Friday, May 11, 2012

Legalizing Sin

* I wrote this in light of the conversations in Christian circles surrounding Obama's recent statement about condoning same-sex marriage.

At the risk of being unpopular among my fellow Christians, and the benefit of not being censored, I'm going to respond to Kevin DeYoung's recent article from The Gospel Coalition, point by point, 1 through 5, using scripture. Why? Because I think he is dead wrong, and his conclusions are seductively unChristian. Christians should not continue to oppose gay marriage. Some of the logical fallacies DeYoung presents are blatantly obvious, so rather than pointing them out, I'm going to stick with using some of Jesus' parables for my arguments against them. My interpretation of these parables, I should note, do not reflect their only application, and if you think I am misguided, by all means let me know with a comment. I intend to use this as a platform for truth, and make no reservation for unaccountability for myself.

Let me start by eliminating some false presuppositions based on my premise that may be unclear: I believe the Bible to be God's infallible scripture, and therefore acknowledge that the Bible explicitly calls Sodomy 'moral sin' (Jude 1:7Romans 1:24–271 Corinthians 6:9–10, 1 Timothy 1:9-11) according to Christianity.

*Edit: The NIV translates this as "Homosexuality", which may or may not fit with the original understanding of the word; I'm simply neutral on this issue at the moment, and the following argument does not address this nor seek to persuade you either way.

So we begin...

1. Every time the issue of gay marriage has been put to a vote by the people, the people have voted to uphold traditional marriage. Even in California. In fact, the amendment passed in North Carolina on Tuesday by a wider margin (61-39) than a similar measure passed six years ago in Virginia (57-42). The amendment passed in North Carolina, a swing state Obama carried in 2008, by 22 percentage points. We should not think that gay marriage in all the land is a foregone conclusion. To date 30 states have constitutionally defined marriage as between a man and a woman.
 If a Christian has an issue with changing a traditional constitution, we must consider what is at stake if we don't change. As in the parable of the Lost Sheep (Luke 15:3-7), The Good Shepherd willingly leaves his flock to search for the one who is lost. In order for this analogy to function, one requires the freedom to wander. What is at stake here is not even traditional marriage, per se; it is the oppression of freedom. The constitutional definition of marriage is not the definition as God has defined it. Christian marriage is between God and man. What God has joined together cannot be written and signed by our government to make it any more official. The ones who are lost are the ones in need of being validated as humans with rights. If the majority of people vote for something different than the garden of eden (where choice is freedom), and call it God's ideal, I think we're way off.

2. The promotion and legal recognition of homosexual unions is not in the interest of the common good. That may sound benighted, if not bigoted. But we must say it in love: codifying the indistinguishability of gender will not make for the “peace of the city.” It rubs against the grain of the universe, and when you rub against the grain of divine design you’re bound to get splinters. Or worse. The society which says sex is up to your own definition and the family unit is utterly fungible is not a society that serves its children, its women, or its own long term well being.
A society that relies on its government to define things such as sexual orientation is not a solution for gender confusion. This can be likened to putting a lamp under a bowl (Luke 8:16–18) in that government is elevated to uphold the morals of Jesus by creating a new norm, when in fact, this is idolatry. The only way to uphold Christian morals effectively is apart from the state, so that the light of Jesus can be visible. When we rely on government to uphold family values, we can expect things like gender distinguishability to be taken from us. Besides all this, it is benighted and bigoted to presuppose that homosexual parents desire to control the sexual orientation of their children.

3. Marriage is not simply the term we use to describe those relationships most precious to us. The word means something and has meant something throughout history. Marriage is more than a union of hearts and minds. It involves a union of bodies–and not bodies in any old way we please, as if giving your cousin a wet willy in the ear makes you married. Marriage, to quote one set of scholars, is a” comprehensive union of two sexually complementary persons who seal (consummate or complete) their relationship by the generative act—by the kind of activity that is by its nature fulfilled by the conception of a child. So marriage itself is oriented to and fulfilled by the bearing, rearing, and education of children.” This conjugal view of marriage states in complex language what would have been a truism until a couple generations ago. Marriage is what children (can) come from. Where that element is not present (at the level of sheer design and function, even if not always in fulfillment), marriage is not a reality. We should not concede that “gay marriage” is really marriage. What’s more, as Christians we understand that the great mystery of marriage can never be captured between a relationship of Christ and Christ or church and church.
The church lost the right to define legal marriage when we accepted tax benefits for married couples. Personally, I don't consider a marriage to be Christian unless the people in it are Christians. It's a different set of vows altogether. We can easily fall victim to judging others, to which I'm quickly reminded that while I was dead in sin, Christ died so I may live. The parable of the Two Debtors (Luke 7:36-47) shows us how more debt requires more grace, and pointing out when someone else doesn't measure up to my morals shows how little I could possibly love anyone.

4. Allowing for the legalization of gay marriage further normalizes what was until very recently, and still should be, considered deviant behavior. While it’s true that politics is downstream from culture, it’s also true that law is one of the tributaries contributing to culture. In our age of hyper-tolerance we try to avoid stigmas, but stigmas can be an expression of common grace. Who knows how many stupid sinful things I’ve been kept from doing because I knew my peers and my community would deem it shameful. Our cultural elites may never consider homosexuality shameful, but amendments that define marriage as one man and one woman serve a noble end by defining what is as what ought to be. We do not help each other in the fight for holiness when we allow for righteousness to look increasingly strange and sin to look increasingly normal.
Imposing Christian morals on society is no way to legislate a standard for living, let alone define deviant behaviour. Christianity, like [most] religions, is an opt-in relationship, and to say anything about someone who hasn't made that choice (and therefore doesn't accept our definition of sin), is simply inappropriate—EVEN IF our standards are too high for ourselves. The law was written on the hearts of man for the exclusive right of God to convict. Heterosexual marriage does not define nobility any more than being right handed. What defines nobility is the quality of your marriage. Righteousness will not look strange so long as we appear to be Wheat Among Weeds (Matthew 13:24-30). Since you and I as Christ-followers are mere servants, leave the harvesting to the harvesters.

5. We are naive if we think a laissez faire compromise would be enjoyed by all if only the conservative Christians would stop being so dogmatic. The next step after giving up the marriage fight is not a happy millennium of everyone everywhere doing marriage in his own way. The step after surrender is conquest. I’m not suggesting heterosexuals would no longer be able to get married. What I am suggesting is that the cultural pressure will not stop with allowing for some “marriages” to be homosexual. It will keep mounting until all accept and finally celebrate that homosexuality is one of Diversity’s great gifts. The goal is not for different expressions of marriage, but for the elimination of definitions altogether. Capitulating on gay marriage may feel like giving up an inch in bad law to gain a mile in good will. But the reality will be far different. For as in all of the devil’s bargains, the good will doesn’t last nearly so long as the law.
Besides being a slippery-slope fallacy in logic, this is also classic fear-mongering against an alleged agenda which should really have no bearing on how we should respond to them as people. The parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30–37) shows us how to love someone with an affliction, counter to religious priorities or consequences. Upholding the law as a levite or priest ultimately has greater implications for choosing to not get one's hands dirty. Surrendering an agenda of building a Christianized empire for the sake of someone's human rights is a worthwhile investment that will not go unnoticed. Not to mention, that's what Jesus would do.

Obviously I may have raised some further questions, for example, Should the church marry gay Christians? I think this comes down to personal conviction, as performing the wedding would ultimately recognize the marriage as before God, at least in appearance. Although, it sounds rather odd to want that—God's blessing to redefine a covenant that perfects the union of man with woman.


  1. Good article. I don't have any deep thoughts but don't believe the government should impose moral values on people and I think same-sex couples should have the freedom to marry.

  2. Hey Aaron,
    This is one of the most encouraging, well written articles on gay mariage I have read form a literal Bible-based, Christian perspective. Your honesty and clarity are so desperately needed where judgement, fear mongering, and hate run so rampant. It's refreshing to read an article that truly expresses love and freedom for all people. Thank you.

  3. Well, since you invited...
    1. You have to realize that gay marriage isn't a thing yet. No one is voting to outlaw anything. The government wants us to change a definition of something that is God's prerogative. The problem here is that the church has allowed the state to define what marriage is. That should never have happened.
    2. You could use your own logic to say that the government shouldn't allow rape or murder. Those are God's laws that the state still must uphold.
    3. Right. Key. That is the problem.
    4. They aren't "our" standards...they are God's.
    5. We'll just have to agree to disagree on this issue. The instant I saw you use the word "fear mongering" I knew what you were saying. Whenever Christians point out things like "Oh hey..if abortion is legal. What stops folks from killing children AFTER they are born." Others will immediately say "hahaha! fear mongering again!" And then what happens? The JME comes out with a paper about how we should legalize post birth abortions. Say what you want, but some "slippery slopes" might actually be real. Our culture fears, fear...but should we?

    1. Thanks for taking the time to read and respond.

      As I see it, this is a much bigger issue than Christianity's definition of marriage. A Hindu marriage is performed by participating in a series of rituals and burning offerings to various deities; yet, in America, it is still performed and recognized as a legal marriage. Even socially we do not discriminate when they profess to be married. It should be no different for a gay couple.

      History tends to repeat itself. Substitute "homosexuals" with "women in the workplace" and "gay marriage" with "equal rights" in DeYoung's article and you might see what I mean.

  4. I think my comment on Kevin DeYoung's article yesterday makes similar arguments to this one...

    Homosexual Marriage: What Battle Are We Really Fighting?

    The voters of North Carolina passed a ban on homosexual marriage. The President made a speech in favor of the government recognizing homosexual marriage. And so, once again, it has become a hotly urgent issue in American politics, coincidentally occurring just in time to distract us from any number of other issues that affect us as individuals a great deal more.
    As Christians we have to deal with this question very carefully: our stand for biblical morality must be unyielding and unrelenting. Indeed, our devotion to the God of the Bible must form the basis of all that we do – in every activity in which we participate, we must do everything for the glory of God. So we will not be intimidated or ashamed; we will boldly speak the truth of the Word. This necessarily includes the Bible’s teaching on sexual morality.
    But beyond what we say, beyond the position we personally adhere to, what sort of action ought Christians to take regarding homosexual marriage? With this question, we enter a new realm of conversation: the nature of interaction between the Christian Church and the unregenerate world. How ought Christians to relate to their surrounding culture? How about the civil government?
    It is absolutely certain that our commitments regarding these more fundamental questions will determine which kinds of action we advocate taking with respect to the immediate issue. Those who believe that it is the duty of the civil government to uphold and enforce the whole moral law of God will undoubtedly argue that Christians must promote laws to punish not only homosexuality, but also prostitution, pornography, and drunkenness (they don’t often call for civil laws against sloth, envy, idolatry, Sabbath-breaking, gossip, or heresy, but we’ll assume for the sake of consistency that they’d like to see such laws eventually as well).
    Others argue that the proper role of civil government only extends to issues of justice among men, i.e. defending against acts of aggression, to maintain peace and order, while leaving other matters of personal morality to Him who judges justly. Still others believe the institution of the civil government itself, at least as presently conceived, is by definition aggressive and thus incapable of being an appropriate arbiter even on this more limited range of issues.
    And within each of these groups there are differing perspectives as to how Christians ought to inform, encourage, petition, or even force the civil government and the culture at large to conform to their proper roles.
    In short, if a Christian opposes homosexuality, it does not necessarily follow that he believes there ought to be a civil law banning homosexual activity; likewise, if a Christian opposes such a law, it is not necessarily the case that he is winking at immorality, or wavering in his commitment to the teachings of Scripture, or weary of the fight in the inevitable culture wars.

  5. (continued) In a blog post this morning, Kevin DeYoung argues that Christians are tempted to “go silent and give up the marriage fight,” but instead “should continue to publicly and winsomely oppose bestowing the term and institution of marriage upon same-sex couples.” To briefly recap DeYoung’s reasoning:
    1. Whenever “gay marriage has been put to a vote … the people have voted to uphold traditional marriage.”
    2. “The promotion and legal recognition of homosexual unions is not in the interest of the common good.”
    3. Marriage has a real, specific, biblical definition, and so “we should not concede that ‘gay marriage’ is really marriage.”
    4. Legalization promotes cultural normalization of what was historically considered deviant behavior.
    5. “The next step after giving up the marriage fight is not a happy millennium of everyone everywhere doing marriage in his own way. The step after surrender is conquest.”
    A potentially serious problem with this reasoning appears in the light of the “prior questions” I mentioned above. DeYoung is clearly operating on the assumption that the Church’s fight with respect to this issue properly takes place in the realm of public politics. He might insist that, rather than an assumption, this is what he’s trying to prove, but that would only mean that his argument begs the question. He jumps right into questions of democratic process, legal recognition, cultural normalization, etc. Evidently, for DeYoung, the alternative to participation on these terms is surrender of the Biblical definition of marriage.
    DeYoung naturally has his own view of the nature of ecclesiastical interaction with the culture and the government, but by not making that view explicit, he leaves us with a very unclear picture of just what pertains to the Church, the culture, and the government, as specific entities with specific roles. In fact, he seems to have them all blended together in one giant struggle for control over the moral direction of the masses.
    My question comes down to this: what battle are we really fighting?
    Take DeYoung’s first point, for example. “Every time the issue of gay marriage has been put to a vote by the people, the people have voted to uphold traditional marriage.” Does this mean that the majority of voters are upholding Christian morality? Is “traditional marriage” – namely, heterosexual monogamy – some sort of common ground between the biblical view of marriage as a picture of Christ and the Church, and the worldly view of marriage as practically advantageous, or “normal,” or whatever? Are unrepentant, unregenerate sinners “on our side” in a battle over cultural morality because they happen to vote our way? Also, what if this were not the case? What should Christians conclude if “the people” routinely and overwhelmingly voted in favor of homosexual marriage? Morality was never up for a vote to begin with, was it? If the Church would not be *losing* when the people vote against biblical morality, then it’s not really proper to say the Church is *winning* based on the people voting against a particular immorality either.

  6. (continued)
    What is really at stake? In making his second point, DeYoung brings out a fairly collectivistic argument as to why this is such an important fight: “The society which says sex is up to your own definition and the family unit is utterly fungible is not a society that serves its children, its women, or its own long term well being.” Well, who specifically are we talking about? Are we talking about my son, baptized and raised in the Church by his father and mother? I suppose not, because whatever “society” does, it certainly does not raise children all by its fictitious self. Individuals “say sex is up to your own definition,” etc. Other individuals teach their children that God teaches us the non-negotiable truth in His Word. This is the case no matter how the vote goes, and no matter what the President says.
    The central issue is that people’s hearts and souls are ultimately unaffected by the political process.
    The Church can waste its time trying to extract goodness and morality from the stony hearts of the unregenerate. We can fight one political and cultural battle after another, exhausting our resources until we finally discover that wicked people are going to do what they choose, all the way to their own destruction. We can plead with our rulers, begging evil men of power to command other evil men to do what is right. We can turn ourselves into despots, dictating the will of God upon those who lack the military might to resist us, never getting anywhere near their desperate need of the freedom that can only be found in Christ.
    Christian morality is not a fight that belongs in public politics, at all. It comes right down to the fact that the gospel of grace is the only source of salvation, the only way to do anything pleasing to God, and the gospel is not spread by the sword, nor can it be. Civil laws against homosexual marriage do not serve as a proxy for biblical preaching about sexual morality. They aren’t intended to. Most of the people who voted aren’t even Christians to begin with.
    So rather than waste time trying to legally transform an unregenerate “society,” the Church can do what we are called to do, as the Church. We have the light of the gospel, and we are called to preach repentance and salvation to everyone. This is the only way we have any hope of doing any positive good – but indeed, we have the certainty of God’s blessing on our efforts, and the real transformation of people’s hearts and lives!
    When the State has become the arbiter of the definition of marriage, the Church is not in a good position. The appropriate response is not to get in there and make sure they define it right. The Church would be much better served by denying the State its illegitimate claim to jurisdiction over this institution of God’s.
    Suppose the government declared that, for practical purposes – a census, perhaps – it was necessary for everyone to report whether they are members in a church. That would be the precise moment to resist! For what would inevitably follow? The government would demand proof of membership, based on its own, legal, definition of church membership. The very keys of the Kingdom would have been handed over to Caesar! At that point, Christians ought not to bother trying to persuade heathen state officials of a biblical definition of church membership. Whatever ills await the Church as a result of its illegitimate arbiter are already automatically on their way.
    It scarcely matters how they define it; if it’s theirs to define at all, then the battle is already lost.