What I observed this week in the debate about gay marriage

This week has been a watershed moment for the fortunes of marriage in our culture. I’ve been following the discussion with great interest, including listening to oral arguments that were made before the Supreme Court on Tuesday and Wednesday (here and here).

Without question, the most significant thing that I have noticed in debates both inside and outside the Court has been the utter lack of moral argument. This was brought home in spades on Wednesday when Justice Elena Kagan highlighted a statement made by the House Judiciary Committee in 1996 when the Defense of Marriage Act was passed. Here are the critical lines:

Civil laws that permit only heterosexual marriage reflect and honor a collective moral judgment about human sexuality. This judgment entails both moral disapproval of homosexuality, moral conviction that heterosexuality better comports with traditional (especially Judeo-Christian) morality.

As you can see, the statement is unambiguously moral. In fact, it renders a moral judgment on homosexuality that would be almost unheard of in contemporary political discourse.

The 1996 statement draws a sharp contrast with the debates we’ve been hearing this week—debates that have been evacuated of any trace of moral argument about homosexuality. It is clear that Kagan counts such moral judgments as out of bounds, and of course proponents of gay marriage would agree. But what has struck me this week is that traditional marriage proponents seem to have conceded the point as well. Thus no one on either side of the question ever seems to raise the issue of the moral status of homosexual acts. This is a major shift in our national conversation about marriage, and it happened in less than twenty years.

It’s easy to understand why gay marriage proponents would resist arguments about the moral status of homosexuality. They consider the matter settled in favor of their view. But why have traditional marriage supporters ceded that ground? And is it proper for them to do so?

Take Ryan Anderson’s appearance on the Piers Morgan program earlier this week. Anderson did a fine job of making the case for marriage in a very hostile context. But did you notice that he made no argument concerning the nature of homosexuality itself? He presented a typical natural law case for marriage, arguing for the intrinsic link between heterosexual marriage, procreation, and child-rearing. But he made no mention–even on natural law grounds– that heterosexuality is morally superior to homosexuality. Why not?

There seems to be a strategic calculation that the case for marriage must be made in the public space on exclusively non-religious grounds. Albert Mohler argues that this approach is a strategic mistake and a failure of principle. I agree with him. Here’s why.

Let me say first of all that I consider Ryan Anderson to be one of the good guys. He is a stalwart leader in the cause to keep traditional marriage privileged in law. He is the co-author of What Is Marriage?, and he has been front and center this week making the case before millions of Americans. Moreover, he has taken his lumps this week for speaking out. If you don’t believe me, just take a gander at the ill-treatment he received at the hands of Piers Morgan and Suze Orman. He bears a reproach for the stand that he has taken, and I want to share that reproach with him.

But I do want to question the wisdom of making the case for marriage on purely amoral and non-religious grounds. And on this point I’m thinking particularly of how Christians engage this issue in the public square. As the public space for holding forth Christian views shrinks, does it really make sense to contract Christian moral reasoning in order to fit the smaller space? If we do that, will we not be surrendering the very aspects of our message still powerful enough to provoke the moral imagination of the people we are trying to persuade? Will it not seem disingenuous and evasive for us to ignore the elephant in the room?

Let’s face it. The primary reality shaping the contemporary debate is a moral judgment about homosexuality. Related to that is the fact that public opinion has shifted dramatically concerning the moral status of homosexuality. Seventeen years ago, the House Judiciary Committe could call it immoral with absolutely no controversy. Now only seventeen years later, such a statement would be considered by many in our country as hateful, bigoted, and beyond the bounds of rational discourse. The proponents of gay marriage know that this shift has taken place, and they enter this debate with the cultural winds at their backs.

Is it not the role of Christians to stand athwart this prevailing culture? Is it not the very definition of being salt and light to do so (Matt. 5:13-14)? We cannot faithfully bear witness to the Christian story without also telling how human sexuality and marriage fit into it. That means that even those who make exclusively natural law arguments will have to bring focus upon what the natural law has to say about sexual morality. The natural law speaks not only to the links between marriage and childrearing but also to the morality of the sexual act itself. We can hardly speak of the former without also explaining the latter.

It also means that Christians must be willing to move beyond the publicly assessable arguments of natural law to the specific witness of Christian revelation. It is not legitimate for Christians to suspend indefinitely their Christian witness when they enter the public space. If suspending that witness indefinitely becomes the terms for getting a place at the table, then we may need to forfeit our seat. At the end of the day, we must be willing to go to Jesus outside the camp and bear his reproach (Heb. 13:13). If we fail to do that, we’ve lost the debate no matter how many people may be compelled by our eloquent appeals to reason and natural law.

I am not saying that we should drop natural law arguments in favor of biblical ones. This is not an either/or thing. It’s a both/and thing. We’ve got to learn to walk and chew gum at the same time. That means that we press both natural law and biblical arguments as far as they go. And in doing so, we must never leave behind the fact that our views on these matters are fundamentally moral in nature. That message may marginalize us in some contexts. But isn’t that what it means to count the cost of following Christ? (Luke 14:27-28)

47 Responses to What I observed this week in the debate about gay marriage

  1. Alastair Roberts March 30, 2013 at 12:21 am #

    For me, this is a matter of taking things one step at a time and facing down the most immediate challenge that we face before taking the conversation further. I want to speak about the logic and morality of marriage before speaking of the logic and morality of sexuality. I see a challenge to same-sex marriage that does not rest upon a direct attack upon the morality of homosexuality to be more widely persuasive.

    This then provides a basis to take things further. As Christians, marriage is the institution which integrates the ends of our sexuality and other dimensions of our practice. As we present the meaning of marriage very firmly and clearly, we can go beyond showing the inconsistency of same-sex marriage to show the broken character of homosexual practice itself. I have made some comments along these lines here (see question 13 in particular).

  2. Bryan Cross March 30, 2013 at 12:55 am #

    Denny,

    In constructing an argument intended to persuade, one must use premises shared by one’s interlocutors. Otherwise, we’re really just talking to ourselves, and making ourselves feel better for having done our time on our soapbox, while being rude and insensitive to the epistemic condition of our interlocutors. Supporters of SSM accept neither the Bible nor the notion that homosexual acts are contrary to the natural law. So Bible verses and “homosexual acts are immoral” cannot be premises in our arguments. And claiming that SSM supporters really *do* know either the truth of the Bible or the immorality of homosexual acts, even though they claim to believe precisely the opposite, isn’t going to make our case more persuasive. It would have exactly the opposite effect, because of the perceived arrogance of claiming to know their own minds better than they know them. That’s why we have to start further ‘upstream,’ as it were, on the question of the very nature of marriage. Ought follows is.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

    • Denny Burk March 30, 2013 at 1:01 am #

      Like I said, there’s a time for using arguments that appeal to common premises. I’m just saying that if we never get beyond the shared premises to the conflict that the gospel inevitably brings, then we have a problem.

    • Chayce Wilson March 31, 2013 at 12:04 am #

      Mr. Cross,

      I think I understand what you are saying, and I’ve struggled to figure out how I am to be the most effective when dealing with this topic. However, although I’m not saying I disagree with you, I’m not sure I completely agree with some of your conclusions. I too know that “table-pounding” of Bible verses is counterproductive in terms of persuasion (however, in reading Burk’s article I didn’t understand him to be advocating any of that either…), but in your opinion what role should the Bible have then? I’m not saying that from sarcasm, but I genuinely struggle to fully understand that myself. From what you are saying, it seems as though your battle only touches the mind, but isn’t it a spiritual darkness we are dealing with and not merely a mental one? Don’t misunderstand me, I believe that we should seek to be as consistent and competent as we can in terms of trying to convince someone, but at the end of the day, is not God’s Word alone what has the power to change? That doesn’t mean we have to quote a specific verse word for word (for of course this power is not in the wording but the truth behind the specific wording or translation), but doesn’t it mean this has to be our foundation. You said, “[It] isn’t going to make our case more persuasive. It would have exactly the opposite effect,” though this seems to be placing all of the weight of your success in your own ability to reason with someone. Again, don’t get me wrong, we should all learn how to reason to the best of our abilities, but should this not be secondary to Scripture–this seems silly by the world’s wisdom, but…you know the rest. I’m not sure God has called us to win the debate (although we should strive to); it seems as though He has called us to testify to the truth. What are your thoughts?

      • Bryan Cross April 1, 2013 at 11:14 am #

        Chayce,

        Spiritual maladies are not treated by thumping people with verses from a book they consider to be mere myth; how would you like it if Muslims treated what they considered to be your spiritual blindness by thumping you with verses from the Koran? Would that incline you to realize you have a problem that you need to change, or would it incline you to distance yourself from such persons for their rudeness and insensitivity? Spiritual maladies are treated by prayer and fasting and charity, and charity requires meeting people where they are. Before one can use the Bible explicitly as a premise in an argument one presents to others, one must establish that the Bible is an authority (or verify that one’s interlocutors recognize the authority of the Bible). I agree that God’s word has the power to change, but one must first believe that it is God word. Otherwise, it is just a source of amusement at what benighted people of old foolishly believed. The notion that shoving Bible verses at people who think this is a book of fairy tales will magically convert them is deeply misguided, because it presupposes a false divide between reason and faith, as though reason has no role in faith. It treats the Bible like a magical object. Do you really think that if Ryan Anderson had started quoting Scripture to Piers, that would have persuaded him, or would have “planted seeds”? No, it would have played right into his hands, giving him reason to believe and state that ultimately this is a *religious* question, and thus fundamentally a case of Christians imposing their [fideistic] religious beliefs on others.

        You wrote: “this seems to be placing all of the weight of your success in your own ability to reason with someone.” The only alternative is violence, either physical violence, or verbal violence (merely table-pounding one’s first principles at the other person). That’s typically what we see when, for example, groups of pro-life protesters encounter groups of pro-choice protestors; there is no reasoning going on there — rather, it is merely a shouting match, as each side proclaims its first principles, and no is persuaded. That sort of thing is futile.

        If you want to know my position on how we should address the SSM question, see my post titled “Two Questions about Marriage and the Civil Law” at the link below.

        http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2012/05/two-questions-about-marriage-and-the-civil-law/

        In the peace of Christ,

        – Bryan

        • Michael Lynch April 1, 2013 at 8:14 pm #

          Faith comes through hearing, and hearing of the word of God.

          • Bryan Cross April 1, 2013 at 8:37 pm #

            Michael,

            I agree, but in order to *hear* the word of God, one must first be in a position to hear it *as* the word of God. If one hears it as merely the word of men [and deluded, chauvinistic, sexist, bigoted, luddites at that], one hears it without truly *hearing* it.

            For generations we were living in a culture that at least retained the memory of Christian truths, such as the divine character of Scripture. But we now live in a post-Christian culture, and the initial missionary work establishing the praeambula fidei, done centuries ago, must now be redone.

            In the peace of Christ,

            – Bryan

    • steve hays April 1, 2013 at 1:35 pm #

      Proponents of SSM can’t reject an argument that hasn’t even been made. The point is not to assert that homosexual acts are immoral, but to present an argument to that effect. I think Burk’s point is that many proponents of traditional marriage have withdrawn the argument from public consideration.

      • Bryan Cross April 1, 2013 at 2:05 pm #

        Steve,

        The argument has been made, but it isn’t available for use by those [such as yourself] who think that masturbation and artificial contraception are morally licit, because it rules out such things as well. Damon Linker’s recent article “How gay marriage’s fate was sealed more than 50 years ago” lays out the problem:

        http://news.yahoo.com/gay-marriages-fate-sealed-more-50-years-ago-073000037.html

        In the peace of Christ,

        – Bryan

        • steve hays April 1, 2013 at 2:14 pm #

          You’re assuming those are linked. Those are only linked in Roman Catholicism.

  3. Bryan Cross March 30, 2013 at 1:15 am #

    Denny,

    I’ve never found table-pounding assertion of my beliefs to be persuasive. Never. Have you? How is that anything other than bullying? There are only two choices: reasoning with people, or violence of some sort (whether physical or verbal). And reasoning together requires finding common ground, and working from there. The conflict brought by the gospel is the conflict between where good reasoning leads, and where unbelievers are. It isn’t the conflict between Christians who have set aside arguments for question-begging assertions, and non-Christians.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

    • Denny Burk March 30, 2013 at 1:26 am #

      Well, I’m not arguing for table-pounding or violence. The word of God has a self-authenticating power. There’s nothing wrong with persuading people to believe it, even when they don’t share it’s premises. In fact, we are commanded to do that very thing.

      • Bryan Cross March 30, 2013 at 9:54 am #

        Denny,

        I do not share your belief that Scripture is “self-authenticating.” I believe that that treats the Bible as though it is a magical book. Discussing that would take take us off-topic. But if you were to discuss it with me, and use the approach you are here advocating, it would be a futile ‘discussion,’ since you would just bombard me with “self-authenticating” Bible verses that ‘self-authenticatingly’ supported your thesis, and thereby beg the question against those who didn’t interpret the Bible in that way. This use of the “self-authentication” thesis loads bullying right into the nature of the consequent ‘dialogue,’ because it gives you the green light to pound the table repeatedly with your “self-authenticating” Bible verses, even when your interlocutor doesn’t accept their truth or believe they have divine authority.

        In my opinion, this violates the Golden Rule. I would never want to be treated in that way. I would never want anyone to attempt to persuade me by merely asserting repeatedly that his own position is true, and self-authentically so, and that therefore my position is false. I would find that uncharitable, arrogant and off-putting. And I’m guessing that you would too, if someone were to treat you in this way.

        In the peace of Christ,

        – Bryan

        • steve hays April 3, 2013 at 10:00 pm #

          Bryan Cross

          “This use of the “self-authentication” thesis loads bullying right into the nature of the consequent ‘dialogue,’ because it gives you the green light to pound the table repeatedly with your ‘self-authenticating’ Bible verses, even when your interlocutor doesn’t accept their truth or believe they have divine authority. In my opinion, this violates the Golden Rule.”

          i) That’s ironic coming from a Catholic apologist who interjected his opposition to artificial contraception into this thread. What if Bryan appealed to natural law to justify his position on artificial contraception, and his opponents said:

          “This use of the “natural law” thesis loads bullying right into the nature of the consequent ‘dialogue,’ because it gives you the green light to pound the table repeatedly with your ‘natural law” claims, even when your interlocutor doesn’t accept their truth or believe they have moral authority. In my opinion, this violates the Golden Rule.”

          ii) What if (ex hypothesi) the Bible *is* self-authenticating? Would it still violate the Golden Rule to invoke Biblical authority?

          iii) BTW, Jesus often cited the OT to validate his positions. Did Jesus violate the Golden Rule?

          “I would find that uncharitable, arrogant and off-putting. And I’m guessing that you would too, if someone were to treat you in this way.”

          Why does Bryan resort to the emotive rhetoric of the Far Left?

  4. Bill Hickman March 30, 2013 at 1:39 am #

    Denny –

    I’m sure we agree that all constitutions, laws, and legal arguments, even secular ones, have a moral viewpoint. For example, any Supreme Court lawyer worth his salt will nestle his doctrinal argument within an appealing set of values for the Justices to grab on to. But I don’t think all morals and values are necessarily religious in nature.

    Do you think there exists a moral argument against same-sex marriage that isn’t ultimately religious? I don’t think I’ve ever heard it. Moral arguments against gay marriage inevitably get back to “because the Bible says so.” To me, persuading the Court that gay marriage is morally wrong would mean persuading them to encode a religious view of things, which will be difficult because of our Constitution and laws.

    When you look at it this way, I think it becomes clearer why Anderson and others feel the need to create a non-moral legal argument against gay marriage.

    • Denny Burk March 30, 2013 at 7:11 am #

      Yes, there is a natural law case to be made about the morality of same sex acts.

      • Paula Bolyard (@pbolyard) March 30, 2013 at 3:17 pm #

        The natural law argument is, ultimately, a biblical argument, though not distinctively Christian–“the law of Nature and Nature’s God.” But I agree with you that Anderson is not really making that argument, though I think it could be made.

  5. Mollie Lyon March 30, 2013 at 2:44 am #

    You have said so eloquently what I have felt for a long time. Like you have said, we need to continue in the Word of God and go outside the camp with Jesus, if need be. I posted on my blog a few minutes ago. Do you mind if I share your blog. Thanks,

  6. Michael Lynch March 30, 2013 at 7:15 am #

    Great post, Denny.

  7. buddyglass March 30, 2013 at 11:36 am #

    Traditional marriage proponents have avoided making the moral case against homosexual relationships in general (and, by extension, same-sex marriage) because they’ve concluded it would not be effective at swaying public opinion when it comes to the question of whether same-sex couples should be able to access to the rights and obligations of civil marriage.

    Short of Christian conversion, it seems unlikely that making the “moral case” is going to cause someone who currently has no moral problem with homosexual relationships to start viewing them as sinful.

    That leaves the set of folks who already view homosexual relationships as sinful. Most of this group are already opposed to same-sex marriage, so there’s little to be gained there. The ones who recognize that homosexual relationships are sinful yet are still not motivated to oppose efforts to grant civil marriage rights to same-sex couples are not likely to be swayed because the sinfulness of homosexual relationships is something they already believe.

  8. Peter G. March 30, 2013 at 12:06 pm #

    Denny, my only qualification on this would be that in some ways the moral approval of homosexuality is not as fast as it seems if one ties it to the moral dictum of “consenting adults” that was accepted long before homosexual activity was.

    Looked at narrowly, the acceptance has been head-spinningly fast. But it didn’t come out of a vacuum. It’s pretty consistent with the moral norm of “consenting adults” that’s been pushed for quite some time.

  9. Rafe Semmes March 30, 2013 at 12:17 pm #

    How does the “Christian” position on gay marriage compare with the “Muslim” position? Further, how do the responsibilities of Christians/Muslims flesh out as it relates to public discourse?

    I think these distinctions are important because many have Christianity confused with Christendom.

    • Denny Burk March 30, 2013 at 2:02 pm #

      The Christian position is rooted in the realities of Ephesians 5, which argues that marriage exists to be an enacted parable of Christ’s marriage to His bride. In that way, the deepest meaning of marriage is the gospel itself.

      • Rafe Semmes March 30, 2013 at 2:18 pm #

        Marriage is being used as a metaphor to explain an even greater reality (mystery). However, I don’t think that passage relates to how Christians should engage in public discourse.

        • Rafe Semmes March 30, 2013 at 2:23 pm #

          Muslims engage in public discourse from a position of power. I don’t see that in Christianity. However, many interpret the loss of Christian “power” in politics as a sign of God’s judgment. I find that ironic.

  10. Bob Wheeler March 30, 2013 at 1:46 pm #

    I agree with the posts of Bryan above. Though some may not agree with them, there are a good number of people who are not opposed to SSM or other related issues but still consider themselves to be followers of Christ.

    – Bob

  11. Scott Tsao March 31, 2013 at 12:24 am #

    To me there is no question that the debate on same sex marriage has every implication on upholding (or compromising) the moral (or ethical) principles this nation was founded.

    I think Dr. Ben Carson is right-on in his prophetic statement at CPAC 2013 that it takes four steps to destroy America:
    1. Create division among the people.
    2. Encourage a culture of ridicule for basic moral principles.
    3. Undermine the nation’s financial stability with crushing government debt.
    4. Weaken the morale and funding of the military.

    So far, we have seen ample evidences of the last two steps which resulted from the policies of Bush and Obama administrations.

    In view of the continued fierce contention between the Legislative and Executive branches of the US government (especially after the last election), a definitive decision from the Judicial branch (the Supreme Court) on the same sex marriage will certainly bring the first two steps to fruition.

    We will reach a point of no return soon afterwards.

  12. Daryl Little March 31, 2013 at 10:01 am #

    It seems to me that we do, as Denny has said, need to both persuade and preach. Was John that Baptist wrong in preaching at Herod? Surely this generation strongly resembles Herod. We need to persuade with natural law arguments for sure, but more than political change (which we certainly want!) repentance is what we ought really to hope for.

    • Mollie Lyon March 31, 2013 at 6:59 pm #

      Thank you. Has to be a change of heart.

  13. Nathan Cesal April 1, 2013 at 4:42 am #

    Morality is subjective.

    I know that you’ll declare it’s not — that God will someday declare who is on the right side of history using an absolute morality. I believe that, nevertheless morality is still subjective in that we have to decide what will be the law of the land for everyone to follow versus what will be left to individuals’ personal convictions. There is an entire spectrum of what people consider moral and immoral. That’s OK, right? After all, we do have religious freedom.

    Reason tells us that there has to be some kind of rules set in place to guide society; we can’t just go without any legislated morality whatsoever. The trick here is to figure out which rules are necessary and which aren’t. In that discussion, arguments outside of religious dogma hold more weight in a governmental system that is not supposed to give extra weight to one religious viewpoint over another.

    You can declare that X is a sin according to God and the Bible, yet that shouldn’t have any sway on a secular government.

  14. Ken Temple April 1, 2013 at 10:46 am #

    I agree with Denny and disagree with Bryan Cross, respectfully. We can make the argument, and include biblical ideas and verses, without “pounding on the table”. But it needs to be said. That is the elephant in the room – the media, when they show these stories, always shows sweet pictures of the same sex couple looking at each other or kissing or at some kind of “wedding” altar. Those pictures are by nature hiding the fact that what they do in private is sinful, so the bottom line of all this seems to be a push to legitimize their sinful behavior and force society to approve of them. They (the homosexuals) are the ones who are bringing it out into the public.

    The left and gay agenda writes long articles like this one that reinterpret every verse that shows that same sex actions are sinful.
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/obery-m-hendricks-jr-phd/dont-blame-it-on-the-bible_b_2884094.html

    There needs to be more response to that kind of argumentation also, in the public square. Christian books and articles are out there, but they usually stay within the Evangelical sub-culture. The media does not seem to allow a full and reasonable response to those articles like the one by Obery Hendricks.

    • Bryan Cross April 1, 2013 at 12:28 pm #

      Ken,

      The Obery Hendricks piece [and the 1,749 comments that follow it] are a good example of the inability of Scripture alone to resolve the question. When the interpretation of Scripture is left to private judgment, as entailed by Protestantism [as such], then Scripture can be interpreted any which way, depending on the presuppositions one brings to Scripture. The proposal that we point our society to Scripture on the SSM question, is not feasible when society sees this public debate regarding the question of the very interpretation of Scripture, and thus comes to believe that ‘interpretation’ is a matter of each side seeing what it wants to see in the relevant passages, by bringing their own particular presuppositions to Scripture, and thus ‘deriving’ from Scripture precisely what they bring to Scripture. In this way, society sees each side as ‘co-opting’ God to support their own position, and the very possibility of Scripture as authoritative is thereby undermined.

      What is missing and needed, obviously, is an authoritative magisterium — a different paradigm, according to which the Scripture belongs properly to the Church, and private judgment concerning the interpretation of Scripture is subordinate to the Church’s determination of Scripture’s meaning. But that pushes us back to the Protestant-Catholic disagreement, and shows the relevance (and importance) of pursuing Protestant-Catholic reconciliation for standing together effectively in addressing challenges such as the SSM issue.

      In the peace of Christ,

      – Bryan

      • steve hays April 3, 2013 at 12:08 pm #

        Bryan Cross

        “The Obery Hendricks piece [and the 1,749 comments that follow it] are a good example of the inability of Scripture alone to resolve the question. When the interpretation of Scripture is left to private judgment, as entailed by Protestantism [as such], then Scripture can be interpreted any which way, depending on the presuppositions one brings to Scripture.”

        i) How do you derive your conclusion from 1749 comments? 1749 comments don’t represent 1749 different interpretations, or 1749 different arguments.

        ii) Are you saying the pro-homosexuality interpretation is just as plausible as the anti-homosexuality interpretation? Do you place all arguments and counterarguments on a par?

        iii) To say Scripture alone is unable to resolve the question is ambiguous. Do you mean Scripture alone is unable to make everyone agree? But if that’s what you mean, the Magisterium is unable to make everyone agree.

        iv) How does the Church “determine” the meaning of Scripture? Do you mean the Church *recognizes* the true meaning, or the Church *assigns* meaning?

  15. Ken Temple April 1, 2013 at 1:04 pm #

    Bryan,
    Thanks for that response –

    The big problem is that even many Roman Catholics interpret the Scriptures any way they want even when they are not supposed to – examples – Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi (and the bishops right there in Rome gave them communion with the recent Pope official installation ceremony) Not only are many RCs not following the magisterium, even many bishops don’t. So, the problem of O. Hendricks article has nothing to do with the Protestant position of the priesthood of all believers and right of private interpretation. Even Bill O’Reilly on Fox News, who claims to be a Roman Catholic, is very liberal on this and I heard him recently say “he is ok with gay marriage” – on last Wednesday evening in “the Factor” in the segment with Megyn Kelly. So, the magisterium does not solve the problem, and even creates big problems in its own religion by not enforcing it’s own claims as to infallibility.

    • Bryan Cross April 1, 2013 at 2:14 pm #

      Ken,

      Of course there is a problem of dissenting Catholics. But that’s a problem *accidental* to the structure of Catholicism, not intrinsic to the structure of Catholicism. If and when she chooses, the Church can discipline such persons. But the problem of ‘private judgment’ exhibited in the Hendrick’s piece is intrinsic to Protestantism [as such]; there are no means available within Protestantism as such to resolve such interpretive disputes, except table-pounding with the assertion “No, *I* have the correct interpretation.”

      I’m not interested in taking us into the Protestant-Catholic debate on this thread. My point is simply that if we are going to be pointing society to Scripture, in response to the SSM issue, the fact of, cause of, and underlying solution to “pervasive interpretive pluralism,” as Christian Smith calls it, and as exemplified in the Obery Hendricks piece and the comments following it, is something that absolutely *must* be addressed.

      In the peace of Christ,

      – Bryan

      • steve hays April 1, 2013 at 7:24 pm #

        “If and when the church of Rome chooses” to discipline them? That’s a great all-purpose escape clause.

        BTW, the so-called ” pervasive interpretive pluralism” has been addressed.

        • Bryan Cross April 1, 2013 at 8:27 pm #

          Steve,

          I’m not sure exactly what you mean by “all-purpose escape clause,” but what I said is true, i.e. that the Catholic Church can discipline such persons, and often she does do so (typically in very quiet ways), even if not on our preferred time-table. Moreover, the Church’s authoritative teaching regarding homosexual actions / inclinations, and SSM is defined by the magisterium, not by dissenters from the magisterial teaching, as I explained in “The Catholics Are Divided Too Objection” post at CTC. And Protestantism has nothing comparable to a magisterium. But in the face of “pervasive interpretive pluralism,” an authoritative magisterium is precisely what is necessary in order to appeal to Scripture in the public square regarding the SSM question.

          Imagine Chris Matthews interviewing (think split-screen) Denny arguing that Scripture opposes SSM and Obery Hendricks on the other side of the screen arguing that Scripture doesn’t oppose SSM. Hendricks wins before even opening his mouth, by the very fact that he represents [by his very presence there] a ‘plausible’ opposing interpretation, and neither has greater interpretive authority than the other. This is an example why, in my opinion, for Scripture to have public authority, the Church must have interpretive authority.

          In the peace of Christ,

          – Bryan

          • steve hays April 1, 2013 at 9:47 pm #

            “I’m not sure exactly what you mean by ‘all-purpose escape clause,’ but what I said is true, i.e. that the Catholic Church can discipline such persons.”

            You originally said “if or when.” You denomination can do it, or not do it. Heads you win, tails you win.

            “…and often she does do so (typically in very quiet ways), even if not on our preferred time-table.”

            “Preferred time-table”? That’s euphemistic. More like *no* time-table. For decades, high-profile Catholic gov’t officials have supported abortion with absolute impunity from your denomination.

            If Pelosi and Biden were disciplined privately in the past, that clearly didn’t take.

            Anyway, this is another example of your fanatical commitment to Catholicism. If pope Francis publicly disciplined them, you’d defend that. If he privately disciplined them, you’d defend that. If he chose not to discipline them, you’d defend that.

            “Imagine Chris Matthews interviewing (think split-screen) Denny arguing that Scripture opposes SSM and Obery Hendricks on the other side of the screen arguing that Scripture doesn’t oppose SSM. Hendricks wins before even opening his mouth, by the very fact that he represents [by his very presence there] a ‘plausible’ opposing interpretation, and neither has greater interpretive authority than the other.”

            When two people disagree, that simply means one or both are wrong.

            BTW, are you saying Obery’s pro-homosexuality interpretation of Scripture is just as reasonable as Denny’s anti-homosexuality interpretation, which is why we need the Magisterium to play tiebreaker?

            “This is an example why, in my opinion, for Scripture to have public authority, the Church must have interpretive authority.”

            Of course, Bryan, if you think that’s a problem, then your solution only relocates the same problem. Imagine Chris Matthews interviewing (think split-screen) G. B. Caird or F. F. Bruce arguing that Scripture and history oppose the claims of Rome and Cardinal George on the other side of the screen arguing that Scripture and history support the claims of Rome.

            • Bryan Cross April 1, 2013 at 11:27 pm #

              Steve,

              Even if the Church does not discipline persons as soon or often as we might wish, it remains true that with a magisterium they *can* be disciplined and an authoritative interpretation of Scripture regarding SSM can be (and has been) provided. Without a magisterium, neither can be done. And that was my point.

              Your ad hominem about my alleged “fanatical commitment” is mistaken, because I wouldn’t applaud or defend a decision by a pope not to discipline persons who ought to be disciplined, unless I had reason to believe that they knew something I didn’t regarding the persons in question. But what I would or wouldn’t do, is entirely beside the point regarding the need for a magisterium for the use of Scripture in the public square, in the face of pervasive interpretive pluralism.

              The existence of a magisterium does not merely “relocate” the same problem, because the debate you imagine does not presuppose the acceptance of any authority, but concerns the location of ecclesial authority. The debate I described, by contrast, takes Scripture as a given, and shows that this authority can be directed in whatever manner one wants, and thus undercuts Scripture’s authority.

              In the peace of Christ,

              – Bryan

              • steve hays April 1, 2013 at 11:42 pm #

                You rig the answer by framing the question in terms of *authoritative* interpretations rather than *true* interpretations. Authoritative interpretations can be false, while true interpretations can be unauthoritative.

                You also have an unscriptural view of Scriptural authority. When, for instance, the Apostle John wrote 1 John to squash heresy, his opponents wouldn’t be entitled to say, “Well, *you* may interpret 1 John as condemning Docetism, but *we* don’t. Therefore, his letter has no intrinsic adjudicative force.”

                “…I wouldn’t applaud or defend a decision by a pope not to discipline persons who ought to be disciplined, unless I had reason to believe that they knew something I didn’t regarding the persons in question.”

                You’re being sophistical, for you take your cue on who ought or ought not to be disciplined from who your church does or doesn’t discipline. You disclaim exercising your independent judgment on the matter.

                “The existence of a magisterium does not merely ‘relocate’ the same problem, because the debate you imagine does not presuppose the acceptance of any authority, but concerns the location of ecclesial authority.”

                Both Catholic and Protestant positions presuppose the acceptance of *an* authority. So, in fact, my comparison is apt.

      • steve hays April 1, 2013 at 7:33 pm #

        Bryan’s church is a hermetically sealed abstraction.

  16. Ken Temple April 1, 2013 at 1:13 pm #

    Denny,
    Are there any good resources and articles for Christians that answer the question that the homosexual is asking in the photo you included in your article?

    “Why does my marriage bother you?”

    This is a common question and whenever I am in a witnessing situation in the past few years, this is always brought up.

    I have never heard anyone in public answer that question from a Biblical viewpoint –

    It does not “bother” us on a personal level; but if we believe in God and truth and that lying is wrong; then all falsehoods being approved of should bother everybody –

    It should “bother” people, just because it is wrong for society to be approving of it. It doesn’t bother us or me personally, but whenever lies and falsehoods are perpetuated, we should be bothered for society and love of truth and love for God. Just a injustices of the past, and political leaders lying should bother people.

    Any other suggestions beyond that?

  17. Xgay Greg April 1, 2013 at 3:38 pm #

    I lived with a man as my lover for the better part of 11 years. He cheated on me and I cheated on him. The ONLY thing we had going for us was lust. Today I’m married God’s way. My wife and I share the good news that Jesus can set you FREE from any sin and that includes the sin of homosexuality. I know that most people hate to hear the truth of God’s word so they create their own god, however, there is ONLY one God and ONLY one way to heaven. I have NOT had ex-gay therapy, unless you consider Jesus my Therapist.
    I USED TO BE ADDICTED TO MEN, BUT 7 YEARS AGO JESUS SET ME FREE! (YouTube video)

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Gay Marriage, Christianity, America Beyond Holy Week | everyday epistle by Aimee Whetstine - April 25, 2013

    […] guilty; that’s why we’re all in need of Christ. No one is in a position to condemn. But what does it say about my faith if I’m scared silent to speak what I […]

Comment here. Please use FIRST and LAST name.

Powered by WordPress. Designed by Woo Themes