By Gabriel Rench
I grew up in the PCA. I spent about 19 years of my life in that denomination. I was a member at a PCA church in Texas, New Mexico, and Oregon. I am grateful for my time in the PCA, and my faith is forever indebted to the PCA. Not only was my faith nurtured in that denomination, but that is where the richness of reformed theology was introduced to me. I really do owe a lot to the PCA for my spiritual growth and current walk with our Lord.
For those who might not know, the PCA split from the PCUS in 1973, because the PCUS was going liberal. The PCUS was rejecting the authority of scripture (specifically inerrancy), the deity of Christ, and allowing women in church leadership. The PCA was really great and courageous in leaving the PCUS; the PCA needs to be this courageous again. Now I have not heard anyone in the PCA reject the deity of Christ, but I have had many conversations with PCA leaders on the issue of women in church leadership, including the current Moderator Irwyn Ince. After these conversations, I have been left thinking: what is going on in the PCA?
In all of these matters, the authority of scripture is key: how can a church go down the liberal path without, in some shape or form, abandoning the authority of scripture? Women in church leadership has not been the only form of liberalism I have run into in the PCA. My pastor in Oregon did not believe in a literal six day creation. I have also known a number of PCA pastors who should have stepped down due to elder disqualifications. And I have watched pastors in the PCA give their kids over to Caesar to be educated by the public school system. Liberalism has crept into the PCA because there is a crisis in the pulpit. Particularly a crisis of courage in being faithful to God’s word and to historic reformed theology.
Last week I tweeted out:
Christian pastors coming out as gay is so passé, and just sad at this point.
— Gabriel Rench (@GMRench) May 21, 2019
This was in response to Greg Johnson’s article in Christianity Today, where he officially came out as a celibate gay pastor. You might remember last July, two weeks before the first Revoice conference, we (CrossPolitic) interviewed Greg about the conference and why his church was hosting it. The interview was pretty intense and lasted about an hour. Towards the end of the interview Choc Knox (David Shannon) asked Greg if he was gay. Greg responded to this question by saying he had an addiction to porn, although he had not used in over 15 years. This interview has been seen/heard by thousands, referenced in a presbytery committee report, and been the subject of much debate.
Nate Collins responded to my tweet above by saying:
In our interview with Greg at about the 50:43 mark (rewind to get the full context), he said that you cannot repent of orientation. There are all sorts of problems with this statement, but let me start at the beginning. In the first two chapters of Genesis, God created man, gave him a wife, and the two became one flesh. Jesus later in Matthew 19:4-6 quotes Genesis 1:27 and 2:24, because the Pharisees were trying to twist scripture and test Jesus. God created men to have sexual orientation towards women, and vice versa. This orientation should wind up in a marriage between one man and one woman. Before marriage this orientation can get tangled in lust and all sorts of sin, but the point is our God-given created orientation is to the opposite sex. So, any other orientation, whether it be towards the same sex, towards children (pedophilia), animals (bestiality), objects (objectophilia), or whatever perverse orientation mankind can come up with, it is all sin. Our sin is a deep pit, and this means we need the light of the gospel to shine down into that deep darkness, crags and all, so that we can repent of even our sinful orientations. So, contrary to Greg, the correct response to our twisted orientations is repentance.
What Does it Mean to Be Arrogant?
This means it is arrogant to think that Greg’s orientation towards men is not sinful, and not something to be repented of. It is not only sinful, but to broadcast this as a special moment and “choosing to come out” like it is some sort of special event to be commemorated, is high-handed arrogance.
Nate Collins’s tweet significantly misses the mark when it comes to how we should be talking about human dignity. Dignity is not derived from “coming out”. In fact, coming out is dishonoring God and attacking human dignity. There is nothing dignifying about a twisted orientation. Jesus died to untangle each one of us from our deepest and darkest sins. So, flaunting a contrary orientation is a fundamental rejection of God’s word and what it means that Jesus died for you. Jesus died for all of you, and that includes your orientation, and if you can’t let go of your orientation, you are clutching on to what Gollum would call precious. And that will destroy you.
Average Joe Arrogance
It has become cool to “come out”, and if you are a pastor you rack up some intersectionality points. Too bad Greg is white though. The PCA is 10 years too late to this game, but don’t worry, there are still some scraps of worldly glory left behind from gay pastors who blazed the trail years ago. Coming out has been trending in Christian circles for decades. Those who think this is just men acknowledging their struggles and temptations are lying to themselves. This is really about getting people to accept the sin. Why did Greg choose Christianity Today as a platform for his coming out? Shout your orientation? Greg had his chance on our show to be honest, but instead he waited to shout his orientation on the big stage of Christianity Today. He did this while claiming he just wanted to be an “average Joe”. Average Joes do not flaunt their sinful orientation, they confess it. But Greg knows how it works: the world will give the kudos, Christianity Today will provide the platform, and the PCA will provide a spineless presbytery who “petitions the GA to erect an ad interim study/consensus-building committee on these sensitive issues.” If only this was 1973 all over again, the results would be very different.
How we talk about our fallen condition matters. It matters because either our sins are healed lightly through worldly efforts, which means no healing at all, or every stinking one of our sins is nailed to the cross and washed away by the blood of Jesus. We must not hang on to one ounce of our sin. Original sin means that the very core of who we are, our desires, and what it means to be a man or woman in this world needs redemption. To say that we can be oriented in a direction other than what God has directed is sin and needs to be repented of.
When my wife and I pray at night, our nightly request is asking God to not let us get away with any sin. The heart is deceitful above all things, and we know that we constantly want to justify even the smallest sinful inclinations. But we want the Holy Spirit to not let us get away with any sin, because we want all of Christ. It is our human temptation to redefine what is sin, to excuse our sin, and to make it sound better than the filth that it is. Did God really say? But God already knows all of our struggles, all of our temptations, all of our shame, so we must stop re-defining what constitutes sin. The only way to deal with sin honestly and openly is to know that God has full knowledge of it all. This gives us great boldness to bring all our sin into the light, especially our sinful orientations. The promise of God in Christ is that He answers and He does not leave us in our sinful twisted orientation. Jesus’ death and resurrection does not return void. Praise God for this full and complete deliverance.
I mentioned at the beginning that the PCA has a courage problem in the pulpit. I love the PCA and there are many good pastors in the PCA, but pastors like Greg Johnson need a good old-fashion Ezekiel style takedown. Greg needs to step down, along with his elder board, and become a member in good standing. In this way, he should become a real average Joe. What he is currently peddling is detrimental to the souls he is shepherding.
So, the PCA really does need to clean house, and pastors really do need to start throwing down. The leadership within the PCA needs to grow a 1973 spine and get to work. We have said on our show a number of times that courage begets courage. If a couple pastors would start showing courage, and I am starting to see some glimmers, it will become contagious and others will follow. The PCA is at a pivotal juncture, and God has commanded you to “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).