Marriage, Thinking Biblically

I Begg Your Pardon…Should a Christian Attend an LGBTQ+ Wedding?

wedding flower closeup Begg article

I do my best to keep up with current events and theological trends, but rarely will you find me wasting my time trolling ‘X’ or other social media platforms. So, it caught me quite by surprise just a couple of weeks ago when I saw the headline: “Christian Pastor Stands by Polarizing Advice on Attending LGBTQ Wedding.” Below it was a picture of Allistair Begg. The way the title was worded, and from what I’ve always known of Allistair Begg, my first reaction was, “Here we go—Allistair has taken a biblical stand and he’s now facing the fury of the progressives.”

But when I clicked on the link and began to read, I felt as if someone had punched me in the gut.

According to the report, Pastor Begg has been embroiled in controversy due to advice he recently gave to a woman concerning whether she should attend her grandson’s marriage ceremony to a person who identified as transgender. Begg himself recounted the conversation in a September episode of his Truth for Life podcast in which he was being interviewed about his latest book. Here is the transcript of the portion of the interview that has sparked the storm:

“…we field questions all the time that go along the lines of ‘My grandson is about to be married to a transgender person, and I don’t know what to do about this, and I’m calling to ask you to tell me what to do’—which is a huge responsibility. And in a conversation like that just a few days ago—and people may not like this answer—but I asked the grandmother, ‘Does your grandson understand your belief in Jesus?’

‘Yes.’

‘Does your grandson understand that your belief in Jesus makes it such that you can’t countenance in any affirming way the choices that he has made in life?’

‘Yes.’

I said, ‘Well then, okay. As long as he knows that, then I suggest that you do go to the ceremony. And I suggest that you buy them a gift.’

‘Oh,’ she said, ‘what?’ She was caught off guard.”

Begg went on to give his response to her surprise:

“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.’”

This already-hurting and bewildered grandmother was not the only one caught off guard by the advice.

The conservative evangelical world was dazed and confused because, while this sort of counsel would be expected of liberal Protestants or progressive ‘Christians’, and perhaps even some professing evangelicals that ride the fence on these sensitive issues, no one would have expected Allistair Begg, a highly respected Bible teacher from the Reformed evangelical tradition with a decades-long public ministry alongside the likes of R.C. Sproul, Sinclair Ferguson, and many others, to take this stand.

Of course, we all make lapses in judgment from time to time, and especially in this ever-increasing complex world of moral dilemmas, we need to show one another grace. But Begg is the one who brought this counsel he had given in private out into the public ear, and he even prefaced it with, “People may not like this answer…”

Furthermore, after the firestorm was ignited, he was confronted by a number of partner ministries, including representatives from American Family Radio, which formerly hosted his daily Truth for Life broadcast, and John MacArthur, after which his slot as a keynote speaker at the 2024 Shepherd’s Conference has been removed. Sadly, he has not only said that he’s “not ready to repent,” but he has doubled down on his stance, preaching a sermon defending his position in which he compares anyone who disagrees with him on this point with the older son in the Parable of the Prodigal (Luke 15:11–32). According to Begg, those who think his advice is unbiblical are simply ‘American fundamentalists’ who don’t understand grace!

This caricature of those who disagree with Begg is outrageous and reveals an air of arrogance that is heretofore uncharacteristic of the beloved preacher. We can only pray that he sees the error of his way before it is compounded even more severely and more damage is done.

But my point in writing is not to throw mud at Allistair Begg. I write as a pastor who has had to wrestle with these difficult questions with members of my own flock, who, like the grandmother who asked a question of her pastor, are susceptible to falling for this very sort of unbiblical counsel. I would like to offer an answer that is not only biblical, but that assesses Begg’s reasoning  in order to show where and why well-meaning believers oftentimes go wrong when dealing with this issue.

Attendance is Affirmation

One of the sad realities of moral downgrade in a society, which is compounded in our day by the ever-increasing winds of postmodern thought, is that the church often begins to make concessions to the pressures of culture, typically under the guise that it is trying to find inroads to reaching the lost. Most often, the church is several steps behind the culture, but over time, as moral degradation becomes normalized, many Christians begin to give up hallowed ground.

Sadly, the institution of marriage is a prime example of this.

Just a couple of decades ago, the majority of Americans still held to the traditional Judeo-Christian understanding of marriage as a union between one man and one woman. But the deemphasis of culture on this commitment that began with the acceptance of no-fault divorce laws a few decades ago led to the redefinition of marriage altogether with the Obergefell decision of the SCOTUS in 2015 which legalized same-sex marriage. Most evangelicals were shocked by that decision, but in less than a decade, the LGBTQ+ community has pushed so hard that Obergefell is a now almost a blip on the radar when we’re facing the full-on embrace of transgenderism. Hence, many Christians who once took for granted the fact that marriage is a sacred institution created and defined by God as a lifelong union between one man and one woman, while still giving lip-service to that definition, are somehow forgetting what a wedding ceremony represents and what the significance is in attending one.

This is the point at which Allistair Begg’s position shows itself to be dreadfully desensitized by the culture.

Attendance at a wedding is not the same as attending a social event like a birthday party. Those two gatherings are in two vastly different biblical categories. A birthday party is an informal gathering of family and friends in honor of someone’s birth and life. It is not only okay, but it is good and right for a Christian to attend the birthday party of someone who identifies as some form of LGBTQ+ because it is good and right to acknowledge the birth and life of any human being.

While Begg would like us all to believe that being in attendance at a wedding ceremony is as innocent as attending a birthday party, in his heart of hearts he knows better, because he prefaced his counsel to the grandmother with the caveat that as long as her grandson understood that her belief in Jesus makes it such that she can’t “countenance in any affirming way the choices that he has made in life,” then it’s okay to attend (and bring a gift!). But attendance at a wedding is not just attendance—it is affirmation. No one merely “attends a wedding.” Everyone there is invited to be a witness to the ceremony, and by virtue of being there, they are affirming what is taking place. You can’t have your cake and eat it, too. You can’t say that you don’t affirm LGBTQ+ marriage and then affirm it by attending an LGBTQ+ wedding ceremony!

“No one merely ‘attends a wedding.’ Everyone there is invited to be a witness to the ceremony, and by virtue of being there, they are affirming what is taking place.”

Attendance is Participation

Some try to make the case that an LGBTQ+ wedding is not a “real wedding” because they believe that a marriage is what the Bible defines it to be: a union between one man and one woman. Therefore, a Christian can attend because the whole thing is actually a farce.

But this line of reasoning is the very thing the Apostle Paul warned the Corinthians against when he urged them to be careful not to take their Christian freedom too far in their practice of visiting pagan temples where the worship of idols was taking place. They claimed that the false gods of the pagans were non-existent and the idols they worshipped were nothing but mere wood or stone. Paul agreed with them about this (1 Cor. 8:4–6), yet he warned them that even though this was indeed the case, there were demons behind those false gods and their idols that were in fact very real. Therefore, when they visited pagan temples where sacrifices were made to false gods, there was no way around it—they were participating in idolatry. He goes on to tell them that they cannot have communion with Christ and His church and communion with demons (1 Cor. 10:14–22).

Although we may not think of an LGBTQ+ wedding ceremony as the worship of demons, it is in fact an egregious form of celebration of blatant idolatry. For a Christian to attend this sort of ceremony and use the excuse that what’s happening is not a “real wedding” (while this is indeed true), he is nevertheless participating in an idolatrous function. That may sound extreme, but perhaps that is only because American evangelicals have begun to think like the Corinthians.

Furthermore, an LGBTQ+ wedding ceremony is not merely pagan idolatry, but a particular form of idolatry that is a distortion of an institution God Himself designed, not only for the benefit of mankind, but to be a beautiful picture of the union between Christ and His church (Eph. 5:32). When any couple other than one biological male and one biological female exchange vows to one another at a wedding ceremony, they make a mockery of this picture, and those who attend that ceremony are participating in this mockery.

Attendance is False Compassion

We need to be clear that Allistair Begg was not advocating a “go along, get along” philosophy—peace for the sake of peace. He was not encouraging the grandmother to attend the wedding just to keep her happy that she hadn’t lost a relationship with her grandson. There is no doubt that he was encouraging her to make the relationship the priority in order to keep the door open for the gospel and to win the grandson to Christ. This is evident in the fact that he made it clear in his follow-up sermon that the gift he proposed the grandmother should bring to them was a Bible. In that sermon, he paints the grandson as the prodigal and attending the wedding ceremony of an LGBTQ+ person as an expression of the father’s compassion for an erring sinner.

But as an excellent Ligonier article entitled “True Compassion and LBGTQ Weddings” explains, we must not confuse true compassion for a cheap counterfeit. The father of the prodigal never affirmed or celebrated the sinful choices of the prodigal, and he certainly didn’t participate in them with him. Yes, he ran to meet him, but only after he saw the son returning. The parable is a celebration of repentance, not a coddling of shameless sin.

Even when we feel like the stand we’re taking is pushing people further from the grace of God, the fact is that the opposite is just the case. John Piper has rightly said that attending an LGBTQ+ wedding would be a “hateful thing to do because it would be confirming a lifestyle that will lead to hell.” What people need is a taste of the reality of how offensive their sin is to God, and they will never feel that sting if we send signals that we approve of their behavior. Refusing to attend an LGBTQ+ wedding ceremony is one way we can draw a clear line in the sand between what is true compassion and what is the cheap, sentimental kind of worldly wisdom, no matter how well-meaning it may be.

The uncharacteristically unbiblical counsel of Allistair Begg and his reaction when confronted about it by his peers is unsettling, to say the least. It reminds us that we must not only beware of the world ‘out there,’ but of the world that so easily creeps ‘in here’ unnoticed. Every one of us is susceptible to its subtle attack on biblical truth. As we seek to live for Christ and reach the lost in an increasingly challenging culture, may we be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matt. 10:16), never permitting the evil one to deceive us with the infiltration of worldly wisdom.

“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ” (Col. 2:8).

church leaders Pastor Lloyd

About the Author

Lloyd Murphy is the pastor-teacher at Firm Foundation Bible Church in Prescott Valley, Arizona. A northern-AZ native, Lloyd is a graduate of The Master’s Seminary in Sun Valley, California. He and his wife Christie have four children, Caleb, Anna, Leah, and Joel. More from Lloyd ⟶

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