Throughout the book, Johnson denies that Christians should expect change and prefers to emphasize the stability of our sexual desires and propensities.
For example, he writes, “There is no cure for corrupted nature in this life. We remain inescapably children of Adam. There is only a charge to fight our corrupted nature’s temptations to sin” (36). Later, he asks, “Can we not find a way to acknowledge the reality and persistence of sexual orientations that seldom change and are part of our lowercase, secondary identities, while still locating homoerotic temptation as an effect of the fall and manifestation of indwelling sin? I think we can and must” (207).
Indeed, the message that substantial change in sexual attraction is highly unlikely is implicit throughout Johnson’s history of the failed ex-gay movement:
Our struggle to confirm even a couple of handfuls of cases of true gay-to-straight orientation change is telling. God has power to do anything. It appears this is something he has chosen to do only very rarely in this era. (127)
Here’s another typical statement: “It would be naive to think that something so deeply rooted as the inward pull of sexual temptation could be eliminated in this life” (138–39). Such passages pepper the book’s pages and will likely leave many readers with the impression that Christians cannot experience any change in concupiscence. Yet Johnson never makes that claim and likely doesn’t believe it (e.g., in his floor speech at the 2019 PCA General Assembly, he confessed that he no longer struggles with pornography, which implies that in his view concupiscence can diminish). However, Johnson is fixated on criticizing the ex-gay movement’s belief that God promises complete eradication of same-sex sexual desires in this life, and that fixation renders his analysis imbalanced.
The reader thus never hears that believers should expect God, by his Spirit, to lessen the power and frequency of such sexual temptations—indeed to lessen concupiscence itself—following the normal pattern for all sins we face in the Christian life.
As the Westminster Confession of Faith says about progressive sanctification, “The dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed, and the several lusts thereof are more and more weakened and mortified; and they more and more quickened and strengthened in all saving graces, to the practice of true holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” (XIII.1, our emphasis). Granted, the Confession immediately concedes that sanctification is “imperfect in this life” (XIII.2), but we should nonetheless expect the Spirit to help us grow in grace, including the weakening of concupiscence. Read more»
Hans Madueme and John Wingard | “Responding to Homosexuality: Culture of Care versus Culture of Cure.
Review: Still Time to Care’ by Greg Johnson” | Apr 25, 2022
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The liberals of today’s church (sorry Brad, there are liberals in the PCA and other ‘orthodox’ confessional churches) are cunning enough not to overtly challenge virgin birth, Christ’s resurrection, and so on.. yet. But they are now denying the supernatural sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. This denial of God’s sanctification is far more wicked than wickedly denying Noah’s flood. Denial of the Holy Spirit’s work in this way means the denier’s gospel is a counterfeit gospel, and the denier’s confession is a non-confession. A layman asks, at what point does a clergyman’s denying the sanctifying work of God’s Holy Spirit in the hearts of a believer constitute blasphemy of the Holy Spirit?
Randall: There is one judgment that any believer should make in Johnson’s case: “ Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” Matthew 7:15
I thought the professors did a good job of reviewing Johnson’s book overall. I think there was confusion about “desires” vs. “orientation”, which I would distinguish from each other as “imagining committing sexual acts” vs. “noticing someone attractive and then moving on to other non-sexual thoughts”. I think the key problem with lumping these two terms into a single concept is that we heterosexuals feel no worry about our level of sanctification if we notice a beautiful woman, unless we allow our thoughts to stray to what we would like to do with her, lingering in a lustful state. At the same time, we say to our brothers and sisters in Christ with SSA, you aren’t aware enough of the power of the Holy Spirit available to you to allow you not to notice that attractive person who is the same sex as you. You may have developed the good habits of turning away, deliberately moving on to thoughts that are not related to the beauty of that individual, not lingering on that beauty in a lustful way. But if you still noticed that beauty, then you have not understood the completeness of what the Holy Spirit can do for you. I would argue that both the heterosexual and homosexual “noticing” should be viewed in the same way as a result of the Fall, but at the same time, most sanctification comes in the moments after that initial noticing as we all mortify the flesh in its corruption. Let’s just make sure we expect no less from the Holy Spirit in our heterosexual noticing than we do of our SSA folk in their homosexual noticing.
You are still not addressing a basic Pauline category: nature. Paul says that SSA is unnatural. He doesn’t say that about hetero-sexual attraction. The two are not morally equivalent. There is no justifying SSA.
A hetero-sexual orientation is not sinful per se. A same-sex orientation is both contrary to nature and sinful per se. The corruption of a hetero-sexual attraction is sin but a same-sex attraction is sinful and unnatural per se.
Jeffrey: In your arguments you also do not address what is the real contention within the PCA. It is that SSA biblically disqualifies one from being considered for the ministry. Greg Johnson’s continuing damage to the peace and purity of the PCA are proof positive of his utter lack of qualification for ministry.
I’m disappointed but not surprised that TGC would publish this very mild “nothing to see here” review of Johnson’s book. Not only is the PCA in trouble but so also is the broader evangelical church when many of its leaders are soft on biblical sanctification.
May the Lord forgive us, and help us to care for sinners of all stripes by calling them to repentance and saving faith in Christ alone, while also resisting the pressure to compromise on matters of biblical sexuality and progressive sanctification.
“Why this double standard? Why the obsession with condemning anything with a whiff of homosexuality?”
The answer to this question is simple. As far as I know, and I’m fairly active in the PCA, no one is defending or especially holding up as an example, “prideful Christians” or “greedy Christians” or “lustful Christians” or “envious Christians,” etc. We unanimously recognize that these are hideous sins, and we run from them. Only in the area of homosexuality are people saying that there is such a thing as “gay Christians” and that the church can learn from “gay Christianity.”
Also, the point that Greg Johnson’s book appears to deny the power of the Holy Spirit in sanctification cannot be emphasized enough. We all have besetting sins, and we all have no hope at all but the power of the Holy Spirit to diminish, mortify, and put to death these sins. Why homosexual attraction should be different from, say, greed, pride, lust, envy, etc. is beyond me.
Well put, Tom!
If our sin is “incurable,” this is second only to “if Christ is not risen” in rendering of us all men most to be pitied. I am in treatment for sin and looking gratefully forward to the day when I shall be declared cured.
“I am in treatment for sin and looking gratefully forward to the day when I shall be declared cured.” Lola, I loved this, and with your permission, I’ll be using it to describe myself.
Whole heartedly agree with Bob. While Lewis,Stott, and Schaeffer advocated a caring approach to those struggling with this sin, I doubt they would have approved of SSA Pastors!
Mr. Johnson is totally unqualified to be a Minister of the Gospel. I Tim.3, Titus 1. That the P.C.A. is divided on this issue does not speak well of them
If I can make one more comment, Greg Johnson bemoans all the negative attention he is getting. However, this is a self-inflicted wound. No one forced him to get up on the floor of the GA in Dallas and make his speech. No one forced him to write a column for USA Today. No one forced him to give an interview to National Public Radio. No one is forcing the whole issue of homosexuality nearly as much as Greg Johnson is.
If he wants less attention, he can stop all the publicity by simply being quiet for a while.
Johnson’s argument is ultimately based on experience rather than Scripture. It is pernicious! To point this out to him is the kindest thing the church can do.
Amen. Ultimately he uses sociology and his interpretation of experience to leverage Scripture. Should the church accept his theory, she is accepting an approach to the interpretation of Scripture (a hermeneutic) that she will come to regret.
The time for pointing anything out to Greg Johnson has long passed. He does not meet the qualifications for ministry and should be removed with all haste. To suffer his bad faith argumentation only allows the infliction of more harm to the peace and purity of the PCA. To believe that one man is incapable of inflicting irreparable harm to the PCA is naive. Hopefully it isn’t already too late.
This is a single theme reading of compassion in Still Time To Care.
Thesis: Compassion is sympathetic pity and concern for the suffering and misfortune of others. Without knowledge of the law we don’t know whom to have pity on or who the suffering are and what misfortune is. The more you diminish the sinfulness of homosexuality, the more you undermine the basis for compassion.
Again: Gay pride propaganda twists Biblical law by teaching that homosexuality is just like heterosexuality. For instance, the Revoice website quote from Johnson’s article A Reply To Queer Culture in the PCA looks forward to a future where “LGBT people can be open and transparent … without feeling inferior to their straight, cisgender brothers and sisters.” It is not coherent to advocate for compassion and say you don’t want someone to feel inferior.
Application 1: Schaeffer, Stott, Lewis, etc advocated for compassion in an environment so different from ours that comparisons can be unrealistic and anachronistic. Within the church, denominations continue to move steadily left on this subject. Within the wider culture, sexual minority status is so positive that giving compassion would be seen as condescending. Gay pride is no longer counter cultural. If there were more agreement on the law 40 years ago you would expect compassion to look different than it does when dealing with sinful identity, solidarity, representation, advocacy, joy, and pride. But even if looks different, discipline is affection and can be done with compassion.
(The narrative version of this is that if your friend says relates some sin, you need to know whether he is confessing or boasting before you can apply the right sort of compassion.)
Application 2: The use of shame rather than guilt relates to compassion. It locates the problem subjectively in how one feels. This can be used as a fulcrum to pivot and attack: the cause of the negative feeling is shifted. Traditionally, homosexual guilt is caused by sexual sin and shame is the right knowledge of sin. But shame in Still Time To Care is often said to be caused by the church rather than by sexual sin. I’m not denying that churches have erred; I’m just noting that the term shame allows the pivot to be done subtly by having a double function. In a section on combating shame, Johnson relates Mason’s gay survey from Revoice20: “I wish leaders talk about LGBT people in a positive way. …I wish they would create an aroma of acceptance before I come out” [Pg 220 for context]. Well if we teach LGBT as a positive in order to combat shame then there is no need for compassion.
Conclusion: When Johnson equivocates on the Biblical law, he works against his goals of compassion.
Either the PCA is going to hold fast to its Confessional Standards in the face of this “slouching toward Gomorrah” or it will end up like all the old mainline denominations in the wasteland of evangelicalism. With their “good faith subscription” a man considered for ordination may apply typical bumper sticker theology and say “all sin is sin and equally sinful–along with the cliche “God hates sin” ad nauseam. This is the constant striving in the PCA to remain “winsome” and attracive to people whose natural inclination–as we all did–is to hate the law of God and the God who gave it.
There are men now serving as teaching elders who have taking exceptions–accepted by presbyteries–to these two WLC questions:
Q. 150. Are all transgressions of the law of God equally heinous in themselves, and in the sight of God?
A. All transgressions of the law of God are not equally heinous; but some sins in themselves, and by reason of several aggravations, are more heinous in the sight of God than others.
Q. 151. What are those aggravations that make some sins more heinous than others?
A. Sins receive their aggravations,
1. From the persons offending: if they be of riper age, greater experience or grace, eminent for profession, gifts, place, office, guides to others, and whose example is likely to be followed by others.
2. From the parties offended: if immediately against God, his attributes, and worship; against Christ, and his grace; the Holy Spirit, his witness, and workings; against superiors, men of eminency, and such as we stand especially related and engaged unto; against any of the saints, particularly weak brethren, the souls of them or any other, and the common good of all or many.
3. From the nature and quality of the offence: if it be against the express letter of the law, break many commandments, contain in it many sins: if not only conceived in the heart, but break forth in words and actions, scandalize others, and admit of no reparation: if against means, mercies, judgments, light of nature, conviction of conscience, public or private admonition, censures of the church, civil punishments; and our prayers, purposes, promises, vows, covenants, and engagements to God or men: if done deliberately, wilfully, presumptuously, impudently, boastingly, maliciously, frequently, obstinately, with delight, continuance, or relapsing after repentance.
4. From circumstances of time and place: if on the Lord’s day, or other times of divine worship; or immediately before or after these, or other helps to prevent or remedy such miscarriages: if in public, or in the presence of others, who are thereby likely to be provoked or defiled.
if against… light of nature.
Fifty years ago, would the founders of the PCA have allowed an exception to these parts of the standards after hearing an argument that homosexuality was not an abomination, but rather a result of the “broken human condition?”
Heterosexuality IS nature. Any perversion is sinful even if it does not go against nature, but homosexuality is a more grievous sin because of the aggravation that it is against nature according not just to the opinions of a few conservative PCA guys, but according to the Westminster Standards the PCA allegedly affirms, the authority of which is being eroded by the day.
The good Bible loving men in the PCA are admirable in their care for the brethren and their love for their church, but has any denomination pulled back from the decline into the liberal abyss once it was this far along?