Understanding the Heinousness of Homosexuality from the Confession of Sam Allberry

(This is part one of a multi-part series investigating the subtle changes in conservative views on homosexuality. Part two here).

Multiple Choice:  Which quote would you rather your pastor announce at church?

A. “I am same-sex attracted and have been my entire life. By that I mean that I have sexual, romantic and deep emotional attractions…”
B. “I am sexually attracted to other women besides my wife. By that I mean that I have sexual, romantic and deep emotional attractions…”
C. “I am sexually attracted to children and have been my entire life. By that I mean that I have sexual, romantic and deep emotional attractions…”

Likely many readers would pick option “D,” the ubiquitous “none of the above.” But there are some who consider choice A as tolerable or acceptable or even laudable.

Choice A is the opening words of pastor Sam Allberry’s two minute speech that was passed around on Facebook. Sam struggles with homosexuality, yet he is celibate. Sam is not an obscure pastor in a small town. He an editor at The Gospel Coalition (TGC).

His two minute speech was hailed  as “courageous” and “brave.” (And, no, listening to the entire clip does not change the meaning of the opening words.)

But would people consider choice C as “courageous” or “brave?” Why not? Are not all sins sufficient to send us to hell? Are not all sins covered by the blood of Christ? Is not our identity in the Savior and not in our sin? Can we not accept non-practicing pedophiles into the ministry?

All such reasoning offered for Allberry applies equally as well to the other options. Why is homosexuality somehow different?

Or put another way: why is pedophilia different than the other options? Because it is more heinous in the sight of God and man.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism question 83 summarizes the importance of distinguishing between degrees of sins, that not all sins are equally heinous.

Q. Are all transgressions of the law equally heinous?
A. Some sins in themselves, and by reason of several aggravations, are more heinous in the sight of God than others.

Why is this significant?

Because it highlights a question implicitly answered by those promoting Allberry: non-practicing homosexuality is not such a heinous sin that it should be kept private. A related assumption is that this sin is not such that a minister should step down from the ministry after publicly announcing it.

But what if a pastor confessed to struggling with pedophilia? I’d like to think there would be a public outcry. I’d like to think there would be calls to have him step down as a minister.

But is publicly confessing to intense, internal struggle with homosexuality a heinous sin in comparison to others we accept in the pastorate?

Just asking the question illustrates how far pagan society has seeped into the churches’ collective psyche. This issue was not even entertained 50 years ago. For centuries, legally, socially and ecclesiastically, homosexuality, practiced or not, was commonly assumed to be a heinous sin, a sin against nature.

To the question of how heinous this sin is, the Westminster Larger catechism 151 sheds some light. Without going into details, three key points demonstrate the seriousness of this sin.

First of all, the heinousness of sin arises “from the circumstances [of the sin]…if in public, or in the presence of others, who are thereby likely to be provoked or defiled.” Public announcements of private sins are  commonly avoided for obvious reasons. This problem is further compounded by the fact that his public reputation is less described as a minister of the Gospel (who certainly sins) and more readily known as the-pastor-that-struggles-with-homosexuality.

Secondly, the heinousness of sin arises from the “persons offending…if they be of riper age, greater experience or grace, eminent for profession, gifts, place, office, guides to others, and whose example is likely to be followed by others.” As a pastor of many years with world-wide recognition and influence, Sam’s private-sin-turned-public is more heinous than if he were never a pastor. And his internal fight with homosexuality was raging before he entered the ministry according to his own testimony, even as he has struggled with depression.

Lastly, the heinousness of sin arises from “the nature and quality of the offense.” Homosexuality is not merely a sexual sin like other sexual sins. Desiring the opposite sex is acceptable if within marriage. Desiring the same sex is never acceptable. This sin is more heinous than struggling with adultery. It is true that it is a private sin—or rather it was a private struggle until he announced it.

And declaring from the rooftops one’s heart struggles further amplifies the heinousness of the sin. This should be obvious. It would be as obvious if your church treasurer announced that he  was “money-attracted and have been my entire life. By that I mean that I have lustful, glamorous and deep emotional attractions to money…”

The Gospel Coalition is using and promoting this man far and wide. White Horse Inn has interviewed him. People endorse him, his essays and his book (to be reviewed). And in doing so, they paint a picture of a private struggle with a heinous sin that is more winsome than helpful.

If the church is to stand against the filthy deluge of the Second Sexual Revolution, she needs to take seriously again the truth of the catechism: “Some sins in themselves, and by reason of several aggravations, are more heinous in the sight of God than others.”

[This is part of a multi-part series investigating the subtle changes in conservative views on homosexuality. Series here.]

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18 thoughts on “Understanding the Heinousness of Homosexuality from the Confession of Sam Allberry

  • March 22, 2017 at 1:35 pm
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    What biblical precedence do you have to say that any temptation\attraction etc. is a sin? (including the three options you mentioned)? If the man is chaste, as he claims, then he is not sinning, and therefore not bringing scandal. temptation is not sin.
    This article is much ado about nothing.

    Reply
    • March 22, 2017 at 2:53 pm
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      So “sexual, romantic and deep emotional attractions…” to children, animals, and dead people is OK? And there are no sins of the heart? Attraction is a red-herring word. The real problem is that we are attracted at all.

      James 1:14: But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.

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    • July 1, 2017 at 2:42 pm
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      Dennis obviously has either not read the Bible, or not understood it or both. If you look upon a woman in lust, Christ says you have sinned as much as if you had actually committed adultery. How much more of a sin then is it to discuss it and look for sympathy for it instead of repenting of it and keeping your sin to yourself if it continues to beset you. No public pronouncement will ameliorate the sin, and in the process the simple and the young are subject to misinterpreting all of this. Maybe Dennis is just simple and young – I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.

      Reply
  • March 23, 2017 at 8:12 am
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    Hi Pastor Mathis —

    As I write this note, the first thing that comes to my mind is that I agree with you that normalizing sin is a huge fault of many with a large platform these days. It’s a huge fault that happens in all sorts of contexts, and it rears its ugly head here. I agree with you that popularizing a fellow who is helping to normalize some sin (I don’t care if it is the sin of coveting or the sin of murder or any sin in between) is both dangerous and stupid.

    However, this is what the first 120 words of Sam Alberry’s testimony says:

    [QUOTE]
    “I am same-sex attracted and have been my entire life. By that I mean that I have sexual, romantic and deep emotional attractions to people of the same sex. I choose to describe myself this way because sexuality is not a matter of identity for me, and that has become good news. My primary sense of worth and fulfillment as a human being is not contingent on being romantically or sexually fulfilled, and this is liberating. The most fully human and complete person who ever lived was Jesus Christ. He never married, He was never in a romantic relationship and never had sex. If we say these things are intrinsic to human fulfillment, we are calling our Savior sub-human.

    I have met literally hundreds of Christians in my situation, and know of thousands more, who are same-sex attracted, and who joyfully affirm the traditional understanding of marriage being between a man and a woman, and the only godly context for sex.”
    [/QUOTE]

    If we use your rubric to translate this passage into another sin, it looks like this:

    [TRANSLATED]
    “I am a pedophile and have been my entire life. By that I mean that I have sexual, romantic and deep emotional attractions to children. I choose to describe myself this way because sexuality is not a matter of identity for me, and that has become good news. My primary sense of worth and fulfillment as a human being is not contingent on being romantically or sexually fulfilled, and this is liberating. The most fully human and complete person who ever lived was Jesus Christ. He never married, He was never in a romantic relationship and never had sex. If we say these things are intrinsic to human fulfillment, we are calling our Savior sub-human.

    I have met literally hundreds of Christians in my situation, and know of thousands more, who are pedophiles, and who joyfully affirm the traditional understanding of marriage being between a man and a woman, and the only godly context for sex.”
    [/TRANSLATED]

    That is: he is saying that in Christ, sexual fulfillment is not his goal because it was not Christ’s goal. Whether that requires TGC to promote him or not promote him is entirely another question. That he denies that his natural motivations are right is far more interesting than to say anything about TGC.

    This is actually what repentance looks like: admitting I have sin, and that Christ is right and I am wrong. In that, Alberry’s statement to his colleagues is rather brave, and it seems to me we should try to see how we can preach to others so that they arrive at the same place.

    Reply
  • March 23, 2017 at 11:54 am
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    He clearly acknowledges his condition is a result of sin, and not ‘natural’, and he struggles against it as all Godly men should. Did you listen to the WHI interview? Is there something you specifically disagree with in it? Are you stating that there are some temptations that men are subject to, because of the fall, that clearly and absolutely exclude them from the ministry? Even if they resist temptation?

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    • July 1, 2017 at 2:49 pm
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      Brian missed the part about degrees of sin. Homosexuality in the Scripture is an abomination and there is no place in the kingdom of God for homosexuals. If one is unable to take his focus off of the condition, that is a serious impediment that should disqualify him from the ministry.

      Reply
  • April 23, 2017 at 10:50 am
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    It seems to me that the comparative sins were carefully selected to highlight a point. By simply choosing other sins, one could potentially​ exclude any pastor from a role. What if you chose confessing to : attraction to opposite sex other than spouse, angry outbursts, and gossip? In this example I could easily disqualify choice A, because it is more severe, hampers counceling ability, etc. In your example pedophilia is the worst confessed struggle, but in my example opposite sex lust is. Since we are talking about struggles and not acted out sin, I think you potentially disqualify any confessing sinner.

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    • July 1, 2017 at 2:52 pm
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      There is a great difference between confessing your sins to a close confidant, and making it public to the whole world, and in particular when you are in a position of trust, responsibility and leadership. The first thing John the Baptist, Christ, Paul and Peter called for when speaking to people was to repent. Repent means to change your ways.

      Reply
  • April 24, 2017 at 12:25 pm
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    A couple things I see lacking in these responses:

    1. An ability to rate the comparative heinousness of various sins.

    2. Distinction between temptation to do something inappropriately, which is in other situations lawful, and temptation to that which should never be done under any circumstance.

    I chalk it up to a lack of biblical education.

    Reply
  • May 17, 2017 at 8:28 pm
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    Very inciteful article. It reminds me of the pastor who admitted from the pulpit that he was attracted to other women in his church and fantasized about them. It freaked out the women in his church so much that he was fired.

    Shame on the UK Anglican St. Mary’s Maindenhead Church for not preserving chastity in heart, speech and behavior, for not forbidding all unchaste thoughts, words, and actions, and for not heeding their own confession, Article 26 of the 39 Articles:

    Nevertheless, it appertaineth to the discipline of the Church, that inquiry be made of evil Ministers, and that they be accused by those that have knowledge of their offences; and finally, being found guilty, by just judgment be deposed.

    I guess Sam is innocent since he has not crossed the line in actions. It reminds me of “The City of God” where Augustine writes to the virgin women in the Church at Rome who were raped by the same Roman soldiers that the church brought into their protection during the invasion. It was so traumatic that some of these young women committed suicide. Augustine said they should still be considered virgins, and even more chaste than virgins who, although not physically violated, violated themselves with unchaste thoughts.

    Perhaps God is anti-evil, anti-perversion, anti-sin, but not anti-gay. This is the lesson that Sam is trying little by little to help the church understand: The only sin is to be anti-gay.

    Romans 3 says that God is furious with the world, and His wrath is coming and will be poured out because of those who suppress the truth through their ungodliness. Then, homosexual desires and emotions enter the discussion.

    If we are disgusted with adultery and pedophilia, how much more should we be disgusted with acts of sexual perversion so gross and nauseating that just the mention of them would make a cannibal vomit? And this, from the pulpit of a church?

    Sam says he is same-sex attracted and has been his entire life. That is the definition of a practicing homosexual, at least in thought. It is not nearly as heinous as a practicing homosexual in action, but that doesn’t make it a paradigm of virtue. I Cor 6 says that such were some of you, not such are some of you. Apparently, there is no church discipline in the Anglican Church. There is no church discipline in the Gospel Coalition, since it is not a church. However, today is a different world. Sam would never have come out of the closet 50 years ago, or he would have been canned. Lucky Sam.

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  • June 27, 2017 at 7:40 pm
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    Readers defending Allberry before reading my second and third article ought to read them and deal with the facts. (I’ve listened to his 40 minute testimony on TGC: that could take another two essays to disseminate. I’ve read his book. I’ve read almost all the articles on Living Out.).

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  • July 1, 2017 at 3:00 pm
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    Keep up the good work Pastor Mathis – especially in the face of political correctness, ignorance, apathy, apostasy and degeneracy.

    Reply

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