A Brief Response to “Some Advice on Same-Sex Marriage for US Church from Leaders from a Canadian” by Carey Nieuwhof. (His post can be found here – http://careynieuwhof.com/2015/06/some-advice-on-same-sex-marriage-for-us-church-leaders-from-a-canadian/
While the effort of a Canadian pastor who has already experienced life in a country in which Same-Sex “Marriage” laws were instituted a decade ago is appreciated, and while there are certain aspects of his advice that are helpful, I largely found the advice fatally flawed due the premises underlying it.
1) The church has always been counter-cultural. In brief, not true. Without getting into a long discussion suffice it to say that while the statement may be true from an overall world-wide perspective, it seems to have a blind eye to the historical spread of Christianity and its influence upon cultures as it advanced. What was Western Civilization if not the development of cultures that were directed and guided by Christianity? While Christianity under the Popes was perverted from Biblical Christianity, the cultural morals were still firmly established from the teachings of the Scriptures. The Protestant Reformation enabled greater cultural shift to reflect its stronger Biblical foundation which in turn allowed greater freedom for people which became particularly seen in England and the nations that formed out of its colonies – including Canada and the USA.
Our grief is over the counter cultural movements in our nation that have taken over and by fiat demand us to acquiesce to their decrees which are contrary to our moral – and cultural – values.
I will also add that the church in the first century was largely Jewish and they continued to walk according to Jewish culture and heritage. Jewish persecution arose over power and authority, and then the addition of Gentiles into the church fellowship without first becoming Jewish proselytes. Persecution under Rome was due to a change in Roman law that demanded worship of Caesar. By the fourth century, Constantine established Christianity as the official religion of the Empire. How then was Christianity to then be seen as having always been “counter – cultural?”
2) It’s actually strange to ask non-Christians to hold Christian values. This is a bizarre statement to come from an evangelical pastor – and worse that he seriously questions why we would ask non-Christians to hold to Biblical morals. Here are a few quick reasons.
A) God demands that all people behave according to His standards and He will judge them for their failure to do so. One of the reasons we evangelize is to warn people of this so that they would repent and gain His forgiveness.
B) People are capable of recognizing actions to be sinful and / or detrimental to their well being and change their behavior accordingly. All laws are based on that premise. Without that there would only be anarchy. Western civilization worked because it did make such demands on all people and established and instilled its cultural values into its people whether Christian or not. Civilizations modify behavior (as well as attitude and therefore values) by declaring things to be illegal and punishing those who do not obey those laws.
C) God’s laws are a blessing to Christian and non-Christian alike when they are followed. Monogamous relationships are a blessing – non-monogamous relationships result in all sorts of diseases and emotional trauma. Smoking weed is bad for your health, that of those around you, and it hinders you from being productive in life. Crude language in any culture shows a serious lack of communication skills and usually indicates a lack of education or even of intelligence.
Just on the basis of these three points, I say, seriously, why would you not ask non-Christians to hold to Biblical values? Unless of course you really do not care about them or the people they will harm as they follow their own sinful desires which are self-destructive and harmful to others.
I will also add this – to say that unbelievers act more consistently with their value system is true only in the sense that it is set by self-interest which can change moment by moment with the circumstances and be in complete contradiction to anything else they claim to value. Hence, their hypocritical inconsistency in behavior is their consistency to their value system which floats on a sea of relativism.
3) You’ve been dealing with sex outside of marriage traditional marriage for a LONG time. Yes and that is tragic and more so since the “free love” idea got traction in the 1960’s to the point that such sinful and destructive behavior has become normal in the twenty-first century. But to say that homosexual activity is not more serious shows ignorance at two fundamental levels. First, theologically it ignores Paul’s statement in Romans 1:26-27 and the example set in God’s judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 18. Second, it ignores the much more severe medical consequences in disease, trauma to the body, morbidity rate and suicide rates.
All sin is sin and needs to be dealt with according to God’s word, but that does not mean that some sins are not more prevalent and therefore need attention more often, or that some sins do not have greater consequences to the individual and those effected by it and therefore need stronger warnings.
His statement, “If you don’t talk about straight sex outside of marriage, don’t talk about gay sex” is silly. Somehow I doubt that churches that ignore “straight sex outside of marriage” will pay any attention to “gay sex” because they are not all that interested in dealing with sin. A better statement (tweet?) To the few churches that may feel self-righteous on this issue would be, “If you are going to talk about the sinfulness of gay sex, then you must also talk about the sinfulness of straight sex outside of marriage.”
4) The early church never looked to the government for guidance.
A) Regarding Paul. First, he was under a different system of government than our own. Citizens under an emperor do not have the same privileges or responsibilities as those in democratic republics. Paul was not in a position to ask the government to change their policies, and especially so since his recorded appearances in court were because he had been arrested. Second, Paul did not need to ask for changes in government policy. He only had to ask that they enforce the laws already in place, which Paul did do consistently (including before the Sanhedrin).
B) Churches that follow the Bible have never looked to government for guidance on any belief or internal actions or moral behavior (We do ask for government guidance on being able to stay within laws and regulations that apply to us). Liberal churches do gain their guidance from government, and they will use this to further widen their list of acceptable sins.
C) I will flip this around, should not government seek guidance from the church? Should not government officials seek guidance from the Bible? Should not Believers be affecting others in their society so strongly with the gospel at the cultural values of that society will change and so be reflected in the various levels of government? That has been the history of not only Western Civilization, but many other nations as Christianity grew and became a major influence in them.
5) Our judgment of LGBT people is destroying any potential relationship
It is not easy to figure out exactly what he means by the term “judging.” Certainly there are those that profess to be Christians that are judgmental in the sense of condemning without hope. That was the point of Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 7:1-5. But Jesus’ teaching there does not end with a blanket prohibition on judging, in fact, He demands that we make judgments but only after self examination so that it can be done with humility (See also Galatians 6:1-4). You cannot fulfill the command in Matthew 7:6 without judging in the sense of discerning the character of a person and then responding appropriately.
The reference he makes to 1 Corinthians 5:12 is taken out of context, but the verse does bring up the point that it is God that judges. A professing believer that continues in sin within the church is to be judged by the church and put outside the church and left to God’s judgment (delivered to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus – 1 Cor. 5:5). God does judge and that needs to be our warning to those who are enslaved to or advocate sexual perversion. That is not judging – i.e. condemning – but it is warning them of the condemnation they are already under and that they need to repent. Why should sins of sexual perversion be treated differently than other sins such as murder, theft, adultery, idolatry, etc.?
However, I get the sense from his writing that either he is using judgment in the sense of speaking against gay marriage because it would be considered hateful by those in that community. Christians are commanded to speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15, etc.). Our manner must be kind and show compassion for those entrapped in such sinfulness, but the truth must nevertheless be spoken. To avoid declaring what God says about such sexual deviation, to avoid pointing out the legal and moral fallacies of this latest SCOTUS decision, to avoid warning those practicing or advocating sexual perversions about the consequences, would be hateful. It is love for God and fellow mankind that prompts us to declare God’s word, decry judicial activism contradictory to our laws, and warn those who are now happy about governmental legalization of what is an abomination before God. Frankly, a church that does not address the sins of its culture is not proclaiming the gospel. The gospel is not about making people friendly toward Jesus. It is about calling them to repent and submit themselves to Jesus who is their Lord and will be their Savior if they will believe.
A church that preaches the gospel will also engage the culture because that is the natural outworking of walking according to God’s will instead of sinful selfishness. If a church is not engaging the culture, then it is very suspect what gospel they are proclaiming. Much is often made that Jesus, Paul and the other apostles did not try to change the government. They had no need to do so for they set out to change people which would in turn change culture, and government would change as a result. None of them backed down from addressing issues in the culture, though they always spoke with the gospel in view – to proclaim there is a holy God who created everything, that man has rebelled against God and is therefore under His just condemnation, but there is a way of salvation from sin through faith in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Rev. Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church
Wappingers Falls, NY