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Where Does Ligon Duncan Stand on Sam Allberry’s “Same Sex Attraction?”

Cherie Vandermillen

By Cody Libolt

AD Robles likes to joke about a two-step dance move when someone is trying to pull the wool over your eyes.

Lately people have been trying to pull a similar two-step trick:

  1. There’s no way he would have said that!
  2. Okay, he did say that, but it’s not really all that bad…

Come on folks…

You’ll see this trick in controversial discussions. First, they accept your standard of judgment, but they deny the facts of the case. Then you give them the facts. All of the sudden, they are rethinking their standard of judgment — moving the goalposts. You can’t win.

Here’s how it happened this week:

Ligon Duncan endorsed a book by Sam Allberry. Additional shenanigans ensued. You can catch up with the Facebook discussion here.

Why, you ask, would it be a problem that Ligon Duncan endorsed a book by Sam Allberry? Let’s fill in some details. Perhaps Duncan doesn’t know everything that Allberry currently stands for. After all, it is one thing to endorse a specific book; that doesn’t equate to an endorsement of everything the person will ever say.

But Sam Allberry is a rising star on the #BigEva conference circuit, appearing alongside the main names — including Ligon Duncan himself. Duncan ought to know something about the man.

Is Ligon Duncan paying attention?

Sam Allberry has a hand in promoting things that would make even the organizers of the infamous Revoice conference blush. Visit Sam Allberry’s website, called Living Out.

Whilst some couples do choose to part ways, I argued that’s not the only possible good outcome — perhaps especially if they have children. They could well continue to live together, sharing their lives with one another in Christian community. This is one way of ensuring they have intimate, close relationship, which God made us all to need. Without the sexual aspect, it has become more of a friendship than a romantic relationship.

So, my take on this is: the right thing to do, and ultimately the best thing for you individually and as a couple, would be to hold back from sexual intimacy as a whole, not just sex itself. That is, including romantic/sexual kissing, touching one another sexually, etc.

Of course, it may take time and a bit of trial and error for a couple to redefine the boundaries and work out how they can best remain physically close to one another, without crossing the line again into sexual intimacy.

It’s a two-step case:

  1. Yes, Ligon Duncan is really suggesting that Sam Allberry is worthy of endorsement, despite the above.
  2. Yes, that really is a problem.

Step #2 is the heart of the issue. Within conservative Evangelicalism’s intellectuals, all would (for the time being) agree that homosexual behavior is inherently sinful. But not all agree that same sex attraction is inherently sinful. Some say it is; some say it isn’t. Allberry is one of the latter.

Allberry says:

I want to say that the presence of temptation is not itself a sin.

I don’t want people who are experiencing same-sex temptation to feel as though they must be complete monsters compared to people who are wrestling with heterosexual temptation. We know that all of us are fallen in this area of life.

There is disagreement about whether SSA is sinful, and there is disagreement about the status of the issue. Even supposing one personally believes SSA is inherently sinful, can we make a compelling case that anyone who disagrees on this topic is outside of biblical orthodoxy? What is the status of this question in the grand scheme?

This is the question that matters, because it is the question of who we are willing to trust and support. (All ministries are funded by donations.) Is Ligon Duncan on one side of this issue or the other? It matters.

It is the responsibility of a faithful shepherd to make clear where he stands, and this includes Ligon Duncan. He needs to clarify his stand on Allberry’s view of same-sex attraction (SSA).

What does Scripture say about same-sex attracted people and their relation to Christianity? How can we avert the 2-step trick of moving the goalposts?

Here’s the argument:

If Ligon Duncan agrees with Sam Allberry (which is an open question, and which he absolutely must clarify) that would put Duncan outside of the bounds of biblical faithfulness.

Some desires are inherently sinful.

The message of “third-way” thinkers like Sam Allberry is that the Christians who experience same-sex attraction (SSA) do not need to change or cannot change. SSA is an essential part of their identity. They do not need to be repenting of this desire. They only need to be celibate.

Do you see the trick that is being pulled? This is itself a compromise of biblical truth. No doubt, it is a stepping-stone to a likely goal — acceptance of homosexual behavior. But even those like Allberry who claim not to be advocating homosexual behavior are already compromising by refusing to acknowledge that some desires are inherently sinful.

A splash of cold water:

Imagine if we spoke like this of those who are Wife-Beating Attracted.

Sure, it’s a sin to beat your wife. We know. But this group doesn’t actually beat their wives. They just want to. And they think about it sometimes. And they host conferences celebrating the Wife-Beating-Attracted “treasure” they will bring into the New Jerusalem. We shouldn’t speak negatively of the “Wife-Beating-Attracted Community.” After all, they are a **COMMUNITY**.

We don’t treat any other sin with the kid gloves with which we treat homosexuality.

Why? Homosexuality not a borderline case. Scripture consistently names homosexuality as one of the most abhorrent acts and desires and a sign that a person’s entire heart has been turned to darkness.

“And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done” (Romans 1:28).

In 2019 America, the majority of society, of government, of state schools and colleges, and of the media work at full capacity to tell us that this wicked desire is good. No surprise here, especially, coming from those actually caught up in the wicked desire. But then we have the same message coming from a new place: the church. Now SSA is an “identity,” and gay-priests are the experts that “God is raising up to speak for and to his church.”

In a world where Christians are seen as homophobic bigots, we need to get behind the biblically faithful, same-sex-attracted Christians God has raised up to speak for and to his church. Rebecca McLaughlin at TGC, March 18th, 2019

Friends, this is heresy. We treat no other sin in this way.

No one claims their identity is “Kleptomaniac Christian.” No one claims to be part of the “Compulsive Liar Christian Community.” Even in cases for which we have words (gambling-addict or alcoholic) these terms carry a necessarily negative evaluation.

Do we really believe that homosexual activity is abhorrent to God and unnatural? Do we really believe that it is something God turns people over to when their rebellion against them is at its height (Romans 1:21–32)?

But some may ask:

How can a desire, which is an emotion over which we have no control, be sinful? Aren’t sins an act of the will? How can the initial desire itself be sinful?

You are missing a crucial distinction. Some desires are good, but misused. Other desires are inherently sinful.

There is such a thing as a good desire that has to be limited because the context is not appropriate. For instance: Jesus fasted in the desert and he was tempted to turn the rocks into bread. He desired bread. That is a good desire, but the context made it inappropriate to act on it (Matthew 4).

Contrast this good desire for bread with the desire to molest a child. Jesus was never tempted to molest a child. If your reading of Hebrews 4:15 (“in every respect has been tempted as we are”) makes Jesus out to be someone who experienced the temptation to molest children, then you might need to rethink things.

Some desires are inherently sinful. Some are not.

It is no sin to desire to eat when you are fasting. Jesus experienced the desire to eat — but not the desire to bow down before Satan. Had Jesus experienced the desire to do something that was evil in its own right, such as the desire to bow to Satan, or the desire to have sex with a man, or the desire to molest a child, etc, that would have been a sinful desire.

This is simple stuff, folks. If you fail to comprehend it, I have to wonder whether your repeated failure is entirely innocent.

But someone may also ask:

“Isn’t it possible that God gives people sinful desires so that their struggle and victory against them will glorify Him?”

No. It’s not possible.

“Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one” (James 1:13).

This two-step game grows tiresome. Grow up.

It is shameful how little the typical Christian understands or discerns. It is a sign of disobedience and a disordered heart, like the kind of heartthat would say, “Don’t go to a gay wedding on biblical principle; but do go to the reception.”

That is unacceptable.

“For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food” (Hebrews 5:12).

“You unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you?” (Matthew 17:17)

“How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him” (1 Kings 18:21).

The failure to call homosexual desire sinful is the failure to agree with God. Some passions are dishonorable and unnatural.

“For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature” (Romans 1:26).

“Just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire” (Jude 1:7).

To Disambiguate:

  • It is always evil for a man to desire sex with a man.
  • It is good for a man to desire sex with a woman.
  • It is inappropriate for a man to have sex with a woman who is not his wife — or to entertain thoughts of it.
  • But it is not necessarily a sin for a man to find a woman who is not his wife to be sexually attractive.
  • It is wicked for a man to find men sexually attractive — just as it is wicked to find children sexually attractive. There is such thing as a desire that is sinful by its very nature.

A Word About Wolves

People who twist Scripture and cause division by attacking right doctrine are presumed by Paul and the Apostles to have bad motives (intentional, deceptive, and malicious).

Not that the motives are the issue of top concern for us. That is God’s area of expertise.

“For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

As Christians, we should be concerned more about what people are saying and doing. These things we can, in fact, judge.

“The spiritual person judges all things” (1 Corinthians 2:15).

“You will recognize them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:16a)

God is the judge of the whole earth and of men’s hearts.

“Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25).

From the beginning, God has made his judgment on homosexuality known in the clearest of terms.

“Then the Lord rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah — from the Lord out of the heavens. Thus he overthrew those cities and the entire plain, destroying all those living in the cities — and also the vegetation in the land” (Genesis 19:24–25).

“Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable” (Leviticus 18:22).

Final Thoughts

There is no innocent way to be a false teacher. People who twist Scripture are wolves. There is no reason to presume them innocent, good-natured, or well-meaning. There is no reason to consider them brothers.

[Editor’s Note: Reprinted with permission]