The Link Between Sam Allberry’s teaching and the current controversy surrounding Alistair Begg

The evangelical community is currently navigating through tumultuous waters, particularly highlighted by the recent controversy surrounding Alistair Begg's removal from the Shepherd's Conference speaker list. This decision, rooted in Begg's advice regarding attendance at an LGBTQ wedding, underscores a critical debate within the church: the approach to ministry in the context of same-sex attraction (SSA).


Justin Hoke

2/1/20249 min read

a church with a cross and a cross on it
a church with a cross and a cross on it

The evangelical community faces a significant challenge, particularly highlighted by the recent controversy involving Alistair Begg's exclusion from the Shepherd's Conference speaker list. This decision, based on Begg's advice about attending an LGBTQ wedding, brings to light a crucial debate within the church: how to minister in the context of same-sex attraction (SSA). This issue, notably influenced by Sam Allberry's teachings, which some argue downplay the biblical categorization of sexual sins, demands careful consideration. This discussion seeks to critique theological positions, warn against potential doctrinal erosion, and recommend a path that remains faithful to Scripture. The objective is not to denigrate individuals but to firmly uphold scriptural truths about sin, emphasizing both the seriousness of what the Bible labels as "abomination" and the necessity of love and compassion.

The evangelical Christian community has been deeply engaged in discussions about SSA and "sexual orientation." Central figures like Sam Allberry and organizations such as Living Out have explored the tension between adhering to biblical truth and providing pastoral care for those experiencing SSA. This examination aims to highlight the dangers of adopting a secular concept of sexual orientation within Christian thought, urging a return to the scriptural understanding of sin, repentance, and transformation.

Biblical Examination of "Sexual Orientation"

The biblical narrative provides a rich tapestry of teachings on human nature, sin, and desire, presenting a worldview that diverges significantly from contemporary secular concepts of sexual orientation. According to Scripture, every aspect of human existence, including our identities and inclinations, has been profoundly impacted by the Fall, introducing sin and brokenness into the human condition. However, the Bible also proclaims a message of hope: through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ and the transformative power of the Gospel, individuals are not consigned to remain in their fallen state. This notion is vividly encapsulated in 1 Corinthians 6:11, where the Apostle Paul recounts the Corinthians' past identities—defined by various sins, including sexual immorality—only to assert, "And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." This passage unequivocally attests to the potential for profound change in the lives of believers, moving from a lifestyle characterized by sin to one of sanctification and holiness.

Within this biblical framework, the contemporary discourse on "sexual orientation" as an immutable characteristic stands in stark contrast. The secular narrative posits that sexual orientation is a core aspect of an individual's identity, one that is fixed and unchangeable. However, this perspective is fundamentally at odds with the scriptural testimony that places identity in Christ above all else. When believers find their primary identity in Him, all other aspects of their existence—including sexual desires—are subject to His lordship and the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. The danger in adopting a secular view of sexual orientation within Christian theology is that it risks entrenching certain desires as beyond the reach of the Gospel's transformative power, inadvertently suggesting that the redemption and sanctification available in Christ have limits.

The teachings of notable Christian voices like Sam Allberry, who navigate the complexities of experiencing same-sex attraction while upholding biblical truth, merit careful consideration. While Allberry's approach—distinguishing between experiencing SSA and acting upon it—aims to foster a nuanced understanding that respects both biblical commandments and individual struggles, it also raises critical questions. The primary concern lies in whether identifying with SSA, even as one commits to celibacy and biblical fidelity, seems to affirm the secular notion of sexual orientation as an immutable trait. This raises the question of whether such attractions are seen as an indelible part of one's identity, rather than desires that can be brought under Christ's lordship. The scriptural call to transformation, encapsulated in passages like Romans 12:2, urges believers not to conform to the patterns of this world but to be transformed by the renewing of their minds. In this light, the church's mission is to proclaim the full scope of the Gospel's power to redeem and transform, challenging believers to submit every aspect of their lives—including their sexualities—to the transformative work of God.

Analysis of Sam Allberry's Teachings

Sam Allberry, a respected evangelical pastor and writer, has become a prominent voice in discussions surrounding same-sex attraction (SSA) within the Christian community. His approach, marked by personal experience and a pastoral heart, seeks to reconcile the experience of SSA with a commitment to living according to biblical standards of sexuality. Allberry identifies himself as "same-sex attracted" rather than adopting the label "gay," a distinction that aims to navigate the complexities of experiencing SSA while upholding a traditional biblical view of marriage as between one man and one woman. By choosing celibacy as his response, Allberry models a path that seems to affirm the authority of Scripture while engaging with the realities of SSA.

However, Allberry's stance has sparked a significant debate within evangelical circles. Critics, like myself, argue that by emphasizing the enduring nature of SSA for some believers, his teachings suggest that such attractions constitute an immutable aspect of a person's identity. This perspective raises theological and pastoral concerns, particularly around the notion of sexual orientation as a fixed component of selfhood. From a biblical standpoint, human identity and desires are understood to be deeply affected by the Fall but are also subject to the transformative work of the Holy Spirit. The apprehension is that Allberry's nuanced position affirms that the experience of SSA is an unchangeable reality for Christians, rather than a facet of fallen human desire that can be redeemed and sanctified through Christ.

Implications and Concerns

The adoption of a secular understanding of "sexual orientation" within Christian theology carries profound implications for both the church and individuals grappling with same-sex attraction (SSA). This perspective, suggesting that sexual orientation is an immutable characteristic, stands in stark contrast to the transformative message of the gospel, which asserts that all aspects of our fallen nature, including our sinful desires, can be redeemed and changed through faith in Christ. By promoting the idea that certain inclinations are fixed and unchangeable, there's a risk that individuals struggling with SSA may feel trapped in their sin, believing that true freedom and transformation are beyond reach. This could lead to a sense of despair and resignation, undermining the hope and healing offered through the gospel.

Moreover, this stance has significant pastoral implications. It may prevent individuals from pursuing or even believing in the possibility of change, as promised in Scriptures like 1 Corinthians 6:11, which speaks of such transformation as a present reality for believers. The church's mission to disciple and encourage believers to live lives of holiness and obedience to Christ is complicated by the notion that SSA is an unalterable part of one's identity. This inevitably results in a diluted discipleship approach that fails to challenge believers to seek sanctification in every area of their lives, including their sexuality. Young believers, in particular, find themselves confused and misled, caught between the biblical call to repentance and transformation and a cultural narrative that promotes acceptance of all desires as inherent and unchangeable.

Furthermore, the broader implications for church unity and witness are concerning. The church is called to be a beacon of truth and grace, offering a distinct and transformative hope that stands apart from the world's philosophies. However, if we begin to echo the world's assertions that certain sinful patterns are an intrinsic part of who we are, our witness is compromised. The church must, therefore, navigate these discussions with great care, ensuring that its teachings on human sexuality remain firmly grounded in Scripture, which calls for repentance from sin and faith in Christ as the means to true freedom and new life. Only by adhering to this biblical foundation can the church faithfully minister to all individuals, guiding them towards the fullness of life and identity found in Jesus Christ.

A Call for Repentance and Biblical Clarity

In navigating the complex terrain of ministering to individuals experiencing same-sex attraction (SSA), the church finds itself at a crossroads. The nuanced positions of figures like Sam Allberry, while well-intentioned in their effort to reconcile biblical fidelity with pastoral care, have raised significant concerns. These concerns stem from the fact that such stances whether intentional or unintentional affirm the notion of sexual orientation as an immutable aspect of identity. This perspective, in turn, reinforces a secular worldview within the Christian discourse on human sexuality. It is imperative, therefore, that the church reevaluates its approach, ensuring that it aligns closely with Scripture's teachings on the nature of sin, the potential for transformation, and the supremacy of Christ's lordship over all aspects of human identity.

The call to repentance extends not just to individuals but to church leaders and ministries that may have adopted or propagated views that dilute the biblical message of sin and redemption. The church's mission to uphold the truth of the Gospel necessitates a clear and firm stance on issues of sexuality, one that rejects the secular categorization of sexual orientation as an unchangeable characteristic. Instead, the church must emphasize the transformative power of the Gospel, which declares that all sin—including sexual sin—is subject to the redeeming work of Christ. This message of hope and change is central to the Gospel's promise and must be communicated with clarity and compassion, affirming that no one is beyond the reach of God's grace.

In doing so, the church not only maintains its fidelity to biblical teaching but also offers hope to those struggling with SSA. By advocating for a return to Scripture as the ultimate authority on all matters of life and godliness, the church reinforces the idea that transformation is not only possible but promised to those who submit their lives to Christ. This commitment to biblical clarity provides the foundation for a ministry that genuinely loves and cares for individuals experiencing SSA, guiding them towards a deeper understanding of their identity in Christ, free from the bondage of sin. It is through this Gospel-centered approach that the church can most effectively minister to all its members, encouraging each one to pursue holiness, wholeness, and a life that glorifies God in all things.


The discussion surrounding same-sex attraction (SSA) and sexual orientation within the evangelical church underscores not just a theological debate but a pastoral imperative. It necessitates a delicate equilibrium between upholding scriptural veracity and embodying Christ's compassion. This dual commitment calls for a steadfast reiteration of the gospel's transformative capacity, which promises not only forgiveness of sins but also the profound renewal of desires and identity. Such a commitment reassures those struggling with SSA that their experiences, while real and often deeply ingrained, do not define them nor dictate their capacity for sanctification and holiness in Christ. It is here, in the crux of truth and love, that the church finds its most authentic witness.

In navigating these complex waters, the church must reject the secular narrative that sexual orientation is immutable, a narrative that risks anchoring individuals in a static identity centered around sin. Instead, the church's message must be one of dynamic hope, emphasizing that all sins, including those of a sexual nature, are subject to the redemptive power of Christ's atonement. By doing so, the church affirms its belief in the gospel's ability to transform lives fully, encouraging believers to pursue a life of obedience and joy in the Spirit. This approach not only fosters a more biblically faithful community but also offers a beacon of hope to a watching world, demonstrating the practical outworking of grace in the lives of those who follow Jesus.

Therefore, the evangelical church's path forward is clear. It must courageously uphold the sufficiency of Scripture while compassionately ministering to those within its midst experiencing SSA, offering them the same hope of transformation it extends to all sinners. This mission involves both the proclamation of truth and the practice of love, ensuring that no one is beyond the reach of God's grace. As the church engages with this challenge, it will not only navigate the current cultural tumult but emerge stronger, more unified, and more reflective of Christ's kingdom, where every believer, regardless of their past struggles, is moving towards the fullness of life in Him.

Final Note on the Qualifications for Pastoral Ministry

In light of the theological and pastoral considerations previously discussed, it is essential to address a critical and contentious issue directly: the disqualification from pastoral ministry of those who identify as experiencing same-sex attraction (SSA), as Sam Allberry does. This stance is not born out of a lack of compassion or understanding but from a deep commitment to the standards set forth in Scripture for those called to shepherd God's flock. The office of pastor, as delineated in the Bible, demands a life that exemplifies the transformative work of the Holy Spirit, especially concerning behaviors and desires deemed sinful, including those classified as abominations.

The widespread acceptance of views that normalize or fail to challenge the permanence of SSA within significant denominations like the PCA and SBC is troubling. This trend has led to the affirmation of individuals in pastoral roles who openly identify with unalterable SSA, thereby, I believe, compromising the biblical requirements for ministry leadership. James 3:1 reminds us of the gravity and accountability of teaching and leading within the church, underscoring that this sacred responsibility is incompatible with a denial of the Holy Spirit's power to redeem and transform every aspect of our being, including our sexual desires.

It is an ironic and tragic contradiction that the perspective I advocate—which holds that repentance and transformation from SSA are not only possible but expected in the Christian life—actually provides a pathway for those currently disqualified to be restored to pastoral ministry. In contrast, the stance that refuses to recognize SSA as both sinful and changeable effectively bars individuals from experiencing the fullness of gospel transformation. By insisting that such inclinations are an immutable part of one's identity, this view undermines the core message of the gospel: that sinners, through repentance and faith in Christ, can be radically changed.

This position is not about condemning individuals who struggle with SSA but rather about maintaining the integrity and purity of pastoral ministry as outlined in Scripture. The error of embracing an identity rooted in sinful desires, particularly when such desires are labeled by God as abominations, is profound. Pastoral ministry, a calling of high standard and significant accountability, is reserved for those who not only preach the transformative power of the Holy Spirit but also personally testify to it through their lives. Let it be clear: the church's mission is to uphold the truth of God's Word in love, offering hope and redemption to all, while also preserving the sanctity of the roles He has established for the edification and governance of His people.