But this is the wrong analogy. Suffering, such as a physical disability, is not something for which the Bible holds us morally responsible. But Scripture regards internal temptations to sin as categorically different from blameless suffering. Within a non-affirming framework, same-sex desire should be viewed no differently than lust or anger: a temptation to sin that we should not only resist, but for which we also must repent. As James writes, “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (James 1:14-15).
So within a non-affirming framework, same-sex desire is not merely a sign that “the world is not right.” It is also a sign that one’s own heart and mind are not right. Like any other desire for sin, it is a symptom of a heart in rebellion against God. Now, it’s true that all of our hearts are in one way or another in rebellion against God, and certainly, a perfect life is not a prerequisite for being a faithful Christian. But as we invite the Holy Spirit into our lives to regenerate and redeem us, the fruit of genuine faith should involve at least some change in our sinful desires. Consequently, within a non-affirming framework, while experiencing same-sex attraction is itself no worse than experiencing impulses toward greed, anger, or adultery, experiencing persistent and exclusive same-sex attraction for a lifetime should call into question whether one has truly surrendered one’s heart to God. Certainly, a Christian who is always angry with his brothers and sisters has a deeper heart problem that he needs to address: perhaps pride, self-seeking, or a failure to love his neighbor as himself. Likewise, within a non-affirming framework, a Christian who always experiences same-sex attraction must have a deeper heart problem he needs to resolve. So long as his same-sex attractions persist, his deeper problem of moral alienation from God has not been sufficiently addressed.
Allberry, like many other celibate, non-affirming LGBT Christians, skirts over this issue of moral responsibility for his same-sex attractions. In so doing, he makes non-affirming theology easier to live out, but at the cost of introducing profound theological confusion and inconsistency. Now, of course, I am highly sympathetic to the reasons why Allberry and others have, largely unintentionally, created this theological muddle. The consistent non-affirming response to same-sex attraction I have just outlined is essentially “ex-gay:” not only is acting on being gay wrong, but being gay itself is also wrong, so Christians struggling with “SSA” should constantly seek to eradicate their same-sex attractions and replace them with heterosexual ones.
While that approach is theologically consistent to a certain point, Allberry and others reject it as a favored pastoral prescription for “SSA” Christians for good reason: it doesn’t succeed in eradicating or even significantly diminishing same-sex desire in the vast majority of cases, and it is a recipe for constant torment and crushing shame, the burden of which has proven far too great for many gay Christians to bear. Given the rank failure of the “ex-gay” approach, non-affirming Christians like Allberry have sought to find a middle way, wherein they do not have to feel morally at fault for their persistent same-sex desires but can still regard any and every expression of those desires as sin.
Sympathetic as I am to that attempt at a middle ground, however, it cannot hold from a biblical perspective. The Bible simply does not allow us to consider ourselves blameless for internal temptations to sin, nor does it allow us to view unchanged sinful desires as a sign of a vibrant, faithful Christian life. In that respect, part of the reason Allberry finds his non-affirming beliefs livable is because he has already watered down his beliefs in order to make them livable."