Results tagged “identity ethics” from Reformation21 Blog

Revoice, or God's Voice?

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The Revoice Conference is history. When first announced with its advertised purpose statement, sponsors, plenary sessions and speakers, my Session requested I pastorally address it for them and our congregation, especially since it was hosted by a PCA church in St. Louis and contained students, graduates and faculty from Covenant Theological Seminary, our denominational seminary.  In compliance, I provided an initial analysis upon the purpose statement, each plenary session synopsis and the speaker's publications as well as public positions.

In the podcast/blog initially recorded on the Revoice Conference, I made a specific request that even though there were clear reasons to be concerned about the conference we ought to wait and see what each speaker would actually say in their assigned sessions. In addition, the speakers should not be critiqued simply because they are speaking at such a conference, but ultimately on the content of what they actually say in the conference. Through online access to the plenary session talks we now know the content of the conference. The overall verdict is in. Revoice was not and is not God's voice.

Except for a few notable exceptions - such as Dr. Sklar's treatment of Leviticus 18, which was consistent with his overall excellent commentary on Leviticus - Revoice was not and is not God's voice. While unable in this venue to address all of the issues which lead to this verdict, I will highlight five essential issues with necessary foundational thoughts as to why the plenary sessions were at best inconsistent and in many cases contradictory to God's voice which is revealed in His Word. I am grateful for a number of colleagues from various seminaries, ministries, churches and, in particular, The Gospel Reformation Network, each of whom are pastorally and comprehensively addressing with Gospel faithfulness and theological accuracy the content of the Revoice conference.

During the initial criticisms of the Revoice conference, multiple assurances were given by the conference organizers that everyone was overreacting. In fact, the conference founder, Nate Collins, declared that the organizers were committed to what the Bible teaches as "the traditional historic understanding of sexuality in marriage." But the reality is that the conference actually confirmed the concerns surfaced by the conference purpose statement which is...

The Revoice Conference is designed to support, encourage and empower gay, lesbian, same sex attracted and other LGBTQ+ Christians so they can flourish while observing the historic Christian doctrine of marriage and sexuality.

So, in light of the heightened concerns evoked by the conference content and to comply with my Session's request, here are five essential issues with a brief theological rationale as to why these specific Revoice propositions are not God's voice. 

GAY CHRISTIAN IDENTITY

The Revoice purpose statement clearly affirms that those who profess Christ from an LGBTQ+ lifestyle are to be welcomed into the church and identified as "gay Christians." This Revoice identity proposal is not God's voice. Without denying or diminishing the reality of the "old man"--the powerful remnant of sin which indwells every Christian until glorification; nor  dismissing the challenges related to eradicating the practice of addictive sins, especially sins of sexual addictions intrinsic to natural or unnatural sexual immorality--it is abundantly clear that neither Scripture nor the Gospel affirms, allows or proposes that any believer is to be identified by their pre or post-conversion entangling sins no matter how notorious or addictive.

On the contrary, the Gospel calls us by faith, as the elect of God, who repent of our sins and come to Christ by the Spirit of God with the Word of God to know that we have been delivered from the power of sin through regeneration, with a new heart; from the penalty of sin through justification, with a new record; from the place of sin through adoption to a new family; and increasingly, though unevenly, from the practice of sin through sanctification with a new life; and ultimately, from the presence of sin through glorification to a new home. Therefore, our sins (from which we have been, are being and will be delivered) are no longer our identity as they once were through the distortion of idolatry.  Our identity is now Christ. In Him, by the saving power of the Gospel, we now confess we were created in the image of God and we also confess we are being conformed to the image of Christ.

In a word, we are in Christ and He is in us. Therefore, to live is Christ.  As for indwelling sin - it is an enemy to assassinate, not a distorted identity to embrace.  It is not only inconsistent to use sin as an adjective to modify or define our profession of Christ to the world, it is also unsupported in the Scripture and the Gospel message.

To my dear brothers and sisters who have come to Christ from such sexual immorality and anarchy--Praise God and hear God's voice as you fight the good fight for Christ.

"There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. AND "You have been set free from the Law of sin and death." AND "Do not let sin reign in your mortal bodies."

Please know you are in Christ and Christ is in you. Now through Christ and by the means of grace, join us as sinners saved by grace to confess Christ, who is our life to this world and until we meet him let us kill the sin that would kill us because Christ is our life and our identity.

I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me. 

SAME SEX ATTRACTION

The Revoice Conference, as anticipated from the purpose statement and plenary session synopsis, consistently presented same sex attraction as an inconvenient desire beyond the power of the Gospel of grace to eradicate, and in fact, unnecessary to eradicate. It must simply be handled. The unmistakable proposal in Revoice is that same sex attraction is a syndrome to be strategically managed.  That is not God's voice.  To be clear same sex attraction is not a syndrome to be managed. It is a sinful desire to be mortified.  God's voice is clear. His grace is greater than any and all of our sin.  His grace not only provides an atonement to remove the guilt and shame of sin, but also empowers the forgiven believer to kill the practice and desire for sin before it kills you.

While the Word of God affirms, commends and commands brotherly and sisterly love within the same gender, it does not affirm sexual, erotic, or romantic love within the same sex. On the contrary, same sex erotic love in the Bible either brings God's judgment (Genesis 19, Leviticus 18) or its shameless practice and approval in the culture is the evidence of God's present judgment. ("God gave them over to unnatural desires..." Romans 1) Yet, praise God such sins though worthy of judgment, are not beyond the grace of God. The grace of God does not treat such sinful lusts of the heart as inconvenient attractions to be controlled, but as sinful desires to be crucified.  James 1 informs us that sin is the inevitable progeny when internal sinful desires (lusts of the heart) unite with external temptations. James is simply affirming our Savior's warnings concerning the sinfulness of the lusts of the heart which render us culpable of guilt, even though the heinous deed has not been done which brings even greater guilt and consequences. The believer is called to not only avoid the deed of sin but to relentlessly kill the sinful desires from which the deeds of sin are birthed when united to the external temptations of the world.

The call is clear and unmistakable. We are to mortify sin by fleeing temptation and killing sinful desires. When the parents are eradicated, the progeny cannot be conceived and birthed. The Gospel promises not only a sufficient atonement to remove the condemnation of such sins, but also the power to kill them.  Yes, we have "sin living in us" but we do not "live in sin."  On the contrary, the dominion of sin has been broken; therefore, in humble reliance upon Divine grace and the power of the Holy Spirit we can flee temptation and kill sin. Some of us may enjoy the blessing of immediate deliverance from its practice in our life.  Some may have to fight a lifelong battle with uneven success. But, all of us pursue holiness with full awareness that in Christ, we are "more than conquerors." Therefore, we will not and cannot accommodate our sinful desires nor lay down the Sword of the Spirit and the power of prayer by signing peace treaties with our sinful desires. That is God's voice. 

MARRIAGE AS A HISTORIC CHRISTIAN TRADITION

The Revoice conference affirmed that the act of sex outside of marriage, whether natural or unnatural, heterosexual or homosexual, is sin. Such a statement, of course, is commendable and one for which I am grateful. Revoice also proposes that "LGBTQ+ Christians" honor the "historic Christian tradition of marriage." Again, I'm grateful for such a position. Yet, some speakers declared that the teaching of a family consisting of one man and one woman for one life with their covenant children was idolatrous .  To support this contention they proceeded to use Biblical accounts of God's grace in dealing with broken marriages in a broken world and even accounts of brotherly love as the true Biblical teaching of family. While the Biblical definition of marriage and family like anything else can become an idol, the Christ-affirmed Biblical definition of marriage as foundational to family is not idolatrous and to propose such is not God's voice.

God's voice is a ringing declaration that marriage is affirmed in general revelation and defined in special revelation.  It is not simply a historic Christian tradition.  It has become a historic Christian tradition because it is a Biblical mandate, "For this cause, a man shall leave his father and his mother and shall cleave to his wife, and the two shall become one." Genesis 2:24 as quoted by our Savior and New Testament writers. By doing so, Jesus defines marriage as a heterosexual, monogamous and conjugal covenantal relationship to be "held in honor by all."

Furthermore, Christ and Scripture affirm heterosexual intimacy within marriage as a Divine gift. Thus, the doctrine of marriage and sex within marriage to initiate the marriage and recreate, as well as procreate, is a historic Christian tradition because it is mandated in the Word of God which is our only rule of faith and practice. Specifically, the tradition exists because marriage and monogamous heterosexual intimacy within marriage is a Biblical ethic that is affirmed as a creation ordinance, embraced in the Decalogue and Biblically amplified by the impact of the Gospel upon marriage in the lives of husbands and wives. That is God's voice.

QUEER CULTURE

One of the most astonishing plenary sessions, though consistent with the purpose statement of the Revoice conference, was the astounding proposal that the New Heavens and the New Earth would be "blessed by treasures from the queer culture." This is not God's voice.

There is no doubt that God's common grace which restrains men and women from being as sinful as they could or would be, secures, as a byproduct, remnants of virtue even within some of the most depraved cultures produced by humanity's rebellion against God. I am sure that the queer culture, by God's common grace, has such vestiges of virtue that echo what is good and beautiful and true. But such remnants of virtue are not preserved by the motivating sins of the culture but - in spite of them.

The treasures of the New Heavens and the New Earth owe their presence only to Christ, to whom we also owe our assured presence in the New Heavens and the New Earth. All treasures of the New Heavens and the New Earth exist by the common or redeeming grace of God in Christ alone having been secured by the Spirit of God whom He sent for us and who preserves us for the glory of God the Father who sent the Son to make us His treasure. We have a treasured inheritance preserved for us in glory and we are preserved for that inheritance having been treasured by Christ who has made us His treasure and when we see Him we will declare that He is our treasure. "High King of Heaven, my treasure thou art." That is God's voice.

SPIRITUAL FRIENDSHIPS

In order to "observe the historic Christian tradition of marriage" and manage same sex attraction, the Revoice Conference proposed the path of celibacy and the establishment of "spiritual friendships" for those with same sex attractions. "Spiritual friendships" were then declared as a means to manage same sex attractions in an aesthetic relationship.  This is not God's voice.

While Biblically defined spiritual friendships--the communion of the saints and the fellowship of believers--is certainly an embraced virtue and dynamic within the Body of Christ, but this proposed quasi-covenantal relationship built around the erotic impulses of same sex attraction is more than a bad idea. It is an instrument of assured destruction for any and all who embrace it.

The Church of Jesus Christ is called to welcome sinners to hear the Gospel of saving grace and then call upon them to believe in Christ and repent of their sins, all the while reflecting Christ who is a "friend to sinners" but no "friend to sin." We are to Biblically, by the power of the Spirit, patiently love one another in the uneven and imperfect journey of sanctification by grace. Moreover, there are and should be discipleship groups designed to help believers grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ. Furthermore, at times, believers who are seeking to mortify sins they have in common gather for encouragement and accountability. But those relationships are not built around the sin but around God's grace to eradicate the sin.

Christ's church is and must be a welcoming haven for sinners. But it is also a lethal death trap for sin. Our call to love one another in Christ is not a license nor a recommendation to develop a quasi-covenantal relationship configured around any sin and certainly not around sexually addictive sins. To paraphrase the commentary of another - same sex desire is not a pet cat to be tamed. It is a man-eating tiger who will devour its naïve owner if it is not killed.

CONCLUDING THOUGHTS

Though I have restricted myself to five issues and restrained the analysis of each one to some simple Biblical, foundational perspectives, I realize this is beyond blog length. But I ask you to patiently read a few more sentences.

I was initially grateful to hear there was a conference addressing the LGBTQ+ agenda for two reasons. First, we are in the throes of a sexual revolution reflecting a tsunami-like wave of the neo-pagan world and life view of secular humanism with its insatiable sacramental pursuit of natural and unnatural sexual gratification. This revolution requires the normalization of sexual promiscuity and perversity. As one cultural analyst has said, "a cultural revolution is designed to celebrate what was once despicable and make despicable what was once celebrated." Like all revolutions, those who do not surrender will be marginalized or eliminated.  We are in such a revolution marked by sexual anarchy. Much is at stake. Therefore, a conference designed to help us with a Christian apologetic to defend the faith without being defensive and contend for the faith without being contentious is desperately needed--a conference faithful to God's Voice revealed in Scripture.

Secondly, we need a God's Voice conference that equips believers to not only speak the truth in love in the public square but also to love others with the truth through Biblically effective personal evangelism and discipleship. The Revoice Conference was not the issue. The issue was the purpose and content of the conference. I am praying that the Revoice Conference will stimulate confessionally faithful Seminaries, ministries and churches to produce a conference and publications which proclaim God's Voice and therefore, provide assets for a winsome apologetic and an effective Gospel ministry of evangelism and discipleship to both rescue those perishing in the idolatry of sexual anarchy and lovingly nurture them within the Body of Christ.

I do not question the heart motives of the Revoice Conference organizers. I am neither inclined nor equipped to do so. However, I do question their proposals. Revoice was overwhelmingly not God's voice found in God's Word.  But we do need to know God's voice on these issues. There will be no place to hide in this sexual revolution and there are men and women being deceived into death by the LGBTQ+ agenda and message that we must reach with the Gospel.

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, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, not swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.  Corinthians 6: 9-11


*This post originally appeared at the Gospel Reformation Network. It is used here with permission. 

[Editorial Note: This is the tenth post in a series of posts in which we have invited the authors of "The Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel" to expound upon the statement's affirmations and denials. We encourage our readers to take the time to read through our prefatory editorial note at the beginning of the first post prior to reading through subsequent posts in the series.]

Article 10:

Sexuality and Marriage

WE AFFIRM that God created mankind male and female and that this divinely determined distinction is good, proper, and to be celebrated. Maleness and femaleness are biologically determined at conception and are not subject to change. The curse of sin results in sinful, disordered affections that manifest in some people as same-sex attraction. Salvation grants sanctifying power to renounce such dishonorable affections as sinful and to mortify them by the Spirit. We further affirm that God's design for marriage is that one woman and one man live in a one-flesh, covenantal, sexual relationship until separated by death. Those who lack the desire or opportunity for marriage are called to serve God in singleness and chastity. This is as noble a calling as marriage.

WE DENY that human sexuality is a socially constructed concept. We also deny that one's sex can be fluid. We reject "gay Christian" as a legitimate biblical category. We further deny that any kind of partnership or union can properly be called marriage other than one man and one woman in lifelong covenant together. We further deny that people should be identified as "sexual minorities"--which serves as a cultural classification rather than one that honors the image-bearing character of human sexuality as created by God.

Article X of the Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel encapsulates two thousand years of basic Christian belief on the nature of sexuality and marriage. For the vast majority of generations of Christians down through the ages there would be nothing at all controversial about these assertions, and past generations would have wondered why we even took the time to include it.

But we live in 2018 and the revolution in Western culture is undeniable. That revolution has extended to such behaviors as homosexuality or "gay marriage" or transsexualism the very status of "human rights," so they must be addressed by any statement speaking to the topic of justice in light of biblical norms and revelation.

In direct contrast to the spirit of the age the statement affirms the goodness of the so-called "male-female binary." Maleness is not something that is "toxic," but something good and right and necessary in God's design. Likewise to be a female is to be created by God with a good, proper, and beautiful purpose. Rather than being ashamed at being so "backward," we should be openly celebrating these good elements of God's creation.

We do not show love to confused, or even rebellious, individuals who transgress God's creative categories of male and female. Though a tiny percentage of people are genetically impacted by medical conditions that lead to gender ambiguity, the vast bulk of "transsexuality" is a matter of the mind and heart, not the body. But our gender is determined by God's will in our creation, and is not subject to alteration based upon our feelings, wants, or desires. There has rarely been a time in history when mankind has displayed such an open and wanton rebellion against God's right to rule over humanity than in the modern transsexual movement.

In the same vein God has the right, as Creator, to not only make His creatures male and female, He has the right to determine the proper parameters within which that divinely-ordained sexuality is to be expressed. Due to the fall of man into sin, some experience disordered and confused attractions for the same sex. A small percentage experience these desires from their earliest memories, while the large majority are impacted by later sexual experiences resulting in a disturbance of normal sexual desire. The consistent teaching of Scripture is that homosexual behavior is opposed to God's will and destructive of human flourishing. The Apostle Paul identified numerous sinful behaviors in writing to the church at Corinth, among them the sin of homosexuality, but then he wrote, "and such were some of you, but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God" (1 Corinthians 6:11). The verb is inarguably past-tense which is why the Statement, in the denial portion, rejects the terminology of "gay Christian." As offensive as it is to cultural elites today, the Bible offers hope in the gospel to those who will repent and seek God's ways with their whole heart.

If God, as Creator, fashions mankind as male and female, and then orders the expression of that sexuality as He sees fit, it follows necessarily that His institution of marriage is the logical outcome of the preceding exercises of His divine rights. Marriage is, in fact, a divine institution, biblically revealed to have been designed by, and established by God directly without human cooperation or assistance. No governmental entity existed when God ordained marriage, and, therefore, no later governmental institution has the right to alter, change, or make void, that institution. It is rooted firmly in the created order of male and female, is oriented toward the fulfillment of both the man and woman, together, and toward the raising up of families with children who have in their parents models of how they should live in the future. There can be no question that the most radical and foundational changes in Western culture that have led to the greatest denigrations of human dignity all stem from the collapse of a culture-wide focus upon the sanctity and propriety of Christian marriage as taught in the pages of the Bible.

The truly radical nature of the revolution in morality and ethics sweeping Western culture today is seen most fully in the adoption of so-called "same-sex marriage," a phrase that would have puzzled every generation of humanity globally only a few decades ago. It is, of course, a massive redefinition of the term and the institution based upon a revolution in worldview. Utter human autonomy is now the watchword of the social elites, so that any person is what they think themselves to be. The resulting moral and ethical chaos is all around us. Biological males using bathrooms for women resulting in children either living in fear using the facilities or simply having to "wait to get home." Female athletes left panting in a distant second and third by a "transgender female" who is actually biologically male winning the gold medal in record fashion. Children being adopted into same-sex families, purposefully being denied the model of a father and a mother in relationship to one another. Surgical and chemical mutilation of healthy bodies of both little boys and girls all because of either real (and rare) gender confusion or due to "copy cat" socially-encouraged experimentation. Parents refusing to "gender" their children but to "leave it to them to figure out." Governmental entities allowing for birth certificates with "other" as a gender option. The proper, good societal roles of mothers and fathers mocked and ridiculed and identified as being "backward." The list goes on and on and on. Each society that embraces these revolutionary concepts finds it impossible to stop the acceleration into utter moral and ethical anarchy.

The source of all of this chaos--chaos that is damaging to human happiness and flourishing? As the Statement puts it, it is a refusal to "honor the image-bearing character of human sexuality as created by God." Our secular age has rejected the Creator and therefore has no room for "image-bearing" or transcendent value or objective truth. The downward spiral only spins more tightly as it descends to disaster. God's Word calls us to the upward spiral of life that is based upon the gospel and God's revelation of His purposes in creation. The Scriptures are clear and compelling in their teaching in this vital area, and we would do well to pay very close attention and heed their admonitions.

Rebirth of the Gods: The Sexual Revolution

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The presupposition of our world right now is that we create our own identities and our own values. Therefore, if you make a statement of judgment, that's seen as a personal attack. It's a very delicate place to be as a Christian; if we make any kind of statements, we are dismissed as being hate-filled.

Behind all this is the attack on the binary. Stanford University offers a course entitled "Destroying Dichotomies: Exploring Multiple Sex, Gender and Sexual Identities." Two lesbians write an article, "Can We Put an End to the Gender Binary?" This is, of course, the notion that is currently driving our culture in terms of sexuality. A short time ago, a public school department in Texas sent a message to its schoolteachers, telling them they must no longer refer to children as boys and girls. What's going on here? It's the abolition of the binary. And so our culture, which was based on the binary--God creating the world separate from himself and putting distinctions within his creation--is now under massive attack in a deliberate attempt to get rid of any notion of distinction...in order that we can never again remember God as distinct from us.

People like Hugh Hefner and Alfred Kinsey concurrently attempted to destroy the binary by changing how we view sexuality. At the time of his Hefner's death, his son described his father's achievement thusly: "My father was a leading voice, advocating free speech, civil rights and sexual freedom." Piers Morgan, after being invited to an event at the Playboy Mansion, said "It was the nearest thing to a Caligula-style Roman orgy I have ever experienced."1 We're back to Rome. We're back to the Roman orgies and that's seen as good. It's viewed as sexual liberty, and that's what the culture now looks forward to.

I met a brilliant German intellectual named Gabriele Kuby during a trip to Korea in 2017. Kuby, a radical feminist and atheists during the 1960s, helped bring about the so-called Sexual Revolution. But then she became a Christian. Kuby argues in her book, The Global Sexual Revolution, that this movement started with a student rebellion and is now a revolutionary cultural agenda of the world's power elites that rejects any standards of sexual morality as it attempts to create a new human being. It is aimed at a person's innermost moral structure. A person who is sexualized from childhood is taught that it is right to live out all of your instincts without reflection, and that it is wrong for you to set boundaries for those instincts.

When I was a student during the 1960s, I noticed the liberation of heterosexuality. But now we're seeing the liberation of homosexuality, which offers a brilliant way of proposing and encouraging one-ism. Because everything is basically the same, we cannot and should not make clear gender distinctions. Morally, you cannot say that one is better than the other.

The whole revolution of non-binary thinking has received a powerful expression through this homosexual movement. In 1970, most of us didn't know that the Gay Revolution Party Manifesto said, "The Gay Revolution will produce a world in which all social and sensual relationships will be gay, and in which homo and heterosexuality will be incomprehensible terms." And we are moving now, are we not, into this time of a gender-free society, with sex any way you want to practice it? Queer theory insists that all sexual behaviors and identities and all categories are normative. It insists that "deviate sexualities" are just social constructs, and the idea of sexuality as an essential, biological, and eternally-objective category is wrong.

This is the world in which we are to proclaim the gospel. These are the ways that our eternal foe is changing the way we think about existence. And it has led to a surprising development: we have begun to enter into what some intellectuals describe as a "post-secular" world. We've gone beyond two extremisms--the extremisms of theism and atheism. According to our philosophers, we don't want extremism, so there's only one middle ground where we can land: pantheism.

This view of existence is now being proclaimed as the coming together of secular humanism and religious paganism. I recommend Richard Tarnas's The Passion of the Western Mind. Tarnas talks about a new synthesis: the union of atheistic humanism and spirituality. The latter includes platonic and pre-Socratic philosophy, hermeticism, mythology, the mystery religions, Buddhism, Hinduism, Gnosticism and the major esoteric religions, and neolithic European and Native American spiritual traditions. All of this is gathering now on the intellectual stage, in Tarnas's view, as if for some kind of climactic synthesis. The intelligentsia--who once rejected all these kinds of approaches as simplistic and not worthy of the human mind--are now adopting these spiritual methods as a means of putting our world back together again. As Tarnas observes, "The deep passion of the Western mind has been to reunite with the ground of its being; that is the birthing womb of Mother Nature."

The elevation of Mother Nature: that is the great synthesis where anti-Christian, anti-biblical thinking plans to arrive. Recall Melanie Phillips: "The attack on Western civilization, at its most profound level, is an attack on the creed that lies at the very foundation of that civilization." Coming from a Jewish woman, Phillips's next words are astounding: "That creed that must be eliminated is that of the first line of the Apostles Creed: 'I believe in God the Father Almighty, the Maker of Heaven and Earth.'"

1. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4929898/PIERS-MORGAN-Hef-King-Sex-champion-freedom.html


Dr. Peter Jones is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and is the Executive Director of truthXchange. He is the author of One or Two: Seeing a World of Difference

*This is the third post in a series on new paganism