July 14, 2017 § 2 Comments
Toward the end of a bike trail in Colorado Springs, I came upon an unexpected hill. During the exhausting climb, I noticed two women had set up a table displaying free Jehovah’s Witness material partway up the hill. I took the opportunity to stop and have a wonderful, Gospel-centered conversation with them—in my head 2 minutes after I rode past. I have also had great evangelical encounters with various atheists and agnostics, unfortunately many more in my head than in real life.
I’m not an extrovert, so a witnessing encounter (and robust social engagement in general) is not always easy for me. I recently have defended the deity of Christ in real-life conversation with some JWs at my house, so I had no particular fear of the two ladies on the hill—I just wasn’t about to stop in the middle of a hill (note to evangelists in public parks: set up at the top), and on top of that I had been-there-done-that with Watchtower propaganda. Maybe I should have at least stopped and said hello.
Have you ever had great talks with non-believers about Jesus in your head after you part company? Whether it’s because of nerves, or fear of rejection, or lack of confidence in your own knowledge of your faith, I think it’s probably a pretty common thing to pass up on these opportunities.
While we (and I mean ‘I’) need to set aside fear and rely on the Spirit of God to help in such situations, the mental conversations later (often occurring in the shower, for some odd reason) can serve as valuable training ground for the next real-life opportunity.
Here’s another conversation you didn’t have, but Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop near Denver, CO, did have with hosts on The View recently. On the spot, Jack actually did a very good job of defending his much-maligned decision not to design and create a wedding cake for a gay couple, a case that the Supreme Court has now agreed to hear. Jack says that everyone is welcome in his store, but he won’t make a cake for every event. He calmly and consistently defended the Biblical view of marriage and his Constitutional right to live out his faith in the public square. He was joined by his lawyer, Kristen Waggoner, who also does a great job of clarifying the case and its implications for every American.
Since we can learn from this conversation, imagine if you were in that hotseat surrounded by liberal talkshow hosts-turned-theologians, under the lights and cameras and studio audience cued to applaud after each progressive talking point. If you could freeze frame life for a few minutes to think about your answer (in lieu of thinking about it after the show), how would you respond to these questions?
Relax, you’re not in Jack’s spotlight, but one day you may be in a different one with your family, neighbor, boss, or a judge. Take some time to watch the segment yourself here. Below are the main questions thrown at Jack, and while his answers were good for on-the-spot responses, I’ll offer answers from an apologetic perspective, being safely out of the spotlight with plenty of time to process.
WHERE DO YOU DRAW THE LINE?
The theologian on the far right (her chair, not her political position) asked Jack: “If it violates your religious freedom to sell a wedding cake to a gay couple… do you then, when a straight couple comes in, do you ask them if they’ve had a child out of wedlock, if they’ve had premarital sex? Where do you draw the line, because those all could be deemed ‘sinful’ (she throws up her air quotes) to someone who’s religious as well.”
The only reason anyone talks about Jesus was because “sin” is a real thing and the whole reason He came. Jesus died to redeem us from sin by sacrificing Himself on the cross.
But the issue here is not the sins of the couple, but that Jack is being forced to in effect join in the artistic celebration of something against his religious beliefs and stamp his name on the entire project. The line is drawn exactly where he drew it. Jack’s concern is not over whether a couple is sinning in some way, but the consequences of compromising his beliefs by his participation in a same-sex wedding ceremony. If anything, the marriage of a man and woman who are already having sex has a redemptive aspect to it in that the couple would no longer be sinning sexually, and would be providing a stronger foundation for any child that resulted. But the reason Jack refused is because he objects to the event in question.
WHO ARE YOU TO JUDGE?
The theologian in the chair to the left (our left) of the first theologian: “One thing that’s always confused me about this is that in the Bible it says many things if you read it, and I was raised in the church, and it says, you know, ‘Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman,’ but also says, ‘Don’t judge others.’ We’re not the final judgment. It also says ‘love thy neighbor.’ There are a lot of messages in there. How do you reconcile in your own spirituality, which ones to go with? Because in my mind, whether you believe it or not, and you should definitely not marry a man… but if someone else does, it’s not my place to judge them because God will…”
“The Bible says not to judge” is a frequent declaration by cherry-pickers. It’s found in Matthew 7:1-5: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (NIV)
In context, Jesus is condemning hypocrisy (don’t point the finger of judgment at others if you’re doing the same thing yourself), not the discernment between right and wrong behavior. We know there is a correct way to judge, because Jesus tells a group of Pharisees in John 7:24 to “stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.”
So to the question, “How do you reconcile which message to ‘go with’?”, the answer is study. Approach the Bible as you would any other book you want to understand and practice sound exegesis rather than pulling bits of verses out of context. Read, rather than read into. When we do, well see that Jesus was both love and truth, and there is no contradiction between “judge rightly” and “love your neighbor.”
WHAT WOULD JESUS DO?
The theologian to Jack’s right says, “I know that you’re a Christ-follower, and Jesus was even criticized by some of His followers for hanging out with the lowest of the low and the tax collectors and the sinners. Did you ever ask yourself, what would Jesus do in this particular situation? Instead of denying them, do you think Jesus would have said, ‘I don’t accept this, but I’m going to love you anyway?’ Do you think that would have had a more powerful testimony?” To which the theologian on the far left adds with conviction, “Jesus would have baked the cake!”
Jack rightly responds that Jesus would not bake the cake. We don’t have to guess what Jesus would say and do when we can read what He said and did. We know Jesus’ view of marriage from Matthew 19:4 and Mark 10:6, where He affirms God’s design for marriage from Genesis 1:27: “‘Haven’t you read… that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.'” (Mat. 19:4-6)
Supposing Jesus would have said, “I don’t accept this, but I’m going to love you anyway” assumes that love doesn’t mean we tell others the truth. We, made in God’s image, often try to remake Jesus in our own image and imagine God as love but not truth (at least the truth we find inconvenient). But as Jesus displayed, He is both. Jesus indeed did share a table with sinners, and as Jack proves, you can sit at a table with those who believe very differently without them hating or suing each other. But by compromising our beliefs and joining in the celebration of an event that defies God’s design for marriage, we are not loving anyone, but rather propagating a lie. That is actually hateful.
JUST BAKE THE CAKE!
The conversation turns from theological to legal at this point, with Kristen politely shooting down a slippery slope argument and clarifying that an assault on Jack’s religious liberty affects everyone regardless of their belief. But not before the theologian 2nd from the left puts this challenge to Jack: “Lower courts have found that you’ve discriminated against this couple, but you’re taking this fight to the Supreme Court. Why not just bake the cake?”
It’s always easier for those without a certain deeply held conviction to suggest those who do simply give it up when the going gets rough. But that’s not how Christianity has ever worked. Still, it’s an appropriate question to consider while we aren’t on the spot, can we compromise on this front while loving God and neighbor? Are we prepared to answer, while we can have the conversation safely in our heads, before we will eventually be asked, “Why not just bake the cake?”
“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful…” (Hebrews 10:23)
September 14, 2016 § 1 Comment
How many pages does your Bible have? Tim Kaine’s is apparently missing a few, specifically everything after the first chapter. From CBS News:
“Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine touted the importance of LGBTQ equality as a campaign issue and recounted his own struggle to reconcile his support for gay rights with his Catholic faith. … The Virginia senator said that while Catholic doctrine is at odds with marriage equality, his interpretation of the Bible celebrates diversity. ‘My church also teaches me about a creator in the first chapter of Genesis who surveys the entire world, including mankind, and said it is very good,’ said Kaine. … ‘Who am I to challenge God for the beautiful diversity of the human family? I think we’re supposed to celebrate it, not challenge it.’”(1)
In Genesis 1:31, God does indeed survey His creation and call it “very good.” In chapter 2, however, we find the clear distinction of male and female and God defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman. In chapter 3, the “very good” creation from chapter 1 is corrupted by sin’s entrance into the world through man’s disobedience to God. We no longer live in the “very good” world that God created, but a world deviated from God’s very good plan for, among many things, marriage and human relationships, a world that seeks sexual autonomy above just about everything else. As Genesis 2 might have revealed to Tim Kaine if he’d gotten that far, God’s “very good” creation was never intended to include homosexuality and gay marriage. A short-sighted view of Genesis 1 and our current reality of a sinful Genesis 3 world is what Tim Kaine is actually seeking to celebrate in LGBTQ “diversity”.
“Did God REALLY say…?” (Satan, Genesis 3:1)
But thank God there’s more to the story. The chapters that follow Genesis 3, in fact the rest of the Bible, lay out God’s plan to redeem the world from sin, culminating in the sending if His one and only Son to buy us back from our slavery to sin. What we know from considering the whole of Scripture, not just the first chapter, is that He will one day restore all things to “very good.” Until then, we should be a part of redeeming a lost world, not celebrating it.
1) Brown, Erica. “Tim Kaine opens up on reconciling LGBTQ equality, religious faith.” CBS News, 11 Sep. 2016. Web 14 Sep. 2016 (Link: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/tim-kaine-opens-up-on-reconciling-lgbtq-equality-catholic-faith-campaign-2016/)
November 28, 2014 § 1 Comment
Christian apologetics has been around as long as Christianity has, because followers “of the Nazarene sect”(1) have always needed to provide a defense to its skeptics. Marriage, however, has met with very few challengers since its institution thousands of years before Christianity. That is, until recently. Now that there is the need to make a case for traditional marriage in the face of alternatives, we in effect have a use for marriage apologetics.
Who are marriage’s great apologists? In my opinion, there are many, and I’ve decided not to attempt a list for fear that I’ll be coming back to add to it time and time again. But all of them provide logical and level-headed reasoning on why the man-woman marriage prescribed in scripture and universally accepted by every culture throughout history is best for society. A good marriage apologist can defend marriage with or without the Bible. As a fundamental relationship of any society, cultures and governments look to marriage as the primary means of family and flourishing and the good of society, and children do better with a mother and father.
But marriage apologetics is far more complete when we don’t leave out the Bible, for the same reason that most marriage defenders are Christian, or at least have a regard for the book of Genesis(2) as authoritative. The religiously faithful are naturally the most ardent defenders of marriage no doubt because of the understanding of its divine origins. From a Christian perspective, if the Bible is God’s Word, then marriage is God’s design, and thus “not ours to alter. It is ours, however, to encourage and celebrate.”(3) That last affirmation derives from The Complementarity of Man and Woman: An International Colloquium, a global conference of faith leaders hosted by the Vatican. Lately, there have been a number of big conferences aimed at discussing the importance of marriage, including the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s National Conference(4), where it could almost be said that marriage apologetics is a subset of Christian apologetics. (In fact, the heavy-hitters on the roster at the ERLC conference make up for my lack of a list of marriage apologists.)
The most effective part of apologetics, in my opinion, is personal testimony. At the end of the day I don’t think there is anything more convincing in Christian apologetics than stories of how Jesus Christ has changed a person, and of course what He has saved them from. Likewise, marriage apologists should be telling stories of great marriages. Christian Author John Stonestreet has often said, “We need to tell stories that portray the beauty of lifelong love as well as the power of the natural family. And, we need to tell the stories of those who are being victimized by the so-called ‘right’ to same-sex marriage. There are plenty of stories that fit both of those categories.”(5)
Finally, we can’t overlook the greatest connection between Christian apologetics and marriage apologetics, which is their shared ultimate purpose: the Gospel. According to the Bible (Ephesians 5), God’s larger purpose for marriage is to display the relationship between Christ and His bride, the Church. Jesus Christ sacrificed Himself for us, and because this satisfied our debt of sin, it pleased the Father. Christians live a joyful and fulfilling life when they live it in love and submission to God and His word. The greatest joy in a lasting marriage comes from a husband sacrificially loving and leading his wife and a wife joyfully loving and submitting to her husband.(6) In this way, marriage points to something far more evangelical. When we live out marriage the way God designed it, we display the Gospel, and what better mission can a husband and wife engage together?
1) Acts 24:5
2) Genesis 2:24
6) Ephesians 5:21-33
October 27, 2013 § 1 Comment
First a brief background on the characters in he story. Ruth is the daughter-in-law of Naomi, an Israelite, and both are widows. Ruth was a foreigner (from Moab) who had committed to the God of Israel and vowed to stay with Naomi and care for her (1). In ancient times, a woman without a husband is in a dire situation, and this was true of Ruth and Naomi. The workers in a nearby field agreed to let Ruth follow behind and gather the grain that they missed or dropped as they harvested. The field’s owner, Boaz, showed special kindness to Ruth upon discovering her situation. Naomi realized that Boaz was a close relative, and the opportunity for redemption came in a particular kinsman-redeemer law. A kinsman-redeemer was a guardian responsible for caring for he family interests of the widow of a deceased relative. This provision allowed Ruth to seek his hand in marriage, resulting in the rescue of Ruth and her mother-in-law from their financial and social situation and enabling the continuation the family name and inheritance.
The first observation of Boaz’s redemptive plan was that the request for marriage (2) came from Ruth to Boaz, not the other way around. In God’s redemptive plan for His creation, He allows for us to approach the throne of grace and make our appeal to His Son Jesus. Christ is portrayed as the Groom coming for His bride the church, but it is our place to humbly go to Christ and ask for forgiveness. Ruth was a gentile without a husband, but the door was open for her too, and Ruth became part of the line of David that led to the birth of the Messiah a thousand years later in the very town in which they now lived.
The second observation I found interesting is that the form of redemption in Ruth is marriage and not some other arrangement. It’s hard to think of any other relationship people can enter into that can save us, here on earth, to the extent that a man marrying a woman can. Societies and cultures everywhere fundamentally rely on marriage and the resulting family to carry on humanity, to adequately care for and raise children, and provide a basis for all we know about society. The government of Nigeria, fed up with terrorism arising from its own people, recently took steps to enable mass weddings under the premise that men who marry and start families do not generally become terrorists.(3) Marriage has saving power.
Ruth is pretty foreign to modern ideas about marriage and redemption. Today, it is uncommon for the woman to propose to a man, and I’m not sure why that is still uncommon. But it is increasingly uncommon to see the historic and conjugal understanding of marriage as something that serves the public interest.(4) Marriage is not a social or religious or sexual idea, but a pre-law, pre-political unit of society that law has recognized, not created; one which produces good citizens and fundamentally brings goodness to the world.(5) Marriage and the family it blossoms redeems us from ourselves. When it comes to marriage, liberalism or expressive individualism has brought self-seeking alternatives, but marriage seeks others, the benefit of others and society as a whole. When it comes to redemption, we ultimately will never find this in ourselves.
1) Ruth 1:16
March 28, 2013 § Leave a comment
Does something smell fishy about the Human Rights Campaign‘s “Stand For Marriage”? You may be detecting the foul malodor of the red herring. In the arena of rational discourse, a red herring is something that draws attention away from the central issue. The term comes from the practice of using fish to lay a false trail while training hunting dogs. A red herring is a diversion or distraction from the real issue. And it’s a favored recourse for those standing on a weak argument.
HRC’s recent logo memes voicing support for gay marriage carry on the familiar equal sign theme in an attempt to portray a movement toward equality and freedom. But is this really about “freedom for all“? For “equal rights for all people“? For “diversity of all kinds“? The Human Rights Campaign mission is more specific: “Working for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equal rights.” But this goal is still exclusive and narrow. Even GLBTIQ leaves out 20 other letters.
Don’t be fooled by the red herring. Highjacking the civil rights banner because it worked to solve the legitimate problem of racial segregation 50 years ago, gay marriage is not about universal freedom or marriage equality or the American way. We are already equally free to marry any non-relative of the opposite sex we choose, and merely holding to the established, globally-affirmed, humanity-dependent, definition for marriage cannot possibly be hateful or bigoted. Gay marriage isn’t about that either. It’s about exchanging marriage for some other discriminative thing, something that does the opposite of marriage, something that prohibits human flourishing, weakens the family, endangers the normal development of children, and runs counter to the Creator’s design. And it stinks.
March 19, 2013 § Leave a comment
Perhaps the most effective offense against a fortress is a long-term series of smaller, quieter assaults that covertly destroy one brick at a time. That must be Satan’s strategy against humanity’s most fundamental unit, the institution of marriage. The gay marriage debate has our attention now, but that’s really one piece of crumbling structure that’s been under attack for many decades, and actually much longer. Marriage was given by God and designed to be a permanent, covenantal relationship between a man and a woman (Genesis 2:24). Here’s a historical look at what has laid siege against marriage as it was originally designed.
1ST OFFENSIVE: DIVORCE
Divorce dates back to the days of Moses, when certificates of divorce were granted to the Israelites. In Matthew 19, we find out that God permitted divorce as a concession, but “it was not this way from the beginning” (19:8). Numerous times in Scripture, God gave people over to their own sinful desires and allowed certain conditions to exist, and this was one of those. Despite hating divorce (Malachi 2:16), God, knowing the persistent nature of man’s hardened and sinful heart, regulated it by adding grounds for and a process to divorce to keep a bad situation from getting worse (Deuteronomy 24).
2ND OFFENSIVE: BIRTH PREVENTION
Various methods of birth control existed from ancient times, the first being coitus interruptus, found in Genesis 38. Following various birth control experiments throughout the 1800s in the US, the early 20th century brought the coining of the term “birth control” by activist Margaret Sanger. Sanger was later instrumental in the development of the first birth control pill approved for contraceptive use in 1960, which was legalized in all US states within 5 years and available to all women regardless of reason for use by 1972.
Birth control that is non-abortive and exercised with wise motives is not sinful. But the same goes with alcohol or any other drug—it’s sinful when it’s abused. What’s abuse? There’s a distinction between birth control and birth prevention because often married couples use the pill or some other method to delay pregnancy, sometimes indefinitely, and for selfish reasons. The desire for becoming well-established in a career or enjoying personal freedom can become an idol. I fell into this trap myself, and birth control made it a lot easier for my wife and I to push parenthood back. There are justifiable reasons to delay having children related to illness, economics and other life circumstances. Today’s trends show that married couples are in better health and financial situations now than in previous decades, yet the average age for child-bearing has moved from early to the late twenties. In fact, the majority of first children are now born outside of the stability of marriage.(1)
How does delaying children impact marriage? Considering one of the chief purposes of marriage is procreation, by delaying kids or in some case deciding never to “be fruitful and multiply” means a load-bearing beam has been knocked out of the structure. Part of marriage should be family planning, rather than planning to not have a family.
3RD OFFENSIVE: ABORTION
The intentional termination of a pregnancy dates back to ancient times as well, and has been historically banned or restricted in countries around the world. While having the same effect as deciding not to have children, abortion is not preventing a child, but murdering a child. In the mid- to late-20th century, many countries passed laws legalizing abortion on various levels, beginning here in the US with the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision.(2)
In addition to reducing births (approximately 42 million children are aborted annually, worldwide), abortion philosophy diminishes the value of human life, and the guilt and regret following an abortion can devastate a marriage. One wife’s take, from the Elliot Institute’s Post-Abortion Review: “Marriage vows are based on the idea of loving, honoring, cherishing and respecting each other. After an abortion, love can turn to hate, honor to dishonor, respect to disrespect, and cherishing to yesterdays newspaper.”(3) The body of evidence that conditions such as Post-Abortion Syndrome have a negative effect on marriages is vast. Effects include the resentment of spousal pressure to abort, reinforcement of defective problem solving, disillusionment and emotional disengagement, questions about identity—all of which can strike at the core of a marriage.(4)
4TH OFFENSIVE: FEMINISM
Protofeminist (precursors to feminism) movements began to surface in a few ancient cultures, but began to really move in the US in the 19th to early 20th centuries, mainly in the context of suffrage, working conditions and educational rights for women and girls. It wasn’t until the 1960s, however, that Feminism moved from the realm of fighting moral injustice in a sinful society to sinfully redefining the God-given role of women in marriage. Feminism is rooted in arrogance and has an agenda to destroy any distinctions between men and women. Christians understand that men and women have equal access to blessings in Christ (Galatians 3:28) and are created to fulfill different roles in the world, and women are not inferior in virtue or importance. Feminist Gloria Steinem popularized the phrase “a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle”—although she eventually married a man. Feminist attitudes undermine marriage, which require both men and women to fulfill God-given gender-specific roles that don’t function well under such an oppressive ideology.
5TH OFFENSIVE: SEXUAL REVOLUTION
It’s hard to know how to briefly summarize the 60s and the explosion of “free love,” when marriage began to show up as the cumbersome alternative to cohabitation. From communes to condos, the lifestyle caught on, and it’s pretty easy to see that legalized abortion, the sexual revolution, the rise of feminism, the advent of the pill were linked to a false hope of freedom and even fueled each other. The rise of sexual liberation outside the arena of marriage has devastated marriage over the last half century probably more than any other “progressive” movement.
6TH OFFENSIVE: NO-FAULT DIVORCE
Along with the sexual revolution’s degraded view of marriage came the need for an easier way to get out of marriage. No-fault divorce laws(5) began sweeping across the US in 1970 with the state of California. Since 1985, all 50 states and D.C. allowed married couples to divorce without any accusations of adultery, abandonment, felony, or any other legal or moral cause. From 1960 to 1980, the divorce rate more than doubled in the US.(6) No-fault divorce was already law in Russia in 1918, and other countries adopted similar laws more recently, including Canada, Sweden and Australia.
7TH OFFENSIVE: GAY MARRIAGE
One of the most compelling very recent essays I’ve seen on the case against gay marriage was written by a gay man. Doug Mainwaring writes in The Public Discourse (I’m Gay and I Oppose Same-Sex Marriage, March 8, 2013) that he opposes gay marriage not on grounds of religion or tradition, but logic and experience. His own story tells of his discovery of purpose and deep fulfillment as a father and a husband to one wife, while deriding the marriage liberalism’s preoccupation with superficial eros sexuality and it’s obvious inadequacies to give children what they desparately need, a dad and a mom. “Genderless marriage is not marriage at all. It is something else entirely. … denying children parents of both genders at home is an objective evil. Kids need and yearn for both.” Not a professing Christian, Doug probably doesn’t realize that he finds fulfillment in heterosexual marriage and fatherhood because he was made to do this, despite his confusion over his basic sexuality. And although he believes he was born gay, Doug resisted sex with other men, and “denial didn’t diminish or impoverish my life. It made my life experience richer.”(7)
A side note on the importance of stable marriages for the sake of children: Most of the kids we minister to in our youth group are from broken families. Not all children of divorced families carry such burdens, but the kids we give rides to rarely want to go home Wednesday nights after our youth meetings. Each one asks to be dropped off last, and they would all prefer to run an errand to get milk with me, something I’d normally do after taking them home. Drugs, sex, violence and theft are often coping mechanisms for normal life for them at home. My experience is that kids truly suffer from families that are not balanced with an involved father and mother in their lives.
As Ryan T. Anderson outlines in The Leadership Foundation’s backgrounder, Marriage: What It Is, Why It Matters, and the Consequences of Redefining It, reveals that gay marriage would undermine the benefits that marriage brings on society in ways no other relationship does, and further distance marriage from the needs of children. Men and women are complimentary, and simple biology shows that the survival of the human race depends on heterosexual unions.(8)
In recent days, former president Bill Clinton, who signed the bipartisan Defense of Marriage Act into law just 7 years ago, now says it’s unconstitutional. Republican Senator of Ohio Rob Portman recently came out in support of gay marriage after his son came out as gay, and Portman attempted to use the Bible to justify his support for homosexuality.
Gay marriage is indeed a fresh new idea, but the arguments used to advance it can be also used to advance really any type of imaginable union. Since the beginning of history, marriage has always been between a man and a woman, until the year 2000, when gay marriage laws began to enter civil societies around the world.
But this type of assault on marriage is anything but new, and in fact those embroiled in the debate over gay marriage can be myopic in their view of history. It is incredibly short-sighted to think that we have just recently discovered the truth that the right for gays to marry is a basic human right. Clearly it isn’t. It’s also short-sighted for the rest of us to think that this is the biggest brick in the foundation of marriage. Clearly it isn’t.
What an incredible and incredibly sneaky arsenal that has been launched. The assault that has chipped away at marriage over the millennia has come in waves, but each wave of attack has amassed slowly, almost unnoticed, until it’s powerful enough to take out another block from the foundation.
8TH OFFENSIVE: THE SLOW FADE
There is another threat to marriage that is perhaps the most well-camouflaged of all, and it typically comes from within. A friend recently preached about a dangerous “slow fade” that happens in marriages, and is a pretty accurate picture of what’s happened to marriage as a whole. Slow Fade is also the title of a song by Casting Crowns,(9) written about a typical fall from grace. Lead vocalist Mark Hall describes this: “Nobody falls, it’s just a slow fade. It’s a series of minor compromises until you’re in a place you never thought you’d be, doing things you never thought you’d do and rationalizing all of it.” In the context of individual marriages, the slow fade invades in the course of life, slowly driving couples apart. Divorce may result, or a couple may resign to a life of misery together, feeling stuck, ineffective as “what God has joined together” to raise Godly children and serve His purposes in the kingdom. People don’t crumble in a day. This is a slow fade.
Destroying marriage would be an enormous victory for Satan. What’s the best defense against the slow fade, or any other incoming attack? I think we need to recognize how small the offenses are once they start to advance. We may be looking for giants on the horizon and overlooking the trolls digging under the wall. Guarding our marriage means guarding our hearts against not just the obvious external dangers, but the small compromises we make inside the walls.
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23)
I’ve become aware of some of the little assaults that may be creeping into my own marriage, and the possibilities are many: laziness, complacency, bitterness, laziness, sexual temptation, idolatry, shadows from the past. Any number of seemingly small compromises will grow if undetected.
Man’s will substituted for God’s will is still the secret of the world’s unrest. When we are not anchored in God’s Word and a church community, we are trading God’s will for our own and are left without the the clear vision and discernment to detect a camouflaged enemy. God’s Word provides us with an unwavering, uncompromising stronghold of truth that defines marriage (Genesis 1:27-28; 2:18, 24, Matthew 19:6). When we deviate from the divine plan, anything goes. We have no real plan of defense against the Father of Lies, who is waiting to deceive and accuse and kill us slowly. The body—and bride (Ephesians 5:22-23)—of Christ known as the church is an incredible force in supporting and strengthening our marriages, IF we let it be that. It’s encouraging to see sermon series at my church dedicated to that, and couples young and old seeking counsel and prayer to keep their marriages alive and strong.
Stopping the offensive and rebuilding the damage begins with an awareness of the problem and a broad view of history that shows us how the enemy has made its attack all along—a quiet, concentrated, brick-by-brick assault on a slowly fading marriage institution. “It was not this way from the beginning.” At the beginning of that history is the Creator’s foundation of marriage. That’s what we must protect and our blueprint for rebuilding what’s been destroyed. Seeing the big picture of marriage history shows us the assault it has endured, but keeping a watchful eye on the big picture of the purpose of marriage reminds us that it is a sacred covenant. The love and commitment of God with His chosen people, of Christ and His church, of the relationship His creation was made to have with the Creator comes into view. That is so much bigger and more important than any idea of marriage as a human social convention, and this view can save marriage. It starts with your own.
1) The New Unmarried Moms By Kay Hymowitz, W. Bradford Wilcox and Kelleen Kaye
2) Celebrating Roe v Wade’s Anniversary (or Why Hardly Anyone Is), Mike Johnson
3) A Time to Grieve, A Time to Heal, Theresa Burke with David C. Reardon, The Post-Abortion Review, Vol. 10, No. 2
4) The Effects of Abortion on Marriage and Other Committed Relationships, Teri Reisser, M.S.
5) No Fault Divorce: Increasing Divorce Rate in America, Sandra J. Patterson
6) Does Divorce Law Affect the Divorce Rate? A Review of Empirical Research, 1995-2006, iMAPP Research Brief, Institute for Marriage and Public Policy, Vol. 1, No. 1, July 2007
7) I’m Gay and I Oppose Same-Sex Marriage, Doug Mainwaring, The Witherspoon Institute Public Discourse, March 8, 2013
8) Marriage: What It Is, Why It Matters, and the Consequences of Redefining It, Ryan T. Anderson, The Heritage Foundation, March 11, 2013
9) Slow Fade, Casting Crowns (video with lyrics)
February 28, 2013 § Leave a comment
Jon Huntsman’s recent article in the American Conservative, Marriage Equality is a Conservative Cause, is not a call to conserve marriage but a call to compromise it. Huntsman says that “we must demand equality under the law for all Americans.” But under the law, where the law limits marriage to one man and one woman, all Americans are equally free. We are free to marry any non-relative of the opposite sex we choose. Where the law allows gay marriage, all same-sex couples are equally free to “marry.”
Gay rights and the legalization of same-sex marriage is sold by advocates as a fight for freedom, but that’s misleading. The goal is to gain freedom that is currently not allowed “under the law”. Isn’t this valid though, the pursuit of desired freedom that we don’t have?
Not always. When the option is thoroughly examined, I think you’ll find that total freedom is something nobody really wants. Unlimited freedom isn’t truly attainable anyway, because one person’s complete freedom will inevitably take away from another’s freedom. I can’t have everything I want without stealing something. You simply aren’t free do anything and everything.
We readily accept all kinds of boundaries in our freedom, and there are two types of boundaries that are useful to recognize: What we can do and who can do it. Both are legitimate restrictions and widely accepted in various situations.
In what we can do, certain laws limit how fast we can drive, which national borders we can cross, what we can wear in clubs and restaurants, which public restroom we can use (unless you’re a student in Massachussetts), what type of speech we can use in public discourse, and how many fish we can take home from a Canadian excursion. We are not free to harm or kill or steal or cheat in our activities with fellow citizens.
As far as who can or cannot do these things, there is freedom within limits as well. A ten-year-old is not free to drive a car. A citizen cannot enter most other countries without the fulfillment of certain conditions. Men cannot use the womens showers at the Y, or vise-versa. No matter how unfair I think it is, I cannot fish without a license, dine at a country club without a membership, skateboard in front of the QuikTrip, or play a trumpet in the local library.
There are practical reasons why certain activities are prohibited or that only certain people are free to do them. The point is there are plenty of restrictions on the what and the who every day, and we are generally fine with that. Freedom and equality aren’t universal, nor should they be.
Likewise, in the case of marriage, there is equal freedom, but with limits on what and who. The case for gay marriage is not linked to a lack of freedom, but rather a desire to destroy the boundaries that naturally exist in marriage.
I say these boundaries “naturally exist” because marriage was designed to function a certain way within certain limits, just like everything else. But designed by whom? If marriage was designed by people then people have a right to redefine it. If it was designed by God (Gen. 2:24; Matt. 19:4-6), then we don’t have the right to redefine it.
Of course, not everyone will agree with an appeal to the Bible for the design of marriage by a divine Creator. So, let’s assume this is not the case and pretend the boundaries to marriage—specifically its confinement to a man and a woman overwhelmingly demonstrated by every civilization throughout human history—don’t truly belong, but were set in place by past cultures and are subject to revision. Let’s see where that logic leads.
If marriage was not relegated by God to include a man and a woman, then men are morally free to marry men and women to marry women—so far, so good for the cause of gay marriage rights. But it also follows that individuals ought to be able to marry their parents, siblings, children, or close relatives. If God didn’t design marriage or doesn’t care what we do with it, we ought to think it acceptable to take anyone for a mate. But do we allow this? Isn’t incest simply immoral?
Perhaps it could be argued that the risk of abnormalities in offspring is enough cause to classify incest as immoral. However, since there are health risks involved in homosexual relations, and even sometimes in heterosexual relations, this can’t be sufficient cause to deem incest morally wrong. Based on the same logic, if marrying family is morally permissible, then polygamy and even bestiality should be too.
At this point, proponents of same-sex marriage might declare a slippery slope fallacy and interject that marriage ought to be limited to two human, consenting adults who love each other, which would prevent an ever-widening definition of marriage. Such a requirement would leave out children, animals, non-sentient life forms and inanimate objects. But on what basis can we limit marriage to two consenting adults who love each other? Why grant that freedom but insist on restrictions that alienate people with pedophilic, incestuous, or other perverted inclinations, thereby denying their happiness? What is the basis for requiring mutual love in marriage? Certainly many people marry for reasons other than love and we don’t prohibit that.
For the non-religious, we still know by moral intuition that many types of relationships are just wrong. As thousands of years of practice reveal, regardless of religious cultural beliefs, humanity has held to and flourished by heterosexual marriage. Setting that aside yields more freedom for more people, but then there is then no true basis for restricting anything at all. We can try to condemn some types of relationships that seem harmful on the common ethical grounds that we should do the least harm to our neighbor. But that moral principal doesn’t mean anything without the moral law-giving God of the Bible, so there’s no rational moral basis even for denying “taboo” relationships that risk disorders in offspring (incest), are cruel to animals (bestiality), are abusive, or aren’t based on mutual love (objectum sexuality). It boils down to being able to ground the fundamental moral values that we all assume, which we can’t ground outside of the truth of God’s word (Rom. 2:14-15). A fuller discussion of morality is beyond the scope of this post (but not this one).
For the Christian, if on the Bible’s numerous passages on marriage we have somehow in the last decade or so stumbled upon their true meaning, that it doesn’t mean to limit the institution to one man and one woman and forbid homosexuality despite longstanding historical Christian teaching to the contrary, then we can’t look to the Bible for any kind of guidance for marriage. Since there are 6 or 7 passages forbidding homosexuality that we must discount in order to validate it, for consistency we must also ignore the relatively fewer number of passages that forbid incest and bestiality (only 3 or 4) and other revolting practices.
There are many ways people manage to live inconsistently with what they claim to believe. One is to reject the Biblical account of the origin of mankind, relationships and sexual morality, and then live as if it’s all true. We do this when we deny there are any God-given rules about how to live and then cherry-pick certain rules that we expect everyone to follow, as if they were handed down from on high.
Observation and logic show us that we never accept freedom and equality without limits and boundaries. Nature shows us that heterosexual unions lead to human flourishing whereas other types of sex run counter to it. God’s revelation shows us that there is moral law that tells every one of us what we can’t otherwise rationalize—that some things are independently right or wrong. Marriage, for one, is right as it was intended, an equally free union with few other limitations but this one: It’s designed for one man and one woman.
[Related post: Examining the Biblical View of Homosexuality]