Words Matter: Revoice And The Re-Definition Of Sexuality Within Evangelicalism

Aug 18th, 2018 | By | Category: Culture & Wordview, Featured Issues

The 21st century’s sexual revolution is not about birth control, sexual promiscuity, or “free love.”  This sexual revolution argues that your identity as a human is tied to your sexuality, and in the spirit of Postmodernism, it is up to you to decide.  Gender and sexual choice are now fluid terms, which necessitate the re-definition of words, and sensitivity to the choices people make in these areas of life.  There are no absolutes when it comes to gender decisions or sexual choice.  The LGBTQIA movement is upending what for centuries was thought nailed down.

The governing question is how Christianity fits into this “revolution.”  Within evangelical Christianity, there are numerous attempts to synthesize clear biblical teaching about gender and sexuality with the tenets of the LGBTQIA movement.  One of the most dynamic attempts to do so is the Revoice movement and its key leader, Nate Collins.  [The name “Revoice” was chosen because the organizers are calling for a “revoicing” of the evangelical message on issues of sexuality and sexual identity.]  This year Revoice sponsored a major conference in St. Louis with the theme:  “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.”  The organizers promised three benefits to those who attend:

  • New Community. “Gather together with other gender and sexual minorities and those who love them and experience a new kind of gospel community.”
  • Better Conversation. “Listen to, learn from, and participate in conversations with speakers who bring a nuanced perspective to the table of discussion.”
  • Diverse Collective. “Benefit from curated presentations on a wide variety of topics related to LGBT experience and the historic, Christian sexual ethic.”

The conference was framed around three keynote speakers (Wesley Hill, Eve Tushnet, and Nate Collins) and a host of breakout speakers. Some of the breakout sessions had titles like, “Redeeming Queer Culture: An Adventure,” “Journey To Embrace: A Conversation On Empowering the Church To Embrace the LGBT+ Community In Fresh Ways,” and “Coming Out In the Shadow of the Cross: Queer Visibility as Redemptive Suffering.”  One factor of importance is that the Revoice conference was hosted at a PCA (Presbyterian Church of America) church and included a number of PCA speakers, including one of its seminary professors. [The PCA is a historically conservative denomination, but one undergoing some struggle between the theologically conservative and “progressive” camps within the denomination.]

In terms of gender and sexuality, the Revoice movement has heightened the centrality of language and terms such as “gay Christians,” “sexual minorities,” and “LGBT+ Christians.” Theologian Albert Mohler observes:  “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 revolutionaries seek to redefine reality itself. And this revolution has no stopping point. The plus sign at the end of LGBTQ+ is a signal of more challenges sure to come.”  He continues:  “The language is important, as language always is. The mission statement and website of the conference refer over and over again to ‘LGBT people’ and uses the language of ‘sexual minorities’ and even ‘queer Christians.’   The principle organizer of the conference, Nate Collins, told Christianity Today: ‘We all believe that the Bible teaches a traditional, historic understanding of sexuality in marriage, and so we are not attempting in any way to redefine any of those doctrines. We’re trying to live within the bounds of historic Christian teaching about sexuality and gender. But we find difficulty doing that for a lot of reasons.’”

The Revoice movement raises several important issues.  Mohler identifies these and offers salient comments:

  • “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.”
  • Second, 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 weresome of you. But, writes Paul by 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.”
  • Third, 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 toward 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 pattern of attraction that is not chosen but discovered. But “givenness” 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.
  • Fourth, in an interview with Christianity Todayjust prior to the conference, Nate Collins attempted to respond to criticisms by insisting 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 actually not necessarily erotic, but centered in ”the perception and admiration of personal beauty.” In his book he refers to this as an “aesthetic orientation,” a term he concedes is his own.  Wesley Hill, another speaker at Revoice, is a major proponent of “spiritual friendships” within LBGT 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 . . . .”  Mohler:  “Same-sex attraction is not limited to sexual attraction, 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?”
  • Fifth, 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 by God, like Jeremiah, to find God’s words for the church, to eat them and make them our own? To shed light on contemporary false teachings and even idolatries, not just the false teaching of the progressive sexual ethic, but other more subtle forms of false teaching? 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 idolatrous attitudes toward the nuclear family, toward sexual pleasure? If so, we are prophets.” Mohler:  “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 what is really at stake in Collins’s comment. He really claims 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 further, we should note that the term ‘nuclear family,’ referring to a father and mother and their children in one household is a fairly recent term, dating back only to the twentieth 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 onward, 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 is the very first divine command to humankind (Genesis 1:28). Marriage, the conjugal union of a man and a woman, is revealed as God’s creative purpose, from the beginning.”
  • Sixth, in his book, Collins identifies “heteronormativity” as a central problem in both secular society and the church: “It’s one thing to say that the only kind of sexual expression permitted by Scripture is the heterosexual pattern. It’s another thing to say that heterosexual orientations as they are embedded in our fallen worldare not sinful in themselves because they match the general creational pattern.”  That is simply wrong. Mohler:  “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 ‘the general creational pattern.’ Furthermore, in Romans 1:26-27 the Apostle Paul refers to same-sex passion and activity as ‘contrary to nature’ — thus the rejection of the ‘general creational pattern.’ Putting the pieces together, it 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,’ 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 ‘treasure, honor, and glory’ from queer culture.”

Denny Burk of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood writes that his concern is that Revoice exposes a significant fault-line within conservative or Reformed Christianity: “While I am grateful that so many of those on the other side of this are embracing a biblical view of marriage, I do believe that they have adopted an unbiblical view of human identity—one that treats same-sex attraction as a matter of moral indifference and homosexual orientation as an identity to be embraced.”   Indeed, Mohler concludes that “references to “queer culture” are not accidental, and the language from the conference is clear enough. “Revoice represents an attempt to build a half-way house between LGBTQ+ culture and evangelical Christianity . . .  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.”

See Tim Challies, “The Controversy Behind the Revoice Conference,” (15 June 2018), @Challies; and J. Albert Mohler Jr., “Torn Between Two Cultures? Revoice, LGBT Identity and Biblical Christianity,” at www.albertmohler.com.

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One Comment to “Words Matter: Revoice And The Re-Definition Of Sexuality Within Evangelicalism”

  1. Richard Pendell says:

    This is only a piece of a much larger effort to erase ALL divisions in nature and society: plant/animal, male/female, machine/human, living/non-living, material/spiritual, etc. NOTHING is transcendent. All is one, a very Eastern world view that promises total freedom, but has always been a path to slavery, atheism, complete loss of identity and purpose. Dressed as an “ angel of light,’ this world view is, and has always has been, a gate into the Slough of Despond. When all is one, one controls all, the Holy Grail that Satan has been after since he first entered The Garden. He will not be permitted success, but billions will be seduced in his attempt.