Responses To TE Johnson On The Nature And Status Of Same-Sex Attraction

…TE Johnson’s testimony establishes that he has seen himself as same-sex attracted since he was 11 years old. He says he has never had an attraction to a woman and that he finds the idea of looking at a woman lustfully “disgusting.” He says that his public ministry as a same-sex attracted man is intended to help others who are suffering and ashamed about their own same-sex attraction, and in his 2019 General Assembly speech, he claimed that Article 7 of the Nashville Statement “hurt” because it asserts that it is a sin to adopt a homosexual self-conception.

TE Johnson’s self-identification per se, then, is not a disputable issue; the real question is whether this identification “compromises and dishonors” his identity in Christ, and there is good reason to conclude that it does, because TE Johnson consistently palliates the sin of same-sex attraction such that he dishonors God. For example, he first appeals to the universality of sin to make the argument that same-sex attraction is just like any other sin, while the Constitution’s exposition of Scripture asserts that some sins are more heinous than others (with homosexuality “more heinous” than even inappropriate heterosexual activity by virtue of it being against nature).

While it is true that all people are sinners, it is not true that all sins alike are equal. If they were, then every argument advanced by TE Johnson with respect to same-sex attraction would have to apply equally to every kind of sin. The sin of pedophilia would have to be considered no worse than anger; the sin of bestiality no worse than drunkenness. While it is true that all people are sinners and all deserve God’s wrath, and while it is true that no one’s righteousness is good enough to contribute to his salvation, arguments for sin equivalencies mock the word of God and dishonor Him.

…The ROC demonstrates that TE Johnson is capable of formulating an orthodox view of sanctification, but it also demonstrates that he minimizes the possibility of change for people suffering from sexual dysphoria. He acknowledges that God can do anything in much the same way Cessationists acknowledge that God could still perform a miracle in the world; that is, He could, but He won’t. He contends strongly—on the basis of his research and experience- that orientation change practically never happens, citing statistics that establish that only 3.5% to 4% of people will ever experience any change from same-sex attraction to natural attraction.

In his arguments TE Johnson rests on appeals to his own authority, first as a same-sex attracted man, then as an academic, then as a theologian, and then as a minister. He communicates authoritatively and effectively, and he has clearly convinced many that his understanding of how God interacts with same-sex attracted people is the right one: God’s ability to change people affected by this particular sin is only a remote possibility and should not be held out as a realistic hope for Christians; it would be extremely rare that they might change. There cannot be a more succinct denial of God’s power to sanctify.

…By this standard no sexual predilection is disqualifying as long as it doesn’t materialize in an act. Therefore, the pedophile who suffers in the way TE Johnson does -that is, one who had no hope of change or no resistance to a single look at child pornography such that he “…wouldn’t come up for air for hours…” is eligible for ordination. The same would also clearly be true of someone who struggled with illicit heterosexual attractions under the same conditions, but it is unimaginable that a man would be called as a minister of the gospel who said, “I struggle with lust for women to the point that I don’t expect change, and I’m also an addict who is one look away from complete immersion in pornography—but don’t worry, I only think about it. I’m not currently doing it.” Read more»

Steve Dowling | “Dissenting Opinion On the SJC Decision In the Missouri Presbytery-Greg Johnson Case” | December 13, 2021

Resources

    Post authored by:

  • Heidelblog
    Author Image

    The Heidelblog has been in publication since 2007. It is devoted to recovering the Reformed confession and to helping others discover Reformed theology, piety, and practice.

    More by Heidelblog ›

Subscribe to the Heidelblog today!


12 comments

  1. I thought it was interesting that he characterized the change from same-sex attraction to natural attraction the way that a cessationist refers to miracles, not that God can’t perform one, but for whatever reason Ge chooses not to. If the statistic referred to there is true, that only 3-4% of people who experience same-sec attraction will ever “go from being a pickle back into bring a cucumber” then maybe the guy has a point. Is it reasonable for a pastor to guide a person experiencing same-sex attraction — that he ought to pray expectantly that God will make this change in his life (knowing that there’s a 96% chance it won’t happen) in the same way that he would guide a person to be delivered from a different type of besetting sin pattern for which the average prognosis is, say, a full order of magnitude better? Seems pretty bleak. Again, I think it’s reasonable to think like a cessationist refers to miracles. Not that God can’t go it, by no means! But that, truth be told, much or most of the time He doesn’t. I guess the alternative is to tell the poor guy to pray expectantly that he will be delivered from same sex attraction, and then 96% of the time have his spiritual life be hindered by what could only be described as a sort of incomprehensible demoralization. As a guy who struggles with a giant number of deeply grooved besetting sins, knowing what that does to my own assurance of salvation and identity in Christ, more often than I’d like to admit, I can’t imagine how bad this I’ve would be.

    • Paul,

      I am not prepared to accept the claim re the statistics. I doubt anyone really knows this. If the premise is in doubt, the conclusion is also in doubt. Further, Johnson’s account of progressive sanctification is in doubt.

      Might someone struggle with SSA all his life? Yes but I have also known alcoholics (another analogy sometimes invoked in this context) who have grown beyond the desire to get drunk every time they see or smell booze.

      I believe that, like alcoholics (I prefer to speak of substance abusers), who self-medicate emotional problems stemming from abuse, people with SSA are also typically, in a way, self-medicating complications/issues/problems stemming from neglect or abuse. Those things need to be addressed.

      We shouldn’t assume that most with SSA are hardwired that way and that they are immutably same-sex attracted such that we must, in effect, re-write our doctrine of progressive sanctification to say that most likely God the Spirit will not use the due use of ordinary means to mortify that desire.

      I’m grateful for Johnson’s transparency but it also seems to me that, were someone to ask me (e.g., as a candidate for ministry might ask), “I have this issue. Whenever I see a computer…”) I would counsel such a person that he should probably not seek to enter pastoral ministry. That sort of compulsion is a fairly serious disorder that needs to be addressed.

  2. One more thing, what Christian could honestly say that the biggest doozy temptations that Satan throws at him are new and novel throughout his life. He knows what our weaknesses are and I’d bet for most people those remain the same weaknesses for a great many years if not a lifetime. The fact that this guy has been mortifying these temptations and not acting on them, it sounds like even one single time, for many years is very admirable (almost unimaginable) to me, a guy a succumbs to a half dozen temptations, it seems, just about every day before lunchtime. Could it be that these people who are speaking ill of this guy are doing so because of his refreshing, unvarnished honesty that can sometimes seem rare among Christian circles where there’s so often a perverse incentive to sugar-coat and/or minimize the experience of the dead corpse which is strapped to all of our backs, instead of give a clear-eyed description of our struggles (and often so many failures) with our own besetting sin patterns.

    • Paul,

      I agree that we should be able to admit our sins and not to sugarcoat them. Amen.

      We’re talking about a number of things here, however, the doctrine of sanctification, the nature of SSA (e.g., whether it is an inherently corrupt and corrupting desire), and rather importantly, whether someone with a persistent and unchanging corrupt and corrupting desire to view porn and to have sex with other men is qualified for the office of Teaching Elder (pastor) in the PCA and whether admission to such candidate to pastoral office has consequences for the theology, piety, and practice of the PCA.

  3. What if it could be known that the 3-4% statistic was truthful and accurate, Mr. Clark, and it could be established in a very plain way that no one could reasonably dispute — that you didn’t doubt it even slightly. What effect would that have on your assessment?

    • Paul,

      I’m not prepared to revise the Reformed doctrine of sanctification, our theological anthropology (the nature of humanity), nature and natural law, sexuality in light of a hypothetical. As matter of history, certain facts have become so manifest that we have had to revise our reading of Scripture (e.g., we had to abandon geocentrism) but we have not had to revise our theology substantially. What the Revoice folk & Johnson are asking is for a substantial revision of our theology.

      They’ve characterized virtually any account of progressive sanctification as perfectionism. Now, I’m as opposed to perfectionism and in favor of realism in our doctrine of sanctification as the next guy. I’m the fellow who assigns American Presbyterian theological students a fair bit of Luther, in part, to try to ground them in some sort of Augustinian realism about grace, sin, and sanctification—to chase away perfectionism.

      There is a lot at stake here. The research I’ve seen into the origins of homosexuality has been highly politicized. Indeed, the history of the study and characterization of homosexuality has been heavily politicized for decades going back to the re-classificiation of homosexuality so that it was no longer to be regarded as a form of mental illness. The search for a biological/genetic cause of homosexuality has failed.

      To put it plainly, the influence of the LGBTQ lobby is such that I seriously doubt that anyone will or is able to conduct (not in the present atmosphere anyone) research that might contradict the prevailing narrative, that LGBTQ orientations are immutable and therefore any therapy/treatment/counseling is not only fruitless but cruel and to be denounced as “conversion therapy.”

      In short, I’m deeply skeptical and for good reason.

  4. I have a family member who is gay, raised in a wonderfully supportive salt-of-the-earth Christian home. Everyone knew there was ‘something funny about him’ from the time he was just a child, and it’s been an open secret in my family ever since. As much as the family are conservative Christians I think that any of them being honest with themselves would have thought it was absurd that he ‘chose’ to be this way, and I certainly think that none of us would come anywhere close to characterizing it as him self-medicating from complications/issues/problems with neglect or abuse. He had an apple pie, Leave it to Beaver upbringing. This is why this topic is of interest to me. Thanks so much for your thoughts and as always, your reasonable and generous consideration of things. Merry Christmas to you and your family!

    • Paul,

      “Chose” is the wrong category. It’s reductionist. No addict or alcoholic “chooses” to destroy his life, health, and relationships due to addiction and substance abuse. What they do is choose to self-medicate. That choice leads to unintended consequences.

      People in “good” Christian homes do sometimes look for affection, affirmation, relationships, etc in the wrong places. They are not consciously choosing a life of loneliness, hurt, and alienation.

      I’ve done some counseling Paul. The stories people tell about their family life (to themselves and to others) are rarely that clean and simple.

  5. The thing that seems to keep getting lost when talking about Greg Johnson and future ministerial candidates is that we are talking about the qualifications for ministry, not whether a particular sin proclivity prevents someone from becoming a Christian. Also it is often brought up as some kind of sacrifice or badge of honor that Johnson has not acted on his unnatural attractions. For the sake of argument I will take him at his word. If he likes to offer the statistic that only 3-4% will be sanctified such that they no longer have homosexual desires, then I wonder what statistics he would offer regarding the number of those who have had those desires from childhood to middle age who have never acted on them? Even if they haven’t, their obsession is surely something that pervades their thoughts such that they can’t be considered biblically for ministry.

  6. The whole problem here is the affirmation of sinful desires in the assertion that there can be such a thing as a “gay Christian” and that this is a good thing.

    I am of Irish descent, so you can imagine what my temptations are. I would never advocate for approval as an “alcoholic Christian” or “a punch-you-in-the-mouth Christian.” These things are sinful, and I do NOT identify with them, I flee from them.

    Again, for the record, I was at the St. Louis General Assembly, and we do emphatically welcome any sinner who wants to repent and be forgiven. We do not welcome sinners who not only affirm their sin but want to be in leadership. Leadership/ordination was the whole question before the General Assembly.

Comments are closed.