Responding to Revoice: The Case for Overture 28 at the PCA General Assembly (Part Two)

The Revoice Conference speakers affirmed homosexual orientation as a legitimate part of their identity; something that should not be condemned or changed. Overture 28 offers a different perspective.

In part one, we documented and critiqued some of the errant teaching of the 2018 Revoice Conference, explaining how articles 1 to 6 of Overture 28 to the 2019 PCA General Assembly address these errors. In part two, we address some of the practical errors espoused by the speakers at Revoice, offering a more biblical way to help Christians struggling with sexual sin.

 

The Christian who has unwanted, enduring, and tenacious homosexual attractions must go to war with his sin. God has said, “If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death” (Leviticus 20:13). Those who are attracted to such sin must cultivate an abhorrence of these evil attractions. To submit to them as inevitable or unchangeable leads to despair. Christians are called to love the Lord and to hate evil, trusting that the Triune God can deliver them from all sin (Ps.97:10; 1Jn.1:9).

Though our culture wants us to think homosexuality is normal, the natural revulsion and abhorrence of homosexual sin that many have is not a fault. Christians should abhor what is evil (Rom.12:9). We should abhor all sexual sin including adultery (Lev. 18:20), incest (Lev.18:6), and bestiality (Lev.18:23). So if God has given you an abhorrence of sexual sin, praise Him. Those seeking to love and help those with these abhorrent attractions must be careful not to grow accustomed to them or to normalize them. Love does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth (1Cor.13:6). Christians must learn to rejoice in the truth that homosexual desire is an abomination (Lev.18:22) and hate it as such.

God surely calls Christians to show kindness to those who are enslaved to sexual sin, lovingly calling them to repentance and faith in Christ. Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners, recognizing that they were sick and in need of a physician, but He did not diminish the evil of their sin. He called sinners to repentance (Mk. 2:16-17). We too are called to minister to fellow sinners inside and outside the church, gently correcting them in hope that God might grant them repentance and deliver them from the snare of the devil (2 Tim.2:24-26), never minimizing sin.

Several Revoice speakers spoke of how those with homosexual attractions feel a deep sense of shame about their sin.[i] They are desperate to escape the weight of this shame. If, however, they think coming out as ‘Gay Celibate Christians’ will make same-sex attraction more socially acceptable or less shameful, this is a serious error. It reveals a serious misunderstanding of both sin and shame.

Homosexual sin is objectively shameful (Rom.1:27). It is right to blush and be ashamed of the abominations in our hearts. Shame for sin is also a means of grace that leads us to repentance. When God gives us a deep and painful shame for sin, it should move us to flee to Christ for cleansing. When teachers try to remove the shame of sin or diminish the shame apart from Christ, they are cruel teachers. Jeremiah 6:14-15 says, “They have also healed the hurt of My people slightly, Saying, ‘Peace, peace!’ When there is no peace. 15 Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? No! They were not at all ashamed; Nor did they know how to blush. Therefore they shall fall among those who fall…” When God gives a sinner the ability to blush for his sin and to fear the death it brings, this is grace (Rom.6:21). Christians must not join the broader culture in affirming homosexual sin. We should rather weep for those who glory in their shame (Phil.3:19), pointing them to Christ who alone can deliver sinners from their shame.

To coddle sin and minimize shame is death. If a man has a deadly disease and you have the cure, you must tell him the deadly nature of his disease and offer him the cure. You must help him see his danger. It would be wicked to say, “You’re fine, you’re fine,” when he is dying. The homosexual must be encouraged to be ashamed of his sin and hate it. He must then flee to Christ who alone can deliver him from his guilt and shame. Forsaking sin and clinging to Christ is the only path from death to life.

Repentant homosexuals who do turn from their unnatural attractions and submit in faith to Christ as Lord should then be welcomed into the church as members in good standing. They should be taught to walk in obedience, despising their shameful past, rejoicing in the reality that they are now set free from sin to serve as slaves of God (Rom.6:21-22). It is a grave error to encourage them to continue to identify with sinful homosexual attractions and orientations.

Regrettably, all the speakers at Revoice assumed the legitimacy of Christians identifying themselves as ‘LGBT Christians’.[ii] Our objection to Christians identifying as “LGBT Christians” is that they dishonor Christ by identifying with shameful and sinful attractions. It also unjustly disgraces the person who struggles with sexual sin. If a person practices fornication, idolatry, adultery, homosexuality, or drunkenness, then they are rightly labeled fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, or drunkards. (1Cor.6:9-10) If, however, they forsake these sins and turn to the Lord Jesus Christ, then they no longer deserve these labels. They are washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God (1Cor.6:11). To continue to label them with the degrading name of fornicator, drunkard, or homosexual is an insult to them and to Christ who has set them apart for Himself.

Christians who want to continue to identify with their shameful desires that brought them nothing but death, do not yet understand the evil of their sin (Rom.6:21). Those who understand the evil of their idolatry, adultery, drunkenness, and fornication do not want to identify as “Idolatrous Christians” or “Drunken Christians” or “Fornicator Christians.” Thus it is disturbing that those who struggle with homosexual attraction want to identify with their sin. Those who have been born again by the Spirit are new creations and the old ways of thinking, along with the old names that characterized them are left behind.

We believe that it is normal for a person who has struggled with unlawful sexual desires (whether desires for the same-sex or the opposite sex) to continue to struggle with these desires after conversion (Rom.7:22-25). Married men still find themselves attracted to women other than their wives. Women find themselves attracted to men other than their husbands. It is not surprising that those with homosexual attractions struggle as well. These unlawful sexual attractions, however, do not define them. The latter should not identify as ‘Gay Christians’ any more than the former should identify as ‘Adulterous Christians.’

The attempt to normalize ‘Gay Christian’ identity in the church is one of the more troubling aspects of the Revoice Conference. Especially when you understand that this was the first step of homosexual activists in the 80s and 90s to normalize homosexuality in American culture.[iii] I am not saying the Revoice speakers have the same agenda or motives as the homosexual activists, but their actions are disturbingly in accord with their plan.

Rather than identifying with sinful attractions, these desires should be mortified by the power of the Holy Spirit. Colossians 3:5 says “Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” All evil passions and desires should be put to death, including homosexual passions. Romans 8:13 says, “For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” Sinful desires cannot be defeated by the flesh. They must be put to death by God’s Spirit. We must beg the Holy Spirit to put to death our sinful desires whenever they arise. The Christian must be killing sin, or sin will be killing him.

Additionally, the person struggling with homosexual attraction should not suffer in silence. Christ has placed us in His body and given us brothers and sisters who can help us in this war against sins of the heart. Those struggling with homosexual desire should be encouraged to seek counsel from mature believers, elders, and pastors. James 5:16 says, “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” For tenacious sins, we may need daily help. Hebrews 3:13 says, “Exhort one another daily, while it is called “TODAY,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” Finally, Christians need the corporate assembly of the saints where the word, prayer, and sacraments nourish their souls (Heb.10:24-25). The church should be the place where sinners get help in their fight against sin.

The Revoice speakers did not directly address the transgender issue, but since it is the T in their use of the title LGBT, they implied that it is a legitimate identity for Christians.[iv] Ray Low even used the term ‘cisgender,’ which refers to those who identify with their biological sex, as though transgender and cisgender are two legitimate identities.[v] If the speakers at Revoice think it is legitimate for people to identify with a gender that does not conform to their biological sex, they are in grave error.

A Christian’s self-conception and outward gender identity must conform to the sex God assigned at conception. Christians must live in obedience to God’s call as revealed in their reproductive organs. If God has made you a biological male, He has called you to live as a godly man. If God has made you a biological female, He has called you to live as a godly woman (Prov.31).

Paul calls males to “act like men” (1 Cor.16:13).[vi] Effeminate men (μαλακοὶ) are condemned in 1 Corinthians 6:9 as those who do not inherit the kingdom of God. The KJV and NASB get this right, but the ESV fails to make the distinction.[vii] Calvin comments on the meaning of μαλακοὶ saying: “By effeminate persons I understand those who, although they do not openly abandon themselves to impurity, discover, nevertheless, their un-chastity by blandishments of speech, by lightness of gesture and apparel, and other allurements.” 1 Corinthians 6:9 does not simply condemn the μαλακοὶ when he plays the woman in sodomy, but when he acts like a woman outside the bedroom. The effeminate man rejects God’s call for biological males to act like men.

Women also are to be feminine. They are not to dress or act like men. Dressing like the opposite sex is an abomination for both men and women. Deuteronomy 22:5 says, “A woman shall not wear man’s clothing, nor shall a man put on a woman’s clothing; for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD your God.”

Jesus acknowledged the existence of people born with physical anomalies in their sex organs when he said there are “eunuchs who were born that way” (Mt.19:12). The existence of people with genital anomalies, however, does not in any way prove that gender is fluid for all people! This way of reasoning is like saying the existence of Siamese twins proves that we can all identify as two different people or personalities. Even those who have these genetic anomalies should embrace their biological sex insofar as it may be known, for they are created in the image of God, male or female (Gen.1:27).

So we commend Overture 28 to the 2019 PCA General Assembly. Articles 7 to 12 of the overture seek to address and correct the errant teaching and practices outlined above. It is our hope that Overture 28 will be overwhelmingly affirmed and will help preserve the peace and purity of the Presbyterian Church in America at the 2019 PCA General Assembly.

Article 7
WE AFFIRM that Christians ought to abhor homosexual sin (Lev.18:22). Abhorrence of all sin should be cultivated. Those who love the Lord hate evil. (Ps.97:10)

WE DENY that revulsion and abhorrence of homosexual sin is sinful. (Rom.12:9; 1Cor.13:4-7)

Article 8
WE AFFIRM that people living in homosexual sin should be shown kindness and lovingly encouraged to turn from their sin to serve Christ who alone can deliver them from sin and its shame. (Mk.2:16-17; James 5:19-20)

WE DENY that it is loving or kind to try to diminish or remove the shame of homosexual attraction and orientation, since God calls it shameful. (Rom.1:26-27; Jer.6:14-15)

Article 9
WE AFFIRM that repentant sinners turning from all unnatural attractions and trusting in Christ should be welcomed into the church as members in good standing. (1Tim.1:15-16)

WE DENY that followers of Christ who struggle with homosexual attraction should be identified as “LGBT+ Christians, because it dishonors Christ to identify with sinful attractions and orientations. (2Cor.5:16-17; 1Cor.6:9-11)

Article 10
WE AFFIRM that homosexual attraction should be mortified by the power of the Spirit. (Col.3:1-7; Rom.8:12-14; 1Thess.4:3-5)

WE DENY that continuing homosexual attraction or failure to attain orientation change is evidence of God’s approval of these unnatural and vile passions. (Rom.7:21-25; Rom.1:26-27)

Article 11
WE AFFIRM that those struggling with unlawful sexual attractions of any kind should be encouraged to seek the help, prayer, and counsel of mature believers, elders, and pastors. (James 5:16; Heb.3:12-13; Heb.10:24-25)

WE DENY that those struggling with homosexual attraction and orientation should suffer in silence. (Gal.6:1-2)

Article 12
WE AFFIRM that our inward self-conception and outward gender identity must conform to the sex God assigned us at conception, and thus we are to live in obedience to his call evident in our reproductive organs. (Dt.22:5)

WE DENY that physical anomalies or psychological conditions nullify the union God has decreed between biological sex and self-conception and gender identity.

Steven Warhurst is a Minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and is pastor of Westminster PCA in Kingsport, Tenn.

 

[i] Revoice 2018 General Session 2 Nate Collins: 22:52 “I’m tired of feeling burdened by shame because I think my orientation makes me less human…” General Session 3 Wesley Hill: 21:04 “I want to talk about the issue of shame. Shame, I think is a recurring experience for many of us who are LGBT in Christ…”

[ii] Revoice 2018 Johanna Finegan: 03:19 “The refusal to use the word gay to refer to those who are predominantly attracted to their own sex is a refusal to speak English…”

[iii] In November 1987 an article entitled “The Overhauling of Straight America” appeared in Guide Magazine. A few years later its authors expanded it into a book: Marshall Kirk, Hunter Madsen: “After the Ball — How America will conquer its fear and hatred of Gays in the 1990s”. (Plume, 1990), ISBN: 0452264987.The article and book outline their plan to make homosexuality acceptable in America. Their plan has been wildly successful.

[iv] Revoice 2018 General Session 2 Nate Collins: 25:58 “I’m tired and grieved because 40% of transgender adults say they’ve attempted suicide…” General Session 3 Wesley Hill: 21:12 “Many of us who are LGBT in Christ…”

[v] Revoice 2018 General Session 2 Ray Low: 13:31 “LGBT people are four times as likely to commit suicide than straight and cisgender people…”

[vi] 1 Corinthians 16:13 Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men (ἀνδρίζεσθε), be strong.

[vii] What texts such as the ESV translate as “nor men who practice homosexuality,” others (like the J.B. Philips NT, KJV, and NASB) render more closely as effeminate. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 Or 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 effeminate (μαλακοὶ), nor homosexuals (ἀρσενοκοῖται), 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. (NASB)