A board member of Exodus International, a ministry that helps those struggling with same-sex attraction, maintains that a believer's salvation is secure not because of one's performance but because of Jesus.
"I have to find that we are secure in our Lord Jesus Christ because of His finished work and His character – not our performance or resolve. A world dependent on my performance and resolve would be a sad place," said John Warren, treasurer of the Exodus International Board of Directors, in a recent statement.
Warren made the remarks in response to a call by an evangelical professor for the resignation of Exodus President Alan Chambers. Dr. Robert A. J. Gagnon, associate professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, has expressed concern about statements made by Chambers over the last year that assure Christians who persistently engage in homosexual behavior that their salvation is guaranteed.
"The issue is that Alan assures even self-professed believers who are unrepentant and self-affirming in their sin that no sinning of any magnitude or degree will keep them from going to heaven," Gagnon told CP earlier.
(Read the debate here)
But Warren believes Gagnon's criticism – which was detailed in a 35-page document – is both harsh and wrong and wants the professor to recant it.
The board member acknowledged that there are parts of Scripture that are "difficult to interpret" on the subject of whether one's salvation in Christ is secure. At the same time, he doesn't believe the Scripture passages Gagnon cites in his paper "reference the post-regeneration sin of a believer as deserving of eternal damnation."
"Dr. Gagnon cites scripture claiming that the security of the believer is tenuous at best. He makes the erroneous and inconsistent argument that salvation occurs by faith alone in Christ alone, but he states that, 'Persistent and unrepentant sin of an egregious sort, I believe, can get one excluded from eternal life.' To his credit, Dr. Gagnon then points out that no man can make this judgment call regarding another person,'" Warren noted.
Warren believes "we are kept by the same grace of God that saves us."
Pointing to Romans 6:10 and Mark 3:28-29, he asserted that redemption "is based on His finished work rather than our behavioral compliance."
"We are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, and He is the guarantee of our inheritance. We are a purchased possession. To state that we may somehow fall away diminishes this beautiful promise of the work of the Holy Spirit," he contended.
Gagnon – who no longer believes "once saved, always saved" – has made it clear in his argument that it is "not a question of earning salvation (which the New Testament authors clearly state cannot be done)."
But his main concern is that he believes Chambers is sending a message to unrepentant homosexuals that they will go to heaven even if they engage in sexual immorality with no desire to discontinue it.
"My disagreement with Alan is over his belief that no immoral behavior of any magnitude carried out in an unrepentant and self-affirming manner over the course of one's life is even an indication of a nonexistent faith," Gagnon explained earlier.
Warren acknowledged that "God's grace could be presumed upon by a pretender."
But what he holds strongly to is that "God's love and His grace compel us to walk in newness of life because of a relational reality that is beautiful beyond my ability to describe," he said. "Walking in the light is a relational reality; not a state of not sinning."
Chambers, who struggled with same-sex attraction for years but is now happily married to his wife, believes homosexual behavior is a sin. He affirmed to CP in a July interview that he believes gay Christians can have security in Christ.
(Read the full interview here)
"I think we as believers can be secure in our relationship with Christ. I'm not saying that sin isn't sin. I'm not saying that people should live in unrepentant sin. I'm not saying that that's a mark of a mature believer at all," he said.
While expressing appreciation for Gagnon's work in articulating biblical positions, Warren says the New Testament professor missed the mark on "hit[ting] two warriors who are contending for the same principles he believes in with 'friendly fire.'"
"Dr. Gagnon is right to hate sin as God does. He is right to warn that the habitual, unrepentant practice of egregious sin is indicative of an unregenerate soul," Warren stated. "But he is wrong in his accusation that Alan Chambers and Clark Whitten (chair of the Board of Exodus) treat sin lightly or even excuse it because of their recent references to the beauty of God's grace. For some reason he has decided to attempt to publicly call out these two men because he feels that they are soft on sin and its impact."
The two men, Warren asserted, do not espouse heretical positions of essential matters of the Christian faith.
"I can assure Dr. Gagnon and anyone who shares his concerns that these men have a biblical view of sin and repentance, and they have each invested many years teaching a hurting world to turn from their sin in humble trust of Jesus Christ our Lord for salvation."
Warren is hoping that Gagnon – who has expressed respect for the ministry of Exodus and for Chambers' life testimony – will look at "the body of work" that Chambers and Exodus perform and value his efforts in championing solid doctrine and ministering to the hurting.
Chambers announced earlier this year that Exodus is no longer supporting reparative therapy – which aims to change a person's sexual orientation from gay to straight. Instead, the ministry will be more focused on "encouraging people to pursue holiness in every area of their life, including their sexuality, out of a motivation based on their personal relationship with a good, faithful and loving God who died so that we could be all that He created us to be in Him," as he wrote in a recent blog post.