July 14, 2004
"Homosexuality and Same-Sex Marriage”
Reverend Brad Mercer
Let me commend another book to you. We've been commending books along the way that we think might be helpful. This one is hot off the press, and we don't have it yet, but we will. The title is Naming the Elephant. Surely you’ll remember that one! Naming the Elephant: Worldview as a Concept. Now I'm going to tell you what he's talking about in just a minute, but it's by James Sire, who also wrote The Universe Next Door. Hot off the press, and we do recommend that to you.
On this issue tonight— homosexuality, same-sex marriage–excellent resources from The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. Many of you are familiar with this ministry; we have some of their works in the bookstore, an excellent online resource. Article after article after article. If you want the latest information on what's going on in the government, politically, socially, theologically, culturally, ethically, you’ll find it there. So if you have access to a computer or know someone who does, I would highly recommend that website to you.
Psalm 62, verses one and two. Hear the word of God.
“(1)My soul waits in silent for God only; from Him is my salvation. (2) He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I shall not be greatly shaken.” Let's pray.
Lord, we thank You even for Your word as it is heard. I pray that we would take it to heart, and we come before You now as a people recognizing our sinfulness and asking for forgiveness. We come before You as a people who are thirsty, hungry; we come before You as a people who want to hear from You. We seek, in a world that is often seemingly spinning out of control; we want to be Your servants; we want to be obedient; we want to love You from the bottom of our hearts. We pray that even this evening your Holy Spirit would be present, would attend, would bless our time together. Illuminate our hearts and minds to Your truth, that we might know it and live it. We pray these things in Jesus' name. Amen.
Last summer I was assigned...one of my assignments was, as I came to address you last summer...was “what women can and can't do in the church.” This summer I have
“same-sex marriage.” I'm looking forward next summer to some easy topic, like maybe “the problem of evil,” or something like that; or “God's sovereignty and man's free will” or some such thing. But this topic is timely. The vote in the Senate was today, and we are taking in the course of this series tonight a “think break.” I hope we've been thinking before, but maybe we're trying to turn your brain in a different direction and give you a little bit of relief, maybe. Hit you from a different direction.
How in the world —this is the question we're asking during the course of these “think breaks”–how in the world do we apply a Christian worldview to contemporary issues? We've been looking at many different worldviews. We’ll see some again here tonight. But what does it mean to be a Christian, to apply a Christian worldview in our current cultural context to very specific issues?
Harry Blamires , who was a student of C.S. Lewis, and he wrote a very popular book some years back called, The Christian Mind, says this: “A Christian should have a mind trained, informed and equipped to handle the data of secular controversy within the framework of reference which is constructed of Christian presuppositions. A Christian thinker...” now, hear this... “A Christian thinker challenges current prejudices, disturbs the complacent, obstructs the busy pragmatist, questions the very foundations of all about him, and is generally a nuisance. A Christian thinker doesn't just think. The Christian thinker acts upon that which he or she knows.”
Now, this particular issue we're addressing tonight during this “think break” from a Christian worldview perspective could be addressed from a number of different directions. We could look at it legally, socially, politically. We could even look at biological issues. We could look at it geographically. We could go to San Francisco and look at the mayor and consider why he disregards the laws of California. We could go to the other coast and head up to Boston, and we could listen in on the debates in the legislature. We could consider the proposed constitutional amendment. We could go on and on. We could look at this issue from a number of different perspectives, use a number of different paradigms. But, our charge this summer is to evaluate, look at, apply, analyze, the different world views coming at us. And that's what I want to do.
James Sire begins his book, Naming the Elephant, by giving a little story. He says that a boy came home, a young boy came home, and he said, “Dad, today in geography we looked at a globe. Our teacher introduced us to the Earth, the globe.” And then he went on to ask Dad, “Dad, what holds up the Earth? Who holds up the Earth?” And Dad answers (he doesn't take the small boy's question very seriously) and says initially, “A camel.” And the little boy accepts his father's authority by faith and trust, and moves on. He comes back a few days later: “Wait a minute, wait a minute. What holds up, who holds up the camel?” Dad answers, still not taking the son's questions very seriously, “A kangaroo.” The boy goes away. This time he comes back a day later. “Now wait a minute, Dad. What holds up, who holds up the kangaroo?” This time Dad takes a little bit more seriously and thinks of the largest animal he can imagine, and says, “An elephant holds up the kangaroo who holds up the camel who holds up the Earth.” And this time the little boy responds immediately and says, “Wait a minute. Who–what–holds up the elephant?” This time Dad knows he's in trouble, and so he responds, “Son, it's elephant all the way down.” That's worldview.
What for you goes all the way down? What is your foundation? What is basic and fundamental about reality? What is prime reality? Everyone has a worldview. We've sort of belabored that fact, but everyone has a worldview, whether he admits it or not. We said that worldviews are presuppositions, assumptions, about the way the world works, about reality. And we asked seven questions, and we've been looking at those questions along the way. But a worldview is much more than that. A worldview is much more than just presuppositions, assumptions, about the makeup of the world.
A worldview at its base, at its root, is a fundamental orientation of the heart. It is rooted in your heart. It reveals the state of your soul, as it's fleshed out in your worldview. Whether that be deism or naturalism, or nihilism or existentialism, it is fundamentally a spiritual orientation. It is a faith in something. No, it's not blind, in many cases; but it is a faith in something. We find ourselves in the midst of a culture that is characterized by moral confusion and moral revolt.
Elizabeth Elliot once reflected in this way:
“Throughout the millennia of Christian or of human history, up until the past two decades or so, people took for granted differences between men and women as so obvious they did not need comment.They accepted the way things were. But our easy assumptions have been assailed and confused. We have lost our bearings in a fog of rhetoric about something called equality, so that I find myself in the uncomfortable position of having to belabor to educated people what was once perfectly obvious to the simplest peasant.”
That's where we are. We find ourselves in a world that is characterized–radically characterized–by moral confusion and moral revolt. I remember years ago–this must have been between ten and fifteen years ago–I traveled throughout the South and up through the Mid-West, interviewing college students at state universities, and at private universities, at Christian schools for summer employment at a Christian conference center. And we asked them many up-front, straightforward questions, because they were going to be working with young children, teaching young children, living in cabins with young children, and counseling them...being counselors...and having the opportunity to minister to young children. One of the questions was, “What do you think about, what is your perspective on homosexuality?” And I will never forget it. It started at about somewhere between ten and fifteen years ago, and over and over and over, even among the strongest Christian young people: “I think it's wrong,...” we never heard the word ‘sin’...”...but who am I to judge? I'm wrestling with it.” And the word that comes to my mind is “hesitant.” Wavering. We’re not quite sure where we should be standing on this issue. Are they really hurting anyone? We’re not sure.
But after many years, and as we have seen in the past few weeks, of a Deist perspective in which God is relegated to a transcendence, a point of transcendence where He has virtually no interaction with His creatures; to NaturalismHe loses His personality and existence altogether; to Existentialism that recognizes Nihilism and tries to force, using language and power,some kind of reality in a world that has no reality, a world that has no meaning; and now we have mixed into this stew New Age thinking, Neo-Paganism, Post-Modernism....in the midst of this we have not only a moral revolt, but an aggressive moral revolt. Who's leading the charge?
Well, the usual folks we might expect. In Europe and North America, in the fields of literary theory, philosophy, science–Naturalism reigns. You remember we said that Naturalism is the view that the cosmos is all that is, was, or ever will be. Matter is all that exists. We live, we exist in a box, in a closed system of cause and effect. There is no God that stands outside that box that created it, or comes to intervene in it. There is no incarnate Jesus Christ. There is no God-man. Those things that we experience with our senses are all that exists.
Then Nietzsche came along and declared that God is dead. The Naturalists would say man comes from nothing, he goes to nothing; he comes from meaninglessness, he goes to meaninglessness; but in between, he's wonderful and full of value! And Freiderich Nietzsche said, in effect, “No way. We are all on a train headed into a dark tunnel, and we're never going to see light.”So, what we do by our own will to power, we overcome and we move beyond. He literally said this. His father was a Lutheran minister, by the way, and when he was a young boy he wrote in his journal: “God,make me a faithful servant of Yours.” Freiderich Nietzsche. He died insane, with his sister selling tickets for people to come in and see him.
For Nietzsche, life is meaningless. We’re headed into this dark tunnel. But we need to move on beyond these ideas of good and evil, to the ubermensch, the “superman,” the will to power. All that matters is power. Whether it's a social construct, or a construct out of language, whatever, we need to have the courage to stand up and recognize that life is meaningless, and form our own ethics, our own values, and have the courage and boldness to do it. There is no God. And since God does not exist, morality is what we make it. Ethics is what we make it. Morality, ethics is relative to its time and its place, and how we can impose what we believe on other people.
Simon Blackburn is a moral philosopher who has taught at North Carolina, and Oxford, and Cambridge, and he says the very same thing in a very witty, popular way these days. He says, “Getting rid of God is the necessary clearing ground for morality.” Getting rid of God is the necessary clearing ground for morality. Morals are not revealed or discovered, they are created. They are not revealed or discovered, they are created. And it is this kind of thinking that is at the root of today's moral rebellion. No wonder we're confused about the sanctity of human life, sexual morality, the family, abortion, euthanasia, embryo research, genetic therapies....we can go on and on and on. No wonder that Byron Rushing, on the floor of the House of Representatives in Massachusetts, several weeks ago I was watching, I saw it, can say to ministers who are opposing same-sex marriage, “Shame on you! Shame on you. This is a civil rights issue, and people, individuals, deserve these rights. Shame on you ministers.” How can you possibly take that perspective? If gender itself is an accident, a biological accident, why not just alter, transform, experiment? There's a sense in which we would expect that from secular leaders.
But what about the fact that so many people in the United States of America claim to be Christians? So many people in America claim to believe in God, and yet, if we look at actions, whether it's divorce, promiscuity, spending time recreationally, we can go right down the line and look at all kinds of statistics and figures, we can't deny that there's a functional deism, living as though ‘yes, I believe in God, but I live as though He does not exist.’ A functional naturalism: ‘yes, I believe in God, but I don't live that way.’ And we see that over and over and over, even within the church. Those who call themselves theologians, ministers...you remember we quoted from the Episcopalian bishop, John Shelby Spong, a few weeks ago: “The biblical story of the perfect and finished creation, from which human beings fell into sin, is pre-Darwinian mythology and post-Darwinian nonsense.” Here's a man who is a minister, who denies everything that smacks of the supernatural, or that smacks of the miraculous. This is akin to an astronomer saying that he doesn't believe in stars. You know, I believe that people believe in stars, and it's worth studying the fact that people believe in stars, but stars don't exist.
What about the church? We see churches, we see denominations join the movement. We see over and over and over, we see whole denominations, individual churches joining the movement for advocating the legitimization of homosexuality and same-sex marriage. Or, or, secondly, being hesitant or unsure. Don't want to get involve. I don't understand it. I'm not sure how to respond.
A couple of specific examples. Even within the church an outright rejection of biblical authority. Hear this. This is a member of a committee assigned by a denomination, one of our well-known denominations, to study homosexuality. He says this...this committee member says this:
“The scriptural text in the Old and New Testaments condemning homosexual practice were neither inspired by God nor otherwise of enduring Christian value. Considered in light of the best biblical....” —hear this–“...considered in the light of the best biblical, theological, scientific and social knowledge, the biblical condemnation of homosexual practice is better understood as representing time- and place-bound cultural prejudice. Considered in the light of naturalism, we cannot accept the authority of the Scriptures.”
Another individual, from another denomination, says this:
“Not to recognize, critique and condemn Paul's equation of godlessness with homosexuality is dangerous. To remain within our respective Christian traditions and not challenge those passages that degrade and destroy us is to contribute to our own oppression. These passages will be brought up and used against us again and again until Christians demand...” —hear this–“...until Christians demand their removal from the biblical canon; or, at the very least, formally discredit their authority to prescribe behavior.”
A Christian theologian telling Christians we can't accept these condemnations of homosexuality in the Bible, in light of modern scientific theory. It's as though they were saying we must constantly test what we believe by Sigmund Freud and the American Psychological Association. You see the evaluation of the Scripture, the critical movement of the Scripture, based upon Naturalism.
Machen! Come back for Machen! You've got to hear about Machen in a few weeks. Machen and liberalism. J. Gresham Machen said this, many, many years ago: “The Bible, with a complete abandonment of all common sense, is made to say the exact opposite of what it means. No Gnostic, no medieval monk with historical sense of Scripture ever produced more absurd biblical interpretation than can be heard every Sunday in the pulpits of New York.” He spoke that in the mid-twentieth century, and how it continues to be true...even secular academics, and even within the church. Either standing up and denying the authority of Scripture, or being hesitant and unsure, neutral. Who are they hurting? What's wrong with it?
How did we get there? How did we get where we are today? Another book I’ll commend to you, Alan Sears and Craig Osteen wrote a book recently, The Homosexual Agenda: Exposing the Principal Threat to Religious Freedom Today and they say there are four stages. And the reason I want to emphasize these briefly to you, is because how they hit home and they are so profound:
“Those who seek to blur and abolish gender distinctions based upon this idea that gender itself is an accident, a biological accident, seek first establishment. In other words, they come up with an agenda. Secondly, they organize. They get organized and develop a game plan. Thirdly, they mobilize. Whatever issue it is— in this case, same-sex marriage, homosexuality— they become in this third stage a human rights issue. And those who oppose them are labeled ‘narrow, bigoted, hateful, intolerant, using hate-speech.’ And, fourthly, legitimization. In other words, the society is reprogrammed to believe that these lifestyles are individual rights and choices.”
They argue that we're already at stage four. We hear it all the time: “hate-speech; narrow; bigoted; old fashioned; it's an individual right; it's a choice.” And I would argue, in response to this context, that biblical Christianity and the worldview that grows out of it represents the single greatest obstacle to the normalization and legitimization of homosexuality and same-sex marriage. And those who advocate those positions know it. Those who advocate those positions know it. That's why Byron Rushing, on the floor of the legislature in Massachusetts, can say to ministers, “Shame on you! This is a civil right for an individual.”
The biblical argument against homosexuality/same sex marriage
We know that clearly the most extensive argument from a biblical perspective is Romans 1:21-27. The passage is clear. Paul is saying here that homosexuality is primarily and fundamentally an act of unbelief. Homosexuality is an act of unbelief. There's a logical progression here. Paul says this in the context of man rebelling against God as Creator-Redeemer, suppressing the truth in unrighteousness.
And what is a sign? What is the first sign that he mentions of man suppressing the truth in unrighteousness? Homosexuality. Homosexuality is a sign of rebellion against God and God's judgment. He says this:
(26) “For this reason [suppressing the truth in unrighteous-ness]...for this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, (27) in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another., men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their error.”
Homosexuality, the homosexual lifestyle, same-sex marriage are acts of unbelief and they’re assaults upon God's design for creating human beings. We shouldn't be hesitant about that. And we will be called names, if we aren't. God created complementary genders: male and female. When confronted by biblical evidence, biblical Christianity, either we affirm the Bible and its teaching as inerrant and infallible, or we compromise the Scriptures as many have done and say they emerged in the context of a patriarchal culture driven by domination of those who oppose it.
Upon what do we stand? What is the elephant that goes all the way down? What do you set your hearts upon, and how does it work out in your view of the world, and how you act? Are human beings cosmic accidents? What is gender? What it manhood, what is womanhood? Our world, our secular world, these days is committed to confusion on these matters. When you are being told, when I am being told that I am engaging in hate-speech; when you are told that you are narrow-minded, backward, bigoted, old-fashioned, out of step, you are being confronted with a worldview that is deeply rooted in Atheistic Naturalism. That's what you’re being confronted with when you’re called the names you’re called.
The heart of the issue
But the issue here is much greater than same-sex marriage and homosexuality, isn't it? It comes back again to the question: Is man made in the image of God, or is God made in the image of man? How you answer that question will determine how you act, view, and what you do about homosexuality and same-sex marriage. Is man made in God's image, or is God made in man's image? Does God create and stand back, or does He preserve and govern all His creatures and all their actions? Is He non-existent, or does He have no personality, or is He the Creator-Redeemer who reveals Himself through the world and His word?
When I oppose same-sex marriage and homosexuality, when you oppose same-sex marriage and homosexuality, you are going to be told that you are intolerant and hateful. And your response should be, “No. No. I believe there is a better way. Do you know what that better way is? Diversity. Manhood, womanhood, made in the image of God, male and female; made in the image of God to complement each other and become one flesh: unity and diversity in this wonderful, marvelous, mysterious design.”
It is, ironically, Christians, it is Christians who affirm diversity and complementarity, not sameness. It is Christians who affirm the profound, wonderful, beautiful design of the Creator, and recognize this...and recognize this, ultimately, as a mirror of our Lord and Savior's relationship to His bride, the church. “For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife,” so says Paul in Ephesians 5, “...and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great, but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.”
How will we respond? What do we affirm? What is the elephant that goes all the way down in your life, and how does it change what you most deeply believe and what you set your heart upon, and what you live for? Let's pray.
Lord God, we often have a sense of crying in the wilderness. We often have a sense of wanting to shout “how long?” We often have a sense of wanting to say “remove the thorn!” And yet we know that power is perfected in weakness. We pray that as we are faced with worldviews that are rooted in —particularly as we have addressed tonight–are rooted in Atheistic Naturalism, a worldview that denies Your existence altogether, we pray that we would remember how firm a foundation we have in our Lord Jesus Christ and in Your word. We pray that we would be characterized by compassion, by love, by care, by concern. We would seek to spend and be spent for Your glory; that upon the issue of truth we would never waver, but at the same time be driven, because of our knowledge of You and love for You, to evangelize, to care for, to help in whatever way there is need. Give us strength. Give us insight. We pray that You would guide us by Your Spirit and that You would bring revival and reformation to our land, that we might not lose hope. We pray these things in our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
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