter! … man’s own lust is the tempter that tries to carry him away! (on a side note, I suppose in this case, one could call oneself to be the Devil [tempter]? )
    Next step, when lust “conceives”, it “gives birth” to sin … and we should note that there is nothing mentioned about genetic disorders (nor about other people, God or a fallen top-angel by the name “Satan/Devil” or demons) involved in this process on the road to death!

    Thus, there is no excuse for man for his sin … no matter how man might try and put it or want to explain it.

  2. on 20 Feb 2011 at 9:25 amDavide

    You know, you cite Leviticus and three letters by Paul, showing what GOD apparently has to say on this matter.

    I have problems with this kind of reasoning.

    Don’t get me wrong, it makes sense to me thinking about homosexuality linked to a possible unnaturalness – but after reading the bible I still DO NOT know what God actually thinks about this issue.

    Why?

    Correct me if I’m wrong. Leviticus has its roots in a prechristian era, where slavery was endorsed, where it was prohibited to eat crustacean, where who did adultery became petrified in public, where God’s people had to kill peoples who did not know God.

    Again, correct me if I’m wrong. The three letters were wrote by somebody who did not see women equal to men. Somebody who did not understand that men and women are born and do die the same way, that God lets rain and shine the sun over men and women the same way, that both are human beings that need the same basic things in life.

    Did Jesus command to kill “the wicked”?
    Did Jesus exalt some kind of people over others (e.g. men over women, heterosexual over homosexual)?

    I like to link all those crazy (at least, to me) things I read in the Bible to their cultural contexts and not to close my mind, shut up my conscience and close my eyes saying “well, it’s still God talking here so it must be perfect words”.

    I just think we need to be very cautious in judging/rating people and even actions – it’s okay that we have all our own opinions on various matters, but how sure can we be that our worldview is a sane one and that Jesus would think/talk/act the same way?

    Love
    Davide M.

  3. on 20 Feb 2011 at 11:24 amDoubting Thomas

    Brian Keating,
    I want to thank you for another great article. You said, “However, men only have one X chromosome (and one Y chromosome) – so if a man’s one X chromosome contains that trait, then he will express color blindness. This author is quite familiar with that scenario.”

    I am also color blind. My mother was a carrier because of her father, who was also color blind. Thankfully I didn’t have any daughters, that could have been potential carriers. So none of my grandchildren will have to go through life depending on other people to explain to them what color the sunset/sunrise might be on that day.

    Your article cover a lot of issues. You guys always manage to come up with great articles that give me a lot to think and pray about. Thanks again…

  4. on 20 Feb 2011 at 10:12 pmRandy Turner

    “That certainly seems to imply that if Adam had not eaten from that tree, then he would not have died – i.e., he would have lived forever.”

    Good article, however, I disagree with the conclusion you reached in the above quote. If Adam was already able to live forever, then God would not of stated in Gen 3:22 “…He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” Clearly Adam, “very good” created was not created with eternal life. If he had been, there would have been no need for God to drive them from the Garden, “place cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.” (NIV)

    I believe Wolfgang is on the right track. Man is corrupted by his own lustful thoughts and desires, not through some genetic malformation. The world back then, preflood was a very sinful place. Who knows what they did to each other, what type of things they ingested to get high sexually; perhaps those things, as drugs did in the 60’s and even today, corrupted the gene process causing deformity, blindness, etc. Those corrupted genes were/are then passed on through either spouse down through the generations and hence we have the bad gene results today.

  5. on 21 Feb 2011 at 2:00 amWolfgang

    Randy,
    you commented on

    That certainly seems to imply that if Adam had not eaten from that tree, then he would not have died – i.e., he would have lived forever.

    I would add the following for consideration:

    Adam was a human being of “flesh and blood” … when he was created and yet without sin, and remained a human being of flesh and blood also after he had sinned.

    In 1Ko 15:50 we read the general principle that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God … where “living in the kingdom of God” is clearly linked with life after resurrection, with eternal life.

    1Co 15:50
    Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.

    Thus it seems rather clear to me that Adam, even if he had not sinned, would not just have lived on forever, but would have experienced a change natural to spiritual, from temporal to eternal,

    In addition, I do not believe that “the death” mentioned as consequence of disobeying God’s instructions in Gen 1 – 3 was a reference to the end of Adam’s physical, natural life, but rather an emphatic reference to the consequence being “death into the ages” (i.e. no future eternal life). This is proven by the fact that Adam continued to live in his natural life for centuries after he had sinned and been expelled from the garden. However, on that very day that he ate of the fruit, he was “a dead man” (condemned to “eternal” death), the only way out being that of grace based on faith in the sacrifice of the promised Messiah redeemer (a message which already Adam had been given immediately after he and his wife had sinned)

  

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