Twelve Qualities that Should Characterize the Church’s Case for Natural Marriage


These qualities originally were named in parts 4, 5, and 6 of the series titled “Upholding God-Ordained Marriage Is One of the Greatest Ways to Advance the Gospel.” We highlight all twelve in this single post to make it easier for users to read and share.

Key point: Because marriage is about the gospel, the church must contend for marriage in the same ways it contends for the gospel.


Marriage is, and always has been, about more than individual adults alone. It’s also about children, the larger community, and the future of society. Recognizing this, Sean McDowell and John Stonestreet declare, “Marriage must be both taught and portrayed as an institution that is bigger than our desires, whims, feelings, and affections.”1


Marriage is about the gospel.


As Christians, we know as well that God-ordained marriage reflects Christ’s relationship with the church, and consequently, the gospel. Non-Christians cannot understand this aspect of marriage in a way they can explain. Even so, from, in, by, and through marriage, even unbelievers can grasp gospel-related truths, although they may do so unconsciously.

Recognizing all of this, the church must uphold and defend marriage as God designed it. We can call His design “natural marriage” because nature echoes what the Bible says about this foundational institution.

Never before has the church, society, and culture needed a clearer and more accurate message about marriage. In a BreakPoint commentary dated March 31, 2017 and titled “The Silent Suffering of Gay Men,” John  Stonestreet astutely observed that for a variety of reasons “the debate over gay ‘marriage’ and homosexuality has largely fizzled out…[a]nd that’s a shame, because so-called ‘progress’ isn’t bringing about the rosy picture we were promised.”

The church must reignite this debate! It is in a unique and strategic position to help society get out of the mess that has resulted from redefining marriage—and I don’t just mean redefining marriage through Obergefell. The meaning of marriage has been under assault for decades!


God’s people must teach the next generation of Christians why and how God’s Word is right about marriage.


To begin with, God’s people must teach the next generation of Christians why and how God’s Word is right about marriage. This includes explaining how natural marriage represents the gospel. In a previous post, we’ve already discussed two specific ways marriage does this. Explaining these connections, though, is only the beginning. What qualities must characterize the church’s case for natural marriage? Here are twelve.

What the Church Must Do

First, believers must contend for marriage with greater sincerity. All too often Christians and the church have ignored the marriage issue as too controversial. It will turn people away! People will misunderstand! Yet marriage really is about the gospel, and upholding God’s design can indeed help non-Christians see and understand God’s good news about His Son, Jesus Christ.

Second, we must uphold marriage with greater authenticity. We need to work on our own marriages and, with God’s help, bring them to a clearer representation of Christ’s relationship with His church. Churches must step up to the plate to teach and equip men and women to be better husbands and wives—and to teach young people to become men and women of God who will be better husbands and wives when they’re married.

Remember, though, that as important as good marriages are, we have a responsibility not just to have good marriages, but to uphold marriage.


As important as good marriages are, defending marriage isn’t just about improving marriages, but about upholding marriage.


Be Aware, Speak Up Often, and Never Misrepresent God’s Truth

Third, God’s people, both individually and corporately, must speak with greater awareness. This includes an awareness of

  • the hurt and pain associated with homosexuality (go here, here, and here),
  • the longings of children to have both a mother and a father, and
  • the benefits of natural marriage on individual and societal levels (go here and here).

With an awareness of these things, we become gravely concerned for our homosexual neighbors, family members, coworkers, and friends—and we become more determined than ever to expose the lie that limiting marriage to one man and one woman robs them of fulfillment and happiness.

There’s more. A primary reason we as believers defend marriage is because of its underlying meaning in the gospel of Jesus Christ. If we aren’t ashamed of the gospel, then how can we be ashamed of marriage as God designed it, for in it we see the gospel? This doesn’t mean we pick fights with those who disagree with us, but it does mean we are willing to engage with people on this important issue.

Fourth, we must uphold marriage with greater frequency. When was the last time you attended a Bible study, or heard a sermon, not on improving your marriage, but on God’s design for marriage and the importance of revering it and upholding it as an institution? Pastors, where are you?


Pastors, where are you?


Here is an article with links to Bible studies that will help Christians uphold marriage. These can be used as Bible studies or easily adapted as sermons.

Fifth, we must speak with greater clarity. The Bible is unambiguous about the fact that homosexuality is a sin (also go here). We cannot afford to be confused about this basic point; nor can we afford to present an unclear message about it.

In addition, a number of symbols God established to have specific meanings are being grossly and horrifically distorted. If the church does not seek to clarify this misinformation, who will? The need for clarity was the theme of one of my earliest posts at Word Foundations.

The Situation Is Desperate

Sixth, we must uphold marriage with greater urgency. A new poll conducted by the Pew Research Center “found that two years after Obergefell, the Supreme Court decision that required states to recognized [sic] same-sex marriages nationwide, support for allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally is at its highest point in more than 20 years.” The survey also found that while white Protestants in the evangelical tradition oppose same-sex marriage 59 to 35 percent,

younger white evangelicals have grown more supportive: 47 percent of white evangelical Millennials and Gen Xers—age cohorts born after 1964—favor same-sex marriage, up from 29 percent in March 2016.

Additionally, while African-Americans have generally been less supportive than whites of redefining marriage, since 2015 support among blacks has increased 12 points—from 39 percent to a majority—51 percent.

Overall, 62 versus 32 percent of Americans favor same-sex marriage. Contrast that to findings in 2010, when Americans opposed the idea 48 to 42 percent.

Without question, the pro-LGBT media have had an impact on societal opinion. Even so, another survey found that the number one factor compelling people to open their minds to idea that same-sex rights are needed “is knowing somebody who is gay.” I’m sure this is true in the church as well, especially among younger believers.

Why would knowing a homosexual cause a Christian warm to the idea of allowing same-sex couples to “marry”? Having a gay or lesbian friend or family member understandably personalizes this issue for us—but in the debate over the meaning of marriage, we must use our heads, not simply follow our hearts. This is not unloving, because authentic love never ignores the truth!


In the debate over the meaning of marriage, we as Christians must use our heads, not simply follow our hearts. Authentic love never ignores the truth!


Bible-believing Christians recognize all sexual activity outside of natural marriage as sinful and wrong, whether it is illegal or not. This includes homosexuality. So we must ask, Does knowing a drug addict compel us to support that person’s “right” to abuse drugs? What about knowing an alcoholic, or a thief? Do we support his or her “right” to keep behaving the way he or she is behaving just because knowing that person puts a face on this issue for us? Of course not!

Homosexual activists have succeeded in making homosexuality an identity in people’s minds, but in reality it is linked inseparably to behavior, and destructive behavior, at that! (Also go here). If we really care about someone, we will not shy away from telling him or her the truth, even though telling and hearing the truth might be difficult at first.

What About the Children?

Moreover, we must remember that children adopted by same-sex parents are being denied a mother or a father by virtue of the design of the “marriages” of their parents. These parents may be loving and may do a great job meeting many of their children’s needs. The children may appear to be happy, and all may seem to be well. None of this changes the reality the parents’ “marriage” is denying their children an extremely critical need—that of a mom or a dad. Children need both, argues social researcher Glenn Stanton in this short but excellent piece. He is absolutely right! (Also go here.) These children are real people—every bit as real as their adopted parents. Can we please acknowledge their existence and their needs? Let’s let these children, whether we know them by name or not, personalize this issue for us!


Read “Why Children Need a Male and Female Parent” by Glenn Stanton


Stand with Understanding

Seventh, Christians, both individually and corporately, must uphold God-ordained marriage with greater understanding and depth. Among other things, this means never using trite clichés like these.2

  • God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve! Never say this! It trivializes not only God’s creation of human beings as male and female, but also the challenges many young people face as they grapple with sexual feelings, cultural messages about gender identity, and what it means in practical terms to be male or female.
  • I love the sinner, but I hate the sin! Typically, a gay individual cannot separate his identity from his behavior. The same can be said of a lesbian.
  • Homosexuality is a choice. Certainly choices are involved in being homosexual, but homosexuality is complicated. Typically, people do not choose to experience same-sex attraction (see page 9 of this publication from the Family Research Council).

The church has a need to demonstrate a deeper understanding of the nature of homosexuality from a theological perspective as well. It is misleading to say things like, Homosexuality is no worse than any other sin if we don’t sufficiently clarify what this means. While even a sin that seems minor in our eyes is an affront to God and makes a person deserving of hell, on other levels, all sins are not equal. Furthermore, among sexual sins, homosexuality is unique in that it defies what nature teaches about human sexuality. Note the phrases “natural use” and “against nature” in Romans 1:26-27.

Furthermore, Paul wrote that God gave up those who refuse to acknowledge Him “to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves.” Then he added, “God gave them up to vile passions” (vv. 24, 26). James Montgomery Boice notes that God’s giving people up in this way isn’t like His releasing a porcelain pitcher in outer space where it would float harmlessly away. Instead, His action is like releasing the pitcher on earth, where gravity takes over and pulls it fast to the ground!

Stand Wisely

These realities, along with Christians’ love for their homosexual friends and neighbors, compel believers to speak out. As it does, the church must exercise  greater wisdom. This is the eighth item on our list.

As we make the effort to learn what we need to know to become effective defenders of marriage, we also need to pray God will give us the right insights and the right words.

We know that our message is difficult to deliver and difficult to hear. Jesus didn’t sugarcoat the task, either. He told His disciples in Matthew 10:16, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” This eighth item emphasizes the first portion of Jesus’ admonition—that we be “wise as serpents.”

Let us not forget that ultimately, we have good news for our country and for the individuals in it. Words the prophet Isaiah wrote centuries ago still have application today (see Isa. 55:6-7; 1:18). God forgives if we come to Him on His conditions!

Stand with Humility

Thankfully, God really does stand ready and willing to forgive. We need Him to, because we are in need of His grace just as desperately as is everyone else. As we are “wise as serpents,” therefore, we also must be as “harmless as doves.” This includes having the ninth item on our list—greater humility!

We are not better than anyone else, but because of God’s grace, we are better off! God gets the credit for that—not us, even though we had to receive his offer of grace by exercising repentance and faith (active trust in Jesus Christ).


As Christians, we’re not better than anyone else. Rather, we’re better off because of God’s grace, something He freely makes available to all who are willing to come to Him in repentance and faith.


Stand with the Right Perspective

Tenth, we must make our case with greater reverence and awe. The inspired writer of Hebrews declared, “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral” (NIV). What a privilege we have to be guardians of marriage as God designed it, and consequently the gospel!

Eleventh, we must make our case for marriage with greater resolve. Closely connected with this is making it with greater authority. We always must be gracious, but we need not be on the defensive on this issue! We know we are right, not because our wisdom is superior to anyone else’s, but because of what we have learned as observers of nature and students of Scripture.

Against this backdrop, we never should be thrown off by statements like “Jesus didn’t say anything about homosexuality” or “Scripture condemns homosexual acts only in certain contexts.” The Bible is consistent in all that it teaches about human sexuality, marriage, and human relationships.

Jesus attended a wedding at Cana and thus celebrated marriage (see John 2:1-11).
painting by Maerten de Vos, c. 1596

Having greater resolve and speaking lovingly, yet with authority, we acknowledge a twelfth and final quality that must characterize the church’s case for natural marriage. We must speak with confidence. Let’s learn from the advocates of same-sex marriage. They now have what they sought for so long—government recognition of same-sex unions as marriage—because for decades they contended for this recognition without shame and with great confidence. They didn’t care what people thought of them. Why are we ashamed? Why are we hesitant? History and the truth are on our side!


Homosexual activists didn’t care what people thought of them when they relentlessly and repeatedly contended for same-sex marriage. Why should we be ashamed? History and the truth are on our side!


Speak Now!

As we have said, the situation is urgent. With marriage having been redefined by our government, our nation is changing in profound and ominous ways. With marriage under attack and the gospel threatened, religious liberty also is in peril! Even before the Obergefell ruling, Princeton Professor Dr. Robert George predicted how redefining marriage would affect religious liberty in America.

The church must speak now, lest it be forced to forever hold its peace.


The church must speak now, lest it be forced to forever hold its peace.


Are you willing to speak up? I know of no more worthy causes than marriage and the gospel!

To recap:

The Church Must Defend Marriage with Greater

1. sincerity
2. authenticity
3. awareness
4. frequency
5. clarity
6. urgency
7. understanding and depth
8. wisdom
9. humility
10. reverence and awe
11. resolve and authority
12. confidence

 

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.

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

Note:

1Sean McDowell and John Stonestreet, Same-Sex Marriage: A Thoughtful Approach to God’s Design for Marriage, (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2014), 95.

2Alan Shlemon of Stand to Reason (STR) cited these three clichés and discouraged their use at STR’s ReTHINK conference in Birmingham, Alabama on April 21-22, 2017.

Upholding God-Ordained Marriage Is One of the Greatest Ways to Advance the Gospel, Part 4

If marriage is allowed to die, future generations likely will inherit a godless culture. We simply must have an answer in defense of biblical marriage that persuades the culture to protect and esteem the biblical design for human relationships, family structure, and social order—for the sake of the gospel in America.
—S. Michael Craven1

 

Key point: To get a glimpse of the gospel, look at marriages where the husband and wife are Christians and take their Christianity seriously.

  • Go here to read an expanded version of this article.
  • Part 3 is available here.
  • View summaries of all the articles in this series here.

From 1968 to 1990, Robertson McQuilken served as the third president of Columbia International University (CIU) in Columbia, South Carolina. McQuilken distinguished “himself as a spiritual and practical visionary.” Enrollment doubled, for example, and the school founded two radio stations. Moreover, McQuilken oversaw advancements in CIU’s accreditation status, expansion of its seminary and graduate programs, and enlargement of the school’s physical campus. It was a busy and fruitful 22 years. Immediately prior to coming to CIU, Robertson had been a missionary and a church planter in Japan for 12 years.2

The decision to leave Japan to take the helm of Columbia International University, McQuilken has said, “was the most difficult I have had to make.”3 By contrast, 22 years later and eight years prior to retirement, the choice to step down was “painful” but “one of the easiest.”4

Robertson’s wife, Muriel, had Alzheimer’s disease, and she now needed round-the-clock care. Robertson felt he’d already made his decision 42 years earlier when, at his wedding, he formally “promised to take care of Muriel ‘in sickness and in health…till death do us part.’”5 Hear this 2-minute excerpt from his resignation speech.

Robertson was Muriel’s caregiver for 13 years, until she died at 81 on September 20, 2003. He declared, “I don’t see how I could have any more grief.” Yet his life was not over. Robertson would live 13 years beyond Muriel’s passing. In 2005 he remarried and even was able to return, to some extent, to a public ministry. He lived to be 88 years of age and passed away on June 2, 2016.

Supernatural Help to Reflect a Supernatural Love

While some may see this story as “too perfect” for today’s world and the relationships that prevail in it, we as believers know that God exists and offers supernatural resources to His Son’s followers. As Christians, we have “the mind of Christ” and the Holy Spirit, who produces supernatural fruit in our lives. “He who abides in Me, and I in him,” Jesus said, “bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”

There’s something else we as believers have, as well. We have the relationship of Christ and His church as a model of what marriage is supposed to look like. Because the bond between Christ and His church is all about the gospel, marriage is to reflect the gospel—the best news ever announced.

Perhaps an illustration will help. Just as Mirror Lake in the image at the top reflects Oregon’s Mt. Hood on the surface of its waters, Christian marriage gives people a glimpse of Christ’s relationship to the church and the gospel.


Christians must have good marriages, but we also must uphold God’s design for marriage—for the sake of the gospel.


People who are unfamiliar with Christ’s sacrifice for His church surely can at least begin to understand it when they see sacrificial love demonstrated in Christian marriages. Yet, as important as good marriages are, we must do more than have good marriages. We also must uphold God’s design for marriage—for the sake of the gospel. It is my prayer that this retelling of the McQuilkens’ story will help Christians understand this truth.

The Responsibility to Point the Way Back

Alarmingly, society is losing its grip on what marriage is, and what it is supposed to be. In a BreakPoint commentary dated March 31, 2017 and titled “The Silent Suffering of Gay Men,” John  Stonestreet astutely observed that for a variety of reasons “the debate over gay ‘marriage’ and homosexuality has largely fizzled out…[a]nd that’s a shame, because so-called ‘progress isn’t bringing about the rosy picture we were promised.”

The church must reignite this debate! It is in a unique and strategic position to help society get out of the mess that has resulted from redefining marriage—and I don’t just mean redefining marriage through Obergefell. The meaning of marriage has been under assault for decades!


God’s people must teach the next generation of Christians why and how God’s Word is right about marriage.


To begin with, God’s people must teach the next generation of Christians why and how God’s Word is right about marriage. This includes explaining how natural marriage represents the gospel.

What the Church Must Do

Here is the beginning of a 12-item list of qualities that must characterize the church’s case for natural marriage. We’ll examine two items now, and next time the remaining ten.

First, believers must contend for marriage with greater sincerity. All too often Christians and the church have ignored the marriage issue as too controversial. It will turn people away! People will misunderstand! Yet marriage really is about the gospel, and upholding God’s design can indeed help non-Christians see and understand the gospel. We need to really believe this! As Martyn Lloyd-Jones observed, “When the church is absolutely different from the world, she invariably attracts it. It is then that the world is made to listen to her message, though it may hate it at first.”

Second, we must uphold marriage with greater authenticity. We need to work on our own marriages and, with God’s help, bring them to a clearer representation of Christ’s relationship with His church. Marriages like the McQuilkens’ can inspire us to do this. On a regular basis, Focus on the Family offers encouragement and appropriate challenges toward this end. Tune in to the broadcast and visit this excellent ministry online. Family Life is another such ministry. More directly, however, churches must step up to the plate to teach and equip men and women to be better husbands and wives—and to teach young people to become men and women of God who will be better husbands and wives when they’re married.

Remember, however, that as important as good marriages are, this isn’t just about having good marriages, but about upholding marriage.

We’re just getting started on our 12-item list. We have ten more items to discuss.

We’ll tackle them next time. See you then!

  • Part 5 is available here.
  • An article showcasing all 12 qualities that must characterize the church’s case for marriage 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.

Notes:

1S. Michael Craven, Uncompromised Faith: Overcoming Our Culturalized Christianity, (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2009), 151.

2Robertson’s McQuilken’s work and ministry through the years is summarized beautifully in this this CIU video.

3,4Robertson McQuilken, A Promise Kept: The Story of an Unforgettable Love, (Carol Stream, IL: 2006), 21.

5Ibid., 22.

 

 

Upholding God-Ordained Marriage Is One of the Greatest Ways to Advance the Gospel, Part 3

[M]arriage is never only about the couple. It is always about the larger community.…In fact it always includes concern about the next generation as well. We seem to have forgotten this.
—Glenn T. Stanton and Dr. Bill Maier1

 

Key point: When we begin to explore ways biblical marriage mirrors the gospel, we find qualities that contrast sharply to the characteristics of same-sex relationships.

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

In their excellent book titled Marriage on Trial: The Case Against Same-Sex Marriage and Parenting,2 Glenn Stanton and Bill Meier make the observations we have quoted above. Not coincidently, their insights apply to the gospel as well.

The gospel is never only about Christ and the church. It is always about the world. In fact it always includes concern about the next generation.

Marriage, you see, is all about the gospel.

Here are two important ways God-ordained marriage reflects the gospel—the good news—of Jesus Christ.

The Nature of the Relationship Itself

Read Ephesians 5:22-33 and reflect on the word mystery in verse 32. The relationship between Christ and His church is mysterious on many levels, one of which we see reflected in the “way of a man with a young woman.” Proverbs 30:18-19 (NIV) declares,

There are three things that are too amazing for me,
four that I do not understand:
the way of an eagle in the sky,
the way of a snake on a rock,
the way of a ship on the high seas,
and the way of a man with a young woman.

No same-sex “marriage” has any comparable relational mystery.


All same-sex relationships lack the relational mystery inherent in heterosexual bonds.


Significantly, it is the differences between a man and a woman that provide the platform for a healthy marriage (see Gen. 2:18-25); and similarly, it is the differences between Christ and His church (and what those are) that set the stage God to initiate a rescue operation to save humanity.

In his insightful book, Growth into Manhood, former homosexual Alan Medinger highlights four sets of contrasting qualities between masculinity and femininity. The second of these is that the essence of masculinity is initiation and the essence of femininity is response. Medinger observes that since God is the ultimate initiator, it is entirely appropriate that He would reveal Himself in the masculine role of Father. We, as responders to God, are all feminine in this sense. Moreover, Medinger notes, it is fitting that we who are followers of Christ are called His bride.3 This is at the heart of the gospel’s good news!4

We do well to elaborate a bit more. In the plan God implemented to save sinners, Christ, God’s Son, came to earth as a man and pursued them so they could experience His love and forgiveness and become His bride. As Christ’s bride, His followers share in His victories! Hymn writer Samuel John Stone (1839-1900) expressed it this way:

The Church’s one foundation
Is Jesus Christ her Lord,
She is His new creation
By water and the Word.
From heaven He came and sought her
To be His holy bride;
With His own blood He bought her
And for her life He died.

The Church shall never perish!
Her dear Lord to defend,
To guide, sustain, and cherish,
Is with her to the end:
Though there be those who hate her,
And false sons in her pale,
Against both foe or traitor
She ever shall prevail.

Procreation

At the dawn of time, God instructed Adam and Eve, the first married couple, to “Be fruitful and multiply.” Marriage is about reproduction; yet no same-sex relationship, even if it’s called a marriage, ever can reproduce.


No homosexual union can reproduce; only a heterosexual union can do that.


The gospel is about reproduction as well. In fact, if anything has to do with reproduction, the gospel does! We see this clearly in New Testament. Go here for several examples.

God Involves His People

It is noteworthy that God invariably uses His people—members of Christ’s bride, the church—as He draws non-Christians to Himself. Consider Paul’s conversion to Christ. Jesus supernaturally appeared to him on the road to Damascus, (see Acts 9:1-9), but God also sent his servant Ananias to him in Damascus to minister to him (add vv. 10-19).

Even those who have come to Christ by reading the Bible have read Scripture human beings have printed. God uses the words and influence of His people every day to bring people to Christ. Initially we might wonder why God has placed such a limitation on Himself, but we find the answer in the truth that His people are a part of Christ’s bride, the church. We know that in a marriage relationship, both the groom and the bride are involved in the reproductive process.

We need to be careful not to press this point too far, of course. It is the Holy Spirit who regenerates and gives new life. Still, the point is made. God does not work to reproduce spiritual life without involving the bride of Christ in the process, and we as Christ’s bride cannot produce spiritual fruit without relying on Christ (see John 15:1-5).


The mysterious dynamic of the marriage relationship and the ability of the married couple to procreate are two significant ways marriage mirrors the Christian gospel.


Losing Man-Woman Marriage in Society Makes Sharing the Gospel Even Harder

So, God-ordained marriage, and God-ordained marriage alone, reflects the relationship of Christ and the church. It therefore reflects the gospel. If our society loses a clear understanding of what marriage is—and we’re far down that road already—it will lose a window through which it can gain a clear understanding of the reason Christ died. With marriage at stake, the gospel is at stake. Despite these urgent realities, the church seems oblivious to what really is happening—and ironically, she herself is the bride!


With marriage at stake, the gospel is at stake!


One of the best ways the church can demonstrate faithfulness to her Husband, and one of the most effective ways she can champion the gospel, is to articulately contend for the God-ordained definition of marriage both within and beyond her own walls. Granted, the insights we’ve highlighted here are best emphasized within the church, so let’s start there. All church leaders must be involved in this effort, but pastors are going to have to take the initiative.


Do you really care about the gospel? Then defend God-ordained marriage.


Do you really care about the gospel? Then defend God-ordained marriage. Learn, and help other believers learn, how marriage showcases the gospel.

Next time, we’ll begin to explore some specific ways God’s people can rise to this challenge.

Part 4 is available here.

 

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


Notes:

1,2Glenn T. Stanton and Dr. Bill Maier, Marriage on Trial: The Case Against Same-Sex Marriage and Parenting, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 12.

3Alan Medinger, Growth into Manhood, (Colorado Springs, CO: Shaw, 2000), 85.

4Some points of clarification are in order. We should note that both men and women are members of God’s highest creation, for God made both in His image. At the same time, as we have said, God has revealed Himself to humanity in masculine terms, as a Father. This does not mean we never see evidence of feminine traits in God or in His dealings with humanity (here is one such example).

Another important point is that we are not saying a man provides salvation for his wife. It is Christ and Christ alone who provides salvation for the church, which is made up of both male and female members. Both men and women are sinners and need Christ equally. We are affirming the ideal of marriage as presented in Ephesians 5, including the truth that the lifelong union of one man and one woman mirrors the relationship of Christ and the church.


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.

One passage was 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 God-Ordained Marriage Is One of the Greatest Ways to Advance the Gospel, Part 1

Marriage is not a human invention; it is a divine revelation. Its design never was our own made-up arrangement of infinite malleability. It was given to us, at the beginning of all things, as a brightly shining fixity of eternal significance. We might not always live up to its true grandeur. None of us does so perfectly. But we have no right to redefine it, and we have every reason to revere it.
Ray Ortlund

 

Key point: When Christians understand the meaning and significance of marriage, they will be compelled to defend it.

View summaries of all the articles in this series here.

Jesus’ disciples frequently didn’t understand what their Master was teaching. For one thing, Jesus regularly said what His hearers least expected. Add to this that the disciples had their own expectations, and these had been shaped by the mood and culture of the day.

Consider Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Christ. Apparently very soon after making his confession, Peter rebuked Jesus for saying He—Jesus—would suffer, die, and rise again. Jesus responded with some very strong words: “Get behind me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” Unwittingly and unintentionally, Peter spoke on behalf of Satan!

These and similar situations in the Gospels might well prompt us to ask, “Why did the disciples fail to understand?” I would like to suggest we ought to be asking another, more pertinent question: How is it that we fail to understand spiritual truths that also are of paramount importance? Well, we also have been influenced by the culture.


Why do we fail to understand spiritual truths that are just as important as those truths the disciples failed to see? We, too, have been influenced by the culture!


The Truth About Marriage

The meaning and significance of marriage provide perhaps the best examples. In Ephesians 5, the apostle Paul wrote,

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. 24 Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. 28 So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. 30 For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. 31 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.

I fear many Christians today find it difficult to deal with this passage without cringing over the word submit in verse 22. This is clear evidence of the culture’s influence. Of course, we need to be sensitive to the perspectives and hurts of those we’re trying to reach—but note carefully—in verse 21, which immediately precedes the statements he makes about marriage, Paul writes, “submitting to one another in the fear of God.” Thus, the context affirms mutual deferment of self for others.

There’s something even more important. Marriage is a picture of Christ’s relationship with the church. Thus, especially among Christians, marriage is to model that relationship. Jesus is Lord, but He never “lords it over” anyone. Likewise, no husband ever has the right to “lord it over” his wife.


Jesus is Lord, but He never “lords it over” anyone. Likewise, no husband ever has the right to “lord it over” his wife.


Marriage Showcases the Gospel

You see, Christ does not expect His followers to submit to Him without ever having submitted Himself for their benefit. Because marriage is a picture of Christ’s relationship with the church, it’s also a picture of the gospel. A church in England drives this point home clearly and effectively with this video.

This is what 21st century Christians in the West seem to be so slow to understand—despite the renewed emphasis on the importance of the gospel in evangelical circles. Our lack of understanding weakens our presentation of the gospel.


Failing to understand the connections between marriage and the gospel actually weakens our ability to effectively present the gospel.


“I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ,” Paul declared. We can be certain he wasn’t ashamed of marriage, either, even though he may never have married. If we claim to be unashamed of the gospel but hesitate to defend marriage, perhaps we’re not as supportive of the gospel as we think.


If we claim to be unashamed of the gospel but hesitate to defend marriage, perhaps we’re not as supportive of the gospel as we think.


Just how did we get to this point? We’ll explore that question next time. Stay tuned!

Part 2 is available here.

 

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

top image: Courtship by Edmund Leighton

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.

 

The Importance of Seeing the Big Picture, Part 1

Philosophical and Religious Underpinnings

The basic problem of the Christians in this country in the last eighty years or so, in regard to society and in regard to government, is that they have seen things in bits and pieces instead of totals.
—Francis Schaeffer, 19811

In recent years we have seen an increasing intensity in the promotion of abortion, homosexual rights and same-sex marriage, and evolutionary philosophy cloaked in the jargon of science. All too often, we as Christians have treated these and other so-called “progressive” causes as separate issues. While we may have understood that all these movements are opposed to biblical values, many of us have largely addressed them individually, just as a teen playing Whac-A-Mole would go after the pop-up creatures in that game. The cultural and moral conflicts that confront us, however, are much more like chess than Whac-A-Mole.

Whac-A-Mole_in_China_01

A Whac-A-Mole Game Designed for Small Children in Hainan, China

To win at chess, a player mustn’t just be aware of how his opponent might use one piece here or another piece there; he instead must understand the ability of his opponent to strategically use all his pieces as an army, as a unified force, against him.

The point here is that issues like abortion, homosexuality, the redefinition of marriage, and sexual license are not separate issues, but expressions of a broader philosophical and religious belief system.

The visceral reactions of Planned Parenthood to the videos that have exposed its heinous practices offer us insight we dare not miss. Years ago, Charles Colson observed that

sexual liberation has become nothing less than a worldview—a vision of reforming human nature and creating a new society. It’s a worldview that begins with the assumption that humans are products of Darwinian evolution, and concludes that our identity is found by delving into the biological, the natural, the instinctual.

Especially the sexual instincts. Liberating our sexuality is thus seen as the high road to healing and wholeness.

If this sounds overblown, listen to the words of key founders of the sexual revolution. For Margaret Sanger, an early champion of birth control [and founder of Planned Parenthood], the drama of history consists in a struggle to free humanity from Biblical morality. “Through sex,” she wrote, “mankind may attain the great spiritual illumination which will transform the world, which will light up the only path to an earthly paradise.”

MargaretSanger-Underwood.LOC

This is nothing less than a vision of salvation through sex.2

In other words, sexual liberation, something that cannot be attained without unrestricted abortion, is a religion with a corresponding worldview.3 No wonder Planned Parenthood defends its practices with religious fervor, despite undeniable evidence of wrongdoing, callousness, barbarism, and misuse of funds.4,5,6,7,8,9

We must not miss these points, either: The religion of unrestrained sexual liberation can’t be experienced without embracing homosexuality as valid or without manipulating the meaning of marriage. Furthermore, this religion will uphold as normal many other deviant forms of sexuality as well. And while Christianity is theistic, the religion of sexual license is atheistic because it rests on a belief in humanity as a product of random, impersonal, amoral forces that require no accountability. The gay theology movement may don the cloak of Christianity, but in the end it denies what the Bible clearly says, and it thus denies the God of the Bible.10 We therefore can see why gay rights and religious liberty cannot coexist. Ultimately, compromise is not possible when you have two diametrically opposed religious perspectives.11,12,13,14,15,16

coexist-blue

So please do not fall for the lie promoted on countless bumper stickers that say COEXIST using various religious and cultural symbols!17,18 We see evidence even in the life of no less a figure than President Obama that conflicting religions can’t coexist, despite all the efforts to hide the president’s hostility toward Christianity.19

What, then, is the takeaway from this week’s discussion? Followers of Jesus Christ must understand what drives and fuels the passions of those who oppose biblical values. Whether our friends on the other side of God’s truth know it or not, their love of abortion, homosexuality, sexual license, and relativism (to name just a few of many items) rests on Darwinian evolution—the belief that human beings have originated from impersonal, random forces rather than God.20 Be aware of the complete failure of attempts to say that God used evolution to create the world and living beings. Evolutionary processes by definition are random means bringing about profound changes. If God directed them, they couldn’t have been random, could they?

Ken Ham, president, CEO, and founder of Answers in Genesis,21 has observed that Christians commit a strategic error in opposing evil by going after the “progressive” causes themselves rather than attacking the foundation upon which those causes rest. Here is a brilliant illustration from Answers in Genesis conveying this keen insight.

castle-2010

Click here to enlarge.

Christians must learn to effectively attack the foundation of humanism, sometimes called secularism. When we engage this way, the progressives’ castle will crumble, and the values our liberal friends seek to uphold will deflate. This is an oversimplification, of course; yet truth abounds herein. Other insights and implications arise as well. Next time we will discuss several of them.

Part 2 is available here.

Copyright © 2015 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All Rights Reserved.

For further reading:
What’s Your View of the World by Del Tackett
Is Evolution a Religion? by Dr. Tommy Mitchell and Monty White

Recommended Video:
Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards’ Attempt To Dismiss Viral Video Backfires!

Notes:

1https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/78395-a-christian-manifesto

2http://www.colsoncenter.org/the-center/columns/colson-files/18136-sex-as-salvation

3http://www.renewamerica.com/analysis/hutchison/120607

4http://www.creators.com/opinion/david-limbaugh/planned-parenthood-cant-handle-the-truth.html

5https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Htcqhdf4WBE

6http://www.frc.org/updatearticle/20150929/planned-parenthood-cecile

7http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2015/07/21/gop-rep-case-for-defunding-planned-parenthood-has-never-been-stronger/

8http://adflegal.org/detailspages/blog-details/allianceedge/2015/09/30/new-forensic-report-flushes-planned-parenthood-s-highly-edited-talking-point

9https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=25&v=NiqcEL3T6IU

10http://www.truenews.org/Homosexuality/pro-gay_theology.html

11http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2015/09/28/obama-warns-christians-gay-rights-important-religious-freedom/

12http://www.wnd.com/2015/09/obama-gay-trumps-religion-in-constitution/

13http://www.christianexaminer.com/article/chuck.colson.from.the.grave.gay.marriage.legalization.to.bring.wrath.of.god.on.america/49161.htm

14http://www.christianpost.com/news/do-gay-rights-trump-religious-rights-117542/

15http://www.colsoncenter.org/listen/entry/38/27126

16http://www.breakpoint.org/listen/entry/38/26690

17http://steadfastlutherans.org/2012/08/contradictions-dont-coexist/

18http://www.truthrevolt.org/news/allen-west-tolerance-one-way-street-cultural-suicide

19http://www.creators.com/opinion/david-limbaugh/obamas-faith-isnt-the-issue-but.html

20http://www.wordfoundations.com/2015/06/11/the-horrible-place-to-which-societys-belief-in-evolution-eventually-leads-part-2-the-bitter-fruit/

21https://answersingenesis.org/bios/ken-ham/?sitehist=1490627732857

Unreal!

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone,
“it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”
—Humpty Dumpty in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass1

The “little man,” the private citizen, can at any time stand up and,
on the basis of biblical teaching, say that the majority is wrong.
—Francis Schaeffer2

Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil;
Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness;
Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!
—Isaiah 5:20—

We live in an upside-down world. Consider, for example, how the meanings of certain words and phrases have changed over the years.

  • A cell once was the place to which a convicted criminal was confined—or the term cell referred to a microorganism. Now when we hear the word cell, we almost certainly are hearing someone speak of a mobile phone.3
  • Bad once referred to something that didn’t meet an established standard of excellence or to behavior that was clearly wrong or inappropriate. Today it is a slang word that means something is really great. Moreover, the term “breaking bad,” means to counter conventional wisdom or to challenge authority.4
  • Gay used to mean happy or joyful. Now in common speech, it refers to a homosexual identity.5,6
  • When you hear the phrase social justice, beware! Quite probably, people aren’t talking about treating others fairly or impartially or about avoiding favoritism. Most of the time this is a code word progressives use to highlight various inequalities they see among various individuals and groups. Emphasizing these, they seek to make the case for government redistribution of wealth.7,8 Social justice in this sense is not just at all!
  • Equality is a foundational American virtue, for our Declaration of Independence declares, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”9 The equal opportunity affirmed in our founding document has made America one of the freest and wealthiest nations on earth. However, today equality has come to mean, not equal opportunity, but equal Forcing equal outcomes, however, eliminates equal opportunity (and thus freedom) and stifles productivity.
  • When he first used the phrase a wall of separation between church and state in an 1802 letter to the Baptist Association of Danbury, Connecticut, Thomas Jefferson was referring to a limitation placed on the federal government so the government would not interfere with or hinder the work of the church, and so government would not give an unfair advantage to one Christian denomination over another. Today Jefferson’s words have been misused to promote the erroneous idea that the U.S. Constitution disavows and disallows any element of Christianity in public life, a concept that is incompatible with his original meaning.10 The phrase separation of church and state does not appear in the Constitution.11

With nearly all these terms, these changes in meaning did not occur by chance. They reflect a shift in the general perspective of the American people—the assumptions they make about the world and about life. These assumptions often are called a worldview. As the consensus perspective in America has become more secular and crowded God out, the beliefs Americans espouse about right and wrong, about what’s desirable, and about truth itself have drifted far away from the tenets generally held at America’s founding and even as recently as fifty years ago.

While each of the above items demonstrates significant change, perhaps no example better shows how far we’ve come (or how low we’ve descended) in recent decades than the shift in the meaning of the word tolerance. Tolerance used to mean recognizing the right of others to believe as they wish and respecting their right to act on those beliefs, even when (and even though) we may think they are wrong. Today, in stark contrast, the modern view tolerance means esteeming all beliefs, value systems, and lifestyles as equal because (so the underlying assumption goes) no one has a corner on truth.12 Significantly, this modern view of tolerance leaves no room for anyone to dissent or to think that anyone else’s beliefs or choices are wrong, even if the one thought to hold erroneous views is respected. Thus, some of the loudest advocates of tolerance today are some of the most intolerant people around!

We do not have to look far to find examples of this. In fact, the scenario that has unfolded in the lives of Aaron and Melissa Klein presents a crystal clear picture of the fruit of the new tolerance. It also serves as a warning to America of what will happen nationwide if the new tolerance isn’t challenged. Despite extreme financial hardship, harassment, and pressure from both the media and government, the Kleins are challenging it.

Aaron and Melissa Klein are the proud parents of five children ages two to sixteen.13 They used to own a successful business in Gresham, Oregon called Sweet Cakes by Melissa. Melissa is more than a baker. She is a cake artist. “‘When I do a cake, the only way I can describe it to people is it’s my canvas,’ she said. ‘I get to create something on this cake and I get to pour myself out onto this cake.’”14 For each wedding cake she made, Melissa would spend time with the couple getting to know them, learning about their wedding plans, and even talking with them about the their honeymoon. Melissa explains, “I would use all this information to help me design the perfect cake that reflected them as a couple.…If they chose me to do their cake I would just feel so honored to be able to be a part of such an amazing, special day.”15 Obviously, she loved her work and was deeply committed to it, but she and her husband are committed to something else even more.

One January day in 2013, Melissa was at home with the couple’s six-month old twin sons while Aaron ran the shop. A woman named Rachel Cryer came in with her mother and inquired about a wedding cake. When they told Aaron that this wedding didn’t involve a groom but a second bride, he politely apologized, saying, “I’m sorry, we don’t do cakes for same-sex weddings.” In one way, this wasn’t easy. Aaron had no idea he was acting in violation of any statute or law, but he found no joy in turning down a customer. At the same time, his decision was clear. As Christians, Aaron and Melissa both believe that marriage is a sacred covenant between one man and one woman. They had to act on that conviction.16

Soon, one shoe after another began to drop. Rachel and her partner, Laurel Bowman, filed a complaint against Aaron and Melissa for discriminating against them. The vendors for the Kleins’ business were contacted and hounded. Wanting to avoid being run out of business, they dropped Sweet Cakes by Melissa from their lists of recommended businesses, and they requested that Aaron and Melissa remove them from theirs. Because business from those vendors represented over two-thirds of the family’s annual income, the Kleins’ earnings fell sharply. Harassment and the loss in revenue forced the Kleins to close their business on September 1, 2013, although Melissa has done some baking at home. Aaron took a job as a garbage collector to keep the family in the black, but even with this work, the family has had to make do with about half of what previously came in.17

In early 2014, Todd Starnes of Fox News reported regarding the legal proceedings that resulted from complaint filed against the Kleins. He wrote, “The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries [BOLI] said they found ‘substantial evidence’ that Sweet Cakes by Melissa discriminated against the lesbian couple and violated the Oregon Equality Act of 2007, a law that protects the rights of the LGBT community.”18

According to Oregon law, at this point that the dispute moved into a period where the goal was reconciliation. A failure of the two parties to resolve the conflict would mean formal charges could be brought against the Kleins. The couple would have to face the possibility of fines exceeding $100,000.19

According to Brad Avakian, Oregon’s Labor Commissioner, rehabilitation was the goal. In an interview published in the Portland newspaper The Oregonian, Avakian said people can believe whatever they like—but that doesn’t give anyone a right to discriminate. “The goal is never to shut down a business. The goal is to rehabilitate.”20

In many instances, the word reconciliation is a neutral word that indicates both parties meet in the middle and work out a compromise. The Kleins’ experience, however, illustrates vividly that in the conflict between homosexual rights and religious liberty, no middle ground exists. Brad Avakian’s use of the word rehabilitate demonstrates the very same thing. Starnes reported,

Aaron Klein told me there will be no reconciliation and there will be no rehabilitation. He and his wife will not back down from their Christian beliefs.

“There’s nothing wrong with what we believe,” he said. “It’s a biblical point of view. It’s my faith. It’s my religion.”

Klein said he’s not surprised by the ruling and called it “absolutely absurd.”

“I’ve never seen a government entity use a law to come after somebody because they have a religious view,” he said. “I truly believe Brad Avakian is trying to send a message. I don’t think the constitution of the state of Oregon means anything to these people.”21

In September of 2014, Aaron and Melissa appeared in Washington, D.C. at the Values Voter Summit sponsored by the Family Research Council. In sharing their story, Aaron affirmed that he and Melissa had gladly served customers who were homosexuals. He said, “It’s never been about sexual orientation. It’s about marriage.”22

Fast forward to April, 2015. Neither reconciliation nor rehabilitation occurred. Instead, the BOLI has suggested that the Kleins, who have remained strong and refused to compromise, be fined a total of $135,000 “for the emotional suffering” the lesbian couple “experienced” because Aaron and Melissa turned down their request for a same-sex wedding cake.23

Writing for The Daily Signal, Kelsey Harkness explained the rationale for the exorbitant fines.

In order to reach $135,000, Rachel and Laurel submitted a long list of alleged physical, emotional and mental damages they claim to have experienced as a result of the Kleins’ unlawful conduct.

One of the women, whose name was redacted to protect her privacy, listed 88 symptoms as grounds for compensation. The other, whose name was also redacted, listed 90.

Examples of symptoms include “acute loss of confidence,” “doubt,” “excessive sleep,” “felt mentally raped, dirty and shameful,” “high blood pressure,” “impaired digestion,” “loss of appetite,” “migraine headaches,” “pale and sick at home after work,” “resumption of smoking habit,” “shock” “stunned,” “surprise,” “uncertainty,” “weight gain” and “worry.”24

We do well here to reflect on just how bizarre this situation is, because it illustrates the perilous extent to which this country has abandoned the principles and virtues on which it was founded. In other words, it shows how far we’ve departed from reality. Take note—the list of adverse symptoms is not a description of what the Kleins experienced as a result of all they have been through. Instead, the Kleins are being blamed and held responsible for causing Rachel and Laurel to experience them—all because Aaron and Melissa turned down their request for a cake! Significantly, no doctor appeared at the hearing to validate Rachel’s and Laurel’s claims.25 This truly is unreal!

Almost immediately after the BOLI recommended the fine, the Family Research Council arranged for a GoFundMe account to be set up on the Internet to make it easy for the Kleins’ supporters to assist the family financially. Contributors gave more than $100,000.00 in less than eight hours—but then the decision makers at GoFundMe shut the account down. Here was their explanation. “After careful review by our team, we have found the ‘Support Sweet Cakes By Melissa’ campaign to be in violation of our Terms and Conditions.” Money previously raised still would be used to help the family.26 Subsequently, GoFundMe revised its terms and conditions to give it more latitude to determine whom it will serve and whom it won’t.27 Yet, if GoFundMe has the right to turn down certain clients, why can’t Aaron and Melissa Klein have that same right? 28,29

Hearing of GoFundMe’s decision to close the account, Franklin Graham, son of the Rev. Billy Graham and president of Samaritan’s Purse, set up a donation page on the Samaritan’s Purse website so people could assist the Kleins and other Christians who are being persecuted in the United States. Graham wrote,

The Kleins have already had to close their Oregon bakery business, Sweet Cakes by Melissa and do not have this money to pay. Aaron said it would financially ruin their family and could cost them their home. They have done nothing wrong, and their lives, along with their five children, have been turned upside down by this persecution. You can’t call it anything else. This is wrong, and it’s happening right here in our own country. Liberal judges and officials siding with the LGBT crowd are trying to make a point with the undeserved punishment of this family. This is America—we should have the freedom to live by our sincerely held religious beliefs. It’s obvious who is really being discriminated against here.30

Let us not miss the some of the most important lessons coming out of the Kleins’ experience. Already we’ve talked about America’s departure from reality. Let’s expand on that a bit. As the consensus perspective in America shifted from a biblical worldview to a secular one, true justice was relegated to the back of the bus. As we said at the beginning, we now live in an upside-down world. Today in American culture, what ought to occur often doesn’t, and what shouldn’t occur frequently does. This is because people’s thinking is clouded, or we might say it is “grounded in mid-air”! Thus, alleged victims actually are predators and perpetrators, and those accused of being perpetrators are the real victims. Also, while we live in a country that was made great by free speech and by healthy debate, a concerted effort is now being made (with government backing) to silence those who dare to espouse politically incorrect views. Ironically, in the name of tolerance, tyranny is beginning to reign. This tyranny must be opposed!

Despite all the difficulty and harassment Aaron and Melissa have faced, the couple remains committed to doing what is right: “This fight is not over. We will continue to stand strong. Your religious freedom is becoming not free anymore. This is ridiculous that we cannot practice our faith. The LORD is good and we will continue to serve HIM with all our heart.”31

In Hebrews 11, the inspired writer of Hebrews wrote of Old Testament saints who were persecuted for their faith. They paid a heavy price for believing in the one true God and for acting on those beliefs. These were men and women “of whom the world was not worthy” (Heb. 11:38). Seeing Aaron and Melissa Klein and their resolve to do what is right even in the face of incredible opposition reminds us of those Old Testament saints and their New Testament counterparts. The Kleins’ resolve should inspire and encourage us as believers also to stand strong, regardless of cost.

The road before us will not be easy (see John 15:18-21), yet as we follow the Kleins’ example and remain strong, perhaps the Lord will work through us to put our nation, once again, right side up. Only if we so stand will religious liberty in America be restored and preserved.

Notes:

1Quoted in “Humpty Dumpty”: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humpty_Dumpty

2Francis A. Schaeffer, How Should We Then Live?, (Old Tappan, NJ: 1976), 110.

3http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/26/words-that-have-changed-meaning_n_4847343.html

4http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/26/words-that-have-changed-meaning_n_4847343.html

5http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/26/words-that-have-changed-meaning_n_4847343.html

6http://www.christianpost.com/news/evangelical-pastor-ken-hutcherson-i-am-the-gayest-man-i-know-74390/

7Chelsen Vicari, Distortion: How the New Christian Left is Twisting The Gospel and Damaging the Faith, (Lake Mary, FL: FrontLine, 2014), 76.

8http://www.frc.org/socialjustice

9https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Declaration_of_Independence

10http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2006/06/the-mythical-wall-of-separation-how-a-misused-metaphor-changed-church-state-law-policy-and-discourse

11http://www.christianpost.com/news/separation-of-church-and-state-is-not-in-the-u-s-constitution-122657/

12Josh McDowell and Bob Hostetler, The New Tolerance, (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale, 1998), 15-20.

13http://goo.gl/M6LCnm

14http://goo.gl/M6LCnm

15http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/penny-starr/bakers-not-making-lesbians-wedding-cake-its-never-been-about-sexual

16http://goo.gl/M6LCnm

17http://goo.gl/M6LCnm

18 http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2014/01/21/christian-bakery-guilty-violating-civil-rights-lesbian-couple/

19http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2014/01/21/christian-bakery-guilty-violating-civil-rights-lesbian-couple/

20http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2014/01/21/christian-bakery-guilty-violating-civil-rights-lesbian-couple/

21http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2014/01/21/christian-bakery-guilty-violating-civil-rights-lesbian-couple/

22http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/penny-starr/bakers-not-making-lesbians-wedding-cake-its-never-been-about-sexual

23http://goo.gl/r77wrr

24http://goo.gl/r77wrr

25http://goo.gl/M6LCnm

26http://nation.foxnews.com/2015/04/27/todds-american-dispatch-franklin-graham-defends-christian-bakery-persecuted-lgbt

27http://hotair.com/archives/2015/05/01/gofundme-bans-fundraising-for-religious-business-owners-charged-by-state-for-refusing-to-cater-a-gay-wedding/

28http://nation.foxnews.com/2015/04/27/todds-american-dispatch-franklin-graham-defends-christian-bakery-persecuted-lgbt

29http://www.wnd.com/2015/04/gofundme-slammed-by-all-sides-for-targeting-christians/

30http://nation.foxnews.com/2015/04/27/todds-american-dispatch-franklin-graham-defends-christian-bakery-persecuted-lgbt

31http://www.onenewsnow.com/culture/2015/05/05/klein-tells-focal-point-audience-us-constitution-trumps-a-courtroom#.VUwWo865ZfR (minor edits made for clarity)

Copyright © 2015 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.

 

 

 

Outlawed!

It is when a people forget God that tyrants forge their chains.
—Patrick Henry1

We are living in a day far beyond those when we heard the initial pleas for “tolerance” and “openness” with regard to sexual freedom. These voices have morphed. They now issue shrill and oppressive demands that, unfortunately, seem to be carrying the day. One such voice belongs to New York Times op-ed columnist Frank Bruni, who recently wrote of “Bigotry, the Bible and Lessons of Indiana.” The conflict between homosexuality and Christianity is still alive in many churches today, says Bruni, but these elements “don’t have to be in conflict in any church anywhere.” The tradition of deeming homosexuality as a sin, he says, has solidified in the thinking of many Christians, hardening their perspectives and attitudes on the issue. According to Bruni, their outdated viewpoint is a “choice” that elevates Scripture—“scattered passages of ancient texts”—over the enlightened understanding society has acquired on the subject of homosexuality. The Christian perspective also fails to see gays and lesbians as people who, though flawed like everyone else, have dignity like everyone else.2 Bruni then moves to make his primary point: Our conversations about religious liberty need to highlight the need to liberate “religions and religious people from prejudices that they needn’t cling to and can indeed jettison, much as they’ve jettisoned other aspects of their faith’s history, rightly bowing to the enlightenments of modernity.”3 The word “bowing” says it all! Mr. Bruni is speaking of using the government to force compliance among those he sees as unenlightened.

Hillary Clinton has expressed similar sentiments with regard to the issue of abortion. Speaking in New York City at the sixth annual Women in The World Summit, Clinton said “deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed” so women can have increased access to “reproductive health care.” One cannot dismiss the possibility she feels the same way about convictions that homosexuality is a sin, because she also said, “We move forward when gay and transgendered women are embraced as our colleagues and friends, not fired from their jobs because of who they love.”4

It’s important to understand that despite the façade of an early call to toleration and a live-and-let-live perspective, progressives didn’t begin talking this way only a few days ago. In 2009, Chai Feldblum was nominated by President Barak Obama to serve on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission [EEOC]. Obama appointed her to the position through a recess appointment in March of 2010, and she subsequently was confirmed by the U.S. Senate a number of months later. In 2013 the Senate confirmed her for a full five-year term. She is the first openly homosexual individual to serve on the commission.5 Her confirmations were controversial because of statements like this one, which Feldblum wrote in 2006: “Just as we do not tolerate private racial beliefs that adversely affect African-Americans in the commercial arena, even if such beliefs are based on religious views, we should similarly not tolerate beliefs about sexual orientation and gender identity that adversely affect LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender] people.”6 Also, “When questioned regarding a Christian employer’s right to hire an employee of his choice, Feldblum stated: ‘Gays win; Christians lose.’ Similarly, Feldblum, when questioned about how she would decide when religious liberty and homosexual ‘rights’ conflict, said she would have ‘a hard time coming up with any case in which religious liberty should win.’”7

So we see that talk against religious liberty has been around for a number of years, yet recently the rhetoric has increased in both volume and intensity. It’s intensified because of the HHS Mandate in Obamacare as well as the debate over same-sex marriage—and these voices may soon gain additional legal weight. Writing for the Christian Post, Wallace Henley states that if the United States Supreme Court finds a constitutional right to same-sex marriage this June, Christians may be treated in the United States as the early Christians were treated in the Roman Empire during the 1st century.8

Rome was a society where worship of pagan gods was commonplace. In the empire, it was a widespread practice to offer libations to pay homage to various deities. For example, an individual might pour oil or wine on an object or an altar in honor of a designated god or goddess. Christians, who had affirmed Jesus as Lord, steadfastly refused to do this. They wouldn’t call Caesar Lord, either, so they were widely accused of being atheists. They were given many opportunities prove they were innocent of the charge—if they would disown Christ, that would bring honor to the gods of Rome and appease their accusers. Many believers resisted and were thrown in prison, tortured, and/or executed.9

Several other things about the Christians irritated the Romans as well. Although not perfect, followers of Christ lived morally pure lives. Their lives therefore stood in stark contrast to the accepted ways of life among the Romans. This included resisting institutionalized practices that had moral components unacceptable to Christians, and the Romans hated the believers for refusing to be involved. Here is how Minucius Felix, a Christian apologist at the time, summarized the Romans’ objections: “You do not attend our shows; you take no part in the processions; you are not present at our public banquets; you abhor the sacred [gladiatorial] games.”10 Moreover, Christians opposed these practices that were common in 1st century Rome: suicide; abortion; the killing of infants; abandonment of infants; homosexuality; the degrading of women; and patria potestas, which, simply put, made the father a dictator in the family.11,12

We can look to the early Christians for guidance and wisdom on how to live out our faith in an inhospitable world. Not only did they remain faithful to Christ as they lived among individuals who disagreed with them, opposed them, and hated them, but they also remained faithful as they endured the wrath of a hostile government. Still, the church grew!13

These lessons from history are important for us today as we await the upcoming ruling on marriage from the U.S. Supreme Court. Should the U.S. Supreme Court “find” in the U.S. Constitution a “right” for same-sex couples to marry, we should first understand that it will have overstepped its authority and will have issued an illegitimate ruling. Mario Diaz is a legal counsel for Concerned Women for America. Mr. Diaz explains that in Obergefell v. Hodges, the marriage case before the Court, the question the Court has to answer isn’t “Does the U.S. Constitution permit same-sex marriage in all 50 states?” but “Does the Constitution require it?”14 Diaz declares, “Anyone can read the Constitution and see it does not deal with the issue of same-sex marriage in the least and, therefore, the Court should leave it to the states to establish their marriage policy.”15 But there is more. Diaz goes on to warn that if, in the end, the Justices decide to impose same-sex marriage nationwide by judicial decree,

they should…consider the ramifications of such a reckless decision. They will be effectively opening the door to the criminalization of Christianity. At the very least, they will be kicking the door wide open to the persecution of Christians (and other religious groups) who believe marriage to be an institution created by God, which they cannot re-define of their own accord. Christians simply have no choice in the matter.16,17

We already cited Wallace Henley’s observation that Christians are on the verge of being treated as were the Christians in 1st century Rome. Henley sees this as yet another step in a process that began with “marginalization” and continued with “caricaturization” and “vilification.” American society is vilifying Christians and Christianity right now. The next steps are “criminalization,” and finally, “elimination.”18 A Supreme Court ruling adverse to natural marriage will bring America across the threshold of criminalizing the Faith that made America both strong and free.19 In other words, it will not be long before people and institutions with principled objections to same-sex marriage will clash head-on with the law. For example, churches that do not recognize the marital rights of same-sex couples should be prepared to lose their tax-exempt status. With justification, conservative journalist Ben Shapiro predicts,

Once non-profit status is revoked for churches on the basis of supposed discrimination against homosexuals, those churches become private institutions engaged in commerce. Which means that they are regulated as common businesses under anti-discrimination law. Which means they can be shut down or fined for failure to perform same-sex weddings. The left says this will never happen. Which means we are a few years away from it happening.20

It might happen sooner than that! Who would have dreamed even thirty years ago that we would face a day when Christianity would be outlawed? Yet this is a very real probability in the days ahead. The oral arguments in Obergefell v. Hodges established this. When asked by Justice Samuel Alito if Christian institutions that refused to recognize same-sex marriage would have their tax-exempt status revoked, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli responded, “It’s certainly going to be an issue.”21

This includes religious universities and schools, which also will be targeted22—and with the legal leverage given progressives by federal recognition of same-sex marriage, the liberal elites will have almost unlimited power to demand compliance from every entity that resists. We are seeing parallels to this already with state governments in cases like those of Elaine Huguenin and Robert and Cynthia Gifford, to name just two of many.23 Given this, we cannot expect even that homeschooling families will be exempt from a federal mandate to teach that gay and lesbian sex are normal expressions of human sexuality.

These and other repercussions of a Supreme Court decision adverse to traditional marriage underscore the importance of a united stand to defend it. Accordingly, a team of Christian leaders has forged and is promoting a statement of resolve that you can sign and share with others. The team includes Dr. James Dobson, founder and president of Dr. James Dobson’s Family Talk; Mathew Staver of Liberty Counsel Action; and Rick Scarborough of Vision America. The Pledge in Solidarity to Defend Marriage notes that

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.24

The pledge goes on to affirm that government has an obligation to support and promote natural marriage and has no authority to redefine it. It states that on more than one occasion in the past, the U.S. Supreme Court overstepped its authority and issued illegitimate decisions. For example, in Dred Scott v. Sandford in 1857, the Court ruled 7-2 that neither enslaved nor free African-Americans could be citizens of the United States, and that they therefore had no legal standing to sue in a U.S. federal court.25 Today, of course, we rightly view this ruling as illegitimate. It was just as illegitimate at the time it was issued. Why? Because the ruling violated a higher, timeless law that affirms the dignity of all human beings, regardless of race. If the Supreme Court rules that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to “marry,” it will have overstepped its authority once again, because it also will have violated a higher law. Marriage was designed and initiated by God (see Gen. 2:21-25). No human entity has the right to redefine it.

In conclusion, the pledge states:

Our highest respect for the rule of law requires that we do not respect an unjust law that directly conflicts with a higher law. A decision purporting to redefine marriage flies in the face of the Constitution and is contrary to the natural created order. As people of faith we pledge obedience to our Creator when the State directly conflicts with higher law. We respectfully warn the Supreme Court not to cross this line.

We stand united together in defense of marriage. Make no mistake about our resolve. While there are many things we can endure, redefining marriage is so fundamental to the natural order and the common good that this is the line we must draw and one we cannot and will not cross.26

The days ahead likely will be increasingly difficult for Christians and for the church. Even if the Supreme Court rules that states have the right to define marriage, the marriage debate isn’t over! The church, both individually and corporately, will have to contend for traditional marriage at the state level, where multiple battles must be waged. Neither is the debate over if the Court rules against traditional marriage.

Thus, either way, we must prepare for the probability that standing for the truth of marriage will be very costly. Advocates of same-sex marriage have many segments of society on their side—allies such as the media, business, and many government institutions.27 Moreover, many who personally oppose same-sex marriage are afraid to defend man-woman marriage because homosexual activists have bullied them into silence. Ultimately, it isn’t primarily institutions but individual hearts and minds that will need to be convinced of the truth about marriage. Wallace Henley writes that Christians and churches must begin to prepare now for what lies ahead: “Leaders should begin thinking about what will happen if non-profit status is lost. Christian institutions must embrace a Book of Acts strategy for corporate operation. Schools must train future church leaders in New Testament strategies.”28

How did the early church survive and even thrive in a hostile culture? Part of the answer is that these believers loved God above all else, and God blessed, sustained, and strengthened them. Alvin Schmidt observes, “The early Christians, during their first three hundred years of bloody persecutions, neither sought nor expected the government to support them in their religious activities. They only yearned for freedom to worship their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. They differed remarkably from the pagan Romans for whom religion meant being linked to a particular city or state.”29

As the pressure to bow in compliance to government edicts regarding marriage and sexuality intensifies, may we as 21st century believers also stand out in our culture as different from those who acquiesce. As we remain faithful to the Lord, perhaps He will use us to transform America, just as he used the early Christians to transform the then-known world. Relying on Him for strength, resolve, and charity toward all, let us pray and work wholeheartedly toward this end.

A condensed version of this article is available here.

Notes

1http://www.davidstuff.com/usa/henry2.htm

2Actually, it is precisely because we as Christians believe homosexuals have inherent dignity as people made in God’s image that we are compelled to speak out against harmful behavior. See http://www.wordfoundations.com/2015/04/23/compassions-mandate/.

3http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/05/opinion/sunday/frank-bruni-same-sex-sinners.html?_r=0

4http://www.christianpost.com/news/hillary-clinton-religious-beliefs-have-to-be-changed-about-abortion-138179/

5https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chai_Feldblum

6http://cnsnews.com/news/article/obama-s-eeoc-nominee-society-should-not-tolerate-private-beliefs-adversely-affect

7http://www.frc.org/issuebrief/obama-administration-curbs-religious-freedom

8http://www.christianpost.com/news/dear-churches-in-america-prepare-to-be-treated-like-1st-century-christians-in-rome-138025/

9Alvin J. Schmidt, Under the Influence: How Christianity Transformed Civilization, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001), 25.

10Quoted in Schmidt, 27.

11Schmidt.

12http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/446579/patria-potestas

13Schmidt, 33

14,15,16http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2015/04/27/will-the-supreme-court-open-the-door-to-the-criminalization-of-christianity/

17Note that the phrase “no choice in the matter” directly contradicts Frank Bruni’s contention (cited above) that opposition to homosexuality is an arbitrary “choice” made by Christians. Let us not miss the fact that these differing conclusions result from different assumptions made about God and whether or not He has revealed truth in His Word, the Bible.

18,19http://www.christianpost.com/news/dear-churches-in-america-prepare-to-be-treated-like-1st-century-christians-in-rome-138025/

20http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2015/03/30/whats-next-for-the-same-sex-marriage-advocates/

21http://www.redstate.com/2015/04/29/the-end-game-becomes-more-clear/

22http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2015/03/30/whats-next-for-the-same-sex-marriage-advocates/

23http://www.wnd.com/2015/04/courts-conclude-faith-loses-to-gay-demands/

24http://defendmarriage.org/pledge-in-solidarity-to-defend-marriage

25 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dred_Scott_v._Sandford

26http://defendmarriage.org/pledge-in-solidarity-to-defend-marriage

27,28http://www.christianpost.com/news/dear-churches-in-america-prepare-to-be-treated-like-1st-century-christians-in-rome-138025/

29Schmidt, 265

 

For Further Reading:

‘We will not obey’: Christian leaders threaten civil disobedience if Supreme Court legalizes gay marriage
http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2015/04/28/will-not-obey-christian-leaders-threaten-civil-disobedience-if-supreme-court/

Man on Admission: Verrilli Reveals Taxing Truth
http://www.frc.org/updatearticle/20150429/man-admission

Alito Asks the Right Questions Which The Left Doesn’t Want Asked
http://www.redstate.com/diary/lifeofgrace/2015/04/29/alito-asks-right-questions-left-doesnt-want-asked/

Don’t Silence the 50 Million Who Voted for One Man-One Woman Marriage
http://goo.gl/JJN1vy

 

Copyright © 2015 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.

 

Outlawed!

It is when a people forget God that tyrants forge their chains.
—Patrick Henry1

We are living in a day far beyond those when we heard the initial pleas for “tolerance” and “openness” with regard to sexual freedom. These voices have morphed. They now issue shrill and oppressive demands that, unfortunately, seem to be carrying the day. One such voice belongs to New York Times op-ed columnist Frank Bruni, who recently wrote of “Bigotry, the Bible and Lessons of Indiana.” The conflict between homosexuality and Christianity is still alive in many churches today, says Bruni, but these elements “don’t have to be in conflict in any church anywhere.” The tradition of deeming homosexuality as a sin, he says, has solidified in the thinking of many Christians, hardening their perspectives and attitudes on the issue. According to Bruni, their outdated viewpoint is a “choice” that elevates Scripture—“scattered passages of ancient texts”—over the enlightened understanding society has acquired on the subject of homosexuality. The Christian perspective also fails to see gays and lesbians as people who, though flawed like everyone else, have dignity like everyone else.2 Bruni then moves to make his primary point: Our conversations about religious liberty need to highlight the need to liberate “religions and religious people from prejudices that they needn’t cling to and can indeed jettison, much as they’ve jettisoned other aspects of their faith’s history, rightly bowing to the enlightenments of modernity.”3 The word “bowing” says it all! Mr. Bruni is speaking of using the government to force compliance among those he sees as unenlightened.

Hillary Clinton has expressed similar sentiments with regard to the issue of abortion. Speaking in New York City at the sixth annual Women in The World Summit, Clinton said “deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed” so women can have increased access to “reproductive health care.” One cannot dismiss the possibility she feels the same way about convictions that homosexuality is a sin, because she also said, “We move forward when gay and transgendered women are embraced as our colleagues and friends, not fired from their jobs because of who they love.”4

While the talk against religious liberty has been around for a number of years (despite its initial façade of tolerance), the rhetoric recently has increased in both volume and intensity. It’s intensified because of the HHS Mandate in Obamacare as well as the debate over same-sex marriage—and these voices may soon gain additional legal weight. Writing for the Christian Post, Wallace Henley states that if the United States Supreme Court finds a constitutional right to same-sex marriage this June, Christians may be treated in the United States as the early Christians were treated in the Roman Empire during the 1st century.5

Rome was a society where worship of pagan gods was commonplace. In the empire, it was a widespread practice to offer libations to pay homage to various deities. For example, an individual might pour oil or wine on an object or an altar in honor of a designated god or goddess. Christians, who had affirmed Jesus as Lord, steadfastly refused to do this. They wouldn’t call Caesar Lord, either, so they were widely accused of being atheists. They were given many opportunities prove they were innocent of the charge—if they would disown Christ, that would bring honor to the gods of Rome and appease their accusers. Many believers resisted and were thrown in prison, tortured, and/or executed.6

Several other things about the Christians irritated the Romans as well. Although not perfect, followers of Christ lived morally pure lives. Their lives therefore stood in stark contrast to the accepted ways of life among the Romans. This included resisting institutionalized practices that had moral components unacceptable to Christians, and the Romans hated the believers for refusing to be involved. Here is how Minucius Felix, a Christian apologist at the time, summarized the Romans’ objections: “You do not attend our shows; you take no part in the processions; you are not present at our public banquets; you abhor the sacred [gladiatorial] games.”7 Moreover, Christians opposed these practices that were common in 1st century Rome: suicide; abortion; the killing of infants; abandonment of infants; homosexuality; the degrading of women; and patria potestas, which, simply put, made the father a dictator in the family.8,9

We can look to the early Christians for guidance and wisdom on how to live out our faith in an inhospitable world. Not only did they remain faithful to Christ as they lived among individuals who disagreed with them, opposed them, and hated them, but they also remained faithful as they endured the wrath of a hostile government. Still, the church grew!10

These lessons from history are important for us today as we await the upcoming ruling on marriage from the U.S. Supreme Court. Mario Diaz is a legal counsel for Concerned Women for America. Mr. Diaz warns that if the Justices decide to impose same-sex marriage nationwide by judicial decree,

they should…consider the ramifications of such a reckless decision. They will be effectively opening the door to the criminalization of Christianity. At the very least, they will be kicking the door wide open to the persecution of Christians (and other religious groups) who believe marriage to be an institution created by God, which they cannot re-define of their own accord. Christians simply have no choice in the matter.11,12

We already cited Wallace Henley’s observation that Christians are on the verge of being treated as were the Christians in 1st century Rome. Henley sees this as yet another step in a process that began with “marginalization” and continued with “caricaturization” and “vilification.” American society is vilifying Christians and Christianity right now. The next steps are “criminalization,” and finally, “elimination.”13 A Supreme Court ruling adverse to natural marriage will bring America across the threshold of criminalizing the Faith that made America both strong and free.14 In other words, it will not be long before people and institutions with principled objections to same-sex marriage will clash head-on with the law. For example, churches that do not recognize the marital rights of same-sex couples should be prepared to lose their tax-exempt status. With justification, conservative journalist Ben Shapiro predicts,

Once non-profit status is revoked for churches on the basis of supposed discrimination against homosexuals, those churches become private institutions engaged in commerce. Which means that they are regulated as common businesses under anti-discrimination law. Which means they can be shut down or fined for failure to perform same-sex weddings. The left says this will never happen. Which means we are a few years away from it happening.15

It might happen sooner than that! Who would have dreamed even thirty years ago that we would face a day when Christianity would be outlawed? Yet this is a very real probability in the days ahead. The oral arguments established this. When asked by Justice Samuel Alito if Christian institutions that refused to recognize same-sex marriage would have their tax-exempt status revoked, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli responded, “It’s certainly going to be an issue.”16

This includes religious universities and schools, which also will be targeted17—and with the legal leverage given progressives by federal recognition of same-sex marriage, the liberal elites will have almost unlimited power to demand compliance from every entity that resists. We are seeing parallels to this already with state governments in cases like those of Elaine Huguenin and Robert and Cynthia Gifford, to name just two of many.18 Given this, we cannot expect even that homeschooling families will be exempt from a federal mandate to teach that gay and lesbian sex are normal expressions of human sexuality.

These and other repercussions of a Supreme Court decision adverse to traditional marriage underscore the importance of a united stand to defend it. Accordingly, a team of Christian leaders has forged and is promoting a statement of resolve that you can sign and share with others. The team includes Dr. James Dobson, founder and president of Dr. James Dobson’s Family Talk; Mathew Staver of Liberty Counsel Action; and Rick Scarborough of Vision America. The Pledge in Solidarity to Defend Marriage declares,

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.19

The pledge goes on to affirm that government has an obligation to support and promote natural marriage and has no authority to redefine it. If the Supreme Court rules that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to “marry,” it will have overstepped its authority because it will have violated a higher law. Marriage was designed and initiated by God (see Gen. 2:21-25). No human entity has the right to redefine it.

In conclusion, the pledge states:

Our highest respect for the rule of law requires that we do not respect an unjust law that directly conflicts with a higher law. A decision purporting to redefine marriage flies in the face of the Constitution and is contrary to the natural created order. As people of faith we pledge obedience to our Creator when the State directly conflicts with higher law. We respectfully warn the Supreme Court not to cross this line.

We stand united together in defense of marriage. Make no mistake about our resolve. While there are many things we can endure, redefining marriage is so fundamental to the natural order and the common good that this is the line we must draw and one we cannot and will not cross.20

Advocates of same-sex marriage have many segments of society on their side—allies such as the media, business, and many government institutions.21 Moreover, many who personally oppose same-sex marriage are afraid to defend man-woman marriage because homosexual activists have bullied them into silence. Ultimately, it isn’t primarily institutions but individual hearts and minds that will need to be convinced of the truth about marriage. Wallace Henley writes that Christians and churches must begin to prepare now for what lies ahead: “Leaders should begin thinking about what will happen if non-profit status is lost. Christian institutions must embrace a Book of Acts strategy for corporate operation. Schools must train future church leaders in New Testament strategies.”22

How did the early church survive and even thrive in a hostile culture? Part of the answer is that they loved God above all else, and God blessed, sustained, and strengthened them. Alvin Schmidt observes, “The early Christians, during their first three hundred years of bloody persecutions, neither sought nor expected the government to support them in their religious activities. They only yearned for freedom to worship their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. They differed remarkably from the pagan Romans for whom religion meant being linked to a particular city or state.”23 As the pressure to bow in compliance to government edicts regarding marriage and sexuality intensifies, may we as 21st century believers also stand out in our culture as different from those who acquiesce. As we remain faithful to the Lord, perhaps He will use us to transform America, just as he used the early Christians to transform the then-known world. Relying on Him for strength, resolve, and charity toward all, let us pray and work wholeheartedly toward this end.

This is a condensed version of a longer article. The expanded article can be viewed here.

An even shorter version of this article is available here.

Notes

1http://www.davidstuff.com/usa/henry2.htm

2Actually, it is precisely because we as Christians believe homosexuals have inherent dignity as people made in God’s image that we are compelled to speak out against harmful behavior. See http://www.wordfoundations.com/2015/04/23/compassions-mandate/.

3http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/05/opinion/sunday/frank-bruni-same-sex-sinners.html?_r=0

4http://www.christianpost.com/news/hillary-clinton-religious-beliefs-have-to-be-changed-about-abortion-138179/

5http://www.christianpost.com/news/dear-churches-in-america-prepare-to-be-treated-like-1st-century-christians-in-rome-138025/

6Alvin J. Schmidt, Under the Influence: How Christianity Transformed Civilization, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001), 25.

7Quoted in Schmidt, 27.

8Schmidt.

9http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/446579/patria-potestas

10Schmidt, 33

11http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2015/04/27/will-the-supreme-court-open-the-door-to-the-criminalization-of-christianity/

12Note that the phrase “no choice in the matter” directly contradicts Frank Bruni’s contention (cited above) that opposition to homosexuality is an arbitrary “choice” made by Christians. Let us not miss the fact that these differing conclusions result from different assumptions made about God andn whether or not He has revealed truth in His Word, the Bible.

13,14http://www.christianpost.com/news/dear-churches-in-america-prepare-to-be-treated-like-1st-century-christians-in-rome-138025/

15http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2015/03/30/whats-next-for-the-same-sex-marriage-advocates/

16http://www.redstate.com/2015/04/29/the-end-game-becomes-more-clear/

17http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2015/03/30/whats-next-for-the-same-sex-marriage-advocates/

18http://www.wnd.com/2015/04/courts-conclude-faith-loses-to-gay-demands/

19,20http://defendmarriage.org/pledge-in-solidarity-to-defend-marriage

21,22http://www.christianpost.com/news/dear-churches-in-america-prepare-to-be-treated-like-1st-century-christians-in-rome-138025/

23Schmidt, 265.

 

For Further Reading:

‘We will not obey’: Christian leaders threaten civil disobedience if Supreme Court legalizes gay marriage
http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2015/04/28/will-not-obey-christian-leaders-threaten-civil-disobedience-if-supreme-court/

Man on Admission: Verrilli Reveals Taxing Truth
http://www.frc.org/updatearticle/20150429/man-admission

Alito Asks the Right Questions Which The Left Doesn’t Want Asked
http://www.redstate.com/diary/lifeofgrace/2015/04/29/alito-asks-right-questions-left-doesnt-want-asked/

Don’t Silence the 50 Million Who Voted for One Man-One Woman Marriage
http://goo.gl/JJN1vy

 

Copyright © 2015 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.

 

A Critical Time for the American Church

Listen a special 3-part series of Dr. James Dobson’s Family Talk broadcast. Dr. Dobson and his guests discuss a Supreme Court ruling this summer that could impose same-sex marriage nationwide. What should be the church’s response? These broadcasts aired April 15 through 17, 2015.

Supreme Court Ruling On Gay Marriage – I

Supreme Court Ruling On Gay Marriage – II

Supreme Court Ruling On Gay Marriage – III

Esse quam videri

He was a military leader like none other. His exploits “were considered classics of military strategy.”1 He’s been described as “more courageous” than all other soldiers, “more imaginative” than all his fellow generals, and “more daring” than all other field officers.2 Serving “with distinction in one battle after another,”3 this American military leader at one point even used his own savings to help the American cause.4 He had his horse shot out from under him during one battle, but he acted so courageously that Congress gave him a promotion in rank. Also, “as a token of their admiration of his gallant conduct,” lawmakers awarded him a new horse.5

Yet, even before the war had reached an end, he seriously considered leaving the military. The commander of the armed forces urged him to stay, however, because he valued his contributions to the war effort and his savvy as a military leader.6 The commander later appointed him to serve as commandant at Philadelphia.7 Eventually, based on this same commander’s trust, this military leader was given command of West Point, a strategic stronghold during the war.8

This general was none other than Benedict Arnold. Arnold had grown resentful when other, less experienced men had been promoted, even as he was not. Also, having grown convinced that the Colonists would lose the war, he decided to turn against them.9 Following through, he gave detailed plans of West Point to British Major John André. Had André been able to deliver the plans to other British soldiers, the Americans probably would have lost the war.10 Fortunately, however, the British officer was captured before he was able to complete his mission.

While a great many words can be used to describe Arnold’s treason, one stands out. At Arnold’s hands (and, we also might say, at the hands evil spiritual forces, for America was founded on Judeo-Christian principles) a lie threatened what would become American independence, freedom, and liberty. Put another way, it was only when the truth about Arnold was discovered and necessary actions were taken that Arnold’s deception was rendered powerless.

This is not a discussion of military tactics, including lies and spying during warfare. Rather, the lesson of Benedict Arnold is presented to illustrate profound spiritual truths, including the potentially devastating power of a lie and the liberating power of the truth to overcome it.

The writings of the apostle Paul echo these principles. In what we now know as chapter 10 of his second letter to the Corinthian Christians, Paul declared,

3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.

The word translated strongholds in verse 4 is especially significant. Used nowhere else in the New Testament, this Greek word can mean “a castle or a fortress.” It doesn’t mean a literal building in 2 Corinthians 10:4, however—it refers to the ideas on which an individual relies, the rationale a person uses to bolster and defend his opinion against God’s reality or truth.11 Verse 5 affirms this very thing when it elaborates on what “pulling down strongholds” (v. 4) means. Again, verse 5 says, “Casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” Couldn’t we say, then, that a stronghold is either a lie or a system of lies standing contrary to the truth of God? How else can a lie be overcome but by its corresponding truth? The Latin phrase Esse quam videri, which means “To be, rather than to seem,”12 says it succinctly. This is the motto for the state of North Carolina.

Seal_of_North_Carolina.svg

All the biblical truths we’ve highlighted thus far are entirely consistent with everything Paul wrote about spiritual warfare in Ephesians 6:10-17. Of all the equipment in the armor of God—

  • the belt of truth,
  • the breastplate of righteousness,
  • the shoes of the preparation of the gospel of peace,
  • the shield of faith,
  • the helmet of salvation, and
  • the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s Word—

only the sword is an offensive weapon. Strongholds cannot be torn down when we hold an exclusively defensive posture. And what is God’s Word? Jesus revealed the answer to this question in John 17:17. It is truth. We note that since truth is represented by both a belt and a sword, it has both defensive and offensive capabilities. Only truth, however, is an offensive weapon.

Eve learned that God’s Word is truth the hard way (just as we also often have). The serpent questioned God in her presence in Genesis 3:1; then in verse 4 he flatly contradicted what God had said. In other words, he lied. While Eve thought eating the forbidden fruit would liberate her, she found that it actually put her, and all of humanity as well, in bondage.13

Just as was true at the dawn of time and centuries ago in American history, lies continue to pose ominous threats to liberty. We must never underestimate the destructive potential of such lies—including the lie that the God-ordained institutions of marriage and family can be redefined to mean whatever government wants them to mean, to affirm whatever behavior patterns people find enjoyable and acceptable, to normalize behavior that goes against nature and nature’s God. As a nation, we will follow this lie to our own peril.

Fully armed for spiritual warfare, Christians must engage this falsehood head-on to tear it down and to reestablish God’s truth on marriage and the family as the cultural standard and as national policy, just as has been the case in our history until only recently. We do this not to enslave, but to liberate! Indeed, as Jesus said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32).

Let us keep in mind that as Americans, we have been fortunate to live in a land where the founding documents, including most obviously the Declaration of Independence in this case, affirm that liberties come from God. Contending for the biblical view of marriage and the family is therefore American in the most authentic sense of the word.

Recalling Benedict Arnold once again, let’s make just a few more observations.

  • The truth about Benedict Arnold was offensive—and
  • the lie about him was pleasurable to hear. Even so,
  • the lie about Arnold was far more destructive than it was soothing; and,
  • because the Colonists were willing to respond, the truth was far more liberating than it was tough to accept.

General_George_Washington_at_Trenton_by_John_Trumbull

George Washington, the commander of the armed forces who previously had praised Arnold, communicated to his men the news of the discovery Arnold’s treachery. He described the treason as being “of the blackest dye” but joyfully affirmed that it had “been timely discovered, to prevent…fatal misfortune.” He added, “The Providential train of circumstances which led to it affords the most convincing proof that the liberties of America are the object of Divine Protection.”14 He conveyed the same basic idea when he used these words to summarize the situation: “In no instance since the commencement of the War has the interposition of Providence appeared more conspicuous.”15

Thankfully, God intervened in America’s early days to give people an opportunity to allow the truth about Benedict Arnold to liberate.16 Let’s pray that He will intervene again and that the truth about marriage and the family will be upheld. Whether or not He intervenes through the Supreme Court, we as His people must cooperate with Him to lovingly yet forthrightly and boldly contend for the truth about marriage and the family in all our spheres of influence—not to impose anything on anyone, but for the benefit of all, that all may enjoy true freedom and liberty.

Read and sign the Pledge in Solidarity to Defend Marriage.

 

Copyright © 2015 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All Rights Reserved.

Update, added July 7, 2016

Here’s the point of application for us today. At the most rudimentary of levels, homosexuality is a lie! Same-sex marriage is a lie! So are other sins. They are lies because they deny the realities that God has set up in human relationships and in the natural world. When we understand this, we can comprehend the urgency of warning those who have been deceived and encouraging them to take a path consistent with the truth.

Notes:

1Brad Cummings and Lance Wubbels, General Editors, The Founders’ Bible: The Origin of the Dream of Freedom, (Newbury Park, CA: Shiloh Road Publishers, 2012), 1637.

2,3http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1069532/posts

4Toby Mac and Michael Tait, Under God, (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2004), 162.

5http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1069532/posts

6Toby Mac and Michael Tait, 163.

7http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1069532/posts

8Brad Cummings and Lance Wubbels, General Editors, The Founders’ Bible: The Origin of the Dream of Freedom, (Newbury Park, CA: Shiloh Road Publishers, 2012), 1638.

9Toby Mac and Michael Tait, 163.

10Toby Mac and Michael Tait, 162.

11http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G3794&t=KJV

12https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Esse_quam_videri

13Star Parker’s story is but one modern example of this same principle. Read it and listen to it at http://www.lifenews.com/2015/01/30/she-had-four-abortions-was-there-any-way-god-could-forgive-her/

14,15Toby Mac and Michael Tait, 164.

16While it’s true that the lie Arnold perpetrated was, in one sense, a different kind of lie than the lies promoted about marriage today, in another sense a lie is a lie. We note again that we are using Arnold’s deception to illustrate a point. Focus on the parallels between these scenarios and the lessons that arise from history.

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.