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).
Chambers says in the CT piece that he doesn’t have the time or the inclination to understand different theological systems. But I would argue in this instance that he really needs to understand this one. He is leading a ministry whose mission is “to minister grace and truth” to homosexuals. Yet he’s embraced a view of salvation that would lead homosexuals to believe that all they need to do is believe in Christ momentarily. After that, they can apostatize without that having any negative impact on their assurance of salvation. (I once heard a “free-grace” proponent argue that a person can believe in Christ for one minute and then worship the Devil for the rest of his life and still be considered a Christian.)
This is a dangerous and damning view of salvation—not just for homosexuals but for sinners in general. It’s why John MacArthur wrote The Gospel according to Jesus so many years ago. Jesus’ gospel warns all professing believers to beware of saying one thing while doing another. Jesus’ gospel has no place for the unrepentant. Jesus’ gospel transforms those it saves. Those who aren’t transformed aren’t saved—no matter what their profession of faith is. That is why Jesus himself would say things like,
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21).
A sinner can call Jesus his “Lord” all he wants, but if he doesn’t do the will of the Lord then he’s not really a Christian. He’s a hypocrite and unbeliever. That applies not merely to homosexuals, but to every sinner—including those other ones that Chambers listed above. That’s what Jesus taught, and that is what’s taught everywhere else in the Bible (e.g., 1 John 2:4).
Chambers chastises Christians for ignoring sins like gluttony and alcohol abuse while focusing unfairly on homosexuals. But I think this misses the point. No one in our churches is arguing about the moral status of gluttony and alcohol abuse. Everybody agrees that those are sins. But that is not the case with homosexuality. There is an active campaign to subvert the Bible’s teaching about homosexuality. There are people both inside and outside our churches urging us to abandon Christ’s teaching on marriage and sexual morality.
The reason for the current controversy is not that Christians have become especially prickly about homosexuality. The reason for the controversy is that the forces of darkness are leveling an attack against the Bible on this point. Faithful Christians are going to have to stand clearly for biblical truth in the midst of this controversy. There is no neutral ground.
Chambers’ non-lordship view enables Christians to be complacent about the war being waged against the Bible’s teaching about sexuality (Chambers calls the arguments “pointless” and “exhausting”). But the biggest danger of Chambers’ non-lordship view is that it enables sinners to be complacent about sin. 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). 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.
I really appreciate much of the work that Chambers has done through Exodus. I am very grateful that he clearly affirms a biblical sexual ethic. On that issue, we need more voices like his in the public square. Yet even though Chambers may hold to a biblical sexual ethic, it will be to no avail for those who miss a biblical view of Christ Lordship. Maybe Chambers would reconsider his views on these points. I hope and pray that he will.