Ex-“gays” have been a part of the Christian church from its earliest days. After reminding believers that “homosexuals” and “effeminates” (male transsexuals) “will not inherit the Kingdom of God,” the Apostle Paul wrote: “And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). This Scripture was foundational to the ministry of Exodus International, which served as a hub for many independent groups of ex-“gays” around the world from 1976 to 2013. Exodus was so named to evoke the exodus of the Hebrew slaves from Egypt in the Bible, and to analogize compulsive same-sex attraction and conduct to slavery from which one could be delivered by God.
Though I have never experienced same-sex attraction, I attended several Exodus conferences and other functions and was deeply impressed by the glowing Christian character of many of its members and the overpowering presence of the Holy Spirit, especially during their worship in music. I have always had a special place in my heart for “gay” strugglers and have ministered to many individuals over the years as an aspect of my Bible-based Christian activism.
As with any compulsive behavioral disorder, homosexuality is tough to overcome. There’s an aspect of physiology involved in all addictions – drugs, alcohol, food, gambling, video games, porn, whatever – that addicts the struggler to his or her own pleasure-related brain chemicals that are released when they act out. Unlike most other addictions, however, sex-based ones are especially hard to escape because sexuality is hard-wired in us, and the brain chemistry associated with sexual release is extraordinarily powerful. If you never experienced cocaine, you’d never miss it, but everyone is sexual by nature, and the sexual impulse is continual throughout life, whether you want it or not.
Once your brain associates sexual pleasure with any particular illicit act or fetish – especially during the formative years – the stage is set for possible addiction. You can’t un-ring the bell, and you can’t prevent the bell from ringing again in the part of your brain where temptations dwell. The more you indulge the temptation, the louder and more insistent the bell will ring. What is worse, the shame associated with indulgence creates an inner turmoil that enhances the effect of the brain chemistry and becomes a part of the addictive cycle.
I was miraculously healed of drug and alcohol addiction in 1986 – on my knees in prayer at a treatment center – after 16 years of bondage that started at the age of 12. I never had another desire to drink or take drugs ever again. Nevertheless, I attended Alcoholics Anonymous regularly for over a year and saw that for many addicts temptation fades very slowly, but they can stay abstinent through the constant mutual encouragement of fellow-sufferers. A few years later when I became familiar with Exodus International, I noticed that the successful local groups of ex-“gays” seemed to follow the same general approach.
AA enjoys enormous public support, even among drunks who don’t wish to seek recovery. Nevertheless, the recidivism rate for alcoholics is very high. Exodus International, on the other hand, suffered the wrath of the powerful LGBT political movement from Day 1 because every one of its members was living proof that homosexual self-indulgence is a choice. Every member was thus individually a target – with the goal of forcing them to recant and re-commit to a “gay” self-identification. And, of course, many did, including Alan Chambers, who closed Exodus in 2013 with an apology for ever suggesting homosexuals could overcome same-sex temptation. Alan went back to Egypt, metaphorically speaking, while the network of ex-“gay” groups simply migrated from Exodus to the more biblically oriented Restored Hope Network and added him to their prayer list.
But if vilification and ridicule are the “stick,” then the “carrot” in “gay” recidivism is so-called “gay theology”: the Christian heresy that fraudulently reinterprets the Bible to change its message from condemnation to affirmation of homosexuality. From apostate Derrick Sherwin Bailey’s “Homosexuality and the Western Christian Tradition” in 1955 to the just-published manifesto “The Statement” (in response to the biblically grounded “Nashville Statement” on LGBT issues), “gay theology” has always been satanic bait to lure those with same-sex attraction into lives of active homosexual sin. It is also a seductive siren-song for ex-“gays” in the weak moments of their recovery.
In tandem with “gay theology” is the heresy of antinomianism, which holds that salvation by grace frees the Christian believer from accountability to the moral law (which fails the most basic test of logic if theft or murder is substituted for sodomy in the equation: reductio-ad-absurdum). Antinomianism is the heresy Paul debunked in the book of Romans, which, importantly, begins with a correlation of homosexuality with the “reprobate mind” (Romans 1:18-32), before launching into a detailed treatise on law and grace in chapters 2-8, contrasting “justification” (salvation by faith alone, Romans 5:1) with “sanctification” (becoming Christlike, Romans 6:12-19).
Effective ministry to Christian ex-“gays” and backsliders requires a basic understanding of Paul’s teaching. While justification is by faith alone, sanctification requires work: specifically, following the spirit of the moral law that underlies the letter of the law proactively. To the argument that “gay sex” (or stealing) will send you to hell, the heretics cite “salvation by faith alone,” and they’re right on that narrow technicality when taken out of context.
But their deadly error is missing the truth about sanctification: 1) becoming Christlike is not possible without following the spirit of the moral law and cooperating with Him in the transformation process, and 2) only a false Christ contradicts the spirit of the moral law to rationalize sin, meaning if you’re doing that in His name you’re probably not saved, because you can’t be justified by faith in a false Christ. This is why “faith without works is dead” (James 2:20) because faith is proved by its fruit (changed character and behavior) – as measured by the spirit of the moral law.
“Gay” heresy also confuses grace with mercy. Grace is God’s dispensation of an unearned gift, while mercy is His forgiveness for sin-earned punishment. Moral equations involving homosexuality and its consequences are not governed by grace but mercy. Thus, the darkest spiritual condition arises from declaring that homosexual temptation and conduct is a “gift” of God (blaspheming Him – and the Holy Spirit – by contradicting His explicit moral law), while simultaneously pushing away His hand of mercy by insisting that homosexual sin doesn’t need forgiveness. Such a person is doubly cursed.
“Gay theology” is thus not just a threat to the integrity of the church, it is a diabolical trap designed to ensnare same-sex attracted believers in a soul-binding heresy. Our duty is to boldly affirm the truth and encourage them to do the same – especially if they’re backslidden – because grace can come only from the true Christ, and forgiveness is only effective for those who admit they need it. The Apostle John perhaps said it best in 1 John 1:8-10: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” That graceful summary is both the essence of “gay” recovery and the remedy for recidivism.