Marriage is all over the news today and we as Christians are cringing. And this shows how much things have changed. All of the marriage chatter, in previous generations, would have been a reason for celebration, but is now an occasion for face-palming. Of course, we know this is not because Christians have fundamentaly changed in our understanding of marriage but because the cultural stream is rushing ahead at white-water speed in its redefinition of marriage.
Who has Authority to Regulate Marriage?
When marriage is discussed in the public square there is a question that routinely gets bypassed. “Who has the right and authority over it? —Who is in charge of it?”
The assumption with marriage, as with the rest of our lives, is that, well, we are! Whatever makes us happy and whatever the majority or the most influential people want to do…this is who has the right to authoritatively speak about marriage. It really is this question of authority that has paved the way for the present moral revolution. Even if it is rarely noticed or acknowledged, authority, like rebar on a highway road, undergirds all of this contemporary debate about marriage. The authoritative answer today is: We have the authority to regulate marriage.
But, this is fraught with a number of problems; I’ll highlight two.
I have not been in ministry for a long time (10 years) but I have seen a very big shift. The number one question I have gotten in the last 3 years has to do with homosexuality and same-sex marriage. I don’t think that in the previous 7 years combined I’ve had as many conversations about this topic as in these last 12 months. It seems that everyone is talking about it, whether inside and outside the church.
People often ask for resources or more information on the topic, but most of the real good stuff out there is pretty dense and off-putting to the curious church member or biblical illiterate. I’m thankful that Kevin DeYoung has brought his pastoral heart and lucid pen to this subject. In his book What does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality? DeYoung writes a most helpful book on this subject.
The book breaks into two parts. Part 1 deals with what the Bible teaches about homosexuality. DeYoung shows that the Bible teaches unequivocally that homosexuality is a sin. And, that this is the teaching throughout the Bible and not limited to some obscure, non-applicable portion of the Scripture. In doing this he helps to educate his readers that it is not just the expression of sin that God is opposed to (though he is), but the depravity of the heart, the nature that is rebelling against God’s rule. I thought Kevin was particularly helpful in his careful lexical work to show the continuity between Paul’s …
When you read the news lately it seems like we are caught up in a playground battle of “one-upping”. Like kids swapping tales by the swings, news agencies pushing out stories that say, “Oh, yeah, have you heard about…?”
Each day we read of new developments in this moral revolution in America. Then we read of a story in Houston that is frankly so insane that it sounds like it was made up by a kid under the monkey bars.
The city of Houston passed the now infamous “bathroom bill”. Among other things, this allows people to use the restroom of their choice, based upon their own self-chosen gender identity. This means that men who say that they are women can walk into the ladies’ room and vice-versa.
I remember talking to someone recently and they said, “Why is it that all you Christians talk about is homosexuality?” I told them, “Everyone is talking about homosexuality, not just Christians.”
The topic is in the paper, in Hollywood, at the water-cooler, and increasingly, at the dinner table. Invariably, the question comes to the Christian, “Is God anti-gay?”
We have to be thoughtful in how we answer questions about God and the Bible. We are always required to be faithful, and part of this requires that we graciously adorn the gospel.
Sam Allberry has written a book to help us think through this question as well as other questions about the Bible and same-sex attraction. What makes this book uncommon is its author. Allberry discloses early on that he has lived with same-sex attraction since his early teen years. This fact enables Allberry a unique voice to speak biblically to an increasingly contentious subject.
The comments of a 67-year-old, Southern, Christian man remain national news. Phil Robertson, the star of the number one cable television show, Duck Dynasty, remains in embroiled in a controversy surrounding his interview with GQ Magazine. As nearly everyone knows by now, the controversial comments were concerning his view of homosexuality. While the choice of wording and tone were a bit strong and some might argue overboard, they were not, in their distilled sense, unbiblical.
The controversy has brought several participants into focus. My early read is that the Ducks will be fine. Here’s why.
Pastor Rick Warren was on Piers Morgan and answered a number of tough questions. In particular, Piers Morgan (as he is known to do) continued to press the issue of gay marriage. Warren, thankfully, answered tactfully, articulately, winsomely, and more important–faithfully. What a great encouragement. (Link)
In many ways the news serves to be a thermometer of the culture. Today’s headlines give us an indication of the sentiment of the world around us. This sentiment is clearly seen in the story of Jason Collins. As the first major sports professional to admit that they are homosexual, Collins is receiving substantial news attention. And he should, it is, after all, big news. It’s unprecedented. Although Collins did not finish the season with an NBA team he did play nearly half the season in the NBA.
“I didn’t set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I’m happy to start the conversation,” Collins wrote. “I wish I wasn’t the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, ‘I’m different.’ If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I’m raising my hand.”
As ESPN reports, the support has been overwhelmingly positive. As I checked the pulse of the social media, talk radio and print, I was surprised to hear some people lauding him as a “hero”. Whether you agree with this or not, the point is made: people are very supportive of Jason Collins.
With the amount of conversation around the issue you are bound to have someone be less than thrilled. Right?
It seems that everyone has an opinion about Gay Marriage, and these opinions are rarely ambivalent. Christians have (and rightly so) been outspoken in their opposition to a redefinition of marriage. This recasting of the institution of marriage is not, we would argue, a progressive and healthy advancement but rather a disastrous detour from what biblical, therefore, right and good.
At the same time and while marriage is on the front burner, particularly the undermining of God’s plan for it, let me ask a question. Are Gay and Lesbians the only ones who undermine God’s plan for marriage?
The answer is, “Of course not!” Just because you are hetero-sexual does not mean that you are reflecting God’s plan for marriage. You don’t get a pass just on marriage because you are not Gay. The basis of a marriage reflecting God’s plan is how it reflects the gospel. In other words a marriage is reflective of God’s plan in so far as it reflects the marriage between Jesus the husband and the church the bride.
This is where it gets quite personal for us inside the Christian camp. God’s plan for marriage includes the following:
Recently my teenage son came home telling me of a conversation with an unbelieving friend about the gospel. He was encouraged to have been able to talk through specifics of what the truth of the gospel is and how someone becomes a Christian. At the same time he had a question. “Why do I always get the same question from people? They always ask me if I think homosexuality is a sin.”
As I thought about it I have two basic answers to the question.
First, homosexuality is not viewed negatively by most young people. Whether it is because they see it as cool, rebellious, progressive, liberating, or whatever, it is definitely not negative. Hollywood helps to set the tone and shape the public opinion on this with the numerous shows and movies that depict the gay lifestyle as normal and intriguing (see more on this here). The political landscape has also become increasingly sympathetic to homosexuality. As a result anyone who would believe anything impugning about a gay lifestyle is out of step with a significant segment of the population, especially younger people.
Second, homosexuality is a convenient trojan horse to smuggle in all kinds of other sins. The Bible is clear that homosexuality is a sin (Rom. 1.26-28; 1 Cor. 6.9). If you say that the Bible says otherwise then you are brashly undercutting its authority. In other words, if the you don’t believe that the Bible says that homosexuality is a sin then you can scarcely say that anything is …
This weekend a church member sent me an article from the LA Times concerning Gay Marriage and the Bible. The article is an opinion piece by C.S. Pearce. Her basic point is that as the cultural acceptance for gay marriage continues to snowball it is only a matter of time before the majority of Christians catch on and become allies for same-sex marriage.
The article is more than a blind prophecy. Pearce evaluates history, the Bible and reason to support her optimistic forecast. Whatever her ostensible aim, Ms. Pearce’s evaluations do not have their reference point in the Bible but in the canon of her own experience. The result is strabismal. My goal is to interact a bit with the article and provide some clarity and consistency.