Thursday, August 15, 2019

Preston Sprinkle's Capitulation to the World

by Michael R. Burgos, Ph.D.

I've watched Preston Sprinkle transition from orthodox Protestantism to an iteration of eschatological conditionalism. That transition was surprising to some, but not to me. It seemed to me that he intentionally failed to interact with the most significant works on the subject, and that his argumentation simply rehearsed the well trodden paths of heterodox interpreters. It also seemed to me that his theology was disconnected from the authority of the local church, its confessions, and its creeds-- "theology in the raw" as it were. I wondered, does Sprinkle affirm anthropological monism? This is a question that I've asked a mutual acquaintance, namely, Chris Date. It's profoundly relevant to any consideration of final punishment since the same biblical language used to describe the intermediate state is used to describe the punishment of the reprobate. 

Leaving conditionalism aside, a member of my church handed me a book that Spinkle wrote that she received while completing a program at Eternity Bible College. The title of this work is Grace // Truth 1.0: Five Conversations Every Thoughtful Christian Should Have About Faith, Sexuality, & Gender. This text is designed to persuade Christian students and other young adults of an understanding of homosexuality and transgenderism that is grossly out of step with the historic biblical faith. Until recently, the perspective Sprinkle takes in this book was previously unknown to the church. I decided to give Grace // Truth a read, and what I found was disturbing. Here are a few of its many problems: 

On page 27, Sprinkle wrote that same sex attraction isn't "a sinful action that someone needs to repent from." He also appealed to testimony of "Cynthia Nixon from the hit show Sex and the City" in order to persuade readers that same sex attraction is unchosen (pp. 27, 37). What an astounding series of claims! First, any desire to engage in sinful behavior, such as same sex attraction, is a product of our fallen nature. Unlike the external temptations that Jesus faced, same sex attraction is an internal temptation that is brought about by our Adamic nature. Like a desire to commit suicide, abuse drugs, or engage in incest, a desire to fornicate with the same sex is an intrinsic part of our idolatrous disposition. Any desire to engage in an an activity that is a violation of God's revealed will is itself sinful. Jesus will not only call all people to account for their actions, but for their illicit thoughts too. One day "God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ" (Rom. 2:16). Jesus explicitly taught that evil thoughts and desires are sinful (Matt. 15:19-20).

Moreover, Sprinkle's appeal to Nixon is absurd. Surely he knows that anecdotal claims from unregenerate people, especially those who shill obscene television programs, have about as much credibility as a character reference from Al Capone. So too, Sprinkle is likely aware of the Sexuality and Gender study completed by Drs. Lawrence S. Mayer and Paul R. McHugh, and how this study ought to have tempered his claims. Sexuality and Gender demonstrates that while sexual orientation may not be actively chosen by an individual, there is no scientific evidence "for the view that sexual orientation is a fixed and innate biological property" (p. 13). There is absolutely no scientific evidence that there exists a "gay gene" or that a predilection for a specific form of sexual depravity is biologically innate. However, even if one was born with a predilection for a specific form of sexual depravity, a Christian worldview, with its pessimistic outlook upon the human condition, would preclude enshrining such depravity as either morally neutral or compatible with the Christian faith.

On page 31 of Grace // Truth, Sprinkle compares same sex attraction with alcoholism. He wrote, "There's a reason alcoholics say they're alcoholics even if they haven't had a drink in twenty years. It's because the desire to drink is always there, even if they don't act on it." Here, we see both Sprinkle's capitulation to the Alcoholics Anonymous disease model of alcoholism, and a repudiation of the Christian gospel. The biblical teaching is that drunkenness is one sin of many which may be overcome in Christ. Similarly, same sex attraction is not an indelible orientation that one may never overthrow. The apostle Paul specifically identified that the church in Corinth consisted of people who were drunkards and homosexuals, but were changed into disciples (1 Cor. 6:9-11). Sprinkle has essentially upended the doctrine of sanctification, choosing instead to sanction the zeitgeist.

On page 49, Sprinkle wrote, "Until Christians develop the reputation of being far too chummy with LGBT+ people, we fail to imitate Christ as we ought." The irony here is remarkable. Sprinkle, who speaks as one outside of the authority of the body of Christ, has sought to correct the church, even accusing it of not imitating Christ. In reality, Sprinkle has argued against a series of canards which, while finding traction in the minds of the moral revolutionaries ("Those Christians hate gays!"), has little to do with reality. Local churches call all people, including those with a propensity for sexual depravity, to repentance and faith in Christ. Homosexuality isn't merely just another sin. It is an upending of the created order and of the human constitution.

On page 75, Sprinkle asserted that attending a homosexual wedding is a "gray area" for Christians and that it a question of Christian liberty. Really? I wonder if Sprinkle would be willing to attended a wedding for a white nationalist who held strong and well known antisemitic and racist views. Would Sprinkle attend a wedding for an incestuous couple or for a couple who had left their previous spouses for each other? Attending a wedding is a tacit means of supporting and celebrating that union and the people therein. It is disingenuous to suppose that one can honor the thrice holy Lord of glory by supporting and celebrating a union predicated upon disobedience to his revealed will.

While there is much more that can be said about Grace // Truth, as well as the appropriate Christian responses to those who, whether willingly or unwillingly, possess same sex attraction, suffice it to say that the approach offered by Sprinkle is one contrary to biblical Christianity. Sprinkle has sanctioned same sex attraction such that it lies beyond the grasp of 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 and 1 Corinthians 10:13-14. In so doing, Sprinkle has done the church a great disservice and has himself, imbibed deeply of a non-Christian position.