A.J. Castellitto
A brief exchange with Dr. Phillip Cary
By A.J. Castellitto
November 24, 2018

"We've all heard sermons that say, 'If you're being tempted, that's not sin. It's only sin if you give into the temptation...Luther and Calvin and their friends took a hard line on this. They said that the desire that makes up our temptation is already sin, even before we give in or consent to this." – Phillip Cary, professor of philosophy at Eastern University

"Augustine is notorious for teaching that the sexual activity of all the offspring of Adam and Eve is inevitably sinful, good in its natural aim and yet the outgrowth of a corrupted human nature from which stems nothing pure or free from shame. The procreative sexuality of married men and women includes desire for the right object, but it is always excessive or self-seeking or disordered in some way. Hence in Augustine's teaching every sexual act, even of married Christians, is sin in need of forgiveness, precisely because it involves consenting to our inevitably concupiscent sexual desires rather than mortifying them." – Dr. Cary https://mereorthodoxy.com/augustine-concupiscence-friendship/

Hello Dr. Cary,

I just listened to the podcast you did with Mark Galli on Revoice. (Please listen for context).


Wondering if postmodernism is the biggest culprit as far as sexuality and identify is concerned. I think with the Roman Catholic abuse scandal maybe our depravity is too great to withstand improper accountability as far as celibacy vows are concerned.

Anyway, I also feel for those who struggle with disordered desire, whatever it may be. And maybe, too often, contemporary Christian culture exasperates the suffering of those who struggle in various areas and ways (in our fallen world).

Personally, I'm really struggling to surround myself with good things and keep my mind and heart on Christ in today's technological and politicized world. I think your loving approach is vital and I like how you defer to the teachings of theological giants like Augustine and Luther to make your case.

I'm wondering if there are any other theologians doing what you are doing in occupying a type of middle space in which you honor traditional Protestantism and orthodoxy while remaining objective and avoiding the pitfalls of doctrinal absolutism, especially when it is not necessary.

-Anthony J. Castellitto

"Thanks for the good word, Anthony. I'm hopeful that lots of people want to occupy some kind of middle ground on issues of sexuality, but can't quite find the right words for it. I'm mainly trying to find the right words. My assumption, which I think is probably widely shared, is that the people I disagree with – even those putting into practice a vision of sexuality I think is sinful and harmful – are basically decent and well-meaning people, despite being wrong about some things. After all, there are surely some areas (if only I knew which ones!) in which the best I can hope for is that the same words apply to me: basically decent even though wrong in this particular area." -Phillip Cary

You have a gift of finding the right words.

I wouldn't want to live in a world where your love and compassion is scoffed at. If it comes to that, I just pray I will stand in Christ. – Anthony

Note: I personally don't agree with 'revoice' or the 'spiritual friendship' movement. I do believe we are all guilty sinners with a multitude of disordered desires and I'm not in a position to claim any moral high ground.

(I think we should let the Word of God speak for itself). However, I believe many of the contemporary problems infecting the church could be resolved with a rediscovery of a 'Union with Christ' in which the 'me' (including our carnal desires, self-perceptions, and so-called identities) is substituted with HIM in Word, Worship and Sacrament. Any and all desires we place before our Maker, Savior and Sustainer are ultimately disordered. As John Calvin said,

'Man's nature, so to speak, is a perpetual factory of idols.'

© A.J. Castellitto


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