Real Acceptance?

A popular sermon by a popular preacher has caused no small stir, and since I have referred to it elsewhere, it may be worth looking at it in more detail. Of course the intentions of the sermon were good, and the pastor had some helpful points he was trying to make, but unfortunately too much falsehood and sloppy thinking crept into the sermon for it to be of much value.

It was about the contentious issue of homosexuality, and how the pastor and the church welcome homosexuals with open arms. While it contained some truths, there were too many half-truths and incorrect remarks made for it to be seen as a positive contribution to the debate.

It was the second in a five-part series which Rob Buckingham gave at Bayside Church in Melbourne a few years ago. He said it was very heavily influenced by the book Unchristian by David Kinnaman. I have done a review of that book elsewhere, and I must say I found it to be disappointing in many respects:

And in many ways I found this sermon to be quite disappointing. It was simply a rehash of the arguments put forward by the homosexual lobby and the theological revisionists. I deal with all these objections in my new book, so I will not repeat them all here. But one straw man after another was set up and then knocked down.

Instead of actually dealing with the Scriptural revelation on this topic, we had one long emotive and rather humanistic yarn presented. Incredibly he begins by saying he will ‘not be making a moral statement on homosexuality’. One might as well discuss greed or racism in a sermon, and say ‘I will not be making a moral statement on such issues’.

In which case why even discuss these subjects? The Bible is a moral book which makes moral and theological statements all the time, and that is just what we should be doing. We cannot pretend there is no moral dimension to these matters. Indeed, the rest of his sermon was one long moral denunciation – of those who take a different position from him.

Anyone who dares to speak out against the sin of homosexuality is not Christlike, loving, accepting, compassionate and tolerant. To show how judgmental and illogical his sermon was, he also begins by raising the oldest straw man in the book: Fred Phelps and Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas.

Homosexual activists of course drag him up all the time, to suggest that this is what biblical Christians are like. But I do not know of one Christian leader anywhere who holds to the biblical view on homosexuality who has anything good to say about Phelps. His stance is not at all Christian and we want nothing to do with him. So why even raise this matter? Indeed, he does this more than once unfortunately.

Thus the logical fallacies in this sermon come to the fore here. Here we have the classic case of guilt by association: Phelps is a horrible person, and so too therefore is anyone else who speaks up about homosexuality. Anyone who takes a differing stance than Bayside is in the same camp, and is just as reprehensible.

He then makes the first of three main points, that homosexuals are no greater sinners than anyone else. So tell us something we don’t know pastor. Of course they are not greater. Whoever said they were? So this is just another straw man he shoots down.

Yet even he gets quite tangled up here. He goes on to say that there are in fact degrees of sin. Yes that is true, so there is a real sense in which some sins may in fact be greater than others. If one sin is called an abomination while another is not, and if one sin warrants the death penalty while others do not (at least in the Old Testament) then yes, one can speak of greater and lesser sins.

Every single sin ever committed sent Jesus to the cross. So in that sense no one sin is better or worse than another. Yet Scripture does discuss degrees of future punishment or blessing, based on what we have done. But I have dealt with this elsewhere, so I encourage you to go there for further details:

He commits more serious errors in this first section of his sermon. In true theological revisionism form, he assures us that the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was not about homosexuality, but things such as social justice issues and a lack of hospitality. I again cover that furphy in my book in some detail, so I urge this pastor and others to have a read of it. Both Testaments make it absolutely clear that homosexuality was in fact the major sin being committed here, among others.

He then offers another myth that homosexuality is obviously not a big deal since it is only mentioned eight times in the Bible. Actually it is mentioned more than that, but it also has to be seen in light of the entire biblical revelation concerning God’s standards for human sexuality. These teachings run from Genesis to Revelation, and it is simply disingenuous to ignore these clear teachings.

The second main point he makes is equally a no-brainer, and one has to ask why he even raised it. He says that Jesus died for everyone, including homosexuals. Yes of course he did. I am not aware of anybody denying this. Maybe Phelps does, but we all can and should ignore that nutter.

So telling us this is of course stating the obvious. If he actually believes that those who take the biblical position on homosexuality think otherwise, then he is way off base here. It goes without saying that every single person on planet earth is a sinner, and Jesus of course came and died for sinners. So this really adds nothing to the debate.

His third major point is how Christians should respond to and treat homosexuals. Much of this is of course basic Christianity, and is not anything remarkable. But he speaks of “false assumptions and generalisations”. Here he gets into some real moral and theological confusion.

He says for example that “there are moral gay people”. This needs to be unpacked. Of course all people are moral beings, simply because they are made in God’s image. But that is not the issue here. The issue is, is homosexuality, according to Scripture, a moral or immoral activity and lifestyle?

It is everywhere regarded as immoral, wrong and sinful. This is absolutely clear in the Bible. And in my book I spend a lot of discussion on this very issue. So if the pastor is suggesting that homosexuality is moral, then he is clearly wrong and he is clearly rejecting the plain teachings of Scripture.

He then says it is a myth that there is an organised, militant homosexual lobby which is subverting and challenging the Christian faith. He is dead wrong there. Not only in hundreds of articles on my website, but in massive detail in my book, I make it quite clear that there most certainly is such a thing.

He is just living in ignorance, denial or delusion here. He does not want to believe such a thing exists, so he just wishes it away. Of course to say this does not mean every homosexual is involved in such activist groups, or supports them. Many homosexuals are not and do not. But to deny the reality of organised and militant homosexual lobby groups bent on assailing the Christian faith is foolish and naive in the extreme.

He also says homosexuality is not a simple issue. Well, yes and no. We have already noted that the notion of all sins being the same is actually not all that simple, and we need to tease out the Scriptural nuances on such a topic. But as I carefully and thoroughly document in my book, the biblical condemnation of homosexuality is universal, absolute, unequivocal and unambiguous.

He also mentions what he sees as another “myth”: that homosexuals choose to be that way. This can indeed be a complex issue, depending on what exactly you mean by this. I spend lots of time in my book with a huge amount of documentation dealing with this. I even provide numerous quotes by homosexuals themselves who do say there is a real element of choice involved.

My short reply here is this: we are all born with an orientation away from God and to sin and self. That is true of all of us, not just homosexuals. But Christ came to deal with our sinful orientations, desires and dispositions, and to set us free.

He does not call us to wallow in our sin and selfishness, but to be radically transformed by the power of his Holy Spirit. We lie to homosexuals and do them no favours when we tell them God accepts them as they are and has no desire to see them delivered from their deadly sexual addiction.

He closes with another emotional story by a homosexual. The person says he used to struggle with his orientation and desires, but then he felt God told him to “stop fighting these struggles”! He says he is now glad to be at this church which “loves me and affirms me for who I am”.

No, that is not who he is. He is not a homosexual. He is a heterosexual made in God’s image, but because of the fall his intended condition has gone awry, just like every single one of us. None of us are the way we were meant to be. That is why Jesus came – to deal with the sin issue, and to get us back to where God wants us to be.

Jesus is in the business of changing lives – not leaving us in our sin-soaked condition. Any church which does not tell sinners they can and should change is not telling them the gospel. We do harm to any sinner when we falsify the biblical data so that people can be left to feel good about themselves and their sin.

Earlier on the pastor very incorrectly used an example to prove that homosexuals are born that way. He referred to the South African runner Caster Semenya who is reportedly a hermaphrodite. Here the pastor betrays his ignorance, implying that all homosexuals have actual chromosomal or biological abnormalities which they cannot do anything about.

This is simply not the case with homosexuals. It is however the case with a very tiny proportion of people who have a genuine condition known as intersexuality. As I document in my book, these very few people do have real genetic abnormalities which result in sexual confusion. There can be ambiguous genitalia, chromosomal imbalances – eg, having an extra sex chromosome – and so on. This can be found in conditions such as Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia, Turner Syndrome, and Klinefelter’s Syndrome.

But this is an altogether different matter from homosexuality. Yet this pastor totally confuses all this. Here he is, preaching and teaching on this, when he is evidently rather uninformed and ignorant of the actual situation. Such misleading and inaccurate remarks help no one. If we are going to teach people about such matters, we had better get our facts right first.

Much more could be said about this sermon. Sadly it is filled with so much misinformation, unhelpful information, and biased and just plain wrong information, that it is not going to ultimately help much. Sure, homosexuals will flock to a church which preaches such messages.

They will love hearing that there is nothing wrong with what they are doing and that God thinks everything is just peachy. But as I wrote in my companion piece to this, the real gospel deals with real sin and a real saviour. It sugar coats nothing:

The main concern this pastor has is pastoral. And that is fair enough. I too deal with pastoral concerns all the time as I interact with homosexuals and others in my ministry. The biblical ideal is always to do two things, and to do them simultaneously. As Paul says, we are to “speak the truth in love”.

Homosexuals like everyone else need to be loved. But they also need to be told the truth. Indeed, if you do not tell a sinner the truth about his condition, you do not really love him. And the most loving thing a Christian can tell a homosexual is that they do not have to be homosexual.

There are many thousands of homosexuals the world over who have left their lifestyle and have found new life in Christ. That is the good news that they desperately need to hear, not that they are born that way and must stay that way. Just how loving, compassionate and Christlike is that?

Indeed, I conclude my book with two very moving stories of a homosexual and a lesbian who have both been gloriously transformed by Christ’s love and power. Both are now happily married with children. They have left their old sinful lifestyle behind, and have become new creations in Christ.

That is the loving, Christlike gospel message which not only every homosexual, but every sinner needs to hear. Thus while this pastor is doing much good and is to be commended for many things he is involved in, on this issue I simply cannot go along with what he is saying and doing. So I will keep him in my prayers, and I hope he will do the same for me.

[2273 words]

18 Replies to “Real Acceptance?”

  1. Sounds like a very faithful preacher.

    Just preaching the wrong book.


    There is no way I could get up in front of a congregation if I had to come up with my own ideas. Who am I to lead anyone? Nor could I ever put faith in any other man, neither Plato nor even the apostle Paul himself.

    So I preach the Bible, let God speak, and then the people have something worth listening to.

    Samuel, Acts Romans, Luke… God speaks.

    Michael Hutton, Tamworth, NSW

  2. Because God is love, as John says in his epistle, it is a logical fallacy to conclude that Love is God. That is the modern idolatry.
    Steve Swartz

  3. Thanks Steve

    Yes, excellent point. Will these churches next welcome with open arms those into group love, or animal love, or object love – all of these of course exist, and if we want to be accepting and welcoming, then I guess there is no limit. As long as it is about “love” then I guess anything goes.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  4. Hi Bill,

    Exodus Global Alliance have some very interesting points which challenge the alleged “unchangeable” nature of homosexual behaviour. See:

    This is a quote from that site which is relevant to this discussion:

    “What is perhaps most astounding–and tragic–is not that this is the course that the secular world is on, but that so many in the church have bought into secular myths so totally, that they are willing to discard the historic teachings of the faith with respect to human sexuality.”

    Alex Burton

  5. Thanks Alex

    Yes absolutely right, and a great quote. Our churches are selling out here big time, and far too many believers are afraid to even say anything about this. We have sold out the gospel to please men and be acceptable. This is the great scandal of the modern-day church.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  6. Hi Bill,

    Our church just spent the last two weeks covering the Biblical teaching on sexual immorality, homosexuality included.

    We are thankful that our Pastor is convicted by the authority of the word of God, and uncompromising on its teachings. In fact, we spent the two weeks prior discussing the authority, relevance and applicability of Scripture as a lead into the sexuality discussion.

    Being a part of the Baptist Union, however, is not easy these days, with many Baptist churches compromising on this issue. One of the great problems is Whitley College, and their pro-active acceptance and endorsement of the homosexual lifestyle. It is no wonder that that BUV is going down the gurgler. I am constantly amazed at the theological institutions in Melbourne and their sloppy handling of God’s word.

    Mark Topping

  7. Thanks Mark

    I agree with you 100%. There is as much compromise, worldliness and apostasy in so many Victorian Baptist institutions today as there is in out-and-out liberal outfits. It is reprehensible, and my advice would be for Bible-believing Christians to get out of such places, unless they think they can prayerfully stop the rot and turn things around.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  8. Thanks Bill.

    I shudder to think of this church leader standing before God. We definitely need to pray for his flock also.

    I found this quote and thought you might appreciate it.

    “… I consider that the chief dangers which confront the coming century will be religion without the Holy Ghost, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, politics without God, and heaven without hell.”

    Read more:

    Annette Williams

  9. Thanks Annette

    Yes that line by Booth is a perfect description of the modern-day church. And I am not talking about the liberal mainstream denominations, but about so many of our supposedly Bible-believing evangelical and charismatic churches today.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  10. Regarding the Baptist Union of Victoria and Whitley, there are indeed problems!
    On the issue of homosexuality, the NT lecturer Keith Dyer openly endorses homosexuality. When his position came up for re-appointment a year or so back, one Baptist minister (Murray Campbell) openly questioned his re-appointment because of Dyer’s support of homosexuality. The question was ignored – or glossed over – and Dyer was re-appointed.
    See report – and critique of Dyer’s paper – at Murray’s blog.

    Several Baptist ministers are openly supporting same-sex ‘marriage’ – Nathan Nettleton, Matt Glover, Rowland Croucher and more.
    There are a number of Baptist churches in Melbourne that openly support homosexual relationships – 8 to 10 are listed on a ‘gay-affirming churches’ website.
    We could go on…

    Jenny Stokes

  11. Thanks Jenny

    Yes you are unfortunately spot on here. The list of horrors that keeps pouring forth from some Baptist institutions and churches is mind-boggling. And this is supposed to be a conservative, evangelical Bible-based denomination! No wonder we are losing time and time again. We are being subverted from within as much as assailed from without.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  12. I have that quote of Booth’s glued into the front of my Bible alongside his more famous I’LL FIGHT statement.
    I find the poems that Rob Buckingham quotes on Light FM under the title of ‘A SHOT OF INSPIRATION” far from being that.
    Wayne Pelling

  13. Thanks Bill.
    I will break my self-imposed silence and after much thought comment on this matter. For me it is personal: one close and dear to me is involved with Buckingham’s church, and I have been deeply troubled for a long time about the teaching propounded there at Bayside.

    The stance on homosexuality is but one aspect, albeit an egregious one, of the antinomianism and situation ethics which is taught there. You know, “Not law, but relationships are what God is concerned about.” This is a false dichotomy, and as a matter of fact God is concerned that we keep his law. The difference between this form of antinomianism and that of a former age is that the latter was more theoretical: its adherents lived holy lives on the whole; whereas this new form is practical: give people an inch and in our modern climate they will take a mile.

    Bill, I appeal to you for the sake of the Christian community at large to take up this issue directly with Buckingham and the Bayside Church leadership. You have gone public on this website, but I would see it as your duty to take the matter further – publicly, as Buckingham may not be a reader of your website. I think now that Buckingham has been widely reported it is incumbent on all who have some theological acumen to challenge him directly. No, this is not some snide or cynical cheap shot; I am deadly serious. Our Lord warned, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees!” (Matt.16:6) Likewise, beware of the leaven of antinomianism.

    Murray R. Adamthwaite

  14. Murray,

    I actually tried to politely challenge Rob via the internet about 18 months ago (HIs wife worked at the church I went to about 20 years ago), but he cut off the dialogue quickly – presumably when he realised his normal arguments were not going to work with me, because I actually had done the things he presumed I hadn’t (ie. do you know someone involved in homosexualty, etc.)

    The biggest mistake I believe he was making was confusing behaviour with identity, because God does not recognise sexual orientation as an excuse for immoral behaviour. You may as well try to excuse drunkeness by claiming you have a genetic predisposition to alcohol. The problem with this line of argument is that even if such a predisposition could be proven, as disciples of Jesus we are still called to deny ourselves and walk away from sin, even if a particular sin is extremely tempting for some and not even on the radar for another.

    God created male and female and this simple yet honourable fact about human sexuality seems to be totally overlooked by him. Rob continued to claim he was never making a moral statement about homosexuality, but the reality is that with this identity/behaviour error at the foundation of everything he said, virtually everything he said contained an insidious moral statement on homosexuality – ie. assuming that it is morally neutral, the same as skin colour or facial features, etc.

    I think Rob truly believes he is forging new ground but the sad reality is that human beings looking for ways to justify themselves for their corrupt behaviour before a holy God has been going on for centuries and this is not remotely innovative or radical. The worst thing, of course, is that Rob is leading his congregation astray with ridiculous teaching such as his twisting of Ezekiel 16:49-50 in reference to Sodom and Gomorrah. It is also a serious indictment on the lack of good leadership at Rob’s church. None of them apparently knew enough about Scripture to tell him he was wrong. Or they simply lacked the courage to do so.

    If I had one minute with Rob I would show him the following 27 second clip and ask him how he can consider homosexuality morally neutral when the behaviour can lead to outcomes like that. Would you want someone you love to end up like that?

    I’ve donated blood 29 times. They ask you questions about your behaviour before you get to donate, not your sexual orientation (ie. identity). Yet nobody seems to see the dichotomy between this and the politically correct line that has appears to have swallowed up yet another Christian teacher, just like Tony Campolo. I hope Rob (or someone at his church) wakes up. Effectively declaring that you know better than God about sex is about as stupid a concept as I can ever imagine, especially when He invented it. Male and female exist for a reason and it does no-one any good to sell ‘acceptance’ as the greatest good.

    Mark Rabich

  15. Thank you Mark, for responding to my post.
    I realise that confronting error is not something that is easy to do, and on the other end of the stick there is this conceit that they are above and beyond any criticism and challenge.

    The genetic argument that Buckingham et al so commonly use could be applied to any sin, e.g. theft. The thief could plead – as some have in fact done – that kleptomania is “in my genes” are therefore I can’t really be blamed when I compulsively take some item from a shop. Try telling that one to the management! But it’s the same argument as the homosexuals use; and when that is applied across the board sin is no longer sin at all, and crime is nothing more than a disease, to be “dealt with” by the shrinks. Without question that’s where our whole “justice system” has landed us.

    My bleat with Bayside is not only over homosexuality – that is just the more egregious and prominent feature. It is the whole antinomian thesis: “relationships, not rules”, and “love, not law”. This is the situation ethics premise of the 1960s, then branded as a heresy, but now yesterday’s heresy has become today’s orthodoxy, with all its baneful effects.

    But as to Ezekiel 16:49-50, that God judged Sodom for its disregard for the poor rather than homosexuality: we need to ask him what does he mean by regard for the poor. I don’t know but I strongly suspect that this would mean more handouts and welfare from government, i.e. the usual socialistic prescription. So in other words, God rained down fire and brimstone, wiping the cities off the face of the map, because they weren’t socialists! Give me a break!

    Murray R. Adamthwaite

  16. Pastor? Christian ‘Church’? i dont think so. Biblical morality in doctrine is one of the main basis’s for proving one is a valid member of the body of Christ, and indeed ‘Christian’. If morality takes a dive so too does the right to identify oneself or work with Christ or as ‘Christian’.

    This ‘person’ (as he is not a biblical minister according to scripture), and his ‘group’ (as they are not a Biblical Church according to scripture), and their ‘deeds’ (as they are not done ‘in Christ’, just as those deeds of the Mormon or Jehovah’s Witness faith’s are not, yet may be generally understood in worldly terms as ‘good’), and all who ‘continue’ with it, refusing to rebuke the leader, the eldership and other members for gross apostacy from the Bible into damnable and unrepentant practices, which scripture declares ‘those who do such things will not inherit the Kingdom of Heaven, have become apostate to the faith and are termed by the Bible as ‘false brethren’, ‘unbelievers’, ‘false teachers’ and more.

    They are guilty of ‘idolatry’. They worship a god they affectionately call ‘jesus’, and of which the Bible calls ‘another jesus’, a false jesus, of whom does not hold the power of redemption. ‘Another spirit’ replaces the ‘Holy Spirit’, and ‘another gospel’ replaces the Word of God. 2 Cor 11:4.

    In the spirit of understanding the grace and mercy of God here, those who stay as part of this group because they are truly ignorant, being immature in the faith, God will judge their hearts. Yet the Bible declares to believers the following and must be adhered too:

    1Co 5:9 I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators:
    1Co 5:10 Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world.
    1Co 5:11 But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.
    1Co 5:12 For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within?
    1Co 5:13 But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.

    The Apostle Peter describes this issue very well:

    2Pe 2:1 But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.
    2Pe 2:2 And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.
    2Pe 2:3 And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.
    2Pe 2:4 For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment;
    2Pe 2:5 And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly;
    2Pe 2:6 And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly;
    2Pe 2:7 And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked:
    2Pe 2:8 (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;)
    2Pe 2:9 The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished:
    2Pe 2:10 But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, selfwilled, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities.
    2Pe 2:11 Whereas angels, which are greater in power and might, bring not railing accusation against them before the Lord.
    2Pe 2:12 But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption;
    2Pe 2:13 And shall receive the reward of unrighteousness, as they that count it pleasure to riot in the day time. Spots they are and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deceivings while they feast with you;
    2Pe 2:14 Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children:
    2Pe 2:15 Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness;
    2Pe 2:16 But was rebuked for his iniquity: the dumb ass speaking with man’s voice forbad the madness of the prophet.
    2Pe 2:17 These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever.
    2Pe 2:18 For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error.
    2Pe 2:19 While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.
    2Pe 2:20 For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.
    2Pe 2:21 For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.
    2Pe 2:22 But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.

    I will be praying for these people to be saved before its too late, but in the mean time i will be following Jude 3 and onwards in obedience to Christ and in the hope of helping people discern the true Christ and those who are His ambassadors.
    Dorian Ballard

  17. Mark, the youtube video which you gave a link for in your comm. has been removed. What an enormous surprise! It is quite amazing that soon nobody will be able to make any public comments about the grave perversion of human sexuality which are homosexual acts.
    Someone once said “The Christian hates the sin and loves the sinner. The world loves the sin and hates the sinner.” All too true.
    Thanks Bill for your unrelenting courage on this matter.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *