And so also do some say that such people in our own midst experience this lust unchosen, that it is largely fixed and unlikely to ever dissipate in this life, and that it would be unfair to deprive them of participation in something that others are allowed to experience. You seem to accept this position, or at the least to not think it is one that deserves condemnation, and you put your efforts into opposing those that seek to combat things like Revoice.
The Dangers of Activism
There is danger in approaching the church as you do. He who engages in denominational politics, regardless of his faction, must heed this danger, for it is easy to become so bogged down with politicking that the common work of ministry is drowned out. In this you do poorly, and I fear the direction and consequences of your labors, that they tend to evil.
Perhaps you will appeal to the example of the Reformers and say that you only follow after their example in the spirit of semper reformanda. But they did not work to change a church that was faithful, but one that was false and in a state of “Babylonian” captivity. You approach the church as though it is a thing that you might fashion according to your own preferences. You seem to forget that the church belongs to Christ, and that he is a jealous king who will not share his glory with another. He is the dread majesty who “is a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:29) and who “dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see” (1 Tim. 6:16).
Those who rule in his church ought always to remember that they should do so in his manner, openly and honorably, and they must never forget that all power and dominion in the church is his alone and that we are not free to do with or in the church as we will, but are mere stewards and servants of him who is the “only Sovereign” (1 Tim. 6:15). Consider the advice of one who was zealous in sundry activities, but who strayed from God in the midst of his doings:
Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil. Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few. (Ecc. 5:1-2)
The church is God’s house, and they who deal with it should not be hasty in seeking to administer its affairs or in setting her policies and form at the highest levels (Lk. 14:10). Much unintentional harm has been done in this world by those that meant well but who could not see the consequences of their actions. Who can say where this activist spirit will lead, or what others who learn from its example will do? The temper of a thing often lingers after its immediate purpose is forgotten, and it may be that the activist tendency endures long after the present debates in the PCA are relics of the past.
The Fundamentalist-Modernist Controversy transpired long ago, and yet the same spirit that reorganized Princeton Seminary is still at work in the PCUSA, albeit yet more faithless, and it leads her to follow the culture at every step, even into her own oblivion. Can you be sure that this activist spirit that you embody will not break free of restraint and lead you or others in bad directions? Is it not perhaps better to forego such a tendency and do the work of an elder in simplicity, giving little heed to politicking and instead keeping the faith as it has been delivered to us?
A Contemporary Failing
There is concern also in your position regarding Revoice. You believe that homosexual lust does not disqualify one from office and that the church would effectively wrong those that manifest it by refusing to ordain them. Does office exist for those that desire it? Is it not rather a position of service that places those that hold it in subjection to the needs of the sheep? No one has any right to office, and the denomination wrongs no one if it determines that the nature of someone’s lust prevents him from serving effectively or makes him morally unfit. In this you think along worldly lines, regarding the individual as possessing absolute rights to do as he wishes, and regarding it as unfair if others object or attempt to assert their own rights in turn. “This is the age in which thin and theoretic minorities can cover and conquer unconscious and untheoretic majorities” (G.K. Chesterton). It is an age in which the individual is everything and the corporate body nothing, in which a radical individualism prevails and says that the individual’s personal fulfillment is everything and that collective bodies have no rights of their own and exist only to assist individuals in finding their own career fulfillment or emotional acceptance (by self and others), or other such notions of personal wellbeing (or “flourishing”).
You upset the proper relation of things and seem to regard the church as existing to give the individual an occasion to labor, not the office holder as existing to feed the sheep (comp. Mk. 10:42-45; Jn. 21:15-17; Eph. 4:11-14). How else can we explain your horror that the PCA might refuse to ordain men who experience persistent homosexual lust or even remove them from office? In this two things are especially concerning.
One is that you have sworn to your acceptance of our form of government as part of your ordination, a form of government which says “every Christian Church, or union or association of particular churches, is entitled to declare the terms of admission into its communion and the qualifications of its ministers and members” and that even if it errs in doing this “it does not infringe upon the liberty or the rights of others, but only makes an improper use of its own.” You like Preliminary Principle I, because you think it elevates individual conscience above corporate conscience, the minister over the denomination that ordains, invests, and supervises him. But you seem to ignore Principle II, which qualifies principle I and establishes the practical rights of the corporate church body.
It is further concerning that the basic argument that some in our midst use is the same as that which was successfully used to normalize immorality in society. It was repeated ad nauseam that homosexuals are such because of an orientation that is immutable and unchosen, and that it was wrong to deprive them of things that others could experience because they did not choose this orientation. It was felt to be unfair for society to determine the nature and qualifications of its most basic institution of marriage.
And so also do some say that such people in our own midst experience this lust unchosen, that it is largely fixed and unlikely to ever dissipate in this life, and that it would be unfair to deprive them of participation in something that others are allowed to experience. You seem to accept this position, or at the least to not think it is one that deserves condemnation, and you put your efforts into opposing those that seek to combat things like Revoice. Thus do you participate, for all intents and purposes, in a contemporary movement to normalize homosexuality in the church. God says this is an abomination that should not be tolerated or even mentioned (Eph. 5:3), and that he has delivered men from it (1 Cor. 6:9), but you say it does not unfit one for office and that those who think it does are the ones who act unreasonably and unfairly.
Thus, do you effectively excuse what God condemns; and if you elsewhere teach an orthodox position you ought to consider that such an inconsistency cannot long exist (Matt. 6:24; 12:25) and that one of the principles must eventually win out to the utter exclusion of the other. You cannot espouse an orthodox view of sexuality and marriage on the one hand and then accept the concept of homosexual identity and put great energies into asserting a “right” for self-professed homosexuals to lead in the church on the other, especially when the basic argument that is used to normalize such lust and the basic conception of those that experience it is invading our denomination’s public discourse from the wider culture and is not gleaned from God’s word. We are only having this debate because the culture has already done so, and if it had not done so we would not be doing so now, for the impetus for it comes from culture and not from Scripture.
Tom Hervey is a member of Woodruff Road Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Simpsonville, S.C.