Alan Chambers has given another very troubling interview in which he declares that “sin is irrelevant” for Christians. Chambers is the former head of the now defunct Exodus International—an umbrella organization for a number of different ex-gay ministries that support reparative therapy. In recent years, Chambers has repudiated his former support of reparative therapy and has apologized to the gay community for his former work.
Chambers’s remarks in this most recent interview are riddled with biblical and theological error, and I am not going to attempt a comprehensive response. But I do want to comment on two items:
1. Chambers is antinomian in his approach to all sin—including homosexuality.
The interviewer asks Chambers if homosexuality is a sin. Chambers responds with this:
I think, as Christians, sin is irrelevant. I look at what Jesus did on the cross. He came to fulfill the law. He took care of sin. He ended it forever. Is there sin involved in homosexuality? Sure. Is there sin involved in heterosexuality? Sure. I think the damage is done when we live in a place where we’re pointing out what is and is not sin. Leslie and I don’t want to live there anymore. That’s not a place where life is found. We’re not to be in the seat of judgment for anyone, not ourselves and not other people. What we long to do is to love our neighbor, our friends, LGBT people, straight people, you name it, without pointing out things that aren’t ours to point out.
Notice that Chambers doesn’t answer the question with a straightforward “yes” or “no.” Why? Because he has adopted an antinomian view of sin and grace that makes the question “irrelevant” in his view.
Antinomianism is an ancient heresy that teaches that Christians need not live by any moral law. The grace of God renders our obedience to God’s law “irrelevant.” Whether or not homosexuality is a sin, therefore, is also “irrelevant” because it does not affect how practicing homosexuals should be treated in the church.
Chambers is misleading people about the nature of biblical Christianity. Biblical Christianity teaches that if the faith that saves you doesn’t change you, then it doesn’t save you. God progressively transforms all of his children into the image of Christ through the power of the Spirit (2 Cor. 3:18). Thus the moral status of homosexuality matters very much to the Christian.
Chambers disagrees with this and believes that Christians can continue in willful rebellion against God’s law, and that rebellion says nothing about their standing with God. I have written about this aspect of Chambers theology before. I didn’t know then that Chambers would go to seed with this heresy, but he has.
2. Chambers does not understand evangelicals who oppose reparative therapy.
In a telling exchange, Chambers is asked about evangelicals who believe that homosexuality is sin but who nevertheless oppose reparative therapy:
Interviewer: A group of Christian therapists gathered recently at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. While they publicly renounced reparative therapy, they’re still preaching that “God’s best” for gays and lesbians is celibacy and some still believe that God can change sexual orientation over time. What’s your response?
Chambers: It’s kind of a doublespeak. They want to be against what is publicly recognized as the most damaging sort of thing out there. But, they talk out of the other side of their mouth and support this. I think some of them are confused, but I think, for the most part, whether you’re for or against reparative therapy, they’re saying the same thing. They’re saying that to be acceptable to God you should do this. While they may not promote counseling sessions aimed at orientation change, they may endorse a prayer time that’s meant to accomplish the same thing. I’m not sure there’s a difference.
I was a speaker at the conference that Chambers is talking about, and he is wrong in his characterization of our views. We are not “saying the same things” as proponents of reparative therapy. Reparative therapy is a secular approach to homosexuality that some Christian ministries have adopted over the last couple decades. But make no mistake, there is nothing inherently Christian about reparative therapy. The goal of reparative therapy is “orientation change,” but that is not what we are arguing for.
Contrary to reparative therapy, the Bible does not teach the absence of heterosexual desire to be a problem. If anything, the Bible treats the absence of such desire as a gift to be stewarded for the kingdom (Matt. 19:11; 1 Cor. 7:7).
The Bible does teach the presence of homosexual desire to be sinful. God calls people to repent of such desire when they experience it, and he offers power through the Spirit to enable people to walk in holiness. He does not, however, guarantee that heterosexual desires will grow in the place of homosexual ones. They might, or they might not. Whether or not they do, holiness of life is still possible and is still the goal of Christian transformation.
And it is precisely here that Chambers misunderstands what we are saying. The goal of sanctification is not “orientation change” but transformation into the image of Christ. Whether or not that transformation includes the possibility of marriage is left to God.
Chambers’s remarks in this interview and his mischaracterization of our position underline the theological weaknesses of the movement he once led. Chambers was an antinomian long before the closing of Exodus International. Reparative therapy and Exodus International fell not because it was too Christian but because it wasn’t Christian enough.
And we should all learn from this. Ministries that are devoid of solid theological foundation will not survive over the long haul. God’s word lasts forever, and only ministries rooted in that revelation will bear fruit that will last (Isa. 40:8; John 15:16).