Written by Robert A. J. Gagnon |
Monday, February 5, 2024
Begg ignores the scriptural counsel regarding stumbling others, in addition to ignoring scriptural counsel against being present at an event at which God forbids attendance. The Christian attending the “gay” or “trans” so-called wedding would need to notify publicly all present at the gathering, not just the family member getting married, that he or she regards the wedding as an unholy alliance abhorrent to God. This fits Paul’s description at the end of 1 Cor 10 of what to do when a believer is at the home of an unbeliever and the host announces that the meat being served is “sacred sacrificial meat” coming from the temple. One must stop eating, for the sake both of Gentile unbelievers who might construe from your eating that you honor the god, and for the sake of any “weak” Christians or non-Christian Jews at the table whose conscience indicates that the eating of idol meat constitutes idol worship.
Rev. Alistair Begg has doubled down on his recommendation to a grandmother that she attend her grandchild’s “gay” or “trans” wedding (so long as the grandchild getting “married” knows of her disagreement).* “They want me to repent? … I’m not ready to repent of this. I don’t have to.”
*Note that in the Sept. broadcast he referred to a grandmother’s “grandson”; here he refers to a grandmother’s “granddaughter.” Which is it?
1. Begg’s Ad Hominem Attack of Critics
While completely (and I mean completely) ignoring the array of scriptural arguments against his position, Begg compares all his critics to Pharisaic “separatists” who refuse to eat with sinners or have any association with them at all. He likens them to the self-righteous older brother who doesn’t understand grace in the parable of the prodigal (lost) son, and to the priest and Levite who pass by the man lying half-dead by the side of the road in the parable of the good Samaritan.
Yet none of his chief critics from the academy are advocating complete separation from those engaged in serial, unrepentant egregious sin. In my chapter on Jesus in *The Bible and Homosexual Practice* I talk at length about Jesus’ positive example of an aggressive outreach to the lost. But there is no line (straight or crooked) from that example provided by Jesus to what Begg is recommending.
He attacks all those who criticize him as the “product of American fundamentalism,” which he distinguishes proudly from his own pedigree as a “product of British evangelicalism.” Unlike them, “I come from a world in which it is possible for people to grasp the fact that there are actually nuances in things.” He does all this in a fatherly voice, but the ad hominem content is quite offensive, and it is designed to distract from the fact that it is ironically Begg himself who cannot see the nuances of Jesus’ ministry.
2. Begg’s Ironic Lack of Nuance in Describing Jesus’ Outreach to Sinners
What kind of nuance am I talking about? The failure to recognize that there is a world of difference between Jesus fraternizing with sexual sinners and exploitative tax collectors who expressed interest in his message, on the one hand, and Jesus attending a ritual celebration either of a tax collectors’ economic exploitation or of a sexual sinner’s grossly immoral and unnatural sexual union, who express no interest in his message, on the other hand.
There is no way that Jesus would have attended such ritualized celebrations of abominations to God, or encouraged his followers to do so, irrespective of whether his disciples alerted those to whom the ritual was directed of their disapproval. That Begg is incapable of such a nuanced scriptural understanding is certainly concerning.
3. Begg’s Misapplication of the Parable of the Prodigal Son
Begg’s proof text in his radio talk for justifying his advice to go to a “gay” or “trans” wedding was Luke 15, with a focus on the parable of the prodigal (lost) son. Begg appears confused in his application of this text. The older son refused to attend a celebration of the younger brother’s penitent return from a dissolute and immoral life. That was the problem with the older brother, not that refused to a attend a ritual celebration of a permanent commitment to a dissolute and immoral life. There is a huge difference between the two types of celebration (here again, nuance).
Moreover, while the father ran out to greet his returning penitent son (return in Jewish and Christian thought is a metaphor for repentance), he certainly wouldn’t have attended a ritual celebration memorializing his son’s commitment to continue to live lifelong in wastefulness and immorality.
A better text that Begg might have chosen than the lost son parable is the Aqedah (“Binding”) of Isaac in Genesis 22, where God taught Abraham not to make an idol even of his “only son,” the son of the promise. We can’t make holding on to a family member who is memorializing what the writers of Scripture (and Jesus) deem to be egregious immorality the most important thing, even if we couch it in terms of staying in evangelistic contact.
4. Begg’s Narrow, Myopic Perspective
Begg says about the advice that he gave the grandmother: “All I was thinking about was, How can I help this grandmother not lose her granddaughter?”
He should have been thinking other things, like:
How can I help this grandmother not to offend God by being present at such a ritual celebration of an evil that God finds particularly detestable? How can I prevent her from violating the united witness and counsel of Scripture?
How can I persuade her, by her actions, not to speak affirmation to behavior that can get her grandchild excluded from God’s kingdom? Am I recommending that she do something that will stumble others by her actions, leading them to affirm such immorality?