An excellent book is now available that examines the teachings of two of the most influential figures among evangelicals today: “The Hedonism and Homosexuality of John Piper and Sam Allberry: Turning the Grace of God into Lasciviousness.”
In this definitive critique, author Enoch Burke shows that both men have introduced novel terms into the church, and he measures their teachings by the standard of the Reformers’ doctrine of Scripture. Burke issues a stirring call to Christians to take individual action in defense of the faith, and calls on the church to take hold of its mandate and recover its witness to the truth. Christians who love the word of God and care deeply for the welfare of the church will want to order and read this biblical critique.
Below is an excerpt from Burke’s book:
The ‘Same-Sex Attracted Christian’ an extract from The Hedonism and Homosexuality of John Piper and Sam Allberry by Enoch Burke
On February 15, 2017, Sam Allberry addressed the Church of England General Synod in London in a speech claiming to support the Christian doctrine on marriage. However, what distinguished his speech were the comments which he made at the outset regarding himself:
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…
Allberry describes himself in the introduction to his book Is God Anti-Gay? as ‘someone who lives with homosexuality’ and elsewhere in the book declares ‘I battle with homosexual feelings’.
The use of the phrase ‘same-sex attracted’ by Allberry sets him apart from many in Christian ministry who describe themselves as having left a life of homosexuality. This phrase appears to have been coined by Allberry. In his introduction, Allberry seeks to justify his use of the phrase by claiming that it is different from the use of other words such as ‘gay’. In his book, Allberry argues that while ‘same-sex attraction is not a good thing’ yet he does not believe that to be same-sex attracted, i.e. to be tempted to engage in an impure relationship is itself a sin. This distinction is key, as it gives Allberry sanction to use the phrase in a whole variety of contexts, without any shame.
Allberry’s insistence on using and popularising the phrase ‘same-sex attracted’ must be examined carefully as it is central to his message. He uses the phrase widely throughout his book and in his speaking engagements. Before critiquing this phrase, however, it may be useful to consider the importance of language and its power for good or for evil.
The Role of Language
The purpose of language is to communicate by calling to mind an object, place, or idea. The King James version of Scripture speaks, in relation to Sodom and Gomorrah, of ‘the filthy conversation of the wicked’ and how it vexed Lot’s soul (2 Pet. 2:7). While the word conversation would be more generally comparable with conduct in today’s English, there is no doubt that it includes conversation, because the next verse records that Lot’s soul was vexed by what he saw and heard. Filthy conversation is when words are used to call evil activities to mind. Such conversation has become part and parcel of the world in which we live, estranged as it is from its Creator.
That Scripture would draw particular attention to the language of Sodom and Gomorrah serves as a reminder that language has a role in legitimising evil. The more a society indulges in evil conversation, the more it serves to legitimise the activities discussed. The wide vocabulary of terms for illicit sexual behaviour popularised in the last half-century have this effect. They call to mind activities and desires which fall into the biblical category of uncleanness. They serve no purpose except to legitimise the activity the more the word is used. Indeed, the use of unchaste language in television comedy shows, arguably, did more to break down society than any rational argument in defence of the indefensible homosexual lifestyle.
The church should always be wary of new language, especially when such language relates to sin or another of the core doctrines of Christianity, for it can serve as a conduit for false doctrine. Evangelist Dave Breese notes how, with the growth of neoorthodoxy after World War II, churches were infiltrated, and churchgoers deceived by the use of time-honoured phrases which had been invested with a new meaning:
The emphasis they [neo-Orthodox theologians] presented used many words and expressions well known and accepted by believing Christians. The trouble was that they gave these words a new meaning. Consequently, many true believers were deceived into thinking that they were listening to the grand old Christian faith, whereas in reality a new form of spiritual subversion came upon them.
In light of this, the use by Sam Allberry of phrases accepted by many believing Christians, such as ‘the Bible’s teaching’, ‘faithful to Scripture’ and ‘[Christian] sexual ethics’ should not be taken for granted, but investigated closely. Christians have a responsibility to recognise false prophets by a close examination of their fruits: ‘by their fruits ye shall know them’ (Mt. 7:20). ‘Know’ in this context means recognise and recognise with the purpose of avoidance. Is the new vocabulary of Sam Allberry, despite its claim to biblical orthodoxy, faithful to the message of the Scriptures?
A New Vocabulary
Perhaps the most serious error of Allberry’s use of the phrase ‘same-sex attracted’ is that such a phrase is without biblical precedent. Homosexuality in Scripture is never once merely described as a ‘temptation’ nor are homosexual feelings ever discussed without a link to homosexual conduct. Allberry may find such concepts elsewhere in the realm of psychology but they are alien to Christian theology. Not only so, such concepts are fundamentally at odds with the Christian teaching on conversion and the self-image of the Christian. To link such feelings so closely to a person’s persona, so that they become one of their main descriptors, as Allberry does, is antithetical to the teaching of the Scripture.
When it comes to sexual sin in Scripture, it is not the temptation but the actions, secret and open, which are primarily emphasised. The main passage concerning lust in Christ’s Sermon on the Mount describes illicit sexual desire in very tangible terms: ‘Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart’ (Mt. 7:28). Here Christ describes desire in terms of action – the look of lust is described as committing adultery in the heart – and it is this ‘looking’ which Christ condemns – a vivid action indeed. The look may be hidden, or even within the realm of the imagination, but it is a choice of the will. There is no discussion here of the temptation to sin but rather the focus is on the sin itself.
Throughout Scripture, emphasis is repeatedly laid on actions and choices of the will rather than ‘temptation’. Job declared ‘I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid?’ (Job 31:1) – a clear rejection of wilful sins of the ‘eyes’ and the ‘thinking’. When Joseph was tempted, he boldly declared: ‘How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?’ (Gen. 39:9). For Joseph, adultery was an unthinkable evil and a sin, ultimately, not against Potiphar but Almighty God. When Christ discussed sin, He warned of the propensity of sinful desire to defile the whole person (Mk. 7:20-23).
Allberry’s use of the term ‘same-sex attraction’ is concerning because of the impression it gives that homosexual feelings are in some way to be excused. In so doing, it undermines the seriousness of sin, and, in particular, the sexual sin which is so rampant in this age. Indeed, as will be discussed in the next chapter, Allberry does not treat homosexuality with any particular opprobrium. Rather, the attitude which Allberry displays towards this sin in his book is somewhat trivial. This is seen, for example, in his chapter on ‘Homosexuality and the Christian’:
All of us experience fallen sexual desires, … it is not un-Christian to experience same-sex attraction any more than it is un-Christian to get sick.
At best, this is a gravely misleading statement on the part of Allberry, considering the judgment meted out on sodomy in the Scripture. Homosexuality, in all its forms, is to be shunned by the believer and Scripture is clear that evil desires constitute wickedness (Pr. 21:10). At worst, Allberry’s comment is a repudiation of the Christian doctrine of sin. Again, of course, Allberry’s use of the verb ‘experience’ (portraying the Christian as a ‘passive’ agent in the sentence) and the phrase ‘same-sex attraction’ cause ambiguity and render his meaning unclear to the average reader.
The concept of ‘sexual orientation’ has been widely used by the homosexual lobby to legitimise their desires and mollify the public. Discussing ‘temptation’ in this fashion, however, treads precipitously close to excusing sin based on the condition of the sinner. This is a diabolical path to tread (Gen. 3:1-5). Those who love the sinner will urge him or her to flee from sin to Christ. In Paul’s great letter to the Ephesians, where he urges them to ‘walk in love’ (Eph. 5:2), his command is immediately followed up with a fulsome rejection of even discussion of sexual immorality. Such discussion is, according to Paul, improper for believers (‘as becometh saints’ – v3) and out of place (‘not convenient’ – v4) and he warns in no uncertain terms that an ‘unclean person’ (v5) incurs the wrath of God and has no ‘inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God’ (v5). Discussion of sinful desire in a spirit of acceptance is forbidden in Scripture, for Paul warns that ‘it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret’ (5:12). Rather, the instruction given is threefold: to avoid partnership (v7, v11), remember past deliverance (v8) and reprove sin (v11) as one seeks what is pleasing to God (v10, v15).
The coining by Allberry of the term ‘same-sex attracted’ may be considered, by many, a totally legitimate phrase which brings clarity to the issue of homosexuality. One must consider, however, what is being sacrificed for the sake of a perceived ‘clarity’ – clarity which can only be obtained by a faithful preaching of the Scriptures. Allberry’s phrase, with all the ambiguity (not clarity) it introduces, has been received enthusiastically by many professing Christians, who now have just one more excuse not to rebuke sexual sin when they meet it.
Significantly, in the same chapter where Paul warns against sexual immorality, he warns of the power of language to deceive and distract: ‘let no man deceive you with vain words’ (v6). ‘Vain words’ are in a modern translation ‘empty words’ as the Greek word kenos (empty) lies behind the translation. Paul warned of words that served no purpose (see 1 Cor. 15:14, where Paul mentions ‘vain’ preaching or Phil. 2:16, a ‘vain’ running or labouring). If something is vain it is a waste of time. Paul’s warning here is that Christians would be deceived into wasting their time and losing their spiritual sharpness through discussion of things which ought not to be discussed and were contrived to draw them away from Christ. Paul elsewhere warns against Christians being ‘spoiled’ through ‘philosophy and vain deceit’ (Col. 2:8). The Greek word here does not mean spoiled as one would use it today, but the sense of ‘capturing’ somebody in a battle, rendering them useless in service for God. Sadly, this has happened to scores of minds in churches today, particularly those of younger generations.
Resisting the Conspiracy of Silence
Knowing God is not something that is evidenced in self-satisfaction or a mystic spirituality. Rather, Daniel 11:32 reminds us that true knowledge of God reveals itself in action: ‘the people that do know their God shall be strong and do exploits’. There is no room in Christendom for those who desire an easy life, or for those whose preference it is to sit out the battle with principalities and powers ‘on the fence’. Scripture divides the inhabitants of the earth with a simple dichotomy: ‘They that forsake the law praise the wicked: but such as keep the law contend with them’ (Pr. 28:4). Boldness in Christian service to take on the forces of hell (Eph. 6) should be the aspiration of every child of God.
Today, the inhabitants of Sodom, i.e. those that share the same interests as the men of that ancient city, are literally marching. The homosexual lobby realise fully that they are in a battle to influence the nation. Hence, their pride marches – public, intimidating, highly visible expression of pride in what Scripture says is a ‘dishonourable’ and ‘unseemly’ sin (Rom. 1:24, 27) – are carefully orchestrated to cause maximum impact. Pride marchers are not merely ‘enjoying themselves’ – they realise they are in a battle for minds and they are doing their best to win it.
When Christ was on earth, however, He depicted the church of God as marching in attack against the gates of hell (Mt. 16:18). What a tragedy that, due to the proliferation of false doctrine, many pulpits now preach compromise with all that Christ is against. Few are the voices raised in defence of a holy faith. Instead, the insidious teachings of Sam Allberry are permitted to circulate unchallenged and undermine the doctrines of truth. Those who would shake hell are becoming increasingly voices in the wind, while a vast majority of churchgoers refuse to stand against evil.
In 1887, the Baptist Union of Great Britain faced a battle within its own ranks known as the ‘Downgrade Controversy’. The English preacher Charles Spurgeon described the fight as one involving both modernism and worldliness. Writing in his magazine The Sword and the Trowel, he described the culprits as Baptist ministers who ‘scouted the atonement [and] derided the inspiration of Scripture’ as well as endeavouring to ‘unite church and stage, cards and prayer, dancing and sacraments’. However, his choicest words were for those Baptist church members who were claiming to be evangelical but whose voices were strangely silent:
Little as they [faithful Baptists] might be able to do, they could at least protest, and as far as possible free themselves of that complicity which will be involved in a conspiracy of silence. If for a while the evangelicals are doomed to go down, let them die fighting, and in the full assurance that their gospel will have a resurrection when the inventions of ‘modern thought’ shall be burned up with fire unquenchable.
To protest the error of the day, as Spurgeon knew, is not an option for those faithful to Christ, nor is it a great ask. It is but a ‘little’ service which marks one out as in no way joined to those who forsake God’s Word, but rather contending against them. The only other option, in Spurgeon’s eyes, was to be ‘complicit’ (i.e. an accomplice in crime) in the heresies of the day, betrayed by one’s silence. The temporal cost of a faithful stand did not bother Spurgeon, for he knew that he would be vindicated in the judgment of the final day.
In the face of rampant cultural immorality, and the infiltration into the church of activists who have made Christ the ‘minster of sin’ (Gal. 2:17), the church must reclaim its holy calling. Chastity of life must once more become the spotless garment of the people of God, condemning the vulgarity of rebellion against God and winning those who are impervious to a bare profession. Men of the calibre of Charles E. Macartney can once again call the church to its great and holy heritage, by, like him, condemning without hesitation the specific evils of their day. Such Christians will know the Word of God, walk in its doctrines, and faithfully proclaim its precepts without compromise.
The 19th century American poet Josiah Gilbert Holland made the appearance of such men his prayer. It is reproduced below, a sober call to God’s people to live above the fog of the age, repossess the virtue of true Christianity and, for the sake of God and man, live up to the glorious heritage of Christian duty.
GOD, give us men! A time like this demands
Strong minds, great hearts, true faith and ready hands;
Men whom the lust of office does not kill;
Men whom the spoils of office can not buy;
Men who possess opinions and a will;
Men who have honor; men who will not lie;
Men who can stand before a demagogue
And damn his treacherous flatteries without winking!
Tall men, sun-crowned, who live above the fog
In public duty, and in private thinking;
For while the rabble, with their thumb-worn creeds,
Their large professions and their little deeds,
Mingle in selfish strife, lo! Freedom weeps,
Wrong rules the land and waiting Justice sleeps.
God, give us such!