I think Jen Hatmaker probably represents the feelings of a lot of folks who are worn out by the culture wars. In a recent post, she urges Christians to sit out the public debate on gay marriage. Her argument is simply that we have better things to do and that we are alienating gay people from Christianity by participating. So she plans to retreat to the metaphorical “basement” to ride out the storm in seclusion, and she urges other Christians to join her. In her own words:
Christians, do you really think posting pithy statements on Facebook about “standing firm in our values” and “resisting the liberal media” is helping? The lines we draw in the sand do absolutely nothing except assure everyone else: YOU’RE OUT. When we turn to politics and power to legislate our brand of morality, we take the opposite approach of Jesus whose power was activated in the margins with the outcasts…humbly…peripherally.
I’m sick of the Jesus forwards and judgment. Sick of majoring on gay marriage. Enough, everyone. With every hate Tweet and finger jab and Bible bludgeon, you are telling my gay friends they are indeed unwelcome, unloved, unvalued, and uninvited. If your agenda is to battle homosexuality, how’s that going? How many gay folks read your Prop 8 yard sign, knocked on your door, and said, “Thank you for voicing your opinion to the neighbors in this manner. Would you kindly invite me in and teach me how to be straight? And do you have a Bible study I can join?”…
How are these culture wars working out for us? Well, the church is losing around 50K folks a week, and the next generation downright refuses to come. The gay community is ostracized entirely (oh, they’ve gotten the message alright), and Christianity has turned into white noise.
At one level, I understand the frustration reflected in this post. I have dear friends who are gay who disagree with my point of view. I take no joy at the impasse over what is such a sensitive and personal issue. Also, I don’t like the careless, shrill tones that sometimes come from some traditional marriage supporters. Nor do I care for the confusion of Christianity and politics that sometimes emerges in these conversations. So I’m not altogether unsympathetic to Hatmaker’s concerns.
Having said that, I think it’s a mistake to respond to these frustrations by disengaging from the issue altogether. For a variety of reasons, this is not a debate that Christians are going to be able to opt-out of (see Owen Strachan’s excellent essay on this point). Instead of opting out as Hatmaker urges, I would suggest a different approach. Christians need to face this issue, but they need to do it in the right way with the right mindset. Here’s what I mean.
First, regardless of what’s happening in the culture wars, Christians must be clear about what the Bible teaches concerning human sexuality. As Christians, our first commitment is to the cause of Christ in the propagation of the gospel. Christ commissions his church to make disciples of every nation, and Christians cannot opt-out of this calling (Matt. 28:19-20). That means that we are in the business of calling sinners to repentance and faith so that they can be reconciled to God and inherit eternal life. But that task is undermined when sinners fall prey to the lie that their particular sin isn’t sin after all (1 John 1:10). And that is exactly what’s happening among Christians and churches all across the land. Younger evangelicals are less likely to hold the views of their parents on the issue of homosexuality (see here). There are simply many people—even some associated with the evangelical movement—who do not agree with the Bible’s teaching about homosexuality. Where the Bible’s message is rejected, repentance and faith become impossible. Salvation passes by, and sinners remain unconverted. To opt-out of the debate means to give free reign to the spirit of the age which would keep homosexual sinners blinded to their deepest spiritual need.
Second, Christians need to have a better understanding of their stewardship as citizens living in a democracy. We are not going to usher in the kingdom of God by getting the right laws passed or electing the “right” candidates. It doesn’t follow from that fact that Christians should withdraw from the process altogether. Jesus said to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:39). That means that Christians must seek the good of their neighbor in the public space. Our neighbor’s good, however, is defined by God, not by our neighbor. That means that from time to time, Christians will love their neighbor by seeking his good even when our neighbor disagrees with what his good is. In the current debate, God defines the good when it comes to marriage. He defines what makes for the health and vitality of the family and the community. If you love your neighbor, then you will leverage your democratic privileges in favor of the Bible’s definition of the good of marriage.
Third, Christians are going to have to learn how to speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). There are some people who act as if the truthfulness of what they are saying excuses the rudeness of how they are saying it. As Christians, we know that we are dying men speaking to dying men. We are supposed to live in the knowledge that we ourselves have been rescued from our own devices by the grace of God. We don’t have any grounds for haughtiness in our addresses to other sinners. We partake of Adam’s sin ourselves, and it ought to humble us in the manner in which we communicate. We must speak like Jesus did, whose opponents marveled at the gracious words that fell from his lips (Luke 4:22).
Fourth, we must resist the temptation of muting the Bible’s message simply because we think it will win more converts. That is not the pattern that Jesus modeled for us. Jesus spoke the truth in season and out of season. He never trimmed his sails to fit the prevailing winds of popular opinion, but was always willing to bring a confrontation when necessary (e.g., Matt. 3:7). If Jesus didn’t shrink back, neither should we. We must shine the light even when people run from it (John 3:20).
Again, Christians cannot hide in the basement on this debate. It is coming to us whether we want it to or not. The only question is whether or not we’ll be ready.
Loving your neighbor more than yourself means not getting divorced — give the world a Christian example of marriage.
If banning same-sex marriage is loving your neighbor, then you should also love your neighbor and ban divorce and ban remarriages.
Wouldn’t these prove that you’re serious about marriage instead of just singling out a particular group of people?
Right! As I’ve written before in this space, no-fault divorce is a blight on our culture and needs to go.
This acknowledgement is really empty – you don’t plan to support a legal ban on divorce and/or remarriage. If this movement doesn’t exist currently, I would expect you to spearhead one – that’s what someone would do if they really wanted our government to protect the sanctity of marriage.
What do you do within your church regarding these issues? I would expect that you apply various corporate and social strictures surrounding who can/should get divorced and who can/should get remarried. These exact same things (and probably more) would be at your disposal if same-sex marriage were legalized.
Precisely. I also believe it a myth that churches/pastors/Christians do not stand against divorce (especially when it is treated lightly) and sexual immorality of other sorts.
Joseph was going to divorce Mary using the no-fault divorce of 1st century Jewish culture, namely Hillel’s divorce for “Any Matter”. It would not have been for any matter, but rather because he could figure out that Mary had (apparently) committed adultery since she was pregnant and therefore violated the betrothal covenant they had, but he was going to use this method as it did not humiliate Mary. And Joseph is called righteous in the same verse, so it was not wrong for him to plan to do this. It took the intervention of an angel to correct Joseph’s understandable misunderstanding of what had happened.
But the point of all this is that is can be a righteous choice to get a no-fault divorce, as long as the actual reason for the divorce is not just anything, but rather a Biblical reason.
“Joseph was going to divorce Mary using the no-fault divorce of 1st century Jewish culture, namely Hillel’s divorce for “Any Matter”.”
This doesn’t follow at all from the text, nor from Deut 24:1. You know what the Hebrew says, Don, no matter what Hillel or the Sadducces were saying. It is gravely puzzling to me that you would read that Joseph found his teen bride pregnant and say that it is “no-fault”. This is really strange. He is well with the notion of “er-vah davar”, that is a matter of nakedness or indecency. His righteousness could be just as much his tact and kindness in handling it as he did. You surely know this, this interpretation you have offered is irresponsible.
To ascribe the most liberal Jewish interpretation of the passage to Matthew 1 doesn’t follow from the events at all.
I did not say it was “no fault” as the reason for Joseph’s divorce, I specifically said it was for (deduced) adultery. It would be an accurate deduction except for a miracle, which it took an angel to explain to Joseph.
The Pharisees has 2 basic schools, Hillel and Shammai, when seeking a divorce one chose 3 judges, knowing which school they belonged to. So if you chose 3 Hillelite judges, you knew ahead of time how they understood Deu 24:1 and allowed a divorce without witnesses or evidence and if you chose 3 Shammaite judges you also knew how they understood Deu 24:1 with witnesses and evidence. And yes, we know that Jesus said that Hillel was wrong in his understanding, but that was in the future, the choice of Joseph was what it was. Since Joseph was going to do his divorce quietly it can be deduced that he planned to seek a Hillel “Any Matter” divorce, since a Shammai divorce could not be done quietly, any evidence would be a matter of public record and would result in the shame of Mary.
But Joseph did not want to shame Mary, good for him. And the Bible commends him also.
The point, which can be lost and so I am stating it explicitly, is that there is a difference between USING a no fault divorce to avoid shaming another and divorcing for the reason of no fault. In the former case, the reason for divorce can be Biblical (adultery, abuse, neglect) but there is no requirement to make any of this public.
Therefore a no fault divorce can be used in a righteous manner.
“I did not say it was “no fault” as the reason for Joseph’s divorce, I specifically said it was for (deduced) adultery”
Don, that doesn’t make any sense at all. What does “no fault divorce” mean apart for the reason for the divorce?
There can be plenty of faults leading to a divorce. What “no fault” divorce allows is getting a divorce without bringing up ANY of those faults in a court of law, calling witnesses, and all of that.
Before no fault divorces becames law, one spouse would need to meet whatever criteria the STATE decided so that the divorce could happen. So a husband seeking to divorce his wife sometimes had to APPEAR to commit adultery, even if he did not and would never think of doing so. It was all very wacky.
So the gov’t got out of the “reasons for divorce” business by and large by allowing a no fault divorce. They should never have been IN this business in the first place.
And we see similar here, if the gov’t defines what a marriage is, they can redefine it. They should never have been in the marriage defining business, this was their fundamental mistake. What a gov’t can do is define what types of legal contracts can be made and allow judgement if the stipulations of a contract were met and assign penalties. Then any group can declare that some of those contracts will be seen as a marriage by that group and most importantly, some others will NOT be seen as a marriage. So a church can bless a union that it agrees with and decline to bless another.
Now you’re talking about something almost totally different. No-fault divorce basically means that the law assumes that it’s nobody’s fault. You said that Joseph was considering no-fault divorce, when in fact, he saw A FAULT, You may say that he is working within the Hillelic no-fault system, but that does not make it a no fault divorce, as, again, Joseph saw A FAULT.
“Before no fault divorces becames law, one spouse would need to meet whatever criteria the STATE decided so that the divorce could happen. So a husband seeking to divorce his wife sometimes had to APPEAR to commit adultery, even if he did not and would never think of doing so. It was all very wacky.”
Yes, holding someone to a life long promise, a covenant, is very wacky.
No, that is a common misunderstanding. No fault does not mean that the law assumes the divorce was no one’s fault. It means that one can get a divorce without bringing up CLAIMS of a fault.
Joseph saw what he assumed was a fault (sin) in Mary, and it would have been except for a miracle, so his assumption was reasonable. He could have planned to go the Shammai route and shamed Mary or he could have planned to go the Hillel route and decline to shame Mary. He did not want to shame her and I think this is a good thing.
Marriage is intended by God to be a life-long covenant, but that does not mean that one party or the other cannot get a divorce if the other party breaks a covenant vow. Breaking a covenant vow allows the other party to decide whether the covenant should still be considered in force or not. This is basic Bible and God even divorced Israel using this principles, see Jer 3:8.
Sorry, I missed this part.
“They should never have been in the marriage defining business, this was their fundamental mistake. What a gov’t can do is define what types of legal contracts can be made and allow judgement if the stipulations of a contract were met and assign penalties.”
How would custody be decided in a purely contractual system?
Same way as custody is decided now.
That doesn’t follow. Custody is now based upon marriage law and family law following from the existing system. If you say that the existing system is to be fundamentally changed, you cannot assume that all aspects of the system will be fundamentally changed.
Are children owned under the contract? How do their rights as human beings enter into the contract once the children arrive?
But there are even more problems. Why change it? You say that the existing system is a problem, but then, almost unaware, you go on to say
“define what types of legal contracts can be made and allow judgement if the stipulations of a contract were met and assign penalties”
How, exactly does this differ from the existing system? How, exactly, does this get government out of the marriage defining business? It seems to me that you have just said we shouldn’t do A, but then you rephrased A and called it B, not noticing that you were really talking about A.
And there are more problems. The existing law is said to be self-evidently bigoted by the revisionists, right? How could you say that custody laws based on what is said to be a bigoted system are not also bigoted, as you have already acquiesced on the matter of change to accomodate the revisionists?
Nobody is banning anything. Preventing the government from forcing everybody to publicly accept and endorse something is not the same thing as criminalizing it. Businesses and left-over religious organizations are free to do as they want to. If Target and Bank of America want to give benefits to homosexual couples or triples or whatever, they are still free to do so. If the ELCA or UCC or Episcopalians want to bless this relationship, they are free to do so.
This talk of “banning” is exhaustingly inexact.
Christians should certainly demonstrate a biblical view of marriage by protecting the sanctity of the home at all costs, but the reality is that divorce happens. It happened in Moses’ day; it happened in Paul’s day. Indeed, both Moses and Paul had something to say about divorce. The prophet Malachi also makes it clear that “God hates divorce.” But Scripture does make provision for divorce on the grounds of adultery and apostasy. On the contrary, there is nowhere in Scripture that allowances are made for anything resembling same-sex marriage. The idea of same-sex marriage is as foreign to the Bible as the concept of a sinful Savior. So-called “marriage equality” (a clever re-branding of sin if ever there was one) is both unbiblical and unprecedented.
Full disclosure – I write as a Christian man, a pastor no less, who has been through divorce. This is not the time or place to discuss my experience, but I can tell you from personal and pastoral experience that every situation is unique. We must avoid the temptation to label all divorcees as sinners who have made a mockery of marriage. If we make divorce and remarriage an “unpardonable sin” we have simply singled out a different group of people. I am not sure that is the right way to prove we are serious about marriage.
Before I respond to this post, Denny, you may be wondering why I am responding so much on this issue. It isn’t because I eat that much at Chick-Fil-A, I can tell you that (though I like the stuff). My reasons are grounded in personal experiences as well as a fierce sense of theological conviction. Sorry in advance for the long post…
I am personally acquainted with a number of people, some even relatives, who have been molested or nearly molested by homosexuals. Those events shared certain characteristics that, existentially, bear witness with Scriptural testimony about the sin of homosexuality, viz, that it is a self-destructive, gross distortion of God’s image in humanity and is marked by a ravenous lust and sense of entitlement. I have also been close (in one case very close) to men who committed suicide because of their homosexuality. In both cases the men were married, were in ministry, and fell into the sin with other men in the church. In both cases loving Christian family members and fellow believers surrounded them, reached out to them, and offered redemption and restoration. One hung himself because he was rejected by his lover, the other did the same because his wife finally left him because he became physically abusive to her. To say they killed themselves “because they were bullied” shamefully belittles the compassion they were shown and the people and relationships they chose to abondaon and despaired of ever regaining. In these cases, it’s also just plain not true.
In terms of eternal redemption, all sins are created equal. In terms of impact on human existence, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Homosexuality is a highly destructive sin that destroys lives more quickly and more absolutely than any other I can think of. THIS MUST BE SAID. Not only is it spiritually and psychologically self-destructive, but it is extremely unhealthy, especially the male variety. NO ONE wants to talk about the horrendously unclean sexual practices involved here, but they lie at the heart of the issue. To be more direct, it is not two men living together and loving each other that is the issue–men have done that for years in a variety of settings. It is men practicing what men practice when they have sex with each other, including (among other things) anal penetration and other things that make the human body do what it was clearly not intended to do that is the issue, etc. Let’s put aside all the progaganda talk (“gay,” “love,” “marriage,” even “homosexual”) and call such practices what they are–physically and medically dangerous. I have seen what these practices do to people I have known and loved, and still love, and having no condemnation for them (even the ones who by all account died in their sins), I call them what they are.
I, too, understand this woman’s post. But I fear that with all the “God save America” stuff (i.e., Wildman) along with the “Let’s save the church” (i.e., Barna) stuff, we have fallen into a morass of wrong thinking. Not only are we NOT primarily about a savvy PR strategy, we are not even primarily supposed to be about evangelism and church growth (shocking as that might sound). We are primarily supposed to be about the glory of God. She mentions that at the end, but only at the end. That is troubling.
I was pastoring in California while Prop 8 was debated and voted on (and passed). I take issue with her assertion that it did no good. I know at least one young man who was a practicing homosexual (and worship leader in a local Catholic parsh) who had grave doubts about his lifestyle. That debate led to conversations with young adults in our church and his departure from the lifestyle. Hatmaker’s characterization of a homosexual (not) knocking on the door of a home with a Prop 8 sign is in fact a caricature.
The bottom line is we are called to a prophetic role in society. May I ask, is there /anything/ we can EVER do or say that will mollify these people? Will rolling over (and silence certainly=acquiescence) win them? Keep/get them in our churches? I daresay the statistics she quotes refer to the churches that ARE DOING EXACTLY THAT. The person we need to please is the Holy Spirit. Grieve Him with silence or cowardice (or yes, hateful, alienating speech), and the Church is dead already. Speak the truth, and follow His mission, and some will be saved–but only a few through a narrow gate. The only thing we are promised is the words of the King saying “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Fame, success, and popularity as this world defines them are for the friends of this world. Jesus told us to expect to be hated. We shouldn’t provoke that intentionally, but we should certainly question if we are applauded by folks who are living in deep sin and show no conviction after hearing/reading our words.
I guess I agree with this lady in one thing: The culture war paradigm can distort our vision. But I think to see clearly, we need to get on the ROOF, not go to the basement.
I think you misread Jen’s blog. She’s not suggesting dis-engagement, but a different kind of engagement. I seriously doubt she would disagree with any of your statements here.
What has to stop is the demonizing of a particular sin or people. Homosexual behavior is a sin in the same way that stealing or lying or hatred is a sin. We have to stop putting one sin over another as we speak for truth. It would also be good if we had a good dose of brokenness and humility while we were speaking the truth. I rarely see an evangelical with tears in their eyes over the brokenness of humanity- unless it’s for people without water overseas.
I think we need to begin to see ourselves in our broken neighbors. Any of us could have been in the position that we find people who disagree with us about homosexual behavior were it not for the grace of God.
A lot of pointing to Jesus and his model in this piece.
How about the model of Jesus taking on the legalists of his day and theologically upending them… because they did greatly err?
I do not dismiss any of the Biblical commandments against homosexual behavior… but I also know that Peter says in Acts 15 “Our Fathers couldn’t keep the law, and neither could we.” (paraphrase)
There are 2 issues that the Church has been complicit in to bring us to this point.
1. The churches of the United States neglected to take care of Westboro Baptist. These are the folks who’ve brought us here… and the tepid response from the churches of this nation to that group’s tinkling cymbals of hate… is coming home to roost.
2. Biblical Ignorance/Gospel Ignorance.
How do the Pulpits of this nation get away with teaching more about Tim Tebow’s ability to pray on a Football field… then neglect actually Teaching their youth Science and History from a Biblical Perspective… and teaching Prophecy as a Central and vital part of what the Gospel is?
Here’s a sample of what I mean… We want to condemn the destruction of Sodom on Homosexuality… yet neglect the fact that at the end of that story an act of Incest occurs that brings Lot into the Messianic lineage.
“The lines we draw in the sand do absolutely nothing except assure everyone else: YOU’RE OUT.”
Doesn’t God decide who is in or “out”, doesn’t he draw the lines, as he has said in His word? “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals…”
So by just proclaiming what He said, we are simply relaying the message to repent and believe, because the immovable line has already been drawn in eternity past.
The first questions we ask should never e “does this do to our evangelistic pursuits”, but instead “what does the Word of God say about this?”
So are you going to stand in the door way like the First Born and make sure the Prodigal doesn’t get in to Inherit?
Or are you going to let the Father redeem them?
I couldn’t stand in the way of the Father even if I wanted too. I’m going to proclaim the gospel of Jesus by saying “repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved!” I will not lie and say repentance of homosexuality is optional.
The first born did not prevent the prodigal from getting in. The father had already welcomed the prodigal back. The first born only complained that he felt left out. However, this parable does not apply to the discussion. And no one is trying to keep anyone out. In fact, we are doing just the opposite by compassionately telling them how to get in!
Yeah… the Prodigal does apply… because we’re talking about Lacivious living.. and you want to withhold Inheritance.
How do I want to withhold inheritance? No man can withhold the inheritance of the elect.I only want to proclaim the Word. If you have an issue with the Word, take it up with God.
I don’t have an issue with the Word…
I have an issue with not studying the WHOLE Word.
I beg to differ. Your narrow interpretation so artificially restricts the Prodigal passage that you find yourself in conflict with a great deal of the rest of the word, as has been shown proliferatively in this post.
My question is–Why has the sin of homosexuality been railed against all these years and others lice racism seemingly never get preached on?
This selective preaching on a certain sin has always troubled me.
Also hate the sin and love the sinner is rarely ever truly practiced.
The “hate the sin, love the sinner” mentality.. method…
does not work in trying to reach the Homosexual community.
Dr. Nicolosi of NARTH will specifically tell you that the action is how they define themselves… because it is how society defines them.
For them… the act is inseparable from their identity.
When we rail against the sin… they perceive that we rail against them.
This is why Evangelicalism has made hardly any progress in their attempts to reach this community.
From my own experience, that sounds just like hardness of heart, rather than an inadequacy of the gospel or how it it is presented.
“If an offense come out of the truth, better is it that the offense come than that the truth be concealed.”- Thomas Hardy
There is zero wrong with calling those who practice homosexuality into repentance and faith in Jesus. That is the means in which the Father welcomes the “prodigal.” I’m not sure what you are arguing against but if you are arguing against preaching the Word of God then there is nothing more hostile to sinners than that.
Friend, I’ve got no beef with calling people to repentance… Not at all.
HOWEVER… That is putting the ox before the cart.
There’s no way its going to have the effect that you want it to… until you show them the true.
I’m not going to be able to explain this part very well… partly because I’m of the opinion that the majority of Christian Evangelicals have been deceived away from the War… to focus on the “how to live your best life now”…”how to get out of debt”… “how to be a good boy” style of Bible studies and models of “Holiness”.
None of those are the Gospel.. they are all forms of legalism.
Most legalists don’t even see this… because they don’t want to.
Who was Jesus the most hostile to?
He was hostile to people who were hostile to “sinners”.
God goes out of his way to REDEEM… RESTORE…
Because he knows who the REAL enemy is.
Amercian Christianity does not get this.
I’m on your side…. I’m just looking for new tactics… because the old ones aren’t working anymore… and to be honest, I’ve been around enough people near death who doubted their salvation … to question if it ever worked at all.
But the Prodigal came to the realization that he was living like a hog, and he decided to return to his father and ask to be made like a hired servant. Hoping only for a job, he returned to his father’s house not only to find his father running down the road toward him but restoring him to the relationship. I don’t think anyone wants to be the older brother in this story. But for a prodigal to return, he or she has to realize that they have squandered everything and found themselves in filth.
Exactly, Kelley. Your observations are sound and readily available to anyone who reads the parable even casually.
My question is, why is the question of dealing with homosexuals like a theological Bermuda Triangle for some people? Why is the obvious (truth, witness, real Christian love and confrontation, etc.) so easily lost that we find ourselves explaining such fundamentals all over again as their sense of spiritual orientation spins like a broken compass?
Ten years ago I stood in a room with around 250 homosexuals seeking answers to the pain in their lives and seeking some kind of relief.
There were women in that room who had been raped by their Fathers… Uncles, and/or Brothers.
There were a few young men in that room. Most of them didn’t even know what having a Father meant because theirs had abandoned them before even being born.
If this particular kind of ministry bothers you then perhaps you should find some other branch of ministry to excel in. You know… like How to be the First Born and live your best life now.
As far as the obvious “truths” being so easily lost on this topic… I’m writing a book. Stay tuned.
I will let God judge your motives; you appear in earnest. However, this is the second time you have pinned another person in this discussion as the Elder Brother in the the parable. That is most troubling. Your tone has also been sarcastic at times. Neither your characterizations nor your tone are helpful in the discussion, and it makes you come across as more than passionate–it makes you come off as angry and judgmental.
The fact is, you don’t know me, my family, my friends, my history, or my ministry. I have briefly explained how I have lost some of my dearest friends to this scourge (i.e., they are dead now), but I will not, for the sake of a blog discussion hang the agony of their memory and their families–to say nothing of my own–to score a point in a forum like this. I will simply say you are off–way off–in telling ANYONE here what their ministry ought to be or not be based on whether or not what they post strikes your fancy.
As for the Prodigal, I will close my comments on that score with this: The Parable’s central figure is not the Errant Son OR the Elder Son, it is the Father. Even a lightweight commentary will tell you this. And the Father’s compassion for the wayward son, as transforming as it was, was grounded in a recognition: This son of mine was /dead/–and now he lives. Personally, if I get cancer, I want an oncologist to treat me, not a holistic guy who can’t bring himself to break the bad news or administer anything more than herbal remedies. True, biblical love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. Homosexuals can and should be reached, but that cannot happen without a clear recognition that they are deeply bound by a force that is nothing less than demonic. I say this based on conversations I have had with people who have successfully left that lifestyle.
I have read many fine posts in this thread, and frankly, for all the potshots evangelicals seem to take on the subject, I am extremely proud of my brethren (sisters included) who have written here. I see a desire to speak truth, show compassion, and deal with the issue redemptively. I also note some have remarked that it seems no matter what is said or done, Christians will be typecast and piegeon-holed. I hope you aren’t fallling into that, too, Steve, because you sure seem angry at anyone else who says something that doesn’t fit your own viewfinder. And I also hope you don’t fall for what C.S. Lewis calls the perennial thrill of the “new thing.” Because I’ve seen lots of folks attempt a “new thing” and successfully “reach,” socialize, network, and (yes) write books for many, even for crowds–but see transformation in very, very few.
I could return your words in the same way you delivered them. With the same accuracy.
There’s no reason to.
We’ve got different ministries.
Why don’t you expound on your point instead of being so socratic methody 🙂 In the story of the prodigal son, there are issues of inheritance, repentance, AND sonship, You seem to focus on the first and not the other two, so I think many, including myself, are confused by your point.
Exactly right, Johnny. Steve’s application is so narrow that he has successfully put Luke 15 in conflict with other passages. His interpretive grid squeezes out any number of other things, but he doesn’t seem to be able or willing to engage them.
Johnny… it seems we ran that thread to ground… so I hope you get this.
You are right… there are issues of repentance and sonship that matter.
There is a dynamic between the two brothers that is very clear to me… (having been invited to disfellowship).
They do not like each other.
I’m not sure how many of you can put yourself in his situation… How would you like to be the black sheep of the family… the failure… the outcast?
How many of you would look forward to meeting that older brother when you HAD to come home to survive? Because you KNOW he’s going to hold that over you…. all the days of your life.
How attractive does that walk home from a far country look now?
And the prodigal hadn’t even come to a point of repentance yet… just desperation. That’s not the same thing.
This is why I warn against the attitude of the Older brother…
Don’t be a hindrance to someone coming to faith in Yeshua… because you feel your Moral High Ground is the right place to point out how they’ve missed the mark.
God has a way of pointing out how he sees our righteousness.
Unlike our friend David suggests… I did not read the parable casually.
The Prodigal is a story that rings true to many, if not most, of us… and it is not my purpose to re-interpret anyone’s personal experience with this parable and how special it is to them.
The fact that it IS so special to so many of us… should give us all pause to examine it and promote it to those whom we find living a life we see as destructive.
The story of the Prodigal is something that deeply resonates within the Homosexual community.. If you set yourself to learn the “nurture” explanation of those in the lifestyle… you’ll see the brokenhearted condition between Father and child at the very core of 90% of those in it.
Kelley, forgive me if I am wrong… but in your observation of the parable… I’m not sure you fully appreciate the situation of the Prodigal or his desperation.
I hope I get to enlighten you as I respond to Mr. Thomas.
By your own terms, no one is allowed to point out the Prodigal’s desperation, otherwise they may alienate him. What is the mechanism of conviction facilitated by a ministry of any sort commensurate with the Prodigal’s desperation? That is to ask, if the Prodigal realized his desperation entirely on his own, and you are saying that pointing out their desperation in any way is counterproductive, then what, exactly, do you do in your ministry? Just wait? There certainly may be value in bearing with a person, but without the implicit warning that Christ gave to so many in commanding/pleading “Repent!”, your seeker sensitivity is obscuring a great deal of the rest of the word.
True indeed. Not to mention the fact that in the parable, the Younger Son most definitely returns to his Father with more than “desperation”:
I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I HAVE SINNED against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.” ’ And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. ~ Luke 15:18-20
The Younger Son didn’t just say, in effect, “This lifestyle stinks. I’m hungry and dirty and it was better at home even though my dad and big brother were a drag. I’m desperate so I’ll go and put up with them, but they’d better not lay any of that religious nonsense on me.”
No, he returned with a full recognition of his sinfulness and his unworthiness. His attitude is directly reflective of the same attitude seen in the publican of Luke 18:13–repentance through a broken sense of unworthiness, not just animal desperation.
In other words, the only way ANYONE would be “denying redemption and inheritance” would be to look a REPENTANT, BROKEN person in the eye and say, “Not good enough, bub. That ship has sailed.”
I thank God He was patient with me. But THIS PARABLE reflects how God deals with the REPENTANT sinner and leaves the door open for them (and how we should, too)–it is NOT a lesson on how sinful behavior should be coddled out of fear of offending the sinner.
God’s love is unconditional; His blessings are not.
This doesn’t make any sense. Read 1 Corinthians 5 and then reinterpret Luke 15 in light of that.
Through your interpretive grid, Paul was withholding the inheritance. Is that Paul’s pastoral error or does it highlight your hermeneutical error?
Do you still beat your wife?
Rephrase the question please.
Just answer it. It’s not that hard for a guy why studies the whole word.
Meh. This whole thing made me think of Titus 3:1 0 last night, Jason. It’s useless. The deeper issue with a guy like Steve is that he is so mad at everyone else’s perceived judgmentalism and legalism he has become what he professes to hate. Such is the way with the one who yields to those forces. So, paradoxically, the one who claims to be the most accepting, loving, and restorative is the most dogmatic and exclusive of everyone in the forum! This is my greatest concern for him, the spirit of contentiousness upon his life, which at its very best makes a person partisan and at worst makes a person a fraud.
Of course, the hermeneutical issues with his read of Luke 15 are legion as well. It seems he would have both father and elder brother carry /another/ inheritance portion to the Decapolis and join him in the brothels there to beg his return, nay, to kill the fatted calf for him in the self-same brothels to celebrate, well, /him/–regardless of his actions. *sigh*
The word of God is both more wonderfully merciful and terribly severe than any imagine, and if we neglect or distort it to our ends a price is ultimately exacted that neither we nor our hearers can afford to pay.
Are you pointing that in my direction?
“Everyone” else… is not throwing me out.
Which kinda begs the question…
Were you made Admin of this board or something?
You certainly think you have administrative rights over me.
Your attempts to collect others in your quest denotes a bullying mentality due to your displeasure in me not bending to your will.
That’s a common trait of people with erecticle dysfunction.
There you go, genital references by way of profoundly incongruous personal insults and some variation on “You’re not the boss of me.” That is always where this discussion ends up.
love what you’ve written and I very much agree. I usually stick around to point out the issues for the benefit of others who are reading for whom Steve’s gospel parody sounds compelling because it apes compassion. His errors are obvious to you and me, but many are drawn in by this stuff.
Well, I hear you, Jason. And I appreciate your unwinding the spool as it were, giving thread (or rope) with which he has basically hung himself here with all the insults and vulgarities, not to mention eisegesis.
Actually, the forum has served as a very interesting lab. Denny has posted something about how the homosexual lobby carried the culture war by effectively demonizing the opposition, and others have lamented here how merely /saying/ that the homosexual is sinful makes one a bigot–regardless of motives or tone.
What I’ve seen of Steve Lynch is irrational name-calling, vulgarities, chip-on-the-shoulder defensiveness, and above all, pigeon-holing. He brands as a bigoted, legalistic hater anyone who has the temerity to question /his/ read of things, calls into question their motives, ministry, and the gospel they preach. And all the time, he and he /only/ understands Luke 15, he and he /only/ gets the /true/ gospel, he and he /only/ truly cares for homosexuals and their redemption, etc., etc.
Sounds very, very familiar.
I was content to let your “churlish” comment just kinda hang out there…
But… as long as we’re gonna start pointing fingers…
This is a very poorly considered passage, and, in actuality, goes towards my point and against your own. What were the shepherds doing to earn this woe?
At this point your just digging yourself deeper, Steve. Getting everyone else to throw you out won’t answer that nagging question in your gut about whether you or they were in the wrong…
I appreciate your thoughts on this. I am not sure Jesus would like for us to go the basement because they have come out of the closet. That was not his way. He was forward with the sins of others but also loving and truthful. Some respond with brokeness while others walk away. We can’t expect anything different
“If your agenda is to battle homosexuality, how’s that going?”
That’s a portion of the battle, to speak up for truth, which is a wonderful thing indeed. God loves His truth, and he desires we speak it for His pleasure is in the truth. Sure the heart needs to have a meekness with love, and yet bold as well.
I have no problem telling anyone that two men can not be married, because it is an impossibility. Can then say they were married and live together in sexual union? Sure they can do that, but it’s not the definition of “marriage”. A husband and a wife make up a marraige; a male and a female, and so they have children.
Two men can’t have sex and then have children.
Why can’t we talk about this? It’s more absurd not to discuss it, then to ignore it, don’t you think.
I’m not condemning anyone. I always see my sin before me, and yet I am Christ’s, and so sin is hateful to me, and His grace and mercy are my heart’s treasure.
I sin, and yet I fight it. I cry out for His grace and Spirit to help me. I look to His Cross with tears, and with a heart of heaviness, and yet full of joy and peace.
Truth is absolute, and it is eternal. Seek it my friends, and speak it. Ask God to set us apart by it, and love it.
Nice post, Don.
I have news for Ms. Hatmaker. Even if a believer’s heart is perfectly motivated by God’s love in their sharing the gospel message, homosexuals for the most part will hate them and the gospel. We are assured by God’s word that that will be the case because the message is a light designed to reveal the sinner’s need for a savior and men love the darkness and hate the light. Ms. Hatmaker doesn’t seem to understand that she too is called to count the cost of being a follower of Christ. That somehow being persecuted is not what we should expect if we desire to live a godly life.
“Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.”
2 Timothy 3:12
“Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,”
If Christ suffered persecution, we will suffer persecution. If we desire to live a godly life, we WILL suffer persecution. Not some will suffer but ALL.
And BTW, what does that say about our lives as servants of Christ if we are not suffering persecution?
If you obey Christ and do all that He commands, you will be in direct opposition to the world and you will suffer persecution for it because you will be declaring the truth in love. You will not compromise His truth about sin, ANY sin. And because the world hates that truth, they will hate you for your commitment to it. And don’t be shocked when you are persecuted even in the church when sin, or compromise with a group’s specific sin is confronted there as well.
So regardless of what sin we are dealing with, it comes down to a simple question, are you and I willing to count the cost of living a godly life? Then be ready to endure that persecution. Pray for God’s strength and wisdom to live an uncompromising godly life. When you fail, ask His forgiveness (1 John 1:9) and get back in the fight. And in order to endure to the end, stay focused on promises like 1 Cor. 2:9 which says “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”
And take heed to verses like Matthew 13:21 “yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away.”
With our Savior’s power and wisdom, we CAN can count the cost, we CAN endure to the end and say along with Paul “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
I really appreciate the tone of your response. It is soft and kind, but firm and resolute. I, too, can relate to Jen’s blog post. I often feel frustrated by all the noise surrounding these issues. It just feels like everyone’s yelling at each other and nobody’s bothering to listen. I think that’s what Jen is talking about when she says she’s going to the basement. I don’t think she’s advocating a disengagement mindset as much as she’s encouraging people to find a more quiet and peaceful place to actually discuss these matters where there might be a more fruitful give and take.
The problem with her theory, in my mind, is that I’m not sure such a give and take exists anymore. The minute a Christian admits that he views homosexuality as a sin, he is immediately disregarded as a bigot by most homosexuals. Game over. The end. I hate it, but it’s true. The fact of the matter is that I don’t view homosexuals as outcasts or lepers, but that doesn’t really matter, because they are convinced that I hate them because I believe homosexuality is a sin.
I wish I could go to this basement with Jen Hatmaker and have a good conversation with a homosexual about the fact that I want to know them and love them and share the goodness of God with them, but the minute I divulge my view of homosexuality as a sin, I feel that I am banned from the basement. So, even though I don’t elevate the sin of homosexuality above any other sin, I am, nonetheless, accused of doing so.
I feel Jen’s pain, but I don’t think her basement exists. The lines have been drawn, and, like it or not, you’re on one side or the other. I really wish it weren’t this way… I really do.
Amen! You’re reading my mind.
At the least, I think it is wrong and unhelpful to say that homosexuality is a sin. At the most, a homosexual ACT is a sin, but a homosexual orientation simply cannot be a sin. All of us have an orientation to be selfish, but it is our choice whether to act on that orientation.
Jews say there is an evil inclination in humans, which must be resisted. It can show up in various ways, but it is there in all of us. I like that formulation.
Sure, it’s totally unhelpful to call murder a sin.
Murder is an act and is a crime and a sin. Thinking of murder is a sin, per Jesus.
However, all of us have a temptation to anger. There are many wrong ways to process anger. However, any temptation to anger is not a sin.
So you are making a category mistake.
I disagree, but I also don’t that that we are very far apart on the matter in light of your clarification.
If a person has homosexual urges, but never acts on them, and never tells anyone about it, is that a sin which another person could address pastorally? No. So nobody is talking about an inclination that no one knows about and no one has witnessed. You can’t address something which, as far as you know, doesn’t exist.
As you correctly say, we are all tempted to unrighteous anger, but Christ didn’t act on it, thereby, the temptation is not a sin.
But, again, we are not talking about something that the person experiencing the temptation has not acted on nor has the person not sought counsel about the matter. We are addressing something that is a sin because it is actually happening, in the same way that our own sins and repentance is addressing those issues of which we are actually aware.
So when you say,
“At the least, I think it is wrong and unhelpful to say that homosexuality is a sin.”
I suspect you are right to the degree that one can have the inclination and do nothing about it, but, then, what are we talking about? Nothing we are aware of. “Homosexual activity” may be clarifying for the brother or sister who we are discipling and caring for, but
Don, I appreciate the delineation, but it seems like hair splitting to me and I don’t see how it’s helpful to the conversation. If someone is offended that I think homosexuality is a sin, it’s not because they think I’m referring to the struggle against the action, it’s because they would most likely be offended that I even think there should be a struggle at all. The real issue is that there is a drastically shrinking distinction these days between people who struggle with practicing the sin of homosexuality and those who have fully embraced the idea that there is no struggle at all. What I’m trying to say is that homosexuality isn’t viewed as a struggle to be fought anymore, or even as a sexual preference. It’s viewed as a birthright of biology rather than something to be embraced or rejected by an act of will.
So, whether you say that homosexuality is a sin or whether you say that the practice of homosexuality is a sin, you are speaking of no real distinction whatsoever. My point is that, if I am having a conversation in Jen Hatmaker’s basement with a homosexual, and I tell him that I believe that his struggle with homosexuality is ok but his practice of homosexuality is a sin, my time in the basement is over. I’ll be banished even with your “distinction”.
The possible or even probable rejection of the gospel is not a good reason to not share it.
Who said anything about not sharing the gospel? I am committed to sharing the gospel, even if it results in rejection. I’m simply lamenting the fact that if I call homosexuality a sin (which is exactly what I call it), I am already rejected before the gospel has even come into play.
To me, the gospel is Christ taking the punishment for my sin, even though I don’t deserve it and could never earn it. For the homosexual community the gospel is that homosexuality is natural and good and not a sin, and anyone who believes otherwise is a bigot. So, before I can ever get to the true gospel, I am trumped by the homosexual gospel. I would be fine if it were the true gospel shared and rejected, but that’s not what’s happening. The true gospel is not even being heard because it has been replaced. In that sense, it truly has been rejected.
I just wish I could share the beauty of the true gospel instead of being trumped by the homosexual gospel. I guess I just want it to be accepted or rejected based on what it really is and not on what it’s really not. It really is God’s grace, and it’s really not bigotry.
You put an excellent voice to the problem of witnessing and ministering to this community.
I’m not really sure there are people who can even find the Gospel anymore. There are a lot of people who can find the Law… (as evidenced by some of the knuckleheaded prosecutors around here)… but that’s not the Gospel.
Fulfillment of the Law is the Gospel. But not by you or me… but by the one it was designed around.
So where is the Gospel in the Law against Homosexuality?
I’ll give you a hint… It’s about the blood.
Just say what you have to say and I’ll try to give it a fair shake. I don’t have the energy to mess around with hints. I don’t want to play a game of verbal hide and seek with you.
Having said that, what’s this have to do with blood?
“It really is God’s grace, and it’s really not bigotry.”
This is well stated, Carl Trueman recently wrote something similar. And there are interpersonal limits to how to handle such things (Tim Keller has spent a lot of time breaking down urban defeater beliefs.)
I would agree with what you had written above. If it weren’t for your exposition of Luke 15 and your use of passages such as the Jeremiah passage you posted. I believe that your heart is really kind and you are really trying to help people, but your exegesis and use of Scripture is not good, which leaves me more concerned about the message you are giving to those you are trying to love into the kingdom. At some point you are going to need to give them the whole story.
Are you responding to me or to Steve Lynch? I don’t think you know what my interpretation of Luke 15 is. I haven’t even commented on that. I think you have me confused with someone else.
Let another think what they wish, it is a case of being inaccurate which simply cannot have good fruit. Any type of temptation is NOT a sin, calling one form of temptation a sin is a mistake and confuses things. So it is best to always untangle what others might want tangled due to sloppy words.
In other words, it is important to make the distinction because otherwise a homosexual that understands the Bible as you do has no hope if he cannot change his orientation. He might be tempted in that way, but he can resist the temption if the sin is identified as an action, but he has no hope if just being tempted is thought by him to be a sin.
I’m with you, Don. I understand what you’re saying. Accuracy is never a bad thing.
I agree. But why would you call the person a “homosexual” then? Isn’t that the very inexactitude that you decry?
People can self-define themselves as they choose.
You’re defining them, Don. You just didn’t notice.
They already have hid in the basement, and the fight is almost over politically… Christians will look back at this fight in the same way we now do with abortion… the church was never unified in a fight against the murder of children, and the church is not unified in fighting against gay marriage and homosexuality. It’s not a lost cause at this point, but it’s really close.
I respectfully disagree. If we look at things interms of /societal salvation/ then sure, the church fumbled abortion–and a plethora of other issues going back to what happened between Jews and Gentiles in the first century, through the Islamic conquest, and up to the present.
But the church’s mission isn’t about saving society, contrary to what so many push. It’s about eschatological witness. And the church is terribly imperfect–people like US are in it! Contrary to what people like Steve Lynch are saying, I think many evangelicals /are/ getting it: The sin must be called a sin but God wants to redeem the sinner like he wants to redeem the rest of us adulterers, thieves, and liars. Those who find the narrow gate will be saved.
AS for the scoeity, it will go the way Jesus predicted it will go.
Steve, Titus 3:10 is a correction from a larger post that is awaiting moderation.
For now, I will simply say that (re: an earlier post of yours) we are not the group that disfellowshipped you any more than all Jews crucified Jesus, and we are not the family member who gave you a hard time when you came home. You are being not only unreasonable and churlish, but downright foolish to impose those experiences upon those who converse with you here.
You don’t know us or our battles and experiences. Just because we don’t tell you things doesn’t mean we haven’t known rejection and pain. If you let that anger live in you, it will bite the very people you claim you want to reach. It will cost you dearly.
When Christians fight over who can be married/not married, we have already lost. It’s like putting a band-aid on a separated shoulder. We continue to fight the symptoms, not the disease. Homosexuality is not the problem with our culture, nor is gay marriage. These are merely symptoms of the ‘God-rejectedness’.
The body of Christ is really in the weeds on this topic. So guys go home together and we dont want to legislate their behavior-but dont you dare claim to be married? If they call it marriage all of the sudden culture is on the decline? Stop it. That battle has long been lost.
Christians have been trying their darndest to legislate morality, fostering our inner-pharisee when in fact the only thing that is going to change society, bring about revival is the Gospel of Christ, then I will watch the Holy Spirit bring about the cultural change. First I need to live the Gospel, then I can preach the Gospel. But as long as the church fails to live the Gospel, this will all be a mute point.
Two gay men can own a business together and I wont hear a peep from the pulpit. Why not? What is marriage really? A joint economic venture PLUS bedroom intimacy wrapped in a shared value system. Christians can hem and haw all they want but at the end of the day is there a better definition? The fact remains that most Christians think politically BEFORE they think spiritually. Could you really envision the Apostle Paul legislating the morality of NON-CHRISTIANS? The idea is ludicrous.
This is not our country. Our homeland is Heaven and Christ is our King. I will do my best to make an impact on the people in my tribe, the people in my community-with special attention given to those that reside UNDER MY ROOF. Washington cant further the kingdom, or save our culture, or fix the disease. Sola Cristo.
Are you opposed to abortion, Ryan?
Being a Bible-believer I am opposed to abortion, without exception. As I am opposed to homosexuality and even gay marriage. What I am NOT going to do is count on Washington DC to get it right and legislate morality. Abortion is a sin, murder, and will be judged by God as such. In a tribal sense, I will not tolerate abortion within my tribe i.e. my family, my bible study group, my church (from the bottom up).
What you will not see me doing is going to my ‘elected official’ and asking him to do the job that only the gospel can in fact do. Namely improve society, make a change/difference.
Let’s say that a young lady, non-christian, gets pregnant and does not want to keep the baby. Let’s also say for the argument, that you are able to convince her to NOT have an abortion. Most Christians will assume the job is done, but if this poor girl dies, she goes to hell. That to me is the bigger issue. We focus on the specific symptom, but miss the bigger disease…her sin offends God-even the fornication that caused the abortion.
I am fiercely tribal, meaning I dont vote and quite frankly dont really care who the president is. I have a KING and I have a country, and some day I will worship my King there. in the meantime I am a sojourner in a foreign land. I will do my best to make an impact on that foreign land with the 1 tool my King gave me-His gospel. Nobody is going to come to Christ because I am pro-life or anti-gay marriage. As long as the enemy keeps the church distracted with these symptoms, we miss opportunity to apply the healing balm of the gospel.
If you went to Africa and shared the gospel with the head of a tribe with 12 wives…what would you tell him? Divorce the 11? How about bring him to Christ and let the Holy Spirit determine what to do with the 11.
The US is too big, too abstract. Dont fret over legislation that encompasses Seattle AND Miami AND San Diego AND New York AND Chicago AND Houston…instead work from the bottom up with the 1 tool our King gave us. Make sure there is sanctification in your tribe, then work up from there. That is true, Gospel-driven change.
Please name for me one law which is not founded in morality. I submit that all laws are legislated morality.
I also submit that if your house were on fire you would call the fire department. Why do they exist? For moral reasons. If you knew there was a crime going on, you would call the police, thereby imposing your morals on other people.
I don’t think you have thought through this very carefully.
For instance, do you think that laws which deem murder a crime are also “legislating morality”? Just to let you know, in order for your argument to be consistent, you would have to say that you participate in none of the above activities.
Is this the case?
Jason, I think the implication in Ryan’s words (not to answer for him in the least) is that we cannot legislate “private” morality. In other words, murder is considered immoral because it harms another. The prevailing winds of the Zeitgeist have shifted so that any activity judged to NOT be harmful to another cannot be /legally/ branded as “immoral”–it might be considered a moral issue at a sectarian level, but THAT “cannot be legislated” (read: sexual activity). So goes the argument, and I think that is what Ryan would say, more or less.
This goes back to the worldview clash: Christians basically believe that NO human being ultimately belongs to themselves, but rather to God. Irreligious people believe each person belongs to themselves alone–God is a non-issue. Hence, for a Christian murder is primarily a sin because it violates GOD’s sovereignty as owner and Lord of all (cf. Psalm 51:4); for a secularist it is a “sin” because it violates the /victim’s/ sovereignty over their own life. Perhaps a better illustration is suicide: Christians call it a sin; secularists are mystified by such a stance because each person has a right to spend “their life” as they will.
Of course, truth is truth and will remain so whether we declare it or not. But deeper is the fact (along with what you are saying) that our society IS in fact venturing into the arena of what was previosuly considered “private”–with stunning results. Two people may be free to violate the natural order, the definition of marriage through all time and space, and even majority opinion. Yet they may NOT order a soda over 16 ounces at a time. Why not? Because though it is a private decision to buy or not to buy a certain foodstuff, the government considers certain activities contrary to the common good. If they are going to pay for healthcare, they are going to enforce healthy living! The absurdity, of course, is that homosexual activity is far more detrimental to human health than a Big Gulp, but let’s not confuse with facts.
So we have a conundrum, but what else do we expect when we walk away from God? Governments past and present do indeed “legislate morality”–not only regarding obviously social sins, but also on apparently private ones. Why? Because we are all so connected even private matters affect the whole. Even amoral secularists recognize this. It’s just that their priorities are upside down. The question is how do we priorotize–pick our battles–in this “crooked and depraved generation”?
you wrote that you think Ryan was talking about private morality with matters of legislation. I disagree because of his take on abortion. He speaks cryptically of dealing with it in his “tribe”, and that he’s not really in this country that God put him in and that he has no responsibility to the people in this foreign land other than spreading the gospel. In speaking about dealing with abortion within his “tribe”, whatever that means, he was speaking against legislation of any sort. My points were demonstrably public that he may see how absurd his view of himself as one who is unengaged from all deliberative and public safety aspects of this world id. Again, I just don’t think he’s thought through his position very well.
But let’s say that your take on him is correct. The issue at hand is legislation or at least ostensible legislation via adjudication, because either a legal buttress against gay marriage for all under our legal system is established, or gay marriage will be forced on everybody. If your take is correct then Ryan REALLY doesn’t understand the topic.
I really like your comments on the difficulty of biblical ethics in the public sector. That is a very challenging discussion. Ryan would make the mistake of thinking that having a biblical impetus for legislation means that the legislators want normal believe that there will be a Christian outcome, or would only concern Christian matters. But in considering marriage that needn’t be the case. Children only come from one man and one woman. Even if it’s in vitro, You STILL need one man and one one woman. Additionally, it is self evident that children do best in stable households. So as children only arise from a man and a woman, and the result of that union needs stability, why WOULDN’T we stabilize traditional marriage, as anyone -materialist, creationist, nihilistic, whatever – can see that this is the way things are. Children in stable households are more likely to be self regulating citizens, so all of society benefits, and childrens’ needs are served.
This is a situation in which biblical ethics and effective legislation line up. It is enforceable (as opposed to something like sodomy laws).
As well, nothing needs to be “banned” no matter how much hysterical inexactitude those who are for gay marriage might adopt. Target and Bank of America and the ELCA and PCUSA are free to do what they want, but they don’t get the coerced public endorsement they want, because there is no reason that the government should be in the business of stabilizing close friendships or sexual relationships or some combination of the two.
I am sorry that I missed your response Jason, these are good questions and I apologize for the delay in responding. I appreciate your concern that I have not thought these issues through, but you are mistaken.
By ‘legislate morality’ my position is this: We create and enforce laws that conform to our standard of righteousness beyond that which God declared. God condemned murder, thus I condemn murder. God condemned theft, I condemn theft. God NEVER condemned pot smoking (as criminal), nor do I. When Christians pass laws and punish individuals for smoking a PLANT, they are in fact legislating morality. At best we can legislate BEHAVIOR, but all of these man-made laws (i.e. legislation) are old wine in new skins-the pharisees of our Lord’s day were doing the same.
Does it seem strange to you that the nowhere in the Bible does God declare polygamy to be criminal? In our country it is, and thus we have legislated morality. Is polygamy evil? Yes, without question. But do you want to throw King David in jail? And this is one of the major ethical problems with American Christianity-they are simply unable to determine the difference between what is SINFUL and what is CRIMINAL.
You can make the case that smoking pot or snorting cocaine is sinful and I would agree with you. But criminal? Not a chance. Polygamy is sinful, not criminal. Efforts to criminalize acts that God himself never criminalized are in effect legislating morality. I hope this clears up my apparently uneducated position.
You bring up other issues: Will I call the fire department if my house is on fire? Yes, I pay taxes and thus they must fulfill the obligation that I have compensated them for. Same with the Police, though I will say that the police are far better at providing a service of investigation than in crime prevention. I actually wish they would stay in the station until I call them, much like the fire department.
My tribal ethic, as abstract as you deem it, would rather have us rely on our neighbors for putting out house fires and aiding when homes are being broken in to. I find no value, Biblical or otherwise for ‘nationalism’, as if the unemployment rate in Seattle is more meaningful than the unemployment rate in Vancouver. There are only 2 kinds of stories in reality: Tribal (those that effect me) and human (those that don’t). When a tsunami hits Japan, I dont lose sleep-unless my brother (read tribe) is there, now it matters! This country to too big for me to possibly have a vested interest in all Americans. If Canada took possession of Maine tonight, it wouldn’t change my life one iota. Not to be cold, I just don’t have an affection for those living in Maine MORE than those living in Ontario. That would be a human story.
Your tribe is your family, your church, maybe even your city. I think we are in the same tribe in this blog commenting section-clearly we have much in common to make even this dialogue meaningful. If either of us breaks the rules of the tribe, Denny will probably warn us or kick us out of the tribe. He doesn’t need to call the police, we voluntarily decree that he arbitrates for this tribe and his decisions are final. This is happening all over the place-you may be in 2 dozen tribes. They share a common value system. I hope this clarifies my tribal motif.
“By ‘legislate morality’ my position is this: We create and enforce laws that conform to our standard of righteousness beyond that which God declared. God condemned murder, thus I condemn murder. God condemned theft, I condemn theft. God NEVER condemned pot smoking (as criminal), nor do I.”
I think this is poorly considered. Firstly, you have placed a false distinction between those things that God has addressed specifically (not sure what you call legislating God’s word other than legislating morality, because in the secular realm, that’s what it is) and those things that God has not directly spoken to. God didn’t say we shouldn’t do meth. God didn’t say we shouldn’t clone. God didn’t say that we shouldn’t stick a scissors in the skull of an unborn baby and vacuum its brains out. You may say that is murder, but as God didn’t directly address it, you’re stuck…unless you systematize the notions in the bible and try to understand the bigger point. You need to DEFINE murder before you can address it, and that necessitates systematizing. There are a TON of things that God doesn’t directly address, to not address it is to choose to believe that we don’t live in the complex world we do. That will not go well for you.
“When Christians pass laws and punish individuals for smoking a PLANT, “
You are really worked up about the dope issue. Not sure what that’s all about and don’t care, it is only worth noting because it is functioning as a foil against talking about the subject at hand.
“At best we can legislate BEHAVIOR, but all of these man-made laws (i.e. legislation) are old wine in new skins-the pharisees of our Lord’s day were doing the same.”
This is a horrible use of Christ’s metaphor, and it has you going back on your own position again. I posit that you cannot explain your use of the metaphor in this circumstance.
“Does it seem strange to you that the nowhere in the Bible does God declare polygamy to be criminal? In our country it is, and thus we have legislated morality. Is polygamy evil? Yes, without question. But do you want to throw King David in jail? And this is one of the major ethical problems with American Christianity-they are simply unable to determine the difference between what is SINFUL and what is CRIMINAL.”
He doesn’t declare divorce to be criminal, either. Presumably you’re okay with that, as well. Systematize, dude. What are the textual signals which accompany David’s polygamy? What are the interpersonal results of polygamy? What are the requirements of elders? What does Jesus have to say about marriage? Systematize.
“You can make the case that smoking pot or snorting cocaine is sinful and I would agree with you. But criminal? Not a chance.”
You don’t systematize with biblical matters nor in actual life. What effects come from the use of cocaine? What behaviors accompany its use? Would legalizing it make these effects go away? Keeping something illegal may or may not have anything to do with that isolated activity, but it may have everything to do with what comes of that activity. This is common sense. Why would corporate collusion be illegal? Is it wrong for two groups to work together to their betterment? The issue arises in the cost within the system, that hidden transactions lower the trust in the system which ends up costing everybody, people become less likely to believe that all is known about a matter, and so they become more reluctant to engage in business practices. Systematize, dude.
“Polygamy is sinful, not criminal. Efforts to criminalize acts that God himself never criminalized are in effect legislating morality. I hope this clears up my apparently uneducated position.”
But this says nothing about whether or not it SHOULD be legislated.
“You bring up other issues: Will I call the fire department if my house is on fire? Yes, I pay taxes and thus they must fulfill the obligation that I have compensated them for.”
Why? In this situation you are demanding of them something extrabiblical, right? Now the extra-biblical is fine to impose on others? This is the inconsistency I expected.
“Same with the Police, though I will say that the police are far better at providing a service of investigation than in crime prevention. I actually wish they would stay in the station until I call them, much like the fire department.”
But this “service” is ENTIRELY as a result of your dreaded “legislated morality”! Why is it now fine?
“When a tsunami hits Japan, I dont lose sleep-unless my brother (read tribe) is there, now it matters!”
This is hopelessly self centered. I don’t even know what to say about it other than to highlight it.
“This country to too big for me to possibly have a vested interest in all Americans.”
This not only misunderstands this debate entirely, but it is yet another straw man. No one is saying that you need to be interested in each and every American, but what I AM saying is that it is possible to positively affect the group in general by attaining any level of civic activity at all.
“If Canada took possession of Maine tonight, it wouldn’t change my life one iota. Not to be cold, I just don’t have an affection for those living in Maine MORE than those living in Ontario. That would be a human story.”
Another Red Herring. This cannot, in any way, be paralleled with the discussion at hand.
“This is happening all over the place-you may be in 2 dozen tribes. They share a common value system. I hope this clarifies my tribal motif.”
No, it doesn’t at all, but it does serve to verify that you haven’t thought through it.
If the Burk blog and your home church find themselves in an intractable dispute, and nothing can be done to bring them to agreement, and there are going to be consequences to the disagreement, then how do you handle it? Better yet, if there is a family with children in your church, and the wife leaves the husband and takes the two kids and runs off with the pool boy, in your scenario, the husband has no recourse. This is a complete and utter fiction, this tribal notion.
Ryan, what you say on many points resonates with me deeply. It is indeed a “root not (just) fruit” issue. And heaven is indeed our home; actually engaging in societal architecture seems a futile effort for us–to me anyway.
But I would also take issue with you on a couple of points. When you say, “What is marriage really? A joint economic venture PLUS bedroom intimacy wrapped in a shared value system. Christians can hem and haw all they want but at the end of the day is there a better definition?” I believe you are off.
Marriage is directly linked to the image of God in collective humanity through both intimacy and the gift of procreation. It is a micro-drama, a type and image testifying to the relationship of God with His people. This is evident from the first chapters of Genesis to the last chapters of Revelation. Homosexual behavior grossly distorts that image and is an affront to God. The degeneration of what marriage is for our society began with a reductionistic view of marriage that exalts FORM (basically the elements you expound upon) to the detriment of ESSENCE.
A number of (secular) social prophets have, completely apart from theology per se, explained how heterosexual monogamous marriage is the basis for a strong society because of the notion that humanity is the apex of the natural order and that exalted position of privilege and responsibility is sustained through the birth and nurture of children. These elements are lacking from your definition–glaringly. My gut feeling is that you believe in them, but the fact that they are missing from your rhetoric betrays that you also have succumbed to the modernistic understanding of marriage being primarily about physical and psychological compatibility.
I believe we need to shift to theological language in the debate for no other reason than that is where the Holy Spirit lives, empowers, and convicts. But we also need to do it because that’s where these truths live. Before they were tacitly assumed. Now we can assume nothing. But as we make that shift (which I think you argue for) we’d better really get what marriage IS. And it’s about a whole lot more than you seem to be saying. To do so is not legislating morality, it is being salt and light.
I sincerely appreciate your tenor and the positions you espoused. I can appreciate that fact that my definition of marriage concerns you and I am thankful for the kindness and grace that you displayed in your rebuttal. I value clarity over agreement and find that this kind of dialogue is much needed in the kingdom. However, I do have concerns with your position.
You stated, “Marriage is directly linked to the image of God in collective humanity through both intimacy and the gift of procreation. It is a micro-drama, a type and image testifying to the relationship of God with His people. This is evident from the first chapters of Genesis to the last chapters of Revelation. Homosexual behavior grossly distorts that image and is an affront to God. The degeneration of what marriage is for our society began with a reductionistic view of marriage that exalts FORM (basically the elements you expound upon) to the detriment of ESSENCE.”
If you believe this, than your issue is not with GAY marriage, your issue is with ALL marriage that is not CHRISTIAN marriage. Abiding to your definition, we would be forced to not recognize ANY marriage that failed to live up to the purpose you stated. We are surrounded with people that do not take marriage seriously (which grieves me), but the church is not ready or gutsy enough to legislate their marriages. Maybe we should be in Washington DC making divorce criminal? Adultery? Both of which are gross violations of your definition of marriage. Than what about cultures with pre-arranged marriages or social contracted marriages? Where is the outcry? But I dont believe that you actually define marriage that way. Your non-Christian married neighbors wont hear from you or the church. He may have a girlfriend or two-not a peep. But if he is ‘married’ to a man, then here comes the wrath.
Your definition is in reality the ‘ideal’ of marriage, but is not a workable definition of existential marriage. Much in the same way that parenting should be defined as ‘the stewarding of children in the fear and admonition of God.’ But I think we are all okay with a working definition of parenting to be the raising or rearing of children, namely our own. I don’t think I have ‘succumbed to the modernistic understanding’ of parenting because I chose the working definition over the ‘ideal’.
Homosexuality is a sin against God and is by definition evil (evil being defined as the abuse of purpose). But are you really going to stand up and decry every marriage as invalid if it fails to live up to your definition? Are you ready to tell every Muslim, Jew, Atheist ad nauseum ad infinitum that their marriage is in fact NOT a marriage because it doesn’t carry on the type and image testifying to the relationship between God and His people? I wish you well kind sir. I don’t have that kind of energy.
Again, I appreciate the graciousness of your post, and I hope my reads in kind. I just think that you have confused the ‘ideal’ with the ‘functional’ definition. And if you continue down this path, prohibiting consensual adults from engaging in a functional definition of marriage, than yes that is in fact legislating morality. I am curious if you have the boldness to extend that legislation beyond gay marriage.
Thanks, Ryan. Likewise on your tone and attitude.
I continue to respectfully disagree, but only partially with your position and it has to do with clarifying my own.
For starters, some Christian thinkers (C.S. Lewis most notably) have espoused more or less what you say, i.e., that there is one ecclesiastical standard for marriage and another civil one. I understand this tack but take issue with it because I consider the matter a question of degree, not an “all or nothing” proposition.
“Image” is both a metaphor and a pure spiritual reality. In terms of metaphor it is helpful because as with any image, it can be imitated with greater and lesser degrees of success, or, phrased negatively, it can be distorted more or less. I agree that homosexuality is not the only distortion of the imago Dei in human relationships; I disagree that 1) Christian “ideal” marriage is the /only/ representation of it in that arena and 2) that homosexuality is not the /greatest/ distortion of it.
I believe that heterosexuality confirms itself as a reflection of God’s nature and image via /general/ revelation as manifested in the created order (obviously, since there is no procreation through homosexual “union”). This means that human beings can and do unconsciously reflect that image, sometimes even in spite of themselves. A man and a woman who marry, produce children, raise them as well as fallen creatures can, and die married are playing out the micro-drama whether they realize it or not. Similarly, “Christian” gays who claim to know Christ nevertheless distort imago Dei if they act upon their sexual impulses. To say that imago Dei si reflected only in Christian marriage is to say marriage between a man and woman was initiated by Christ, which of course is not at all true: He commented on it as an institution that far predated Him that God initiated in the created order.
On the other hand, I fully agree that homosexuality isn’t the only way to distort the micro-drama and type. Divorce, domestic abuse, marital unfaithfulness, sexual perversion within marriage, and a host of other plagues also mar the image. Since we are fallen, even Christian marriages are imperfect in their reflection; only Christ is perfect and He is perfecting us, His bride, unto that day when “we shall be like Him, for we shall see HIm as He is” (1 John 3).
I think it is futile to try and ban sexual activity, if that is what you think I am suggesting. Rather, I believe the issue is how marriage is defined. Again, there are copious arguments in the moralistic secular realm (contrary to the avalanche of propaganda we are constantly subjected to) that argues for a historical understanding of marriage for purely societal reasons. I differ with you on the matter of voting, although (as they say), that’s another talk show. At the same time I share your sense that our hope should lie elsewhere–for me it is merely a matter of stewardship. Reagrdless, my voice and vote in the civil realm is only a delaying action to spare some who might be saved, and also because truth matters. Pragmatism can only go so far. In fact, a fatalistic pragmatism is precisely what Tolkien in the LOTR (really a classic on spiritual warfare, though many don’t see it) argues so strongly against.
As a quick addendum, Ryan, I would also note that your remarks about the silence of the church regarding other distortions of the image in human relationships /may/ be true in some arenas, but certainly not in the ones I operate in. The churches I have attended and have had a share in leading most certainly do “peep” about these issues!
Thanks again David for the gracious rebuttal and kind dialogue. I am also very happy to hear that your church is active in leading the condemnation of the sins that beset so many marriages.
For clarification, I believe the context of this entire discussion is whether or not Christians should participate in the gay marriage debate. The overwhelming position of Christians in America is to not only engage in the debate, but to use state-sponsored legislation to achieve the goal. My position in the broad sense is this is a waste of time and a distraction from what is really important. The church should get our proverbial ‘house in order’ before we start throwing stones at 1 specific, albeit blasphemous group. I am saying the disproportionate energy from the church towards gay marriage over say adultery, betrays that their loyalties may in fact lie more with the Republican party than in the life changing gospel of our King.
Even if the church can successfully legislate away gay marriage, what have we gained? The homosexual community is still hell-bound, just without a marriage license. That saddens me greatly.
None of this is brings up the point that since when does the Body of Christ permit the State to define what, by your own admission, is deeply spiritual relationship. Jonathan Edwards did not have this discussion because he and Sarah were married in their tribe (local church) with their Savior and tribe as witness. The state of Connecticut didn’t get involved in the bedroom of Jonathan and Sarah.
That would come much later when the Church, the same church of today, loathed the idea that a black man and a white woman might actually want to engage in consensual sexual activity, with God’s blessing (thus the birth of the state-sponsored marriage license). So they LEGISLATED to have the STATE be the only agency that could offer legitimacy to marriage. And that is when the church lost this fight. They even went so far as to get blood samples to make sure that negro blood didn’t get mixed up with our pure white blood. When we bring the STATE into this discussion-we lose. Period. The church is comfortable now because we sit in the 51%, but mark my words, the day will come when we will be minorities and then who knows if we will be allowed to hold Bible studies in our homes, or spank our kids, or whatever religious freedom we treasure. Amazing how relevant the Golden Rule becomes. Will we offer freedom of religion to the gay community? I think America demands that. Roger Williams demanded it some 400 years ago. We may hate the practice, label the behavior as sinful (correctly), but legislation is not how we will win this battle.
Let freedom of religion have its place, then I will use that freedom to share the glorious gospel, which can bring about the change you desire to see.
This for the record is why I don’t vote, and why that may not be for another show. Voting is a sacrament of the state, a state I dont recognize or want to participate in. Democracy is a failed experiment, one that you may enjoy so long as you can stay in the 51%, but dont get comfortable. Some day it may be our practices that they will be legislating away in Washington, and the church will only have herself to blame.
I have been trying to figure out where the separation of worldviews is
I believe this is it
“When we bring the STATE into this discussion-we lose.”
We live under God primarily and authoritatively. But we are also under a government, one which God has established for His purposes, which are, at least in part to be the “avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. (Rom 13:4 ESV)”.
We also happen to live in a Republic. That means God has given us a representative system by which we can have a positive or negative effect on other citizens, Christian or otherwise. That also means that we have that civic responsibility. This is unavoidable. As we are responsible to our neighbors, and we live in a system in which that responsibility is very tangible and fluid and personal, to demand that all Christians abdicate that responsibility is to deny your responsibility to your neighbor. The cause of the Gospel is not a good reason to deny our responsibility in the matter, because the moral framework and safety under which one works to spread the Gospel can be affected by you.
So later you wrote,
“Even if the church can successfully legislate away gay marriage, what have we gained?”
Firstly, and most obviously, we have established that one man and one woman is going to be the moral framework of our society. That means that children will also understand this and they will grow up in a society in which, at least legally, this is the standard. If you have an entire generation growing up in a system in which there are no boundaries to marriage (which is what gay marriage is, that is, the government is enjoined to codify and force the recognition of feelings without any objective boundaries to the institution at all) then you have one more defeater belief which you has to be overcome. How will you explain the need of repentance to a person living in a society in which there are no limits to sexual expression and the value of the child inherent in sexual expression is ostensibly denied. By your own inactivity you have provided an even greater moral boundary. In Genesis 15:16, God ominously states that Abraham’s offspring wont’ return for 400 years because, “…the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.”
Do you think that there is a different moral framework for the non-Christians in America than there is for the non-Christians in Mogadishu? How do you think that reflects on how they treat each other, even if by force of law? Legislating morality is a miserably inexact science, but on the matter of gay marriage, we KNOW which one is right and which one is wrong, and to not advocate for the right, when it is within one’s ability to do so, is to tacitly approve of all that follows.
“Let freedom of religion have its place, then I will use that freedom to share the glorious gospel, which can bring about the change you desire to see.”
This is fabulously and gloriously true, and it may indeed be your calling in the matter. The issue is that you say it must be everyone’s calling in the matter and that simply doesn’t follow from the diversity in the body. Ryan you need to understand that to let the culture slide is to tacitly approve of suffering via your own irresponsibility. If you are called to a peripatetic, evangelistic enterprise, and that prevents you from being involved in local, state, and national political issues, then it is so. But to say that everyone should be like you is to miss how much culture affects the fallenness of the individual, and thereby the ability of the individual to hear the gospel. As I pointed out above, the Amorites reached a point at which they were so far gone that God destroyed them. You are right that the Gospel is the only thing that can turn that around, but legislating in a manner reflective of biblical ethics is not only valuable in the meantime, it is our responsibility to do so under the system we have been given.
Was the church right or wrong for asking the State to legislate marriage in the first place? Does it concern you that the church led the march to make sure those black folk didn’t marry our white girls? It does me. When we ask the State to get involved in our tribe, we lose. Without exception. Is your marriage more valid if the license is registered with the State? Is that what you tell your wife and kids? We really are married Johnny, because the STATE told me so. Nonsense. My guess is you took your vows before our God and before your church and that ALONE validates your marriage. Can the homosexuals be afforded the same opportunity? Can they stand before their god and their tribe to recognize their relationship? THEY ALREADY DO. Which goes to my main point, the problem is not that they want to marry, the problem is they HATE our God and that hatred manifests itself in behavior that violates God’s ideal. So rather than spending time on the symptom, lets deal with the real issue.
How did I know that eventually the Republican Christian Wild Card would surface in this discussion. Gays cant marry. Why? Romans 13. Smoking weed is a crime. Why? Romans 13. Let’s invade Iraq. Why? Romans 13. Good thing Romans 13 was never abused by the state. Especially in Germany where the church stood by and let Hitler kill Jews. Why? Romans 13 baby! More foolishness. If the state wants me to drive 65 on the freeway, fine I obey and Romans 13 is satisfied. But are you going to tell me that Romans 13 justifies blind obedience of the Christian?
Much of the frustration in this conversation is the rightful place of nationalism and where it fits with Christianity. I don’t pledge allegiance to the flag. Does that bother you Jason? I don’t vote because my vote has never counted for 1, and 2 because voting for the lesser of 2 evils is evil. How bad would the candidates have to be for you stay home? If Stalin faced off with Hitler, do you still vote? This country is too big and too abstract as I stated earlier. The constitution declares that we have a representative for every 30,000 people-that seems about as high as 1 person could actually represent. Which means we would need about 11,000 members in the house. Yet you want to call 537 officials a REPRESENTATIVE government…and I am naive? How on earth can 537 individuals represent 300+ million? Impossible.
There should be about 20,000 states or more in the US, then I may vote as that would in fact be more tribal and more ‘bottom-up’ if you will. Then issues like gay marriage will have much cleaner solutions. But so long as Republican and pro-State Romans 13 Christians continue to espouse nationalism, this discussion will be uphill.
To add to the confusion, too many Christians want to make a USA/Israel comparison, as if the modern day USA is nothing more than God’s new chosen land. You should know, if you haven’t gleaned this already, that I categorically reject the concepts of manifest destiny and American exceptionalism -both of which find broad support in the American church. The US is not Israel, and we don’t get to treat Iraq like the are the Amorites, or the gays like they are the Jebusites. Our country is in heaven and we are sojourning here. Make an impact on your tribe with the gospel, please. But don’t pretend that we are God’s holy nation and must purge this country with the sword, Romans 13. I will abide by the rules, play by the rules, adhere to the rules. But I wont fight for this country, I have a country. I wont pledge to this flag, my allegiance is to Heaven. I wont vote for this king, I already have one and he is not up for re-election.
Let the change start with me, my marriage, my kids, my small group, my church, my community-then look what will happen when we get our ‘house in order’. My guess is the Holy Spirit will bring about the end of gay marriage when revival floods this country and the disease of god-hatred is cured.
“Was the church right or wrong for asking the State to legislate marriage in the first place?”
I’m not sure to what exactly you are referring, but I do know that marriage licenses which were civically binding go back a long time before Jonathan Edwards. The mechanism has differed, and sometimes there was a common law distinction made by the local government based on evidence like cohabitation and the nature of the family and the relationship and the witnesses. That is to say, the local government did in fact verify the marriage based on evidences not dissimilar to those that we have today, it just had a lot less red tape.
But the presuppositions of this question reveal another hole in your opaque “tribe” notion: Why would they “ask” (if that is the mechanism in the first place) for such a thing. Would it fall under someone who actually was now outside the “tribe”, but the “tribe” still felt that they needed to be held accountable by some mechanism? How does the “tribe” handle this? Answer: they appeal to the local governmental authority. Unless the “tribe” is never, ever to have any official dealings with anyone outside the tribe (a self-evident fiction), eventually this kibbutz is going to have to appeal to an authority outside itself. Yes, you sneer at Romans 13, but you do not deal with what it says at all, and you narrow the range of authority of the government to traffic violations (which I will deal with in greater detail later). It is impossible to not come under subjection of the governmental authorities. When marriages end, and they do, the matter of custody and (before no-fault) the events leading to the divorce need to be adjudicated. Certainly your monastery could pull it off, but, again, what if one who was in the tribe has LEFT the “tribe”, and has done so with the children?
Marriage law is either determined proactively or it is handled reactively, there is no world in which your imagined existence can come to pass unless you completely separate yourself from the society, as in, retreat to the deepest Amazon to lead a life in complete seclusion with your “tribe”. Eventually an authority higher than the “tribe” will get involved, or, if you live in Mogadishu, your “tribe”s tough guys will go on a recon mission, taking what they think is theirs and exacting what justice they determine is right. The settlers still had local tribunals and barristers, and they were still accountable to them, your world has not existed in the Western world for a long time.
And with good reason. As matter of law become more systematized, freedoms grew, and commerce become more complex (insurance for shipping, bankruptcy laws) the need to have an adjudicative body became necessary.
“Does it concern you that the church led the march to make sure those black folk didn’t marry our white girls? “
This is the red herring of all red herrings. The fact of bad law and unholy actions in the past has no bearing and has nothing to say about this matter right now.
“When we ask the State to get involved in our tribe, we lose.”
In some manner, this is certainly true. This is the tyrannical lean of government, and it is well known and documented. But sometimes it has to happen. To deny it, as you are, is to not understand how we got here and also to not understand the fact of tribal warfare, and how having an adjudicative and legislative body representing different groups prevents a great deal of bloodshed.
“Is your marriage more valid if the license is registered with the State? Is that what you tell your wife and kids? We really are married Johnny, because the STATE told me so. Nonsense. My guess is you took your vows before our God and before your church and that ALONE validates your marriage.”
Here you miss the point entirely. The state doesn’t validate my marriage before God, but (very important) WE DO NOT LIVE IN A THEOCRACY, and thereby, the state authenticates the marriage for its own purposes, among which are maintaining a civilized society. We live under a secular government, and though, again, you unwisely choose to deny the force of Romans 13 and denigrate the truth contained in it, you STILL live under the government to some degree, and not only is it a government that God has set up for His purposes (whatever they may be), God has also given you the temporal right and responsibility of living in a democratic republic, and you ignore the right and demean the responsibility in the name of a (o)utopian existence.
“Can the homosexuals be afforded the same opportunity? Can they stand before their god and their tribe to recognize their relationship? THEY ALREADY DO. Which goes to my main point, the problem is not that they want to marry, the problem is they HATE our God and that hatred manifests itself in behavior that violates God’s ideal. So rather than spending time on the symptom, lets deal with the real issue.”
Now here you, with great naivety, circle around on yourself, devouring your own point. Now you are advocating for state recognition? Which is it? Surely you know that your “tribe” will be subject to this thing. They already do within groups that accept it, BUT THAT IS NOT WHAT THEY ARE SEEKING. You, somehow, don’t understand this. They want to force you and me to recognize their relationship. You are advocating for the forcible, statewide recognition of homosexual marriage. Your “tribe” will not have a choice if that for which you are inexplicably advocating comes to pass.
Now, if it comes to that, and it may, then you and I would find ourselves in chains over civil disobedience. And that will have to be fine, because I will not abide by it.
But here is the point: We will both be in chains, in part, because you copped out of the deliberative process, still mumbling about your tribe. This is irresponsible, Ryan.
“How did I know that eventually the Republican Christian Wild Card would surface in this discussion. Gays cant marry. Why? Romans 13. Smoking weed is a crime. Why? Romans 13. Let’s invade Iraq. Why? Romans 13. Good thing Romans 13 was never abused by the state. Especially in Germany where the church stood by and let Hitler kill Jews. Why? Romans 13 baby! More foolishness. If the state wants me to drive 65 on the freeway, fine I obey and Romans 13 is satisfied. But are you going to tell me that Romans 13 justifies blind obedience of the Christian?”
That last sentence is astonishingly inane, and the rest of it is either straw-man shallow or, worst of all, mocking God’s word. Firstly, you will need to point out exactly where I have advocated for blind obedience. This goofiness deserves words of a ripeness that I am not willing to use. As you have failed to follow the discussion to this point and or to inform yourself of the most detailed and salient arguments in the matter (and instead have chosen to intellectually isolate yourself inside your “tribe”) I’ll go through the whole train wreck of a paragraph line by line.
“Gays cant [sic] marry. Why?”
Firstly, as the one who is pushing for a change in the law (which, disturbingly, appears to be you) would need to make the case for the change. “Why” is a four year old’s question regarding something they want or don’t want. This is not making the case for anything.
The positive argument is as follows:
Children only arise from one man and one woman.
Children do best in stable households.
I have given two propositions supporting my position. When you put them together, there is no reason for the state to stabilize anything else.
But the negative points are just as important.
What distinguishes gay relationships from, say, two business partners? Sexual satisfaction (well outside the objective teleology of the body)? Is marriage just about sexual satisfaction? On what basis would you exclude these? Better yet, as you find your self in the extreme libertine position vis-à-vis state action, why would you exclude a brother and a sister? A father and a daughter? If you would oppose any of these, then every single time you would need to give a moral answer and that the force of that moral answer would necessitate state adjudication. And then you would find yourself doing that which you say you despise. No, you have not considered your position very deeply, because you are saying that it would be better if people stopped thinking that government might help anything (mocking God’s word, trying very hard to avoid dealing with it) and let all social structures melt so that you can exist in your “tribe”. This is an incredibly immoral position, Ryan.
Now, on the other hand, perhaps you are a proto-anarchist (this is quite possible) and you are fine with standing back and waiting for Gospel opportunities while fire burns civilization to the ground. Perhaps you are the sort which would prefer the existentialist rush of an apocalyptic scenario. As you have chosen to advocate for a position in which we have nothing to do with the government, you find yourself in the intellectual company of nihilists and REAL anarchists, with you pushing for greater structural chaos, so that you can fool yourself into thinking that anarchy is the way it’s supposed to be. This is childish.
“Smoking weed is a crime. Why?”
If you have an issue with it, then you are free to work towards having them taken from the books, but then you would need to take the (at this point) deeply hypocritical step of engaging some body outside your tribe. Does the point or lack of point of any particular law have any bearing on either the matter state sanctioned marriage or the authority of Scripture? This is a non-sequitur of the highest order.
“Let’s invade Iraq. Why?”
More non-sequiturs, just you trying to change the subject. Errors and injustices elsewhere have nothing to do with NOW and the issue at hand, nor does it follow from errors and injustices that you recede to The Place That Has Never Existed.
“Good thing Romans 13 was never abused by the state.”
I see. Implicit in your sarcasm is that since passages in the bible have been horribly misused in the past, that is sufficient reason to ignore it in this situation. This is a very bad argument.
“Especially in Germany where the church stood by and let Hitler kill Jews.”
“The church”. You would insult the memory of those who fought this so that you could slander the universal church. This is inexact to the point of irresponsibility. But people, Christian and non, rejected the Nazi solution, and abided by that which was and is right. You do know that Romans 13 doesn’t happen in a bubble, right? You do know that Romans 13 is also in light of the example of Joseph, Elijah, Daniel and his pals, the Maccabees, the Apostles, Origen, Athanasius, the Waldensians, Gottschalk, Hus, etc., right? You do know that you need to systematize these matters, right? You do know that, when it was called for, Paul, the very person who wrote Romans 13, did not obey everything commanded of him by the government, right? Do you understand that as Paul wrote this and yet did not always do it, then not always doing it follows? This matter of the Nazis is an appalling misunderstanding of the passage.
Now, again, as Christ himself says that it is to be one man and one woman, and this is also a qualification for an elder and deacon, and that it is the only logical, objective notion of marriage and anything else is hopelessly open ended and subjective and leaves the matter of the environment of the rearing of children entirely open ended (thereby advocating for the lack of protection of children, to say nothing of how little children are important outside of your “tribe”), why would you advocate for anything else?
You have chosen to avoid the point of my citation of Romans 13. You have not addressed my point AT ALL. I will assume that you accept my point but, (based on the incongruent hysterics) don’t like it and don’t know what to do about it.
“Much of the frustration in this conversation is the rightful place of nationalism and where it fits with Christianity. I don’t pledge allegiance to the flag. Does that bother you Jason? I don’t vote because my vote has never counted for 1, and 2 because voting for the lesser of 2 evils is evil.”
I don’t care if you don’t pledge allegiance, it’s not a law, and if it was, it would be a stupid, oppressive, and pointless law, not that much different from Nebuchadnezzar commanding that all bow down to his image. But you are going to have to do a lot of philosophical legwork to demonstrate that voting for the lesser of two evils is evil. I think this is bananas, because we have to make unfortunate choices every day, and, more importantly to choose to not choose, as you have, IS to choose the status quo, neutrality is an illusion in this, and it is time you realized that.
“How bad would the candidates have to be for you stay home? If Stalin faced off with Hitler, do you still vote?”
This is not happening. You are not advocating for Hitler, you are advocating for one man and one woman, or more exactly, you are advocating AGAINST one man and one woman. If matters were that bad, you and I would be in jail.
“This country is too big and too abstract as I stated earlier.”
Perhaps, but you live HERE. To recede to a bunker is irresponsible.
“But so long as Republican and pro-State Romans 13 Christians continue to espouse nationalism, this discussion will be uphill.”
There is no discussion. You are saying that you would prefer something closer to life in Southern Sudan, the Arabian peninsula, South Pacific Islands, Mogadishu, or Tibet. There is no place that exists in the entire world apart from the sorts of places listed above in which your view of the way things should be exist, and even then, the tribal utopia is a profoundly brutal existence, much closer to pure natural selection than civilization. You are espousing a fantasy, and in doing so you continue to sneer at God’s word. How taken should we be with your theology? You live here. Now. This is what God has given you. You have some recourse, but only if you don’t hunker down in your imagined proto-monastery.
“To add to the confusion, too many Christians want to make a USA/Israel comparison, as if the modern day USA is nothing more than God’s new chosen land. You should know, if you haven’t gleaned this already, that I categorically reject the concepts of manifest destiny and American exceptionalism -both of which find broad support in the American church. The US is not Israel, and we don’t get to treat Iraq like the are the Amorites, or the gays like they are the Jebusites. Our country is in heaven and we are sojourning here. Make an impact on your tribe with the gospel, please. But don’t pretend that we are God’s holy nation and must purge this country with the sword, Romans 13. I will abide by the rules, play by the rules, adhere to the rules. But I wont fight for this country, I have a country. I wont pledge to this flag, my allegiance is to Heaven. I wont vote for this king, I already have one and he is not up for re-election.”
I left the above intact to show just how much of a distracting hobby horse this is to you, drifting from one bee in your bonnet to another, this is becoming your verbal Rorschach test. Now you are creating straw men to argue against which represent no one you are talking to! NO ONE here is saying we should wipe out gays, that is just a stupid thing to say. As for what you think of the “rules”, you have both the opportunity and the responsibility to try to change the rules, for better or for worse. You are tacitly endorsing the worse while you sit isolated in your tribe, waiting for God knows what.
“I wont pledge to this flag, my allegiance is to Heaven. I wont vote for this king, I already have one and he is not up for re-election.”
This is a flat-out false dichotomy, there is no reason that these are uniformly either/or, sometimes governments reflect real justice, and you live in a society in which you can effect that. You need to find a way to deal with it other than hiding in your imagined commune.
“Let the change start with me, my marriage, my kids, my small group, my church, my community-then look what will happen when we get our ‘house in order’. My guess is the Holy Spirit will bring about the end of gay marriage when revival floods this country and the disease of god-hatred is cured.”
But in the meantime, you will push for a position in which you would prefer that everyone who is not in your “tribe” (that is, not just all non-Christians, but all Christians outside your “tribe”, as well) take it as far as they can go, and you don’t seem to care at all
Thank you gentlemen for the edifying discourse. I sincerely appreciate the opportunity. I affirm David’s wisdom in ending the discussion here. I am afraid that my tribal motif comes off as very ‘isolationist’ and that concerns me because nothing could be further from the truth. Perhaps the comments section of a blog is not the best place to effectively articulate my worldview.
You have both been very helpful and I pray that the Lord blesses you both.
Jason, In your last post you seemed concerned that I was irresponsible with the text. I can assure you that was nowhere near my intention. Again, I apologize if my argument in this small context comes off with that impression and I will work at presenting my position in a more accurate, coherent manner.
Ryan, Jason has noted a few things already, but I will shorthand a few observations of my own, then call it quits (the discussion’s been great, and cordial, but I think it has run it’s course).
We live in a republic, not a democracy, but whatever you call it I don’t believe it has been either an “experiment” or a “failure” any more than any other form of human government wherein fallen mortals have a hand in the matter. In one sense, all fail, but that doesn’t mean we are not commanded to support them with prayer and input–both OT and NT speak copiously of this.
I agree with you, however, that the particulars of /this/ exercise in government have followed a certain path (George Marsden’s /Soul of the American University/ has a thing or two so say about this and I recommend him for honing your thought, for what my suggestions are worth) that has led to toxicity in the public realm. I also agree (as I have pointedly posted elsewhere) that true Christianity is at its heart a minority faith, and will soon be so in fact demographically in the U.S. We must live counterculturally NOW against that day.
However, I disagree regarding total abstention from civic involvement. I believe God is sovereign, and determines the times and places men are to live (to quote Paul in Acts). Since my exegesis of Romans and other texts speak to me that the phenomenology of homosexuality places it as the last step in societal degredation, it does require us to speak in particular fashion–an intervention of sorts (not to be confused with the idea that the sin is any more difficult for God to forgive, of course). The fact is, I believe it is media slight of hand to suggest that Christians are /only/ raising their voices about this. Gays are screaming and Christians are answering, so it /appears/ Christians are only speaking of this. But I have ministered in a local church setting and speak to others who do as well, and “gay marriage” is by FAR not the only issue being dealt with at the grass roots level.
This is also why I disagree over the vote. I vote because I am a streward over every shred of influence I have. I vote to look those in the eye who might be saved, and once having seen the light, will know I did my all to care for them and wasn’t apathetic /in any area/ regarding their eternal fate.
I agree being GOP means nothing, and I put no hope there. But what I do I do as witness to truth in the cosmic realm as well as on earth. Pragamatism is a dangerous tack to follow. In the final analysis, I speak truth not to be popular, not to “win” anyone over. I speak as PROPHETIC WITNESS. Faithfulness, not political success, is the point–even if that means walking into the political arena and knowing we will be slaughtered. A careful reading of God’s word is replete with examples of those who spoke knowing full well they would be rejected, but did so anyway to offer the hearers a chance. They spoke “to fulfill all righteousness,” and to shame the principalities and powers.
How we do that is the issue. I will be faithful and follow my conscience in these matters, as I am sure you will, too.
I agree with Nathan’s first post…If Christians want to talk about banning same-sex marriage, then we should at least look at where we are missing the mark in the church. Divorce and remarriage run rampant in the church, and we’re all just winking at it because the “world” does it too, or “my pastor said it was okay.” What does God say? What did Jesus say about divorce and remarriage? Clearly, the church is missing it, and we have almost no credibility to stand for marriage when we trample on the traditional marriage covenant. Marriage is an unbreakable covenant made unto God between one man and one woman for life, ‘until death do us part.’
Standing for traditional marriage means standing for covenant marriage, and putting away divorce and remarriage as a an acceptable practice among Christians.
“What God has joined together, let no man separate.”
I’m so thankful when I abuse God, cheat on God, abandon God, He doesn’t give up on me, divorce me, and find someone else to replace me. God always keeps His covenant with us, and shows us unconditional love, wanting to reconcile with us no matter what we’ve done to Him. Aren’t we called to do the same with one another?
Alicia, you wrote,
“If Christians want to talk about banning same-sex marriage, then we should at least look at where we are missing the mark in the church.”
I agree, and I think quite a few people agree. What is interesting is that it was, at least in part, the laziness of those who should know better who did nothing while these sorts of legal notions (no-fault divorce) became the norm. Not being able to fight both those battles at once does not preclude our responsibility to stand for what’s right where we can.
And we can include the gangrenous effect of no-fault divorce in our presentations of why conjugal/traditional marriage is the only one that makes any sense at all. It is quite easy to explain how our current predicament is a natural downgrade from our previous failures.
I agree. No-fault divorce was a major pitfall for our society as a whole. And it leaked into the church, becoming the “norm.” Pretty soon, everyone was getting a divorce for an “impossible” marriage, and so many pastors have participated in the remarriage of divorced people, contrary to the teachings of Jesus. May God have mercy on us.
Divorce and remarriage was the gateway to the downfall of the marriage covenant. I do believe that unless this issue is addressed and repented of in the church, though it would “offend” the masses because half the church is divorced and remarried, the battle over same-sex marriage will be lost. As Christians, if we can’t stay true to our marriage vows (whether you’re in a great marriage or even if your spouse has left you) and be a light for a lost world, how can we stand a chance fighting the immorality of same-sex marriage?
I hear what you’re saying, even though damage has been done, does not mean we shouldn’t continue standing for what is right and standing for preventing further disaster on society and the church.
Divorce and remarriage are allowed by God’s gracious will. Divorce is sometimes the best answer available to the results of sin. God divorced Israel and told Abraham to obey Sarah when she told him to divorce Hagar. Unfortunately, it is very easy to take Jesus’ words out of context, if you want to know more see the works of David Instone-Brewer, a 2nd temple scholar who helps put those verses in context.
You would need to point out where I or anyone else took Jesus’ words out of context, in order to say that the words are being used out of context.