Revoice, or God's Voice?
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.
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.
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.
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.