FIRST-PERSON: Defending marriage in a pluralistic culture
MADISON, Ind. (BP) -- The issues of homosexuality in general and same-sex marriage in particular simply will not go away. Increasingly, acrimonious debates about these matters find top billing in the headlines. President Obama's not-so-surprising decision to endorse same-sex marriage publicly all but guarantees this debate will loom even larger in the months to come.
The question becomes: What position should the church take on the issue of same-sex marriage? While the Scriptures are clear on the sinful and deviant nature of homosexual behavior, and on God's intention for marriage to be a union of male and female, large swaths of the church have long since abandoned a scriptural mooring for matters of faith and practice. This issue simply highlights the authority of Scripture will remain a perennial topic of concern for the church until Christ returns. As Christians, we must contend within the church that the Bible is the authoritative guide for all believers and that those who reject its authority seriously compromise our faith in the eyes of a watching world.
But many secularists in our society are constantly on watch for any perceived encroachment of Christian values into matters of national policy. They reject any appeal to Scripture as a violation of the separation of church and state. Thus, to secularists, for Christians to argue from Scripture that homosexual behavior is sinful or that marriage is to be between a man and a woman carries no weight. However, what these secularists overlook is that our nation was founded with the understanding that in certain areas, the policy of the state could not help but be informed by the Divine intent -- whether expressed verbally in Scripture or revealed more generally in Creation.
For example, in the first sentence of the Declaration of Independence, an appeal was made to the "Laws of Nature and of Nature's God." In context, the point being made was that it was self-evident to the Founders that American independence was in conformity with the Divine intent. In the second sentence, the appeal to self-evident truths in Creation continued: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights. ... " One wonders if this generation of Americans is willing to grant what the Founders assumed: that the revelation of God in Creation was an important source to consider in establishing at least some areas of national policy.
I believe the church can and should appeal to our fellow citizens to be cognizant of the Creator's self-evident intentions in terms of maintaining a definition of marriage as only between a man and a woman. Basic human anatomy is sufficient to confirm a design for marriage indeed exists in the Creation. Our national welfare will not be advanced if the government undertakes to redefine marriage. Instead, our national policy should recognize and protect the design for marriage that already is in place by the wise actions of a purposeful and benevolent Creator.
Not everyone, of course, is prepared to grant the premise upon which this argument rests: there is a God who created us and the world. But in rejecting this, they at least need to recognize their position is a new one in American life. Further, they need to be prepared for the moral chaos that will follow if it is widely embraced.
If marriage is not a reflection of God's design for sexuality, then upon what could any definition of it rest? The answer is marriage can be redefined at will and assume any shape we choose to grant it. No one who is serious-minded can then deny the inevitability that a redefinition of marriage today will necessarily give way to further redefinitions tomorrow. If we grant that marriage can be between two men or two women, then upon what logic can we deny marriage can be between one man and three women? The only limit to a continually expanding definition of marriage then becomes human perversity -- which is to say there is no limit. And remember, of course, that much else flows from the definition of marriage. How would insurance premiums be impacted in the future if spousal benefits were required to be extended to a small harem? Is it really wise to allow for children to be adopted into same-sex marriages or polygamous marriages?
A decision to allow same-sex marriages today lays the foundation for the definition of marriage to become Silly Putty tomorrow, capable of endless reshaping in the future. That, in turn, is a recipe for children to be made victims of all sorts of abuse and the welfare of our society to receive a fatal blow. It is simply not the case that no one will be harmed if marriage in America is redefined.
America, we truly do stand at a crossroads on this issue. If we choose to ignore self-evident truths in Creation, then we choose to become a godless nation, not "One Nation under God." The consequences of that decision are more profound and far-reaching than anyone can at present fathom.
Paul Brewster is pastor of Ryker's Ridge Baptist Church in Madison, Ind.