Revoice Reviewed: Nate Collins—God’s true prophet
Dr. Nate Collins organized this first Revoice conference. He holds both the MDiv and a PhD in New Testament from Al Mohler’s Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. A student at Southern for more than ten years, Collins has been Southern’s Instructor of New Testament Interpretation for several graduate level courses and was serving as Teaching Assistant at Southern as late as May of this year. Before matriculating at Southern, Collins graduated from Moody Bible Institute. He has several pieces published by Gospel Coalition and sits on the Collaborative Team of Preston Sprinkle’s Center for Faith, Sexuality & Gender—the organization behind Revoice.
In other words, Collins’s credentials are impeccable. He is us and we are him.
God has blessed Collins with a wife and their union has borne the fruit of three sons.
All good, right?
Yet there remains the small matter of Collins identifying himself publicly as a man of sodomitic desires.
Collins served as the Revoice conference emcee and also presented the second plenary address on Friday, July 27. What follows is a transcript of his message (indented), followed by our response:
Father God, we are your people, and we are here to call out to you. Hear our prayer. Amen.
Why are you here tonight? I want to begin by asking this question. It’s a very basic question. It’s personal for all of us. In fact, there’s probably at least as many answers to this question as there are people in this room. Are you here because you’re looking for something new? Something fresh? Enlivening, maybe? A new community? I think that’s exactly why many of us are here. We’re here because we sense that this is the beginning of something new and, in many ways, exciting community. It’s an important reason, and we’ll come back to it later, but I want to dig a little deeper than that. New is good. Community is essential. Especially when it’s fresh and enlivening, right?
Maybe you’re looking for something old, though, not new? Something solid, firm? Something that you could hold on to or that can hold onto you? Or maybe the reason you came here is because you wanted to learn something new or understand something better, something better about yourself, something better about people you love? Maybe you sense some kind of inadequacy in yourself to reconcile your Christian faith with your lived-experience? Or maybe you’re not happy with the way you understand others who are on this journey of reconciling their faith and their sexuality? I imagine that all of us, including myself, are here for at least one of these reasons and probably many, many more. But besides all these reasons to be here, one reality stands out in my own life that makes me especially grateful to be here.
Good questions can lead us to the wisdom Calvin speaks of in the first sentence of his Institutes: “Wisdom …consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.” Will Collins lead his fellow Revoicers to know God and to know themselves? If so, examining motives is a good beginning.
Collins lauds the sweetness of this new community he is calling together, but then, quickly, his mood swings hard left from celebration to alienation, resentment, and bitterness.
He sets his redirection up with a movie:
In the film The Greatest Showman, the central anthem of the movie begins when the circus performers are excluded…excluded…from a happy, joyful place. Led by the character of the bearded lady, they sing about this exclusion and the shame that they experience on a daily basis because of who their society perceives them to be.
Collins here strikes the keynote for his fellow Revoicers: the Church has sinned by excluding and shaming Collins and his fellow sexual minorities, leaving them in the solidarity of resentment.
The first verse of this song says, “I am not a stranger to the dark. Hide away, they say, cause we don’t want your broken parts. I’ve learned to be ashamed of all my scars. Run away, they say, no one will love you as you are.”
Collins paints his tableaux with dark colors and alienation’s angst. He and his fellow Revoicers identify with the sadness and rejection of the bearded lady and her small community of circus freaks. The cruelty of their fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, and so-called friends forced them to flee civilized society.
Collins has his audience in the palm of his hand…
The reality that I want to point to and draw your attention to right now is the sheer fatigue that lies beneath these words. It’s exhausting to live in the darkness of rejection. It’s exhausting to constantly be defined by others by the ways you feel broken or by the ways you don’t measure up or by a warped understanding of how and who you love. It’s exhausting to feel like you have no option but to run away from love.
Collins and his fellow Revoicers are oppressed by “sheer fatigue.” Forced to live “in the darkness of rejection,” they are “exhausted.” Collins calls Revoicers to join him in “feeling broken.”
Then this: “It’s exhausting to constantly be defined by others by the ways you feel broken or by the ways you don’t measure up or by a warped understanding of how and who you love.”
Let’s get this straight.
Dr. Collins never stops speaking of his effeminacy and sodomitic desires. It’s the very thing he wants everyone in the world to know about him. It’s who he is.
So then why does he whine about others defining him by these very things? Is it others who never stop talking about Collins’s sexual preferences?
No, it’s Nate Collins himself who never stops talking about them. Without his perpetual talk about his sexual minority status, “Nate Collins” would be a name hidden in obscurity. When Collins brags about how insecure he feels as a sexual minority in the Church, he’s wielding the greatest power of the Western world—the victimhood of a sexual minority.
Don’t be fooled. When Collins announces his self-pity over “not measuring up” and feeling “broken,” it is pitch-perfect self-promotion carried out while surrounded by wealthy Presbyterians standing in the beautiful sanctuary of a wealthy Presbyterian church at the pulpit occupied each Lord’s Day by the church’s senior pastor—who, by the way, is Collins’s fellow Revoicer.
Shirt untucked, wealthy neighborhood, PhD from Southern, published by Gospel Coalition, half a thousand paying to listen; what kind of chutzpah does a guy have to cop the posture of a victim when all the accoutrements of conservative Reformed celebrities lie there so conspicuously at his feet?
Yet there he stands playing the victim, accusing Christians who aren’t present of “a warped understanding of how and who he loves!”
Truth is, those he accuses are doing nothing worse than taking him at his word, so why does he complain?
But here he comes again.
Collins next complains about his homosexual desires leaving him “no option but to run away from love.”
But remember, Collins is married and has three sons.
What goes through his wife’s mind and heart when she hears him make statements about rejection and fleeing from love? Are we not supposed to have sympathy for his wife and children as we listen to Collins’s complaint? What sort of person could avoid feeling deep compassion for this woman whose husband talks this way so very publicly?
And what of Collins’s sons? Are listeners not supposed to think of them as Collins plays the victim? How are these boys to understand their own existence as they listen to their father speak of running from love? Are they not the fruit of their father and mother’s love? Is it not Collins’s duty to assure each of his sons of his love for their mother? Is this not an essential ingredient to any child’s security and happiness?
Some might defend Collins by suggesting his words aren’t intended to describe his own experience—that he’s simply trying to enter into the experience of other conference attendees.
Alas, Collins gives no hint of speaking of anyone but himself. Now he puts his narcissism on full display:
Is it no wonder, then, that for many of us, the main reason we are here tonight is because we’re just tired. I’ll just say it, I’m tired. I’m tired of feeling burdened by loneliness because I believe lies that I am unwanted. I’m tired of feeling burdened by shame because I think my orientation makes me less human. I’m tired of feeling burdened by expectations from others because I think so little of myself. I’m tired. I’m tired of people saying I’m using the wrong words. I’m tired of people saying that I’m not using enough of the right words. I’m tired.
I’m tired of hearing about gay people who have unsafe homes, angry homes, or no homes. I’m tired. I’m tired of the reality that gay people live every day with verbal abuse from their coworkers, bosses, neighbors, relatives, and even friends. I’m tired.
In the short section above, Collins uses the first person singular twenty-two times—I, me, and myself. Make note of it: an aggressive and ferocious narcissism is the very core of the gay identity and its moral pollution. Way beyond the sin of the Sodomites’ lust for gang-rape stood their sin of caring for no one but themselves, and this despite their high positions and great wealth. Nate Collins is this man.
Collins is on a roll and ups the temperature by turning to homelessness:
I’m tired of being reminded over and over again that 40 percent of homeless teenagers are LGBT…
Stoking the righteous indignation of fellow Revoicers, Collins goes on to play the suicide card always hovering slightly behind their language of victimhood and suffering:
that gay and bi youth are three times more likely to seriously contemplate suicide than their straight friends, and that they are almost five times more likely to have attempted it. I’m tired.
I’m tired and grieved because forty percent of transgender adults say they’ve attempted suicide and that 92 percent of those attempts were before the age of 25. I’m tired.
I’m tired of seeing the fragility of life put on full display in the stories of gender and sexual minorities who are trying to eek by, squeak by, every day of the week just to get by. I’m tired.
We could dispute some of Collins’ statistics; we could argue about cause and effect; we could take Collins to task for portraying himself as tired when he had the energy to bring together the Revoice conference; we could give counter-examples of cake-bakers and photographers being persecuted and oppressed…
But let us scrutinize Collins’s narrative of victimhood.
Who are his persecutors?
Certainly not the wider culture. There, homosexuality has won the day and is now pretty much ho-hum.
It’s not the culture Collins is complaining about, but fathers in the faith like Peter Jones who manfully stands firm calling Revoice “heresy.” But generally speaking, Collins’s persecutors are not shepherds, but sheep wandering around harassed and helpless, wondering what has happened to their shepherds? Scandalized by the inspiration and support Collins and his Revoicers have received from Southern Baptist Seminary, Covenant Theological Seminary, and Gospel Coalition, the sheep are confused and bleating. Collins resents it and accuses them of attacking him. He feels persecuted by the sheep.
Are we really having this conversation? Must we continue to take Collins’s whining seriously?
Okay then, why is Collins tired? Is it the work of reformation or the work of deformation that wearies him? Is he a prophet calling the sinful church to repentance or a heretic soliciting the Bride of Christ to rebellion against her Lord and Master?
Note that Collins has not spoken of God. He demonstrates admirable restraint in not condemning the Father Almighty for creating this dichotomous environment that is so very hostile to sexual minorities’ “flourishing.” Collins of the PhD in New Testament doesn’t remember it is God Himself Who decreed that sodomites, lesbians, and the effeminate will be “receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error” (Romans 1:27). The narrative he spins has no time for gays’ moral agency or God’s judgment.
Quick on his feet, Collins moves on to salvage his lament from cloying narcissism. Instead, he turns to instructing his followers on the distinction between lament (good) and depression (bad):
Now, if I’m not alone in this, and I suspect I’m not, how do we respond? Where can we start? I think the first thing we need to do is learn how to corporately lament the reality that gender and sexual minorities live with virtually each and every day in the church right now. But lament doesn’t come naturally to us, at least lament that leads to life. I mean, we all know that person, perhaps you are that person, who just can’t seem to move past lament. And I don’t just say this jokingly. Sometimes it’s hard to know where good lament begins to shade into something too dark, into a depression that’s actually the opposite of life.
That distinction explained, it’s time for Collins to sell his big lie. Turns out he is the prophet Jeremiah:
So to help us understand what lament that is deeply and thoroughly Christian might look like, I’d like to point us toward two examples that we see in the Bible, neither of which will be any surprise: the prophet Jeremiah and the example of Jesus. And after we have looked at these two examples, we will end with just some points of application that might help those of us who are great tradition, gay Christians know how to lament.
So the prophet Jeremiah prophesied to the southern kingdom of Judah for almost 40 years from the time of King Josiah all the way until the nation of Judah was carried away into Babylon. As a prophet, Jeremiah’s primary ministry was to call the nation of Judah to repentance for their idolatry. And during his ministry, Jeremiah experienced enormous suffering as a result of his faithfulness to his calling. His opponents often plotted against his life; he was beaten; he was put in stocks; he was mocked, and perhaps most famously, he was thrown into a well and left to starve to death.
Listen to these words from Jeremiah 20. “Cursed be the day on which I was born. The day when my mother bore me, let it not be blessed. Cursed be the man who brought the news to my father a son is born to you, making him very glad. Let that man be like the cities that the Lord overthrew without pity. Let him hear a cry in the morning and an alarm at noon because he did not kill me in the womb. So my mother would have been my grave and her womb forever great. Why did I come out from the womb to see toil and sorrow and spend my days in shame?” Jeremiah was sent by God. God called him, and he answered that call to call the nation of Judah to repentance for idolatry. And he was punished by his people for that. Jeremiah was being nothing but obedient. He was doing what God had called and instructed him to do. But what exactly was Jeremiah saying that got him into trouble? It wasn’t his accusations of idolatry that were causing his life to be so difficult. The people of Judah weren’t the source of Jeremiah’s woes. It was attacks from false prophets.
Jeremiah 14:13-14 says, “Then I said: “Ah, Lord God, behold, the prophets say to them (people of Judah), ‘You shall not see the sword, nor shall you have famine, but I will give you assured peace in this place.’” And the Lord said to me: “The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I did not send them, nor did I command them or speak to them. They are prophesying to you a lying vision, worthless divination, and the deceit of their own minds.” So on the one hand, you have Jeremiah who is saying that the nation of Judah will be punished for its idolatries, and on the other hand, you have these other prophets, false prophets, who are saying, “No, you’re not going to be punished. It’s the nation of Babylon, in fact, not Israel, that’s going to be struck down.”
Now this raises an interesting question. How are teachers like this, these false prophets, able to gain positions of power and influence in the first place? Jeremiah gives us the answer to this question as well. False prophets arise…when there are bad shepherds. He hints at this all the way at the very beginning in Jeremiah 3. “Go, and proclaim these words toward the north, and say, “‘Return, faithless Israel, declares the Lord. I will not look on you in anger for I am merciful, declares the Lord; I will not be angry forever. Only acknowledge your guilt, that you rebelled against the Lord your God and scattered your favors among foreigners under every green tree, and that you have not obeyed my voice, declares the Lord. Return, O faithless children, declares the Lord; for I am your master; I will take you, one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion. “‘And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.”
Jeremiah 5:30-31 says “An appalling and horrible thing has happened in the land: the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule at their discretion.”
Jeremiah 12:10-11: Many shepherds have destroyed my vineyard; they have trampled down my portion; they have made my pleasant portion a desolate wilderness. They have made it a desolation; desolate, it mourns to me. The whole land is made desolate, but no man lays it to heart.”
And lastly in Jeremiah 23:1-3: “Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: ‘You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the Lord.’”
So Jeremiah lays the blame for the plight of the people of Israel, not only on their own idolatries, and not even on the prophets who were prophesying, “peace, peace,” but also on the spiritual shepherds of his people.
Collins minimizes the idolatry of the people in order to maximize the guilt of those persecuting him, yet here is what the prophet Jeremiah says about the people:
“The prophets prophesy falsely, And the priests rule on their own authority; And My people love it so! But what will you do at the end of it?” (Jer. 5:31).
Collins chose not to quote these words of the prophet Jeremiah:
“For the iniquity of the daughter of my people is greater than the sin of Sodom, which was overthrown as in a moment, and no hands were turned toward her” (Jer. 4:6).
Do not get confused on this point: Revoicers are opposed to repentance. They refuse to confess their sins. They are always and only victims.
So where does that leave us? How does that help us lament? We read the next few verses, Jeremiah shows us what lament could look like, what it can look like to cry out to God while suffering for doing what is right.
Collins and his fellow Revoicers are “doing what is right,” and thus they await God’s blessing:
Jeremiah had hope. In the very next four verses, Jeremiah says in 23:3-6, “Then I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, declares the Lord. “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’” Jeremiah knew that his sufferings were real and that they were a real cause for lament. But he also knew that true lament ends in hope for deliverance. Not ultimately from suffering, although that’s part of it, but from the injustice of his suffering.
And who is the source of this justice? It’s Jesus, who is the Lord our righteousness. And this is exactly what we encounter in the gospels, right? When Jesus takes on a prophetic posture, it’s always towards the Pharisees, who were the bad shepherds in his day.
Like gay Christians today, Jesus suffered for His “prophetic” role in the church. The Pharisees who persecuted Him are those nasty men today who have condemned Revoice:
Matthew 23. I’m just going to read one of the famous woes. “Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, the scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat so do and observe whatever they tell you but not the works they do, for they preach but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens.” There are some thoughts and opinions about our experience of orientation that are heavy burdens, right? Bad shepherds give us those burdens. They are hard to bear and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. This is the first of seven woes that Jesus pronounces over the Pharisees, the bad shepherds, and the common thread through all of them is that they’re being unjust. If you’re unsure that this link exists between prophecy and injustice, just take a look at the end of the chapter. It ends with lament. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it. How often I would have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing.”
So where does that leave us? How does this help us lament? I think to answer that question, we can go back to Jeremiah. In Jeremiah 15, we can all say with him, “O Lord, you know; remember me and visit me, and take vengeance for me on my persecutors. In your forbearance take me not away; know that for your sake I bear reproach. Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts.” Is it possible that gay people today are being sent by God, like Jeremiah, to find God’s words for the church, to eat them and make them our own, to shed light on contemporary false teachings and even idolatries, not just the false teaching of the progressive sexual ethic, but other more subtle forms of false teaching?
There we have it. Collins has made his point. There is no ambiguity.
Professing Christians who have made peace with their sinful and disordered desires, orientations, and identities; who are shamelessly “living out;” who are partnering with other “sexual minorities” to market what they call “spiritual friendship;” who are minimizing their shameful desires by labelling them “aesthetic;” who unabashedly whine against their God-given sexual identity; who make light of others’ sexual sin; who renounce repentance; who giggle about ushering queer culture into Christ’s Kingdom…
These are God’s prophets. Contradicting the Apostle Paul, Collins declares, “Blessed are the effeminate, for they shall inherit the kingdom of God.”
Collins’s audacity continues, and grows:
Is it possible that gender and sexual minorities who’ve lived lives of costly obedience are themselves a prophetic call to the church to abandon idolatrous attitudes toward the nuclear family, toward sexual pleasure?
Nate Collins PhD, the self-affirming sodomite, is now among us calling down the wrath of God against idolatrous attitudes toward the nuclear family and sexual pleasure. His prophetic voice condemns the Church for having too high a view of the marriage bed and its fruit.
Maybe we’re being petty, but Collins is sounding less like a prophet and more like a four year old daughter who, having a tantrum over finishing her veggies, says chocolate is stupid and whoever wants it is stupid.
When Collins finally stakes his claim to the prophetic office explicitly, it’s anticlimactic:
If so, then we are prophets.
But, in order to embrace this, we also have to embrace lament. We have to cry out to God, in hope, for deliverance. But if we want to follow Christ in the same path that He took, then we have to understand that deliverance only comes when we can trust God in our own experiences of unjust suffering because Jesus also trusted His Father perfectly during the unjust suffering that He experienced.
If this is true, we have a hard road ahead. We have suffering to endure. We have injustice to endure. And we have our own flesh to endure. The hardest thing about injustice and unjust suffering is that when it comes from fellow believers, our call is to forgive.
Collins and his fellow Revoicers should be joining their brothers and sisters in Christ who lament over our sins and plead for God’s deliverance. But no, he leads his people deeper into victimhood’s bondage.
Nevermind all the men and women of God who have lost friends and jobs because they were faithful to confess the truth of God’s Word concerning homosexuality and effeminacy. They are the oppressors and thus can never attain the status of certified victimhood.
We are relieved Collins finally draws things to a conclusion:
Theologian Miroslav Volf says, “Forgiveness flounders because I exclude the enemy from the community of humans, even as I exclude myself from the community of sinners.” I’m going to read that again, “Forgiveness flounders because I exclude the enemy from the community of humans, even as I exclude myself from the community of sinners.” Even though we’ve been trying to understand what it means to lament, the last word tonight cannot end with lament. Lament is real because injustice is real. And for us that means injustice against gender and sexual minorities is real. But ultimately the injustices we suffer come from others who must be forgiven, particularly when they are other Christians. We need the church, and the church needs us. This is the gospel. This is the church. This is us.
Collins abuses Volf in order to claim the people of God are excluding Revoicers from the “community of humans” by calling them to a life of repentance and to flee every enticement to same-sex attraction.
But what of the second half of the quote? Does Collins take this opportunity to cop to anything—anything at all?
No, and after working through Collins’s speech, it is this self-exemption that causes us the most grief.
What of the sheep he has led? We fear for the man or woman who heard his words and is now wondering whether the shame he feels over his homosexual desires is good or bad. We fear for the man who sat through Collins’s conference deeply aware he was living a life of sin against God in his bodage to evil thoughts and desires. We fear for those Collins turned away from hating their sins because they displeased a holy God and necessitated the death of His Precious Son.
One final warning.
The Apostle Paul writes: “For there must also be factions among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you” (1 Cor. 11:19).
God uses division to make clear who has His approval.
There is a division between us and the men and women of Revoice. We stand on the Word of God. They claim they are His prophets.
Until we are corrected by the testimony of Scripture, we refuse to be silent. We look to God to show the side that has His approval and we call all men and women of good conscience to join us in this testimony of truth.