Against Chalke : The wrong approach to “gay cure” therapy

Thomas critiques a Liberal Christian on LGBT issues

Recently a somewhat well known pastor called Steven Chalke has written for Premier Christianity arguing that the state should be even more aggressively attacking those that do not affirm the simple fact that, according to the Bible, homosexual behaviour and the desire to do so, are sins (see 1 Corinthians 6:9, Romans 1, Leviticus 20:13-15 to name a few) . Here I critique the reasoning behind his views, but I have a few caveats to mention first.

Firstly, on the whole, I disagree with “gay-conversion” therapy. The main problem with it theologically speaking is that it implies that heterosexual desires are the Holy opposite to homosexual desires. This is not the case. If I was to have sex with (or lust after) a woman before I was married to her, it would be just as sinful as if I felt the same way towards a man. The opposite of all sinful desires is desiring Christ our God, not changing one set of sinful desires for another. Thus, “gay conversion” and gay affirmation are two sides of the same coin: both see sexual orientation as a valid category of identity, which the Bible does not. People are either in Adam or in Christ, nothing else. Further, it frequently gives false hope to those who are unhappy with their sexual desires, expecting to be completely changed whereas in most cases, even therapies that do show fruits merely diminish sexual desire rather than change it completely. Much like the astrologers, tarot readers and soothsayers of the Old Testament, it encourages people to put their trust not in God, but something else (in this case their sexual desires’ capacity to change). In this sense I do agree that “gay conversion” therapy should be banned in most of its forms as defined by the government and on the whole agree with the ban.

However, what “gay conversion” therapy could be taken to mean also concerns me. What if, for example a heterosexually married man comes into an office of a counsellor and says that he is having sexual desires towards other men that he wishes to stop? Will the counsellor then be forced to encourage his homosexual feelings and potentially break up a marriage? The potential contempt the government shows for the God-ordained institution of marriage is quite stark. Of course, such therapies that have included things such as electroshocks to the genitals or “corrective rape” are wrong, and even less extreme cases that seek to misuse psychotherapy in order to give false hope are bad. Certainly, any church that uses  extreme therapies ought to be shut down and cast out of communion with any Christian denomination, and these practices should be illegal anyway. Regardless, more nuance in the law defining what such “conversion therapy” is taken to mean is required.

Now, onto Chalke: he complains about informal prayer to have homosexual desires allliviated. He claims this “undermines an individuals identity” as though this is a bad thing! Jesus repeatedly says in the Bible that in order to be His disciple one must first “deny himself” and “follow (Him)” (Mark 8:34, Mat 16:24, Luke 9:23) . This means , clearly surrendering one’s own identity to the King of Kings, as we are no longer slaves to sin (Rom 6:6) , but members of the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:12-27) . Moreover by separating ourselves into invalid categories such as sexual identity and then complaining that we do not feel part of the body, we are like the ear that complains that “because I am not an eye, I am not part of the body”(1 Cor 12:16). Thus, the fundamental issue is that Chalke clearly believes that we define ourselves, rather than God defining us. The issue is that idea is known by a simple term in the Bible: Idolatry. For God created us (Gen 1:27-28) and us complaining about the way we are made is much like the clay pot turning to the potter and saying “why did you make me this way” (Romans 9:20). By suggesting that somehow, we create our identity, Chalke denies a fundamental part of the gospel.

The second complaint he makes is about treating “same sex attraction” as an illness or affliction. In the sense that all sins and desires are afflictions upon us, this practice is accurate, however I find some common ground with Chalke here. Some biblical Christians argue that “same-sex attracted” is a valid category of person in the same way as Chalke uses “gay” or “bi” and suggest that they are specially inflicted by this specific sin. No, all sins are bad and all of humanity bears the stain of sin (Rom 3:10-12), and thus singling out homosexuality in of itself is wrong. I condemn pornography, adultery, fornication, anger and theft with the same gusto as I would homosexual desire and sin. However, Chalke then suggests that an LGBT identity is a “fundamental part of some people’s humanity”. Simply put, sin is part of someone’s humanity, we all live in a fallen state. However, that does not make it a good thing! This is simply Pelagianism revisited. Were I to say that I had the desire to have sex with other people’s wives exclusively, would Chalke describe that as a fundamental part of my identity? Or would he tell me to repent? I hope the latter is true, but given that he is so directly in contradiction of the gospel, he might as well embrace his heresy and encourage adultery in the Church.

Thirdly, he discusses barriers to participation that some churches place in their work. This is where I have the most agreement with him. It would not be right to hold someone’s past sin against them, once it has been repented of and mortified. With that said, to the unrepentant sinner, Jesus makes it clear in Matthew 18:17, that if someone refuses to hear the church’s call to repentance “let him be to you as a Pagan or tax collector” in other words, someone living in unrepentant sin is unfit to be in Church leadership. Paul is also clear on this front with his recruitment policy for Overseers and Deacons saying that they are to be “above reproach” (1 Timothy 3:2). However, if there is someone who previously identified as LGBT who has repented of that sin, there should be no barrier to them taking leadership. With the understanding that much like you would not give wine to an alcoholic, you would not cause your brother to stumble (Rom 14:13-23) so, putting this individual in a double bed with someone of the same sex for example would be inappropriate.

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Fourthly, he complains about “negative teaching” regarding sinful practices. What is the gospel without the sin that made Christ’s atonement for us necessary? I would suggest that teaching that “LGBT people are evil, disgusting or even demonic” is not the right way to preach against such sins. All of humanity is evil and sinful in the eyes of God without the blood of Christ (Romans 3), so to suggest that one specific group is especially evil is incorrect. However, to warn people against sins that they hold dear is precisely what the Bible does. Paul states explicitly that the “unrighteous will not inherit the Kingdom of God” (1 Cor 6:9) and lists homosexuality amongst those unrighteous. When we look at the Early Church context as a side note (I particularly recommend Athenagoras and Chrystostom on the issue) it is clear they took homosexual sex to be the meaning of Arsenkotai (the word in 1 Cor 6:9 normally translated as homosexuals) so any counter to this passage going to the original Greek is totally invalid. Thus, we should encourage other Christians to repent of all the sins mentioned in 1 Corinthians 6:9, like Paul saying “don’t fool yourselves”, and cause them to be encouraged that they have been bought by the blood of Christ (1 Cor 6:9-11) and no longer are considered part of said sinful identity in the eyes of God.

Finally he discusses “enforcement of silence” in regards to sexual identity. I would also agree that there needs to be honesty with other Christians in regards to previous sin history. A woman who marries a man who has had gay sex should know about it. We are encouraged to confess our sins to God and to each other (James 5:16). I also agree that anyone who suggests that someone is “unlovable” by God because of past sins does not have the gospel in them, as God was capable of reaching Paul (a persecutor of the Church who murdered men, women and children) so too can he reach homosexual identifying people. However, unrepentant sin is “unacceptable”, and we are all “fundamentally sinful” in our hearts which craft false identities (idols) with which to deceive us (Jeremiah 17:6, Matthew 15:16). Thus, to complain that such silence breeds these thoughts is to compain about a pastor being gospel centred.

I would have to ask Chalke, what is he hoping the government will do with this? Persecute and ban any statement that gives the Biblical view of Marriage and Sin? Would he ban prayer for any unwanted sinful desires? Would he call for his supposed brothers and sisters in Christ to be arrested or even imprisoned for teaching the gospel? Regardless, it is clear that his condemnation of “gay-cure therapy” is merely an attack on biblical Christianity to serve his Liberal God, rather than a Biblically centred argument against some of the Church’s practices against homosexuality.

In conclusion, I cannot see Steven Chalke as a brother in Christ given his stated opinions. He is confessing openly to the Pelagian heresy through his denial of original sin and suggesting that all desires and self made identities are inherently good. Further still, he may be even encouraging the government to go further and start persecuting Bible-Believing Churches by suggesting this ban (which as I have suggested before, I on the whole agree with) is a “step in the right direction” . I encourage fellow believers to pray for him that he might repent of the lies he is teaching, and not fall under the anathema of Galatians 1:8-9.

Source for Chalke quotes <https://www.premierchristianity.com/Blog/5-damaging-practices-that-churches-inflict-on-LGBT-people>