Yesterday I described how complementarians used deception to replicate in conservative churches what feminists had already accomplished in liberal churches. With their feminist victory in the final mopping up stages, several prominent complementarians have started switching their focus to pushing LGBT acceptance in conservative churches. Key to the complementarian approach in both cases is to pretend they are really there to protect the church from the assaults of the culture war. Complementarians know that if they become the defenders of conservative christian culture they can use their trusted position to dismantle the defenses.
Dr. John Piper was one of the two primary leaders in creating the complementarian movement. In 1991 Dr. Piper and Dr. Wayne Grudem edited the book that spelled out the theological position of the newly formed Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW): Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism The book was critical to achieving the goal of convincing conservative Christians to accept a watered down version of the feminism that had already devastated the liberal church. Arguably their biggest achievement was convincing nearly all conservative Christians to reject the traditional (and obvious) reading of 1 Tim 2:12 in order to promote women as non ordained preachers.
Dr. Piper is still an influential figure in the complementarian world, and is a Council member of The Gospel Coalition (TGC). Piper’s website Desiring God regularly includes posts on the subject of Same Sex Attraction (SSA). The overt message in these posts is that Christians need to get with the times while remaining true to what the Bible teaches us. More subtly they push the same gay agenda that has overcome our larger society (including liberal churches) in a form that is perfectly tuned to deceive conservative Christians.
For example, see Pastor Nick Roen’s Desiring God article titled Homophobia Has No Place in the Church. Roen is an assistant to the pastor for Piper’s Bethlehem Baptist Church* and alternately identifies as gay and SSA, but generally prefers the term SSA. Roen explains in his homophobia post that unlike gay activists in the larger culture, he isn’t using the term to advance acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle:
…my fear is that homophobia is all too common, not just in society, but even within the church. Some may object to my use of the word homophobia. It can sometimes be used as a politically loaded term wielded to silence any and all opposition to same-sex sexual activity. However, this is not the root definition of the term.
Roen then proceeds to chastise conservative Christians in the same way gay activists have chastised the rest of the culture for decades, but his push for acceptance is couched as a concern that conservative Christians aren’t staying true to the teachings of the Bible. Roen challenges his readers to search their hearts, asking rhetorically if their disgust at the gay lifestyle is biblical, or are they merely hateful bigots?
Is your belief that same-sex sexual activity is sin based finally on solid biblical exegesis? Or is it really based on the fact that you don’t understand how someone could be attracted to the same sex, and this unknown seems to you just plain creepy?
Roen continues, rhetorically scolding conservative Christians for the sin of homophobia for not wanting gays to change the culture:
Is your opposition to so-called same-sex marriage based on a principled biblical definition of marriage? Or is it more influenced by a fear that same-sex couples might signal the unraveling of comfortable cultural norms and usher in the end of a once-pristine “Judeo-Christian society”? Or maybe your fear is more that one such couple might move in next door, and you might actually be pressured to befriend them?
Roen challenges conservative Christians to make sure their church is gay friendly:
Does your opposition to homosexual practice include the ability to lovingly welcome LGBT people into a Sunday service or other gathering with other Christians? Or does opposition for you mean that you wish they would just stay away so you aren’t made uncomfortable by their very presence?
Note that Roen is performing a bait and switch here. He is leading with a challenge to accept repentant sinners into the church. But he can’t be talking about private homosexual sin in this regard. For how would the congregation know a stranger’s sexual sin unless the stranger was also “loud and proud”, and so outwardly engaged in the gay lifestyle that it is unmistakable when you first meet them? This is not about accepting other sinners, just as we have been accepted. This is about normalizing the gay lifestyle for conservative Christians.
But then Roen goes a step further, and chastises conservative Christians who feel that it wouldn’t be wise to put gay men such as himself in leadership positions, or give him trusted access to the congregation’s children.
In standing for Christian sexual ethics, do you encourage and support those SSA believers within the church who are striving to remain faithful to biblical teaching by welcoming them into full participation in church life? Or does standing for biblical sexuality mean that they can come to church, but they can’t grow in influence or serve the body through teaching, and they should probably stay away from the youth group?
This is not about redemption at all, it is about power and accepting the gay lifestyle. Roen is suggesting that mere salvation isn’t enough!
The truly insidious nature of this becomes more clear when you consider another aspect of the push to get conservative Christians to accept homosexuality. The push is to get conservative Christians to accept gay Christians forming public and ostensibly chaste same sex relationships called “spiritual friendships”. Pastor Roen didn’t participate in the recent Revoice** conference pushing spiritual friendships, but he is a regular contributor to the Spiritual Friendship website.
For an idea on Pastor Roen’s position here, see his response to the Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage (emphasis mine). What Roen wants is to take the push for gay “civil unions” and re-purpose it for conservative Christianity. He wants society and the church to formally recognize his (supposedly chaste) relationship with his gay life partner:
3. Speaking of the civil benefits of marriage, the reason that there are tax breaks and insurance benefits and the like is because marriage is a recognized good in society. But why is marriage the only committed relationship that the state recognizes in these ways as beneficial to societal flourishing? It seems to me that many types of deep, committed, mutual relationships are beneficial to society in similar-but-not-identical ways to marriage; whether it is a marriage, a celibate partnership, a committed friendship, or a chosen kinship, all of these bonds have the potential to be sites of sacrificial love, selfless service, and others-oriented hospitality. All of these things are societal goods.
So what if—regardless of the label one puts on the relationship—two people who have chosen a life of celibacy decide to commit to serve and support and do life with one another? Shouldn’t they be able to visit each other in the hospital? If they can decide to have a joint bank account, why shouldn’t they be able to have joint health insurance benefits? Why is their relationship not worthy of the types of societal privileges that marriage affords? I understand that these perks were put in place to encourage marriage in the first place. But I want to say, “Let’s encourage deep, committed, service-oriented relationships in many forms!”
4. Because those rights are at the moment reserved for marriage, isn’t it easier to understand at least some of the motivation for the legalization of gay marriage? I understand what it is like to not have visitation rights or joint insurance, and I also understand why gay people want those things. So if the state will continue to refuse those goods to other types of relationships (which I don’t think it should), then even if we disagree with gay “marriage”, lets be quick to understand what is at stake. It isn’t only competing moralities and conflicting ideologies and religious freedom and all that. It is those things. But it’s more also. It’s being able to visit your dying partner in the ICU. It’s being able to list the person you love as inheritor of your estate. It’s being able to file taxes with the person you are doing life with. Right now, marriage is the only way those things are possible. I am not advocating for wholesale support of gay marriage. Don’t hear me saying that! (see point 1 above). But I am saying that maybe lets be slow to throw stones at those “radical gays” who are pushing for civil benefits for their commitment to one another. I would like those same benefits, TBH…so I get it.
Put all of this together and you end up with conservative churches welcoming loud and proud gays to join in worship. So long as gays assure the church they are comitted to remaining chaste, they must be promoted into leadership and given trusted access to the children. Gay Christians, including those in leadership, must be allowed to publicly declare their life partner, so long as they maintain the fiction that there is nothing sexual or romantic about this gay relationship. Conservative Christians also need to stop thinking of homosexuality as “yucky”, and bring the gay couple next door into their social circle.
It would do us well to humbly examine our hearts to reveal the motives and fears behind our attitudes toward people who identify as “gay.” Happily upholding Christian sexual ethics is not the same as harboring animosity toward an entire group of people simply because you find them yucky.
Again, this is a movement aimed at and being accepted by conservative Christians. The liberal churches already fully and openly accept the homosexual lifestyle. Not all complementarians are on board with this new push. A number of them want to stop with the progress they made regarding feminism. Some like Pastor Tim Bayly and Pastor Doug Wilson are actively fighting the new movement. But even if all complementarians were fighting the movement, they paved the way when they collectively created the script that Pastor Nick Roen and the Revoice/Spiritual Friendship crowd are following. Conservative churches will find it very difficult to resist this latest onslaught, because they have already accepted the methods and arguments that are being used.
*The Desiring God article identifies Roen as “Pastor, Albert Lea, Minnesota”. However, Roen’s Twitter page says “Assistant TO the Lead Pastor @hopeinGod South Campus”. @hopeinGod is the Twitter name for Bethlehem Baptist Church. Pastor John Piper was senior pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church from 1980 to January 2013, and is the chancellor of the affiliated Bethlehem College & Seminary. Roen was a student at Bethlehem College & Seminary.
**For an insider defense of the subject, see In Defense of Spiritual Friendship and Revoice by Ron Belgau. See also Belgau’s follow up post Thinking Deeply about Christian Love: Same-Sex Attraction, Sin, and Spiritual Friendship. Note that Belgau identifies Nick Roen as someone his thoughts are aligned with.