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In Defense of Alistair Begg

Alistair Begg
Screengrab via YouTube / @Alistair Begg

Pastor Alistair Begg has spent decades building a reputation as a gifted preacher and faithful exegete. In recent weeks, however, that reputation has been called into question after it was revealed that he advised a woman to attend her grandchild’s wedding to a trans person. 

In an interview given in September 2023, Begg recounted a conversation he had with the woman, who called him distraught about the possibility of losing her relationship with her grandchild. 

Begg said that he asked the woman whether her grandchild understood that she held to the traditional view of marriage as being a lifelong commitment between one woman and one man and that she was not going to change her view. When the woman answered in the affirmative, Begg advised her to attend the grandchild’s wedding and to bring a gift. 

“Well, here’s the thing: Your love for them may catch them off guard, but your absence will simply reinforce the fact that they said, ‘These people are what I always thought: judgmental, critical, unprepared to countenance anything,’” Begg said. 

“And it is a fine line, isn’t it? It really is. And people need to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling. But I think we’re going to take that risk,” Begg went on to say. “We’re going to have to take that risk a lot more if we want to build bridges into the hearts and lives of those who don’t understand Jesus and don’t understand that he is a king.”

After these comments began circulating online, Begg became the subject of stern criticism, and his “Truth for Life” radio program has been pulled from roughly 1,800 stations. 

Begg has stood by his remarks, causing some to question his ability to understand and properly apply the biblical text with regard to this matter. (ChurchLeaders has published an article in which Pastor Kelly Williams of Vanguard Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado, provides scriptural arguments to that end.)

Nevertheless, while I am generally uncomfortable with Begg’s advice, I do believe that room can be made for faithful disagreement on whether a Christian should ever attend an LGBTQ+ wedding. 

At the very least, Begg’s decades-long ministry and consistent clarity with regard to his affirmation of the traditional understanding of marriage should buy him some benefit of the doubt. 

In defense of his comments, Begg has cited the fact that Jesus dined with “tax collectors and sinners,” much to the dismay of the religious leaders of his day (Matthew 9:10-13). Jesus was woven into the fabric of the lives of these social outcasts, even to the point that some wrongly accused him of being a “drunkard” (Matthew 11:19). 

Jesus’ radical commitment to his relationships with tax collectors, prostitutes, and other “sinners” came at the expense of his reputation among the most devout and pious people in his community. And yet Jesus continued to spend time with them so that they might come to saving faith in him. 

On the other hand, many who have criticized Begg have noted that Jesus said, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26).