To Whom Will You Liken Me? The Biblical Prohibition of Images (Part 1)
God attaches to the second commandment is His sovereignty over us. This is affirmed in Exodus 20:5, “For I, the LORD….” He is the Mighty King, the Creator of all things both visible and invisible. All things were created through Him and for Him. He holds all things together by the word of His power. Because He is sovereign, He is free to speak, govern, and ordain as He pleases. He has commanded that we should not make any graven images or bow down to them.
The history of the visible church is fraught with temptation to know God through images made by human hands. During the Reformation and for most of the 500 years following, the use of images would be an obvious differentiator between Reformed Protestants and Roman Catholics. In recent decades, images “of all or of any of the three persons” have been introduced to Reformed churches. This two part series of articles first lays out the positive Biblical view of the second commandment in the Old and New Testament. Relying heavily on the 1981 Reformed Presbyterian Church Evangelical Synod (RPCES) report “On Images of Christ” the second article proceeds to lay out three arguments commonly used in favor of images. Responding to the modern arguments, these articles find that the Bible rejects images “of all or of any of the three persons,” and calls all people to worship God in Spirit and in Truth.
The Return of Images
The history of the visible church is filled with examples of image making and idolatry. The Israelites had not left Sinai before they made a golden calf and called it their God who delivered them from Egypt (Exodus 32). From the time of the judges through the exile, idol worship was a regular sin among the people of the God. The New Testament church was susceptible to idolatry through the superstitions of the Jews and the idolatry of the nations surrounding them.
God did not leave men to wonder concerning images, idolatry, and worship but rather revealed His will by speaking in His Word. God gave the second commandment at Mt. Sinai in Exodus 20 to direct the pure worship of God and forbid all idolatry. God asked questions concerning images to which no one could respond. As John concluded his first epistle he did so with this positive command, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.”
Nevertheless, 500 years after the Reformation, images of the second person of the Trinity have found resurgence in Reformed churches and homes. For example, Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Florida displays a stone statue of Jesus in front of the church building with the words, “Come Unto Me.” Sunday School materials are filled with images of Christ and Christians now widely accept their use. The Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod (RPCES) position report “On Images of Christ” gave encouragement to the use of images of Christ in certain contexts. Many professing Christians give little thought to movies and popular tv shows with actors pretending to be Jesus.
Should images of Christ be used in any context? Prior to addressing some contemporary arguments for images of Christ from the Reformed tradition, it is helpful to consider the second commandment from Scripture.
Biblical Overview of the Second Commandment
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
What Is Required?
The second commandment builds on the first by addressing the manner of God’s worship. In the first commandment God gives instruction concerning the object of men’s worship. In the second commandment, God gives instruction concerning the practice of men’s worship.
Whereas God gives the second commandment in a negative form, “thou shalt not make… thou shalt not bow,” a positive duty is required. The Psalmist cries out, “Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD our Maker (Psalm 95:6). Jesus said, “The hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24).
God requires all His worship and ordinances to be pure and complete as instituted in His Word alone.
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Final Thoughts on God, Guns, and the GovernmentBy John Zmirak — 8 months ago
What’s the sounder method for thinking through Christian ethics? It starts with the image of the person as revealed in Scripture and the practice of churches over the centuries. It asks what demands such a creature can rightly make of any government, and what duties he owes it.
All through this series I’ve been writing at The Stream over the past year and a half, which soon will form a book, I’ve struggled to articulate the correct way for Christians to form their consciences as citizens in a modern, post-Christian context. As it draws to a close, after surveying thousands of years of history, both Testaments of scripture, the growth of authoritative Church tradition, and the profound political changes wrought on the West by the Christian view of the person, is there a simple message to sum it all up?
The answer is yes. There is a message, and better still, a method for any principled person to use when considering complex moral issues. First the message:
Freedom in the sense we take for granted, based on individual rights, only arose in the West, and only the Christian West. That’s not an accident. The Christian roots of our regime of ordered liberty are no mere primitive “phase” that we can grow out of, or a skin we can shed as we grow. No, the Christian view of the person is the soil where liberty sprouted. It feeds our liberty, and it keeps it alive. Yank the tree out of the soil, and the leaves will stay green for a while, but it’s as good as dead already. That’s the stage where we are today, still staring at the leaves as the tree gasps for its life. It never “outgrows” its need for water and nutrients.
The only sane way to think about politics in the tradition of our Christian ancestors, the ones who created this system of freedom, is to consider first the human person as revealed to us by God in both Testaments, and then think through the implications of that human dignity for life in society.
The Phony Logic of Progressive Christians
Too few people today remember how to do that. Instead they do something else. By describing their faulty mode of reasoning I can reveal the Method promised above, the rational calculus you can use yourself in any new situation, on each political question as it arises, to arrive at your own faithful answers.
Since our argument here has centered on the question of using violence in self-defense, either against individual aggressors or the institutionalized violence of some tyrannical state, let’s unfold the Method in that context. What are the political implications of Jesus’ injunction to “turn the other cheek”?
The manner in which Progressive Christians habitually answer such questions can best be described as follows:
Read the passage of Scripture. Do not check on how previous generations of Christians have interpreted it, much less what past authorities of your own church tradition say. Also do not explore its connections to the Old Testament. No, read it as if it had been published this morning, and you’re the first person to think about it.
In order to be as “radically” and authentically Christian as possible, do not consider interpretations of it that can be reconciled with Old Testament precedents, or the dictates of reason. Those are “compromise” positions, which dilute the stark extremity of Jesus’ demands.
Instead, imagine the most counter-intuitive and impractical possible reading of the text. Experience the self-satisfaction that comes from embracing this interpretation. Go forth and impose it on others, shaming them if necessary if they won’t be as “radically” Christian as you are now.
Rinse and repeat.
Still Time to Care About the Whole Gospel: A Review of Greg Johnson’s ‘Still Time to Care’By Peter Jones — 1 year ago
But Johnson fails to insist that Jesus the Redeemer is also the Creator who created male and female. There is a crucial Reformed worldview hole in Johnson’s gospel preaching and cultural analysis. His desire to evangelize the gay community lacks a full-orbed view of existence. His gospel invitation to gays to adopt celibacy, without any hope of change, is, as he says, “a doorway into a godly hopelessness because there is no locus of hope in this life” (239). Cure is removed but care is not attractive.
In his book Still Time to Care (2021), Greg Johnson, an intelligent Christian thinker, seeks to make a valid case for allowing someone who, like himself, is openly same-sex attracted, gay, and celibate to be an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). Johnson adopts a profoundly orthodox and well exegetically supported view of biblical sexuality. He affirms the fundamental importance of “gender complementarity” (154), that is, of one-flesh, male/female sexuality, as clearly expressed in Genesis 2:24: “therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” He shows (155) that this must be the case by arguing that the Hebrew term ezer kenegdo, translated as “a helper fit for him” (Gen 2:20), reflects the sexual complementarity necessary for the realization of the divine call to the original male and female couple to “be fruitful and increase in number” (Gen 1:28). Not a male but only a female “helper” could make this happen. Throughout the book, and throughout his ministry, Johnson maintains this biblical teaching as the basis for his commitment to celibacy.
He states clearly:
“Personally, what I find so convicting is this: As we look at the unfolding narrative of Scripture, we see that whenever sexual desire is cultivated outside of that original design—whether lust, sex with animals, sex outside of marriage, prostitution, incest, adultery, deserting a spouse, or, yes, sex with a person of the same sex—it is presented as something distorted. Something God doesn’t want us to do. (156).”
Johnson is to be respected for his life-long commitment to this teaching, shown by his adoption of personal celibacy. At great personal suffering, he refuses to marry and will not endorse full engagement in same-sex relationships for Christians. He takes the position of “Side B” thinking, rejecting “Side A,” which endorses full engagement in sexual expression for Christians. “[T]hose unable to marry a person of the opposite sex are called to celibacy,” affirms Johnson (217). This choice causes those who adopt it to trust in “God’s power” (100) and gives believers who self-identify as gay “a very clearly defined redemptive historical trajectory concerning sexuality in the Bible.” He sees “celibacy as an intrusion ethic, an in-breaking of the ethics of the coming age into our present era” (158). Celibate Christian gays are an example to other believers, since in heaven none of us will be married.
Taking Care of Johnson
One main emphasis in Johnson’s book is his adamant rejection of “ex-gay” or “conversion therapy,” which believes that gays, especially believers, can and should be liberated from (or be on the way to liberation from) the gay life-style, even including its desires. His conviction that same-sex attraction (SSA) cannot be changed determines his vision of personal sanctification, the crucial place of celibacy, the nature of the church, and of the rightful place of gay pastors. To emphasize this conviction, Johnson begins with accounts of horrendous attempts in history to eliminate homosexuality, including the Nazi experimentations in Dachau and Buchenwald and later electric shock methods later used by secular therapists in the US during the 70s.
Much Christian counseling seemed ineffective. In July, 1999 “Exodus International [the largest ex-gay ministry] publicly declared that some believers cannot change their sexual orientation” (100). Exodus director, Alan Chambers, would later say that “change in orientation was not possible or happening (118). …The majority of people whom I have met, …99.9 percent of them, have not experienced a change in their orientation” (122). Citing Chambers as an authority, however, relies on the opinion of a man who has now accepted the (“Side A”) belief that Christians can live a fully active homosexual lifestyle and be pleasing to the Lord (129).
Having examined a number of leading “ex-gay” ministries, Johnson makes a “postmortem” judgment, concluding that hope for sexual change is now “dead” (134), because “the sexualized pull toward people of the same sex is not likely to go away.” For Johnson, the ex-gay movement “fostered an overrealized, triumphalistic eschatology which lines up neither with Scripture nor Experience” (135). Thus, he says, “we bid farewell to the ex-gay movement” (148).
In this review, I will briefly discuss the teaching of Scripture and the experience of same-sex attracted Christians, but I also wish to address the deep principles of holiness in creation as well as the cultural quagmire in which we live, as these relate to the issue at hand.
Johnson comments on one of the passages of Scripture that speaks directly to the subject of homosexuality, namely 1 Corinthians 6:9–11, in which the Apostle Paul observes:
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
Johnson posits that Paul was not talking about a radical emotional change and a deep cleansing of sexual desire: “God was not promising orientation change, that is, the constant desire for homosexual sex. …He was promising the grace to forsake an unrepentant pattern of sex with other members of the same sex” (144). But we must wonder: Can this principle be applied to the other categories of sinful unbelief mentioned by Paul? Can a believer live his whole life constantly lusting over women though never committing adultery and still affirm his unity and fellowship with a holy Savior? Can a believer constantly think idolatrous thoughts, as Paul says, “devot[ing] themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God, which is by faith”? (1Tim 1:4). Can a thief claim to be a believer though thinking without respite about how to steal from his neighbors? There is surely in this text a notion of fundamental liberation from a constant life of sin, thanks to the Christian’s washing, purifying and sanctifying in Christ’s blood, as the classic form of Reformed sanctification affirms. J. C. Ryle describes sanctification as “that inward spiritual work by which the Lord Jesus Christ puts a new principle in [the believer’s] heart.”
Paul seems to say that past pagan desire for sin is no longer the pattern for the believer. Johnson classifies a Christian exhortation to gays to abandon their desires as “spiritual abuse” (208). For Paul, homosexuality is always “contrary to sound doctrine” (1 Tim 1:10) and is a denial of the being of God (Rom 1:25–27).
Johnson’s personal experience of unrelenting homosexual desire leads him to a total rejection of the “ex-gay script,” but this judgment does not meet with the approval of all in the field of gay therapy. For example, he dismisses the work of Joseph Nicolosi, a well-known and respected counselor in reparative therapy. Johnson critiques Nicolosi’s life-long practice on the basis of one failure (64) and on the fact that he was not accepted as an authority by the evangelical group Exodus (65) due to the fact that Nicolosi was a Roman Catholic.
Another who would disagree is Andrew J. Sodergren, PsyD, adjunct professor at the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in Washington, D.C., and a licensed psychologist at Ruah Woods Psychological Services in Cincinnati, Ohio. Sodergren approves of Nicolosi’s work:
[Nicolosi] has done a laudable job of developing the academic and clinical foundations of reparative therapy. They deserve study by any psychologist or other academic or professional motivated to understand how family experiences may contribute to the development of homosexuality, and how psychotherapy may help to resolve it for those who wish to be healed.
Nicolosi’s colleague, therapist Dr. David Pickup, reports daily changes in clients who come to his office as they discover their true selves. Both Pickup and Nicolosi affirm that every person is born heterosexual, a biological reality, essential for any serious response to present-day transgenderism.
Sodergren also describes the work of two evangelical scholars, Stanton Jones and Mark Yarhouse, who were the first to attempt a longitudinal study of adults who desired to change their sexual orientation by religious means. They found that over the course of study, on average, their sample experienced statistically significant change on various measures of sexual orientation away from homosexuality and toward heterosexuality. Even Johnson grants their varied success (125).
Johnson cites research showing that gays are more likely to have suicidal desires (181) because straight culture is dangerous for them. However, Paul Sullins, professor of sociology from the Catholic University of America, opposes legislation that seeks to criminalize “conversion therapy.” He demonstrates that undergoing SOCE (sexual orientation change efforts) reduces suicide risk. His study found that:
Experiencing SOCE therapy does not encourage higher suicidality [as the opponents of conversion therapy maintain], rather, experiencing higher suicidality appears to encourage recourse to SOCE, which in turn strongly reduces suicidality, particularly initial suicide attempts. Restrictions on SOCE deprive sexual minorities of an important resource for reducing suicidality, putting them at substantially increased suicide risk.
Regarding the efficacy of therapy, Prof. Sullins’s research on the situation in the UK reveals that from 45% to 69% of SOCE (sexual orientation change efforts) participants achieved at least partial remission of unwanted same-sex sexuality after counseling; full remission was achieved by 14% for sexual attraction and identification, and 26% for sexual behavior. Another recent study in the UK shows that “British population data tell us that more people have left same-sex partnerings to take up heterosexual partnerships than have remained with that behavior.” A recent Christian video series, “Such Were Some of You,” Pure Passion Media, movingly tells the stories of sixteen SSA people who were deeply changed spiritually and sexually when they met Christ. The California Family Council has recorded the testimonies of many who have voluntarily left the LGBTQ world. Perhaps the ex-gay script is not as moribund as Johnson maintains. We should surely keep the subject open for debate. Can the entire PCA denomination depend on Johnson’s personal judgment that the “ex-gay script” is dead in order to establish a whole new view of ordained ministry?
Taking Care of our Youth
Sara Collins, wife of Nate Collins, founder of Revoice, describes Johnson’s approach as “a philosophy of ministry that doesn’t try to cure people’s orientation, but rather care for them as fellow image bearers of God and heirs of grace in Christ.” Such care, argues Johnson, protects young people from leaving the church because of the way the church treats gays. But care for our young people must include warnings against homosexuality as a lifestyle, as well as thorough instruction in the biblical worldview and the pagan worldview that homosexuality implies. The Apostle James would not agree that warning is spiritual abuse. On the contrary, James encourages such warning: “Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins” (James 5:20). The same passage also offers hope: “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed” (James 5:16).
Johnson speaks of the image of God on many occasions. On a podcast he states that as homosexuals “we image God as trinity in our love of intimacy.” But in addition to love, the trinity expresses the crucial difference in the divine persons, whereas homosexuality celebrates sameness. C. S. Lewis, whom Johnson often cites, understood that there are only two religious options: Hinduism or Christianity. He saw Hinduism (which denies the separation between God and Nature) and Christianity (which maintains the difference between Creator and creation) as the two major opposing religious traditions. Steven D. Smith, professor of Law at the University of San Diego, raises this in a fresh way. His book Pagans and Christians in the City: Culture Wars from the Tiber to the Potomac shows how the pagan thinking of first-century Rome, where homosexuality was rampant, has returned to the West. He lays out the two worldview systems that faced off at the beginning of Western history, namely pagan religion and early Christianity:
[T]he pagan gods were actors (albeit powerful and immortal actors) of and within this world. The God of Judaism and Christianity, by contrast, is “the creator of the world…who dwells beyond time and space.” … Pagan religion locates the sacred within this world…[in a] religiosity relative to an immanent sacred. Judaism and Christianity, by contrast, reflect a transcendent religiosity; they place the sacred, ultimately, outside the world.
God is separate from creation. He is hetero (other and different), not homo like the pagan gods (one with or the same as creation). The Apostle Paul distinguishes between pagan Oneism and biblical Twoism and immediately discusses sexuality as a theological outworking of the Oneist choice:
…they exchanged the truth about God for the lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. (Rom 1:27 ESV)
Throughout time and space there has been a major struggle between heterosexuality (expressing, via the image of God, the objective reality of difference) and homosexuality (expressing the normativity of sameness, or pantheism). Johnson describes “a decades-long culture war against ‘the gays’” (215) and argues that it is dangerous not to be straight in modern Western culture (181). But he fails to see the essential worldview opposition between Oneism and Twoism, between biblical theism and pagan nature worship, of which homosexuality has always been a symbol [see my long article mentioned in footnote 18].
What would Johnson’s message be to students at Gordon College who recently organized a rally “in solidarity with women and the LGBTQA+ community”? The rally was in protest of a chapel talk given by Pastor Marvin Daniels, a black Christian leader, who defended the biblical notion of sexual identity as restricted to male and female and described “a culture in chaos” that is “trying to redefine sexuality for us.” The opposing students declared: “We want to show Gordon that they cannot continue inviting someone who will spread more hate than love.” 
Our recent generations might not realize that they are living with the effects of the Oneist Eastern spirituality and sexual liberation that invaded the West in the 1960s and 1970s. In 1977, June Singer, a Jungian and Gnostic scholar, made a programmatic statement that our most recent generations are now putting into practice: “What lies in store as we move towards the longed-for conjunction of the opposites [Oneism]? … [C]an the human psyche realize its own creative potential through building its own cosmology and supplying it with its own gods?” [emphasis mine]. To those involved in New Age spirituality, she was calling for a coherent, all-encompassing, attractive and religiously pagan account or cosmology of the nature of existence. This is stated programmatically in her book Androgyny: Towards a New Sexuality (1977). This “new” paradigm fits perfectly with the witness of the paganisms of the past. The New Age Movement in its quest to tap into some kind of universal divinity seeks to usher in a golden age of Utopia which denies the value of distinct individuals created in the image of their Creator.
Singer saw and affirmed that the spiritual Age of Aquarius was also the Age of Androgyny, that the “new humanism” of this new age required a new view of sexuality, which she found in androgyny. She also understood its implications, and declared programmatically: “We have at hand…all the ingredients we will need to perform our own new alchemical opus…[the Great Work] to fuse the opposites within us. This is what individuation [the Jungian state of human maturity] is all about.” Singer further states: “The archetype of androgyny (a synonym for homosexuality) appears in us as an innate sense of…and witness to…the primordial cosmic unity—functioning to erase distinction…this was nearly totally expunged from the Judeo-Christian tradition…and a patriarchal God-image.”
The importance of this quote and of her book is that Singer, as a true Jungian, is conscious of promoting the deeply important sexual element in the coming “new humanism” that Jung envisaged: “The androgyne [the human being aware of being both male and female] participates consciously in the evolutionary process, redesigning the individual…society and…the planet.” She recognizes that a fundamental element in this “new sexuality” in its affirmation of Monism or Oneism is a radical rejection of the biblical God and the creational cosmology of the Western Christian past.
Alan Chambers, ex-head of Exodus, got the message and saw the implication of androgyny/homosexuality for contemporary evangelicalism: “Good and evil is a distraction, a detour.” This is theologically devastating and makes one wonder if many “Side B” Christians will eventually end up in “Side A,” where Chambers is. Such an attack on Western civilization through both spirituality and sexuality is succeeding beyond anything one could imagine. The erosion of ethical standards is evident everywhere. An angry response (among many) to a book suggesting the value of sexual reparative therapy shows where we are now.
It’s far too late for you. The gay is everywhere, creeping in, taking over your friends, your children, maybe even you. You can feel it deep down can’t you? The gayness taking over. Soon the world will be fully overtaken. As I type, I can feel it taking hold of me too. I have a sudden urge to listen to Lady Gaga and kiss girls. But there is nothing you can do to stop it. It’s coming for you.
Does Johnson not realize how deeply the LGBTQ ideology has permeated our entire culture? Our young people see that ideology promoted even in official American foreign policy. Our State Department recently closed applications from LGBTQIA+ advocacy groups seeking grants totaling $2.5 million from the new Global LGBTQI+ Inclusive Democracy and Empowerment Fund. Our young people see aberrant sexual identities glorified in high places. Sam Brinton (preferred pronouns “they/them”) wrote to his friends and followers on LinkedIn recently: “I have accepted the offer to serve as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Spent Fuel and Waste Disposition in the Office of Nuclear Energy for the Department of Energy.” A drag queen practitioner who shows up to work in the White House in female make-up and stiletto heels, Brinton also publicly boasts about his involvement in “puppy play,” grown men putting on dog masks and behaving like submitted animals for sexual stimulus. Brinton’s appointment and others like it make clear where the present administration wishes to take us.
Clearly the LGBTQ “community” and its political allies aren’t just after tolerance and peaceful coexistence for gays; they are determined to force Americans to treat behavior such as that in which Brinton indulges and celebrates as completely normal. What will it mean for our culture to give someone so depraved the governmental authority to decide what is right and wrong for everyone? The transformation of culture is far from over. Consider the successful media blitz that mainstreams the sexualization of children and promotes the idea that pedophilia is a sexual orientation, not a behavior. USA Today cited “experts” who called pedophilia a “misunderstood” condition and argued that not all pedophiles harm children and that we should call them “MAPS,” since they are only “minor-attracted persons.” Does Johnson take such cultural disaster too lightly? He makes no mention of the culture’s influence on the young people sitting in our churches.
Johnson’s approach to SSA and homosexuality seems naïve and inconsistent. He states: “…the only study that ever looked at the adult sexual attractions of child molesters found that none of them was homosexual” (141). He goes on: “There is no statistical link between pedophilia and homosexuality” (169). At the same time, he admits that “the most common form of same-sex sexual practice in antiquity was pederasty. …[It was] socially accepted for a Greek man to have a teenage male lover.” “The partner half your age is a fantasy most gay men have entertained on more than one occasion” (162). “Sex with a younger man was the primary homosexual expression in the Hellenistic world” (176). His title to this section is provocative: “Teenage Greek Boys and the Men they Melted” (169).
Johnson makes the distinction between pederasty (adolescents) and pedophilia (children), though one has to wonder if the distinction is significant in many cases, since some adolescents are basically children. However, a report from the French Catholic Church admits to 216,000 cases of pedophilia, many of them involving homosexual acts committed by priests from 1950 through 2020. It would seem that homosexuality is just as open to pedophilia as are other forms of sexuality.
How can Johnson preach a prophetic message against sodomy (as the Bible does with such insistence) to both his Christian young people and to the world at large? To be sure, we must insist that God loves gays and straights, because they are humans in God’s image. All of us are sinners and it should not surprise us that one of God’s most powerful and beautiful institutions would be used by the evil one to tempt human beings. Johnson’s solidarity with the gay community, however, leads him to warn against the “ethical system” of Christianity that “systematically favors straight people and marginalizes and oppresses nonstraight people” (180). Are we not also to warn our Christian brothers and sisters about the effects of the Oneist philosophy in all its Creator-denying forms? The doctrine of creation and the notion of the binary are fundamental to biblical orthodoxy. This is the meaning of holiness—in creation, God has separated all things, setting them apart in their rightful, God-honoring places. Calling young people to holiness, which Johnson often does, lacks content if we fail to understand that God is holy because he is distinct from us, and that heterosexuality, as the image of God in us (Genesis 1:27–28), expresses a holy distinction between the sexes. He calls for the church to “champion their human dignity as image bearers” (33), but the sexual image for gays, straights, and transgenders is, according to Scripture, biological heterosexuality. Johnson constantly says he loves Jesus, but does that love sometimes border on sheer emotion rather than on deep Reformed theology? His description of his faith is strong:
My heavenly Father isn’t an angry ogre shaking a stick at me. He’s my Dad. He delights over me with song (23).
…And even now, I have Jesus. He is my life’s positive vison. He rescued me. He forgave all my sin. He clothed me in his righteousness. He took me on as his little brother. He has given me family among his people, the church. Jesus is everything (241).
But Johnson fails to insist that Jesus the Redeemer is also the Creator who created male and female. There is a crucial Reformed worldview hole in Johnson’s gospel preaching and cultural analysis. His desire to evangelize the gay community lacks a full-orbed view of existence. His gospel invitation to gays to adopt celibacy, without any hope of change, is, as he says, “a doorway into a godly hopelessness because there is no locus of hope in this life” (239). Cure is removed but care is not attractive. To avoid an exodus of the young, he calls for a church where gays can be open about their temptations but non-practicing (216). But these same young people face huge, anti-Christian worldview attacks on their faith that are coming through the sexual revolution.
Johnson believes our young people are leaving the church because they do not see any gays in the congregation. He naively sees the positive empathy for gays in the thinking of our rising generations as the understandable rejection of the cultural past of “fear, defensiveness and politicized” opposition to gays (152). Without abandoning those with same-sex attraction, should we not also warn against the cultural indoctrination that normalizes gay sexuality? For the sake of evangelizing gays, he honors “the secular LGBTQ community’s cultural liturgies reflecting the image of God and echo[ing] a very human longing for redemption, providing points of contact”(194). While such longing might be true in certain individual cases, he does not see the brainwashing of our youth by godless progressivism, the outrageous loss of sexual restraints, and the massive descent into immoral depravity. He does not ask what will happen to the culture when queer Oneist thinking dominates those in government positions of power, and when gay judges reject the biblical binary tradition of right and wrong and the notion of individual rights flowing from God the Creator of male and female distinctions. Johnson seems ready to accept forms of gay culture. He implies that gay marriage is a valid option for secular culture (9). But where will that take us? Not satisfied with tolerance, LGBTQ activists are now clandestinely grooming children to join their ranks without parental knowledge. Two teachers in a California school district are accused of coaching a student into coming out as transgender behind the backs of the student’s parents. 
Taking Care of Christian Orthodoxy
I fear that Johnson’s active, naive support for gay pastors and openly gay church members will eventually mean that the PCA will follow the recent history of our Reformed brothers in the Christian Reformed Church (CRC). This historic church now faces a massive movement to normalize active homosexuality in church practice and doctrine. This could not happen to us, you say. The CRC denomination adopted the Statement of 1973, affirming that believers with same-sex attractions are to be fully accepted in the church, while declaring homosexuality to be “a condition of disordered sexuality.” But they discovered that LGBTQ members were speaking about “hurt-feelings over the 1973 position.” Supported by certain Calvin College professors, the Synod of 2016 included messages in rainbow sidewalk chalk, stating:
“We are the church too” …
“[W]e are dying to be who God made us” …
“57 years in CRC, GAY, What will you do w/ me? And 1000s others?”
Inclusive advocates gathered in the audience wearing rainbow colored clothing for the debate. Imagine a future PCA General Assembly with similar sartorial color effects. The up-coming CRC Synod of 2022 meets June 10–16 at Calvin University and will likely be “monumental,” as many believe, as orthodox delegates seek to hold all church leaders to the historic biblical view of sexuality. No one knows how things will turn out.
Christianity is being redesigned. In the Catholic Church, Pope Francis announced a re-ordering of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), splitting the doctrinal and disciplinary elements into two separate parts so that the Congregation will become LGBT friendly. These changes are hailed as “the most significant organizational changes to the office in over 30 years.”
In my opinion, those like Greg Johnson can be genuine church members if they clearly affirm Johnson’s biblical conviction: “Personally, what I find so convicting is this: As we look at the unfolding narrative of Scripture, we see that whenever sexual desire is cultivated outside of that original design…it is presented as something distorted. Something God doesn’t want us to do” (156).
But should such Christians be qualified to become ministers of the gospel? Not if they feel they should publicly and boldly declare their sexual weaknesses without hope of change. To claim ordination under these circumstances is to base church fellowship on an open admission of continuing and accepted sinful desire. Johnson seems to advocate public openness. Surely, we do share our sins in confidence with wise leaders, as we struggle to overcome them. It is interesting that Johnson cites John Stott and C. S. Lewis as examples of long-term celibates.
However, these men never spoke one word of any same-sex attraction or of a lack of heterosexual desire. Even if they did experience unchosen homosexual desire (which is not proven) or saw the homosexual condition as an unchosen orientation that would favor gay inclusion in the church, they never called for public recognition. Their example is healthy. They got on with their ministry without speaking of any eventual sexual difficulties. Which is the way most Christians function. Just as people feeling tempted by heterosexual indulgence or alcoholic excess ought to deal with the problem privately with their pastor, counselor, or close friend, so gay Christians who cannot control their feelings should seek counsel and keep their problems private. Johnson recommends privacy in certain areas. “Most non-straight spouses acknowledged their sexual orientation privately to a spouse or friend but kept the matter private” (238). Privacy is to respect the “straight” partner in such a marriage, and to be aware of the spiritual and theological weakness of young people in the pews faced with the present sexually “liberated” culture and tempted to follow its example.
Johnson wants care for himself and others in his situation but can he care for everyone—gay or straight— in a generation bombarded by Oneist thinking without a clear and courageous exposition of biblical orthodoxy in the areas where the culture is encroaching? He states: “It is not enough to have a gospel-centered pulpit” (223), arguing for the equally important role of communal life. But does Johnson minimize the power of the gospel-centered pulpit? Though Schaeffer had “compassion and empathy” for homosexuals, he stated clearly that he saw in homosexuality a breakdown of the biblical distinction between the sexes, a “denial of antithesis.’” Schaeffer saw the worldview issues, never held back on affirming the dangers of homosexual ideology, and gave hope to a whole generation of believers based on Twoism. One can do this and not “hate gays.”
As long as Greg Johnson maintains his celibate vow, he surely has a place in the church. Unfortunately, his constant sexual temptations and the need to make them publicly known raises questions about the effectiveness of preaching that might avoid passionate worldview exposition. Such worldview analysis is lacking in his book. Is it also lacking in our Reformed pulpits? What would Johnson’s message be to those students at Gordon College?
The call for cultural apologetics is not an appeal to pastors to preach politics! It is a matter of understanding the implications of our theology so we all can understand and live out those implications through the power of the Word and the Holy Spirit. A solid understanding of worldview is an increasingly great need in our nation’s churches and pulpits, which are abandoning orthodoxy in favor of cultural myths. They are turning away from God the Creator and Redeemer to celebrate depraved forms of pagan living. May we all speak clearly and boldly to Christians and non-Christians alike, with grace, humility, clarity, and power—following the example of the Apostle Paul.
Dr. Peter Jones is scholar in residence at Westminster Seminary California and associate pastor at New Life Presbyterian Church in Escondido, Calif. He is director of truthXchange, a communications center aimed at equipping the Christian community to recognize and effectively respond to the rise of paganism. This article is used with permission.
 J. C. Ryle, Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, and Roots (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2018), 22.
 “We all face the temptation to put a fence around God’s law because we’re afraid someone might stray into sin. It’s well intended, but when people start feeling controlled, they start feeling abused.” Still Time to Care, 208.
 See Course Notes: “Restoring the Broken Image: Healing Homosexuality.” https://humanumreview.com/uploads/pdfs/Sodergren_for_SSU_6pp.pdf.
 Between .02% and .05% of people are born “intersex,” with physical abnormalities that disturb the normal binary pattern.
 Andrew J. Sodergren, “Restoring the Broken Image: Healing Homosexuality,” Humanum Issues in Family, Culture & Science: Same Sex Unions (Fall, 2012).
 “A Longitudinal Study of Attempted Religiously Mediated Sexual Orientation Change,” appeared in issue 37 of the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy (404—27) in 2011. “23% demonstrated ‘Success: Conversion.’ These were individuals who established a fairly robust heterosexual identity and lifestyle. Another 30% achieved ‘Success: Chastity,’ meaning that they were no longer acting out nor distressed by homosexual impulses but had not fully achieved a heterosexual identity and lifestyle. Sixteen percent (16%) had experienced some progress and were ‘Continuing’ to pursue change but had not yet achieved either form of ‘success.’ The last (“Failure: Gay Identity”) comprised 20%.
 Sullins and Rosik 2021, “Efficacy and Risk of SOCE“; https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33968367/, See also Pela and Sutton 2021, “Sexual Attraction Fluidity and Well-being in Men.” https://www.journalofhumansexuality.com/journals).
 Originally filmed in 2014, then remade in 2018 and 2020.
 See https://changedmovement.com.
 Sara Collins, Along the Way: Still time to Care, a Review,” SaraCollinscounseling, (Sept 7, 2021).
 C.S.Lewis, God in the Dock: https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/1241712.
 Steven D. Smith, Pagans and Christians in the City: Culture Wars from the Tiber to the Potomac (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2018). Readers should note that this book independently confirms what the present author has been seeking to show during the last twenty years in publications such as The Gnostic Empire Strikes Back: An Old Heresy for the New Age (P&R, 1992), and Spirit Wars: Pagan Revival in Christian America (Main Entry Editions, 1998). See also Whose Rainbow? God’s Gift of Sexuality—A Divine Calling(Ezra Press, 2020). Other titles are available at www.truthXchange.com.
 Smith, Pagans and Christians, 111–12. Internal quotations are taken from Jan Asmann, The Price of Monotheism, trans. Robert Savage (Stanford University Press, 2010), 39; emphasis added by Smith.
“Androgyny: The Pagan Sexual Ideal,” JETS 43/3 (September 2000) 443–69.
 June Singer, Androgyny: Towards a New theory of sexuality (London: Routledge and Kegan, 1977), 237.
 See the historical expressions of this cited in Jones, “Androgyny.”
 Singer, Androgyny, 207.
 Singer, Androgyny, 333.
 The more overt pronouncements about homosexuality appeared in lectures by Jungian followers and contemporaries of Jung, applying his theories to issues of bi-sexuality and homosexuality, like that of Beatrice Hinkle on “Arbitrary Use of the Terms Masculine and Feminine,” and one by Constance Long, “Sex as a Basis of Character,” as plea for a positive affirmation of homosexual love. Jung’s followers, like June Singer and Toby Johnson develop Jung’s thinking to include the full justification of homosexuality.
 Read more at http://barbwire.com/2015/10/19/my-exodus-by-alan-chambers-a-book-review/.
 See also the amount of homosexual pedophilia–Dr. Gerard J.M. van den Aardweg, “Abuse by Priests, Homosexuality, Humanae vitae, and a Crisis of Masculinity in the Church,” Linacre Q, 2011 Aug; 78(3): 274–293.
 Sodom appears forty-eight times in the Bible.
 https://juicyecumenism.com/2022/02/08/abide-project-christian-reformed-church-lgbtq-theology/. Johnson is deeply bothered by a statement in article 7 of the Nashville statement on Sexuality, which states: “We deny that adopting a homosexual…self-conception is consistent with God’s holy purposes in creation and redemption.” Johnson wants to hold on to his homosexual self-conception.
 This is the opinion of the author of the article, https://www.crcna.org/ministers/19792, the Rev. Aaron Vriesman, pastor of North Blendon Christian Reformed Church in Hudsonville, Michigan.
 Michael Haynes, “Pope Francis restructures major Vatican office tasked with defending the faith,” Life Site News, February 14, 2022.
 John Stott and Al Hsu, “John Stott on Singleness ‘Uncle John’ Explains Why He Stayed Single for 90 Years,” Christianity Today Online, Aug 17, 2011, www.christiniatytodya.com/ct/2011/augustweb-only/johnstottsingleness.html.
 Though Lewis married later in life.
 Schaeffer, The God Who Is There, 57. Quoted by Johnson, 11.
The Ordinary Means of DiscipleshipBy Mantle A. Nance — 1 year ago
Written by Mantle A. Nance |
Saturday, March 26, 2022
“The prayers” in Acts 2:42 are likely representative of the overall worship of the early church. Still today, as the church seeks the face of the Father through the mediation of the incarnate Son with the help of the Spirit, the triune God is pleased to inhabit the praises of His people to the glory of His name, the routing of His enemies, and the edification of His church (see 2 Chron. 20:22; Ps. 8:2; Col. 3:16).
In Acts 2:42, Luke provides a summary of the ways believers in the early church grew as disciples. He writes, “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” According to Luke, these Christians devoted themselves to four basic means by which they were discipled. Let us consider these means and the way in which the risen Christ still uses them today in the lives of His people.
First, Luke tells us that the early disciples devoted themselves to “the apostles’ teaching.” We should note that Luke chooses to characterize their activity in terms of devotion. In other words, they made the hearing and the study of the truth as it is revealed in Jesus Christ a priority—a regular, nonnegotiable part of their lives. Still today, most ministers will tell you that those who do this are those who, more often than not, lead the most vibrant and fruitful Christian lives. Those who faithfully attend the public teaching of the Word with a genuine hunger for it are disciples who make disciples. When the Word is preached faithfully, boldly, and winsomely in the power of the Spirit, these disciples are equipped to be faithful, bold, and winsome influencers for Christ in every sphere of their lives.
Luke also speaks of the early disciples’ devotion to “the fellowship.” Our triune God is the God of eternal fellowship, and we, as those made in His image, were made for fellowship with Him and with one another. Our lives are deficient without genuine fellowship with others, especially with others who share our love for Christ. As we proactively encourage one another, the body of Christ is built up spiritually and, very often, numerically. When we are known by our love for one another, those who have not yet tasted and seen that the Lord is good often become curious and open to hear more about the Jesus who is at the center of all our fellowship, and, by the grace of God, become genuine partakers of that fellowship as well.