LUST AND AUGUSTINE

First Things | 5/1/2018 | Dale M. Coulter
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I have watched with keen interest the debates unfolding around the Revoice Conference, which takes place in St. Louis at the end of July. (The mission of Revoice, for those who don’t know, is to support LGBT Christians who seek to observe the historic Christian doctrine of marriage and sexuality.) The debate began with a concern over whether “Side B” (celibate gay) Christians can sustain the tension between homosexual identity and Christian identity expressed in the phrase “gay Christian.” This question has now led to a debate over the nature of temptation and the presence of disordered desire in the Christian.

Denny Burk and Rosaria Butterfield are among those who have taken the lead in criticizing Revoice. In response to Ron Belgau’s defense of the conference, Burk and Butterfield have articulated the theological foundations of their position in the controversy. Though they seek to defend the traditional Reformed interpretation of St. Augustine, their understanding of concupiscence misinterprets Augustine in fundamental ways.

Augustine - Writings - Burk - Butterfield - Presence

Privileging Augustine’s anti-Pelagian writings, Burk and Butterfield have argued that the mere presence of concupiscence is itself a sin, even among believers. But their concerns about eros do not take into consideration the nature of salvation as the ecstatic flight of desire to its true home. In Augustine’s vocabulary, eros is amor, not concupiscentia.

For Augustine, love is the most basic appetite of the soul. It is the soul’s movement outward in union with all that is good, whether temporal or eternal. This outward movement is a form of ecstasy, a reflection of God’s internal ecstatic movement from the Father through the Son in the Spirit. It is intrinsic to the human person as a creature that cannot sustain its own existence. In short, God has designed humans to be lovers.

Question - Movement

The question is how to direct this outward movement, thus properly ordering...
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