28 August 2012

Answering Questions #18- How Should We Respond To Gay/Homosexual Marriage? (Part 6)

The Israelite Theocracy presented a multi-faceted picture of Adam (the Hebrews) in the Garden (the land of milk and honey) as well as a picture of man's inability to find his own righteousness (the law standing alone) and a picture of the gospel (the law's condemnation and the picture of redemption). With Israel we have a picture of both the 1st and 2nd Adam, the condemnation/despair and the redemption/hope.

Or to put it another way, from start to finish it was a picture of Jesus Christ the True Israel and demonstrated the consequences of rejecting Him.

It is not applicable to today's societies. This is not because it is irrelevant but because theologically a Rome, Babylon, or America could never fulfill this imagery nor is it meant to. You can't pick it apart and take portions of it. It all stands or falls together....hence its rigidity and strictness! Otherwise the imagery would be perverted...the picture of the gospel would be distorted.

This is what happens when people try to take portions of it and apply it to a modern nation. In addition they commit sacrilege by de-covenantalizing the law. The Mosaic Law was a Covenant made with a specific people. Edom had no claim to it. Babylon had no claim to it. In order for those people to participate in it...they had to become Jews.

They didn't borrow portions of the Law and build a new temple in Babylon. That would only produce a blasphemous false gospel-picture. The temple marked the Presence of God, the place where He dwelt, the place marked by His name. This could not be replicated.[i]

I'm labouring this point to emphasize the dangers of confusing man constructed governments with the Kingdom of God...and the dangers of cherry-picking or singling out portions of God's Word in order to justify political action. Remember politics is not the art of the possible as one deceiver put it.[ii] Politics is power....power backed up by violence. That's what government is.

If we're good (I'm using that in a broad sense)...then most of the time we will be left alone so that we can work with our hands, lead quiet lives, and witness to the Gospel.

Man will try and build his Babel’s...we don't necessarily help or hinder. There are times when our speaking, or our non-compliance will provoke the state and we will be persecuted...there are other times we just go about our business...praying for the king to keep order and peace and...leave us alone to do our work![iii]

So again....for the unbeliever what purpose does marriage serve?

Genesis 9 calls upon all of humanity is to be fruitful and multiply. That's not elaborated upon.[iv] I think it's just a general command for man to reproduce...to take Dominion? No, not anymore. It's not the same.

To be fruitful? Why? It's God's longsuffering and mercy...he's providing the matrix, the setting for the Gospel to work. The means for doing this....is to provide some kind of a society....and that is accomplished on a real basic level by providing a violent force (government) that contains fallen man's violence.

So to me unbelievers having marriage and families is simply part of the setting....society, people......a venue for the Kingdom of God to work. They are people we can reach with the salt and light of the gospel. They are people who need to know forgiveness and mercy.

We want to minimize human suffering and the consequences of sin. So that when our neighbour (God willing) becomes a Christian they don't have a trail of carnage behind them that they're left dealing with post-conversion. We want morality and peace and yet we have to understand that the unbeliever hates God and will not, in fact cannot...submit to His laws.[v] Because 'submission' itself is an act of worship and devotion....or is meant to be. Only the Holy Spirit can work this within us. Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.

We cannot employ political force (violence) to make Christians. That's treating them like animals instead of men....and does nothing to promote the gospel or the Kingdom. It’s like taking animals and trying to domesticate them. We don’t get people, we get trained animals.

After centuries of forced Christendom is it any surprise they now act like animals in retaliation? Even a dog with a gentle disposition will eventually bite his master if tormented enough.

The venue of society....the realm of Common Grace (Common meaning a restraining, non-redemptive grace that all mankind partakes of) is not static. It's going to change all the time and sometimes will be better and sometimes will be worse. Some people live in a time of revolution, some people are born during a time when nothing seems to happen.

Right now we're in a period of backlash against the legacies of Christendom. With this comes a lot of anti-Christian sentiment....which is of course a bad thing.

But there's also a casting down of Christendom....which from my perspective is something positive and hopeful.

Their reasons for casting it down are wrong[vi]...nevertheless under Providence...it is being cast down. I think the book of Revelation gives us cause to celebrate this fact.[vii]

So now homosexual marriage....what to do with it?

It's clearly a sinful behaviour that we have to condemn. Homosexuals cannot enter the Church (I'm not talking about the building) unless they renounce their deeds. They will still struggle with temptation, but the key issue is…do they acknowledge the behaviour as sinful and do they renounce the practice in accord with the Word-Authority of Scripture?

That’s within the Church, with people who have repented and profess Christ.

But outside the Church, we look at them as...lost sinners in need of the gospel. Do they need to cease and eschew this behaviour? Yes.

Will this be accomplished through social forces? Only if you believe in a kind of social gospel. Theological liberals believe in the power of government to display Christian virtue through charity and education. Dominionists believe in the power of government to enforce Christian virtue through legislation, regulating culture, and through force.

There’s not much difference between the two. In principle, they agree, they just have different ideas of how it should come about and maybe what it should look like.

If the principle is correct, then you must ask, do you call on the state to use the threat of law, the threat of violence in order to save them?[viii]

Will this be accomplished by legislatively restricting them? Only if you think Government has the power to transform lives and generate Kingdom conduct/morality.

Is this not yet another gospel?

Do we want society to promote homosexuality? No, of course not.

Do we want the state to persecute homosexuals? No. I don't want the state involved in personal conduct/beliefs. ‘Personal’ meaning....things that don't affect the larger society.

I know the argument....homosexuals are affecting all of society with their values, the definition of marriage etc...

That kind of argument can be employed endlessly and I think it's headed down a wrong road. The questions are once again being generated by the impulse to forge a so-called Christian or Model society.[ix]

There are difficulties that come with our political structure. Equal rights and protections means those have to be extended to everyone...or they're not equal. Without these guarantees you will have a tiered society, a society of classes. Many Christians are content with this, but they have a problem. They wish to be patriotic and elevate the founding documents, but fail to understand their views would in fact undermine them.

I'm actually quite happy to live as a second-class citizen. In fact I would argue we Christians already are, or should be, and should be feeling it if we've thought it through. To maintain Christian convictions in our present society is not a road to success or status.

But if you set a precedent of power that allows society to be divided in that way...then watch out! The tables might get turned on you and you can slip down a notch.

What's unique about Democracy is that even though there's nothing Christian about it...it provides an excellent political venue where Christians are protected....but so is everyone else.

What do we want from society? I would argue we would want maximum freedom for everyone and for a government that's not involved in the personal life.[x]

This is the exact opposite of what most in the Christian Right propose. They sometimes indicate otherwise, but if you listen closely they mean...the government will leave your personal life alone if you're behaving the way they want you to behave. Otherwise they will become very involved.[xi]

I don't even know why unbelievers get married at all? There's no moral reason to do so. It’s social convention and tradition, but why would people bind themselves like that?

Without God aren't we reduced to being beasts? Why wouldn't we just go about like dogs and join with whoever suited us for the moment?

The answer is Providence ruling through Common Grace. At the moment, the Hand of restraint is really being pulled back in our society and our morality is becoming like that of the Hellenistic world, Phoenicia, Babylon. Eventually we will become Sodom. When those cities and societies fell under Judgment and died...what did the believers do? They left. They found another place to live and went back to the business at hand....the gospel preached and lived.


[i] In Joshua 22, when Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh built a second altar this was viewed as trying to set up a rival presence…a form of disobedient apostasy.

[ii] Otto Von Bismarck

[iii] There are moments of historical crisis, situations that have no easy solution. But they are less common than some would suggest. One task of the political wing is to try and stir up controversy, to create a false sense of crisis in order to motivate people to support their cause. How often have we been told….this is the most important election of our generation…of the past century…of all time.

Only to hear it once again the next cycle. Someone is either misinterpreting history and/or current events, or they’re being deliberately deceptive. Often it’s both.

[iv] There’s no mandate for the unbeliever to endlessly produce children. We don’t have to push for pagans to abandon birth control. I’m not sure why Christians are so keen for them to have large families.

There are problems that come with reduced families. It changes the economic system and I would argue has hurt the Christian family.

But on the other hand, contrary to what many on the Right suggest I do believe we have some serious problems on the Earth with population.

It’s true, the earth has plenty of room for people to live…that’s usually the way the Conservative position is argued.

But they ignore the issues surrounding resources, especially water and what our modern high-yield agricultural methods are doing to the soil. It ignores pollution and many other factors. I’m not a member of Greenpeace, but I think the Christian Right is being deceptive, playing fast and loose with data and using a political agenda and cultural narrative to ignore some serious problems that don’t have easy solutions.

It’s another issue I hope one day to find the time to address. I have many notes and resources set aside when the time comes.

[v] Romans 8

[vi] It’s like watching the old newsreels of Stalin blowing up Russian Orthodox Churches. On the one hand Providence was decimating centuries of idolatry and error. Stalin was the agent for this. On the other hand Stalin was a wicked monster who thought he was destroying the Church. He was destroying the buildings of a false Church, but he didn’t know that. In his heart, his deeds were evil.

[vii] Chapter 17, the Beast destroys the Whore and in Chapter 18 we are told the heavens rejoice.

[viii] Some Theonomists will unabashedly affirm this.

[ix] We hear this all the time. If kids can get free school lunches, then x happens, leading to y, and the next thing you know…we’re Communists. It’s an example of overextended induction, a rhetorical tool resulting in a non-sequitir. It’s a form of argument that should be immediately suspect.

It’s the same type of argument general’s and imperial planners use. It’s the ‘Guns of August’, or the Joint Chiefs during the Cuban Missile Crisis. They were wrong.

It’s the same type of argument the British used in order to justify imperial expansion. If we don’t conquer X, then Y could use them as a supply route. But if we conquer X, they have enemy Z, and Z might call upon Q to sweep in and try and take control. And we don’t like Q because their allied with France and now we’ll have to conquer Q as well. But to get to Q, well also have to conquer Z.

It is a dishonest, deceptive and dangerous form of calculus.

[x] I’m not advocating Libertarianism. That’s rooted in individualism and plays out in several areas that I believe to be harmful to society. While I would not formally subscribe to the label, I probably lean more toward what has been called Christian Anarchism.

Unfortunately that word has bad connotations and many people see Trotsky-ish bomb throwers with goatees and John Lennon glasses. That’s not at all what I’m talking about.

If you’re interested look up the topic and read about such figures as Petr Chelcicky (the closest thing I have to a hero) and Tolstoy. But please don’t in any way assume that I endorse even 1/8 of the names that will come up.

[xi] As Rick Santorum indicated during the 2012 Republican Primaries when he suggested government should be involved in people’s bedrooms. God protect us from people like Santorum. His understanding of religion, government and militarism strangely parallels what happened in Spain for a large portion of the 20th century…and yet, countless Evangelicals supported him.



Protoprotestant said...

There are two more parts...7, and some conclusions in 8.

Cal said...

About Christians being 2nd class citizens socially (at least):

I think it's amusing many will look at Britain as a "christian nation" but then look at Wilberforce. Not that I endorse his legislative moralizing (though I praise the end of the open slave trade in Britain), but when he became a Christian he was shunned. Everyone snubbed their noses at him, he was now a "fanatic". So-called christian Britain, Ha!

And yes, thank the Lord Santorum did not have the chance to be the American, Mr. Rogers-esque version of Franco.

Jim Wetzel said...

Excellent and thought-provoking series to this point, and I'm looking forward to the remaining installments. A few things:

"I'm actually quite happy to live as a second-class citizen. In fact I would argue we Christians already are, or should be, and should be feeling it if we've thought it through. To maintain Christian convictions in our present society is not a road to success or status."

That's very true, and it's something that I've thought before, without really articulating it. I wonder if the converse of the last sentence quoted above might be even more to the point: To attain success and status in our present society should probably lead us to conclude, at least in a general-rule-of-thumb way, that our Christian convictions either aren't Christian, or haven't been maintained.

And then:
"I don't even know why unbelievers get married at all? There's no moral reason to do so. It’s social convention and tradition, but why would people bind themselves like that?"

Actually, I don't think that's very hard to understand ... possibly because I was not a believer when I got married. I think it's in the nature of "romantic" or erotic love that the lovers wish to bind themselves with promises or commitments, simply as a lavish gift to their beloved. I don't say that this impulse is good or bad, wise or foolish ... just that it is, I think, very, very common.

"While I would not formally subscribe to the label, I probably lean more toward what has been called Christian Anarchism."

This reminds me of something Joseph Sobran wrote, an elegant sort of one-sentence joke: "Am I a libertarian? Sort of. An anarchist? Anarchy might be great, if only it could be enforced." I always get a smile out of that: puzzling about how one enforces an anarchic (non-)system. Fortunately, I have no idea. If I did, I'd once again find myself advocating a system-in-this-world. Instead, I hope for a tolerable measure of peace and a minimum of trouble, and try to keep my thoughts my own. That's hard enough for me.