“This is part of… sort of the bullshit that really pushes people away,” said Rob Bell, toward the end of a debate with Andrew Wilson on Premier Christian Radio’s Unbelievable? podcast a couple of years ago.
Bell became indignant after Wilson and host Justin Brierley began pressing him to clarify his view of homosexual practice. After an hour-long discussion in which he and Wilson agreed on many other matters related to Christian faith—including the bodily resurrection of Jesus—why is Bell’s view on homosexuality a litmus test for Christian or evangelical orthodoxy? Why hasn’t Brierley pressed Wilson to clarify his views on matters of faith over which they disagree?
I suspect many of my fellow United Methodist clergy wonder the same thing about people like me, who support our church’s traditional stance on sexuality.
Why is this issue such a big deal when we agree on so many other things? Why are we theologically conservative Methodists willing to die on this particular hill?
Andrew Wilson offers an answer that I wish all my colleagues on the left-wing of our denomination or in the “Methodist middle” could hear. Wilson gets it exactly right, as far as I’m concerned.
For anyone who wants to know why I’ve become a stick in the mud on this issue—why I’ve proven to be a disappointment to erstwhile friends and supporters over this issue—here it is. I can’t improve upon what Wilson says. I can’t say it any better or more succinctly. (Wilson’s response begins around the 19:00 minute mark in the video below.)
The question is why is the issue there, isn’t it?… It’s how you got to that position? In some ways, what I’m trying to establish is, if you got to the position of saying, “I affirm this because I genuinely don’t believe that anything in the Bible indicates that it’s sinful, and therefore I think we should celebrate it because God does, because Jesus does, because the apostles did, because the prophets did. This is just a great thing. And two thousand years of church history have been wrong—they’ve been reading it wrong. And here’s a whole bunch of scholarship to support that position.
If that’s how you got there, I’d say, “Well, I disagree, but I’d love to see the evidence. I’d love to work through it.”
If you’re saying, “The world’s moved on. God’s going to get left behind if we don’t change it, even though, to be honest, I’ve got a sneaking feeling that there might be a lot in scripture that speaks against this. But I just don’t think we can afford to keep sticking with that because it looks boring and retrograde and backward and intolerant. So we will drop what Jesus or Paul or the apostles or anyone else were saying in order to make ourselves more adaptable to the age.
That doesn’t mean you’re not a Christian—of course it doesn’t… But it does mean that there’s something quite fundamental that might be switching, which is saying, “I don’t think I can hold this text as being the high standard for behavior and morality, and that’s a big enough deal to people like me… And I think if you shared my view on those texts you’d probably feel similarly. So it’s really, which way have you gotten to that conclusion?
You may watch the video below: