I was on a plane coming back home from Boston when I saw the news that the Supreme Court struck down marriage laws in over half of the states and legalized gay marriage throughout the country. I didn’t even blink: I expected something like a 5-4 decision in favor of gay marriage because of the makeup of the court.
Social media has exploded over the past few days, and most of the media has celebrated the decision. Even as I write this blog, WordPress has a rainbow streaking across the toolbar, and I doubt they are referencing the story of Noah’s Ark. As expected, dissent from this celebration will get people labeled as bigots and homophobes. This cultural environment that seeks to silence Christians or other religious people (or even secular social conservatives) with name-calling and bullying is a difficult one to operate in, but it is nonetheless the one that we are in and the one we need to engage. How can Christians stand for the truth when even the president hints that religious people who disagree with the ruling need to change their beliefs?
I will first summarize my own personal opinion about the Supreme Court decision before moving on to address how Christians should approach this issue. Now, more than ever, it is crucial for Christians to know how to articulate their stance on gay marriage biblically and politically. Furthermore, Christians, as we always should, must ultimately present an accurate Gospel, a clear message that does not make being gay or straight the main issue but states that Christ’s answer to sin was, is, and always will be the center of our faith.
By the way, this will be long, but I think a topic like this justifies the length. If the reader cares more about how I think Christians should approach the issue rather than my analysis of the case, feel free to skip down to that section. Continue reading
I am a member of an apologetics Facebook group, but I never post there. I simply read the links or discussions that pop up if they are interesting. I recently skimmed through a discussion in that group, and there was a back-and-forth between an atheist and a Calvinist, a Calvinist who I think may even be one of the group’s moderators. I have seen this Calvinist post many times, and he seems like a pretty intelligent guy who is well-read in Reformed theology, at least for a layperson. These two were debating about God and morality, with the atheist claiming that God is genocidal and the Calvinist arguing that God has no moral obligations towards his creation because he is God, the source of morality, and so it is a categorical mistake to think God can’t do to his creation what authors do to characters in their story (such as write characters who get raped, murdered, etc.).
While some responses by the Calvinist were good, others I found problematic, including the oft used author analogy. I’ll pass those by for now to focus on this particular thing that he said to the atheist:
The Bible never claims God is all-loving, so if that’s what your impression of Christianity is then no wonder you are confused. Now, God is all-loving to those that are His own (John 17:9) but not those who are not His own (John 10:26)…
Again,if you were under the impression that God all-loving, then I can see where you find a conflict. However neither I nor the Bible makes that claim.
Not only would this surprise many non-Christians, a great many Christians would be shocked at a comment like this. It didn’t help that the atheist promptly cited Psalm 145:9: “The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made” (NIV). The Calvinist did not immediately respond to this. (edit: By the way, if you’re curious about what is wrong with referencing John 17:9, read here).
When Bruce Jenner came out and said he identified as a woman, it was no surprise that the left and the media jumped on the bandwagon, given the logical path already laid down from the issue of homosexuality. Any criticism was seen as “bigoted” and “transphobic” because Jenner was born as a woman… even if he remains both genetically and anatomically male (I have not seen a report that he has undergone surgery). If the contention that homosexuality is both completely inherited and static has precious little hard evidence, the argument that being transgender is similar rests on thin air. Still, that didn’t stop ESPN and others from celebrating Jenner for allegedly having “courage” of some sort. Apparently, even hard biological facts like sex are now seen as “oppressive” (but not highly questionable “facts” that try to use neuroscience to prove that being transgender is completely genetic and inherited). People should simply be what they identify as, and everyone else should agree with it.
Enter Rachel Dolezal, a leader of an NCAAP chapter and a mixed African-American woman. Except, well, she actually isn’t a mixed African-American. Her parents outed her as actually being Caucasian, pointing out that she has both Czech and German ancestry… which is as white European as one can be. The story is so absurd, full of lies about hate crimes, stereotypical African-American hairstyles, and an adopted black child that she claimed she gave birth to, that one would initially think that the story was written in The Onion. When the story broke, the Internet went nuts, and the range of reactions have been interesting, to say the least. Many African-Americans seem angered and offended by Dolezal, and some people have speculated that she has some serious mental problems to have done this for so long. Others, of course, have found the whole thing humorous and thus have created many mercilessly satirical memes.
Back in high school, I first heard Tony Campolo speak at Abilene Christian University. I was struck by his passion, his humor, and ultimately his love for Christ and the Gospel. He said many things that needed to be said to a Christian audience, both conservative and moderate. As I grew older, I became increasingly uncomfortable with his social justice emphasis, not because social justice in itself is bad, obviously, but because I have seen such an emphasis often begin to supersede the Gospel and biblical truth for many Christians. It regularly starts to favor emotions and experiences over sound biblical truth. Still, I always respected his passion because he tried to remain theologically conservative despite also leaning left on many other issues.
It is therefore disappointing (though not really surprising) that he has come out now in favor of gay marriage, changing his mind after decades of holding to the correct view. I want to make this clear: I do not doubt his faith. I don’t know him and I have no reason to think that he doesn’t really love Jesus. However, his slide on this issue is simply a natural consequence of a continual emphasis of experience over Scripture, something that I pointed out was the foundation of basically every pro-gay marriage Christian’s rationale. Campolo really wants to be loving, gracious and merciful, which are attributes every Christian should strive for. Unfortunately, like others, he begins with definitions of those things that rest more on emotion than Scripture and then reasons from there, leading him to error.
In the following, I’ll interact with Campolo’s public statement. I understand that he wasn’t trying to write a theological or exegetical paper, but it is nonetheless very informative of his reasoning.
Over a week ago, I wrote about the controversy regarding The Village Church and one of its ex-members, Karen Hinkley. As I took in information, I placed responsibility both on The Village for some heavy-handed emphasis on church authority as well as Ms. Hinkley for communication breakdowns and assumptions, though I was and am sympathetic to her situation. I also was pretty sharp towards many Christians who were gleefully jumping all over this so they could attack their favorite target: Organized church. Or at least, churches that actually try to practice those hateful little things like church discipline and membership.
Last Sunday, Matt Chandler offered an apology to the members at The Village for the church’s mistakes, saying also that they had apologized to Ms. Hinkley. They also sent an apology via email to their members. They apologized for the things that I had pointed out seemed to be mistakes on their part (obviously not because of me, since I highly doubt they know this blog exists). When I read the email online and I heard his apology, I appreciated Chandler’s humility and honesty… and I also knew that it wouldn’t be enough for his angriest critics. It never is for such people.