(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.”