Upholding Clarity in an Age of Confusion: The Nashville Statement, Part 6

An Open Door

[A] marriage with Christ at the center of it pulls you right out of yourself. It teaches each partner, the husband and the wife, to forget about self for a while in care and sacrifice for the other. We come to ourselves by losing ourselves.
J. Budziszewski

 

Key point: The teachings of nature and the Bible offer release from the confining and false ideas that males and females are interchangeable and that one’s gender is not biologically determined. True freedom is found in embracing rather than denying reality.

 

You can access summaries of all the articles in this series here.

Last time we highlighted an event from Harry Houdini’s career that illustrates a vitally important truth. It was the one time in Houdini’s career when he was unable to pick a lock. Why? The door to the safe from which he was trying to escape was closed, but not locked at all! Houdini had difficulty because his assumptions in the situation did not coincide with reality.

Similarly, the prevailing cultural narrative regarding sexuality and gender identity is based on a false premise. The door already is unlocked! Walking through the doorway to freedom involves accepting reality as it is. Males and females are alike in that both sexes are human, but they are different in countless ways. Accepting these differences—and accepting one’s own biological sex as indicative of one’s gender—is not ultimately confining. In fact, it’s liberating! This truth will be difficult for many, and even extremely difficult for some, to accept. We do not make light of these difficulties. Yet we declare forthrightly that this is the way to freedom for both individuals and society.

One does not have to be a Christian to affirm what nature teaches about the sexes, but believing in the God of the Bible affords people a sense of purpose and meaning that eludes others. Why? Because God created human beings —both males and females—in His image.

Article 3 of the Nashville Statement emphasizes this truth.

WE AFFIRM that God created Adam and Eve, the first human beings, in his own image, equal before God as persons, and distinct as male and female.

WE DENY that the divinely ordained differences between male and female render them unequal in dignity or worth.

Invisible Realities

It’s especially important for Christians to understand and affirm, not only the innate differences between males and females, but also the purposes the Creator had in instilling sex differences in the members of His highest creation. God’s purposes are invisible realities manifested in visible ones. Dr. Adrian Rogers has done a masterful job of explaining male and female differences from a theological perspective. I encourage you to listen to his sermon on the subject at your earliest convenience.

For now, I’d like to briefly mention ten important truths Christians need to understand and appreciate about God’s creation of humanity as male and female. Genesis 2:18-25 tells us

18 And the Lord God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” 19 Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name. 20 So Adam gave names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him.

21 And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. 22 Then the rib which the Lord God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man.

23 And Adam said:

“This is now bone of my bones
And flesh of my flesh;
She shall be called Woman,
Because she was taken out of Man.”

24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

25 And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.

The Creator’s “Fingerprints”

Consider these truths. While we have stated many of them previously, we reiterate them here because Article 3 sets the stage for emphasizing them. These principles testify to God’s having left His “fingerprints” all over humanity. While sin has marred the ways in which members of the human family reflect God’s nature, these reflections still are evident and discernible.

  1. “God created Adam and Eve, the first human beings, in his own image, equal before God as persons, and distinct as male and female.” This the first part of Article 3 of the Nashville Statement. Men and women, boys and girls, did not evolve out of a random-chance process. God created them. Moreover, He made them different as males and females, and He did so by design.
  2. At the same time, it is not true that “the divinely ordained differences between male and female render them unequal in dignity or worth.” The second portion of Article 3 rightly refutes any notion that either sex is superior or inferior to the other. Women have been the direct beneficiaries of the Christian view of the sexes. Throughout history, Christianity has elevated the status of women in the home and in society. That’s not to say the church always advocated treating women according to the biblical ideal. Even so, the ideal has existed throughout history and remains today.
  3. Since males and females are different, men reflect God’s image in a variety of ways that women don’t, and women reflect His image in a variety of ways that men don’t. Both are fully human, and both reflect God’s image—but neither does so in any complete sense.
  4. God made the woman as a helper “comparable to” the man (see v. 18). The strong implication is that he also is comparable to her. Differences make for compatibility. In other words, the man and the woman make a great team because of their differences. She is better at doing some things, and he is better at doing others. They are different, but neither is inferior to the other. Although we can mention it only briefly here, these differences have implications for gender roles in the family. Christian psychologist W. Peter Blitchington has said, ““The strength of a nation can be fairly effectively gauged by the strength of its families, and the strength of a family can be estimated by the quality of its sexual roles.”If we as Christians cringe at this, we are demonstrating that to a significant degree, we have been influenced by politically correct thinking.
  5. In creating human beings as male and female, God also created and established the institution of marriage.
  6. Marriage is the arena where a man and woman come together to form a family. In that family, the two together can reflect God’s image in a much more complete way than either the man or the woman could as an individual.
  7. Building off of our observation in point 5, we affirm that marriage and family reflect the unity and diversity we see in the triune Godhead. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are not the same, yet each is God. Similarly, the husband and wife are not identical, but each is a member of the same family. This also can be said of any children resulting from their marriage union.
  8. No same-sex relationship, no matter how loving or committed, ever can showcase this kind of unity and diversity.
  9. Children form their initial view of God in their early years, and they do so primarily through their experiences of interacting with their parents, as well by observing their parents’ interactions with each other. Only kids with two married parents of the opposite sex can get the kind of picture of God that He Himself ordained they would receive when He established marriage as the world’s first and most basic institution.
  10. As Adrian Rogers declared, “These differences, believe it or not, shouldn’t divide us. They should unite us. God made us different that He might make us one. These are more than mere psychological proclivities; they are there by divine design. Aren’t you glad that God made us different? It’s time to stop trying to be the be the same or resenting each other because of our differences. It’s time to start celebrating the difference!”

With an understanding and appreciation of these theological truths, as well as the scientific truths we highlighted in part 5, Christians can confidently point others to the open door that nature and the Bible affirm.

Ashley McGuire

Ashley McGuire says it well.

The sexes are different.

Rather than trying to quash this reality, which can only lead to more needless confusion and suffering, not less, we should step back and marvel at it. And enjoy it. Male-female differences are among the most wonderful things in life.

 

image credit: top photo—www.lightstock.com

Copyright © 2017 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture has been taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Note:

1W. Peter Blitchington, Sex Roles and the Christian Family, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1981), 13.

 

Upholding Clarity in an Age of Confusion: The Nashville Statement, Part 5

Challenging a False Assumption

[I]t is not an act of justice but of foolish injustice to pretend the sexes are the same.
J. Budziszewski

 

Key point: The idea that both sexes are identical and that individuals can choose which sex they will be places both individuals and society in bondage.

 

You can access summaries of all the articles in this series here.

Harry Houdini (1874-1926) had reputation of being able to escape from any cell, box, trap, cage, or chamber—no matter how tight or secure. As an expert locksmith and escape artist, he would challenge anyone and everyone to find a means of confinement from which he could not break free.

A British bank heard of the challenge. Having installed a safe its officers believed to be completely secure, the bank’s leadership got in touch with Houdini and offered to let him try to crack their safe. The world-renowned performer confidently accepted and made his way to England.

On the appointed day and hour, Houdini was bound and placed inside the safe. The door then was closed, and the skillful showman began his normal routine. Houdini firmly believed breaking out would be a cinch. Why shouldn’t he? He’d perfected his craft through the years and had escaped confinement in one spellbinding scenario after another.

This time, though, a different situation emerged. After an hour, Houdini’s confidence began to weaken. He’d tried every approach he normally used, but to no avail. He continued working relentlessly but was unsuccessful at every turn. Sweat poured down Harry Houdini’s face as the master showman kept at it, but his efforts produced no breakthrough. Finally, after two hours of nonstop effort, Houdini was totally exhausted and leaned against the door to the safe. To his amazement, it swung open. It had been unlocked all along!

It’s true that several different versions of this story can be found—go herehere, and here for three additional versions—and some believe the incident never occurred. Others have found it plausible, however.

Assumptions Matter

Either way, the story illustrates a truth all people—Christians and non-Christians alike—would be wise to heed. Houdini was trying to open a door he assumed to be securely locked, only to find out it was merely shut—and not locked at all! Have you ever tried to complete a project and worked at it unsuccessfully, only to discover that your primary assumption about the situation was totally wrong?


To successfully and effectively accomplish a task, the person performing it needs to hold correct assumptions about it.


I believe this is what people who have embraced politically correct teachings on sexuality and gender identity are doing. Many, perhaps most, are doing this without understanding the ominous implications of their beliefs for themselves and society. Assuming the door to satisfaction and fulfillment regarding sexuality and gender to be locked, they’re trying to “pick the lock” with the false assumption that males and females essentially are the same. In this brand new Prager University video, Ashley McGuire, author of Sex Scandal: The Drive to Abolish Male and Female, explains. You can download a transcript of this video here.

I first want to echo Ms. McGuire’s plea for respect, compassion, and practical help for everyone experiencing gender dysphoria. Yet, as Ms. McGuire forthrightly declares, “we don’t need to overturn biologically defined sex differences to” preserve people’s dignity or to assist them. Misinformation on this subject abounds, and people need to hear the truth, both individually and corporately.

The cultural rhetoric on gender identity not only creates an atmosphere of frustration and confusion; it also exacerbates it! Moreover, it incites fear in the hearts of those who might otherwise consider challenging the politically correct line. Still, this is a dead end street! In the language of our illustration, it is a lock that cannot be picked!

What then, is the solution?

Affirm the Obvious!

Walt Heyer

The solution is both simple and profound, but it will be difficult for many to accept. In fact, it will be extremely difficult for some, and not instantaneous, but a process. The door already is unlocked! Fulfillment and satisfaction in this area of life can be found in accepting reality as it is. This means accepting one’s biological sex and affirming it as good. It further means enjoying the characteristics one possesses as a boy or girl, man or woman—and celebrating the innate differences between males and females. Walt Heyer agrees. Born a man, Walt transitioned to a woman, then later, back to a man. He now has a website dedicated to promoting the truth about the transgender movement. Its address is www.sexchangeregret.com. (Also go here and here.)


Fulfillment and satisfaction in the area of gender identity is found in accepting reality as it is.


Article 3 of the Nashville Statement states the liberating reality from a biblical perspective.

WE AFFIRM that God created Adam and Eve, the first human beings, in his own image, equal before God as persons, and distinct as male and female.

WE DENY that the divinely ordained differences between male and female render them unequal in dignity or worth.

We will unpack this statement and consider some of its theological implications next time, but for now we need to be clear that a person does not have to be a Christian to acknowledge what nature teaches about the sexes. Being a Christian helps, certainly; because ultimate purpose and meaning in life are rooted in an understanding of having been created by a personal and loving God, in His image.


Ultimate purpose and meaning in life are rooted in an understanding of having been created by a personal and loving God, in His image.


Even so, it is just as Ashley McGuire says:

The idea that gender-identification is now a personal choice might sound enlightened to some, but it’s actually a very anti-scientific view of one of the essential facts of life: men and women are inherently different. Their brains are different, their hormones are different, their chromosomes are different, and, of course, their bodies are different (emphasis added).


Denying the differences between males and females is anti-scientific!


It doesn’t help, and it even is harmful, to deny the undeniable or to try to change the unchangeable. Here are 50 documented differences, generally speaking, between males and females.

To acknowledge the differences between the sexes readily can, but doesn’t have to rest on any religious principle or sentiment.

Actually, it’s just common sense.

 

Copyright © 2017 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.

Related articles:

Toxic Masculinity? Not in Las Vegas
A Boy’s Life with Unisex Scouts

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture has been taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Upholding Clarity in an Age of Confusion: The Nashville Statement, Part 4

Spiritual Warfare Is Serious Business

“Cheshire Puss,” she began, rather timidly, as she did not at all know whether it would like the name: however, it only grinned a little wider. “Come, it’s pleased so far,” thought Alice, and she went on. “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”

‘That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,’ said the Cat.
—Lewis Caroll in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

There is a way that seems right to a man,
But its end is the way of death.
Proverbs 14:12; 16:25

[B]ecause of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband.
—the apostle Paul to the Corinthian Christians in 1 Corinthians 7:2

 

Key point: Article 2 and many other elements of the Nashville Statement not only affirm God’s plan for humanity but also expose the stark contrast between God’s way and man’s way. The conflict between these two perspectives constitutes the great cosmic battle of the universe.

 

You can access summaries of all the articles in this series here.

In several recent posts we have been considering various elements of the Nashville Statement on Biblical Sexuality. This declaration not only seeks to uphold God’s plan; it also exposes just how distant man’s way is from the Creator’s. We see this divergence in many places in the statement, including Article 2.

WE AFFIRM that God’s revealed will for all people is chastity outside of marriage and fidelity within marriage.

WE DENY that any affections, desires, or commitments ever justify sexual intercourse before or outside marriage; nor do they justify any form of sexual immorality.

Note the phrases that describe the two opposing sides in this spiritual fight-to-the-finish:

“God’s revealed will” versus individual “affections, desires [and] commitments.”

The Cosmic Battle

The collision of these two ideas represents what Christian leader and educator Del Tackett calls the great cosmic battle. Did you think the cosmic battle was between God and Satan only? Not so. Members of the human race have the opportunity to choose whether they will follow God’s way or their own—and their own prideful way mirrors Satan’s. An individual is on one side or the other; no one can escape or opt out of the cosmic battle.

Note carefully: Not all sexual activity is sinful. As Article 2 states, “God’s revealed will for all people is chastity outside of marriage and fidelity within marriage.” With this in mind, ask yourself this: What else are “affections, desires, and commitments” but “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life”? (See 1 John 2:16 in the context of vv. 15-17.)


Affections, desires, and  commitments that attempt to justify sexual immorality are what the apostle John calls “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” in 1 John 2:15-17.


The divergence between these two opposing sides brings to mind an overlapping conflict—the one between relativism and absolute truth, We have explored this contest frequently in weeks past.

  • Relativism is the idea that everyone can make up and live according to his or her own truth, which, relativism says, is no more or less valid than the “truth” created by anyone else. According to this perspective, truth is subjective; it is inside each person and therefore conforms to individual preferences and whims.
  • Contrast that to absolute truth, which has truth as its object. In other words, absolutes are objective, or outside individual preferences, feelings, opinions, and inclinations. Moreover, absolute truth is based on God’s character and will. As such, it involves principles that apply to everyone, everywhere, at all times, and in all circumstances. Absolutes represent “God’s revealed will,” as Article 2 puts it.

God’s Way or My Way

Best-selling author Frank Peretti also is a riveting speaker who actually performs when he talks. His vocal gymnastics are mesmerizing! Peretti exposes the folly of relativism in this minute-and-a-half clip from his classic message, “God’s Way or My Way.”


With what does relativism ultimately leave you? Just feelings!
—Frank Peretti—


Mr. Peretti has nailed it! Thankfully, he has the courage to point this out forthrightly and without apology. Do we have the courage to openly agree with him? Read on to find out why we must join Mr. Peretti in his affirmations.

Pervasive Misinformation

We find relativism promoted everywhere in popular culture. Not only that, but it has been promoted for decades. Consider this pivotal scene from the 1977 blockbuster Star Wars. Because the term Star Wars became the name for the entire series, this movie later was renamed Star Wars: Episode IV—A New Hope. Keep in mind the Star Wars movies promote Eastern religious ideas as well as the relativistic concept of “getting in touch with one’s feelings.” In this first Star Wars installment, we vividly see the overlap between these in more than one scene. This clip depicts Luke’s lightsaber training abroad the Millennium Falcon.

So, what about “stretching out with one’s feelings”? Frank Peretti warns against this specifically in his presentation.

Going “with the fuzzies” ultimately will exact a high price, but apparently not in Luke Skywalker’s world. Remember that we don’t live in Luke’s world! Moreover, Luke doesn’t even exist!

Even so, despite the obvious stupidity of essentially blindfolding oneself and fighting according to instincts and feelings, Luke not only successfully fought the remote satellite during his training but also dealt a deathblow to the Empire’s Death Star at the end of the movie. Do you remember what happened? Luke ditched his targeting computer to rely on his feelings and “the Force flowing within him.” You can watch the scene here.

Don’t be taken in! If reality had been allowed to play out, this episode in the Star Wars saga would have been named A Dashed Hope rather than A New Hope. It is, after all, science fiction!


Had reality been allowed to play out, this episode in the Star Wars saga would have been named A Dashed Hope rather than A New Hope.


Human feelings are not reliable guides for life! This isn’t what we hear in our culture, though! Follow your feelings! Only you can determine what’s best for you! If it feels right it must be right. These ideas, as compelling as they are, simply are not true!

Relativism’s Enticement

Despite its gaping flaws, relativism remains popular and widely accepted. We explored numerous reasons why when we began our series on this subject. We do well to revisit that discussion here. The following is a summary. Go here for a more complete presentation.

Why is relativism so attractive?

  • First, it appeals to people’s emotions. The notion that everyone can be right in what he or she believes sounds good and noble.
  • Second, relativism appeals to people’s imaginations. As a philosophy, it offers people the opportunity to create their own world of “reality.” Here’s the harsh truth, though: Visiting Fantasyland with an intention of exiting is one thing, but relativism invites people to live there. Fantasies can’t survive long-term in the real world.
  • Third, social pressure to espouse relativism is extremely intense. This factor has at least two aspects. First, to reject relativism is to reject a belief held by “everyone else.” Who wants to be different from the crowd?
  • Fourth, add to the loneliness of being in the minority the difficulty of taking an unpopular stand. Who among us doesn’t want to be viewed as magnanimous? Moreover, the person who says absolute truth exists has taken a position that makes him or her a target of vicious criticism. It’s ironic, though, that the very people who say no one ought to judge will, in a heartbeat, judge advocates of absolute truth!
  • Fifth, believing in absolutes not only puts a person at risk for vitriol and strong criticism; it also requires a person to think through his or her position and to defend it intellectually, at least in his or her own mind. Put another way, believing truth to be relative is the “PLR”—the “path of least resistance.”
  • Sixth, relativism appeals to human pride. Let’s face it. Anyone making up his or her own truth and following it actually is playing god, even if he or she doesn’t realize it. Either way, it has tremendous appeal!

The Bottom Line

So, Article 2, like just about everything else in the Nashville Statement, places God’s way right beside man’s way and exposes the stark contrast between the two.

Dr. Michael Brown is very much on target in his assessment of the situation. He cites numerous vehement objections to the Nashville Statement from non-Christians; then he says,

The problem [these people are having] is not with the Nashville Statement. It is with the Bible, since the statement only reaffirms what the Bible clearly teaches, namely that: 1) God made humans male and female; 2) marriage, as intended by God, is the lifelong union of a man and a woman; 3) homosexual practice is always sinful in God’s sight; 4) God offers forgiveness for all human beings through the cross of Jesus; and 5) those who struggle with same-sex attraction or gender identity confusion can be welcomed into the Body of Christ like any other struggling individual, as long as they do not celebrate or affirm that which is wrong.

The way of man is deeply flawed. Some weaknesses are so glaring that, as we have seen, they’re easy to point out.

Are we willing to try to point them out? Are we willing to exercise love and compassion as we do? Are we willing to uphold God’s way over man’s?

If we are, we truly will give our neighbors, family members, and friends in this country and in the world a new hope!

Let these words from Frank Peretti inspire you and encourage you as you take your stand.


When you know the Lord—when you know the transcendent, personal, loving God—you’ve got something that you can carry with you and pass on to your children. Something they can be sure of, solid ground that they can walk on. You’ve got something that is true!
—Frank Peretti—


 

Copyright © 2017 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.

top image: www.lightstock.com

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture has been taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

 

Upholding Clarity in an Age of Confusion: The Nashville Statement, Part 3

Flawless Design

Marriage is based on the truth that men and women are complementary, the biological fact that reproduction depends on a man and a woman, and the reality that children need a mother and a father. Redefining marriage does not simply expand the existing understanding of marriage; it rejects these truths.
Ryan Anderson

 

Key point: Marriage cannot function as God intended it to function and bring its manifold benefits to individuals and society if its design is rejected or changed.

 

An abbreviated version of this article is available here.

You can access summaries of all the articles in this series here.

We have been considering The Nashville Statement on Biblical Sexuality. This declaration is critical not only as a statement for Christians within the church, but also as a statement to the world about what human sexuality is, what it should be, and about how people ought to relate to one another, for the good of all.

Biblical Clarity

The Bible speaks without ambiguity about maleness, femaleness, human sexuality, and marriage. Quoting Genesis, Jesus asked the Pharisees, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”?'” (Matt. 19:4-5; Gen. 2:24). As we observed in a previous post,

For what reason, then, shall a man “leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24; Matt. 19:4-5; Mark 10:6-8)? The answer is clear. It first is stated in Genesis and then restated by Jesus in Matthew and Mark: Because God created human beings as male and female!

God-ordained marriage unites two separate individuals from two separate families into one, new family; and the children the couple produces from their union also are a part of that same family. The family, with man-woman marriage as in integral part of it, was not an afterthought in God’s mind as one of several alternatives for social order in human societies. Rather,

marriage and family have been inscribed by the Divine Architect into the order of Creation. Marriage is ontologically between one man and one woman, ordered toward the union of the spouses, open to children and formative of family. Family is the first vital cell of society, the first government, and the first mediating institution of our social order. The future of a free and healthy society passes through marriage and the family.

Since marriage was established when God first created human beings as male and female, it is appropriate that Article 1 in The Nashville Statement would focus on what marriage is and what it is not.

WE AFFIRM that God has designed marriage to be a covenantal, sexual, procreative, lifelong union of one man and one woman, as husband and wife, and is meant to signify the covenant love between Christ and his bride the church.

WE DENY that God has designed marriage to be a homosexual, polygamous, or polyamorous relationship. We also deny that marriage is a mere human contract rather than a covenant made before God.

The Workings of a Watch Showcase the Brilliance of Design

Many insights can be gleaned from this excellent article, but here I’d like to focus on the word “designed” and its implications. To design is “to create, fashion, execute, or construct according to [a] plan.”

To better understand and appreciate what it means to design something, we should take a close look at an item that has been designed. A pocket watch is a great example. A three-and-a-half-minute video is available that uses 3-D animation to demonstrate the five elements that make the watch function. Those elements are

  1. energy,
  2. wheels,
  3. escapement,
  4. controller, and
  5. time indicator.

You can view this video here.

As an alternative, the following presentation is just one minute long. While it doesn’t name the parts of a watch, it also uses 3-D animation to visually demonstrate how all the separate pieces work together. Keep in mind the parts work—and so does the watch—because the right components have been created and placed in strategic relationships with one another. In other words, the watch was designed, and built according to the design.

Notice that a builder cannot duplicate some parts and leave others out and expect everything to work smoothly—or at all. Nor can he or she put the parts together “any old way.” The design must be followed for the item to function as it should.


A watchmaker cannot duplicate some parts and leave others out and expect everything to work smoothly—or at all. Nor can he or she put the parts together “any old way.” The design must be followed for the timepiece to function as it should.


Divine Design

How can we realize these things about mechanical items but miss parallel principles with regard to marriage? God’s design is perfect! Marriages don’t always function as they should, but this is because of human imperfection and sin, not because of the design!


God’s design is perfect! Marriages don’t always function as they should, but this is because of human imperfection and sin, not because of the design!


The One who created human beings as male and female established marriage as a lifelong commitment between one man and one woman. He did this, not to frustrate, but to benefit—to benefit the couples directly involved, their children, and society at large.

Inherent in God’s design for marriage is the complementarity of men and women, who are alike in that both are human beings, yet different from one another in a variety of ways, including physically, emotionally, relationally, and mentally (go herehere, herehere, and here). For example, male and female brains are different. And it isn’t just Christians who recognize these differences. Moreover, it’s noteworthy that male-female differences are the source of a great deal of humor.

The writers of two blockbuster television sitcoms—I Love Lucy and Everybody Loves Raymond, used these differences as a basis for countless episodes.

From the Very Start

The differences between men and women provide wonderful advantages for a couple and their children. We see these benefits underscored even at the beginning of time. Genesis 2:18 indicates the first man and the first woman were suitable partners.

And the Lord God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.”

The New International Version renders the verse this way.

The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

“Suitable helper” is the typical English translation of the Hebrew phrase

‘ēzer kenegdô, 

says Old Testament scholar and seminary professor Dr. Daniel Kim. In a thorough discussion about the best way to translate the phrase, and consequently the entire verse, Dr. Kim reaches this conclusion.

I suggest a meaningful translation of Gen. 2:18 in today’s context might be: “I will make for him a helper, as one who is his counterpart.”  There are other methods by which one can convey the right meaning, such as shifting word order, using other synonyms, or even employing more words. Some examples are: “I will make a helper for him, one who is his perfect match,” or, “I will make a counterpart for him, one who is able to help in his time of need.”

You can explore a few of the linguistic and interpretative considerations that led Dr. Kim to reach this conclusion here. Yet, as helpful as they are, even these renderings don’t convey all the ideas the Hebrew words do, and that’s why we need scholars and teachers who can explain the depth of meanings represented in various passages of Scripture. In addition, in this instance in particular, they can help us come to appreciate in new and fresh ways how God designed marriage and how, when we follow His plan, countless people benefit.

Unfortunately, society has rejected God’s model for marriage, and it even is denying obvious realities in nature and in the human experience about what it means to be male or female. The church needs to rediscover God’s design for marriage, appreciate it anew, and encourage society at large also to understand and appreciate its benefits.

Parallels

Returning once more to the watch illustration, we repeat what we said earlier about  its design: A watch maker cannot duplicate some parts of the watch and leave others out and expect everything to work smoothly—or at all. Nor can he or she put the parts together “any old way.” The design must be followed for the watch to function as it should.

Against the backdrop of a functioning mechanical watch, we now will note four parallel traits that are true of both the watch and of marriage.

First, the parts fit together. Gear teeth interlock. Hubs hold wheels and gears in their proper places. Springs have the necessary space to be tightened and to loosen as the watch carries out its planned function. A husband and wife also fit together. We see this most obviously in the physical realm, but it also is true on a multitude of other levels as well. In neither the watch nor in marriage are the players or parts identical, but they are compatible.

Second, the parts work together to accomplish a positive purpose. Gears turn with other gears; springs tighten and then unwind slowly, and hands move because they perform their functions in harmony with all the other parts. Likewise, in a marriage as it was designed to function, a husband and his wife also work together. These beautiful words from Ecclesiastes 4 come to mind. While friendship is one context for these verses, marriage is the most fitting scenario. Note that verse 12 hints at God’s role in strengthening the couple’s partnership.

Two are better than one,
Because they have a good reward for their labor.
10 For if they fall, one will lift up his companion.
But woe to him who is alone when he falls,
For he has no one to help him up.
11 Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm;
But how can one be warm alone?
12 Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him.
And a threefold cord is not quickly broken (Eccl. 4:9-12).

Third, as the parts work together, they also work against each other—not in an adversarial way, but in a way that enhances the function and role of each, as well as the overall performance of the larger item of which they are parts. How have we missed this? Because of the differences between components, each one is able to fulfill its role of pushing, prodding, nudging, and halting various other parts when actions like these are necessary. In marriage, we see this in that the husband and wife counterbalance each other when needed. Consider this pivotal scene from the move Rocky II. Rocky is lethargic and unmotivated to train for his upcoming fight with Apollo Creed, but then his wife Adrian comes out of her coma, they see their baby together, and…

A Lesson Arising from Article 1

To these three observations we now add a fourth. This is the insight we dare not miss! It’s a principle inherent in Article 1 of the Nashville Statement. We must resolve to find positive ways to share it with society at large.

Just as the most effective way to ruin a watch would be to reject or to try to reshape or redefine its design, the most effective way to ruin marriage is to reject, alter, and/or redefine its design.


Just as the most effective way to ruin a watch would be to reject or to try to reshape or redefine its design, the most effective way to ruin marriage is to reject, alter, and/or redefine its design.


It isn’t hateful or unloving to declare this. Rather, withholding the information would be unloving.

How fitting, then, that the first article in The Nashville Statement reaffirms and upholds God’s flawless design for marriage!

Part 4 is available here.

 

Copyright © 2017 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise marked, Scriptures have been taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

The passage marked NIV has been taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Upholding Clarity in an Age of Confusion: The Nashville Statement, Part 2

Combatting the Devil’s Lies with the Truth of Scripture

Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”
Genesis 3:1

Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’”
Matthew 4:5-6, where Satan uses a quotation from Psalm 91:11-12 to tempt Jesus to sin (Christ’s temptations [see Matt. 4:1-11] are depicted in the 12th century mosaic  pictured above and located at St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice, Italy)—

The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.
An evil soul producing holy witness
Is like a villain with a smiling cheek,
A goodly apple rotten at the heart.
O, what a goodly outside falsehood hath!
William Shakespeare, in The Merchant of Venice

 

You can access summaries of all the articles in this series here.

Key point: The gospel and its teachings on sexuality and holy living unite believers in Christ but also expose those who approve of homosexuality as believing something that directly contradicts biblical teaching.

Last time we began a series of articles on The Nashville Statement on Biblical Sexuality, a declaration that reaffirms what biblical teachings about God’s creation of human beings as male and female and about human sexual relationships. The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) spearheaded the document. Of it, CBMW president Denny Burk wrote,

I would say that by far, the most push-back that I have heard today has related to Article 10, which says this:

WE AFFIRM that it is sinful to approve of homosexual immorality or transgenderism and that such approval constitutes an essential departure from Christian faithfulness and witness.

WE DENY that the approval of homosexual immorality or transgenderism is a matter of moral indifference about which otherwise faithful Christians should agree to disagree.

Evangelicals who have been drifting away from biblical fidelity on these issues have often been running under the cover of confusion—confusion about what is essential and what is not essential to the Christian faith. From the very beginning of the Christian faith, sexual morality has always been central. Those who wish to follow Jesus must pursue sexually pure lives. A person may follow Jesus, or he may pursue sexual immorality. But he cannot do both. He must choose. One path leads to eternal life, and the other does not. These are not new teachings. They are the ancient faith.

And yet, there are many “evangelicals” who are trying to convince other evangelicals that homosexual immorality is a special case. They are trying to convince people that same-sex immorality and following Jesus can indeed go together. One of the main reasons for The Nashville Statement is to expose this contradiction.

Burk goes on to cite 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8 in the New American Standard Bible. Here we will quote it from the New International Version. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the apostle Paul wrote,

It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit.

Believers, Burk rightly contends, cannot pretend verse 8 is not in the text. I would add that neither can believers pretend that approval of homosexuality or any of the other sins named in Romans 1:18-32 (NIV, NKJV) isn’t sinful. It is sinful, just as Paul explicitly indicated in verse 32. Paul wrote about people “who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them (emphasis added).”

Satan—A Brilliant Strategist

How has Satan succeeded in getting so many who claim to follow Christ to approve of homosexuality and same-sex marriage? Well, he is very shrewd. Certainly he is glad to hear someone say, “I know what I’m doing is against biblical teaching and is sinful, but it’s my life and I’ll live it the way I choose.” A few people might make choices and statements like this one, but this kind of scenario is rare. When people sin, they’re far more comfortable believing a lie about their beliefs and behavior than the truth.

Think of how many more individuals Satan can lure away from God if he can convince them that something the Bible clearly teaches to be sinful isn’t really all that bad. If Satan can get people to believe either (1) that God doesn’t disapprove of a particular sinful activity or (2) that He actually approves of it, he can lead people away from God just as powerfully as the Pied Piper of Hamelin led away the children of the town with his music.

Illustration by Kate Greenaway

“But wait!” someone might say. “Can Satan really do that?” Yes. He can and he does. This kind of trickery is easier than you might think. After all, Satan is “the commander of the powers of the unseen world…[who is] at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God” (Eph. 2:2, NLT). Remember, too, that we’re talking about the one who “walks around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour,” but who also “transforms himself into an angel of light.”

Satan Twists Scripture and Uses His Distorted Interpretations to Deceive

Let me use a simple example. What Satan has done with regard to homosexuality is a good bit more complicated and involved, but this illustration will help us understand in a general way Satan’s ability to deceive.

Suppose someone were to tell you that God actually does not disapprove of stealing. Another individual goes even further, saying He even approves of it. Both people cite Ephesians 4:28. They claim this verse says,

If a man steals, let him steal; no more let him labor with his hands.

What would be your response? Keep in mind these people are using Scripture to back up their claim.

Truthfully, the English words they’re using are correctly translated—but that doesn’t mean the translation as a whole is accurate. Here’s another rendering of Ephesians 4:28 that uses the very same words, yet faithfully represents what Paul really meant.

If a man steals, let him steal no more; let him labor with his hands.

What is the difference between these two statements? Only the location of one element of punctuation—a semicolon! In this illustration, by moving just one semicolon, the devil can change a biblical statement and get it to say the exact opposite of what the inspired writer originally intended.1

“Well,” our advocates of stealing might say, the original Greek manuscripts of the New Testament have no punctuation marks.” Yes, that’s true, but what Paul wrote never can justify placing a semicolon after the phrase “let him steal” in the English translation we cited.

Here’s what Ephesians 4:28 says in its entirety.

Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need.

You see, even though the words are accurately translated in both of the above summaries, the translation in the first one affirms the opposite of what Paul actually wrote. Note that to discover the truth in this instance, we really didn’t have to dig all that deeply.

Countering Deception by Reaffirming the Truth of Scripture

We do have to dig deeply to effectively counter pro-gay theological arguments, but a first step in refuting them is to accept what Scripture teaches at face value. This is an important Bible study principle. When approaching any particular Scripture, we do well first to ask, “What does it appear to say?” Almost always, the answer will point us in the right direction. When we dig deeper—and certainly we always should—we will find insights we had not initially noticed, and sometimes we will discover minor qualifications and nuances. We won’t find passages appearing to teach one thing while actually promoting the opposite idea.


How can we know the intended meaning of a passage of Scripture? We first should ask, “What does the passage appear to say?” The answer will nearly always point us in the right direction.


“But what about Jesus’ telling His followers to pluck their eyes out?” Doesn’t such a statement seem, initially, at least, to mean something other than what was said?” This is a good question. The answer actually is no. In this instance Jesus used a hyperbole, a literary device where exaggeration is employed to drive home a particular point. We never should take a hyperbole literally, but we need to take its intended meaning seriously. In fact, this is the main purpose of this literary device.

Hyperboles and other literary devices need not derail us from properly interpreting Scripture. Recognizing them, we see that they season the spoken and written word—yet they need to be recognized for what they are so they can be properly understood. Other factors such as history, culture, and geography should be taken into account as well. Go here to read a brief discussion of some basic guidelines for biblical interpretation.

The Bible Is Clear About Homosexuality

Let’s now discuss what the Bible teaches about homosexuality. We can summarize its message this way: Homosexual activity is sinful, a violation of God’s holy character, and contrary to His design for humanity.


The Bible teaches that homosexual activity is sinful, a violation of God’s holy character, and contrary to His design for humanity.


Three passages from the Old Testament mention sexual contact between persons of the same sex, and three from the New Testament mention same-sex intimacy or refer directly to those who practice it. The passages are Genesis 19:1-29; Leviticus 18:22; Leviticus 20:13; Romans 1:18-32; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; 1 Timothy 1:8-10.

It’s important to say we must keep the historical context of Leviticus 20:13 in mind. Homosexuality was deemed a capital crime for Israel when she became a nation. Her neighbors were pagan peoples, and God wanted His people to testify to His holiness before the world. We should not see the death penalty for homosexual activity as applicable for us today.

It’s also important to say that we must never assume anyone is beyond the hope and transforming power of God’s saving reach. First Corinthians 6:9-11 demonstrates this truth. God had saved some of the Corinthians out of homosexuality, demonstrating that His specialty is changing people from the inside out, no matter how entrenched in sinful practices they were. Paul wrote,

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God (emphasis added).

Diligent study will uncover many more insights, but for now, let’s let these passages speak for themselves. As we read them, we notice they’re quite straightforward in their teaching. If literary devices ever created challenges to interpreting any passage of Scripture, they certainly don’t with regard to these. One has to perform a great many linguistic, grammatical, and interpretative contortions (also go here) to make the case these passages say something totally opposed to what they appear to say at first reading.


An individual has to perform a great many linguistic, grammatical, and interpretative contortions to make the case that Bible passages on homosexuality actually convey ideas opposite those they appear to uphold at first reading.


Even so, as we have indicated, Satan has been extremely successful in getting people to believe Scripture teaches God doesn’t disapprove of homosexuality, and even that in certain situations He approves of it.

This makes the Nashville Statement all the more necessary, and all the more timely. Let’s expose Satan’s trickery for what it is!

As Jesus said, “The truth shall make you free” (John 8:32).

Part 3 is available here.

 

Copyright © 2017 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.Ownn

For further study:

  • Joe Dallas, “Responding to Pro-Gay Arguments,” available here; also available online here
  • Upholding God-Ordained Marriage Is One of the Greatest Ways to Advance the Gospel, Part 7—Why We Must Never “Agree to Disagree” on Homosexuality and Same-Sex Marriage, available here

Note:

1Safe Exit: Balancing grace and truth on the complicated subject of same-sex attraction, (PFOX—Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays, 2015), 64. Go here for more information.

Unless otherwise marked, Scriptures have been taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Passages marked NIV are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

One Scripture, which is marked NLT,  was taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Upholding Clarity in an Age of Confusion: The Nashville Statement, Part 1

Taking a Stand

Anyone who has pored over the arguments for homosexuality…knows they’re rubbish. When the dust settles, the case for accepting and “celebrating” same-sex relationships has never and will never be a rational one. It is emotional, built of beaming stock photos, upbeat music, and a glib disregard for the consequences for children growing up with two parents of the same sex, and the grim reality of the gay lifestyle.
G. Shane Morris

 

Key point: The Nashville Statement on Biblical Sexuality was signed by scores of Christian leaders and released in late August to restate and affirm what the Bible teaches about human sexuality, being created by God in His image as male and female human beings, and the meaning of marriage. In a day of cultural confusion and ambiguity over what is right and proper with regard to these important issues, it is a much needed statement.

 

You can access summaries of all the articles in this series here.

At Stand to Reason’s reTHINK Apologetics Conference held at Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, Alabama on April 21-22, 2017, speaker and author Brett Kunkle likened subjective truth to ice cream preferences and objective truth to medicine. These analogies are quite appropriate. Ask five people to name their favorite flavors of ice cream and you may very well get five different answers—but a doctor diagnoses a disease or condition according to what he or she thinks it is, not according to desires or preferences. When surgery is needed, the patient’s well-being, and possibly even his or her life, depend on a doctor who is understanding, yet well-informed about what the problem really is. The doctor, especially, must not shy away from reality!

Jack Benny

This humorous exchange from the Jack Benny radio program airing October 18, 1953, illustrates the problem. The clip features Benny, voice talent Mel Blanc, and actress Veola Vonn.

Unfortunately, Christians often are squeamish—or at least less than confident—with regard to the truth about a great many critical issues today, including sexuality, homosexuality, and the meaning of marriage.

We must be compassionate and loving—absolutely. No one ever has an excuse for hatred or gay-bashing. We must realize that we who never have experienced same-sex attraction are in no less need of a Savior than the most militant homosexual activist. Yet we also need to see that it’s impossible to love authentically without upholding the truth. To uphold it effectively, we must know it and understand it.

Affirming Scriptural Teaching

For these and many other reasons, it’s encouraging that on Tuesday, August 29, a group of evangelical leaders released a statement upholding biblical teachings on sexuality and marriage. The Nashville Statement comes officially from the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW). The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention (ERLC) also was involved. Like many other confessions and statements in church history, The Nashville Statement bears the name of the city in which it was forged and refined.

Denny Burk

CBMW President Denny Burk cited the following as examples. In early church history, “The Nicene Creed (325), the Constantinopolitan Creed (381), [and] the Chalcedonian Creed (451)” were drafted and released. Burk added, “Even more recently, there was the Barmen Declaration (1934), The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (1978), The Danvers Statement (1987), and the Manhattan Declaration (2009).…In each case, the name simply indicates where the statements were drawn up.” (Hyperlinks have been added.)

Established in 1987, the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood has a  mission of setting “forth the teachings of the Bible about the complementary differences between men and women, created equally in the image of God, because these teachings are essential for obedience to Scripture and for the health of the family and the church.”

The Nashville Statement’s Preamble says in part,

[The] secular spirit of our age presents a great challenge to the Christian church. Will the church of the Lord Jesus Christ lose her biblical conviction, clarity, and courage, and blend into the spirit of the age? Or will she hold fast to the word of life, draw courage from Jesus, and unashamedly proclaim his way as the way of life? Will she maintain her clear, counter-cultural witness to a world that seems bent on ruin?

We are persuaded that faithfulness in our generation means declaring once again the true story of the world and of our place in it—particularly as male and female. Christian Scripture teaches that there is but one God who alone is Creator and Lord of all. To him alone, every person owes glad-hearted thanksgiving, heart-felt praise, and total allegiance. This is the path not only of glorifying God, but of knowing ourselves. To forget our Creator is to forget who we are, for he made us for himself. And we cannot know ourselves truly without truly knowing him who made us. We did not make ourselves. We are not our own. Our true identity, as male and female persons, is given by God. It is not only foolish, but hopeless, to try to make ourselves what God did not create us to be.


It is not only foolish, but hopeless, to try to make ourselves what God did not create us to be.
—Preamble to the Nashville Statement on Biblical Sexuality—


Pushback

The entire Preamble is available here. It is followed by fourteen articles, each offering an affirmation and a denial. We will consider several of these in future posts, but for now, we should recognize that the drafters and signatories of The Nashville Statement didn’t affirm it for acclaim or popularity. Reaction was both harsh and swift.

    • A headline in the New York Daily News declared, “Evangelical council’s manifesto about ‘biblical sexuality’ and same-sex sin is straight out of the 1980s.”
    • “The Huffington Post” carried this article: “Evangelical Leaders Release Anti-LGBTQ Statement On Human Sexuality.”
    • At salon.com, this article carried news about the Nashville Statement. Here is the headline: “Evangelicals’ bigotry-filled Nashville Statement is denounced for its anti-LGBT message.” The last sentence reads, “The statement was denounced on social media as ‘un-American toilet paper’ written by hypocrites.”
    • Nashville Mayor Megan Barry tweeted, “The @CBMWorg‘s so-called “Nashville Statement” is poorly named and does not represent the inclusive values of the city & people of Nashville.”
Nashville Mayor Megan Barry
    • Offended by the name of their city in the name of the CBMW statement, a group of Nashville residents issued what they called the “Accurate Nashville Statement.” The headline of an article about the counter-statement states that it “Embraces LGBTQ With Love to Counter Bigoted Hate.”
    • In an article appearing in the Chicago Tribune, Rex Huppke drew up his own “Chicago Statement.” It declares that while the Nashville Statement says being gay, lesbian, or transgendered offends God, failing to affirm the wide range of differences existing within the human family is what really offends Him. Also offensive to Him, according to Ruppke’s “Chicago Statement,” is overlooking the fact that it is “wildly and dangerously damaging” to tell “LBGT people that they’re sinners, that their identity is wrong, [and] that they’re somehow imperfect.” Moreover, this is “a sin in and of itself.”
    • A group at the House for all Sinners and Saints in Denver, Colorado, issued a counter-statement that sought to refute  CBMW’s declaration point-by-point.
    • A group calling itself “Christians United” issued a statement “In Support of LGBT+ Inclusion in the Church.”
    • Jen Hatmaker, an “evangelical” speaker, author, and HGTV television personality, came out in support of same-sex marriage in 2016. Her beliefs prompted LifeWay Christian Stores in October to stop selling her books. After the Nashville Statement was released, Hatmaker tweeted, “The fruit of the “Nashville Statement” is suffering, rejection, shame, and despair. The timing is callous beyond words.”
    • In response to the Nashville Statement, in a series of tweets, Jesuit priest James Martin issued his own series of articles of affirmation and denial, including this one: “I affirm: That LGBT people are some of the holiest people I know. I deny: That Jesus wants us to judge others, when he clearly forbade it.”

One certainly would expect strong opposition from those who don’t claim to be Christians, but here we see several people describing themselves as both evangelical and Christian expressing their disagreement in the strongest of terms. It’s interesting they so harshly condemn judging others, yet their condemnations against judging also are judgments. In other words, these people are doing exactly what they are accusing the drafters and signers of the Nashville Statement of doing. One wonders if this insight has totally slipped by these individuals.


In condemning the practice of judging others, critics of those who support the Nashville Statement are themselves judging others.


Widespread, Diverse Support

According to Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary Professor Owen Strachan,

Owen Strachan

The secular pushback to the document was altogether expected. But an article in the Washington Post—bearing the gentle title “Why even conservative evangelicals are unhappy with the anti-LGBT Nashville Statement”—argues that “conservative evangelicals” are opposing the statement. Not many are, it turns out; Katelyn Beaty quotes all of five evangelicals, most of whom agree with the document’s core commitments, but object to its tone. Given that more than 170 men and women signed the statement, things seem a bit overblown on this point.…

[Actually,]  it’s not hard to see why a stunning number of evangelicals signed it: like biblical figures themselves, it calls sin what the Bible calls sin (see Deuteronomy 22:5, Roman 1:26-27, and 1 Corinthians 11:1-16 for starters) while holding out the hope of salvation for every sinner of every kind, however far from God they may be.

Brandon Showalter

Writing for The Christian Post, Brandon Showalter authored an article carrying the headline, “Broad Coalition of Evangelicals Releases ‘Nashville Statement’ on Human Sexuality, Identity.” Mr. Showalter points out that the signers are diverse in terms of age, race, sex, and denominational representation. Can Pentecostals, Presbyterians, Anglicans, Baptists, leaders from non-denominational churches and ministries, and leaders from “almost every other historic Orthodox Protestant tradition” agree on what the Bible teaches about marriage and sexuality? The Nashville Statement offers strong evidence in the affirmative, because signers come from all of these groups. The professions represented are diverse as well; they include “theologians, Bible scholars, church pastors and ministry leaders, seminary presidents, college professors, Christian public policy thinkers, and writers.” Moreover, the number of signers continues to grow.

Even though support is broad, the strong opposition to the Nashville Statement, especially from inside evangelical circles—even from a few—underscores one of many reasons the declaration was and is so desperately needed.

Satan is a very cunning deceiver. He doesn’t just mislead people who mean harm, but also people who mean well.

Next time, we’ll explore just how effective a misleader he really is.

Part 2 is available here.

 

Copyright © 2017 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.Ownn

Unless otherwise marked, Scriptures have been taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

One Scripture, which is marked NLT,  was taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

image credit: top image, www.lightstock.com

 

 

 

Behold the Irony, Part 3

Observations Highlighting the Ironies and the Blindness of the “Progressive” Left

Those indoctrinated by leftist thinking become largely incapable of making accurate moral judgments.
Dennis Prager

Key point: Liberty and license cannot coexist indefinitely, but leftists pretend they can. Their version of liberty actually is a cruel form of tyranny, and this is why they must be stopped. Thankfully, Alliance Defending Freedom is challenging the tyranny of the left by defending authentic liberty in court.

Part 2 is available here.
View summaries of all the articles in this series here.

M. C. Escher (1898-1972) was a Dutch artist who became well-known for depicting impossible objects and situations. The lithograph titled Relativity (pictured above) is one of his well-known works. He also created Waterfall

and Drawing Hands

Go here to see several more images by Escher that both fascinate and boggle the mind.

While it’s interesting and even fun to imagine a world in which these and other impossible constructions exist, we must remember they exist only in our imaginations. The various impossible images created by Escher violate specific physical laws that cannot be overruled in the real world. As long as we understand this, no harm is done.

Reality Is an Irresistible Force

The faulty imaginings of the “progressive” left, however, aren’t leaving the world unscathed. Rather, they are harming millions of people and a great many foundational institutions. It is time to expose these ideas as foolish, unrealistic, and—yes—extremely harmful. This is one of the goals of this series of posts.

Last time we reviewed two cases in which Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is directly involved—Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission and Country Mill Farms v. City of East Lansing. In these cases, ADF rightly contends that Jack Phillips and Steve Tennes, a cake artist and a farmer, respectively, should be free to run their businesses according to their deeply held beliefs without being penalized by the government.

Let’s draw some conclusions from these cases about the perspectives of those working against Jack’s and Steve’s religious freedom and liberty. As we consider these legal battles, we will see the inconsistencies of the political left’s thinking. We will see that in the name of tolerance, leftists are notoriously intolerant of Christians and others with traditional beliefs about marriage and the family. Please read part 2 for summaries of Jack’s and Steve’s cases.

First, Jack Phillips serves all customers who come into his shop. As we noted last time, he told Charlie Craig and David Mullins, the same-sex couple who asked him to bake them a wedding cake, “I’ll make you a birthday cake, shower cake, I’ll sell you cookies and brownies. I just don’t do cakes for same-sex weddings.” The issue, therefore, isn’t one of discrimination against homosexuals, but one of not wanting to lend one’s talent to support a specific event deemed morally wrong. This is a nuance that the progressive left refuses to see.

Second, Jack named his bakery Masterpiece Cakeshop for a reason. He’s an artist, and his work involves artistic expression. See for yourself in the first few moments of this ADF video.

Jack’s creative work is rightly considered a form of expression protected by the First Amendment to the US Constitution. As ADF Senior Counsel Jeremy Tedesco (Tuh-DESS’-koh) affirms,

Jack’s ability to make a living and run his family business shouldn’t be threatened simply because he exercised his artistic freedom. Artists speak through their art, and when Jack designs custom wedding cakes, he is promoting and celebrating the couple’s wedding. Jack will gladly allow anyone to purchase any product he sells, but he simply can’t put his artistic talents to use on a custom cake for an event so at odds with his faith convictions.

Tedesco adds,

The ACLU…would rather use the strong-arm of government to eradicate from the public square people whose views differ from the government’s. We hope the Supreme Court will affirm how illegitimate that is.”

Third, note that in 2015 the Colorado Civil Rights Commission reviewed cases for three other bakers who declined to make cakes that expressed opposition to same-sex marriage. The commission found that all three had a right to act according to the dictates of their consciences. If they have that right, why doesn’t Jack Phillips? ADF is spot on when it says, “The commission’s inconsistent rulings mean that the owners of these three cake shops may run them according to their beliefs, while Jack cannot.  He risks losing his life-long business altogether if he continues to run it consistent with his faith. Such blatant religious discrimination has no place in our society.”


The inconsistent rulings of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission “mean that the owners of…three cake shops [who turned down requests for cakes opposing same-sex marriage] may run them according to their beliefs, while Jack cannot.”
—Jeremy Tedesco, Senior Legal Counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom—


So, the demand from the left is that to stay in business, Jack Phillips must serve all customers. Actually, he does—but the left goes further. Leftists insist he must serve all customers in every situation. Jack draws the line at the point of the meaning of marriage—the very same place where the three other cake artists reviewed by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission drew the line. Equality is the watchword of the gay rights movement—but refusing to acknowledge that Jack Phillips has the same rights other cake artists enjoy isn’t equality. Not even close. It’s bigotry.

Contrast that to Jack’s position, which is an authentic two-way street. Jack has said,

Regardless of your viewpoint about same-sex marriage, shouldn’t we all agree that the government shouldn’t force us to speak or act in a way that violates our deepest convictions?

Laws like the one in Colorado will result in kindhearted Americans being dragged before state commissions and courts and punished by the government for peacefully seeking to live and work consistent with their belief about marriage.

The couple who came into my shop that day five years ago are free to hold their beliefs about marriage; all I ask is that I be allowed the equal opportunity to keep mine.


The couple who came into my shop that day five years ago are free to hold their beliefs about marriage; all I ask is that I be allowed the equal opportunity to keep mine.
—Jack Phillips—


Fourth, in the case involving Steve Tennes and Country Mill Farms, East Lansing passed an ordinance that prevents Tennes from selling his produce to any and all who would choose to do business with him, in every situation that would arise at the East Lansing Farmers Market. Kate Anderson, legal counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, put it this way: “All Steve wants to do is sell his food to anyone who wants to buy it, but the city isn’t letting him.” Isn’t this the kind of business activity progressives are demanding of Jack Phillips? Yet Steve is being excluded.


All Steve wants to do is sell his food to anyone who wants to buy it, but the city isn’t letting him.
—Kate Anderson, Legal Counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom—


Fifth, the tactics of East Lansing officials indicate they’re all too willing to send this message: “People can believe whatever they want, but unless they agree with us about sexuality and marriage, they will not be allowed to do business in our city.” The new policy says farmers market merchants must be in agreement and in compliance with the city’s “Human Relations Ordinance and its public policy against discrimination…while at the market and as a general business practice.” Mark it down. Steve Tennes has no problem selling to whomever wishes to buy from him—in fact, that is why he wants to participate in the first place! He does have a problem being told what he has to believe in order to be a vendor!

Kate Anderson explains,

What (Tennes) did [with regard to his beliefs about marriage] was not illegal. [See part 2 of this series of posts.] They [Steve and his family] are running their farm according to their beliefs, which is the right of every American. What is wrong here is the city of East Lansing targeting them and trying to discriminate against them for acting upon their beliefs and for believing.

What could be more un-American than being told what you have to believe to business in a particular public location? This isn’t just un-American. It’s tyrannical.

Sixth, the left has lectured Christians for decades about morality. Believers and other traditionalists have been told, “You can’t legislate morality” and “Don’t cram your values and religion down our throats!”

Far too few Americans understand that liberty and freedom are rarities in the world. Liberty in a nation is possible only when religion and morality restrain the population from using their freedoms to exploit and oppress others. Our Founders and early leaders understood this, and truthfully, it’s something both conservatives and liberals often fail to grasp. In his last book, The Great Evangelical Disaster, Francis Schaeffer explained the delicate balance between freedom, including individual liberty, and the societal order necessary for freedom to exist.

In our own country we have enjoyed enormous human freedom. But at the same time this freedom has been founded upon forms of government, law, culture, and social morality which have given stability to individual and social life, and have kept our freedoms from leading to chaos. There is a balance here between form and freedom which we have come to take as natural in the world. But it is not natural. And we are utterly foolish if we do not recognize that this unique balance which we have inherited from the Reformation thought-forms is not automatic in a fallen world. This is clear when we look at the long span of history. But it is equally clear when we read the daily newspaper and see half the world locked in totalitarian oppression.1,2

As we said, both conservatives and liberals have difficulty seeing this—but my point here is that leftist radicals are  inconsistent, hypocritical, and unrealistic. They tell us tells us we are cramming our values down their throats, but they then turn around and tell people who believe in natural marriage they must abandon their beliefs to participate in society’s routine activities. Who’s really doing the cramming?


The left is inconsistent and hypocritical. “Progressives” tell us we are shoving our values down their throats, but then they turn around and tell people who believe in natural marriage they must abandon their beliefs to participate in society’s routine activities. Who’s really doing the cramming? 


Speaking of the left’s bigotry and of history’s testimony, Dennis Prager astutely observes,

Society may no longer define marriage in the only way marriage has ever been defined in the annals of recorded history. Many societies allowed polygamy, many allowed child marriages, some allowed marriage within families; but none, in thousands of years, defined marriage as the union of people of the same sex.

Seventh, one of the tactics the left has perfected is that of using words in judgmental and manipulative ways. Writing about Steve’s case for the Gay Star News, Joe Morgan declares, “An apple farmer in Michigan is claiming he is banned from selling his fruit at a farmer’s market because of this homophobic religious views.”

You can’t have an honest and fair debate with leftists, because they don’t respect you as an equal player in the marketplace of ideas. Instead, you’re a bad person—get this!—to hold to the millennia-old definition of marriage! Amazing! This is not the American way! It’s not equality. It’s not fairness. It’s not tolerance. Rather, it is unequal, unfair, and intolerant.

Behold the irony!

 

Copyright © 2017 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.

Notes:

1Francis Schaeffer, The Great Evangelical Disaster, (Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1984), 21-22.

2See this article for more from Francis Schaeffer.

 

 

 

 

Behold the Irony, Part 2

Tolerance once referred to mutual respect among parties who disagreed; but today it’s a one-way street that permits movement in a direction Christians cannot travel without violating their deeply held beliefs.

If the government can shut down a family farmer just because of the religious views he expresses on Facebook—by denying him a license to do business and serve fresh produce to all people—then no American is free.
—ADF Legal Counsel Kate Anderson (pictured above), referring to her client, Steve Tennes—

Part 1 is available here.
Read summaries of all the articles in this series here.

 

Key point: Do you believe marriage is between one man and one woman? Do you seek to run your business according to biblical principles? If so, you shouldn’t be surprised when leftists threaten your business and livelihood. They will try to use government force against you—to coerce you or to exclude you from doing business altogether.

Last time we pointed out that the “progressive” left holds positions that, when fairly and objectively examined, don’t pass muster. Consider: leftist’s versions of tolerance and equality essentially are one-way streets; they actually are intolerant and unequal. In a society like ours that cherishes individual freedom, moral restraints are essential to true liberty. Leftists will have none of this. In fact, they want to coerce everyone, not just to allow moral license, but also to celebrate it. We see this clearly in many places, including two legal battles in which Alliance Defending Freedom is directly involved.

Jack Phillips Is a Cake Artist

We’ll first consider Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. Jack Phillips is the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado. Jack celebrated a landmark anniversary in 2014—40 years in business.

Two years earlier—on July 19, 2012—Charlie Craig and David Mullins, a same-sex couple who claimed they already had been married in Massachusetts, wanted to celebrate the occasion with a reception in Colorado. They visited Jack’s bakery and asked him to bake them a wedding cake. Jack politely turned them down. “Sorry, guys,” he said, “I don’t make cakes for same-sex weddings.” He also sought to assure them, “I’ll make you a birthday cake, shower cake, I’ll sell you cookies and brownies. I just don’t do cakes for same-sex weddings.” Keep in mind that at the time, same-sex marriage was not recognized in the state of Colorado.

Writing for Breitbart News, legal expert Ken Klukowski observed, “Phillips is an Evangelical Christian who holds to the belief that marriage is between a man and woman. When Phillips bakes a wedding cake, he interprets it as participating in the wedding celebration.…”

In other words, Jack is a “cake artist.” He lends his artistic talent to enhance and affirm the wedding. Since he believes marriage is between a man and a woman, it makes sense, therefore, that his conscience would not allow him to participate in an event celebrating a same-sex union.

Mullins complained on social media about having been turned down by Jack, and soon he and his partner were filing charges against Phillips with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. Colorado law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, but Phillips argues that this is a religious liberty case involving his right to free speech, which is guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution, the “supreme law of the land.”

Jack has received death threats and hateful comments. Even his family members have been targets of hate. Yet he also has received an outpouring of support, even from some who identify as gay.

Of the threats, Jack has said,

They cannot do anything to me that [God] doesn’t allow. So I just get up in the morning. I’ve been doing this for 40 years and there’s not one day that I’ve gotten up and thought, ‘Oh, man, I don’t want to go to work today.’ I love going to work. Always have. That doesn’t change it.


I’ve been doing this for 40 years and there’s not one day that I’ve gotten up and thought, ‘Oh, man, I don’t want to go to work today.’ I love going to work. Always have.
—Jack Phillips—


In December of 2013, May of 2014, and August of 2015, a judge, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, and the Colorado Court of Appeals, respectively, all ruled against Phillips. Eight months later, in April of 2016, The Colorado Supreme Court turned down Phillips’s request for an appeal. In July, Phillips’s attorneys asked the US Supreme Court hear the case, and on Monday, June 26, 2017, the Court agreed. Here is a timeline of events in Jack’s case.

Significantly, a summary of the relevant facts in the case by Alliance Defending Freedom notes,

In contrast to the ruling against Phillips, the commission found in 2015 that three other Denver cake artists were not guilty of creed discrimination when they declined a Christian customer’s request for a cake that reflected his religious opposition to same-sex marriage.

Steve Tennes Is an Apple Grower and Owner of Country Mill Farms

One of the attractions in the small town of Charlotte, Michigan, is Country Mill Farms. The house where its owner, Steve Tennes, grew up now is 150 years old—and in that same house today, Steve and his wife, Bridget, are bringing up five children of their own.

Steve and his family used to book weddings on their property. They would host about 45 annually, but in 2016 they stepped away completely from booking weddings. A same-sex couple asked Tennes to host their wedding, but because of his and his family’s deeply held beliefs about marriage, he declined. One of the women, Caitlin Ortis, took to Facebook to complain about having been turned down. She first shared her frustrations on social media in October of 2014 and subsequently published two additional posts carrying the same message. Her August, 2016 statements were heavily shared and gained a great deal of traction, prompting Steve and his family to change their policy. Steve did not hesitate to explain on Facebook his reason for the policy change.

Another income-producing venture in which the Tennes family has been involved is the East Lansing Farmers Market. Country Mill Farms made its first appearance there in 2010. After posting his convictions about marriage on Facebook, however, Tennes found himself and his business under pressure to back out of the farmers market. Writing for The Daily Signal, Fred Lucas reports that last year, Steve’s Facebook post on marriage drew a warning from an official more than 20 miles away in East Lansing, Michigan. If Tennes tried to sell his fruit at the city’s farmers market, he was told, it could incite protests.

No one showed up to protest that August day last summer, though, and Tennes continued selling organic apples, peaches, cherries, and pumpkins at the seasonal market until October, as he had done the six previous years.

That wasn’t the end of it, however. “Ultimately,” Steve explains, “The city developed a new policy to target and block our farm from further participation in their city-run farmers market.”

In March, Steve received a letter from East Lansing officials that stated,

It was brought to our attention that the Country Mill’s general business practices do not comply with East Lansing’s civil rights ordinances and public policy against discrimination as set forth in Chapter 22 of the City Code and outlined in the 2017 market vendor guidelines.

The letter went on to say, “As such, Country Mill’s presence as a vendor is prohibited.”

Again, Charlotte is approximately 22 miles away from East Lansing; it is “well outside the city’s boundaries and beyond its jurisdiction.” Steve rightly asserts, “Our faith and beliefs on marriage and hosting weddings at our home and in our backyard of our farm have nothing to do with the city of East Lansing.”


Our faith and beliefs on marriage and hosting weddings at our home and in our backyard of our farm have nothing to do with the city of East Lansing.
—Steve Tennes, owner of Country Mill Farms in Charlotte, Michigan—


Facebook

Alliance Defending Freedom is representing Tennes in court, challenging East Lansing’s policy that excluded him from doing business at the farmers market, simply because of his beliefs about marriage. Hear him in his own words, from an interview Alliance Defending Freedom conducted with Steve and his wife on the July 20 edition of ADF’s weekly podcast, “Freedom Matters.” The following is a 3-minute, 40-second clip, but you can hear the entire program on this page. The first voice you’ll hear in the clip is that of podcast host Bob Trent.

What can we learn from these legal and cultural battles? Next time, we’ll draw some important conclusions from these cases and the events surrounding them.

You haven’t read anything yet!

Part 3 is available here.

 

Copyright © 2017 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture has been taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Behold the Irony, Part 1

Leftists Can’t Have It Both Ways, But that Won’t Keep Them from Trying

 We run carelessly to the precipice, after we have put something before us to prevent us seeing it.
Blaise Pascal

Key point: In the name of tolerance and freedom, the progressive left promotes bondage and tyranny—and many of them don’t even realize this is what they’re doing!

View summaries of all the articles in this series here.

 

While June has become the designated month for celebrating homosexuality in the United States and even beyond, in some locations other dates are scheduled. In the Netherlands, for example, Amsterdam Pride “is a citywide gay-festival held annually at the center of Amsterdam during the first week of August.” On August 5 of this year, in commemoration of the event, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines released this meme. It says, “It doesn’t matter who you click with. Happy #PrideAmsterdam.”

Click the image to enlarge.

One has to wonder if it even crossed the minds of officials at KLM how foolish this would make the airline look. Here are some of the responses I found online.

John Stonestreet of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview regularly does a one-minute commentary called “The Point.” The August 9 edition was titled “On Love and KLM Seatbelts.” Stonestreet declared,

Now, the message they were trying to convey with the seatbelt pairings was about love and sex, of course, not seatbelts. How they missed, with that headline “it doesn’t matter who you click with,” that only one of those pairs would actually click, and therefore only one pair would actually complete a seatbelt and save your life in case of disaster, is beyond me.

The other two pairs were (hmmm, what word should I use?), impotent to serve as seatbelts. Again, I’m not sure how they missed this key flaw in their image, which is, after all, the key flaw in the whole “love is love” movement.

So, how did KLM miss the obvious? Mr. Stonestreet himself, I believe, provides the answer. Note one more time the last sentence in his commentary. “Again, I’m not sure how they missed this key flaw in their image, which is, after all, the key flaw in the whole “love is love” movement.”


They missed the flaw in the graphic because it represents “the key flaw in the whole ‘love is love’ movement.” They can’t see that flaw, either!


They missed the flaw in the graphic because it represents “the key flaw in the whole ‘love is love’ movement.” They’re especially missing that one—and the truth is, they want to!

Spiritual Warfare

We are reminded of Paul’s words to the Corinthian Christians in 2 Corinthians 4:3-4.

[E]ven if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.

In his first letter to the Corinthian believers, the apostle also had written this.

14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. 16 For “who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:14-16).

People have a natural inclination not to understand spiritual truths. Add to this the fact that once a person’s mind is blinded by “the god of this age,” and kept from understanding the gospel, he or she will have difficulty seeing and understanding a great deal more than the gospel—even certain things that ought to be obvious.

I am speaking in general terms here. God can overrule the forces of evil and open people’s eyes to a wide variety of insights. Thus, some may be able to see some of the specific things I’m highlighting in this series of articles without really understanding the gospel completely and fully. One doesn’t have to be a Christian to be an advocate of true religious liberty, but being a believer certainly should help. Generally speaking, though, the greater the animosity to God’s truth, the greater the blindness to other, related insights. We must not forget that the culture war is, at its core, a cosmic, spiritual battle.

As believers, we need to be keenly aware of what is happening in this battle. We need to be familiar with biblical teachings, of course. We need to pray, rely on the Holy Spirit, and be an active part of a local church. All these things are important. Moreover, like the “sons of Issachar” in 1 Chronicles 12:32, we must have a keen “understanding of the times.” Having this understanding, these men knew “what Israel ought to do.”

A Religion that Denies God

I believe we also can learn a great deal from a man who actually isn’t a Christian. Dennis Prager is a practicing Jew, but he understands more about what is happening in cultural and spiritual arenas than most Christians. Prager “nails it” in an article titled “The World’s Most Dynamic Religion Is….”

For the past century, Prager says, the religion that has gained the most traction in the world isn’t Christianity, Mormonism, or Islam. Rather, it is leftism.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of people have no awareness of the extent to which the left has captured people’s minds and hearts. Why? Their religion is so thoroughly secular that no one thinks of it as a religion at all. Yet it is a religion—one that opposes all traditional religions and religious values.


The most dynamic religion in the world over the past one hundred years has been leftism.
—Dennis Prager—


You have to understand how leftists think and operate. They act with great zeal to win new converts, and they have the media and all of society’s institutions to promote their views. They present their beliefs as conclusions reached by science, reason, and rational thinking. Who in his or her right mind would believe otherwise? The implication, and sometimes the overtly stated mantra, is that to disagree with leftist ideas is to be “anti-intellectual, anti-progress, anti-science, anti-minority and anti-reason”—and even stupid and mean.

Like any other religion, however, leftism is a belief system that requires faith—but this doesn’t keep leftists from being certain “that there is no other way to think.”

Despite all this, leftists sometimes, however unintentionally, reveal the weaknesses of what they believe. When they do, we are wise to “behold the irony” and learn all we can!

In our next two or three posts, we’ll examine two specific cases in which Alliance Defending Freedom is directly involved, and we’ll use these legal battles to unmask some significant ironies coming from the “progressive” left.

It will be an insightful journey! Be sure to return.

Part 2 is available here.

Copyright © 2017 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture has been taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

image credits:

Upholding God-Ordained Marriage Is One of the Greatest Ways to Advance the Gospel, Part 10

Just Like the Natural World, Man-Woman Marriage Has God’s Fingerprints All Over It!

Marriage is common. It does not appear profound.…Marriage does not astound us. That is why Paul alerts us to the “profound mystery” revealed in a Christian marriage. We need new eyes to discern the glory God has put there. There is a reason why marriage appears in Genesis 2. The context is the creation of the universe, in Genesis 1. I have never seen a creation of a universe. But I have sen many weddings. Marriage may be common to us, but it is why the universe was created, and not for Adam and Eve only, but even more for Christ and his church.
—Ray Ortlund1

Key point: Marriage is about a great deal more than two people. It’s also about children, and ultimately, it’s about God.

Part 9 is available here.
View summaries of all the article in this series here.
An article carrying the content of parts 8, 9, and 10 of this series is available here.

We’ve been considering lessons for the American evangelical church arising from Jesus’ encounter with the Pharisees in Matthew 19. Here is our list thus far.

Rembrandt’s depiction of Matthew’s being guided by an angel as he wrote his Gospel

  • First, Jesus’ question to the Pharisees— “Have you not read” the Genesis account of the creation of man and woman and the establishment of marriage? —is a question I believe He also would ask church leaders and Christians today. I do not mean we as evangelicals are Pharisees or pharisaical but that we ought to be familiar with the Genesis account and its implications for us in this morally decadent culture. We made this point in this post.
  • Second, the fact that Jesus went back to Genesis—wherein are recorded God’s words and actions at the dawn of time—ought to carry great weight with us.
  • Third, in creating human beings as male and female, God simultaneously established marriage as the first and most important institution.
  • Fourth, When Jesus quoted Genesis 2:24 and said, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh,” He meant that because God had created human beings male and female, a man shall leave his parents and be joined to his wife in a one-flesh union.

We made the second, third, and fourth points in this post. We move now in this final post in this series to consider four additional truths, all of which underscore the legitimacy of heterosexual marriage. All these insights will help us as we seek to link man-woman marriage to the gospel, and as we work to preserve marriage in the culture for the gospel’s sake.

Only a Heterosexual Union Can Reflect Unity and Diversity Within the Godhead

Fifth, Jesus went on to say, “So then, they are no longer two but one flesh.” Having quoted Genesis 2:24 in Matthew 19:5, the Master Teacher underscored the “one-flesh principle” of man-woman marriage in 19:6. A husband and wife are to become one flesh, not just physically, but on many levels, including relationally, socially, financially, and in other ways as well. While a married person’s individuality does not cease, it no longer has independence as its primary focus, but oneness with the marital partner.

We could say a great deal about this, but here we want to emphasize this point: Marital oneness reflects the oneness we see in the triune Godhead. In John 10:30, Jesus said, “I and My Father are one.” Jesus is God, but He is neither the Father nor the Spirit. In a variety of ways, He is different from each one. Yet there is unity among the Trinity’s Members.

We see evidence of the Trinity even before God made human beings. On the cusp of creating humanity, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit discussed the matter.

26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Gen. 1:26-28).

Within the Godhead, as we have indicated, we see both unity and diversity. Not coincidentally, while both men and women are equal in worth and are equally made in God’s image, men reflect His image in a variety of ways that women typically do not, and vice versa. Let’s put it another way. Men and women are both human, yet they are different (also go here, here, and here); there is unity and diversity among them. These are God’s “fingerprints” on His highest creation! The fact that human beings consist of both males and females represents not only the wide range of ways people showcase God’s image, but also the unity and diversity that coexists within the Godhead.

These truths lead us to an inescapable conclusion. While all people, both males and females, are made in God’s image, the one-flesh nature of man-woman marriage reflects His image in ways no individual man or woman can—and in ways no same-sex couple can, whether the state says they are “married” or not. Here we are in no way equating singleness with same-sex marriage. Rather, we’re upholding man-woman marriage as uniquely able to reflect the broad range of ways God’s image is evident in human beings. This is especially critical for children, whose first impressions about God come from their parents.


The one-flesh nature of man-woman marriage reflects God’s image in ways no individual man or woman can—and in ways that no same-sex couple can, whether the state says they are “married” or not.


Scriptural Context Offers an Additional Insight

Sixth, it is noteworthy that the next encounter Jesus had, as recorded in Matthew and Mark, involved children. Jesus did speak briefly to His disciples about celibacy on the heels of his conversation with the Pharisees (see Matt. 19:11-12 in the parallel passages we just cited), but this teaching readily can be seen as the last portion of His teaching on marriage and divorce, which had been prompted by the Pharisees’ question.

Matthew 19:13 says, “Then little children were brought to Him that He might put His hands on them and pray….” Mark writes in what we now know as Mark 10:13, “Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them….” While we need to be careful not to read too much into this, at the same time we need to remember that nothing in Scripture appears coincidentally. Marriage and children are inseparably linked. Children follow marriage, but only man-woman marriage. Yes, children can be born outside of marriage, but God’s ideal is that they come as a result of the sexual oneness their parents have experienced in being married to each other.

There’s something else. What better expression of a one-flesh relationship could their be than a child? This point alone disqualifies same-sex relationships from being described as one-flesh unions.

The disciples rebuked those who brought the children to the Master, “but Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for such is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 19:14). Similarly, we read this in Mark’s account.

13 Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them. 14 But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. 15 Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” 16 And He took them up in His arms, laid His hands on them, and blessed them (Mark 10:13-16).

Luke’s Account Opens the Door to Yet Another Insight

A seventh point—one related to the sixth—arises. Although Matthew and Mark are the two synoptic Gospels that record Jesus’ encounter with the Pharisees and His teaching about marriage and divorce, all three synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) record Jesus’ blessing the children. We do well to note from Luke’s chronology what happened before and after our Lord welcomed the children and blessed them. Here is the text of Luke 18:9-30.

Items 172-175 in this chart provide a “big picture” summary of the series of events we’re highlighting in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Note that in item 175, “Jesus speaks to the rich young man,” is recorded in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Here is a biblegateway.com page presenting the texts of all three Gospel accounts.

We should make a brief statement at this point about Gospel chronology. In an article about events in the Gospels that at first seem contradictory, we read, “Taken at face value, the Gospels seem to intend a sequential account of Christ’s life: they progress through his birth, baptism, temptation, ministry, passion, death and then resurrection.” Even so, the article goes on to say, accounts differ over the order of some events. In other words, offering a strict chronology was not the Gospel writers’ primary concern. Yet we still must think of the order in which the events are recorded as having been inspired or God-breathed, since the words themselves are God-breathed and absolutely true.

James Tissot’s depiction of Luke

Both events that “bookend” Jesus’ blessing the children in Luke’s Gospel—

  • His relating the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector as well as
  • His encounter with the rich young ruler—

more than likely took place close to His encounter with the Pharisees and His teaching on marriage and divorce. Is there a point to be made here? I believe there is.

God hates pride! Either overtly and by implication, Jesus condemned pride in His parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector (see Luke 18:9-14), in His blessing of the little children (see Matt. 19:13-15; Mark 10:13-16; Luke 18:15-17), and in His instructions to the rich young man (see Matt. 19:16-30; Mark 10:17-31; Luke 18:18-30).

How does all of this relate to His teachings on marriage and divorce? (See Matt. 19:1-12; Mark 10:1-12).

  1. First, the Pharisees themselves were full of pride.
  2. Second, successful marriages require humility (also go here).
  3. Third, while divorce occurs for a wide variety of reasons, pride is likely present somewhere in every divorce occurring today. Pride had to be a factor in a man’s writing a certificate of divorce, the practice about which the Pharisees asked Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning [when God established marriage] it was not so” (Matt. 19:8, emphasis added).
  4. Our fourth observation notes the clear link between pride and homosexuality in the modern gay rights movement. Militant homosexual activists have made the word pride practically synonymous with the radical homosexual agenda. This association of pride with overt sin is not coincidental but a natural result of following one’s own way—or the way of the prevailing secular culture—rather than God’s. This is especially true if inclinations and base desires are left unchecked.

Pride Unmasked

This fourth point is heartbreaking beyond words, and we must weep for our homosexual friends, neighbors, coworkers, and family members. We also must pray for them and love them unconditionally. Moreover, in loving them, we must seek to tell them the truth about their behavior. In Romans 1:18-32, Paul describes the path taken by those who reject God and natural law—the principles God has revealed in the natural world. Homosexuality isn’t the only sin of which these people are guilty, but it is impossible to be fair to the biblical text and separate homosexuality from Paul’s description. In English in the New King James Version, what Paul wrote in verses 28-32 forms one long sentence.

28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.

Note the use of the words translated proud and boasters in verse 30. Significantly, both Greek words appear together in just one other verse in the New Testament, 2 Timothy 3:2. Paul reversed the order in his letter to Timothy. Here is the entire context of the verse, with the words we’re highlighting printed in bold text.

31 But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!

Pride, therefore, is nothing to be proud of!

Jesus Did Not Misrepresent Himself

Eighth, we must not be naïve. There are those who will point to this passage and say Jesus wasn’t talking about the definition of marriage when He spoke against divorce. It is clear, however, that Jesus appealed to and upheld the age-old definition of marriage to speak against divorce.

As we have seen in this and in previous posts, God didn’t arbitrarily ordain that marriage would be a lifelong commitment between one man and one woman. Instead, in making man and woman in His image, He established marriage. God made every person, whether male or female, in His image; but the world gets to see even more of God’s nature than individual people can reflect. Marriage provides an even clearer picture of God and what He is like. God is unchanging, so we can know divinely designed portraits are not fluid or subject to change. This doesn’t mean people always succeed in presenting the truth about God through the institution of marriage; Jesus Himself acknowledged human failure at this point. It does mean that people and society always benefit when they strive to uphold the ideal.

Marriage also is a portrait of Christ and His bride, the church. God’s Son came from heaven to earth to pursue His bride by living a holy life and then sacrificing Himself on the cross for her. He remains faithful to the end. To suggest that in Matthew 19 and Mark 10 that Jesus’ words affirming marriage somehow leave the door open to redefining it is to totally misunderstand and misrepresent biblical teaching. As important as marriage is, a great deal more is at stake here than marriage, and that’s saying a lot! People’s understanding of the very nature of God is at stake!


To suggest that in Matthew 19 and Mark 10 Jesus’ words affirming marriage somehow leave the door open to redefining it is to totally misunderstand and misrepresent biblical teaching.


The gospel, the primary message of the Bible, is at stake as well. Because marriage is a picture of Christ and His church, it also is a picture of the gospel. If the gospel is worth upholding, marriage is worth upholding. How can we tell ourselves we ought not to risk offending people by talking about marriage when it is so intricately woven into the fabric of the gospel? Don’t we know that the gospel itself is offensive? If we don’t defend marriage in some form or fashion, our inactions betray us. We really don’t care about the gospel.


If we don’t defend marriage in some form or fashion, our inactions betray us. We really don’t care about the gospel.


Where can we begin? Let’s start by talking about the biblical definition of marriage in our churches and passing along to the next generation of Christians a clear understanding of how marriage mirrors—and is to mirror—what God is like, what Christ’s relationship with His church is like, and the gospel itself.

Champion the Truth!

Ninth, Jesus’ “punchline” in His response to the Pharisees is extremely instructive for us. The Master Teacher said, “Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” By way of application for our day, this means that what God has joined together by defining and establishing marriage, man cannot separate by redefining it. While this has happened in the judicial realm in America, and while society now recognizes same-sex marriages as legitimate, the church ought to be a place where God’s authority and Word are understood to be absolutely authoritative and supreme. God’s people need to be informed and confident about the biblical view of marriage so that they aren’t swayed by the politically correct arguments against it. When they are so informed, they will be better able to defend marriage in the culture at large.

International Organization for the Family President Brian Brown warns,

Same-sex “marriage” is a lie, one advanced by radical leftists and their allies in Hollywood and the media. Intrinsically, marriage is the union of one man and one woman. It is an institution created at the beginning of time, one that has been recognized by every civilization in human history. But leftists want to redefine reality and tragically succeeded in convincing a narrow majority of the US Supreme Court to go along with their scheme. As we’ve seen in the United States, once the lie of same-sex marriage is imposed on a nation, all the levers of power are exercised to spread the lie throughout society, and it gives rise to other lies, such as the notion that gender can be redefined, that children don’t need a mother and a father, that it is healthy for a child to have many “parents” even if they are all of the same sex, and that reproduction is a human right of people who do not engage in sexual relationships naturally capable of producing children.


Leftists want to redefine reality. Once the lie of same-sex marriage is imposed on a nation, all the levers of power are exercised to spread the lie throughout society, and it gives rise to [a host of] other lies.
—Brian Brown—


The main lie and its subsequent falsehoods are taking hold! It’s time for church leaders who say they believe in the gospel to step up to the plate and lead.

Will you fulfill your responsibility in this worthy effort?

 

Copyright © 2017 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture has been taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Note:

1Ray Ortlund, Marriage and the Mystery of the Gospel, (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2016), 99.

top image: Frederic Edwin Church’s painting, Aurora Borealis, 1865