Homosexuality: Disordered Desires and Actions

On Revoice

The Revoice movement (sometimes known as Side-B Christianity) is an attempt to reformulate biblical teaching on homosexuality. Put simply, one major claim of Revoice proponents is that a Christian can have sexual and romantic desires for someone of the same sex that are not sinful as long as they are not acted on (physically or mentally). Revoice has adopted the language of contemporary homosexual activism in asserting that homosexuality is an inborn, unchangeable inclination or orientation; it is an aspect of one’s identity that only becomes sinful if acted upon in the mind (lust) or with the body (sexual activity). There are many serious problems with Revoice, but the main one is that biblically speaking desires are not neutral. Just as our thoughts and actions are either righteous or unrighteous, so are our desires, inclinations, orientations, etc.

The English Standard Version of the Bible often captures the way in which our desires themselves are sinful using the word “desire” (Mark 4:19; Rom 13:14; 1 Cor 10:6; Gal 5:16–17, 24; Eph 2:3; 4:22; Col 3:5; 1 Tim 6:9; James 1:14–15; 4:2; 2 Pet 1:4; 3:3; 1 John 2:16–17; Jude 1:16), but also with the word “passions” (Rom 6:12; 7:5; 1 Cor 7:9; Gal 5:24; Eph 2:3; Col 3:5; 1 Thess 4:5; 2 Tim 3:6; 4:3; Titus 2:12; 3:3; 4:1, 3; 1 Pet 1:14; 2:11; 4:2–3; 2 Pet 2:10, 18; Jude 1:18; Rev 14:8; 18:3), deriving these English words from a variety of Greek words (epithūmia, epithūmētēs, pathēma, pathos, etc.).

Homosexual desire is explicitly singled out as “unnatural” (literally a “going after other flesh”) in Jude 1:7, whereas homosexual passions or desires (pathē) are declared “dishonorable” (atimia) and “contrary to nature” (para phūsin) in Romans 1:26–27.

Sinful desires arise out of the heart, which itself has been corrupted by the Fall. There is no such thing as a neutral desire. We see this perhaps most clearly in James 1:13–15:

Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

Revoice says one can have a fixed identity defined by homosexual desire that only becomes sinful when acted upon. The Bible says that our desires are determined by our hearts, whether for good or evil. Many have made versions of the argument that I’ve just made, and there are numerous resources for further support of these points. Denny Burk has been particularly helpful to me on this issue.

However, there is a permutation of Revoice theology that I have recently become aware of through the work of Jared Moore that appears to be gaining ground. Moore has noted that there are some now attempting to invoke the example of our Savior in his pleading with his heavenly Father in the garden of Gethsemane immediately prior to his death on the cross. Moore explains that Revoice proponents are

willing to say that Jesus desired to disobey God, that He desired something ‘morally bad’ in Gethsemane but did not sin because He did not ‘intend’ to sin. Why do they say this? Because they want to justify same-sex attraction as an ‘unintended’ morally bad desire that is not sin.

Moore then quotes Matthew Lee Anderson, a board member of Revoice, who writes of Christ in Gethsemane:

There is nothing wrong or bad with desiring to not undergo the suffering and death required to be the Savior of the world—unless, that is, one is the Savior of the world. Given the peculiarities of Christ’s vocation and His position within God’s command, not undertaking the work of the cross would have been morally bad for Him (not to mention damning for us!). Christ may have ‘never desired something his Father had forbidden’… but he seems to desire to not do something his Father commands.

It is the last phrase in particular that is troubling: Jesus “seems to desire to not do something his Father commands.” Anderson continues in his article:

We are free to meet even those non-voluntary desires with renunciation and not repentance, precisely because Christ’s experience reveals to us that not all temptations arise from and within our own sin.

Anderson is arguing, in other words, that some temptations can be non-voluntary and thus not in need of repentance. This is true. I might encounter a lewd billboard driving down the highway that serves as an external temptation that in no way implicates me in sin (unless I give in to lustful desires), but homosexual desires are not like that at all. They arise out of a sinfully disordered heart and are themselves sinful and contrary to nature. As such, they must be subject to the Christian’s lifelong repentance and mortification.

Moore’s response to Anderson is exactly right:

Look at what Luke says Jesus prayed, ‘Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.’ Jesus perfectly shows us how to endure difficult providence. He should not want to drink His Father’s wrath, become sin, be crucified and murdered. But He should want to do His Father’s will, which is 100% what He prayed. Jesus not wanting these things is morally good and Jesus wanting to do His Father’s will is morally good. Jesus is perfect. He has never desired anything ‘morally bad.’ And, because He is perfect, if He ever desired something morally bad, He would have to will the evil desire. He would have to create the desire for evil in His heart. Thus, what Anderson argues is blasphemy/heresy because He teaches that Jesus desired to disobey God, which is sin.

Put more simply, Anderson is arguing that Jesus did not want to obey God, which is not only sinful for anyone, but would have disqualified him from being our Savior as well. This may seem like an overly nuanced point, but it is essential: Moore notes that Jesus did not—and should not—desire the suffering of the cross itself, but that Jesus was 100% desirous of obeying his heavenly Father by going to the cross despite the suffering he naturally shrunk back from. Anderson, in contrast, claims that Jesus did not desire to obey the Father’s command to go to the cross to be the savior of sinners. Jesus, in other words, was subject to “a human temptation that arises from within that is not sinful” (Anderson). Or, as Moore summarizes Anderson, Jesus can be said to have an “‘unintended’ morally bad desire that is not sin.” In turn, this allows Revoice proponents to claim that same-sex attraction or desire can also be an “‘unintended’ morally bad desire that is not sin.” It is unintended because it is simply a fixed, inborn part of one’s nature. Suggesting that same-sex desire is unintended would be the same (in this way of thinking) as stating that human bodies get tired or hungry, neither state of which is “intended.” Tiredness and hunger are simply states that we enter into by the very nature of being a human being.

Most arguments coming out of Revoice and Side-B circles are subtle, which makes them all the more dangerous. It is subtle to argue that the Bible doesn’t address sexual orientation, therefore making room for the category of non-sinful, homosexual orientation. The Bible indeed doesn’t use the specific language of orientation, but it does condemn homosexual lust, sexual intercourse, and (contra Revoice) sexual desire (regardless of whether that desire feels unchangeable or not). Homosexual desires cannot be satisfied in a God-honoring fashion; they are by definition “contrary to nature” (Rom 1:26–27), they arise out of a disordered heart, and must be subject to lifelong repentance. Heterosexual desire, in contrast, is in accord with nature and can be satisfied in a godly way, namely through marriage (1 Cor 7:8–9).

This newer argument defending homosexual “orientation” as neutral, as Jared Moore has helpfully pointed out, is also subtle because it sounds like it is simply affirming that Christ as true man would naturally shrink back from pain (which is true), when instead it affirms that Christ could have a non-sinful “desire to not do something his Father commands.” The latter would mean that Christ has both a sinful heart (which is where all sinful desires and actions come from) and sinful desires. If so, he cannot be our Savior, and we are of all men most to be pitied for setting our hope on a delusion. But thanks be to God that this is not so. The temptations of Christ do not arise out of a sinful heart; he was without sin in his actions and in the state of his heart. Christ’s temptations, that is to say, were external to him, whereas our temptations are internal; they arise out of our sinful hearts. Christ, “who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb 4:15) is thus enabled to be our great high priest, offering himself as a perfect and unblemished sacrifice for our sins.

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Ben C. Dunson is Founding and Contributing Editor of American Reformer. He is also Visiting Professor of New Testament at Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary (Greenville, SC), having previously taught at Reformed Theological Seminary (Dallas, TX), Reformation Bible College (Sanford, FL), and Redeemer University (Ontario, Canada). He lives in the northern suburbs of Dallas with his wife and four boys.

22 thoughts on “Homosexuality: Disordered Desires and Actions

  1. First, I would hesitate to describe any movement or group as being monolithic. Describing a group as being monolithic is a first step in either canonizing or demonizing that group. BTW, I’m not sure if everyone in Side-B Christianity views homosexual desires as not being sinful.

    Second, let’s be eager to give credit where credit is due. Side-B Christianity believes that homosexual acts are sinful. That is different from what many others in the LGBT community are saying. We should not ignore the vast differences in those two viewpoints.

    Third, let’s recognize the struggle that Side-B Christians are living with on a daily basis. Part of that struggle means that they are struggling with biological, or personal nature, spurred desires. Certainly, homosexuality is against God’s design of nature. But nature has fallen when Adam sinned. And so it should not threaten our theology to acknowledge what science has been observing for quite a while. That is that over 1,000 species of animals exhibit same-sex behaviors (SSB). And since we don’t recognize animals as having a sin nature, that leaves other factors, such as biological and environmental ones as possible explanations for SSB. And since there are biological factors that contribute to SSB in animals, it would be wrong to assume that there are not present in people. After all, though we were created and did not evolve, we still have many things in common with the animal world.

    Fourth, let’s also face the fact that all of us are battling sinful desires whether they be sexual or not. Some of those desires are made stronger by an individual’s past such as when one has lived in a dysfunctional home or poverty or an oppressive government. Yes, when some from Side-B Christianity try to resolve the struggle they are having with same-sex attraction(SSA) by minimizing the sinfulness of their sexual desires, we need to admit that many of us do the same with the sinful desires we struggle with. That minimizing the sinfulness of those desire comes in part of not wanting to alienated from others because of feelings of inferiority. It also comes in part in not realizing both the depth of our own sinfulness and how that is very well overmatched by the greatness of God’s mercy and grace given to us in Christ when we believe.

    So rather than painting a picture of Side-B Christian with a single dark color, lest we want to be like the Pharisee from the parable of the two men praying, should we not just see how Side-B Christians are mixed bags as people? And should we not acknowledge same state for ourselves? And we should do that without compromising our beliefs about the sinfulness of homosexuality.

    1. Andrew,
      I don’t understand your anger at my last comment. After all, I agreed with Dunson in saying that homosexual desires, even when not acted on, are sinful.

      1. Who says he’s angry? Seems far more like mockery to me.
        “Agreeing” with an author while simultaneously doing everything in your power to negate and undermine the impact of said author’s writing isn’t what most people mean by “agreement”. You seem either not to understand that, or are just pretending not to. Either way, stop acting surprised when your hostile comments provoke hostility.

        1. Ryan,
          Since you’re interrupting, mockery for the purpose of putting someone down is an expression of anger. In fact, a synonym for mockery is contempt. So why did you try to divorce mockery from anger?

          It is your authoritarian mindset that causes you to read into my motivations. And by that mindset I am talking about how you view things in black-white terms. I’m doing “everything” I can to undermine the impact of the author?

          If by undermining the impact you mean that I thought that Dunson overstated his case, then you’re right. But then again, in your black-white world, I could not offer any criticism of Dunson’s article without undermining the impact of his article. So you are giving me a choice of agreeing with everything he said or, as you claim, I am undermining the impact of what he said. You leave no room for partial agreement. In fact, you seem to group partial agreement with total disagreement. Again, that is black-white thinking.

          Why does it bother you that I wrote a comment that basically said that Dunson overstated his case about Side-B Christians? How do you feel about Side-B Christians? Do you completely agree with Dunson? If you do, then you have a partial agreement with me on the sinfulness of homosexuality and homosexual desires. I wrote what I wrote because we should consider again that Romans 1:18ff is followed by Romans 2:1ff. And so I wrote what I wrote becauseI think we should try to understand the perspective of Side-B Christians without agreeing with their fatal flaw: believing that homosexual desires are not sinful. And we should try to understand Side-B Christians by relating their struggles with our own struggles with sin. I know that I struggle with sin.

          You accuse me of this and that without ever addressing the specifics of what I write and seemingly without considering the commandment prohibiting the bearing of false witness against someone, especially a fellow believer in Christ. In contrast, I am addressing some of the specifics that are in the articles that I respond to. Our comments are not comparable.

          If you want our comments to be comparable, then you have to address at least some of the specifics of what I write. In fact, your responses to me are evidence for my claim that the promotion of Christendom and Christian Nationalism here is based on Authoritarian mindsets rather than on the Scriptures. And I say that because the articles written to promote Christendom and Christian Nationalism appeal to the Reformed traditions first and foremost. There is a little use of the Old Testament and even less, if any at all, use of the New Testament to promote Christendom and Christian Nationalism.

          1. If you want anyone to “address the specifics of what [you] write,” you really need to stop calling people names and then act all innocent when others respond in kind. “Authoritarian,” “anger,” “fear,” blah, blah, give me a break.
            Don’t like being viewed with contempt? Stop acting contempibly. Simple as.

          2. Ryan,
            What names have I called people? I used the label authoritarianism because it has specific traits and those traits are evident here in the articles and in some of the comments. And I am specific in showing what part of an article or comment is exhibiting a trait in authoritarianism. Other than that, I not called people names.

            You, on the other hand, have used ‘delenda est’ when referring to me with no explanation or showing what in my comments causes you to use that label. You do so in order to warn people not to read my comments–cancel culture if you will because of the negative label. In addition, when you use that term, you are putting yourself in the role of being parent to other readers as if they nee one. And you have yet to choose to deal with the specifics of why I say that what is written here is based on authoritarian mindsets rather than biblical concerns.

            And so your accusation that I am calling names is, in reality, a confession of what you do.

            So why not respond to the black-white thinking you employed when you said I was trying to undermine Dunson’s impact? If you think I am wrong there, why not give an alternative explanation? Why not acknowledge that we agree on some points? Why not converse with me as a peer, that is as a fellow Christian who is trying to engage in a biblically-based, rational discussion rather than trying discredit me with groundless accusations?

  2. Oh, no. You don’t get to try to weasel out of your own bad faith by rationalizing away your own, pervasive use of pejoratives or by pointing the finger at me. That’s just more of your standard MO: antagonize, patronize, and dissemble, then whine that no one takes you seriously when anyone responds accordingly.

    Also, you apparently missed the “delenda est” reference. It’s not a label. Look it up.

    But yes, generally speaking, I am calling you names. The difference is, I’m not pretending to do something else. You are.

    1. Ryan,
      When you say I am being hostile and calling names, you are merely confessing your own way of speaking toward me.

      And so, tell me, what you do you think of Side-B Christians? Do they make you feel uncomfortable? Do you agree with everything that Dunson wrote about them? How much credit do you think they deserve from not acting on their desires? Finally, can you relate to them, not in terms of having the same desires but in terms of having your own sinful desires that you have to battle?

        1. Ryan,
          Your response is meaningless in this discussion because I am not the subject. of the article; Side-B Christians is the subject.

          So, again, how do you feel about Side-B Christians?

  3. Leaving aside the new argument that you — successfully — refute, I would like to respond to this sentence which seems to be the crux of your stance:

    “Revoice says one can have a fixed identity defined by homosexual desire that only becomes sinful when acted upon.”

    Thinking about homosexuality alone I don’t have a critique. But when you substitute other sins, your argument appears to fail. Replace homosexuality with drunkenness, for example. Alcoholics famously identify as such for the rest of their lives. How is that identity a sin? What about pedophilia? That’s an unnatural desire. What about men who are attracted to minors but remain sexually pure?

    In my understanding your argument would damn both alcoholics and pedophiles which seems to me to deny grace. God forgives alcoholism and pedophilia but he doesn’t erase either identity. Why would homosexuality be any different?

    1. David,
      You make an excellent point and you make it better than I’ve made some of my points. In addition, we all of multiple identities. Some of those identities are claims of virtue, some are benign acknowledgements, and some are confessions of weakness or even sinfulness if you will. The problem with SOME Side-B Christians, such as those mentioned in the above article, is that they don’t see their identification of being same-sex attracted as being a confession of weakness or sinfulness. For those believers who do see that identification as a confession of having a particular problem, as long as their identity of belonging to Christ greatly surpasses that confession of weakness, they’ll be ok. Those who don’t see it as a confession of weakness may not be motivated to cling to Christ as much as they should be.

      BTW, I’ve met some Side-B Christians who do see that identification as a confession of weakness or sinfulness. Not all Side-B Christians deny that homosexual desires are sinful.

    2. “Alcoholics famously identify as such for the rest of their lives.”

      Not Christians. In AA, where people are encouraged in paganism and told to make up their own “higher power”? Yes, they are right to continue to identify as alcoholics, because they have not been born again. The new man born by the power of the Holy Spirit is not an alcoholic.

      “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me, and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Gal 2:20

      A Christian identifies with Christ, not any kind of sin. He is dead to sin and alive to God in his Savior.

      1. Psalm 2,
        So there have been no Christians who have become alcoholics?

        You appear to know very little about AA. My father was in AA and it certainly didn’t promote paganism. It just didn’t impose a single view of God on people. And so people were encouraged to rely on the higher power in which they already believed. Other than that, some of what was promoted in AA, such as making amends for and reconciling with those whom one has hurt in the past, does not violate what is taught in the Scriptures.

        Does a Christian identify with any sin? One can answer that question with other questions. Such as, does a Christian identify themselves as a sinner? If not, then isn’t one implying that there is a time when it is safe for a Christian to pray the prayer of the Pharisee from the parable of the two men praying? And/or there is a time when Christians no longer face the battle Paul described in Romans 7.

        1. Then I doubt your father was a Christian. You certainly aren’t one.

          “AA just didn’t impose a single view of God on people.”

          “AA didn’t promote paganism.”

          Pick one. Only a pagan like you could think that allowing people to worship whatever they want is not damnable blasphemy.

          1. Psalm,
            We are told to be careful lest we start confusing the wheat for the tares. Note how much information you need to judge someone whom you’ve never met. Are you being careful? Do you see the need to be careful?

            Your comments about AA shows shows exclusive-or thinking. BTW, do you know what paganism is?

      2. So there are no Christian alcoholics? I credit you for being logically consistent but I still disagree. Once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic. It isn’t your identity – it is PART of your identity. Our identity is absolutely in Christ. But we are still fathers, brothers, Americans, employees whatever. We can also be alcoholics and pedophiles and whatever else. That doesn’t mean that our identity isn’t in Christ or that he hasn’t redeemed us.

        1. This is heresy. God does not cause a man to be born again as part-alcoholic or -pedophile. The power of the Holy Spirit is not to be compared with the efforts of man to transform himself. One is divine and efficacious, the other is futile self-deception.

          1 Cor 6:9-11. “Such were some of you.” It’s past tense. A man who professes to know Christ and continues to live as an alcoholic or sexual deviant will not see the kingdom of God. If he was truly born again, he would have victory over those sins. “For one who has died has been set free from sin.” Rom 6:7. Praise God for the simplicity and glory of His saving work in Christ. A Christian does not need to negotiate with wickedness in ambiguities like, “I only partly identify with X sin.” He hates sin and puts it to death by the Spirit because he loves God. This is what we preach to unbelievers and believers alike, and I’m grateful to God for that.

          1. Psalm,
            We shouldn’t reduce an issue down to one scripture vs. That is sometimes done with using only Romans 13 to define the purpose of the government.

            While Paul uses the past tense in the passage you cited, he is saying that in the Christians current battle with sin. In Galatians 6, doesn’t Paul tell believers that if anyone is caught in sin, that those in the Church should correct that person in gentleness because they too can fall to temptation. Also remember that David fell to temptation. Peter did as recorded in Galatians 2.

            So we need to be careful in how we use the passage you cited. It is important and it puts sins in the past tense just as Paul puts us having crucified the flesh in the past tense. But then he goes on to tell us that we must continue to crucify the flesh.

            Finally, remember that it was the tax collector who identified himself as a sinner who was justified before God. What was the prayer of the Pharisee? And, according to that parable, is it ever safe to pray the prayer of the Pharisee?

          2. Everything you’re saying sounds nice and it sounds biblical but it doesn’t pass the reality test. Don’t use the heresy term so flippantly. It cheapens the term.

            If you’re severely tempted with alcohol or young kids, that doesn’t just disappear when you’re born again. It still isn’t easy to enter a bar. You probably shouldn’t babysit your niece and nephew. None of that means you’re not saved.

            Is it possible for God to completely remove the temptation or inclination? Of course. But that doesn’t mean he’ll do so. If you get to know a new Christian and he tells you he struggled with alcohol, and you want to spend time with him, would you suggest going to a micro brewery? No wise Christian would.

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