Mar

27

2013

Joe Carter|6:24 AM CT

When Did Idolatry Become Compatible with Christianity?

The Story: Yesterday, during oral arguments in a landmark Supreme Court case regarding same-sex marriage, Associate Justice Antonin Scalia and pro-gay marriage advocate Theodore Olson had a discussion about the Constitution that sheds light on an issue within the church.

The Background: In the oral argument yesterday for Hollingsworth v. Perry, Justice Scalia repeatedly questioned Ted Olson on when same-sex marriage became unconstitutional. From the transcript:

JUSTICE SCALIA: I'm curious, when—when did — when did it become unconstitutional to exclude homosexual couples from marriage? 1791? 1868, when the Fourteenth Amendment was adopted? Sometimes — some time after Baker, where we said it didn't even raise a substantial Federal question? When — when — when did the law become this?

MR. OLSON: When — may I answer this in the form of a rhetorical question? When did it become unconstitutional to prohibit interracial marriages? When did it become unconstitutional to assign children to separate schools.

JUSTICE SCALIA: It's an easy question, I think, for that one. At — at the time that the Equal Protection Clause was adopted. That's absolutely true. But don't give me a question to my question. When do you think it became
unconstitutional? Has it always been unconstitutional? . . .

MR. OLSON: It was constitutional when we as a culture determined that sexual orientation is a characteristic of individuals that they cannot control, and that that -­

JUSTICE SCALIA: I see. When did that happen? When did that happen?

MR. OLSON: There's no specific date in time. This is an evolutionary cycle.

Why It Matters: For Christians, this is an era of historical significance—and not just because of the marriage issue. While defending the institution of marriage is an important and worthy goal, the same-sex marriage debate has uncovered a question that is similar to Justice Scalia's: When did it become acceptable for Christians to embrace and endorse homosexual behavior?

Like Mr. Olson, I would say there is no specific date in time. It was the result of an evolutionary cycle in which the church became more accepting of rampant idolatry.

At its root, the issue has more to do with idolatry than marriage, since same-sex marriage could not have advanced in America if believers had not exchanged the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob for the God of faux-love, cultural acceptance, and open theism.

The idolatry of Christian same-sex marriage advocates takes two general forms. The first group still recognizes the authority of God's Word, or at least still believes in the general concept of "sin." They will freely admit that, like other types of fornication, same-gender sex is forbidden in the Bible, and even excluded by Jesus' clear and concise definition of marriage. Yet despite this understanding they still choose to embrace same-sex marriage because they have made an idol of American libertarian freedom. They have replaced Jesus' commandment—"You shall love your neighbor as yourself"—with the guiding motto of the neopagan religion of Wicca, "Do what you will, so long as it harms none."

In endorsing laws based solely on the secular liberal-libertarian conception of freedom (at least those that produce no obvious self-harm), they are doing the very opposite of what Jesus called them to do: They are hating their neighbors, including their gay and lesbian neighbors. You do not love your neighbor by encouraging them to engage in actions that invoke God's wrath (Psalm 5:4-5; Romans 1:18). As Christians we may be required to tolerate ungodly behavior, but the moment we begin to endorse the same then we too have become suppressers of the truth. You cannot love your neighbor and want to see them excluded from the kingdom of Christ (Eph. 5:5).

The second group has completely rejected the authority of Scripture and embraced the idol of open theism, a god who changes his mind over time. Not surprisingly, this god seems to change his mind in ways that comport exactly with the secular morality of twenty-first century America. A prime example of this embrace of a progressive, open deity is found in a comment by former evangelical pastor Rob Bell. Bell recently said:

What we're seeing now, in this day, is god pulling us ahead into greater and greater affirmation and acceptance of our gay brothers and sisters . . . and we're realizing that god made some of us one way and some of us another and it can be a beautiful thing.

Bell goes on to clarify that what he advocates is not an affirmation and acceptance of repentant sinners, but affirmation and acceptance of their sin. Bell has rejected the God of the Bible, a God that is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8), and embraced a false idol that tells him that what is considered sin changes based on the fickle attitudes of Americans.

Bell, like other same-sex advocates, has moved beyond the temptation and struggle we all have with idolatry and have boldly set up their idols for all to see. Yesterday, on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, many Christians displayed the red equals sign—a symbol of gay rights and "marriage equality"—so that their friends, family, and followers would see that they stood with the forces opposed to God's Word.

For too long those of us in the church have grumbled to ourselves or remained silent about this open idolatry. We fear that if we point out too clearly or forcefully that you can't both serve God and endorse sin that they may leave our congregations. We seem more concerned with losing the volunteer for the Sunday morning nursery or the regular check in the offering plate than we do with the souls of those in open and unrepentant rebellion against God. We seem more worried about the judgment of the kids in the youth ministry than we do with the judgment of a wrathful and holy God. We are so troubled by the thought that same-sex advocates will fall away from the faith that we fail to see that they've already rejected the faith of historic, orthodox Christianity and replaced it with an idolatrous heresy—one that is as destructive and hateful as any that has come before.

What is needed is courage in speaking the truth: We cannot love our neighbor and tolerate idolatry and unrepentant rebellion against God. We cannot continue with the "go along to get along" mentality that is leading those we love to destruction. We must speak the word of God with boldness (Acts 4:31) and accept the fact that those who have fallen away may not ever return. We must choose this day whom we will serve. Will we stand with the only wise God or with the foolish idol-makers of same-sex marriage?

Joe Carter is an editor for The Gospel Coalition and the co-author of How to Argue Like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator. You can follow him on Twitter.

  • http://markblock.wordpress.com Mark B.

    I'm not an open theist but the way you treat open theism in this article is misleading. Most open theists do not reject the authority of the Bible.

    • Joe Carter

      Open theists may not reject the authority of the Bible (as they understand and define 'authority'), but they do tend to reject the authority of the Bible as most historical Christians have viewed it, that is, as the inerrant Word of God.

    • facedown2000

      I agree with you Mark. I'm no expert on open theism, but after reading John Frame's "No Other God," I think it's more subtle than simply a denial of Biblical authority, or even "traditional" Biblical authority. But I think the larger analysis of this post also falls flat in similar way -- just as open theism was over-simplified, I think this Joe's dismissal of Christians in this debate is also too simplistic.

      This question of "gay marriage" greatly troubles me. I don't think such a thing exists -- certainly, we don't have the right to redefine something God established millennia ago. At the same time, if we're honest that the US is not a theocracy as ancient Israel was, it brings up hard questions about how the state should recognize relationships, tax benefits, etc. Answering these questions is much harder than simply dismissing the other side as idolaters, as was done here. Are there idolaters and heretics on the other side? Absolutely. But just because one is willing to think about the role of government in a free society doesn't make one a pagan.

      The Bible says that lots of things are sinful, but nevertheless many of these sins are perfectly legal. I'm troubled that my neighbor is moving toward hell -- as Christians, we all should be, but whether it's justified or effective to legally discriminate against sinners is a difficult question, one that I don't have an answer to. Making something illegal is an easy way to discourage an activity without having to win over your opponent. On the other hand, there's no Biblical precedent for petitioning the government in this way. Does that mean it's necessarily wrong? No, but if you adopt that attitude I don't think it follows that everyone else is a heretic.

      Joe, you have a habit of classifying democrats and now libertarians as non-Christians, or as holding "non-Christian" beliefs. Nearly every article you write assumes that the only Christian view is the view of the political right. I agree that many who oppose God find themselves on the opposite end of the political spectrum as you. But I ask you to consider that individuals may be committed to Jesus Christ while maintaining an entirely different view of governance.

      • Joe Carter

        I think it's more subtle than simply a denial of Biblical authority, or even "traditional" Biblical authority.

        Is open theism complex? Of course it is. But that does not negate the fact that a dumbed-down version of open theism is being used by many Christians (like Rob Bell) in order to claim that God is "evolving" on this issue just like they have.

        At the same time, if we're honest that the US is not a theocracy as ancient Israel was, it brings up hard questions about how the state should recognize relationships, tax benefits, etc.

        Actually, the question isn't that hard at all. The State has the right to recognize any relationships it wants and to provide and regulate any benefits it chooses. What it does not have the right to do is to redefine an institution that existed prior to the State. And the "theocracy" canard is a red herring. Applying biblical principles to how we govern our society is not theocratic.

        But just because one is willing to think about the role of government in a free society doesn't make one a pagan.

        No, it doesn't. And, of course, I never said it did.

        Joe, you have a habit of classifying democrats and now libertarians as non-Christians, or as holding "non-Christian" beliefs.

        No, I do not. My view is that for a Christian, the commands of God trump all else—including political beliefs. That is true for the liberal, libertarian, conservative, socialist, etc. A Christian cannot say, "I'll follow Christ . . . until it conflicts with my political philosophy." Christianity does not work that way. We are called to apply our faith to our political beliefs—not the other way around. Christians who are politically liberal, libertarian, or conservative have the freedom to disagree on many, many issues. But on some—like whether to endorse evil—we are bound by Jesus' command and not our political party's platform. The fact that pointing this out make some people uncomfortable says more about them than it does me.

        Nearly every article you write assumes that the only Christian view is the view of the political right.But I ask you to consider that individuals may be committed to Jesus Christ while maintaining an entirely different view of governance.

        I do. But no Christian has the right to endorse evil and justify it by claiming it is part of their philosophy of governance.

        • http://jonthinkplace.blogspot.com Jonathan McCarthy

          I think this follow-up may be even better than your main article. I appreciate your candor in exposing libertarian-ish views of morality as more based on the "neopagan religion of Wicca" than biblical love - A good corrective for me.

          "A Christian cannot say, "I'll follow Christ . . . until it conflicts with my political philosophy." - this is also brilliant.

          Thank you for your courage and tact.

        • Coleman

          The question of gay-marriage for Christians is not about idolatry, or open theism.

          It's a simple question of whether or not it is sin, and while God has not changed, what is sin and what isn't has. As I'm sure you know, in the Old Testament we are given very specific and extensive laws that tell you what is sin and what isn't. And if we go by those laws (as some still do), then every time you have eaten crab, for example, you have sinned. But as Christians, we ascribe to the New Testament, and to the belief that Christ fulfilled the law, so that we no longer need those big gigantic lists to tell us what is sin and what isn't. We now only need his guiding example and the relationship we have with him (our faith) to determine on a personal basis what is sin for each individual. In other words, what is sin for one person may not be sin for another. Before you jump all the way down my throat on that statement, let me point you to Romans chapter 14. It is the epitome of expression that each (wo)man's faith is personal, and that what is sin for one man is not necessarily sin for another. Who are you, or we, to condemn a (wo)man as sinning before God, when Christ has already told us that he will now be the determinant of what is and isn't sin, and we need only concern ourselves with our own sin, our own relationship with him. See the example of the woman Christ saved from being stoned. I could keep going, but I think the basic point is made.

          As for the law, as has been said, the US is not a theocracy, nor should it be, despite what many Christians may think. That said, I agree that one can apply certain (not all) biblical principles in governance without being a theocracy, and I believe there is biblical support that our laws should protect all beliefs that are not physically destructive to the individual and those around him/her.

          As for the institution of marriage, well, by creating any laws at all regarding marriage, they have 'redefined' it. Marriage is a social contract that has taken hundreds of forms over the millennia. The idea that one form is somehow official and trumps all others is therefore, well, silly. You are suggesting that the US government should choose the Christian form of marriage as the only valid form. And while it is the only valid form for Christians who hold those beliefs, it is not for plenty of other people. And the government needs to protect the beliefs of those people, too. It is not the job of the government to spread the word of Christ, to champion Christian values, or otherwise force a Christian flavor of living upon the people whom it serves. Spreading the word of Christ is a task for the individual, part of a Christian's personal spiritual journey.

          Try to remember Christ's example: He did not take over the government/become the government to impress upon us His truth. He simply gave of himself to others until there was nothing left to give.

          • Comfort

            I'm sorry, but sin, like God, does not "change". Jesus did not come to "abolish" the OT as many believe, but to uphold it. Remember when he said, "No longer are there ten commandments but two?" That's because all ten could be confided in the two - Love the Lord they God and Love thy neighbor. People want to take things so literally, they don't want to study and exercise practical application.

            In the OT, because of lifestyles, certain practices like getting a tattoo or eating crab (? I'm not sure where that is in the Bible, I would love to know though!) weren't prohibited to reformed believers because of their conflicting message. Getting a tattoo for example in that time was iffy at best because it couldn't be done in a healthy sanitary way, so the prophets prohibited it arguing that it is more important to be alive and live a holy life than to adhere to a social practice for any personal reason. We've evolved from that time, and now we are to be "all things to all people" but *still* uphold the word and truth of God, which as I said, does not change.

            While I agree that it is not our place to condemn, as with the woman caught in the act of adultery, it is right for us to uphold the law of Christ. What was being gotten at in that story was not "condemning her" because she wasn't sinning, but choosing her punishment and when it would be enacted. It is our jobs as Christians to see sin, call it sin, love people through and point them to truth.

            • James Garcia

              At Comfort: You misquote the scripture. It doesn't say Jesus came to "uphold" the law but to "FULFILL" the law once and for ALL time. The Bible says the wages of sin is death, the wage has been paid by Jesus, once and for all time as I said before. The law has been fulfilled by the wage Jesus paid on the cross. John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, so that those who believe in him shall not perish but have everylasting life." It doesn't say "so that those who believe in him, but also follow the tennants of Paul, and Peter, and James except in cases where James disagreed with Paul, shall have everlasting life." You're adding requirements to salvation that just aren't there. The payment for my sin has been paid by Jesus, the law has been fulfilled by him for me. Who are you to add anymore guidelines or stipulations to that? Who are you to throw Christ back on the cross?

          • http://www.findingmyvirginity.com Belle Vierge

            Your comments are eloquent and wise. Thank you for sharing.

          • Stephen

            Coleman, you have successfully read a fairly obscure passage out of the New Testament, Romans 14 (which by the way is not nearly the "epitome" of personal expressions of faith, but rather a call to Christians to NOT practice an activity if another Christian will be moved to sinfully break their conscience by imitating you; i.e., not a call to allow Christian to do whatever they want), you have completely missed the point of John 8 where Jesus in fact did forgive the the adulterous women but then told her to NO LONGER sin, and you have ignored many more well-known passages like Romans 1, 1 Corinthians 6, Galatians 5, and in fact the rest of the New Testament which does in fact prescribe certain activities as sinful for all humanity.

          • meric

            Coleman-

            There are more intricacies to the OT Law and New Covenant than you have implied in your comment. There are moral, ceremonial, and civil laws within the Mosaic Law, and I believe it takes further study than a cursory glance to really process all those things.

            According to the New Covenant, Moses brought a law that regulated Israel and revealed our wickedness but it wasn't sufficient for salvation. This is why Jesus had to die-- because the law was insufficient, albeit good and holy.

            I believe that all sin is a form of idolatry. It can manifest itself in choosing oneself's desires, priorities, comforts, and interests over God's desires, priorities, and interests.

          • Martin

            Coleman... you are a gay marriage supporter, are you not?

          • Luke Hoffman

            I find it funny how a lot of people try to say that the Old Testament is no longer relevant to us, and I would agree as it pertains to righteousness. But what I find surprising is how at no point during Christ's time on this earth did he ever make the law easier, in fact he made them harder. Matthew 5 is wrought with examples of this. Our righteousness needs to EXCEED that of the scribes of the pharisees not conform to the feelings and will of paganism and idolatry.

        • facedown2000

          The problem with your argument is that there is a huge difference between endorsing evil and requiring that non-Christians act like Christians through government intervention. Let me restate that, because it's an extremely important distinction: one can oppose evil through alternative means that state-sanctioned legislation. As I said before, there's no Biblical precedent for "evangelizing" in this way. Period.

          To me, it's ridiculous to expect that non-Christians behave in a Christian way. They are unregenerate, and while I wish them to change, ask them to change, and challenge them in their worldview, making them behave in a certain way through the government, when their sinful choices affect primarily themselves, is a lost cause. That's not my opinion, that's scripture (Mt. 7:16). Furthermore, my view is in line with what is seen in Rom. 1: God leaves the unrepentant to their own destruction, even when it is within God's power to force them to change. Similarly, our government can coerce a response, but I don't think that's the best approach here. A far better approach is for Christians to engage homosexuals directly and show them why the Gospel is better through the Word. I fully believe this is how Christ would oppose evil in this case, and God promises that his Word (not our laws) will make people change.

          @Jonathan: I'll charitably assume your line about "neo-pagan religion of Wicca" was intended to be helpful, but sadly, it wasn't.

          • free2say

            The author can correct me if I'm wrong but I believe he made it clear both in his article and in his follow up letter above that he is clear that the State will make laws and so forth as it wills. His point is that as Christians we should not be championing laws that go against Biblical teachings just because the State, media mongols, and outspoken celebrities say we should. I don't look at this as a post so much condemning same sex marriage as someone encouraging Christians to search Scriptures and see what God says about marriage, then use that as your basis, not what your culture is trying to tell you. An evolving God??? I pray not!!!

            • Lori

              So we should not champion laws that support the religious freedoms of non-Christians because the Bible condemns idolatry?

        • Kenton

          I think the most important questions are:

          What does it mean to live in a society that is governed by the general will and whose laws are determined by the majority vote (either directly or via elected representatives), with an inherent bias towards groups that make convincing claims to a minority status that is liable for protection within society?

          What does it look like to uphold biblical truth? Is that expressed primarily through lawmaking and cultural manipulation (I use manipulation in a neutral sense to mean any sort of effort that attempts to influence/change cultural values and norms)?

          I do have a clarifying question though.

          Joe, you said in your post:

          As Christians we may be required to tolerate ungodly behavior, but the moment we begin to endorse the same then we too have become suppressers of the truth.

          But later you said:

          What is needed is courage in speaking the truth: We cannot love our neighbor and tolerate idolatry and unrepentant rebellion against God.

          Can you explain the two different uses of "tolerate"?

          • Joe Carter

            Can you explain the two different uses of "tolerate"?

            Good question. I should have been more clear on those points.

            In the first usage, I meant tolerate the ungodly behavior of non-believers. In the second, though, I was referring to fellow believers. I think we are often called to tolerate behavior by (unbelieving) strangers that we should not allow in our own (Christian) family.

            • Douglas Johnson

              Thanks Kenton for asking this question and thanks Joe for answering. I KNOW that already, but it was one of those things I've forgotten to say at times.

        • Boyd

          Re: God evolving

          Do you really write this much about this kind of thing and not know the difference between open theism and process theology? They are two very different things originating from two very different traditions.

          • Joe Carter

            Indeed, they are. That is why I referred to open theism (albeit a dumbed-down version) rather than process theology (which has little use for any special revelation).

            By the way, I will admit that using the term open theism was a mistake. While I think that the view of god that Rob Bell now affirms is indeed a *form* of open theism, it certainly isn't the type advocated by folks like Greg Boyd, Clark Pinnock, et al.

        • LF

          "What it does not have the right to do is to redefine an institution that existed prior to the State."

          Who says they are? Who says that the State's current definition of marriage (not to include same sex marriage) is the same as the one (based on moral law or biblical law) that existed prior to the State being formed? Who says the 'marriages' are the same?

          The state redefined the term 'marriage' and all that it entailed biblically and morally when they got involved in it, period.
          1)The State recognizes those living together for x amount of years as 'married' (common law marriage) despite lacking the state endorsed state-stamped, state official signature.
          2) The State rather easily allows marriages to be dissolved for a number of reasons (not limited to the very few - if at all - exceptions in Scripture)
          3) The State recognizes marriage on paper only, even if the two parties do not even cohabitate with each other, but with other partners instead (example)
          4) The State does not require vows/promises or commitment to God in order to declare a couple 'married'.

          How exactly does the State's current definition or 'marriage' square AT ALL with the Biblical (or evangelical) definition of marriage? It never has, and therefore, allowing ssm is not going to redefine the definition of Biblical marriage. It's making a change/amendment to THEIR definition of marriage.

          After all, you have to ask yourself the question that if you (as a married person) had never gotten the State's approval in the form of a marriage license/certificate, but had made a promise/covenant to your spouse and to God to stay faithful and true to each other til death parts, perhaps even in front of some witnesses, would God have still considered that marriage? I believe He would have. Does Biblical marriage need the State's stamp of approval or recognition to be Biblical? No.

          The State's definition of 'marriage' and the biblical/Christian definition of marriage are entirely different, even before ssm comes into play. They are not compatible and so allowing ss couples to obtain a marriage license and state recognition does not 'redefine an institution that existed prior to the State.'

          • Joseph K. McCall

            Well said..there is hope for the Church yet.

          • carolyn jones

            Again LF....well said. The True Church is alive, well, beautiful, albeit hidden at present, but I believe she will emerge by the Power of the Holy Spirit and the Glory of the Lord will be upon her...."Arise, shine for thy light is come..." The Kingdom of God will manifest through her and then the ultimate battle with darkness (which by the way is in full force in our government and nation) will occur. In case you have forgotten, let me refresh your memory.... Yahshua said, "I will build my church and the gates of hell SHALL NOT(emphasis mine) prevail against it."

        • http://jaycen.com Jaycen

          Fantastic way to respond. I agree, almost better than the original post. Bless you brother for your boldness and obedience.

        • Dan Lundmark

          "Actually, the question isn't that hard at all. The State has the right to recognize any relationships it wants and to provide and regulate any benefits it chooses. What it does not have the right to do is to redefine an institution that existed prior to the State."

          While I agree the Christian definition of marriage predates the State, why should the State be defining anything to do with it? Why have we empowered the State to take a position on marriage at all?

          I certainly would not want the State defining Baptism or issuing Salvation certificates. Let's get the State out of private contracts and our Christian ceremonies.

          • Joseph K. McCall

            I like this response. I've been trying to make this correlation for some time now...

          • David Lamb

            The State is involved in marriage for its own convenience, as part of defining households, the latter being involved in establishing property, inheritance and custody laws, all of which are absolutely necessary.

        • Sis

          My concern isn't to legislate morality by biblical standards. My concern is past history that has shown the downfall of nations because of their moral decline. It's one thing for homosexual couples to live together in some kind of civil union but quite another for it to be sanctioned by the government as a "marriage".

        • Jeremy Greenlee

          What troubles me about the whole debate is why Christians are so quick to make a great deal of noise over the gay marriage debate and say nothing whatsoever about divorce. Why are we so content with divorce, which is arguably much more destructive on a family than same sex marriage and which affects around 50% of all marriages both Christian and non-Christian? After all, the Bible has a lot more to say about divorce than homosexuality. Perhaps this is because it is easy be judgmental of homosexuals because the majority of us do not struggle with it nor do we understand it. This seems quite hypocritical to me. Maybe we should focus more of our time and energy on living out the Gospel ourselves rather than attempting to dictate what benefits a homosexual can or cannot have. We should also note that being "for gay marriage" is not necessarily the same thing as endorsing homosexual behavior, as our author has suggested. What he fails to acknowledge that someone like myself, a Christian, can believe that homosexuality is a sin and that our role as a church is not to impose our own beliefs onto the non-Christians, rather it is to live out the Gospel/Torah ourselves so that we might draw them to us. This was one of the primary purposes of the Torah from the beginning (Deut 4). Jesus commanded us "to go and make disciples" not to go and force the nations/gentiles/non-Christians to live as we do before they believe as we do. There is all too much hypocrisy and judgmentalism in the Christian church today. I pray that our political voice becomes one of loving our neighbor, of taking care of the vulnerable, of touching the unclean, of looking inward long before we are ready to cast the first stone. These are the words and actions of Jesus that need to be preached from the Christian left and right alike. Maybe we might then be able to be a place where the non-Christian can feel welcomed without judgement and begin to receive the healing power of grace. I am reminded of the powerful and challenging lyrics of Casting Crown's "Jesus, Friend of Sinners":
          Jesus, friend of sinners, we have strayed so far away
          We cut down people in your name but the sword was never ours to swing
          Jesus, friend of sinners, the truth's become so hard to see
          The world is on their way to You but they're tripping over me
          Always looking around but never looking up I'm so double minded
          A plank eyed saint with dirty hands and a heart divided

          Oh Jesus, friend of sinners
          Open our eyes to the world at the end of our pointing fingers
          Let our hearts be led by mercy
          Help us reach with open hearts and open doors
          Oh Jesus, friend of sinners, break our hearts for what breaks yours....
          Jesus, friend of sinners, the one who's writing in the sand
          Made the righteous turn away and the stones fall from their hands
          Help us to remember we are all the least of these
          Let the memory of Your mercy bring Your people to their knees
          Nobody knows what we're for only what we're against when we judge the wounded
          What if we put down our signs crossed over the lines and loved like You did.....
          You love every lost cause; you reach for the outcast
          For the leper and the lame; they're the reason that You came
          Lord I was that lost cause and I was the outcast
          But you died for sinners just like me, a grateful leper at Your feet....
          And I was the lost cause and I was the outcast
          You died for sinners just like me, a grateful leper at Your feet

          • Joe Carter

            What troubles me about the whole debate is why Christians are so quick to make a great deal of noise over the gay marriage debate and say nothing whatsoever about divorce.

            First of all, that's not true. Christians have been making a great deal of noise about divorce for over 40 years. The rest of the world may have stopped listening to our complaints, but that doesn't mean we're not making them.

            Second, are you serious about the divorce issue or are you just raising it as a rhetorical point. Would you be in favor of Christians working to make divorce harder to get in our society? If not, then I'm not sure why you'd bring up the issue.

            Maybe we should focus more of our time and energy on living out the Gospel ourselves rather than attempting to dictate what benefits a homosexual can or cannot have.

            How do you live out the Gospel without telling people the truth about sin?

            What he fails to acknowledge that someone like myself, a Christian, can believe that homosexuality is a sin and that our role as a church is not to impose our own beliefs onto the non-Christians, rather it is to live out the Gospel/Torah ourselves so that we might draw them to us.

            Do you believe that pederasty should be illegal? Assuming you do, why do you believe it is valid to push that Christian belief on others?

            • http://embraceparadox.tumblr.com Matt

              The issue is one of consenting adults versus nonconsensual and/or children. That's why pedarasty cannot be supported. Seems a little bit like a red herring.

        • Stephen

          Joe, you said, "We are called to apply our faith to our political beliefs—not the other way around."

          While you were writing that, the Bible said, "Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself." (John 6:15 NIV)

          Could you speak to that?

      • Douglas Johnson

        "The Bible says that lots of things are sinful, but nevertheless many of these sins are perfectly legal. I'm troubled that my neighbor is moving toward hell -- as Christians, we all should be, but whether it's justified or effective to legally discriminate against sinners is a difficult question, one that I don't have an answer to."

        Two things to remember:

        1) In IL, Catholic Charities has placed all their children up for adoption with married mothers and fathers. They were told that they had to put some of those children in fatherless or motherless homes or those children would be forced into programs where some of them would be placed in motherless or fatherless homes. Cc refused and the children were moved to those other programs. Is this "legally discriminating against sinners"?

        2) Everywhere marriage is redefined the adoption laws are rewritten to reflect that it doesn't matter if a child is raised without a mother or a father. Does that constitute "legally discriminating against sinners"?

        3) Everywhere marriage is redefined, every boy in public schools is taught that a home without a father is no worse off than a home with a father. And we teach him that marriage has nothing in particular to do with creating a home for the child that may enter it. On that basis, how should a boy conclude that there's any harm done by leaving his future children without a father?

        • Alma B

          i guess i can't figure out what your viewpoint is, but as a public school high school teacher, and even teaching at the college level, in reference to your third comment I cannot (and have been called out for) referring to any person's familial situation with a regretful comment, tone, sentiment, inference, or underlying meaning. no matter who their parents are i can't treat them differently on the basis of who is raising them ( i mean, like, that's my butt), and in my case in an inner city situation, we are required and more than happy to involve parents or ANY guardians of every student. if you bring up the parenting, you MUST think about the effect it has on the child and his/her development. if the parenting situation is non traditional, but the child is happy, well adjusted, learning, curious, innocent and healthy, then they can be taught about morals and jesus (which I openly believe in and talk about in my personal life) but raise them with a mom and a dad who abuse each other in any or every way, and the child suffers and has mental blocks to accepting truth and higher level character building. back in the day (biblical times) they had non traditional families and people who cooperated to raise some of the most important people in the bible who were not from two parent hetero households. (moses, naomi, john the baptist, jesus christ, several of the apostles, shall i go on?) don't miss the point with this. i think what MY point is that as a public school teacher, I cannot push any agenda in my classroom. its not legal, its not educational best practices, its always smarter to give students positive environment and let them process all the things you have to show them. and I DON'T infuse my religious beliefs in my classroom. period. it's not the time nor the place. each side has merit and a valid arguement, just like you do and your is!

          • Melody

            I think I get what you are saying, sort of but there are some things that do not make sense.

            Moses was adopted by the Pharaoh's daughter but he was nursed in his mother's household which was a two parent household.
            Naomi was a widowed woman but the bible says nothing of how she was raised so I don't get that reference. She was the mother-in-law of Ruth who ended up marrying Boaz (a man)before having a child.
            John the baptizer was born to Elizabeth and Zacharias (two parent hetro).
            Jesus grew up with his mother and adoptive father chosen by God - a hetro couple.

            I don't know which apostles you were referring to but I'm guessing there is nothing in scripture that says they were raised in a non-traditional way.

    • TK Jaros

      "they do tend to reject the authority of the Bible as most historical Christians have viewed it,"

      No, they tend to reject the traditional view of divine foreknowledge. Inerrancy and the authority of Scripture is a distinct topic.

      • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

        The Bible teaches God's perfect foreknowledge, predestination and God's complete sovereignty. "No one resists His will" (Rom. 9:19). "His plans cannot be thwarted" (Job 42:2). "He does whatever He pleases" (Ps. 115:3). "No one can stay His hand" (Dan. 4:35), etc. If open theists (or anyone else), don't believe that, it's because they've rejected the authority of scripture.

      • TK Jaros

        Well, Open Theists have a different take on what the authors of Scripture are trying to say. So they can consistently affirm inerrancy. Put simply, they don't necessarily think the Bible has errors because they think God doens't know some parts of the future

        I understand you (and I) have disagreements with them on what the Bible says, but that's slightly different than the inerrancy issue.

        I think you were trying to refer to Process Theology when speaking that God changes.

    • Nathan

      I agree, horrible representation of Open Theism all around. It would be more helpful for them to view the theology from the perspective that is actually held by those who believe in it rather than their "worst case scenario" perspective from their own point of view. (Granted, they did quote Rob Bell, but he doesn't represent all of Open Theists)

    • rkamrath

      Yes, using the term "Open Theism" was an unfortunate choice which distracts from the point of the article.

  • Brigth Side

    On the other hand...

    Won't it be easier for Bible-believing Christians to evangelize once America has finally admitted to being a pagan nation -- instead of hiding behind some religious, mainline "churchianity" like it's done the last 100 years?

    In the USA about 50 years ago, most believed "everyone went to heaven" as long as you were baptized as an infant, went to church on Easter and Christmas and were a "good person/American." Wolves were in every pulpit pretending to be "pastors"...

    Today, Pagan American is just Pagan Rome in new clothes. Easier for us to understand and reach out to pagans, once we know they truly are pagans, I think.

    Think about it, the more "Rob Bells" come out of the closet as full-blooded Zeus/Moloch/Baal worshipers, the more wolves loose their sheep-camouflage.

    • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

      It's true that once America has become pretty much like Rome, we might be in a better position for evangelism. After all, the early church grew well under pagan Rome.

      Of course, that assumes that we remain faithful and committed, willing to be fed to the lions if necessary. It's for that that Mr. Carter wrote this excellent article.

      • Douglas Johnson

        I'm reminded of St. Bernard who Luther quoted in his commentary to the Galatians as saying "the church is in the best position when it is under attack from all sides and it is in the worst position when it is most at peace."

    • Tom

      I'm old enough to remember how things were 50 years ago, and your understanding of the culture at that time is ... flawed.

      And you assume most people today would know enough about Zeus/Moloch/Baal in order to distinguish them from the God of Scripture (assuming they even understand the latter). Their advocates today say things just as soothing to itching ears as did their forebears and therefore delude the ignorant.

    • free2say

      This is an excellent point and maybe what the Church needs to shake it and wake it! The Christian Church grows more under persecution than under affluence. That is why it's so scary that so many people who say they are Christians tend to follow a cultural religion rather than the religion of Jesus Christ. Soon Christians will be forced to "come out of the closet" so to speak when it is indeed unlawful to follow their beliefs.

  • Chris Tjapkes

    Excellent reasoning from the mind of a spiritual man.

  • Bob

    Hi Joe --

    I like your article, but it seems that you left out another option in the "libertarian" path. A libertarian (such as myself, perhaps) could argue that the best outcome is for the state to recognize no marriages whatsoever, and instead defer to the church. Whether this means recognition of a generic "civil partnership" is a subsidiary technical question, but it could change the debate by 1) allowing Christians to co-exist with their immoral neighbors without being subsumed into constant political fights and 2) keep Christians from ever having to endorse "same-sex marriage" or any other non-biblical form of marriage, including no-fault divorce.

    In fact, it seems to me to be very unbiblical for you to suggest that this backpedaling on marriage is just related to gay marriage. No fault divorce is equally as sinful as it equates to adultery in God's mind (which is where reality truly is).

    • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

      Marriage is a civil institution, not a religious one. It's part of creation, not redemption. The New England Puritans had their magistrates perform weddings, not their pastors in the church.

      Libertarianism is, perhaps, the most unChristian political theory because it assumes the goodness of human nature; that people are so good that they can be unrestrained by the government. The Bible teaches otherwise.

      • T.B.

        If marriage is a "civil institution, not a religious one" as you say, why is everyone arguing here? Why doesn't the church then keepits hands, and judgments, out of people's marriages?

        Follow up q: If it is a "civil institution", what would be the reason to get married beyond whatever civic benefits (tax breaks, visitation, parental rights) you may receive as a married couple?

        • Douglas Johnson

          T.B.,

          You write:

          If marriage is a "civil institution, not a religious one" as you say, why is everyone arguing here? Why doesn't the church then keepits hands, and judgments, out of people's marriages?

          The only way marriage can be redefined as having nothing in particular to do with a man and a woman creating new life is through the power of the state. Without the government involvement, marriage will go on as it always had.

          Now some who advocate redefinition say they would be satisfied with the government not recognizing any marriages. The government recognizes marriages in part because it has to: the government would not exist without marriage and the children that are a product of it. If the government doesn't recognize that then it is, almost by definition, suicidal.

      • Tanner

        The most unChristian political theory? Think about it... what liberties has God given us outside of government. At the core, he's given us life (which is essentially time to learn about Him) and free will (an opportunity to either choose Him or not).

        Why do we Christians think we need a government to restrict our liberties even further than what he's given us naturally? If a homosexual flat out rejects Christ, let him enjoy the flesh. Or if an alcoholic flat out rejects Christ, let him drink away... it may be only "pleasure" he'll experience throughout all eternity. Not only that, but sometimes people need to hit rock bottom before they can look to or rely upon God.

        Don't get me wrong, I see homosexuality as a sin and do not support it within the context of a Christ-focused church. But I definitely am not supportive of a government having any say what-so-ever in marriage. To me, my marriage is a covenant between God, myself, and my wife... Uncle Sam wasn't invited. If homosexuals want to create their own god and definition of marriage, whatever - I can choose to recognize it or not.

        What laws are there in the Bible targeted at non-believers? None. So why do we feel we need to add to that?

        • Melody

          So you didn't take the tax deductions as soon as you became married?

          The funny things is that I know of cases where people living on disability chose to only have a religious ceremony and not file any of the legal documents because they would lose their benefits. As soon as the government gets wind of it they come in and cut them off as well as file for reimbursement against the person with disability.

          The government is very much involved even if in your head they are not.

    • Michelle

      I want to echo Bob's point that same-sex marriage is neither the beginning of this idolatry in the church, nor will it be the end. My friend is in the process of being divorced by her husband, a man born and raised in the church, active as a Sunday school teacher in our church. He is leaving her full of guilt and in the full knowledge that he is doing the wrong thing, but he is afraid that if he doesn't leave her, trusting in Christ's grace to cover this sin, he will be unhappy for the rest of his life as he has determined that their marriage falls short of his ideal for marriage and can never live up to it. His idea of what an ideal marriage is, is more compelling to him than living out his covenant and seeking God's enabling and transforming grace within it. And in the process of pursuing his divorce, speaking to other Christian friends and spiritual directors, not a single Christian friend he has talked to has challenged his decision and called him on his idolatry. Thus, his individual thinking reveals an even more rampant idolatry in the Church. I'm not saying that there is not idolatry at the root of the same-sex marriage debate, I just think the idolatry comes much closer to home than many of us think, and it didn't start with same-sex marriage.

      • T.B.

        If I'm in a physically and emotionally abusive marriage, should I wait around for "God's enabling and transforming grace" to work its magic and change my husband's ways before he murders me? Because I really don't want to go against an institution created by God since the beginning of time. That will just push us all further down a slippery slope.

    • Joe Carter

      could argue that the best outcome is for the state to recognize no marriages whatsoever, and instead defer to the church.

      One of the main problems with that approach, in my opinion, is that it implies that marriage is created by the church. In fact, marriage is an institution that was created by God that existed before both the church (or any religious organization) and the state. Both the Church and State have a right to determine when they will recognize the institution. It's similar to how the nation-state can "recognize" the existence (or not) of other nations, but they have no right to define for that nation what it is or whether it does, in fact, exist.

      The second problem is that the State can't get out of the "marriage business." The State could stop issuing marriage licences, but as long as the institution of marriage exists, it will have to deal with it just as it does other institutions such as corporations or individual states. The only reason the State is in the marriage business at all is to have a way to identify who is married for the sake of legal regulation of parentage and other family benefits. Getting them out of the marriage licence business would merely complicate the issue, rather than serve as a solution.

      In fact, it seems to me to be very unbiblical for you to suggest that this backpedaling on marriage is just related to gay marriage.

      I don't think I suggested that at all. In face, my argument is that our tolerance of idolatry is the reason Christians support same-sex marriage. The fact that they don't accept adultery too is merely a sign that they are inconsistent.

      As far as marriage goes, you are absolutely right. No fault divorce has done more than SSM ever could to degrade the institution of marriage.

      • D. K. Keppel

        OH MY GOODNESS, Robin - Thank you!!! You said exactly what my heart wants to say and is so bad at expressing. :)

      • Bob

        Hi Joe --

        Thanks much for your response. I think your argument to point #1 about marriage as a pre-existing determinate institution is very profound, and probably needs to be elucidated further, especially as it serves to differentiate the traditionalist argument from the libertarian argument.

        The more I read and hear on this, the more I am leaning back towards the traditionalist understanding of marriage, but it really is a very, very complicated issue on the political side. On the moral side the arguments are crystal clear. I think most American Christians make some allowance for the libertarian argument that it is better to allow people to sin than to try to ban all forms of sin--a version, perhaps, of Augustine's city of man vs. city of God. But as Christians have never lived in a society where gay marriage exists, we have no precedent to determine whether it falls into the category of sins we oppose without legal action and those we oppose with legal action.

        It seems to come down to this point about what the institution of marriage is and if the government can disentangle itself from it sufficiently. I think we need to break down the different parts of "marriage policy" one by one and try to discern what is truly necessary and what is a relic of prior redistributionist policies aimed at promoting the middle class.

        One thing is becoming more and more clear to me--supporting "gay marriage" as a new institution appears to go beyond any libertarian notion of "allow the sin, and hate it, too". Gay marriage is an entirely new creation, and a Christian defending it is implicitly supporting it. Without a "yes" vote for gay marriage, it would cease to come into being.

        Or in this case, with only five yes votes.

      • laughterjones

        The state can get out of the marriage business, and that is what we should be fighting for. The culture war is lost by all accounts. Cali's ban will be overturned at some point and this travesty will be recognized all over the nation. It's coming and worse. Since the government legitimizes its role in your marriage, why can't it have a hand in child rearing as well? What about the state's viewpoint on forced indoctrination?

        The only way now to frame this fight is to get the state out of this completely. A contract SHOULD be allowed between parties if consented anyway. But as long as a state has authority to 'marry' people then this fight is over.

        Win the battle by removing the state's influence then you have at least a resemblance of purity. The idea that these marriages are sanctified by God is ridiculous anyway, but as long as my taxes are involved, I can't stand by.

      • James Garcia

        "Marriage" was not an institution created by God. You foolishly make a statement like this but conveniently forget all of the sanctioned polygamy, incest, and taking of concubines. David, a man after God's own heart, had 8 wives and at least 10 concubines. Solomon, the God chosen king of Israel had over 700 wives and 300 concubines, Abraham, the father of the nation of Israel had 2 wives (3 if you count Hagar) and 1 concubine (if you don't count Hagar as a wife.) How does your philosphy that God created marriage to be between one man and one woman fit into this reality? Also, do you honestly believe that Adam and Eve populated the entire earth without having to sleep with their children or without their children sleeping with each other? I love how you "conveniently" forget these facts when it comes to pushing your elitist viewpoint.

      • Douglas Johnson

        "could argue that the best outcome is for the state to recognize no marriages whatsoever, and instead defer to the church."

        Joe,

        Let me just add one thing to your comments.

        You probably read the Touchstone cover story some years ago by Douglas Farrow entitled "The Audacity of the State." A friend of mine read the article and did not understand it and so he asked me to explain it to him as briefly as possible. I did so by drawing the picture in the link below.

        http://crisisofthehousedivided.blogspot.com/2010/08/audacity-of-state-by-douglas-farrow.html

        Getting the state "out of the marriage business" will take an axe to each of the chains in my picture, but most especially the chain tied to the pillar of the family. Such an action would in no way reduce the power of the state, but rather it would serve to make that power total.

    • Douglas Johnson

      Dear Bob,

      Years ago I wrote a plea to libertarians persuaded by the message of marriage redefinition (which can only happen through the government). I don't agree with your comment, although I think it reasonably stated. I would be grateful if you would read what I wrote in the link below and tell me what you think:

      http://crisisofthehousedivided.blogspot.com/2010/08/personal-thoughts-on-what-gay-marriage.html

  • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

    Hi Joe,

    When John Piper is recommending your articles, you've got a winner! Thanks for standing up for things like this.

    There appears to be a slight grammatical error under the heading "The Background" in the line:
    "when same-sex marriage became unconstitutional" . . . . I believe it should be "when prohibiting . . ." In the trascript Olson is being questioned about when prohibiting it became unconstitutional, not when it became unconstitutional.

    • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

      Again, excellent article. You've gone right to the heart of the matter.

      Another copy-editing observation: in the second to last paragraph you have, "We fear that if we point out to clearly . . .". I believe you meant "too".

  • jj

    I'm wondering how we consistently apply the command to love our neighbors by legislative means. If the first group of believers you mention have traded a biblical command for a Wiccan one, then couldn't you say the same about those who don't believe premarital sex or divorce should be illegal? I'm really confused by the fact that we don't take a stand against those sins through legislative means but then proclaim that those who do not against same-sex marriage are not loving their neighbors or embracing idolatry.

    I am not saying this as an advocate of same-sex marriage (or as someone who believes divorce should be illegal), but in many conversations I've had people view this as an inconsistency and I've yet to hear a satisfactory explanation from anyone.

    Thanks!

    • Joe Carter

      I'm wondering how we consistently apply the command to love our neighbors by legislative means.

      I would say a key principle is not to endorse or openly advocate that which God considers to be evil. For example, Christians may not be required to try to impose a ban on pornography. But it would certainly be wrong for us to try to expand the dissemination and/or production of pornography through legislative means.

      • Lori

        "I would say a key principle is not to endorse or openly advocate that which God considers to be evil."

        That principle seems to come from the Old Testament, which was written in a theocratic context.

        The only commands regarding civil government in the New Testament that I am familiar with involve living peaceably with neighbors and obeying those in authority.

        So I'm not sure there is any basis for arguing that Christians in a non-theocratic state are required or expected to use legislative means to control people's behavior.

        I also think that, in practice, things are complicated. I don't believe people should smoke marijuana, but I would support legislation to legalize it, because the harm caused by overly-punitive drug laws in our society is far greater than the harm caused by marijuana use.

        In many cases, politically, we're not going to be choosing between a clear right and a clear wrong, but weighing different harms against each other.

        A person could believe that homosexuality is a sin and still feel that gay marriage should be legal, not because they take a libertarian view of the law, but because they feel it will cause less harm than gay marriage being illegal. If they believe--as they'd be justified in believing--that the legalization of gay marriage will not increase the number of people who are gay or lesbian and will not increase the number of people engaging in homosexual acts, then they can conclude that legalizing gay marriage will not increase sin. On the other hand, it might bring other benefits: it provides greater stability and protection to the children of gay couples who choose to marry (whether it's an ideal situation is not really relevant, just whether it's better for the children of gay couples to have their parents be married or unmarried, since nobody is proposing removing these children from their homes and placing them with straight couples), it would encourage monogamy and commitment (while homosexual monogamy might be seen as just as sinful as homosexual promiscuity, in terms of issues like public healthy and immediate individual well-being, it's preferable), it would perhaps be reaffirming the value of marriage itself in a society where young heterosexuals seem increasingly to think marriage is irrelevant.

        A person could conclude, whether everybody agreed or not, that on the whole legally allowing gay marriage would be preferable to maintaining a ban, without endorsing sinful behavior, just like a person can believe that legally allowing marijuana use would be preferable to maintaining our current policies on it, without endorsing drug use. It wouldn't be based on a libertarian, anything-goes argument, but an argument based on weighing the harms of the various alternatives.

        If somebody believes homosexuality is a sin, homosexuality in the context of a non-marriage relationship isn't good. Gay couples who are living together in a state where gay marriage is banned aren't somehow sinning less than gay couples living together in a state where gay marriage is legal. Given that, it's not a matter of choosing between a right and a wrong.

        • Lori

          Oh, and I forgot to clarify: of course Christians shouldn't endorse or advocate evil. I'm not saying that that in and of itself is limited to the OT. Of course not.

          The question is whether they are required, expected, or even encouraged to ensure that civil governments don't endorse moral evil, or if it is within their church communities that they may not endorse or advocate evil.

          It just sounds like the argument you are making is that Christians today should be doing everything in their power to keep gay marriage illegal, but once it becomes legal, they don't need to try to get the law changed. It sort of sounds like an argument that Christian political engagement should be based upon whatever issues are particularly contentious or hot-button at the time, and not on identifying which moral evils are the greatest.

          I would argue that, even for those who think homosexuality is a grave sin, there are other more devastating moral evils occurring in our country--most notably abortion and mass incarceration--that are, in the case of the former, not as "hot" right now or, in the case of the latter, ignored by nearly everybody.

          It seems to me that making so much of gay marriage while ignoring other issues--particularly issues like mass incarceration that don't fit neatly within the agenda of one political party or the other--involves determining political engagement based on what's trending on Facebook, rather than really discerning where God might be calling Christians to act.

          • T.B.

            Thank you for your well-reasoned, thoughtful response. With all the strange logic in this blog post and comments, your voice is extremely necessary!

            • Lori

              I'm glad that made sense.

              I think that comparing legalizing same-sex marriage to increasing the production/dissemination of pornography is just a false analogy. A better analogy might be whether Christians should oppose legal protections for sex workers. Or even whether prostitution should be legalized.

              Sure, Christians should not participate in prostitution in any way. It is a sinful trade. But, I don't think Christians are required to think prostitution should be illegal, or that they can't endorse the legalization of prostitution. Again, it wouldn't necessarily be for libertarian means. A non-libertarian Christian could still argue that prostitution should be legalized, if they believe that legalization will not significantly increase incidence and that it will eliminate other harms. We could argue that, when prostitution is illegal, abuse of sex workers if far more common (women will be reluctant to report an assault that occurred while they were engaged in prostitution, for example).

              We could argue that legalization and regulation prostitution would not cause more women to enter the sex trade but would provide a safer environment for those already in it to practice, and make it easier for them to get out (since they wouldn't have to explain a criminal record or lack of legal employment activity).

              We could recognize that prostitution is a sinful practice and that those who engage in it are engaging in sin while still believing that criminalizing it is not the best way to deal with it and that legalization and regulation might perhaps provide the best hope for those involved in it to practice what they are doing as safely as possible and make it as easy as we can for them to leave it.

          • Melody

            Lori why do you get to decide what is a more devastating evil? On what basis do you get to make that decision?

            Then to add that legalizing prostitution and I have to wonder if it isn't all just theorizing like those that do in college classes without any comprehension of the realities of the world. Do you think legalizing would help this girl? http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/29/roman-thomas-pimp-branded_n_2980581.html?ncid=edlinkusaolp00000003

            Do you comprehend at all those that end up in prostitution? "Oh when I grow up I think I will chose prostitution for a career choice", said no one ever.

      • Matt

        "I would say a key principle is not to endorse or openly advocate that which God considers to be evil."

        You are implying that endorsing the legalization of something is endorsing that thing itself. jj is pointing out that believing something is wrong does not necessitate legislation against that thing. There has to be some differentiation between God's law and that which ought to be encoded in our law. Certainly we should not try to encode all Biblical doctrine in law.

        How do you determine which Biblical doctrine to encode in law and which to leave out? It all depends on your political ideals. If you think the government should guide all cultural mores, then I can see the point of your article. However, some Christians think the role of government should be more limited than that. In your article, you alienate those Christians. Some see the role of government as a role of protection. Under this view, there is no reason for the government to legislate against actions which don't violate anyone. You may disagree with this view and that's totally fine. However, unless you have a biblical reason for believing the government ought to be the means by which we drive cultural change, please don't call all libertarians idolaters.

      • James Garcia

        That which God deems to be evil, or that which YOU deem to be evil? You read a flawed translation of the Bible and neglect to research the intent of the original authors. Have you researched Pauls intended target of the scriptures he wrote that you use to back your view on homosexuality? How do you reconcile the fact that the word homosexual didn't exist in Paul's time? How do you reconcile the fact that Lesbianism is not addressed a single time in the Old Testament? How do you reconcile the fact that people were as vehement as you that interracial marriages were unbiblical? They even had scriptures to "prove" this "fact", much as you do. Please tell me, have you done ANY historical research as to why Paul made the statements he did? Or are you using his words out of context? What if I took your words "...advocate that which God says is evil" and started saying Joe Carter said to advocate evil!? While it's technically true, is it taken in context with what you ACTUALLY said and meant? You need to do the same with Pauls words. What situation was Paul ACTUALLY addressing in Corinth and Rome? What situations were ACTUALLY being addressed in Leviticus? You can't just read a flawed translation and expect to get the full meaning and original intent. You don't want people doing that with your words, so don't do it with the words of the Apostles.

      • jj

        I am in agreement that we shouldn't endorse or advocate for something that is evil, but I'm not sure that is what all Christians who support legalizing same-sex marriage are doing. It comes down to a matter of how it should be handled in the public sphere, and since so many others have commented already I won't unpack that further.

        To me, the bigger concern are the number of Christians who state they don't believe homosexuality is a sin at all. There are many who are 'changing their minds' and championing homosexual relationships as good and beautiful.

        I believe as long as a Christian will publicly profess that homosexuality is a sin and tries to love their friends by telling them truth, there is room for disagreement on how exactly legislation and government should be involved. For example, would we fight a government decision to sell land to a Muslim community in our neighbor for a mosque knowing that God hates the worship of false gods and that some in our community might be led astray by its presence?

        Forgive me if that's not the best analogy. I am not an expert in logic and debate but was trying to think of an example outside the realm of marriage and sexuality.

  • Robin

    I am a Christian who believes that homosexuality is sinful, and I don't see how wanting to legalize same-sex marriage is idolatry.

    My understanding is that the union sacred to marriage is sex--not some ceremony with suits and dresses, and not some piece of paper signed by a judge.

    Jesus says that sins come from the heart: hatred and lust are no less sinful than murder and adultery. The damage has been done. A legal decision is not going to worsen, or lessen, the sin.

    You can't legislate sin out of a heart.

    So considering that I don't think a legal decision will change anything for better or worse, I don't see why we should compel people who don't share our beliefs to abide by them.**

    **So then why do we legislate regarding other sins, like theft and murder, even though some people don't think these are wrong either? These are sins that infringe on the rights of others. The government must prevent these in order to protect the rights of the citizenry. Other people's marriage does not infringe on anyone else's rights.

    • http://www.speculativefaith.com E. Stephen Burnett

      Other people's marriage does not infringe on anyone else's rights.

      Incorrect. Activists want to redefine "marriage" for all people, and they will refuse to let Christians off the hook for not supporting it. They will come into the Christian businesses and churches and home-based groups, for unlike practitioners of others sins, this is the one many in our cultures insist that everyone else say is not only allowed, but right and decent and equal to all other marriages. To say this will never happen may be "nice," yet naive.

      • Lori

        It sounds like you are saying that homosexuality is the one and only sin that people in our culture want people to not simply permit, but also see as right and decent.

        I'd disagree strongly. I can think of many sins that people in our culture don't just want allowed, but celebrated.

        Greed: unnecessary consumption forms the basis of our economy, and Christians are entirely complicit in this. When people buy a bigger home or a new car or tenth pair of shoes, they would be very unhappy if somebody questioned their choice and named it greed, and I can think of very few settings where anybody would.

        Divorce: people expect unqualified support if they decide to divorce due to "irreconcilable differences," even though such divorces are clearly contrary to biblical teaching.

        Drunkenness: We are supposed to see going out and getting drunk as a normal, fun part of life for young adults, and not ask questions about whether it's a good idea.

        Gossip: How do you think most people respond when, if they start sharing some gossip--even in a church setting--somebody calls them out for sinning? They don't want their gossip tolerated, they want it relished.

        And that's just a few off the top of my head.

        The idea that we are a society that, in every area other than homosexuality, might tolerate but does not celebrate sin is just not true.

        • JohnM

          "I can think of many sins that people in our culture don't just want allowed, but celebrated"

          Have you really heard anyone say greed, divorce, drunkeness, and gossip should be.....celebrated? With the exception of (maybe) divorce does anyone claim any of these as a civil right? Does anyone one think gossips, for example, should be a protected class? Are Christians calling these things good? For that matter do even most non-Christians, jokes aside, pretend there is nothing at all undesireable about them? If you think the answer to any of these questions is yes I can't imagine who you've been talking to.

          • T.B.

            Greed? Absolutely! Look around you, at the materialism that makes you proud, that you show off to your neighbors, that you dress yourself with. What is the American dream? How much of that is tied up in financial success?

            "Does anyone think gossips, for example, should be a protected class?" Free speech should absolutely be protected. Whistle-blowers, journalists, all should've protected.

            Beyond that, replace gossips with millionaires and you've got the entire philosophy of the conservative wing of the Republican Party (and I say that as a republican).

          • Lori

            Do you know any Christians who didn't think NYC should pass a law outlawing the selling of large sugary drinks?

            Do you know any Christians who think Alabama was right to pass a bill stating that you CAN'T outlaw the selling of large sugary drinks?

            If you do, and I know there are plenty, then you have people thinking gluttony should be a legally-enshrined right.

            As noted, we have laws allowing free speech, and I think most people would be horrified if they were legally barred from gossiping.

            And our entire culture is a giant parade celebrating greed.

            Sure, we don't use those names. We call it "going out for drinks" or just "going out," not "drunkenness." We call it "sharing some concerns," not "gossiping." We call it "buying some new things," not "greed." But it's the same thing, and we absolutely do celebrate it, both outside and inside the church.

            • JohnM

              "Sure, we don't use those names" That's right we don't. And why not? Because we recognize those things as wrong, even if we don't recognize we're guilty of them. We don't want to claim them as part of our make up. Of course one can debate where the line between normal consumption and gluttonly or greed lies and whether or not you're right in your judgement, or if were really talking about the moral equivalent of homosexual acts. But that's not the point.

              The point is, nobody wants to identify as greedy or gluttonous, nobody claims greed or gluttony are normal and acceptable, not even the greedy and gluttonous. They don't think they really are those things. Your task is not to convince them these things are wrong in the first place, they get that, the problem is getting them to see they are guilty of them.

              On the other hand, we've reached a state of affairs where some people proudly identifiy as "gay" and many others join them in declaring homosexuality to be normal and acceptable. Few who are homosexuals deny that they are anymore. The problem is not convincing anyone that they are engaging in homosexual acts, they know when they're doing that, the problem is getting anyone to admit it is wrong in the first place.

              So no, a comparison between homosexual behavior and the other sins you listed does not hold up, not in our contemporary culture at least.

        • free2say

          And let's not leave out abortion. What will happen with this is what has happened with the killing of innocent children: the frog will sit in the fry pan while the heat is turned up, resting there until it is cooked. Christians can now easily turn a cold eye away from the abortion issue because the State has deemed it a right. Little by little ssm will just become a norm as Christians adapt to their new surroundings and after a while people will wonder why it was ever questioned, and champion those that brought it about.

          • Leon Mire

            I hope that comparison was an exaggeration. Do you really think that the murder of millions of innocent children is just as bad as letting the girl kiss the bride?

    • Jeff Schultz

      "Other people's marriage does not infringe on anyone else's rights."

      Try telling that to my friends who run a wedding facility. Our county has passed an ordinance which threatens them with the very real possibility of being sued out of existence if they refuse to host gay weddings. This is not new, either. Dress shops, bakeries, photographers, and others have been successfully sued for refusing to participate in gay marriage ceremonies.

      Apart from any biblical witness, it's obvious that gay marriage doesn't "work." It's literally against nature. Marriage is the foundation for human society. It's not meant to be a reflection of "what makes me happy," because it's about more than my personal desires. The "hidden costs" of gay marriage include a further step towards radical individualism which destroys the glue holding society together. If the foundation of marriage is not the natural joining of male and female but "a relationship of love that fulfills me" then marriage will ultimately become meaningless.

      • Leon Mire

        Jeff and E. Stephen Burnett,
        I'm a gay rights ally and activist, but those actions you describe by other activists are completely unacceptable. Christian businesses, churches, and wedding facilities have every right to refuse marriage, participation, or business services to gay couples. You are exercising your freedom of conscience, and doing what you think is right in God's eyes. You are not denying anyone's rights by refusing to host gay weddings, or by denouncing homosexuality as a sin.

        This may sound strange, Jeff, but I would suggest that your friends contact the ACLU. They WILL defend you. You have the Constitution on your side, and they have defended the rights of plenty of people opposed to their ideology.

        Ultimately, I think it does the Gospel more harm than good to oppose same-sex marriage from a legal standpoint. You are making martyrs out of same-sex couples, and Christians of all people should know that's the worst way to eliminate a group. Honestly, how are same-sex marriages any more a threat to the institution than people who refuse to get married at all? It's a tiny minority of the population, and all this attention has actually been promoting homosexuality at the expense of the Gospel.

        By analogy, you can bet there'd be a lot more people interested in Islam if our government made it illegal to attend mosques, and if Christians in this country vigorously opposed making the worship of Allah legal. I bet you anything people would start leaving Christianity for Islam in droves. In fact, the exact opposite is happening in those Islamic countries where Christianity is illegal. When a minority population is not given equal rights, they are always seen by the culture at large as the moral ones. So learn from your persecuted brethren in other countries and throughout history. Give homosexuals equal rights, but then lead them away from their sinful behavior with love and understanding. You don't have to give up your principles or endorse sin. And in the end, it's the only way you'll win them over to the Gospel.

        • Joe Carter

          Christian businesses, churches, and wedding facilities have every right to refuse marriage, participation, or business services to gay couples. . . . This may sound strange, Jeff, but I would suggest that your friends contact the ACLU. They WILL defend you.

          Actually, Leon, that's not the case at all. The ACLU sides *against* businesses that refuse to provide wedding services to gay couples. In fact, they filed an amicus brief in Elane Photography, LLC v. Vanessa Willock in which they side with the plaintiff against the Christian business owner. As they say on the ACLU website (http://www.aclu.org/lgbt-rights/elane-photography-llc-v-vanessa-willock):

          "The ACLU argues that taking photographs for hire is a commercial service subject to commercial regulation. A commercial business cannot solicit customers from the general public to buy its services as a photographer for hire and then claim that taking those photographs is a form of its own autonomous expressive activity."

          • Leon Mire

            That's rather disappointing news to me, Joe, but thanks for sharing it anyhow. I have known the ACLU defends the free speech rights of people who denounce homosexuality in even very offensive terms. I incorrectly assumed that this would transfer over to more than just speech, but actions as well. Thanks for providing a source. I should have done my homework better.

            Now that I think about it, it seems obvious that that would be their position. After the Civil Rights Act, they were in favor of forcing businesses to serve black people against the owner's wishes. That's taking things too far, and is infringing on the rights of the business owner, which I will defend even while condemning his racism. I guess the ACLU doesn't see it that way.

            Well, in any case, in the Republic of Leon, you WOULD have the right to refuse services based on the freedom of your conscience. I'm sure that's a huge consolation.

            Still, I think you're guilty of a slippery slope fallacy. I don't see how other people's marriage, in and of itself, infringes your rights. The legislation you described does, however, so shouldn't that be the focus of your criticism, not the marriage itself?

            And I'd like to press you on one of your other assertions as well. Why exactly would an expansion of the definition of marriage ultimately undermine its role in society? I'm going to use your phrasing to argue against the legalization of non-Christian religions, as an illustration. Please tell me if there's a relevant difference between the two.

            "Apart from any biblical witness, it's obvious that non-Christian religion doesn't "work." It's literally against nature. Christianity is the foundation for human society. It's not meant to be a reflection of "what makes me happy," because it's about more than my personal desires. The "hidden costs" of legalizing non-Christian religion include a further step towards radical individualism which destroys the glue holding society together. If the foundation of religion is not the natural joining of Christ and man but "a relationship toward the divine that fulfills me" then religion will ultimately become meaningless."

            Is there a relevant difference between the two cases? As far as I can see, there is not, and the conclusion would either be that non-Christian religions, according to your reasoning, should be outlawed, or that same-sex marriage should not be.

            Thanks again for your thoughtful response.

        • Elizabeth H.

          "I'm a gay rights ally and activist, but those actions you describe by other activists are completely unacceptable. Christian businesses, churches, and wedding facilities have every right to refuse marriage, participation, or business services to gay couples."

          They do presently. But in the future, should ss marriages be permitted, this denial could be considered an infringement. If sexual orientation ever becomes a protected class (which would be an even more complicated issue), this can be ensured. And define a "Christian business''-- I can list plenty of businesses owned by Christians who would love to run their entity as such, but unless it is a legally deemed religious institution it will not be permitted to deny service to homosexual couples soliciting the business.

          • Leon Mire

            I don't see why ss marriages would lead inevitably to these violations of your rights. It seems to me that you are guilty of the slippery slope fallacy.

            In any case, even if this is true, shouldn't your focus be on preventing these violations of your rights, not making sure that same-sex marriage is not permitted?

            I was using "Christian" business to mean businesses owned by Christians. It is the natural right of business owners to deny service to whomever they want, for whatever reason they want, including African-Americans, atheists, gingers, and homosexuals. If they're willing to put up with the public backlash, boycotts, and loss of business, then that is their prerogative.

            I understand the law does not agree with me in most cases. I was talking philosophy, not practical politics. I am curious, however: do you support anti-discrimination laws* on the basis of religion, race, and other currently protected classes? If so, why, and why shouldn't that equally apply to sexual orientation? Are there some relevant differences in the case of sexual orientation? If you don't support them, then congratulations, I agree with you! But then my question is, why isn't your focus on those anti-discrimination laws, rather than same-sex marriage?

            *I'm talking about anti-discrimination laws for individuals and their businesses. Governments and corporations should not be permitted to discriminate.

            • Joe Carter

              It seems to me that you are guilty of the slippery slope fallacy.

              I have to jump in here, because this is one of my pet peeves: slippery slope arguments are not fallacies (at least not automatically, the arguments based on them may be fallacious).

              I recommend law professor Eugene Volokh's classic article on slippery slope arguments: http://www2.law.ucla.edu/volokh/slipperyshorter.pdf

            • Leon Mire

              Joe,
              Thanks for pointing this out, and for providing the article. Believe it or not, this is one of my pet peeves too, and I chose my language carefully to avoid this criticism. I frequently read skeptical blogs, and get annoyed at the misuse of the slipper slope fallacy.

              Slippery slope arguments are not fallacious when there is a legitimate causal connection between A, B, and C. Since American law is dependent in part on precedent, you could legitimately argue that if a principle seems to be established, later cases will use that principle to determine the law for further cases.

              For example, the principle that cigarettes should be taxed heavily because they are harmful to the smoker's health could lead, in the future, to a ruling that fast food should be taxed heavily for the same reason. The analogy is pretty strong, in my opinion, and I do fear that we've taken the first step down a legitimate slippery slope. Perhaps not, however - unlike fast food, cigarettes have no nutritional benefits at all, are addictive, are directly responsible for extremely expensive health problems, and have a much worse reputation in the public eye.

              But to admit that there are legitimate cases of slippery slope arguments is not to say that any particular argument is such a case. In Elizabeth H.'s case, I am arguing that it is Not a legitimate case, because I do not see what the connection between same-sex marriage and the violations of Christians' rights that she mentioned. I even added the phrase "It seems to me" (and "I think" in response to your post) to be extra cautious before calling her out on this fallacy, for the very reason you mentioned, Joe.

              So what IS the connection between permitting same-sex marriage, and the violations of business owners' rights? I still do not understand what it is supposed to be, and until an explanation is forthcoming, I feel justified in calling it an example of the slippery slope fallacy.

              I will grant that there is a legitimate slippery slope going on, and that's in the case of anti-discrimination laws. When it became illegal for businesses to refuse to serve African-Americans, that set up a precedent. Nobody wanted to appear to side with the racists, so no one opposed this violation of the business owners' rights except the racists.

              Now, it is becoming illegal to refuse business to homosexuals, and nobody is standing up for Christians' rights except Christians, because they don't want to appear homophobic. (I'm sorry for the unflattering comparison, and I'm not trying to lump all Christians together, but that IS where the slippery slope began.) This has nothing to do with same-sex marriage - these violations of Christians' rights are taking place now, even in states where same-sex marriage is not legal.

              The one example I can think of is wedding photographers and others Jeff mentioned. They obviously do not have to worry much about anti-discrimination laws if same-sex marriage is never made legal, so it is a legitimate slippery slope for them. But this is a pretty weak argument. So All same-sex couples should be denied the right to marriage, because Some of them Might later try to pressure a small group ("Christian wedding photographers strongly opposed to same-sex marriage") to provide services for their wedding? That's like making birth control pills illegal solely so that "Catholic pharmacists opposed to birth control" don't have to worry about being pressured to prescribe them. Why don't we focus on fighting the legal pressure, so that no one's rights are infringed upon?

              It's the anti-discrimination laws that are the problem, not the same-sex marriage which is somehow supposed to be leading to them. This is why I said the focus should be on the anti-discrimination laws, not same-sex marriage. But I honestly don't think this is one of the main arguments against same-sex marriage. So it may get me a point in a formal debate, but I doubt it'll convince very many.

              In any case, I stand by my original argument. I don't see any logical connection between same-sex marriage, which do not violate anyone's rights, and the anti-discrimination laws which do. If the one cannot be shown to lead to the other, it is a legitimate case of the slippery slope fallacy.

              Sorry, I know I can be long-winded. But anyone is free to answer my two questions to Elizabeth:

              1. Why will the legalization of same-sex marriage lead to violations of Christian business owners' rights?
              2. Why shouldn't our focus be on those violations rather than on same-sex marriage, which, by itself, does not violate anyone's rights?

              I'm not trying to start an argument; I'm sincerely trying to understand the position of opponents of same-sex marriage. If there are good secular arguments against it, I'll turn on a dime and join you guys in opposing it.

    • Douglas Johnson

      Robin,

      You write:

      **So then why do we legislate regarding other sins, like theft and murder, even though some people don't think these are wrong either? These are sins that infringe on the rights of others. The government must prevent these in order to protect the rights of the citizenry. Other people's marriage does not infringe on anyone else's rights.

      In Illinois, the state cancelled it's contract with Catholic Charities because CC was placing all its children into homes with married mothers and fathers. The state gave CC a choice: either start putting children in fatherless and motherless homes, or they would take those children away and force some of them into homes without mothers and fathers. So in that case marriage redefinition does infringe on a child's right to a mother and a father...unless we decide that children don't have a right to a mother and a father.

      Also, in every state that has redefined marriage, boys are being taught in public schools that a fatherless home is no worse than a home with a father and anyone is morally wrong to say otherwise. If that's true, then why would the boy think it a problem if he leaves HIS children fatherless?

      • Leon Mire

        Catholic Charities has the right to place its children wherever it deems best for the children, but it does not have the right to a contract from the state government. And your use of the word "motherless" and "fatherless" just confuses things. I grew up in a fatherless home, not because I had lesbian parents but because I was raised by a single mom. And anyway, I would have been a lot better off with two moms than with just one.

        Even if you think that it's essential that every child have both a mother and a father, that doesn't mean children have a right to it. If they did, then people would be outraged at single parents, not gay couples who want to adopt. What children have a right to are GOOD parents. That's way more important than having a parent of each sex. Again, two loving moms would have been better than the foster parents I had to live with for a while, and they weren't even abusive. They were just distant.

        Look, I'm not saying adoption agencies shouldn't take the sexual orientation of the couple into consideration. Lesbian couples who want to raise a boy may have to prove themselves a little more capable, because they won't be able to be male role models. But if they're otherwise loving and stable, that shouldn't automatically disqualify them. For me, my grandfather and uncle were my male role models. If the boy can have a similar male role model outside the parents, he'll be just fine.

        In any case, what does this have to do with marriage? Robin said, "Other people's marriage does not infringe on anyone else's rights" and you start bringing up adoption. Well, ok, let's grant you that. Adoption by gay couples infringes the rights of children. So what? How does that mean that gay couples shouldn't be allowed to marry without children? Are you just afraid that if you give "them" an inch, they'll take a mile? If so, state that upfront, because otherwise you have not addressed Robin's point.

        • Douglas Johnson

          Leon,

          Unfortunately, "fatherless" and "motherless" doesn't confuse things, but makes things more clear.

          You say you would have been better off with two moms than just the one mom you had. 2 is better than 1, right? And by the same logic 3 is better than 2, and 4 is better than 3. But my point isn't that single parent families are an exception to what I am saying. I don't think children should ever be forced into homes through adoption agencies whether there are two homosexuals or a single heterosexual parent. The only exception to that is when there are no moms and dads available, and I haven't seen a single proven case of that yet (it's almost statistically impossible for it to be true in the case of an adopting gay couple).

          Now a lot of things could happen. A father might die, for instance. Again, this is not what I am talking about.

          Every child has a right to his own parents. There is only one instance where we make an exception to that: when it is in the best interests of the child to do so. The instance we start prioritizing the desires of adults to have a child over the best interests of children, we've crossed the line into human trafficking.

          There's much more to say, but I'll go on too long so let me get right to your final paragraph (wherein I know I will also have to go on for a bit). Absolutely no one advocating redefinition is willing to say that gays should be treated any differently in cases of adoption because the moment someone says that he's admitted that marriages are superior to gay relationships for raising children BECAUSE a marriage is between a man and a woman. "Marriage equality" demands that fatherless and motherless homes be regarded as qualitatively equal to homes with a married mother and father.

          But to your point, the vast, vast, vast majority of gay people (1) aren't going to get married, and (2) aren't going to adopt children so it would seem we are talking about a vanishingly small number of children that will be forced into fatherless and motherless homes. (Those terms are critical because the child doesn't care about who his dad is attracted to sexually; the child does care whether or not he has a mom.) This is certainly true. And two gay men can give themselves a ceremony, call themselves "married," and write up legal contracts that mirror the obligations of actual marriage, and I really wouldn't care at all. So why do I care?

          I care because of the impact on the other 97% of our culture. Everywhere marriage is redefined, public schools have started teaching students that fatherless and motherless families are qualitatively equal (not just quantitative) to families with moms and dads. You can't tell a boy for 12 years of education that it doesn't matter if a child never had a father in his home, and then turn around and educate him that it's wrong for him not to be there for his kids. Indeed the skyrocketing cases of fatherless homes and broken families show that lesson is being absorbed at an alarming pace.

          • Leon Mire

            Douglas,
            After you explained what you meant by "motherless" and "fatherless" I wasn't confused. But it is a confusing way to put it, because it could also refer to single parents, as I said. Plus it sounds like the kind of term a political pundit would use to try to change public opinion. I'm sure you can sympathize - "marriage equality" is a phrase you seem to object to for the same reason.

            I don't understand your counter-argument to "2 moms would have been better than 1." It doesn't take away the fact that I [i]would[/i] have been better off with two moms. I think 3, 4, etc. would be inferior probably for the same reasons you think 3 and 4 adoptive heterosexual parents would be inferior. Two parents of any gender will work better than 3 and 1, for a lot of reasons.

            And yea, you're right that there's probably never going to be a surplus of orphans. There are enough people in the country that we can probably find some straight couple somewhere. But that's not the only consideration. I spent nearly a year in a foster home that already had 6 other foster children in a 3 bedroom house (we slept in triple bunk beds). Why? Because I grew up in a rural part of Illinois, and they didn't want to put me too far away from my mother. She was in the mental hospital, and while she had visitation rights, it wasn't clear if she would ever be fit to raise me again.

            Living with 6 other children, and two frazzled, unaffectionate parents, was quite a jarring experience for an 8-year-old only child. My anecdote doesn't prove anything, and it never became an adoption, but I'm not just speculating here either. It would have been much better if I'd spent that time with two loving gay parents who had the time to devote their attention to a lonely boy. It wouldn't have made a difference at all to me that they were the same gender. You certainly wouldn't have had to "force" me into that home.

            You're right that we should not be giving gay parents children just because they want to have "the experience." They should have to go through all the same rigors adoption agencies use for heterosexual couples. And even scrutinized a little more, because they cannot provide a role model of both genders. All other things being equal, they're at a disadvantage. True. But they shouldn't be the absolute last ones we pick either.

            If there's a gay couple in a rural area who passes the qualifications and is looking to adopt at the same time a child needs to be adopted, doesn't it just make sense to put the child there, rather than shuttle him off halfway across the country to a big, unfamiliar city just to make sure he's got both a male and a female parent? Do you really think gender modeling is [i]the most[/i] important aspect of parenting, such that it wipes out all other considerations?

            Gay parents who want to adopt Should be scrutinized, just as big city parents who want to adopt a rural-born child should be, or white parents looking to adopt a black child, or Muslim parents looking to adopt a Jewish child. It may not be politically correct to bring these up, but when the child's interest is at hand, they are potentially relevant.

            This is exactly what you said that "Absolutely no one advocating redefinition is willing to say." Well I'm saying it: homosexuality is a relevant factor that potentially counts against the parents' capacity to raise a child properly. I agree with you that much. But it is not the ONLY factor either, and it doesn't mean that marriages are [b]always[/b] superior to gay relationships. Even if they [i]generally[/i] are, that doesn't mean they ALL are, and their child-rearing capacity should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. It's overly simplistic to say that all gay people, everywhere, are unfit to raise children. I don't know if that's a straw man of your position or not; if it is, forgive me.

            Okay, on to your final assertion: that boys who are taught that same-sex couples are okay tend to abandon their children more frequently. This is an empirical question I've never looked into, so I'm curious to know where you got this information from. If it's true, you [i]could[/i] argue plausibly that it's prudent not to let same-sex couples adopt, for the overall welfare of our society, although that still wouldn't mean that same-sex [i]marriage[/i] should be illegal.

            But I'd be really surprised if your assertion turned out to be true, because it doesn't make much sense. It seems you're confusing the two meanings of "fatherless." A child grows up learning about lesbian parents and thinks, "Oh alright, it's okay for children to be fatherless." So then later he leaves his wife and kids, reasoning that children can grow up just fine "fatherless."

            You see? You're confusing fatherless as "two lesbian parents" with fatherless as "single mother." That is exactly why I think you should discontinue using the words like that - it's easy to unconsciously switch between the two meanings and cause confusion in yourself and others. I do not understand how a young father would think it's okay to become a deadbeat dad just because lesbians can raise children. Unless, maybe, he was confusing the two meanings of "fatherless" as you just have.

            In any case, wouldn't the positive portrayal of [i]single parents[/i] be more likely to lead to fathers abandoning their children? Single parents are often glorified in the media as hard-working, loving, passionate heroes. Maybe a young father would get the impression that raising a child on your own isn't so hard, so he abandons his child?

            I don't know. I doubt that's much of a contributing factor; that doesn't sound like the typical motivation of a deadbeat dad. But it makes more sense than the scenario you've proposed, in which he abandons [i]his[/i] children because he thinks lesbians can raise [i]their[/i] children just fine. That idea seems not so much unreasonable as just plain bizarre. Am I missing something?

            However, if you can point me to the source of your information for this assertion, I'll evaluate the claim on its own merits. I tried, and I don't even know how to begin to Google it. So do you remember any place where you've read that making gay parents seem normal contributes in some substantial way to broken families?

  • http://www.speculativefaith.com E. Stephen Burnett

    Joe, my thanks for your interaction here, and particularly your comments above. Even as I was waiting for the comments to load I was anticipating someone's well-intended repetition of the "libertarian"/"church should define marriage anyway" approach. That's something I believe is based on a concept of Christianity-and-culture that you and I have both implicitly rejected as un-Biblical.

    Thus I would love it if you could write more explicitly here on The Gospel Coalition about this flawed and falsely "purist" approach, and how it ultimately comes down to the same instinct that led to bad cultural-fundamentalist withdrawal (and then overcorrection by the "moral majority" types).

    In other words: this "we'll just have our own culture" instinct is what led to kitschy Christian-store products and cheesy movies. And do "libertarian" folks realize the two are the same?

    Here's my attempt from this morning at such a rebuttal. If you wrote your own, I would share it repeatedly, supplanting this:

    One of the assumptions some Christians are making is clearly that if we just re-evaluate this whole "government-endorsed Biblical marriage" thing, the gays will be quiet and leave us alone and may even wake up and pay attention when The Church Finally Fixes Its Marriages and Theology First and Reduces its Own Divorce Rate to X (0?) Percent.

    Ye fools. Dost thou really believe marriage-redefinition activists will stop at that?

    Folks, gays in California already have pseudo-"marriages" under "civil union" law. They're coming after the word. Marriage theology. The Biblical concept. God's definition.

    They will not be stopped by church walls.

    (I hope this sounds kind.) To presume otherwise is at best utter and foolish naïveté.

    Sooner or later you will be forced into speaking out against the sin of homosexual practice, in public, and even against evil laws — no, not because we expect *Christ's* religion to apply to non-Christians, but because others would enforce their religion on us.

    • http://www.speculativefaith.com E. Stephen Burnett

      P.S.: To add to my last phrase up there, "because others would enforce their religion on us," I would repeat what you wrote above. We should publicly oppose these redefinition efforts, not just because of our need of rightful self-defense and rights-recognition (based on the Constitution) but because, as you said, "marriage is an institution that was created by God that existed before both the church (or any religious organization) and the state. Both the Church and State have a right to determine when they will recognize the institution." Amen.

    • Brigth Side

      "Sooner or later you will be forced into speaking out against the sin of homosexual practice, in public, and even against evil laws — no, not because we expect *Christ's* religion to apply to non-Christians, but because others would enforce their religion on us."

      Indeed. That's what mean when Paganism has been instituted as a de facto religion.

      I lean libertarian with my political beliefs, so I see that side of the argument. But then I remember that the biggest advocates for "gay marriage" are totalitarians to bone. They won't stop until the State completely puts the church (and you) under their heel. Your children might be taken away for teaching them God's Word, for example. Your local church -- and your pastor -- might be forced at gunpoint to perform a "gay marriage" for example. Your employment, entitlements, business and property will come at risk if you dare speak out against the State and it's new chosen "new normal."

      Libertarians like to believe they're advancing freedom with "gay marriage" -- but they are really just handing more power to the statists whose stated goal is power over the family -- and especially your children (see Jonah Goldberg's book, Liberal Fascism, for a taste).

      Speak out against the gay agenda - and you're a "hater" and "bully" and soon a "non-person" ready for the reeducation camp.

      That said, I think it's unstoppable. The global elite have already willed this to happen. It will be near impossible to stop at this point: http://isteve.blogspot.com/2013/03/gay-marriage-in-ngram.html

      At some point, Christians in America are just going to have to accept they are foreigners in a Pagan state. Christians ALMOST converted the Roman Empire to the Word. The problem is the Empire ended up converting the Church. Now we're paying the price.

      Time to start from Ground Zero, and treat the American government the same way our Christian brothers in China treat their government, and our brothers in North Korea treat theirs.

    • http://januaryrainstorm.blogspot.com/ Mark Z

      Stephen, after reading your comment, I have a feeling your position is at odds with my own, however I am having a hard time understanding your position entirely. Please explain what precisely you believe the church's responsibility should be on matters of politics/culture/homosexual marriage.

  • Jonathan

    God changing his commands over time makes morality totally arbitrary. If morality is based off God's commands than he could command that murder is okay and then it would be okay. But, obviously murder is wrong. If God's nature changes over time than it also makes morality non-binding. Grounding morality in God's nature has been the answer traditionally in defeating the euthypro dilemma. But with open-theism we would still be in the dilemma.
    So not only is open-theism theologically heretical, but it's also philosophically bankrupt.

    • Ben

      This is the most significant comment I have seen so far on this thread. Jonathan, thank you. You have correctly identify the difference between divine command theory being the basis only for moral obligation, vs. God's nature being the basis for moral values. The first is insufficient for moral values; only the second avoids arbitrary morality.

    • T.B.

      What would you say is acceptable proof that God had changed his mind? For example, does he need to appear in physical form to you personally? or just appear to your priest, and you would take your priests's word? How do you know for certain he hasn't already changed his mind? What proof do you have that he hasn't?

    • James Garcia

      You forget that there were plenty of God sanctioned murders in the Old Testament. God had the Israelites slaughter countless innocent women and children. You can go so far as to say that the women may not be innocent but can you honestly say that the children are not? Your argument that morality is not changeable is flawed and is not backed up by the Bible. As I've pointed out in other posts on here, God changed his mind several times in the Bible. If he didn't, Abraham would have sacrificed Isaac, Lot and his family would have been vaporized with Sodom and Gommorah, and Nineveh would have been wiped off the map.

      • Jonathan

        Your supporting my point, James. I'm showing that open-theism is an illogical faith. If God changes his mind, morality is totally non-existent. Do whatever you want because God will change his mind. Who cares, it's all relative. There's no absolute standard because God's nature changes

  • Kwesi A.

    Joe, well said in most places. What about divorce, then? Why is there no pushback to make divorce illegal?

    My point being that the question of whether gay marriage should be legal for the state should not so trouble as, if we do realize that we do not live in a Christian society. It is clearly wrong for Christians to support the idea, but what the state should do, given a plural society, is another matter entirely. Peter, Paul etc did not go about petitioning Caesar to ban pederasty etc.

    • Joe Carter

      What about divorce, then? Why is there no pushback to make divorce illegal?

      Good question. The first reason Christians aren't trying to make divorce illegal is because it would go against Scripture. Jesus made an exception for divorce in cases of marital unfaithfulness, so I think we'd need to make the same allowance.

      But what about for other reasons? Well, Christians once *did* expect divorce to be much more difficult to obtain. Unfortunately, we lost a huge battle in the 1960-70s on the issue of non-fault divorce. While I don't think we are required to try to set the clock back to a time when dissolution of marriage was more difficult, I do think it would be prudent for Christians to support stronger marriage laws when they are given the chance.

      Also, I have no issue with the view that Christians should refrain from fighting to preserve traditional marriage. I have no problem with any Christians who want to sit out that struggle. But takin the side that is for evil is a different matter altogether.

      Peter, Paul etc did not go about petitioning Caesar to ban pederasty etc.

      Well, the Roman system of law didn't allow them a lot of options for civic engagement in the laws of the land. But I don't think that sets a standard that we, as Americans who vote for our laws, should not try ban pederasty.

      • Brigth Side

        "Americans who vote for our laws"

        That's what sad, Joe. The unelected Supreme Court is going to "vote" on your behalf.

        The America of your youth - a government representing a majority Christian peoples. Now the people are non-christian, and the government does whatever it wants to do.

        Christians need to start looking at operating as they did in the 1st century. Render unto Ceaser what you owe him -- your taxes in U.S. dollars...but not your allegiance, not your votes, not your moral support and certainly not your faith.

        • T.B.

          The president that the people have elected appoints the Supreme Court. If you elect a conservative president they will most likely appoint conservative judges. That should be a factor in who you cast your vote for in a presidential election. They don't magically appear there when a Wiccan priest waves their liberal wand.

          Or you could do what you appear to suggest - don't vote! Do us all a favor.

      • Randall Richards

        John the Baptist spoke to Herod about taking his brother's wife. This to me is a clear example of how Christians should speak out to authority about right and wrong.

  • Leon Mire

    I'm not a Christian, but I honestly don't understand why Christians can't endorse the legality of same-sex marriage while unequivocally condemning the practice, and seeking to free homosexuals of their sins. Is it really "making an idol of American libertarian freedom" to say that same sex couples have the right to get married?

    I certainly don't agree with everything other people do, but I recognize their right to do so if it doesn't infringe on the rights of others. I would never defend the hate speech of white supremacists from a moral standpoint, but it is their legal right to express their point of view, however hateful. Do Christians agree with this premise? Just because something is immoral, doesn't automatically mean it should be illegal. White supremacy is immoral, but it shouldn't be illegal. I doubt many Christians would say that homosexuality itself should be illegal, or that it should be punishable by death as in the Old Testament. Is there a relevant difference between white supremacist activism and same-sex marriage? I'm honestly seeking your opinion, Christians.

    (The only answer I've heard is that marriage is an "institution" that needs special protection. But religion is an institution no less worthy of protection, and yet you would not say that people do not have the freedom to follow another God, even though it is completely unbiblical and, in your eyes, immoral. Don't people need to come to God by a free choice?)

    In my eyes, endorsing the right of couples to same-sex marriage is no different than endorsing the right of white supremacists to write books and organize Klan meetings. It makes no sense to have freedom of belief if you don't have freedom to act on that belief. Even if you think they're both equally immoral, it's not an "endorsement" of their behavior to defend their rights to that behavior. By the way, this extends equally to Christians voicing their opinions on homosexuality, no matter how distasteful I may find them. I would stridently defend the rights of those Christians who denounce homosexuality as an immoral stain on our society, and who compare homosexuality to pedophilia or bestiality. Because I believe in defending the freedom of everyone, not just those I happen to agree with.

    If you disagree, and you think America should not have these kinds of freedoms, or that this country should be a de facto Christian theocracy, then I'll give you the advice I hear from some conservatives: love it or leave it!

    • David Lusk

      Perhaps allow me to respond. You have a good question and one that deserves a response from Christians.

      The key here is the difference between "tolerating" and "advocating".

      We as Christians are all called to tolerate what NON-christian activities occur as perpetrated by NON-christians. We are to point out what they are doing wrong as being sinful, while pointing to the saving grace of Jesus Christ, but not to interfere when they make an unwise choice for committing sin. Nor should we shun them, but embrace them, all the while pointing out the sin that needs redemption. This is loving the sinner, while despising the sin.

      Now let me give a specific example: we "tolerate" the KKK in that the people who are in it are allowed to have their own opinions and make up their own minds. We reject what they believe, though. The same is true for homosexuality. If pedophilia and bestiality did not have civil laws against them, with civil punishments, but were instead legally and culturally allowable and acceptable, we would have to "tolerate" them, as well. That does not mean we accept any of the above, much less advocate for them.

      Christians are NEVER to advocate for sin. We are never to take something God says is wrong and say that it is right. That would be an inherent contradiction in terms and we cannot remain faithful to Him as we do so. We cannot say that there is nothing wrong with sin (homosexuality, or any other sin), and even advocate and promote it as being good, moral, and right. That would put us as Christians in the wrong. We are always to call out sin as sin wherever we may find it (even if inside our own hearts), and reject it. We are always to love people (even ourselves) and embrace them. Contrary to non-christian philosophy, those are not contradictory aims.

      God calls the sinner to come to Him to find salvation, fulfillment, and life (both in the eternal sense, and in the sense of a walk with Him in this life)--all while becoming free from the bondage of sin. The heart is filled with one or the other, sin or His grace. We ask and plead that people be filled with His grace, because we know they have so much more if they do.

      I hope this helps you in your question. Please continue to ask questions if you have them. Christians are called to defend what they believe and to reach out to those who don't believe.

      • Leon Mire

        David,
        Thanks for your thoughtful response. I sympathize with much of what you say, although I'm not clear what your position on same-sex marriage is.

        In your terminology, I was asking why Christians cannot tolerate homosexuality while at the same time refusing to advocate it. It seems you are saying Christians should do just that, and I agree. So in your eyes, does defending the legalization of same-sex marriage (or at least, not actively opposing it) count as "advocating" homosexuality? If you do not oppose same-sex marriage, even though you believe homosexuality is a sin, then I think we're mostly on the same page.

        But if you do think permitting same-sex marriage counts as "advocating" homosexuality, why? And why wouldn't this same reasoning apply to other sins? For example, it is presumably a sin, in your worldview, to worship other gods. But would you then say that it is "advocating" sin to defend the legal right to freedom of religion? Is there a relevant difference between the sin of idolatry and the sin of homosexual marriage, such that defending the legality of the former is only toleration, but defending the latter crosses over into advocacy?

        Thanks again for a respectful reply.

  • Josh Klopfenstein

    The error that seems all to apparent in your position, Joe, is the presupposition that we must seek to impose God's standard upon those who are not among the Church by way of governmental legislation. And buried within that presupposition is what seems to be a personal idolatry of holding ourselves above God in determining which of His standards we see fit to be legislated versus those we do not.

    I see no one calling for lie or envy to be legislated against--in fact, I see an embarrassingly high concentration of purported Christians who are fanatically obsessed with protecting their "First Ammendment right" to do so, as if that supersedes God commands.

    I, all too often, hear church leaders whom I respect greatly try to trivialize this issue as if it were a semantic argument about what the word marriage means.

    While it is quite true that "marriage" referring to the union designed by God to be a reflection, a reference, to Christ and His Church has a very blatant and specific set of characteristics, "married" has now also become a legal standing and with that comes further legal ramifications. The legal state of "marriage" is one that provides special fiscal, privacy, and security rights to those who fall under the Biblical definition of God's ordained one-man-one-woman-for-life relationship that are not available to other legally and fiscally similar relationships that do not. Should we not afford two men in a lifelong, committed romantic relationship (sinful as we both agree it is) have, say, the same visitation rights as spouses in a hospital setting? I could go on with numerous examples, but you get my point.

    Not only do I see zero Biblical evidence to suggest that we should be campaigning to legislate all of God's commands into governmental law, but I see no specification in Scripture of what specific commands we should legislate and which we should not. It seems troublingly obvious, then, that Biblical commands, though I seek through pursuit of finding my delight in God alone to have them rule in my life, are not the standard by which we are to set laws that govern those who do not love Jesus.

    This truly seems like an example of "where the God is silent, some people can't stop talking."

    The fact that I seem to be the only self-described fundamentalist that vocally recognizes this leads me to believe that either I am just missing something monumental in God's Word and am entirely wrong; that others who agree with me are less vocal because it is not a popular viewpoint in communities that live firmly under the authority of Scripture; or that everyone else has tremendous, Scripturally-unfounded presuppositions of which they are either unaware or under the authority of.

    I do hope you respond as I've never heard anyone speak toward the issue of what, Biblically, SHOULD be made law. Whenever I ask--likely due to a fault in my communication--people often speak toward why Christians are to follow established laws, but I am speaking to what SHOULD and SHOULD NOT BECOME law in regards to God's commands.

    (Please excuse the capitalized words as this text box does not allow for italics and I saw word emphasis as helpful to communicate my meaning.)

    • Josh Klopfenstein

      Gah! A typo in my first sentence! "...all *too apparent..."

  • http://januaryrainstorm.blogspot.com/ Mark Z

    Thanks for this article Joe, I agree with much of what you've said, and appreciate your boldness in standing for biblical values.

    There is one assertion you make that is inaccurate, however:

    "At its root, the issue has more to do with idolatry than marriage, since same-sex marriage could not have advanced in America if believers had not exchanged the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob for the God of faux-love, cultural acceptance, and open theism."

    The error is the argument that this current state of affairs with a secular, godless society is the result of the church's having traded God for cultural acceptance. I agree with two premises in this, however I disagree with the correlation.

    Yes, this issue is about idolatry.

    Yes much of modern Christianity has abandoned truth for relevance and acceptance.

    No, this does not mean that a godless society, practicing godless unions is the fault of the church. You (wrongly, in my opinion) combine the idolatry of culture (homosexuality) and the idolatry of the church (acceptance) into a dubious cause/effect relationship.

    In other words, how do you know "same-sex marriage could not have advanced in America" if the Church was free of idolatry? There is a very good chance that even though the Bride stands for truth, purity, and holiness in a corrupt world, that the world - apart from salvation in Christ - will continue to advance in debauchery. I am not certain at all that you can make a Scriptural case that the sin of the world is the fault of the Church.

    • Joe Carter

      In other words, how do you know "same-sex marriage could not have advanced in America" if the Church was free of idolatry?

      Good question. My reasoning on that point is similar to why I think we couldn't have abortion in America if Christians did not choose it.

      Between 73–76% of Americans identify as Christians. Since we have a republican form of government (a type of government in which the citizens of a country have an active role in the affairs of the government) that means it is not "godless secularists" who are choosing the laws but people who self-identify as Christian. If every Christian in America were to do nothing more than to refuse to support a politician that embraced abortion or same-sex marriage, the political parties would change radically—and in a hurry.

      But it's because Christians are comfortable making moral compromises that we have a system in which grave evils are endorsed and allowed to flourish.

      • http://januaryrainstorm.blogspot.com/ Mark Z

        Those ideas sound appealing, and even appear to have merit at first glance, but the position is based more on socio-political theory than it is upon Scripture. Christians *choose* abortion??? That idea is as ludicrous as it is inaccurate. I could not care less how many people "self identify" as Christians in America, you and I both know that the reality is that much less than 3 out of 4 individuals are born again, Spirit indwelt sons and daughters of the Kingdom. You may be right that if 3 out of 4 Americans were truly Christian, things would look radically different. However the current state of society seems high proof that this is not the case. A second thing, your argument largely depends on our republican form of government working properly and honestly. I have sincere doubts that our government or its leaders represent the honest opinion of its citizens, or honor their values.

        . If every Christian in America were to do nothing more than to refuse to support a politician that embraced abortion or same-sex marriage, the political parties would change radically—and in a hurry.

        A vast amount of Christians do refuse to support such candidates. But maybe we are not the moral majority that your position hinges upon. Also (and perhaps we've disagreed on this before), I am doubtful that changing the political climate is necessarily very high on the list of Christian duty, or even on it at all.

    • Scott O’Donohoe

      Joe: Even if 73-76% of Americans identify as Christians (that number seems awfully inflated), you don't believe that three-quarters of the country is regenerate, do you? I wouldn't expect unregenerate church-goers or Christian-identifiers to remain anchored with every doctrinal wave.

  • Jersey Patriot

    When did it become okay for Christians to oppose slavery? The Torah and St. Paul both heartily endorse it. Yet Christians disobeyed God and ignored the example of St. Paul by shutting down slavery and the slave trade, and by helping slaves escape. What sort of idol did Christians make of libertarian freedom in contradiction to the Scriptures?

    • Jennifer

      Biblical "slavery" and the slave trade of the modern era are two completely different institutions. The comparison is invalid.

  • Josh

    LOL...where in the Bible does it advocate for followers to encourage public policy in the institutions of this world?

    "an idol of American libertarian freedom"...ahahaha...

    • David Lusk

      Please read or re-read the books of Daniel, Nehemiah, and Esther. All three were people that sought to change the government's mind (the king, in those cases) on an issue, and through their humble service, attitude and obvious submission to God's will, they were instruments of major change on a political level.

  • Christian

    The Church (particularly evangelical Protestant churches) in North America has given up the sanctity of marriage long ago by accepting that the state has the authority to administer marriage. There is a very big difference between civil marriage (a legal contract administered by the modern state) and Christian marriage. It seems that many Christians are worked up about the current debate because they think that somehow the state's definition of marriage is the one with authority of THEM and their marriage covenant. It is not, at least in any real spiritual way. Give to Ceasar what is Ceasar's. Give to God what is God's. As a Christian I see no problem with non-Christians, regardless of their sexual orientation) entering in to a civil marriage that provides them agreed up, equal benefits and status. It is really not the business of Christians to be concerned about legal contracts between others. As Christians, we need to begin the hard work of delineating between state marriage and Christian marriage, something that we've been very lazy about. In Europe Christians know full well that when they go to get married, if they want a Christian marriage, there are two ceremonies they need to plan for: one civil, and one religious. That is the way it should be here. We should work on promoting and strengthening the marriage covenants within our midst - many of which are in much worse shape spiritually and relationally than most Christians would wish.

    • Hudson

      thank you...the best practical answer i heard so far.

  • Sara

    Joe, I just want to say thank you for addressing the believers on this issue. I appreciate your willingness to step on the sheep's toes rather than scratching our itching ears. With the understanding that this blog was written to Christ followers, I am saddened by the lack of humility that is shown among us. My Facebook news feed has been completely overhauled by professing Christian friends and acquaintances who have changed their profile pictures to this one of the red equal sign, yet I have not seen one comment made on this blog, or on the Gospel Coalition Facebook page by a Christian saying, "Thank you for speaking the truth to me. I was wrong, and I'm convicted."

  • Brigth Side

    Serious questions for supporters of gay marriage:

    When the State and progressives start forcing churches to close down, and start putting people in jail for speaking out against the sin of homosexuality.... when people lose their jobs for speaking the Truth ...or are kicked out of schools for being "bullies" ... or pastors are forced at bayonet point to perform a "gay marriage"...

    what are you going to say to us then?

    My guess is you will same the same thing, but the line will just have been moved. Instead it will be "how dare you defend bullying/hate speech/etc." or "if people have the right to marry, they have the right to force a church or pastor to marry them"...

    Why is it ALWAYS the Christian who must give something up in this "negotiation"...

    • Lori

      I'm not sure why anybody is concerned about being forced to perform a gay marriage.

      Clergy are not forced to perform any marriage, for any reason. Ask a Catholic priest. They deny marriages to people who have been divorced, on a regular basis, despite divorce being legal.

      They also deny marriage to non-Catholics. And, other churches deny marriage to non-Christians. Many if not most Christian pastors will refuse to marry two non-Christians. And, they are legally allowed to do so, even though it is perfectly legal for two non-Christians to marry AND religion is a protected category under the law.

      I would hope that Christians don't believe that, if something is legal, they can't teach that it's sin. I suppose that could explain why we hear so little teaching against greed, though! ;)

      There are plenty of legal things that Christians preach are sin. And, again, religion is a protected category legally: you cannot discriminate against somebody on the basis of religion. But, clearly it's not illegal for a Christian pastor to preach against other religions.

    • Bill

      What are you giving up?

      The only time you need to worry about man's law is when it forces you to do something in direct opposition to what God commands. Allowing the government to recognize same sex "marriage" does no such thing. It does not force you to marry another person of your sex. What it does allow for is equal footing/treatment under man's law. There is no reason to oppose that. There would be reason to oppose a self-proclaimed Christian church from recognizing it, however.

      • Brigth Side

        How about giving up the English language? The State redefines "marriage" ... just as it redefines "personhood" to legalize murder in the womb...and "hate speech" to suppress free expression.

        Read 1984 by Orwell. There is a reason why the ruling class is pushing gay "marriage" and NOT the idea of civil unions...

        It's because it makes gays "doubleplusgood" ...and Christians "ungood" in the words of Newspeak.

        I can't wait to see what they'll redefine next.

  • Phil

    I thought this article was pretty good, up until the open theism part. I am not an open theist myself, but I have quite a few open theist friends. You draw a false line from open theism to relativism and I think you mistake open theism for process theology. Ignoring the differences between the openness and process; it is a slippery slope to state that openness will lead inevitably to heresy. A good example of this is Greg Boyd. Boyd is an openness theologian, but also gave a wonderful discussion about his church's stance on homosexuality. It is seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ySkB30rf5Ao

    Thank you so much for your time and attention.

  • Clay

    You make some good points in the article, but that is not an accurate description of open theism. Although I'm not one myself most open theists do not reject the authority of scripture or claim that God changes his mind. At it's most basic level it asserts that God doesn't foreknow the free actions of human beings and thus the future remains open to the extent that God allows humans to influence it. I'm also pretty sure that Rob Bell isn't an open theist. Read some Greg Boyd for a good treatment.

  • Lee Freeman

    The question remains, "So what?" I agree with most of this article, but I think what we need the most help with right now is a takeaway. Even if we agree with the article, what does that mean for how we live life, how we treat gays, and what we post on Facebook? Even if we "accept the fact that those who have fallen away may not return," what do we do with all this conviction? Are we going to change any minds through firey discourse? Maybe, but probably not. What exactly should we be declaring to everyone? Staunch adherence to The Bible's truths? While I personally recognize that truth, the people who I want to reach do not abide by the same standard; therefore, they will reject it! Gay marriage is not a salvation issue. Being gay does not keep someone from Heaven; sin does. And far be it from us to keep someone from coming to church because our priorities are so skewed that we forget the second-most important commandment, to "love your neighbor as yourself." Because, I say this in love as a brother in Christ, I hear a lot of noisy gongs and clanging cymbals.

  • Lori

    I think the amount of Christian focus on this issue, on both sides, shows how skewed our priorities are, and how we are letting the world shape them.

    Right now, you'd have us believe, everything rides on gay marriage. A month ago, it's birth control. A month before that, it's abortion. A few months before that, health care reform. And, of course, Christians who take the opposite stance on those issues are also saying that, indeed, everything rides on it.

    It's like we allow what's in the headlines or what's trending on Facebook set the agenda for our political engagement, and then after the fact insist on why this issue is so important.

    There is, I think, a time and place for providing a thoughtful Christian analysis of a currently-contested issue. That is a part of Christian social engagement.

    But it seems like we're erred and allowed that to become the totality of Christian political engagement and, if we're honest, most of the time what we've provided are slogans and angry arguments, not thoughtful analyses.

    I don't think this is what Christians are called to do. We are not called to take stands on issues deemed important or sexy by the media. We are not called to make what politicians are currently debating the center of our political agenda. We are not supposed to allow the world to define what issues matter.

    We should be the people who are known for always seeking better ways to help and serve the poor, even though poverty isn't a "sexy" issue. We should be the people who are at the forefront of criminal justice reform, even when everybody in politics and media wants to pretend that mass incarceration isn't an issue. We should be concerned about education all the time, working to improve our community's schools and alternative means of education. Christians should be known far more for their work in crisis pregnancy centers than for the signs they hold in protests with anti-abortion slogans.

  • Bill

    Paul says there is "the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience," in Ephesians 2:2. It says Satan's spirit of evil "works" in disobedient people. And I keep hearing how gay drives work very hard to keep making gays do what they do. And I have been told that ones say they can't get their minds off of it, even if they "want" to.

    Well, Satan's wrong spirit won't take no for an answer. And, in sin, "enough" is not enough; you can't get satisfied while you are doing what is not in God's love. But the Bible says that our Father says, "with honey from the rock I would have satisfied you." (in Psalm 81:16)

    So, there is Biblical evidence of how gay stuff is wrong - - not only for outward behavior; but there is the inner ruin spiritual with its emotions. And these emotions are from deeper than what physical genes and brain chemistry can control and effect. I mean, that Satan's spirit can share his emotions with people, spiritually, while they cooperate with how his spirit "works in" them to have them sinning. Even if we are Christians, our selfish nature can make us available to this messing by Satan's spirit of disobedience, if and as much as we sin; and we should know, by now, that our sinning does not make our personality better, for this reason.

    So, if people are only trying to deal only with wrong behavior and however the brain might be effected, then they can keep on and on and never get cured. We need to correctly diagnose a problem so we can understand what is needed.

    We need spiritual warfare > Ephesians 6:12 > "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places." So, our warfare is not against "flesh and blood" genes and "flesh and blood" brain chemicals, then, I offer!! "Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you." (James 4:7)

    "'Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.'" (Matthew 11:29) In Jesus Christ's love and leading, He shares His emotions and feelings with us, in His rest. He in His emotions in us is "gentle and lowly in heart". And we are told to relate in His love > "with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love," (Ephesians 4:2). I would say that "all" lowliness and gentleness includes "lowliness and gentleness" in our emotions.

    And so God's love cures us.

    So, we can see why even Christians can be fooled into accepting that gay stuff is decided by genes and brain chemicals > because a number of us Jesus people, even, actually believe our own emotional trouble can not possibly be because Satan is messing with us. But I will offer > that while we do not obey God in His love, we are not in His strength making us safe from cruel and nasty and won't-take-no-for-an-answer emotions and reacting about not getting our own way. While we sin, we are in weakness so we are available to being messed-with by the spirit of disobedience, while we are doing what he wants.

    Arguing can help to break us down so we keep on being available to emotional trouble. It clearly says, "Do all things without complaining and disputing," (Philippians 2:14). So, arguing is an act of disobedience . . . anti-love, then. But people excuse themselves to argue, then get emotionally degraded because of not keeping their relating in God's gentle and humble love. And, away from God's love, you can be effected by Satan's spirit > I'm not saying you will be demon-possessed; however can you tell me those nasty naughty numbskulling emotions and ways of reacting are not possessing you, somehow?

    So, then, if we are excusing ourselves, we can also excuse gays. Or, we can be busy with pointing our finger at gays, so we are not pointing at how we basically have the same spiritual problem when we sin. "He can have compassion on those who are ignorant and going astray, since he himself is also subject to weakness." (Hebrews 5:2)

    So, God bless you, too; it's good to see you (c: Bill

  • Soup

    There are interpretations of scripture, done with as much fidelity to text as yours, that arrive at the opposite conclusion. (e.g., the story of Sodom and Gommorah condemns not consensual homosexual conduct, but rape or treating guests unkindly.)

    Just because they arrive at different conclusions than you does NOT make them any less faithful to scripture.

    • Lori

      There was certainly an oversimplification if not outright misrepresentation of how Christians who support gay marriage come to do so.

      I do know Christians who take the first position, that homosexuality is a sin but gay marriage and/or civil unions should be legal anyway. Some do so from a libertarian position, but many don't. It's not that they think that the government should let you do whatever you want as long as nobody gets harmed, it's that they believe that discrimination against gay and lesbian people is wrong and harmful (even as they also believe that homosexuality is sinful) and that not granting partnership rights to gay couples is discrimination. I suppose you could think of it like supporting religious freedom for non-Christians. You can believe those religions are false and that those in them are worshiping idols (which is sin) while also believing that civil governments should treat people who practice those religions with full equality and give them freedom to worship as they see fit.

      Others in the group that thinks homosexuality is sinful but support gay marriage do so because they believe that, at the very least, it provides the most moral context possible within which to practice homosexuality.

      On the other hand, some mainline Protestants and Catholics (and a few evangelicals) I know who support marriage equality do so because they reject the idea of biblical inerrancy. They believe that the condemnations of homosexuality are culturally-constructed and no longer binding. They'd argue that Paul did indeed believe that homosexuality was wrong, because that was the cultural norm of his day, but that Paul himself was wrong about that and God's spirit has led us to a better understanding (an understanding that would have been God's position the whole time).

      And there are mainliners, Catholics, and evangelicals I know who accept the authority of the Bible but support gay marriage because they interpret the biblical passages about homosexuality as not referring to the way we understand homosexuality today (as an orientation that can--and from a Christian perspective should--be expressed within a lifelong, monogamous partnership).

      But I don't know anybody who believes that God changed his mind on homosexuality.

      • Stephanie

        Lori - Thank you for your intelligent, thoughtful and challenging comments (all your comments)- I align with what you are saying. I believe there is the issue of what can and/or should be legislated in government versus how Christians act and carry out the Gospel. I get the sense from the original article that these should be one in the same, but I don't believe that is Biblical (as many posters have referenced). Why must we pick sides politically (when politicians and party lines are all constructs of sinful by nature humans), when we really just need to be on the side of the Gospel and that will ultimately be more powerful to the spreading of the Kingdom? A law enacted has no bearing on our salvation - it is the acceptance of Jesus' saving grace and our response.

  • Stacey

    The truth will PREACH! Wonderful article!

  • John G.

    In 1787, our Founders couldn't agree on what kind of a constitution to write.Arguments and hard feelings ensued. At the height of this quarrel, Benjamin Franklin called for prayer. The Rev. James Campbell offered prayer and from that moment our Constitution was born. Since God answers prayers, our Constitution was given as an answer. God bans homosexuality in the Bible so why would He approve it in the Constitution?

  • http://quora.com/ben-mordecai Ben Mordecai

    I take issue with this article. It takes a complex, multidimensional issue and brands it as a simple matter of idolatry. This isn't the case.

    The quote, "Do what you will, so long as it harms none," may be the motto of Wicca, but Wicca was founded in 1952, but the political ideology of the natural rights of the individual extending to the point of violating the rights of others predates it by centuries and makes for a sound political foundation. The current champion of this philosophy are the very libertarians

    Brothers, we are not theocrats.

    We live in a pluralistic society, so we can either try to make it illegal to violate the beliefs of Christianity or it can remain legal to believe what you wish. To seek to embed specifics of Christianity into law is to attempt to advance Christianity by sword, which is in strict violation to the commands of Jesus. Moreover, we spread not the gospel in doing so, but the law.

    Imagine if Muslims wanted to impose Sharia on us? It seems everyone becomes a libertarian when the law becomes an imposition on their beliefs.

    We need to ask ourselves that question, "Should blasphemy be legal?" We know that blasphemy is sin, but should it be defended by the state? If not, why do we entrust the state to be defender of our faith in other regards?

    I still think that Christians are misguided in supporting same-sex marriage laws. We should question why we surrendered our holy institution to the care of the state in the first place. From the state's perspective, it's all civil union anyway. As far as that is concerned, we are talking about which types of people can enter which forms of contracts. Why should the state discriminate at all? Where are all the advocates for singles who get the short end of the deal by being unmarried?

    Christians have no business endorsing sin, but the lack of gay marriage is not preventing homosexual behavior from taking place. Homosexual couples will still live together, and have sex together, and share their estates together, only doing so with legal hurdles. It's possible for Christians in good conscience to support gay marriage legalization.

    This article just strikes me as not actually weighing the real issues at hand, and using heavy rhetoric about Wicca, Open Theism, and idolatry, without actually looking at the content of the debate that makes it meaningful to talk about.

  • Derek Vrablic

    "We cannot love our neighbor and tolerate idolatry and unrepentant rebellion against God".

    I respectfully disagree with this statement. I thought we were supposed to love the sinner but hate the sin. I in no way support gay marriage but if someone wants to be married to the same sex that is their prerogative. They will have to answer for the choices they make. It is my job to love them a midst the mud. We are not to tell them to clean up before we love them. That is the problem with church today. We want don't want to love people in their current state we want them different first. No I don't agree with "x" but I'm going to love you anyway. Jesus "the man you are with now is not your husband" paraphrase "but I'm going to love you anyway".

  • http://karamazov1989.wordpress.com/ The Karamazov Idea

    I have addressed this both today and yesterday in 3 posts along with regularly and habitually calling out the modern church in its failures to adhere to the basic Biblical injunctions Christ gave and the apostles enumerated for us to live under. When confronted for their wayward behavior, many liberal Christians mumble about "hypocrisy" among believers. Since when did hypocrisy become an excuse to destroy the law. Christ came not to abolish the law, which none could meet, but to fulfill it. The answer to hypocrisy is not to abolish our standards as given to us by divine dictation, but to encourage all to live up to them to the best of our abilities with the grace of God.

    Any believer who is known to have changed his or her profile picture should be denied communion at the altar this Thursday and Sunday. But this is just the start. The church should recognize no remarriage of Christians.

    Building "acceptance" and "comfort" in the church has not attracted the secular people into our institution, but rather attracted secular ideology. People flee the church because it has ceased to teach truth and difficult truth. We require strict standards and communities who hold one another to them.

    Willful disobedience should be treated with a response that Paul advocated in multiple instances: excommunication. Excommunication need not be permanent, however, it is necessary when an individual cannot live within the parameters Christ left for his church.

  • Mat B

    I think we're missing the point.

    Biblical marraige doesn't = tax breaks / insurance benefits / death benefits. It is a commitment that a man and a woman make before God for life.

    Politics has created these advantages and benefits to men/women married couples. Politics has excluded others from these same benefits.

    Marraige has never been the issue for the vast majority of Americans who have always understood it to be one man/one woman. The issue is fairness. In a secular society why does one group get "special" treatment by the government?

    If we don't act fairly to all people, we stand to lose much more than tax breaks. The word "Marriage" will be redefined because it's the only way to get equal benefits under our current law.

    The fix? Give civil unions the same advantages that marriages have - or take the advantages away. As a society we stand to lose a lot more today and down the road if we allow the term to be changed.

    • K

      I like the idea of giving more benefits to civil unions. Unfortunately it's not just about tax breaks. It's family status in health insurance. That involves private companies and what they would now have to insure.

    • Leon Mire

      Mat B, I don't want to be too critical, because I agree with you politically. But I'm not sure about your reasoning. I don't understand why your definition of marriage as a commitment between a man and a woman made before God is so crucial to our society.

      It seems that you could equally argue that non-Christians should not be permitted to have a "marriage," even if they have functionally equivalent civil unions. If non-Christians can be permitted to have a marriage both in name and in function, why can't same-sex couples? Why isn't allowing Buddhists to get married a dangerous redefinition of the word that threatens to undermine our social values?

      On the other hand, why wouldn't your form of civil unions equally undermine our society, according to your reasoning, if you are proposing to make them essentially the same as marriages? SSM advocates would say that "marriage" has already acquired a secular definition in our society, and that to deny them the word would be as bad as the "separate but equal" laws of the past. So I see the logic of pressing for the use of the word "marriage" in their case. But I don't see it in yours: What's so important about just the name "marriage" that it has to be defended so vigorously?

  • Mat B

    I know my comments are a little off topic but ultimately this is what we're talking about in America right now.

  • http://www.rhcmodesto.com Pastor Phil

    Thank you Joe!!!

  • Rial Sloan II

    The unfortunate part of this narrative is that it doesn't address the fact that by supporting legislation such as Proposition 8, DOFM, and others, conservative Christians are granting the precedence for the government to have authority over our "family values".

    If we let the government have reign of that, how long will it be until a decision is made that our christian family values are "incorrect" as well?

    If we're in support of this being unconstitutional, that doesn't mean we're pro-gay, it means that we're taking the responsibility away from the government to define that which is morally straight.

    "Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's" and as far as my understanding goes, in this case, means to not let the Government dictate morality -- as that is God's dominion.

  • Jesie Browning

    I really loved this post. So, do you think that people who engage in Gay marriage/ or who are gay/Lesbian are going to go to Hell?
    What would your response be to a friend telling you the were gay/ Lesbian?

    • Sara

      Hi Jesie. Since I have dealt with the same questions personally, and I noticed that no one has responded to your question, I hope you don't mind me commenting. As far as salvation is concerned, or whether a person goes to hell or not, that is based on one question only: Do we believe in Jesus Christ and trust Him as the answer for our sin problem? It's not a question of homosexual or not.

      Now, to clarify: If an unbeliever happens to be a homosexual and comes to believe in Christ, and continues to practice homosexuality, then I think we have an obligation as Christians to speak the truth of the Word of God to that person regarding this specific sin. Before this though, the only thing that sends a person to hell is rejecting Jesus Christ.

      I love 1 John because in it, God makes it very clear for believers that even after conversion we can never say that we have no sin or that we haven't sinned. (1 John 1:8-10) 1 Corinthians chapter 6 is also very interesting. A lot of people use verses 6-10 to condemn homosexuality, but we must not forget that Paul is addressing a group of believers here, not unbelievers. It's also interesting that when Paul goes through this list of sins, which includes, but is not limited to, homosexuality, he ends the section by saying (to the believers): "such were some of you". This tells me that it is possible for a homosexual person to be "washed, sanctified and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of God". (vs. 11)

      We know that Paul is addressing believers because of the context. (verses 1-8 and verses 12-20, specifically) It's important to remember when we read the Epistles (Romans through James) that these letters are written to and addressing believers. We so often want to read something and apply it the rest of the world, excluding ourselves from the very cautions that were meant for us.

      The only way a homosexual person can go to hell is if they reject Christ, or if they call themselves a Christian, but do not repent of their sin and continue to practice homosexuality.

      I hope I worded this well enough to help clarify some of your thoughts.

  • James Garcia

    There are so many things wrong with this essay that I don’t even really know where to begin…. But I will try anyway…. I’ll go through it piece by piece…

    1. The writer seems to be using the conversation with Justice Scalia as if it somehow affirms the widespread (but shrinking) belief that homosexuals don’t have the right to marry, which it doesn’t at all. Just because the Justice is asking when it became ok, doesn’t mean it ISN’T ok. As for his question “when did it become unconstitutional to exclude homosexual couples from marriage?” I would throw his own answer right back in his face! “It's an easy question, I think, for that one. At — at the time that the Equal Protection Clause was adopted.” He was giving the answer to that question to the man right on a silver platter. It became unconstitutional to exclude homosexuals from marriage at the time that the Equal Protection Clause was adopted. This clause wasn’t adopted to protect only straight, white people, but people of all colors, and I believe, people of all sexual orientations.

    2. “While defending the institution of marriage is an important and worthy goal”: This is seriously debatable. For one, the Christian institution of marriage isn’t under attack. What people like the writer seem to forget, is that this is a nation built upon people of MANY different religions and beliefs, it is not exclusively Christian, and it hasn’t been for a very long time. Our founding fathers left their homes for this country to escape the very religious tyranny that many are trying to institute today. The writer seems to forget that the United States Federal institution of marriage is not that of the Bible! Many marriages are simply government institutions that weren’t built in the church and those involved in it don’t even believe in the God that we believe in! Why should they have our rules and regulations forced on them? Would God even WANT our rules and regulations forced on them? Is forced faith truly faith?

    3. “At its root, the issue has more to do with idolatry than marriage, since same-sex marriage could not have advanced in America if believers had not exchanged the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob for the God of faux-love, cultural acceptance, and open theism.”: There are several points in this single quote that I find fault with.

    a. “…Since same sex marriage could not have advanced in America if believers had not exchanged….”: Let’s address this part first: Many would have said the same for interracial marriages back when the movement to allow that was happening. Does that mean we should not have allowed interracial marriages? Because a group of small-minded people were loud a vehement about it? I think not….
    b. “For the God of faux-love”: So we, as men, are now the judges of what love is real and what love isn’t? Are we even capable of making that judgment? What gives us the right? How do you KNOW it’s not real love?
    c. “Open Theism”: So now because we don’t agree with the King James, hellfire and brimstone interpretation of scripture we suddenly believe in open theism? Hardly! I believe in ONE God and ONE Savior; Jesus Christ. Just because I believe in same-sex equality doesn’t change this fact. The author doesn’t know the hearts of man, and he is FAR from capable of making that judgment. There will never be a day when I will submit my soul to the judgment of a human being who is just as (if not more so) fallible as I am.

    4. “The idolatry of Christian same-sex marriage advocates takes two general forms. The first group still recognizes the authority of God's Word, or at least still believes in the general concept of "sin." They will freely admit that, like other types of fornication, same-gender sex is forbidden in the Bible, and even excluded by Jesus' clear and concise definition of marriage. Yet despite this understanding they still choose to embrace same-sex marriage because they have made an idol of American libertarian freedom. They have replaced Jesus' commandment—"You shall love your neighbor as yourself"—with the guiding motto of the neopagan religion of Wicca, "Do what you will, so long as it harms none.": Again… .Where do I even begin? So because we don’t agree with your mind-set we are suddenly idol worshipers who don’t believe in sin? Unless we “freely admit” that same-gender sex is forbidden we are now somehow less Christian than you? I find that utterly ridiculous, elitist, and repulsive. God gave us all individual minds and souls to be just that, individuals. There were many disagreements in Biblical times and Paul didn’t go around accusing people of being less Christian than him because they disagreed with his opinions. The book of James was written specifically to refute the teachings of Paul, did Paul accuse James of being an idol-worshiping sinner who was somehow less Christian? When they had the debate about circumcision in the New Testament, did the other apostles condemn Paul because he believed it should be a “circumcision of the heart” rather than of the body? No, they didn’t, and the writer also has no right or reason to question anyone else’s Christianity.

    5. “The second group has completely rejected the authority of Scripture and embraced the idol of open theism, a god who changes his mind over time.” I believe I’ve already addressed this “open theism” garbage, but not the author goes so far as to say we reject the authority of scripture? Maybe I reject the authority of scripture taken out of context, used to justify hate, without the guidance of the Holy Spirit, but I do not reject the scripture itself. God gave us minds (and the Holy Spirit) to think and analyze, that includes histories and letters written by men with good intentions thousands of years ago. If you let the written letter take control of your entire belief system and completely ignore the urgings of the Holy Spirit the scriptures become invalid. The Bible itself states JESUS is the Word of God, yet Christians today tout that the BIBLE is the Word of God, and completely ignore the moving of the Spirit. If that’s not idolatry then I don’t know what is! 2 Corinthians 3:6 comes to mind here: “The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life!” It gets right to the heart of the issue here if I do say so myself.

    6. “Bell has rejected the God of the Bible, a God that is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8), and embraced a false idol that tells him that what is considered sin changes based on the fickle attitudes of Americans.”: Again, the author acts as if he has the right to judge someone’s soul and states that Bell has rejected God. Who is he to say that? He then goes on to imply that just because the Bible says God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, that God doesn’t change his mind. There are MANY instances in the Bible where God did just that! If he didn’t Abraham would have sacrificed Isaac, Lot and his family would have been destroyed along with Sodom and Gommorah, Nineveh would have been destroyed, and I’m sure you get my point. Just because God, Himself never changes, doesn’t mean that He isn’t allowed to change his mind. It is shown several times in the Bible that He, in fact, does.

    7. “Yesterday, on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, many Christians displayed the red equals sign—a symbol of gay rights and "marriage equality"—so that their friends, family, and followers would see that they stood with the forces opposed to God's Word.”: If that’s the idea that you got from the equal sign then you missed the point. They did this to show that they believe that everyone is entitled to the same rights as others in this country, not to show that they opposed God’s will. He’s making quick judgments on people’s souls again.

    8. “For too long those of us in the church have grumbled to ourselves or remained silent about this...”: Seriously? He’s trying to make people believe that the mainstream church has been SILENT on this issue? They have been MORE than loud and obnoxious about this! There has never been a time when they were silent about it! If they were silent then this debate would have passed into obscurity ages ago and we would see same sex couples happily walking hand in hand down the street without fear of retribution! To say the church has been silent is a joke in itself!

    9. “We are so troubled by the thought that same-sex advocates will fall away from the faith that we fail to see that they've already rejected the faith of historic, orthodox Christianity”: Maybe we SHOULD reject the faith of history, orthodox, Christianity, and embrace a God that sent his Son to die for the sins of ALL mankind, not just straight, white people. Maybe we SHOULD reject the “Orthodox faith” that once tried to deny rights to interracial couples, and now seeks to deny those same rights to same sex couples. Maybe we SHOULD reject the “Orthodox faith” that blindly reads words written thousands of years ago, out of the context they were originally written in, and tries to force that misinterpretation on others. Maybe it hasn’t been replaced by “an idolatrous heresy” as the author suggests, but with a true faith, guided by the Holy Spirit, that directs us to show love to all of God’s creation, and not just to those we find acceptable.

    10. “We must speak the word of God with boldness (Acts 4:31) and accept the fact that those who have fallen away may not ever return. We must choose this day whom we will serve. Will we stand with the only wise God or with the foolish idol-makers of same-sex marriage?”: In this last quote, the author states that “we should accept the fact that those who have fallen away may not ever return.” But I turn it around and state that maybe HE has fallen away. Maybe, after all this time, HE (and those like him) are the ones that have missed the point. If a majority of Christians are turning away from the elitist view of the “orthodox faith” maybe it’s the “orthodox faith” that has been wrong the entire time! Would God allow the body of Christ to be tainted beyond recognition? If we should stick to orthodoxy, why are we not all still Catholic? They were the Christian powerhouse (and still are very powerful) for a very long time. Because the Protestants changed their belief system, does that mean they were idolatrous sinners? Or were they in fact bringing in change for the greater good of Christianity as a whole? Why did God send Jesus to reach out to the gentiles? Could this not be a time when God is trying to bring more of his creation into the fold? A time when he is trying to show homosexuals that He in fact DOES love them and will accept them just as he does straight people?

    In closing, I would like to post an essay I found that goes into the context of the scriptures supposedly written on homosexuality (http://gayprejudice.com/GayPrejudice.pdf). I found it very enlightening, and it shows that there IS another viewpoint besides the view being spewed by the mainstream Christian elite. Also, I would like to remind ALL of my Christian friends and family that there is only ONE requirement for salvation by quoting John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” When we stand before the throne of Judgment, this is the only thing that will matter. My everlasting life is assured by this scripture, and by the Spirit that dwells within me. No man can ever take this away from me because it has been promised to me by an all-loving, merciful God.

    • David

      Thank you so much for posting this! I was just about to spend far more time than I have, writing many of these same things!

      Some of my thoughts, continuing off some of yours:
      I think two things struck me most about this article:
      1. Straw men. Rather than cope with a robust, Christian argument in favor of gay marriage, the author chooses to put up straw men, using 'trigger' words that, to him and many others, mean someone is bad/unchristian. "Libertarian" "Open-Theist" (somehow.."Wicca"), etc.
      2. A lack of grace. Regardless of the validity of arguments in this article (which, as they are based against straw men, are rather flimsy), the tone is one of utter arrogance, dismissal, and loathing. I left the article unconvinced, and with the distinct impression of the author as a person who would be distasteful to be around - utterly certain of their ideas and dismissive of others.

  • kim

    I was talking to some girls at work about my Christian views on homosexuality and the Lord dropped into my heart that what is written in the bible is for those who belong to Him, an owner's manual. And that the words aren't meant for those who don't know the word. So when God says, homosexuals won't receive the Kingdom of God, what He's saying is those who are Christians and claim they know Jesus but are homosexuals won't receive the kingdom of God, not those who are unsaved and are going to hell as they don't know Jesus as their savior. Not knowing Jesus is their ticket to hell, not being gay. But if someone claims to know Christ and is gay, they won't receive the kingdom of God. He said, the world will do what the world will do. So if I need to clean up homosexuality, then I need to stop affairs, child abuse, drug abuse,wife abuse, oh so many things, I don't have the time. I no longer care what the world does with homosexuality. If they want marriage, then I won't stand in the way. If God wants me to preserve marriage, He'll tell me. I don't approve of homosexual marriage, but God hasn't called me to stop it, just as He hasn't called me to stop child abuse. He has called me to tell them about Jesus and how He died for their sins to present them spotless before the Father. That's what I tell folks. A lot. And to gays too.

  • Mark

    This was a well written article but this could shed some light as to why so many of us do not support this side of the argument:

    https://christiangays.com/marriage/gay_marriage.shtml

    However, I fear that my opinion may fall on deaf ears within this crowd and I am "condemning" myself for having a different point of view.

  • kim

    I want to also add, Paul wrote two letters to the Church of Corinth. But notice how Paul doesn't tell any of the church to go protest against what was going on in Corinth and let me tell you sexual sin was ssoooooo bad, that folks often said to Corinthianize” meant “to practice sexual immorality'. But notice Paul never once said go out and protest against the temples that practice homosexuality and prostitution. Instead, he focused on getting people saved and building them up. I think we've been deceived into focusing on eliminating homosexuality instead of leading people to the Lord. Homosexuality has become the 'in sin' giving us a sense of self-righteousness. I wish the church would go back to her roots, leading folks to the Lord and building up her people instead of 'fixing' the nation. Sigh . . .

    • James Garcia

      You obviously haven't studied up on the actual context of what those scriptures were addressing. The word "homosexual" didn't exist in Paul's time. Paul was addressing pagan / roman orgies and pedophilia in the scriptures you listed. Look it up. The King James translation is riddled with translation errors and King James himself was a known homosexual.

      • Frank63

        Sorry James, but the only thing riddled with errors are the pro-SSM revisionist interpretations of Scripture you are reading.

        "Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error". (Romans 1:26-27 NIV)

        Whether or not Paul had "Roman orgies" in mind while writing this passage is beside the point. His complaint here is that men have left the NATURAL use of WOMEN, not CHILDREN. If Paul's only concern was "orgies" or "pedophelia" it would have made absolutely NO SENSE to talk about "abandoning natural relations with women". The revisionists want us to believe that Paul was only condemning "gay orgies" not "committed gay relationships". But Paul has no concern at all whether the sex is casual or committed. He condemns men and women for leaving the natural use of the opposite gender as a sexual partner. The revisionists are twisting this Scripture into a pretzel to make it say what they want it to say.

  • Michelle

    Mr. Carter I really appreciate your article especially because I like that you bring about the issue of idolatry. I believe that the Christian Idols of Self, Me, Myself and I which are rampant among those Christians using birth control are IDOLS. The American Church holds the direct responsibility for the debacle we are in today with this court case. The American church made a mockery of marriage decades before there was any " movement" to make same sex marriage legal. This came from the American Churches acceptance in birth control. Margaret Sanger the founder of Planned Parenthood succeeded in getting Pastors to buy her lie from the pit of Hell and in getting them to change almost 2,000 years of Church teaching on the issue. CONTRACEPTION was UNIVERSALLY taught as being sinful, but suddenly things changed and now it is not seen that way. At the same time neither is homosexuality by some churches. My how far have we come . It is time for the Church to stand up and EXPOSE the lie from the pit of Hell . Contraception does not liberate women or help couples. It breeds an IDOL of SELFISHNESS, and it needs to be exposed!

  • jeff

    Jesus fought for those that were being treated unfairly by society. The Supreme Court is talking about a Legal Issue, its not a religious issue for the court.

  • pba

    Sorry Joe, but this is not convincing. Unless you want to be a full theonomist, you are stuck with deep inconsistencies in your view. The consistent implication of your view is that morality completely determines legality, that everything we as Christians find morally wrong should therefore be illegal. It is legal for me to go to a Mosque for daily prayer. Should we be fighting to make idolatry illegal, too? If not, isn't that guilty of the same sins as the first Christians in your post, “endorsing laws based solely on the secular liberal-libertarian conception of freedom”?

  • Maria

    Why can't we just worry about our own sins and loss of heaven and quit worrying so much about our neighbors' sins?
    I don't want to know what someone does in their bedroom nor with whom. I won't hire nor fire them for it. I just don't need to know the details, and really don't care.
    People deserve equal, legal rights. Churches don't have to bestow Holy Matrimony onto every couple; only those who follow the rules of the church. But people should all have the right to couple up legally and also de-couple legally.

    • meric

      Maria--

      I believe that the sins of our brothers and their "loss of heaven" is a Biblically mandated concern of ours. We are to bear the burdens of our brothers (Gal 6:2), even if that burden is sin and not being concerned with the salvation of others is a contradiction to Jesus' final commandment given on earth (Matt 28:16-20). Verses like Hebrews 3:13 and Heb 10:24 speak of us being fully invested in the lives of those around us. Also, if you read James 5:16, it's easy to see that all these verses teach us how to live in true Christ-centered community. Community for the sake of "community" or niceties does nothing and accomplishes nothing. Community that is fully devoted to glorifying God through obedience and encouraging others to join in is very much so in accordance to Scripture.

      On what do you base your ideology of 'deserving rights'? Who deserves what; and why do they deserve those things?

      • Lori

        If we are to express our concern for the salvation of others in the realm of politics, shouldn't Christians be actively opposed to religious freedom?

  • Darren

    Joe-

    Excellent article. I agree with you but struggle at one point. I am against many ungodly activities, but I would not want to legislate against them. The one example that keeps coming back to me is freedom to worship idols. I don't want to legislate against that. I don't want to pull kids out of homes that worship idols. I think you can see where this is going...

    Why is this issue different?

    Please read this as a real struggle from someone who is reformed.

  • Interesting

    I would like to understand the rationalization behind what you are saying.

    Are you suggesting that maintaining same-sex marriage as illegal will eventually change the sexual orientation of people who are in same-sex relationships, and in turn, they will be saved from their sinful ways?

  • Meghan

    Thank you so much for having the courage to share, Joe. GB

  • Ellen Gilson

    ROCK ON!!!

  • George Leonardo

    this article addresses a complex, multifaceted issue and makes a predictably shallow argument, not at all the sort that Jesus would make. indeed, rob bell could make an orangutan sound doctrinally convincing.

    from this article's perspective, the christian bottom line of the supreme court debate is that permitting equal marriage rights supports "the forces opposed to God's word." i argue that line placement is theologically and legally myopic. this debate isn't a question of biblical morality, it's a question of governmental extension of those morals. the bottom line rests at a question each christian must put to her own conscience: how far should tenets of personal faith reach into specifics of societal law?

    this debate poses a rigorous issue for christians to evaluate with sober thought and prayer (not picket signs). and when a respected organization like TGC wants to make a serious, cogent statement about a political and religious issue, they should at least find someone who has passed the bar.

  • Tuad

    Great article joe.

    If someone really loves God and His Commands, loves His Loving And Holy Word, how could they support the Romans 1 agenda in the liberal Democrats party platform with its explicit support of abortion and same-sex marriage?

  • Pingback: I Believe that God Defines Marriage | heisourstrongtower

  • Marge Sweigart

    Have you ever considered that looking to the government to impose Christian morality on the general public could be a form of "idolatry," Joe?

  • stephen keefauver

    By your line of reasoning, christians should be on the stump for things like a federal ban on adultery, federal regulations on what constitutes "drunkeness" and an expansion of law enforcement to regulate this. I think you are completely off base in your assertions in this article. I would argue that supporting 2 americans having the same rights as 2 other americans is an embracing of the value our country was founded on not open theism. Freedom of conscience and equality before the law are foundational to who we are as a country. It is important to note that your personal beliefs, or mine, or anyone else's are completely irrelevant to the gay marriage discussion. It is a matter of how the laws of our country can be applied to citizens who happen to be homosexual. My basic point is that you have to abandon the principles america was founded on and those that are enshrined in our constitution to make your argument. One person/groups religious beliefs are completely irrelevant to the constitutionality of a law or another person's standing before the federal government.

  • Lori

    I think whoever brought up the issue of blasphemy hit the nail on the head. I'd like to see those who think Christians shouldn't support marriage equality address it.

    Blasphemy is a sin, and the only one Jesus singled out as worse than others.

    And yet, I think most Christians would not only not want to see blasphemy made illegal, but would probably--and rightfully--vigorously defend people's right to blaspheme being protected by the government. Perhaps they are pragmatists and realize that, in pluralistic democracy, their own religious freedom could be at stake if they don't protect the religious freedoms of others, and so even though they wish they could make blasphemy illegal, they recognize that there are practical reasons not to. Or perhaps they are thinking of the golden rule, and don't want to impose laws on their neighbor that they wouldn't want imposed on them (i.e., they would hope a non-Christian government would allow Christians freedom to follow their own beliefs and practices).

    From the argument being made, why is it wrong when an atheist country outlaws Christianity? After all, those atheists really, truly believe that religion is an evil. They are simply acting on the belief that it's the job of the government to not endorse evil. Why basis would Richard Dawkins have, if he ran a country, to extend to Christians the right to educate their children in their faith? He believes that raising a child in a religion is harmful, that it's child abuse. If he believes that the job of the government is to restrain people from what those in power, or one group of citizens, thinks is evil, then he would be as remiss to deny Christians the freedom to teach their kids about Jesus as you believe Christians are if they support the freedom of gay people to marry.

    Politics is primarily about power, not truth. Our role in politics should not be to contend for truth, because that is not how a non-theocratic government works. Our role in politics, and I think the NT makes this clear, should be figuring out what it means to wield power responsibly and to respond to it appropriately. And that certainly doesn't always mean going along with laws. If power is being used to directly harm specific individuals--in cases like slavery, segregation, and abortion--then certainly opposing that use of power is an appropriate Christian response. But that is not the case here.

    I think all we need to consider to see the problems in this argument is how we'd feel living in an atheistic communist country or in a Muslim theocracy, where the same arguments were being used to limit our freedom to engage in practices that are consider acceptable and good by Christians but were considered wrong or evil by atheists or Muslims.

    • David Graham

      Lori,

      Your comments throughout this post are concerning. You appear to perceive only two options for the relation of church and state: 1) Democratic Libertarianism, in which all activities that do not explicitly harm particular individuals should be legally sanctioned; or 2) Theocracy, in which the church subsumes the state, brings down the kingdom without the presence of her King.

      The best Christian thought on this issue transcends this dichotomy, moving in the direction of 'Christianizing' society without compromising the sanctity of the church and without depriving that society of religious liberty. You construe religious freedom as an ideologically neutral "right" incompatible with the state's defining and sanctioning of marriage in a way that excludes same-sex couples. But could it not be that the very same ethos underlying one also undergirds the other? In other words, in light of the nature of the gospel, the church itself encourages the state not to coerce anyone to believe. On the other hand, in light of the ongoing effects of original sin in a society made up of sinners, the church also encourages the state to curb moral evil. In this respect , it is especially responsible to encourage the state to make and enforce laws that strengthen marriage and family life, since it is the very basis of civilization. And this would include making it difficult to divorce and making it impossible to redefine marriage as a mere adult contract.

      If your main worry is that too much priority is given to the issue, I would certainly concede that the church needs to speak out against all forms of injustice. But I would also note that we must resist the secularist trend to detach "social justice" from the more primary issue of healthy marriage and family life. Only the most short-sighted could deny that truncating marriage by making it a mere legal contract (which both no fault divorce and "same-sex marriage" intrinsically do)is harmful for society, especially the poor.

      As for your comment, "Politics is primarily about power, not truth. Our role in politics should not be to contend for truth, because that is not how a non-theocratic government works", I suggest you read some political theology, perhaps beginning with Augustine's City of God. In my opinion, Augustine has a much richer, more carefully nuanced account of the relation between Christian, Church, and culture than the frighteningly reductionistic position you appear to take.

      Peace.

      • Lori

        Actually, I clearly stated that I am NOT advocating libertarianism. I'm not saying that the state should automatically legalize anything that doesn't harm others; I'm saying that the state needs to weigh the harm of criminalizing something versus the harm of legalizing and regulating it.

        I'll use prostitution as an example again. I think prostitution should be legal and regulated. (Ideally, I think we'd follow the Scandanavian practice of making it legal to sell sex but illegal to buy it, but I don't see any way for that to fit within American law.) This is NOT because I'm taking the libertarian position that "anything goes as long as it doesn't harm anyone." In fact, I think prostitution does do harm. However, criminalizing prostitution in the way we do does little to curb the practice but places the women in the trade in an extremely vulnerable position, where they are reluctant to report abuse and will have great difficult getting out of the sex trade. I think it would lessen the harm done by the practice if it were legal. That is not a libertarian argument, where I'd just be arguing that what two consenting adults do is nobody's business unless somebody is harmed.

        Now, I personally don't think homosexuality is inherently sinful. However, if I did, I'd still think that greater harm would be done by denying gay people marriage rights than by allowing them. We can safely assume that legalizing gay marriage will not cause anybody to be gay; it will not increase the number of people engaged in homosexual sex. It will, however, provide a safer, more stable context for gay people with children (and there are many of them) to raise their children, and create a legally-binding relationship that is designed to encourage lifelong monogamy. Just at the level of public health and individual safety, being gay within the context of a lifelong monogamous relationship will cause less harm than homosexual promiscuity.

        And, again, the welfare of children needs to be considered. The argument was put before the court that traditional marriage must be protected because it is the ideal context for raising children. That may indeed be true. But, if we aren't advocating for removing the children of gay and lesbian people from their homes and giving them to straight married couples, then we have to acknowledge that children are being raised in the homes of gay people and will continue to be, and for those children, it is better that their parents be married than not. It may not be ideal, but it's better.

        • Melody

          "Now, I personally don't think homosexuality is inherently sinful"
          That is the problem with your whole argument. You do not recognize what is sinful and what is not. That makes all of your arguments completely of the world and with no scriptural basis. If you do not recognize the utter devastation to a life that sin reaps then how can anything you come up with be a solution? It is like giving amoxicillin to someone with cancer. They are going to die!

          What exactly do you believe saves you from hell anyway?
          That was a pretty basic component of Carter's post.
          "You do not love your neighbor by encouraging them to engage in actions that invoke God's wrath (Psalm 5:4-5; Romans 1:18). As Christians we may be required to tolerate ungodly behavior, but the moment we begin to endorse the same then we too have become suppressers[sic] of the truth. You cannot love your neighbor and want to see them excluded from the kingdom of Christ (Eph. 5:5)."

          Not to mention the whole argument of legalizing an industry that treats people like pieces of meat because you think it will bring in safety measures. Tell that to a five year old that has been sold for a the purposes of someone's sexual pleasure because the bigger the evil the more money it brings in. That is the reality of some people's lives while other sit around and philosophy about it. I know you are not advocating harming children and I do not want to misrepresent you that way. But the reality of sin is that when you release yourself to it then it never satisfies and you search for something more thrilling. People become desensitized to the sin around them. Even the liberal research on children that consume enormous amounts of violent tv and video games shows that. I don't know how people can then turn around and deny that is in fact what happens.

          • sdb

            By your logic, why should we keep the Catholic Mass legal (which the westminster confession refers to as a "gross idolatry")? Shouldn't we follow the lead of Cromwell and Knox and tear down houses of idolatry and ban those practices? Why isn't support for the first amendment, which explicitly codifies religious tolerance on the part of Congress, wrong?

            In other words, why is it wrong for a Christian to support extension of legal recognition to homosexual unions along with the legal benefits that go along with marriage, but it is OK for a Christian to support the right of non-Christians to engage in idolatry (by restricting Congress from prohibiting the free exercise of religion)? Why is religious libertarianism uncontroversial while sexual libertarianism is?

            If the state is to legislate morality, shouldn't it start with the greatest commandment? Or at least ban practices that grossly violate it? I think Machen has a lot to teach us on this subject, but I would be interesting in hearing how you draw this distinction.

            • Melody

              Do you tell people that idolatry is wrong?
              Do you tell people that loving anything more than God is a sin?
              Do you tell people loving their children more than God that is a sin?
              These are all things that people have to be told. Conversion is supposed to be a life changing event. No one that comes to the cross should be able to walk away unchanged. If they do then the cross didn't really mean anything to them.

              Do you believe that God meant what He said in scripture?

              You cannot tell someone that something is not a sin when clearly it is. Gay marriage may well come into being everywhere. But are the people that are telling them that they are not in sin even really Christians? How can you stand in front of the cross look on His bloody battered body and say that behavior doesn't need the blood?

            • sdb

              Melody,
              My answer to all of your questions is yes. But that is irrelevant to the discussion at hand. The question on the table is what we should advocate for in the legal arena. Should we work against vouchers and school choice because it will encourage parents to send their kids to Catholic schools where they will be taught "gross idolatries" (and encouraged to participate in such idolatries)? If not, why not? How is working to provide tax advantages for people to support idolatry somehow less of a problem than supporting gay marriage.

              In the US we explicitly rejected government meddling in the free exercise of religion, and early presbyterians even modified the WCF to allow for the unique american experiment. But why should one have the legal right to violate the "greatest commandment", by building mosques, mormon temples, and Catholic churches, but one should not have the legal right to form a homosexual union because it is immoral?

            • Douglas Johnson

              SDB,

              I believe you have discovered what Dietrich Bonheoffer, who was executed by the Nazis in the last days of WWII, called "cheap grace." Cheap grace is what you have when you have found a comfortable way of being a Christian. To wit, faced with the government redefinition of marriage in violation of Christ's own words (Mark 10:6), you only need to sit back and say "yes, but if you look at it this way there's nothing for me to do..." and then merely change the channel.

              Actually, I don't believe you really are guilty of cheap grace. I might be wrong, but I don't believe you are a Christian at all. Rather I think you are pretending to have faith and then using that as a rhetorical weapon against Melody who clearly does have faith. At least, that is how you clearly come across to me.

            • sdb

              Douglas,
              You are incorrect. I am very much a Christian and hold to the Westminster Confession without reservation. I have no doubt that violation of both tables of the law is sin, and that certainly includes homosexual behavior. But I don't see why that is relevant to my question. Perhaps I've not been as clear as I should be. Let me try to restate it:

              Why is it uncontroversial to be libertarian when it comes to the exercise of religion, but not libertarian when it comes to sexual ethics? Couldn't everything said about forbidding gay unions be said about legalizing blasphemous worship (and making donations to support it tax exempt at that!). On what grounds can the Christian support the repeal of blue laws and laws legalizing idolatry (the first amendment) and be forbidden from concluding that for the good of civil society gay couples should have their partnerships legally recognized? For example, I can see why one might disagree with Misty Irons (a much more thoughtful opponent than Bell to be sure!) for political reasons, but I don’t see why her view is anymore problematic for a Christian than one who supports the first amendment. I'm not being facetious, I really don't see the distinction.

              I do think Machen is definitely worth reading on this point (one who certainly can't be accused of practicing "cheap grace").

            • Douglas Johnson

              SDB,

              You wrote: "You are incorrect. I am very much a Christian and hold to the Westminster Confession without reservation." Just FYI, people who follow Christ out of wonder and love at all costs don't talk that way. Neither do I believe that you attend a church that refers to all Roman Catholics at "idolators." No one, in this day and age, as clever as you says such things from the standpoint of faith. If your pastor is saying such thing, then I suspect you are attending a highly liberal and political church in which case it uses the church as a political platform and not to heal sin. Nonetheless, I will briefly indulge you...

              You ask: "Why is it uncontroversial to be libertarian when it comes to the exercise of religion..."

              Free will. You can't impose faith by force without violating the tenets of the faith.

              You ask: "On what grounds can the Christian support the repeal of blue laws and laws legalizing idolatry (the first amendment) ..."

              As far as "legalizing idolatry" goes, again my answer is free will. As far as blue laws go, a Christian might not believe that the state should have the authority to impose religious laws. Now if you are a Christian who truly believes that repealing the blue laws violates God's word (as many did), then it certainly would be controversial for you to then to support repeal of the blue laws. I'm from Pennsylvania and it DID cause much controversy among many Christians when the blue laws were repealed, so even the premise of your question is incorrect.

              You continue: "...and be forbidden from concluding that for the good of civil society gay couples should have their partnerships legally recognized?""

              Christians follow Christ, which is also to say Christians follow God. In Mark 10:6-8, Jesus tells us what a marriage is. You describe marriage redefinition as being "for the good of civil society." If God is the source of all good, then how can it be good for a Christian to go against God's word? Again, the premise of your question is all wrong. I oppose marriage redefinition because it is bad for civil society.

              If you had just said you weren't a Christian I'd be happy to debate you. Or if I believed that you actually do yearn to return to God then I'd believe you. As I said I could be wrong, but I don't believe you are honest because I simply have never heard someone profess real faith using the words and reference points you use. As such, this is my last comment exchange with you.

            • sdb

              I am a member of the PCA (Presbyterian Church in America) like many TGC leaders. You can find our standards here if you are interested:
              http://pcanet.org/beliefs/

              Our standards include the Westminster Confession of Faith:
              http://www.pcaac.org/resources/wcf/

              And yes, we expect our ruling and teaching elders to believe what's in there...including the bits about the Lord's supper. I am not a pietist as you seem to be, but I am a conservative, confessional Christian (you have a few up your way wandering around Westminster!). So when I teach the shorter catechism to my children I really do believe the things I'm helping them memorize. When we recite the first answer to the Heidelberg catechism before bed each night, I really, truly believe that, "my only comfort in life and in death is that I am not my own but belong body and soul in life and in death to my faithful savior Jesus Christ. Who has paid the penalty for my sins with his precious blood and set me free from the tyranny of the devil. And that he watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head apart from the will of my father in heaven. Because I belong to him, Christ, by his holy Spirit, makes me willing and ready to live for him."

              I agree that you can't force faith - that's a work of the Holy Spirit alone- but you can ban idolatrous practices as nations have done (just like you can't ban lust and hate but you can apply penalties for adultery and murder). We've decided that's a bad idea (I agree!). Christ's kingdom is not of this world, but to what extent should we work in the secular, political realm to transform the world? This is the nexus of the two-kingdom/theonomy debate.

              As I mentioned before, I see how one can make the case that gay unions should not be recognized (I'm inclined to agree I think). But Joe Carter goes beyond that in his post - he makes the case that a libertarian political approach to the issue of gay marriage is explicitly sinful. In my denomination, that means that someone who supported gay marriage politically (while still believing homosexuality to be sinful) would come under church discipline and be banned from the table. While I may disagree with someone like Misty Irons (though I remain unsure), I am not convinced that her political position is idolatry (the topic of this post).

              Perhaps my questions leave you unconvinced that I could possibly be a Christian. I suppose it is impossible to convince you in a combox particularly as I am uncomfortable revealing myself on the internet. Perhaps there isn't much point in continuing this conversation - I got to it late anyway, though it makes me sad that you are willing to conclude that I am a liar because you aren't familiar with my denominational background (if you poked around the links above you might see more that sounds like what I've said). I remained interested in hearing a cogent case for what makes a libertarian approach to sexual ethics different from a libertarian approach to religious practices. I don't find a sort of freewill defense compelling, but I am a presbyterian after-all, so maybe I am hopeless.

            • Douglas Johnson

              SDB,

              You write: "As I mentioned before, I see how one can make the case that gay unions should not be recognized (I'm inclined to agree I think). But Joe Carter goes beyond that in his post - he makes the case that a libertarian political approach to the issue of gay marriage is explicitly sinful. In my denomination, that means that someone who supported gay marriage politically (while still believing homosexuality to be sinful) would come under church discipline and be banned from the table. While I may disagree with someone like Misty Irons (though I remain unsure), I am not convinced that her political position is idolatry (the topic of this post)."

              I just re-read Joe's post. I think it's very clear and I think the problem you get into is that you are translating what Joe says into something he is not saying.

              Joe asks: " When did it become acceptable for Christians to embrace and endorse homosexual behavior?"

              Perhaps it would be more clear if I discussed this in terms of fornication. Let's say the question before us is whether we should redefine marriage so that fornicators can now be recognized by the state as "married" in the name of marriage equality. In that context, Joe's question would be: "When did it become acceptable for Christians to embrace and endorse fornication?" There is absolutely no qualitative difference that I can see between these two examples.

              I hope you can see that there is no reasonable grounds under which a Christian can look at the harm a fornicator is doing to himself and others and turn his back to it. But as Joe says, it's worse than that. Imagine if suddenly Christian churches started putting little flags in their signs out front symbolic of fornication, as so many churches do when they stick gay flags in those signs. It would be one thing if the purpose of that flag was to draw in fornicators in order to help heal them in hope that they would cease this sin that causes them so much harm. But in reality the purpose of those signs is to say "Welcome fornicators! Please come in! We will never utter a word against fornication in this church. We will embrace your behavior because we do not regard it as sin. In our church it is only the things you don't like we regard as sin." Yes, Joe asks, when did that happen?

              If someone in your church said to you, "Regardless as to whether fornication is a sin, I do think that politically it is only right and good that we redefine marriage to make it inclusive of fornication," what would be your answer? Would you pat him on the back and say "I respect your opinion!" Really? I would try desperately to get him to see the error of his thinking. If I were unsuccessful I would bring it to the attention of my priest in the hope that he could correct the harm such thinking this parishioner brings upon himself.

              So my question to you is, how as a Christian could you be indifferent to that? How could someone want to redefine marriage this way and not be at a crossroads with your church? How can you see that harm being imposed upon society and wash your hands of it? How could someone in your church support "fornicator marriage" politically, while not putting himself in any conflict with the church.

              Finally, let me edit you slightly where you write:

              "that means that someone who supported [fornicator marriage] politically (while still believing [fornication] to be sinful) would come under church discipline and be banned from the table."

              Yes. Why might a priest ban such a person from the table? He bans such a person to correct the damage he's doing to himself. The assumption is that person WANTS to receive the body and the blood of Christ. If this person resists all appeals to correct his sinful thinking so that he can be healed, then the priest might ban him from the communion table in the hope that his desire to return to the communion table HELP HIM in this healing.

            • sdb

              I agree that Joe's post is quite clear. Whether I agree or disagree with him, I find him to be a very good writer (unlike me). In this post he distinguishes between two approaches to same-sex marriage by Christians. One group denies a problem with homosexuality at all. I agree with Joe that such a stance is problematic for Christians. Its about the other group that I have questions:

              The idolatry of Christian same-sex marriage advocates takes two general forms. The first group still recognizes the authority of God's Word, or at least still believes in the general concept of "sin." They will freely admit that, like other types of fornication, same-gender sex is forbidden in the Bible, and even excluded by Jesus' clear and concise definition of marriage. Yet despite this understanding they still choose to embrace same-sex marriage because they have made an idol of American libertarian freedom. They have replaced Jesus' commandment—"You shall love your neighbor as yourself"—with the guiding motto of the neopagan religion of Wicca, "Do what you will, so long as it harms none."

              It is the liberal-libertarian conception of freedom that Joe is criticizing here. This is a theme that he has brought up several times over the years (at FirstThings and the EvOutpost), though this is the first time I have seen him equating a libertarian approach to politics with idolatry.

              I'm not sure what to make of your analogy - we do allow fornicators to marry. We also allow couples who marry to have open-marriages. Not an insignificant number of evangelical churches will marry people who have divorced for reasons other than adultery (indeed, I find that evangelical churches tend to be quite lax about following up on letters and ensuring that new members are not under discipline from their previous home church, but I digress). While I think it is sinful for someone to marry a person who was illegitimately divorced, I don't know that it is a good idea for our secular laws to reflect this. I am even more skeptical that adopting a two-kingdom approach to church and politics is idolatrous. Again, Machen is a useful guide here...I wish Joe had engaged more thoughtful advocates of the 2k approach than a loon like Bell.

              Sinful (adulterous) marriages of divorcees are better than the unstable and more sinful cohabitation of divorcees (not all sins are equal as Jesus points out) - particularly for the innocent bystanders caught in the middle (i.e. the kids). The ability to get health coverage from their step-parent, inheritance, and hospital visitation rights, and the stability of the union are important considerations for the secular state. Saying that the state has a positive interest in recognizing such unions is not an endorsement of the adulterous behavior involved, it is a concession to the practical needs of the non-regenerate and the legitimate interest of society at ameliorating the effects of sinful behavior. We see an example of God accommodating hard hearted people in the example of Moses and divorce. Paul is quite clear that church discipline only applies to church members - not unbelievers. One could make the case, that while homosexual behavior is always sinful, legally recognized unions has an ameliorating effect - thus the state has an interest in recognizing such unions. Like I said before, I'm not sure I buy this argument, and this isn't the issue I'm interested in debating in this thread. The question is whether the people who make this argument are engaged in idolatry. If so, how is a libertarian approach to religious practice any different? I'm not talking about internal beliefs, but rather about public actions like advocating that we extend tax credits to parents who send their children to private schools that spread false belief. My question is more about political philosophy than the merits of any particular policy.

              The Bible doesn't tell us whether the role of the state is to promote human flourishing, restrain bad behavior, or protect the negative rights of others (what Joe refers to as a Wiccan approach to politics - the liberal-libertarian approach). Paul tells us that the state exists to at least "restrain evil" and that we should submit to it. But that isn't very specific. Following the regulative principle, since the NT does not explicitly tell the church how to engage politically (or to do so), the church should neither do so nor discipline members who adopt differing models of engagement (from the anabaptists who totally disengage at one end to the reconstructionists who want the church to rule the civil sphere at the other end).

              This isn't to say that there aren't better or worse answers to various policy issues that we should debate. Rather I don't see how one can draw a distinction between what Joe requires to avoid idolatry and a full throated reconstructionism - a reconstructionism that most evangelicals would recoil at on most other issues. Perhaps there is a special way to distinguish marriage policy from others that I am missing, but I haven't seen that case made yet. I've written way more than I should for a commbox already and extended this conversation for way too long. Thanks for you engagement. Maybe we'll cross paths again - until then...all my best.

    • Leon Mire

      Lori,
      I've thoroughly enjoyed reading your comments. While I am not a Christian, and I disagree with you in some details, your perspective makes a lot of sense to me. You have been persuasive and reasonable throughout the discussion.

      But I feel I have to make a factual correction on a couple of your assertions here, specifically regarding Richard Dawkins. He has not, as far as I've ever read, indicated that he thinks religion is child abuse, or that it is the role of the government to keep parents from educating children in religious beliefs. I have my copy of The God Delusion in front of me, and I just re-read most of the chapter "Childhood, Abuse and the Escape from Religion."

      The closest thing I could find was on p. 358, where he says that emphasizing eternal damnation in hell to children is child abuse. He mentions Hell Houses as a prime example of this. While you may disagree with him, this is a far cry from saying that all religion is child abuse.

      He does think that religion is generally harmful to children, but he believes that children should make up their own minds about their religious beliefs when they are old enough to make an informed decision (p. 380). Nowhere does he say that religious parents should not be allowed to retain custody of their children.

      The only place I've heard such allegations is from people criticizing his work. William Lane Craig, in particular, has stated incorrectly in his critique of The God Delusion that the "inference" is that Dawkins believes such things.

      Now, Dawkins has been very unpopular among Christians for his insults and generalizations about religion, but he is no Stalin or Mao.

      Still, I found your overall argument persuasive.

  • http://provingallthings.wordpress.com J Sanders

    In as much as it is possible to be a Christian and an American or to be a Christian and not an American without the one inhibiting the other, it is possible to be an American and not a Christian. Our framework is sufficient for all religions because, while America was founded on at least a monotheistic concept of the divine (if not a Christian), it was intended to be inclusive of all religions by nature of neglect. By excluding religious reason from what was to become our national moral ethos, all faiths can subscribe without conflict and take the overlap as happy coincidence. That being said, and knowing that I am personally against same-sex marriage, I am still against a federal ban on the idea as it speaks against the nature of the Constitution (limiting only the government in a capacity to restrict civil liberties.) Those Christians against same-sex marriage often argue that they are protecting marriage but there is a logical fallacy in this. If marriage is a sacred covenant between two people (a man and a woman) and God; and that sacred covenant is established by God then it cannot be minimalized by the lower (mans) law. God's law is supreme. No rights are inhibited if (and I make an extreme example to magnify the point) jamming a fork in a light socket is legal and no one elects to do so...because it isn't fun or doesn't feel good. The fact that a person chooses not to do what is legal offends no one.

    (Understanding that I've ignored the population of persons that call themselves Christians and are homosexual, it was not done to slight or judge, but was a view to far from the scope and I consider myself inadequate for scriptural debate on the subject.)

    Best,
    J Sanders

  • http://textsincontext.wordpress.com Michael Snow

    "When did it become acceptable for Christians to embrace and endorse homosexual behavior?" As you noted, false notions of 'love' have much to do with it. And it started with loving our own sins. As a recent banner put it, "If we cannot have same sex marriage, you cannot have divorce."

    Until pastors return to equipping their flocks to distinguish Christian basics like love from the flavor the world is selling, the battle is lost.
    http://textsincontext.wordpress.com/2012/11/11/love-prayer-and-forgiveness-now-also-in-ebook-format/

  • Ashley R

    I am NOT saying what I believe is right or wrong according to God's word, but I do have a question.

    Aside from the woman/man, woman/woman, man/man question, what about the a similar question?
    What about age?

    I notice in America, there are law regarding the age limit between people (for example, it's against the law to have a relationship or marry someone under the age of 16. Sex with a "minor" is illegal and people who do this are considered pedophiles - which I actually do agree with that. To me, it is sick).

    However, is MANY cultures around the world, people younger than 16 have sex and marry and have children and families, etc.
    In OTHER cultures around the globe, this is perfectly acceptable and considered "normal".

    So, WHERE does one draw the line about what is acceptable about having a "loving" relationship.
    If someone in a country outside of America has a loving relationship with a 14 year-old, marries and has a family, that is perfectly acceptable, in many, many countries and cultures.

    In America, it is illegal and considered "sick", disturbed, etc.

    The point is, I just believe in the Bible and God's own word - period. I would never jeopardize my own life, which God has so graciously given me to do HIS work, by accepting anything outside of God's word. Nor would I say it is "okay" for anyone else to live outside of God's word. I will LOVE them, as I must love myself, even when it is very difficult (NONE of us are perfect), but I will still LOVE - as that is our role on this planet.

    Just curious how those who define "love" between certain peoples as okay feel about other cultures who also define "love" with underage children as acceptable and have for CENTURIES.

    hmm........

    • Lori

      Just as a point of clarification, a pedophile is a person attracted to prepubescent children (or children in early puberty). A pedophile is not a person who finds post-pubescent teens below the age of consent sexually attractive or who would have a sexual relationship with them. If we believe that, we'd have to say that most men for most of human history were pedophiles.

      Certainly we have every right as a society to decide that relationships between teenagers and adults are inappropriate, and to pass laws against it. But a guy in his twenties who is attracted to or would have a relationship with a 15 or 16yo teenager doesn't have a pathological desire, just one that is, for valid reasons, socially unacceptable.

      • Lori

        Oh, and I'm obviously not saying that an adult man having sex with a teenager is okay. It's not. I'm just saying that thinking that a 23-year-old man and 15-year-old young woman should be in a sexual relationship is a cultural prohibition, not a moral dictate. In many societies, and for most of history, a marriage pairing with those ages would have been totally normal.

        An adult man attracted to a post-pubescent teenage girl shouldn't act on his desire--just like he shouldn't act on his desire for a woman in her 20s or 30s or of any age--but his desire doesn't mean there's something psychological wrong with him. It's normal for a heterosexual male to find a teen girl who has been through puberty sexually attractive, not sick or disturbed.

        Again, I'm not saying he should act on it. I'm just saying that teen girls who had been through puberty marrying older men has pretty much been the norm until recently, and I don't think we should be comfortable saying that it's sick and disturbed now, but was okay then. That's a dangerous kind of relativism. I'd rather we just say that the desire itself is and has always been normal, but different cultures have different regulations about what relationships are and aren't okay based on the specifics of their society. If there's a society where it works for 14-year-old women to marry 25-year-old men, and another society where it isn't, it isn't that one society is more moral than the other, or the other is allowing evil or sin, but just that they are operating within societies where life is very different and where what relationships are desirable are different.

      • Ashley R

        @Lori, legally, a pedophile is someone defined as engaging in sexual relations with someone under the "age of consent", so it applies to an 19 year old and a 15 year old, or a 12 year old (perfectly acceptable in MANY cultures)...or a 32 year old and a 15 year old...and so on.

        This is my point!!

        See, you don't even know the law and can't agree with the law and are talking about it as a "social issue".

        Again, I take my cues from God, period. And therefore, stay away from slippery slopes and what seems very obviously.....wrong.

        • Lori

          Legally, a person over 18 who engages in sexual activity with a willing teen who is under the age of consent is a statutory rapist. "Pedophile" isn't a legal term, it's a psychological one, describing a person's attraction to pre-pubescent children. Being a pedophile is not a crime, although obviously any sexual activity with pre-pubescent children is. And the law recognizes this, by making crimes committed against children who are under 13 subject to significantly more serious penalties than offenses committed with willing teens 13 and over. So, no, the law doesn't define pedophilia, nor does it punish it.

          If you take your cues from God, you have no basis for supporting age of consent laws; the Bible never mentions such laws, and we know that in biblical times women were considered "marriageable" after puberty. Puberty, which is natural, was the point that determined whether somebody was old enough to engage in sexual relationships (obviously in the context of marriage), not an age chosen by the state. Many of the marriages you read about in the Old and New Testaments were likely between women in their mid-teens and men who were much older.

          So what seems very obviously wrong to you--a guy in his twenties getting married to a woman in her mid teens--only seems obviously wrong because of the culture you live in, not because you are judging it by some eternal, objective standard.

          Again, I'm not saying we have no basis for age of consent laws. We do. But, our basis isn't that anybody 18 and over being in a relationship with somebody younger than 16 is just flatly, obviously wrong, and that God agrees. Our basis is the cultural situation we find ourselves in. Again, if we were going by biblical standards, we'd make puberty the line, not a set age, and see marriages between women in their early and mid teens and men in their twenties and thirties as not just normal, but ideal.

        • pentamom

          No, that is not "legally, a pedophile." Pedophile is a psychological term, not a legal one. There is no crime of "pedophilia" in any state that I am aware of. There is a disorder known as pedophilia, but that refers to sexual interest in pre-pubsecent children.

          The law does state that any sex with someone under the age of consent is a crime, but that is not the same as "pedophilia." When it involves a post-pubescent, it is considered socially unacceptable and prosecutable, as Lori said, but there is no basis for calling it pathological, nor was it considered so historically.

  • charles

    did Jesus accept none or everyone to listen and to be baptised in the faith.

    Woman = part man

    So i should never get married.

    What about Transexuals, do you slaughter their hopes of marriage as well?

    The only idolization I've seen today is the Idolization of the Church being more important then being christlike.

  • Jean Whitman

    "But God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness. They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.

    Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools. And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people and birds and animals and reptiles.

    So God abandoned them to do whatever shameful things their hearts desired. As a result, they did vile and degrading things with each other’s bodies. They traded the truth about God for a lie. So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself, who is worthy of eternal praise! Amen. That is why God abandoned them to their shameful desires. Even the women turned against the natural way to have sex and instead indulged in sex with each other. And the men, instead of having normal sexual relations with women, burned with lust for each other. Men did shameful things with other men, and as a result of this sin, they suffered within themselves the penalty they deserved.

    Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God, he abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done. Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip. They are backstabbers, haters of God, insolent, proud, and boastful. They invent new ways of sinning, and they disobey their parents. They refuse to understand, break their promises, are heartless, and have no mercy. They know God’s justice requires that those who do these things deserve to die, yet they do them anyway. Worse yet, they encourage others to do them, too. " ( Romans 1:18-32)

    As we can see, homosexuality has been going on since the beginning of time. In our generation however... it has come up a notch in that we want to legislate it and legalized this sin and encourage these practices. This country has never been able to understand that the United States is 'one nation, UNDER GOD.' It is founded on the Holy Scriptures and we, as citizens, are neither smart enough nor powerful enough to rewrite God's Word. We are obviously challenged in simply applying it: we can't give His love to anyone different from us. And the complexity and practical application of loving the sinner, but hating the sin (murder, theft, slander, lying, adultery etc.) has completely escaped us. We always seem to get confused by this.

    For everyone standing in front of the Supreme Court supporting this nonsense, as Christians, we should be on our knees praying God's mercy and grace for these lost and misguided souls. We should be praying for transformation of hearts across this land ... this one nation, dedicated to God!
    We want to skip Him and focus on our interpretation of liberty and justice for all. Our nation will be destroyed if we continue in this maddness.

  • kim

    Charles, Jesus didn't just 'accept' everyone. Instead, He told many to go and sin no more, period. You either accept God's word as from Him and you bow your knee to Him, or you bow your knee to the world. YOu can't have two masters. You will serve one and hate the other, or despise one and love the other. I see so many people that think Jesus just ran around and dropped daises and lollipops on everyone. That's not what He did. He told a lot of folks, sin no more. I just don't understand this strange stance of love everyone, but ignore God's word as it doesn't fit our agenda. Yipee!! Well, good luck with that one.

  • Jed Pressgrove

    This article states, "The second group has completely rejected the authority of Scripture and embraced the idol of open theism, a god who changes his mind over time."

    The implication of the quote is that you're anti-Scripture if you believe God changes his mind. An odd thing to say the least. In the Old Testament, God was perfectly content to let man die without a Savior. In the New Testament, this is clearly not the case. There are other examples from Scripture that suggest God evolves.

    The idea of an evolving God was introduced to me by C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity. Why is this concept perceived as heresy by many Christians? Is it because they do not think one can keep promises if one changes? Is it because the idea implies God is not perfect? If so, what is perfection? Does our subjective understanding of perfection apply to a deity?

  • Tim

    "As Christians we may be required to tolerate ungodly behavior, but the moment we begin to endorse the same then we too have become suppressers of the truth. You cannot love your neighbor and want to see them excluded from the kingdom of Christ"

    So if someone doesn't engage in homosexual behavior are they now going to be included in the kingdom of Christ?

    I fully agree that homosexuality is sin but I don't think it's quite that black and white how we as Christians engage with worldly governments.

    We should certainly judge the sexual behavior of people who are part of our believing community and call themselves Christians, but we're not called to judge the sexual behavior of those outside the church.

    For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” (1 Corinthians 5:12-13, ESV)

    The problem with this article and most of the religious right in my opinion is a very big nationalistic idolatry which leads to a misreading of the Bible (namely reading it as if things talking to the church are talking about America as a whole), and a huge misunderstanding as to what the kingdom of God is and how it spreads. Jesus is coming on the white horse to wipe out all evil at his second coming he comes now on the donkey offering peace. If Jesus came the first time to completely end all evil we'd all be dead and in hell.

    If you were going to be a missionary sent to a Muslim county, would you go in trying to overthrow there government and pass Christian laws? Hopefully not, because people still wouldn't know Jesus and bad trees dont produce good fruit. That's not the way the kingdom of God spreads, if it was, Jesus would have just gone in and overthrown the Romans and set himself up as an earthly king or political leader off the bat.

    I'm not saying we should support and endorse gay marriage but on the other hand we shouldn't be so shocked when worldly government passes worldly laws and we shouldn't be overly concerned with winning elections, the kingdom of God doesn't spread by force it spreads the way our savior spread it dying to ourselves and laying down our lives for others.

    The founders of America may have declared it a Christian nation blessed by God but I don't quite know that God himself declared it a Christian nation blessed by God. His nation is the church and it's a nation made up of all tribes and nations. America like every other nation is gonna eventually fall, but Jesus is building his church and the gates of hell won't prevail over it.

    If Christian churches start saying homosexuality is okay for Christians we should raise an issue, if America does we shouldn't be too shocked and we should love them, tell them about Jesus, and give them a taste of the kingdom of God by living as a city within a city and a display of what the kingdom of God will be like and live as missionaries where God has placed us.

  • Helen Paus

    I love this take on the issue. I have often thought that loving one another does not mean condoning each other's sins. But here's a question I really need help with. I made a very stupid mistake in my 20's and married the wrong man. If I had stayed in that relationship, I would have been subjugated and cheated on for the rest of my life. I chose to leave that marriage and am now happily remarried with a wonderful family. So here's my question, how do I respond to people who say I'm no better and in no position to "judge" homosexuals because I'm living in an adulterous relationship since I've been married before and divorced? I feel like I have no standing to weigh in on homosexuality because I'm living outside the biblical ideal of marriage as well. Any suggestions?

    • JohnM

      Just noticed this. Helen I'd suggest:

      1. Scripture makes some provision for divorce - and re-marriage, none whatsoever for homosexual acts
      2. You say you would have been cheated on for the rest of your life? Your former spouse's infidelity quite possibly could be viewed as having broken the marriage covenant before your divorce did.
      3. Whether a particular divorce and re-marriage should have happened or not scripture doesn't deny the the first was ended and the second exists - contrary to what some would claim.
      4. You can repent of former acts that you can't un-do - and call on homosexuals to do the same, just as scripture does.
      5. You don't have to buy into the all-sin-is-the-same fallacy.

  • J.F.

    Is this the "Morality For Unbelievers Coalition" or the Gospel Coalition?

    I, for one, don't advocate gay marriage, but I don't make political stands against it either because I desperately want one thing: not to keep my homosexual friends from referring to their boyfriends or girlfriends "husbands" or "wives." Rather, that they would be transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ, the only thing that can change their hearts.

    Choose your hills to die on. I choose the gospel, rather than any lofty visions of a new Constantinian utopia or any sorrowful longings of America's "better days".

  • Melanie

    Thank you SO much for speaking about this matter from a Biblical perspective! I very much agree with what you have said and it is so very encouraging and uplifting to know that there *are* others out there who agree that Christians were sent to speak the Truth in boldness and grace, and out of Love! We were not sent to be messengers of comfort to coddle sinners. We were sent to deliver a message of Love and Truth to promote healing! We were not sent to judge and condemn, but rather to instruct and lead those who are lost and mislead onto a path of righteousness and purity.

    I have seen too many Christian circles endorsing immorality for fear of persecution, rejection, and humiliation. What could have been more painful than facing the persecution, rejection and humiliation of being the Son of God and hanging on a cross, bloody, bruised, and beaten? Have we forgotten Matthew 5:10, "Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven"? Jesus told us that we would face such things, but He also told us that where the spirit may be willing, the flesh is weak. And in these dark times, we simply cannot afford to live by the flesh! For the flesh shall perish!

    We cannot serve two masters. One cannot "follow Christ" and also align their footsteps with the patterns of this world which are contrary to Christ's teachings.

    Jesus already chose us. We just need to choose Him. And then do what Christ followers were sent here to do!!

  • Deanna Greiling

    I shared a link from your article to a pastor who wrote a blog post expressing the belief of love. He rejected your words with the remark it was filled with name calling. I saw no such thing in your article and I told him so. I also pointed out Jesus' name calling, "brood of vipers, evil men."

    I am grateful that God defines His truth, not people. Oh for day when no one can be deceived. I pray He guides me clearly to see as He meant.

    The pastor pointed me to another blog. It was so filled with human intellect that rambled and related to little or no reality. I remembered the same defense that I heard while in Bible college 26 years ago. It has not developed into something that makes sense.

    Sadly, I do see men and women desperate for acceptance. Giving them solace with deceived concepts will not free them from God's wrath. I know we will all be surprised when we see ourselves as he does on judgement day.

    I get tired of being told something plainly written doesn't mean what it says. Or those versuses are ignored.

    I can think of no biblical character whom God called righteous to have any gay or lesbian remarks attributed to them. Men were married to women. Women were married to men. The sin was adultery, and fornication.

    Thank you for your article and attentive responses to the comments.

  • brad

    Joe,
    Am i missing something or do you equate allowing people liberty to sin under the law with advocating sin. I think people should be free to fornicate under the law but I still call them to repent. I personally think greed is sin but under the law I think people can spend their money selfishly. I give people the right to believe that marriage to a person of the same sex will make them happy but I disagree with them. There is a huge difference between protecting peoples liberty and approving how they exercise that liberty

    • Ashley R

      re: greed...which law are you referring to?
      there actually are laws against greed (ie: stealing money is often a result of greed)

      laws are manmade. it's one thing to "follow" the law, but you may still disagree with the law.
      you may also vote against a law. you may also advocate for a new law or changes in the law.
      so, this whole "law" argument doesn't hold water. sorry!

  • http://www.christianvagabond.com Christian Vagabond

    It's extremely dishonest (and deceptive) to change Bell's quote so "God" is spelled in lowercases. Every other website with this quote spells it as Bell intended it: in uppercases, to indicate Bell's reverence. The only reason to consciously change it is to try to slyly turn people here against Bell. I'm not a fan of Bell, but this was classless.

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  • http://jmsmith.org JM Smith

    "... if believers had not exchanged the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob for the God of faux-love, cultural acceptance, and open theism."

    This is a foolish comment by the author. "Open Theism" has nothing to do with this issue and it's disingenuous of the author to equate the two. I'm not an Open Theist, but seeing them get slammed for no reason is what makes so many of us who would otherwise be on board with much of what's said in the article is a big part of why so many evangelicals don't want to be associated too closely with TGC.

  • Rocco

    Scripture clearly condemns homosexuality - Romans 1 among other texts make this clear. The issue is should believers trust secular government at any level with marriage? No saint would endorse or want a license from the govt. to have children - this would be seen as extreme. So why do believers want permission via a govt. license from the state to marry? Also consider that there is no mandate in Scripture for the church to seek to limit sin by the secular govt. The reality is that marriage has been weakened by allowing the government to be involved. This problem will only get worse over time as more and more states adopt homosexual marriage. The best solution is to completely remove the state from marriage.

  • John Hofmann

    Look, I get that you guys think gay marriage is immoral from a religious standpoint but you need to realize that your personal beliefs are just that: personal. You can feel as bad about it as you want but you have to be humble enough to realize that your beliefs cannot be allowed to impinge on the civil rights of other citizens. There's a very important gap between religious beliefs and political rights. Your set of beliefs is not final, not unanimous, and frankly not important when it comes to what a person can and cannot do in this country.

    When we're dealing with non-religious things it's important to look at things from other angles than your own. Take for example the sentence in the article that says by approving gay marriage we are actually hating the gays. From a non-religious standpoint that is both infuriating and laughable. I want my cousin and uncle to be able to get married and I want that out of love. I don't believe in your definition of sin.

    • Douglas Johnson

      John Hoffman writes:

      Look, I get that you guys think gay marriage is immoral from a religious standpoint but you need to realize that your personal beliefs are just that: personal.

      John, is it just personal that, as a result of the redefinition of marriage, children are being forced into fatherless and motherless homes? Is it just personal that our next generation of boys is being taught in school that it is not a problem if homes are without a father?

      • John Hofmann

        Since when do public school teach kids anything about marriage?

    • JohnM

      John Hoffman,

      If we are correct in our view of same sex marriage then we cannot objectively view it as a civil right, after we cannot say there is a "right" do a thing that is wrong, even if we decide it should be tolerated.

      But leaving that aside, and perhaps speaking for myself, I would be willing to mostly take a 1 Corinthians 5:12 stance where I can. But "you guys" may not be willing to allow us even that. Same sex marriage has the effect, has the intention, of forcing society's endorsment of homosexuality. We Christians' are part of society, for the moment.

      I doubt the very expression of our views will be tolerated much longer, not when "sexual orientation" is a category protected by law, like race, gender, and ethnicity. Perhaps our silent beliefs will be ignored, perhaps you will allow us a ghettoized existence. Or perhaps not even that, perhaps you will play thought police and root out unacceptable opinions. Hint: When "you guys" call us haters,compare us to racists, and make up names like "homophobe" you do nothing to allay our concerns.

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  • Kim

    Thank you Joe. Your article was convicting and gave me a lot to think about. But as an Evangelical Christian who is trying to hear God's leading on how we are to address this issue as believers, I have some questions.

    First, I believe that homosexuality is a sin. The Scriptures clearly teach that. The Scriptures also teach that premarital sex, adultery, and divorce (except for the reasons of infidelity and abandonment) are sin. These three sins all compromise the sanctity of marriage. Do you believe that as Christians we should fight for our government to make premarital sex, adultery, and divorce (for any other reasons other than the two given in Scripture) illegal? It seems like a ridiculous question right? And if you do believe we should fight for that, where do we stop? The Scriptures also teach that it would be a sin for a divorced person to remarry. Should we fight to make that illegal too? How about gossip and lying? Should we fight to make those sins illegal too? And would it be fair for me to accuse anyone unwilling to fight to make those things illegal as being someone who is against God's Word? I don't think so. By the logic you've provided in your article, I could similarly argue that if we believers aren't fighting to protect the sanctity of marriage (and that sexual relationships should remain only in a marital relationship)we have, as you have stated, "...stood with the forces opposed to God's Word." So for me, it's not a question of "are you for or against same-sex marriage?" It's a matter of the law and to support the legality of same-sex marriages does not mean you no longer think it's a sin. I believe we should continue to make it legal for someone to have premarital sex if they want to, but I do not believe that protecting someone's legal right to do so means I no longer believe it is a sin. So, my question to you is: Should we Christians "fight" to make all sins illegal? And if not, why not?

  • Joe Carter

    Should we Christians "fight" to make all sins illegal? And if not, why not?

    Since several people have asked similar questions, I thought I'd post a response here.

    I think the first clarification that needs to be made is between (a) fighting to make a sin illegal (which, along with the legal prohibition adds an element of societal disapproval), and (b) fighting to make a sin (or related activity) legal (which, along with the legal acceptance adds an element of societal approval).

    When I wrote my article I assumed it would be uncontroversial and obvious that most evangelicals would agree that position A is a matter of prudence (sometimes we should and sometimes we shouldn't) and position B would be something we should never do. Since those points are not as widely shared as I had assumed, I agree that I have a duty to defend that assumption.

    No Christian—including theocrats—believes that all sins should be illegal, just as no one believes that there aren't any sins that should be illegal. So the question is what principles do we use to decide which sins should be illegal? Answering that question is more difficult that some people realize.

    For instance, several people have said that we don't have a Biblical mandate to impose our religious views on unbelievers. To a large extent, I agree. But it also seems obvious that Christians cannot even live in a representative democracy as Christians (i.e., be salt and light) unless we are willing to advocate for legal and societal changes that lead to justice, protection of the innocent, and neighbor-love.

    Consider, for instance, the case of adults engaging in sexual relations (whether consensual or not) with young adolecents. I doubt anyone here would say that such behavior should *not* be illegal. Yet how did such laws come about? Well, in Western nations is occurred largely because Christians (whether citizens or government leaders) decided that it was a type of sin that should be prohibited. We didn't side with those who wanted to keep engaging in such behavior simply on the grounds that we wanted to defend their "liberty" to do evil. We recognize that some evils should be prohibited.

    Now let's consider a more recent, and more controversial, position: the criminalization of sodomy. The laws against sodomy were only struck down 10 years ago. And while most people—including most Christians—would now say that such laws should never have existed, this is minority view in the history of America, much less in the history of Christianity (in an upcoming book review, I'll explain how that view was pushed by the ACLU until it became the norm for almost everyone). Most atheists in 18th century would be shocked and appalled that modern Christians had such a low view of morality and law that they would think sodomy should be legal.

    Now the arguments used by Christians to make sodomy illegal may not convince Christians today. We may say that we should not try to reinstate such laws despite the fact that we believe homosexual behavior is a serious sin. I think we have the freedom to determine that it would not be prudent to try to criminalize such behavior. But I think we are also fooling ourselves by assuming we have good reasons for our positions when, in truth, we probably just don't want to come across as "fundamentalists" who are trying to impose our views on others.

    But now let's take up position B. One of the reasons I claimed that we are making an idol of "American libertarian freedom" is because we have bought into the idea (promoted primarily, though certainly not exclusively, by libertarianism) that we own our bodies and should be able to do with them what we want as long as we are not directly harming another person. With all due respect to my fellow Christians who identify as political libertarians, this is not a Biblical view—at all. No one "owns themselves" for we all, believer and nonbeliever alike, belong to God. Sometimes God restrains the evil we do (whether we do it against others or to ourselves) directly. Other times he uses outside forces (including government) to limit wickedness. God gives us freedom to do good—there is no "freedom" to do evil. When it appears that we are doing evil "of our own free will" it is because we do not recognize or admit that our will is enslaved to sin. There can be no "freedom to sin" in the true sense of the word freedom because sin itself is a form of bondage and slavery.

    Now I want to make it clear—because I know some people are ready to jump on this point—that this does not give the anyone the right to completely control the behavior of another person. God owns us—not the State, not Society, not our neighbor. We should be guided by God's Word when he gives us the freedom to make laws for ourselves (as we do in America), but again, this does not mean that we are required to make everything that is a sin illegal.

    However, since God owns everyone we have no right and no authority to aid in their enslavement. A Christian who claims to oppose homosexual behavior and yet is endorsing its normalization in society, it's protected status under the law, and its perversion of the institution of marriage is directly opposing God and hating his neighbor. It would be like helping a free man sell himself into slavery. It's a replacement of God with a political idol (e.g., people own themselves and should be able to mostly do what they want). That is a perversion of Christianity that none of us should find tolerable.

    • Scott O’Donohoe

      Joe -

      Thanks for taking the time to engage with your readers. Greatly appreciated.

      I'm having a hard time understanding what filter you advocate using when determining when it's prudent for Christians to fight for the presence of biblical morality in our government and when it's not. It's true that God owns us all, so where do you draw the line from sin to sin on a legislative standpoint? It's easy to see that carried out into into a sweeping black-and-white, all-or-nothing approach, but since you don't think that should be the case, what helps us guide our thinking in this?

      I apologize if that was made explicit in your comment or elsewhere, but I (and perhaps others) or struggling to understand. I would consider myself more libertarian than anything else, and - although your tone has been a bit jarring towards others who would think along the same lines as myself - I'm open to correction on this issue.

      Thanks.

      • Joe Carter

        Scott,

        I'm probably starting to sound like a libertarian basher, ain't I? Sorry about that, that's not my intention (and if I could write the article again, I'm rephrase my position and use a different term than libertarian). Before I get to the heart of your question (which is an excellent one), let me say a few more words about my view of libertarianism.

        I think there are a few political philosophies that are clearly incompatible with Christianity (e.g., Maoism), many that *can be made* compatible with Christianity, and none that *intrinsically are* compatible with Christianity. For that reason, I think there will always be tension between Christians who want to incorporate and synthesize their religious beliefs (which are defining for a believer) with their political ideology. That's not an easy task for any political belief system but I think it is made even more difficult with libertarianism because the secular version has a defining principle (the harm principle) and view of anthropology that is often at odds with Christianity. I'm not saying, of course, that good Christians can't be libertarians. But I do think that Christians have a hard time being good libertarians. (At least, they probably won't be popular with their fellow secular libertarians.)

        I think what makes libertarianism so appealing is because is simplifies the position a person should take on a broad range of issues. If you start with libertarian principles, you can generally determine a clear-cut libertarian position on most issues. That's not a problem if libertarianism is your defining philosophy. But it can cause problems when Christians—who have other beliefs that must take precedent—try to determine where they stand.

        Unfortunately, too many Christians think "I can be a libertarian and be a Christian" (which is true!) and then automatically assume that they can therefore adopt the standard libertarian position on the issue (definitely not true). Even those who don't consider themselves libertarian or liberal have adopted the philosophically libertarian or liberal position on the issue of SSM without considering whether as Christians they have a right to do so.

        Okay, back to your question. What helps us guide our thinking in this? Great question, and as a conservative and Christian here is my deeply unsatisfying answer: Prudence should be our guide.

        In general I think it is prudent to not tear down fences, because it is nearly impossible to put them back in place. And it's often not prudent to put up fences where none existed before.

        Take, for example, the Prohibition amendment to the Constitution. I understand the reasons Christians in early 20th century America supported that measure. But they were trying to limit sinful activities (drunkenness, abuse) by prohibiting an activity that was not necessarily a sin (distributing and consuming alcohol). That was imprudent, as soon became clear.

        Erecting fences that were torn down, is a tougher issue. Consider no-fault divorce. Many Christians at the time believed they were being compassionate by weakening God's standard for divorce. Instead, they created problems that our country will deal with for as long as it exists. Supporting no-fault divorce was a terrible idea, but advocating for the return of such laws is probably imprudent. Don't get me wrong, if my state were to put it to a vote, I'd vote to abolish no-fault divorce. But that is unlikely to happen so we probably shouldn't waste a lot of effort pushing the issue. (Most all of the SSM advocates who say that heterosexuals are the reason for the destruction of marriage are right—and yet they'd fight us tooth-and-nail if we tried to fix the problem they say we created.)

        And then there are fence-removing issues, like SSM. No culture in history before 2001 every believed that marriage could be anything other than a man-woman relationship. Yet for some reason, Western culture has decided it is a brilliant idea to tear down this particular fence (and yet keep up the one that keeps out the polygamists). Once it's done, though, there is almost no way we'll be able to put it back.

        Christians should be clear that homosexual behavior is harmful to the people who engage in it. Anyone who doesn't admit that it is physically and spiritually harmful simply has no examined the issue closely enough. That is why there is no question that to support issues that advance homosexual behavior is advocating that harm be done to their neighbor. Harming our neighbors goes against the very command of Jesus. So no matter what our political instincts tell us we should allow, we can't *support* making something legal (as opposed to making something illegal) that is directly harmful of our fellow citizens.

        • JohnM

          "No culture in history before 2001 every believed that marriage could be anything other than a man-woman relationship."

          What happened in 2001? I ask because just yesterday I was discussing the issue with a fellow Christian and I was wondering, When was the tipping point? Although the push has been there for a long time only recently has everyone rushed to jump aboard the bandwagon. When did a (reported) majority decide homosexuality is normal same sex marriage makes sense. I can see some of the contributing factors, but when did we reach the tipping point? Any ideas?

          • LF

            2001: The Netherlands became the first country in the world to legalize same sex marriages.

        • http://www.christianvagabond.com Christian Vagabond

          "[i]So no matter what our political instincts tell us we should allow, we can't *support* making something legal (as opposed to making something illegal) that is directly harmful of our fellow citizens[/i]"

          But who gets to decide what is harmful? Some Christians believe that television is harmful. Others believe that our processed food industry produces harmful products. So what percentage of Christians is necessary for our nation to officially deem something harmful? And is that body of Christians restricted exclusively to evangelicals, or can Catholics and Episcopalians weigh in on what constitutes harmful elements or behavior?

    • http://www.christianvagabond.com Christian Vagabond

      "Consider, for instance, the case of adults engaging in sexual relations (whether consensual or not) with young adolecents"

      Bad example. In Biblical times it was the norm for men to marry women of adolescent age. As soon as a woman could bear children (usually by age 12-13), her family sold her off. BTW, traditionaly iti s beleives that Mary was 12 or 13 when she bore Jesus. Are you arguing that Joseph was guilty of evil, since he was at least 20 (and in some traditions he was believed to be much older)?

      • Lori

        Right. Joe Carter is either unaware of the purpose of age of consent laws or is willfully misleading people about them. The original intention had nothing to do with thinking that relationships between teen girls and adult men were wrong, but with wanting to make sure that parents had control over who their daughters married, and in particular making sure that men wouldn't impregnate young women and then leave them. The age of consent was often set significantly higher than the age at which women could marry, allowing parents to approve of marriages for their young teen daughters but criminalizing having a sexual relationship with a teen girl without her parents' consent. These laws were about parental control, not any societal belief that men in their 20s marrying teen girls was wrong.

        And I'm really not sure why Joe would bring up age of consent and sodomy, rather than adultery. Adultery was illegal for a long time. Most Christians today believe it should not be. Is that because they think adultery really isn't sinful? I doubt it. Is it because of some conspiracy by the ACLU? Doubtful. It's because they don't believe that a person who cheats on their spouse should be punished by the state for it, no matter how sinful it is. The same obviously holds true in the case of sodomy, and statutory rape is different only because we have come to view that behavior as abusive toward children, not because we think it's sinful. Otherwise, we'd make premarital sex illegal entirely. Again, the reason Christians don't want to see premarital sex outlaws isn't because of a con job by the ACLU or because they think premarital sex is just fine, but because they don't feel there should be criminal penalties for every sin.

    • Leon Mire

      Joe,
      Your defense of your position is quite articulate. But I can't help feeling uneasy about it, because it seems to lead down a dangerous (legitimate) slippery slope.

      The same reasoning could be used against the freedom of religion, and your only objection would seem to be that we unfortunately live in a society that guarantees freedom of religion, so it is "imprudent" to fight against it. It would be Nice if worship of other gods was illegal in America, but alas, it is not, and we have to pick our battles. At the risk of being tiresome, I'm again going to use your reasoning to argue against the freedom of religion (in theory if not in practice).

      Worship of other Gods is a sin, for God demands exclusive worship of Him and nothing else. No one "owns themselves" for we all, believer and nonbeliever alike, belong to God. There should be no "freedom to worship other gods" because to do so is such a serious sin. There can be no "freedom to sin" in the true sense of the word freedom because sin itself is a form of bondage and slavery. Christians should be clear that worship of other gods is harmful to the people who engage in it. Anyone who doesn't admit that it is physically and spiritually harmful simply has not examined the issue closely enough. That is why there is no question that to support issues that advance freedom of religion is advocating that harm be done to their neighbor.

      As far as I can tell, the only difference between this and your argument against same-sex marriage is that we are in situation A, and not situation B. That is, while Christians should not push to make freedom of religion ILlegal, they should not push to make freedom of religion legal, if they happen to be in a time and place where it is not.

      If you lived in America before the ratification of the Constitution, it seems as though you'd be against the First Amendment, possibly complaining that "No culture has ever believed that individuals have the freedom to worship whatever god they choose." Maybe you would even point out that the Old Testament clearly established state worship of God alone, as the punishment for worship of other gods was death. And Jesus, after all, commanded us to make disciples of all NATIONS.

      So as I see it Joe, there are three ways you can respond to this:
      1. You can acknowledge that in an ideal government, freedom of religion would be nonexistent, for the very same reasons that same-sex marriage would be nonexistent. If you do this, I will leave you alone, because I don't think there's any common political ground between the two of us.

      2. You can point out some relevant difference between same-sex marriage and freedom of religion. For example, you could say that worshiping other gods is actually harmless, whereas same-sex marriage is very harmful. I'd be really surprised if you put SSM above the First Commandment. But maybe there are other relevant differences I'm missing.

      3. You could abandon this defense of your opposition to same-sex marriage.

      I hope I'm not making a straw man of your position. You did briefly touch on the comparison with religious freedom, but all you said was "To a large extent, I agree." But why? Why do you agree that we should have the "freedom" to sin by worshiping false gods, but not the "freedom" to sin by marrying members of the same sex? It seems like worshiping false gods is the basis for all other sins, so why shouldn't it be illegal?

      You also said that Christians should be "willing to advocate for legal and societal changes that lead to justice, protection of the innocent, and neighbor-love." How does advocating for the right to worship false gods do any of those things, from your point of view? Doesn't the worship of other gods, in your worldview, lead to lawlessness, nihilism, and selfishness? And why Wouldn't permitting same-sex marriage lead to justice, protection of the innocent and neighbor-love? It seems obvious to me that it would lead to all of those things, in both Christians and in homosexuals. Several million more people would have equal protection under the law (greater justice); it would neither harm nor help the protection of the innocent; and homosexuals would be less likely to see Christians as "the enemy" if they stopped blocking their right to marry, leading to greater neighbor-love. Christians, in turn, would be more likely to have an audience to share the Gospel, and potentially convince them to change their ways. The use of legal force against homosexuals promotes the opposite of all of these things. So what basis do you have for still opposing the legalization same-sex marriage, even if you continue to regard it as a sin?

      I hope I'm advancing the dialogue, and not making my attacks on your position too personal. I know I'm not a Christian, but I'm trying to make an internal critique, and trying to make sense of what you say through your eyes. I'm not accusing you of being a theocrat, just trying to understand how your principles, if consistently followed, would not lead to a Christian theocracy.

      • Mike S

        Best response so far Leon. The problems with this essay/opinion are too many to list. Essays like this do nothing to advance the purposes of the gospel coalition. Stuff like this should not be posted.

        Seems like the author has some legal training/knowledge as well as skill in argument, but he uses it to manipulate. He uses meaningless reformed christianese to articulate half-truths. Sure it strikes a chord for some, maybe even for most of this blogs audience, but for all the wrong reasons. The topic had potential but the essay falls flat. Wrong direction gospel coalition blog.

  • Jacquelin Duffy

    What a wonderful article! You put into words what I feel in my heart. Homosexuals have always proselatysed for their way of life, with the objective of converting young people to this abomination. Unfortunately, they seem to be winning the struggle for souls, since Christians are not fighting the good fight.

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  • Kim

    Joe, I had a lot of trouble understanding your response to my question. I read it three times and still don't understand. It seems to me that you are cherry picking on what sins, in your opinion, are worth fighting for (either by protecting or discouraging) and which ones are not. You accuse Christians who support the legalization of ssm as being opposed to God, but aren't you, in reality, doing the same thing too (opposing God) when you complacently sit by and allow other sins to be legally protected through your silence and inaction?

  • Josh

    I don't believe it is loving our neighbor at all for the Church to impose the moral standards of God through the use of government force. History has shown us that when the Church—while originally well-intentioned—has become too interwoven with government, this at best leads to pharisaical living and at worst leads to corruption and oppression. The transformation of the Gospel can only be done at the individual level, voluntarily, through love. Government as an institution is not equipped to do this well. We should be voices that speak truth into our families, communities, and culture. Advocating for the rights endowed by the Creator is a noble endeavor, but that means we release control of others' choices.

    • Joe Carter

      I don't believe it is loving our neighbor at all for the Church to impose the moral standards of God through the use of government force.

      What about on issues like pederasty? That was a clear example of Christians imposing the moral standards of God through the use of government force. Just because even secularists have adopted our position does not negate the fact that it probably wouldn't have come about how Christians not imposed it. The same is true for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of other issues.

      If it was wrong to impose that standard, then shouldn't we as Christians repent and then work to reverse those laws that were based on Christian morality? If not, then why is it wrong to continue to push for such laws? I'm not sure where you're position would allow us to draw a clear line between what was acceptable in the past and what is not now.

      • Lori

        Leaving aside the homosexual aspect of age of consent legislation, I'm really confused about why you think that men in their 20s having relationships with post-pubescent teen women is somehow against the moral standard of God? Such relationships would have been the norm in biblical times, for much of Christian history, and in much of the Christian world today. Relationships that we now see as terribly criminal--between, say, a guy who his 20 and a teen girl who is 15--and that will result in jail time and a lifetime on a sex offender registry were seen as perfectly normal and acceptable just a few generations ago, as long as the girls' parents were okay with the relationship. (That's why the laws were in place to begin with, to give a minor girl's parents the authority to stop a relationship they didn't want to continue to or to force a man who had impregnated their daughter to marry her.)

        You are being arbitrary. Adultery is a great sin. And, laws against adultery were, far more than age of consent laws, based on Christian morality. Do you think adultery should become illegal again, and enforced? Do you think that people who cheat on their spouses should face criminal penalties?

  • Jake

    Separation of Church and State is vital dude.

    Without a political society of pluralism we would not be able to practice our robust Christian faith publicly. You can't legislate morality. I'm a Christian, I believe that homosexuality is wrong, I'm not an open theist, and I support gay marriage politically. This has nothing to do with accepting sin, it has everything to do with protecting our freedom to worship and live according to our religious convictions in a pluralistic society.

  • Joshua

    I agree with so much in this article buuuut. . . (1) I am libertarian leaning and don't support the legalization of gay marriage, and (2) I don't think that loving my neighbor as myself is necessarily the primary function of government -- after all, if our government can't even properly define marriage, do we really want a secular government deciding what the definition of "love" is?

  • DoNotGiveInToEvil

    The apostle Paul was well aware that the OT treated sexual immorality with the death penalty, but applied the civil law of Israel to the church by expulsion (1 Cor 5:1-13)! Instead of seeing it as a guide for how Caesar should uphold the seventh commandment by his sword, he tells the church to enforce the command to "purge the evil person from among you" within its realm. The covenant people of God used to have physical borders (Israel), but no longer under the new covenant (the church is a kingdom without borders). Hence, this enforcement of the seventh command was not to be done physically(as much of what the OT prefigures materially is fulfilled spiritually) but with the more significant judicial power found in the keys of the kingdom. The civil law of Israel was never meant to apply in a 1 to 1 way to the state as we know it. There are "general equity" applications that lawful courts should apply, but most frequently when we think about the "civil law of Israel" our minds should immediately go to "how does this apply to the church?" Not the state.

  • Cherie

    So shall we be issue oriented and preach about homosexuality, idolatry and materialism. Or shall we preach Christ and Him crucified and watch the Holy Spirit do the work He is meant to do? Don't issues sidetrack us?

  • http://chrismorton.info Chris Morton

    Joe, your argument is cohesive only when you admit that you holding Niebuhr's "Christ against Culture" stance (http://www.chrismorton.info/2013/03/28/the-churchs-5-responses-to-gay-marriage/). The answer to the question of your title is "when other people started reading the Bible differently than Joe does."

    I do not understand is your vitriol. Yes, Jesus overturned tables in the temple. But this is not a the temple, full of people claiming to worship God. It's the internet. And you're not Jesus.

    When accusers brought another "sexual idolatrer" before Jesus, he encouraged them to only cast stones if they were without sin. Food for thought.

    You are doing a great job of rallying your base. But I am not sure what good you are doing for the cause of Christ

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  • Kim

    Joe,
    I've been thinking a lot about this issue lately as it seems everyone else has too. You've been great about answering everyone's questions, and I admire your patience.

    I do have one last question for you if you have the time to answer it. What is the difference if the government awards marital status to a homosexual couple from them awarding marital status to a person who was once divorced (for reasons other than infidelity) but wants to re-marry someone else. If homosexuality is a sin (as I believe it is) and if re-marrying someone when you have been divorced (except for infidelity)is a sin as well, then what's the difference, spiritually speaking? The Scriptures clearly state that to re-marry if you are divorced is the same thing as committing adultery. Many churches will even re-marry people when they've been divorced for far less egregious reasons than infidelity. Additionally, I doubt most Christian companies or corporations would have a moral problem providing health benefits to an employee who's acquired their current spouse after a prior divorce from someone else. Isn't this employee living in an adulterous relationship in God's eyes even though the government says they're married? This seems to be very hypocritical of the Church, and I'm a part of the Church so this bothers me. I heard someone who is a proponent of ssm say "If we homosexuals can't marry, you Christians can't re-marry." If we're applying God's standard for marriage, I'd say they're about right. Why don't we hear Christian leaders commenting on this apparent hypocrisy within our own ranks? I would love to know your thoughts on this.

  • Jonathan

    "You can't legislate morality."

    Of course we can! We do it all the time. In addition, I don't see anything immoral about telling, let's say murder or thieves, that they are wrong. For example.

    • Lori

      I think it's important to realize what people are saying when they say "you can't legislate morality." Obviously we can and do, and they understand that. But, what they are saying is, "In a pluralistic democracy, you cannot legislate your specific sectarian morality in a society where many, many other people have a different view."

      • The Repentant Curmudgeon

        Lori,

        Your read is how I have always taken the "you can't legislate morality" to mean. And my response has always been to say that every law ever written, at some level, legislates morality. The line is usually used by liberals against Christians.

        But I was surprised to hear a few conservative folks using the line at my church recently, and I asked them about it. Their interpretation of the line is that "you can't expect a law to change moral behavior," with which I mostly agree. It's interesting to note, however, how opposed these two interpretations of the line are.

        • sdb

          TRC,
          You might find Machen worth reading on this topic.
          http://oldlife.org/2013/01/old-life-new-year-revelries/

          I'll ask what I asked below, how is a Christian justified in supporting the freedom to worship? If a libertarian approach to religious freedom is OK, why not a libertarian to sexual freedom? I know we can't control what people think, but that applies to both sexual and religious deviancy. Isn't worshiping a false god or worshiping God wrongly a far graver sin than sexual deviancy? Yet blasphemous, heretical, idolatrous worship is protected by the 1st amendment (the Catholic mass according the WCF). Why is it not controversial to say that people should be free from discrimination or state interference if they engage in the sin of idolatry (indeed gifts they give to support that idolatry should be tax deductible) while it is controversial to say that people should be free from discrimination or state interference if they engage in sinful sexual activities (indeed, the tax and inheritance benefits should be afforded such couples)? I'm genuinely curious about how folks reconcile support for a libertarian approach to religion while condemning a libertarian approach to sex.

          • The Repentant Curmudgeon

            I'll ask what I asked below, how is a Christian justified in supporting the freedom to worship?

            A Christian is justified in supporting freedom of religion (not "freedom to worship") because according to Christianity you can't force someone into belief.

            If a libertarian approach to religious freedom is OK, why not a libertarian to sexual freedom?

            As far as sexual freedom goes, a Christian would say you are free to behave any way you like. But we would also say that exercising that freedom in a way that turns you away from God is damaging to you.

            Isn't worshiping a false god or worshiping God wrongly a far graver sin than sexual deviancy?

            I am not quite qualified to say which sin does the most damage to the person inflicting this harm on him or herself.

            Yet blasphemous, heretical, idolatrous worship is protected by the 1st amendment (the Catholic mass according the WCF). Why is it not controversial to say that people should be free from discrimination or state interference if they engage in the sin of idolatry (indeed gifts they give to support that idolatry should be tax deductible) while it is controversial to say that people should be free from discrimination or state interference if they engage in sinful sexual activities (indeed, the tax and inheritance benefits should be afforded such couples)?

            Once again, Christian orthodoxy holds that you have free will to worship God or not. That's not to say that choosing to worship a false idol is uncontroversial. We can't, out of a love of neighbor, ever be indifferent to that. But I can't--and wouldn't--force you to do otherwise. Same thing holds with sexual deviancy of any sort (including fornication). More specifically you write:

            people should be free from discrimination or state interference if they engage in sinful sexual activities

            What does this have to do with the government redefinition of marriage? Men are free to do a lot of things that we view as harmful to themselves ranging from sodomy, to polygamy, to fornication, to pederasty, to incest, etc. But for a Christian to acknowledge that you are free to do these things doesn't mean that we should redefine marriage to suit any of these behaviors.

            Somehow you are confusing my opposition to the government redefinition of marriage--something the government has no authority to do--with government interference of sexual behaviors.

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  • Phillip

    I have to take issue with the categorization of the first group (those that value a libertarian approach to government). I agree with the author that homosexuality is a sin, but to carry out his argument towards libertarian minded Christians, should we be petitioning the government to pass a law that makes it illegal to covet items? To take the Lord's name in vain? etc.

    Those are also sins that I take seriously, just as I do the sin of homosexuality, but believing that it is not the governments place to regulate those actions does not mean that I take the sin less serious. It simply means I do not believe that the government is capable or should regulate them.

  • http://paperfences.wordpress.com Sara F.

    "You do not love your neighbor by encouraging them to engage in actions that invoke God's wrath (Psalm 5:4-5; Romans 1:18). As Christians we may be required to tolerate ungodly behavior, but the moment we begin to endorse the same then we too have become suppressers of the truth. You cannot love your neighbor and want to see them excluded from the kingdom of Christ (Eph. 5:5)."

    SO well said -- I believe this is the crux of the issue! Here are some other reasons to support Christian/traditional marriage (though none as compelling as the one above):

    http://paperfences.wordpress.com/2013/03/30/top-five-reasons-to-support-gay-marriage-and-why-those-reasons-are-still-not-good-enough/

  • Mark

    If marriage is only for the Christian spiritual, why aren't Christians fighting against Muslim marriage, Jewish Marriage, Atheist Marriage? They can all achieve marriage status under U.S., but according to this article, shouldn't we try to interfere with them as well?

  • William

    Joe - thanks again for your work with TGC. Always appreciated.

    I'm concerned about this quote: "For too long those of us in the church have grumbled to ourselves or remained silent about this open idolatry. We fear that if we point out too clearly or forcefully that you can't both serve God and endorse sin that they may leave our congregations. We seem more concerned with losing the volunteer for the Sunday morning nursery or the regular check in the offering plate than we do with the souls of those in open and unrepentant rebellion against God."

    My question is - why generalize like that? I am aware of so, so many churches who are boldly discussing the "open idolatry" you describe. Those in these churches are neither grumbling nor remaining silent. Painting such a bleak portrait of contemporary church engagement with this issue seems to be at odds with what I'm seeing on the ground. Why discourage Christians when there is so much encouraging news to report? Or why not give at least a more balanced picture? I live in a relatively small city, and I can give you names of churches and tell you exactly what they're doing to deal biblically with this issue.

  • Daniel B

    Joe says: "No Christian has the right to endorse evil and justify it by claiming it is part of their philosophy of governance."

    It is incorrect to equate "I believe government should not use its power to forbid people from doing X" with "I endorse X".

    Joe says: "Consider, for instance, the case of adults engaging in sexual relations (whether consensual or not) with young adolecents. I doubt anyone here would say that such behavior should *not* be illegal"

    I would, at least in some instances, because the laws are completely arbitrary and often applied in a very sexist manner. A 17 and 14 year old is ok, but 16 and 19 is not - why? A 21 year old man having consensual sex with a high schooler girl makes him a criminal offender, but reverse the ages and there's almost no chance of any penalties. Even the phrase "statuatory rape" is incorrect - whatever it is, it is not RAPE and calling consensual relations "rape" is an insult to actual rape victims.

    Tim says: "I'm not saying we should support and endorse gay marriage but on the other hand we shouldn't be so shocked when worldly government passes worldly laws "

    Exactly. We should expect dead people to act dead. We've got it all backwards - first bring them life, and then we can worry about if they follow God's rules. Trying to get them to follow his rules before they follow himself is a futile plan. Even if the church wins this fight, it will not bring any life. It will be like Pearl Harbor - a victory in a battle that shouldn't have been fought in the first place.

  • sdb

    "You do not love your neighbor by encouraging them to engage in actions that invoke God's wrath (Psalm 5:4-5; Romans 1:18). As Christians we may be required to tolerate ungodly behavior, but the moment we begin to endorse the same then we too have become suppressers of the truth. You cannot love your neighbor and want to see them excluded from the kingdom of Christ (Eph. 5:5)."

    Why is it uncontroversial to be libertarian when it comes to religious worship, but not libertarian when it comes to sexual ethics? Couldn't everything said about forbidding gay unions be said about legalizing blasphemous worship (and making donations to support it tax exempt at that!). On what grounds can the Christian support the repeal of blue laws and laws legalizing idolatry (the first amendment) and be forbidden from concluding that for the good of civil society gay couples should have their partnerships legally recognized? For example, I can see why one might disagree with Misty Irons (a much more thoughtful opponent than Bell to be sure!) for political reasons, but I don’t see why her view is anymore problematic for a Christian than one who supports the first amendment. I'm not being facetious, I really don't see the distinction.

  • http://embraceparadox.tumblr.com Matt

    It was an OK article. He's right about not changing moral standards in the name of faux-love. However, he's incredibly imprecise in his hand waving treatment of open theism which he completely misrepresents.

    Additionally, regarding his critique of the libertarian idea of freedom, it should be pointed out that most people of the Calvinist and evangelical thinkers tend to have undercurrents of theonomy in their theologies based on (in my opinion) the leftover remnants of Rome's combination of empire and church. I don't think in a secular society that Christians should regulate the consensual sexual norms of others, and like C.S. Lewis, I might even draw a distinction between the civil union of empire and the sacrament of marriage in the church.

    I think the church needs to be politically powerless to maintain its prophetic voice. It has less to do with Libertarian freedom and a lot more to do with an embrace of Anabaptism political theology as well as an embrace of the early church's lack of political power.

  • Harry Watson

    100% of the unregenerate are doomed...regardless of the issues they fight for. They are blind, yet boast sight. They are chained and imprisoned yet claim "we can see and are free". But, it requires the sovereign God to give them sight and open eyes, it cannot be done themselves. I was once blind too, yet now I can see...thanks only to God's mercy. Its only the regenerate that understand and call all blind prisoners to seek grace and mercy for God's had to give them sight. They will not, nor CANNOT understand this comment, until their eyes are opened.

    • Melody

      Does that go for those that claim to believe in Christ but seem to be just as blind as the unbelievers using all kinds of worldly arguments to back up their position in favor of sin?

  • Jennifer

    Things are changing rapidly in American concerning this issue, as well as among Christians. I grew up believing that a person (always) chose homosexuality, that it was a clear choice in lifestyle. Now I believe that there are many who do not choose homosexuality. The Christian response is easy---love trumps everything. There is a great article going around on facebook, asking Christians to love without conditions (http://www.redletterchristians.org/the-f-word/). In this case, the man is choosing a life of celibacy because he realizes to act on his homosexuality is sinful. Being homosexual is not sinful (though we are all obviously sinful in nature), acting on it is. Therefore, the Christian response is both to love, support, and encourage in the truth. Yes, this means taking a stand for marriage between a man and a woman only. Yes, it means standing for true teaching on homosexuality. It also means embracing the person with love. Look, there is not much I can agree with Rob Bell on, but his book title "Love Wins" is good in that respect--God's love and mercy always outweighs what we see with our finite eyes as his judgement. His judgement is real, and it is for all. Lord have mercy on us all that we would treat all who are made in God's image with love, as whatever we do until men we do until Christ.

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  • Emily

    Very well said.

  • Connor E

    I won't be returning to see what kind of response I've evoked, so debate among yourselves....I think that Christians have the authority to call out other Christians and declare what is biblical and what is obviously non-biblical. But we're not talking about something that has anything to do with the church, even if all of you believe that it does. If marriage was solely a Christian institution, why can Jews be married? Why can Muslims be married? Why can atheists be married, and a mixture of every other religion you could think of...There's no reason the government of the United States should withhold marriage rights to a consenting adult couple who possesses their own ideologies which justify their own personal lifestyle. The core of this issue is that Christianity is loosing its grasp upon this country. Obviously government, an entity which represents the people, will change when the people change. Sure, it's cool that you condemn Bible-believing Christians for supporting something that goes against the Bible. But, constitutionally, you and I cannot condemn those who do not believe in the Bible's teachings for doing what they believe to be okay.
    To answer the previously asked question, gay-marriage became unconstitutional the moment "a separation of Church and State" was inserted into the Constitution. All of your arguments are bogus.

  • Melody

    sdb

    I can't have a conversation with a catholic-hater. I just can't.

    Dr. Carson has been bullied out of speaking at the John Hopkins graduation by the LGBT. An elderly woman is being sued by a gay guy that she sold flowers to for nine years because she doesn't want to be a part of his wedding. He hugged her and then reported her to the attorney general of that state who has filed suit. She could lose her livelihood but "Christians" still feel it isn't their place to speak up for the way that God created us-one man and one woman. We will let the individuals that are supposed to be brothers and sisters suffer alone.

    It's like trying to explain colors to a blind person. Completely pointless.

  • sdb

    I'm sorry that I've left you with the impression that I am a catholic-hater. I am not. I do not, however, make any apology for holding fast to the WCF (a confession that many of the TGC allies adhere to as well). While I agree with the protestant reformers that the catholic mass is idolatrous, I certainly do not hate catholics and believe that they should be free to worship as they please. Of course I say the same thing about homosexuality - it is sinful, but I do not hate gays. I am uncertain about whether there is any principled difference between religious libertarianism and sexual libertarianism. You seemed to be quite confident in your position, so I was hoping you could shed some light on this distinction.

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