After reading a recent interview in The Atlantic, Robert Gagnon is calling for Alan Chambers to resign the presidency of Exodus International (an evangelical ministry to homosexuals). This call to resign carries some weight as Gagnon is the author of the single most important book defending the biblical view of homosexuality. According the Gagnon, the interview reveals serious theological error that disqualifies Chambers from remaining on as President. Gagnon says that the error represents a pattern of settled conviction on Chambers’ part. Ironically, Chambers does not revise his views on the ethics of homosexuality in the interview. Chambers still affirms the union of one man and one woman in marriage as the only permissible sexual union. But Chambers does imply that homosexuals need not be repentant in order to be saved. Here is the relevant portion from The Atlantic interview:
The Atlantic: Does that mean a person living a gay lifestyle won’t go to hell, as long as he or she accepts Jesus Christ as personal savior?
Chambers: My personal belief is that everyone has the opportunity to know Christ, and that while behavior matters, those things don’t interrupt someone’s relationship with Christ. But that’s a touchy issue in the conservative group I run with. And there are definitely differing opinions on it. I don’t think you could even look at any one denomination and find that everyone believes exactly the same thing. On the other hand, I do believe there is a right and wrong. I believe there is clarity on the issue of all sexuality in the Bible — on every aspect of it.
It appears that this has less to do with Chambers’ 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. It sounds like the non-lordship view of salvation that was made popular by Zane Hodges. This so-called “free grace” view teaches that an ungodly lifestyle need not trouble the assurance of a true “Christian.” The website of Chambers’ church in Orlando seems to confirm this view as well.
If you are unfamiliar with this controversy, I encourage you to read John MacArthur’s The Gospel according to Jesus and John Piper’s “Letter to a Friend concerning So-called ‘Lordship Salvation.’” The letter from Robert Gagnon calling for Chambers to resign also has extensive biblical and theological reflections on these themes.
(HT: Justin Taylor)
I think you could be right on this one, Denny. Chambers’s answer certainly seems consistent with Hodges’s view that belief (=being in a relationship with Jesus) does not necessarily include repentance.
Alas, one of the problems with farming people out to some para-ministry rears it’s head.
michael j. kimpan
chambers has rightly said, ‘we’re guilty in the church of creating a hierarchy of sin, and that’s done tremendous damage.’
anything other than ‘free-grace’ seems to me to be oxymoronic. to claim that chambers is declaring ‘feel free to ignore the teachings of the bible – it doesn’t matter – we’re going to heaven anyway,’ is i think missing the heart behind his message. to argue vehemently against the concept that there are gay christians (even those that are participating in same-sex behavior) is a slippery slope.
are people who participate in gossip in danger of losing their salvation? what about people (gay or straight) that struggle with lust? if a parent habitually lies to their child and tells them every year that santa brought them christmas presents, are they in danger of the fires of hell? OR is salvation by grace through faith only available once i have become sinless? or are some sins LESS grace worthy than others? is that even grace?
The danger of turning one’s salvation be conditional on lifestyle, ultimately makes it works based… and that’s just not right.
Concern for one who continues in a lifestyle not consistent with being Christ like is understood… but we have to remember that their condition is heart based, not sex based. As a new heart is given, there will be a growing distaste toward that life.
Even if they never give those things up completely… Salvation should not be questioned… but inheritance status is another matter.
Salvation and Inheritance are not the same thing.
Gagnon has a lot to say about the Incestuous relationship of Corinth as a tool of accusation… but I do believe he’s completely forgotten about Lot and his daughters … and the fact that they are in the Messianic lineage via Ruth.
The New Testament Scholar Susan Ackerman studied with Robert A.J. Gagnon at both Dartmouth and Harvard. Here is a recollection from her book:
I must say: I find this failure even to address the constructionist position extremely curious, especially given the pains Gagnon takes at every other point in his book to raise objections to his proposed interpretations and answer them. I can only begin to guess at his reasons. I suppose it is possible that Gagnon omitted a discussion of the social constructionist position for lack of space, but it seems hard to imagine that a book that is already over five hundred pages long not have taken a few more pages to consider one of modern scholarship’s major intellectual paradigms.
I regret to say it, as Gagnon and I have known each other for a long time (we were classmates both as undergraduates and as masters students), but I wonder whether Gagnon’s obvious disdain for lesbians and, expecially, gay men — whom he brutally caricatures as rampantly promiscuous, as irresponsible when it comes to safe sex, and as guilty of “pick-up murders”associated with anonymous sex and of high rates of alcoholism, sadomasichism, and domestic violence —
means he could not bring himself to engage the arguments of scholars such as Halperin, who openly identify as gay.
Wait wait… let me get this straight. First, he says:
“We’re guilty in the church of *creating a hierarchy of sin*, and that’s done tremendous damage”
-which is a questionable statement in and of itself. Shortly thereafter he says:
“…I’d say that for heterosexuals, it’s better to be in a monogamous relationship but not married than to live a promiscuous life. I’d say the same for homosexuality. Regardless of what I believe about sex outside of marriage, monogamy is always better than promiscuity.”
Does anyone else see the massive inconsistency?
Did he just lament how we are “guilty of creating a tremendously damaging hierarchy of sin”, then outline *his own* hierarchy of sin?
Is it just me?
I don’t think it’s just me…