Although the case for gender ideology, and thus same-sex marriage stems from a secularist denial of human nature, reviewed by this writer in an earlier article, common sense supports both Biblical revelation and the traditional morality of chastity and opposite sex marriage. Christians must continually make this argument as we move into the future, according to Rev. Ron Lutjens of the First Light ministry in St. Louis, which works with people who have problems with same-sex attraction, and more recently, with pornography addiction. He spoke at the annual apologetic conference of the L’Abri Fellowship on Feb. 12-13.
He noted that the Obergefell vs. Hodges decision, which mandated acceptance of same-sex marriage, represents “a sea-change” in how society regards marriage. “Does the common humanity of same-sex couples require everyone to agree that there’s no essential difference between same-sex and male-female coupling?” Lutjens asked. While same-sex marriage is now “the law of the land … how are we to respond as Christians to that, and how do we bear witness in a good and constructive way to what the Lord calls us to, which is always ‘to speak the truth in love?’”
Lutjens quoted Maggie Gallagher giving her reasons for not attending a homosexual wedding if asked by a friend. The reasons would be:
1) “We’re born male and female, and marriage is the union of husband to wife that celebrates the necessity of the two genders [i.e., sexes] coming together to make the future happen.”
2) “I know the law no longer thinks that, but I have staked my life on this truth.”
3) “I would be witnessing and celebrating your attempt not only to commit yourself to a relationship that keeps you from God’s plan, but worse, I would be witnessing and celebrating your attempt to hold the man you love to a vow that he will avoid God’s plan.”
4) “To vow one’s self to sin is one thing; to try to hold someone you love to it, that’s not something I can celebrate.”
Lutjens said he has “a deep concern about the young people that have grown up in our church, and where they are on this, because … it’s in the water” of the world around us. Homosexual liberation is supported “in sitcoms, and just every other place, that this is just the next frontier for civil rights.” Three values in the secular culture are held to feed into this: 1) “compassion for our fellow creatures” (holding “that there’s nothing higher than that”), 2) Nonjudgmentalism (we cannot say one way to believe or one way to live is better than another), 3) Radical egalitarianism (“everybody should have the right to pursue what anybody else has … [it is] equal opportunity absolutized”).Lutjens quoted R.R. Reno: “Pure desire must be seen as the deepest, truest source of life,” and pursuing this is now seen as the point of life. “If you care about other people, and your worldview does not include a divinely given moral order to live by, and the possibility of a personal relationship with the creator, then kindness to another human being basically boils down to affirming their right to pursue their desires,” Lutjens said.
But Christians must affirm the understanding of marriage evident both from nature and the Bible, Lutjens claimed. He quoted David C. Jones, Professor Emeritus of Theology at Covenant Seminary, who offers three criteria of marriage:
1) “Marriage is a sexually based social institution for the union of the couple and the procreation and nurture of children.”
2) “The primary purpose of marriage is the union of the couple in a lifelong companionship of conjugal love [between] sexual opposites.”
3) “Conjugal love is ordered to procreation, definitionally a man and woman … but its unitive purpose, i.e., to bring the man and woman together, is prior and primary.”
By contrast, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, that first legalized same-sex marriage in the United States, said of marriage that “we construe civil marriage to be the voluntary union of two persons as spouses.” According to Lutjens, this means that “the whole idea of sexual complementarity is gone.” This “radically alters that institution for everyone.”
Dr. Jones said “clearly same-sex couples are capable of forming long lasting loving and intimate relationships. The question is whether marriage should be reconceptualized as ‘gender’ neutral.” Lutjens likewise said “the real conflict here is individual autonomy versus social institution.” He noted that some of the black clergy organizations in America have advanced some of the strongest statements in support of traditional marriage and morality. These statements have more creditability in the wider society because they are not coming from heterosexual white men. They have said that “this is not the same as racial justice when it comes to skin color.”
Some Evangelical churches have embraced homosexual marriage. In contrast, the German theologian Wolfhart Pannenberg said in 1996 “if a church were to allow itself to be pushed to the point where it ceased to treat homosexual activity as a departure from the Biblical norm and recognized homosexual unions as a personal partnership of love equivalent to marriage, such a church would stand no longer on Biblical ground but against the unequivocal witness of Scripture. A church that took this step would cease to be the one holy catholic and apostolic church.”
Lutjens said that his own church has revised their wedding handbook since the same-sex marriage decision to say that it does not perform same-sex weddings, although the church continues to be open to outside weddings. Other churches do not allow weddings for persons outside the congregation.
A related question is whether pastors should continue to perform weddings with state authority. “The state has allowed pastors to be its agents in marrying people.” One proposal is to have civil weddings and church weddings separate.
“The church is called to be an alternative community of belonging and affection,” Lutjens said. The church should be “the vanguard of the new creation. And in the church, single people are not supposed to be second class citizens.” The church has “exegeted away” the words of the apostle Paul in I Cor. 7 “where he praises singleness.” Lutjens said that contrary to traditional Protestant interpretation, Paul did not commend celibacy because of persecution, but because “the coming of Christ marked the beginning of the end of history.” There should be an effort to recover “the deep sense of belonging that was there in the New Testament church.”
The dogma of self-definition has moved beyond homosexuality and even beyond sexuality. Lutjens pointed to Body Integrity Identity Disorder, in which people believe that their true selves should be handicapped in some way, and so make themselves blind, amputate their legs, or in some other way impair their bodies. Once it is accepted, as the Supreme Court has declared as a matter of principle, and as the cultural leaders of society have embraced, that people really are who they believe they are, “it’s very hard not to go there,” Lutjens said.
In response to a question about whether people should be called by the pronouns of their preferred gender, Lutjens said that Mark Yarhouse, who has done much work on LGBT problems, believes that such people should be called by their preferred pronoun “out of respect.” This, however, does place personal desire above God-given reality. Lutjens believes we must measure what love constrains us to do against what the truth, and what people need to hear, constrains us to do.
Another questioner asked whether the term “gay Christian” is acceptable for celibate homosexual Christians. Important Christian leaders in this area consider this to be a dangerous practice. It is, however, done, Lutjens said, to highlight that celibacy rather than change in orientation may be the most reasonable course of action for a disciple of Christ. He pointed out that Exodus International, a former ministry focused on homosexuals, emphasized the ability to homosexuals to change their orientation. The fact that persons involved in the organization did not in fact change their orientation contributed to its collapse. However, the view of others, such as Wesley Hill of Trinity School for Ministry, is that one can be a faithful follower of Christ while yet being a celibate homosexual, recognizing nevertheless that homosexual orientation is disordered.
A related question, it might be added, is the use of the word “gender” to refer to sex. Until the advent of the sexual revolution, “gender” referred to an arbitrary designation of sexual nature with the nouns of certain languages, not to the real, natural sexual nature possessed by the things the nouns refer to. As in the wider society, Christians commonly engage in the practice of using the word “gender” to refer to sex, but this practice is really part of gender ideology, which holds that a person’s sexual identity is the result of human will, whether (wrongly) imposed externally by society or (rightly) chosen by the individual. But Christians accept the witness of both the Scriptures and nature that sex is determined by biology, and while it may be damaged, it is really unchangeable. Calling sex by its right name is not only proper, but will help Christians defend and advance the truth in love.Google+