It is troubling that a former evangelical pastor like Rob Bell would endorse same-sex marriage because "the ship has sailed… this is the world that we are living in," and because he is "for love, whether it is a man and woman, a woman and a woman, a man and a man."
His reasoning is flawed primarily because he does not hold the Bible as the authoritative word of God.
The Bible cannot be clearer on homosexuality. At every mention it is condemned as a sin (Gen. 19; Lev. 18:22, 20:13; Rom. 1:26-27; 1 Cor. 6:9-10, 1 Timothy 1: 8-10; Jude 4 ff among others). Additionally, Jesus indicated that the only alternative to heterosexual marriage was celibacy (Matt 19:10). The bible is also clear on marriage-that God created it as a covenant between himself, one man and one woman (Gen. 1:26; 2:22-24; Matt. 19:4-6; Eph. 5:22-23; 1 Cor. 7:1-16; Heb. 13:4-7; Mark 10:6-9).
Many argue, like Bell, that if same sex couples are in a "loving and committed" relationship, than it is permissible for these couples to marry. The logic goes, if homosexual or heterosexual relationships are casual, they are wrong; only marriage or a marriage like relationship is permissible. The underlying presupposition is that there is a "natural" homosexual orientation that is not addressed in Scripture. Therefore, homosexuality is a gender identity that no one chooses. It is as natural as heterosexuality or being left handed. How can society or the law then expect people to change their identity? How can God, who made homosexuals that way, ask them to go against their nature? Isn't homosexuality God's decision?
This position reinterprets scripture and disavows who a Holy God is. It also doesn't take into account the basic biblical understanding of the nature of man.
To accept homosexual orientation as a gender identity is unbiblical and misunderstands the nature of sin. To sin is to be separated from God in our thoughts, heart, and acts. Like many other sins identified in the bible, homosexuality does not have to be learned. The only way that homosexuality is natural is that it is a natural expression of the sinful nature (Gal. 5:17) with which people are born. It is not a morally neutral, God-given constitution.
It is critical to understand that the Bible talks about "unnatural" homosexual practice by heterosexual people. Homosexuality existed in biblical times because people enjoyed it and chose to practice it; they were oriented toward it by their own hearts (James 1:13-15; Mark 7:21-23). It's also important to note that scripture teaches that people do not have to self-consciously choose sin but they are still responsible for it (Lev. 5:14-19; Num. 15:22-30).
If one is oriented to homosexual behavior in their heart, doesn't that mean it is natural? The bible does not differentiate between an orientation and an act-both are wrong. If the homosexual act was prohibited in scripture-so was the desire.
Isn't the issue about love? Can't homosexuals be in a "loving and committed" relationship? The answer is no, just as heterosexuals in "loving and committed" relationships can be wrong. Someone who is unbiblically divorced who remarries is in fact in an unbiblical relationship.
But if no one else is "hurt" than how can a "loving and committed" relationship be wrong?
This is where redefining terms comes into play. Love and fidelity cannot be defined in human terms but by God's terms when speaking of marriage.
Love is not the absence of injury to anyone. Judging someone may not hurt them but the act of judging is still wrong. And worse still, the judger hurts him/herself.
Love, "strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties"-according to Webster is not the same as love according to God, which is "to know him and to keep his commandments." In fact Jesus could not be clearer about this. Throughout the gospel, but most repetitively in John, he said, "If you love me, keep my commandments" (John 14:15, 21, 23; 15:10; 1 John 2:5, 5:2, 3; 2 John 1:6).
People cannot redefine love on their own terms and genuinely talk about God's love at the same time. We cannot decide what form love takes-it is God who tells us how to love. In fact, when we love on our terms, rather than on God's we are in sin. And even though this may seem not to hurt anyone else-sin actually hurts us because it separates us from God.
Loving relationships must start with the vertical relationship between God and man-and then move to loving others on the horizontal level. For one cannot love without first loving God or knowing God's love. Otherwise it is false love.
Finally, aren't biblical prohibitions against homosexuality obsolete? They don't "go with the times." In Bell's words, "the ship has sailed." The bible is equally relevant today as it was when it was written because it is not relative to cultural norms (1 Tim. 3:16).
If there is no morally neutral, in-born homosexual orientation according to scripture, are those who "feel naturally inclined" to same sex relationships to just refrain from their inclinations?
Many Christian counselors would argue no, like Ed Welch, a counselor and faculty member at the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation in Philadelphia, who argues that homosexual desires can be rooted out. This is where grace comes in. In fact, homosexuals, like all people must know the truth about themselves: they are sinners in need of grace. All people choose to live for their own glory instead of seeking to Glorify God. This is why only through God's grace are people able to change; "the grace of God… teaches us to say 'no' to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives" (Titus 2:11-12).
The good news is that God is greater than all sinful desires, no matter what they are, and that the real surpassing love of God offers truth in a way that is convicting and convincing for people to want to grow and change in such a way that they hate anything about themselves that rebels against God's desire for them. This love pursues and says, "I love you as you are, but not enough to leave you that way." It restores and says, "I will take your brokenness and replace it with wholeness." It redeems and says, "I will take away your shame and replace it with righteousness." It reclaims love by saying, "you think your ship has sailed, but I built you a new ship that will stand the test of time."