As the Serpent Uncoils

Sharing Options

If you missed it in my earlier post, here is a long collection of quotes from some of the participants in the upcoming Revoice conference. I have two follow-up comments to make with regard to the controversy (as it now stands). I am sure that I will have more to say as this serpent continues to uncoil.

First, I said in that earlier post that there was a world of compromise that could be unpacked from those quotes. This has been challenged in at least one place, and so I thought I should cite just a handful of examples. First, my prediction that avoidance of intercourse and the embrace of celibacy would be interpreted in such a way as to allow for “cuddling” was borne out. Just imagine what a wife would say if her husband told her he wanted to go cuddle with a friend, but that they weren’t going to “do it.” Second, there is an obvious comradeship that exists between Side A and Side B advocates—it is a bond, a fellowship. While gay behavior is not shared, gay identity is shared, and it is plain on the surface that this identity is more real to them, more palpable, than the identity that confessing Christians are called to have in Christ. This conference is highly divisive, and it is disrupting the fellowship testified to in our baptismal vows, while being cheered on by those who have no share in Christ. The sponsors of this conference would rather blow up the PCA than deny their own lusts, and that is really bad. And third, there is a Pelagian assumption about the nature of our desires that gravitate toward sinful activity. More about this one in my second point.

The second point addresses a fundamental confusion on the issue of temptation. This whole thing is flying on the cover of that confusion. Of course it is not a sin to be tempted because our Lord was tempted. But the Lord was tempted externally, from outside. His temptations did not arise from the corruptions of a fallen nature, the way many of ours do. The only purchase that temptation had in Him were things like a natural hunger for bread—a hunger which is perfectly lawful in itself. When an external circumstance is arranged by the world or the devil in such a way as to appeal to a natural and God-given desire—say an invitation to immorality given to someone with a normal sexual appetite—that is not sinful in itself. Of course it is not.

But temptation can arise from the corruptions of our nature, these temptations are sinful from the get go. If we give way to them, it becomes more grievously sinful, but the sin is there at the beginning. This is because the temptation arises from our remaining sin.

“Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Col. 3:5).

Our duty here is simply mortification. We must mortify our incipient impulses and desires. Our “members which are on the earth” are characterized that way from their first motions. They want more than what God created us to want. They want to do what is wrong.

A man with a sexual appetite who wants to get married to a woman is not sinning. But a man who identifies as one who “likes threesomes” is sinning from the first stirrings of it. He is sinning because the temptation arose out of his corruptions. These are the temptations that would have no purchase at all to an unfallen man. Unfallen Adam could be tempted with food, but he could not be tempted to want to have sex with another man. Jesus was unfallen, and this would not prevent sexual temptation. He was tempted in all points, like as we are (Heb. 4:15).

But He could not be tempted in ways that required an antecedent life of hardening the heart or an antecedent fallen nature. Jesus was never tempted to cannibalism, for example. He was never tempted to molest little children. He was never tempted to get the money bag from Judas, and gamble it all away at the casino.

Thus, the Revoice project is built on a straightforward category mistake. There is a kind of temptation that is sinful from the beginning, like want to have sex with someone of your own sex, and there is temptation that is not at all sinful, as the Lord Jesus experienced in all the common areas of human existence. They have substituted one for the other.