Alistair Begg and the Loving Thing

Alistair Begg and the Loving Thing

This wonderful, faithful preacher made a grave error and then, when in the face of an outpouring of grief, has tried to defend his position with a misuse of Scripture—something Jesus would never approve. 

Alistair Begg’s preaching has been one of the most strengthening gifts to me over the past 20 years. The bit of New York where I live seems like the part of Ohio where he pastors, though his parts are probably flatter with better restaurants. Gently decaying towns and depressed cities, people whose families built the infrastructure that now so desperately needs renewal, middle-class, hard-working, as they say, salt of the earth. Listening to Begg preach to his congregation over the airwaves helped me to become acclimatized to living here. I gradually learned not to despise ways of life I didn’t understand and didn’t yet appreciate. It took me seven years to stop hating the hometown of my six children, and another seven beyond that to feel content about the garden. At the 21-year mark, I sometimes wake up in the middle of the night anxious that God will force me to move somewhere awful and hot, like Florida. Begg’s preaching cadence somehow made the sanctifying medicine of accepting a people and a place go down more smoothly.

Listening to this latest recording, it seems that the aftermath of the interview he gave—what he called a storm in a teacup—has aged him. His voice is shaky. He sounds on the edge of tears. Obviously, he did not expect what he said to be so controversial and was therefore deeply grieved to find an outpouring of, from his perspective, opprobrium, with some small amount of praise.

Before I go any further, I should say that I am grateful and heartened that Begg reiterated his orthodox position on human sexuality, and that he is not giving a blanket council for Christians to go to the weddings of same-sex people. I hope that someone he trusts is sparing no effort to try to work through the complexity of these issues, to help him understand why people who listen to him and love him are so upset.

I am grieved, though, that he was caught off guard. For a portion of the sermon, he recounts how often he has been at the forefront of preaching about sexuality. He has recently gone through Romans 1. In the past has gone up against some of the biggest cultural influencers on the subject of sexuality, people like Ellen DeGeneres. If that’s so, how does he not have a sense of how volatile this subject is, how what we say and do is under a microscope, how every day more famous and notable Christians are capitulating to the lie?

Which brings me to my problems with his sermon. Begg falls into at least one, if not more, category errors. Many Evangelicals today, he says, have succumbed to the trap of the first-century Pharisee who acted like the older brother in Luke 15. When the younger brother came home, the older brother would not come and greet him, but in anger sent a servant, and then accused the father of ungenerosity towards himself. The choice, Begg says, for Christians today is between condemnation and compassion. The grace of God is for both the younger and the older. In this vein, he spoke movingly on the subject of the grace of God.

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