Learning to Hate our Sin without Hating Ourselves

Jul 6, 2018 by

by  Denny Burk and Rosaria Butterfield, Public Discourse:

The current debate about gay Christianity traces back to a centuries-old dispute between Protestants and Catholics about the doctrine of man and the doctrine of sin. Roman Catholics do not regard involuntary desire for sin (concupiscence) to be sinful. Reformed Protestants do.

Ron Belgau has written a provocative essay here at Public Discourse naming us as “unreasonable critics” of the upcoming conference Revoice and of the Spiritual Friendship project. We—like others who have opposed this movement—have been accused of misrepresenting his views. To the contrary, we believe that we have an honest theological difference, one that shows that different theological commitments will necessarily produce different theological applications. 

In this essay we underline something that has gotten lost in recent discussions: the theological foundations of the current dispute. 

Protestant vs. Catholic  

The fundamental difference between Belgau’s perspective and ours has less to do with sexuality than it does with the fact that he is a Roman Catholic and we are Reformed Protestants. Our theological foundations are vastly different. Thus, our understanding of human sexuality, sin, personhood, and the suffering that results from original sin is vastly different as well. This is nowhere clearer than in our different understandings of concupiscence. Our differences here ultimately boil down to a different understanding of scripture. 

The Reformed Tradition differs from Roman Catholicism in its understanding of Augustine’s doctrine of concupiscence. Concupiscence is simply the Latin translation of the Greek New Testament’s terms for desire (epithumia, epithumeō). Augustine understands this desire to be the key pre-behavioral component of our sin. Such desire consists of the fallen inclinations that we all continually experience before ever actually choosing to sin. In a sermon on Romans 7, Augustine describes it this way: 

Read here


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