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.

 

 

After Obergefell, Can Courts Rewrite Laws?

The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive and judicia[l] in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self–appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.
James Madison

madison_james-president_bep_engraved_portrait

An expanded version of this article is available here.

The Founders of the United States of America designed a balanced system of government that sets the stage for limiting the power of each of its three major divisions, or branches. We call this a system of checks and balances. It is a system that rests on the principle of the separation of powers.

washington_constitutional_convention_1787

Signing of the US Constitution by Junius Brutus Stearns

According to this model, courts cannot enact or rewrite laws; they can only interpret them or rule them unconstitutional. Only legislators—lawmakers—can write laws.

Recently, the highest court in Massachusetts reached beyond its designated authority. During the week of October 6, 2016, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court issued a ruling in a case involving two unmarried women and a child one of them had conceived through artificial insemination. Could the woman who hadn’t given birth be recognized as one of the child’s legal parents? Her lawyer was Mary Bonauto, one of the lawyers who argued on behalf of same-sex couples in the Obergefell case. In presenting her arguments, Bonauto pointed to two Massachusetts statutes. David Fowler of the Family Action Council of Tennessee explains (emphases added),

def-portrait-2-200

David Fowler

First, Ms. Bonauto argued that the “paternity” statutes justified the claim that her female client should be “deemed” the child’s other legal parent. Given that the word “paternity” means “the state or fact of being the father of a particular child” and comes from the Latin word paternus, meaning “of a father,” do you now see the problem? How can a woman be a “father” unless words in statutes no longer have their common meaning? And on what basis could a court “interpret” away the clear meaning of that word?

Well, Ms. Bonauto argued that the statutes do not define “mother” and “father,” which she asserted left the Court free to give those words new meaning to conform to the new meaning of marriage. Makes perfect sense to me—if a court can redefine marriage, why can’t it redefine “husband” and “paternity” (and, really, any word in the English language)? You have to wonder what legislators were thinking years ago when they didn’t bother to define the terms “father” and “mother”!

But Ms. Bonauto also argued that the statute on artificial insemination involving a “husband and wife” should be interpreted to apply to her as well. Makes sense, too—if a court can redefine “father” and “mother,” surely it can redefine “husband” and “wife.”

Before you say, “Thank God we live in Tennessee,” consider the fact Ms. Bonauto has commented on the artificial insemination lesbian divorce case in Tennessee in which I am involved on behalf of 53 state legislators. She said, “As a matter of supremacy…the Tennessee statutes must be construed to comply with Obergefell’s constitutional commands.”


As a matter of supremacy…the Tennessee statutes must be construed to comply with Obergefell’s constitutional commands.
Mary Bonauto, lawyer and advocate for same-sex marriage—


Yes, a similar case is being litigated in Knoxville—

a divorce proceeding… involving a marriage between two women. During the marriage, one of the women conceived a child by artificial insemination. The issue involves the custody rights of the woman who has no biological relationship to the child.

The controversy centers on a statute that deems a child born to a “married woman” by means of artificial insemination, with the consent of the “married woman’s husband,” to be the “legitimate child of the husband and wife.”

The two women have asserted that that statute, enacted in 1977, is unconstitutional if it is applied according to the plain meaning of the words used and is not interpreted by the courts to apply to same-sex marriages.

With all of this as a backdrop, I have some good news and some bad news.

  • First, the good news. Fortunately, David Fowler has filed a motion on behalf of 53 state legislators to intervene in this case. Remember, courts have no authority to rewrite laws; they only can interpret them or deem them to be unconstitutional. More than any other party, the legislators—the lawmakers themselves—surely have a great deal to say about what the laws meant when they passed them, and what they mean today. Legislators’ perspectives should be extremely valuable to the court in determining any law’s intent. Furthermore, if a marriage law or laws are ruled unconstitutional, it then would become the prerogative of the legislature—the lawmaking body of Tennessee—to respond.
  • Now, the bad news. The Tennessee’s attorney generalHerbert Slatery, also has addressed the question at issue in this case. The bad news is that unfortunately, he apparently agrees with Mary Bonauto!

According to David Fowler in an email,

The [relevant] statue says, “A child born to a married woman as a result of artificial insemination, with consent of the married woman’s husband, is deemed to be the legitimate child of the husband and wife.”

In response, the AG literally cited the definitional section of the Code about how the Code is, generally speaking, to be interpreted. It says, “words importing the masculine gender include the feminine and neuter, except when the contrary intention is manifest.” Then the AG immediately wrote: “So both the word ‘husband’ and the word a ‘wife’ in [the statute] would be properly construed to mean ‘spouse.’”

So much for reading the words “except when the contrary intention is manifest!” The AG argues as if that phrase isn’t even in the statute it relies on!


So both the word “husband” and the word a “wife” in [the statute] would be properly construed to mean “spouse.”
—Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery, completely ignoring the italicized portion of this guideline for interpreting state law: “[W]ords importing the masculine gender include the feminine and neuter, except when the contrary intention is manifest.”—


If there ever were legal arguments desperately needing friend-of-the-court briefs, those being made by David Fowler are those arguments. Amicus briefs opposing him and the legislators surely will be filed by national organizations that favor LGBT causes, especially since Attorney General Slatery has sided against state sovereignty in this case.

The Massachusetts case already has been lost. According to Fowler, similar cases also have been lost in Indiana and Wisconsin. Another case is being litigated in New York. Additional legal conflicts are sure to surface. Will pro-marriage organizations anywhere else do as David Fowler has done and seek out legislators who might be willing to go to bat for man-woman marriage—or at least for marriage and family laws as they were originally written? Are we really willing to surrender the meanings of the words “man,” “woman,” “husband,” “wife,” “father,” and “mother” without a fight? Furthermore, if these words lose their inherent meaning, is there anything on progressives’ wish lists that won’t become reality as these pioneers of the new social frontier seek to reshape civilization? “Civilization” is yet another word that will be redefined, and everyone will pay a high price!


Are we really willing to surrender the meanings of the words “man,” “woman,” “husband,” “wife,” “father,” and “mother” without a fight?


Keep in mind this isn’t just about marriage, but also about divided government and the separation of powers. Do courts have the right to rewrite laws? In our constitutional republic, they do not.

As George Washington said in his Farewell Address,

portrait_of_george_washington-transparent

It is important, likewise, that the habits of thinking in a free Country should inspire caution in those entrusted with its Administration, to confine themselves within their respective Constitutional Spheres; avoiding in the exercise of the Powers of one department to encroach upon another. The spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the powers of all the departments in one, and thus to create whatever the form of government, a real despotism.

Constitution_We_the_People

We soon will see if the US and Tennessee constitutions will be honored or totally ignored. If they are ignored, then we’ll no longer live in a republic, but an oligarchy; and, as precious as man-woman marriage is, they’ll be a great deal more at risk than just the sanctity of man-woman marriage.

 

Copyright © 2016 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.

Good News or Bad News? Making Sense of What Happened at the Alabama Supreme Court

The Supreme Court was wrong when it denied Dred Scott his rights and said, “blacks are inferior human beings.” And the Court was wrong when Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote in Buck v. Bell, “three generations of imbeciles are enough,” thus upholding Virginia’s eugenics law that permitted forced sterilization. Shamefully, that decision was cited during the Nuremburg trials to support the Nazi eugenic holocaust.

In these earlier cases, the definition of “human” was at issue. Now the definition of “marriage” is at issue. The Constitution does not grant a right to redefine marriage — which is nonsensical since marriage intrinsically involves a man and a woman. Nor does the Constitution prohibit states from affirming the natural created order of male and female joined together in marriage.

We will view any decision by the Supreme Court or any court the same way history views the Dred Scott and Buck v. Bell decisions. Our highest respect for the rule of law requires that we not respect an unjust law that directly conflicts with 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.

—the Pledge in Solidarity to Defend Marriage, a statement of commitment to uphold natural marriage drafted prior to the Supreme Court’s Obergefell ruling and signed by more than 53,000 people

On Friday, March 4, 2016, the Alabama Supreme Court issued an important ruling on marriage. The opinion of the court was especially significant because it was, in part, a response to Obergefell, the US Supreme Court’s ruling of June 26, 2015 that redefined marriage nationwide to include same sex couples. Yet, reading several different headlines, one might wonder in just what direction the Alabama Supreme Court went with its decision.

Here, on the one hand, are three headlines that tilted the news one way.

Yet on the other hand, these headlines appeared on conservative websites.

A casual observer might be forgiven for wondering whether the Alabama Supreme Court’s decision upheld or undermined marriage. Previously, on March 3, 2015, the Alabama Court had ruled strongly in favor of traditional marriage. It did so based on the state’s Sanctity of Marriage Amendment and the Alabama Marriage Protection Act,  both of which the court said were constitutional. Accordingly, in a 7-1 ruling, the justices ordered the state’s probate judges to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, despite the opinion of Callie V.S. Granade, a Federal District Judge who had ruled otherwise.

In a report dated March 10, 2016 titled The Gay Marriage Legal Battle Just Entered Uncharted Territory in Alabama, Nate Madden explains, “Following the June 28 Obergefell v. Hodges ruling, the Alabama Supreme Court requested the parties [that had been involved in the state marriage case] file additional documents.” The Alabama Citizens Action Program and the Alabama Policy Institute submitted petitions to end same-sex marriage in Alabama, and they hoped the court would affirm the petitions. However, it instead dismissed them. Eric Johnston, who represented the plaintiffs, said, “We’re disappointed. What I had hoped was this court would affirm its decision, which would have required further review by the U.S. Supreme Court. They did not do that.”

The dismissal of the petitions caused supporters of same-sex marriage and many in the mainstream media to cheer. You can even sense the celebrative tone in these statements from a Reuters report of the Alabama high court’s decision:

The Alabama Supreme Court on Friday affirmed the right to same-sex marriage, dismissing a challenge by conservative religious groups that opposed such unions.

In a one-sentence order, the high court turned aside a lawsuit by the Alabama Citizens Action Program and the Alabama Policy Institute questioning the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year that effectively allowed same-sex unions.

“It is ordered that all pending motions and petitions are dismissed,” the court said in ending the legal battle.

Yet this isn’t the whole story. The legal battle, in fact, has not ended—although the March 4, 2016 ruling of the Alabama Supreme Court arguably does close the chapter on this particular case. Even so, another chapter begins. Recall that Nate Madden’s feature, cited above, is titled The Gay Marriage Legal Battle Just Entered Uncharted Territory in Alabama. Americans need to know that the Justices of the Alabama Supreme Court didn’t simply dismiss petitions; they went to say a great deal about Obergefell and about traditional marriage. Even now, in the wake of Obergefell, the Court also “left undisturbed” the order to probate judges it had issued a year prior. That order, as we have noted, upheld the Alabama State Constitution’s provision on marriage and directed probate judges not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Why would the Court dismiss the motions and petitions plaintiffs had filed? We cannot know fully; however, the fact that the justices left in place their previous ruling speaks volumes about the Court’s position on Alabama’s marriage laws and on the US Supreme Court’s overreach in Obergefell. Keep in mind the US Constitution says nothing about marriage, and it certainly says nothing about a right to same-sex marriage.

Moreover, as we emphasized in a previous post, for supporters of traditional marriage, the prevailing question isn’t How can Obergefell be most directly challenged? but How can it be most effectively challenged? At least some of the justices may very well have felt that, although Obergefell was an erroneous ruling, affirming traditional marriage beyond the actions the Court already had taken essentially would have invited the US Supreme Court to rule directly against Alabama’s marriage laws. Alabama was not part of the Obergefell case from the 6th Circuit and therefore, arguably, the Supreme Court’s ruling did not apply in Alabama. (The 6th Circuit includes Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee.) According to legal expert Mat Staver, it actually “only applies to the parties in that particular case [the parties in Obergefell].”

The March 4, 2016 press release from the Family Research Council is both informative and instructive. It names specific justices and affirms their opinions. I quote the release here in its entirety.

Family Research Council Commends Alabama Supreme Court Justices for their Concurring Marriage Opinions

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Family Research Council President Tony Perkins made the following comments in response to the Concurring Opinions of Chief Justice Moore and Justices Murdock, Bolin and Parker of the Alabama Supreme Court, which properly characterized the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell opinion as without constitutional basis:

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“We applaud the Justices of the Alabama Supreme Court who have exposed the constitutional flaws in the U.S. Supreme Court’s lawless ruling that imposed marriage redefinition on all fifty states.

“Chief Justice Moore, Justice Murdock, Justice Bolin, and Justice Parker have boldly and clearly annunciated constitutional truths for the generations to come, declaring that the U.S. Supreme Court was without authority to do what it did in Obergefell. Instead of solving anything, the U.S. Supreme Court has politicized itself and delegitimized itself in the eyes of the American people.

“Polls show that the American people are increasingly concerned with the future of the U.S. Supreme Court. This is becoming an important factor in their voting.  They are tired of the Court preempting social consensus by imposing its views on all fifty states, as it did with abortion and marriage.

“We commend these Justices for standing for the Constitution and speaking for the tens of millions of Americans whose voices were stripped away by the U.S. Supreme Court last summer,” concluded Perkins.

Let’s conclude by actually looking at some of the statements in the March 4 ruling made by the justices Tony Perkins named. Eloquently and forcefully, they describe the situation in both Alabama and the United States.

*** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***

Chief Justice Roy Moore:

I agree with the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, John Roberts, and with Associate Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito, that the majority opinion in Obergefell has no basis in the law, history, or tradition of this country. Obergefell is an unconstitutional exercise of judicial authority that usurps the legislative prerogative of the states to regulate their own domestic policy. Additionally, Obergefell seriously jeopardizes the religious liberty guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.…

Based upon arguments of “love,” “commitment,” and “equal dignity” for same-sex couples, five lawyers, as Chief Justice Roberts so aptly describes the Obergefell majority, have declared a new social policy for the entire country. As the Chief Justice and Associate Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito eloquently and accurately demonstrate in their dissents, the majority opinion in Obergefell is an act of raw power with no ascertainable foundation in the Constitution itself. The majority presumed to legislate for the entire country under the guise of interpreting the Constitution.…

The opinion appeals more to emotion than law, reminding one of the 1974 song “Feelings” by Morris Albert, which begins: “Feelings, nothing more than feelings ….” The Court’s opinion speaks repeatedly of homosexuals being humiliated, demeaned, and denied “equal dignity” by a state’s refusal to issue them marriage licenses. The majority seeks to invoke the grief, sorrow, and compassion associated with a Greek tragedy. Riding a tidal wave of emotion, the ensuing tears and pathos then suffice to fertilize a new constitutional right nowhere mentioned in the Constitution itself.

Abandoning the role of interpreting the written Constitution, the majority has instead decided to become the supposed “voice” of the people, discerning the people’s sentiments and updating the document accordingly. The function of keeping the Constitution up with the times, however, has not been delegated to the Court—or to Congress or the President; that function is reserved to the states under Article V.

Justice Glenn Murdock:

Governments did not and do not create the institution of marriage. A civil government can choose to recognize that institution; it can choose to affirm it; and it can even take steps to encourage it. Governments throughout history have done so. But governments cannot change its essential nature. Marriage is what it is. No less so than any naturally occurring element on the periodic table.

Yet, here we are. The courts undertake to change—or at least declare a change in—the essential nature of the thing itself. It is not just that the existence of such an ability would make it impossible to communicate and maintain a rule of law (which it does) or even to communicate truths from one person or time to another (which it also does). To assume the ability to declare such a change presumes there is no objectively ascertainable, universally applicable and immutable— “unalienable” in the words of the Declaration of Independence—truth about the thing.

The postmodern philosophy of truth this represents is that each individual can decide for himself or herself what is true. In contrast, the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution reflect, and the drafters of the one and framers and ratifiers of the other believed in, a philosophy of objectively ascertainable truth. Truth that is external to each of us. Truth that informs a common value system against which to consider one another’s ideas and conduct. Only out of such a universal truth can there arise “certain rights” that can themselves be universal—and unalienable.

So, in the end, perhaps the real question is this: Can the United States Supreme Court decide upon some philosophy of truth different from that assumed by the framers of the Constitution and by the Constitution itself—the same Constitution that gives that Court its very existence and its authority to make decisions? And impose this different philosophy of truth upon the people of this country? Where is the authority for that?

Justice Michael F. Bolin:

[T]he Obergefell majority pulled from thin (legal) air a redefinition of marriage that is based not on any fundamental right deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition, but rather on its self-declared beliefs that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry because “[t]he nature of marriage is that, through its enduring bond, two persons together can find other freedoms, such as expression, intimacy, and spirituality”; “[m]arriage responds to the universal fear that a lonely person might call out only to find no one there”; “[t]heir hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions”; “[t]hey ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law”; and “[t]he Constitution grants them that right.” 570 U.S. at ___, 135 S.Ct. at 2599, 2600, and 2608. Yielding to current social mores and temporal societal policy to recognize a fundamental constitutional right in a way not intended for the judicial branch of government, the majority in Obergefell, in the last phrase quoted above, is better understood to be saying: “We simply think that the Constitution should, and hereby does, grant them that right.”

The above-stated beliefs and accompanying conclusion, properly excoriated by the four Obergefell dissenters, are legislative rather than judicial in tone and nature and, again, ignore Supreme Court precedent to reach a desired societal result, which, as noted by Justice Scalia, “diminish[es] [the] Court’s reputation for clear thinking and sober analysis.” 576 U.S. at ___, 135 S. Ct. at 2630 (Scalia, J., dissenting). Rather,

“[f]or today’s majority, it does not matter that the right to same-sex marriage lacks deep roots or even that it is contrary to long-established tradition. The Justices in the majority claim the authority to confer constitutional protection upon that right simply because they believe that it is fundamental.” 576 U.S. at ___, 135 S. Ct. at 2640-41. (Alito, J., dissenting) (emphasis added).…

I am further compelled to concur specially to express my concern, which remains to be determined in future cases, that the Obergefell decision may have emasculated this State’s entire statutory licensing scheme governing “marriage” to the point of rendering it incapable of being enforced prospectively.

Justice Tom Parker:

I concur in the issuance of the certificate of judgment and in the dismissal of the pending motions and petitions. Dismissal, as distinct from denial, is not a decision on the merits. Thus, this Court is not denying on the merits matters of vital importance concerning the effect—or lack thereof—of Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. ___, 135 S. Ct. 2584 (2015), on such issues as the issue of religious-liberty rights of individuals.

I concur specially to state that Obergefell conclusively demonstrates that the rule of law is dead. “Five lawyers”*—appointed to judgeships for life** and practically unaccountable***  to the more than 320 million Americans they now arbitrarily govern—enlightened by “new insights” into the true meaning of the word “liberty,” determined that “liberty” means that Americans have a new fundamental right only now discovered over 225 years since the Constitution was adopted. “Five lawyers,” who have treated the Constitution as “a mere thing of wax … which they may twist, and shape into any form they please,”**** determined to impose their enlightenment on this nation in spite of the vast majority of the states having democratically refused again and again to redefine the divinely initiated institution of marriage. In marching this country “forward” to their moral ideal, the “five lawyers” composing the majority in Obergefell have trampled into the dust the last vestiges of the legitimacy of the United States Supreme Court.

Obergefell is not based on legal reasoning, history, tradition, the Court’s own rules, or the rule of law, but upon the empathetic feelings of the “five lawyers” in the majority. What the late John Hart Ely said of another decision can be said of Obergefell: “It is bad because it is bad constitutional law, or rather because it is not constitutional law and gives almost no sense of an obligation to try to be.” John Hart Ely, The Wages of Crying Wolf: A Comment on Roe v. Wade, 82 Yale L.J. 920, 947 (1973). The majority in Obergefell does not set forth authorities that lead to its conclusion; it sets forth only sentiments that support its whim in this case to create a fundamental constitutional right. In order to reach this conclusion, the majority in Obergefell, having ascended to a new understanding of human liberty, threw off the restraints of the rule of law and history. Having by judicial will set themselves free from those “shackles,” the majority then ushered in a new era of “liberty”: court-pronounced dignity. Justice Hugo Black, an Alabamian, provided an apt description of what the United States Supreme Court has done in Obergefell in his dissent in In re Winship, 397 U.S. 358, 384 (1970):

“When this Court assumes for itself the power to declare any law—state or federal—unconstitutional because it offends the majority’s own views of what is fundamental and decent in our society, our Nation ceases to be governed according to the ‘law of the land’ and instead becomes one governed ultimately by the ‘law of the judges.’”

*Chief Justice Roberts referred to the Obergefell majority three times as “five lawyers,” 576 U.S. at ___, 135 S. Ct. at 2612, 2624 (Roberts, C.J., dissenting), instead of Justices, thus caustically pointing out that the five were not acting in a judicial role.
**The dissents in Obergefell refer eight times to “unelected” judges.
***The dissents in Obergefell refer twice to the “unaccountable” judges.
****Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Judge Spencer Roane, Sept. 6, 1819, 12 The Works of Thomas Jefferson 137 (Paul Leicester Ford ed., G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1905).

*** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***

As these justices demonstrate in their statements, the debate is far from over. Much is yet to be resolved—and for resolution to occur, much needs to be reasserted and reestablished. Among other things, we need bring our country back to the ideals of its Founders, and this will be no small or easy task. Yet it is our duty, our calling.

Therefore, let us all, to the degree that we can, lend our support to the effort to restore natural marriage in the United States.

The Alabama Supreme Court has laid the foundation for this critical work.

 

Copyright © 2016 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All Rights Reserved.

 

Limited Options

Apollo 13 was launched on time from the Kennedy Space Center on April 11, 1970 at 2:13 p.m. EST. It was to be the third manned space flight to land on the moon, but an onboard explosion on the second day of the mission turned the mission into a quest to bring the crew home alive. The odds weren’t in the crew’s or in Mission Control’s favor, but strategic thinking, ingenuity, patience under pressure, hard work, and good fortune did indeed bring the crew safely home—six days after they had left the earth and four days after the explosion.

Apollo_13_passing_Moon

Lessons from Apollo 13 abound. If we heed them, we can greatly increase our effectiveness as we address one of today’s most important and pressing issues—marriage.

“Limited Options” tells the story of Apollo 13
and makes appropriate applications.
Access the article here.
Access an expanded version of the article here.

 

Copyright © 2016 B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.

Pictured at top is the three-man crew of Apollo 13, which consisted of (left to right) Commander James Lovell, Command Module Pilot Jack Swigert, and Lunar Module Pilot Fred W. Haise. In the next photo, the imperiled spacecraft passes by the moon. The view was spectacular, but the overarching concern was getting the crew home safely.

The article consists of 2700 words; the expanded version of the article, 3700 words.

Ten Ways Same-Sex Marriage Denies Reality

The Illegitimate Supports of ObergefellPillar Number 1: A Faulty Worldview, Part 2

I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.
C. S. Lewis

Part 1 is available here.

Last time we began examining the worldview of Secularism, one of the Obergefell ruling’s three faulty pillars. Please read last week’s post for more information on worldviews in general and on Secularism in particular.

Believers must understand that Secularism is no friend to Christians or the Christian worldview. In their book, Understanding the Times: A Survey of Competing Worldviews, Jeff Myers and David A. Noebel observe that the Secularism’s narrative seeks to rewrite the history of civilization to caricature Christians and to portray Humanists and Secularists as enlightened individuals acting with only the noblest of intentions, for the betterment of all humanity.

Here is how Myers and Noebel summarize the Secularist narrative:

The followers of Jesus were evil liars whose goal was to establish a macho, misogynistic cult. The good people of Rome tried to stop them, but the wicked Emperor Constantine managed to establish Christianity as Rome’s official religion anyway. Once in power, Christians intentionally undermined Rome’s strength until this once-great civilization collapsed. The church blindly pressed forward in its obsession with control, plunging Europe in to the Dark Ages. It took a few hundred years, but Europe was eventually rescued by scientists and philosophers who bravely risked their lives to challenge the church’s teaching that the earth was flat and the center of the universe. Occasionally Christians gained power long enough to burn tens of thousands of witches, massacre millions of natives, and launch cruel crusades against innocent, civilized Muslims. Fortunately, due to the brilliance of those who rejected the church’s teachings, the Enlightenment saw the triumph of science and reason over religion. However, we must not let down our guard, because greedy, ignorant Christians resent the progress made by clever, reasonable Secularists, and they will do everything they can to manipulate their way into power to prevent decent folk from having a good time and living their lives in freedom.1

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Myers and Noebel admit that the above summary is “exaggerated to make a point,” but the exaggerations highlight rather than distort the Secularist message. Not one fact can be found in the above summary; yet the summary accurately represents the perspective of A People’s History of the United States,2,3 the most widely used history textbook on American college campuses today. The textbook is “a…diatribe,” say Myers and Noebel. They must be onto something. A People’s History contains no footnotes!4

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Dr. Jeff Myers
President, Summit Ministries

David-Noebel

Dr. David A. Nobel
Founder and Former President, Summit Ministries

You see, Secularists, contrary to their claims and reputation, push their beliefs with religious fervor. They won a great battle with the Obergefell ruling, but ultimately it cannot stand because it seeks to refute the world that is. In part because the cultural tide is moving in the direction of Secularism, adherents of this worldview tend to think their perspective is an irresistible force. While it is true that many people are being duped by Secularist myths and are jumping on the bandwagon, those who resist ultimately will emerge as true heroes.

We need to be prepared to point out Obergefell’s weaknesses. For our purposes here, let’s think through some of the consequences of just one of the major components of Secularism, that of giving a “green light” to individuals to determine “their own truth.” To where does this lead? It leads to some of the very places where we find ourselves today under Obergefell.

Before listing any outcomes, however, we must say clearly that our analysis is not meant disparage homosexuals as people. All individuals, homosexuals included, have been created in God’s image. God loves them, and so do we. Some are our friends, neighbors, and relatives. We know many of them to be loving and caring people, and loving and caring parents. Even so, we have to state the truth that homosexual activity is sinful and harmful, and to build marriage and parenting around it—and around the false assumption that it is on par with heterosexuality—is detrimental to everyone involved. If we love homosexuals, we will not withhold the truth. This is why we do not shrink back from stating the following.

Secularists have demanded that same-sex relationships be eligible for “marriage,” but the qualities of an authentic marriage are what they are precisely because an opposite-sex couple is involved. The term “same-sex marriage” is, quite simply, a myth. We might even call it a lie, because it is a contradiction in terms. In other words, Secular Humanism and its celebration of individualism and moral relativism under Obergefell reach conclusions that deny reality.

Here are ten.

  1. Individual autonomy under Obergefell stands contrary to the clear teaching of nature regarding the biological differences between the sexes.
  2. The conclusions of Obergefell’s worldview stand contrary to the clear relational dynamic that exists between opposite-sex couples. Put another way, same-sex marriage denies the importance of the mystery that always has been present—inherently—in heterosexual marriage. Because a man isn’t a woman and vice versa, each marital partner must work hard to understand, communicate with, and relate to his/her spouse. Such efforts strengthen a marriage. Same-sex marriage offers no such relational mystery. In fact, Secularism and same-sex marriage trample on this dynamic, effectively denying its importance and reality.
  3. The worldview of Obergefell refuses to acknowledge the profound implications for marriage that flow from the fact that only a heterosexual couple can have a baby.
  4. Secularism turns a deaf ear, not necessarily to a newborn’s helplessness, but to the implications of the baby’s helplessness. We must not forget that the baby would not have arrived were it not for a heterosexual union. Here we are not saying that homosexual parents of adopted infants neglect needs like feeding and changing them. We are saying that when both parents are of the same sex, this thwarts nature’s intention that the baby would have two opposite-sex parents once it is born. Put another way, same-sex marriage neglects the newborn’s innate needs for interacting with both a woman and a man—both a mother and a father. This is true not randomly, but in every case because same-sex marriage inherently denies children either a mother or a father.
  5. Developing point #4 further, we observe that when society says a same-sex relationship can be a marriage, it effectively divorces from marriage and the family the natural, innate responsibilities that come with a sexual union that produces and rears children. I want to be abundantly clear on this point, because I’m not trying to say here that homosexuals are bad parents. Here’s what I am saying: The traits and realities of heterosexual marriage automatically designate who should have the primary responsibility for raising the children. Even though many and probably most homosexual parents in same-sex “marriages” love their adopted children and care for them sacrificially, the marital arrangement they are in does not set the stage for them to do this, because same-sex couples cannot procreate.
  6. Despite Secularism’s claim that discrimination is to be abhorred, it actively discriminates against both men and women through same-sex marriage. Same-sex marriage assumes that neither a man nor a woman has any unique contribution to bring to the important task of parenting. In other words, it assumes that both men and women are disposable.
  7. Through same-sex marriage, Secularism deprives children of the emotional balance that opposite-sex couples bring to parenting and to the family. The point here is that men and women are different, so a heterosexual couple provides an emotional balance for their children that same-sex couples cannot.
  8. Secularism through same-sex marriage also denies children the balanced perspective on authority that would receive from opposite-sex parents. Men and women lead, and discipline, differently. Children need from their parents both male and female approaches to authority and leadership.
  9. The worldview of Obgerfell turns a deaf ear to civilization’s clear needs for the future.
  10. Finally, secular humanism upholds homosexuality as being on par with heterosexuality. This denies the reality of the health risks inherent in homosexuality. The denial doesn’t change the reality, however. Indeed, it cannot.5,6,7

These ten items represent the place to which Secularism, through Obergefell, has led us. The longer we stay here, the more we and future generations will be put at perilous risk. We must consistently and repeatedly warn of the dangers. Do not expect the average person on the street to recognize these perils on his or her own, because Secularism has a strong grip on culture.

789px-James_Dobson_1

At the beginning of the Tuesday, January 12, 2016 broadcast of Dr. James Dobson’s Family talk, Dr. Dobson made these important observations (minor edits made for smoothness and clarity).

We’re in a river—I call it the River of Culture—and it flows one way. It takes you downstream; it never takes you upstream. If you’re in that river, it is so difficult to not become part of where it leads! It takes tremendous self-control and instruction and prayer to walk upstream against the current.8

Dobson is right. Even conservative Christians and churches are being duped by gay activist lies.9 Aware of what the pressure can do, Dobson offered both a warning and a challenge.

More importantly, our kids, our teenagers, are in the river, and they’re being carried down to who knows where! We have to oppose this kind of cultural movement. Wherever we see wickedness and evil, we have to stand up and be counted, and then take the consequences for it. I’ve been doing that for a long time, and I can tell you, it’s not easy. It’s not easy because you will be called names, and frankly, I’m tired of being called names! You know, being pro-life and pro-family…brings animosity and hatred. Standing up against the cultural current is difficult, but I urge you to have the courage to be one of those who will stand up and be counted.10

The more who are willing to stand up against the Secularist tide, the more likely it will be that the tide will be turned. Remember that with God, all things are possible. Will you lend your voice in support of the truth?

 

Copyright © 2016 B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.

Notes:

1Jeff Myers and David A. Noebel, Understanding the Times: A Survey of Competing Worldviews (Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2015), 77.

2http://www.amazon.com/Peoples-History-United-States/dp/0060838655/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1452746155&sr=8-1&keywords=a+people%27s+history+of+the+united+states

3http://www.historynewsnetwork.org/article/4370

4Myers and Noebel. 76-77.

5http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/news/3105393/posts

6http://www.familyresearchinst.org/2009/02/medical-consequences-of-what-homosexuals-do/

7http://www.allaboutlove.org/homosexual-health.htm

8http://www.drjamesdobson.org/Broadcasts/Broadcast?i=40d7360b-c566-4053-9299-7d28ff04b749 These statements also could be heard near the conclusion of the Monday, January 11, 2016 broadcast http://www.drjamesdobson.org/Broadcasts/Broadcast?i=38af707f-a1c5-42cc-a014-1af24c16d9d4#

9http://barbwire.com/2016/01/14/conservative-american-churches-lenient-toward-homosexuality-now/

10http://www.drjamesdobson.org/Broadcasts/Broadcast?i=40d7360b-c566-4053-9299-7d28ff04b749 These statements also could be heard near the conclusion of the Monday, January 11, 2016 broadcast http://www.drjamesdobson.org/Broadcasts/Broadcast?i=38af707f-a1c5-42cc-a014-1af24c16d9d4#

 

 

Blinded

The Illegitimate Supports of Obergefell—Pillar Number 1: A Faulty Worldview, Part 1

If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair.
C. S. Lewis

In a previous entry, we observed that Obergefell, the Supreme Court ruling that granted marriage rights to same-sex couples nationwide, is “like the seat on a three-legged stool.” While probably most three-legged stools are sturdy and reliable, Obergefell is not, because all three supports on which it rests—“judicial activism, a faulty worldview, and bullying by militant homosexual activists”—are illegitimate.

Now, Obergefell would not have to be supported by all three of these to be illegitimate; the judicial activism alone that lies beneath it renders it fully unconstitutional. Still, the ruling’s additional two supports reinforce its illegitimacy. Despite this, we likely will not see widespread recognition of the ruling as invalid without persistent creative activism from those who understand the counterfeit nature of all three of the decision’s supports. I use the term “creative activism” to convey the need for communicating the truth in innovative and vivid ways—ways that stick in hearers’ minds and compel them to think. The non-violent protests of the civil rights movement serve as an example for one facet of this potential effort, but we recall that the civil rights movement involved much more than peaceful protests. It also included appeals to justice in letters to editors of local newspapers (a forerunner to today’s social media), legislative efforts, litigation, sermons, public debates, and private conversations. All of these avenues will need to be used in the effort to restore natural marriage.1,2,3 Of course, we will need courageous leaders in this movement. We already can be thankful for leaders like Roy Moore, Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, for taking a bold stand recently to restore natural marriage in his state.4,5 Although you’ll hear otherwise from the mainstream media, Chief Justice Moore’s action was and is fully constitutional.

This week and next I’d like to focus on the faulty worldview on which Obergefell rests—as well as the erroneous conclusions it espouses. In subsequent entries, we’ll give consideration to judicial activism and militant gay bulling as the additional two legs of the ruling.

A worldview is a set of assumptions through which a person interprets life and everything else around him. Thus, a person’s worldview informs him or her about God, life, sin, death, eternity, right and wrong, human relationships, and a host of other issues. Often an individual embraces a worldview without consciously thinking about its components. People acquire or “pick up” beliefs from various sources, not the least of which is the culture surrounding them.

As we noted in a previous post, some worldviews have theistic implications while others have atheistic implications. While it’s true God’s existence can’t be proved beyond a shadow of a doubt, it can’t be disproved, either. All worldviews, therefore, are faith systems. Individuals who espouse an atheistic worldview may praise the virtues of “science” and decry what they see as the negative effects of “religion,” but from a practical standpoint, they actually are promoting an atheistic religion, one that places its faith in science and human wisdom rather than God.

For many years, the prevailing worldview in America was Christianity.

first prayer

12020016_687125788089260_6809522754809905967_n

The inaugural prayer of President Dwight D. Eisenhower on January 20, 1953
For more information, click here.

Even people who weren’t Christians embraced and upheld biblical teachings about right and wrong and the value of human life, to name just two important arenas. Today Secularism and a related worldview, Secular Humanism, prevail. Secularism is “an atheistic and materialistic worldview that advocates for a public society free from the influence of religion.”6 Yet, as we have just indicated, those advocating these beliefs are promoting just that—beliefs. Theirs is a faith system, too!

Secular Humanism is

A religious and philosophical worldview that makes mankind the ultimate norm by which truth and values are to be determined; a worldview that reveres human reason, evolution, naturalism, and secular theories of ethics while rejecting every form of supernatural religion.7

Secular Humanism and Secularism so overlap that we will consider them to be one and will refer to this belief system by both names. It is this worldview that has led to Obergefell and on which Obergefell rests. A key component of this set of faith assumptions is moral relativism, which exalts the individual and upholds the individual’s right to make up his or her own truth, including standards of right and wrong. By extension moral relativism can manifest itself in the culture as well—with a cultural consensus of beliefs about right and wrong, good and bad. The point is that according to Secularism, there are no objective, absolute standards of right and wrong, no unchanging moral principles outside of individuals and society that apply to all people, at all times, in all places, under all circumstances. Does the belief that absolutes don’t exist coincide with what we observe in the world around us? This is a vital question!

Abraham Lincoln is credited with this insightful quote: “How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg? Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.”

abraham-lincoln-1860

It might be humorous to call a canine tail a leg, but marriage is a serious issue. Secularism, however, is both attractive and intoxicating, even blinding societies that embrace it. Unfortunately, our society has become so blinded it is pretending a same-sex relationship can be a marriage—but of course the fantasy never will make it one. It will, however, bring severe consequences, since it seeks to change an unbending reality in nature and in human relationships. As we said last week, “Reality is our friend if and only if we cooperate with it and conform our perspectives and actions to it.”

In next week’s post, rather than attempting to refute Secular Humanism’s assumptions, we will present some of its conclusions manifested in the Obergefell decision and discuss how they conflict with reality. This means we will look at ways the Obergefell decision is harmful to both individuals and society at large, and why we must reverse course. Be sure to return for that important discussion!

Part 2 is available here.

Copyright © 2016 B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.

Check out the new category of articles in Breaking Bread (a feature that is easily accessible from the menu)—Foundational Principles of the Christian Faith.

Notes:

1http://www.colsoncenter.org/the-center/columns/talking-points/16516-glow-without-blaring

2https://americanprinciplesproject.org/founding-principles/statement-calling-for-constitutional-resistance-to-obergefell-v-hodges%E2%80%AF/

3See item #6 in http://www.wordfoundations.com/2015/05/28/discernment-needed-part-2/

4http://www.montgomeryadvertiser.com/story/news/politics/southunionstreet/2016/01/06/moore-probate-judges-have-duty-follow-ssm-bans/78363338/

5http://www.nomblog.com/40846/

6Jeff Myers and David A. Nobel, Understanding the Times: A Survey of Competing Worldviews, (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2015), 76.

7Ibid., 80.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Good News About Obergefell

People used to blush when they were ashamed. Now they are ashamed if they blush. Modesty has disappeared and a brazen generation with no fear of God before its eyes mocks at sin.1 I’ve quit saying civilization’s going to the dogs out of respect for dogs. I wouldn’t want to insult the canine kingdom with any such remark as that.2 [Yet] it makes a difference when you’re looking up instead of when you’re looking down, like you’re going by what you read in the paper and see on television. May the Lord help you! Get your sights up! Your vision’s bad. Maybe you need your glasses cleaned. You can’t be optimistic with a misty optic! Get your eyes cleared up, and let the Lord open your eyes, and you’ll see things you didn’t even know where there. The outlook’s bad, I grant you that, but the uplook’s good—as good as ever!3

[The account of Elijah on Mt. Carmel demonstrates that] there had to be a confrontation on earth before there could be an intervention from heaven.…Elijah poured 12 barrels of water all over that sacrifice.…He wanted to make it perfectly clear to those people that there were not tricks about this thing, that nothing was going to happen unless God moved onto the scene.…I tell people all over the country it’s the drenched altar that God sets on fire.4

Christians, like snowflakes, are frail, but when they stick together they can stop traffic.5

—Vance Havner—

A couple had two young sons who were like night and day with regard to their outlooks on life. One was consistently positive and upbeat while the other was unwaveringly pessimistic. One morning the two awakened and discovered a massive pile of manure in their front yard. The pessimist wondered who would do such mean and cruel thing to their family—but the optimist went straight to the garage and grabbed a shovel. He promptly ran to front yard and began shoveling through the manure. “There’s got to be a pony in here someplace!” he exclaimed.

Of all people, Christians should be decidedly optimistic. Of course we must temper our optimism with realism, because we understand we live in a sinful world. In the language of our illustration, there really is a pile of manure in our front yard. Obergefell, the Supreme Court ruling that redefined marriage nationwide to include same-sex couples, underscores this. In saying this, we do not mean that those who fought for and celebrated the marriage ruling don’t deserve to be treated with dignity or respect. Surely they do, for they, like all human beings, have been made in God’s image (see Gen. 1:27). However, they are blinded and unable to see clearly the dangers of getting what they think they want (Prov. 14:12; 16:25; John 3:16-21; 2 Cor. 4:3-6). We must be burdened for them and seek to help them come to know Christ, but our responsibilities do not end there.

As Christians, we have been given the Great Commission (see Matt. 28:19-20) and the Cultural Commission (see Gen. 1:28). As Chuck Colson so eloquently said, “Christians are agents of God’s saving grace—bringing others to Christ. But we are also agents of His common grace: We’re to sustain and renew His creation, defend the created institutions of family and society, and critique false worldviews.” Defending man-woman marriage, even after the Obergefell ruling—perhaps especially after it—is part of our job, our duty, as believers.

Today I have some good news about Obergefell. As we resist this ruling—and we must resist it—we will be well served to remember these five things.

First, Obergefell rests on lies, propaganda, illegalities, a false view of reality, and injustices on many different levels. Put another way, we can say that the marriage ruling, like the seat on a three-legged stool, rests on three legs: judicial activism, a faulty worldview, and bullying by militant homosexual activists. I plan in the future to discuss this idea more fully; but for now, be aware that in previous entries, I have written about each one of these. The good news we must understand is that each one of these supports is illegitimate.

Second, we can work to point out the illegitimate nature of each of Obergefell’s supports. If we keep at it, then over time God will use our efforts to effectively weaken these supports, not just in the legal arena, but also in the public’s eyes. We have seen similar things happen with abortion because of the pro-life movement, and they can happen with marriage because of the protect-marriage movement as well.

Third, the church, which has been a sleeping giant on this issue, will be compelled to address it head-on. The good news is that the church has a strategic opportunity to take a stand for biblical truth, yet in ways that demonstrate respect for proponents of same-sex marriage (SSM). SSM proponents still may accuse the church of hate, but we must remember that regardless of appearances, it never is loving to look the other way when a fellow human being is being led astray by a lie.

Alliance Defending Freedom has a website that helps pastors address issues from the pulpit that many may consider controversial. When we’re tempted to think that preachers and churches need to “stick to presenting the gospel,” let’s remember that we must obey the Cultural Commission as well as the Great Commission. If we ignore the Cultural Commission, we’re also disobeying the Great Commission, for Jesus affirmed the importance of obeying “all things that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:20). Jesus’ teachings address not just spiritual matters, but every area of life, including marriage (see 19:4-6). When it acts as it should to fully represent Christ in the world, the church is indeed a powerful force. Jesus said of His church that “the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18).

Fourth, God is sovereign over all of life, and, despite appearances to the contrary, He remains in control. Proverbs 21:1 declares, “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, Like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes.” In Psalm 11:3, David asked, “If the foundations are destroyed, What can the righteous do?” If we assume the answer to this question is in the next verse, then in times of moral decay we have a powerful reminder that will help us with every action we must take: “The Lord is in His holy temple, The Lord’s throne is in heaven; His eyes behold, His eyelids test the sons of men” (v. 4). Many more verses also speak to this issue, but we’ll cite just one more. Proverbs 15:3 states, “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, Keeping watch on the evil and the good.”

Fifth, prayer is a powerful, forceful weapon in spiritual warfare. It is not mentioned as a specific piece in the armor of God in Ephesians 6:10-17, but in verse 18 Paul writes, “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.” As James wrote in his letter, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16).

Thus, the Obergefell ruling offers Christians and the church opportunities to stand out for Christ and to represent Him effectively before a watching world. If we take advantage of these opportunities and remain faithful, we will marvel at how God will use us! (See Eph. 3:20-21.)

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.

Notes:

1 http://likesuccess.com/author/vance-havner

2 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BZ4li2FS2jg

3 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BZ4li2FS2jg

4 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BZ4li2FS2jg

5 http://likesuccess.com/author/vance-havner