When the Obergefell case was argued before the US Supreme Court to establish the right to gay marriage, many saw little threat to religious liberty. It became clear, however, that the approval of same-sex marriage would in fact result in the delegitimizing of the Christian view of sexuality and marriage in American society. Justice Samuel Alito noted that far from merely establishing equal protection to competing views, the official approval of gay marriage would "vilify those who disagree, and treat them as bigots."
Something similar now seems to be taking place within the "gay Christian" circles of the church, as evidenced by the recent Revoice conference held at Memorial Presbyterian Church (PCA) in St. Louis. One of the surprising claims to come out of this conference was made by Revoice president Dr. Nate Collins. In his address titled "Lament," Collins suggested that the homosexual community be compared to Old Testament prophets like Jeremiah. "Is it possible," he asked, "that gay people today are being sent by God, like Jeremiah, to find God's words for the church. . . [and] shed light on contemporary false teachings and even idolatries?" The question can be raised as to whether there is a genuine analogy, as Collins sees it, between the poor oppressed of Israel in the days of Jeremiah and the homosexual community today which is joined not only by the afflictions of sin but also by a shared temptation to sin. But more significantly, when Collins goes on to identify the false teachings exposed by "sexual minorities," he states that the presence of gay people in the church constitutes "a prophetic call to the church to abandon idolatrous attitudes toward the nuclear family."1
I place Collins' comments beside the effects of the Supreme Court's Obergefell decision because they share a significant common feature. As Justice Alito pointed out, the right to gay marriage not only grants a freedom to one view but also denies freedom to its opposite. Likewise, the vision of human sexuality espoused by Revoice not only conflicts with but also excludes the biblical vision for sexuality and human society. In both cases, Obergefell and Revoice, this collision is inevitable since the normalizing of homosexual behavior/desires demands a radical revision of human life. The Bible says that God created mankind "male and female" (Gen. 1:27) and then placed them in the covenant union of marriage involving a man and a woman. "It is not good for the man to be alone," the Lord noted, and in direct response to this assessment he created the first woman (Gen. 2:18-22). In contrast, a major theme of Revoice is that homosexual desires existed before the fall and are not in themselves necessarily sinful. Yet as we consider what the Bible says, homosexual desire has no way to fit into Genesis 2 and thus the ordering of human relations by our Creator. There is no male-to-male or female-to-female sexuality in God's created design. Furthermore, Genesis 2 views the creation of nuclear families not as idolatry but as a vitally significant way in which man's purpose in life is fulfilled. The words, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth" (Gen. 1:28), described not the worship of a false god but obedient faith in the one true God. If the fulfilling of mankind's creation mandate involves idolatry, then the world created by God must inevitably be a different one from that which is described in Genesis 1 and 2. Therefore, if there is a prophetic call from those who seek to normalize homosexual desires, its message is that the Bible's view of humanity and life must be recast according to the agenda of "sexual minorities."
There are many reasons to have sympathy with the aims expressed by the Revoice conference, especially the genuine sorrows of those who experience same-sex attraction. But the doctrine of Revoice is not one that biblically faithful Christians can afford to view with sympathy. Either the biblical view of humanity, sex, marriage, and society is right or else it is wrong. Likewise, if gays represent a prophetic voice challenging the church to conform, then it is the traditionally understood Christian view of sex and marriage that comes under rebuke. It is for this reason that the PCA cannot afford either to endorse the Revoice message or even to stand by inactive as conferences like these are held in our churches. If the Bible is true, right, wholesome, and good, then the doctrine of Revoice must not be embraced, nor permitted in the counsels of the church. What is at stake in this controversy is nothing less than the commitment of our denomination to the truth of God's Word and our embrace of the Scripture's view of life and godliness.
1. Revoice 2018, General Session 2: Lament (starting at the 36:30 mark).
Richard D. Phillips is senior minister of Second Presbyterian Church in Greenville, SC. He has been the chairman of the Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology since 2000 and is series co-editor of the Reformed Expository Commentary series (P&R).