The World Reformed Fellowship published my 10 Theses on Same Sex Attraction and Mortification (it only was made visible yesterday to the public, though published in December). This a slight variation on the version of the theses I published last summer. My hope is to build common ground across denominations who may disagree over whether people need to repent of their same sex attraction. The category of mortification is much more helpful and allows more consensus building.
Mark Jones has an article up at reformation21 on how same-sex attraction is itself sin. In general the article is solid, but Jones makes two crucial missteps that handicap its overall usefulness.
First, after Jones spends a larger portion of the article arguing that desires and temptations for sinful things arise from our sinful nature, he begins to address how the sinless Jesus was tempted. He says “Given the above, I hold that Christ was not ‘liable to temptations from within.’ If I may summarize the basic view of Reformed theologians, I would argue the following: Our temptations typically arise from within us, as we are lured away by desires that give birth to sins such as unbelief and sinful lust…” That “typically” gives away the whole argument. Yes, temptations to sin usually arise from a sinful nature within us, but not necessarily and not always.
Which dovetails into the second mistake, which is that Jones equivocates temptation, desire, and attraction :”If temptation is understood this way, then a proposal towards that which is evil (e.g., same-sex attraction) is sinful.” And,
Homosexual lust, even if it is not acted upon, is sinful. Even homosexual attraction must be mortified because it is not natural, but rather unnatural. It is a temptation towards that which is evil. So not just the act itself, but also the “deliberation” that arises from the “inclination and propensity” is sinful and needs to be mortified (Rom. 8:13). Inclinations need to be reoriented so that propensities are reoriented. In this way, the justified child of God is freed more and more from resolutions to sin.
Of course anything sinful arising from within our corrupted nature, including sinful thoughts, desires, and temptations needs to be repented of and mortified. And same-sex desire can fall into that category. However, gay Christianity’s Side-B (which acknowledges/embraces same-sex attracted identity in some form while also committing to chastity in the historic, orthodox sense of the term) argues that same-sex attraction is a temptation or condition that arises from outside us just as Jesus also faced temptation that arose from outside himself. Jones is either refusing to engage with Side-B thought, which means that he is not addressing their real arguments or concerns and is therefore talking past them, or ignorant of the specifics of their arguments.
In practice, the difference in application is whether we tell people they need to repent of the temptation or mortify the temptation. But telling people they are sinning without even acknowledging their theological framework means they probably won’t hear anything else you have to say.
I wrote 10 theses on same sex attraction, mortification, and the gay Christian. The larger context can be found in the original post and in my essays on the subject. I thought it would be helpful to have the 10 theses as a separate post for ease of reading.
1) Sexual activity outside of marriage is sinful. “Activity” includes encouraging or cultivating erotic desire outside the bounds of God’s design and end for marriage. Encouraging or fostering an orientation to sinful sexual activity is itself sinful.
2) Sinful desire is both the result of original, indwelling sin, and is itself sin. Sinful desire must be hated, denied, and lamented.
3) Orientation towards sexual sin, including sinful desire, is a result of sin, and may be properly sin itself. The sinful condition of misery in which humanity finds itself is manifested in propensity towards sin springing up from within the person, as well as a tendency towards frailty with temptation being inflicted upon the person from the brokenness of the world around them…
Last week Jake Meador urged the PCA and the broader confessionally Reformed, Protestant world to move on from the human sexuality debates. He says,
[T]he best thing that could happen right now is if reformed protestants in the US treated those [the PCA’s and ACNA Bishops’] reports as consensus documents that are broadly representative of where we are on these matters. There’s no reason that pastors in the PCA, OPC, EPC, ECO, ARP, REC, and ACNA can’t begin using these two statements in their ministry as a way of helping church members and visitors understand where they basically stand on these matters. Collectively, those seven communions number over a million weekly attendees. Given the disastrous ways evangelicals have often discussed matters of sexuality in the past, it would be an enormous win if a critical mass of our reformed congregations began to use these two statements more regularly.
I think Jake’s impulse is right, but there are still several legitimate barriers to doing that. There is not unanimity, and sometimes there is silence, on the pastoral question of whether someone should repent of an LGBT/SSA orientation. I have written extensively on this subject, but my argument is that orientation and desire/affection are distinct (something many Side B proponents also argue), that LGBT/SSA orientation may be sin, but may also describe an externally inflicted propensity, that mortification of sin and the flesh is the best pastoral category in addressing this subject, and that Westminsterian confessionalism bears this out…
If, as I have argued, there is distinction between desire to sin and orientation to sin in Reformed confessionalism (in general here, on the Nashville statement and Side B here and here), and if people who are oriented to same-sex attraction are committed to orthodox chastity, then why would anyone care if such a person called themselves a gay Christian? This subject has seen a firestorm of controversy as a result of actions and statements taken in the Anglican Church/REC and PCA. The arguments against using “gay Christian” or “same-sex attracted” Christian boil down to a) confusing language to outsiders, b) the implication that communities are being formed based upon a shared proclivity to sin, c) and the unwise addition of excessive, sin-oriented adjectives to describe the identity of the Christian. The PCA’s move is more stark than the Anglican’s, in that it pursues forbidding the ordination of men who would profess such an identity.
The issue at hand is the nature of the identity being avowed. For example, Amber Noel makes a strong case that “gay Christian” is a helpful pastoral category, not for identifying an embracing of sin, but of a real besetting condition upon the sinner. Others in the PCA have argued that identifying oneself as same-sex attracted is only identifying their sin struggle, and that a double-standard is being imposed on same-sex tempted Christians…