Ask Sam Allberry (January 28 - February 1, 2019)


(Carson Weitnauer) #1

Hi friends, @Interested_In_Ask_RZIM,

About a month ago we had the incredible opportunity for a Q&A with Sam Allberry.

@Sam_Allberry has graciously agreed to another round with us, as we know there is a great deal of interest in his kind, wise way of handling questions about gender and sexuality. (But please don’t miss that he is an expert in many other questions about the Bible, following Jesus, and apologetics!)

Two other things to note:

  • Sam’s latest book 7 Myths about Singleness , is now available for pre-order!
  • Sam will be the featured guest for the next #TrendingQuestions event, How Can I Know My Gender?, on February 15th. We will host a discussion of this event in RZIM Connect!

I look forward to our conversation with Sam - please do jump in with your questions!

Carson

Sam Allberry’s bio:

Sam Allberry is a pastor and writer based in Maidenhead, UK, and a global speaker for Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. He is an editor and a writer for The Gospel Coalition and the author of a number of books on Christian belief, including Why Bother With Church?, James For You, and the bestselling Is God Anti-Gay?

Sam studied theology at Wycliffe Hall in Oxford. He worked at St Ebbe’s Church in Oxford where he oversaw the ministry to university students and then at St Mary’s Church in Maidenhead where he has been based since 2008. He is an ordained minister in the Church of England and was recently elected to serve on its governing body, the General Synod.

Sam speaks widely on issues of sexuality and identity and continues to minister as a Bible teacher and pastor. He is currently working on projects concerning singleness and the Christian understanding of the body.

In his spare time Sam enjoys hiking, American history, and slowly perfecting his recipe for Thai green curry.


Maria D
(Tabitha Gallman) #2

Hello Sam,

I’m so very glad you are able to answer more questions here at RZIM Connect. I would like to take advantage of your experience with university students as I currently have a child in college.

I miss her and will sometimes go up to her room and read some of the books that I used to see her reading here at home. (I’m hoping I’m not the only Mom that does that :blush:) She happens to be taking a Dystopian Literature class and I really didn’t know anything about Dystopian Literature until after reading the book called “The Giver” by Lois Lowry. Anyway, I was very happy to be able to ask my daughter about this particular book because she seemed very excited to talk to me about it. She went on to tell me that her professor told her if she would read “Nineteen Eighty-Four” by Georgia Orwell he would read any Dystopian book of her choice and she wants him to read “The Hunger Games” :grinning:. She is really excited about sharing with me about this class.

Sometimes it’s hard talking to her now when we are able to talk because it seems like we are losing a lot of common ground, but I couldn’t imagine being a non-Christian and trying to start a conversation with a young person.

My question from all that is: Do you think there is a significant disconnect between
the different generations of today’s culture compared to that of prior time periods? I’m not sure I have asked the question correctly, but if there is an unusual “disconnect” how can we begin to connect better with one another?

I also found some information online about Intergenerational Relationships within churches from a website called: fulleryouthiinstitute.org and read an article by Dr. Kara Powell here: https://fulleryouthinstitute.org/articles/moving-away-from-the-kid-table
I found this concept very interesting and am wondering if you recommend this type of “community” for churches that may be having problems with youth not coming back to church after graduating from H.S. and/or college?

Thank you so much Sam.

Tabitha


(Emmanuel Ofori) #3

Hi Sam

What’s the difference between first fruits and tithe? Also are we expected to give our first salary in the year as first fruits in church?


(Laurie King) #5

Hi Sam,

I can’t begin to tell you what your experiences, openness and commitment to Christ have meant to me. About 2 years ago our daughter, then 26, told us she was gay. It was heartbreaking and to be honest, our first up close and personal encounter with homosexuality. I had always heard and believed that it was the result of abuse, a poor relationship with parents, especially the father or a very poor example of a happy marriage. None of those things were true for our daughter. While certainly not perfect, my husband and I have had a great marriage and going into our 39th year are still crazy about each other. He was and is an amazing dad who adores his daughter and our 2 sons and I loved everything about being a mom. None of us had the slightest inkling of our daughter’s struggle prior to her telling us. After reading your book, “Is God anti-gay?” and listening to you and many, many others (LOVE Rosaria Butterfield’s story!) God is teaching me about SSA and the very real struggle that it is. My biggest grief is that our daughter has walked away from the Lord, with whom she had a very sweet relationship as a little girl, loving church, Sunday school and even youth group as a young teen. I think I understand her struggle, that as long as she believed the Bible, she felt shame, and couldn’t shake the SSA, so something had to give.

We have continually expressed our love for her and have told her over and over there is NOTHING she can ever do that will ever change that. But she knows very clearly that for us the Bible is the inspired Word of God and we can’t embrace her choice to live a lesbian lifestyle. She lives several hundred miles from us. We did visit her and her girlfriend several months back and to be honest, it was the most difficult week of my life. I’m grappling with how to show her love (and her girlfriend who is also made in the image of God) while watching them snuggle, kiss and caress each other. It is so much easier to do so over the phone, or when she comes home alone and we aren’t face to face with it. We really, really want to be Jesus to our daughter, and that is our greatest prayer, that his kindness will lead her to repentance and she will call him Lord. But in the waiting we still want to be part of her life. Can you give us some advice? “What would Jesus do?” is my very real question. Would he watch them in relationship and ignore it and just talk about other things? I know she doesn’t need, or want, to hear our thoughts and beliefs on the matter as she grew up knowing where we hang our hats. Her question early on was “Why can’t you just be happy for me? Isn’t that what love really means, you want me to be happy?”

Again Sam, I so appreciate your ministry and I’ve found so much hope through it. God bless.


(Josué Aparicio) #6

@Sam_Allberry Hi Sam, I’m really excited for your upcoming book and I think my question may be addressed in it but how do we address singleness in a world where love dominates our culture? Even in our churches, I can’t seem to run anywhere where I’m not reminded of something I know I want. I guess my issue is that my love for Christ is not rooted deeply enough in him so I lack nothing but even in pursuing him beyond the personal devotion is where I struggle and fall back in a lonely mindset.


(Bryant Tanadjaya) #7

Hi @Sam_Allberry !

I’ve recently come across a conversation with my friends where a friend asked the rest of us whether we were for or against the LGBT movement. The rest (it was just one other person) was for it but I said I was against it. I did make a distinction that it didn’t mean I hated the people but rather the homosexuality itself. My friends gave their reason to be in support of the rights of LGBT community to have a relationship with one another or get married to one another. And, though not said, my mind races through all the other arguments the LGBT community or supporters have thrown out to Christians and, I realized that, I’m not that prepared to answer their arguments.

The only thing I could think of was going straight through the Bible and its commands concerning the topic. Though it’s not wrong, I was just wondering, according to you, what would be the best approach to talk to my friends concerning the sinfulness of homosexuality? And, when quoting the Scripture, what’s the best way to go about it? I fear that as soon as they hear that the Bible condemns homosexuality, they’ll just build a wall immediately. Is there a better way to present it that will make it more likely for them to hear it out?

Thank you in advance for answering! This is a relatively new topic for me because I live in Indonesia and this isn’t something that’s common but, recently, it has been rising especially among the new generations.


(Albin Siby) #8

Hello @Sam_Allberry sir.

Could you give your opinion on what would be a correct response to people who support homosexuality, which is many people nowadays, say that who are we to tell them how they should live their lives and That it’s Thier life and their personal choice, and that doing so is unloving. And also alongwith it, share the gospel to them.

Thanks.


(Sam Allberry) #9

Dear Laurie,

Thank you for writing so openly about your daughter. I am glad you felt able to. RZIM Connect is meant to be a place for these sorts of discussions and for us to be able to share what is going on in a context where we can encourage and support each other. It is a privilege to respond to you.

I can’t help but think about the fact that Jesus spent considerable time with sinners. He was even stigmatised for doing so. We know he frequently ate with them, which in that culture meant more than it typically does for us. It was an expression of friendship, of being open to other people. That he was known as a “friend of sinners” shows us both how habitual and how kind these deep interactions must have been. All of which is to say, he knows exactly what it is like to be immersed in a group of people he cared about who were engaged in sin all around him. I can’t imagine the distress it must have caused him. Our own distress is but a shadow of how he must feel.

So you are right to feel this tension. God wants you to want the best for your daughter. He also wants you to continue to open your life to her, and hers to you. So it seems to me that can only involve pain for you, deliberately drawing close to her, in her space, and thereby seeing her sin more closely too. But that must be the right way forward, painful though it is for you. It strikes me a Christlike that you be the one who feels the awkwardness and pain of this as you visit her, rather than simply insisting on her visit you and thereby making her be the one who accommodates to you. So I think what you are doing is a form of Christlike hospitality, coming to her and accommodating her. I don’t think there is any other way forward. To step into her world is to have to take a front-row seat to her sin. But this is the long game to be playing, it seems to me. To keep pressing into that difficult space. It will show her, over time, something of the love that God has shown us all: coming right into our mess. It was the only way he could reach us. And, I’m convinced, this will be the way he will reach your daughter, through you doing for her what he did for us.

Thank you again. And the Lord bless you.


Thoughts on this recent TED Talk?
(Laurie King) #10

Thank you Sam for taking the time to really understand my heart and my question. I believe your words carry wisdom and truth, even though they are admittedly not what I wanted to hear. I hadn’t thought of it as a Christ-like sacrifice, and I think that may help me in the heat of “the battle.” May God bless you richly in your ministry Sam.


(Sam Allberry) #11

Dear Albin,

This is such a great question, and an urgent one as well. I often hear people say those sorts of things too.

I think there are two things we can say in response. The first is to agree with the premise behind the statement, which is to say that we are nobody at all to tell someone else how to live. We don’t have the wisdom or the moral authority. So, I don’t presume to tell anyone how to live. But, the one person who can is God. So all we are trying to do is to pass on what he has said. We are not sharing our own perspective and wisdom, but seeking to share his. And that is very different. If we have been lovingly made by a creator God, then we would expect him to know us better than we know ourselves and to be able to show us how he means us to live. Not to do that would actually be unloving, like a parent deciding to give no instruction to a small child.

The second thing we need to stress is that what God says about our sexual conduct is deeply challenging to every single one of us. It is not that we think other people are wrong and that by implication we are doing just fine. Jesus exposes the darkness in all our hearts, when it comes to sexuality no less than any other area of life.

I keep coming back to the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus takes the Old Testament prohibition against adultery and revolutionises it: “Anyone who looks at a woman with lust has committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt 5). He takes what was thought to apply only to external conduct and applies it to our thought life and heart. And the key point is this: your sexual integrity matters so much that it is not to be compromised, even in the privacy of someone else’s mind. When we see how precious our and others’ sexual integrity is, we realise quite how far we have fallen in compromising our own and than of other people.

So when it comes to sexuality, it is important to stress that we are all alike broken and fallen. We’re all in this together. We’re not speaking into this issue from a stance of presumed superiority. All of us need the grace and forgiveness of God. And all of us can find it :slight_smile:

I hope that helps! Have a great day.
Sam


Thoughts on this recent TED Talk?
(Tara Pauls) #12

Hi Sam,

Thank you for championing the challenges of the single person in churches today. I very much resonate with what you have to say about the needs of singles. This is the first time my need for inclusion has felt legitimized. I have always presumed that if I felt lonely or alone it has been my fault for not trying hard enough. Thank you. I am really looking forward to reading your new book.

My question has to do with women in leadership within the church. I am conflicted about what to understand from what the Bible teaches on this topic. From Jesus’ treatment of Mary (Martha’s sister), it seems like He is encouraging women in their desire to learn as disciples which, from what I understand, is for the purpose of teaching others. However, from what Paul says in his letters to the Ephesians and Corinthians, not to mention Timothy, I am left to understand women are not meant to be in leadership over men (which I presume includes teaching) in the church. Furthermore, I find the whole concept of “headship” confusing as it seems to imply that women are lesser than men and yet Jesus Himself seemed to elevate the status of women to that of men. I would greatly appreciate your insights around these issues. Than you so much.

Tara


(Albin Siby) #13

Thanks for the advice, sir.

May God bless you and your works !


(Sara Isaac) #14

Hello There Sam! I really appreciate the time you take to answer those questions. I have a question concerning Mark chapter 16 and the part beyond verse 8. I know that Mark is supposed to be the earliest of the 4 gospels and that it was the basis for writing the other 2; Matthew and Luke, because John had a separate source. But it being the closest, chronologically, to time of the incidents of the crucifixion and the resurrection, and lacking this important part about the post-resurrection appearances, makes you wonder. The earliest and most reliable maniscripts of Mark do not contain verses 9-20 and it’s not even included till the 4th Century. And also, the internal literary evidence doesn’t support the case for Mark being the author of those verses. So, yes, there’ s Paul’s 1 Chorinthians 15 account and it’s not a contradictory element for the truth of resurrection but still why would Mark leave out such important details of a story? I mean, if that’ s not the climax of his biography, then what is?!


(Anthony Manno) #15

Hi Sam,

I would like to say I really enjoy your perspective on many difficult topics surrounding homosexuality, gender, and sexuality in general. The following question is a personal one. Thanks for your time in addressing it!

My sister is a practicing lesbian and a non-believer. We have a very good relationship, however, it recently became strained when she questioned me very directly in areas of my faith. She asked, “how can you say you truly love me without accepting me for who I am at my core? I don’t believe how I am living is a sin.” I tried explaining that my love and disagreement of her lifestyle are mutually exclusive. I can love her and disagree with her, just as I can love an atheist, yet also disagree with his/her spiritual viewpoint. This, to her, wasn’t an acceptable response as atheism (to her) is a choice, while her sexual orientation is “who she is.” How do you address a non-believing homosexual in this situation or a similar situation? How can I adequately communicate that I am able to love yet disagree with those who are practicing homosexuality? How can I better love my LGBTQ brothers and sisters without being perceived as a “Christian bigot?”


(Sandy) #16

Dear Sam - thank you for taking our questions here. Your time is greatly appreciated!

I just today listened to one of your Q&A sessions. First off I thank you for not giving any credence to the “born this way” justification accepted by many, including in the church, to conclude God made homosexuals. I respect your answer, as I understood it, that though you have no explanation for your orientation early on, (a normal upbringing) it is not that God made you that way, but that all, every one of us is born flawed, not according to God’s original design for us. I see then, we spend our lives searching for our true authentic selves, our identity, until Jesus rescues us. If that’s so, (and it sure is for me) isn’t it a mistake then for us to join in with attaching more wrong labels of LGBTQ (and then some more added still as I just looked it up) to some people? I see someone in that confusion, no different than the darkness I was in, but what I did was Not who I was. What I needed was the truth. I do believe the church should make the distinction. What do you say?


(Sam Allberry) #18

Dear Anthony,

Thank you so much for being part of RZIM Connect and for sharing this situation with us. Many believers are finding themselves in similar conversations with close friends and family members.

The problem behind all this is the way that our culture typically identifies someone’s sexual attractions as being “who they are,” and then conflates being loving with being accepting of everything that lifestyle involves.

As Christians, we know that our sexual feelings, as with all our affections, have become disordered because of the Fall. This is not something limited to those whose attractions are for those of the same sex; it is true of all of us. So we will be very cautious about wanting to base our identity on our fallen and often confused sexual feelings. These are not a sign of how God made us, but of how sin has distorted us.

As these conversations continue with your sister, I would suggest the following:

  1. Show her that according to the teaching of Jesus, we are all in the same boat. You are not looking down on her or condemning her. The same sexual standards of Jesus by which you cannot agree with her are the same ones you know you have fallen short of yourself as well. All of us are in this together. In one sense, she is no worse a sinner than you. All alike have fallen short of the glory of God. So make sure she knows that the teaching of Jesus on sexual ethics is every bit as convicting and humbling for you as for her.

  2. It would be interesting to know how she would respond were you to make the same demand of her that she has made of you. She says that to love her you have to accept her, including who she believes herself to be at her core and who she chooses to love. So the question is, in order to love you, should she have to accept you on the same basis, as a Christian believer whose relationship with Jesus is who you are at your core? If you have to accept who she loves, is she willing to accept the Christ whom you love? Does she have to agree with your Christianity in order to love you any less than she insists you have to agree with her lesbianism? If she insists you must not object to her having a relationship with another woman, we she not object to you having a relationship with Jesus who teaches that marriage is between a man and a woman? Not knowing your sister, or the dynamic you have with her, I am not necessarily suggesting you should pose this to her, but it is an interesting way to respond.

  3. Ultimately, your real love for your sister is going to have to be demonstrated over time, rather than being expressed through some superficial notion of acceptance in the short term. Being a devoted, consistent, interested, loving brother who doesn’t let her lesbianism stop you from being these things to her — this is what will gradually show her that you really do love her, even if you don’t agree with her. You will have to show her that disagreement doesn’t mean being unloving. Be there for her, whether she wants to be there for you or not. Always be thoughtful and kind to her, whether or not she is to you. Never reject her or push her away, even if she gives signals that she doesn’t value you as much. This, over time (and we’re playing a long game here) will really show what it means not to be a bigot.

May the Lord bless you, and through you, bless her. Thanks again for engaging with this.
Sam


Thoughts on this recent TED Talk?
(Sam Allberry) #19

Dear Bryant,

Greetings to you in Indonesia! Lovely to have you as part of this online community.

These types of conversations are often difficult and complex. Thank you for being willing to engage your friends as an ambassador for Christ.

I think the best way to approach these topics is to start more generally. Rather than specifically zeroing in on the sinfulness of homosexuality, it can help to start by talking about how all of us are fallen and disordered in this area of life. That way, you friends won’t think you’re just singling out homosexual people (and by implication suggesting that you are superior). The teaching of Jesus on sex and marriage is deeply humbling for every single one of us. Start there. It is one of the entailments of Christ’s deity. We would expect God’s own words on human sexuality to challenge all of us, rather than just some of us. His vision for human sexuality is so much loftier than ours.

It might also be worth pointing out how the Bible repeatedly and so beautifully portrays God as the divine husband to his people. His commands on sexual ethics are therefore not just arbitrary rules he has dropped on us, but reflect that this part of human experience matters so deeply to him precisely because it is meant to be about him. Human sexuality is so precious (and should therefore be treated with utmost care) because it is meant to point to the deeper yearnings the soul has for God. Our romantic passions and longings are a picture of the affection God has for his people and the true satisfaction we are meant to find in him. If we only talk about the biblical prohibitions we miss this larger, positive vision of what human sexuality means.

Hope that helps :slight_smile:
Sam


Thoughts on this recent TED Talk?
(Sam Allberry) #20

Thank you so much for this question, Sarai! Its really interesting and I’d never thought to ask it before.

You’re right in all that you say about Mark being regarded as the earliest of the gospels and the second half of Mark 16 not being believed to have been part of his original gospel. I’m sure the very conspicuous absence of the resurrection appearances and the somewhat “flat” ending of the women in v.8 were what first led someone to append a “better” ending to the gospel.

Mark is the shortest of the four gospels, so that means there are so many things he has left out. His has nothing about the birth and childhood of Jesus. Given how significant Christmas is for us, that is also (along with the resurrection appearances) a huge section of Christ’s life and ministry to omit.

So Mark’s aim is clearly narrower than simply giving a full overview of Jesus’ whole life. His aims are more specific. At the start of the gospel he announces his conclusion: that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ, and the Son of God. These two affirmations form the structure of his gospel, the first half climaxing with Peter’s exclamation that Jesus is the Christ in ch 8, and the Roman centurion’s exclamation that he was the Son of God in ch 15. With those two exclamations Mark has concluded the main business of his gospel; the account of the resurrection in the first part of ch 16 rounds it off by showing how, as the Christ and Son of God, Jesus has defeated death and will launch his church through the disciples.

Throughout his gospel Mark has shown the lowliness of Jesus and the depth of his sufferings. He has majored on the disciples’ slowness to understand who he was. It is a very unflattering account of the first believers (which actually proves its credibility as a historical source). So it is not tonally inconsistent to end with the women fleeing and astonished. We end on a note of human weakness and uncertainty, and yet this only underlines divine strength and faithfulness. That this final scene is how the Christian church began is really telling. Mark is thought to have been written to believers in Rome, likely facing some of the vicious rounds of Imperial persecution. So the gospel had already penetrated Rome of all places. And yet it had such improbably and unlikely beginnings. Which I am sure would have been a massive encouragement to those very powerless Christians in Rome, wondering what might be happening to the cause of Christ in their own day.

Either way, Mark seems content to leave some of these larger pieces of the Jesus story to others to tell. Perhaps he was somehow aware that his gospel would not be the only account.

Blessings!
Sam


(Sara Isaac) #21

Thank you so much Sam for this rich and very satisfactory answer!
God bless you dear Sam.
Sara


(Sam Allberry) #22

Sandy,

Thanks for listening to that Q&A and for asking such a great question.

The issue of language is so important, and often not very straightforward. You’re right to say that all of us is trying to look for our true selves, our authentic identity. If the credo for the 90s was “Find yourself.” today it is “Express yourself.” We assume we can know our true identity by looking inside our hearts. As you show, it is always wrong-headed: we can’t truly possess knowledge of ourselves without being known and found by God himself.

So, yes, the proliferation of sexual identity labels is not going to be helpful. We know that sexual attractions are not the core essence of what makes us who we are. Identifying oneself primarily by sexuality is not an authentic, biblical way to ascertain who we truly are. The same is true for us all. By nature we all miss-label ourselves, basing our primary identity in something it is not meant to be found in.

However, it is still helpful to have terminology to describe our general attractional patterns. If a Christian discovers he is sexually attracted to someone of the same sex, it is useful for him to have a way of explaining that if he is to find encouragement in following Christ. For many of us, the language of “same-sex attraction” serves that purpose. It is not intended to be language of personal identity, but a description of a temptation. Wonderfully, not everything that describes us defines us.

We also need to reckon with the fact that if we are to reach those who are not believers, shunning all terminology used by them is not going to be a practical starting point in our evangelism. We probably need to start with the language they are used to. It will help in forming a point of contact. If we come with only unfamiliar language and alien concepts it will be hard to get anywhere. So I don’t think it is always necessarily wrong for Christians to use the terminology of LGBT+, even if we aren’t ultimately beholden to that is often meant by that acronym. Prov 26:4-5 reminds us there are times when we need to run with a non-biblical concept in order to have opportunities further down the line to commend biblical wisdom. (The same passage also reminds us that if we become too comfortable with such a concept, it may ultimately result in us joining the world, rather than the world coming to Christ.)

So in all this, we need great wisdom from above. Let’s keep praying for it!

Blessings,
Sam


Thoughts on this recent TED Talk?