Former evangelical leader Rob Bell recently stirred up some controversy (again) with his appearance on Oprah wherein he argued that Christians are soon going to be accepting of homosexual relationships. Such a move, according to Bell, is necessary for the church to retain its relevance in contemporary society. Rather than expounding upon a particular passage of Scripture, or explaining how Romans 1 and other texts on homosexuality have been misinterpreted, Bell dismissed the Scriptural evidence on the issue, claiming that one should not make an argument based on a “2,000 year old letter.” Rather, one simply needs to see and experience a homosexual person. When doing so, Bell argues, one will inevitably accept such a relationship as valid.
The statement itself is not surprising. Rob Bell has, for some time, departed from evangelicalism (whatever that phrase even means anymore), and thus such statements are expected. In fact, such a statement is hardly worth getting upset about from someone who has abandoned orthodox theology. What is noteworthy about this video is that it demonstrates a common problem in contemporary theology. Protestants have abandoned sola Scriptura, replacing the centrality of God’s Word with human experience and emotions. For all that we can disagree with regarding Bell, he should be commended for his honesty. When being presented with Scripture, Bell simply calls it irrelevant and admits that a more central standard of truth, in his mind, is his experience relating to homosexual people.The problem among those who consider themselves “evangelicals” is that experience is, essentially, one’s formal principle. Christians have placed Scripture under the authority of human experience. Were this not the case, Bell’s argument would hold no water. However, many Christians argue similarly, purporting that they have experienced the love of a homosexual relationship, and thus interpret Scripture accordingly. The privileging of experience over logical argument and dialogue is endemic in contemporary society. So many of the discussions in the public square regarding homosexuality are full of personal anecdotes and emotional experiences, rather than actually engaging in logical discourse. We like sound clips and quick dismissals of positions we don’t agree with instead of actual thinking and engaging with them.
As Christians, we must hold Scripture in its proper place. Scripture, and Scripture alone, is the infallible standard by which faith and life is to be judged, not our experience. If we don’t hold Scripture in such a position, lets at least have the honesty of Rob Bell to admit it.