PCA: Report of the Ad Interim Committee on Human Sexuality

So GCC began delving into this report as a Sunday School topic, for a few weeks. It is a report formulated and presented in the 48th General Assembly of PCA. The report was done by 7 prominent figures of which Tim Keller & Kevin DeYoung were part of. Keller and DeYoung discussion were also presented in the report: https://livestream.com/accounts/8521918/events/9731338/videos/223474749

12 Statements in the report and we've done up to 6th Statement as of now. This report is basically on the conservative side and deals primarily against the problem heated by the Revoice Conference that was not of PCA but hosted by a PCA church. Concupiscence is touched on as well, announcing Roman Catholics' support of it, rebuked. People linked to Revoice and also Tim Keller is Scott Sauls, who appears to be struggling back and forth while still act as if Tim Keller is still his mentor. It's hard for him to fix his own objection to the Nashville Statements' 7th Article: We Deny that adopting a homosexual or transgender self-conception is consistent with God's holy purposes in creation and redemption.

Krista Bontrager of TheologyMom gave a thorough review of all these:

Changedmovement.com and Andrew Comiskey were mentioned by Krista to better contrast the party that turn same-sex attraction into identity (product of fallen but not sinful in itself unless acted upon - concupiscence) rather than sin to be liberated from.

Rev. Jon Payne gave a gratified response to the report:

I do wonder where are those within the denomination who fervently object to this report, because Scott Sauls' seem to have tumbled, trying to argue his way left and right, wanting to object but at the same time, perhaps because Tim Keller's name was on it, Sauls found himself hitting a wall.

Peter Jones on the other hand, criticized the report from the other side. Jones was right on protecting the natural order and creativity of God...

as Paul says in Romans 1:26, it is “unnatural.” It is not “unnatural” just because most people don’t understand it or don’t identify as homosexuals. It is unnatural because it is out of order with the physical cosmos as God made it. It is thus both a rejection of the natural world and of God himself

Jones emphasizes on the otherness of God. Contrasting the otherness between creator and creature, between humans and animals, between male and female, man and woman. This is the essence in apologetics against the attack of the group that promotes "same-ness" against the foundation of God's creation. Against the true beauty and attractiveness of sex and gender.

I still need time to process all these, but certainly, not with the attitude of one lady who tried to confront our pastor last Sunday School on this with the judgment: Did you guys do Romans? Romans answers all of these. Such shallow, almost charismatics/non-denominational childishness is what a part of reports like this are trying to do away with.

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2 Responses to PCA: Report of the Ad Interim Committee on Human Sexuality

  1. Pingback: Impeccability of Christ? | My Journal

  2. timlyg says:

    Considering the Twelve Statements on Human Sexuality (Part 1 of 2)
    June 15, 2020 by cavman

    After the Preamble, the PCA Report on Human Sexuality makes 12 summary statements. Before I address the actual statements, I’d like to say that the order of the Report is a bit frustrating to me at times. The Report makes these summary statements before it spends any time defining and explaining terms used in the summary statements. At times I’m not sure they define the terms sufficiently, or at least in terms to the tensions in my mind. But in the Twelve Statements there are times I ask myself “what do they mean by that, in which sense?”.

    As I noted from the Preamble, each of these Statements address each of the two fears: compromise & cruelty. They defend the Biblical doctrine first, and then address the pastoral nuances necessary so we aren’t correct but cruel. We don’t want to break bruised reeds or snuff out smoldering wicks. We want to be clear about sin (a want of conformity unto or transgression of the Law of God) and compassionate to justified believers struggling with same sex attraction.

    Marriage

    We affirm that marriage is to be between one man and one woman (Gen. 2:18-25; Matt. 19:4-6; WCF24.1). Sexual intimacy is a gift from God to be cherished and is reserved for the marriage relationship between one man and one woman (Prov. 5:18-19). Marriage was instituted by God for the mutual help and blessing of husband and wife, for procreation and the raising together of godly children, and to prevent sexual immorality (Gen. 1:28; 2:18; Mal. 2:14-15; 1 Cor. 7:2, 9; WCF24.2). Marriage is also a God-ordained picture of the differentiated relationship between Christ and the Church (Eph. 5:22-33; Rev. 19:6-10). All other forms of sexual intimacy, including all forms of lust and same-sex sexual activity of any kind, are sinful (Lev. 18:22; 20:13; Rom. 1:18-32; 1 Cor. 6:9; 1 Tim. 1:10; Jude 7; WLC139).

    Marriage is heterosexual and monogamous. This is obviously counter-cultural today, but it was generally understood until just over a decade ago. We are not compromising on this issue. While our culture practices same-sex marriage we don’t recognize or bless it. The statement also affirms that sexual intimacy is reserved for marriage, and only limited to those two people. Polygamy and polyamory are necessarily excluded. It also affirms marriage as an analogy of the relationship between Christ and the Church, a differentiated rather than inter-changeable relationship.

    There is a helpful footnote on the two terms used in 1 Cor. 6. These terms reflect Leviticus 18 and 20, pointing, in part, to the active and passive roles. In Roman culture, it was okay to take the male role, seen as dominating another as a “good Roman”. Those who took the female role were seen as weak, inferior. Paul does not agree with this distinction but finds both roles in same-sex activity to be contrary to the law of God.

    Nevertheless, we do not believe that sexual intimacy in marriage automatically eliminates unwanted sexual desires, nor that all sex within marriage is sinless (WCF6.5). We all stand in need of God’s grace for sexual sin and temptation, whether married or not. Moreover, sexual immorality is not an unpardonable sin. There is no sin so small it does not deserve damnation, and no sin so big it cannot be forgiven (WCF15.4). There is hope and forgiveness for all who repent of their sin and put their trust in Christ (Matt. 11:28-30; John 6:35, 37; Acts 2:37-38; 16:30-31).

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    We also need to recognize that marriage doesn’t fix people, as far too many people discovered. They still experience unwanted sexual desire, heterosexual and homosexual. Sex is also not sinless because one is married to the partner. Some sexual activity is sinful in marriage, and some attitudes in marital sex are sinful. For instance, your sexual intimacy should not degrade your partner. A marriage license doesn’t make sinful activity righteous.

    This means, as they note, that all of us are sexual sinners of some sort in need of God’s grace. All sexual sins deserve condemnation, not just same-sex activity, incest, bestiality and adultery. On the other hand, none of these sexual sins is beyond God’s mercy and grace. The gospel is for all manner of sexual sinners. There are no unpardonable sexual sins. No sinner, including homosexuals, need fear they are beyond grace if desired.

    Image of God

    We affirm that God created human beings in his image as male and female (Gen. 1:26-27). Likewise, we recognize the goodness of the human body (Gen. 1:31; John 1:14) and the call to glorify God with our bodies (1 Cor. 6:12-20). As a God of order and design, God opposes the confusion of man as woman and woman as man (1 Cor. 11:14-15). While situations involving such confusion can be heartbreaking and complex, men and women should be helped to live in accordance with their biological sex.

    God’s design in creation was two genders: male and female. They also affirm the goodness of the human body. This is a rejection of Gnosticism. If affirms that men should live as men, and women as women. They are stressing the normative in this affirmation. They are also affirming that all those who struggle with same sex desire and gender dysphoria do so as people made in the image of God. They have dignity. But the Report also recognizes that gender confusion is both heartbreaking and complex. The goal should not be to help them live out of accordance with their biological sex (transvestism, transgenderism, and gender reassignment). Thankfully it doesn’t stop there.

    Nevertheless, we ought to minister compassionately to those who are sincerely confused and disturbed by their internal sense of gender identity (Gal. 3:1; 2 Tim. 2:24-26). We recognize that the effects of the Fall extend to the corruption of our whole nature (WSC18), which may include how we think of our own gender and sexuality. Moreover, some persons, in rare instances, may possess an objective medical condition in which their anatomical development may be ambiguous or does not match their genetic chromosomal sex. Such persons are also made in the image of God and should live out their biological sex, insofar as it can be known.

    Here they add a key element that was missing from the Nashville Statement as far as I was concerned. We need to offer compassion to those “who are sincerely confused and disturbed” by gender dysphoria and who suffer from objective medical conditions. They affirm the reality of the Fall’s effect on our bodies, including sexual development and genetics. Such people are also made in the image of God. There is a recognition that doctors don’t always have the answers regarding what biological sex such a person may be. But we should help them live faithful Christian lives in light of their medical conditions.

    Original Sin

    We affirm that from the sin of our first parents we have received an inherited guilt and an inherited depravity (Rom. 5:12-19; Eph. 2:1-3). From this original corruption—which is itself sinful and for which we are culpable—proceed all actual transgressions. All the outworkings of our corrupted nature (a corruption which remains, in part, even after regeneration) are truly and properly called sin (WCF6.1-5). Every sin, original and actual, deserves death and renders us liable to the wrath of God (Rom. 3:23; James 2:10; WCF6.6). We must repent of our sin in general and our particular sins, particularly (WCF15.5). That is, we ought to grieve for our sin, hate our sin, turn from our sin unto God, and endeavor to walk with God in obedience to his commandments (WCF15.2).

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    The intention of this statement is to affirm the effects of the fall on the whole person which includes inherited guilt and depravity. The original corruption is sinful. From the context I’d say “a want of conformity to the law of God” rather than transgression. From this corruption our “actual transgressions” proceed. This will be examined more thoroughly in other sections. However, I wish they were more clear regarding which part(s) of the definition of sin they were referring to at a given point. Their distinction is “original and actual”, or corruption and transgression. I’ve generally processed this in light of the WSC instead. So, they are affirming that we are to repent from our corruption, not just our transgressions.

    Nevertheless, God does not wish for believers to live in perpetual misery for their sins, each of which are pardoned and mortified in Christ (WCF6.5). By the Spirit of Christ, we are able to make spiritual progress and to do good works, not perfectly, but truly (WCF16.3). Even our imperfect works are made acceptable through Christ, and God is pleased to accept and reward them as pleasing in his sight (WCF16.6).

    This addresses one objection I had in earlier discussions over this controversy. We are to rejoice in our salvation, not wallow in our sin thru self-flagellation. We remain corrupt, and therefore sinful. This is not true only for those with SSA, but every Christian. Our on-going sinfulness is discouraging in itself. We need to affirm the balancing truth of justification: all our sins (corruption and actual) have been pardoned. They have been crucified with Christ as well (Gal. 5). All believers, whether they experience SSA or not, need to live in light of this. They are also to remember that we are able to make spiritual progress. This is balance: real hope, realistic expectations. There is progress, not perfection. We and our works are acceptable due to Christ’s work for us. God rejoices in the progress we make, however slight. He is pleased when we resist temptation- sexual or otherwise.

    Desire

    We affirm not only that our inclination toward sin is a result of the Fall, but that our fallen desires are in themselves sinful (Rom 6:11-12; 1 Peter 1:14; 2:11). The desire for an illicit end—whether in sexual desire for a person of the same sex or in sexual desire disconnected from the context of Biblical marriage—is itself an illicit desire. Therefore, the experience of same-sex attraction is not morally neutral; the attraction is an expression of original or indwelling sin that must be repented of and put to death (Rom. 8:13).

    We affirm that due to the Fall we are inclined toward sin. It recognizes that our fallen desires are sinful, and we are back to the lack of distinction that drives me a bit crazy. In counseling I want to be able to say enough but not too much. It is inaccurate and defeating to claim that unbidden desires are transgressions. Those desires flow from our corruption, and if entertained become transgressions in thought and possibly in act. The unbidden desires lack conformity to the law of God, and are sin in that respect.

    Illicit desires are just that, illicit. They don’t limit that to SSA but all sexual desires “disconnected from the context of Biblical marriage”. Such desires aren’t neutral precisely because they flow from our inherited corruption. In some discussions along these lines, I’ve interpreted/misinterpreted sin in this context as transgression/actual. In some discussions, others appeared to deny the sinfulness of our illicit heterosexual desires. This statement affirms they are, in fact, illicit.

    Nevertheless, we must celebrate that, despite the continuing presence of sinful desires (and even, at times, egregious sinful behavior), repentant, justified, and adopted believers are free from condemnation through the imputed righteousness of Christ (Rom. 8:1; 2 Cor. 5:21) and are able to please God by walking in the Spirit (Rom. 8:3-6).

    This balancing statement is in line with the WCF when speaking about sanctification and assurance of salvation. Real Christians experience real temptation, and commit real sins. Real Christians can experience SSA, and at times may not only transgress by lust but also by sexual activity. We are free from condemnation, but not temptation and transgression. Praise God for the active obedience of Christ imputed to us by faith.

    Concupiscence

    We affirm that impure thoughts and desires arising in us prior to and apart from a conscious act of the will are still sin. We reject the Roman Catholic understanding of concupiscence whereby disordered desires that afflict us due to the Fall do not become sin without a consenting act of the will. These desires within us are not mere weaknesses or inclinations to sin but are themselves idolatrous and sinful.

    Since this is a summary statement, they don’t really define the Roman Catholic view of concupiscence. That comes later. They do offer a brief explanation whereby our disordered desires aren’t sinful unless we also consent to them with our will. Later they will note that in Catholic theology our corruption is removed by baptism. Baptized people are “innocent”.

    We reject that notion known as baptismal regeneration. We affirm the fact that those desires are corrupt, not mere weakness.

    Nevertheless, we recognize that many persons who experience same-sex attraction describe their desires as arising in them unbidden and unwanted. We also recognize that the presence of same-sex attraction is often owing to many factors, which always include our own sin nature and may include being sinned against in the past. As with any sinful pattern or propensity—which may include disordered desires, extramarital lust, pornographic addictions, and all abusive sexual behavior—the actions of others, though never finally determinative, can be significant and influential. This should move us to compassion and understanding. Moreover, it is true for all of us that sin can be both unchosen bondage and idolatrous rebellion at the same time. We all experience sin, at times, as a kind of voluntary servitude (Rom. 7:13-20).

    The balancing statement is that we recognize that particular desires are not chosen, though they are corrupt. We affirm the complexity of causality for SSA. One of those causes is our sinful nature, but can also include being sinned against. This is true for many other sinful desires like lust, pornography and more. The actions of others, and our experiences, interact with the ever-present corrupt nature. We should not only be clear about sin, but also express compassion and understanding, particularly when there has been abuse and trauma.

    Temptation

    We affirm that Scripture speaks of temptation in different ways. There are some temptations God gives us in the form of morally neutral trials, and other temptations God never gives us because they arise from within as morally illicit desires (James 1:2, 13-14). When temptations come from without, the temptation itself is not sin, unless we enter into the temptation. But when the temptation arises from within, it is our own act and is rightly called sin.

    This affirms that there is temptation from inside and outside. The first arises from our inner corruption, and the other from trials or situations or persons. For example, my lustful temptation can arise from my sinful nature. This is in itself “sin” in terms of corruption and possibly transgression as well. Temptation can arise as a person offers me drugs or sex. I’m not guilty for that temptation unless it hooks me. These are important distinctions to make.

    Nevertheless, there is an important degree of moral difference between temptation to sin and giving in to sin, even when the temptation is itself an expressing of indwelling sin. While our goal is the weakening and lessening of internal temptations to sin, Christians should feel their greatest responsibility not for the fact that such temptations occur but for thoroughly and immediately fleeing and resisting the temptations when they arise. We can avoid “entering into”temptation by refusing to internally ponder and entertain the proposal and desire to actual sin. Without some distinction between (1) the illicit temptations that arise in us due to original sin and (2) the willful giving over to actual sin, Christians will be too discouraged to “make every effort”at growth in godliness and will feel like failures in their necessary efforts to be holy as God is holy (2 Peter 1:5-7; 1 Peter 1:14-16). God is pleased with our sincere obedience, even though it may be accompanied with many weaknesses and imperfections (WCF16.6).

    While temptation from within is corrupt (sin in that regard) we don’t want to think, well I might as well transgress. To transgress is morally different than to be tempted. While both fall into the category of sin, they are not morally equal. We shouldn’t be surprised when we experience temptation. Our goal is to weaken our temptations, to mortify them. We are to flee from them when possible. They build on Owen’s “entering into temptation” which happens when we entertain the temptation, moving along the short road to transgression. The experience of temptation should rightly drive us to grow in godliness. It should not drive us to despair, unless we have an unrealistic expectation of perfection in this life.

    When I’ve talked to people who’ve left the Church to follow their same sex desires one thing that has popped up is that the temptation never went away. Often they didn’t seek help from others as well, but they had an unrealistic expectation that temptation would disappear. Especially if they got married. Some people experience a freedom from such temptations, but most have persistent temptations for years. We need to keep how we speak in mind lest we create unrealistic expectations.

    I’ll save the rest for part two since this is a good stopping point for today.

    Response from Steve Cavallaro worth looking into:

    Considering the Twelve Statements, Part 2
    June 22, 2020 by cavman

    As we move into the second half of the 12 Statements of the PCA Report on Human Sexuality we find a little more controversy than in the first half. These statements, as we noted before, address the concerns of those afraid of theological compromise, and the concerns of those afraid of pastoral cruelty. As Arsenio Hall used to say, “Let’s get busy!”

    Sanctification

    We affirm that Christians should flee immoral behavior and not yield to temptation. By the power of the Holy Spirit working through the ordinary means of grace, Christians should seek to wither, weaken, and put to death the underlying idolatries and sinful desires that lead to sinful behavior. The goal is not just consistent fleeing from, and regular resistance to, temptation, but the diminishment and even the end of the occurrences of sinful desires through the reordering of the loves of one’s heart toward Christ. Through the virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection, we can make substantial progress in the practice of true holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord (Rom. 6:14-19; Heb. 12:14; 1 John 4:4; WCF13.1).

    This positive statement of our doctrine is right on target and expresses well what it does say. It is addressing Christians, people who’ve been justified on account of the imputed righteousness of Christ by faith. Our justification is not measured by our degree of sanctification. As people who are united to Christ we are united to Him in His death and resurrection unto new life. As people who are united to Christ, we all have a responsibility to flee immoral behavior, not just SSA. We all have a responsibility to not yield to temptation, including but not limited to SSA. This is clear. This is no “cheap grace”.

    How does this happen? Through the work of the Spirit through the ordinary means of grace. This is important. There is no special second blessing for those struggling with SSA (or porn or alcohol or…) that renders them perfectly sanctified. There are no special means just for those who suffer from SSA or gender dysphoria. The discussions will be different, but the means of grace the same.

    The people in question will want to experience less temptation, not more if the Spirit is at work in them. Christians want to sin less. And the Christians in question are no different. Their loves are being reordered. This is happening because He who begins good works in Christ brings them to completion in Christ.

    Nevertheless,this process of sanctification—even when the Christian is diligent and fervent in the application of the means of grace—will always be accompanied by many weaknesses and imperfections (WCF16.5, 6), with the Spirit and the flesh warring against one another until final glorification (WCF13.2). The believer who struggles with same-sex attraction should expect to see the regenerate nature increasingly overcome the remaining corruption of the flesh, but this progress will often be slow and uneven. Moreover, the process of mortification and vivification involves the whole person, not simply unwanted sexual desires. The aim of sanctification in one’s sexual life cannot be reduced to attraction to persons of the opposite sex (though some persons may experience movement in this direction), but rather involves growing in grace and perfecting holiness in the fear of God (WCF13.3).

    Now comes the necessary counter-balance. “Sanctification … will always be accompanied by many weaknesses and imperfections.” This is true, even when we are diligent. Though, due to the conflict between flesh and Spirit none of us is as diligent as we ought to be. In Gal. 5 Paul mentions sexual sin as one of the works of the flesh with which the Galatians were tempted. We are no different. Rare is the Christian who has no sexual temptations and struggles. To hold those with SSA to a higher and different standard than ourselves is cruel. This portion of the statement guards against such cruelty.

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    It is not soft on sin (both original and actual) by any stretch of the imagination. It is realistic about our remaining corruption. We should see progress. But the word is progress, not perfection. Due to that warring progress is often slow and uneven. The Report doesn’t fall into the trap of saying sanctification is about having heterosexual desires or getting married. It is about holiness, the growth of grace.

    I’ve seen too many comments (imply or state) that do assume that in this area real Christians don’t experience temptation, or that some switch is flipped and they become attracted to people of the opposite sex. That doesn’t happen for everyone, and by holding out false expectations (that it should, not could, happen) much damage is done.

    Impeccability

    We affirm the impeccability of Christ. The incarnate Son of God neither sinned (in thought, word, deed, or desire) nor had the possibility of sinning. Christ experienced temptation passively, in the form of trials and the devil’s entreaties, not actively, in the form of disordered desires. Christ had only the suffering part of temptation, where we also have the sinning part. Christ had no inward disposition or inclination unto the least evil, being perfect in all graces and all their operations at all times.

    There is an element of controversy here. Yes, “the incarnate Son of God neither sinned (in thought, word, deed or desire)”. The question is, “Was it possible for him to sin?”. The Report says He couldn’t. In the footnote they quote from Berkhof about the “essential bond between the human and divine natures.” This, to me sounds like mixture and close to violating the Chalcedonian formula. We still, confessionally, distinguish between the two complete natures while affirming one person. Monothelitism (one will) was condemned as well. The road of orthodoxy seems narrow between the two ditches error.

    2. The Son of God, the second person in the Trinity, being very and eternal God, of one substance and equal with the Father, did, when the fullness of time was come, take upon him man’s nature, with all the essential properties, and common infirmities thereof, yet without sin; being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the virgin Mary, of her substance. So that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures, the Godhead and the manhood, were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion. Which person is very God, and very man, yet one Christ, the only Mediator between God and man. WCF VIII

    We clearly do not believe that Jesus had a fallen nature like us. There was no sin original nor actual of His own which blemished and disqualified Him as the Lamb of God. The temptation He experienced was from outside of Himself, not due to an inward inclination to disobey. This the Report rightfully guards.

    Monophysitism (one nature) <======> Chalcedonian Orthodoxy <=====> Nestorianism (2 persons)

    Charles Hodge

    The Report reflects Kevin DeYoung’s article from 2019 on the Gospel Coalition blog which may have resulted from his work on this committee. He focuses on the work of W.G.T. Shedd. The focus is on the inability of Christ to sin. This is the majority report from the Church.

    It has been increasingly questioned in the last few hundred years, including by esteemed theologians like Charles Hodge. DeYoung notes that Shedd likely wrote in response to Hodges’ views. In his work The Person of Christ, Donald Macleod posits that Jesus was free from actual sin, and from inherent sin (corruption). This focuses on a biblical and not speculative position since he was not born of Adam.

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    The late R.C. Sproul was a PCA theologian who also surmised that Jesus, pertaining to His humanity, was able to sin while also affirming that Jesus never did.

    “But if Christ’s divine nature prevented him from sinning, in what sense did he obey the law of God as the second Adam? At his birth, Jesus’ human nature was exactly the same as Adam’s before the fall, with respect to his moral capabilities. Jesus had what Augustine called the posse peccare and the posse non peccare, that is, the ability to sin and the ability not to sin. … Satan was not trying to get God to sin. He was trying to get the human nature of Christ to sin, so that he would not be qualified to be the Savior. …. I may be wrong, but I think it is wrong to to believe that Christ’s divine nature made it impossible for him to sin. If that were the case, the temptation, the tests, and the assuming of the responsibilities of the first Adam would have all been charades. This position protects the authenticity of the human nature because it was the human nature that carried out the mission of the second Adam on our behalf.” Sproul, Truths We Confess, Vol. 1, pp. 251

    As a result, I think that asking us to affirm that Jesus could not sin, in addition to did not sin, may be an overreach. The Confession reflects the Chalcedonian Formula and doesn’t seem to directly address this issue. I agree with Sproul’s point even if I don’t like his articulation at all points. We don’t want to sound (or be) Nestorian. But Jesus was fully man as well as fully God. Not having inherited corruption, Jesus as the second Adam likely was in the same state as the first Adam. His perfect obedience for us should draw wonder and amazement (as Sproul notes on the next page) because he succeeded where Adam the first failed. A man not only had to die, but also perfectly obey. We don’t say that Jesus wasn’t able to die by virtue of the essential bond of his nature.

    Nevertheless, Christ endured, from without, real soul-wrenching temptations which qualified him to be our sympathetic high priest (Heb. 2:18; 4:15). Christ assumed a human nature that was susceptible to suffering and death.He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief (Isa. 53:3).

    They seek to emphasize the reality of Christ’s suffering in temptation and in death which makes Him perfect for being our Mediator. Hebrews wants us to know of the reality of His temptation, as well as His sinlessness, so we are encouraged to draw near to Him as our Great High Priest who alone is able to help us.

    Identity

    We affirm that the believer’s most important identity is found in Christ (Rom. 8:38-39; Eph. 1:4, 7). Christians ought to understand themselves, define themselves, and describe themselves in light of their union with Christ and their identity as regenerate, justified, holy children of God (Rom. 6:5-11; 1 Cor. 6:15-20; Eph. 2:1-10). To juxtapose identities rooted in sinful desires alongside the term “Christian”is inconsistent with Biblical language and undermines the spiritual reality that we are new creations in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17).

    This is one of the issues that arose due to the Revoice Conference and caused a stir when TE Greg Johnson stated he was a “gay Christian” on the floor of General Assembly. We’ll return to the latter reference in a moment.

    Yes, our most important identity is found in Christ. I’ve preached on this a few times in recent years, including in January and on Pentecost. We don’t cease to have other identities, but our “most important identity” is found in Christ, through our union with Him. Ordinarily we should not “juxapose identities rooted in sinful desire” as the Report states. Generally it does create confusion because it is inconsistent with biblical language. This is at least part of why I thought it was unwise for Greg Johnson to make the statement.

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    Is it always wrong to do so? You might think “yes” based on the above. However:

    Nevertheless, being honest about our sin struggles is important. While Christians should not identify with their sin so as to embrace it or seek to base their identity on it, Christians ought to acknowledge their sin in an effort to overcome it. There is a difference between speaking about a phenomenological facet of a person’s sin-stained reality and employing the language of sinful desires as a personal identity marker. That is, we name our sins, but are not named by them. Moreover, we recognize that there are some secondary identities, when not rooted in sinful desires or struggles against the flesh, that can be legitimately affirmed along with our primary identity as Christians. For example, the distinctions between male and female, or between various nationalities and people groups, are not eradicated in becoming Christians, but serve to magnify the glory of God in his plan of salvation (Gen. 1:27; 1 Peter 3:7; Rev. 5:9; 7:9-10).

    They don’t make it an absolute prohibition, as some in our denomination seek to. It is a statement that involves context- “What is that person mean by it?” TE Johnson did not mean he was a practicing homosexual. He was not making an identity statement. Earlier in his statement he made clear that he has been and is celibate. He was “being honest” about his on-going sin struggle. This is not simply some ivy tower discussion but involves men in the room. He does not “embrace it or seek to base [his] identity on it.

    We shouldn’t just go along with someone’s statement. We should ask what they mean. That should have been clear to the Assembly by the rest of TE Johnson’s comments. I understood it but unfortunately some either didn’t or refused to take those qualifiers into account. We can extend charity instead of jumping all over a brother for using a phrase we don’t like or find inappropriate. This distinctions should matter to us. Charity helps us to maintain the bond of peace while not driving strugglers into the dark. We should reject the use of shibboleths as ways to “ferret out” theological enemies. This is why I will oppose any Overtures that seek to ban phrases outright.

    Language

    We affirm that those in our churches would be wise to avoid the term “gay Christian.” Although the term “gay”may refer to more than being attracted to persons of the same sex, the term does not communicate less than that. For many people in our culture, to self-identify as “gay”suggests that one is engaged in homosexual practice. At the very least, the term normally communicates the presence and approval of same-sex sexual attraction as morally neutral or morally praiseworthy. Even if “gay,”for some Christians, simply means “same-sex attraction,”it is still inappropriate to juxtapose this sinful desire, or any other sinful desire, as an identity marker alongside our identity as new creations in Christ.

    This covers much of the same ground as the statement on identity. I agree with the wisdom of the statement. We should be wise in our use of language, keeping our context in mind. When examining another person’s language we should keep their context in mind instead of imputing our understanding. We are not deconstructionists, but hold to authorial intent.

    Nevertheless, we recognize that some Christians may use the term “gay”in an effort to be more readily understood by non-Christians. The word “gay”is common in our culture, and we do not think it wise for churches to police every use of the term. Our burden is that we do not justify our sin struggles by affixing them to our identity as Christians. Churches should be gentle, patient, and intentional with believers who call themselves “gay Christians,” encouraging them, as part of the process of sanctification, to leave behind identification language rooted in sinful desires, to live chaste lives, to refrain from entering into temptation, and to mortify their sinful desires.

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    The balancing statement recognizes that “gay” is a term more readily used and understood by non-Christians. Use of same sex attraction can create unnecessary barriers in evangelism and apologetics. They rightfully warn about turning into the language police as though we gladly lived in Orwell’s 1984. Yes, we don’t want to justify struggles with sin. We want to continue to encourage growth in sanctification.

    Friendship

    We affirm that our contemporary ecclesiastical culture has an underdeveloped understanding of friendship and often does not honor singleness as it should. The church must work to see that all members, including believers who struggle with same-sex attraction, are valued members of the body of Christ and engaged in meaningful relationships through the blessings of the family of God. Likewise we affirm the value of Christians who share common struggles gathering together for mutual accountability, exhortation, and encouragement.

    This statement reverses the order, addressing the need for compassion first. We affirm the need for healthy, God-honoring relationships. There is an admission that the Church generally struggles to honor singleness. As one who did not marry until I was in my mid-30’s it was not an act of rebellion or due to a lack of interest. God’s providence is part of marriage. I know many whom in the providence of God are not married, though they would like to be. They are not attracted to people who are attracted to them, and the ones to whom they are attracted are not attracted to them. A person with SSA may be providentially hindered from marriage. They shouldn’t “fake it”. But God can and has given some sufficient attraction to a friend of the opposite sex.

    Marriage should not be entered into wantonly, and if one person has SSA this should be discussed precisely because at some point it will matter. Most of the times I’ve known men to leave their wives, this was not disclosed prior to marriage. They thought or hoped that marriage would fix them.

    The Church needs to do a better job of enfolding single people into the life of the church. In this way people will walk with them through the ups and downs of life. There can be loving accountability in sexual issues. We can affirm common struggles. Too often people struggling with sexual issues, including SSA, can feel excluded and/or hounded as if that was the only issue of sanctification in their live. This can be due to shame on their part, or rejection on the part of others due to their struggle. They will need extra encouragement to be involved.

    Nevertheless, we do not support the formation of exclusive, contractual marriage-like friendships, nor do we support same-sex romantic behavior or the assumption that certain sensibilities and interests are necessarily aspects of a gay identity. We do not consider same-sex attraction a gift in itself, nor do we think this sin struggle, or any sin struggle, should be celebrated in the church.

    In light of the direction some in the Revoice movement have taken, this is an important counterbalance. The covenant relationship between church members is good. The covenant relationship of marriage, between one man and one woman, is good. Having something akin to a same-sex, non-sexual marriage is not good. We should not encourage “romantic” relationships even if their are promises of chastity. These relationships are driven by their inner corruption and are therefore sinful. Their longing for romance should not be satisfied with such an exclusive relationship.

    Yes, we should not consider SSA itself to be a gift, though it may be something God uses (as part of the “all things”) to make us more like Jesus (this is one of those gospel tensions). The gospel, not sin, should be celebrated in the Church and by churches. This should serve as a caution to some elements of Revoice.

    Repentance and Hope

    We affirm that the entire life of the believer is one of repentance. Where we have mistreated those who struggle with same-sex attraction, or with any other sinful desires, we call ourselves to repentance. Where we have nurtured or made peace with sinful thoughts, desires, words, or deeds, we call ourselves to repentance. Where we have heaped upon others misplaced shame or have not dealt well with necessary God-given shame, we call ourselves to repentance.

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    As you can see, this is not about the doctrine of repentance but a call to repentance on the part of the PCA and its churches. We have often stressed the sinfulness of homosexuality without also holding out hope in the gospel. They recognize that some have made peace with sin of various kinds. Honestly, some of our churches have ignored other sins much to their detriment. This is a good reminder that repentance is for us, not just those sexual sinners.

    Nevertheless, as we call ourselves to the evangelical grace of repentance (WCF15.1), we see many reasons for rejoicing (Phil. 4:1). We give thanks for penitent believers who, though they continue to struggle with same-sex attraction, are living lives of chastity and obedience. These brothers and sisters can serve as courageous examples of faith and faithfulness, as they pursue Christ with a long obedience in gospel dependence. We also give thanks for ministries and churches within our denomination that minister to sexual strugglers (of all kinds) with Biblical truth and grace. Most importantly, we give thanks for the gospel that can save and transform the worst of sinners—older brothers and younger brothers, tax collectors and Pharisees, insiders and outsiders. We rejoice in ten thousand spiritual blessings that are ours when we turn from sin by the power of the Spirit, trust in the promises of God, and rest upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life (WCF14.2).

    It ends on the note of joy for those who have repented and now struggle. Those who are obedient and chaste. We are thankful for ministries and congregations that serve those that struggle with sexual issues. We should be grateful for the realities of the gospel and the transformation it produces.

    It is my hope that the Twelve Statements unify our denomination, or rather help us to see that we are largely united on these issues. We recognize that same sex attraction and activity are sins original and actual, but that the gospel holds out the offer of forgiveness, justification & sanctification through union with Christ and therefore fellowship with God. There is hope.

    My hope, in part, is that we see that the areas of difference are not significant, should not prohibit fellowship and are not cause for schism. Let’s leave room for the church discipline of the unrepentant as we ought.

    Next we’ll move through the supporting arguments for these statements.

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