Itching Ears Part 6: Greg Johnson’s explanation of Revoice
Greg Johnson is the host-pastor for a conference in St. Louis this coming July for “sexual minorities” titled “Revoice.” In response to criticism, Pastor Johnson wrote a letter defending his sponsorship and this series is a critique of his arguments.
Pastor Johnson writes…
Now a word about terminology…
We have found that some fellow Christians see the term “gay” or “LGBT” and worry that the conference is something it is not.
By now it should be obvious that our problem is not that we’re “worried” about the conference and are confused about Pastor Johnson’s purposes. We understand the whole LGBTQ thing from decades of ministry to souls in bondage to these sins.
We aren’t worried about the conference.
We are opposed.
As for the terminology, we didn’t miss the meaning of the conference because our dictionaries were out of date. We’re quite sure every last person on the continent of North America (as well as our dogs and cats) understands what Pastor Johnson and his Revoice compatriots mean by “gay” and “LGBT.” This morning there was a Google news headline about a man’s “bestiality” and we weren’t confused by that, either.
[Johnson continues] I know the conference organizers really struggled with terminology. Every term for those struggling with homosexual orientation has its limitations and is open to confusion.
Why say the conference is for those who “struggle with homosexual orientation” when the purpose of the conference is to teach Christians to embrace “homosexual orientation?”
Why teach people to embrace something that they will struggle with unless it’s an unqualified good such as personal devotions, work, and marriage? Is Pastor Johnson telling us that his sexual minorities struggle with their homosexual orientation because he wants us to know this orientation is inherently disordered and those Christians bearing this burden grow weary of it?
No, that’s not what Pastor Johnson intends to communicate by his use of the words “struggling with.” The purpose of these words is not to show that homosexual orientation is a moral deficiency that souls pray for God to release them from, but to show that the church thinks homosexual orientation is a moral deficiency and this adds to the difficulties those with a “homosexual orientation” and other “sexual minorities” experience in the Church.
How do we know this?
Because Pastor Johnson and the organizers of Revoice do not speak of “those who struggle with “homosexual temptation” but “homosexual orientation.” Their particular terminology is meant to deflect attention from the sinfulness of homosexual desires. The “struggle” they speak of cannot be a struggle against an identity and way of life that is morally deficient when the entire purpose of Revoice is to affirm and celebrate the homosexual identity and way of life. It’s the “minority” status that accompanies “homosexual orientation” that they find a struggle.
In other words, their struggle is the church’s fault.
Now then, Pastor Johnson turns to opposing the possibility of change in that homosexual identity and way of life.
The term “ex-gay” implies to some hearers a complete orientation change, which relatively few ever experience.
We agree that some who have cultivated an identity and way of life that is in rebellion against their God-given sex may not become exclusively attracted to members of the opposite sex the moment they come to faith in Jesus Christ. The Spirit of God works in each of us in different ways at different times, and all of us as Christians know that some sins depart quickly while some that have departed quickly return decades later, and some sins hang on tenaciously, tempting us for decades. We call the latter “indwelling” or “besetting sins.”
Still, there is nothing unique about sodomy and effeminacy that justifies pastors discouraging sodomites and the effeminate from praying and hoping for their release from these sins. Nothing at all justifies such faithlessness. Sodomy and effeminacy are not an exotic form of sin that should not be swept out of the home, but instead left in the living room to moulder, decay, and stink.
Pastors must command new believers to repent of their sodomy and effeminacy, having faith that God will answer their prayers as he answers the prayers of abortionists, the incestuous, thieves, and adulterers.
As pastors, we know souls who have repented of their sodomy, lesbianism, and effeminacy who, because of their temptations, went on to give themselves to marriage as the Divine antidote to burning with lust. Their obedience to the Apostle Paul’s command has led to them being blessed with a joyful, fruitful marriage and family (children) that glorifies God. For sure, even in such a blessed state, there will be temptations we have to fight, and some of our battles will be to put to death sexual temptations that are tenacious.
But speaking specifically about those who struggle with temptations to the homosexual and effeminate rebellions, make no mistake that their aspiration as well as the aspiration of every Christians must be to honor and obey their sex. It was our Lord Who said “from the beginning He made them male and female.” Each of us must desire and work hard to love and live the sex God Himself gave us from the very beginning of our existence—the moment of our conception.
Contrary to the androgyny so pervasive inside and outside the church today, the Scriptures give clear testimony to the distinct ways men are to live as men, and women are to live as women. For the beginning student of these wonderful truths, look at Gen. 2:15-25, 1 Cor. 11:3, Eph. 5:22-33, 1 Timothy 2:8-15, Titus 2:1-8, 1 Peter 3:1-7. This is what we mean when we say that it is obedience to God to confess one’s sexuality…and disobedience to refuse to do so.
To others, [ex-gay] suggests electro-shock conversion therapy.
Because, you know, that’s what California legislators and the media tell us it means.
Outside California, God still calls us to repentance, promising that there is joy in the process of sanctification which He describes as a race set before us.
The world despises repentance. To worldlings, calling someone to repentance is equivalent to calling him to physical torture. As worldlings see it, when the Apostle Paul commanded the men of God of his day to “be men,” he was tormenting them on the level of “electro-shock therapy.”
To worldlings and pagans, Gospel repentance has the stench of death.
Having rejected and turned away from the fear of God—the one fear that matters—God then gives them over to neuroses and paranoia. Not fearing God, they fear anything and everything else. While mocking Christians for our fear of sodomy and our shame at effeminacy, their lives are a living bondage to fear. They live in a state we might call “panphobia” or “cosmophobia”—fear of everything but God Who made us and one day soon will judge us.
Half the household items we use on a weekly basis are “known to the state of California to cause cancer.” Or consider the discipline of children: worldlings are frantic about parents who discipline their children physically. They are certain such children will turn into violent psychopaths.
God’s enemies never stop maligning and mocking and shaming those who love His ways, but His adopted children know their good Father and trust Him.
The term “gay Christian” suggests to some a pro-homosexuality ethic and lifestyle that cannot honor God. But to others, the term “gay” just means orientation, and they feel their witness to gay people is enhanced if they can say, “Yeah, I’m gay too, but I gave up sex when Jesus captured my heart.”
First, no. This terminology “gay Christian” favored by Pastor Johnson and his Revoice doesn’t “suggest” anything to us.
Rather, it declares something to us. It argues something. It is dogma.
What is this dogma Pastor Johnson and his fellow Covenant Seminary men and women are so dogmatic about?
Look at the quotation above.
“Yeah, I’m gay too, but I gave up sex.”
Pastor Johnson and the Revoicers are dogmatic in their repeated claim that the way one lives and the way one copulates are separable. They assert that one may live gay without accruing any moral defect.
So what other sinful bondages will get this affirmative action among the people of God?
Will pedophile church members begin to hold their own Revoice conferences at which they never stop talking about being “pedophile Christians”—while, of course, making it clear they never actually touch little boys?
Will incestuous church members begin to hold their own Revoice conferences at which they never stop talking about being “family-loving Christians”—while, of course, making it clear they never actually molest their brothers or rape their daughters?
Will polyamorous husbands who attend our churches and worship in the pew in front of us begin to hold their own Revoice conferences at which they never stop talking about being “many-women-loving Christians”—while, of course, making it clear they never actually bed other church members’ wives?
Will we all begin to stake our identity on our besetting sins and start introducing ourselves to one another, “I’m a coward Christian” and “I’m a thief Christian” and “I’m a bloodlust Christian” and “Yo, dude; those of us over on the right side of the center aisle are all greedy Christians. Join us!”
No, their dogmatic assertion of the compatibility of the gay identity and following Christ is wrong. Even damnable.
Hanging the sins of sodomy, lesbianism, and effeminacy as a dog tag around our neck is not repentance by faith, nor is it the grace of sanctification.
It is fishing for sympathy. It is wanting everyone around you to know how tough God has been on you and how hard He’s made your life and how much you resent all your brothers and sisters in Christ who have been obedient to God’s command by turning from lust to bear the responsibility of marriage and children, whose godliness now shames you.
Why would gays and the effeminate not take God at His Word like the rest of us, believing His promise that “sin shall not be your master?” We wouldn’t want to think that the Revoice Conference is merely a way of getting together with other people with the same perverse lusts and reminiscing about the good ole days before we had to stop consummating those lusts.
Whatever happened to the Biblical command to “come out from their midst and be separate?”
To most of us Reformed evangelicals, the term “same sex attracted” seems safer, but it is terminology not used and not understood by our surrounding culture. The conference organizers have preferred the term “sexual minority” because it encompasses all those whose experience of sexuality is significantly different from the norm, and even includes eunuchs like the African man who was first Gentile convert. (Compare Jesus on eunuchs in Matthew 19.) But even that “minority” terminology can be misunderstood to imply a posture of self-pity which the organizers do not want to feed. Some even read into it a Marxist agenda.
Minorities are in. Thanks to intersectionality, anyone and everyone is some kind of minority. How many white, male, hetero, colorblind, under six feet tall Protestant only-child-with-no-pet people do we have in the crowd tonight? Ugh. I feel so alone.
Actually the Bible tells us that merely following Christ puts us in a minority. Think about it. How many will follow Jesus in their actions, words, thoughts and affections?
This is the reason the disciples asked Jesus if there were only going to be a few saved. “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” (Luke 13:24)
It’s tough because it’s lonely—not many are willing to strive.
“Then who can be saved?” the disciples ask.
To which Jesus gave this wonderfully hopeful answer:
With man this is impossible. But with God all things are possible.
The Apostle Peter tells us, “Buck up, buttercup: I don’t care how you feel, faith strives for obedience all the way through—through all your mind, all your heart, all your strength.”
As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY” (1 Peter 1:14-16).
Such radical faith—striving to obey even to the point of disciplining our emotions and deepest desires—guarantees that Christians always in every age will be the minority of minorities.
Note this carefully: those who want to glory in any other status or identity than having been buried and raised with Christ have relegated Christ to some less significant part of their being and personhood.
Pastor Johnson continues:
Our presbytery did a report last year on homosexuality. Within its 300+ pages was a recommendation that our churches be sensitive to issues of personal freedom in how homosexually-inclined believers choose to describe their struggle, whether as a “same-sex attracted Christian” or as “celibate gay Christian.” Since the Bible says not to quarrel about words and since we see that there are no perfect options, we’ve followed that recommendation to respect freedom in terminology. We’ve not made an issue of it with the conference organizers. Nor will we. God’s power is made perfect in our weakness.
“Since the Bible says not to argue about words.”
This is a terrible abuse of Scripture. Pastor Johnson and all his fellow Revoicers are revoicing Scripture’s doctrine of sexuality. Trust their name to communicate their intent on a very subtle level.
They intend to revoice Scripture’s doctrine of sexuality by importing into the Church new words unheard of across two-thousand years of Church history. Start with “gay,” then add “gay Christian.” Move on to “bisexual,” “transsexual,” and “queer.” Add in “sexual minorities.”
These men are advocating a different doctrine that does not agree with sound words, with the words of Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine that conforms to godliness. It is just as the Apostle Paul warned Timothy:
If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing. (1 Timothy 6:3, 4)
What is the remedy to this old and present state of affairs when evil men are disagreeing with sound words? Faithful pastors and elders are commanded by the Holy Spirit:
Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 1:13)
Remind them of these things, and solemnly charge them in the presence of God not to wrangle about words, which is useless and leads to the ruin of the hearers. (2 Timothy 2:14)
The certain application of the above warnings and commands received from the Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul is that we are to work hard to oppose Pastor Johnson and his fellow Revoicers because the true nature of their revoicing is bondage to lust, sin, and death. They are providing cover for those precious souls who have once escaped sodomy, lesbianism, and effeminacy to return to their vomit.
But how terrible it is, having known freedom in Christ on any level to return to slavery to Satan and his lusts! Do we love these men and women enough to fight for their souls?
We must silence these men of Revoice, leading them to repentance or removing them from the Church. It could not be more clear. Those who entice the baptized to return to their bondage of sin are wolves. Seeking to destroy God’s good gift of shame, they show themselves monsters of the Id who themselves glory in their shame:
These are springs without water and mists driven by a storm, for whom the black darkness has been reserved. For speaking out arrogant words of vanity they entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality, those who barely escape from the ones who live in error, promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved.
For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first.
For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them. It has happened to them according to the true proverb, “A DOG RETURNS TO ITS OWN VOMIT,” and, “A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire.” (2 Peter 2:17-22)
The end of the letter…
We at Memorial are honored to be allowed to host so many brothers and sisters who are paying such a high price to follow Jesus. We love them. And we covet your prayers for these believers, for their sanctification, that they would flourish in our churches, and that by God’s power their witness would reach people the rest of us might never reach.
If you have more specific questions about the conference, you can reach Revoice organizers at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Warmly in Christ,
TE Greg Johnson
Memorial Presbyterian Church (PCA), Saint Louis
The temptations of the flesh are strong and there is not a man or woman alive who has not had to repent of sexual sins. Even if tactile sins are not committed, our thoughts fantasize about committing those acts. The task for all of us—whether tempted heterosexually or homosexually—is to mortify the thoughts, desires, and affections that give birth to actions. Sinful thoughts, desires, and affections are sinful.
We call every brother and sister in Christ tempted by homosexuality and effeminacy to embrace the shame God Himself has attached to these sins. We must “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5). We must not seek the approval of men that comes at the expense of the approval of God.
Yes, bondage is hard to break, but with God all things are possible. Don’t listen to those who say otherwise.
No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it. (1 Cor. 10:13).