Alistair Beggs the Question

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Let us begin by acknowledging that it is not good or appropriate to take decades of faithful ministry and gospel preaching in order to wad it up and throw it away, and to do this over a few unfortunate (albeit erroneous) comments. It is important to maintain perspective. You should never throw out a good man’s entire ministry just because he wants to say that under certain conditions it would be appropriate to attend a tranny-wedding.

And so that is why Alistair Begg shouldn’t have done that.

The people who have appreciated his ministry for years, and who have expressed dismay over this incident are not the ones doing that. This was an unforced error on Alistair’s part, and not the result of a bunch of carping Christians. There may be a handful who are rejoicing in this event as a proof of whatever it is they have been maintaining, but they are people who have their own issues. But, however, truth be told, those folks always did have their own issues.

In case you are wondering, I am not going to use this space in order to yell at Alistair. I do, however, want to explain the difference between what he thinks he is doing and what he is actually doing. There is a subtlety here, but it is not the kind of subtlety that justifies anything. “Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made” (Genesis 3:1). But mark this. I am not saying that Alistair is a serpent. I am saying that the serpent dunked on him here.

To Recap

If you are just now joining us, in a recent interview Alistair Begg recounted a conversation he had with a grandma who was wondering if she should attend her grandson’s wedding, in which he was getting married to a transgender person. A fuller account of all that is here. After controversy blew up over that comment, some days later, Alistair refused to walk anything back. He stood by his comments, and so here we are.

From the accounts I have seen, we are not exactly sure what we are dealing with, but it is bent however you look at it. Either the grandson was marrying a woman who pretends to be a man, in which case the marriage itself is an actual marriage, and the homosexual delusion (pretending you are marrying a man) is still a sick delusion, or he is marrying a man who thinks he is a woman, and so you have both actual sodomy and quite a different delusion, just as broken. But for our purposes here, it doesn’t really matter. The issue is the lawfulness of a Christian’s celebratory participation at an event that is truly dark.

What Alistair Thought He Was Doing

Now when many evangelicals read Alistair’s defense of his advice to the grandmother, it initially can seem quite reasonable. His questions for her show that he thinks that registering your dissent from the trans-lifestyle in a formal way is both necessary and sufficient. “‘Does your grandson understand that your belief in Jesus makes it such that you can’t countenance in any affirming way the choices that he has made in life?’ ‘Yes.'”

But what does it mean not to countenance “in any affirming way” a choice to marry someone who is transgender? If your absence from the wedding registers your censorious disapproval, which Alistair argued it would, and you are taking steps to avoid that, then what you are doing in actual fact is countenancing a transgender wedding in an affirming way. If absenting an event proves something, then so does attending. Attending shows the opposite, and does not demonstrate a studied neutrality. Approval or acceptance is what your attendance means. If it didn’t mean that, there would be no difficulty if you didn’t show. So the advice given by Alistair amounts to “do not countenance in any affirming way—except for just this once—the lifestyle choice.”

Alistair thinks he is simply being nice, and so he is advising the grandmother to show Christian kindness. But nobody is against loving the grandson. Suppose this grandmother had asked me something like, “For years I have taken my grandson out to lunch on his birthday. Is it still all right to do that after he has married his whatsit?” My reply would have been “certainly, take him out to lunch.” And if the grandson had asked if he could bring his whatsit, I would encourage her to say certainly yet again. She needs Christ also. “Grandma, you will need to start saying he needs Christ.” Sorry. No can do.

So the issue is not kindness, but rather approval. The issue is going along with a serious delusion. It is not a sin for a screwed up person to have a birthday, and it is no sin to help them celebrate it. Jesus ate with tax-collectors and sinners (Mark 2:16), and so may we. But I seriously doubt if Jesus would have been willing to be the after dinner speaker for the Annual Judean Shakedown Banquet. Levi’s birthday, fine. Levi’s celebration of how he squeezed that poor widow woman until she cried over losing her house, not so fine.

Now there will be some Christians who object to my use above of whatsit. They want to go back to that and discuss my calloused disregard for others for a minute. They will say it is demeaning and disrespectful to write anything like that. They will continue to maintain this position until the next stage of the sexual revolution, when the bi-pedal carbon unit in question goes a step beyond her furry stage, and demands now to be addressed as a mechanical sex bot. Her pronouns are now whatsit/weirdo. You are somewhat relieved because you had gotten tired of serving her just a saucer of milk at Thanksgiving. You are also relieved that it now apparently okay, according to all your soupy Christian friends, to use words like whatsit.

In other words, these accommodating Christians would in fact be willing to use a demeaning reference like whatsit—provided an unstable, untrammeled, and mentally disturbed ego demanded it. And yet, at the same time, they are unwilling to use it when a holy God, His righteous Scriptures, and the whole created order demand it. All must offer a pinch of incense to the Emperor of Ego, and as long as you have registered your dissent “off-budget” somewhere, as it were, you can still observe all the external pagan formalities that are being demanded of you.

So despite the fact that Alistair thought that his advice was risk-taking for the sake of building bridges to those who don’t understand that Jesus “is a King,” what he was really doing was avoiding the risk of angering the cool kids and the power brokers behind them. If Jesus is a King, and He is, then we must do what He says, and we must not care about or respond to the censures of those who will sneer and say we are being “judgmental, critical, unprepared to countenance anything.”

What Peter Thought He Was Doing

Alister Begg has been a faithful minister for many years, just as the apostle Peter was a devoted follower of Christ. But even though Peter was a great man, and a great apostle, he was still notably impetuous. He was far more influenced by the immediate circumstances than was his counterpart, the apostle Paul. Paul was able to maintain the big picture at all times, and Peter could get carried away by his immediate circumstances more easily.

When Jesus said that He was going to go to Jerusalem, and there be crucified, it was Peter who stepped in impetuously, and expressed two distinct sentiments that don’t really go together. “No, Lord.” Jesus then rebuked him as a satan because his mindset was that of men, and not of God (Matt. 16:23). And Peter famously and impetuously vowed that he would be with Jesus to the death (Matt. 26:35). Peter was the one who impetuously cut off the ear of Malchus (John 18:10). He was, he thought, backing up his words with deeds. And Peter, still in pursuit of what he had declared he would do, followed the arrested Jesus into the belly of the beast (John 18:16). But once there, trapped in the moment, he impetuously denied the Lord—three times he denied him (Matt. 26:74). The Lord in His grace restored him as an apostle by the Sea of Galilee (John 22:17), after asking him three times if he loved Him—one question for each denial. Peter was restored, but Peter was still Peter. Later on, he says no to the Lord three times when he was instructed in a vision to “rise, kill and eat” (Acts 10: 16).

And so this was the man who pulled away from the Gentile Christians at Antioch when certain “men from James” arrived. Now Paul saw, in a way that Peter and Barnabas did not, that the gospel was actually at stake in the seating arrangements at the Antioch potluck. That being the case, he charged both Peter and Barnabas with hypocrisy (Gal. 2:13).

But what did they think they were doing before Paul’s rebuke? We are told that the motivation for the hypocrisy was fear (Gal. 2:12), but how would they have justified it to themselves before they received Paul’s rebuke (which they thankfully did)? We do know Peter took the rebuke to heart because of how he later argued at the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:7ff).

So how would they have justified it in their own minds before Paul’s rebuke? They could easily have followed Alistair’s playbook. Everyone here knows that Peter is good with Gentiles becoming Christians. He was the man who preached to Cornelius, after all. That is a given. “Everybody knows where I stand.” In the meantime, we need to accommodate the weaker brethren, and if they are not comfortable sitting near the Gentile tables, then we need to work with them. Does not Paul himself teach that we should become as under to the law to those under the law (1 Cor. 9:20)? They won’t care how much we know until they know how much we care. But to placate these men from James like this—and incidentally, we must remember they were not actually good representatives of James (Acts 15:24)—meant relegating the Gentile believers to the back of the bus. Paul saw the implications and Peter did not.

So what they thought they were doing is not the same thing as what they were doing. Fearing what the men from James would say put them in a position of not fearing what God would say. This is the way it always goes. The temptation is always to fear those who will pitch a fit if they don’t get their way. The temptation is to fear those who will make a scene. The men from James were the kind of men who would make a scene. And the transgender mafia certainly knows how to make a scene. Evangelical grandmothers who have followed Alistair’s ministry for decades won’t make a scene. They might be a little surprised, as this woman was, but they are decent Christians, and know how to stay polite. And the bad guys know this about us, come to think of it.

Fortunately Paul was there to stand up and introduce the Awkward Moment. Well, here we are, right spang in the middle of another one.

Swap Out the Sin

All the issues become completely transparent if we try to see if this approach to “winning a sinner” is an approach that can transfer to other sins. After all, all sinners need Christ, right?

Say that your brother-in-law, married to your sister for thirty years, decides to leave her for his mistress, a much younger woman who has just moved to the area six months ago. He decides to host a reception in order to introduce people to his girlfriend, who doesn’t know many people yet, being new to the area. Does the metric outlined by Alistair work? You had several earnest conversations with your brother-in-law, explaining to him exactly why the divorce was wrong and unjustified. So he knows where you stand. Does that mean you go to the reception? Are you kidding me? The issue is not whether your brother-in-law knows where you stand. The question is whether or not you know where you stand.

Or say that your nephew started an alt-right web site that really caught fire and took off. It grew such that the traffic was really significant, and so he is now running a politically inflammatory merch warehouse, with a set of offices next to it. Their organization has decided to launch a print magazine, one that would supplement the articles on the web site with more in-depth reporting. The editorial policy they are seeking to advance consists of a blend of white nationalism, health and fitness advice, and they occasionally like to dabble in various hints of Holocaust-denial. You have expressed your dissent, your strong dissent, in several conversations with your nephew. He knows where you stand. But they are hosting a barbecue in order to celebrate the launch of the magazine, and you receive an invitation. Do you go? Again, are you kidding me?

Now why do these examples seem so ludicrous? Why does it seem like I am coming up with outrageous scenarios in order jigger my point? I would simply point out in reply that out of all three of these sins (and they are all three of them big sins), the most demented one is the tranny-wedding. By far.

The reason it doesn’t seem that way is because the sins in my two made-up examples do not currently have a culture-wide full court press on their behalf, insisting that we all celebrate them. The adulterous man is accepted and tolerated, but Society is not demanding that we celebrate him. We do not yet have a federally-recognized cheat-on-your-spouse month, you know, with a flag and everything. And while the alt-right nephew does have to deal with a full-court press, it is one aimed at him, targeted against him, and is not being conducted in support of his sin. He is sinning but he has to swim upstream to do it.

Saying that Christians may attend wedding receptions in honor of perverse events is not swimming upstream. It is floating downstream face down.

And so it appears that the Alistair strategy is only effective in showing kindness to those sinners who have the full-throated support of the current kultursmog. It would never be employed on behalf of those sinners who need Jesus every bit as much, but whose sins are not currently being promoted, celebrated, or advanced.

“who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.”

Romans 1:32 (NKJV)

It is not just the doing of vile deeds that are a concern here. It is also the approval of them. And the devil, master of deception, is prepared to be pretty devious in how he gets Christians to believe that capitulation to the spirit of the age is somehow an exercise in risk-taking. He gets them to approve of such things in a way that provides them with some level of deniability, even to themselves. Especially to themselves.

Alistair Beggs the Question

Begging the question occurs when you assume what you need to prove. Alistair is assuming that attending a wedding like this would be a kind and thoughtful Christian act, because he had kind sentiments when he suggested it. And yet we are obviously at a stage of cultural disintegration where it would have to be demonstrated that this could ever be a kind thing to do. It has been somewhat heartening that so many Christians saw this problem with Alistair’s advice almost immediately.

The battle is actually over creational joy, and what what kind of environment would be conducive to such joy. The creation ordinance that God gave us allows us to raise a glass to a man and woman, and it enables all of us to toast and drink and laugh together. A ceremony with two men is just lame. With two women it is simply sad. And when the trans thing is going on, everything about it is just broken. Moreover the people involved know this down in their bones, and so they demand approval from the heteros that they so deeply despise and simultaneously envy. Some Christians have been gullible enough to believe that if we just gave them what they are demanding, that this will somehow make the ache in their throat go away. But how could it?

There is a reason why the battle lines have frequently involved cake bakers, photographers, florists, videographers, and wedding planners. These are the glorifying professions. These are the professions that are supposed to make an event look good. And what is being demanded is impossible, even when someone capitulates and agrees to try. It is like assigning the best make-up artist in the world to a chimpanzee.

So the intoleristas are not out in force making hardware store owners sell hammers to homosexuals. They don’t need to. We are more than willing to participate in the same economy with people who don’t know Christ, and whose lives reflect the fact that they don’t know Christ. I am willing to advise any Christian in the world to be willing to sell a lesbian couple any of the following: a roast beef sandwich, a car, a book, an end table, a light bulb, or a tablecloth. Evangelical bakers would be delighted to sell a homosexual couple a birthday cake. Having a birthday is fine. What we cannot give them, or sell to them, is our applause, or approval, or glorifying expertise, or supportive presence.

And so why is it that everything is so muddled and confused? The answer, unlike the tangles that attend the question, is straightforward.

“They have deeply corrupted themselves, as in the days of Gibeah: Therefore he will remember their iniquity, he will visit their sins.”

Hosea 9:9 (KJV)

Just A Couple of Poems

If you will indulge me just a few moments more, I want to share with you a couple of poems that I wrote, taken from this book here.

I do not say that these are very good poems, but I am maintaining that they are the kind of poems that those who are in flat rebellion against what they call heteronormativity cannot even aspire to write. The heart of the sexual revolution is transgressive revolt, and the one thing you can’t do with transgressive revolt is mainstream it. However you try to prove your point, the round squares you try to draw for us will just wobble all over the board.

That said, here they are.


Everyone knows what will happen tonight,
But all politely avert the gaze,
Talking of all the beautiful sights—
The gown and veil, how the minister prays;

But later, when the couple has gone
And all the trappings have been removed,
Man and woman will welcome the dawn
With eros embraced, and eros proved.

And here is the second one.

Vineyard of En Gedi

When he gives to her, and she receives it
With passive and gentle ferocity,
He thanks his God who made their bodies fit
Within these laws of reciprocity.
So then, what appears as carnal pleasure
Is really far more—it is sacrifice,
Holy and sacred, an earth bound treasure,
Reflecting glory. I render thanks twice,
For here is the woman, and here is her head
Gathered in this, their tumultuous bed.