November 26, 2014

July 17, 2012


Denny Burk on the Exodus Controversy

Denny Burk hits the nail on the head:

Alan Chambers has just published an opinion piece for Christianity Today that confirms what I wrote a couple of weeks ago. The recent controversy surrounding his tenure as President of Exodus International has less to do with his views on homosexuality than it does with his views on salvation. Chambers still affirms a biblical sexual ethic. He simply argues that Christians can ignore that ethic and still be considered Christians.

As I noted two weeks ago, Chambers seems to be advocating the non-lordship view of salvation that was made popular by Zane Hodges back in the 1980′s. This so-called “free grace” view teaches that an ungodly lifestyle need not trouble the assurance of a true “Christian.” According to this view, a Christian can apostatize and still be considered a true Christian.

In the CT piece, Chambers reasserts this view and complains that Christians seem to be singling out homosexual sin as if it were worse than all others. He charges many evangelicals with being inconsistent:

For anyone to point at one group of people with a certain set of proclivities and condemn them for those things while exonerating (or ignoring) another is hypocritical and inconsistent. Can a believer persist in willful pride and still inherit the Kingdom of God? Can a believer persist in willful alcoholism and still inherit the Kingdom of God? Can a believer persist in willful gluttony and still inherit the Kingdom of God? Can a believer persist in willful heterosexual pornography and still inherit the Kingdom of God? If you aren’t consistently and regularly calling all sin sinful, and calling all people (including yourself) to holy living, then how can you do so for those living homosexually? And, if you are unwilling to pronounce the same eternal sanctions on all willful sinning believers as you are on the gay and lesbian willful sinner, how can you justify that? [underline mine]

Chambers seems to imply that the answer to the underlined questions above is yes. But a biblical answer to those questions is clearly no. Those who continue in willful unrepentant sin will not inherit the kingdom of God. Those who say otherwise are simply contradicting the clear teaching of scripture (1 Cor. 6:9-10; Gal. 5:19-21; Eph. 5:5-6)...more


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In the CT piece, Chambers reasserts this view and complains that Christians seem to be singling out homosexual sin as if it were worse than all others. He charges many evangelicals with being inconsistent…

While I can’t claim that this is an absolute falsehood (there might have been more truth to the claim in more fundamentalist congregations in the early 1990s), it is largely nothing more than a popular stawman that has been used so often by the tiny but vocal Religious Left, that the stuffing is coming out and the torso hardly has anymore shape.

There is only one reason why I, as a Christian, have to explain my position on homosexual sin so often and in so much detail, and it is the same reason why Christian authors of the postwar era had to spend so much time on sexual morality: it is because our culture (or the vocal part of it that takes up the media space) is fanatically obsessed and mesmerized by it. If all of these voices would just shut up, we could talk about other sins of society (sins the left is probably salivating to discuss).

[1] Posted by All-Is-True on 7-17-2012 at 03:32 PM · [top]

We must be careful not to stray into “justification by works.”  If the answer to “Can a believer persist in willful heterosexual pornography and still inherit the Kingdom of God?” is “no” then, when I approach the judgement seat, will I not have the right to claim (as works) that “I did not persist in willful heterosexual pornography” ?

No: Salvation is by grace alone.  And good, faithful behaviour is by grace alone. 

So this article focuses us on what 1 Cor 6:9 means.  One thing we know is that it does not mean: “wrongdoers, by doing wrong, lose eternal life.”  Because that would imply “to have eternal life, you must avoid doing wrong.” Which would be justification by works.

One viable interpretation: “wrongdoers, by persisting in willful sin, reveal that Jesus is not Lord in their life and thus reveal that they will not inherit the Kingdom.” For one hallmark of those who are saved is that they love the Word of God and want to obey his Law.  This leaves open a loophole for those who do wrong through ignorance.

Another viable interpretation: “wrongdoers, by persisting in willful sin, lose the blessings of the Kingdom of God here on Earth, and risk turning away from Jesus and thus losing the eternal kingdom.”  This interpretation affirms the eternally-risky and temporally damaging nature of sin, without inferring justification by works.

[2] Posted by Michael D on 7-17-2012 at 03:53 PM · [top]

“Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling”  -  Paul.

There is a component of collaborative effort to having been saved, e.g., the process of being saved=sanctification=deification.

[3] Posted by dwstroudmd+ on 7-17-2012 at 04:18 PM · [top]

Hi Michael D,

The Lordship Salvation controversy dealt with this question in great depth…John Macarthur, I think, defended the historic Reformed position (and biblical one)...namely. We are justified by grace alone through faith alone - but not by a faith that is alone. A truly justified sinner will be repentant…this is NOT to say that his repentance saves him. It is the mark that he is saved. Nor is it to say that “repentance” means “full sanctification”....we will struggle with sin till we die….but that’s just it. The mark of the Christian is that he struggles.

[4] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 7-17-2012 at 04:51 PM · [top]

Thanks for your brief clarification, Matt.  I did not know about the Lordship Salvation controversy by name, but I have heard both sides of it in various contexts.  Now I know a bit more about it.

I’ll say off the top that (from my brief research today) I am firmly on the same side that you seem to be on (because Jesus seemed to be on that side too): that one mark of true salvation is a hunger and thirst for righteousness / holiness. Thus I agree with Burk when he says that holiness is essential and critiques some others as follows:

It enables them to regard holiness as an optional add-on to their Christian faith. Yet the Bible says that without holiness no one will see the Lord (Heb. 12:14).

But I believe Burk’s next statement is incorrect:

That means that the very homosexuals that Chambers wishes to reach will never see the Lord if they continue in their sin. Even if they claim to be Christians, they won’t inherit eternal life in the end if they’ve spurned Christ’s Lordship in the present.

When I was a young Christian, I had so much to learn.  I was passionately longing to be holy but it took me years to realize some elements of my life where I needed to assess and amend my actions and words to honour God and build that repentance/holiness activity. There are undoubtedly still elements of my life that need to be revisited.  More strongly, I believe there will be, on the day that I die, unrepentant actions and words that I “did not get to yet.”

If someone looked at me, at age 25, and said “Michael is not a Christian because he continues in the sin of xyz, and does not appear to be repentant or striving for holiness in that area,” they would have been wrong.  I was very much a Christian, passionately committed to striving for holiness, and making some progress, by God’s grace.

I have friends who are homosexual non-believers.  I feel called to deliver only one message from Jesus to them: “Jesus wants you to give your life to him.”  And I have friends who are Christian and showing marked signs of unholiness (greed, gossip, living together outside of marriage) but that does not make them non-Christian.  Nonetheless, the messages to those friends are different: “how is God calling you to holiness now?” and “are you not keen to read your Bible and learn about holiness?”  And if they ask me (even if they don’t ask me, if they are very good friends) I will point them to relevant passages of the Bible.

It is the presence of the struggle for holiness that is a mark of the true believer (the mark of someone for whom Jesus is Lord) not the degree of holiness attained .

So I don’t think we should infer that, just because someone is not now repenting of their sexual behaviour, just because they are continuing in their sin, that they are not saved and will not have eternal life.  For salvation is by grace and not by works.

[5] Posted by Michael D on 7-17-2012 at 06:18 PM · [top]

All-is-true wrote:

“There is only one reason why I, as a Christian, have to explain my position on homosexual sin so often and in so much detail, and it is the same reason why Christian authors of the postwar era had to spend so much time on sexual morality: it is because our culture (or the vocal part of it that takes up the media space) is fanatically obsessed and mesmerized by it.”

Precisely.

[6] Posted by MichaelA on 7-17-2012 at 08:45 PM · [top]

Michael D, I agree.

The issue is what does God command.  God commands us not to indulge in many different sins.  One of those sins is homosexuality.  I don’t know the salvation status of an outwardly Christian who presently indulges in homosexuality, whether they are a saved person who has fallen temporarily into sin, or a person in whom the word has never really taken root, or whatever.  Nor do I have to.

The liberals argue that homosexual behaviour is okay.  But God says, “It is sin. Don’t do it”.  And that is what Christians must affirm.

[7] Posted by MichaelA on 7-17-2012 at 08:49 PM · [top]

I guess I misunderstood the controversy. I had thought it was all about ex gay therapies with chambers saying they often don’t work so just be celibate and others saying they do and can work and so maybe a heterosexually married life is possible (though chambers is himself married but he says he still has same sex desires in his marriage and that some may not want to marry under those circumstances and the therapies have not worked so he would recommend celibacy in those cases. 

If that were the issue - but I gather it is not - then I don’t know why there is so much attention on that issue.  From a biblical perspective why would it matter whether one was celibate or married?  If one struggles with same sex attractions shouldn’t you have a choice to determine which path is best for you - marriage or celibacy?

[8] Posted by Matthew on 7-17-2012 at 10:22 PM · [top]

A person ought to seek to be repentant for all his sins, known and unknown. As for the known sin with which a person struggles, at least there ought to be a struggle.

[9] Posted by A Senior Priest on 7-17-2012 at 10:23 PM · [top]

Eternal salvation is a GIFT from God.  Jesus GAVE HIMSELF, when he could have saved himself, to death on a cross. 

Nothing you and I do or could do produces this wonderful gift.  Only God can give it to us.  It is up to us to RECEIVE it.

[10] Posted by B. Hunter on 7-19-2012 at 03:50 PM · [top]

No one disputes that B. Hunter. The question is will one who has been saved continue unrepentantly and defiantly in a particular sin - ala 1 Cor 6:9-10

[11] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 7-19-2012 at 04:12 PM · [top]

In 1957, Geoffrey Francis Fisher, The Archbishop of Canterbury, argued against allowing Christian to enter into illegitimate civil-unions (second marriages).  He wrote, ‘Though the illicit union can now become a legal marriage, the moral situation is completely unchanged.  If broken homes and divorces and the possession by children of a multiplicity of legal or ex-legal parents are an evil, then it only perpetuates and encourages evil to lend it the respectability of legal status.  It is of moral importance that things should be call their right names.’

Heterosexual civil unions were established, in part, to accomodate adulterers who could not remarry (after diviorce) in the Church (e.g. King Edward and Wallace Simpson). Today, very few Christians even think to question if a Christian who is in a second marriage (or the third spouse of a previously married and divorced person) if that marriage is legitimate?  Surely, some are legitimate.  But are all?  And if not legitimate, then what are they to do?  Leave their second spouse?  Even if they ask forgiveness (and surely recieve it) there is no way to make the adulterous second marriage anything other than what it is, at least according the Archbishop Fisher (and Matt. 19 and Chrisitan history until about 1950). 

Same-sex civil unions were preceded by heterosexual civil unions sixty years ago. But today absolutely no one is arguing that Christians in illegitimate second marriages should give up their second spouses.  This, I believe, is one reason why Alan Chamber’s statement holds some weight and cannot be dismissed as a liberal diatribe.  I cannot think of one divorced Christian who is in a second marriage that has been told their second marriage is adutlerous and therefore they will not inherit the Kingdom of God (which of course, they will not).  Do none exist? I know for a fact of some people, heterosexual and homosexual alike, who upon their death beds (or before surgery) will ask me as a Priest to hear their confessions. When they ask me, ‘Was I in an immoral relationship all along?’  I respond they were.  Then, they are more than willing to repent and enter the Kingdom of God.  The issue is not were they saved all along, the issue is that like the thief of the cross, they called out to Jesus.

[12] Posted by Mario Bergner on 7-19-2012 at 07:04 PM · [top]

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