Reconsidering Revoice & its Advocates

As a pastor, more often than not I sit with people who tell me that the gospel of grace is not enough. It’s not enough to restrain their anger, subdue their addiction and comfort their loneliness to name just a few of the things that the gospel is apparently impotent to cure. Some might even take umbrage with my using the word cure at the end of the last sentence. 

Think about it, this is in part how the church has gotten itself embroiled in the whole attempt to revoice the gospel in our present culture.  Late last year, Wesley Hill wrote in First Things, after last year’s Revoice Conference, “[I] knew the character of my same-sex desire…I was skeptical of the effectiveness of any therapeutic interventions.”[1] But the article isn’t just about the failure of therapeutic treatments aimed at homosexuality. Hill also seems to implicate the means of grace as useless instruments in the wreckage of failed attempts.  

Hill’s end result is to capitulate. In other words, Hill writes that at some point he felt free to ponder whether his “sexual orientation be something that God does not want to remove.” Now, to ponder the question is permissible but to actually argue the position that God wants sin to remain in his saints is contrary to God’s program of sanctification in the saint. The believer is definitively removed from the kingdom of darkness and set down in the kingdom of the Son of God’s love so that he might not offer his members as instruments of wickedness but rather as instruments of righteousness.  The aim and goal of the Christian life is holiness and it stands to gospel reason that God does not stand in the way the believer’s progressive conformity to Christ.

At this point, Hill may, must and does argue that homosexual orientation is not sin.  Perhaps the question begging to be asked is why talk about homosexual orientation as something God does not want to remove but rather to leave like a thorn in the flesh? Is sexual orientation a thorn or not? Nevertheless, what does Hill mean by homosexual orientation?  He writes,

A sexual orientation is such a complex and, in most cases, it seems, intractable thing; I for one cannot imagine what ‘healing’ from my orientation would look like, given that it seems to manifest itself not only in physical attraction to male bodies but also in a preference for male company, with all that it entails,” such as conversation and emotional intimacy.[2]

According to Hill, his sexual orientation is so deeply part of who he is as a person that he can’t imagine not being homosexual.  At this point, one wonders whether Hill believes that sexual orientation is a thorn in his flesh as he described in First Things or if it is an intractable thing so personal that healing would reckon him unrecognizable at least to him. One senses it is the latter.

Remarkably, Hill goes on to argue that the fruit of one’s homosexual orientation can and actually does produce what Scripture describes in the life of the believer as good and godly behavior. He writes,

“Scripture would use other language, other categories, for describing what I’m doing in forming chaste same-sex friendships, and it wouldn’t describe it in negative categories. On the contrary, Scripture celebrates same-sex love.”

Thus, for Hill, the homosexual orientation is actually spiritually productive. He writes, “Just as chaste chivalry, to take just one example, can be an expression of heterosexuality, so we’re suggesting that chaste friendship (or a number of other ways of expressing love) can be an expression of homosexuality.” Thus, according to Hill, homosexual orientation is not sin but in fact actually produces the fruit of godliness called for in Scripture.

So, is the gospel of grace enough? Well, Hill might say that the gospel enables the Christian with a homosexual orientation to put off those things unbecoming of any Christian, namely, sexual immorality. However, the question begging to be asked is one of identity. Who is the believer in Christ? It is this question to which Hill is allergic. In fact, so allergic that he must argue that his homosexual orientation is so benign so deeply part of him that it need not be redeemed but is, in fact, productive.  As I read Hill, my biggest fear is that someone will think that an innovative explanation can provide more than Christ who has come clothed in the gospel of grace.

Jeffrey A. Stivason is the pastor of Grace Reformed Presbyterian Church in Gibsonia, PA. He also holds a Ph.D. in systematic theology from Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, PA.  Jeff is the author of From Inscrutability to Concursus (P&R), he has contributed to The Jonathan Edwards Encyclopedia (Eerdmans) and is the Executive Editor for Place for Truth.


Jeffrey Stivason