Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A must-watch debate on homosexuality in the Church

Today I wanted to share an absolutely brilliant debate about homosexuality and the Church. Mega-pastor Rob Bell argues for acceptance of homosexuality within the churches, while British theologian Andrew Wilson argues for the traditional, orthodox position.

What I love the most, I think, is how Andrew discusses it. He manages to present his case thoroughly and brilliantly and Biblically...but also kindly and non-judgmentally. You can be firm and clear without compromising on the truth. And for me watching it...Bell is on the ropes during this entire interview. He simply does not have actual arguments to bring to the table that can hold up to Andrew.

My favorite point, and Andrew makes it brilliantly, is where he points out that the texts on sexual morality have been consistently interpreted as anti-homosexual by every Christian theologian in every culture for 2,000 years. He then says, "The humility of orthodoxy is to say, 'I'll stay with the Church unless I'm sure that the Church has always been wrong about this. And in that sense, I want to understand what arguments you're bringing to the table to suggest the Church had always been wrong about it."

Make sure and watch the whole thing, it's very well argued.


  1. Great find!
    Correct me if I'm wrong... but Rob's position is basically one of "We can read these verses a different way than you do, and so because of that God obviously sides with what we feel we should be able to do. To strengthen my argument I'm just gonna go ahead and ignore other verses by cussing because I'm angry that everyone else isn't just capitulating to my idea of the god I want to serve."

    1. I'd say that's pretty dead on. :)

      It is 100%, "I think it should be this it must be this way." Not a single solid argument on his side--and I'm pretty convinced that it isn't because Bell is a bad debater, but because no solid argument exists.

  2. I am glad to see that there are people who interpret the bible correctly... now lets get down to not eating shellfish.

    But seriously, if the christian church is changing their stance on homosexuality does it not mean that maybe some other stuff is wrong in the divinely inspired text?

    1. Christian, I think either you misunderstood the above, or have not read my site very extensively. :) I am agreeing with the traditional view above, not the Rob Bell pro-homosexuality view.

      With your statement about shellfish, though, you make a common and understandable mistake of non-believers (and many Christians): why do we Gentile Christians still accept some of Levitical (OT) Law, but not others (like shellfish)? This is nothing was answered in Acts 15:22-29 for us 2,000 years ago.

      The key apostles got together and debated what (if any) parts of the Law were relevant for non-Jewish converts to Christianity. They agreed that only two parts of the Law were valid: bans on idolatry, and Jewish sexual ethics (summed up in Lev 18). So shellfish--which is not one of those two commands--is not valid for Gentile Christians at all...and never has been. This is not arbitrary, but spelled out directly in Scripture itself in Acts!

      What is so radical about the homosexuality question in the Church is that it is saying that we have the right to overrule the Acts 15 council ourselves--to claim that both the OT and NT, as well as a council of Apostles, is of less importance than our current opinion of the situation.

      As Andrew points out in the video above, the burden of proof is on the Christian who wishes to change the traditional stance. On what basis are we willing to overthrow 5,000 years of Church teaching and tradition on sexuality (going back to Moses)? Just on "what is popular in America today"? Because if so that is a pretty weak argument...

      Some Christians may be changing their stance...but not this one. :)

    2. Ok, if that is true. The only laws relevant from the old testament are those rule of idolatry and sexual ethics.

      So the key apostles decided what laws god gave the church are relevant? So they are then more important than god? This just opens so many questions, like maybe the whole bible was not divinely inspired by a divine entity, but by man.

    3. Christian...not really. Let me start with an analogy.

      I sometimes host Chinese visitors at my factory. Now one thing they always ask is--which American laws do they have to follow, and which do they not? As non-citizens, some are applicable to them (like traffic laws, no guns in an airport, no drugs, etc.) and some are not (like paying income taxes, registering for the draft, jury duty, etc.). Would you say that our legal code is contradictory because of this? Or would you say that the US Government cannot exist because of it? Of course not. It's simple...some laws apply to citizens, other laws are universal in nature and apply also to visitors.

      It was no different in ancient Judaism (or any country throughout history). They had a set of laws, spelled out in Leviticus (the legal code) and Deuteronomy (their Constitution). These defined Jewish life. And for the early Christians (Acts 1-14), that was enough.

      But when Christianity began spreading to non-Jews, people who were not members of the nation of Israel, the question arose--what laws apply? Some Christians thought the Gentiles should have to accept the entire Jewish law and live as a Jew. Some thought they should have to do none of it.

      So a Council was called of people who knew Jesus and His teaching well: His brother James, His best friend Peter, and other key apostles. They all unanimously agreed that what Jesus would have said--based on their YEARS of traveling with Him--was that He would have said that, no, the Jewish law was for the Jews, not for the Gentiles. HOWEVER, they also said that He taught idolatry or sexual immorality as universals (which also fits with His teachings in the Gospels.)

      Does this make sense? You are making a mistake that all-too-many Christians make as well, so don't feel bad. God gave the JEWS laws for the JEWISH nation. Since most of the first Christians were Jews, this continued to be the Christian approach as well for the first c. 30 years of Christianity. But when the non-Jews began to get invited to the party, the apostles had to decide what (if any) also applied to non-Jews, and they UNIVERSALLY agreed on what Jesus would have said.

      One last set up a false dichotomy here: "apostles vs God/the Bible". These apostles are ALSO THE AUTHORS OF THE NEW TESTAMENT. Paul, Peter, James...these are the authors of a good portion of the Bible. So it is not "apostles vs the Bible," it is "authors of the NT trying to determine how to apply the Jewish part of the OT to the non-Jews."

      Hopefully that clears up your thought process there. In no possible way can their statements of the applicability of laws be seen as making them "more important than god"--any more than me telling the Chinese that they don't have to pay income taxes makes me "more important than the government."

  3. I agree with your analogy it makes perfect sense.

    However I cannot agree with the fact that the laws that define Christianity can be different to those of the old testament. Then the old testament should be thrown out of Christianity and only the new testament adhered to. If this is the case then fine I can agree with your analogy if not I have to disagree.

    1. Respectfully, that statement doesn't make sense. There are MANY things besides the Mosaic Law in the Old Testament. The Law makes up essentially two books (Lev/Deut)...why would we need to throw everything out just because some parts don't apply to Gentile Christians? There are parts in there about Babylon too...just because Babylon no longer exists, these things cannot teach us about our faith? To follow my analogy from earlier, this is like saying, "Well, if parts of the US Legal Code don't apply to vacationers, then we should just throw the whole thing out." Huh?

      Second, we still have Jewish Christians today! It seems premature to throw away the things that apply to them just because most Christians aren't Jewish!

      Besides, even the parts which do not explicitly apply to me as a modern, American, Gentile Christian are still valuable for learning about God, His character, and His history of interacting with the world. Just because I do not live in the Middle East does not mean that Biblical passages about the Middle East are inapplicable to my life.

      Can you do me a quick favor and read three articles for me? I think it will help:

      1. This article will help show how the MANY covenants in the Old Testament were written, and which apply to Gentiles and which apply to Jews. You will see that some apply to all men, some apply to some men, etc.

      2. What inerrancy of the Scripture means:

      3. The relationship between Judaism and Christianity:

      After reading the above, I think you will see that what you have written above really doesn't make much sense. But don't feel bad...many Christians also do not understand this. Hence the need for this blog. :)

    2. I agree with you the OT cannot be thrown out of Christianity, I was just trying to make a point. But in your reply you have mentioned two important things. a) Jewish Christians and b) that you are personally a modern, American, Gentile Christian.
      So why are you right and they are wrong. Or why are they right and you are wrong. Either way this shows the bible is open to interpretation and that means it cannot be divinely inspired. If that is the case then their is no god.

      Thanks for the links, I will read them :)

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    4. Just because something is open to interpretation does not mean something "cannot" be divinely inspired. Anything can be interpreted one way or another, 4+4 can be interpreted any which way but that doesn't mean the answer is not 8. Just because we arrogantly presume to argue something one way or another does not mean that we have rendered it bunk. Furthermore, its not Michael that is saying who is right and who is wrong but, instead, him echoing God's message. It is God who sent His son in an open, visible manner for the salvation of all men and women and had to do so because the former method of law-keeping was not sufficient. I would suggest you read through Michael's Pentateuch series, followed by 2 or 3 of the OT prophets, and then read Luke, followed by Acts. Its not Michael saying "one of us is right and one of us is wrong", its Michael saying God said "you are ALL wrong, but because I have sent My Son you can be redeemed. Not by works of the Law, but by my Grace." And furthermore, Jesus pointed to the old Law being useful but that we are no longer "yoked" to it or weighed down by its burden.

      "17 “Don’t assume that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 18 For I assure you: Until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter[d] or one stroke of a letter will pass from the law until all things are accomplished. 19 Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commands and teaches people to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:17-20, HCSB)

      and I say this in love... but since you're focusing on accuracy of text... its there not there not their. There, their, they're. :)
      There (a place of reference)
      Their (point of reference, "that ball is theirs")
      They're (They are on the lake, they're on the lake).
      If you're going to do a drive-by on a book without fully understanding the context that is actually IN the book you're referencing, make sure to use correct grammar so that it does not undermine your entire validity as a debater. :)

    5. Thanks mate. I have problems spelling, so I appreciate people underlining it for me :)

  4. Christian, yes I think we can get on much further in this discussion after you read the links and come back. Essentially you seem to be making the mistake, in my mind, that the Jews interpret the Law differently than Gentile Christians. That is not true. We all interpret it the same--both in terms of what it says, and in to whom it applies.

    No ancient Jew thought the Law applied to Gentiles. No Gentiles thought the Law applied to them, either.

    Rather, a small contingent of early Christians (who were Jewish by birth) tried to convert all Gentiles to Judaism as part of their Christian conversion. Hence the discussion in Acts 15, where the apostles clarified that this was a wrong practice, and that the only parts of the Law which were 'universal' in nature are idolatry and sexual immorality.

    You need to ask yourself one question...does your approach actually seem plausible? Do you actually think that there is a major fundamental interpretation error and that despite the thousands of Christian scholars thinkers, from Paul to Augusting to great scientists like Isaac Newton and Copernicus and Kepler...none of them noticed? Thousands and thousands of brilliant women and men just never noticed it, despite studying the Bible in incredible detail? Or is it more likely that you -- as someone who does not study the Bible in detail -- have misunderstood something?

    At any rate, I must say...thanks for having such a kind debate. In my experience it is too rare for people to disagree with kindness. Now I ask that you come back after reading the links above, and perhaps the ones that Dan recommended. And then you'll have a better "big picture" of how the Bible fits together and why what you're arguing for really doesn't make sense. There may be good reasons that you reject Christianity...but that one isn't one of them. :)