The Table Podcast

The Evangelical Church and LGBTQ Issues

In this episode, Dr. Darrell L. Bock and Sam Allberry discuss evangelical engagement of LGBTQ issues.

Timecodes
00:15
Allberry’s background in same sex-attraction and ministry
09:30
How the Gospel shapes our engagement with the LGBT community
15:56
The importance of relationships within the church for people with same sex-attraction
18:26
Views on same-sex attraction in the UK and the US
24:58
How the Gospel shapes our engagement with culture
29:08
How to present the biblical view of sexuality
34:47
The importance of humility in discussing LGBTQ issues
39:48
Having healthy in-church conversations about LGBTQ issues
42:55
Terms used in discussing LGBTQ issues
Transcript
Dr. Darrell Bock
Welcome to the table where we discuss issues of God and culture. I’m Darrell Bock Executive Director for Cultural Engagement at the Hendricks Center at Dallas Theological Seminary. And my guest is Sam Allberry who is in Atlanta but the moment that he opens his mouth you’re going to know he’s not from Atlanta Georgia he is from the UK. Sam welcome to the table we’re really glad to be able to have this conversation with you.
Sam Allberry
Thanks so much for having me I’m really pleased to be here.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Pleasure now Sam works with the Ravi Zacharias International Ministry. He travels globally he’s actually headquartered out of Oxford but the discussion that we’re going to have is going to be on the whole area of same sex attraction and the issues associated with that. And he’s going to help us kind of negotiate where evangelicalism is on this topic. So I guess the first question is how did you get into this gig? What expertise do you bring to the area and how have you been drawn into this conversation?
Sam Allberry
Thank you very much its personal experience is the short answer so I grew up not being a Christian believer but beginning to realize in my teenage years that I was attracted to men rather than attracted to women. Then sort of just before I really had an opportunity to act on that I became a Christian. And so then one of the big questions I had to think through was where does Christianity and this whole issue into sex what does Jesus think of this. What does being a disciple look like in the lens of this experience.

So I had to really think this through for myself as a follower of Jesus and I had no intention at that point of being public about it until a few years ago really felt the Lord leading me to kind of speak a bit more personally on the issue. And so whatever expertise I may or may not have has really come through having to wrestle with this individually and prior to doing what I’m doing now I was a pastor in the church of England. And so the issue often came up pastoring as well.

Dr. Darrell Bock
Let me ask you this question how did or didn’t the church help you navigate this as you were wrestling with it once you became a Christian in other words what kind of support did you or did you not receive in the midst of the process.
Sam Allberry
Well for the first several years I didn’t tell anyone so there was no help or support because I wasn’t open about it but the reason I wasn’t open about it was because nothing in the church culture I was in at that time gave me any kind of signal that this was an issue Christians deal with. So I was very much feeling a sense of shame, feeling a sense of fear that I would be rejected by my Christian community. People frequently use the words Gays are pejorative and so all of those signals just made me feel as though I’m not supposed to be dealing with this as a Christian. Something has gone terribly wrong and the issue was never raised in any kind of pastoral context. So for that reason I never felt really that it was going to be safe for me to speak about this.
Dr. Darrell Bock
In fact culture was so clear about that that it made you extremely hesitant to come forward and think about it?
Sam Allberry
It did and eventually a few years later a pastor at a different church did raise the issue at a sermon he was preaching and he raised it as a pastoral issue not just as a cultural issue. And he even said this will be an issue for a number of us here this morning and if that’s you please know that you’re not on your own and we would love to walk with you through this. And that was the very first time I felt as though I had permission to kind of say oh actually this is an issue for me. So I did then begin to share initially with him and then with close friends.

And that was game changing just to have other people aware of it and to feel like I was a bit more known as a result of that. And just to have people who could encourage me who could journey with me just made a huge difference. It stopped being this secret thing that only I knew about. And certainly is a past mixed with many other issues I now see the value of actually of being open, walking in the light and I think how much the devil must love secrecy. If it’s just a secret in my head the devil can blow it out of all proportion.

Whereas one of the things that most encouraged me as I shared with friends is how they didn’t react massively they just kind of oh okay that’s interesting we really appreciate you sharing that. It wasn’t catechistic to them to discover this about me. Which made me think it’s not actually that big a deal because I had thought it was going to be this all-consuming kind of issue to raise with them. So actually that in a sense helped me get it into a better perspective.

Dr. Darrell Bock
So I’ve got two sets of questions let me start there how far in to your Christian experience did that experience take place? I mean what kind of time frame are we talking about?
Sam Allberry
Probably eight, nine years into my Christian faith that I started actually opening up to others. So that would have been in my late 20s.
Dr. Darrell Bock
And so I take it that the I don’t know how else to describe the calmness or the naturalness with which this was accepted by those around you really helped move you ahead in terms of saying this disclosure if I can say it this way is worth the risk of disclosing.
Sam Allberry
Very much so and it was such a blessing and the wonderful thing was it had the effects of making what were already good friendships even stronger because I was suddenly sharing on a very, very personal level and that meant the other person in the friendship would start sharing a bit more deeply about things in their life as well and it just kind of put the friendship on a much, much deeper footing. So it actually was the opposite of what I had feared which was I might lose friends it actually gave me more intimacy rather than less.
Dr. Darrell Bock
So the good part of this story of course is that the people around you had responded well and in the process a good process opened up?
Sam Allberry
Yeah very much so.
Dr. Darrell Bock
So this happened and then down the road I take it you pursued your discipleship and just talk about your ministry in general first and then we’ll focus in a little more.
Sam Allberry
So yeah I was working for a church for a number of years really felt more of a burden to speak to this issue and realized we needed a few voices that could address this issue from the inside and because it was becoming such a big deal culturally. So began tentatively to personally open up to my own church family. Once that had gone well and the dust had settled I began to write on it. Initially with a couple online articles and then with a short book. And then really I suddenly realized that at that point there was just an enormous need to have teaching on this. This was about five years ago I started to speak on it.

And I just had not anticipated A how big the need would be and B actually how comfortable I would be talking about it. I don’t know what it would be like talking about something that personal but found myself actually just being able to do so quite calmly and it didn’t freak me out, it didn’t seem to freak other people out. So very quickly found myself getting invitations from all over the place really to begin addressing this. And the last two or three years working with the Ravi Zacharias International ministries there’s been a lot more capacity to kind of speak into this issue as well. And my real burden I think is I trying to help the church to kind of be places of clarity and compassion and community on this. So I try and prioritize training pastors and help build up the local church because I think that is going to be good strategy on this issue is having strong local churches.

Dr. Darrell Bock
Well that’s a great overview and that helps set up our conversation so thanks Sam for sharing that let’s transition and let’s talk about the local church for a second. Because most of the stuff that we hear about happens at a national level and how do you step into the bay how do you step into the cultural space, all those kinds of things. We can save that for later on in the podcast I think a good place to start is to say what’s the core advice that you would give to people in the local churches particularly leaders about they set and what they say to their people about this and how important that is for creating an environment in which someone like you would be comfortable in coming forward and trusting the community with this conversation.
Sam Allberry
I think that the single most important thing is to put this issue back in the gospel framework. It seems to me that most of the trouble we’ve gotten ourselves into as churches and as church leaders on this is because we’ve kind of abstracted the issue of homosexuality out of a gospel and then we don’t know what to do with it. So my main advice is to recognize the way the gospel always levels the playing field. And so not to think of homosexuality in isolation but to think the fact that all of us are sexually fallen and sexually broken and to set the issue within that framework.

So no one is being looked down on or singled out this issue isn’t being spoken into from a presumed position of superiority. If we come at it with this culture of actually the gospel puts all of us in the same boat then I think that will make the issue safe to talk about whatever someone’s struggle might happen to be but if the baseline is all of us are sexual sinners, all of us have fallen and disordered in this area of life just as we are in every area of life then it becomes less of a big deal for someone to say well actually my particular struggle is with same sex attraction.

So rather than having this idea that most people are sexually normal and fine with a little struggle here and there but then there are those who struggle with homosexuality and that’s really serious is to try and say no all of us are sexual strugglers, all of us have areas in this that we need encouragement, we need to repent. And for some of us the particular – some of us will be disordered in a same sex attraction kind of way others of us will be disordered in an opposite sex attraction kind of way and not to single it out in that way I think that’s the most important thing.

Dr. Darrell Bock
So and the challenge here this actually I think this fits the general challenge the of offer of the gospel and the world no matter what we’re talking about is the idea of we’re all broken people in the role of the church is to invite people into the experience of the gospel and into the transformation that God is able to bring to life by being properly connected to him.
Sam Allberry
Absolutely. And again we are all the same on that.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Romans 3 makes that pretty clear.
Sam Allberry
Exactly which means whatever our own particular background is or whatever we’ve done in the past someone else might be into something we’ve never even remotely been tempted by but we’re still going to think yeah I’m no better than them I’m not ultimately different to them. We’re always far more like each other than we are unlike each other. And so the whole starting point of the gospel is human need and human brokenness and so we’ve got to have that culture of hey the whole reason we’re Christians is because we know we’re not right rather than pursuing that we are.
Dr. Darrell Bock
So underneath that I’m hearing a sensitivity to being careful not to create too much them and us in the conversation.
Sam Allberry
Very much so and that is not to say all sins are exactly the same, they’re not but I think the starting point is as you said Romans 3, are alike fallen short of the glory of God so again ultimately we are in the same boat and then the differences we see between us in terms of our sinful nature suddenly, I’ll put it in a healthy perspective no one is fundamentally different to us. So it isn’t them and us it’s all of us together, we’re in this together as sinful people as broken people our varieties of sinfulness will vary from person to person so let’s help each other with that. That’s a good opportunity because if we all struggled with exactly the same thing we wouldn’t be much help. So there really shouldn’t be a them and us on this or on anything because it’s differing and varying symptoms of the same ultimate disease and condition.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Yeah so that’s very helpful. So I take it that helps to set the kind of tone that it communicates a willingness to walk in to this space with someone and to journey with them in relationship to both the invitation into and then after let’s assume they are response to the gospel an invitation to come along side and walk with them through the growth experience that we all go through when we come to the gospel and God begins to go to work on us.
Sam Allberry
Exactly and I just think if that is a theological starting point it will just make us people who are going to be far more approachable.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Any other advice you would give to local church pastors as they think about how to talk about this and approach it.
Sam Allberry
Yes I think the other big thing is I’m very, very strong I want pastors to be strong on being theological clear on this and while that’s necessary it’s not sufficient and just because we’re biblically orthodox it doesn’t mean our job as pastors is done. So I want to say to people if you’re going to call people to submit to the teaching of scripture on this issue as we’ve understood it we need to be doing everything we can as pastors to make sure our church is a place where that calling is seen to be viable and plausible which means if we’re calling people away from ungodly forms of intimacy we need to make sure our churches are providing healthy forms of intimacy otherwise I think we’re guilty of what Jesus accused the Pharisees of putting burdens on people they can’t carry. If we’re just saying hey you’ve got to be abstaining from any kind of sexual behavior that you feel inclined towards but we’re not actually providing friendship and a sense of family in our churches then actually I think we share some responsibility if people are feeling pushed out into unhealthy forms of relationship.
Dr. Darrell Bock
So I’m going to say this a slightly different way I think it’s trying to make the same point you can be right theologically on what your position is but if your tone and relational elements aren’t in place there’s still work to do.
Sam Allberry
Very much so.
Dr. Darrell Bock
I often when I do address this I often say it’s not just in this area but in several areas you can be right but if your tone is wrong and how you approach it you’re still wrong I mean it’s wrong in an area but it reflects an imbalance that isn’t a reflection of what the Gospel is supposed to be about.
Sam Allberry
Exactly and we see a type of that with Peter in Galatians 2. He had his doctrine right but his behavior was there was a kind of culture to the way that he behaved that actually undermined the gospel he believed and if Peter can fall into that I’m sure all of us can.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Great okay that’s kind of the local church perspective let’s step back and ask some broader questions in particular about evangelicalism as a whole and how it tends to speak into the public square and actually I think this is a good transition having discussed the right doctrine but also the issues of tone in relationship to this. Give me your assessment of how, and this is always dangerous to say evangelicalism is this one broad single sweeping stroke but with that in place give me your take on how well or poorly we’re doing. What do you think we are doing well and what do you think we need to work at?
Sam Allberry
Certainly I get to visit a wide variety of churches and I get to have a wide angle lens on this issue and my observation is that actually the vast majority of churches I see want to have both theological care and also that tone and sense of culture and how can we help, how can we be a blessing. So I’m really encouraged by that I think the disposition of the vast majority of churches that I’ve seen has been a healthy disposition of how can we support our brothers and sisters who are wrestling with this, how can we reach out to our friends who are believers and that’s encouraging on the whole. I think there are still areas where people are dealing with this primarily in the category of it’s a cultural issue and they’re not thinking of it as a pastor issue.

So there’s still variety around that. But I think certainly in the UK and I think it’s a little different in the US I have seen broad evangelicalism actually coming together on this issue. Everyone from your conservative type churches to sort of more charismatic I’m seeing across I get invited toward them to provide teaching and training on them so I’ve been really encouraged by that whereas other issues have sent us in other directions this seems to be in my experience in the UK at least an issue where evangelicalism is pretty much coalescing in other words those who claim to be evangelical and force those relationships are now looking much more marginal. I think there’s in the US my observation is that the evangelical world is still a bit more fragmented on this I think it’s so much bigger that those smaller disagreements and discussions could become much bigger because there are whole tribes in each of them. So I’m seeing the same kinds of differences going on that we have in the UK but in the US it seems to be far more heated.

Dr. Darrell Bock
That’s interesting because I was going to ask you what that difference was and I’ve lived in the UK and I want to explore that a little bit because thinking through this cross-culturally is another angle that is a helpful way to think about this. It would strike me and this is a little bit from a distance that in the UK part of the struggle would be and part of what makes it different is the amount of Christian believers in the UK is a much smaller percentage of the population then here in the US that’s one factor. The other factor that I think would be in play in the UK that isn’t as much in play in the US is in the UK the Christians are much more mixed together given their theological breath where as here we tend to be more segregated the conservatives hang out with the conservatives and the liberals hang out with the liberals and it’s not as mixed as you get in the UK because of the state church difference for one factor among many.
Sam Allberry
I think that’s true I think our size is a factor as well. We’re just not as big of a country to avoid each other.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Exactly all the Christians one you’re small in number and two you’re all together and so the liberals and the conservatives really know each other in Britain if I can say it that way whereas here generally speaking you’re speaking about one another but you may not actually be at the same meetings very frequently and that kind of thing. So that dynamic makes for one difference. It also makes for a different kind of conversation because in any given assembly you might have that mixture or presence in the UK that you probably don’t have often times in the US. So that would strike me as one difference. I’m going to lay out the table and then I’m just going to let you talk. A second difference that I see and I think the reason why you see to some degree the heatedness that goes on is because the different groups here are big enough individually in the various groupings that they group together and that you can form very distinct identities as groups which produces an inherent. I don’t know how else to describe this and inherent tribal element in the conversation that’s probably absent to a degree in the UK.
Sam Allberry
I think that’s true and I think something that is slowly changing that is the fact that we have global connectivity with the internet. I’m seeing in the UK now a bit more of that then there has been that kind of tribal mentality because you can be part of a virtual tribe if you plug into these other guys in the states and these particular networks. But I think you’re right in the US whatever group you belong to is probably big enough that you can live your whole Christian life in it. You’ve got your own seminary, you’ve got your own publishing house and you don’t have to do much hearing over the fence to see what others are doing.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Yeah and why they’re thinking and why they’re arguing the way they do and all those kinds of things. Here’s another dimensions and you alluded to this that I think is important you said when this conversation becomes part of culture war and what I’m hearing underneath that is when it becomes part of culture war it risks being pulled away from the Gospel frame. I would like for you to elaborate on that a little bit because I actually think that’s a very important observation.
Sam Allberry
Yeah I would say and again I think this has been more of an issue in the states then in the UK because evangelicalism is in the UK has been the minority for decades. We’ve never really had the same cultural influence.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Is it 2 or 3 percent people maybe are evangelical in the UK is that too low?
Sam Allberry
Sounds probably about fair. We have less of a cultural evangelicalism the cultural Christianity we get in the UK is very different from the culture Christianity in the US. It tends to be more formal and institutional and less culturally evangelical. So what I think in the kind of culture war mentality and the posture is we have to fight the cultural forces that are bringing this about. That is our primary way of thinking. We’re all about rebuttal and trying to protect the fortress that is christened them.

So that means we are speaking against certain cultural trends we are pushing back against those things I’m not saying there’s not a place to do that but I think what it risks doing is it risks completely overlooking the fact that this issue is inside the church and not just outside of it. But it’s not just a consequence of you know culture going to hell in a hand basket it’s a consequence at the fall. It’s a consequence at the fall it’s going to have its effect on people generally Christian people no less perhaps. So I think yeah I think it just means we’ve missed that pastoral dimension and where we should have been thinking let’s make sure our own house is in order on this issue. We actually just have a message of negativity to the world rather than a pastoral care to the floor.

Dr. Darrell Bock
And it certainly reinforces the us and them distinctions that we were talking about earlier it almost frames the discussion that way.
Sam Allberry
And it risks giving people the impression Christianity really is defined by things we’re against. I’ve heard someone recently say they had been a Christian someone in the media said that they ascribed their form of Christianity by saying I was against all the right things. And that is Christianity is a sum of the things that you’re opposed to.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Yeah I sometimes talk about when talking about the way was sometimes present the gospel it sounds like coming to Christ is about avoiding certain fates and certain consequences when in fact it’s about far more. It’s actually about gaining a relationship we’re supposed to have in the world. And when we flip that the danger is that when the person makes the decision they’re kind of done you know I’ve avoided all those things.
Sam Allberry
It’s fair to say. He’s defined their spirituality by avoiding the unclean people, the unclean places, the unclean things and if you do all of that you are fulfilling righteousness. Jesus said they didn’t come to him.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Interesting let’s talk about some particular issues. I’ll get your take on some particular issues what would you say and I’ll keep this first question general what would you say are some of the things we still kind of need to learn.
Sam Allberry
Oh gosh. Well you know this is every single one of us being disciples we always have much more to learn. I’m not pretending I don’t have much more to learn on this issue myself. Goodness I do. I think we as a broader evangelical movement, again I think I’m encouraged I think things are very different to where they would have been ten years ago. I think we still need to learn and I know I still need to learn how to cast the Christian stance on this issue in a primarily positive way that secular people can latch onto from as simply as the bible says no. So trying to think through how we offer people a compelling vision of human sexuality that accounts for and makes sense of the various prohibitions that are involved. Which none the less actually gives something an inspiring and beautiful vision for human sexuality that can capture the imagination that can provide a better kind of story that our culture is giving us. I would love to be able to do that then I’ve been able to thus far.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Yeah this is again another generic thing I think that is beautifully here and that is you used to be because it was a Judeo-Christian net around certainly western culture get away with saying well this is so because the bible says it. It’s true because it’s in the bible. And people would have enough regard for the bible to take that seriously and to incorporate that into the way they were thinking. That doesn’t exist anymore it hasn’t existed in Europe for a long time but it certainly is starting to follow way here. So now you have to say it’s in the bible because it’s true. And now the explanation is what makes this true, what makes this an authentic way to live to go about life et cetera That’s actually a harder thing to do it moves beyond the imprimatur to actually this compelling vision that you’ve talked about and the explanation of why would God ask us to do this this way.
Sam Allberry
Yeah and I think that the urgency that I feel on that is not there’s a massive urgency evangelistically but I’m thinking how few young people in our churches have a positive vision of human sexuality that is biblical. And my fear is that there are a whole swathe of under 20-year-olds in our churches that are not remotely convinced what the bible says and even among those who are biblically convinced they’re not emotionally convinced. And so one of the things, I think one of the tasks before us is to be showing how this again is just what you were saying this is not just a biblical position but it’s good. We want you to taste the goodness of God in this issue.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Yeah and I think it so swims against the grain of the way sexuality is presented in the larger culture that if your approach is to say well we’re best not to talk about what’s going on in the culture and what’s going on around it and just leave it to itself then that culture each strategy all the time. And particularly when there is no strategy. And so it’s got to almost be addressed and faced and engaged in a fuller kind of way to counter all the signals that are coming some cases suddenly and some cases not so suddenly particularly towards young people.
Sam Allberry
Very much so. I think we’ve got a long way to go on that.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Yeah that’s a good one.
Sam Allberry
I feel like even if we don’t have the answers I feel like we’re asking the right questions now.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Yeah that actually raises another question I think is important here because sometimes I think people when you walk into some of these difficult areas which this is certainly one that the church faces the attitude is well unless you have the answer you shouldn’t speak but I’m becoming more and more the more time I spend on the cultural engagement side of things and wrestle with many of these different areas I find myself saying no part of it, part of the journey of growth is hacking through the jungle is actually you may not know what the exact answers or the exact approach is at least you have some sense of what the direction ought to be and you’re wrestling with the balance of the various factors that are in play and you are discipling, you are learning as you go through that. So this idea that we have to know exactly where we’re landing before we can enter in to me that’s actually a strategy that almost puts you in pause mode because you don’t even, you don’t make the effort to advance in learning if you get there you’re so afraid of not having the answer. How important is the mindset of all of this to the process of the learning and the growing?
Sam Allberry
I think I entirely agree with you. It’s one of these areas where I know where I need to be better at I’m praying that makes me pray to be better at it. But I’m also very, very aware that God doesn’t wait for us to be worthy of being used before using us.
Dr. Darrell Bock
He sticks us into those situations and we’re off and running.
Sam Allberry
We are saved by grace but also we serve by grace. And God is great at using very imperfect personals for his ministry. So I want to do things as well as I can but I mustn’t let me awareness of my own limitations as you say kind of make me freeze up from doing anything otherwise none of us would have any way of serving at all if we thought I’ve got to wait until I’m really qualified really able until I’ve got this nailed. Actually the people who think yeah I know everything on this I’ve got all the gifts I’ve got this pinned down are going to be so faulty and arrogant I don’t think the lord will use them. So I think there’s actually a healthiness to feeling like this is beyond us this is above our pay grade because it is. And it’s just a reminder that the power is in the gospel and God has only ever used very imperfect servants. So that really encourages me because I know that I am one.
Dr. Darrell Bock
That’s helpful and I think one of the things that’s hopefully being communicated across the entire conversation that we’re having is there really is a need for some I would say genuine humility in walking in this space. And even though you know I think we both would agree the scripture seems clear about what the standards are to be and what the calling is to be and that kind of thing the humility that comes with the walk is important in setting the right tone for the conversations that are required in part because these conversations are deeply intimate and they are challenging in and of themselves just to begin with.
Sam Allberry
I think we’re trading on for most people what is very, very sensitive ground so that immediately means we need to have a carefulness and a tenderness. I always keep coming back to the fact that we’re told of Jesus that a bruised reed he will not break. And there’s a beautiful tenderness to Jesus that you can bring your most raw painful bruising to him and he won’t crush you And we’re to be like him in this area. The same people the personal narrative includes a certain amount of pain that we must be sensitive to. So I think having a posture of wanting to understand someone as well as we can as much as they’re comfortable sharing with us we want to get a listen to their story. And sometimes it might be the first step is not us zapping them with our gospel thoughts on this but actually just being a really good listening ear. Being someone who is interested, someone who isn’t treating them as a project but is treating them as they really are which is an image barrier of God.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Yeah you’ve got to build the credibility and the relational trust to go into those personal spaces that this kind of a conversation requires.
Sam Allberry
Whereas I think sometimes we’ve been too quick just to fire off evangelistic grenades and we’ve not actually stopped and listened and figured out who we’re speaking to.
Dr. Darrell Bock
I say one of the great tasks in evangelicals particularly with someone who is coming from a complete different world view space that you are is to get a spiritual GPS on the person and put your doctrinal and heretical meters on mute. And the point here is not to deny that what how you’re accessing what you’re hearing but there’s a time and a place to have those conversations and to build the bridges so that those conversations have a chance of actually going somewhere is probably one of the most important things you can do in building a relationship with someone.
Sam Allberry
I think so absolutely.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Let me ask you a couple other questions what are the areas the inhouse conversations that happen among believers, what do you think those are and what advice would you give us in how to have those internal conversations in a healthy manner.
Sam Allberry
Yeah the two immediate areas that spring to mind and there will be others as well but one is what is the place and type of counseling that comes into play when we’re thinking about helping people because there would still be a significant number of evangelicals who immediate default setting is as soon as this issue comes up we need counseling. We will counsel this issue out of you or that is the primary need you have to move forward as a Christian that concerns me because I think that’s treating this as an entirely different species of sinful temptation then anything else what people mostly need is God’s word and God’s people gospel community and gospel truth.

So I think where does counseling fit in, and within that there are places perhaps for therapy there are still discussions there will be Christians who are appalled at the fact that I have hesitations about reparative therapy and that is why I’ve already amended my step over the red line that I don’t believe in the transformative power of Christ. So the kind of the type and extent of change that we think is normative on this is heterosexuality and entailment of holiness I don’t think that it is, others do, that’s one area of discussion. Another area of discussion which has been far more visible and pertinent over recent months is the whole issue of identity to what extent is gayness something that is theologically neutral, redeemable, are there categories of that that we should incorporate into our existing Christian identity.

Dr. Darrell Bock
So this is how people actually label themselves when they find themselves in this situation how we should and shouldn’t talk about it
Sam Allberry
So that’s a huge area where there’s still significant disagreement. I’ve got very dear friends on different sides of that.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Yeah I do as well.
Sam Allberry
I think that’s another one is to what extent is sexual orientation a helpful category and then to what extent is whatever we mean by sexual orientation to what extent is that a matter of ontology. Is this like an ethnos is this a race. And if so all those issues there is still.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Is it worth it in thinking about that one because actually when I ask the question that’s certainly one of the ones I had in mind and I think it’s the one that for some people the most contentious. Does it help to think through what each side is wrestling to affirm in the mindset of taking the view that they take. So that the person who is comfortable saying there can be a label such as a gay Christian it’s an attempt by people I think to say I understand the experience and where you’re coming from on the one hand and I identify with the challenge of gayness if I can say it that way but being a Christian to me is the more important of the categories if I can say it that way. Whereas the person who says no you shouldn’t use that terminology at all says well Christ is so determinative for this to that inject the gayness into it introduces a problem that God is actually in the process of trying to solve or something like that because we know that same sex attraction is not God’s standard. Does it help to understand what each side is trying to protect in making the description there?
Sam Allberry
Certainly and the trouble is we’re often using the same or very similar terminology in slightly different ways. And so I’m seeing this most clearly I think over the question is same sex attraction sin? Because even the question someone could be meaning one thing by same sex attraction, some people mean by it the very experience of lustful thoughts others are meaning the temptation as and when it comes. And still others are meaning the capacity to have that temptation as and when it comes and still others are meaning the capacity to have that temptation.

Until we’ve landed on which one of those we’re talking about the answer is going to be slightly different and I think there’s a similar thing to some of the identity language when someone says gay we need to figure out what are they meaning by that term what are they including under that might be I think something like Wesley Hill would use that term more broadly then other more conservative thinkers do. And so unless he’s talking about gayness being part of identity he’s not talking about same sex lust, he’s talking about other things too. So you’re right we need to listen really carefully to make sure we’re not just assumingly knowing what somebody means but actually we’re sitting down and making every effort and saying what do they mean by that and what do they mean by that it can be a slightly pedestrian kind of process.

Dr. Darrell Bock
Which means when we’re doing that kind of assessing that rather than setting this one size rule fits all expression actually thinking through what’s actually being communicated and wrestling with that a little bit.
Sam Allberry
I think so and I prefer to think in terms of principles, what are the principles behind how we describe who we are both in terms of thinking through our identities of those who are married in Christ also thinking through to what extent we identify with the people we’re seeking to reach. All of those things but the vibe is not silent on and I see different principles as we look at Paul’s missionary strategy in Acts and that kind of thing. But I think the basic thing we’re both saying now is unless we understand what someone really means we’re not really going to interact with them in a faithful way because we might think I’m reading my definition into your terminology and then arguing against what I think you would mean by that and maybe making sure what you mean by that. And even though we do all that listening there’s still differences.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Sure but I do think it helps to understand it makes all the difference in the world to think through why someone might be motivated to think through the different terminology then I might want to possess.
Sam Allberry
One is that I’m not assuming that because they do something differently to me they must have some bad agenda these are generally good guys trying to do good things what is the good that they’re intended from that and I might at the end of the day think I kind of want to honor their intentions I don’t think that’s a wise way of doing it, so yeah some of the differences are because we’ve misunderstood and misheard each other and others are because we have understood and we still have some differences.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Yes and in the midst of all of this and all the tone and all the discussion we’re having there’s an assumption that I think we share about the importance of having conviction about what it is that we do think the bible is teaching in this area and trying to honor that in as appropriate a way as possible. Well Sam our time is gone I really appreciate you taking the time to chat with us about this and our joke here in the states is somehow it just sounds more authentic when it comes with a British accent.
Sam Allberry
Yes, I’ll amen to that.
Dr. Darrell Bock
It bates me using a Texas accent let’s put it that way anyway we really do appreciate your taking the time to be with us and helping us kind of think through how to engage on what is probably one of the most challenging areas that the church faces today so thank you very much.
Sam Allberry
It’s been a real pleasure to be with you I’m real grateful to DTS and what you guys are doing.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Thanks very much. I want to remind people if they want to contact us at Dallas Seminary and suggest topics for the table that we might consider you can email us at dts.edu/thetable and we’ll be glad to take those requests and you can help us think through the topics that we’re going to discuss. We thank you for being with us and we hope you’ll join us again soon.

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Darrell L. Bock
Dr. Bock is senior research professor of New Testament and executive director for cultural engagement at Dallas Theological Seminary. He has authored or edited more than forty books, including Jesus according to Scripture: Restoring the Portrait from the Gospels, Jesus in Context: Background Readings for Gospel Study, Studying the Historical Jesus: A Guide to Sources and Methods, Jesus the Messiah: Tracing the Promises, Expectations, and Coming of Israel’s King, Who Is Jesus?: Linking the Historical Jesus with the Christ of Faith, and Key Events in the Life of the Historical Jesus: A Collaborative Exploration of Context and Coherence.
Sam Alberry
Sam Allberry is a pastor and writer based in Maidenhead, UK, and a global speaker for Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. He is an editor and a writer for The Gospel Coalition and the author of a number of books on Christian belief, including Why Bother With Church?, James For You, and the bestselling Is God Anti-Gay?
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Arts & Media
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