Going Back to Egypt?

Ra ancient Egyptian godThe evangelical wing of the internet is buzzing today about an apology last night by Alan Chambers, President of Exodus International, and his announcement that the organization is being disbanded and will be replaced by another entity with a different mission. In his apology, Chambers described the organization as having become the legalistic older brother to the prodigal. He apologized for the “hurt” caused by the organization and said

For quite some time we’ve been imprisoned in a worldview that’s neither honoring toward our fellow human beings, nor biblical.

The organization has been in transition for some time. In 2011 Willow Creek, a long-time supporter of Exodus International, split with the organization. According to Christianity Today, The new goal of the new ministry is to “reduce fear.” To that end they have begun a new website, currently under construction. CT quotes Mark Yarhouse, executive director of the Institute for the Study of Sexual Identity at Regent University:

Churches are realizing that while there is a small contingent of the gay community responding to language like ‘freedom from homosexuality’ or ‘freedom is possible,’ the vast majority strongly disagree. They’re angry and they believe it’s impossible to change, and to hear this is so offensive that they will have nothing to do with Christians. So I think churches, in response to that vast majority who say, ‘We’re not interested,’ have decided to look at other approaches in an attempt to connect with the gay community on at least some level. That doesn’t mean that churches disagree with the language of ‘freedom from homosexuality’ doctrinally; they’ve just found that it doesn’t work on a social level.

In an interview with Jeff Chu, in The Atlantic, today, Chambers says:

What parts of Exodus’s teaching do you renounce?

What I renounce: the whole gay-to-straight process. That the goal is changing your sexual orientation, which we realized isn’t something that happens. That that’s what makes you acceptable to God. And that gay people couldn’t ever be acceptable to God.

Have you changed your theological position on homosexuality?

My belief about sexual expression remains the same. But that really matters little to anyone except for me. It only serves to govern my own life. This isn’t something I’m going to make an issue or a barrier of in my relationship with anyone else.

I know I’m one of many people who has had others say to them: You can’t be gay and a Christian! “Gay Christian” is an oxymoron!

When anyone has a relationship with Jesus Christ, they are Christian. They are Christ followers. They are believers. They are sons and daughters, joint heirs, irrespective of any other situation or reality, sexual or otherwise. Who is anyone to say that another person can’t know Christ? That’s not a biblical message.

“Gay Christian” is an oxymoron. What Chambers wants is to be accepted by the homosexual community. He’s tired of being considered a “hater.” According to Chambers, what he believes about sexual morality is private and all that really matters is that the homosexual community knows that he loves and accepts them unconditionally. Christianity is essentially a private matter, a subjective experience, and a personal relationship with Jesus that has no significant consequences for sexual morality.

Chambers is right about one thing: closing Exodus International. He calls it a church. It’s not and never has been. At most it’s been a private society of Christians seeking to address a particular issue. The good news is that Jesus already took care of that. He established an organization before his crucifixion that was intended to minister to homosexuals, murderers, and criminals of all sorts. He called it is ekklesia or his “church” and he promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against it.

Almost as soon as the Israelites were led out of Egypt, on dry ground, they began to look back longingly to the leeks and onions. They grumbled against Moses and the Lord. We’re all tempted to go back to Egypt. That’s why free acceptance with God and deliverance from sin and its consequences (judgment) is by God’s free, undeserved favor, through faith in Christ, who entrusted to his church the announcement of that good news.

He also entrusted to his church the announcement of the bad news, that apart from the righteousness of Christ credited to sinners and received through faith alone all sinners, heterosexual and homosexual, will stand before God naked and condemned.

Those who’ve fled to Christ for salvation, for grace, for help will find it. They should find it administered in congregations of Christians bearing the marks of the Christian and the marks of the church (Belgic Confession, Art. 29). As a consequence of fleeing to Christ, sinful believers now reckoned righteous, in Christ, are called to “take up your cross.” No sinner may say, “Well, God put me in Egypt. He must want me there.” That’s just not true. He doesn’t want you there and he doesn’t want you to go back to Egypt. Christ, the very same person who was crucified, died, was buried, and was raised on the third day for our justification, calls us to take up a life of dying to sin, including sexual sin and living to Christ. We cannot do this alone and we should not attempt it alone. That’s why Jesus founded a church.

Were Exodus International a church then Alan Chambers would not be able to close it. The church cannot be “closed” or radically re-purposed because the board of directors changes its mind. The church belongs to Jesus. He has revealed its mandate: to preach the law and the gospel, to suffer, to die, to be made alive again and to press on through the wilderness of this life, as it were, with the knowledge that, by virtue of our union with Christ, we are already seated in the most holy place (see the book of Hebrews), with Christ in the heavenlies. Those are objective truths that our subjective experience of sin, failure, and frustration cannot change.

I’m sorry that Chambers is sorry for offering deliverance to sexual captives. That’s nothing about which to be sorry. All we sinners need deliverance and though sexual sin is unique in some regards, it is not a special category in that regard.

There’s no need to go back to Egypt or to affirm Egypt or to seek the approval of the Egyptians. The Romans didn’t approve of the early Christians. They thought it was foolish to follow a crucified man. There was plenty of homosexual immorality in the 1st century. That’s why Paul was so pointed about it. That’s why he called it sin. He wasn’t a prude or closed-minded. He knew what sin was and he knew what grace was and he told the truth about both. He says, “such were some of you.” That’s the bad news. The good news for believers, however, including those such as Chambers who struggle with the same-sex attraction, is that, in Christ, “you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

Believers are not approved by God because we’re being sanctified. We’re approved by God freely for the sake of Christ’s righteousness credited to those who believe. We, all of us, however, are to seek continual sanctification, including our sex appetites, by the Spirit, in Christ, because we’ve been delivered out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

Subscribe to the Heidelblog today!


  1. Quite some time ago I read an astute and often-overlooked observation from Al Mohler.

    He said that even if it could be proven that homosexuality is “natural,” that doesn’t justify it; it’s still sin. To fallen men, all evil comes naturally: lying, cheating, stealing, hating and lusting are all natural to a totally depraved person (i.e., all human beings apart from regeneration).

    All sinners find common ground in one thing: their complete and utter rebellion to God, and consequential helplessness. Whether a homosexual or a heterosexual, both are rebels against God and in need of the Gospel.

  2. “The new goal of the new ministry is to “reduce fear.”” – My first thought was that they were passing out guns, but then I read on. Well…

  3. Many want the church to affirm their sin. Forget it.

    Those who take God’s law seriously will not.

    We are ALL born liars. Jesus said as much.

    That doesn’t make it right.

  4. Dr. Clark,

    I saw the same article, when I was out at MBI, I knew several students involved with Exodus, many of whom had no homosexual attraction. Some of their work was solid, but even then I had misgivings over the “churchy” stance they took since they were a parachurch org.

    While it certainly seems to me like Chambers is acquiescing to the culture at large, I think there is much to be learned here. The church has struggled mightily with addressing the fallout of the sexual revolution of the 60’s, including the normalizing of homosexuality in our culture. I think that the church, and even Reformed churches, have failed to tread the razors edge of proclaiming the grace of God that is extended to us in the gospel, while maintaining a faithful stance on sin. There is a pathway for Christian’s who struggle with same-sex attraction that doesn’t have to veer into condemnation, or into licentious acquiescence – it’s called discipleship. Having several friends who have struggled faithfully with SSA, it is a lonely road, and few are “cured” to heterosexuality (as depravity is ever cured simply by changing one’s sexual orientation).

    Having friends like these, who seem to carry as many wounds from the church as they do from their own sin – or at least feel as if they do – I have tried to be sensitive to the issue. To me, Reformed churches, because of our rich theological and confessional tradition that is rooted in the Word of God, are uniquely positioned to minister to those who struggle with homosexuality without being ungracious or unfaithful. We have an anthropology that accounts for the depths of human sinfulness, and points to its only remedy, while calling Christians to the harder, yet more liberating path of mortification and vivification, accounting for the fact that that journey is not easy, but that the rewards are far greater than what is forgone to obtain them.

    • Hi Jed,

      This is helpful. Amen.

      Given what is going on around us it is difficult not to find homosexuality especially threatening. When we do feel threatened we tend to lash out (e.g., a certain notorious cult located in Topeka) rather than to speak the truth in love.

      We need to learn to think of the church, rather than this org or that org, as the hospital for sinners. I’ve tried to make the same argument re alcoholism. Addicts don’t need a special church! Alcoholism isn’t a special sin. We don’t need a special church for thieves or murderers. There’s one church, one law, one gospel for all of us.

    • thank you indeed – we find the razor’s edge too difficult; maybe we even approach it in the wrong way – or the wrong order (faithful stance, then grace?)

      I don’t have SSA but I have a whole host of other sinful tendencies and sadly commit a mass of sins through ignorance, weakness or my own deliberate fault.

      Maybe in God’s economy it is ‘better’ to suffer the (any) sinful attraction and refrain, rather than to commit that sinful act as well – I don’t know. Maybe His comments to Pharisees might help on this. Maybe man is sufficiently mesmerised by successful behavior that he forgets the continuing inner state. Maybe he is taught, as I have been, that right behavior will engender right attitudes – an Aristotelian not scriptural notion

      But I do think ‘attraction v act v appearance of being sinner’ is the wrong issue (it should be ‘sin v grace’, ie forgiven sinner v unforgiven sinner). I even think ‘struggle with homosexuality’ and ‘discipleship’ as a means forward can be frightening thoughts to those with SSA who understandably see their SSA as going to the root of their being. It has too much in common with my earlier picture of God as the dentist saying ‘yes, this will certainly hurt you more than me, but it’s good for you’. Dying to self does not mean that. That sort of ‘ego-death by ego-effort’ leads to ego repression (with other sins popping up in their place) accompanied by unremitting depression or ludicrous delusion.

      When someone acknowledges SSA but says he is (or is not) managing behaviourally, is that an achievement? his SSA is still a sin, as is my lust, covetousness etc however clean I can keep myself on the outside. The sad difference is that I can come to church looking clean and people don’t need to face their sin in the face of mine. However those with SSA tend to have to hide it because we make it clear that any overt SSA is uncomfortable to us because it might expose our sin to ourselves (let alone to anyone else).

      We seem to have forgotten that those who have been forgiven more, love more. Those who spend more time painting pots white are, it might appear, loved a little less.

  5. Thank you for your post, Dr Clark and your comments.

    And thank you for sharing Jed and Richard.

    Indeed, as Jed highlights, the Gospel is not so much curative, preventative and certainly not legislative. The Gospel is re-creative – and hence the simul …this means that justification is God’s business and sanctification is in God’s own timing, God’s secret, … and method … and where there is forgiveness of sins, there is life eternal. God is not in the business of repair work; grace is not a repair job. As Richard reminds us, good behaviour doth not a good man make.

    As Dr Clark reminds us, the mission of the Church is to preach the SAME Law uncompromisingly in all its force so as to kill the sinner; and preach the SAME Gospel of unconditional love whereby the New Adam is created out of nothing. So that at the end of it all there is NOTHING for the sinner to do except SUFFER repentance and faith as a CONSEQUENCE. The way of the cross then is the struggle of FAITH. That is all there is to it.

Comments are closed.