Now that Nate Collin’s conference has come to a close (and since it’s been over a week it’s like it never happened), I’ve been noticing that the message which was broadcast doesn’t seems to be what the wider Christian world received. And by that I mean I believe evangelicals and confessional Christians watching this from the outside are misunderstanding what Collins is communicating.
That Which is Seen
First and most obviously, there were a number of disconcerting statements that came out of Revoice, like the idea that there would be queer treasure brought into heaven, or that normal people make idols out of both family and marriage. Or that the queer community is a prophetic voice that has a mandate from God to reshape the church, because it seemes to indicate that advocates of sin are attempting to violate the third commandment. Or that Christians have embraced sin as a label in calling themselves “gay Christians” when no other member of the body identifies itself as “adulterous Christians” or “murderous Christians” out of respect for the fact that Christ is pure and it’s His body. All of these statements should cause concern, and I’ll come back to them in a moment. For now I’ll say that these are the things being most misunderstood by the watching Christian world.
Going a little deeper, Revoice appears to normal people to be a cloak thrown over the advancing normalization of sin to hide it from sight. That is, the secular LGBTQ+ community wants to continue their Gramsci march through the institutions, the church is up next, and Revoice is their vehicle. Doug Wilson comes to mind as having done the best and most prolific writing on this particular idea, although there have been a number of others. The fear here is that we’re all falling victim to a diabolical master plan: first people will to accept that a person can have same sex desires and still be saved by trusting in Christ, then it will be okay to marry and raise kids together, then they’ll replace the host denomination with Episcopalian lesbian bishops, wear the corpse of orthodoxy as a skin, and the game will be over. This concern is felt particularly strongly by those who have been paying attention to the culture war that evangelicalism has already lost. So is Reovice promoting sin? Yeah maybe. It’s possible some attendees are sailing under a false flag and would welcome the destruction of the church and the nuclear family, secretly being haters of Christ and His dominion. But I take them at their word that they are committed believers and are not about this idea. So for me, this isn’t my fear from what I saw.
The next thing that’s seems to be what’s being seen runs a little deeper, and it’s the age old debate over whether or not concupiscence is sin or not. Should we consider a lust a man has for another man sinful from the get go? Is someone who is united to Christ by faith guilty of inborn sin, or is there no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus? Four hundred years ago the Catholic hierarchy said inherit or inborn desires can be neutral, while the Protestant Reformers said they couldn’t. Today Phillip Cary and Ron Belgau are on the “Catholic” side and Denny Burk and Rosaria Butterfield are on the “Protestant” side and the debate is being played out again. This may be the central issue, the thing that holds everything up, I don’t know. It seems to be the problem between understanding Romans 7 and Romans 8 together, and since that’s a big problem, and I don’t have any good opinion on it yet, I’ll keep quiet about this topic. It doesn’t seem to be the main thing however, but a kind of interesting side problem.
Going down further and further out, men like Carl Truman are warning of the third order effects likely to arise from Revoice that nobody is paying attention to yet. Truman predicts that the PCA is going to be in a world of hurt tomorrow for permitting this conference which loosely defines sin today. Others have echoed their concern that the key takeaway is that the rot is already in the structure and the wind that knocks it down is about to blow. I’m not in the PCA, and don’t have an insiders perspective, but I suspect he might be right. The fact that many openly homosexuals who have embraced their sin as a core identity were welcomed to the communion table is disconcerting, and if nothing else that this will open the door to lawsuits against other PCA churches who assert that secular LBGTQ+ values are incompatible with the Westminster standards. That the PCA is going to splinter along this fault line and become separate denominations I would bet money on. But that’s not what this conference was trying to do.
That Which is Said
I suppose now is the time for me to lay all my cards on the table. After having watched all the general sessions posted on the internet, I do not think the point of Revoice was to normalize the sin of sodomy, or hoe the ground so its seeds could be planted. I think the point was to acknowledge and embrace the pain of existence, learn from it, and come to peace with it. And this is worse than all the above concerns put together.
The point of Revoice is to acknowledge openly and frankly that the gay community is suffering. The people in it are suffering, be they Christian or not. Their desires are bent, they cannot be fulfilled, they cannot be entertained, and they know it. Being men their sexual desires burn strongly, and also being men they would invest little emotionally in their sexual partner if they could get away with it (and being men, they often do). Because of this inherent conflict they realize very acutely that sanctification sucks. For God could have made them without a problem that the evangelical church finds heinous and the wider world has celebrates as wonderful until they don’t, and yet He didn’t. He could have taken away their desires upon their conversion, curing them and making them instantly straight, and He chose not to do that either. Instead He condemned them to a lifetime of hard and painful toiling. And there’s a lesson in there for everyone.
That makes them prophets—or if you don’t like that word—bearers of an important message. The cheap and easy evangelical mega-church idea that everyone is going to have a wonderful romp through a garden and won’t suffer or shed tears or struggle against sin without getting a serious number of scars is total nonsense. God does want us to suffer. Consider the alternative for a moment. What would happen if upon conversion God instantly stripped us of all our propensity to sin? We would be filled with pride and would be destroyed in short order, that’s what. This is because pride is not the same thing as sin, and without sin and God’s continual grace to check our pride it would become overwhelmingly powerful and swallow us up completely. In the same way that Israel had to fight the Canaanites in the Promised Land over many generations, so too is sanctification the journey of a lifetime. And that suffering, that redemption from a life of misery and brokenness is going to be the treasures brought into heaven. God will redeem for Himself a people saved from and out of every conceivable kind of sin, the lusts of the gay man included.
What Is the Problem Then?
Having made the correct deduction that sanctification is a lifetime event, they follow up with the conclusion that the more sin you are saved from, the deeper will be your love for Christ, as He Himself taught in Luke 7:35-50. It is therefore good to get very near to sin, that you may feel the comforting power of Christ’s power more acutely. Sin boldly, that Christ may save mightly. Take the fire into your lap as often as you like my friend, it will burn you, but God will forgive you. After all, being burned by sin is worth being near the fire of it to feel the temptation.
I don’t think I really need to enumerate why this is a really bad idea, but I will briefly do so anyway. Firstly because Paul warns us explicitly to flee from youthful lusts and passions, not to embrace them, to draw near to temptation is to transgress a command from God, and that in itself is sin. Secondly because Jesus Himself told us not to put God to the test by doing something sinful and daring Him to stop us on more than one occasion, going foolishly near sin and daring God to stop us is very plainly sin too. Thirdly because Paul’s instruction for us to not go on sinning that grace may increase also means to avoid the temptation to sin, and like Joseph indicates we should run for our lives. But mostly the problem is that this idea treats sin as an ally in the fight for our eternities when sin isn’t an ally at all; it’s our enemy. Sin is so evil and serious that it put Christ up on a cross and condemns men made in God’s image to an eternity of torment in hell. Sin is the worst thing to ever happen to this world, full stop, and nothing will be fully right until sin and all it’s children are slain.
Sin brings with it misery, and up until now nobody was crazy enough to desire the misery apart from the sin in order to gain credibility or authenticity. The main message of Revoice is that it’s okay to seek misery (but not sin) and to thereby become godly. But misery, and sin, are both to be rejected, not embraced. The attitude that it’s better to be miserable, in pain, deep, exotic, and interesting because it makes you noble rather than be cured, happy, and shallow is an error far more serious than anyone is hearing or expecting. Revoice is headed for a train wreck because misery and all the other fruits of sin won’t go onto heaven, just like sin itself won’t make it into heaven. To declare that you’d rather have misery than be without it is ultimately to reject heaven altogether. Remember the ghost in C. S. Lewis book “The Great Divorce” whose goal was to teach those in heaven what suffering was like? That’s Revoice. They image themselves in the happy kingdom with things to share, but they want to instead to be miserable and make others miserable in the end. Now I am indeed aware that Jesus suffered though He never sinned. And I know that Job suffered mightily though he was innocent. But neither longed for it, indeed on His light night on earth Jesus prayed that the cup would pass from Him. God can cause us to suffer because He is good, but we ought never to appropriate His position as sovereign for ourselves because the second we do that, we sin. To think that sin or the fruits thereof are ours to master or manipulate is to sin.
And that’s the real problem nobody is hearing. It’s not so much that Revoice wants to pursue sin as much as they want to hold onto the idea of suffering as a banner of identity. But that too is an idol, for the human heart is an idol factory, and is always about the business of justifying its desires. Now I may be wrong in this, but this hypothesis fits the facts. It’s why Revoice could be welcoming to all LGBTQ+ Christian perspectives, be they Catholic, Methodist, or Reformed—because we’re all suffering together. And this is why deep down the Christians looking on are worried, because they know this is a very unstable ground. For this reason I predict this message won’t make it to Revoice19, but will have been hijacked by sin and exchanged for something much worse well before that. Because sin is, well, sin. Sanctification may take a lifetime to get right, but sin moves at the speed of justification. Those who honestly and openly try to live with another man whom they are deeply sexually attracted to without engaging in sexual sin to gain a godly perspective will be ruined long before another year passes.
Oh Lord, save our brothers from this.