Posts Tagged With: same sex attraction

Sinless Concupiscence?

Pelagius2Richard D. Phillips states in his interesting update following the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) General Assembly: “At the heart of our division on this subject is whether or not to define same-sex attraction (SSA) as a morally neutral status that does not require repentance. PCA progressives seem to have asserted such a sub-category beneath sinful desire (essentially adopting the pre-Reformation concept of concupiscence).”

I’m trying really hard, but I can’t for the life of me think of a definition of concupiscence that anyone in the Reformed or Presbyterian tradition would not consider to be sin.  According to Reformed (and even Catholic) doctrine, Original Sin is sin.  (Concupiscence, too.)  Any Presbyterian should understand that given the clarity of our confessional standards on the subject:

Westminster confession of Faith (1646), IV. Of the Fall of Man, Sin, and the Punishment Thereof

v. This corruption of nature, during this life, does remain in those that are regenerated; and although it be, through Christ, pardoned, and mortified; yet both itself, and all the motions thereof, are truly and properly sin.

But maybe those Westminster divines were suffering from Puritan Brain Syndrome.  Lest we think a contrary view that original sin and/or concupiscence are not in themselves sin, has a place in Reformed doctrine, let us see how soundly other Reformed Confessions proclaim that original sin is sin:

French Confession of Faith (1559)

XI. We believe, also, that this evil [original sin] is truly sin, sufficient for the condemnation of the whole human race, even of little children in the mother’s womb, and that God considers it as such; even after baptism it is still of the nature of sin,

39 Articles (1572), Article IX, Of Original or Birth Sin

And although there is no condemnation for them that believe and are baptized: yet the Apostle doth confess that con­cupiscence and lust hath of itself the nature of sin.

Belgic Confession, (1619), Article 15, Of the Doctrine of Original Sin

[Original Sin] is therefore so vile and enormous in God’s sight that it is enough to condemn the human race

Phillips mentions pre-reformation sources.  What would Aquinas say on the subject of whether concupiscence toward sodomy is sin?

Aquinas, Summa Theologica, “Whether Original sin is concupiscence?”

Augustine says (Retract. i, 15): “Concupiscence is the guilt of original sin.” (Aquinas, Objection)

Aquinas: Reply to Objection 1, …so far as it trespasses beyond the bounds of reason, it is, for a man, contrary to reason. Such is the concupiscence of original sin.

Reply to Objection 2 …Therefore original sin is ascribed to concupiscence, as being the chief passion, and as including all the others, in a fashion.

Reply to Objection 3 …for [concupiscence] clouds and draws the reason, as stated above. Hence original sin is called concupiscence

Some appetite (Aquinas), inclination or proclivity toward sin, lying below the level of desire, must be characterized as sin.  On first reaction, one wonders if PCA progressives are raising Pelagius from the grave. But on second thought, even Pelagius would have considered an inclination or proclivity to desire to commit sodomy to be sin (by imitation not by nature.)  Does anyone in the PCA believe in sin?

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Problems with the Nashville Statement

The Nashville Statement is troublingly ambiguous on the sinfulness of same sex attraction:

“Article 8. WE AFFIRM that people who experience sexual attraction for the same sex may live a rich and fruitful life pleasing to God through faith in Jesus Christ, as they, like all Christians, walk in purity of life.”

Is this Christian’s purity of life attained by repenting and mortifying the sinful “sexual attraction for the same sex”, or are these desires somehow compatible with such purity? It seems they mean the latter, which is unbiblical, and a heretical denial of the sinfulness of sinful lusts.  The authors of the statement had no trouble being crystal clear on the sinfulness of many sins.  Why the lack of clarity here, on one of the most confronting issues of our time?  I take it as a denial that same sex erotic attraction is sinful, which is a huge mistake because:

1. It seems to deny that some sins are more heinous than others.  

One area where Christians need to be taught better, is the degree of heinousness of sins.

Westminster Larger Catechism Q. 150. Are all transgressions of the law of God equally heinous in themselves, and in the sight of God?
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.

All sins are heinous, but some are more heinous than others due to several aggravating factors. One of the aggravating factors that the Larger Catechism lists in Answer 151 is that a sin is more heinous if it be against the “light of nature.” For this reason, in this respect, same sex attraction is more heinous even than lust for the opposite sex, which is not, essentially, against nature. Same sex attraction is not the moral equivalent of opposite sex attraction, which God gave us for the purpose of procreation.  The recent confusion among the Reformed and Evangelicals over the sinfulness of same sex attraction shows this deficiency.
2. It denies the Christian doctrine of original sin. 

The statement that a Christian can live a pure life despite experiencing erotic desires toward persons of the same sex, suggests that such proneness and proclivity to enter into temptation are not sin unless they are acted upon.  But this flies in the face of Scripture and the traditional Augustinian teaching on original sin.  “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.” James 1:14 Temptation arises from our sinful nature, which is itself sin, and calls down God’s wrath upon us. By grace, those whom God has regenerated, get the victory eventually over their indwelling sin, by mortifying it daily. This teaching is sorely lacking in the church today. It is being said that our sinful nature, and the temptations that arise from it, are not sin, as if to raise up Pelagius from the grave.  If the Church ceases to maintain the historic, orthodox, definition of Original Sin, she will fall utterly.

I am concerned that the Nashville Statement adds to the confusion and false teaching on sin rampant in the Church today.

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