Tag archives: Same-sex marriage

Thinking Biblically About Love

by Joseph Backholm

March 17, 2021

On “Worldview Wednesday,” we feature an article that addresses a pressing cultural, political, or theological issue. The goal of this blog series is to help Christians think about these issues from a biblical worldview. Read our previous posts Thinking Biblically About Unity, Thinking Biblically About Safety, and Thinking Biblically About “Christian Nationalism”.

This week, the Vatican made headlines when it released a statement that said the Catholic Church cannot bless same-sex relationships because God “does not and cannot bless sin: he blesses sinful man, so that he may recognize that he is part of his plan of love and allow himself to be changed by him. He in fact ‘takes us as we are, but never leaves us as we are.’”   

The Vatican’s announcement shouldn’t have come as such a shock. This has been the orthodox Christian belief since the time Jesus walked the earth. Nevertheless, the reactions were predictable.

Don Lemon, a CNN television personality who identifies as gay, had this response: “I would say to the pope and the Vatican and all Christians or Catholics … go out and meet people and try to understand people and do what the Bible and what Jesus actually said, if you believe in Jesus, and that is to love your fellow man and judge not lest ye be not [sic] judged” (paraphrasing Mt. 7:1).

Lemon’s call for love is not surprising, and Christians agree in principle that part of following Jesus is loving people. Jesus told His disciples the night before His crucifixion, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35 ESV). Years later, the apostle John wrote to his fellow believers, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:11).

But what is biblical love?   

Many, like Don Lemon, equate love with tolerance. From this perspective, it is unloving to say that same-sex relationships are sinful because that isn’t tolerant. However, God does not conflate love and tolerance.  

In God’s world, loving people is a priority, but it is not the highest priority. Loving God is the highest priority: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt. 22:37-39).

We love God first and foremost through our obedience to Him and His word. As Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). And again, “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me” (John 14:21).

Part of our obedience to God is loving those He created, and He tells us how to do that. The apostle Paul penned one of the Bible’s most famous expositions on what love of neighbor looks like: “Love is patient, love is kind, it is not jealous; love does not brag, it is not arrogant. It does not act disgracefully, it does not seek its own benefit; it is not provoked, does not keep an account of a wrong suffered … it keeps every confidence, it believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor. 13: 4-5,7 NASB).

There is much in this list for the “love is tolerance” crowd to like. But in the midst of this list is a verse that is absolutely critical to understanding the difference between biblical love and the world’s conception of love. That verse is, love “does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth.”  (1 Cor. 13:6).

This is the point where, as Robert Frost would say, “two roads diverged in the wood…” The world’s understanding of love requires a celebration of unrighteousness, whereas God’s definition of love forbids it. Christians must choose.

This choice may be challenging for those who have spent their Christian lives conflating love with likability and tolerance. Jesus tells us to “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Mt. 5:16 ESV). Does this mean that if people don’t like what we do in the name of God, we’re doing it wrong? Not necessarily. Loving people well does not always translate into people liking you. Just ask Jesus. They killed Him. He warned His disciples before His death that the world would hate them, too, on account of Him (John 15:18-25). We do not need to fear our fellow man, however, because God is our helper (Ps. 118:5-9, Rom. 8:31-39).

The fact is, a lot of people don’t want to be loved by God; they want to be indulged by God—and everyone else. However, if we love God, there are things we can’t indulge. As Christians, it is not our job to be liked by people; it is our job to love people like Jesus did—with a love that is patient and kind, a love that does not rejoice in unrighteousness but rejoices with the truth.

The reason why Christians can’t celebrate unrighteousness is important—the entire gospel hinges upon it. It is our unrighteousness that separates us from God and sentences us to eternity in hell. Fortunately, there is a solution (John 3:16, Rom. 6:23), but celebrating the problem is unhelpful because it obscures the solution. 

Loving as God loves and refusing to celebrate unrighteousness may bother Don Lemon and others, but it won’t bother Jesus, and pleasing Him is much more important. To borrow another line from Robert Frost, “I took the road less traveled and that has made all the difference.” Or, as Jesus said, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Mt. 7:13-14).

The Defense of Marriage and the Right of Religious Freedom: Reaffirming a Shared Witness”

by Rob Schwarzwalder

April 28, 2015

In a somewhat unusual alliance, “35 religious leaders representing Catholic, evangelical, Pentecostal, Orthodox and Mormon churches” have issued an “Open Letter … to All in Positions of Public Service” concerning same-sex marriage. As noted by Religion News Service, Imam Faizul Khan of the Islamic Society of Washington Area also signed the letter.

Among the signatories are National Association of Evangelicals president Rev. Dr. Leith Anderson; the Most Rev. Salvatore J. Cordileone; Archbishop of San Francisco; Rev. Dr. Matthew Harrison, President of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod; Most Rev. William E. Lori, Archbishop of Baltimore; Dr. Russell Moore, President of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission; and Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, President of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.

Here are two excerpts from the document:

The redefinition of legal marriage to include any other type of relationship has serious consequences, especially for religious freedom. It changes every law involving marital status, requiring that other such relationships be treated as if they were the same as the marital relationship of a man and a woman. No person or community, including religious organizations and individuals of faith, should be forced to accept this redefinition …

The well-being of men, women, and the children they conceive compels us to stand for marriage as the union of one man and one woman. We call for the preservation of the unique meaning of marriage in the law, and for renewed respect for religious freedom and for the conscience rights of all in accord with the common good.”

There is much to commend here. Christians who believe in the Bible’s unalterable teaching that marriage exists as the union of one man and one woman should always and often be articulating publicly this truth, and doing so in the irenic manner of this letter.

With that said, this “open letter” is, perhaps, so “open” as to be innocuous: Addressing no one in particular, I fear it will have the effect of shouting out of a window on a stormy day. Additionally, although it mentions this week’s oral arguments on same-sex marriage at the Supreme Court, it nowhere calls on the Court to rule against mandating that all 50 states accept the redefinition of marriage being demanded by the advocates of such. The letter’s omission of calling on the Supreme Court to decide this issue consistent with the Constitution and the natural law tradition (supported by Protestants and Catholics, in sometimes different but still important ways, alike) seems rather odd.

The letter does raise an important question: What of the fear that the law could require churches, synagogues, and mosques to hold, and the clergy who lead them to perform, same-sex wedding ceremonies?

At present, legal protections exist, but churches need to be aware of them and also how to protect themselves from potential litigation. That’s why the director of FRC’s Center for Religious Liberty, Travis Weber, has written a new FRC Issue Brief, “How are clergy protected from being forced to perform same-sex marriages?”

At the same time, FRC’s allies at the Alliance Defending Freedom have drafted “Seven things All Churches Should Have in Their Bylaws,” which lists how church bylaws can protect religious institutions from potential litigation with respect to same-sex marriage and related matters.

I applaud the signatories of the “Defense of Marriage” for issuing this letter, even though its potency seems modest given its rather amorphous audience. Regardless of how the Supreme Court rules in June, people who believe the Bible will keep on standing for Scripture’s truth and doing so with the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Judge relies on decision upholding government¿s ability to regulate marriage as it suppresses conscience objections to same-sex “marriage”

by Travis Weber, J.D., LL.M.

February 19, 2015

Yesterday, in the consolidated cases of State of Washington v. Arlene’s Flowers and Ingersoll v. Arlene’s Flowers, a Washington state court judge held that a small wedding vendor defendant engaged in impermissible discrimination in seeking to honor her religious beliefs and not support the promotion of a same-sex wedding ceremony with her services.

In granting the plaintiffs’ motions for summary judgment, Judge Ekstrom of the Benton County Superior Court elevated nondiscrimination laws over free exercise and free speech rights.

In holding that “[f]ree exercise is not … without its limits,” Judge Ekstrom relied on the Supreme Court’s proclamation in Reynolds v. United States that “[l]aws are made for the government of actions, and while they cannot interfere with mere religious belief and opinions, they may with practices… . Can a man excuse his practices to the contrary because of his religious belief? The permit this would be to make the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land, and in effect to permit every citizen to become a law unto himself. Government could exist only in name under such circumstances.”

True, the Supreme Court in Reynolds stated as much.

Equally interesting is the language from Reynolds which Judge Ekstrom excised from his quotation:

Suppose one believed that human sacrifices were a necessary part of religious worship, would it be seriously contended that the civil government under which he lived could not interfere to prevent a sacrifice? Or if a wife religiously believed it was her duty to burn herself upon the funeral pile of her dead husband, would it be beyond the power of the civil government to prevent her carrying her belief into practice? So here, as a law of the organization of society under the exclusive dominion of the United States, it is provided that plural marriages shall not be allowed.”

I don’t know why Judge Ekstrom chose to describe the Free Exercise Clause by quoting from Reynolds. Perhaps he thought it was his best source of authority; that seems unlikely though given that the decision is over 100 years old and is criticized right and left as “outdated.” Perhaps he thought he was being clever by using another case involving a rejection of religious rights in the context of sexuality.

If the latter, it’s quite ironic that the authority a judge relies on in restricting the rights of religious objectors to same-sex “marriage” is the same authority upholding limits on traditional marriage for the good of society.

For the Court in Reynolds rejected a free exercise challenge to a law criminalizing bigamy, and in doing so, noted the state’s significant interest in regulating marriage:

it is impossible to believe that the constitutional guaranty of religious freedom was intended to prohibit legislation in respect to this most important feature of social life. Marriage, while from its very nature a sacred obligation, is nevertheless, in most civilized nations, a civil contract, and usually regulated by law. Upon it society may be said to be built, and out of its fruits spring social relations and social obligations and duties, with which government is necessarily required to deal.”

Today, if a state tried to uphold its natural marriage laws by relying on Reynolds it would be criticized loudly and clearly.

Regardless, Reynolds actually proves the utility and workability of strict-scrutiny religious rights frameworks being debated today, as the hypothetical human sacrifice and burning of the dead scenarios mentioned in Reynolds clearly would be barred by a compelling government interest, while other religious rights not seeking to override a compelling government interest would be protected under such frameworks. This is precisely the balance needed to sort out valid religious rights claims from invalid ones, and protect conscience objections like those of Ms. Stutzman — especially since judges like Judge Ekstrom won’t.

An Inescapable and Irrepressible Conflict

by Rob Schwarzwalder

October 6, 2014

The Supreme Court today has “turned away appeals from five states looking to prohibit gay marriage, effectively legalizing same-sex marriage in those states and likely others — but also leaving the issue unresolved nationally.” So now same-sex “marriage” is legal in 30 states plus D.C.

My boss Tony Perkins issued a thoughtful statement about the ruling earlier today. In part, he said, “As more states are forced to redefine marriage, contrary to nature and directly in conflict with the will of millions, more Americans will see and experience attacks on their religious freedom.” Sadly, he’s dead right.

There are a number of dimensions to this issue, one of which was articulated by Dr. Al Mohler of Southern Baptist Seminary in an article on September 24: Homosexuality is “now inescapable for every congregation, every denomination, every seminary, and every Christian organization. The question will be asked and some answer will be given. When the question is asked, any answer that is not completely consistent with the church’s historical understanding of sexual morality and the full affirmation of biblical authority will mean a full embrace of same-sex behaviors and same-sex relationships. There is no third way, and there never was.”

Two observations: First, Dr. Mohler is right with respect to the inevitability of division within the believing church over this issue. Christians will choose to be faithful to Scriptural teaching or they won’t. There is not, as he notes, nor will there ever be, any middle ground between obedience and submission to the revealed will of God and rebellion against it.

Second, I’m haunted by the memory of William Seward’s comment, immediately before the Civil War, that strife between North and South over slavery constituted “an irrepressible conflict.”

Millions of Americans simmer with resentment at the coerced redefinition of marriage the courts are imposing on them, despite referenda in dozens of states where they have affirmed the traditional definition of marriage quite explicitly. The Dred Scott decision did not decide the issue of human bondage. The Roe v. Wade decision has not decided the issue of abortion on demand. And the continued federal court confusion over same-sex unions only postpones a day of legal reckoning that could create a measure of civic sundering unwitnessed in our nation for decades.

Even if the Supreme Court has valid reasons for postponing their decision on this issue, postponement is not resolution. I fear that whatever decision the Supremes finally reach will not resolve it, either.

Supremes Dodge Most Important Issue Before Them — Marriage

by Peter Sprigg

October 6, 2014

The Supreme Court has declined to take up any of the pending same-sex “marriage” cases before them.

There is bad news and good news in this decision. The bad news is that these states have been denied the opportunity to defend their legitimate power to define marriage before the Supreme Court. The good news is that the Supreme Court does not seem to be as eager as many people assumed to issue a “Roe v. Wade“-type decision redefining marriage.

This decision reflects cowardice on the part of the Supreme Court. People on both sides of the marriage debate agree that the constitutional issues that have been raised should be addressed by the highest court in the land. The Court is right to fear a backlash if they impose a redefinition of marriage on all fifty states; but they are wrong to just let the lower courts do their dirty work for them.

The decision is baffling on several levels. It is hard to understand why the Court heard the case (Hollingsworth v. Perry) challenging California’s Proposition 8 in 2013 (then declined to rule on the merits because of standing issues), but is refusing much clearer cases now. Some say they are waiting for “circuit split” on the issue, but one already exists — the Eighth Circuit upheld Nebraska’s marriage amendment in 2006 (Citizens for Equal Protection v. Bruning). Furthermore, the Supreme Court’s own “dismissal for want of a substantial federal question” of a same-sex “marriage” case out of Minnesota in 1972 (Baker v. Nelson) remains binding precedent until the Supreme Court itself explicitly overrules it.

Everyone needs to be reminded that the question of whether redefining marriage is good public policy is separate from the question of whether the Constitution of the United States mandates such a redefinition. Even those who favor redefining marriage should understand that such a radical social change is more likely to be accepted if it is adopted through the democratic process, rather than imposed from on high by a court.

One thing is clear — anyone who claims to know what the Supreme Court is thinking is wrong.

Memo to Evangelicals: All Marriages Are Not, Nor Ever Will Be, Biblically Equal

by Rob Schwarzwalder

September 15, 2014

Evangelicals for Marriage Equality” has published a piece in TIME magazine asserting an orthodox theological case for same-sex “marriage.”

This ground has been covered so often that to write about it again seems redundant to the point of being tedious. Yet it cannot be ignored because its proponents keep raising it. Below are some responses to this new initiative whose essential argument – that “it’s possible to be a faithful Christian with a high regard for the authority of the Bible and a faithful supporter of civil marriage equality” – is simply not consistent with biblical teaching, natural law, or the quantifiable good of society.

This is not a dispute like Christian disagreements over modes of baptism or the doctrines of the end times (you say amillenial, I say premillennial, but we’re not going to call our fellowship off). It is about whether or not the clear meaning of any number of passages in the Old and New Testaments is true, and whether what the Bible teaches about human sexuality is right or wrong.

To professing Evangelical advocates of same-sex “marriage:” Stop dissembling. Reject revealed truth concerning human sexual behavior if you will. Christ does not compel faithful discipleship at the point of a gun. Just don’t pretend the Bible doesn’t say what it says or that your personal experiences and/or longings must supersede the commands of the Creator and Redeemer of the universe.

Dr. Robert Gagnon, “Jesus, Scripture, and the Myth of New-Knowledge Arguments About Homosexuality

Jesse Johnson, “The Case Against Same-Sex Marriage

Andrew Walker, “An Evangelical Defense of Traditional Marriage

Rev. Peter Sprigg, “Top Ten Harms of Same-Sex Marriage

Rob Schwarzwalder, “Leviticus, Jesus, and Homosexuality: Some Thoughts on Honest Interpretation

Rev. Dr. David E. Prince, “Christianity and the New Liberalism: Homosexuality and the Evangelical Church

Men and women make babies, and same-sex couples do not.”

by Peter Sprigg

September 2, 2014

On August 26, 2014, a three-judge panel of the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit heard oral arguments in Chicago in cases challenging the marriage laws of two states, Indiana and Wisconsin.

I have already written a detailed blog post outlining highlights of the arguments and my reactions to them. However, I thought it would be worth sharing some more extended excerpts of the argument in defense of a one-man-one-woman definition of marriage. Indiana Solicitor General Thomas Fisher outlined (and Wisconsin Assistant Attorney General Timothy Samuelson endorsed) the core constitutional argument — that marriage exists as a public institution primarily to promote responsible procreation.

At oral arguments, the attorneys are frequently interrupted by the judges, so the following quotes are taken from a variety of points during the argument. The quotes are my own transcription from the audio which the court posted here.

Thomas Fisher:                                                     

If we don’t have marriage, what is the issue we’re dealing with? We’re dealing with widespread heterosexual activity that creates babies. There has to be a mechanism to deal with that. The mechanism is, let’s channel potentially procreative couples into relationships that are durable and longstanding and will remain together for the sake of the child… .

The question is, “What can we do to nudge heterosexual couples, who may produce children, to plan for this — to plan for the consequences and appreciate the consequences of sexual behavior?” Those consequences don’t arise with same-sex couples… . .

 … [A]ll this is a reflection of biology. It’s simply that men and women make babies, and same-sex couples do not… .

We have to have a mechanism for dealing with those babies, and marriage is that mechanism.

Churches in Denmark Forced to Perform Same-Sex “Marriages”

by Travis Weber, J.D., LL.M.

June 12, 2014

Just when we think things are getting bad here in the United States, we observe the Danish Parliament passing a law requiring all churches to perform same-sex “marriages.” Although with this development, religious liberty is almost non-existent in Denmark, individual ministers can still opt out of performing the wedding. In that case, the church must find another minister to perform the required duties. This is no small consolation, however, for such a law in one blow nullifies any freedom of an organization or church to define itself according to its own religious values.

Some Danes are holding strong, though:

Marriage is as old as man himself, and you can’t change something as fundamental,” … church spokesperson Christian Langballe said … . “Marriage is supposed to be between a man and a woman.”

In support of the law, one prominent businessman said “[w]e have felt a little like we were living in the Middle Ages… . I think it is positive that there is now a majority for [the law], and that there are so many priests and bishops who are in favour of it, and that the Danish population supports up about it [sic]. We have moved forward. It’s 2012.”

Notice the appeal to the idea of “majority support.” This is the very type of tyranny the Bill of Rights in the United States is meant to protect against.

While such a law would never survive a constitutional challenge in the United States, it still serves as a sober warning of forces seeking to attack a biblical worldview.

What Judge McShane thinks he knows — but is unknowable

by Peter Sprigg

June 3, 2014

Earlier, I wrote a blog post about the May 19, 2014 decision by U. S. District Court Judge Michael J. McShane (Geiger v. Kitzhaber), striking down Oregon’s constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman — one of a series of such decisions in recent months.

Those interested in why these judges, in general terms, have it wrong should refer to the recent FRC paper, Marriage on Trial: State Laws Defining Marriage as the Union of One Man and One Woman Are Valid under the Constitution of the United States.

I noted that one maddening aspect of the Geiger decision in particular was Judge McShane’s sense of certainty in asserting things which are either a) blatantly false, or b) inherently unknowable.

In the former category (blatantly false) is virtually everything McShane says about the research on children raised by homosexual parents, including his declaration that “children fare the same whether raised by opposite-gender or same-gender couples.”

On the issue of homosexual parenting, however, McShane has a body of methodologically flawed and biased research that tends to support his view, as well as a collection of ideologically-driven policy statements by large professional organizations.

Even less defensible, however, are the blanket statements he made about the impact redefining marriage would have on the institution of marriage in the future — or rather, the lack of impact it would have.

For example, McShane declared:

Opposite-sex couples will continue to choose to have children responsibly or not, and those considerations are not impacted in any way by whether same-gender couples are allowed to marry.”

Quoting another judge on the next page, McShane added:

Permitting same-sex couples to marry will not affect the number of opposite-sex couples who marry, divorce, cohabit, have children outside of marriage or otherwise affect the stability of opposite-sex marriages.”

To both of these statements, my response is: “How can you possibly know?”

Decisions about public policy issues (which are actually not the purview of judges — but that’s for another piece) must, of course, rest on at least some informed predictions of what the consequences of a particular course of action will be. 

I made my own set of predictions about the consequences of redefining marriage in a 2011 FRC booklet, The Top Ten Harms of Same-Sex “Marriage.” My predictions directly contradicted those made by Judge McShane, and included these points:

  • Fewer people would marry
  • Fewer people would remain married for a lifetime
  • Fewer children would be raised by a married mother and father
  • More children would grow up fatherless; and
  • Birth rates would fall.

However, there are two key differences between my predictions and McShane’s. I, at least, qualified them with the statement that they were “ways in which society could be harmed by legalizing same-sex ‘marriage’” (emphasis added), whereas McShane declared dogmatically what “will” and “will not” take place. In addition, he did so in the absence of any supporting evidence, whereas I offered specific, tangible evidence in support of my predictions.

Let me offer an updated overview of at least one of these issues, perhaps the most fundamental one. McShane declares, “Opposite-sex couples will continue to choose to have children . . .”

Will they? Of course, we may assume that some will continue to do so, but birth rates in many countries have been falling, with negative consequences already evident or easy to anticipate. (See, for instance, the books The Empty Cradle by Philip Longman, and What to Expect When No One’s Expecting by Jonathan V. Last.)

Would same-sex “marriage” result in lower birth rates? It is too early to identify a causal relationship between the two. It may be that a retreat from a procreative view of marriage contributes to both declining birth rates and the redefinition of marriage to include intrinsically non-procreative relationships. Yet while there are multiple confounding factors at work, there is evidence of at least a correlation between redefining marriage to include homosexual couples and lower birth and fertility rates.

For example, early this year, I researched the latest state-by-state data in the U.S. regarding three key measures of what we might call “reproductivity.” The “birth rate” as such represents the number of annual births per 1,000 total population. The “general fertility rate” is the number of annual births per 1,000 women aged 15-44 years (a general estimate of the childbearing years). Finally, the “total fertility rate” represents the “estimated number of births over a woman’s lifetime” (per 1,000 women).

The most recent national data available, published in December 2013, was a final report for 2012. I took the state data reported and listed the states in rank order for each of the three measures. I then compared these lists with the list of U.S. states that had authorized the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Omitting states with recent (2014) court rulings, but including Illinois (which did not issue such licenses until this week but whose legislature authorized the change last year), there were seventeen states that had redefined marriage. Here is how they stacked up, compared to those states retaining a one-man-one-woman definition.

With respect to the birth rate:

  • All of the bottom 6 states in birth rate have same-sex “marriage” (SSM)
  • None of the top 9 states in birth rate have SSM
  • 8 of the bottom 15 states in birth rate have SSM
  • Only 2 of the top 15 states have SSM
  • Average rank of SSM states in birth rate: 32nd

With respect to the general fertility rate:

  • All of the bottom 6 states in general fertility rate have same-sex “marriage”
  • None of the top 7 states have SSM
  • 10 of the bottom 15 states have SSM
  • Only 2 of the top 15 states have SSM
  • Average rank of states with SSM in general fertility rate: 34th

With respect to the total fertility rate:

  • All of the bottom 6 states in total fertility rate have same-sex “marriage”
  • None of the top 7 states have SSM
  • 8 of the bottom 12 states have SSM
  • Only 1 of the top 12 states has SSM
  • 12 of the 17 SSM states are below the national average
  • Only 5 of the 17 SSM states are above the national average
  • Average rank of states with SSM: 33rd

Overall:

  • There are 12 states which rank in the top 15 in all three categories; only 1 of them has same-sex “marriage” (Hawaii)
  • There are 8 states which rank in the bottom 10 in all three categories; 6 of the 8 (the 6 New England states) have SSM

Judge McShane should re-think his certainty that redefining marriage would have no impact on the larger institution.

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