Christians Should Say “No” to Revoice’s “Vocation of Yes”

Christians Should Say “No” to Revoice’s “Vocation of Yes” August 13, 2018

A lot of ink has been spilled in the evangelical blogosphere about the recently concluded Revoice conference. This conference was a gathering together of mostly same-sex attracted Christians who affirm traditional church teaching on the morality of homosexual acts, yet seek to reshape conversations about homosexuality in the church. One of its chief promoters was writer and theologian Wesley Hill, who has written books about his own personal story and co-founded the Spiritual Friendship movement. Last week, Hill wrote a report on the conference for First Things entitled “Revoice And a Vocation of Yes.” Before Hill wrote this piece, he and other Revoice organizers had already engaged in extended written back-and-forth with conservative thinkers like Al Mohler, Denny Burk, and Robert Gagnon. I would like to offer three more thoughts of my own, partly overlapping with but also adding to what’s already been said on the conservative side of these dialogues.

Wesley Hill speaks at Revoice

1. The “vocation of yes” is a slippery slope.

At the end of his First Things piece, Hill offers this summing-up of the “mantra” of Revoice in a quote from keynote speaker Eve Tushnet:

In a line that’s become a kind of mantra among Revoice attendees and presenters, the celibate lesbian Catholic writer Eve Tushnet has said: “[Y]ou can’t have a vocation of not-gay-marrying and not-having-sex. You can’t have a vocation of No.” What Revoice offers—and, please God, will go on offering for years to come—is a way of thinking Christianly about homosexuality and other non-straight sexual orientations that moves beyond enumerating the sins we’re called to renounce. Revoice is trying to pose the deeper question: To which forms of love and friendship and service are we called to say yes?

On the surface, this expresses the basic truth that people naturally desire a positive telos for their life, something that imbues life with meaning beyond self-abnegation. Unfortunately, within the framework of Revoice and the Spiritual Friendship movement, this takes the particular, pernicious form of trying to channel romantic same-sex attraction into an absolute vocational good. Tushnet has written that she feels uniquely equipped to serve women by virtue of her lesbianism, not in spite of it. This must be kept firmly in mind even as Hill and others brush aside the concern that Revoice is leading the church down a slippery slope.

Another Revoice speaker, Ray Low, also repeatedly affirmed that his orientation has conferred unique gifts and insight onto his ministerial vocation. Now a youth pastor, he spoke about how he was turned down or fired by multiple other churches. He alluded to some of the reasons in this particularly telling passage from his conference address:

You know, it’s funny how people outside of the LGBT community just love to speak for it. Some people have told me that maybe I should just not share this part of my life to the church. That I should just keep it secret, get the care that I need outside, or not bring it into my ministry. This particular church asked me if I could stop using certain words, if I would delete some of my posts. They even went so far as to ask if I would consider going to counseling for my attractions. And I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t agree to it. I couldn’t compromise myself. Why? Because the solution to decades of silence on this issue is to promote conversation, not to cover it up, to talk more and not less, and that’s exactly what I tried to do.

Notice how Low implicitly casts “the LGBT community” as his primary community, his primary group identifier. Notice also the indignation at the mere suggestion that he might consider sexual counseling. So far from viewing his persistent same-sex attractions as a burden or a cross to bear, he views them as so integral to his identity that he would be “compromising himself” by seeking counseling for them.

Revoice founder Nate Collins is married to a woman but still openly struggles with same-sex attraction. He gave a Christianity Today interview where he attempted to answer its conservative critics. On the one hand, some of his answers would seem to be in tension with Tushnet’s work. At one point, he even uses the word “disability” to refer to gay orientation and says progressives shouldn’t view it as a “gift.” On the other hand, he insists that “aesthetic appreciation” of “male beauty” must not be conflated with erotic attraction, and that a homosexual orientation towards “same-sex image-bearers” could still be celebrated and folded into a Christian’s vocational calling. See, for example, this deeply strange passage:

If I’m visiting a church and I sit next to somebody and am I interested, then I might want to strike up a conversation and perhaps invest in a friendship if we decide to join that church. That’s a very different response from if I’m walking down the street and I notice someone jogging past on a hot summer day not wearing a shirt. It’s a very different perception of beauty, and my response to that perception of beauty is going to be different. Now neither of those on the surface are intrinsically sexual, I don’t think.

This is dangerously confused talk, to say the least.

While I have some disagreements with Rosaria Butterfield, formerly an active lesbian and now a Christian convert, she has rightly analogized this insistence on retaining one’s homosexual identity to bringing home a baby tiger. You can put a collar around its neck, complete with name tag, but you are in denial if you don’t think you are playing with fire.

2. This isn’t just about homosexuality.

Revoice didn’t just position itself to shift the conversation on homosexuality. It also positioned itself to shift views about the relations between men and women. Both Burk and Mohler have already discussed a particularly eyebrow-raising quote from Collins, where he cast gay Christians in a prophetic role against the church’s “idolatry” of marriage and the nuclear family.

In addition, I would like to highlight some remarks from Matthew Lee Anderson. Anderson is himself straight and married, but he has written at length in defense of the conference, echoing Collins’s language about “marriage idolatry” and making multiple false equivalencies along the way. In his pre-conference remarks, he addressed a question about comparing and contrasting marriage and friendship:

I’ve utterly repudiated the “wife is my best friend” language. I had a strong opposition to that, in part because I want friendship to mean something, and there are certain things that I do with my wife that I don’t do with other friends. [laughter] And I think that’s a really important difference. By preserving the distinction in that way, even if nothing else, you allow yourself to speak of the world with more categories than you would have otherwise. Part of the problem with blurring these things together is you don’t gain something, you lose a concept basically. And there is obviously overlap between the kinds of love that show up in a deep friendship and the kind of love that animates a marriage…

But when we think about the actual forms and the practices, I think it’s really worthwhile thinking about those differences might be. So I will say, there are lots of conversations that I have with my wife that I would have with no one else, but there are also some conversations that I have with some friends that I don’t have with my wife. And I think that’s also sort of my way of pushing against a kind of view of marriage within evangelicalism such that your spouse is not just your best friend but also your closest confidante in every single matter, so that there can be no… no hiddenness within the marriage. And I think that’s a problem. I think there are certain conversations that I do reserve for friends. And my friendships are deepened by our mutual knowledge that we do have something in common that I don’t have in common with my [wife].

In one sense, Anderson is articulating a very familiar “hetero” idea here: Straight men have an unspoken understanding that there are some things you can discuss with “the guys” that “the wife” just won’t understand. Generally, this is a not-terribly-subtle reference to conversations of a sexual nature: sexual temptations, sexual frustrations, sexual satisfaction or the lack thereof. I think this is an unhealthy dynamic that probably deserves a post unto itself, but in any event, it’s not new news.

Unfortunately, there’s another sense in which his bolded remarks play directly into Revoice’s unapologetic agenda to push a particular kind of friendship for homosexual individuals, one that stops short of sexual engagement but is still, in some sense, “romantic.” This is particularly ironic given his sensible, immediately previous comment about keeping friendship clearly distinct from romantic love. Eve Tushnet has proposed that gay men and women in a heterosexual marriage literally take additional vows to a “close friend” of the same sex. In other words, she endorses what could fairly described as emotional polyamory. Moreover, she insists upon the wisdom and helpfulness of this idea even while admitting a straight married man shouldn’t do the same with another woman. That’s different of course, because… because.

Is Anderson not aware of this? Or does he just not care?

3. Conservative Catholics have something conservative Protestants need.

Al Mohler, in his largely spot-on analysis of the Revoice phenomenon, says that he believes we start down this slippery slope the moment we deny that same-sex attraction is sinful in and of itself. He echoes Denny Burk, Heath Lambert, Rosaria Butterfield and many other conservative Protestant thinkers in demarcating this bright line between Catholic and Protestant theologies of sex. Where evangelicals teach the sinfulness of the orientation, Catholics describe it as “disordered,” reserving “sin” for actually wallowing in lust or being sexually active.

Despite the fact that I am not Catholic, here I must register my respectful disagreement with Mohler and Co. Mohler believes Revoice is too Catholic, when in point of fact they are not nearly Catholic enough. Indeed, the Revoice conference would clearly not have proceeded as it did if all the speakers shared a firm understanding that same-sex orientation is, in fact, disordered. Here again, I’ll refer the reader to the same article by Eve Tushnet I linked above, where she talks about how all her interactions with women are inextricably linked with her lesbianism. There, she also outright rejects the phrase “intrinsically disordered” in so many words.

Whether or not you share Mohler, etc.’s particular exegetical framework for temptation and sin, evangelicals need to consider that a truly robust theology of natural law is a bulwark against precisely the descent Mohler fears. The true danger is that even the natural law is now being abandoned.

In the end, Wesley Hill, Eve Tushnet and others have a very particular agenda behind their “vocation of yes.” It seems to me that conservative Catholics and Protestants alike can unite in saying “No.”

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  • alwayspuzzled

    “a truly robust theology of natural law is a bulwark against precisely the descent Mohler fears. The true danger is that even the natural law is now being abandoned.”

    Natural law (not to be confused with the scientific laws of nature) is a totally artificial system of precepts extrapolated from some of Aristotle’s ideas by medieval Schoolmen. It is centuries past its expiration date. It may work as a life jack for some dogma-minded individuals, but it won’t stop the ship from sinking.

  • Peter Davids

    It sounds as if there are a number of different voices in Revoice, which means that it is difficult to lump them together. But some themes could get better language from historical antecedents. That one can have friendships, usually with the same sex, but sometimes with the opposite sex, in which one discusses things that one might not discuss with one’s wife (and I think in the light of the tradition it is unlikely that these are sexual, as assumed in the article) was an assumption of, for instance, the Inklings of the last century, but, more importantly, of Aelred of Riveaux (On Spiritual Friendship) and Bernard of Clairvaux. Both build on Cicero, but add a Christian dimension to Cicero. That is, what draws one to a spouse (in-love-ness, as, I think C. S. Lewis said) and what makes for spiritual friendship can be two different things. David could speak of Jonathan as a love passing the love of women, a passage used by the homosexual community only because they cannot see beyond the sexual to spiritual friendship. Now this would take a lot of words to unpack, but it may be enough to say that when the passions are involved spiritual friendship as Aelred defines it is unlikely to grow. (I might add that I was introduced to Aelred and first thought these ideas in the context of knowing a most Protestant professor at Regent College decades ago – the ideas are not new nor did I pick them up in a Catholic context, although Aelred was, of course, Catholic, which in those days would mean, Christian.)

    On the other hand, I completely agree with the distinction between disordered and sinful, for the will must be involved for there to be sin. Disordered is tempting and sinful is where one willingly engages at least to a degree in the temptation. But, that being said, remember that given original sin we are all disordered to start with, homosexual and heterosexual. Heterosexuality also suffers from disorder. Perhaps if we talked more about that disorder, one I know better as one who is heterosexual, we would have both more insight and more credibility in talking about the disordered sexuality in homosexual relationships. Marriage and sex in marriage can become an idolatry, but perhaps not quite in the way it was voiced at Revoice. This is the 50th anniversary, I believe, of Humana vitae, and it might be good to read that think through the ethical reasoning involved in that document (among others) to see how disorder invades all of our relationships, not just homosexual ones. Certainly that is where I need to begin.

  • Roger Morris

    What if – in the future – sexual orientation is found by science to be biologically and neuro-cognitively based in the same manner as whether you are right-handed or left-handed? What will the Church – including those over-confident Christians like Al Mohler – have to say, in Jesus’ name, to all of those millions of people, randomly cursed with a same-sex sexual orientation, who have desperately wanted a relationship with God as they understand it, but blocked at every turn by the lobbed grenade labels of being “sinful”? Will the Christians repent of their actions? Somehow, I think not.

  • Clifford Ishii

    The Bible say’s homosexuality is immoral and a sin. I am fine with that as a Biblical Christian

  • Illithid

    I’ve yet to see a coherent objection to homosexuality based on natural law (or anything else, actually). Sure, the primary evolved function of genitalia is reproduction. It doesn’t follow that doing other stuff with them is wrong.

  • alwayspuzzled

    “I’ve yet to see a coherent objection”
    For the Holy Oligarchs and their supporters, there is no such thing as too much control over the lives of others. Anything that contributes to that control, from their point of view, is coherent. If celibate guys parading around in medieval costumes say something is intrinsically disordered, it must be so.

  • Widuran

    What does the Bible say about homosexuality?
    By Sam Allberry

    It is a surprise to many people to discover that there are only a handful of passages in the Bible that directly mention homosexuality. Yet despite its infrequent mention, where the subject does come up, the Bible has some very important things to say about it. We need to understand them if we’re to avoid the twin mistakes of homophobia and thinking God is indifferent about how we use our sexuality.

    The first two passages that directly mention homosexuality come from the Old Testament, the other three are from the New Testament.

    1. Genesis 19
    Sodom has become so associated with homosexual conduct that its name was for many ears a byword for it. But is ‘sodomy’ really what Sodom is about?

    The account describes the men of the city attempting to forcibly have sex with two angelic visitors to the city, who have appeared in the form of men. Later parts of the Old Testament accuse Sodom of a range of sins: oppression, adultery, lying, abetting criminals, arrogance, complacency and indifference to the poor. None of these even mentions homosexual conduct. This has led some people to wonder if we have read homosexuality into the Genesis narrative, when in fact the real issue was social oppression and injustice. But a close look at the text makes it clear that homosexuality was in fact involved.

    Although the Hebrew word for “know” (yada) can just mean to “get to know” someone (rather than to “know” them sexually), it is clear from the crowd’s aggression (and Lot’s dreadful attempt at offering them his daughters as an alternative) that they are looking for much more than social acquaintance. Hence what happens next: the angels warn Lot that judgment is imminent (v.13).

    In the New Testament, Jude adds an important insight:

    …just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire. (Jude 7)

    What happened at Sodom is clearly meant to be something of a cautionary tale. Jude makes it clear that their ungodliness involved sexual immorality. They were punished for sexual sin along with the other sins of which they were guilty.

    Jude also highlights the nature of their sexual desires: they pursued “unnatural desire” (literally, unnatural “flesh”). Some have suggested that this relates to the fact that the visitors to the city were angelic; Jude references angelic sin earlier in his letter. But these angels appeared as men, and the baying crowd outside Lot’s house showed no evidence of knowing they were angelic. Their desire was to have sex with the men staying with Lot. In other words, it was the homosexual nature of their desires, and not just the violent expression of them, that is highlighted in the New Testament.

    2. Leviticus 18 & 20
    Leviticus contains two well known statements about homosexual activity:

    You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination. (Leviticus 18:22)

    If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them. (Leviticus 20:13)

    “An abomination” is often used to describe idolatry, and some suggest these verses are not condemning homosexual behaviour in general, but only the cultic prostitution connected to pagan temples. It is also often claimed that the fact that these prohibitions appear in a book full of other laws which no Christians think they are expected to follow today suggests that they should not be taken as having abiding moral relevance. But to take the first objection, the language used is not that specific; it refers to lying with a man “as with a woman,” – that is, in very general terms. Secondly, the surrounding verses in each instance describe other forms of sexual sin (such as incest, adultery and bestiality), none of which is anything to do with pagan temples or idolatry, and which we would take as being applicable to Christians today. It is moral, rather than just pagan religious behaviour that’s in view. Furthermore, Leviticus 20:13 highlights both male parties equally, again suggesting general, consensual homosexual activity (as opposed to gay rape or a forced relationship).

  • Widuran

    part 2

    3. Romans 1:18-32
    Turning to the New Testament, Romans 1 has much to say about the nature and character of homosexual behaviour.

    Paul’s aim in these early chapters is to demonstrate that the whole world is unrighteous in God’s sight, and therefore in need of salvation. In Romans 1:18-32 he zeroes in on the Gentile world, describing the way it has turned away from God and embraced idolatry. The particular details in the passage may indicate that Paul is using the Greco-Roman culture surrounding his readers as a case in point.

    Gentile society faces God’s wrath because it has suppressed the truth that God has revealed about himself in creation (verses 18-20). In the verses that follow, Paul illustrates how this has happened, giving three examples of how what has been known about God has been exchanged for something else: they exchange the glory of God for images of creatures (verse 23); the truth of God for a lie, leading to full-blown idolatry, worshipping created things (verse 25); and reject the knowledge of God (verse 28), exchanging “natural” relations for “unnatural” ones:

    For this reason God gave them up to dishonourable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. (Romans 1:26-27)

    Two important and sobering truths are apparent from these verses:

    1. Homosexual desire is not what God originally intended. This is not to say that homosexual desire is the only thing that God did not originally intend. All of our desires have been distorted by sin. But Paul does describe both lesbian and male homosexual behaviour as “unnatural.” Some have argued this refers to what is natural to the people themselves, so that what is in view is heterosexual people engaging in homosexual activity and thereby going against their “natural” orientation. According to this view, Paul is not condemning all homosexual behaviour, but only that which goes against the person’s own sexual inclinations. But this view cannot be supported by the passage itself. The words for “natural” and “against nature” refer not to our subjective experience of what feels natural to us, but to the fixed way of things in creation. The nature that Paul says homosexual behaviour contradicts is God’s purpose for us, revealed in creation and reiterated throughout Scripture.

    Paul’s reference to lesbianism as well as male homosexual conduct also supports the idea that he is condemning all homosexual activity, and not just the man-boy relationships that occurred in Roman culture.

    The strength of Paul’s language here should not make us think that homosexual conduct is the worst or only form of sinful behaviour. Paul may be highlighting it because it is a particularly vivid example, and may have been especially pertinent for his readers in Rome given their cultural context. Either way it is illustrative of something that is the case for all of us: as we reject God we find ourselves craving what we are not naturally designed to do. This is as true of a heterosexual person as of a homosexual person. There are no grounds in this passage for singling out homosexual people for any kind of special condemnation. The same passage indicts all of us.

    2. Our distorted desires are a sign that we have turned away from God. It is important to recognize that Paul is talking here in social rather than individual terms. He is describing what happens to culture as a whole, rather than particular people. The presence of same-sex desire in some of us is not an indication that we’ve turned from God more than others, but a sign that humanity as a whole has done so. It is not the only sign, and in everyone there is no doubt more than one sign or another – but it is a sign nevertheless.

    Paul writes that alongside the gospel, “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” (Romans 1:19). Though there will one day be a “day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed” (Romans 2:5), there is already a present-day expression of God’s anger against sin. We see God’s wrath in this: he gives us what we want.

    In response to the exchanges Paul has described, we see three instances of God giving us over to live in the outcome of our sinful desires. This is his present-day judgment against sin. We ask for a reality without him and he gives us a taster of it.

    In each case the “giving over” results in an intensification of the sin and the further breakdown of human behaviour. God gives humanity over to impure lusts and dishonourable bodily conduct (verse 24), and to “dishonourable passions” (verse 26). The exchanging of natural relations for unnatural leads to being given over to a “debased mind” and the flourishing of “all manner of unrighteousness” which Paul unpacks in a long list of antisocial behaviours (verse 28-31). Sin leads to judgment, but judgment also leads to further sin.

    The presence of all these sinful acts is a reminder that we live in a world which has deliberately turned away from God in all sorts of ways, and is therefore experiencing a foretaste of God’s anger and courting its final outpouring on the day of judgment. Again, homosexual activity is certainly not the only sinful act. All of us are guilty. But it listed among them as one of the ways in which human nature as a whole has been changed from what God originally intended.

    4. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10
    Paul writes:

    Or 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, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)

    In these verses Paul is describing different kinds of people who (unless they repent) will be excluded from the kingdom of God. Four kinds relate to sexual sin, and two of those specifically to homosexual behaviour. The ESV takes the latter and puts them together as “men who practice homosexuality”, while the NIV translates them as “male prostitutes and homosexual offenders”.

    The first of the two terms relating to homosexuality is malakoi, which translated literally means “soft ones.” In classical literature it could be used as a pejorative term for men who were effeminate; for the younger, passive partner in a pederastic (man-boy) relationship; and to refer to male prostitutes (hence the NIV’s translation). In 1 Corinthians 6 malakoi comes in a list describing general forms of sexual sin, and the context suggests Paul is most likely using it in a broad way to refer to the passive partners in homosexual intercourse, as we are about to see.

    The second term he Paul uses. is arsenokoitai. This is a compound of “male” (arsen) and “intercourse” (koites, literally “bed”). These are the two words used in the Greek translation of Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, suggesting that Paul is linking back to those two passages. (Paul has already just made a connection with Leviticus in 1 Corinthians 5, where he condemns the church’s acceptance of a man living with his father’s wife using language that echoes Leviticus 18:7-8. For Paul, the sexual sins which Leviticus prohibits remain forbidden for New Testament Christians.) Arsenokoitai, then, is a general term for male same-sex sex, and its pairing with malakoi indicates that Paul is addressing both the active and passive partners in homosexual sex.

    So what does all this mean for our understanding of homosexuality?

    1. Homosexual sin is serious. Paul says the active and unrepentant homosexual, as with all active, unrepentant sinners, will not enter God’s kingdom. Paul urges his readers not to be deceived on this point. He assumes there will be those who deny this teaching, and argue that some forms of homosexual conduct are acceptable to God. But Paul is clear: homosexual conduct leads people to destruction. This is a serious issue.

    2. Homosexual sin is not unique. Paul’s list includes other forms of sexual sin (sexual immorality and adultery), and it includes non-sexual forms of sin (drunkenness and theft, for example). Homosexual sin is incredibly serious, but it is not alone in being so. It is wicked, but so is, say, greed. We must not imply that homosexual sex is the sin of our age. If we are to be faithful to Scripture, we must also preach against theft, greed, drunkenness, reviling, and defrauding others, many of which are also trivialised in our society, and all of which also characterize the unrighteous.

    3. Homosexual sin is not inescapable. Paul continues in verse 11: “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 God” (1 Corinthians 6:11).

    These forms of behaviour are not appropriate for the Corinthian church precisely because it is not who they are any more. Some of them clearly had been active homosexuals. They did once live in these ways. But no more. They have been washed, sanctified and justified; forgiven, cleansed from their sins, and set apart for God. They have a new standing and identity before him.

    However ingrained it may be in someone’s behaviour, homosexual conduct is not inescapable. It is possible for someone living a practicing gay lifestyle to be made new by God. Temptations and feelings may well linger. That Paul is warning his readers not to revert to their former way of life suggests there is still some desire to do so. But in Christ we are no longer who we were. Those who have come out of an active gay lifestyle need to understand how to see themselves. What defined us then no longer defines us now.

  • Widuran

    Part 3

    5. 1 Timothy 1:8-10
    Here Paul writes:

    The law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, for the sexually immoral, men who practise homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine. (1 Timothy. 1:9-10)

    He again uses the term arsenokoitai (translated by the ESV as “men who practice homosexuality” as a catch-all term for all forms of homosexual conduct. Also in common with 1 Corinthians, same-sex sex is mentioned among other wide-ranging sins, non-sexual as well as sexual.

    These forms of behaviour characterize those who are not “just” and for whom the law was given, in order to bring conviction of sin and the need for mercy. All these practices contradict “sound doctrine” and the gospel. They do not conform to the life Christians are now to lead. They go against the grain of the new identity we have in Christ.

    Conclusion
    Attempts to read these texts as anything other than prohibitions of homosexual behaviour do not ultimately work. The plain reading of each passage is the right one. It is homosexual practice in general, rather than only certain expressions of it, which are forbidden in Scripture. To attempt to demonstrate otherwise is to violate the passages themselves. Yet these very same texts list homosexuality alongside many other forms of behaviour that are also against God’s will. The very passages that show us that homosexual activity is a sin, make it very clear that it is not a unique sin. It is one example of what is wrong with all of us.

  • Widuran

    Amen this is the truth

  • Carlos Santiago

    Praise God we are having a conversation. We live in a pluralistic society as did the Apostle Paul did and as he bacame all things to all men so that he should save some so should we.

  • Carlos Santiago

    Respectfully the ESV is a translational version which chooses to translate “arsenokoitai” as homosexuality. Arsenokoitai has numerous meanings. The early church Fathers did not use the word in this manner and they were a lot closer to the original manuscripts that we are.

  • Widuran

    Lies it is homosexuality

  • LastManOnEarth

    It’s highly ironic to appeal to natural law regarding organs than quite obviously have multiple unrelated functions.

  • Carlos Santiago

    Research it. The Greek linguistics indicate offenses involved with the word roots of men and bed, which could mean a hundred things; only one of which is homosexuality. You are grasping at straws when you mischaracterize God’s Word. Further the early church Fathers did not affirm any such translation and they were a whole lot closer to the original manuscripts than you or I. Peace

  • Carlos Santiago

    From biological status you could draw a purposeful use of the rugged vagina to the delicate rectum for intercourse but it’s a conjecture only. Just saying.

  • Illithid

    Irrelevant. Feet evolved to walk. Ballet dancing wrecks them. That doesn’t make ballet immoral.

  • Clarke Morledge

    Esther: It might be worth debating the finer points regarding Eve Tushnet’s understanding of eros, hence her (perhaps snarky?) rejection of “inherently disordered” jargon, in reference to same-sex desire. In my view, she would accept the language of “inherently disordered,” if the concept was not front-loaded with a theological assertion that “disordered desire = sin.” Denny Burk makes the argument that the issue comes down whether or not same-sex attraction is merely a “disordered desire,” or if it is specifically “sin.” If both sides can agree that same-sex attraction is a product of the fall, then the question “disordered desire is NOT inherently a sin” vs. “disordered desire is a sin” is the fundamental theological issue in this debate.

    But the larger question you address here still stands: If a Christian, their entire life, struggles with same-sex attraction, then what recourse is there, other than to pursue “spiritual friendship,” with those of the same gender? If there is always the constant danger of Rosaria Butterfield’s “baby tiger,” i.e. sexual temptation always lurking in the background, and traditional (heterosexual) marriage is not a viable option, then is it really possible for a same-sex attraction person, who wants to be faithful to Christ, to have any friends?

    You are still left with Wesley Hill’s point that simply saying NO to gay sex is not a fully-biblical approach to vocation. What is there to say YES to?

    What would be your pastoral recommendation?

  • Widuran

    I have and I am correct

  • DavidC

    I’m coming at this as someone who doesn’t agree on the core topic at hand with either Revoice or their conservative critics, but to me this article is an excellent example of how the Spiritual Friendship people just can’t win for losing.

    Statements that seem truthful and good “on the surface” are picked apart for sinister deeper implications, with a slippery slope to be found around every turn of phrase. If one of the speakers tries to imply that perhaps their orientation might allow for them to have a unique and useful perspective to add to the conversation, they are accused of not fully and properly embracing how utterly disordered they are. Like their words, it also seems their every personal interaction is viewed with suspicion and distrust. Committing to celibacy is seemingly not nearly enough, they must also capitulate on topics like the words they use about themselves, and even how much of a sense of well being they are allowed to feel about themselves.

    It seems that the Revoicers are trying to find some space to exist within their conservative traditions that is outside of the closet. From the outside looking in, I’m not optimistic that such a space actually exists.

  • @EstherOReilly

    I gave at least one concrete example of the kind of disastrous advice they give to married homosexuals. Do you defend the wisdom of Tushnet’s suggestion that they take additional “friendship vows” to someone of the same gender?

  • @EstherOReilly

    No, Tushnet is saying more than that, because she is explicitly rejecting the *Catholic* understanding of the phrase, which unlike the evangelical understanding does not equate disordered desire with sin. She’s still rejecting it, because she’s offended at the implication that there’s something disordered about the whole spectrum of same-sex romantic desire.

    I have no easy answers for the homosexual Christian. It’s a lonely row to hoe. He should find a priest or pastor he can trust who can nourish him spiritually, certainly. He should cultivate spiritual discipline and meditation on Scripture. I’m not saying he should cut himself off and not make friends of the same gender, although his attraction will be an ever-present ball and chain, and I think that should limit the types of vocations he pursues. In the case of the youth pastor, a youth pastor should normally be expected to be able to bunk up with his boys at camp, have long one-on-one counseling sessions with young men, etc., without the obstacle of sexual tension in the way. I also firmly believe one shouldn’t marry as long as same-sex attraction persists.

    What is there to say yes to? Prayer and meditation, the sacraments, and honest work in an area where this disability won’t be a hindrance.

  • Clarke Morledge

    Thank you, Esther, for your engagement on this.

    Do you have a specific reference where Eve Tushnet speaks of same-sex “romantic” desire, in the manner you describe? I am having trouble finding it.

    To your larger point, there would have to be some boundaries placed in same-sex friendships, so that sexual attraction does not become an obstacle. But addressing how such persons can experience intimacy, if same-sex sexual relationships are off of the table, per the Scriptural doctrine of marriage, is still an open question. In other words, how do you make that “lonely row to hoe” less lonely? From my vantage point, exploring that question seems to be the whole reason why Revoice exists in the first place. Perhaps Eve Tushnet misfires in some places, but it really is a crucial question to try to answer.

  • DavidC

    As a man married to another man, there are surely a good number of things I do not agree with Ms. Tushnet about, although in most cases where we both disagree with her I would expect my reasons for disagreeing to be significantly different than your own.

    For what it’s wotrh if your post had centered on that one idea I likely wouldn’t have responded the way I did. My criticism in my previous comment is, in my view, reflective of a pervasive attitude which underlies the entire post.

  • @EstherOReilly

    Well, my thesis was that they were engaging in slippery slope thinking, and I think that idea is a perfect illustration of how it’s a slippery slope. So despite your own liberalism, you can see how from the POV of someone who holds to Christian sexual ethics, the concerns aren’t being pulled out of thin air.

  • @EstherOReilly

    In the Patheos article I link, and more, she is definitely very positive about being romantically attracted to women in a distinctly lesbian way, and believes this can be “tweezed away” from the specific temptation to have lesbian sex.

    I think Revoice is positioning itself to do more than explore practical ways to reduce loneliness. Because it is questioning the entire assumption that same-sex attraction is disordered in the first place, it is pushing for Christians to offer same-sex attracted individuals exactly the same menu of vocational options that would be offered to heterosexuals. It also ignores the fact that the very reason same-sex friendships *work* in real life is the *absence* of sexual tension. Therefore, urging gay men to seek “intimacy” with male friends, or lesbians with women, is very unclear (except when it’s clear and bad, as in Tushnet’s case). They’re unwilling to say that “intimacy” is in some sense, something the Christian homosexual will never be able to experience in a completely healthy way.

    One can be sympathetic to the loneliness of gay men and lesbian women without making those kinds of concessions. I think writers like Christopher Yuan and Rosaria Butterfield are sounder there than the Spiritual Friendship crowd.

  • Clarke Morledge

    You have hit the nail on the head, the central issue in this debate: what are we to make of same-sex attraction? Sin, or not sin?

    Let me concede your point that Tushnet believes that same-sex attraction is not “disordered,” presumably therefore not a product of the Fall, or whatever she means. The “romantic” element, that you cite, does not make that much sense to me, at least.

    But the point I would argue is that this does NOT jive with the position advocated by Nate Collins, the Revoice founder, and Preston Sprinkle, who supports Nate, that same-sex attraction is a product of the Fall, and therefore disordered. But saying this does NOT imply that the mere presence of same-sex attraction in someone’s life inherently implies a morally culpable sin.

    People like Denny Burk believe same-sex attraction to be a sin (or sinful), and Preston Sprinkle believes same-sex attraction is NOT a morally culpable sin. However, both Burk and Sprinkle agree that same-sex attraction is disordered; i.e. a product of the Fall. And they agree that same-sex attraction, when acted upon, in the form of lust or sexual behavior, is sin, just to be clear.

    So, you might be right about Eve Tushnet here, but that is not the same message I am hearing from the other speakers.

    Based on your argument, I would fault Revoice that there is not clarity among those who make up the movement.

  • kirkdaniel74

    “It also ignores the fact that the very reason same-sex friendships *work* in real life is the *absence* of sexual tension.” Much truth in this statement.

  • kirkdaniel74

    I appreciate your points on moral culpability. Those are my thoughts, as well, and nearer the concepts I find in Scripture.

  • kirkdaniel74

    Can you name some of the hundred things other than sexual relations between men that this could mean, without doing damage to the context of the passage?

  • DavidC

    Fair enough.

    I will note that one of my other statements implied that there may be no place for homosexual individuals within conservative traditions that is outside the closet. It doesn’t seem that you disagree with this, at least not enough to mention it. One of your quotes has a man literally being asked to stay in the closet by his church, and your response, in addition to having not a word of criticism for this church, is to criticize his use of language and his reluctance to submit himself to what I interpreted as reparative therapy. His decades of experience of staying silent on the topic, and how he has found it to be unworkable, don’t seem to merit an ounce of consideration.

    You don’t just disagree with some of their ideas. You leave no livable space for these people. So despite your own conservatism, you can see how my concerns aren’t being pulled out of thin air.

  • @EstherOReilly

    I don’t believe in principle that Christians with homosexual tendencies should be in the closet in the sense of telling not a single other person about their orientation. On the contrary, it seems only fair if circumstances conspire to have them working closely with or seeing a lot of someone of the same gender. I also think it’s healthy for them to have a spiritual mentor with full knowledge. But ultimately I think we would define “livable space” very differently. You seem to define it as a space where everyone tells everyone else about every odd thought or private desire they might have. I’m not in favor of that kind of tell-all culture even in a heterosexual context, let alone a homosexual context.

  • @EstherOReilly

    It’s definitely muddled, but I would say that since Wesley Hill seemed to be giving Tushnet his stamp of approval, even pulling her quote as the tagline for the whole movement, it seems fair to take her views as representative of some significant branch thereof. Even if Hill privately disagrees with her on some particulars, he clearly didn’t care to make that explicit.

  • kirkdaniel74

    Good answer.

  • Al Yancey

    John Owen (one of the most brilliant theologians of the 17th century) has some very insightful thoughts on this topic:

    Preparatory Direction # 5 Consider whether the trouble you are perplexed with is related to your particular make-up and nature.

    Does your personal constitution heighten and cherish some particular sin? A proneness to some sins may doubtless lie in the natural temper and disposition of individuals. In such case let us remember three things [note – I am only posting 2 of 3]:

    1) This is not in the least a just excuse for the guilt of your sin. Some with an open irreverence ascribe gross, abnormal tendencies to their make-up. It may be that others deny their own guilt for sin by the same consideration. It is from the Fall and the original depravity of our nature that the poison and nourishment of any sin abides in our natural temper. David considered his being formed in sin (Ps 51:5) as a further aggravation of his transgression, and not the lessening of it. If you are particularly inclined to any particular sinful action, it is but the breaking out of original lust in your nature, and this should humble you.

    2) If your constitution is particularly prone to give way to a particular lust, then Satan and sin have a special advantage, and you must, with extraordinary watchfulness, care, and diligence, fight to overcome these attacks against your soul. Thousands have been on this account hurried headlong into hell, who might otherwise at least have gone at a more gentle, less provoking, and less mischievous rate.

    John Owen The Mortification of Sin , (Edinburgh, The Banner of Truth Trust, 2004) , Pp 82-84

    There is more if you want to read further. The Revoice Conference probably should have opened the Conference, read this direction from Owen, and adjourned.

  • Woodman

    Paul was anything but all things to all people. Please read Romans 1 and Col 2:8. Our lives are to be lived in complete submission to Christ.

  • Widuran

    Yes our yes be yes and no be no