Archive for June, 2015

The Church 12: We are All Anabaptists Now

Monday, June 29th, 2015

Rollin Grams rollin

A member of our team and distinguished New Testament scholar writes this excellent piece;

The Church 12: We are All Anabaptists Now

Postmodernity, wrote Jean Francois Lyotard, entails an incredulity towards metanarratives.[1]  We might put this the other way around.  Postmodernity find mininarratives credible.  That is, that a story gives meaning to one’s own life is sufficient to make it right or true, without regard to some larger understanding.  Simply put, we create our own meaning and identity.

Constructed Identity, Not Universal, Natural Law

This way of thinking has now reached the level of the Supreme Court (Obergefell v. Hodges, 26 June, 2015).[2]  One might say that this is not the first time the court has interpreted law in light of postmodern thinking, but the decision announced today to legalize same-sex ‘marriage’ is a prime example of postmodern logic.  Marriage is what we say it is, not what God established in creation.

We need to recognize, however, that what we refer to today as postmodern is a perspective that has long been with Western society.  The focus of Modernity was on establishing universal laws and principles through a scientific rather than faith-based mode of argument.  The undermining of faith and the affirmation of rational argument, particularly scientific investigation, required a freedom from established social and intellectual conventions.  After doubt regarding what came before so as to argue from incontrovertible foundations (the Cartesian method) came a prioritizing of liberty among the other values.  Freedom was a way to pursue a different path from the social forces that used to direct society, as exemplified in the American and French Revolutions at the end of the 18th century.  Freedom came to entail a personal pursuit of happiness, a construction of one’s own identity.  This pursuit of freedom ran alongside scientific exploration, although the two were not by any means in full accord.  If science found that something was an incontrovertible fact, those who wished to resist a universal, natural, and objective metanarrative found their freedom challenged.

Indeed, postmodernity believes that identity is constructed, not handed down to us by religion, government, science, or anything else.  We have in recent weeks discovered some fascinating examples of the idea that we can construct our own identities.  One man insists that his sexual identity is not confined to his biological make-up but is rather something that he can construct.  A woman of European descent determines that she should be able to define her identity in terms of her own choice, and so decides to consider herself black.

The reason I earlier suggested that the Supreme Court has already ventured into this arena of postmodern thought was in the case of Roe v. Wade (1973).  The court decided that being considered human was not based on having life alone but also on viability—the viability of the foetus.  It also found that a woman’s rights were to be considered in this matter: a woman had the right to determine whether or not to ‘terminate a pregnancy.’  In this decision, the meaning of human life was restricted by independence (the child’s freedom from its mother by being able to live on its own) and rights (the woman’s freedom to choose what she wished to do with her foetus).  Thus the Supreme Court at that time moved in the direction of the logic of construction of one’s own identity rather than affirm a more universal understanding of human life.

Today’s decision by the Supreme Court was a major affirmation of constructed identity.  If two people of the same sex wish to ‘marry,’ then they have the ‘right’ to construct their own meaning of marriage.  In antiquity, Stoic philosophers argued that identity was God-given.  One of their terms for homosexuality was ‘against nature’ (para physis).  Thus, one philosophical tradition without any Christian influence opposed homosexuality on the grounds that it was not according to nature or the laws God had written into creation.  This was precisely what Jews and Christians at the time argued from a different tradition of moral thought—a theological tradition based on the Old Testament.  They believed that God’s purposes in and definition of marriage were to be found in his creating male and female for marriage to one another (Gen. 2.24).  This is also the basis for Paul’s opposition to homosexuality in general in Rom. 1.24-28.

What we find today, however, is an incredulity towards a creation metanarrative.  The culture’s conviction that we can construct our identities runs fully against the Biblical teaching that God made things a certain way and that humans were not to go against this.  The idea that we can construct our identity is something that came to full expression over one hundred years ago in the West in Existentialist philosophy.  Existentialists taught that humans were ‘thrown’ into existence, that their existence precedes essence.  So, for instance, in Friedrich Nietzsche’s view, the ‘superman’ was the one who exercised his will freely; he created his own identity (see Thus Spoke Zarathustra).  Or, in Jean-Paul Sartre’s view, we begin with ‘nothingness’ and need to create our ‘being’ through our own choices and actions (see Being and Nothingness).  This means that we do not begin with some definition of ourselves to be found in nature or God’s laws but that, through the decisions we freely make, we construct our essence, our identity.

Thus, what Christians in the West now face is a suppression of their ‘metanarrative’ of creation and an opposition to a God who has his laws that stand against one’s freedom to define things according to the way he or she desires.  We Christians, instead, believe that God made us and that we are, as the Old Testament often says, to walk in his ways.  As Paul says, ‘…you are not your own’ (1 Cor. 6.19).  We find ourselves challenging a culture that lives by the value of freedom without regard for God.

Limits of Engagement and Church Discipline

Love is a major part of the Christian life.  We are called to unity in Christ and to show love for those outside the faith.  Yet love is not to be diluted into our culture’s affirmation of tolerance—an affirmation arising out of the conviction that everyone gets to construct his or her own identity.  Indeed, ‘love’ for Christians has more to do with directing people back to the God of all creation, showing them what it is to live—to find life!—in his ways, and telling them the good news that Jesus died for their sins and that the Holy Spirit is given to enable them to live righteous and holy lives.

This is also why church discipline is so necessary: those claiming to be believers are not free to live however they wish in the Christian community (as we see Paul argue in 1 Cor. 5).  Christian love, if Biblical, is based on living according to God’s precepts.  As Jesus said to his disciples, ‘”If you love me, you will keep my commandments’ (John 14.15).  The notion, touted by some, that the church should be welcoming to homosexuals living in homosexual marriages is not Biblical—no more so than accepting persons willfully practicing bestiality or living in incestuous relationships—two other examples of adults exercising their freedom in sexual matters.  We need to extend these examples to other sins than just sexual sins, of course.  Persons struggling to become free of sin are certainly to be welcomed and helped, but persons willfully continuing in their sin and denying that their actions are sinful are to be excommunicated.

Excommunication is a loving gesture to show willfully sinful people that their way leads to ultimate judgement (1 Cor. 5.5) and exclusion from the Kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6.9-11).  If the person is simply welcomed into fellowship, this toleration of sin will give the person a mistaken conviction that God, too, will not judge him or her.  (Similarly, to discipline children playing with fire to teach them that fire is dangerous and that they will be burned is a loving thing to do.  If someone does not believe fire burns and sees playing with it a beautiful thing, he or she may think such discipline is abusive.)

Moreover, failure to offer loving judgement[3] of persons continuing to live in willful sin undermines the purity of the community of believers in Christ.  Paul sees the church as ‘unleavened bread,’ a community that has prepared itself to celebrate the Passover of Christ’s sacrifice (1 Cor. 5.7-8).

1 Corinthians 5:6-8  6 Your boasting is not a good thing. Do you not know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough?  7 Clean out the old yeast so that you may be a new batch, as you really are unleavened. For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed.  8 Therefore, let us celebrate the festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

The holiness of the community must be upheld, and the church is not a community without standards of membership.  Some expect this to be the case, since their postmodern notion of community and Christian unity is that everyone accepts everyone else no matter what.

To get at a Christian understanding of community, consider two golf courses.  One golf course is owned by a wealthy club with exclusive membership, such as only for men with a certain income.  The other golf course is open to any players.  Some people think that Christian standards of community make it like the club-owned course.  In actual fact, the church is more like the second golf course: everyone is welcome.  Both golf courses, however, expect and require persons to play golf on the course.  If several people showed up at either golf course to play Frisbee instead of golf, they would be disrupting the purpose of the golf course.  Christians welcome people into their midst, but their purpose is to create a righteous community that walks in the ways of the Lord.  For a person entering into such a community but willfully sinning—whether through unjust business practices or homosexual practice—would be like a Frisbee player showing up at a golf course that welcomes everyone to play golf.

Attending homosexual ‘weddings’ (‘But he is a relative!’) is just one example of compromise of Christian witness that believers are already having to consider.  One might be tempted to argue in this case that Christians should not judge those outside the faith, only those inside (so 1 Cor. 5.9-11), and so attend such a wedding ceremony.  However, attending a homosexual wedding goes way beyond not judging—it involves a level of affirmation similar to participating in idol worship.  We should doubt that John the Baptist (or Jesus) would have attended Herod Antipas’s wedding ceremony: he divorced his wife in order to marry his sister-in-law (Mark 6.18).  The argument that we should not participate in some sinful practice is one already put forward with the photographers and bakers who do not want to support an act that is sinful.  Persons withdrawing money from Wells Fargo bank or no longer buying Tylenol because of their promotion of homosexuality in television advertisements are doing so not because these companies serve all customers but because they are advocating a sinful way of life (these are two recent examples in the USA).  The early Corinthian believers had questions similar to these: should they attend ceremonies (banquets, birthday parties, etc.) with their unbelieving neighbours when a god or goddess was also part of the celebration?  To this question, eating food sacrificed to idols, Paul gave a clear answer when it involved affirmation of or participation in such ceremonies, ‘No!’ Believers could eat meat sacrificed to idols bought in the marketplace—when the food did not involve participation in or celebration of idolatry.  But there were in no way to eat food sacrificed to idols in the context of celebration or worship of the god or goddess (1 Cor. 8-10).  The Xhosa asking whether he as a Christian can ‘go to the mountain’ (to participate in religious ceremonies of manhood) is asking the same question in a different cultural context: ‘Can a Christian participate in ceremonies that lead to accepting him as a man within the community but that also involve non-Christian activities, such as sacrifice?’  Paul also appears to be addressing the subject in 2 Corinthians:

2 Corinthians 6:14-18   14 Do not be mismatched with unbelievers. For what partnership is there between righteousness and lawlessness? Or what fellowship is there between light and darkness?  15 What agreement does Christ have with Beliar? Or what does a believer share with an unbeliever?  16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will live in them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.  17 Therefore come out from them, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch nothing unclean; then I will welcome you,  18 and I will be your father, and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”

Such a theological argument extends beyond engaging in temple worship with others in society; it has to do with limitations on Christian engagement within society.  While we should leave judgement to God of those living against his ways, we equally should not celebrate or participate in their sinful acts.

The Gospel, moreover, offers real change, not just forgiveness of sins (1 Cor. 6.11).  But the church that thinks it is doing well by showing unconditional love to persons willfully continuing in sin is a church that has affirmed that we create our own identity and receive God’s smile of approval for our creativity and exercise of freedom.  It is also a church that denies the power of God to transform sinners.  Here, too, mission in the West runs contrary to the culture.  The Gospel message is not only that God forgives us for our sins—and homosexual practice is a sin—it is also about the life-changing power of God at work through the Holy Spirit in our lives to release us from what binds us and frees us to walk in the ways of the Lord.  This is good news.


Postmodern, Western culture is the culmination of an experiment in freedom initiated already in the Enlightenment.  It parted from the universal, science-based, affirmation of some metanarrative or other that defined Modernity.  It affirmed the construction of identity over whatever claims were made in Modernity and whatever claims were made in religious faith.  It has come to see sexual identity as constructed.  With today’s announcement by the Supreme Court that same-sex coupling can be considered to be marriage, we have another example of an authority understanding freedom as license and identity as locally (individually or socially) constructed.  This argument is easily applied to incestuous and polygamous marriages.  It probably also applies to bestial relationships and the pornography industry.  As long as ‘freedom’ is protected, what is to limit one’s own construction of a sexual identity or one’s own definition of what constitutes ‘marriage’?

Christian mission to the West, then, faces several new realities.  It is a mission in a post-Christian society.  It is conducted by a minority community facing increasing opposition from the larger society.  It challenges a Western notion of freedom.  It finds itself announcing a universal message—the Gospel for all people—to solve a universal problem—sin.  In order to do so, it claims that there is a universal right and wrong established in the sovereign will of the Creator.  This is experienced by Postmodern society as simply incredulous, since the assumption is that truth is local, that identity is constructed—even sexual identity.  Christian mission to the West also includes a challenge to understand the nature of community—a righteous community living to please God over against the culture’s notion of community as tolerance and acceptance of a spectrum of diverse views and practices.

How, then, should we live?  Christians can be glad that there is an increasing clarity about what it means to be a Christian.  In previous generations in the West, the faith was regularly compromised as the Church, government, and society negotiated a political settlement about how to live within ‘Christendom.’  There is simply no room left for such compromises: we are now all Anabaptists.  (Anabaptists are known for, among other things, refusing to compromise Biblical, Christian faith and practice in the face of pressure from governments and society—including established, state-sanctioned churches.  They lived against the grain of culture where it was contrary to Biblical teaching.  Unlike Lutherans, Calvinists, Anglicans, and Roman Catholics in the 16th century, they saw the Church as radically separate from the State and were often persecuted.)  This frees us to bear a clearer witness, even if persecution comes with the package.  This also brings with it a needed purifying of the Church.  And it also means that we have a challenge not only to offer a particular message to a hostile culture but also to offer a new vision of community to it.  The new, post-Christian climate in the West calls for Christians to stop attending church and start being the Church.  In all this, we have a tremendous task ahead.  Our efforts are best spent not bemoaning the demise of the society in which we live but in getting on with our mission of being God’s people for this time and place and proclaiming the good news in Jesus Christ that our sins can be forgiven and our lives transformed by the power of the Spirit at work in us and through us.
[1] Jean-François Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, trans. G. Bennington and B. Massumi (Minneapolis, MN: Univ. of Minnesota Press, 1984; French, 1979), p. xxiv.

[2] See: Accessed 26 June, 2015.

[3] One often hears people say that Christians do not judge.  Behind this statement lies a serious confusion regarding several Biblical texts.  First, when Jesus said, ‘Do not judge’ (Matthew 7.1), he was not uttering an absolute statement.  He finished the sentence with ‘so that you may not be judged.’  He went on to warn against hypocrisy.  He further said that one should not point out the speck in someone else’s eye when one has a log in one’s own eye.  In other words, Jesus was not saying we should not judge because everything is alright, there is no such thing as sin, let’s tolerate or celebrate each other’s decisions and actions.  Rather, he was warning not to be hypocritical when judging.  Another passage to consider comes from the Lord’s Prayer: ‘forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us’ (Matthew 6.12).  The point is not that there is no such thing as sin but that we should forgive others because God has forgiven us.  Christians offer a message of forgiveness for sin, not a denial that certain actions are sinful and so should be affirmed.  A third passage to consider is one discussed in this essay, 1 Cor. 5.9-11.  Paul says that Christians should not associate with sexually immoral people (v. 9). He qualifies this statement by saying that this does not mean that Christians should not associate with sexually immoral people outside the church, ‘since you would then need to go outside the world’ (v. 10).  Rather, he says, this applies to persons claiming to be believers who are sexually immoral—and then he extends the list of sins to other than sexual sins (v. 11).  He concludes, ‘Do not even eat with such a one’ (v. 11).  His view on judgement is summarized in vv. 12-13: ‘For what have I to do with judging those outside? Is it not those who are inside that you are to judge?  13 God will judge those outside. “Drive out the wicked person from among you.”’

Posted by Rollin Grams at 3:16 PM

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Monday, June 29th, 2015

Here We Stand: An Evangelical Declaration on Marriage
27 Jun 2015
Russell Moore
As evangelical Christians, we dissent from the court’s ruling that redefines marriage. The state did not create the family, and should not try to recreate the family in its own image. We will not capitulate on marriage because biblical authority requires that we cannot. The outcome of the Supreme Court’s ruling to redefine marriage represents what seems like the result of a half-century of witnessing marriage’s decline through divorce, cohabitation, and a worldview of almost limitless sexual freedom. The Supreme Court’s actions pose incalculable risks to an already volatile social fabric by alienating those whose beliefs about marriage are motivated by deep biblical convictions and concern for the common good.

The Bible clearly teaches the enduring truth that marriage consists of one man and one woman. From Genesis to Revelation, the authority of Scripture witnesses to the nature of biblical marriage as uniquely bound to the complementarity of man and woman. This truth is not negotiable. The Lord Jesus himself said that marriage is from the beginning (Matt. 19:4-6), so no human institution has the authority to redefine marriage any more than a human institution has the authority to redefine the gospel, which marriage mysteriously reflects (Eph. 5:32). The Supreme Court’s ruling to redefine marriage demonstrates mistaken judgment by disregarding what history and countless civilizations have passed on to us, but it also represents an aftermath that evangelicals themselves, sadly, are not guiltless in contributing to. Too often, professing evangelicals have failed to model the ideals we so dearly cherish and believe are central to gospel proclamation.

Evangelical churches must be faithful to the biblical witness on marriage regardless of the cultural shift. Evangelical churches in America now find themselves in a new moral landscape that calls us to minister in a context growing more hostile to a biblical sexual ethic. This is not new in the history of the church. From its earliest beginnings, whether on the margins of society or in a place of influence, the church is defined by the gospel. We insist that the gospel brings good news to all people, regardless of whether the culture considers the news good or not.

The gospel must inform our approach to public witness. As evangelicals animated by the good news that God offers reconciliation through the life, death, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus, we commit to:

Respect and pray for our governing authorities even as we work through the democratic process to rebuild a culture of marriage (Rom. 13:1-7);
the truth about biblical marriage in a way that brings healing to a sexually broken culture;
affirm the biblical mandate that all persons, including LGBT persons, are created in the image of God and deserve dignity and respect;
love our neighbors regardless of whatever disagreements arise as a result of conflicting beliefs about marriage;
live respectfully and civilly alongside those who may disagree with us for the sake of the common good;
cultivate a common culture of religious liberty that allows the freedom to live and believe differently to prosper.

The redefinition of marriage should not entail the erosion of religious liberty. In the coming years, evangelical institutions could be pressed to sacrifice their sacred beliefs about marriage and sexuality in order to accommodate whatever demands the culture and law require. We do not have the option to meet those demands without violating our consciences and surrendering the gospel. We will not allow the government to coerce or infringe upon the rights of institutions to live by the sacred belief that only men and women can enter into marriage.

The gospel of Jesus Christ determines the shape and tone of our ministry. Christian theology considers its teachings about marriage both timeless and unchanging, and therefore we must stand firm in this belief. Outrage and panic are not the responses of those confident in the promises of a reigning Christ Jesus. While we believe the Supreme Court has erred in its ruling, we pledge to stand steadfastly, faithfully witnessing to the biblical teaching that marriage is the chief cornerstone of society, designed to unite men, women, and children. We promise to proclaim and live this truth at all costs, with convictions that are communicated with kindness and love.

A list of signatories of the statement is found at the ERLC website. Signatures will be added as they are received. Reprinted with permission of the ERLC

Categories: Press Releases
Provinces: Anglican Church in North America
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American Tragedy – Gird your Loins – Robert Gagnon

Sunday, June 28th, 2015

  By Robert A. J. Gagnon

June 26, 2015

Today, June 26, 2015, a day of national tragedy, the Supreme Court of the United States rendered what should rank as the worst decision of the Supreme Court of the United States in the lifetime of every living American (rivaled only by Roe v. Wade) and at least one of the two or three worst decisions since the Court’s inception (compare the Dred Scott case).

Five lawless judges (all four Democrat-appointed judges: Obama’s Sotomayor and Kagan; Clinton’s Ginsburg and Breyer; and one traitor appointed by Reagan: Kennedy) defeated four Constitution-abiding judges (four of the five Republican-appointed judges: Bush Jr.’s Roberts and Alito; Bush Sr’s Thomas; and Reagan’s Scalia) to foist “gay marriage” on all 50 states. Five unelected lawyers have acted as legislators and imposed their arbitrary and extreme leftwing ideology on all the American people, culminating the judicial tyranny over the past two years that has preempted the democratic process.

Chief Justice Roberts is right in declaring this ruling to be “an act of will, not legal judgment…. Just who do we think we are?” Justice Scalia is right in saying that this ruling is “a threat to American democracy.” Justice Alito is right in warning that the decision “will be used to vilify Americans who are unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy…. The implications [of comparing traditional marriage laws to laws that denied equal treatment for African-Americans and women] will be exploited by those who are determined to stamp out every vestige of dissent.”

Unless this decision can be reversed soon through the next two presidential elections and the retirement/replacement of renegade SCOTUS judges (Ginsburg, Kennedy, and Breyer are the first up), this will turn out to be the greatest American tragedy for the civil liberties of persons of faith, for the cause of sexual purity in the United States, and for the lives of persons struggling with same-sex attraction. Prepare for a reign of persecution and abuse of people of faith as hateful, ignorant, and discriminatory “bigots” and the moral equivalent of racists in every area of life in which people of faith intersect with the secular realm, individually and in their religious institutions, with a profound negative impact as well within most mainline denominations.

As individuals, people of faith will be aggressively indoctrinated, fined, denied advancement, fired, intimidated, and subjected to ceaseless verbal abuse in public and private schools, at institutions of higher learning, at places of employment in public and private sectors, and throughout the main communication organs of the media and entertainment industry. Their institutions and businesses will be set on a collision course with the state: denied government funding, contracts, and loans; denied accreditation and tax-exempt status; and subjected to government harassment.

Contrary to what deceived and deceiving proponents of “gay marriage” have argued, homosexual relationships will not be tamed by marriage but rather will destroy it and render it meaningless. The institution of marriage will not so much conform homosexual activity to the Christian understanding of marriage (lifelong, monogamous, procreative, balancing the sexes) as be transformed over time to accommodate to virtually any type of adult-consensual union. It will eradicate the very basis in creation and nature for defining marriage as complementary of body and monogamous: a male-female foundation. Taking account of sexual differentiation at any level, even opposition to cross-dressing and “transgenderism” and sex-distinguished bathroom facilities, must now be treated as malicious.

Gender confusion in the young will be regularly promoted by the government, schools, and media. Along with it will come an increase not only in homosexual or transgender identification but also in homosexuality itself. Following in the wake of that will be the attendant, disproportionately high rates of measurable harm associated with homosexual practice, including high sexually transmitted infection rates and high numbers of sex partners over the course of life (mostly for males; marriage won’t tame this but rather will be redefined to accommodate an “openness” to other sexual liaisons), as well as high relational turnover and the mental health complications that come from such breakups (especially for females; marriage won’t stop that either but rather will be redefined to view such short-term “marriages” as the new norm). Add to this the complete severance of even the pretense of a procreative norm. The cheapening effect on marriage, reduced to little more than voluntary friendships that come and go, will stimulate an even more precipitous decline in marriage rates among heterosexuals.

The four dissenting Justices follow in the political footsteps of no less a Founding Father than Thomas Jefferson:

“To consider the judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions … [is] a very dangerous doctrine indeed, and one which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy. Our judges are as honest as other men, and not more so . . . and their power [is] the more dangerous, as they are in office for life and not responsible, as the other functionaries are, to the elective control. The Constitution has erected no such single tribunal, knowing that to whatever hands confided, with corruptions of time and party, its members would become despots” (Letter to William Jarvis, Sept. 28, 1820).

“The great object of my fear is the Federal Judiciary” (Letter to Judge Spencer Roane, 1821).

“One single object… [will merit] the endless gratitude of the society: that of restraining the judges from usurping legislation” (Letter to Edward Livingston, March 25, 1825).

The dissenting judges also have a legacy in Abraham Lincoln, who in his First Inaugural Address in 1861 warned the nation in connection with the Dred Scott decision:

“The candid citizen must confess that if the policy of the government, upon vital questions, affecting the whole people, is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court, the instant they are made, in ordinary litigation between parties, in personal actions, the people will have ceased to be their own rulers, having, to that extent, practically resigned their government into the hands of that eminent tribunal.”

Sadly and ironically, in asserting themselves so recklessly and with such hubris into the millennia-old institution of marriage (a point, incidentally, made by Scalia), the Lawless Five will stimulate massive distrust in the institution of the Court, whose Justices, like a collective Humpty Dumpty, make the Constitution and statutory law mean whatever they deem it to mean.

“I don’t know what you mean by ‘glory,’ ” Alice said.

Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. “Of course you don’t—till I tell you. I meant ‘there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!’ ”

“But ‘glory’ doesn’t mean ‘a nice knock-down argument’,” Alice objected.

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”

“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.”

The Lawless Five have indeed become the masters of the Fourteenth Amendment, making it say what the formulators and electorate (and nearly everyone else for the century-and-a-half that followed) never even dreamed it could say in order to reconfigure an institution grounded in the Scriptures and natural law long before the Constitution and its amenders ever existed. We have come to a point where the country is ruled by an unelected, unresponsive, and ideologically arbitrary oligarchy. My children have learned today that they cannot trust the system of government under which we now operate.


The Lawless Five have ventured arrogantly into the realm of morality. Their view of marriage is opposed to no less a moral authority than Jesus of Nazareth. Those who like to say that Jesus changed the Law of Moses fail to note the direction of change. The Six Antitheses of the Sermon on the Mount make clear that the change is not toward greater license but toward greater demand, making the law more internally self-consistent (Matthew 5:17-48).

When Jesus addressed the issue of marriage in more detail (Mark 10:2-12; parallel in Matthew 19:3-9), he quoted Genesis 1:27 (actually just a third of it: “male and female he [God] made them”) and 2:24 (“For this reason a man may … be joined to his woman and the two shall become one flesh”). These two texts stress the foundational character of a male-female prerequisite of the marital/sexual bond. Consistent with the Six Antitheses, Jesus directs change toward greater demand, not greater license, appealing to the twoness of the sexes, “male and female,” as a basis for limiting the number of partners in a sexual union to two, whether serially (no remarriage after invalid divorce) or, implicitly, concurrently (no polygamy).

Once the two halves of the sexual spectrum are brought together, moderating the extremes of each sex and filling in the gaps, a third party (or more) is neither necessary nor desirable. In ancient Israel women had always been bound by a strict monogamy requirement (no polyandry, i.e. multiple husbands) and did not have right to unilateral divorce. Jesus declared that the Law of Moses had accommodated to male “hardness of heart” in permitting them multiple wives. No longer, Jesus said. In effect: “I’m closing that loophole by appeal to God’s male-female prerequisite in creation.” The duality of the sexes in sexual union is the foundation or predicate for limiting the number of partners in a sexual union to two.

For those who question that this was what Jesus was doing in citing Gen 1:27c and 2:24, we have a nice history-of-religions parallel from a sectarian Jewish group known as the Essenes (the Qumran community was a monastic nucleus for “town Essenes”). In a document known as The Damascus Covenant written more than a century before Jesus’ time, the Essenes forbade polygamy (“taking two wives in their lives”) among their members because “the foundation of creation is ‘male and female he created them’” (Gen 1:27) and because “those who entered (Noah’s) ark went in two by two” (Gen 7:9; DC 4.20-5.1). In other words, they appealed to the same one-third of Gen 1:27 to which Jesus would appeal more than a century later, as a basis for revoking an allowance for polygyny (multiple wives). They correlated this verse with a reference to the Noah’s ark narrative where the precise phrase “male and female” reappears in connection with an explicit “two,” True, they didn’t go as far as Jesus’ later extension to invalid remarriage after divorce (it is easier to prohibit concurrent polygamy, polygamy proper, than to extend the principle to serial polygamy, divorce-and-remarriage for any cause). Yet they did use God’s intentional sexual design of “male and female” in Gen 1:27c  as a basis for arriving at a principle of duality in number.

The Essenes called this “male and female” element of sexual ethics “the foundation of creation.” That is exactly how Jesus is viewing it. That makes Jesus’ view of a male-female prerequisite for sexual unions, extrapolated from God’s creation, an essential part of his teaching, foundational to all other principles in sexual ethics (as we would expect in dealing with creation). Homosexual practice is an obvious direct assault on that foundation because it disregards a male-female prerequisite as having any foundational significance. Indeed, it violates it. That makes homosexual practice a greater violation of God’s will at creation than polyamory, which is a violation of a principle only secondarily extrapolated from a male-female requirement.

To propose, as some revisionists now do, that “gay marriage” and the elimination of a male-female prerequisite is a new work of the Spirit overlooks the fact Jesus moved in the opposite direction by tightening the implications of a male-female requirement. It is likely, then, that those who view “gay marriage” as a new work of the Spirit have confused a work of the flesh with the work of the Spirit and disregarded the Lordship of Jesus Christ so far as the definition of marriage (and thus acceptable sexual relations) is concerned.

Granted, in addressing a ruling by SCOTUS we are dealing with a civil, not religious, matter. Yet five renegade Justices now claim to be able to pronounce authoritatively on a moral matter in the absence of any clear direction from the Constitution of the United States. As Scalia put it in his dissenting opinion, “They (the majority of Justices) have discovered in the Fourteenth Amendment a ‘fundamental right’ overlooked by every person alive at the time of ratification, and almost everyone else in the time since.” Marriage as an institution is older than the Constitution, by millennia. The framers of the Constitution had no desire to change the definition of marriage inherited by them from the Judeo-Christian Scriptures, much less the most foundational element of all: the male-female prerequisite accepted by virtually all religious and civil traditions worldwide. In pretending to be moral arbiters for us all in the absence of (or, perhaps, in spite of) clear direction from the Constitution, these five Justices have stepped outside their field of expertise and jurisdiction into a sphere where a citation of Jesus’ own views becomes appropriate.


This ought to be a day of national mourning and a day of rededicating ourselves to live sexually holy lives, repenting of what we have failed to do and now doing what we still can as a city on a hill and a light for the world to restore constitutional liberty and personal morality to the nation and its institutions.

I am not saying that Christians should be driven by fear of what the state can now do to us. No, Christians must always exhibit the boldness of speech that characterizes free people of the commonwealth of heaven. Christians should respond in faith rather than fear in this moment of American Crisis.

Jesus has assured us, “Look, I am with you all the days till the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20), just as God assured his people Israel: “He will go before you. He, Yahweh, will be with you. He will not abandon you or leave you. Do not be afraid and do not be terrified” (Deuteronomy 31:8). We know how the End turns out. God wins. God’s name will one day be revered as holy by all, willingly or not. God’s kingdom will come. God’s will shall be done on earth as it is even now being done in heaven.

So let us clothe ourselves with the whole armor of God (truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, salvation, the word of God, and prayer) to engage this struggle that is not merely against “flesh and blood” but against “spiritual forces of evil” (Ephesians 6:10-20). And as Jesus reminded us, if you are going to have fear, don’t be so much afraid of human beings, who can (at most) kill only the body. Fear God “who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).

Let us take to heart the apostle Paul’s words in Romans 8: No “pressures of life or tight straits or persecution” or “any other created thing will be able to separate us”—those of us who are under the controlling influence of the Spirit of Christ—“from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” “Rather, in all these matters we are super-conquerors through the One who loved us.” For God “cooperates” with the Spirit who prays within us, working “for the good in all things for those who love God,” the good consisting of “being conformed to the image of his Son.” Who among us does not want to look more like Jesus and to resemble his beauty, the beauty of a life given over wholly to God?

Among my favorite verses are these: “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? The One who did not spare his own Son but handed him over (to death) for us all, how will he not also, together with him (Jesus), graciously bestow to us all things?” (Romans 8:31-32). If God offered even his very Son for us, in order to redeem us, he will not spare us any truly good thing now. He will continue to lavish his grace on us. He loves us more deeply than we can fathom for endless ages.

Yet this is not a call to moral sloth. On the contrary, “Let us not be bad in doing what is good for in due time we will reap (our harvest of eternal life), if we do not slack off” (Galatians 6:9). As the ancient image conveys, this is a time for “girding up our loins.”

Robert A. J. Gagnon, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and author of The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics (Abingdon Press).

Everything Has Changed and Nothing Has Changed — The Supreme Court Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage

Sunday, June 28th, 2015

Albert Mohler
Everything has changed and nothing has changed. The Supreme Court’s decision yesterday is a central assault upon marriage as the conjugal union of a man and a woman and in a five to four decision the nation’s highest court has now imposed its mandate redefining marriage on all fifty states.
As Chief Justice Roberts said in his dissent, “The majority’s decision is an act of will, not a legal judgment.”
The majority’s argument, expressed by Justice Kennedy, is that the right of same-sex couples to marry is based in individual autonomy as related to sexuality, in marriage as a fundamental right, in marriage as a privileged context for raising children, and in upholding marriage as central to civilization. But at every one of these points, the majority had to reinvent marriage in order to make its case. The Court has not merely ordered that same-sex couples be allowed to marry – it has fundamentally redefined marriage itself.
The inventive legal argument set forth by the majority is clearly traceable in Justice Kennedy’s previous decisions including Lawrence (2003) and Windsor (2013), and he cites his own decisions as legal precedent. As the Chief Justice makes clear, Justice Kennedy and his fellow justices in the majority wanted to legalize same-sex marriage and they invented a constitutional theory to achieve their purpose. It was indeed an act of will disguised as a legal judgment.
Justice Kennedy declared that “the right to marry is a fundamental right inherent in the liberty of the person, and under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment couples of the same-sex cannot be deprived of that right and that liberty.” But marriage is nowhere to be found in the Constitution. As the Chief Justice asserted in his dissent, the majority opinion did not really make any serious constitutional argument at all. It was, as the Chief Justice insisted, an argument based in philosophy rather than in law.
The Supreme Court’s over-reach in this case is more astounding as the decision is reviewed in full, and as the dissenting justices voiced their own urgent concerns. The Chief Justice accused the majority of “judicial policymaking” that endangers our democratic form of government. “The Court today not only overlooks our country’s entire history and tradition but actively repudiates it, preferring to live only in the heady days of the here and now,” he asserted. Further: “Over and over, the majority exalts the role of the judiciary in delivering social change.”
“The majority,” he made clear, “lays out a tantalizing vision for the future for Members of this Court. If an unvarying social institution enduring over all of recorded history cannot inhibit judicial policymaking, what can?”
That is a haunting question. This Chief Justice’s point is an urgent warning: If the Supreme Court will arrogate to itself the right to redefine marriage, there is no restraint on the judiciary whatsoever.
Justice Antonin Scalia offered a stinging rebuke to the majority. “This is a naked judicial claim to legislative–indeed super-legislative–power; a claim fundamentally at odds with our system of government,” he stated. Justice Scalia then offered these stunning words of judgment: “A system of government that makes the people subordinate to a committee of nine unelected lawyers does not deserve to be called a democracy.”
The Chief Justice also pointed to another very telling aspect of the majority opinion. The Kennedy opinion opens wide a door that basically invites looming demands for the legalization of polygamy and polyamory. As Chief Justice Roberts observed: “It is striking how much of the majority’s reasoning would apply with equal force to the claim of a fundamental right to plural marriage.” Striking, indeed. What is perhaps even more striking is that the majority did not even appear concerned about the extension of its logic to polygamy.
As the decision approached, those of us who have warned that the redefinition of marriage will not stop with same-sex unions were told that we were offering a fallacious slippery-slope argument. Now, the Chief Justice of the United States verifies that these concerns were fully valid. You can count on the fact that advocates for legalized polygamy found great encouragement in this decision.
The Supreme Court of the United States is the highest court in the land, and its decisions cannot be appealed to a higher court of law. But the Supreme Court, like every human institution and individual, will eventually face two higher courts. The first is the court of history, which will render a judgment that I believe will embarrass this court and reveal its dangerous trajectory. The precedents and arguments set forth in this decision cannot be limited to the right of same-sex couples to marry. If individual autonomy and equal protection mean that same-sex couples cannot be denied what is now defined as a fundamental right of marriage, then others will arrive to make the same argument. This Court will find itself in a trap of its own making, and one that will bring great harm to this nation and its families. The second court we all must face is the court of divine judgment. For centuries, marriage ceremonies in the English-speaking world have included the admonition that what God has put together, no human being – or human court – should tear asunder. That is exactly what the Supreme Court of the United States has now done.
The threat to religious liberty represented by this decision is clear, present, and inevitable. Assurances to the contrary, the majority in this decision has placed every religious institution in legal jeopardy if that institution intends to uphold its theological convictions limiting marriage to the union of a man and a woman. This threat is extended to every religious citizen or congregation that would uphold the convictions held by believers for millennia. Justice Clarence Thomas warned in his dissent of “ruinous consequences for religious liberty.”
One of the most dangerous dimensions of this decision is evident in what can only be described as the majority’s vilification of those who hold to a traditional view of marriage as exclusively the union of a man and a woman. Justice Samuel Alito stated bluntly that the decision “will be used to vilify Americans who are unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy.” According to the argument offered by the majority, any opposition to same-sex marriage is rooted in moral animus against homosexuals. In offering this argument the majority slanders any defender of traditional marriage and openly rejects and vilifies those who, on the grounds of theological conviction, cannot affirm same-sex marriage.
In a very real sense, everything has now changed. The highest court of the land has redefined marriage. Those who cannot accept this redefinition of marriage as a matter of morality and ultimate truth, must acknowledge that the laws of this nation concerning marriage will indeed be defined against our will. We must acknowledge the authority of the Supreme Court in matters of law. Christians must be committed to be good citizens and good neighbors, even as we cannot accept this redefinition of marriage in our churches and in our lives.
We must contend for marriage as God’s gift to humanity – a gift central and essential to human flourishing and a gift that is limited to the conjugal union of a man and a woman. We must contend for religious liberty for all, and focus our energies on protecting the rights of Christian citizens and Christian institutions to teach and operate on the basis of Christian conviction.
We cannot be silent, and we cannot join the moral revolution that stands in direct opposition to what we believe the Creator has designed, given, and intended for us. We cannot be silent, and we cannot fail to contend for marriage as the union of a man and a woman.
In one sense, everything has changed. And yet, nothing has changed. The cultural and legal landscape has changed, as we believe this will lead to very real harms to our neighbors. But our Christian responsibility has not changed. We are charged to uphold marriage as the union of a man and a woman and to speak the truth in love. We are also commanded to uphold the truth about marriage in our own lives, in our own marriages, in our own families, and in our own churches.
We are called to be the people of the truth, even when the truth is not popular and even when the truth is denied by the culture around us. Christians have found themselves in this position before, and we will again. God’s truth has not changed. The Holy Scriptures have not changed. The Gospel of Jesus Christ has not changed. The church’s mission has not changed. Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever.