In a recent episode of Unbelievable, Andrew Wilson and Rob Bell have an engaging dialogue about the legitimacy of homosexual relationships within Christianity.

Here are some thoughts on the debate:

1. Kudos to Andrew Wilson for maintaining his composure as he gently presses Rob not only to be clear on his position, but also to reveal the grounding for the position. Too often, discussions on this issue are so focused on the tip of the iceberg that the foundational, grounding elements of the argument are assumed and never made explicit.

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2. Rob appeals to the contemporary state of things to make his case:

It is time for the church to acknowledge that we have brothers and sisters who are gay and want to share their life with someone. This is a part of life in the modern world. And that’s how it is. And cultural consciousness has shifted. This is how the world is. 

When Andrew asks Rob if homosexual behavior is sinful, Rob answers:

I am for monogamy, I am for fidelity, I am for commitment. I think the world needs more of that. I think that promiscuity is dangerous and destructive. Some people are gay and want to share their life with someone, and they should be able to. That’s how the world is, and we should affirm that. And we should affirm monogamy, fidelity, and commitment, both gay and straight.

Note that Rob answers by appealing to the way the world is in order to make his case. He believes the church must affirm the world as it is.

What is puzzling to me is why Rob takes such a strong stance on fidelity and monogamy when so many in our culture celebrate sex before marriage, adultery, and all sorts of non-monogamous relationships. If the job of the church is to affirm the world as it is, then wouldn’t we have to affirm promiscuity too? It’s not a big jump from Rob’s comments on accepting homosexuality to accepting promiscuity:

It is time for the church to acknowledge that we have brothers and sisters who are promiscuous and want to share their life with multiple people. This is a part of the modern world and we should affirm that. Some people are promiscuous and want to share their life with more than one person, and they should be able to. That’s how the world is, and we should affirm that.

So, on the one hand, the church is to stand apart from the world and call people to repentance – a radical change of lifestyle (from promiscuity that is destructive and dangerous to fidelity that is shalom-creating). But on the other hand, the church must affirm the world and embrace the choices of our gay and lesbian friends because that’s just the way the world is. Make sense to you? Me neither.

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3. Rob uses the commands of the Old Testament Law that Christians do not follow today (wearing different kinds of fabric, etc.) to disregard the Old Testament regulations about human sexuality (except for promiscuity, see above). For an articulate response to this line of thinking, please read Tim Keller’s blog post on “Making Sense of Scripture’s ‘Inconsistency’.”

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4. Andrew does an excellent job of showing the beauty of repentance within the Christian community:

We just baptized a number of gay men in our church recently. It’s just wonderful.

But each one of them is saying, “But now, when I get baptized, I die to the old me. I rise again to the new me that is Christ-shaped, that’s eschatologically-informed and transformed. Resurrection life which is a completely different type of creature. A lot of the desires I have had, a lot of the things which I’ve wanted to do, I – like Paul did in the season in which he wrote 1 Corinthians, and like Jesus did – I put on hold sexual desires. I die to a lot of the things I want, in order to follow Christ. And I rise to new life…”

We look and say, “What does Christ-shaped new creation look like?” We’ve got gay guys in our church (and women as well) who say, “Dying to my old life and being risen again to new life in Christ means dying to all the acts of the flesh, including some of the sexual things that – yes, I wanted to do them, just like lots of people want to have sex with lots of people, some may want to have sex with two or three people simultaneously, that doesn’t mean I’m okay to do that. It means I am just like anyone else (greed or desires to slander or swindle) regarding any number of other sins. We say those things die with me. We repent and get baptized.”

To not put that in front of someone is to say, “You can have the kingdom, but if it costs too much, we’ll just lower the asking price…”

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106 thoughts on “Rob Bell and Andrew Wilson Discuss Homosexuality”

  1. Keith Kraska says:

    Tim Challies recently posted a quote from George Whitfield: “What! Get to heaven on your own strength? Why, you might as well try to climb to the moon on a rope of sand!” I could add, that’s also what it’s like to get a straight answer from Rob Bell.
    Also, Wilson’s closing remarks were especially on the nose. Throughout the interview, Bell appealed to what attracts and repels people — and therefore we should conform to this world — rather than starting from the immutable will of God. He wants a “big tent,” not a narrow road.

  2. Patrick says:

    Thanks for tossing in the profanity, Rob!

    1. Robert says:

      It’s not really profanity. It’s more properly an example of vulgarity.

  3. Keith Kraska says:

    Also, whenever a pro-gay argument (that still appeals to the Bible, like Bell’s) cites the ceremonial laws of Moses, I would, in addition to Keller’s excellent response, take that line of debate in the other direction: Is God now OK with murder, stealing and lying too? Or incest and bestiality, also covered in Leviticus 18? If not, then all agree there is a divide within the Law between what still applies and what doesn’t, and the original point is moot.
    “You apply some laws and not others!”
    “So do you.”

    1. AJG says:

      Yes, but one group claims that the Bible is inerrant, but then a myriad of logical fallacies to do so. The other is not burdened by such an antiquated notion of reading ancient texts that do not have anything to say to our modern world.

      1. AJG says:

        “… but the USES a myriad…”

      2. Melody says:

        Then they create a god of their own making but really it is just an elevated version of themselves. Which is not a god that I would ever believe in because people aren’t that special. I certainly would never worship a double minded god like Rob Bell.

  4. Pat Scott says:

    I think comparing promiscuity to homosexuality is not exactly proper. The former is a behavioral choice, the latter an orientation. The gay person could claim “I don’t have a choice,” just a woman has no choice in deciding her gender. While homosexuality might seem to be more accepted than ever, it is still a persecuted group. Kids beat you up for who you are and not what you do. You still struggle to come out of the closet to let your parents, families, and friends know. Promiscuity does not face these issues.

    1. Melody says:

      Pat show me where orientation is in the bible. It’s made up by people that want to do what they want to do. The members of NAMBLA claim the same thing – that it is an orientation. They get their way by having the age of consent pushed farther and farther back. Society will get used to 40 yr old men being with 15 year old boys and the age will get pushed back even more. And it will all be done with Satan’s distortion that it is an expression of love.

    2. wendy werner says:

      Melody, if you do your research and if you ever have the experience of someone close to you being a homosexual, you would realize (as I did) that orientation is something that is a part of who you are just like the colour of your eyes, your gender, your personality, etc. The revelation of your orientation happens at a very young age (typically 5-6 years old) and it is consistent throughout your childhood. Just like at a very young age the majority of people experience opposite sex attraction and it is certainly not a choice, it just happens. (I can clearly remember my first opposite sex crush at age 6). Opposite sex orientation is programming that is set up by God to multiply the earth. It is in animals too. Due to the fall of this world, we have all kinds of things happen that are not part of God’s original plan and that are not our choice (eg. same sex attraction, mental illness, physical disability, physical defects, autism, cancer, MS, etc.) God has also programmed us to want to be deeply connected to another human being and share our life with that person. He said in Genesis “It is not good for man to be alone.” So if a homosexual desires a monogamous relationship with another homosexual, he or she is only acting on how God programmed him/her. It is not fair to expect a homosexual to live as a celibate and not get married (if they don’t choose that) when their orientation was not their choice. It is also not right to tell them they are not welcome in the Christian body if they choose to be in a same sex monogamous marriage. I do not think God would think that is fair also. He is a compassionate God. I commend Rob Bell on expressing his viewpoint on this issue. I know in the evangelical community he will not be well received. However, I think you can agree with Rob on this issue and still be an evangelical Christian. No he has not gone liberal and given up his orthodoxy and neither have all the other evangelical Christians who support his viewpoint on this issue.

      1. Rick says:

        Wendy, there is so much wrong with what you’ve said I couldn’t possibly address it all. But nothing is worse than your intentional misuse of scripture to try to make your case.

        Here’s what Genesis 2 really does say:

        Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” (Genesis 2:18)

        And who was made who was fit for him? Another man? I think not.

        So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said,

        “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”

        Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. (Genesis 2:21-24, ESV)

        Feel free to believe anything you want but please don’t put words or thoughts in God’s mouth that He never spoke. Scripture warns against doing this.

        You have put your feelings and non-scientific thoughts ahead of the Word in authority. If you don’t think the Bible matters that much just say so up front. Otherwise please try to make an affirmatve case from Scripture that God approves of homosexuality.

      2. Melody says:

        Wendy

        When God said No, He did not mean maybe later. He was not taken by surprise by the way His creation turned out. He knew ahead of time that there would be people that would pervert His word.
        The lies about what He said started from the very beginning. Genesis 3:1-4

        Rob Bell is speaking the words of Satan, distorting what God said because he wants so badly to be popular with anyone that will like him.

        James 4:4-5 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”?

        Jesus said that being that way will cause you to lose your life. Mark 8:34-35 And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.

        1 John 2:15-19 Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.
        Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us.

        There is absolutely no where in the bible that says that we are guaranteed happiness and satisfying sex. We were created to worship God. Are bodies are meant for God, not lusts. A homosexual is capable of having heterosexual sex. A homosexual is capable of loving someone of the opposite sex, are they not? They love family members don’t they? It is possible to love people and NOT have sex with them, isn’t it?

        With your reasoning if someone doesn’t find a mate then it is not fair to ask them to remain celibate? So sex is the only fair thing? You’re reasoning is proof that people cannot make sense without the truth of the scripture.

        I don’t know who your god is but mine is a holy and righteous God that requires a sinless life in order to have a relationship. Jesus made that possible but Jesus said to repent. His wrath has been poured out on Jesus. Jesus was the evidence of His compassion. However, to deny the very reasons that Jesus was necessary is like spitting in the face of God.

      3. Augustine says:

        I agree with the line of thinking that because of fall all of creation is suffering from the wrecked of sin, of os those things being same sex attraction. But, why should we give that a pass because we want to try and apply some good words or ideas like monogamy and committed to this behavior. Would we apply that same thought if the persons attraction was towards kids or animals? I am not trying to be grotesque but I am hoping that as some of you read this there is an icky factor to that idea. I think the icky factor for same sex attraction/homosexuality is diminishing, but does that change what God says about it, what he condemns. You are right in saying that it is not right for man to be alone and the Bible gives a clear expression of the companion that was made. Someone of the opposite sex. God made all the animals and none of them were suitable as a helpmate. So he made woman, who was part of man. This is such a beautiful picture of what God has done and because of the fall we think of it to lightly.

        In your list above only one of them has anything to do with morality. Why not talk about addictions to anything – drugs, alcohol, porn….if someone is born that way do they get a pass for their behavior or are they help accountable for their choices in that behavior.

        The beauty of God and redemption was so well said in what Mr. Wilson said in regards to God renewing the heart of man. We are made new creations and not only are we free from addiction, but God has freed us from everything that is unholy so that we can walk holy. We are given a new heart that can obey him at every turn. Do we do it perfectly? No. I am sure we can all resonate that truth – be we should be doing it progressively better. We are not sinless but we will sin less. That little space between those two words is important.

      4. Thomas Aquinas says:

        Your comments beg the question: why follow one’s orientation? After all, if I look at who I am–a male–I notice that my sexual powers are ordered toward a particular end, an end that literally is impossible to achieve without the complementary gender. So, it may be that orientation is disordered. Why should that be surprising? Some people are born with a club foot, and because of that identify as handicapped. They me even consider their club foot a gift, since it means that they can learn how to sympathize with the more severely handicapped. And it may also lead them to develop certain skills and affections that they otherwise would have never achieved. None of this means that club-footedness is good. It is immutable. Thus, its immutability has no bearing on its goodness.

        Also, what if homosexual feelings could be changed by choice? Would it now be okay to discriminate based on sexual orientation? If not, then immutability is irrelevant.

        1. Mike says:

          You make the assumption that a gay person’s mind/orientation is disordered and their physical body is ordered. What about the alternative — that one’s orientation is ordered but one’s physical characteristics are disordered? Why should the development of one part of one’s anatomy take precedence over another?

          I believe it is insulting and hurtful to homosexual people to compare their identity with a disability or abnormality. That you view it this way (and EVEN IF that view is correct) does not change how this is perceived by the other person. If our goal here is to welcome others into the kingdom of God, I think we should avoid using such comparisons, because it comes across as thoughtless and condescending.

          I’m continuing to struggle with this issue and how the church should handle it. I find myself landing more in an attitude of “love the sinner and hate your own sin.” Even if we consider homosexual sex to be sinful and that engaging in this is living a sinful life, what areas of our own lives are we perpetuating sin? Is is right and good that I live in a country where I have much and yet most of the world is in need? Is this God’s perfect design for the world? By living in comfort am I not also sinning against God’s ideal? When I orient my thinking this way, I find myself less and less concerned with the gay person and their choice of whether to be sexually active or celibate — surely if someone is gay and a Christian, it is for them to wrestle with the scriptures and determine how they should respond in light of what God is saying. I think we should be slow to point out someone else’s sin and quick to identify our own sin.

  5. Pat, what Trevin is bringing up is not promiscuity vs. homosexuality. He is showing Bell’s inconsistency in holding up one Biblical value (monogamy) while insisting that the church should capitulate culturally to homosexuality, which is not what the Bible teaches.

  6. Andrew Smith says:

    …there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven…

    2 Timothy 4:3 also comes to mind.

  7. Tom Thiessen says:

    Rob wonders why we focus in on this one issue and not technological addiction or stress and worry. If someone came along teaching that stress and worry are common and good and should therefore be celebrated, or that technological addiction is healthy and we need to catch up with it, then that would be a similarly serious issue (although sexual sin is a distinctive sin according to Paul in 1 Cor. 6:18).

    It is not that homosexuality is the only sin conservatives care about, but it is a major issue where we see the Bible being clearly compromised and evil being called good. The heightened concern is because not only are people increasingly acting on homosexual sin, but also others (leaders in the Christian world) are giving approval to those who do them.

  8. Frank63 says:

    Homosexuality is right now a watershed issue for the Church. Not because homosexuality is any worse than other sexual sins, but because it’s an issue that truly separates those who are ready to bow to the authority of God’s Word and those who are not. As Martin Luther said: “If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest expression every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battlefield besides, is mere flight and disgrace, if he flinches at that point”.

    The Bible couldn’t be any more clear in its position that homosexual activity is an abomination to God and that acceptance of it by any society is a clear sign that it is ripe for His judgment. God’s revelation to man through the natural order itself, as well as His special revelation in Scripture, speak with one unambiguous voice that homosexual activity is unnatural and destructive to those who practice it. The revisionist interpretations of Scripture now being offered by some “scholars” who would argue otherwise are easily refuted. The fact that not one biblical scholar ever held these revisionist ideas up until very recently should be a clue to any thinking person that there is something fishy going with these tortured new “pro-sodomy” interpretations of the Bible. But sadly, we live in a day where many faint hearted “believers” are not willing to bear the reproach of Christ. Fearing the ridicule and ostracism of the world, their ears are itching for false teachers like Rob Bell who will tell them that the practice of homosexuality and the Christian are perfectly compatible. They will accept these novel interpretations of the Bible without the slightest bit of caution or skepticism. We are truly seeing the fulfillment of Paul’s words before our very eyes: “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear” (2 Tim 4:3)

  9. Charles says:

    What of divorce? If we truly bow to the authority of God’s Word, then the Church would NEVER permit divorce except for adultery (Matthew 5, 19) or unbelief (1 Cor. 7). Neither addiction nor abandonment nor abuse are Biblical grounds for divorce. It is the church’s position that if a husband runs off on his 23 year old wife, then she is prohibited from re-marrying? That is the plain meaning of Scripure. She must thereafter live a chaste life, and even if she finds another man willing to marry her the church may not bless, recognize, or sanction that relationship or give it its protection. But the church allows this remarriage recognizing that although its not the Biblical ideal, the hardness of our hearts occasioned by the fall (Matt 19:18)requires this compromise since it is better to marry than be aflame with passion (1 Cor 7:9).

    As far as the homosexual marriage issue being a object of God’s judgment, marriage is but a temporary state, for the resurrection, there is no marriage (Matt 22:30). Christ’s love show us that God’s concern for us is eternal, not merely temporal.

    1. Divorce, as with a homosexual act, is forgivable. Living in an open marriage, i.e. a lifestyle of divorce, would not be acceptable at any church, and should not (as even attested to by Bell here). The very fact you compare the ACT of divorce as being forgivable to calling the LIFESTYLE of homosexuality acceptable shows your dishonesty. At least with us, even worse, perhaps with yourself.

      1. EricP says:

        It’s remarriage after divorce that is the continual sin. People who remarry should divorce, repent of their adultery, and either return to their original spouse or live a life of chastity.

        1. Melody says:

          If they return and remarry the first spouse it’s still adultery. Man’s silly solutions when they don’t know the word.

    2. Frank63 says:

      Divorce is not so cut and dry. Some would argue that abandonment or abuse are marks of unbelief and so they would fall under the 1 Cor 7 exception. Having said that, I will still agree with you that many churches do compromise on marriage and divorce. Some allow remarriage for far less serious offenses then abandonment or abuse. And if they do that, such churches are just as guilty as Rob Bell. But two wrongs don’t make a right.

      Your argument that same sex activity might be ok with God as a “compromise” because of man’s hardness of heart does not square with 1 Cor 6:9 which says that practicing homosexuals will not inherit the kingdom of God. If God “compromises” on this issue, then who exactly are these people being excluded from the kingdom in 1 Cor 6:9?

      1. EricP says:

        Some argue that those people are actually male cult prostitutes and those who visited them. Note that the verse in Leviticus follows immediately after a warning about idolatry and child sacrifice.

        1. Frank63 says:

          I’m aware that some modern revisionists would try to argue that all verses that speak negatively about homosexuality are merely talking about prostitution or pederasty. But the biblical context will not allow such an interpretation.

          “In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error” (Rom 1:27)

          This passage does not condemn men for abandoning adult partners for children. It does not condemn men for abandoning monogamous marital relations for sexual activity with prostitutes. It condemns men for abandoning natural sexual relations with women for sexual relations with men. Even if it’s true that the context of Romans 1 is men engaging in acts of prostitution with other men, Paul’s complaint here is that these men abandoned women for men, not that they abandoned monogamy for prostitution (although certainly Paul would have been opposed to that too, but it’s not the point he was trying to make in Romans 1). So regardless of whether the acts Paul had in mind were prostitution or not, Paul is clearly and unequivocally condemning all same sex activity. Those who would argue otherwise are ignoring Paul’s clear words and pouring their own agenda into these passages. As I said before, the novel interpretations you are referring to were non-existent for 2,000 years until the political and cultural pressures of the gay rights movement came along. And as always happens when there is a clash between the cultural zeitgeist and biblical truth, there will always be those in the Church who will twist the Scriptures in order to make peace with the culture rather than stand for the truth and bear the reproach that it entails.

        2. Melody says:

          So beastiality, as long as its not done in a temple is okay? That has got to be the stupidest satanic twisting of that scripture I have ever seen. The stupid part is that people are willing to believe it because it meets their needs.

      2. Rebecca says:

        “Divorce is not so cut and dry;” neither is homosexuality. All I can say is “Love one another.” It doesn’t seem that there’s a lot of love goin’ on in these comments. I’m a straight lady who loves Jesus more than anything. I support marriage equality. Before anyone claims I’m a “cultural zeitgeist who… will twist the Scriptures in order to make peace with the culture rather than stand for the truth and bear the reproach that it entails,” I would like to present the following idea: Scripture can be interpreted many different ways.

        We all use context (or our culture) to interpret the divinely inspired Word of God. There are some more and less valid ways to interpret Scripture. For example, I don’t know of many American churches who mandate that women wear head gear in worship. Scripture clearly says “5 But every woman who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying disgraces her head, for she is one and the same as the woman whose head is shaved. 6 For if a woman does not cover her head, let her also have her hair cut off; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, let her cover her head.” (1 Cor. 11:5ff) If you strictly interpreted this, without taking in culture, all female church goers should cover their heads. (I believe that most churches interpret the “shaved heads” to be a sign of prostitution, and therefore we don’t mandate that women wear head coverings, or even have long hair, because it’s not linked to prostitution in our culture.)

        Here’s another scripture, from 1 Corinthians 14, “34 The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. 35 If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church.”

        Most churches allow women to talk in church – via singing, saying the Lord’s prayer in unison with the church, soothing an infant, etc. We take that Scripture and interpret it to mean, “We don’t allow women to give her opinion in a church service (as in a sermon.)” Or, other churches “That was only for the time period in which Paul was writing, as the women during this time were shouting out during the service. It’s OK for women to be pastors now.” No church (as far as I know) forbids women from speaking altogether. Also, this passage, if taken strictly, would forbid single ladies from getting clarification about Scripture. The Bible clearly writes,let them ask their own husbands at home. The Bible also says that being single is OK. So, what’s a single lady to do?

        Take a look at this passage from 1 Tim 2, which I’m sure we all know.
        “9 Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, 10 but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness. 11 A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. 12 But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. 13 For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. 14 And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. 15 But women will be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint.” If taken without cultural reference, it’s immodest to wear hair in braids. Women, good Christian women, have been wearing their hair in braids for years. Some people might say, “Oh, these braids are referring to the elaborate braiding that went on during that period of time”. (As an aside, braided styles could be very fancy and take a long time to do.) However, the minute that you think this, you’re putting cultural implications on what Scripture says. Again, I know NO church that forbids braids. Furthermore, most wedding rings are gold. But in our society, gold wedding bands are the “traditional” sign of marriage.

        A final passage, from Jesus Himself, “29 If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.” (Matthew 5) If I am to take Jesus at His word, without really thinking of the meaning, I would all be completely maimed. So, we use our minds to interpret this part of Scripture, to mean “take sin seriously.”

        In closing, I think both sides of this debate need to take a step back, look at Scripture interpretation, and PRAY. Pray for humility on both sides of the issue. :) Peace of Christ be with us all.

  10. Ellen says:

    Raised a Baptist, active evangelical Presbyterian as an adult. On homosexuality, I keep coming back to the question “Why this particular sin?” If fidelity to the Word is the issue, then why do we tolerate gossips, gluttons, gamblers, haters, abusers, etc. in the church of Jesus Christ, even in pulpits? And if you think we don’t, you’re kidding yourself. Why this sin?

    1. Frank63 says:

      I don’t know any Church that teaches that gossip, gluttony, gambling, etc. are ok with God. Of course there are people in the church that struggle with these sins, just as there are some people in the church who struggle with same sex attraction. The issue is not whether people in the church struggle with these things, but whether we are going to call them sin or not. The reason we are talking about “this particular sin” (ie. homosexuality) is because false teachers like Rob Bell are giving people explicit permission to sin in this regard. If he were giving people permission to gossip and slander with God’s approval that would be just as reprehensible.

      1. Ellen says:

        What good is calling them sin when we allow the consistent practice of them in the church? That’s de facto permission. You say people struggle with them, but they don’t, not really, because they know they’ll never be called on it. Pride is on every Bible list of what God hates. What about pride in the Church … including the pride of deciding which sins God hates the most?

        1. Melody says:

          Why don’t you call them on it? It’s your job too. That is part of being in the community. Proverbs 27:17

        2. Frank63 says:

          I don’t think we can make blanket statements like that about all churches. My church certainly calls people on pride and gossip all the time. In fact, I hear far more about pride and gossip from the pulpit then I ever hear about homosexuality. The media would have us believe that the church is obsessed with the issue of homosexuality but it is not. One of the most successful accomplishments of the gay marriage movement has been convincing the public that the Church has been the aggressor on this issue. The truth is it’s exactly the opposite. The Church is just trying to maintain the status quo and retain the same definition of marriage that Christ himself gave us (Matt 19:3-4) and which has been the foundation of Western Civilization (and most of the world for that matter) for the past 2,000 years. It’s the gay/liberal activists that have acted as the aggressors here. They are the ones who keep bringing the issue up in their attempt to get gay marriage legalized everywhere. The Church is merely responding to their arguments.

          1. Melody says:

            My church just had a sermon on Proverbs 31 and the pastor called out women that are believers but model themselves after the world digesting things like 50 Shades of Gray when even the world thinks its disgusting. They don’t shy away from any of the sins and they don’t refuse to acknowledge their own.
            I’m with Frank on this. If you think the church focuses on only this sin then you’re in the wrong church or you are believing the lies that satan puts through the media.

    2. I can’t speak for others, but for me, i believe (based on 1Cor 5) anyone who commits an unrepitent act of sexual immorality should be denied membership in a church until they repent. So, that’s why that sin. No one (comparitavely) claims that polygamy is okay or that adultery is an acceptable lifestyle. Bell, conversely, is saying homosexual acts are perfectly acceptable as a continuing way of life.

      1. Charles says:

        Actually, Dr. Luther himself claimed that polygamy was permissible: “I confess that I cannot forbid a person to marry several wives, for it does not contradict the Scripture. If a man wishes to marry more than one wife he should be asked whether he is satisfied in his conscience that he may do so in accordance with the word of God. In such a case the civil authority has nothing to do in the matter. (De Wette II, 459).

        1. Melody says:

          Luther was a man. His interpretation on that was unenlighted. That is why scripture is there to test what you are told.

          1. Rebecca says:

            Polygamy was practiced in the Bible. It was neither condoned nor forbidden.

    3. Melody says:

      Ellen, I think the sins I hear preached on most often are actually anger and pride. I seldom hear anyone speak of homosexuality except when it’s brought up because someone wants to be told it’s “ok”.

  11. Thanks for this clear and reasonable approach to a difficult subject. It seems that this is becoming a greater and greater “shibboleth” in Western Churches all the time.

  12. Part of the problem is that the Bible and the world within which the NT was written have no concept of “homosexuality.” I think that’s what Rob is trying to say, but then he pivots that fact into the illogical conclusion that homosexual acts, then, are okay. The Bible does not address “sexual orientation” what so ever, it does, however, very clearly condemn homosexual acts, primarily for men, in both “dominant” and “submissive” roles (cf 1Cor 6:9). So Christians begin with “it’s a sin to be gay” and the Bell-like person says “well, Jesus never condemned being gay…” And then some say “wow, I guess that’s true…” Sure, Jesus never condemned homosexuality, but he did accord with Lev. 18 and absolutely considered homosexual acts to be sexual immorality which he did condemn. Paul, much more explicitly, condemns homosexual acts. So you can clearly be a homosexual, as long as you never act on that desire, and be righteous. But that’s not Bell’s argument. He is saying because God never condemns the sexual orientation (which is made up by us) and because God wants all people to experience romantic love (also made up) it must be okay to do what is expressly condemned.

    1. Ryan says:

      Harris, that is simply not the case. The ancient world did indeed have categories for same-sex attraction, both as a singular desire and as one found alongside heterosexual desire. There was speculation as to why some people were “born that way.” The context into which the NT was written was very familiar with these categories, and a quick look into the writings of the early Church Fathers also shows that the Church knew these categories and vindicated the Scriptural witness.

      1. Dave D says:

        Ryan, I need the references to back up your statement. Where do you find the information concerning the ancient world’s sexual categories, etc.?

        1. Melody says:

          Look up effeminate in the bible.

  13. Brent Hobbs says:

    Kudos to Andrew Wilson indeed. Great example of how to approach the issue graciously and stand firm on the truth of Scripture.

  14. Mark says:

    Oh, Andrew Wilson, I heterosexually love you. Thank you for standing in the truth, and graciously so, and firmly.

    Oh, Rob Bell, let the world deal with its disappointment in God’s commands. It’s not our job to please them or woo them in such a way that contradicts His Word.

  15. Dave says:

    I find it odd that Andrew Wilson reduces the definition of ‘liberal’ to denying the literal resurrection of Christ. So as long as someone believes Christ literally rose from the dead, it doesn’t matter what else they do or don’t believe, they should be accepted as a fellow believer, a true Christian?

    Andrew Wilson badly let the gospel down in this debate, in precisely the same way that Adrian Warnock did, in Warnock’s debate with Rob Bell in a previous edition of this same radio programme on Premier radio UK when Love Wins came out.

    The way that both Wilson and Warnock did this is that both of them, though disagreeing with Rob Bell’s beliefs in some areas, still acknowledged Bell to be a true Christian, a brother in Christ, someone with whom they would gladly share the bread and wine of the Lord’s table.

    I think that is shameful.

    Scripture is very clear what we should say about, and to, apostates and heretics.

    It is also ultimately unloving to Bell to accept him as a fellow believer. The kinder way to interact with him would be to warn him, not embrace him as a fellow Christian and give him false reassurance.

    I have a lot more respect for John Macarthur than for Wilson or Warnock, for when Love Wins came out, Macarthur wasn’t afraid to declare, “Rob Bell is not a Christian.”

    Rob Bell has been making it very clear for a long time now that he is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

    In Velvet Elvis and the Nooma ‘Dust’ he states we can be like Jesus by faith in ourselves, that God has faith in us, and that God only chooses those whom he knows have the ability to become like Christ.

    In the Nooma ‘Bullhorn Guy’ Bell states that he doesn’t understand what all this talk of condemnation and conversion has to do with the message of Jesus.

    In ‘Everything is Spiritual’ Bell gives an account of the creation that totally leaves out any reference to sin or the fall.

    The only thing he says about the cross is that Jesus died to show us an integrated, holistic spirituality.

    Then there’s Love Wins concerning hell and eternal judgement, and his latest comments regarding homosexuality, and much, much more.

    How heretical does someone have to be before some people will have the spine and the faithfulness to Scripture to tell the man, ‘No, I do not believe you are my brother. I see no evidence of that, on the contrary your many denials of many gospel truths lead me to believe you do not know Christ. You need to repent.’

    1. Mike says:

      Actually to your first question I would say yes — if you and I agree on the core doctrine of Christ’s birth, life, death, and resurrection, then we are fellow brothers in Christ.

      There is room in the Kingdom to disagree on peripheral matters. But as soon as you take such matters and make them core beliefs, you are adding to the requirements of salvation. Aren’t we saved by faith alone?

      To take issues like homosexuality, hell, infant vs believers baptism, communion, etc and turn them into issues that determine one’s salvation, you are now making them central to your faith, and you are establishing that one can only be saved if one shares the same beliefs as you on these issues.

      I actually think that Andrew Wilson’s response was pitch perfect. He affirmed his position, identified points of disagreement, and did so while showing love and respect. The listener is then rewarded with the opportunity to hear both sides of the argument and form their own opinion, which is what a good debate should allow for.

      1. Melody says:

        Mike

        Jesus said repent. Jesus said to deny yourself and take your cross and follow Him. Jesus asked why do you call me Lord and not do what I say?

        Repenting is the very first step. You add a sin in with infant baptism. What areas are black and white? What is it that you think the Messiah had to die for?

  16. David Dahl says:

    Thank God for men such as Andrew Wilson, who carry the hard call of speaking graciously into our age. Andrew was not there just to stand for orthodox Christianity. He took the time to respectfully draw Rob Bell out – to get into the beat of Rob’s heart and into the logic of his experience with God and Scripture. Andrew helped Rob figure out why he thought and felt what he thought and felt. I’m not sure Rob understood his own thinking until his encounter with Andrew. I thank God for the spirit of graciousness in this debate. I pray that I would be as well put together as Pr. Wilson in this area of debate.

    1. Dave says:

      Andrew Wilson’s ‘graciousness’ towards Rob Bell was a serious error. The Bible tells us about apostates and heretics, and both instructs and models how to address them.

      Have a look at, for e.g., :

      Matt 23

      Acts 20:29-30

      Gal 1:8-9

      1 Tim 1:3

      1 Tim 1:18-20

      1 Tim 6:3-5

      Titus 1:10-16

      2 Peter 2

      Jude

      1. Melody says:

        Dave

        I don’t understand what you would have had the true believer act like instead. You wanted him to say something that would have shut the dialogue down?

        Bell’s face when Wilson is talking about the holiness of God and how He gets to decide what is evil or not says everything about the whole discussion. He’s a scoffer. I wouldn’t sit next to him at church.
        This is not church and people need to hear the truth next to the lie. No one would hear it if he was hateful. Paul doesn’t not call anyone to act less than Christ-like. Westboro already has that covered.
        Do you realize that you sat there and listened to this man speak the truth in a way that could be heard and you came up with a list of verses to find fault with the one speaking the truth? I think God gave the assignment to the correct person and he handled it wonderfully.

        1. Dave says:

          Melody

          You are not thinking biblically.

          What the true believer should do is respond biblically, applying the pattern and principles given in Scripture.

          Scripture models and instructs how to respond to heretics and apostates.

          Here’s a suggestion of what Wilson could and should have said when Bell asserted he’s a brother in Christ:

          ” ‘No, I do not believe you are my brother. I see no evidence of that, on the contrary your many denials of many gospel truths lead me to believe you do not know Christ. You need to repent.’”

          Have you read the Gospels? I assume so. Go back and look at how Jesus himself engaged in apologetics, at the range of responses.

          It is wrong to acknowledge wolves in sheep’s clothing as brothers, because Scripture says so. It is unChrist-like to do so.

          1. Melody says:

            I’ve read it. And I did not hear them accepting him as a brother. He made those statements and Wilson did not affirm them. Wilson did not back off. He didn’t let Bell take control or destract from the truth by letting Bell become the subject of the conversation. You want it to be about Bell. The truth is strong enough to stand against Bell. Bell baited him and he didn’t go for it. Obviously you would have fallen for it.
            Then the whole liberal world would smuggly point to how Bell was attacked for loving gays. Bell would go around making it all about himself and being a victim like he did after his book. Something he and his wife have enjoyed living off of unlike Chan, Driscoll, Warren, ect. who give back.

          2. Dave says:

            At 16mins 15sec approx. Bell says, “Andrew’s my brother…”. Wilson smiles and nods.

            Bell’s Noomas and books are poisoning some churches that I personally know of, and the right way of responding to a wolf in sheep’s clothing like Bell is to clearly tell him what he is.

        2. Dave says:

          Melody

          As a p.s. to my comment of “May 11, 2013 at 7:59 pm”, let me add one example from Scripture to get you started in thinking Biblically about apologetics:

          In Acts 7 Stephen preached quite a long sermon to the Sanhedrin, who apparently were at least willing to listen – until Stephen said this:

          “[51] “You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. [52] “Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers, [53] “who have received the law by the direction of angels and have not kept it.””

          Stephen’s rebuke of them produced the following result:

          “[54] When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth…Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; [58] and they cast him out of the city and stoned him. ”

          In other words, Stephen’s word of rebuke “shut the dialogue down” as you put it. Precisely what you seem to think should never be done in apologetics, yet Stephen did it, and it was courageous and right for him to do so.

          Sometimes preaching the truth will shut down the dialogue because people will stop their ears. The servant of the Lord’s job is to faithfully proclaim the truth, whether people stop their ears or not.

          You seem to identify anyone who does this with the Westboro cult. But we can clearly see the tactic being legitimately used in Scripture when dealing with heretics and apostates, so, I repeat, you are not thinking biblically.

          1. Melody says:

            Dave why were you not on the radio?

  17. I am sorry, Pat, but promiscuity and homosexuality are not a behavior and an orientation. Both are labeled as sin in the Scriptures, and you can’t change that by reclassifying them. Homosexuality is just another flavor of sexual sin, and is no different in its orientation than sexual sin with someone of the opposite sex, because both are oriented towards a sexual relation towards someone outside the bounds of what is permitted and prescribed in the Scriptures.

    Actually, when sin is manifested outwardly in a behavior (and there are sins that are not) it is the result of a desire that is oriented towards anything outside of the will and commands of God.

  18. Patrick says:

    It seems that Bell is ONLY good as asking questions. He takes a question that is very direct, then he says something like, “that’s not the question, this is the real question…” then sidesteps the actual issue and says what he wants.

  19. Katie says:

    “We say those things die with me. We repent and get baptized.”

    To not put that in front of someone is to say, “You can have the kingdom, but if it costs too much, we’ll just lower the asking price…”

    O True. And the fact is, we CAN’T lower the asking price because God doesn’t. “Lowering the asking price” would be giving them a counterfeit Salvation Message and counterfeits are worthless, fake, not the real thing. Sharing the TRUTH of God’s Word is the MOST loving thing we can do for someone. In order for someone to understand that they need a Savior, they must first accept that they are sinners and in order to do that they must acknowledge their sin. Rob Bell is a false teacher and it is so sad that people like him are deceiving so many.

  20. David Journeycake says:

    We “focus on this one issue”, Rob, because Paul wrote, “the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God…neither the sexually immoral…nor men who practice homosexuality.” (1 Cor 6:9-10). Their eternal destiny is at stake.

    Andrew made a valid point: that for the writers (having a Jewish, Old Testament background), a “man lying with another man as with a woman” was part of the ‘sexual immorality’ they were especially referring to.

  21. David Journeycake says:

    “Promiscuity”, Rob, is even more of the world’s ‘norm’ now. What’s the basis for thinking multiple-partner sex “disturbs the shalom of God” while gay sex doesn’t…

  22. Ellen says:

    Proverbs 6:16-17 (The Message): “Here are six things God hates,
    and one more that he loathes with a passion:

    Eyes that are arrogant,
    A tongue that lies,
    Hands that murder the innocent,
    A heart that hatches evil plots,
    Feet that race down a wicked track,
    A mouth that lies under oath,
    A troublemaker in the family.”

    To be consistent, the church needs to ban anyone who chooses a lifestyle that incorporates any of these (and yes, even once counts). We’d all be out on #1.

    1. Dave says:

      Scripture does not instruct the church to expel everyone who sins. If we did that we’d have to throw everyone out, starting with ourselves.

      It does instruct the church to expel those who claim to be brothers yet are unrepentant in their sin.

    2. Gareth says:

      Ellen, the question isn’t about whether or not we’d be all out on #1, we know we would be. We know that we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and that we need a Saviour. I’d be the first to point that out.

      It’s not about banning people. It’s about encouraging people to recognize sin, and to repent. The same is true for any sin. When we start to call what God has declared as sinful as anything other then we are in willful rebellion against Him. This is true of any sin and it is a constant challenge in my life to say Jesus first, me second.

      I long for others to be transformed by Jesus, but we can’t as Andrew Wilson said “lower the asking price”.

  23. Simon says:

    I don’t think homosexuality can be defended as acceptable Christian behaviour. However, I found Andrew Wilson’s reasoning interesting. He appealed to 2000 years of Church tradition in interpreting scripture on this issue. Yet on other issues he would be happy to go against the tradition of the Church. Ultimately for Andrew and other Protestants, they are happy ditch tradition on issues such as iconography, the sacraments, even on divorce. But not on homosexuality. It begs the question, on what basis do you do this? The only answer can be, on the basis of myself and my understanding of the text. In which case, he undercuts his whole argument against Bell. You can appeal to the text on all sorts of issues, but if you go against the Chruch’s established understanding for centuries, as the Reformers did, you are going out on a limb. Why Luther or Calvin as opposed to the tradition of the whole Church and the witness of the Apostles and Fathers? There is a Tradition that keeps the whole faith together. This is expressed in the Scriptures, Creeds, the Councils, the Fathers, the liturgies, the prayers of the Church. There is no basis for criticism of others’ position if you have, on a wholesale scale, done away with the Traditions of the Church. Bell could have easily responded to Wilson like this, “Well the Church at the Council of Ephesus affirmed the Virgin Mary as the Theotokos”. Why do you object to this? He could have said. The Church also affirmed the use of icons at Nicea II. Why have you done away with this? He could have asked Wilson about St Athanasius and theosis and why Wilson doesn’t affirm this either. The list could go on and on. The fact of the matter is that the position of Bell on homosexuality is an (unintended) consequence of what Western society has become after the Reformation. We see, not long after the Reformation, that the whole fabric of Christian community was disintegrating – the anabaptists came up with doctrinal innovations and so on. The response of the magesterial Reformers was violent persecution to stop things from going too far. But they had let the cat out of the bag. The Reformation let the cat out of the bag and now we have what we are seeing today.

  24. Mark says:

    Wilson provides here an excellent example of clarity and faithfulness in the face of deception. Rob Bell preaches peace where there is no peace. The Scripture’s view on the issue could not be any clearer but he simply rejects it. May people be warned: there is no “big tent” of inclusion.

    “Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1Co 6:9-10 ESV)

    1. Nell says:

      I think the greedy get a pass at most churches so long as they make lots of money and give a bunch to the church.

  25. Charles says:

    What is the gospel? What does it mean that we are justified by faith not works (or behaviour)? Is Cross insuffient to save a drunkard?

    1. Mark says:

      Next verse. “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.” (1Co 6:11 ESV) The cross truly is sufficient to save a drunkard and a homosexual! However, Jesus saves people from their sin, not to continue to go on in sin as we did before.

  26. Mike says:

    I enjoyed this debate and I appreciated that both men were respectful and fair.

    Here’s the problem I have with the condemnation of homosexuality. I have a hard time accepting a doctrine that denies someone the opportunity to love and be loved. I suppose many would just say that “well, that’s what the Bible says so that’s the end of it”, But Jesus seemed to be a whole lot more about love and acceptance than he was about following the Levitical rules.

    I think this issue is easy until you have a gay friend who wants to follow Christ but who also doesn’t want to live alone. How can I, as a heterosexual man, say that it’s ok for me to get married and have intimacy with my wife, but you can’t — you were made differently so you are denied that opportunity. To me, that just doesn’t seem consistent with the way Jesus treated people.

    I don’t think Bell’s argument can be extended to promiscuity. Affirming a gay person the opportunity to love and be loved is quite different from affirming the convenience and flippancy of promiscuous sex.

    It seems most people on this board feel differently. How would you respond to my hypothetical friend? I’m genuinely torn on the issue. Love the sinner and hate the sin? If the ‘sin’ is what you feel to be your very nature, the way you were born, that response would still come across as pretty cold-hearted.

    1. Frank63 says:

      Mike,

      What about a married person whose spouse is in prison for the sake of the gospel? That person is in a state of forced celibacy. Would Jesus be ok with them committing adultery since you seem to believe He doesn’t expect anyone to have to “live alone”? What would you say to a pedophile who told you he was “made differently” and his sexual orientation was toward children rather than adults? Is it “cold hearted” to tell him he must either change his orientation or remain celibate? Please understand I am not equating pedophelia and homosexual acts between adults. The former is certainly more disturbing. But it illustrates the general principle that just because some sexual inclination is “part of someone’s nature” does not means it’s ok. According to the Bible, our “natures” are fallen. So we can’t look to what comes “natural” to us as some moral barometer of whether something is ok with God. I’m afraid the faulty premise in your argument is that everyone has a right to fulfill their sexual inclinations. But that’s not what Jesus taught. If love compels us to legitimize same sex unions, then why did Jesus (who was love personified) explicitly define marriage as between a male and a female (Matt 19:1-4). If Jesus (who created every person) truly “created people gay” and wanted them to enjoy sexual intimacy, then why didn’t he simply say marriage was for “two people who love each other” rather than a union of male and female?? Finally, I would also point out that you have swallowed the lie of the world that sexual orientation is unchangeable. But that’s not true. There are ex-gay ministries out there filled with people who have abandoned the gay lifestyle, married opposite gender spouses and have had families. Some claim that their same sex desires go away entirely, others claim that they still struggle with them at times. Nevertheless these people are NOT “living alone”. Now I suppose there may be some gays who say they are incapable of entering into sexual intimacy with the opposite gender so they wouldn’t even try. Well my only other answer to them would be the same as my answer to a pedophile. They would need to remain celibate. That may seem cruel to you but what is more cruel is give homosexuals permission to live a lifestyle that will exclude them from the kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:9)? Which is worse…a short life of sexual loneliness or an eternity apart from God??

    2. Esther says:

      Mike, people can be born with any number of tragic physical/psychological conditions that make it unfeasible and/or unwise for them to enjoy privileges unafflicted people have. For example, I would argue that a person who struggles with schizophrenia or some other serious mental disorder should not get married. Such a person will be unable to function normally and healthily within a marriage or provide the necessary stability to raise children. Is it mean and cold-hearted of that person’s friends to lovingly show him how foolish it would be to enter into a marital relationship, even if that person wishes he could do so? I argue to the contrary, that it’s the kindest thing to do, to prevent ultimate misery, sorrow and devastation.

      To give another example, I think people with a severe genetic anomaly like Down’s Syndrome probably shouldn’t marry or have kids. Since people with Down’s Syndrome are guaranteed to pass on the anomaly to any children they would bear, a married Down’s Syndrome couple would be forced to refrain from having children. But if we believe that marriage exists ideally for the purpose of bearing children, that’s one clue (among many) that Down’s Syndrome people shouldn’t get married.

      However, I should make it clear that these situations are complicated and don’t necessarily involve an intent to sin. Whereas the homosexual who wants to “share his life with someone” is most certainly being tempted to sin mortally.

      1. Mike says:

        I would urge you to reconsider your example about people with genetic abnormalities. When we say that people with this condition should probably not marry and be forced to refrain from having children, it sends a pretty clear message that they are not fully-valued people (ie. you shouldn’t have kids because obviously we wouldn’t want to have more people like you). Why don’t we want more people with Down’s Syndrome?

        Regardless, I understand your argument and on one hand it seems reasonable. And yet, I still see a distinction. There are those people who, through no fault of their own, are _unable_ to love and be loved in a mutual, monogamous relationship. But I struggle to think of an example of any other people group who are able to love in that manner but are denied by scripture. It’s not that I just find it unfair, I find it against God’s nature (since we know that God IS love).

        I have yet to get a response to my question — how would you approach my hypothetical gay Christian friend who wants to experience mutual love with another? For me I think two gay people cohabiting together is fine, I think a commitment to one another is laudable, and I think that whether or not they choose to engage sexually is a matter between them and God, based on their understanding of scripture and their own conscience.

        And in that context, what is our role as fellow Christians? Do we deny them cohabitation? Why? Do we deny them mutual commitment? Why? And would it be right and appropriate to make assumptions about their sexual conduct and weigh in with our opinion?

        1. Jonathan says:

          Mike,

          “I have a hard time accepting a doctrine that denies someone the opportunity to love and be loved.”

          I think I can empathize with you here. It is hard. And, if it’s okay, let me take it down another road…

          Over the past 6 years of my life I have made friends among Somalis and Nepalese. They have been born into slavery, just as we all are, to sin. They have been taught about god or, at least, a version of god. Some of them are very faithful to their religious cultural traditions, for some these traditions are even convictions of belief manifested in how they live. And for most these religious traditions are THE identifying marker of their lives (of who they are), whether or not they have much understanding of the traditions.

          So over the past several years I have wrestled with hell. [Maybe my example breaks down for you at this point, because you may not believe in hell (in its finality), but believe it for the sake of this argument].

          So how can I tell them that they must turn away from these gods to Jesus? How can I destroy their very identities? How can I claim to love them and yet all the time call them to turn away from their gods and to turn to Jesus? Okay, so maybe it’s easy with Hindus , they love Jesus too (I’m making a joke here), but they hate His claim of exclusivity. So it’s not easy with them, either.

          Honestly, though, it has hurt tremendously to see the eyes of the ones I love most in this world, to watch their eyes glaze over, or to see the hurt in their eyes as I tell them, “I want you to know Jesus as I know Jesus, because I love you with all my heart.”

          I believe in the righteous God who is Holy beyond our understanding. I also believe in the God of love who is gracious beyond our understanding. And I believe that in the face of Christ, and specifically at the cross, we see God manifested. We see the Holiness of God and the love of God. It is because of Jesus that I cannot write hell off, as if the Holiness of God can be so frittered away when it is the Holiness of God that brought Jesus to the cross. It is also because of Jesus that I cannot write off the grace and power of God, as if the love of God has no power to create new people and sustain them in a life of faithfulness to His word, when it is the love of God that brought Jesus to the cross (and the love and power of God that raised Him).

          But if my friends reject Jesus, what then? If they reject the lamb who was slain for the world, what hope is left for them? Will not the Lamb, Himself, reject them? Will He not judge them for not turning to Him? The One who spent it all?

          So what now… I have this conviction in my heart that Jesus is the only way, the only Truth, the only life and He alone brings us to God the Father.

          My friends turn away from me, and I see the hurt in their eyes, the pain, the seeming betrayal. But I cannot deny what the cross speaks. I cannot deny what Jesus is saying. How would that be good for them? To lay down that which is the one truth that can save them? How would I be loving them then?

          So I guess here’s my answer to your question: Yes, it hurts. And it feels awful (because it may reveal a barrier between us and our friends), in that moment, to say, “No, this is wrong and only Jesus can make you (you, me, us) right.” At the same time, nothing is more freeing than when we follow Jesus in those hardest of moments, when with tears in our eyes, we call our friends to Him, to a life of repentance, a life of denial of self, a life of following Jesus’ ways and not our own, His desires, and not our own. It is hard, Mike, but He is the only way. We must worship Him in spirit and in truth, otherwise, who are we worshiping?

        2. Jonathan says:

          Mike,

          I think it’s apropos to add too, that in fact, when we call our friends to Jesus, to His ways (which I would suggest is also calling them away from homosexual behaviors, thinking), that we are emphatically NOT denying them the opportunity to love and be loved.

          We are, in fact, calling them to the higher and highest love of all. We are calling them to the love of God in Christ. To love Jesus and be loved by Him, to love the Father and be loved by Him, to love the Spirit and be loved by Him. And thus, also, to the love within the body of Christ.

          If the Bible denies your friends the seeming love within a homosexual relationship, it surely calls them to a higher love with God and the church.

          Jonathan

        3. Frank63 says:

          Mike,

          I gave you two examples of people who “through no fault of their own, are unable to love and be loved in a mutual, monogamous relationship”. A married person whose spouse is in prison. Should they be allowed to commit adultery with another person to enjoy mutual monogamous sexual love while there spouse is locked up? What about pedophiles. We had an incident in our church where a man was imprisoned for exposing himself to a teen boy. Our pastor met with him in prison. The man told our pastor that he had no choice or control over his sexual inclinations…he was incapable of performing sexually with an adult, either male of female. His orientation was toward children, specifically young boys. So please tell me how you would respond to this man. If your answer is that he should deny his impulses in this regard (which I’m assuming is the case), then you believe the same thing as me…that there are people out there who through “not fault of their own” have “orientations” that must be changed or suppressed.

          As far as how God feels about homosexuality, your are ignoring both creation and God’s voice in Scripture and replacing it with your idea of what “love would do” and then projecting that onto God. Don’t you think the fact that males and females have complementary sexual organs while same sex pairings do not says anything about God’s intention in creation? Do you really think God created the human anus with the intention that it be the receptacle for the male reproductive organ? I’m sorry to get so descriptive here but this discussion of homosexuality so often gets clouded in euphemisms about people “loving each other”. God has no problem with people loving each other, including people of the same gender. The Bible says David loved Jonathan more than any of his wives. But it was not sexual. According to Scripture, God’s prohibition is in regard to sexual intercourse between people of the same gender, not “love” between people. God considers same sex activity the same as idolatry…it’s the exchange of God and His created purpose for man’s lusts…that is the argument Paul is making in Romans 1, that men project their own thoughts and ideas onto God and create an idol…a new God that will justify the fulfillment of their lusts. That is what is going on with any culture or society that tries to legitimize homosexuality under the guise of “being loving”.

          As far as leaving sexual matters “between people and God” that once again denies the serious issue here. 1 Cor 6:9 says practicing homosexuals will not inherit the kingdom of God. This is not some secondary matter such as eating meat or drinking wine (which Paul discusses in Romans 14 and says that we should leave such matters between each person and God). That’s because Scripture does not explicitly prohibit either eating meat or drinking wine. But where Scriptural prohibitions are clear however, we Christians are called to speak the truth in love for the sake of our brother’s and sister’s souls. You seem more concerned about whether such people will have a sexually fulfilling life than whether they will inherit the kingdom of God.

        4. Esther says:

          Mike, I used the word “forced” to mean “driven to a conclusion by the recognition that something isn’t an option.” In fact I abhor forced sterilization practices, like what the UN sanctions in foreign countries. Sorry if the word “forced” came off sounding like the latter meaning.

          I believe Down’s Syndrome people have no less value in the eyes of God than any other person, and if a baby is unexpectedly found to have that abnormality, he should be welcomed into the world. However, I think there’s a difference between going into a pregnancy and only then discovering the abnormality, and on the other hand getting pregnant knowing already that the child will have that problem. If you get pregnant, find out to your surprise that a child has Down’s, then have an abortion, that’s a mortal sin of murder. But that’s different from avoiding conception in the first place, because in the latter case, you’re not actively harming an already existent person.

          1. Mike says:

            Ok I know we’re straying off topic here, but Esther I would really encourage you to think about this issue some more.

            You’re essentially talking about eugenics. As Christians, I think we should stand up for the disabled and those who our society would consider to be less desirable.

            What you’re saying to a person with Down Syndrome is “had your parents known that you would have DS, it would be better if you had never been born than for you to suffer like you are.”

            Tarek Fatah says that one of the biggest differences between the Christian West and the Muslim countries is how the Christian West treats disabled people. In other cultures people with disabilities are considered cursed and worthless. I think it is a unique expression of God’s love when we not only value people with disabilities, but when we hold them in high regard.

          2. Esther says:

            Mike, I really think we’re talking past each other here. Do you understand what eugenics advocates—TRUE eugenics advocates, actually stand for? They believe in selectively killing disabled people, within and without the womb. They believe disabled people should be lower on the totem pole of priority when it comes to receiving hospital care and treatment. Just let them die, in other words.

            I am REVOLTED by eugenics advocates. I find their philosophy SICKENING. And I’m a little surprised that you seem to be lumping me in as one of them. Quite to the contrary, it would be difficult to sum up my visceral hatred of them. I agree that we need to stand up for the disabled, which is why I believe we should boldly speak out against the Democrats as the party of death, for producing ethics articles and medical policies encouraging these moral monstrosities. Most any time you find people spouting the “It would be better if you were never born” rhetoric, these are people advocating for abortion!

            I think that there’s room for maintaining a balance between, on the one hand, affirming the dignity and preciousness of human life, and on the other hand grieving over sickness and genetic abnormality as tragic signs of the fall. Just like we celebrate when a loved one has passed into Paradise, but we still recognize that death is unnatural, it’s dark, and it’s painful. I agree that God brings good out of dark situations. But I don’t agree that we should be actively _trying_ to beget more children who suffer with genetically transferred disabilities. Once again, I can’t stress highly enough that I do NOT believe this grants anyone a license to take innocent life in the name of “reducing suffering”! Of those who do, I can say only, “Flee them. Speak no words to them.”

      2. Melody says:

        Wow wow I can’t even believe you wrote that. Wow

        Please go argue for the other side.

        Wow

        1. Esther says:

          Melody, what part of my 3:49 comment do you disagree with? The part where I condemn the sickening evil of selective abortion or the part where I grieve over the tragedy of sickness and disability?

          Your comment reveals that, with all due respect, you haven’t really heard or understood a word of what I’ve said.

          1. Melody says:

            The part where you think that people should be sterilized or kept from marrying because of some genetic difficulty. Even though they are not in sin by loving or being loved by someone. And even though you have absolutely no scripture to back you up you say it like you have God to back you up.

            My heart absolutely aches for all the people that I know that struggle with things that are genetic. Not because of the struggle because people learn to cope,they lean on God and there are medications to help.
            The struggle that makes me ache for them is the lack of support from people that claim to have the indwelling Holy Spirit. People who think they know better how they should lead their lives.
            I completely acknowledge that you didn’t say compulsory or forced. But the lack of understanding can hurt someone just as much. Especially people that know so little of actual facts of the situation.

  27. Esther says:

    I liked how Andrew handled this all in all, but I also agree with Dave’s point. Bell perniciously and smugly tried to slip in phrases pretending that he and Andrew are Christian “brothers” together. Andrew didn’t denounce Bell as a false teacher but didn’t exactly meet him halfway as far as embracing him as a brother either. But I think he leaned too close to the latter. At the end, he’s being way too generous to Rob in even leaving open the possibility that Rob’s not trying to redefine sin. For all his evasiveness, Bell said enough in this interview to leave few doubts about where he stands.

  28. Esther says:

    Also, Bell seems fond of appealing to Communion imagery. Perhaps it would be loving for someone to inform him that he’s eating/drinking damnation unto himself!

  29. Melody says:

    Esther

    It’s not your business who reproduces. That is God’s hands. You are basically advocating the same thing as Margaret Sanger. It is a form of eugenics. Trying to control whose family line continues, not up to you. God decides that and controls it to the smallest detail.

    You need to let go of the things that belong to God.

    1. Esther says:

      Margaret Sanger was a vile, racist bigot who also wrote that “no one can doubt that there are times when an abortion is justifiable.” Your comparison is unwarranted. And I’m not “trying to control” anything. I used an analogy in an argument on a blog. I didn’t even set out to have a long blog conversation! I got dragged into it. You’re quite right, it’s not my place to order/force anyone what to do. I’m just a blog reader with an opinion. So are you. So are we all. Why is it that any time I say, “I think x is a mistake” or “I’m not sure y is wise,” you respond by implying that I’m some kind of control freak with delusions of godhood? Or is that how you treat anyone who dares to state an opinion without hastening to add, “But only for me” or “But I’m not sure” or “I really have no reasons for this, it’s just a personal opinion”?

      1. Melody says:

        Margaret Sanger did not call for compulsory sterilization. She was a lost person with no concept of God, giving an opinion on what to do with the problem of people that couldn’t function as well as normal people. She didn’t believe that they should have children. She didn’t believe in killing them like the Nazi’s. She just believed in controlling their reproduction.
        Now yes she did extend it to include people from other races besides the mentally disabled. But you see that is the problem whenever someone starts giving opinions on something that is a God given ability. Where do you draw the line?
        Now perhaps you will consider your opinion.

        Oh and no one dragged you, that’s just drama.

        There was a time that I would have used extremely unattractive people as a counter. You know the ones that have extreme deformities from some disease or something. No one is guaranteed love and sex in this life. But with reality TV shows we know that there are people that have spouses even though they look like treeman.

        If I can face my superficialness, deal with it and repent then so can you.

  30. Keith Cox says:

    Great point about conforming to the world. Any one who is in Christ is a new creation. To be baptized into Christ is to die to the old self and take on the life of Christ in and through us. Gal. 2:20; Ro. 8:5-7.

  31. Joshua Bovis says:

    Bell’s obfuscation was like watching a slow train wreck happening. May God grant his people discernment!

  32. GMH says:

    Well Trevin Wax- if you believe that the Bible is the Word of God, then you worship an idol- simple as that. If God cannot speak or move or think outside of the box that was written by men and compiled at will, then you are the one with the problem, because you think and act just like the Pharisees that Jesus pissed off.

    1. Melody says:

      So you believe the part about Jesus and the Pharisees but not all the parts where Jesus references scripture? That is probably the weakest argument I have seen yet.

  33. Nevan says:

    All of the recent debates have made me step back and wonder…how did Jesus handle addressing sin in people’s lives?

  34. Joyce McKenzie says:

    I don’t know what Bible Rob Bell is reading from evidently He has not heard about Sodom and Gomorrah. I would ask people to read the Bible and don’t buy, yes buy into a lie. It’s the truth that sets us free not lies! God does love people but He hates sin and it’s a good idea to find out for yourself what God considers sin they are listed in the Bible and it will help you to avoid them. The Bible says in the last days there will be false prophets. I beg you please read and find out for yourself what the Bible says!

    1. Mike says:

      @Joyce
      The difficulty with your argument is that some people understand those passages differently. They would assert that the (few) passages in the Bible that mention homosexuality do so in the context of forced submissiveness, as opposed to a mutually affirming, loving relationship. Many Christians believe that the overarching narrative of the Bible, especially Jesus, is primarily to love God and love your neighbor. Within that narrative the love for your neighbor is more important than your neighbor’s sexuality.

      So here’s my question for you: Why does this matter so much? Rob Bell’s affirmation of homosexual relationships seems to bring out a strong negative emotive response in so many people — why? What if you personalize the issue? Gay people are not some faceless group; they are family and friends and neighbors and colleagues. The dichotomy Christians face is that Jesus calls us to love our neighbors with a love that does not condemn (cf. the woman caught in adultery), and yet our neighbor may be carrying on in activities that we believe to be sinful.

      If we have a friendship with someone who is gay, and if that friendship is the kind of relationship where we hold each other accountable, only then have we the freedom to talk about things like whether one’s homosexual relations are God-pleasing or not. But for anyone else, we are called to love unconditionally just as God does.

      1. Melody says:

        Mike

        What do you think Matthew 7:13-15 means? Why would Jesus say this?

        And Matthew 7:23, why did He tell those that practice lawlessness to go away? Where would He be telling them to go?

        Why would they make us male and female if it didn’t matter? Why would He say this if none of it really mattered? Twist the homosexual verses all you want but what do you do with what Jesus said about marriage? If He didn’t mean for a male and female to fit together then why did He create us this way? From the beginning? Before the fall into sin? Can you give me one example where God allowed someone to choose human love over love for God?

        But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’
        ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife,
        and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh.
        What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” Mark 10:6-9

  35. Mike,
    You don’t get a get out of jail free card because you “understand” the passages differently. They are plain, within the context.

    The issue is not loving unconditionally. God does not love unconditionally, if He did then there would have been no need for Christ to die; and why would God put His Son, and why would the Son go through, that grisly horrendous death and suffer the wrath of God, if His love was unconditional? Unconditional love is not loving us just as we are, but loving us in spite of who we are and in spite of our enmity with God (Romans 5:6-8) If things were okay between God and man, man would not be the enemy of God (Romans 5:8, 1:30) and there would be no need of reconciliation (Romans 5:10-11, II Corinthians 5:18-19) If God loves people just as we are (unconditionally) then there would be no need for man to be born again or made new (II Corinthians 5:17, John 3:3-7) The unconditional love that is offered in John 3:16 is only for those who place their faith in Christ. Do a word study, just in the NT, and see who are the objects of God’s wrath. If God loves unconditionally, then there would also be no reason for wrath, for any sin no matter how heinous.

    Additionally, if I truly love someone then I will tell them the truth…not condemningly, but truthfully (Ephesians 4:15). True love does not bash anyone, homosexual or heterosexual, but it also does not shrink back from declaring the truth to them. The truth is that you cannot continue/practice a sexually immoral lifestyle (homosexual or heterosexual) and be a Christian (See I John). However, the gay community has labeled anything that is said to them that is contrary to their lifestyle as hate speech, homophobia, etc. The most loving thing we can do is to speak the truth, but we must speak it in love, and not use it as as a cudgel. As it says in Proverbs 27:6 “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy. A true friend speaks the truth, and as Christians we should speak the truth to others as we would want them to speak the truth to us (Matthew 7:13).

    Finally, for the context, I mentioned Romans 1:30 above. If you follow the train of thought from verse 18 through the end of the chapter you will see that homosexuals are specifically mentioned and then it goes on to list them among those who hate God in verse 30. Are those who hate God, and therefore are His enemies under the wrath of God? Yes, all of them. But God does offer them salvation, the deliverance from the wrath to come (Romans 5:9, I Thessalonians 1:9-10) if they will repent and believe the gospel (Mark 1:15, from the lips of Jesus Himself).

    Finally, why have I used so much Scripture? Because Jesus says this in John 12:48 “He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word that I spoke is what will judge him at the last day.” And what is the word Jesus spoke? The Scriptures, all of them (I Peter 1:10-12), as He is the Living Word (John 1:1, 14).

    So what is the most loving thing I can do for you? Tell you the truth as I just have, not my truth, but God’s truth; and urge you to go to the Scriptures for your wisdom and not depend on the prevailing sentiment of the day, but on the eternal unchanging word of God.

    1. Mike says:

      Hey Morris,

      Speaking the truth in love: thanks for emphasizing this because I completely agree that it’s important we hold truth and love in equal balance. But my point is that we don’t communicate the same thing the same way to everyone.

      I guess the thing that I struggle with is when Christians are quick to identify sin or error in people that they don’t know. We label people groups and then cast judgment upon them by saying that they’re going to hell or that they can’t be Christians. And no matter how you package that message, it can’t come across as loving (that is, 1 Cor 13 loving) when it’s spoken to strangers or certain people groups.

      Sure, have a quiet word or a healthy discussion with your close friend or family member. But outside of the people who have allowed us to speak into their lives, our job is only to agree that this person or that group was worth Jesus dying for. Consider Matt 5:44-45. God is indiscriminate in his love, just as the rain falls and the sun shines. We are to love (that is, ascribe worth to others at cost to ourselves) and not to judge (ascribe worth to ourselves at cost to another). That’s it.

      Jesus identified the two greatest commandments: love the Lord your God and love your neighbor as yourself. And when Jesus was asked “who is my neighbor?”, he responded with the parable of the Good Samaritan. Our neighbour, the one who we are to love as ourselves, includes the outcast; the one different from us. I think it includes anyone regardless of their sexual orientation.

      By the way, I find it quite surprising that you would say God does not love unconditionally. Isn’t it a core Christian message that “God loves you”? Not “God loves you because…” or “God loves you if…”. If Jesus calls us to love our enemies, one would presume that God loves his ‘enemies’ as well. I see no conflict between God’s unconditional love and the need for Christ’s sacrifice. He loves us, but we still need his redemption.

  36. Melody says:

    Well I know you are ignoring me for some reason but I will ask anyway. Why did God hate Esau? Why did He wipe out the world with the flood? Why did He wipe out Sodom and Gomorrah if He is just this ball of love? Or did He change once Jesus was born? How do you reconcile the holy righteous God that you see in the Old Testament with your Santa Claus version?

    Jesus said Repent. He wouldn’t say it if He didn’t mean it. And if you don’t tell people they are wrong then how can they understand what Christ has done for them?

    1. Mike says:

      Yeah reconciling certain character traits of God as portrayed in the Old Testament with the character of Jesus is difficult. The best explanation that I’ve heard is that God related to the people in those ancient cultures in accordance with their ways and understanding, even if that wasn’t God’s ideal. Nevertheless it remains one of those things that I struggle with.

      And so I have to choose which picture of God is the one to follow. I believe Jesus is the full embodiment of God (John 14:9), so I’m going to follow his example. We know that God is love (1 John 4:8) — that’s not just one of his many attributes; God’s very nature is love. Indeed Jesus preached ‘repent’, but I could only find that once in all of the gospels (and we don’t know how or to whom he extended that message). In contrast, Jesus spoke about love a lot more.

      My point previously was that it is this love that we are to emulate as Christians, in particular to the world at large. Of course God has many attributes, but Jesus boils down all the law and commandments into love God and love each other. God will judge, but we are expressly forbidden to judge. So we are not to embody all of the characteristics of God.

      Homosexuality is such a difficult topic because it deals with people’s identity; their very being (one might disagree, but that’s what it feels like to them, so that’s what matters when we relate to others). And I also suspect that many (most?) people who are gay have faced persecution, abandonment, estrangement, and worse. As a Christian I want my first and primary message to be that they are loved and valued. Jesus didn’t put up barriers for people to come to him. So that’s the posture I want to take, and on the final day I would rather be accused of saying that God was too loving than not loving enough.

  37. Christina says:

    It is a very simple matter for a heterosexual Christian to look at the bible and say ‘of course homosexuality is sinful, the bible says so’

    It is not a simple matter for someone who is homosexual to look at the bible and say the same thing but if they did, they certainly cared enough about what God wants (according to the bible) even more so than the heterosexual Christian previously mentioned who’s given no thought to it

    It is not a simple matter for a heterosexual man who considers himself a devoted Christian to look at the bible and ask ‘is that what God really is about?’ He would have to have been someone who has done a bit of soul searching as it would be easier just to say ‘of course it is a sin because the bible says so’

    It is interesting how Andrew uses ‘a guy having sex with a guy’ to get his point across, it would not be as effective as if you were to say ‘a woman having sex with a woman’ it is ultimately based on disgust and revolt and I noticed was somewhat effective at backing Rob into a corner perhaps because up until then Rob had kept his mind out of the bedroom and what two people do in privacy.

    If more people kept their minds out of the business of others and focused it on their own, there might be a lot more soul searching on this issue.

  38. sharon white says:

    How grievous that Rob Bell, a leader and teacher of the bible, actually interprets the bible and Christ’s own words on sexual immorality, women with women and men with men, to be ok if they make a long-term commitment! These are the end times where many will be deceived!!

  39. Perhaps one reason this is such a big issue is that Christ compares his relationship with his people with that of a husband and his wife. To suggest that marriage can be equally valid between two of the same sex is to suggest that the people of God might just as well be seen as the male partner of Christ, which many would see as tantamount to blasphemy.

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Trevin Wax


​Trevin Wax is managing editor of The Gospel Project at LifeWay Christian Resources, husband to Corina, father to Timothy, Julia, and David. You can follow him on Twitter. Click here for Trevin’s full bio.

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