Saturday, June 27, 2015

Going Deeper with a Civil Debate on Gay Marriage

The most important lesson I ever learned in life was to 'look both ways before you cross the street'. In that one lesson, I learned that you follow the truth no matter where it leads. We don't simply pick and choose our beliefs. Now not everything is as clear as whether or not a street is safe for crossing. But the concept of discernment still applies.

This is why I've been so disappointed in how people have supported their views on both sides of this recent SCOTUS ruling on gay marriage. This is not going to be another article on supporting or objecting to the decision.

Anias Nin said, "We don't see the world as it is, we see the world as we are." The debate on this issue may well tell us more about ourselves than whether or not it is right or wrong to allow gay marriage.

So here is a summary of the arguments that I've seen both pro and against the SCOTUS ruling:

  • The Bible says it is wrong
  • The Bible says don't judge.
  • Love Wins
  • Live and let live.

The Bible Says It Is Wrong

Imagine arguing from the Koran to a group of Christians to support ANY idea and maybe you'll start to see the problem. That group of Christians is going to say something along the lines of "So what? We don't believe in the Koran." THIS is the chief problem with Christians using the Bible as their primary reference point when speaking to a secular crowd.

Secondly, these folks often quote Leviticus 18.
22 Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable.

But Leviticus also says that people should not wear clothing made of two kinds of material, men shouldn't cut the sides of our beards or get tattoos.

Deuteronomy 22:8 says that a fence (parapet) should be built on one's roof to prevent someone from falling off.

Without going into the woods, these Christians pick and choose Scripture, not understanding how to make distinctions between the Mosaic law and the Law written on a believer's heart (Heb 10:16).

They also don't seem to understand the idea that Israel was a theocracy. The Mosaic law was a prescription exclusive for Israel not something God was prescribing on all nations.

Well what about Paul's statements in the New Testament? Romans 1:24-27 clearly indicts homosexuality. I couldn't agree more. However, Paul also says that slaves should not seek freedom, singles should not seek to be married, and in whatever state you find yourself in, you should remain because Christ was coming back soon. Many Christians try to interpret "soon" as to mean within the subsequent 2000 years but if that were the case, then why couldn't slaves seek freedom in their life times (as an example)?

If all this sounds like I'm not a Christian and don't believe in the authority of God's Word, that is not true. Without going any deeper, let me simply say that there are multiple ways to look at the inspiration of the Scriptures. I find that the Christians making these mistakes, aren't aware of them.

Since space doesn't permit me to expound, try a Google on "Plenary inspiration", "Dynamic inspiration" and "Red letter Christians" for some deeper insights. Also, check out how C.S. Lewis viewed Scripture and you'll see that I'm at least in good company.

And by the way, please don't use the fact that there are multiple ways to view the inspiration of Scripture as an excuse to simply conclude that the whole issue is subjective and therefore give yourself an easy way out to simply pick your own morality. It just isn't that easy.

The Bible Says Don't Judge

First off, when people say this, they are usually judging the person on the other end as being 'judgmental'. But secondly, the Bible does NOT say don't judge. It says, "Judge not lest you be judged" in Matthew 7:1. The very next verse says that in the same way you judge, you will be judged. The rest of the chapter doesn't say you can't take a speck out of someone else's eye because you have a beam in yours. It instead says, first take that beam out of yours and THEN you can take the speck out of your neighbors. So it is saying don't judge hypocritically. Feel free to inspect Matthew 7:1-5 for yourself:

1 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. 3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

Love Wins

Lots of times, people who say don't judge, think that you are opposed to gay marriage simply because you hate gays. After all, this is how they pick their morality. They try to rule anything or anyone they don't like as being wrong. They essentially set themselves up as a god because if you think about it, only an all powerful God gets to choose truth. Imagine living as God and getting to choose to make that road you are going to cross clear simply because you really want to cross that street.

Unfortunately for these people, unless you can get them to view morality as a human views that street, you won't be able to talk to such people. They will simply dismiss you as a hate-monger and then either ignore you or insult you.

Bottom line is yes there are Westboro Baptists who actually HATE homosexuals. They are the scourge of the earth. But there are also those who think it is wrong who have nothing but compassion for homosexuals and deep down hope that they are wrong, especially if the homosexuals don't change.

Live and Let Live

This argument says that if someone's difference in values and ethics doesn't negatively impact others' lives, we should leave it alone. In one sense I can agree. But how far do we take this? If my house is on fire, the least compassionate thing you can say is "I don't want to ruin his day so I won't tell him". On the other hand, if you are delusional and THINK my house is on fire but it is not, then telling me, even driven by sincere compassion is going to be at least an annoyance on my part.

So how about we try and measure truth?

You say, well when it comes to morality, truth is relative. Quantum mechanics says that an object's specific location cannot be measured by the observer. One can measure either velocity or vector but not both simultaneously. But the limitations of the observer doesn't suppress science. So why should it suppress our attempts to search for truth in morality?

I think we can look at biology, psychology, social studies, history and philosophy to enlighten our understandings on this issue. Amongst Christians, we can also look at Scripture, but are you willing to go deeper subjects on subjects such as epistemology & hermeneutics? Maybe we'll never be able to pin the truth down but we won't know unless we try.

So instead of heated debates full of expletives and unfriending people on Facebook, who is up for having a CIVIL conversation on this subject (and others)? Maybe we'll ALL learn something.

At the deepest level, I think this debate really boils down to the following: Do you believe that personal happiness is the ultimate purpose of life or do you believe that there is a deeper purpose that transcends even that?


Geoff Liebrandt said...

Hi Greg, we haven't talked in a while! Hope you are well. You wrote an interesting, thought-provoking article. I agree with a lot of it - particularly that modern society has little interest in hearing what the Bible has to say. Of course it is the primary starting point for shaping a Christian's world view, but though the world once respected the Bible and it's teachings, there is little of that to be found today.

However, at the same time, we shouldn't automatically criticize Christians whose stand is based on Biblical teaching and tell them that their arguments must be based on other reasons when speaking out against immorality or sin - in this case homosexuality. After all, in both the ancient world of the Old Testament, and in the time of the New Testament, homosexual behavior was present in the cultures that surrounded God's people. God called for the people of Israel to live differently than the nations around them, to abstain from sexual deviance and immorality as found in those cultures - because He said so - because their sexual practices were detestable to Him. The same is true in the New Testament. In several instances Paul urged his readers not to live like the world around them lived, but to live holy lives that pleased God. God's people weren't ordered to look for culturally relevant arguments against sexual sin. Instead, the issue was simple. God said this is good and right, and that is wrong, so live accordingly. Will the argument that "God said so" win many debates in today's culture? Not hardly, yet "God said so" still must remain the foundation of our acceptance or rejection of certain behavior, whether the world accepts it or not.

I also don't think that the argument is necessarily valid that Christians who point out Leviticus 18:22 are "picking and choosing" verses to follow, and "not understanding how to make distinctions between Mosaic Law and the law written on a believer's heart". Yes, we Christians understand that Jesus fulfilled the law and nailed the edicts and condemnation of the law to the cross. We should understand that some of the laws handed down to Moses in the desert were cultural in nature, designed to separate the Israelites from their neighbors and set them apart. And we know that the law, while good, also had a purpose of showing Israel how holy God is, and how far short of His holiness they fell. However, we Christians haven't automatically thrown out the Mosaic Laws because they were designed exclusively for a theocratic Israel.

We still hold that the Ten Commandments teach us about our relationship with God, and how we should treat and love others. The commandments about being truthful and honest, not coveting, not bearing false witness, etc...these all reflect the character of a holy God, and that character should be evident in our own lives. Other laws talked about rape, about the treatment of the helpless and powerless, all things that again show God's character of holiness, love, mercy and justice - things that transcend God's dealings with ancient Israel and are still relevant to how we as Christians live our lives today. And yes, some of those laws talked about sexual behavior and things that God said were detestable to Him. We can't just dismiss those verses by glibly saying we are "picking and choosing" when we argue them as part of the basis for our views on morality and right and wrong.

Anyway, as I said at the start, a thought-provoking article, Greg. I do agree with a lot of what you said, and we do need more civil discussion on how to approach the world with the truth and good news of the Gospel. We as Christians do also need to tighten up our reasoning and "be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks" (1 Peter 3:15).


Greg Jones said...

Hi Geoff, great to hear from you. If I'm understanding your points here, then I think my original argument stands against them quite well for most of them so you will find me usually referencing them in my reply.

I don't see many examples, as you seem to, of believers attempting to persuade non-believers on moral issues. Most of the time, we see believers being corrected for not keeping their side of the covenant with Yahweh. Where such a thing does clearly & explicitly occur is in the New Testament.

In Acts 17, we have an example. Does Paul simply tell the Gentiles of His day "God said so"? You said that you didn't believe God's people used culturally relevant arguments, but Paul references the Greeks' statute "to the unknown God" and uses it as an entry point for the Gospel. Where we see the Scriptures themselves used as a starting point is with Peter (considered the Apostle to the Jews). In Acts 3, for instance, he points to the Old Testament prophets as well as Abraham.

So do you believe that a Muslim CAN tell you and I that we are obligated to make a pilgrimage to Mecca because just because THEIR holy book says so? Do you really believe we can simply go to non-believers and say they should live a certain way simply because the Bible says so?

Bottom line on this point is that I don't see the examples to which you point being examples of believers attempting to proselytize non-believers. We know that the reason tongues in Acts 2 was so revolutionary was because it was God bridging the gap between Jew (believer) and Gentile (nonbeliever). This obviates pointing to the OT for such examples. Furthermore, I would argue that God communicating the Gospel in foreign languages (in Acts 2) & the very incarnation of Christ in the human flesh (He could have taken any form) are clear examples of God modeling cultural relevance as a medium (not content) for communicating the Gospel.

Regarding picking & choosing the scriptures, do you believe that we should cut the sides of our beards? Why would you believe this prohibition to not be relevant to believers today yet believe that the OT prohibition against homosexuality IS? BTW, I'm not making a statement for homosexuality, I'm only suggesting that my objection as a believer isn't sourced from Leviticus. BTW, I agree with everything you say about the Mosaic law giving us a picture of God's holiness. Why do we believe building parapets is a command not relevant to believers today? Why is this not picking & choosing?

Didn't Christ give us light here by boiling the commandments down to two, loving God and loving man? The rest is an elaboration in my opinion. We are differing on the details of that elaboration.

I hope you & Diane are doing well. Thanks for writing. I'm interesting in learning more. If you choose to follow-up, please send it to my personal email address.


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