Much, much has and is being written regarding “same sex marriage.” The following is a Breakpoint article which responds to a Time Magazine article. The article, which includes the views of several prominent writers and leaders, appeared first at: Breakpoint.org as: Same-Sex Marriage and the Evangelical Church: A Symposium – A Response to Time Magazine. I found that these writers help me clarify my own views, as a Christian, on the issue. Note: If you follow the above link to the original article there are some interesting comments on the article. RMF
Same-Sex Marriage and the Evangelical Church: A Symposium
A RESPONSE TO TIME MAGAZINE
By John Stonestreet
A recent TIME article by Elizabeth Dias, “How Evangelicals Are Changing Their Mind on Gay Marriage,” claims that widespread evangelical acceptance of same-sex marriage is inevitable. I’ve asked a number of Christian thinkers and leaders to respond. Specifically, I posed two questions: Does embracing same-sex marriage and homosexual conduct mean one ought no longer be considered evangelical? Does the shift within the evangelical community on these issues point to larger problems within the historic movement known as evangelicalism? You can read their thoughts on those questions, and on the issue in general, below.
I think that it is possible for one to still be an evangelical (or a faithful Christian) and take a libertarian view toward gay marriage. In other words, it is possible to say that it need not be up to the state to make marriages official. I know that what mattered to me in my marriage was the church, not the paper I got from a state clerk. However, I do not think there is anywhere to go theologically on the issue. One of the hallmarks of evangelicals is that they take a high view of Scripture and give the Bible primacy as an authority in their lives. I think they also generally realize, as I do, that it would take a lot of interesting interpretive work to make the Bible say something different on this issue than we think it does.
I see the shift among evangelicals on the issue as mostly generational and much motivated by a desire not to accept the judgment of our motives produced by advocates of same-sex marriage. In other words, the dominant culture is pushing a strong narrative that if you oppose gay marriage, then you are doing so out of some kind of invidious hatefulness, rather than because of sincere conviction and religious faith. The pressure of the cultural assault falls on our young people much more than it does on older generations in terms of our social lives.
That having been said, we are also beginning to see the development of something like a bar to influence for those persons who resist gay marriage. Brendan Eich, who was CEO and a co-founder of Mozilla, and now Atlanta’s fire chief, Kelvin Cochran, have essentially been ousted for holding traditional Christian views of sexuality and then expressing them in some way. While part of the shift has been due to empathy and another has been due to something like a social tipping point, still more movement is likely to occur due to simple intimidation. And where many do not shift, they will become silent.
Hunter Baker, J.D., Ph.D., is associate provost and associate professor of political science at Union University. He is the author of “The End of Secularism” (2009).
Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D.
The Ruth Institute
As a Roman Catholic, I am honored to be invited to participate in this symposium. I tread into this discussion with some trepidation. God knows we have problems of our own in the Catholic Church.
I observe two issues in the evangelical churches. First, the evangelical churches face a problem of a competitive “race to the bottom.” If a pastor takes an unpopular line on any moral topic, people can readily leave the congregation for one more congenial. It is an understatement to say that the moral teachings of Jesus around the Sexual Revolution are unpopular. Many evangelical churches have already become seriously compromised on the divorce issue, for instance. These earlier compromises damage their Christian witness with respect to same-sex attraction, the redefinition of marriage, and related issues. It requires an extraordinary amount of supernatural assistance to overcome a structural problem of this magnitude.
The second problem I observe is what my friend Robert Gagnon calls the “cheap grace model.” By this, he means that some pastors and parachurch organizations have adopted theological positions of “once saved, always saved,” and other formulae that downplay actual lived obedience to the Gospel and wholehearted, unashamed following of Jesus. Whatever your theological tradition might be, one has to admit that the “cheap grace model” is awfully easy to abuse. As a Roman Catholic, I hesitate to even comment on this controversy, because I find the concept incomprehensible. My church teaches that every act of our lives, right down to our deathbeds, is morally significant and relevant to our life in eternity.
As I say, we have problems of our own in the Catholic Church, just not these particular problems. I hope you can accept these comments from a friendly outsider, and know that I love you.
Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D., is founder and president of the Ruth Institute, which helps the victims of the Sexual Revolution recover from their experiences and become advocates for positive change.
Warren Cole Smith
The word “evangelical” is historically and etymologically related to the “good news” of Scripture. Homosexual behavior is inconsistent with Scripture. All hermeneutical efforts to rehabilitate homosexuality or reconcile it to Scripture have diminished and necessarily will diminish the transformative grace of the gospel. These efforts have had to ignore or rewrite vast portions of Scripture.
There is common ground between those on the left and right on this issue: We can agree that Jesus does indeed bid us to “come as you are.” But that’s just the first part of the gospel. Jesus also empowers us to leave transformed. That’s the message of the evangelical church, and why affirmation of same-sex marriage and homosexual conduct is incompatible with a full understanding of the gospel.
The various confusions of the modern evangelical movement are too many and diverse to explicate here. Among them is a corporate model of governance rather than a biblical model. Flawed measures of success for our evangelism result in us highlighting those who “make decisions for Christ” rather than those who become disciples of Christ. This kind of “body count evangelism” causes us to celebrate numerical growth rather than spiritual growth. Over time we have lost the ability to discern spiritual maturity—or a lack thereof—in our leaders. We have become seduced by celebrity, and now expect our pastors and ministry leaders to have “media platforms.” The medium is the message, as Marshall McLuhan said, and the message many non-Christians have received about evangelicalism is a message of celebrity and scandal, and corporation rather than authentic community.
Warren Cole Smith is associate publisher of WORLD magazine and author or co-author of 10 books, most recently “Prodigal Press: Confronting the Anti-Christian Bias of the American News Media” with Marvin Olasky (P&R Publishing, 2013).
Glenn T. Stanton
Focus on the Family
I don’t think there is the shift TIME claims. Much of their story rested on false stereotypes. They see the fact that some notable evangelical leaders being friendly and developing relationships with some gay activists—as I unapologetically do—as a change in position about homosexuality. Not at all. And this is the whole problem with the way this issue is being framed in the popular culture: “If you disagree, then you hate us. If you like us then you must be shifting your position in favor of homosexuality.”
Evangelicals can walk and chew gum. We can strongly reject the morality of homosexual sex and “marriage” and still have high regard for and friendships with those on the other side. It’s not complicated.
The move to hyphenate the identity of Christian with “gay” is not only ill-informed, but impossible. First, because our identity in Christ—hence Christian—can never be hyphenated. Second, to hyphenate it with a term that indicates something clearly at odds with Scripture is a bridge far too far. And yes, most of those in the so-called “gay Christian network” hold that same-sex sexual unions are not only perfectly moral, but have a special dispensation from God.
The entire “gay Christian” extreme makeover is not just the mistake of being confused about the Scriptures and Christian sexual morality. It is a bald and deliberate effort to challenge and topple an undisputed teaching of orthodox Christianity with a novel, absolutely heterodox theory. And all to legitimate their own interests: their own sexuality or those of their children or loved ones.
This “gay Christian” thing is the flavor of the month in the major media precisely because it is outside the realm of basic Christian orthodoxy. Otherwise, there’d be no story.
Glenn T. Stanton is the director of global family formation studies at Focus on the Family and the author of “Loving My (LGBT) Neighbor: Being Friends in Grace and Truth” (Moody, 2014).
Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood
Embracing same-sex marriage and homosexual conduct means that we are in mortal danger.Without holiness, no one will see the Lord, says the author of Hebrews. This form of approbation is not holy. It is not biblical. It calls good what God calls an abomination (see Leviticus 18:22 and Romans 1:26-27). There is no positive outcome for those who exchange the truth of God for a lie.
In recent decades, evangelicals have thirsted after cultural approval. Like the world’s saddest pageant contestants, we want desperately to be accepted by secular culture. We have exchanged our holy birthright for a Facebook fan page. Our hermeneutic is not motivated by righteous awe, by fear and trembling, by the honor and magnificence of our God. It is driven by a craven desire to be liked, to be culturally acceptable, to be au courant.
The church should not be a preening wannabe. It should recognize, as Chuck Colson did, that it is a counterculture. We are the city of God, the true city. The city of man is passing. The darkness encroaches, but the gospel is real. It animates the church even in this late hour to re-enchant soulless humanity, reclaim sex from neo-paganism, and recover the moral imagination of the sacrificial Christian tradition.
Believing this gospel leads to the only acceptance that matters: Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little.
Enter into the joy of your Master.
Owen Strachan is the author of the forthcoming “The Colson Way: Loving Your Neighbor and Living with Faith in a Hostile World” (Thomas Nelson, July 2015). He is a professor at Southern Seminary & Boyce College and is the President of the Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood.
Andrew T. Walker
The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission
A key factor in whether one can affirm homosexuality and same-sex marriage and still be evangelical, is whether it’s credible to allow a very tiny percentage of the global church, one drastically and statistically dying, to overturn what has been settled, biblical social teaching throughout Christendom until the last quarter century. Should a dissident sect of Western and predominantly white liberals have the opportunity to overturn orthodoxy and claim the evangelical mantle? No. The underlying hubris by which this movement conducts itself offers a false, American gospel of sexual liberation that empties evangelicalism of its biblical, doctrinal, historical, and ethical richness. To accept that such affirmations could ever be “evangelical” is to indulge what C. S. Lewis called “chronological snobbery” at its worst.
Jesus said marriage was from the beginning (Matt. 19:4-6). So neither we nor LGBT activists have the authority to redefine marriage, or the biblical bounds of sexual relationships, or anything else that hits a cultural pressure point, any more than pseudo-evangelicals have the authority to redefine what the Evangel—the gospel—really is, which is what this is about. The Evangel isn’t a message where people write their own script. The “Evangel” of evangelicalism offers new life, but also demands repentance. How is the evangel good news if it doesn’t offer freedom from sexual sin but instead baptizes it?
This moment is an indictment upon evangelicalism and its persistent aversion to doctrinal discourse. By parroting and cozying to the worst elements of American culture, we’ve made it feasible for our congregations to overlook the heresies of the Sexual Revolution.
Andrew T. Walker serves as the Director of Policy Studies for The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. He is a Ph.D. student in Christian Ethics at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Image courtesy of Ponderings.
John Stonestreet is co-host of BreakPoint Radio and host of The Point Radio. He is co-author with Sean McDowell of “Same-Sex Marriage: A Thoughtful Approach to God’s Design for Marriage” (Baker, 2014.)