Rob Bell Comes Out for Gay Marriage

Later this week I'll be publishing my interview with Rob Bell about his new book, but it seems Rob is talking to a lot of folks right now about a lot of things. He spoke on Sunday at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. In response to a question about gay marriage Bell said,

"I am for marriage. I am for fidelity. I am for love, whether it's a man and woman, a woman and a woman, a man and a man. I think the ship has sailed and I think the church needs – I think this is the world we are living in and we need to affirm people wherever they are."

I may be mistaken, but I believe this may be the first time Bell has publicly voiced support for gay marriage. Although Bell is popular with some evangelicals, it seems that he is increasingly voicing both theological and social views consistent with mainline progressive Protestantism. What do you think?

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March 18, 2013

Displaying 1–10 of 38 comments

John

March 31, 2013  11:12pm

Rob Bell = Big Disappointment. Feigned being an evangelical while selling us his Nooma series and books. So many Pastors loved him that many of them starting wearing eye wear when they didn't even have a prescription. Steve Addison says it well for me, "In an interview with the Very Rev. Jane Shaw Bell described conservative evangelicalism as a dying subculture that does not work. I think there is a very narrow, politically intertwined, culturally ghettoised, Evangelical subculture that was told "we're gonna change the thing" and they haven't. And they actually have turned away lots of people. And i think that when you're in a part of a subculture that is dying, you make a lot more noise because it's very painful. You sort of die or you adapt. Bell chose not to affirm whether Christians "know" the truth in some ultimate sense I would say that the powerful, revolutionary thing about Jesus' message is that he says, ‘What do you do with the people that aren't like you? What do you do with the Other? What do you do with the person that's hardest to love?' . . . That's the measure of a good religion. . . In an interview for Odyssey Networks Bell said that, God is leading us into acceptance of same-sex marriage. Probably every generation had this sense of, "Man we're living in the midst of history." What's interesting about this – and if you look through history, generally great new technological breakthroughs caused a ripple effect across culture. So technology seems to spur all sorts of social, economic, cultural and religious effects. And I think what has happened with the Internet – and lots of people are saying this – is simply you cannot live in your own tribal bubble anymore. You cannot stay cocooned off from how the world actually is. And what happens when you are all suddenly exposed to thousands of different viewpoints is it can call your own into question and it can have this refining fire sort of dimension to it when you realize, "Wow, I've been living with a bunch of views and perspectives that don't actually work and don't actually bring life. So I need to be honest about that." There you have it. Evangelicals, are a dying subculture and should abandon faithfulness to the Bible's teaching on sex and marriage because the internet is opening us up to thousands of different viewpoints. Really? And just who is this "god" leading us into acceptance of same-sex marriage?"

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Karen

March 28, 2013  10:43am

Sheer, I don't want to give you the impression that I disagree with your attitude about the Scriptures, obedience, and discipline, etc. I very much do. I see some problems with the typical conservative Protestant interpretive framework for Scripture. For one thing, the way the writers of the NT used prophecies from the OT really doesn't fit into that interpretive framework, whereas the Orthodox understanding makes much more sense of that to me. It also makes sense to me that Rob Bell, who has only ever previously considered the conservative Protestant framework, has experienced some of the contradictions and limitations that arise from that framework and is seeking something better, but now finding himself somewhat unmoored from those earlier interpretive assumptions, hasn't yet found an adequate anchor in terms of a new framework to keep him even as fully in the apostolic faith as he once was (at least in terms of some specific teachings). I don't think this is a question of his personal integrity as much is it is, ironically, the fruit of some common assumptions (about the church of the first several centuries and the nature of Scripture's interpretation) that he shares with his conservative Evangelical brethren! In terms of his personal integrity, I see some things in his thinking that convince me that in some important ways, this is for him a move in the direction of spiritual health, considering what image of God in the minds of many is often formed by certain emphases within conservative Evangelical teaching. For me, God's love and his holiness are the same "thing" and are certainly not attributes of the Godhead in conflict with each other, as is the impression one gets from the way so many modern Christians tend to talk about these things. I believe this because I don't have a merely conceptual notion of either God's love or his holiness based on human logical deductions from the words of Scripture (and merely human notions of "love"), but have formed my conclusion in this respect based on a real encounter with Christ by the Holy Spirit in His Church and in His Saints. Don't know if all that will make sense, but in any case in anticipation of this weekend: Christ is risen! Joyous Easter to you!

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Maria

March 27, 2013  4:43pm

I believe that God can set homosexuals free. I have heard about such cases. It is a matter of faith and presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church. It is a mistake to put women or ethnic minorities rights and gay rights together. The Bible states homosexuality is abnormal.

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Jack Morris

March 27, 2013  3:34pm

The line is clearly drawn in the sand, Love the sinner but hate the sin. Homosexuality is a sin, the joining of 2 men or 2 women is a sin. The bible distinctly clarifies Homosexuality as a sin. So we as the whole christian community should reach out in love, love the sinner, help them understand about what the scriptures say and counsel them in love, help them to see how God feels and what he says about Homosexuality. Romans 1:26-27 - Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. Let the Lord God and His word rule your heart and not your emotions and what and how you feel, because what it comes down to is what the word of the Lord says and not what we think or feel is right or wrong.

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Karen

March 27, 2013  12:23am

I did note Rob Bell's use of the Bible in Love Wins, and it was quite reasonable to me–I could understand exactly where he was coming from. Just because you may find his use of the Scriptures (where he does appeal to them) unconvincing (because of other passages for instance that may seem to contradict his interpretation or application) doesn't mean it isn't convincing for him (to view the Scriptures in that way). The reality is the very manner in which you "source yourself" in the Scriptures is subject to your own prior experiences and interpretive filters (including teaching you have sat under), even if you don't realize that they are there. What tells you which passages to read in light of which others? Interpretation can vary significantly whether you think the OT has to qualify something in the NT or vice versa, etc. As the saying goes, when it comes to understanding the meaning of a statement or a passage whether in a conversation or in a piece of literature, "Context is everything." And while we are on the subject of context, I suggest the only foolproof context for understanding the Scriptures or any part of them is the living Christ Himself by the Holy Spirit. After all, He is the One Who knows what He meant by what He said or why He allowed something to be recorded for posterity. There has to be an interaction between Scripture and life/experience even in conversation it seems to me or we have been deceived as to the very nature of spiritual truth in what it is (hint: it's not an "it", think John 14:6) and how it may be apprehended (this is not an exercise in merely rationality). This is why classically Christianity has considered purity of heart (not rational, logical, historical-critical analysis) to be the key to unlocking the meaning of the Scriptures and being able to hear what the Spirit is saying to us through them. I think the truth is that Rob and a lot of others raised in Evangelicalism (a decidedly modern version of Christian faith, again in the technical historical philosophical sense) are realizing that there is no such thing as Scripture naked by itself and completely crystal clear its right meaning and application, and so they are also using their experiences and philosophical reasoning (with varying degrees of skill) to try to come to a better understanding of the truth of Christ that the Scriptures point to. When you have two people who both accept the Scriptures as God-breathed and the authoritative written canon for Christian faith, the questions revolve around not so much what the Scripture says as how to interpret and apply what it says. Throwing out proof-texts and passages in support of one's position can easily amount to no more than some version of "he said, she said." Don't hurt your brain too much thinking this through! :-)

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sheerahkahn

March 26, 2013  9:48pm

A pity I cannot edit my response... "Just because Rob Bell is wrong about some things, doesn't mean he's any more a charlatan than you are." The difference between Mr. Bell and myself is this: I answer questions straight up with either, "I don't know the answer to that question" or "here is where I found the answer in the bible, and why I think this particular set of chapters answers that question." I source myself. That way readers and people know that I'm not making this stuff up as I go along. You should note Mr. Bell's use of the bible. btw, I'm still thinking about what you wrote.

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sheerahkahn

March 26, 2013  9:18pm

@Karen, Huh...hmmm...well, perhaps I did misread you...I'm going to go reread your previous post with the following two posts as qualifiers...I'll need a day or so while I process this and give the totality of what you have written some thought.

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Karen

March 26, 2013  4:51pm

Sheer, a couple little illustrations to show that the Christian Scriptures require the wisdom of the Holy Spirit's interpretation and that many of its "clear" statements, need qualification: 1) Proverbs 26:4-5 "Do not answer a fool according to his folly, Lest you also be like him. Answer a fool according to his folly, Lest he be wise in his own eyes." Hmmm. . . when do we "answer the fool" and when do we not?! 2) "The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?" (Jeremiah 17:9) Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him, and said of him, "Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!" (John 1:47) Okay, we could ask (according to the way some people like to use the verse from Jeremiah and anyone who claims any Scripture must be read in a rigidly scientifically literalistic fashion) who's right, Jeremiah or Jesus (or do both their statements require some qualification)?

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Karen

March 26, 2013  4:14pm

Sheer, I think you've missed my point a bit. What if we could know, you ask? If we could know God (and consequently His will) in the sense I was seeking to debunk a bit (as a means to a definitive knowledge of God), He wouldn't be God. It's that simple. God is not another thing in this universe that we can put under our microscope or at the end of our telescope, or He's not the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and He's not the God of Jesus Christ. Period. Now, of course I'm not suggesting its not possible to know this God or another person in a way that is true to them, but rather only to point out that this is by way of a loving experiential communion with them (which, of course, can only come about with God on His loving initiative and if He does something to humble Himself to our level somehow). Even if He should do that (and, of course, we believe He has) this would still be impossible to comprehensively explain to someone else–especially in scientific or strictly logical terms. Poetry or art would probably be the closest we could get to doing that experiential communion justice with our language, and in the case of God Who is infinite and holy, all of our human language and analogies would be extremely weak and limited and seem very inadequate compared to the Reality. The best we could do is say, "Come and see for yourselves." Secondly, if God could have revealed Himself conclusively to us through human language–even that which is Divinely inspired, He would have given us something analogous to the Muslim's Qur'an. He didn't do that, did He? Instead, as the Scriptures testify to (and also the continuing existence of the Church proves), He first became incarnate in Jesus Christ and than also in His Church, Christ's Body, through the Holy Spirit (with which He as her Head is still united). The Christian Scriptures are impossible to properly fully understand or interpret outside of that living experiential reality. "both made plain by the Bible" Where is the Holy Spirit in this? Where is that training process of discernment the NT talks about? Why does the Apostle Peter write that many of the things the Apostle Paul wrote in his epistles are "hard to understand" and that many people distort to their own destruction? Apparently, this holy Apostle disagrees with you at least about some of the writings of Paul. The same Apostle also teach that the Holy Spirit must inspire our understanding (no Scripture is a matter of our own private interpretation) or we cannot properly interpret what He inspired the authors of the Scriptures to record (nor why). It's very convenient to write (when we want to question another's credibility on any level or their interpretation of Scripture): "Do we want to know or . . . do we deceive ourselves, claiming blamelessness with our ignorance because we refused to know? Clearly all of us can deceive ourselves at times–and, of course, that can apply to you as well my scientific friend! Just because Rob Bell is wrong about some things, doesn't mean he's any more a charlatan than you are.

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Gary sills

March 26, 2013  10:42am

Sup JW..been along time. Appreciate you laying it out there... Makes me smile at our dualistic, audactic, religious head games. U da man!! LOVE...it will always get in the way, too pave the way.

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