July 12, 2012
Dr. Ben Witherington, professor of New Testament for doctoral studies at Asbury Theological Seminary, agrees that “Robert Gagnon has a right to be disturbed about Mr. Chambers’s recent pronouncements. It is not an act of compassion to encourage people to embrace a view of salvation or sexual behavior that requires less in regard to holiness than both Jesus and Paul required of us. Indeed, it is recipe for disaster.”
Christianity Today asked Dr. Witherington to respond to the theological debate Dr. Gagnon initiated from a Wesleyan Arminian point of view. More excerpts from his essay “‘Behavior Doesn’t Interrupt Your Relationship with Christ’: A Recipe for Disaster” follow:
… “It is one of the most basic tenants of Wesleyan Arminian theology that salvation is not complete at the new birth (or justification). The Wesleyan Arminian stresses that in fact there are three tenses to salvation for the believer—”I have been saved (the new birth), I am being saved (sanctification), and I shall be saved to the uttermost (glorification).” The Arminian does not believe that a person who has only experienced the new birth has completed the salvation process, or that the rest of the process is inevitable and foreordained. Nor does the Wesleyan Arminian believe that the behavior of Christians subsequent to conversion is irrelevant to whether or not they are being sanctified presently, or will be saved to the uttermost eventually.”
… “When it comes to same sex sexual behavior, the New Testament is clear enough that this is a sin under any circumstances. Alan Chambers does not deny or try to water down the biblical teaching on this subject as some would do. He simply thinks God’s grace trumps such behavior, though Chambers would still call that behavior sinful.
One thing that surprises me in the controversy over homosexuality is the failure to recognize that when it comes to behavior, Jesus is just as strict as Paul is about sexual matters. Take for example Jesus’ teaching on marriage and singleness in Matthew 19. Here Jesus basically outlines that a disciple of his has only two options: fidelity in heterosexual monogamy or celibacy in singleness. …”
… “While Chambers does not try to suggest that homosexual sexual behavior is not a sin, in effect he tries to bring in the same trump card, God’s forgiveness, in order to suggest that one’s behavior (in this case, one’s sexual behavior) will not negatively affect one’s salvation. I’m afraid the writers of the New Testament would strongly disagree, and the man who wrote the tract “Thoughts on Celibacy” (namely John Wesley) would entirely disagree as well. Behavior matters when it comes to final salvation because final salvation involves entire sanctification, and present salvation involves progressive sanctification of heart and life, belief, and behavior.”
Again the full text can be found at http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2012/julyweb-only/behavior-relationship-with-christ.html?start=1.