Response to Exodus International’s Decisions

Sam Storms, among others, is part of Restored Hope Network, a new initiative that takes up where Exodus International used to be, and this is their “What We Believe” page, and they have a Board of Directors, and their first conference coincides with the last conference of Exodus International:

We, the members of the Restored Hope Network, believe that salvation is an unmerited gift of God’s love given to those who believe the gospel. The gospel declares that God exalted Jesus Christ as Lord by sending him to suffer the penalty for our sins through his death on the cross and by raising him from the dead to inaugurate the new creation. We believe that God acted in this way so that we may have new life through union with Christ and live no longer for ourselves but for God and Christ who paid the ultimate price on our behalf. We believe that true faith in Christ leads to obedience as a fruit of the Holy Spirit; and that, when believers succumb to sin, they must repent. We regard the Bible as God’s inspired word and as the highest authority in matters of faith and practice. We also recognize the role of church tradition for safeguarding Scripture and its moral code. As for sexual ethics we believe:

1. Sexual purity is a life-and-death matter. Sexual holiness for Christians matters to such an extent that living an unrepentant sexually immoral life can get even self-professed Christians excluded from the kingdom of God.1 For some this may mean that such persons were never true Christians to begin with; for others it may mean that such persons have fallen away from a once genuine faith. Either way, both can agree that a life committed to unrepentant, sexual immorality is evidence of a life not lived by saving faith.2

2. Jesus understood the male-female prerequisite for sexual relations established by God in Genesis 1:27 and 2:24 to be foundational for sexual ethics. So important to Jesus was this male-female prerequisite that he deduced from God’s creation of two sexes that sexual unions should consist of only two persons (Mark 10:5-9; Matt 19:4-8). Genesis 2:21-24 depicts a woman as coming from man, man’s sexual “complement” (negdo), whose union reintegrates two into a single sexual whole. Genesis 1:27 indicates that changing a male-female requirement distorts the image of God.

3. Consistent with Jesus’ view of a male-female requirement for sexual relations is Scripture’s depiction of homosexual practice as a severe violation of God’s standards for sexual purity (Gen 19:4-11; Lev 18:22; 20:13). Paul’s indictment of homosexual practice in Romans 1:24-27 and 1 Corinthians 6:9 treats it as an example of humans suppressing the truth about themselves visible in the material structures of nature and a violation of Gen 1:27 and 2:24. Every text in the Bible having to do with sexual relations presupposes a male-female requirement.

4. Sexual immorality is by no means limited to homosexual practice but has multiple manifestations in the heterosexual sphere that distort God’s purposes for sexual unions. Though union with a person of the other sex is a necessary condition for a valid sexual relationship, it is not sufficient. Any expression ofhuman sexuality outside the covenant of marriage between one man and one woman, as well as any expression within marriage that is not self-giving, is a perversion of God’s will for sexual holiness.

5. Marriage between a man and a woman prefigures the union of God and his people or Christ and the church and has as its highest purpose the self-giving integration of the two sexes into a single sexual whole. From the very beginning God’s goal has been to enter into an eternal covenant of marriage with those who love him (Hos 2:16-20; Jer 2:2; Ezek 16:8; Isa 54:5-8; 61:10; 62:4-5; Eph 5:21-33; Rev 19:7-9). On earth God designed marriage primarily for the purpose of shaping two into one—an aim more important than the satisfaction of the individual wants of husbands and wives.

6. Marriage and the sexual fulfillment that marriage offers have only penultimate significance. Jesus viewed marriage as an institution of the present age that would be superseded by something much better in the age to come: the heavenly marriage of the people of God to Christ (Mark 12:25). He also lifted up the celibate life as a way of giving undivided attention to the advancement of God’s kingdom (Matt 19:10-12; compare 1 Cor 7:28-35).

7. Jesus Christ deeply loves broken sexual sinners and provides hope for transformation. Jesus coupled a heightened ethical demand with a loving outreach to violators to lead them to repentance (Luke 7:36-50; John 4:4-30; 8:1-12). The grace of God offered in Jesus Christ is not merely a pardon for one’s sins but also an empowerment by the Spirit of Christ to a new life lived for God (Rom 6:14; 7:5-6; 8:12-14; Gal 2:19-20; 5:18; 2 Pet 1:2-4). For some, this transformation may take shape as a significant reduction of unwanted sexual desires. For others, it may mean the grace to live in obedience in spite of ongoing urges to do what God forbids. Either way, Paul gives believers assurance that those who “walk in the Spirit will not carry out the desire of the flesh” (Gal 5:16-17, 24-25). “These things some of you were” (1 Cor 6:11).

Jesus Christ is our hope for the redemption of our sexuality, gender, and bodies (Col 1:15-20). We rejoice in this hope (Rom 15:13), even as we groan inwardly while we await the full “redemption of our body” (Rom 8:22-25).

 


 

1 Matt 5:29-30; John 8:11 with 5:14; 1 Thess 4:3-8; Gal 5:19-21; 1 Cor 5; 6:9-10, 13-20; 2 Cor 12:21; Rom 1:23-32; Col 3:5-7; Eph 4:19; 5:3-6; 1 Tim 1:9-11.
2 Matt 5:29-30; 7:16-27; Mark 4:16-19; John 15:1-6; Rom 8:12-14; Gal 6:7-9; Heb 10:26-29; James 2:14-26; 2 Pet 2:18-21; 1 John 1:6-7; 2:3-6, 15, 29; 3:6-10, 14-20, 24; 5:18; Rev 2:4-17, 20-23, 26; 3:1-3, 5.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • Alberto Medrano

    This is a great statement of belief. We are all sinners, some sexually broken, and in need of restoration.

  • residentoftartarus

    Obviously, this isn’t going to sit well with the people who think there’s nothing wrong with homosexual behavior.

  • brandanrobertson

    Oh brother. This is just publicity for the neo-reformed movement. It’s not that they care to understand those who are LGBTQ. The reason Exodus shut down wasn’t because they became lax and liberal about homosexuality and repentace- it’s because it has been proven that the reparative actions this kind of theology perpetuates has destroyed hundreds of lives.

    This is not of God. He gives life, not destroys it.

  • Wolf N. Paul

    @brandanrobertson, how is this publicity for the neo-reformed movement, when it allows both for “never saved” and “saved but fallen away” for finally unrepentant sinners?
    This question has nothing to do with what one thinks about homosexuality and reparative therapy, by the way, but with a core component of “reformed” theology.

  • http://classicalarminian.blogspot.com/ William Watson Birch

    “Paul’s indictment of homosexual practice in Romans 1:24-27 and 1 Corinthians 6:9 treats it as an example of humans suppressing the truth about themselves visible in the material structures of nature and a violation of Gen 1:27 and 2:24.”

    There are two embarrassing fallacies noted here: 1) homosexuals and bisexuals understand clearly “the truth about themselves” — they are, for whatever reason(s), attracted to the same sex: there is no alleged hidden truth about their sexual inclination (i.e., that they are really heterosexuals inwardly but are confused to such a truth); and 2) the texts of Romans 1:18-19, 20, 21, 23, 25, 28 refer to examples of humans suppressing the truth about God, not about themselves!

    * those who by their wickedness suppress the truth (not “the truth about themselves”) (1:18)

    * what can be known **about God** is plain to them (1:19)

    * his eternal power and divine nature … have been understood (1:20)

    * though **they knew God** (1:21)

    * they exchanged the glory of **the immortal God** (1:23)

    * they exchanged **the truth about God** (1:25)

    * since they did not see fit to **acknowledge God** (1:28)

    If this is one, clear example of how the leaders of the Restored Hope Network approach and interpret Scripture — forcing, assaulting, and raping Scripture, conforming it to their preconceived notions — then they cannot be trusted with psychology, either.

    I posted on this very subject this morning: http://willandgraced.tumblr.com/

  • Susan Gerard

    I am saddened by this. They are ignoring 35 years of experience on the part of Exodus International for publicity and holding out the empty hope of change. Who are they to claim they know who will be admitted into Heaven? Do they treat remarriage after divorce as sexual immorality of the same degree? I highly doubt it.
    A wonderful event (Exodus Int.’s announcement) followed by a one of grandstanding.

  • Evelyn

    Was hoping for some comments from you, Scot… What do you think of this?

  • Andrew Dowling

    These people need to get over their unhealthy fixation on sex.

  • http://www.naturalspirituality.wordpress.com/ Howard Pepper

    This statement pretty much avoids the real issues, particularly the issue of whether sexual orientation is a choice vs. either inborn or acquired somehow very early in life prior to any choice capability involving anything sexual. I wrote this afternoon about some of the reasons for the depth of feeling and non-rational perspectives by Christians and others on this subject: http://wp.me/p5oBn-nE. We tend to be focused on the wrong things, too much away from ourselves and the needs of the “least among us” — kids.

    I would think the experience of 37 years of Exodus and its thousands of participants would be looked to seriously by even very socially conservative and/or literalist Christians, especially on the matter of choice. Let’s hope so!

  • fb

    I guess I don’t understand why the real issue is whether sexual orientation is a choice or inborn/acquired very early. Are there not characteristics that fall into the latter category that are not the ‘fault’ of the individual, yet are still recognized as sinful and not a part of God’s final intention for the world?

    For instance, for as long as I can remember, I’ve struggled with explosive anger. I don’t /feel/ like I choose to get that angry; from my point of view, it just sort of sneaks up on me, and it has done that for as long as I can remember. Maybe it’s genetic; maybe it came from my upbringing or some trauma I experienced. Maybe it’s some combination of those factors. But while I recognize it as natural for me and perhaps understandable, I also see it as outside of God’s intention for me, so I submit it to God and ask for forgiveness when I fall into it. I am in counseling, and have fellow believers praying for me and keeping me accountable. While that tendency in me is real and undeniable, I do not think of it as the ‘real’ me — at least not in the eschatological sense. I am headed for something better. And while I wish that I could pray it away in an evening, I hold out hope that substantial healing is possible on this side of eternity and that one day, I will like him, for I will see him just as he is.

    Finally, I don’t see this particular, persistent sinful behavior and tendency to be unforgivable from God’s point of view. But neither do I justify it as natural for me and therefore right, because God made me that way.

  • Tom F.

    Restored hope seems to be a much more theological approach and much less therapeutic. At the end, there is a sense of possible hope for change, but that emphasis is much less significant than with what I sensed from Exodus. I think what you are seeing is the future conservative approach: admission (if only partial) that change is very unlikely, but a strong and assertive prohibition against homosexual behavior nonetheless.

    As this shift happens, it will become clear how important the concept of “change” was for different people in determining their ethical thinking in this area. For many, “change” may have provided wiggle room, by blunting the absoluteness of the prohibition. Perhaps some were able to say themselves, “well, the Bible prohibits homosexuality, but those folks would be able to find sexual fulfillment if they would just do the hard work of change.” That wiggle room is disappearing. And as that ground shifts, it makes sense that “change” was simply not the most important aspect of at least some person’s perspective on homosexuality. “Change” just made the conservative position much more easy to accept.

    Based off of these points, the goal of this network seems straightforward: proclaim
    clearly that unrepentant homosexual behavior will lead to eternal
    rejection by God. I know this is framed as “hope”, but let’s be real here. The bottom line from reading their statements is not about hope, its about despair. The goal here is that this despair and rejection by God will be felt by homosexual persons, and that this will lead homosexual persons to stop their homosexual behavior. This is not about psychology or therapy, and there is frank admission that even the limits of spiritual transformation in this area may simply be that, in spite of “ongoing urges”, gay Christians will simply not be doing the forbidden behavior.

    *The overriding goal here is stopping the behavior.*

  • Wondering

    Shoot! Just when I thought evangelicalism was taking a step in the right direction, another group pops up to hold it back… This debate is, unfortunately, not going away soon enough. It centers too deeply upon how people understand and read their bible. Although the Restored Hope Network does not use the term “inerrant”, their idea of what it means for the bible to be “inspired” is nevertheless functioning (in my opinion) as a straightjacket for their minds when it comes to looking at the experiential and scientific evidence that might cause them to question some of the statements about homosexuality in the bible. Unless evangelical groups like the Restored Hope Network come to the conclusion that they can still faithfully follow Christ without needing to treat the bible as simply another legal code to become enslaved to, there may not be much hope for a different perspective.

    Faithfulness to the bible (= faithfulness to God) is ultimately what is at stake for these groups. I get that, and I used to be stuck there as well. Even Alan Chamber’s (of Exodus International) wrote a solid apology to the gay community, but still felt the need to say that he would not apologize for what he understands the message of the bible to be on this issue. That’s ok. It just shows where the real struggle is at. Evangelical Christians feel compelled to be faithful to the scriptures in a particular way, and so even if that means causing great pain to the gay community, they will throw in their lot with the bible (and their way of reading it and interpreting it).

    If only Paul had stuck with the refrain, “When I was among you I claimed to know nothing but Jesus Christ, and him crucified…” A little more apostolic restraint with the pen a couple thousand years ago could have saved the world an awful lot of pain and heartache. (Of course, this statement displays a particular way of viewing scripture as well (albeit somewhat tongue-in-cheek!).

  • http://www.naturalspirituality.wordpress.com/ Howard Pepper

    I appreciate the thoughtful response and chance to go a bit deeper on the subject. I’m sorry your struggle is as hard and ongoing as it is. And yes, my study indicates many propensities such as “quick to anger” are inborn/early acquired (e.g., hormones or other substances in prenatal development or such, potentially). And you are responsibly seeking to “be angry and yet do not sin” (Ephesians if I recall). There IS a legitimate, non-sinful expression of anger, as there is of sexuality.

    What appears (with near certainty) different in same-sex-attraction sexuality is that, if one takes the Bible to declare all interpersonal expression of it as sin, as well as “lusting in one’s heart”, then the only relief is either switching orientation or near-complete suppression. Neither seem to be reachable, at least for the vast majority.

    With anger and its “management,” one can still acknowledge and even express anger within limits — functionally and healthfully. With a propensity to alcohol it’s similar for some although some need total abstinence — but a “need” for alcohol or for expression of anger is not a “primary” drive. However, a “need” for physical/sexual intimacy and the attendant powerful attractions ARE a primary or very basic, pervasive “drive.”

    One related aspect further: anger is a secondary emotion following upon another — generally fear (basic emotion) or the attitude of frustration (blockage/hindrance of accomplishing something important or urgent). Sex drive seems more “just there” continually than secondary emotions like anger, sadness, happiness, etc. Thus the drive (and what the object of attraction is) is not as amenable to our conscious, purposeful control. This is what seems confirmed thousands of times over by many Christians and others who have even believed they should/could change the basic drive but have not been successful. A lot more could be discussed from here, but that’s enough for this context.

  • Tom F.

    Thanks for being honest about a difficult struggle.

    As I think about it, I wonder if another added dimension is the harm factor involved: explosive anger is clearly hurtful to others. It is less clear why homosexual behavior is always damaging to either self or others. The question is not just: “Is it a choice?”, but a more urgent one of “Is it a choice, and who is being hurt?”. Explosive anger may not always be a fully conscious choice, but at least with that, there is clear damage and fallout from it.

    If it’s not a choice, and no one is being hurt, than why would God not allow for an exception given the fallen world we live in? Maybe the ideal is a man and a woman, but when biology/psychology goes awry, why no relief?

  • Dan Arnold

    I think the thing that really concerns me here is the implication that sexual sins are somehow worse than others; that they can in fact cause you to lose your salvation. Even as someone moving more toward a Wesleyan understanding of a variety of things, this apparent prioritization of sexual sin is deeply concerning.

  • Eric Weiss

    Kathy Baldock discusses the challenge and opportunity the exodus of Exodus presents for the [conservative Evangelical] church: http://canyonwalkerconnections.com/we-have-asked-gay-people-to-change-it-is-time-for-the-church-to-change/

  • http://www.naturalspirituality.wordpress.com/ Howard Pepper

    I like your addition of the factor of harm, Tom. That’s important in terms of use of an analogy. If I may briefly play “devil’s advocate” and take the traditionalist Christian position, I think it would be something like this: since God defines it as “abomination” (or at least unnatural and wrong) it IS harmful, perhaps to the damnation of one’s soul; also harmful to society (just HOW, they don’t usually spell out); STD’s are passed that way; etc. While the first one (only) may be logically sound, the premise, which I consider faulty, is the key – and more and more straight and gay Christians do not see any blanket condemnation as coming from God, although certain ancient societies probably DID view things that way (as does a good chunk of our own), and thus are in the Bible.

    That’s why bold books like the recent one by Jeff …. (I think… and forget his last name) are important… careful study of the Bible from even an Evangelical point of view which allows a more freeing interpretation. And Evangelicals will be wise to also look closer at the science and psychology involved. The broad distrust of science in general comes into play here, unfortunately. I share that distrust on one level, as a (panen)theist — the level of paradigms that exclude any transcendent/spiritual power in the universe, too often guiding research and its conclusions.

    But the pure data of a LOT of research and its interpretation is vital in coming to better understand sexual orientation and healthy management of human sexuality on a variety of levels which includes our subject. If someone wants to resist something that is complicated, or draw conclusions, it is only responsible to do that on the basis of a deep understanding. Our society does not tend to encourage this kind of approach…. While much of The Church DOES, in relation to the Bible, it needs to expand that to other kinds of information, including from psychological and scientific research.

  • Tom F.

    Hi, Howard. Sure, God’s definition makes a big difference. Just seems a bit circular though if that’s the whole show. Eventually, you get to the question of *why* God defined it that way, and then the real conversation begins.

    As to harm to one’s soul, that ends up back in the same place too:

    Why does homosexual behavior harm one’s soul?

    Because God condemns it.

    Why does God condemn it?

    Because God defines it as an abomination.

    Why did God define it as an abomination?

    And then you are again at the point where you get to the question of *why* God defined it that way. Furthermore, even if there are half-way decent answers as to why God defined heterosexual relations the way he did, I have yet to come across anything remotely convincing on why gracious exception could not be made for those who experience unchangeable attraction to the same sex. Why would such exceptions be so threatening to the norm?

    Whether you want to call it science or simply accumulated experience, the language here suggests at least a grudging acceptance of the incredibly unlikely outcome of change of one’s basic orientation. The focus here is on behavior, and simply being able to not behave homosexually. This is a shift, make no mistake. However, this new position is a fairly stable one, as this position is much less open to being falsified through science or experience (unlike “change”, which is very much testable). Certainly, no one would want to argue that anyone is incapable of directing his or her behavior, even if that means simply restraining impulses.

    I think science has done its work, and further change will only come about through theological and ethical reflection. You also have to think about how vulnerable some folks are likely feeling right now. “Choice” and “change” were huge parts of many persons understandings on this topic, and with those becoming more settled against the traditional position, things have really heated up. Things will need to settle for a bit before anything productive happens again.

  • http://www.naturalspirituality.wordpress.com/ Howard Pepper

    Thanks for the helpful further thoughts, Tom… a level deeper than most people think! That’s what I value and seldom find. I hope others are still reading here. (I note after a couple days most threads don’t get new comments at least, and probably not much reading.) I’m curious if you write on this or other subjects or are in a leadership position (which you can disclose… I understand if you feel you cannot). In one sense, the world doesn’t need yet another blog, but one by a person with perspectives, insights like yours, yes!

    As to your line of q’s that dig deeper… very useful. I think in those terms myself tho seldom have thought to write them out so clearly. The same approach can be used to show the unsure foundation of really all the basic “building blocks” of Christian orthodoxy (not all Christian values and developed practices, but the “literalist/traditional” set of doctrines, which leads to so much anxiety and grief for many… while leaving others feeling just fine). The adage from the sales field (I presume) holds: People buy (ideas, too) emotionally and justify rationally (but with emotion still holding sway).

  • Tom F.

    Hi, Howard. Your words are very kind, though I doubt I have the time to maintain a blog.

    My goal is not necessarily to attack the “foundations” of “literalist/traditionalist” Christian belief system. Honestly, I think mostly I am just haunted by the considerable ways that scripture has been misused in history, all by people who were sure they were doing what God wanted. People made some pretty horrible mistakes in the name of the Bible. I think what concerns me, is that people feel like they don’t have to think, they don’t have to consider, that if they just follow what the Bible says, they’ll be okay, and God won’t judge them. But I can’t convince myself of that: I know too much history. You can be honestly mistaken and do some horribly unjust things.

    There is no “safe” position when it comes to this issue: if conservatives are right, than progressives are helping people to sin and destroy themselves, and if progressives are right, than conservatives are are unjustly oppressing a marginalized group of people. Someone is in big trouble, and if I’m going to be on the hook ethically, I’m going to ask both sides some pretty tough questions. So far, I have been less impressed with conservatives on this issue, but that could change. Really, the main thing conservatives need is a non-deductive sexual ethic.

    What I mean is, evangelical ethics has all its ethics figured out before it even starts. Most of the time, the goal is to weave a story/craft a theory about ethics that accounts for all the things that are known to be wrong. Read an evangelical ethics book, and you might be surprised, these stories can be pretty good. But what inevitably happens is that on some issue, on some moral question, the story/theory would permit more freedom on an issue than conservatives are willing to grant. And then the story/theory is out the window.

    So, for example, in one of my favorite ethics texts, “Kingdom Ethics”, the authors talk about how covenant, mutuality, etc. shape sexual ethics. Great! But when they talk about homosexuality, they explicitly say, “These ethical paradigms should guide heterosexual ethics, but they do not apply in homosexual relationships”. Wait! Why not? Well, its not really clear why not, there is some throw away line about the authority of scripture being at stake.

    My question is: if we are interpreting the Bible wrong, are we off the hook because we believe in the “authority” of scripture? Are previous interpreters of scripture who made terrible errors (i.e., slavery, women, historical prejudice against Jews) off the hook because they had a “high view of the authority of scripture”?

    No, I suspect they (and therefore us as well) are not off the hook. So I’m going to need more than just an appeal to authority. I need to feel like there is a consistent, understandable pattern behind the scripture, so that I can put my feet on solid ground on a very contentious issue. Until then, I’m going to be somewhat skeptical of both “sides”. (Progressives have their own issues: i.e., having a very ambivalent attitude towards scripture in the first place.)

  • http://www.naturalspirituality.wordpress.com/ Howard Pepper

    Wow! A lot of great points to respond to, which I can’t fully cover. So just a couple:

    First, I appreciate that you’ve looked deeply at ethics… something I can’t find evidence that many have done, including Christians who should have the most interest and motivation to do so! I think you’re onto part of the reason in terms of reliance on Scripture in a simplistic way, and the authority of whoever we come to trust in interpreting it. So sad that so many Christians don’t even realize that interpretations they are “fed” are not the only viable ones…. And that a vast system of “systematic theology” (not really inductive despite claims to be so) surrounds the interpretation of most specific texts and interweaves many “proof-texts” which are ripped from context.

    These texts, books chosen for a now-closed canon and the collection itself are given authority based on human judgments (in my carefully examined/constructed opinion) thought to be God-given, etc… several layers of this, so it’s complex; and I surmise most people feel lost or unqualified to sort out issues of authority, so don’t really try! This authority problem applies broadly, but certainly to the sexual ethics at issue as well. (BTW, as to the “ambivalent attitude” toward Scripture, I’m a Progressive who can relate to what I THINK you may mean, but feel I’ve worked it out, gradually, with much study, to a point of reasonable clarity and consistency… but nuance is definitely in play, and as noted by President Bush, some people [far too many] just “don’t do nuance.”)

    Lest I get too afield, second point: I agree that a lot is at stake in terms of things in this life (leaving the afterlife issue aside for now). But I’m not sure I agree that progressives even COULD (if they were trying) do much to “help people sin…”. Nor do I think conservatives are “unjustly oppressing a marginalized group…” – at least they don’t think they are (which point you may agree with, I realize). In one sense, however, it does amount to oppression — more individually than socially. But the very switch of Exodus seems to show that as to effectively either SUpressing (different than oppressing, of course) sex drive or transforming its object and expression, even “sound doctrine” and help through the best of spiritual disciplines, counseling, etc., not many are being “held down”. Still, the “oppression” (what you may have had in mind, anyway) composed of psychological and relational damage IS heavy indeed. As I’ve heard even Jeff (that popular gay Christian autobiographer whose last name I can’t recall) say, some youth have committed suicide over the anguish that I’m convinced could have been lessened with a more ethical, realistic, compassionate approach, at least sometimes preventing their deaths. And it is religious views more than anything that seems to contribute to this situation, although generalized shame, prejudice and ignorance plays in as well.

    And BTW, since the link at my name is to FB and not my blog, if you should want to follow some of my reasoning about authority, process theology, etc., I do have a blog at naturalspirituality.wordpress.com.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X