This is not Presbyterian: A response to ‘Step Right Up’ an article in the Australian Presbyterian Magazine

An article has been published in my denomination’s national publication (Australian Presbyterian) that I feel compelled to strongly, and publicly, disagree with. This is still, I think, my biggest platform. A dilemma I face is that by publishing here more people might feel drawn to read the original piece which is, frankly, destructive and dangerous. If this article, Jared Hood’s Step Right Up, represented anything like an official position in the denomination (and it is presented, unchallenged, without counterpoint as all op-eds are), then I would expect my wife and daughters to leave the Presbyterian Church, following, or followed by, every single man and woman in our congregation, every infertile couple, every same sex attracted person. In a church congregation of around 120 people, we’d have very few left, if everyone who cares about ministering to and with people in these categories left too our church would be empty. There would be nobody.

This article, which I will quote below, is not Presbyterian in an official sense. It’s an extreme position held by a legitimate Presbyterian academic who teaches in one of our colleges – but it is not the party line. It is, in my opinion, outrageous. Articles in this publication have become more outrageous over recent times as we ratchet up the culture wars and our rhetoric becomes simultaneously more fearful and more stridently combative in the face of the demise of Christendom (as though this is a recent thing). The strategy the magazine appears to have adopted in response, via this article, is “breed more”… because apparently that’s God’s answer. The problem is that this magazine seems to speak on behalf of the denomination I belong to. I can’t claim to offer the exclusively true Presbyterian position, but I think I can suggest that this is not a representative view, and if it is, then I’ll hand in my membership.

When we talk about ‘purpose’ which this article does, especially when we conflate ‘purpose’ with ‘ends’ we’re talking in the realm of what Aristotle and others call the ‘telos’ — this article has a problematic view of what marriage is for (kids), what life is for (marriage) and what Christians are for (ruling). It misses how Jesus is a game-changer.

This piece has a wonky view of the telos of marriage

“What is marriage about in Scripture? Chiefly two things. First it is about the physical relationship between a man and a woman. Genesis comes straight to it: “one flesh”. The main meaning is as obvious as Shakespear’s crude “beast with two backs”… Second, “one flesh” is at the core of marriage, but it is not the core… The singular fundamental purpose of marriage is this: to have children.” — Jared Hood

It’s a big jump to go from ‘marriage involves sex’ which is true, and ‘sex leads to children’ which is true but only sometimes, to the ‘singular fundamental purpose of marriage’ is to have children. Children are a good fruit of marriage. But our bodies are often so messed up by the brokenness and frustration of the world that having children itself is not guaranteed in marriage, and plenty of people get married after child bearing age (we’ll talk about how limited a view of humanity in general is on display here below). Marriage is about two different people becoming one — this is how we bear God’s image in marriage. Producing new life via giving birth is another part of us reflecting who God is, and we don’t want to understate that case, but this is a pretty utilitarian view of marriage that assess marriage’s purpose entirely on the ends it might lead to. Faithfulness through the trial of not producing offspring — for married people, or single people — is something God appears to approve of and bless throughout the Biblical story (but fruitfulness in terms of ‘seed’ or offspring’ is definitely something people desire.

But the telos of Christian marriage is not children. It’s Christlikeness. It’s the fruit of the Spirit. This character that grows in us as relate to our spouses is the same character God grows in those who are unable to get married, unmarried, or divorced in all their relationships. Transmitting this fruit — the fruit of the Spirit — to other people either in real Great Commission terms via the Gospel, or as we raise children in Christian community (with Christian community) is what fruitfulness looks like. Children brought up in the knowledge of the Gospel might be a product of Christian marriage, but they are not its ends. Christlikeness is the end goal in every relationship for every Christian. More fruit of the Spirit produced by more lives being restored to Christ is what ‘offspring’ looks like. Everything Paul says about Christian marriage in Ephesians 5 (and about all other relationships) comes through the interpretive grid of Ephesians 5:1-2 (and Paul’s picture of maturity/fruitfulness in Ephesians 4).

Follow God’s example,therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” — Ephesians 5:1-2

This is at the heart of what it means to bear God’s image again as we’re transformed into the image of Christ. To imitate him. And then to make disciples. That’s the goal of the Great Commission, which includes Christian parenting as we disciple our children.  Paul talks a whole lot about marriage in Ephesians 5. He says nothing about children but a lot about marriage reflecting who God is, and reflecting unity.

After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church—  for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. — Ephesians 5:29-33

The end goal of marriage is unity that reflects the Gospel. Which isn’t that different to our end goal as humans. And our highest calling.

This piece has a wonky view of our ‘telos’ as humans

Hood jumps straight from fruitfulness to procreation. A legitimate step in the Old Testament when God’s people were breeding themselves into existence. Hood holds the Great Commission and what he calls Christ’s “first great commission” as separate, not as related.  This piece confuses ends, means, and purpose of marriage – it takes the fruit and obscures the trees.

Hood argues that having children is the very purpose of our existence — not just of marriage — and because of this marriage is part of the purpose of our humanity. The goal of our humanity is, then, much like the goal posited by evolution; the survival of the (Christian) species. And we achieve this by giving birth to lots of ‘Godly seed’…What damaging piffle. His view of humanity rules out such luminaries as Jesus and Paul.

“Marriage exists for this. Male and female exist for this (Gen 1:27). In the next age, maleness, femaleness, and marriage, won’t matter (Mt 22:30). In this age, God says “procreate”, and therefore there is “one-flesh” marriage”… If you’re male or female today , be intentional about both marriage and children… Women of the church need to step up. If God has called you to be a wife and mother —99% of women — don’t stoop to only being a CEO. You can be celibate for the Kingdom, but not for your career. Make career decisions that fit with motherhood, not vice versa. Motherhood is the goal – “she will be saved through childbearing” (1 Tim 2:15). A Christian woman fulfils God’s plan and lives out her salvation by being a mother.” — Jared Hood

This is perhaps the most damaging argument I’ve ever read under the label Presbyterian. It is pastorally deadly. It is practically impossible. It is unloving and dangerous. It is folly dressed up as wisdom. It needs to be challenged at every turn.

Male and female exist to procreate? Male and female exist to reflect the image of God. Childbearing may or may not be part of this. Male and female exist to bear the image of God together, and as individuals. Whatever our calling. Do we really believe 1 Corinthians 7? That, according to Paul, singleness can be desirable and good? What damaging and terrible advice given in the guise of rigourous theological thought and exegesis. This isn’t just about countering a worldly idolatry of career, which infects our culture, this is poison. This is pastoral poison for every infertile man or woman who knows of their condition before marriage, it is poison for the couples working through fertility issues, it is poison for long term singles who have remained pure and faithful, pursuing chastity and thus childlessness above all other options, I have no idea where he pulled the 99% figure from, perhaps from the days when marriages were arranged in order to secure dowries and land deals. It is horrific. A car crash. And must be called out for what it is.

The goal of Christian living — male or female — is Christlikeness. Christlikeness is how we now bear God’s image, which flows through to how we understand fruitfulness and why the ‘first commission’ leads into the Great Commission rather than being separate. Fruitfulness is Christlikeness. Or as childless Paul puts it…

For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. — Romans 8:29-30

What’s interesting is that Romans 8 is much more Presbyterian (or Presbyterianism is much more, officially, closely aligned with Romans 8). Our purpose, ultimately, is to be glorifiers, as God transforms us to reflect who he is, by his Spirit, as his children. Or as the official Presbyterian catechism — a summary of our beliefs — puts it, in question and answer form:

What is the chief end of mankind?
A. Mankind’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

This leads to fruitfulness, and this too is us bearing God’s image.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. — Galatians 5:22-24

Hood doesn’t even  offer  a terribly compelling reading of Genesis apart from our telos as we see it in Jesus, he says (or sees) nothing of how fruitfulness might be tied to being a community of people who represent God. People are two whole ‘ones’, not two halves, before they become one. People must be able to bear God’s image and work towards collective human fruitfulness before marriage, Abel, a childless bloke, somehow found favour in God’s eyes in Genesis 4 via his display of sacrificial love for God.

The goal of marriage is Christlikeness. The goal of singleness is Christlikeness. The goal of personhood is Christlikeness. Fruitfulness is Christlikeness.

This piece has a wonky view of masculinity and femininity

This piece assumes some pretty damaging social norms about what men and women should be doing in order to grow up being ‘mothers’ and ‘fathers’ — it totally fails to grapple with all our norms being essentially constructed, the Biblical manhood he pines for looks nothing like the manhood of the Ancient Near East, and everything like the manhood of the pre-enlightenment west. Our assumptions about gender are almost always constructed from a particular human culture, and you’re probably in trouble if you’re trying to construct them from the Ancient Near East anyway, unless you want to somehow argue that you should force a daughter to marry her rapist, which made a little more cultural sense in a time where marriage was necessary for financial sustainability and rape essentially ruled out marriage. The Gospel, more than anything else, has shaped the way gender works for goodness and equality rather than curse and brokenness. There’s a reason we don’t let the ministers of our churches act like King David, discarding one wife, while murdering someone else to take his…

“Women spend 13 or more years in education learning to be CEOs and Senior Counsels, not learning to be mums. Men learn to remain boys into their late 20s, with Playstations, picture story books (sorry, “graphic novels”) and the juvenility of internet pornography… Education is great, but don’t use it to delay growing up. University is not compulsory, or even Years 11 and 12. Aim for marriage. To get the woman you’ve chosen to love down the aisle you’re going to need a life-plan to support her and your children… Women need mothercraft skills — there’s a conference topic or two. Mothers need playgroups. Can older women help (Titus 2:3)? Men need a church culture that says the time for onesies and superhero T-shirts is over.” — Jared Hood

I read this last bit to a young bloke at church who is delaying his education to take a gap year — serving our youth. He was wearing a Superman T-shirt. I’m sorry, but this is such a terrible view of art and gaming, and education that will leave people ill-equipped to even come close to engaging in the Great Commission with people who enjoy these pastimes. Probably the only thing I thought was agreeable in the whole piece was his labelling pornography as juvenile.

Honestly. I have two daughters and a son. I want singleness to be a plausible calling for them if that’s what following Jesus calls them to do. I don’t want them marrying deadbeats. I don’t want them marrying for the sake of marriage because someone tells them it’s God’s plan for their life. I don’t want them marrying non-Christians (because, for any non-Christian readers, the love of Jesus is the example I wish to be at the heart of her marriage, and what I hope we manage to pass on as parents). I want them to stay faithful and believe that Christlikeness is their goal, and is more rewarding and important than sex and procreation. I want them to be able to be happily single if need be, and to be trained and equipped to make a significant difference in the world. CEO or otherwise. I also want them to be able to engage with art and culture with discernment rather than fear, and to be able to use the universal human longings and desires that art — including graphic novels, games, and superhero stories — express to do that.


 This piece has a wonky view of the world and how God works in it

“We don’t know what Australia will decide in the promised plebiscite. We do know this: Christendom is dead. We mourn its demise. The darkness is well advanced… In the days after the US Supreme Court decision [about Same Sex Marriage], I was heard to joke: “At least we can outbreed them.” I wasn’t really joking. Hannah, in 1 Samuel 1, sees a society fit for judgment and she does something about it. She gives her son to the Lord, to be the leader that Israel needed, to be a Nazirite like powerful Samson (1:11). On more levels than one, “children” is the response to same sex marriage. The Christian strategy is family. ” — Jared Hood

What the?

No wait.

What the?

As though we can control how our kids turn out (though Hood makes some suggestions about how to do that…

“When enrolling children in school, don’t ask the principal, “how many of your students go on to university?” Ask “how many students survive your school with their faith intact?” and “how many thrive at your school in the fear and admonition of the Lord?” — Jared Hood

It feels like, from start to finish, this is Hood’s aim, to respond to the shifting of society by positing this strategy. Outbreed ’em. As though this is how God works. As though it is his means for bringing change in the world. Procreate.

Here’s how God brings change to the world — a theme and method so sorely lacking in Hood’s graceless and destructive piece. This is also the path to the sort of righteousness Hood seems to crave… and this is what I’ll be teaching my kids is the path to real humanity, their purpose, the thing they’re to pass on in this world, in all their relationships, if they want to bring change.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.  For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”” — Romans 1:16-17

The darkness is winning. Is it? Was Christendom which was heavy on morality light on Jesus really all its cracked up to be? Is the answer to have lots of kids, or to start living like kids. God’s kids? Imitating our big brother?

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness,righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.  Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. — Ephesians 4:8-11


Matt Viney says:

Nicely written Nathan. I decided a while ago that “Australian Presbyterian” was not a publication I wanted to distribute in my church.

Bern Merchant says:

Well done Nathan – thanks for taking the time to write your reply. These days I am finding myself increasingly uncomfortable with AP’s articles, and so I appreciate the wisdom shown in your response.

David McKay says:

Hi Nathan
It seems that younger evangelicals and older evangelicals have somewhat different worldviews on some issues.

I’m wondering if discussion between the older geezers and the young folk would be beneficial.

Nathan Campbell says:

I’m not sure it’s a generation thing this time. Plenty of 50+ types have similar issues with this Australian Presbyterian piece.

Brad Mc says:

Fine for individuals to have different views, and maybe there are some generalisations that can be made about those views across generations. But one shouldn’t try to contort the Word of God to back their personal opinions, as it seems Jared Hood as done here. He appears to take his own views on marriage, men and women, higher education (bizarre), Christianity’s place in society, Christians’ place in society, etc. and then misapply passages of the Bible to support those opinions.

Brad Mc says:

This is pretty awful, but it’s not really unusual. I’ve seen some similarly galling stuff in New Directions in the past.

Brad Mc says:

I can’t find the article. Which issue is it in? I looked in the Autumn one and couldn’t find it.

Nathan Campbell says:

The winter edition. It’ll go online shortly, the print version is in circulation.

Brad Mc says:

Probably for the best. I might forget to read it by then.

Laura says:

“It’s like Hood has not read, or does not believe, 1 Corinthians 7.”

Or Galatians 4.

John Dekker says:

But surely the key verse in this whole issue is Malachi 2:15, “He seeks godly offspring.” (Hood says this is definitive.) And yet you haven’t mentioned it at all. So how would you interpret that verse, and what do *you* think it says about the purpose of marriage?

Nathan Campbell says:

Hi John, like every verse in the Old Testament I would interpret it as pointing to Jesus, because that’s how Jesus himself says to interpret the law, the Psalms, and the Prophets. And so I would think that firstly it describes Jesus as the true ‘Godly offspring’ God seeks, but through Jesus and the Great Commission, and the Holy Spirit, he describes the children of God who are God’s real offspring in the Romans 8 sense. It’s interesting that Paul is childless but speaks of Timothy as his son… in the Gospel.

It’s also interesting that Hood’s piece doesn’t seem to grapple with the idea that Jesus, the ultimate human and ultimate image of God (Col 1:15) did not marry or have biological children.

Neither does Jared seem to take into account that Paul says that he wishes that everyone were as he is (single). If Malachi were to be interpreted as he does, then Paul is clearly in violation.

Mikey Lynch says:

That’s right, John.

Nathan, I am interested in your brand of “Presbyterian-ometer”. If you see divergences from a classic Presbyterian position in Dr Hood’s article, I would have thought that it would be honest to admit that your own views on gender and sexuality (and those of the PCQ’s GiST committee) aren’t the historic Presbyterian understanding either.

Nathan Campbell says:

Hi Andrew,

My “Presbyterian-ometer” is largely based on what you might expect to find if you walk into a Presbyterian church and asked “what’s the purpose of man”…

But also what you’d get if you asked practical theology questions like “how should I approach my career/life as a young man/woman?”… I expect you’d get diversity. And that’s fine, because while we’re confessional, the Confession operates in general and doctrinal terms and gives us scope for the supreme standard being scripture, and to be applying wisdom to life in our current age… so all I’m really saying in this title is this view is not broadly representative or our ‘doctrinal view on this’, not that it is not in some essence consistent with Presbyterian theology. This is what I attempt to capture in what I say here:
“I can’t claim to offer the exclusively true Presbyterian position, but I think I can suggest that this is not a representative view, and if it is, then I’ll hand in my membership.”

I hope in GIST that we’re limiting ourselves to what the Bible says about sex and identity, and seeing how that mashes up against our experience, and what those in the world think in order to find ways that we can engage with the Gospel, the catch there is that because those positions are adopted by the assembly, they do represent something more like “Presbyterian thought” at least in Queensland…

Well, one thing that is certain is that the GiST Committee’s papers carry no binding theological position (even if adopted by the PCQ Assembly) since that is the purview of the PCA Assembly alone.

Are their papers “Presbyterian” in the sense that they resonate faithfully with the Confessional understanding of Scripture and that of the key theologians of the Reformed faith? I’d say that they are weak in this regard.

For example, the article by Bryan Mulligan in the latest issue of PresLife, which is an edited version of a GiST paper, makes much of the “damaged” and “broken” state of our humanity. This idea does not represent the primary category that Reformed theology uses for our fallen condition.

Of course, there is an element of truth in it, but it is not primarily “brokenness” in the sense of mechanical failure, but “brokenness” in the sense of law-breaking. That is why we are “broken”, if we want to use that term. It is because we are born law-breaking and continue to live wilfully as law-breakers. And this is indicative of our even bigger problem: our broken relationship with God.

However, we are not broken in the sense that a vase breaks when it falls off a side table. We are not victims of the fall. We are perpetrators of our own self-breaking.

This concept is described much more biblically in terms of corruption, rebellion, and sin.

Even when the said article lists “lustful thoughts, pornography, casual sex…adultery, homosexuality, prostitution, sex trafficking, rape and other forms of sexual abuse, including children” as part of “brokenness”, the emphasis isn’t a biblical one of repentance to receive forgiveness and escape divine justice. Instead we are told that “The New Testament provides the solution to this immorality: the renovation or re-creation of ourselves, including our sexuality, through the hope found in Jesus Christ, the perfect human.”

This sounds like salvation by sanctification, rather than justification. But this is where the emphasis inevitably shifts when sin is down-graded from a forensic guilt before God to a sub-ideal lifestyle before human potential.

Perhaps the most revealing element in the article is the statement “the evidence suggests people are born gay”. It is hard to imagine that such a claim can be made with any kind of scholastic integrity. The science just doesn’t support it. There is no consensus on it even amongst secular academics. It would seem, however, that GiST would want to sympathise and promote that idea because it fits with their therapeutic version of the gospel. (To say nothing of the endorsement of the theory of anthropocentric climate change in the GiST paper for next month’s Assembly.)

What my “-ometer” picks up when I read GiST material is an un-self-aware neo-evangelicalism. There is a categorical shift in anthropology and soteriology. IMHO it isn’t Presbyterian or Reformed. I say this carefully, but at points I find it hard even to recognise it as evangelical – at least not in the way Lloyd-Jones, Stott, Packer, Sproul, etc have marked out evangelicalism.

Nathan Campbell says:

Hi Andrew,

Thanks. I think this is all helpful pushback, I disagree with bits of it but will take the time to process. Do you want to give me a call some time?

I do want to point out something that the disappointing PresLife piece, which was an interpreted review, not an edited version, missed (which I guess is our fault for being nuanced or something), this is from the GIST paper:

“When we speak of sexuality being a choice, the evidence, including accounts from brothers and sisters in Christ who are same sex attracted, suggests that orientation is not chosen, that it is a product of a complex range of factors often beyond the individual’s control, including environment, and, potentially, genetics. While the evidence for a biological determinant is presently weak, such evidence would not be contrary to a Christian anthropology, but support the argument that sin is hard wired into our humanity as a result of The Fall. This also fits with Jesus’ words regarding eunuchs for the kingdom.”

It might be worth reading the GIST paper, and I agree that the list of ‘evidence of sexual brokenness’ in this world might confuse people that such activities are brokenness in their own life, not sin, but what they are meant to be doing is saying “isn’t it obvious that there is something wrong with sex when we look at the world.”

What we do do, I think, which is different to what you’d like us to do based on this comment, is that we emphasise that repentance is first a turning to Jesus as Lord, not a turning away from sin. It’s second a turning away from sin, not a turning to Jesus. It’s about the order. It’s wanting to make the Gospel the proclamation that Jesus is Lord and he invites me into his kingdom, not that I am a sinner and Jesus died for me.

Nathan Campbell says:

I’d also say Calvin’s ordo salutis is that both justification and sanctification flow from our union with Christ. I think this is fundamentally what a reformed soteriology starts with, and I think ‘being conformed to the image of Jesus’ as a result of this union, which comes via the Spirit, is the end point that deals with our sin and ultimately puts it to death. This is the what we’ve tried to keep in view when writing these papers. Oh yeah and “semper reformanda”… we don’t stay reformed by sticking to a reactionary confession from a particular time, but by constantly going back to the primary standard, and using history as a guide. We try to do that.

I’d be very happy to talk on the phone – or even better in person if we can arrange it.

For the record, I have read the GiST article.

Unfortunately, I don’t think that the unedited version of the “born gay” paragraph improves things much. Whilst commendably acknowledging that “the evidence for a biological determinant is presently weak” it goes on to say that “such evidence would not be contrary to a Christian anthropology, but support the argument that sin is hard wired into our humanity as a result of The Fall.”

Such a view is problematic because it is a redefinition of sin. Indeed, it moves toward a kind of dualism or gnosticism that locates sin in the physical “flesh” rather than the spiritual “flesh” of the old man.

This line of thought seems to stem from the exegesis of the key text used for the GiST paper: Matthew 19:12. Jesus speaks of those who are born eunuchs, and there are several congenital conditions that would fit that description. But living out life as a natural eunuch is not sinful. No one was ever asked to repent of such a condition and the incapacity to have sex. That category of eunuch belongs with the blind man of John 9:2-3, not with the person of homosexual orientation.

I realise that it is becoming popular – even in evangelical circles – to distinguish sexual attraction from sexual action. The former sinless and the latter sinful. The footnotes of the GiST paper source that one side of the discussion and presents it as a fait accompli. However, there is another whole side to the debate – the one that has a much stronger historical (and I would say biblical) basis.

This is the view that not only are inordinate activities sinful but inordinate desires in themselves are sinful. They are part of our sinful condition – not merely a “broken sexuality”. The Bible’s message is that we are “born sinners” and our inordinate desires, including homosexual desire, arise from that – not from broken biology (unless we are talking about very severe psychiatric conditions where people are not in control of their own minds or behaviour: Coprolalia, Tourette syndrome, some forms of schizophrenia or dementia, etc.).

But for the the rest of us, for example, why do we lie? Because, left to ourselves, we love lies. We hate truth. We love darkness. We hate light.

Paul always puts homosexuality in this category (Romans 1, 1 Corinthians 6:9, 1 Timothy 1:10). It is not in the category of his physical “thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7).

Now having said that, there is no doubt of course that our physiology, our hormones, our psychology, our brain chemistry are all deeply impacted by our sin and the sin of others. I readily accept the word “broken” at this point. However, these are the added complications of sin, not the source of the sin itself.

Inordinate desires are (distinct from temptation) blameworthy in themselves. Jesus (in Matthew 15:19, John 8:44, etc) makes it clear that immorality is a condition of the human soul. Whether that is expressed in thought activity or physical activity, it reveals not a mere brokenness but a corruption. We are not merely victims of this corruption, but it is itself blameworthy. This is historic Reformed anthropology. “Depraved” was often the word of choice of our forebears. It is on this basis – even before we are born – that we are worthy of the rejection of God (Romans 9:10-13).

Inordinate sexual desire is not in a separate category. We can’t blame it on our hormones. Everything in our bodies from our heartbeat to our breathing rhythm is driven by hormones. The exercise of every sin involves the implementation of hormones in brain activity or elsewhere in the human body. But there is nothing in that hormone that makes me want to lie. There is nothing in that hormone that makes me attracted to someone of the same gender. That is a spiritual problem.

I am sure that abuse and neglect strongly dispose people to certain attractions. As such they are victims of very wrongful treatment and the effects of that are extremely tragic. But at their core the desires to lie, to kill, to steal, or to have sex out of context are all inordinate desires for which the Bible holds us personally responsible.

I would suggest that contemporary Christians are predisposed to put homosexual attraction into the “innocent” category because of how desensitised we are to it in our culture. But if their argument is sound, then it should be said just as often and just as emphatically about those who experience sexual attraction to children or animals. But it isn’t.

Now, on justification and sanctification, I agree that the ordo salutis is crucial. There is no justification without sanctification, but it is justification that is the foundation for sanctification. And because of this, the fact that “Jesus died for sinners” does precede “Jesus can give me human flourishing”. In some ways these distinctions are artificial. Salvation is holistic. And yet the gospel – the good news – is firstly and primarily that God has provided a solution for our sin in Jesus. We can’t repent and turn to Jesus without recognising Him in this way – as our Substitute. It is deliverance from judgment that makes it possible for me to have a new humanity. The gospel isn’t “Jesus…invites me into his kingdom” but that Jesus commands me to repent (Mark 1:14; Acts 2:38, 17:30). The kingdom of heaven isn’t for those who find it attractive and then learn that sin is an issue. It is for those who are desperate to flee from the wrath to come.

Nathan says:

Hi Andrew,

Thanks. I’m curious. Have you spoken to many same sex attracted Christians who are faithfully celibate about this position?

I suspect we’re talking past one another a little, the paper isn’t, in any way, seeking to deny total depravity. In fact, that’s the point, if it turns out people are born with particular attractions I think that fits with the vision of human sinfulness offered in Psalm 51.

I’d say Satan, then Adam and Eve, and all subsequent generations of humans, are the source of our sin, and so our brokenness (ie the damage sin does on us, and our world/cultures).

When I talk about ‘broken biology’ I’m talking about the curse and frustration of creation tied to sin, and the generational impact of sinful humans meeting and breeding with sinful humans. I think Romans 1 suggests curse is an ongoing type of judgment. I wonder how you account for those who are biologically intersex, or have hereditary diseases etc if sin/brokenness/disorder doesn’t play itself out biologically.

I’m also not sold on attraction/temptation necessarily being lust. I think God made men and women beautiful, and attraction that doesn’t give birth to lust may simply be a recognition of beauty. It may be, that for various reasons, a person’s subjective experience of life in the world means they see beauty where others don’t. It’s the desire to claim the things that are ‘pleasing to the eye’ for things God has told us they aren’t good for (or for use in contexts he’s rejected) that we see the pattern of our first parents playing out.

Brad says:

This made me really angry and I spent a lot of time (too much) thinking about it last night. I think the thing that gets me the most with this “outbreeding” attitude is that it sets up and us vs them scenario where christians and some other poorly defined group (atheists? gays? all non christians?) are having some kind of arm wrestle for Australian (western?) cultural dominance. This is not the approach the Bible advocates, at least in my understand of the Bible. It is not the approach Jesus took, it is not the approach Paul took. We are to win souls to the Kingdom of God, not try to estblish an earthly kindgom that shuts others out.

David Palmer says:

My attention has been drawn to this rather intemperate post.

Just for the record, Jared Hood is a well respected member of the Victorian General Assembly, and lecturer in Old Testament at our Theological College.

Given that Nathan is about to speak at the Woman’s Conference in Melbourne in a week’s time, an attack like this is a touch unwise, leaving aside the merits or otherwise of his argument.

I suggest the appropriate action for Nathan is to offer his own argument to Peter Barnes for publication in Australian Presbyterian much the same way I did in rebuttal of young earth creationists (AP, October 2011)

Nathan Campbell says:

Hi David,

Thanks for commenting. I’ve in no way, I hope, questioned Jared’s standing in the PCV or PCA, I’ve questioned the thinking expressed in his article and the diabolical pastoral ramifications it is having in churches around Australia. I’ve also, to be clear, not questioned his academic bona fides, or his personal relationship with Jesus. I have not attacked the man, but the ball — his arguments. If others can’t separate the two that is a problem for them to think through in terms of how disagreement happens within the church, and if people can’t abide strong language in the face of such destructive ideas being published unchallenged, then I’d suggest they speak to the men and women I’ve been speaking to in the last two days and get some sense of the damage his piece is doing.

I think the timing of this article’s publication and its suggestion that ‘mothercraft’ be on the agenda at women’s conferences is troubling given the upcoming GAA event.

Peter Barnes has made it clear he’s not interested in publishing a response to Jared’s article; and even if he were open to it, this article can not be allowed to go unchallenged in the wider Presbyterian Church of Australia between quarterly editions of the magazine. People need to know that this article is not representative of all Presbyterian thinking about anthropology, marriage, or our role in the world.

John Dekker says:

That’s just not true. You said, “It’s like Hood has not read, or does not believe, 1 Corinthians 7.” That’s playing the man, not the ball. A more generous statement would be “Hood’s argument fails to take into account 1 Corinthians 7.”

And whatever you do, don’t hide behind the fact that you used the word “like”.

Nathan Campbell says:

Sure. Thanks John. I can see how in that case it looks like I’ve played the man, not the ball. And the hyperbole is unhelpful. I will re-write.

John Dekker says:

OK, thanks,

Mikey Lynch says:

Good form, Nathan.

Deb L says:

I disagree, John. It’s is fair play to say that an argument would appear to imply a disregarding or lack of awareness of another contrary point. That’s not “playing the man” (ad hominem). It would only be ad hominem if Nathan had suggested that Hood’s argument should not be listened to because of some aspect of Hood himself. It’s not “hiding” to say that the use of the word “like” changes the argument because indeed it does. I see no evidence in the article that Nathan implies Hood’s views should be disregarded because of something personal about Hood himself.

David Palmer says:


I wonder whether we are in the same denomination?

Whilst I may not have expressed myself the same way as Jared Hood, his argument is arguably authentically Christian in a counter cultural kind of way. I’m surprised you can’t see that.

Whilst his article might not be “representative of all Presbyterian thinking about anthropology, marriage or our role in the world”, any more than yours or mine, nevertheless he speaks for many Australian Presbyterians as evidenced by Peter Barnes’ decision to publish Hood’s article.

I say get over it! Come to Victoria and broaden your horizons! Come and visit us at South Yarra. Jared is a member at SYPC.

Nathan Campbell says:

I’ve started wondering this too…

I don’t doubt that Jared is ‘authentically Christian’ or that this opinion is consistent with his framework which I recognise as a Presbyterian framework.

I think it’s a dangerous framework, and one that I don’t want presented as the Presbyterian framework for the sake of those of us in the Presbyterian umbrella for whom this stuff plays out differently. There are women (and men) in my church who would leave if this were the Presbyterian position. I would leave if I thought the WCF forced me into the same understanding of marriage and maleness and femaleness that Jared argues for, I do like that we’re a broad(ish) church though.

I think there are many of us in Queensland, New South Wales, and Tasmania questioning the wisdom of Peter Barnes’ decision to publish this article in this edition without alternative views being presented. It remains to be seen how many Presbyterians he speaks for outside the sphere of the Victorian college.

Deb L says:

I am sure you wouldn’t want to imply that Jared Hood’s position as a well-respected member of the PCV and lecturer at PTC means that his publically published articles cannot be subject to scrutiny and debate? Indeed, having published them nationally with the inclusion of his academic credentials at the end, one would naturally conclude that such scrutiny and debate is in fact invited and expected. The proximity of the upcoming Women’s conference, rather than hushing debate, should encourage those of us in the Presbyterian church to discuss and debate such issues robustly. If not now, when? I personally very strongly disagree with much of what Hood’s article suggests even though I hold to a complementarian view of the role of men and women. It’s a bit rich to suggest that Hood’s view can be pushed forward by national publication just prior to the GAA Women’s Conference but those of us who disagree must refrain from public comment until a more appropriate time.

Caroline Robertson says:

Thank you for saying this Deb, it covers a lot of my concerns, which I will admit to holding back somewhat on, for a variety of reasons, but not because of the upcoming conference!

One thing I don’t understand is that debate is being discouraged by some as being unhelpful, yet the original article by Jared Hood could well be described as both somewhat intemperate and unhelpful. And the fact that it was published with the imprimateur, so to speak, of the PCA, makes it all the more important that people can respond to the content of the article, without impugning the character of the author.

Caroline Robertson says:

Just to clarify, I have no wish to be debating or dissenting, and I don’t intend to do so on public forums. I am concerned when articles are published in a Presbyterian (quarterly) magazine with official status and with no effective means of reply, which have the effect of making single people with no immediate plans for marriage feel that somehow the Presbyterian church is not for them. I would much rather see a wider range of encouraging articles for all of us.

David Palmer says:

Well, there can’t be any complaints from Q’land, they seem to be dominating the speaker’s podium.

It might have served a useful purpose to have a person defending the kind of position advocated by Dr Hood also included as a keynote speaker.

Joan Milne says:

To David Palmer et al I would like to say that the primary purpose of the Women’s Conference is to encourage women in their walk with the Lord and their service for him both in the home, the church and the world, including the workplace. It is not a place for debating and dissension. The timing of both Jared’s article and the response by Nathan and the subsequent debate are deleterious to that purpose. Some of you already know how this speaker thinks which is something the committee probably did not. Personally, I don’t think Nathan or Jared are holding biblical positions. This is only one session of the conference. Please come and enjoy the rest of the conference, meet women who are also eager to serve the Lord.

Nathan Campbell says:

Wow Joan,

You don’t think this comment is deleterious to that purpose too? Undermining one of the sessions by poisoning the well with the suggestion that we are unbiblical and people should come for the rest of the conference, not our part? Could this not be a failure to listen? Are you aware two women are presenting with me? They might have different things to say, and the conversation might be enriching.

“Personally, I don’t think Nathan or Jared are holding biblical positions”

Perhaps both positions are Biblical and we’re just trying to figure out what is right? Working together to rightly divide the word of truth? Perhaps rather than sniping you could offer some engagement with the positions you are declaring ‘unbiblical’ and help us in this task? Perhaps that’s what we should be doing. Listening to each other… Jared and I certainly have been as we’ve emailed back and forth, and I wrote this piece having listened to the women I respect and love and want to protect respond to the article. I’m looking forward to reading more responses from women sharing directly how they’ve felt, and there have been comments to that end on this post on Facebook that make me think there’s a place for this article even if it appears intemperate.

I think the committee has had ample time to process our position on things, I even published some thoughts on gender and ministry recently that spell out things we’ve been writing and saying for a while, and my understanding is we were asked on the back of a talk we gave about engaging with Feminism over a year ago, which you can watch here. To claim some sort of surprise or ignorance at this point on the committee’s behalf is a little misleading.

Harriet says:

Hi Nathan,

I have been following this discussion with interest. As evangelicals, we are obviously in need of a robust theological discussion about what the Bible says about marriage and parenthood.

A good recent Australian contribution which echoes some of your points is Michael Hill’s The Heart of Marriage, published by YouthWorks.

He is the one who pointed out to me that Song of Songs celebrates marriage without a single reference to children.

As a way of contributing to the discussion, I myself am writing a biblical theology of parenthood, due to be published within the next 6 months.

In my book, I have chosen to leave out both Malachi 2:15 and 1 Timothy 2:15, since scholars cannot agree on their meaning. I felt it best to say nothing at all about contentious verses, but rather concentrate on the overarching sweep of the Bible’s story.

And certainly, the birth and teaching of Jesus revolutionised the place of marriage and parenthood in the life of God’s people. See Luke 11:27-28 for starters.

I have recently written a short article about Jesus and parenthood on YouthWorks’ Growing Faith website, if any of your readers are interested.

John Ellis says:

Dear Nathan,
Its true that the telos of all relationships is Christlikeness but sure marriage has a more specific purpose or purposes under that ultimate purpose.
My difficulty with the offending article is exegetical. It focuses on Ge 1:28 as stating an only purpose of marriage and ignores Genesis 2 where the purpose of marriage is the “mutual comfort that each has of the other.” The article thus passes over a more extended passage that states the purpose of marriage more fully and clearly. It is a sound rule of Bible interpretation that the shorter, less full, passage should be read in the longer and more full.
In any case, as any reader of the traditional marriage service might remember, marriage has more than one purpose.
I’m merely suggesting that the primary purpose (within the wider “Christlikeness” purpose) is that stated in Genesis 2.

Nathan Campbell says:

And Matthew 19.

Matt Viney says:

Who needs the excitement of the upcoming election when you can simply follow this string of comments?

Hang in there Nathan.

Nathan says:

Hey guys. Thanks for the comments. I’m turning them off until after next week’s conference. Feel free to email me if you would like to discuss this post further.

I am sorry that the tone of this article was a distraction from the content for some, but still believe Jared’s article was harmful and needed to be responded to in the strongest possible terms. I have also had a cordial and civil email exchange with Jared where he has assured me he is not personally offended. So maybe its time we dialled down the rhetoric a little bit and started figuring out how we can love those people in our churches better and point them to Jesus.