You know what? Revoice is a micro-aggression. It is all starting to come into focus for me now.
Now it is kind of a big conference, with big names attached, and so that makes it a macroaggression also. And big money is likely involved, about which more a bit later on, and so that adds yet another layer to this particular bean dip.
But how is it a micro-aggression? According to Psychology Today, micro-aggressions are:
“the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership.”
The marginalized group I have in mind is made up of those who are biblically literate, theologically informed, and culturally aware. This kind of thing simply torments them, day-after-day. And the wokeness of the perpetrators continues serenely on, blissfully unaware of how much hurt and damage that wokeness is causing.
One of the built-in features of a micro-aggression is that the perpetrator always has deniability. “All I did was . . .” The slights are deliberate but slight, which means that people can easily deny that they are even there—particularly when the denial comes from the person who originated it, with a baby face that looks like complete innocence. Although the offenses barely register, they do register, and then the offender can say, “What? What?”
And to show how refined this game can get, the fact that I got my definition of micro-aggression from an establishment rag like Psychology Today is itself a micro-aggression. And of course, another micro-aggression is that I started out this post by pretending that micro-aggressions can actually be committed from the left against the right, which would be of course, a nonsensical micro-aggression. It doesn’t work that way, champ.
But other than those fatal defects, the label fits. Those hosting this conference have plausible deniability, and can say, because they are against same sex marriages, and against same sex coitus outside of marriage, that they are actually encouraging gays to live within the historic Christian position on such things. And on that point, they are within the tradition. But the ways in which they remain within the Christian tradition are not the cause of the controversy. No one is criticizing them for that. The problems are caused by their radical departures from the tradition elsewhere.
Hath of Itself:
The micro-aggression comes from the fact that they are taking advantage of widespread theological ignorance to advance an idea about identity and sins of the flesh which is utterly at odds with the historic Christian tradition. The deception is being used on the ignorant (in many cases, by the ignorant), and for those who are not ignorant, it is a micro-aggression.
Wesley Hill is a recently-minted Anglican. Perhaps he ought to freshen up on the 39 Articles:
“the flesh lusteth always contrary to the Spirit; and therefore in every person born into this world, it deserveth God’s wrath and damnation. And this infection of nature doth remain, yea in them that are regenerated; whereby the lust of the flesh, called in Greek, φρονημα σαρκος, (which some do expound the wisdom, some sensuality, some the affection, some the desire, of the flesh), is not subject to the Law of God. And although there is no condemnation for them that believe and are baptized; yet the Apostle doth confess, that concupiscence and lust hath of itself the nature of sin” (Article 9).
The emphasis there, incidentally, is mine. Temptation that assaults us from without, as the serpent did with Eve and with Adam, is not sin. Temptation that comes from the devil in the wilderness, attacking the faithful Son of God, is not sin. Temptation that arises from the flesh, from our remaining sin, from the remaining brokenness of our nature, has of itself the nature of sin.
Concupiscence is not simply a biological desire, which is God-given. A desire to eat, or drink, to breathe, to run, to have sexual relations, are all within the boundaries of God’s kindness to us. We are creatures, and He has bestowed many potential pleasures on us, and it is no sin to want them. But concupiscence operates within the fallenness of our flesh, and wants things because they are forbidden. Paul calls this bent our “members which are on the earth.”
“Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Col. 3:5).
When a man has always gravitated toward intimate relations with someone of the same sex, inordinate affection would be a good phrase to describe that. When the desire is intense and powerful, and goes back as long as he can remember, we should categorize it as evil concupiscence. The fact that Paul tells Christians to mortify them, to put them to death, means two things. The first is that we should not be astonished that they are there, needing to be put to death. He writes this to the “saints and faithful brethren” (Col. 1:2), all of whom have recesses in their hearts where they find themselves wanting to do demented things. So this is not just a word to homosexuals. All Christians must mortify their inordinate desires. All Christians must put to death the stirrings of evil concupiscence. The second thing is that if Paul tells us to put such things to death, this means that it is possible to do so. And this is good news for the conflicted homosexual. But such good news comes from Colossae, and not St. Louis.
So to pull one sin out of the pack, to give it a privileged political status, to adorn it with ribbons, just so long as it agrees not to touch anything, is contrary to every fundamental tenet of sexual sanctification according to the Scriptures.
Workarounds for Sin
The theological framework that is being proposed for dealing with same-sex orientation is a structure which, if applied to any other sin, would be laugh-out-loud funny.
White supremacy, an affliction that has been with me since birth (or so I am informed) is an affliction that I can do nothing about. It is just the way things are. It is baked in. It is a given.
Suppose I proposed to deal with this by admitting my fault, admitting my sin, and followed it up by proposing that I be allowed to lead a workshop for a conference in St. Louis that extolled the prospects of bringing the glories of white supremacy into the New Jerusalem. I am firmly committed to the biblical teaching that I must not act overtly in any racist ways . . .
I would be interrupted instanter. “But you are doing it. You are acting that way now!”
This is a pattern for sanctification that would not work on any sin, on any temptation. It would not be allowed to be tried on any sin that was acknowledged to be a sin clean through. It would only work if applied to a temptation that we are in the process of capitulating to. It can only work if we are blinded by a concupiscence that has gotten the upper hand.
Effete and Elite Actually Rhyme
With a handful of exceptions (and hats off to Matthew Lee Anderson), the responses to the criticism of this conference have been extraordinarily lame. There have been responses, but the responses have not exactly taken the form of dealing with the arguments that have been laid out.
The responses have been, by and large, PR responses. “We are concerned about the mean-spiritedness of the whole thing. The conference hasn’t even happened yet. There is no pleasing some people. We affirm the inerrancy of the Bible.”
There is a reason for this. You don’t need to worry about enemy artillery if you believe yourself to be, by definition, out of range. And that is a central characteristic of establishments—they don’t feel they have to respond. This was the attitude that was typified by Richard Dawkins in his refusal to debate with a Christian apologist. The aristos don’t need to engage with the peons. Why? They are the aristos.
“I have consistently refused, in the spirit, if not the letter, of a famous retort by the then president of the Royal Society: ‘That would look great on your CV, not so good on mine.’”
I trust that the sneer comes through?
Incidentally, lest anyone misconstrue my point here, I am not saying that the organizers of this event in St. Louis are atheists, like Dawkins. I am saying that they are members of an effete and elite group of insiders, like Dawkins, who do not feel the need to defend themselves because they have long since forgotten how to defend themselves. They are defended, not by the walls of Scripture, truth and reason, but rather by the walls of position, privilege, and money. There is no need for defense when your respectability is axiomatic—at least in the circles you travel in.
And So Mammon Is at the Center
The problem is respectability of the wrong kind—which comes from caring what the world thinks. And if we inquire into why anybody cares what the world thinks, the answer comes back in the immortal words of the bank robber Willie Sutton, who was once asked why he robbed banks, and who then replied, “Because that’s where the money is.”
The world’s approval matters because that’s where the mammon is.
John Randolph of Roanoke once spoke of an opponent of “splendid abilities” but “utterly corrupt.” Like a dead mackerel by moonlight, he said, he both “shines and stinks.” Mammon is like that—it both shines and stinks. It glitters in the moonlight on the beach, but stay upwind.
Jesus taught us that a concern for honor and respectability is a barrier to true and lasting faith. I am going to cite a number of passages here, and I want to invite you to join them together, end to end.
Concern for horizontal honors keeps you from seeing the text.
“How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?” (John 5:44).
If you are prevented from seeing the text, and are therefore unable to serve the God revealed in the text, a leading contender for your real master will be Mammon.
“No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matt. 6:24; Luke 16:13).
We must, of necessity, come into contact with mammon, but we must not allow it to gain the upper hand.
“If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?” (Luke 16:11).
The world system is an organic whole, consisting of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. Our first parents went astray because the serpent made worldliness look so fine. The fruit was good to eat (lust of the flesh), it was pleasant to look on (lust of the eyes), and it was going to make them wise (pride of life). All three elements in the aboriginal temptation were echoed again by John, and are manifestly the ground of appeal in this travesty coming up in St. Louis.
“For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world” (1 John 2:16).
Now this organic body of worldly insolence and disobedience has a circulatory system, and the blood that flows in the veins of that circulatory system is mammon.
“Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (James 4:4).
The conference in St. Louis is an olive branch that is being extended to the world. Terms of peace are being proposed, an arrangement of friendship is being extended. And incidentally, once this corruption of the PCA is established and settled, the world is going to turn down that offer of peace, and they will turn it down flat. The devil is a liar, remember. And because the hook is already in, some the compromisers are going to obtain, somehow, yet one more exegetical advance, and they will see that the denial of lawful orgasms to same-sex-attracted BFFs is a human rights violation.
Others will finally hesitate to go that far, and so they will fall between two stools—despised by the world because they are still faintly loyal to Christ, and spit out of Christ’s mouth because of their tepid, room-temperature love.
So in the meantime, follow the money. Some have spoken of their ability—as they advance various social justice causes—to “rent an evangelical.” I would describe it more as a “lease, with option to buy.”