At the PCA General Assembly this week, we had several speakers (the most prominent being self-proclaimed Gay PCA pastor Greg Johnson) take issue with the Nashville Statement on the grounds that it condemns a homosexual self-identity. The speakers clearly indicated that they believe that to identify as homosexual and to admit that their lives are dominated by homosexual desires and affections is not sinful unless those desires are actually acted upon. In other words, they may constantly struggle as “Gay Christians” with sinful desires and temptations to have homosexual sex and homosexual relationships, because that is part of their nature as homosexuals, but that unless they actually act upon them, thus joining will with desire simply having those desires is not sinful. They also make it clear that they do not believe that people born with homosexual desires can ever be free of them in this life. Therefore, the life of these Gay Christians will be marked by a constant daily struggle – often described as “heroic” at the General Assembly – not to give into the desires and succumb to temptation.
The real problem is that while there may be PCA presbyters who agree with and sincerely believe in this view of the non-sinfulness of sinful desires and the inability to be free of them before glory, this is not the Reformed position expressed in the Westminster Standards regarding the sinfulness of desires or “orientation”. It is in fact much closer to the pre-Reformation, semi-Pelagian view of sinful desires, appetites and motivations summed up by what the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) calls “Concupiscence”.
Let me try to outline the difference. The Confession, and those who are opposed to Revoice and Side B Gay Christianity, view not only actual homosexual acts but desires to be properly sinful. We also regard part of the work of sanctification to consist of bringing these desires into subjection and mortifying them so they really diminish and die as the regenerate person is sanctified.
Here is how A.A. Hodge summed it up in his commentary on chapter 6 of the Westminster Confession:
“These sections speak of the corruption that remains in the regenerated, and of the guilt or just liability to punishment which attaches to all sin, and of the punishments God inflicts upon it.
I. Of the first, it is taught—
1. Original sin, or innate moral corruption, remains in the regenerate as long as they live.
2. That it is pardoned through the merits of Christ.
3. That it is gradually brought into subjection and mortified by the work of the Holy Spirit in sanctification.
4. That nevertheless all that remains of it, and all the feelings and actions to which it prompts, are truly of the nature of sin.
All of these points will be more appropriately treated under the heads of Justification, Conf. Faith, ch. 11.; and of Sanctification, Conf. Faith, ch. 13.
II. Of the second, it is taught—
1. Original sin—that is, the nature corrupt tendencies and affections of the soul— is truly a violation of God’s law as actual transgression.
The Catechisms. (L. Cat., q. 24; S. Cat., q. 14) define sin to be “any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God.”
This corresponds exactly with what the apostle teaches (1 John 3:4): “Sin is ανουια ”—any discrepancy of the creature or his acts with God’s law. This is evident—
(1) Because from its very essence the moral law demands absolute perfection of character and disposition as well as action. Whatever is right is essentially obligatory; whatever is wrong is essentially worthy of condemnation. God requires us to be holy as well as to act rightly. God proclaims himself as “he which searcheth the reins and hearts.” (Rev. 2:23.)
(2) The native corrupt tendencies which constitute original sin are called sin in Scripture. Sin and its lusts are said to “reign” in our mortal bodies; sin is said to have “dominion”; the unregenerate are called “the servants of sin.” (Rom. 6:12–17; 7:5–17; Gal. 5:17,24; Eph. 4:18,19.)
(3) God condemns men for their corrupt natural dispositions, for their hardness of heart, spiritual blindness of mind. (Mark 16:14; Eph. 2:3.)
(4) In all genuine conviction of sin, the great burden of pollution and guilt is felt to consist not in what we have done, but in what we are—our permanent moral condition rather than our actual transgressions. The great cry is to be forgiven and delivered from “the wicked heart of unbelief,” “deadness to divine things, alienation from God as a permanent habit of soul.” “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Rom. 7:24; Ps. 51:5,6.)”
[Hodge, A. A., & Hodge, C., The Confession of Faith: with questions for theological students and Bible classes (pp. 115–117).]
The above understanding derived from the Confession and expressed by Hodge is just not in keeping with what Revoice and the “Side B” Gay Christian movement express regarding Homosexual desires and identity. Namely they believe that the desires that flow from our fallen or “broken” nature are not sinful unless acted upon and that we cannot expect to ever be free of them on this side of glory. So the “Gay Christian” was not only born that way but always will be that way, but his inclinations and self-identity are not sinful unless acted upon.
Therefore the view is far closer to this statement of RC theology than to the historic Reformed view:
“From the explanation given, it is plain that the opposition between appetite and reason is natural in man, and that, though it be an imperfection, it is not a corruption of human nature. Nor have the inordinate desires (actual concupiscence) or the proneness to them (habitual concupiscence) the nature of sin; for sin, being the free and deliberate transgression of the law of God, can be only in the rational will; though it be true that they are temptations to sin, becoming the stronger and the more frequent the oftener they have been indulged. As thus far considered they are only sinful objects and antecedent causes of sinful transgressions; they contract the malice of sin only when consent is given by the will; not as though their nature were changed, but because they are adopted and completed by the will and so share its malice. Hence the distinction of concupiscence antecedent and concupiscence consequent to the consent of the will; the latter is sinful, the former is not.” [Catholic Encyclopedia, “Concupiscence”]