"If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every part of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at the moment attacking, then I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Him. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all battlefields besides is merely flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point." — Martin Luther
Tim Challies is a respected evangelical who many have trusted for his ministry in "Informing the Reforming." He serves as a church elder and runs a prominent blog. When asked What does biblical repentance look like for someone who identifies themselves as a "gay Christian" (i.e., someone with same-sex attraction)?, you might expect such a notable evangelical figure to faithfully apply the Scriptures to the question at hand:
- God condemns homosexuality as abominable, unnatural, degrading, indecent, and depraved (Leviticus 18:22; Romans 1:26-27)
- God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah with eternal fire to serve as an example of what will become of those who "indulge in gross immorality and go after strange flesh" (Jude 1:7)
- God has forewarned that no one who practices homosexuality will inherit the kingdom of heaven (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)
- Therefore, in light of divine testimony, there is no such thing as "gay Christian" (1 Corinthians 6:11), and it behooves those who are participating in this sin in any way, whether in resemblance or full-on identification, whether desires or actions are involved, to immediately turn from this wickedness and "flee from sexual immorality," as 1 Corinthians 6:18 warns.
Sadly, Challies offers a compromised and shameful answer by dismissing the testimony of Scripture, appealing to irrelevant life examples, and employing a strawman so as to be, as he jokingly admits at the end, "deliberately evasive." This man is a pastor, teacher, and leader who should know better.
Let's review his answer:
"This is another one of those issues that we as a church are working out"
No, it's not. The Scriptures have already addressed this sin and settled the issue, and churches that are faithful to Christ and to their mission will be faithful to His Word.
"This whole idea of 'gay Christian' is very new"
No, it's not. There was same-sex attraction and homosexuality in Abraham's day, Moses' day, and Paul's day, and their immoral behavior was always consistently condemned.
"It's unrealistic to expect that we'll solve it immediately"
God already solved this problem in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah which now serves as a potent reminder to warn people today not to defy God's authority, deny His ordained order, and indulge in sexual immorality, or else they can expect the same, if not worse, end.
"Within Christianity we see a wide spectrum of professed Christians"
No, we see a whole lot of compromisers who are no longer standing upon the pure, unadulterated word of God, who are giving way to a corrupt culture and perverse generation.
God's Word has in no uncertain terms condemned both the practice and the desires associated with homosexuality, and this testimony does not require expert hermeneutic skills:
Leviticus 18:22 You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.
Romans 1:24-28 God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. … For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.
"I don't want to speak broadly on that"
A faithful shepherd is supposed to proclaim not their own opinions but what God has spoken, and God's Word speaks broadly on that. God did not merely destroy individuals—He destroyed entire cities, and for the effect of serving as an example to warn for every single individual thereafter. God has determined this! Are we wiser, more loving than God? Every single individual needs to be warned of the wickedness of homosexuality and of God's wrath against it, and this includes both those who are engaged in full-on homosexual activity and those who are dabbling in so-called "same-sex attraction"! And besides, those who are "merely" on the "edge" are all the more in need of being reminded of God's wrath against this sin, before the remaining restraints in their lives finally give way to a full-on practice and lifestyle! Paul declared that he would not have known sin had not the law exposed and condemned it (Romans 7:7)—people need to be reminded of God's testimony and wrath against whatever sin they are dabbling in!
"Over time it becomes pretty apparent how to speak to them in a way that really helps them through it"
The question was, "What does biblical repentance look like for someone who identifies as a gay Christian?" Jesus went forth proclaiming the gospel and calling on men to repent and believe (Mark 1:14-15); He did not "wait" to speak to them about repentance. After meeting for the first time the lame man whom He healed, Jesus warned, "Behold, you have become well; do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse happens to you" (John 5:14). After meeting for the first time the woman at the well, Jesus called to account her many adulteries (John 4:16-18). After meeting for the first time the woman caught in adultery, Jesus told her, "From now on sin no more" (John 8:11).
Again, are we wiser, more loving than Jesus? He did not wait to expose sin and call people to repentance; and He certainly did not shrink from threatening them with severe consequences if they failed to heed His call to repent (John 5:14; Luke 13:3). Why are so many evangelical figures claiming that such an approach is not helpful? The answer is compromise!
"…instead of going in guns ablazing and saying, 'This is what's true.'"
This is a dishonest and slanderous strawman (an extreme misrepresentation of an opposing viewpoint). Jesus did not mince words or hesitate to expose and condemn men's sins. In fact, He declared, "The world hates Me because I testify of it, that its deeds are evil" (John 7:7). He was not rashly "going in guns ablazing" and neither do those who, following in His footsteps, call a spade a spade.
"I feel very hesitant to jump straight to a very blunt answer without first hearing their heart"
While it is necessary and critical to know pertinent facts about a particular person or situation in order to offer sound counsel, you do not need "to hear anyone's heart" when talking about what is or isn't sin. God's law—irrespective of anyone's heart—is what defines sin, absolutely and timelessly.
The world needs bluntness. The last thing this world needs is beating around the bush. The world needs more men like Amos and Isaiah and less men like Tim Challies.
Isaiah 58:1 Cry loudly, do not hold back; raise your voice like a trumpet, and declare to My people their transgression and to the house of Jacob their sins.
Micah 3:8-10 On the other hand I am filled with power—with the Spirit of the LORD—and with justice and courage to make known to Jacob his rebellious act, even to Israel his sin. Now hear this, heads of the house of Jacob and rulers of the house of Israel, who abhor justice and twist everything that is straight, who build Zion with bloodshed and Jerusalem with violent injustice.
"Maybe I'm being deliberately evasive"
You've said it yourself.
This excerpt has been taken from the full question and answer session, beginning at 26:26, which was filmed on July 17, 2019.
"What does biblical repentance look like for someone who identifies themselves as a "gay Christian" (i.e., someone with same-sex attraction)?
Yeah. So this is another one of those issues that we as a church are working out, and I think that's okay. We're, if you look across the sweep of 2,000 years of church history, this whole idea of "same-sex attraction" or "gay Christian" or all these different terms that have come up, these are very, very new when measured against the history of Christianity. So I also think it's unrealistic to expect that we'll solve it immediately.
And so, within Christianity we see a wide spectrum of professed Christians who are saying, um, 'That's absolutely, utterly wrong in every way; even the desire or tendency toward homosexuality is itself sinful.' Other people say, 'The tendency or temptation itself is not sinful; it's only sinful if you act on it.' Um, I, I think we're giving this time and on both a practical and theological level really working that out.
And to be honest, I, I don't want to speak broadly on that; I've had the opportunity to speak individually to people on that. I just think there's just so much knowledge you have to get from them; there's so much you have to draw out of them before I want to speak very, very bluntly to them.
Um, there's alot of people now who are, I'd say leaning that way just because it's a category that's been created, and uh, children from a young age are being taught, 'You might be that way,' or, 'If you have a really good friend who's a boy, and you're a boy, maybe it's because you're gay'—those sorts of things. My daughter goes to public school and she's got a girl that she's very close with; they're very close friends as you'd hope any girl to have. But they'll be accused of being lesbians just because they're girls who love one another. Um, that's only because culture is pressing in on that and really destroying friendship by, by indicating there must be a sexual component, any relational intimacy. And so, I think there's alot of people who think they're same-sex attracted, but they're not; they're just, they're just friends, where they've gone down that trail for any number of reasons. I just want to be able to speak to people and, and draw that out of them, 'What's really going on? Is that really a deep temptation? Is it more just a confusion?' I think over time it becomes, uh, pretty apparent how to speak to them in a way that really helps them through it, um, instead of kind of going in guns ablazing and just saying, 'No, this is, this is what's true there.' Um, you know, that, that time will come.
But I, I, I feel very hesitant to, to jump straight to a very blunt answer there without first hearing from them, hearing their heart. I'm sorry that's not a full answer, but maybe I'm being deliberately evasive.