Thursday, August 2, 2018
Thursday, Aug 2, 2018
This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
It's Thursday, August 2nd, 2018. I'm Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
A house built upon the sand: Revoice, LGBT identity, and biblical Christianity
The chaos and confusion which are the inevitable products of the sexual revolution continue to expand, and the challenges constantly proliferate. The LGBTQ plus revolution, as it's known, has long been the leading edge of the expanding chaos, and by now the genuinely revolutionary nature of the movement is fully apparent.
The normalization of the behaviors and relationships and identities included, at least for now, in the LGBTQ plus spectrum, will require nothing less than turning the world upside down. This revolution requires a total redefinition of morality, cultural authority, personal identity, and more. The revolution requires a new vocabulary, and a radically revised dictionary.
Ultimately, the moral revolutionary seek to redefine reality itself, and this revolution has no stopping point. That plus sign at the end of LGBTQ plus is a signal of more challenges sure to come. Just a few days ago, a conference was held in St. Louis, known as the Revoice Conference, it was advertised as quote, "Supporting, encouraging, and empowering gay, lesbian, same-sex attracted, and other LGBT Christians so they can flourish while observing the historic Christian doctrine of marriage and sexuality." End quote.
Usually conferences don't make news in and of themselves, but this one did. The name of the conference was no accident. The organizers are calling for a re-voicing of the Evangelical message on issues of sexuality, sexual identity, and beyond.
The organizers were very clear in stating that they quote, "Envision a future Christianity where LGBT people can be open and transparent in their faith communities about their orientation and/or experience of gender dysphoria, without feeling inferior to their straight, cisgender brothers and sisters, where churches not only utilize, but also celebrate the unique opportunities that lifelong celibate LGBT people have to serve others where Christian leaders boast about the faith of LGBT people who are living a sacrificial obedience for the sake of the Kingdom, and where LGBT people are welcomed into families, so they too can experience the joys, challenges, and benefits of kinship." End quote.
Now, as I discussed on The Briefing in June, the leaders of this conference indicated, quote, "We believe that the bible restricts sexual activity to the context of a marital covenant, which is defined in the bible as, 'The emotional, spiritual, and physical union of a man and a woman that is ordered toward procreation.'" End quote.
They acknowledge that these convictions constitute what was identified as the traditional sexual ethic, because as they said, "It represents the worldview that the bible consistently teaches across both the Old and New Testaments, and that Christians have historically believed for millennia." End quote.
That's to say that the organizers of Revoice intentionally identified with great tradition Christianity. That's a recognition of a constant pattern of Christian teaching throughout more than 2,000 years. The principle organizer of the conference, Nate Collins, told Christianity Today, quote, "We all believe that the bible teaches a traditional historic understanding of sexuality and marriage, and so we are not attempting in any way to redefine any of those doctrines. We're trying," he said, "to live within the bounds of historic Christian teaching about sexuality and gender, but we find difficulty doing that for a lot of reasons." End quote.
Well actually, the signals sent by many involved in the conference are a bit confusing, to say the least. In recent years, some in the Evangelical world have urged references to Side A and Side B Christians who identify as LGBTQ. Side A refers to those who have abandoned the historic Christian teaching about sexuality and marriage, and now affirm, amongst other things, same-sex relationships and same-sex marriage. The Side A advocates are more associated with liberal Protestant denominations that long ago abandoned biblical orthodoxy, and now preach the sexual revolution.
Side B, on the other hand, refers to those who identify as both LGBTQ and Christian, and who affirm the traditional Christian ethic on sexuality and marriage. Revoice seems clearly to identify as Side B, but some of the main organizers and speakers gladly join in common efforts with Side A advocates. LGBTQ identity bind Side A and Side B advocates together.
We should also note that Revoice did not have much of a clear voice on transgender questions. It's not at all clear, for example, what in the leaders mind, celibacy or a commitment to the historic doctrine of marriage and sexuality is supposed to mean for the T in LGBT. Even the use of LGBT in this context is impossible to square with what they identify as the historic Christian teaching about sexuality and gender.
Gregory Coles, author of the book Single, Gay, Christian was worship leader for the conference. In his book, he raises the scenario of two women who identify as Christians. One a lesbian married to a woman, and the other a straight Christian who says she believes in the biblical ethic restricting sex to marriage between a man and a woman, but who is promiscuous in a series of heterosexual relationships.
Coles then writes, quote, "Theologically, I am more in agreement with the second friend, but whose life is most honoring to God? Who really loves Jesus more? Who am I more likely to see in heaven? I don't know." End quote.
Well, of course that's a strange scenario. The biblical answer would be that both women are living in sinful violation of scripture. Earlier in the book, Coles spoke of being in a room that included some who identified as Side A, and some who identified as Side B, as Coles does. But his description of the predicament is telling.
When asked to identify as Side A or Side B, Coles writes, quote, "I didn't want to be reduced to a simple yes or no. I wanted a new side, something further along the alphabet. Something full of asterisks, and footnotes, and caveats. I've never been fluent," he said, "in the language of binaries." End quote.
Several issues press for immediate attention. One is the identification of people as LGBT Christians, or gay Christians. This language implies that Christians can be identified in an ongoing manner with a sexual identity that is contrary to scripture. Behind the language is the modern conception of identity theory, that is in the end, fundamentally unbiblical.
The use of the language of sexual minorities is a further extension of identity theory and modern critical theory and analysis. In this context, sexual minority simultaneously implies permanent identity and a demand for recognition as a minority.
As Kevin DeYoung rightly noted, "The use of this language implies a political status." The larger problem is the idea that any believer can claim identity with a pattern of sexual attraction that is itself sinful. The Apostle Paul answers this question definitively when he explains in 1 Corinthians 6:11, "Such were some of you, but," writes Paul, "by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, you were washed. You were sanctified. You were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the spirit of our God."
There have been Christian believers throughout the entire history of the church who have struggled with same-sex temptation, and who have come to know that pattern of temptation is what we now understand is a sexual orientation. Whatever the language we choose to use, Christians do understand that some people come to know a pattern of temptation and sexual attraction that is directed towards others of the same sex.
In his book All But Invisible, Nate Collins argues that the most important element in same-sex orientation is its givenness. By that, he means that it is an orientation or a pattern of attraction that is not chosen, but discovered. Given this in a fallen world does not mean that the orientation, the same-sex attraction itself, is not sinful. The bible identifies internal temptation as sin.
As Denny Burk and Heath Lambert argue, "Same-sex attraction, not just homosexual behavior, is sinful. We are called to repent both of sin and of any inner temptation to sin." "The issues here are bigger than sexuality," as Denny Burk and Rosaria Butterfield rightly explain. "We confront here a basic Evangelical disagreement with Roman Catholicism. Ever since the Council of Trent 1545 to 1563, the Roman Catholic church has insisted that involuntary incentive to sin is not itself sin."
In the most amazing synods, the Council of Trent declared, quote, "This concupiscence, which the apostles sometimes call sin, the Holy Synod declares that the Catholic church has never understood it to be called sin." End quote.
Don't miss the acknowledgement that the Doctrine of Trent is contrary to the language of the apostle. Furthermore, remember that Roman Catholic theology includes both infant baptism and baptismal regeneration, meaning that Evangelicals and Catholics have fundamentally divergent understandings of both justification and sanctification.
John Calvin referred to concupiscence as, "Depraved and at variance with rectitude." In this verdict, Calvin was joined by other Protestants and the New Testament. Just think of the language of the historic Book of Common Prayer, praying and repentance for the devices and desires of our own hearts. Surely, the mortification of sin required of Christians would demand that we put as much distance as possible between ourselves and any temptation to sin. Just see Romans 8:12-13.
In the interview with Christianity Today just prior to the conference, Nate Collins attempted to respond to criticisms by insisting, as he does in his book, that sexual orientation and same-sex attraction are not always erotic, but can be celebrated as aesthetic and relational. He affirms that same-sex sexual attraction is sinful, but he argues that sexual orientation is not necessarily erotic, but centered in quote, "The perception and admiration of personal beauty." End quote.
In his book, he refers to this as an, "aesthetic orientation," a term he conceives as his own. Wesley Hill, another speaker at Revoice, is a major proponent of spiritual friendships, as they are called, within LGBT identity. He has written, "Being gay is for me, as much a sensibility as anything else. A heightened sensitivity to and passion for same-sex beauty." End quote.
Same-sex attraction is not limited to sexual orientation, but it strains all credibility to argue that this aesthetic orientation can be non-sexual. Considered more closely, the aesthetic orientation actually appears to be even more deeply rooted in a sinful impulse. Aesthetic attractions are as corrupted by sin as the sexual passions, to put the matter bluntly. Are we to affirm that an aesthetic orientation towards the same sex is pure and blameless, and non-sexual? This would be a severe pastoral malpractice.
Speakers at Revoice pointed to Ruth and Naomi, and Jonathan and David from the Old Testament as examples, but in both cases, the relationship was clearly and definitively neither erotic nor aesthetic, and references to them in this light are deliberately misleading. The spiritual friendship model related to LGBTQ identity is just not compatible with an Evangelical biblical theology, even if Catholics can eagerly affirm the idea.
What a newly claimed prophetic role reveals about the ideology of sexual revisionists
In one of the more astounding moments of Revoice, Nate Collins read from Jeremiah 15, and then asked, "Is it possible that gay people today are being sent from God like Jeremiah?" He spoke of a prophetic call or a mission that God had given to LGBTQ Christians quote, "To shed light on contemporary false teachings and even idolatries, not just the false teaching or the progressive sexual ethic, but other more subtle forms of false teaching." He went on to say, "Is it possible that gender and sexual minorities who have lived lives of costly obedience are themselves a prophetic call to the church to abandon idolatress attitudes toward the nuclear family? Towards sexual pleasure? If so, we are prophets." End quote.
Idolatry of the nuclear family? Here we see the destabilizing power of the sexual revolution and modern critical theory at full force. It is of course, possible for human beings to idolize anything, but that is not really what is at stake in Collins' argument. He is really claiming that gay people are called to a prophetic role to correct the church for believing in the normative nature of the nuclear family.
Before pressing beyond, we should note that the term nuclear family, referring to a mother and father and their children in one household, is a fairly recent term, dating back only to the 20th century. The family, of course, is as old as Genesis. The more accurate term for describing the family is not nuclear, but natural or conjugal, and right there is the issue. What the bible reveals from Genesis 1 forward is the fact that God created human beings as male and female, both made in his image, and made for the conjugal relationship of marriage and procreation, which was the very first divine command to humankind. Just see Genesis 1:28.
Marriage, the conjugal union of a man and a woman is revealed as God's creative purpose from the beginning. Even those men and women who do not marry are defined by the conjugal union that brought them into being, and by the normative nature of the natural family, both nuclear and extended, that is honored throughout holy scripture. The subversion of marriage in the family has been one of the most devastating results of modernity, and this very subversion is central to the ambitions of the sexual revolutionaries.
In his book, Collins identifies heteronormativity as a central problem in both secular society and the church. He says quote, "It's one thing to say that the only kind of sexual expression permitted by scripture is the heterosexual pattern. It's another thing," he says, "to say that heterosexual orientations as they are embedded in our fallen world, are not sinful in themselves, because they match the general creational pattern." End quote.
That is simply wrong. Every human being past puberty is a sexual sinner of some form, but the attraction of a man to a woman completed in the conjugal union of marriage is precisely what the bible reveals as the general creational pattern. Furthermore, in Romans1:26-27 the Apostle Paul refers to same-sex passion and activity as contrary to nature, thus the rejection of that general creational pattern.
After the fall, all human beings are born sinners and fall short of both the glory of God and to the clear testimony of creation, but the creational pattern itself is not sinful. The New Testament presents the church as the family of faith, made of all those adopted by God through Christ, thus all believers are brothers and sisters in one household of faith. Furthermore, the New Testament explicitly honors celibacy, which by the way, only makes sense against the background of normative marriage and family life.
But that celibacy is chaste in form, and directed towards gospel deployment. See 1 Corinthians 7:1-8. Collins rightly calls on congregations to leave no member without inclusion and family life, a searing indictment of many congregations, to be sure. Similarly, Rosaria Butterfield has underlined the priority of gospel hospitality among Christians, but denouncing what are identified as idolatress attitudes toward the nuclear family is a claimed prophetic role for those who identify as LGBTQ Christians, reveals just how far the ideology of the sexual revisionists has reached even within American Christianity.
The relativizing of the natural conjugal family represents what Malcolm Muggeridge called the, "great liberal death wish." It stands in direct contradiction to the mandate given by God in Genesis 1:28. The Great Commission expands that mandate, it does not reverse it.
Even before the conference began, notice was given of a session entitled Redeeming Queer Culture and Adventure. Even the description of this session was astounding. Quote, "For the sexual minority seeking to submit his or her life fully to Christ and to the historic Christian sexual ethic, queer culture presents a bit of a dilemma. Rather than combing through and analyzing which parts are to be rejected, or redeemed, or to be received with joy, Christians," this statement continues, "have often discarded the virtues of queer culture along with the vices, which leaves culturally connected Christian sexual minorities torn between two cultures, two histories, and two communities."
The description continues, quote, "So questions that have until now been largely unanswered remain. What does queer culture, and specifically queer literature and theory, have to offer us who follow Christ? What queer treasure, honor, and glory will be brought into the new Jerusalem at the end of time?" Then the statement cites Revelation 21:24-26.
Well, putting the pieces together becomes clear that Revoice and its organizers would rewrite the meta-narrative of scripture so that creation before the fall is not heterosexual in orientation, and can even include same-sex aesthetic orientation, as they call it. The fall is limited in its extent related to our sin nature. Redemption does not mean that the new creature in Christ will break from identity with sin, and the new creation will include, in their words, quote, "treasure, honor, and glory from queer culture."
There's another big issue embedded in that session description. Note the mention of, "culturally connected Christian sexual minorities." At first glance, that might seem to mean something like a connection to the culture at large, but in the language of the LGBTQ community, it means connection to queer culture. The culturally connected Christian sexual minority, watch every word carefully, is as the statement emphasizes, "torn between two cultures, two histories, and two communities."
That means we should note, torn between queer culture and the church. To state the matter clearly, that is unstable, unfaithful, unworkable, unbiblical, and impossible. This returns us to the issue of sexual identity and Christian identity once again. A Christian who has been identified as LGBTQ will certainly pray for and be concerned for the conversion of friends in the very same community. We can pray that personal friendships and Christian hospitality can lead to gospel advance among those friends and the LGBTQ community.
But the identity of a Christian cannot be with any culture, defined in its essence by the rejection of God's design and command. Though that language has received scant attention, it is among the most important associated with the conference. The issue of language arises again, and again, and again. In his main address to the conference, Nate Collins lamented, "I'm tired. I'm tired of people saying I'm using the wrong words. I'm tired of people saying I'm not using enough of the right words."
In his interview with Christianity Today, Collins conceded that some of the language used on the website for the conference was seen as revealing a slippery slope ethically, but he defended even the language, nonetheless, by saying, "Right now, the conversation on LGBT issues and gender, sexuality, and Evangelicalism is fragmented. There's a lot of groups of people that use language in very specific ways," he said, "that makes sense to them, but doesn't make sense to people outside of their tribe."
Later he said, quote, "We're just trying to make space for people for whom the language they use is meaningful in terms of how they are trying to reconcile their gender and sexuality with their faith." End quote. At one very strange level, that is an open admission that the self-expressive language of many in the Revoice community reflects a movement influx and in motion even in language.
References to queer culture are not accidental, and the language in the conference is clear enough. Revoice represents an attempt to build a halfway house between LGBTQ culture and Evangelical Christianity. They want to define what they mean by Side B, when the LGBTQ culture is unambiguously Side A.
We should take the organizers of Revoice at their word and hear what they are saying. We should lament the brokenness, and understand the many failings of the Christian church toward those who identify with the LGBTQ community. But we dare not add yet another failure to those failures. We cannot see Revoice as anything other than a house built upon the sand. Revoice is not the voice of faithful Christianity.
The full text in my essay is available at AlbertMohler.com, entitled “Torn Between Two Cultures: Revoice, LGBT Identity, And Biblical Christianity.”
Enforced secularism in the nation’s capital: Appeals court rules transit system can ban religious speech in ads
On Tuesday, a very interesting story came out of Washington DC. As the Washington Post reported, quote, "The Washington region's transit system can bar religious messages on its buses and trains and in its stations. That according to a ruling by a panel of a Federal Appeals Court on Tuesday as it upheld the organization's policy prohibiting issue-oriented advertisements."
Anne E. Marimow reporting for the Post tells us, "The ruling in Metro's favor from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit came in response to a lawsuit from the Archdiocese of Washington," that's the Roman Catholic Archdiocese, "which said the transit system's policy had gone too far in rejecting its religious themed ad campaign."
Well, a closer look at the issue reveals that the ad that was turned down by the Washington Regional Metro Transit System that was offered by the Archdiocese of Washington, actually only had the words, "Find the perfect gift." It included the hashtag, #perfectgift and the website, findtheperfectgift.org. It also pictured three shepherds and two sheep and a star, but according to the Washington Metro System, that was simply a message that was far too religious. They turned it down, and the Catholic Archdiocese sued.
It's also interesting to note that the Appeals Court decision came down from a three judge panel. Two of the judges agreed, even though they offered concurring opinions, and the third judge did not participate, precisely because he has just been nominated to the United States Supreme Court. That would be the third judge on the panel, Judge Brett Kavanaugh.
The two judges on the panel upheld the policy of the Metro, stating that quote, "Advertisements that promote or oppose any religion, religious practice, or belief are prohibited." End quote.
Now, it's interesting to note that the Metro has been sued by the American Civil Liberties Union, People For The Ethical Treatment Of Animals, an abortion provider, and controversial authors, among others. But here we seem to have a government or quasi-government entity that is so afraid of controversy, that it has created a controversy precisely because of its enforced secularism. It isn't allowing secular statements against religion or against God, it isn't allowing any religious expressions whatsoever.
It's also of note that both sides in this particular case pulled out top legal talent. The main attorney representing the Archdiocese of Washington was Paul D. Clement, a former Solicitor General of the United States. On the other side was yet another former Solicitor General, Donald B. Verrilli Junior. It was Clement who served under President George W. Bush, and Verrilli who served under President Barack Obama. It's not surprising that those two former Solicitors General were found on opposing sides, the specific opposing sides, of this controversy.
One of the two judges went so far as to argue that the Archdiocese of Washington might have been able to run an ad if all they were attempting to do is to encourage charitable giving, but that requires a certain form of judicially enforced speech, and what we have here is a clear example of what happens when a government or a quasi-government agency actually serves the secular agenda by refusing, supposedly, to deal with religious content at all. It's very telling that in this case, the language that was supposedly offensive came down to the words simply, "find the perfect gift."
Looking at the main decision handed down by the court, it would appear that the religiously offensive content was not so much the words about the perfect gift, but rather the bare silhouettes of three shepherds and two sheep. Judge Judith Rogers wrote that the imagery in the ad is quote, "Evocative, not of the desirability of charitable giving, but rather the saving grace of Christ." End quote.
Seriously? All that from the silhouette of a star, three shepherds, and two sheep? The Archdiocese has indicated that it is considering an appeal to the United States Supreme Court, and I certainly hope that happens. I'd hope the Supreme Court has to face the question of the one star, three shepherds, and two sheep.