Dear Church Family,
In the sermon from Genesis 2, in our Sunday morning sermon two weeks ago, we examined the biblical account of God’s establishment of the “Creational Temple” in which Adam and Eve enjoyed intimacy with the creator and the several gifts which He had bestowed upon them. One of these gifts, which God gave to Adam, was the gift of a suitable helper, the gift of marriage. We saw how God recognized Adam’s need (“It is not good for the man to be alone” – Genesis 2:18), but then He met that need by creating from Adam’s rib a helper suitable for him (Genesis 2:19-25).
The Attack on Marriage
In that sermon, time did not allow for addressing how the biblical understanding of marriage between one man and one woman has most recently come under attack. Certainly, there have always been those who would deny this definition of marriage, but I don’t think I am exaggerating when I say that we have never seen the likes of the onslaught from the world on this topic, as we have seen in the last generation. The pro-homosexual agenda has been hard at work, and seen much success.
Just by way of example, when I first enlisted in the Army Reserve in 1988 and then contracted with the R.O.T.C. in 1990, I had to sign a document stating that I had not in the past, nor did I presently, engage in homosexual behavior. We might anachronistically call that the “Ask and Tell” policy. In 1994, the Department of Defense officially implemented the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy wherein a person’s sexual orientation could not be discriminated against as long as that behavior was ‘closeted.’ In the last three years, we have seen this policy repealed, and the acceptance of homosexual behavior and ‘homosexual marriage’ has become an official norm in our military.
We have witnessed the same degeneration of the institution of marriage in the popular culture of the United States, as well as in other countries around the world. By way of another example, one can’t watch a current television show without taking note of the ubiquitous and obligatory homosexual character or ‘couple.’
So, what is the Church and the Christian to do? Here are two general ways in which we may understand and respond to these issues. One is with respect to what we learn in Scripture (special revelation) about human beings, sexual identity, and how God has created us. The other is with respect to what we learn from the natural order (general revelation) about human beings, sexual identity, and how God has created us.
(1) Educate ourselves and our children as to the biblical understanding of marriage as defined as being between one man and one woman (e.g. Genesis 2:18-25; Matthew 19:15-16; 1 Corinthians 7:1ff; Ephesians 5:22-33).
(2) Educate ourselves and our children as to the biblical understanding of sexual sin – particularly with regard to fornication, adultery, and homosexuality (e.g. Exodus 20:14; Matthew 19:9; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Hebrews 13:14; 1 Timothy 1:8-11).
(3) Present the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ to all people, even as we have received the mercy and grace of Christ (e.g. 1 Corinthians 6:11; Ephesians 2:1-10; Titus 3:3-7). Recognizing that we are sinners saved by grace, we can speak to unbelievers about their mutual need of salvation.
(4) Be prepared to ‘hold the line’ in our churches. By abandoning the biblical teaching on the differences between men and women (in marriage (egalitarianism), in church offices (the ordination of female clergy), etc.) many liberal churches have set themselves up to open the door to the acceptance of homosexuality and ‘gay marriage.’ If any of the moral statements of the New Testament are culturally bound to a particular time and place (as the argument often goes), then they all are – and all bets are off.
(5) Be prepared for persecution by the world. Christians and Christian churches that do not acquiesce to the culture of the day or the onslaught of the pro-homosexual community, will be labeled as bigots – closed-minded fundamentalists who appeal to the Scriptural witness of an ancient, out of date document. Discriminating between moral behaviors has become commensurate with racism.
These are just some suggestions for Christians and the Church. I was reminded of this last point in something that Carl Trueman wrote in an online posting yesterday about the worldly pressures to accept the ever-broadening definitions of sexual identity and behavior: “The real bad news, of course, is for Christians who like to be liked. I am afraid that defending the objective givenness of human nature will soon appear as obscurantist as defending the historical Adam and as hateful as racism. Enjoy those cocktails a those book signings in New York while you can. The definition of hate crime looks set to expand.”
The Givenness of Human Nature
Trueman’s reference to “the objective givenness of human nature” reminds us that Scripture is not the only basis upon which one may defend the institution of marriage as being between one man and one woman. There are those who are making the case based upon a general understanding of human nature. Of course, as Christians, we learn of the “givenness of human nature” in the Scriptures – especially in places like Genesis 1 & 2 where we learn that men and women are made in God’s image, they complement each other, and are designed and commanded to be fruitful and multiply.
However, this biblical truth is also revealed to us, not only in special revelation (God’s written Word), but also in general revelation (God’s created order). In 2010, three academic professors (two from Princeton and one from Notre Dame) published a paper in the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy entitled “What Is Marriage?”
In that paper, the authors define the two opposing views on marriage. First, there is the ‘conjugal’ definition of marriage: marriage is the union of a man and a woman who make a permanent and exclusive commitment to each other of the type that is naturally (inherently) fulfilled by bearing and rearing children together.” Second, there is the ‘revisionist’ definition of marriage: marriage is the union of two people (whether of the same sex or of opposite sexes) who commit to romantically loving and caring for each other and to sharing the burdens and benefits of domestic life.” The paper is excellent. I recommend downloading and reading the entire paper; it is available for download online here: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1722155.
Another resource that I recommend is an audio recording of a three-part interview with Robert George, one of the authors of that paper. That interview was a part of a regular installment of The Mars Hill Audio Journal (to which I subscribe and am a long-time fan), but last week it was made available for free download online here: https://marshillaudio.org/addenda/robert-george-marriage (if you’re not a subscriber, you’ll need only to create a free account to listen or download the three-part interview).
One of the points that the authors of the paper “What Is Marriage?” make is that gay civil marriage threatens moral and religious freedom. They write, “Because the state’s value-neutrality on this question (of the proper contours and norms of marriage) is impossible if there is to be any marriage law at all, abolishing the conjugal understanding of marriage would imply that committed same-sex and opposite-sex romantic unions are equivalently real marriages. The state would thus be forced to view conjugal-marriage supporters as bigots who make groundless and invidious distinctions.” (pp 263-264)
A friend of mine who is presently taking seminary courses in church history just shared a quote with me from Ignatius. Ignatius was the bishop of Antioch in the early part of the second century. While a prisoner of Rome, he wrote seven letters to churches. As he was writing, he was anticipating being torn apart by wild beasts before the emperor. At one point, he makes this profound statement: “Christianity is greatest when it is hated by the world.”
In all of our desire to be relevant to what the world deems relevant, to be liked on the terms of the world, to be accepted in the halls of power and influence, it takes an early church father to remind us of the import of Jesus’ words, “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.” (John 15:19)
And if Ignatius was right, that’s when Christianity is greatest!
The Lord be with you!
- Pastor Peter M. Dietsch