An online friend, Derek Rishmawy, pointed me to this video which I notice has been making the rounds this weekend.
I don’t know Andrew Wilson (and I’m not sure I’ve heard about him before I saw this video). But he handled himself well.
It was kinda fun (and frustrating at the same time) to see how long Rob Bell could go on trying not to answer a simple, straightforward (not loaded) question! When he is asked a theological question (based on Biblical Theology, not a proof text), he looks completely baffled.
If you want to watch the video (it’s 20:47 long), I’ve embedded it at the end of this post. Here are my thoughts on Wilson’s performance versus Rob Bell’s with some implications for those of us who are called on to defend the faith informally.
Wilson does three things that we could all learn from to help in informal debates of this type, not just about homosexuality, but about any topic where we are called on to defend the position of Scripture.
(1) Wilson does not resort to cliches or comedy, and he stays on the topic at hand no matter how wide his opponent wants range in the conversation.
(On a not-wholly-unrelated note, if I hear “Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve” one more time I’m gonna grab a strap and start flipping tables.) Bell, on the other hand, kept resorting to sound bites he has used previously or that other opponents have used previously. As I’ll note again in this post, it was as if Bell was prepared for a different type of opponent and wasn’t prepared for someone to actually argue the point.
(2) Wilson argues from all of Scripture rather than simply proof-texting.
It was clear however, that Bell only knew how to answer the proof texts; he had no idea how to argue theologically, which tells me he doesn’t know how to actually “do theology.”
(3) Wilson fit the question of homosexuality in the wider contexts of sexual immorality, human sinfulness, and human fallenness.
Bell, on the other hand, argues mostly from anecdote and experience and uses that to gauge Scripture and guide interpretation, rather than the other way around. Wilson calls him on this later, after the question around 11:50.
Bell shows an entirely different method of debating the issue, and it reveals how he came to the conclusion he did. Some thoughts:
Toward the end (16:00), Bell explicitly states that personal experience and the “witness of the community,” which is essentially public opinion, determine where one must stand on this issue. There is little place for Scripture in Rob Bell’s theologizing except for validating his own preconceived view.
Around that same question (11:45 – 11:50), you’ll notice that Bell doesn’t answer the question he is asked but instead substitutes his own question and answers that question instead. That’s the kind of stuff that people don’t usually call him on but Wilson asks a pointed question in return. Bell’s response of “Your interpretation of verses?” smacks of desperation. It’s also Bell-speak for “You say ‘potayto’ I say ‘potahto.’
Wilson won’t let Bell paint it as a matter of two equal and opposing interpretive views and instead appeals to 2000+ years of interpretation. In other words, he doesn’t let Bell get away with it.
Bell also resorted to a ploy I’ve seen many people do when they get trapped: Instead of answering a straightforward (not a loaded) question, he simply kept asking for further clarification. Now, sometimes you need to do this if your opponent is asking loaded or misleading questions; Bell does it here (and others do it) because he has nothing else to say and he just wants to keep Wilson talking so he won’t have to answer.
Bell also sometimes looks to the moderator before answering. To be fair, this could just be because he’s on radio and doesn’t want to go over time or not be able to answer, but he also could be hoping the host will want to talk so he won’t have to.
At the end Bell tries to paint this whole debate as “This is why so many people don’t want to be part of the church.” But in saying this, he assumes that otherwise people would want to be a part of the church. All questions about God’s sovereignty aside, the fact is that most of the populace weren’t exactly beating down the church doors before this became an issue and before we started debating issues such as this, so why is it that this issue and its public debate is the one thing that keeps people out? Bell needs to think more deeply about this but I doubt he will.
Bell paints this interview as another example of his being persecuted. It apparently hasn’t occurred to him that when someone, especially someone of his stature, speaks out publicly on an issues, especially an issues such as this, he is in essence inviting people to critique his views and statements on the subject. I want to think that he can’t possibly be that naive, but I don’t know how else to parse it.
In trying to sum it up, Bell says, “This isn’t an issue of taking God seriously, this isn’t an issue of God’s holiness, this isn’t an issue of worship, this isn’t an issue of discipleship.”
Wilson calls him on it and asks, “Mightn’t it be an issue of God’s holiness?” Bell’s response is to mention several issues, some not mentioned in Scripture at all, and try to paint this as one among many issues. One of which is worry and anxiety, which he implies is on the same level as sexual immorality. While Jesus did (as Bell noted) preach against worry and anxiety, Scripture does not claim that those who worry a lot will not inherit the Kingdom of God, though it does say that about sexual immorality, homosexuality included.
Again, I want to be gracious so all I’ll say is that Bell has to be smarter than that.
In this last point, and indeed in the whole debate, Bell shows not only a lack of exegetical sensitivity, he demonstrates an inability to handle the Scriptures accurately.
In short, I really liked how Wilson handled himself; he was gracious but firm and displayed a skill in handling both the informal debate, the Scriptures, and biblical theology that all of us should emulate.
This video also confirms what I’ve long said about Bell: Rob Bell not a competent theologian nor a competent exegete. He can tell stories but somehow manages to get the moral wrong. He can ask questions (and many of the questions he asks need to be answered) but he either doesn’t answer them or he answers them in the way that he likes, regardless of what Scripture or the history of interpretation has to say.
I hope we see more of Andrew Wilson defending the faith and I pray God bless his ministry and make it fruitful.
Here’s the video. Watch it and tell me what I’ve missed.