Monday, December 22, 2008

A Divided Ethic? That's The Price of Freedom

I am opposed to gay marriage bans such as prop 8, and have had many friends asking me why I would oppose such a law since I personally do believe that homosexuality is wrong. I wanted to briefly lay out the reasons why I would hold one position and yet oppose its being introduced into law.

I believe that marriage is meant to be between only one man and one woman, forever. I believe that marriage is permanent, so long as both partners are living; therefore I also believe that divorced couples who remarry are living in sin. I believe that homosexual behavior is wrong, in the same way that sex between unmarried people is wrong. I am indifferent as to whether or not people are born gay. I am open to that possibility, but I consider it irrelevant since people are still responsible for their decisions, even if their proclivities are to do wrong (after all, even straight people are lustful creature who must control their own urges). What I'm saying is that I have a very high view of marriage and a very conservative view of homosexuality. Another part of this is that I believe that any church who approves of homosexual marriage is making a GRAVE error and abandoning the Bible. But my opinion on this matter is religiously informed, and I will not kid myself that I get my beliefs regarding gay marriage simply from general revelation. Thus, I know that these beliefs will not be shared by someone who does NOT believe the Bible to be God's perfect Word.

Now, I could take the position that it is good to make a law against gay marriage right now since I am in the majority. After all, strike while the iron is hot, right? The problem is, people like us will not be in the majority forever (or for much longer, I fear). When this happens, we will have set a bully precedent, essentially setting a painful standard for dealings in this area in the future. The gay community does not forget its mistreatment, as we've seen with their unjust reaction to Prop 8. Do you think that once THEY are in the majority they will not also try to restrict the freedoms and activities of us as Christians? They will remember how they were wronged by laws like Prop 8, and when their time to strike comes WE will be the ones whose freedoms are restricted. Tit for tat.

Rather, I say, let people live freely as they desire, so long as it does not cause harm to another or restrict another person's freedom. After all, there are people out there whom I feel make great errors in theology and philosophy all the time, but I don't go around making laws against their mistaken beliefs. This is what it means to live in a free society. It comes with risks and rewards. The risk is that a gay guy might walk past your family holding his boyfriend's hand causing your son or daughter confusion. The reward is that you are allowed to disagree with his lifestyle, tell your children about this fact, and even speak against it if you like, but then you can freely go down the street to your church and worship God without external influences or coercion from the state because this world of disagreeable people has decided not to create laws against distastefulness or even against immoral behaviors.

So my opposition to laws restricting gay marriage are based upon my (hopefully) consistent belief in liberty. I believe that the function of government is not to make a series of laws restricting beliefs or actions which some of its citizens (including myself) find distasteful or sinful. Rather, government exists to preserve the freedoms of its citizens. This is the same reason why I oppose the government's extremely expensive AND unsuccessful "war on drugs." There are a lot of practical reasons for this as well, but that's for another time.


  1. As a fellow freedom lover, I am inclined to agree with you. But the situation is sticky.

    If the issue is a denial of rights, then let's take a look at exactly what is being denied. If the government is restricting who can ride with who in an ambulance, then repeal that law. If married couples receive certain tax benefits that gay couples do not, then repeal taxes ;-)

    But the issue is not about rights. It is about making homosexuality an accepted practice.

    Here is what one friend of mine wrote on Nov. 5:

    The day the CA supreme court made gay marriage legal that was an AMAZING moment in my life. My cousin texted me and I immediately called about ten people and told them what had happened. I will treasure that moment forever. The LGBT community could walk around that day with newfound confidence, with the feeling that we are recognized as REAL people with REAL relationships, and that those relationships have value under the eyes of the law.

    Civil unions are not the same. A civil union feels like playing pretend to me. Like Ellen said to McCain on her show, "It sounds like separate but equal to me. It sounds like you can sit over here but not over there."

    Now, I do not bring this up to say that we have to fight a culture war over this issue. The "culture war" completely distracts Christians from the true battle for the proclamation of the gospel. I bring this up to simply show that it is not about rights. It is about changing people's values and beliefs. And believe it or not, many hardcore libertarians agree with me. "The" Libertarian View on Gay Marriage

    Now, my reaction was, and has been, to simply say the state should get out of marriage. It has no place there. It is an institution of the church. Then things got even more complicated when I started looking into the history of the state's involvement in marriage. Turns out it was largely a Protestant doing in reaction to Rome's view of marriage as a sacrament of the church.

    I was given a great article on the history of marriage in Puritan New England (which I can send you if you're interested). They went so far in some cities as to legally forbid ministers from performing marriage ceremonies. Now I don't agree with much of the political philosophy of Puritan New England, making church membership compulsory and required for citizenship, but the marriage issue is the outworking of a distinctly Protestant theology developed during the Reformation and it's an area I'd like to study more.

  2. Just thought I would throw out a quick response... Really a question. You talk about Prop 8 being a "bullying" of homosexuals. However, I am more inclined to agree with Brandon above.

    How is allowing gay marriage not a bullying of everyone else? I know it's a "talking point" for proponents of Prop 8, but honestly, how is allowing gay marriage not a redefinition of marriage, and therefore, a bullying of people who disagree?

    I agree, let's make homosexual rights equal (visitation, taxes, etc), but marriage? I'm not sure that's a "right." In the same way I'm not sure healthcare is a "right."


  3. Brandon,

    Your view would have a lot more credibility with me if you'd also contend that fornicators and adulterers should have laws levied against them for their lifestyles. As a straight and happily married (and Reformed Christian) male, I could make the case that married libertines (i.e. "open marriages")should have their marriage licenses actively revoked. But something tells me that has more to do with the fact that libertines bug me the way homosexuals seem to bug everyone else. Fooling myself into believing I am doing something noble by making sure they are kicked out of the married club seems more ignoble.

    And it doesn't wash to say that marriage is restricted to the church, that is, of course, if one believes along with St. Paul that the magistrate really is the viceroy of Christ.

    I am not so sure certain views are free from the foibles of culture war, a project looking for things that don't exist based on intelligence closer to ignorance.


    I think you're on to something. When my magistrate asks me if gay marriage is found in creation I say no. If he goes ahead and makes it legal, the effort to take rights away seems way closer to homophobic hatred than affirming creational norms. I don't think many of us religionists realize what price we are paying by being involved in culture wars like these, no matter how much we claim this has nothing to do with culture war. Fubar.

  4. hello again Zrim,

    Your point regarding fornicators is not valid. There is a difference between punishing someone for a crime and withholding a certain legal status from people who do not meet a certain criteria.

    I would tend to agree with you about "open marriages" being revoked. But that has nothing to do with how those people make me feel. It has to do with what God's Word says. But I know you don't think we're allowed to read the Bible outside of the walls of the church, so we don't need to get into that discussion.

  5. Brandon,

    If it's about "what God's Word says," why do you think that libertines should have their licenses revoked but fornicators shouldn't be punished?

    Theonomists seem way more consistent than what you are putting forth.

    But if we understand that God's Word is only for believers to govern themselves then we don't marry homosexuals, nor tolerate either fornication or adultery without sanction.

    In the way God's people govern themselves it's an equal-opportunity form of sanction. Once you start making God's Word relevant to how the civil world governs itself, and make the sort of distinctions you are, then it is more about who bugs you and who doesn't. I can admit fornicators and adulterers bug me way more than homosexuals. Why can't those who want to make sure Adam and Steve remain permanantly single admit freely that gays bug them?

  6. Jonathan,

    I used the word "bully precedent" for lack of a better phrase. I wouldn't refer to the passing of laws as bullying at all, but I do think that Christians will need to prepare for a time when things no longer go their way. When that time comes, if this is the battle they want to fight, they will eventually lose.

    I am suggesting that Christians begin to lay a foundation of freedom so that when the time comes that homosexuals carry the favor of most of society (when the traditional older generation has passed on), Christians will have set a precedent of freedom so that practices, relationships, and religious gatherings are not mandated or restricted by the government and they can worship and proselytize freely.

    The tide is turning, and it is not turning in our favor. Freedom is the only solution, because that is soon what we will be crying for instead of stopping gay marriage. That will be the least of our concerns.

  7. I sometimes wonder just how much we believe in the sovereignty of God.

    Is it the State or whatever politics is in fashion that gives us true freedom and liberty, or is it from the very hand of God Himself?

    If we do find ourselves on the narrow end of popular opinion, which of course has always been the case has it not?, then do we just turn our backs upon the good and faithful providence of God, or do we just become pragmatists, protecting our freedoms based upon how others may judge past intolerance's etc?

    If we end up in the place where our freedoms are taken away, then rejoice, for then we shall be closer to our salvation than when we first believed...

    And if you think by giving Homosexuals their so called freedom to marry etc shall lead to us being thrown some freedoms down the track when we might need them, think again! People wax worse and worse by nature, not suddenly become tolerant and reasonable.

    True freedom is in Christ and furthering His Kingdom, proclaiming the Gospel for King Jesus, not by playing politics and hoping for equity under the State, whoever the ruling party may be.

  8. I like what you've said, Tartanarmy, and all that you have said is a fair counterpoint to my approach to this. I have thought hard about this, and while I think there are elements of pragmatism to my approach (that freedom for them means freedom for us down the road), I also consider it a principled approach in the sense that all human beings deserve the opportunity to make uncoerced decisions about their own lives.

    Otherwise, if we are preventing others from taking actions because we've passed a law against it (like gays marrying), we're just white-washing tombs anyway; it doesn't solve anyone's spiritual situation. The changing of someone's mind is what will truly bring goodness to society - one heart at a time. To externally coerce moral behavior brings no change of the heart - which is what we as Christians endeavor for.

    I do agree with your point that to lose freedoms just gives all the more reason to rejoice, and I am quite convinced that such a situation would be by the providence of God to a far more God-glorifying situation. However, I believe that even if we can rejoice during hardships we ought not to encourage hardships to occur on our own watch. We ought to endeavor, ideally, for freedoms while we still can.

    In connection with this, I would remind you that though God is sovereign over hardships and events that occur, His providence is never an excuse for laziness or for shirking our responsibilities. After all, God may ordain the ends, but He ordains the means, as well. Our beliefs and actions are important, and that means fighting for personal freedoms, as well.

    You also point out what I believe is the most probable situation when you point out that homosexuals may NOT throw us our freedoms once they curry the favor of the majority. Maybe they will still choose to restrict the free speech of believers who choose to condemn their wrong behavior while at the same time legally permitting it. However, non-pragmatically speaking, DO fight to make their marriages null and void, such a situation is a certainty. If they instead opt for freedom of the individual, the probability of such a response is lessened. Also, Christians will be on the moral high-ground, I think, if they choose freedom over coercion, because at least they allowed the immoral behavior and didn't try to force its cessation by threat of force (i.e. by entree from the state) when they held the power and majority.

    Ultimately, though, your observations are wise; whatever may play out, Christ is King, and His will is perfect. This gives us great comfort. But in the meantime, we must do the right thing; not remain indifferent.

  9. I see some validity in your well reasoned views, but I am trying to think God's thoughts after Him.

    For example, In Rom 1, we have a view of God's very own disposition toward homosexuality and very strong references regarding His judgment upon the sin and the handing them over to their sin, and then the whole matter about those who not only practice these sins but give them license to perpetuate the sin etc

    I just cannot fit the thrust of what you are saying into what I understand as the heart of God upon the matter.

    Now, I do understand what you are saying and where you are coming from, but I just cannot buy into it. Just a tad pragmatic for my liking, and I am not convinced that your ideas would ultimately help those homosexuals and their so called freedoms in any real way.

    Might make our life seem more tolerant and even give us some freedoms and all that, but still, I think you get what I am saying.

    I agree with what you said about ends and means and excuses for laziness, as well as what we do being real important etc, but again, I am just trying to think like a Christian.

    I have spent way too much time in my life trying to be pragmatic, winsome, enigmatic and a whole host of other fine virtues, but these days I am not so inclined.
    Not to be mean or intolerant, just trying to be faithful...

    If a Homosexual were to ask me if I would approve or allow them to marry, I would tell them plainly how much I would condemn such a thing, not allowing for a moment any positive affirmation of their wishes, and if given further time with them I would passionately explain why I am opposed to gay marriage etc

    I would try and tell them that my views are not based upon hatred, intolerance or desiring to see them unhappy or even politics and freedom or liberty, but rather that they may come to know the Lord and His intended design for life, marriage and salvation most of all...

    Maybe if we just be firm and yet loving with them, they might actually respect us to a point, but if not, and down the road of uncertain freedom, they will at least know where we stand, and we can have a clear conscience knowing we stood upon our own convictions, just like them.

    We may become sheep to the slaughter, but just maybe some of them will be saved, which at the end of the day, is what we desire to see happen, more than our own freedom even, and I mean freedom in the worldly sense, not the spiritual sense, which can never be taken from us.

    I just cannot help seeing their freedom to marry etc, is not only a redefinition of what marriage actually is, but is also another subtle form of being on the side of those who are giving approval to those who practice such things.

    Now as far as them having tax rights and other matters, I have no real issues with that at all.

    I am only speaking to the concept of homosexual marriage.
    I think marriage should be defended as a union between a man and a woman, all else, unacceptable, and a hill worth dying upon in my books.
    And if anyone is wondering, I am not a Theonomist , lol! Not yet anyway!

    We cannot sanction something which God has cursed as deserving of death.

    Rom 1:28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.

    Rom 1:32 Though they know God's decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.


  10. So I'm reading Romans 13 and wondering why exactly a Bible-believing Christian would consider it improper for a government to have legislation on the books against a specific sin (or outward manifestation thereof). Whatever the specific sin might be. That government is bearing the sword in its appointed position as God's avenger on the evildoer, after all.

    Maybe we're tempted to show favoritism toward homosexuals, because they can be especially noisy and unfriendly. You don't see very many adulterers running around having parades or trying to get the 10 commandments classified as hate speech, I suppose. But partiality is partiality.

    Besides, it is not the fault of the law if illegitimate marriage licenses are revoked, while adultery laws--remaining on the books in many states--go unenforced.

    Nor does Paul in Rom. 13 leave us with the impression that every government appointed by God will successfully bear the sword against all who do evil. Does that mean we should oppose attempts to address/stem the tide of certain forms of evil, because we don't want to be seen as bad neighbors, or, heaven-forbid, be labeled "intolerant"?

    Christ has promised that we will be persecuted when we follow him. Why should we lose our saltiness by chastising a government for calling sin sin, and expect to receive a temporal reward for it at some future point? If we are willing to make such a compromise, what is to prevent us (or our children, at any rate) to give up the offense of the cross in order to gain a hearing? We shall find ourselves in that day with nothing to say.

    So that was a terrifically polemical way of putting things. But, seriously. I mean, the discussion doesn't seem to be revolving around a libertarian view of government. Thoughts?

  11. Tart,

    Don’t be so hard on yourself, you’d make a good theonomist.

    Let’s try a thought experiment: you travel home for the holidays. The inevitable family picture ensues. Your long time gay brother Adam has brought home Steve, his partner. Do you pipe up and protest their being in the picture as it would be a “redefinition of family”? I just experienced this two days ago. I have culture warrior fundy-evangies for in-laws. They make all the same arguments you do. But their private demeanor was an exemplary turnabout from their routine public posture. “Gays can’t marry, etc. because it would a re-definition of marriage.” Yet…they actually encouraged Adam and Steve to join in the family picture, even though that seems to be a re-defintion of family. This on top of generally graceful treatment of the two. Why do you whose rhetoric about public consideration is so nasty all of a sudden turn so decent when the scene turns private?


    “Especially noisy and unfriendly”? Are you suggesting that those who dumped huge amounts of resources into opposing Prop. 8 weren’t? And if they were also especially noisy and unfriendly, I suppose it wasn’t their fault, the gays made them do it?

    Adulterers may not be clamoring, but what keeps you from advocating an effort to actively revoke the licenses of libertines? Aren’t they just as guilty? What about divorcees who are remarried? Why do homosexuals have to endure their licenses being revoked when so much fornication and adultery are going on? Again, I ask you just like I asked Brandon: if the Bible is your ground for all of this anti-gay line of argumentation, why does your side of thr table seem so uninterested in revoking the licenses of adulterers (i.e. libertines and divorcees)? The problem may be for you that you don’t understand the Bible to be the rule book only for the church and not for general society. Once you lend out the scriptures to be the guidebook for general society you have nothing keeping you from theonomy, including any ostensible protest to the contrary.

  12. First of all, Tartanarmy, you're a gentleman and being quite generous in your appraisal of what I've said thus far, and I appreciate that.

    Like you, I can certainly see both our sides of this issue as having valid aspects. I can actually agree with you completely about God's feelings regarding homosexuality, but I want to caution you that it would be a straw man to assume that my perspective on this matter does not allow for such doctrinal and ethical judgments. It does, and I would strenuously oppose homosexuality as some sort of acceptable practice. The nuanced difference between myself and what (I will presume) your position is is that I believe we should not use external coercion to legislate that behavior's morality. Essentially, the state remains neutral, allowing whatever unions consenting adults want to enter into, regardless of whatever they want to call it.

    Marriage is a religious institution, and in my opinion not something the state should even have anything to do with or pass judgment on. Unfortunately, the state does have something to do with it for tax purposes and for other minutiae.

    I would emphasize that the state does not exist to bring goodness to society, but to protect freedoms and protect citizens from each other and from external threats. That is IT.

    But I would engage with homosexuals on the same level you are talking about, I just wouldn't attempt to bring the state into my corner on the matter. We'd keep the debate civil and between individuals instead of making the state the arbiter of right and wrong.

    But I'm still with you in one sense: homosexuality is a sin, and we should endeavor to minister to those in its grip with the message of Christ. I simply think such a message will be more effectively communicated if it is not accompanied by threat of force from the state.

  13. Steve, thanks for your reply brother.

    A good Theonomist eh? Maybe.

    As far as your thought experiment goes here is my answer. Your fundy family would not take well to me I can assure you, actually they would most likely oppose how I would use their arguments against them, but as you want to read my arguments and parse between private and public attitude, I can only say that having gays in your family has nothing whatsoever to do with what we are discussing, the issue of allowing them the right to marry.

    They are rightfully part of the family unit as far as your illustration goes, but how would that change their status as those entitled to marriage? I may have missed something there.

    If I had family who were gay, they would know my views about gay marriage, but certainly they would not feel left out in family photographs or enjoying particular family moments etc if they choose to be in my company at such occasions.

    I would not hinder family interaction over the matter, but they will know privately and publicly what I think about gay marriage.

    If they choose to become offended at my views then they can simply depart from my company, but if they wish to really discuss the matter, I am willing to lovingly and forcefully interact the subject.

    If they are of age to be independent, they shall not be living under my roof except in case of emergency or temporary considerations.

    In other words, there would be boundaries associated with familial relationships that I would try to maintain. I would of course make many mistakes, as such matters would be difficult, but I would aim to try and be consistent in as much as loving them appropriately but showing restraint so not to petition or appropriate their chosen lifestyle or whatever, and that goes for many types of sin in families just for the record.

    And what is with the comment about being nasty all about? Is it nasty now to oppose gay marriage?
    You concern me with those kinds of comments.

    As far as re-definition of family, homosexuality goes to the very root of that matter, but we know that other kinds of families such as single parents, those without children and those widowed have a place within this distinction, but gay marriage?

    Also you are not really taking on board that homosexuals are Son's, daughters etc, and as such are already part of families, but marriage between them utterly destroys what family is at it's core.

    I am sure your fundy family is trying hard to walk a difficult line, and you may even be misrepresenting them. I would need to here how they view there relationships with gays in light of their strong convictions against gay marriage..

    Regarding Theonomy, what would your view be if the State did decide to punish homosexuals as it once did?
    Would you be out fighting for their freedoms? Please answer this question, I am being serious.


  14. Thanks for your gentlemanly kindness also Adam, I appreciate it very much. We do have some differences, but I do understand your thinking on this issue.

    You said,

    "The nuanced difference between myself and what (I will presume) your position is is that I believe we should not use external coercion to legislate that behavior's morality."

    Yes, we may differ here, but I would say that God is the one who has sanctioned authority as far as the State is concerned (and as you mentioned earlier, there are means and ends involved here, and that includes us as being active as means of course and not to be lazy!), so if there is a law against these things, then we cannot go against the law.

    I believe if we are still allowed to vote or have a say as to the laws of the land, then I think it incumbent upon us to protect marriage as that being defined by our Creator.

    I think Christians who would not vote for that, even by simply abstaining the opportunity to voice a concern have missed the mark and are in fact sinning.

    That is my view, and unless you can give me more than good democratic reasoning, like scripture maybe, I cannot change my position.

    You may try of course, but please, build your argument either expressly upon the Word of God, or by good and necessary inference, and I will most certainly consider it...

    You also say,

    "Marriage is a religious institution, and in my opinion not something the state should even have anything to do with or pass judgment on."

    Based upon what criteria do you hold to this view? Can you flesh it out for me?

    I am surprised that Christians can ever even begin to think that there can be this thing called neutrality regarding the State!.

    I do not understand where this comes from, certainly not from a Biblical world view? Please explain.

    No one during the times of the New Testament believed in such neutrality, not even Paul! And it does not change anything regarding what power or authority is in place either.

    Maybe it comes from notions about democracy or some such thing, or maybe it comes from some type of political view like socialism or some other philosophy, I am not sure.

    It makes no sense to me at all.

    Which is to say I find it irrational at best and downright dangerous at worst.

    You say,

    "I would emphasize that the state does not exist to bring goodness to society, but to protect freedoms and protect citizens from each other and from external threats. That is IT."

    That seems a rather modern idea to me. A kind of platitude, but illusory at best. No offense brother.

    Anyway, I am glad we both share the same views as how to engage homosexuals and we both agree as to the nature of the sin.


  15. I Said: "Marriage is a religious institution, and in my opinion not something the state should even have anything to do with or pass judgment on."

    You said: "Based upon what criteria do you hold to this view? Can you flesh it out for me?"

    Basically, I believe that marriage, ideally, is recognized and endorsed by the church, and that means of course, that if the church is the arbiter of marriage instead of the state that there would be no such thing as gay marriage (so long as the church stayed true to its biblical roots). Since a non-religious institution which does not have the same source for its ethics (the state) is the one who decides these things, they should recognize whatsoever forms of marriage the people want recognized - gay or not. Recognition by the state does not mean it is moral. It simply means that the union exists, regardless whether they call it "the joojooba," "marriage," or "smizmar." So ideally, the state wouldn't concern itself with marriages at all.

    "I think Christians who would not vote for that, even by simply abstaining the opportunity to voice a concern have missed the mark and are in fact sinning. That is my view, and unless you can give me more than good democratic reasoning, like scripture maybe, I cannot change my position."

    That's a hard request to fulfill. Here is why: the Bible is clear that morals are absolute and we should obey them. It is also clear that the state has laws that we should obey. What makes your request impossible is that the writers of Scripture had no concept that Christians would be able to influence or change the policy of the state. The Apostle Paul's approach in Romans 13 is not, "look at the state; we can help to improve its laws and make them biblical." Instead, Paul has a laze faire approach. For Paul, the state is what it is. He knows that it has bad laws (I assume this to be true; I have no biblical warrant), but he knows that it has good laws too. He does not say what laws he thinks are bad or good, but instead says that we should simply obey the laws of the land, pay whatever taxes we have to pay, respect whatever leaders we're required to, and honor those in authority (13:7). Like I said, Paul had no concept of the Christian having any sovereignty over the state or over its laws. So the task you've set for me is simply too high.

    I think it's entirely possible that Paul wouldn't care the tiniest lick about politics, but would instead pour himself into spreading the Gospel message, not into passing more laws banning un-biblical practices. However, one thing I do know is that freedom makes spreading that message easier than tyranny does.

    Once again, I want to be clear that my opinion regarding the neutrality of the state comes from my view of what the state's role is: "The state does not exist to bring goodness to society, but to protect freedoms and protect citizens from each other and from external threats." This is as neutral as the state could ever get, in my opinion. For me, the state is simply a framework through which social traffic can occur. We are given freedom to communicate, to interact, and to live as we desire through the state. Though these rights are inalienable and intrinsic to humanity, the state protects these rights and ensures that Neighbor A does not hold a tyrannical grip over the behaviors and beliefs of Neighbor B. I am sure that there is some political label for this (I assume it's libertarianism), but I am unfamiliar with any traditions what I am saying would fall within. Considering that our founding fathers were RUNNING from tyranny, I would be surprised if this wasn't simply good old fashioned American freedom.

  16. I feel like the question is being approached from a pragmatic perspective rather than one based on principle. "Tit for tat?" Let us not deceive ourselves into thinking that when we as Christians are further marginalized we will somehow be shown grace from those who cannot truly understand what grace is.

    While homosexuality is just one of many evils, we cannot forget that it is evil and we are not to tolerate it. And, yes, the same holds true for adultery. For now the Lord has given us some stewardship over the state. I expect, when our Master returns, he will expect an accounting.

    Am I a Theonomist? No. I don't believe the PENAL laws of the OT were meant for the USA. I do think the Bible gives pretty explicit guidelines on what is right and wrong though and the more our nation strays the more she can expect to come under judgment. We as Christians should, I believe, feel a vested interest in our nation's position before the Lord of All the Earth.

    If someone can provide a better definition of Theonomy, I would appreciate it. I understand it as the conviction that the penal laws of the OT should be enforced today.

  17. R*se,

    Theonomists would generally say that the civil laws of the nation of Israel were simply the application of God's moral law in a civil setting. Since God's moral law remains binding, it's application to all civil government should as well.


    Basically, I believe that marriage, ideally, is recognized and endorsed by the church, and that means of course, that if the church is the arbiter of marriage instead of the state that there would be no such thing as gay marriage

    I'm generally with you here, but as I began researching the issue a little more, I found out that it was the Reformers specifically who said marriage is not just an institution of the church, some to the extent of saying it is not an institution of the church at all. They brought marriage under the authority of the state.

    Now, this may be a simple over reaction against Rome's view of marriage. It may be an inseparable part of the Reformer's view of the state that we have come to disagree with. But whatever it is, giving the state authority over marriage rather than the church is a Protestant idea and I can't ignore that until I learn more about it.

    "The state does not exist to bring goodness to society, but to protect freedoms and protect citizens from each other and from external threats."...
    Though these rights are inalienable and intrinsic to humanity, the state protects these rights and ensures that Neighbor A does not hold a tyrannical grip over the behaviors and beliefs of Neighbor B. I am sure that there is some political label for this (I assume it's libertarianism)

    1) Protecting freedoms and protecting citizens from each other is a form of bringing goodness to society, so your dichotomy ultimately does not work to establish a foundation for the proper role of the state.

    2) The notion of inalienable rights is highly problematic. If our rights to life, liberty, and property are truly inalienable, then no one could ever be punished for a crime, for to punish them would be to violate their inalienable rights. Some philosophers have gotten around this by claiming that when someone commits a crime, they abandon reason and therefore cease to be human, therefore losing their inalienable rights.

    Furthermore, the Founders referenced the Creator as the giver of these inalienable rights, yet we have the exact words of that Creator. We need not rely on some vague notion of a deity for we have the self-revealed Creator of the universe in Scripture.

    Both Gordon Clark and John Robbins have done an excellent job of showing the problems with secular political philosophy. Clark has a great essay showing how autonomous political philosophy necessarily leads to tyranny. It used to be online but is not anymore. Robbins has an excellent essay in his book "Freedom and Capitalism" that shows the failures of natural law. Robbins has several good lectures on the topic I would recommend the series of political philosophy as well as his lecture refuting the philosophy of Ayn Rand in which he touches on these topics.

  18. Tart,

    My point about the family illustration is that it is unclear to me why private behavior and public posture should be so at odds. Why is allowing a gay couple to join in a family photo really any different from being allowed to marry? I kinow you are saying it is different, but I need you to explain it. My hunch is that at bottom what this all revolves around is a concern about affirming certain behaviors; folks are afriad that if we let gays marry we are saying we affirm homosexuality. Whatever else this all is about, don’t you think you might get a better hearing about your beliefs if you were less about denying someone's existence? This always seems like a version of never passing up an opportunity to tell smokers it’s bad for them. Should we outlaw tobacco like we did alcohol?

    If you are so worried about the so-called “re-definition of marriage,” then it would seem to me you’d also be concerned for that divorcee not being able to re-marry and libertines having their licenses revoked. Are you?

    Re your question on theonomy, it’s a bit hyper-hypothetical and thus not a very good one. But in America we are governed by the laws of the land, not the Bible. I’d resist stoning people on constitutional grounds, not biblical ones. And I’d pursue the churchly discipline of a fornicator in our midst by threat of excommunication, not stones.


    The idea that the state has nothing to do with marriage is something of a a cop-out. Jesus rules through the state as much as he does the church. You cannot cordon off marriage to the redemptive sphere, since marriage is a creation ordinance. If you don’t believe me, take a look at your marriage license—it was issued by the state, not the church. Like it or not, the state must answer this one .

  19. Steve & Brandon,

    You are probably right about my assertion that the state should have nothing to do with marriages. I was perusing a list of the legal benefits of marriage, and it seems impossible for such benefits to exist without a state sanction on them. It's a moot point, anyway. It does not change the nature of the discussion.

    Ultimately, I think it comes down to something Jonathan said early on in the post: "I agree, let's make homosexual rights equal (visitation, taxes, etc), but marriage?" Primarily, it seems that most are on board with the idea that gay couples can have partnerships and tax benefits, etc. but most seem to object to the usage of the word marriage.

    Call me insensitive, but whatever the WORD they use to describe it, we all know that in God's eyes, a true marriage only exists between a man and a woman. Any gay couple who does marry is sort of like the guy who picks up Guitar Hero and goes, "Look! I'm Jimi Hendrix!" We all know he wants to be Jimi, and by some accounts he's acting like him, but when it comes right down to it all he's holding is a hunk of cheap plastic with a noisy flapper on it.

    If gay couples want to pretend to be Jimi Hendrix it doesn't hurt me or my marriage at all, because while the word is the same, the form is all wrong.

  20. Again, Adam, I think we both come to our views from different presuppositions.

    As mentioned in this thread, it is a Protestant idea that gave the State authority to maintain marriage as an institution, and I think it a wise and godly position.

    As far as freedom, however that word is being used, being the easiest environment for spreading the gospel, I do not share your enthusiasm on that point.

    Christianity has spread during times of persecution on far too many occasions to confound such a view as yours, including from the very outset of Christianity, so your point there may need further thought. During times of “ease” shall we say, often passion for the gospel is relegated way down the list of priorities, but during oppression and tyranny, it has a way of separating the sheep from the goats and rises to the surface for the good of whole communities, and many Christians step up and be counted, and God being faithful as He is, accompanies His people not only to encourage them but to make them bold in the face of danger. This leads to the furtherance of the gospel and the saving of souls as an inevitable outcome.

    As a side note, before I became more “Covenant” reformed in my beliefs as a Protestant Christian, I pretty much would have held to your views (I was a reformed Baptist, but now more Congregational and reformed), as I find that many Christians, particularly those from Baptistic leanings, hold to a more individualized or democratic understanding (good old American freedom as you put it!) of the world in general, and hence it shapes our world view about even these issues we are discussing.

    You had mentioned Paul and in a way you are correct about the hard task of using scripture to prove your views, but I did mention the option of also using scripture by good and necessary inference at the very least, which is of course how we as Protestants aim to explain what we believe and why.

    It is the Sola Scriptura principal we love so much at work in our world view, and since we are talking about this institution of marriage, it deserves our best treatment and thoughts regarding what it is and isn't.

    Merely by recognizing the often repeated idea, namely “In God's eyes”, we miss the mark entirely.
    I think this may be what you are doing, even though it was someone else who used that Hendrix illustration!

    Let me just make one major point regarding the State and the way you idealize that view, as far as this neutral idea you seem to embrace.

    It is an illusion my friend. The State is a lot of things, but being neutral is not one of them. The State has certain basic things to do, but it also is a reflection of the people who give it authority, at least in a general sense. That simple fact alone makes neutrality a myth!

    No, the State, good or bad has its own driving principals and agendas, and most of the time, it pursues matters with such vigor, that Christians and even those with views like yours are not only thrown crumbs of hope, but are in fact overtaken and enslaved in so many ways.

    I say all of that to say one thing only.

    If the State decides to allow gay marriage, you will send the moral signal to the next generation that not only is gay marriage alright, for even the State allows it, but why not allow other moral restraints to become legalized and protected. It is a slippery slope and history proves this to be the case.

    If you think the majority of people coming after us do not get their views, including moral views from the influence of the State, society in general etc, then you are naive, and that is why I mentioned your view as potentially dangerous in an earlier comment.

    I respectfully question where you are getting the fundamentals of your view from. I do not see them coming from a Biblical world view, but rather a political/social view of some sort.

    And just to give you something else to think about. I am no lover of the State, nor would I be over the moon at having them in my corner on the matter of gay marriage, no. In so many ways, the State must be treated with caution and at times it should be feared and even overthrown when necessary.

    But treating them like some kind of neutral help mate is way too naive.

    Consider public school education. It is nothing short of religious propaganda that is Post Modern to it's core, with more in common with any religious movement known to mankind!

    Enough said for now I think, or you just might get me started! Lol

    Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
    (Philippians 4:8)


  21. Steve, you are drawing some wrong inferences from my views, but that is ok, as I have not laid out a full position in this brief thread, and if I had, you might have warrant to make some of your comments, nevertheless, let me add some more comments.

    Regarding divorce, we are not discussing that issue, maybe for another thread? But briefly, divorce is of a different Caliber of sin, and although a serious sin, it is not by necessity the thing that completely destroys what the biblical concept of marriage is all about. We have scripture that handles and even allows for divorce, but nowhere do we read in scripture about allowing homosexual marriage.

    Please try and separate the sin of homosexuality from the subject of Marriage, then I will not be charged with the suggestion of addressing people that apparently do not exist! Think about that!
    I am not for outlawing homosexuality, or even advocating that the State should legislate against the sin of homosexuality. I am against homosexual marriage. The issue is marriage for gays, not what gays do with one another in a relationship. I am not even against them living together, having tax rights and many other things. I am for protecting this thing we call Marriage, that's all.

    Now, of course this speaks to the definition of family, even the very foundation stone itself, but your views about the re-definition of family are off base with regards to the points you made. I had hoped my point about homosexuals already being members of families would get that point across, but if you see the issue of same sex marriage as on a par with homosexuals joining in with other familial relationships, I do not know what else to say.

    As far as Theonomy, I am not a Theonomist, well not one as popularly understood.

    I asked the question as to the laws of the state, and whether you would honor those laws if Homosexual marriage was not allowed, I never said anything about stoning homosexuals.
    But if society did outlaw the practice of homosexuality, would you campaign to overturn that law?

    What the Church does in discipline I agree with you, but again, that was not what I was asking you.


  22. MAN! I made up that Hendrix illustration, and I was so proud of it. It made all the sense in the world, and since I've been playing Guitar Hero with my family lately it felt very "relevant."

    I agree with what you've said about the Gospel spreading more effectively during times of persecution, and when those times do come I know that I personally will have even greater confidence in the power of God to change hearts and - as you said - separate the sheep from the goats. I would again say, like we discussed earlier, that this is no reason to welcome persecution, per se. After all, God uses times of persecution just as He uses times of peace for furthering His kingdom.

    "I respectfully question where you are getting the fundamentals of your view from. I do not see them coming from a Biblical world view, but rather a political/social view of some sort."

    I know you've said that my political ideals are somewhat naive, and I don't doubt that they are, but one of the hardest things about having a biblical political system is that, well... the Bible has really only clearly endorsed ONE system of politics, and that is the theocracy of Israel. The hard spot people like you and I find ourselves in is that we want to be governed in a good and godly way while at the same time avoiding a theocracy (at least I get the impression you'd like to avoid that in its fullest incarnation). As such, it is up to human reason aided, as you said, by inferences from Scripture. That's tough. If you want evidence of that, just look at how hard human beings have tried to establish good and godly societies since the time of Christ. I'm sorry to say it, but if we are not going to live under a theocracy, then we have to do things which make sense to us as fallible creatures in order to live together with people who do not think the same way as us. This is the root of liberty.

    While I think we can both agree that the Bible is clear in ethical matters as to if something is right or wrong, it is much harder to offer a robust and biblical grounding for controlling the lives of unbelievers by legislative fiat, even if the end being pursued is moral and Godly.

    Now, I know that even THIS is not really your point. As I see it (and you've already said it very clearly) the real issues is protecting the institution of marriage. It is at this point that I think my Guitar Hero analogy is helpful. How is it that these pretenders to the throne of marriage pose any threat to you and I as straight married men? Are you concerned they will prevent us from marrying? Are you concerned that people will have less respect for marriage? Because I can already tell you that most of society outside of the church already has little to no respect for marriage and what it means, unfortunately. Just look at divorce rates or at how freely society mocks marriage. For most of society, marriage is a miserable, sexless trap that primarily consists of fighting, back-biting, and depression. Now, as someone who is happily married I am troubled that this caricature is out there, but I'm not surprised by it.

    The truth is, even if we do manage to keep homosexuals from marrying, it is a fact that outside of our own theological tradition, the institution of marriage has already been destroyed. It is up to us to hold it up as something more than what the world tells us it is, and it is up to us to demonstrate what true, good, godly, and honorable marriages look like in practice.

    Your point about public school education is exactly why people like you and I should have the freedom to abstain from sending our children there and to not have to pay taxes to that end.

    I continue to applaud your candor and politeness, Tartan. You're a good spokesman for whatever your view is.

  23. "MAN! I made up that Hendrix illustration"

    Oops, so you did, my bad!

    Thanks for the discussion, you are a gentleman, and it is really good to discuss these kinds of issues with someone like yourself.

    When I read younger people like yourself, and being able to think and articulate yourself, it gives me hope for this world!, well you know what I mean!

    Let the homosexuals call it something else, just not marriage.
    The label is being used already and has had a meaning that has been around for thousands of years.

    And you are right when you say that we desire Godly leadership, amen on that score.

    Now the homosexual says he wants the right to marry, and yet the homosexual already has that right!

    All they have to do is marry someone of the opposite sex, right?

    Thanks for the discussion. I like this wee place you have here.
    Has Jonathan anything to add to this thread?

    Mr Goundry?

    btw Johnathan, thanks for clearing up some issues on Hyperism etc, I just wish Gene was as clear!

    And you two have disagreements? That is a grand thing isn't it?

    Maybe, I could get you two to do the good cop/bad cop style of evangelism....actually, you guys do that already! lol


  24. Adam, just wanted to pass along a site you might appreciate:

    and, relating to this post:


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