Myths that Led to the Recognition of Same-Sex Marriage in the United States, Part 9

All laws banning homosexual activity will be revoked. Instead legislation shall be passed which engenders love between men.…The family unit—spawning ground of lies, betrayals, mediocrity, hypocrisy and violence—will be abolished. The family unit, which only dampens imagination and curbs free will, must be eliminated. Perfect boys will be conceived and grown in the genetic laboratory. They will be bonded together in a communal setting, under the control and instruction of homosexual savants.
Michael Swift, homosexual activist—

Key point: The fact that militant gay activists had to engage in a massive public relations campaign to entice the public to accept homosexuality as normal shows that it isn’t normal in any of the ways they claim and that same-sex couples never can have a marriage. Homosexuality may feel normal to those with same-sex attraction, but there is a better way.

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The truth, Jesus said, will set you free. In following the truth, we find the way out of bondage! This is true for homosexuals and heterosexuals alike!

We move now in our series on myths that led to the recognition of same-sex marriage in America to consider two more myths, these about homosexuality.

Go here for a review of all the myths we cover in this series.

Myth #15: Homosexuality is on par with heterosexuality.

Fact: The dynamics of a heterosexual relationship—one man with one woman—stand in sharp contrast to the relationship held by two men or two women.

In an incredibly short period of time—in less than twenty short years, writes Al Mohler — “homosexuality has moved from ‘the love that dares not speak its name,’ to the center of America’s public life.” Mohler contends that this rapid and pervasive change in public attitude is attributable to one of the most successful propaganda strategies ever implemented. He’s right.

In 1987, an article titled “Overhauling Straight America” laid out a plan to win the country over to acceptance of homosexuality. It said in part,

The first order of business is desensitization of the American public concerning gays and gay rights. To desensitize the public is to help it view homosexuality with indifference instead of with keen emotion. Ideally, we would have straights register differences in sexual preference the way they register different tastes for ice cream or sports games: she likes strawberry and I like vanilla; he follows baseball and I follow football. No big deal. At least in the beginning, we are seeking public desensitization and nothing more. We do not need and cannot expect a full “appreciation” or “understanding” of homosexuality from the average American. You can forget about trying to persuade the masses that homosexuality is a good thing. But if only you can get them to think that it is just another thing, with a shrug of their shoulders, then your battle for legal and social rights is virtually won. And to get to shoulder-shrug stage, gays as a class must cease to appear mysterious, alien, loathsome and contrary. A large-scale media campaign will be required in order to change the image of gays in America. And any campaign to accomplish this turnaround should do six things:

Talk about gays and gayness as loudly and as often as possible
Portray gays as victims, not as aggressive challengers
Giver protectors a just cause
Make gays look good
Make the victimizers look bad
Solicit funds: The buck stops here


You can forget about trying to persuade the masses that homosexuality is a good thing. But if only you can get them to think that it is just another thing, with a shrug of their shoulders, then your battle for legal and social rights is virtually won.
— “Overhauling Straight America,” a strategic article for gay activism written in 1987 —


You’ll have to give these public relations experts a great deal of credit. Their strategy has been more successful than even they ever could have dreamed.

Consequently, many Americans, “with a shrug of their shoulders,” do indeed see homosexuality as “another thing.” As we noted in a post dated June 30 of last year,

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.” Among Republicans and those leaning Republican, support was essentially tied, with 48 percent opposing same-sex marriage and 47 percent favoring it. We need only go back to 2013 to find a large gap among Republicans. At that time they opposed the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples 61 to 33 percent!

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.

These Perceptions Don’t Fit Reality

The overwhelming success of the homosexual public relations campaign notwithstanding, stark differences between a heterosexual relationship and a homosexual one remain. In other words, these perceptions of homosexuality as “another thing” and “a good thing” simply do not square with reality. Let’s take a hard, long look at reality.

  1. The bodies of a husband and wife fit together. This fitting is clear to us “in the outlines of the genitalia of a male and a female. This is a fitting that obviously is not present with two men or two women. Moreover, sexual intercourse involves precisely one man and one woman. The human bodies of the man and the woman therefore point to monogamy and sexual exclusivity—and those of same sex couples point to abstinence from sexual activity altogether.”
  2. Only a heterosexual union can produce children. But wait! someone will say. Some heterosexual couples are childless. First, exceptions do not negate the rule, and second, childless heterosexual couples are not the same as childless same-sex couples. If a heterosexual couple cannot produce a child, there is a reason other than the fact that their relationship involves a member of each of the two sexes. We know without doubt why two men never will become parents on their own, and why two women will forever remain childless between themselves: Same-sex couples have an innate inability to produce children.
  3. The bodies of a husband and wife work together during sexual intercourse to enhance the probability that the wife’s egg will be fertilized by her husband’s sperm.
  4. When a baby arrives, the tiny boy or girl “is totally helpless. She needs nourishment on a regular basis. He needs to have his diapers changed—repeatedly. We are truly deaf and blind in the most extreme sense if we fail to see that nature’s way of bringing a new human life into the world also makes a clear and bold statement about who should have the primary responsibility to care for newborns when they arrive.” The husband and father, who is physically stronger, is better equipped to protect and provide for his wife and the children that result from their union. The wife and mother is better equipped to nurture and care for her children. This does not mean a woman never can have a career outside the home, but let’s listen to what nature says in and through a woman’s body about meeting infants’ physical needs. She and she alone can produce milk that nourishes her children. While it’s true that some women can’t produce enough milk and that some prefer to bottle-feed rather than breastfeed (the couple’s choice), this does not negate at all the natural ability that women have to feed their newborns. Alarmingly, recently a biological man made national headlines because hormone therapy had made it possible for him to breastfeed—but at significant risk to his baby. Mark it down! It is undeniable that he was not “born that way”!
  5. Because of the innate differences between men and women, heterosexual couples experience a relational mystery that is non-existent among same-sex couples. While homosexuals often do experience a sense mystery with regard to their own sex or gender, the mystery of which I write here is focused on the opposite sex, and consequently, in a heterosexual relationship, on the other person. When a couple approaches this relational dynamic properly, it serves to enhance their relationship and cement their bond.
  6. Male-female differences can be seen in parenting styles. Children need both the strong influence of a father and the encouraging, nurturing touch of a mother.
  7. Natural reproduction “isn’t just about caring for babies and children so they will grow up to become responsible individuals; it’s also about maintaining a healthy society for years to come. The future of the human race depends on reproducing it so those dying out can be replaced. This can occur only with heterosexual couples. As Charles Colson put it, ‘The survival of the human race depends upon marriage as the institution by which we procreate and perpetuate civilization.’”1
  8. The majority opinion in the Obergefell marriage ruling states, “Four principles and traditions demonstrate that the reasons marriage is fundamental under the Constitution apply with equal force to same-sex couples. The first premise of this Court’s relevant precedents is that the right to personal choice regarding marriage is inherent in the concept of individual autonomy.” The decision also says, “The fundamental liberties protected by the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause extend to certain personal choices central to individual dignity and autonomy, including intimate choices defining personal identity and beliefs.” The ruling’s emphasis on autonomy (and here we’ve cited just two examples) stands in stark contrast to the interdependency that is inherent, and inherently necessary, in a marriage. To “become one,” selflessness and sacrifice are necessary. I realize that with regard to same-sex couples, we are speaking of “committed relationships.” So why is it that the ruling has to underscore individual autonomy so much? If it didn’t, the ruling couldn’t justify making same-sex relationships eligible for marriage. Yet in doing so, the ruling contradicts one of the core principles of marriage!
  9. Homosexuality is associated with increased risks to one’s psychological health (also go here). Although researchers may speculate that the cause of these risks is discrimination against gays and lesbians, this trend is evident even in the most gay-friendly places.
  10. Homosexuality is associated with increased risks to one’s physical health. Heterosexual intercourse, obviously, is not the same as homosexual intercourse. Glenn Stanton of Focus on the Family puts it politely—but you readily can understand what he means.

One of the key reasons for the significant risk of disease and physical trauma associated with homosexuality is due to the design of human anatomy and how this anatomy is misused during homosexual sex. The bodies of two individuals who are of the same sex are not designed to be united sexually. Homosexual activity misuses parts of the body that produce no natural secretions to protect against infection and that are designed to carry out other bodily functions.

By contrast, body parts that unite in exclusive, marital, heterosexual sex were created for that activity by God. God also designed the human body so that it protects itself against abrasion and infection, and thus disease, naturally. Sexual fidelity between a husband and wife also keeps infection and disease at bay. In other words, a woman and a man were created by God for sexual union in marriage; the bodies of a husband and wife fit together.2

We therefore are back to item #1.

Another writer, Dr. Paul Cameron, doesn’t describe the situation as politely as does Mr. Stanton (also go here). Yet, we need their descriptions, because they help us more readily understand why homosexuality puts health and even life expectancies at risk.

While here we have not up to this point emphasized the biblical and theological reasons homosexuality is harmful and wrong, this perspective also is important. Go here to read an excellent article that cites biblical teachings on this matter.

Myth #16: Homosexuality is primarily an identity, not a behavior.

Fact: Despite the pervasiveness of the idea that homosexuality is an identity, it is inseparably linked to behavior. Thus, to effectively grapple with and understand homosexuality, it should be seen this way. This is not to say that we shouldn’t be sensitive to those who see themselves in terms of a gay identity, but it is to say seeing oneself in this way will hold a person unnecessarily in bondage to the gay lifestyle.

Writing for Focus on the Family, Jeff Johnston accurately observes,

Over time, the definition of homosexuality has shifted from being a behavior to a condition to an identity. In the Bible, for example, the focus is on the behavior. Scripture says don’t engage in this activity.

As Christians, we don’t want to define people by their attractions or struggle. We should look beyond homosexuality to see a person as a sacred human being created in the image of God. “Being straight” or “being gay” may be the way the culture likes to label people; however, it’s not how God determines our identity or worth. God bases our worth on His unchanging, unfailing, eternal love for us.

The idea that homosexuality legitimately can be considered an identity is reinforced if it it is natural and normal. But is it? Are individuals really “born that way”? I’d like to answer this question from three different angles.

First, in an important sense, everyone is “born that way” — meaning born with a pull to live apart from God and to do whatever he or she wants to do. Just ask Emily Thomes, who was liberated when she discovered that because she was first and foremost made in God’s image, her base desires did not have to enslave her. She admits to being born with an inclination to follow sinful desires. This is indeed the natural condition of every person.

Emily does not mean, however, that homosexuality is a biological trait. In fact, no “gay gene” ever has been discovered. Thus, no evidence exists that homosexuality has a purely genetic cause (go here, here, and here).

Homosexuality can legitimately be considered natural in a second sense as well. Mark it down, though! Our qualifications here are vitally important, so please read this section carefully. In the vast majority of cases, a person experiencing same-sex attraction (SSA) did not choose those desires. For some, the desires arise, and no specific environmental or experiential cause can be pinpointed. This doesn’t mean the urges are rooted solely in one’s DNA, without other influences. Just because an environmental factor can’t readily be recognized does not mean one or more aren’t present. Also, especially among the young, the cultural allure to “be gay because gay is cool” is everywhere. And while we cannot say that homosexuality is purely a choice, neither can we deny that choices—including deliberate, conscious ones—are involved. For such choices, individuals must indeed bear personal responsibility.

Perhaps an illustration will help. We readily acknowledge that in numerous instances the inclination to steal, lie, or cheat on one’s spouse is quite natural. Also, each of these feels natural. Would it be a good and healthy thing to follow through on any of these urges? No. Not everything that can be deemed natural necessarily is good!

Finally, from a third standpoint, homosexuality is unnatural because it violates God’s design for human beings, the human family, and society at large. The above list of ten items is rooted in the principle that human beings are designed a certain way, for a specific purpose. Homosexuality violates these purposes and thus produces hurtful and harmful results.

Again, it’s important to remember that we never should define people, or allow ourselves to be defined, by urges and inclinations. The identity myth does exactly this.


The identity myth defines people according to their urges and desires. This fails to treat people with the dignity and respect they deserve.


Not only did this myth, along with others, lead to Obergefell, it now reinforces it. Even so, no one has to remain in bondage to homosexual desires. Again, ask Emily Thomes. You also can ask Stephen Black, who tells his story here. Stephen is the executive director of First Stone Ministries and the author of Freedom Realized! Freedom from Homosexuality & Living a Life Free from Labels.

Don’t be taken in my the myths! Reality, in the long run, is far better! In other words, when we cooperate with reality, we find and can fulfill our God-given purpose on this earth. That purpose never involves remaining in homosexuality—even if same-sex attractions remain.

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The myths keep us in bondage, but reality—the truth in Christ—shows us the way out.

 

Part 10 is available here.

Copyright © 2018 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.

image credit: top image, www.lightstock.com

1Charles Colson with Anne Morse, My Final Word, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015), 142.

2Glenn Stanton, “Homosexuality: A Christian Perspective” in A Single Pursuit, Winter, 1998-99, (Nashville: LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, 1998), 85.

Myths that Led to the Recognition of Same-Sex Marriage in the United States, Part 7

This is all coming from a tolerant loving community? An open-minded community that seeks to be understood and wants to understand others?

We’re not going anywhere…. We will love anybody who walks through our doors. We will not condemn anybody—but we will not back down from what Jesus tells us.

Pastor Jeremy Schossau of Metro City Church outside Detroit, Michigan—


A Plea to the Church


Key point: The debate over marriage, sexuality, and gender issues represents the front lines of spiritual warfare today.


Go here for summaries of all the articles in this series.

Myth #14: Same-sex marriage has implications for the same-sex couple only, and not for others. “If don’t agree with same-sex marriage,” we were told, “don’t worry. “Changing the definition of marriage won’t affect you!”

Fact: Same-sex marriage and all the “rights” that flow from it relating to gender and gender identity issues will affect everyone and every institution—perhaps especially the church. The good news, however, is that the church can help people find the truth about matters related to gender and sexuality. Everyone needs a compass in his or her life. Today is a day of opportunity, and the church must seize it!

Lake Ingle is a senior at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, where he is a religious studies major. At this point, however, his planned graduation, scheduled for May, is in doubt. Why? Because he challenged his professor in the classroom, pointing out that officially, biologists say only two genders—male and female—exist. You can learn the details of what is happening to him here.

Sadly, this is the kind of day and world in which we live! It is undeniable that confusion over gender and gender identity issues has intensified since June of 2015 when the Supreme Court struck down laws limiting marriage to one man and one woman in all fifty states. Moreover, the confusion will grow even more widespread and intense. Everyone, and every institution, will be affected.

Indoctrinating the Young

It is well known that in education, the militant LGBT movement doesn’t focus just on young adults in colleges and universities. They hone in on children, even kindergarteners! Statement #93 of our “95 Theses for the Protestant Evangelical Church in the 21st Century” reads as follows:

[T]he militant LGBT movement is targeting America’s children and is succeeding in indoctrinating them. The movement is using America’s institutions, including the public schools, in their quest. The church has failed to educate itself regarding this specific threat, has failed to warn parents, and has failed to equip them to protect their children from the onslaught. Again, for more information go herehere, and here.

To this group of three articles, we can add this one as well.

Even something seemingly as innocuous as a picture of a teacher’s spouse on his or her desk can make a profound impression on a child. A male teacher may have a photo of his “husband” on his desk, or a woman teacher a photo of her “wife.” “Who is that?” a student may ask, and the answer communicates a great deal more than the idea that the individual pictured is a member of the teacher’s family. Parents’ objections will have no effect, because the government, after all, has said that two men or two women can “marry” — and that by itself is essentially a verdict that the relationship is normal.1

Five Audio Clips and a Video Tell an Important Story

Returning to the responsibility of the church with regard the LGBT agenda and it’s impact on children, families, and society, it is good news indeed that not every church has remained silent against the backdrop of the militant LGBT effort to indoctrinate kids. Yet too few have, and those that do are vilified. Recently, one church simply moved to offer a listening ear and loving guidance to young women with questions and concerns about sexuality and gender identity issues. Here’s what happened.

Metro City Church is a Christ-centered, outreach-oriented, multi-campus church outside of Detroit, Michigan. Jeremy Schossau [pronounced SHAW-so] is the founder and lead pastor of the church. Pastor Jeremy

Pastor Jeremy Schossau
  • understands the desperate need teens have for clarity on gender and gender related issues,
  • realizes how the Bible and a biblical worldview provide answers to pressing questions, even about that, and
  • seeks to address those pressing questions not only with biblical truth but also with compassion and love.

The Workshop

Moreover, he leads his church to do the same in all three of these areas. Accordingly, earlier this year, Metro City Church offered a workshop for girls ages 12-16. The “Unashamed Identity Workshop” is designed to help girls with questions about gender identity or who are struggling with uncertainty about their sexual orientation. At the sessions, participants find caring adults who listen. Then, through conversation and biblical counsel, leaders answer questions and provide loving guidance. No one is condemned or coerced. Among other things, the young women learn that at their age, asking questions is normal, and having concerns about one’s sexual orientation does not mean an individual is gay, lesbian, or bisexual (also go here). The church launched the program and advertised it through its website and Facebook page.

Kudos to Pastor Jeremy and his church! They have done exactly the kind of thing that Jesus would do were He still on the earth. He would be unafraid of any issue and willing to speak both compassionately and truthfully in order to meet people’s needs. Although He never intentionally would try to be controversial, He would not shy away from any topic just because it might be controversial.

And consider this. People in the church who are struggling with these kinds of issues often feel they’ll be misunderstood or condemned if they ask questions or share concerns. Just offering such a workshop sends an important message: Here is a safe place to ask questions and find answers. Of course, the church must to an excellent job leading the group; but when it does, the sessions themselves reinforce the initial invitation to come and ask questions. 

Despite all these benefits, a backlash erupted—from outside the church walls.

The Backlash

Quite likely, many people objected to what the church was doing because they didn’t fully understand the nature of the workshop sessions and just how the girls involved were being counseled. At least some others—perhaps even many—either didn’t care how the church was doing what it was doing or they knew and engaged in a deliberate misinformation campaign. Add political pressure to the mix as well. It didn’t take long for some Michigan state legislators to urge the state’s attorney general to investigate the church.

Metro City Church was thrust onto the national stage, and Pastor Jeremy made every effort to clarify what his church was doing, why, and how he and his church saw the people in the larger community.

Many churches refuse to address anything related to homosexuality or gender issues because it is “too controversial.” They fear they might become targets of militant gay activists, just as Metro City Church has become. While I understand their fears, they need to realize that even if they “stay on the sidelines” of this issue, they still will not be spared the effects of militant gay activists’ efforts to silence the church.

There’s something else—something I don’t understand. I don’t understand a church’s unwillingness to help people in the areas where they are questioning and hurting the most. If we do not help our young people sort out issues relating to homosexuality and gender identity, then others will “help” them in ways we don’t want them to, and we will have lost our opportunity set their feet on the path God wants them to walk! I’m not talking about coercion, but loving guidance. This is a spiritual battle, and pastor Jeremy and his church, to their eternal credit, are on the front lines!

The Lies Teens Hear and Are Tempted to Believe

On the February 13th edition of Family Research Council’s radio program Washington Watch, FRC President Tony Perkins talked with Pastor Jeremy about the workshop.

Take a moment and reflect on what Pastor Jeremy just said. Members of the gay community—or at least some members of the gay community—are telling young people that if they are questioning their sexuality or sexual orientation, it’s an indication that they must be gay! Yet having questions about one’s sexuality in the teen years is quite normal, and it categorically does not indicate he or she is a homosexual or will become one. Significantly, nor do feelings of attraction to the same sex! In the vast, vast majority of cases, these feelings will naturally disappear! Young people are being deceived—and if the church will not counter these lies, who will?

Young people are being deceived about gender identity issues, and if the church will not counter these lies, who will?

Bringing Parents and Teens Together

There’s something else Metro City Church is doing right. It is involving parents in the workshop. Parental participation is encouraged, but not mandatory if the teen feels uncomfortable with her parents being present at all the sessions. This ought to be a no-brainer to people, but apparently parental involvement frightens militant gay activists.

A Platform to Declare the Gospel

Finally, it is noteworthy that God has used this “firestorm” to give Metro City Church and Pastor Jeremy Schossau a national platform to present the gospel of Jesus Christ. We have discussed at length the relationship between God’s design for marriage and the gospel, and considered how upholding marriage is one of the most effective ways to uphold the gospel. Metro City Church and its pastor are remaining faithful, and they are not backing down. Consistently, they are telling the truth in love!

The Challenge for the Rest of Us

Metro City Church has become a target of militant gay activists, but one reason this church has been so hard hit is because so few other churches have stood alongside it, doing the same kind of thing Metro City Church is doing. The more “targets” gay activists believe they must hit, the more difficult it will be for them to hit all of them effectively. Remember what we said earlier: Even if you try to sit on the sidelines of the spiritual battles occurring over gender and gender identity, you still will not escape the effects of militant gay activists’ efforts to silence the church. Are you going to cooperate with them when they go after your church and maneuver to keep you and your faith community from sharing the gospel? Are you going to cooperate with them now by never addressing sexuality and gender identity issues in any context? Young people are struggling and looking for solid answers. What would God have you and your church do? You can begin to learn about these issues by reading this article, and this one. Reading these articles represents a modest start, but it’s a step in the right direction. Check back here periodically for additional links. We’ll try to give you more help as you plan steps your church can take in this area of ministry.

Sitting on the sidelines with regard to these issues is not a viable option for a Bible-believing, Christ-centered church that truly cares about and loves people.

The lesson for the church at large is clear. Hebrews 13:4 states in unambiguous terms, “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.”

First Corinthians 6:9-11 is instructive for us as well.

[D]o you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (emphasis added).

Who will show sinners the way to freedom—the way we also didn’t deserve but found by God’s grace?

Will your church do its part?

Will you do yours?

 

Part 8 is available here.

Copyright © 2018 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All Rights Reserved.

1David Fowler of the Family Action Council of Tennessee gets credit for this illustration.

top image: www.lightstock.com

Note: With the exception of the clip from FRC’s Washington Watch, the audio clips featured in this article were lifted from this sermon.

Unless otherwise designated, all Scriptures have been taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

America, Where Are You? Part 4

The Attack on Marriage

 We call marriage a sacrament because it is a sign of God and His creation. It’s the definition of the word creation. We’ve got to restore this and teach it in the churches. We’ve got to take this simple little nugget of truth and build on it so that eventually we permeate public consciousness with the realization that this isn’t just about equality. This isn’t just about rights for gays versus straights. This isn’t about civil rights. This is about the plan of creation. And if we destroy that, we’re going to bring the wrath of God upon us. We’re actually going to destroy the very nature of the world we live in, the very purpose of the world and the very purpose of life.
Charles Colson


Key point: The Supreme Court decision that redefined marriage in the United States to include same-sex couples didn’t just redefine marriage but also what it means to be human.


For summaries of all the articles in this series, go here.

The final Supreme Court decision my friend Steve cited in his 338-word description of America’s moral unraveling was Obergefell v. Hodges—the 5-4 decision, issued June 26, 2015, that expanded the government’s definition of marriage to include same-sex couples. We’ve discussed the implications and effects of this decision extensively in many articles at Word Foundations; here I’d like to dig into the archives and quote from one of them. In a post I wrote and published within a month of the decision, I cited “Eight Reasons Why the Supreme Court Has Crossed an Ominous Line.” I picked up five of the eight items from the  July 6, 2015 edition of Dr. R. C. Sproul’s radio program Renewing Your Mind. The remaining three arose from my own burden on this issue and my own observations. Here I’ll cite two of the five, and one of the three.

During the radio program, Dr. R. C. Sproul, Dr. R.C. Sproul Jr., Chris Larson, and Lee Webb made these two points among others. Some statements in these summaries come closer to quotes than others, but all accurately reflect the concerns raised.

R. C. Sproul
  • The church doesn’t expect the state to do the work of the church, but it does expect the state to do the work of the state. The state, remember, also is ordained by God. Protecting life and protecting marriage aren’t just religious values but humanitarian values. When we say we object to the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples, our concern isn’t that the state has separated itself from the church, but that it has separated itself from God! Since the state is a God-ordained institution, it is doing this to its own peril and to the detriment of its people.
  • What we’re talking about here is not just a rejection of God as Redeemer or as potential Redeemer. We’re talking about a rejection of God as Maker. This is what Paul warns about in Romans 1 when he talks about homosexuality—but the Court went even further than this. This ruling shakes a fist at God and says, “You made all of us, redeemed or not, to be this way (meaning that a man and a woman fit together naturally in marriage), and we’re going to turn this on its head; we’re going to pervert this as heinously as we can. We’re going to celebrate it, too!” This isn’t just telling God, “We know better than You; You’re mistaken and we’re wiser than you.” It’s “This will really tick You off because we hate You!”

A third reason Obergefell moves America and Americans in an especially dangerous direction is multi-faceted.

  • The Court didn’t bring marriage to same-sex couples; instead, it brought same-sex couples to marriage. In other words, the Court didn’t just bestow marriage on same-sex couples that desire it; it brought the characteristics of a same-sex relationship into the institution of marriage, thereby negating those things about natural marriage that make it special.
  1. The Court severed sex and sex differences from the meaning of marriage. In a practical sense, the institution of marriage no longer is about the dynamics inherent in opposite sex relationships; it isn’t about male and female differences anymore.
  2. The Court separated procreation from marriage. Marriage no longer is about a relationship that can produce children. This portends ominously for the future of civilization and its youngest and most innocent citizens.
  3. The Court severed male-female dynamics from parenting, negating the unique contributions of both mothers and fathers from the family. Marriage and the family are no longer about the special skills and contributions a man can make as a father or that a woman can make as a mother.
  4. The Court, rather than validating children, has trampled on their emotional needs by depriving many of them of either a mom or a dad [in every same-sex parent family]. Put another way, the Court ignored the needs children have for the protective influence of a father and the unique, nurturing touch of a mother.

When a society favors adults’ rights over children’s needs, it has become barbaric in the worst possible way.

Tracing the Nation’s Steps

Summarizing or nation’s moral decline, we can say the following. To some extent we are oversimplifying, but not much!

  1. Engel v. Vitale was an initial step in the process that effectively cut off a generation, and future generations, from voluntarily acknowledging God in a public environment.
  2. Having been cut off from God, America had no reference point for recognizing the intrinsic value of human life. Therefore, Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton effectively legitimized in people’s minds, and in the eyes of the law, the practice of turning against the youngest, most innocent, and most vulnerable members of the human family and killing them. To the Court’s majority, they weren’t persons!
  3. Obergefell went even further, denying what it actually is to be a human being. Natural man-woman marriage, you see, affirms what being a human being is all about. This is not to say that single people or homosexual individuals aren’t human; of course they are! It is to say that natural marriage affirms what being human means. Same-sex “marriage” doesn’t just distort that affirmation; it eliminates it—because if two men or two women can marry each other and have exactly what one man and one woman married to each other have (this notion obviously is a lie), marriage has nothing to do with sex, procreation, children, fatherhood, motherhood, male-female dynamics in a relationship, or anything else that truly makes marriage what it is, and that makes being a human being what he or she is. Marriage, after all, is is unique among human beings. It is unknown in the animal kingdom!
Lightstock

Natural man-woman marriage affirms everything about what it means to be a human being. After all, marriage is unknown in the animal kingdom. Only people marry!


What about love? someone will ask. Isn’t marriage about love? Marriage is about love, but it’s not about love exclusively. It isn’t about sex exclusively, either. Authentic marital love cannot be divorced from everything else that we’ve named in item #3. As we indicated, the traits that make natural marriage what it is also empower it to affirm what being human is all about.


Marriage is about love, but it’s not about love exclusively.


Is it any wonder, then, that Steve cited Romans 1:18-32 and said it describes “the current state of the culture of the United States”? Can we really deny that our culture is behaving unnaturally? (See 2 Tim. 3:1-3, KJV.) The Obergefell marriage ruling goes against everything nature teaches us about human relationships—but so do the 1973 rulings that legalized abortion nationwide. It is unnatural, not only for two men or two women to be sexually intimate with each other, but also for a mother to abort her own child, and for a father to approve of eliminating his own flesh and blood!

Witnessing all of these things, can we deny the distinct probability that God has given this country over to its own desires? When we speak of God’s releasing a nation to it’s base appetites, we do not mean that He has done something like releasing a porcelain pitcher in outer space and letting it float gently away. No! Instead, He has done something akin to letting go of the pitcher on earth, where gravity pulls it to the ground and the impact causes it to shatter irreparably.


Everyone is free to sin if he or she chooses to do so. Collectively, a nation may choose to give itself over to sin; and again, it is free to make that choice. However, both individually and corporately, the choice to engage in habitual sin inevitably will bring dire consequences. 


Love Thy Neighbor

Let us have compassion and love for women who’ve had abortions and men who have encouraged them. When a woman faces an unwanted pregnancy she very likely may know no one to whom she can turn for help. Every voice she hears, including the father’s, may be encouraging her to abort her baby. These women need understanding, help, and encouragement to choose life for unborn children.

Let us also care deeply about and help homosexuals and everyone experiencing confusion about his or her gender identity. Let us reach out to them with understanding and friendship—but let us also not fail to present the truth. True compassion, after all, is honest as well as loving.

And of course, we need to be lovingly honest both with individuals and with society at large. We are on a dangerous path as a nation!


America is on a dangerous path!


Has America stepped beyond God’s saving reach? We have no right or authority to assume that she has, but we must heed the warnings Scripture gives us regarding right and wrong, good and evil.

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! (Isa. 5:20).

If my people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land (2 Chron. 7:14).

But seek first the kingdom of god and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matt. 6:33).

Next time, we’ll look at where the church is in the midst of this cultural moral morass.

 

Copyright © 2018 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.

About “Law” (pictured at top, photo credit here)

At the National Monument to the Forefathers in Plymouth, Massachusetts, Faith stands atop the Monument, with Liberty and Morality seated at the base in front of her, and Law and Education seated at the base behind her. In a country that enjoys authentic liberty, laws do not stand alone. That nation’s laws are not arbitrary but consistent with the other virtues and ideals depicted at the Monument, and therefore consistent with “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.” The National Monument to the Forefathers was dedicated on August 1, 1889.

America, Where Are You? Part 1

A Sobering Assessment

I respect the courts, but the Supreme Court is only that—the supreme of the courts. It is not the supreme being. It cannot overrule God, when it comes to prayer, when it comes to life, and when it comes to the sanctity of marriage, the court cannot change what God has created.
Mike Huckabee


Key point: Three landmark Supreme Court decisions have helped chart America’s direction and helped define who and where we now are as a country. To help America recover her moral footing, we first need to understand just how far off the stable path these decisions have propelled our country.


For summaries of all the articles in this series, go here.

In Genesis 3:9 (go here for the context), God asked Adam a powerful question: He “called to Adam and said to him, ‘Where are you?’” This question came on the heels of Adam’s and Eve’s disobeying God by eating the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. It came for Adam’s benefit—not because God was looking for either Adam or Eve. Adam needed to assess where he now was in terms of his relationship with God, and, as it would turn out, in his relationships with everything else.

God Judging Adam by William Blake, 1795

The beginning of a new year gives us a unique opportunity to reflect on where we are in terms of our relationship with God—not just individually, but also as churches, nationally, and culturally. We need to take advantage of this opportunity. Accordingly, this will be the theme of this series of articles.

Steve, a friend and coworker of mine, reads my posts regularly and encourages me a great deal. A few months ago, he told me he would like to write a piece reflecting his own thoughts about where America is right now and what can be done about it. On November 11 of last year, he emailed me an article consisting of 338 words. Steve not as “long-winded” as I am.

President Trump and his wife Melania visit a Las Vegas shooting victim

My friend began by citing the recent mass killings at the First Baptist Church of Southern Springs, Texas on November 5 and at a Las Vegas concert on October 1. These incidents left 84 people dead and 566 injured. To what can we attribute these horrific events? Are some people just that mean? Do we need stricter gun laws?1 Steve indicated that if we go down these paths, we totally miss the main message of the larger picture. He wrote,

Three events in the USA’s past are keystone moments in the history of our great nation.

The Authority of Law Statue at the Supreme Court Building in Washington, DC

First, in 1962, the Supreme Court ruled unfavorably regarding prayer in schools.

Second, in 1973, the Supreme Court made murder of our most helpless citizens legal.

Finally, in 2015, our nation, again through the Supreme Court, declared that people of the same sex could marry.

These three events present a drastic change from the attitudes expressed by the Founding Fathers during the last half of the 1700s.


The Declaration of Independence acknowledges, affirms, and upholds “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God,” yet on numerous occasions, the Supreme Court of the United States has thoroughly rebuffed them.


To murder, to not be allowed to pray, and blaspheme the institution of marriage by making legal an act that God calls an abomination is a dangerous set of events. Historically, in the Bible when people take these paths, destruction follows.

In the book of Romans, the last 15 verses of chapter 1 describe the current state of the culture of the United States. Our nation has been given over to itself in its wickedness.

Then my friend essentially said this:

America has a chance to make a change for righteousness and to be saved from destruction, but needed changes will occur, not primarily through the legislative, executive, or judicial branches of our government, as important as the decisions made in all of these institutions are. The changes that must occur to make America truly great again will come when people of faith turn to God.


The changes that must occur to make America truly great again will come when people of faith turn to God.


The church has to be concerned about reaching people—I get that. And it must reach younger generations if it is to survive in the long term. Yet in its well-intentioned efforts to reach the young, it has become a place of entertainment rather than a place where the truth is upheld, a place where people can find a large gym to maintain physical fitness but not discover the gutsy challenges of the gospel, and a place that all too often seeks to be “relevant” over being authentically truthful.

Upholding the Truth in Love

Is there hope for this country? Yes! But to be the lighthouse this nation needs, the church must repent of its entertainment mentality and once again uphold the truth of Scripture, all the while demonstrating genuine love.


To be the lighthouse America needs, the church must repent of its entertainment mentality and once again uphold the truth of Scripture, all the while demonstrating genuine love.


Concluding, Steve cited two verses of Scripture—one from the Old Testament, and one from the New.

In 2 Chronicles 7:14, the Lord declared, “If my people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

In Matthew 6:33, Jesus said, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”

While we must remember that God’s promise in 2 Chronicles 7:14 was extended to His people—those making up the nation of Israel—and that we cannot assume it applies to America in exactly the same way it applied Israel, the principle behind it does have a measure of application for the church in America in the 21st century. Similarly, in the context of Matthew 6:33, Jesus was challenging His followers not to worry about their material needs but to put God’s kingdom first. Even so, the principle of putting God’s kingdom first and of God’s taking care of everything else still is valid and has points of application for the church and the culture today.

Is Steve right in his assessment? I believe he is, and in future posts, I’ll explain why. We’ll look at each of the Supreme Court cases he cites, and then at the state of the church.

Be sure to return next time.

 

top image: www.lightstock.com

Copyright © 2018 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.

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

Note:

1While this isn’t a post on the effects of gun-control laws, this article offers some important insights on that subject.

 

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

Challenging a False Assumption

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Assumptions Matter

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


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


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

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

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

What then, is the solution?

Affirm the Obvious!

Walt Heyer

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


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


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

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

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

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


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


Even so, it is just as Ashley McGuire says:

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


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


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

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

Actually, it’s just common sense.

 

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

Related articles:

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

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

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

Combatting the Devil’s Lies with the Truth of Scripture

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Satan—A Brilliant Strategist

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

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

Illustration by Kate Greenaway

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

Satan Twists Scripture and Uses His Distorted Interpretations to Deceive

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Countering Deception by Reaffirming the Truth of Scripture

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


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


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

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

The Bible Is Clear About Homosexuality

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


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


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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

Part 3 is available here.

 

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

For further study:

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

Note:

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

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

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

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

Behold the Irony, Part 1

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

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

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

View summaries of all the articles in this series here.

 

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

Click the image to enlarge.

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

Spiritual Warfare

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Religion that Denies God

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

Part 2 is available here.

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

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

image credits:

Upholding God-Ordained Marriage Is One of the Greatest Ways to Advance the Gospel, Part 7

Why We Must Never “Agree to Disagree” on Homosexuality and Same-Sex Marriage

[The issue of whether or not homosexuality is a sin] is a gospel issue. When so-called evangelical leaders argue for affirmation of gay relationships in the church, I’m not saying they’re not my kind of evangelical, I’m saying they are no kind of evangelical. This is not an easy position to hold, for I have friends who hold to different views on this subject. But it is the right position to hold.…[W]e must never allow ourselves to think of this as just another issue Christians are free to differ over.
Sam Allberry, a Christian leader who himself struggles with same-sex attraction—

Unless the LORD builds the house,
They labor in vain who build it.
Psalm 127:1

Part 6 is available here.
View summaries of all the articles in this series here.

Key point: Marriage is so woven into the fabric of the gospel that to compromise on marriage is to compromise on the gospel itself.

Eugene H. Peterson is a former pastor. He was influential in the founding of Christ Our King Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) in Bel Air, Maryland in 1962 before serving there 29 years and retiring in 1991. He then became Professor of Spiritual Theology at Regent College, located in Vancouver, British Columbia. He held that position until 2006. Currently, Peterson resides in Montana. He is best known for the best-selling Bible paraphrase titled The Message (also go here), which he translated over a period of years. The entire Bible was published in 2002. Peterson also has written around thirty other books.

Eugene Peterson is now 84 years old. Jonathan Merritt, senior columnist for Religion News Service (RNS), interviewed him on a variety of subjects, including his final book, his departure from public life, whether or not he fears death, Donald Trump, and Christianity in America today. RNS released two articles carrying portions of Merritt’s interview on Monday and Tuesday, July 10 and 11. Then, on Wednesday, July 12, RNS dropped a bombshell—Merritt’s report of the portion of the interview relating to homosexuality and same-sex “marriage.” Peterson said,

I wouldn’t have said this 20 years ago, but now I know a lot of people who are gay and lesbian and they seem to have as good a spiritual life as I do. I think that kind of debate about lesbians and gays might be over. People who disapprove of it, they’ll probably just go to another church. So we’re in a transition and I think it’s a transition for the best, for the good. I don’t think it’s something that you can parade, but it’s not a right or wrong thing as far as I’m concerned.

On the heels of this statement from Peterson, Merritt asked, “A follow-up: If you were pastoring today and a gay couple in your church who were Christians of good faith asked you to perform their same-sex wedding ceremony, is that something you would do?” Peterson responded with a simple Yes.

The Evangelical Community Responds

Reaction in the evangelical world, not surprisingly, was “swift and immediate.” Here is a Christian leader who, especially through his Bible translation project, has touched millions of lives. On the heels of the backlash, Peterson quickly issued a retraction. Christianitytoday.com (CT) carried it. According to Peterson,

Recently a reporter asked me whether my personal opinions about homosexuality and same-sex marriage have changed over the years. I presume I was asked this question because of my former career as a pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA), which recently affirmed homosexuality and began allowing its clergy to perform same-sex weddings. Having retired from the pastorate more than 25 years ago, I acknowledged to the reporter that I “haven’t had a lot of experience with it.”

To clarify, I affirm a biblical view of marriage: one man to one woman. I affirm a biblical view of everything.

Taken together, Peterson’s statements in the interview, then his retraction, effectively muddy the water and raise more questions than the retraction itself answers. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, wrote,

Was he against it, before he was for it? Is he really against it now?…

What is really going on here? What does Eugene Peterson really believe about LGBT relationships and behaviors or about same-sex marriage? We really don’t know. We will probably never really know.

His retraction allows his books to be sold, but the ordeal has done massive damage to his reputation. One of the best-selling authors in the evangelical world is now, in effect, a giant Rorschach test. You can read him as fully open to LGBT relationships, but forced by political and economic pressure to act as if he isn’t. Or you can read him as basically a traditionalist on the question, who felt under pressure to affirm same-sex marriage and succumbed to the pressure, only to regret and retract quickly. Those do not exhaust the possibilities.

CT published a statement by Jonathan Merritt in the article containing Peterson’s retraction, but it, too, left many unanswered questions. Merritt said, “It is possible that Peterson felt he had been placed on the spot and offered an answer that doesn’t reflect his true conviction. But it is also important to note that in the week prior to the publication of his answers, there was no attempt to clarify or change his answer to these questions.”

Merritt later released a report of his own on the same day Christianity Today published Peterson’s retraction. In it, he cited a 2014 video in which Peterson said he was raised in a culture in which homosexuality was “really bad,” and “accepted the status quo” on the matter. Yet recently, Peterson added, reflecting on the hardships of two homosexual men in his church had caused him to begin to change his mind.

Apparently Peterson has been giving the matter thought for some time. It is difficult to fault an observer for fearing Peterson really believes what he told Jonathan Merritt in the interview and hoping he does not.

Sadly, Eugene Peterson Is Not Alone

Unfortunately, Eugene Peterson is among a growing number (also go here, here, and here) of well-known evangelical leaders

  • who clearly have come out in support of same-sex marriage,
  • who have softened their opposition to homosexual behavior, or
  • who have made statements that leave people to wonder what they really believe about this issue.

Perhaps because so much of this discussion is celebrity-driven, the impression prevails that the church at large is changing its views on sexuality and marriage. This, however, according to evangelical leader, cultural observer, and BreakPoint This Week cohost Ed Stetzer, isn’t the case at all.1

The trend still is extremely disturbing, as is the nature of the arguments often given in support of marriage redefined. John Stonestreet declares, “Peterson’s original statement appealed, not to biblical teaching or theological argument, but to people and experiences. He echoed others like David Gushee, Senator Rob Portman, and Reverend Stan Mitchell, all of whom say relationships with gay friends or family changed their views.”

Rooted in Emotions Rather than in Bedrock Truth

Previously we have noted how knowing someone who is gay heavily influences people, even those in the evangelical community, to soften their positions on homosexuality and same-sex marriage. We also pointed out the flaws in this perspective. John Stonestreet summarized some very pertinent statements made my Tim Keller about this phenomenon. Here is the summary. All of us need to take these words to heart.2 “[I]f you change your mind about homosexuality because you meet a friendly and intelligent gay person, your views probably weren’t based on a biblical theology of marriage to begin with. Feelings are no substitute for an informed Christian worldview.”

In First Things, Samuel D. James offers additional keen insights.

[T]here is no safe corner of the Christian story that is completely intuitive or unfailingly neighborly. Every element of the Gospel can and will grate against our modern sense of “real life.” If the doctrine of marriage is untenable in “real life,” what doctrines are tenable?…

You cannot boil down Christianity to the parts that you are unashamed to speak about in the presence of your intelligent gay neighbor or your prayerful lesbian church member. There will always be someone you love who tells you with their soul in their eyes that that leather-bound book you carry just cannot apply to them. A collision between real life and revelation is guaranteed. What we must figure out is how much of real life we will look at through the lens of truth, and how much we will not.

In 1984, Christian philosopher Francis Schaeffer lamented the trend, evident in evangelical circles even then, to compromise and cave rather than stand on biblical truth. His final book, published in 1984, was titled The Great Evangelical Disaster. What is this disaster? It is “the failure of the evangelical world to stand for truth as truth.” Schaeffer added, “There is only one word for this—namely accommodation: The evangelical church has accommodated to the world spirit of the age.”3

The Call to Uphold Biblical Truth

Again, not everyone is compromising, and that is very good news. Still, too many are, and their actions are of great concern. Just three days after Eugene Peterson’s initial comments about homosexuality and same-sex marriage were made public, Dr. Michael Brown of The Line of Fire released a letter in which he pled with his fellow Christian leaders to uphold Scripture with both their words and actions. He didn’t mention Eugene Peterson in it, although elsewhere he addressed the question of whether Bible-believing Christians should continue to use The Message.

In this piece, Brown urged leaders to speak the truth about homosexuality forthrightly and directly, yet with compassion and love. Today, he wrote, is a “critical time in history.” The issues we face serious and urgent. Life and death—and not just physical life and death—hang in the balance. We cannot afford to sugarcoat our presentations to avoid offending people; nor can we afford to avoid controversial subjects altogether. Where God’s Word is clear, we also must be clear. Yet, as ambassadors for Christ, we absolutely must demonstrate Christlike love as well. Love comes with truth. It’s a package deal. If it weren’t, it would be counterfeit love.

Love comes with truth. It’s a package deal. If it weren’t, it would be counterfeit love.

As Brown states in another article,

[W]e are called to exercise compassion towards brothers and sisters who struggle with same-sex attraction and gender identity confusion, walking together with them as they seek wholeness and pursue holiness. But those who claim that you can follow Jesus and engage in homosexual practice must be lovingly corrected and, if they refuse to repent, put out of the fellowship, in particular if they are living this out themselves. That’s what love requires.

The church is at a crossroads. As we indicated in a previous post, “if it doesn’t speak now, it may be forced to forever hold its piece.” Believers must unfailingly uphold the truth of God’s Word, just as a lighthouse beams its light consistently in the dark of the night. In our culture, the night is very dark, indeed.


North Carolina’s Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

Significantly, there are specific words from Jesus recorded in the New Testament that will challenge us and help us follow through on representing Him and His good news to a world that desperately needs both.

We’ll examine those words next time.

Part 8 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:

1Also go here and read the portion after the heading “Where We Are Now.”

2You can read Keller’s original statement here.

3Francis Schaeffer, The Great Evangelical Disaster, in The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer (2nd Edition), Vol. 4: A Christian View of The Church, (Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1985), 320.

 

 

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 5

If the church doesn’t speak now, it may be forced to forever hold its peace.

The foundation upon which society is constructed—the central unit linking people to a social structure—is the family. And the most important component of the family is the husband-wife relationship. Any changes in that relationship will produce far-reaching effects upon the community as a whole. As long as the husband-wife tie is intact, an emotional cornerstone will be created upon which the happiness and satisfaction of everyone can be constructed. But when the tie is weakened, every other bond in society also will weaken.
—W. Peter Biltchington, PhD, in 19801

 

Key point: In the debate over the meaning of marriage, the gospel itself is at risk.

  • Part 4 is available here.
  • View summaries of all the articles in this series here.
  • This post focuses on four qualities that should characterize the church’s defense of marriage. A shorter version that hones in on just one of them—urgency—is available  here.

Marriage is, and always has been, about more than individuals alone. It’s about the larger community. It’s also about children and their upbringing, including the kinds of adults they eventually will become. Consequently, it’s about the future of civilization, too. We make a big mistake if we fail to see marriage in terms of the big picture. As 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.”2

Yet, the critical role of marriage in society—as important as it is—is only a part of the big picture to which we point today. Christians know that God designed marriage—one man and one woman committed to each other for life—first to foreshadow, then to represent, Christ’s relationship to His church.


Marriage is about the gospel.


Therefore, marriage is about the gospel. Manipulating it will have a detrimental effect on people and society on a multitude of levels, not the least of which will be spiritual. With God-ordained marriage being threatened, the gospel is at risk as well. Recognizing 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 what marriage is and what it is supposed to be.

Today, Christians have forgotten, or they may never really have understood, the true meaning of marriage. Contributing to Christians’ ignorance, the church has failed to convey to its people the rich ways in which marriage showcases the gospel. We have been exploring this important topic in this series of articles, and now we move to issue a challenge to the church to passionately uphold God-ordained marriage both within and outside its walls.

If Christians are to be spokesmen for the gospel, they must be spokesmen for marriage as well, especially since marriage is under relentless attack. Championing natural marriage will help us advance the gospel—and failing to do so will hurt the cause of Christ in immeasurable ways.

Practice What You Preach, and Speak with Passion

Last time we named the first two items on a 12-item list of qualities that should characterize the church’s defense of marriage. We said the church must defend marriage

  1. with greater sincerity and
  2. with greater authenticity.

Originally I had planned to discuss the remaining ten qualities here, but space limitations make it necessary to use next week’s post as well. This time we’ll cover items 3 through 6 on the list. As we resume our list, we’re reminded that as important as good marriages are, defending marriage isn’t just about improving marriages, but about upholding 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. Awareness also includes a recognition of the importance of defending marriage because of its underlying meaning in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Losing marriage means losing a picture that helps everyone, whether he or she attends church or not, understand why Christ came to earth and died. 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 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?


When did you last participate in a Bible study on protecting and preserving marriage as an institution? Again, it’s important to try to help people have good marriages, but if we don’t defend the institution of marriage, we’ve failed to fully defend the gospel.

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. There’s a great deal of misleading information about homosexuality out there cloaked in compelling, theological jargon. The Bible, however, is unambiguous about the fact that homosexuality is a sin (also go here).

In addition, 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.” Among Republicans and those leaning Republican, support was essentially tied, with 48 percent opposing same-sex marriage and 47 percent favoring it. We need only go back to 2013 to find a large gap among Republicans. At that time they opposed the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples 61 to 33 percent!

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, one 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.” Recently, German Chancellor Angela Merkel changed her position on same-sex marriage because she had “met a lesbian couple who cared for eight foster children.” Political and cultural pressure surely were factors in her change of mind, just as they are with a great many worldwide, even ordinary citizens not in politics.

Now, I want to be crystal clear about what I’m going to say next. I write with animosity toward no one, but with grave concern for all. The survey that found support for same-sex marriage among young white evangelicals at 47 percent was a different poll than the one that found knowing a homosexual to be the biggest factor pulling respondents toward supporting gay rights. Still, there is no question that knowing a homosexual is indeed pulling evangelicals, especially younger ones, in this direction. On the one hand, we can understand this, because this kind of experience personalizes the issue. It “puts a face” on the case for redefining marriage.

On the other hand, this pull proves that the church has failed completely to equip its people to think biblically about homosexuality and other related issues—the top hot-button issues of our time. As Christians, we must use our heads, not simply follow our hearts on this matter. Is this unloving? Not at all! 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!


If Christians really believe the Bible, then they recognize all sexual activity outside of natural marriage as sinful and wrong, whether it is illegal or not. This includes homosexuality. Why then would they not respond as they would in other situations involving activities they know to be sinful and wrong? 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 it for us? Of course not!


Do we support a drug addict’s “right” to abuse drugs because knowing that person “puts a face on the issue” for us? Do we support the habits of an alcoholic or a thief just because we know him or her? Of course not. Instead, for the benefit of these individuals, we seek to help them find a better path. The same ought to be true of us with regard to the homosexuals with whom we are acquainted.


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 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 fact 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


Jesus cared a great deal about children and warned against influencing them to sin or stumble. If we who claim to believe the Bible really believe it, we will acknowledge that children living in homes with same-sex parents are extremely vulnerable to being so influenced. Here I’m not trying to point a finger of accusation at gay or lesbian parents. Like so much of the rest of society, they have been blinded. My point here is what Christians believe about the various scenarios that have become inevitable in the aftermath of Obergefell. Today’s culture is misleading children and adults alike with the idea that homosexuality is on par with heterosexuality. But I’m not misleading anyone! you might say. Maybe you aren’t directly, but if you remain silent while the relentless attacks against natural marriage continue, you are complicit!

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 is at risk as well! Even before the Obergefell ruling, Princeton Professor Dr. Robert George predicted, among other things, 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.


I know these are hard words, but they appear to be necessary. Next time, we’ll cover several more items on our 12-item list—and we might even reach the last one.

In the meantime, pray for the church to understand the need and rise to the occasion. With God, all things are possible!

  • Part six 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:

1W. Peter Blitchington, Sex Roles & The Christian Family, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1980), 49. Of this book, Dr. James Dobson wrote, “Never before have I volunteered a statement of endorsement for a book, but this one deserves that distinction. These issues are crucial to the survival of the family, and I wish every Christian in America would read it.” Dr. Dobson’s endorsement appears on the cover of the book.

2Sean McDowell and John Stonestreet, Same-Sex Marriage: A Thoughtful Approach to God’s Design for Marriage, (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2014), 95.

image credits: all images with exception of the neighborhood street and the picture of Professor George: www.lightstock.com