Deceitful desires have affected a theologian like Wes Hill, making him come up with twisted arguments with the goal of PCA churches embracing strange teaching. Those who agree with Dr. Hill rejoice in the progress they are making, as resistance to this doctrine declines in the already changing evangelical church (WW 22). In the PCA it is already in. By dispensing with confession of sin before the Lord, “gay Christians” can celebrate their homosexuality in an upbeat worship service in a Revoice conference in a PCA church. They miss that no one can mortify sin while celebrating it.
Wes Hill was a plenary speaker at the Revoice Conference 2018 in the facility of a Presbyterian Church in America church. He was also in the pulpit of that church in a regular worship service. Dr. Hill is a convincing communicator who has scoured all of Christendom in his vigorous defense of gay Christianity. This exposé derives much information from two books by Wesley Hill: Washed and Waiting (WW), and Spiritual Friendship (SF). He never refers to himself as a gay or homosexual (nouns) but only as a gay or homosexual (adjectives) Christian.
Since not being homosexual is allegedly impossible for one who is, Wes Hill, in substantial agreement with that view, has a big job before him. He wants to preserve Christian faithfulness, all the while affirming his orientation, an impossible goal in my opinion. Having a condition prompting sin, and God requiring no repentance from the condition, is a strange idea. Wes attempts a rational defense.
A synopsis: One angle Dr. Hill emphasizes in many pages is a form of intense mutual intimacy within gay pairs. All the while he stoutly maintains the Christian ethic of no physical love making within this bond of friendship. Marriage to a woman is rejected as unnatural for him. He strains to find an alternative by means of a committed partnership as close to real marriage as he can get. It is sticky indeed. Wes has consistently rejected the view that God allows persons of the same gender to be physically united. That is divinely forbidden. But since he cannot countenance marriage to a woman, he strives to replace that with a bond of committed love between men. It may even exceed marriage in quality, or so he suggests.
The problem Gay Christians have – the way Hill puts it:
“How can gay and lesbian believers come to know this kind of love, this awakening of joy and delight, which is the experience of mutual desire? Is there any legitimate way for gay Christians to fulfill their longing—a longing they share with virtually every other human person, both straight and gay—the longing to be desired, to find themselves desirable, and to desire in return?” (WW 120)
Before his book-long “how can,” I will state what I believe to be a biblical “how can.”
We must recognize that we still possess a sinful nature, from which all sin emerges. Our chief problem is not “what I do” but “what I am”, for what I do comes from what I am. The only deliverance from this is to be joined to Christ. The Lord gives us repentance and deliverance from the bondage of sin. Though sin remains in this life, it does not rule over us (Romans 6). Thus the true Christian lives by faith, seeking God’s power against temptation, taking moral weaknesses seriously, and mortifying the flesh. God’s salvation by Christ’s cleansing blood, includes progressive deliverance from our sinful nature, and thus our sins. The Spirit wars against our sinful hearts and prevails. We are now being conformed to Christ. Therefore we can be free from romantically pursuing a person of the same sex.
Never does Wes bring up mortification of sin or call on “gay Christians” to repent of homosexuality. He never mentions repentance of his same-sex attraction either, though he comes close in WW 170,171, as he wrestles with his “disordered desires.” Why not call them immoral desires? Instead he owns his sexuality (SF 79). His sole reference to union with Christ is that it refers to the future marriage supper of the Lamb (WW 187). No mention of union with Christ now, though every believer has been called into the fellowship of the Son of God (1 Corinthians 1:9). This is the key element in the radical change of a Christian. We sometimes call it deliverance, though Wes Hill is not terribly interested in that idea. Remember, we are not delivered from what we hang on to.
And so Wes says, “I [am] … unable to locate myself in the paradigm of ‘deliverance from’ or ‘diminishment of’ my attractions … I have remained exclusively attracted to members of my own sex” (WW 179,180 emphasis added).
Dr. Hill should ponder whether he is in Christ or not, and review the wide variety of deliverances in Psalm 107. God delivers those who call upon him (Colossians 1:12, 13).
After a moving statement on sanctification (WW 169-170), Wes views evil attractions in Christians “as a crucial part of their God-given path to sanctity … They will see their refusal to act out their feelings sexually as an extraordinary opportunity for imitating Christ… They will … take up their erotic sexual desires as an essential part [!] of their personal striving to fulfill St. Paul’s appeal” in Romans 12:1 (WW 171). Thus Wes does not see any change from this attraction happening during this life. He never urges repentance from it; instead, sanctification supposedly comes with homosexuality in this life firmly in place. It is even beneficial because the struggle against it is pleasing to God (WW 177). (Have you ever heard of hankering after adultery being beneficial?) From God comes only good gifts; he never tempts anyone to sin (James 1:17, 13). “Our homosexuality … draws us closer to God” (WW 176). Oh really!
Hill’s musings on sanctification always exclude the real issue – the sinfulness of the homosexuality itself. Skipping the obvious, he is clear that homosexual practice is sinful (WW 79, 81). He says “our homosexuality … forces us … to rely not so much upon total moral transformation but rather on our forgiveness” (WW 176 emphasis added). Antinomianism has found another home.
In the new covenant, God promises to give us a new heart and put a new spirit in us. He will cause us to walk in his statutes and obey his law. This includes deliverance from our uncleanness (Ezekiel 36: 26-29). Wes does not speak of repenting of the source of all human sin, namely our deceitful hearts. When he does say a little, it is repentance of sinful effects, not the internal generator of same-sex lust. We ought to confess our sinful nature as well as the sins that come from it. Repentance and confession should not address only the weeds our sinful natures produce.
Be sure to seek for holiness of heart and life only in its due order, where God has placed it, after union with Christ, justification and the gift of the Holy Ghost and, in that order, seek it earnestly by faith as a very necessary part of your salvation. (Walter Marshall; The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification, chapter 8)
All mention of confessing in Washed and Waiting, with one exception, is confession by others. All are simply acknowledgements of something; none are confession to the Lord; instead people admit sins to each other. In his college days, Wes met often with a brother. “We would make small talk for a few minutes, and then our conversations would turn serious. I confessed sin at those meetings. We talked about what it would mean for the church to truly support its gay Christian members” (WW 55). In Spiritual Friendship “repent” and “repentance” do not appear, and the only mention of “confessing” in Washed and Waiting is as a synonym for “said” or “admitted.” A friend confessed (i.e., admitted) that he did not know whether to move to a different location or not (SF 118).
Back to Wes’s question, “How can gay and lesbian believers come to know this kind of love …? It comes in a chapter “The End of Loneliness” (WW 113-142). His eventual solution for the gay dilemma is high quality friendship. There love flows back and forth. To this, and in his following book Spiritual Friendship, he will return many times. It is his key theme and the promoted remedy for loneliness, a vicious menace for so many gay people. Wes brings up loneliness dozens of times, with another dozen for isolation.
Since marriage to a woman is hardly on the horizon for a gay man, Wes offers to show how “the longing to be desired, to find themselves desirable, and to desire in return” can be realized (WW 120).
- First, some gays have tried heterosexual marriage with some success. He does not advise it; he has seen too much frustration. And it is not for him.
- Some just try to be celibate singles. For those who yearn for persons of the same sex, this option can be unbearable. When he speaks of gay singles “fleeing from lust and fighting for purity of mind and body in the power of God’s Spirit” (WW 122), he forgets to tell us why this has had much failure. Is it that the power that raised Christ from the dead, and which is the heritage of Christians – is this power weak in our case but strong in Christ’s resurrection? (Ephesians 1:16-23) Dr. Hill never says and he should. It is the big hole in his theology.
- We come now to the thrust of both books. Gay Christians simply need the church, and in it they must be committed. Many pages are devoted to this.
In advocating help for gay Christians, we cannot overlook Wes’s own unrelenting conviction that his homosexuality is a given. His book is full of this; he actually proclaims his homosexuality. Its persistent grip, he thinks is the case for most gays. Wes says that gay orientation is “almost impossible to change” (WW 43). It is complex, intractable, and enduring. To have gay sex is for him a recurrent longing, fixed and ingrained in him (WW 72), a hardwired orientation he simply cannot turn off, and yet he affirms it and does not try to escape from it (WW 180).
He writes of a man who “was a Christian, as I am; he wrestled with homoerotic attractions and inclinations, as I do; and he (apparently) longed for purity, experienced an unshakable loneliness, and yearned to hear the divine accolade that would unravel his shame and inferiority—all things that I [Wes Hill] feel and experience on a regular basis” (WW 150). With no relief, it seems Wes’s answer is not working! He should taste and see that the Lord is good. Look what happens to those who do: “Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day” (Psalm 119:97). We cannot meditate on God’s law day and night and at the same time have room for the opposite. The same-sex appetite continues to consume his attention and churn his passions. Wes still thinks what gays need is to be found in the church, while not married to anybody, male or female.
Gay Christians in the church. Human community is necessary. God created us to crave community, and Wes says that we experience God’s love specifically in the church. In the case of one lesbian, a respected counsellor advised, “Your desire for sexual relationships with other women needs to be transformed, so that non-sexual relationships with men and women in the body of Christ in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit become life-giving to you” (WW 131). Wes agrees. I agree that this is good counsel; however, repentance, confession of a sinful nature, and mortification of sin still receive no mention. Of course we can skip over repentance if same-sex desire as a result of the fall is unchosen by us and is therefore morally neutral “like the blueness of my eyes” (WW 39). Thus it can be referred to as an “orientation” (50 times). You wouldn’t ask me, would you, for something contrary to what I am? [Not a quotation of Wes Hill.]
“ … In the New [Testament], ‘the answer to loneliness is not marriage, but rather the new-creational community that God is calling into being in Christ, the church marked by mutual love, as it is led by the Spirit of Christ’ ” (WW 132).
“The remedy for loneliness—if there is such a thing this side of God’s future—is to learn, over and over again, to do this: to feel God’s keeping presence embodied in the human members of the community of faith, the church” (WW 134).
After Dr. Hill has touched base with the church; he moves on to what might well be his weightier theme – partnership with another man as he seeks to give and receive love. That theme receives much more attention in Spiritual Friendship. However, it is fraught with danger when he says: “My sexuality, my basic erotic orientation to the world, is inescapably intertwined with how I go about finding and keeping friends” (SF 81). “ … Whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved” (2 Peter 2:19). He stirs gas and oxygen on a hot stove. And this is a man who wants to coach us on ministry to gays.
After all that, Wes backs off from his remedy having much success: “For some, even those who have immersed themselves in the life of the church—and certainly for me—no relationship seems to satisfy this yawning hunger to be known, to be loved, to be inside some nameless space that remains frustratingly, confusingly closed” (WW 138).
Plus he wonders: “Does God’s keeping presence experienced through the human faces of the church ultimately spell the end of loneliness? Yes, I believe so, in some eventual sense. But on this side of the fullness of God’s new creation, the ache remains. The loneliness has not yet come to an end” (WW 137 emphasis added). And this is in his chapter The End of Loneliness. For him there is no end; he is still waiting.
Something is not working for Wes. Gays need better medicine. To Wes we say, “Physician, heal thyself!” He can’t find the love he needs in the church, but I guess others who are gay should. The needle then moves to pairs of specific “friends.” We shall come to that later. But to build his vision of male-male friendship, he contrasts friendship with marriage. He does not always look on marriage kindly.
Marriage is denigrated. Wes said above, “The answer to loneliness is not marriage, but rather the new-creational community that God is calling into being in Christ, the church marked by mutual love, as it is led by the Spirit of Christ” (WW 132). It is already clear that Wes does not stick with the church as the answer. Then he reduces marriage. Car salesman and politicians also do this kind of thing. One way to move one’s agenda forward is to point out some inadequacy in the other option. Wes has an alternative to marriage in mind. Something better than marriage (SF 37, 38).
Wes quotes a movie, “Maybe that’s all a family is. A group of people who miss the same imaginary place” (WW 118). He keeps it up: the church “rather than marriage” is the “primary place where human love is best expressed” (WW 132). How in the world would he know? The church is reducible, he thinks, not to individuals but “to pairs of friends” (WW 196). I wonder where the New Testament teaches that. All this on the way to establishing spiritual friendship as a “form of intimacy” (WW 197), or “uniquely intimate relationships” bound by an “inviolable law of loyalty” (WW 198).
On the other hand, the problem the evangelical church has is “our fixation on the nuclear family,” one of his pet peeves (WW 195). In an address to the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, he again bemoaned that some Christians are “so fixated on the nuclear family.” In Psalm 127 & 128 the Lord does not agree with Wes.
Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table. Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the LORD (Psalm 128:3, 4). Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! (Psalm 127:3-5).
In Spiritual Friendship, Wes is on a roll. We encounter in it the “mythology of family” (SF 13, 16), and that “we can indeed flourish without romance, marriage, or children” (SF 41). In the classical Roman period, friendship was more highly idealized than marriage, according to one scholar Wes quotes [found in SF 22, footnote 4, but not in the printed version of Spiritual Friendship]. Why point this out? It is the sort of observation that really gets his homosexual attention. Rejecting marriage, he would still “like to have the kind of companionship that can only come through marriage” (WW 124,125).
Where is celibate Wes to find and give love? Well, not in marriage to a woman, and so all that is left to him is some kind of hoped for, desperately needed, love with another man. “There is, in fact, a place for love, and it’s called friendship” (SF 21). “… the love of God is manifested in our love—not for our spouses or children or extended family, first and foremost, but for our friends” (John 15:13) (SF 28). So he elevates his preference and downgrades the divine institution which makes families possible. In Ephesians 5 when the apostle reviewed human relationships, he lists family relations but somehow forgot to add in friendship as a substitute.
It gets mushy; he tells of two monks buried together: “And their shared tomb … ensured for each of these Christian believers that, at the great future day of the resurrection of the body, each one’s friend would be ‘the first figure his awakened eyes will see’ ” (SF 34). Throughout Spiritual Friendship marriage has an alternative:
Friendship is worthy of recognition and celebration, alongside other forms of love like marriage and kinship. Indeed, friendship might even be seen as a kind of kinship itself, strengthened and made more like the love between siblings or spouses (SF 96).
Wes does not mean “homosexual lovers” but “‘wedded’ friends” (SF 34). Apparently, a same-sex attracted man should overcome loneliness (even though Wesley Hill has not), by finding another same-sex attracted man he may love and be intimate with in a celibate way. This is as crazy as it sounds.
A new doctrine has shown up in reformed churches. What is being suggested bypasses the Canons of Dort and the Westminster Standards. Dr. Hill’s version of gay theology ignores that homosexual desire in the heart is itself sin, because as they say, that is just one’s orientation. The emerging doctrine claims that same-sex attraction is not a sinful infection. The new doctrine settles into a form of Limited Depravity. Pelagius would be pleased. “Tulip” has become “Lulip”. Homosexual orientation, like Wes Hill’s blue eyes, is simply not sinful. Only the practice of homosexuality is (WW43).
Dr. Hill is an Anglican; he should note the clarity of The Thirty Nine Articles:
Original sin is the … corruption of the nature of every man … and [original sin] is of his own nature inclined to evil, so that the flesh lusts always contrary to the spirit … And this infection of nature doth remain, yea, in them that are regenerated, whereby the lust of the flesh … is not subject to the law of God (Article IX).
Wes’s manifest refusal to confess same-sex attraction as sin turns into a passive support for homosexuality. The fruit of his false doctrine is frustration, loneliness, shame, and suffering, as he has noted. One could hope that he would steer people away from such consequences, but he suffers them himself! The heart (i.e. our sinful nature) is deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9), so deceitful that teaching (1 Timothy 4:1) accepted by us will embrace false notions (Ephesians 4:14), such as homosexuality being a gift from God (WW 175). But the Father’s gifts are good gifts (James 1:17). Deceitful desire has gone so far as to declare itself good (Ephesians 4:22).
Deceitful desires have affected a theologian like Wes Hill, making him come up with twisted arguments with the goal of PCA churches embracing strange teaching. Those who agree with Dr. Hill rejoice in the progress they are making, as resistance to this doctrine declines in the already changing evangelical church (WW 22). In the PCA it is already in. By dispensing with confession of sin before the Lord, “gay Christians” can celebrate their homosexuality in an upbeat worship service in a Revoice conference in a PCA church. They miss that no one can mortify sin while celebrating it. Has anyone noted Revoice calling on “gay Christians” to repent of same-sex attraction?
Lord willing, I shall review Dr. Hill’s biblical arguments in a separate paper. His chief sources in these two books have been mostly Roman Catholic monks and priests. Add to this a few Anglicans. He scours related writings throughout the centuries of Christendom, while any input from the reformers and puritans is conspicuously absent.
With his influence, Wes Hill seeks to persuade us to bite forbidden fruit. God has been clear, so Wes’s wide-ranging arguments must not lead us to accept homosexuality in any form. We have a Lord God who saves us from sin, not one who preserves us in it. Wes Hill’s story may be gripping, but he ends up a man looking here and there for love, refusing it in the right place, and seeking it where he should not. We all should pray, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:23).
Rev. David H. Linden is a retired Minister in the Presbyterian Church in America; he lives in Las Cruces, NM.