Gay ‘marriage’ and the consistent outcome of Genesis compromise
Published: 30 June 2012 (GMT+10)
Globally, there is a debate about what marriage is, and whether we should, or even can, redefine it to include unions between two men, or between two women. Many make this into a civil rights issue, saying that to deny the right to marry to two people who love each other is deeply and fundamentally unjust. To complicate matters, many people have friends and family who identify as homosexual, so this becomes a personal issue for a significant portion of the population. Even more complex is the existence of church leaders supporting gay marriage, even professing evangelical ones.
A widespread western phenomenon
It’s a significant political issue, too. Recently, US President Barack Obama explicitly expressed support of gay marriage.
[Update, 11 February 2015: While before the 2008 election, Obama claimed to oppose gay marriage, this recent revelation suggests that he said that just to dupe Christian voters:
A striking admission of political dishonesty from the keeper of the Obama flame
Barack Obama misled Americans for his own political benefit when he claimed in the 2008 election to oppose same sex marriage for religious reasons, his former political strategist David Axelrod writes in a new book, Believer: My Forty Years in Politics. From Time, 10 February 2015]
Soon Australia’s parliament will be voting on homosexual marriage, though most commentators believe that it is likely to be defeated due to low support, even among people who are otherwise politically liberal.
In the UK, Prime Minister David Cameron is trying to legalize gay marriage. One of his parliamentary colleagues in the Ministry of Justice, Crispin Blunt, said that church exemptions could face legal hurdles. (This highlights the risk to Christian freedoms—see box below.)
In Canada, the gay agenda is even further advanced. For example, a Quebec homosexual activist group has launched a ‘registry of homophobic acts’ with support and funding from the Quebec Government’s Justice Department.1
This debate is even controversial in the Church, despite the Bible’s clear statements against homosexual behavior. There is a growing group of people who say that the Bible would allow committed, loving, permanent relationships between gay couples, and that it would be a good thing to let them be married. In fact, among the forefront of this push are some supposed evangelical leaders.
Why this is so relevant to our ministry is that marriage is a Creation ordinance, defined in Genesis 1:27 and 2:24, and affirmed by Jesus Himself (Matthew 19:3–6, Mark 10:6–9). So it should shock no-one—although many are indeed shocked—that when professing Christians reject a historical Genesis, they are just being consistent when they reject the doctrine of marriage based on this (as is every other Christian doctrine).
Keith Mascord, a former lecturer at Moore Theological College in Australia, recently wrote an article titled “Beliefs must be tempered by facts”, which was published in the Sydney Morning Herald.2 In this he argues that Christians today should accept gay marriage.
Moore Theological College in Sydney is an Anglican institution, and is known (as is the Sydney diocese in general) for being a bastion of evangelicalism in Australia—and to this day still, the majority of Sydney Anglican leadership takes a strong public stand on Christian marriage. E.g. Archbishop Peter Jensen, a theistic evolutionist, said:
The biblical ideal of sexual relationships specifically excludes same-sex relationships. The biblical teaching makes this a matter of spiritual life and death. That is crystal clear from both the Old and New Testaments.3
Dr Broughton Knox, former principal of Moore College (1959–1985), denounced evolution and saw the dangers of compromising with it (see quote from 1988). But unfortunately despite this reputation and fine precedent from Dr Knox, Moore has been openly opposed to a historical Genesis since Knox, and has resisted all efforts of CMI to present biblical creation evidences there.
The Moore College blind spot on Genesis has been noted by a number of its students who support CMI’s stance. For example, one informed us a few years ago that all the Moore commentaries on Romans believed that Paul taught a literal Adam (Romans 5) and that God cursed the whole creation at the Fall (Romans 8). It was not difficult to foresee that students and theologians would find it increasingly difficult to resolve the cognitive dissonance between rejecting a historical Genesis and affirming the trustworthiness of the New Testament which affirms this.
The media has at times exploited this vulnerability in questioning the Sydney Anglican establishment (whose near-universal position is denial of such things as a global Flood and acceptance of millions of years) on their opposition to the encroaching homosexual agenda. (Such as, in reply to a Sydney Anglican leader defending marriage as a creation ordinance found in Genesis: OK, Genesis says marriage is a man and woman, but it also teaches that God created in six days, and you don’t believe that, do you?)
The Rev. John Dickson is another Sydney Anglican establishment figure who has not only come out strongly against straightforward Genesis history, but before Mascord’s piece appeared, has hinted at the need for evangelicals to ‘rethink’ their biblical understanding on homosexuality. And, like Mascord, the justification given was ‘science’—causing observers to wonder about the ‘cracks appearing’ in the previously solid Sydney Anglican biblical stance on sexuality. In a 2011 newspaper opinion piece, Dickson wrote:
Conservatives are very resistant to accepting the growing body of evidence revealing physiological factors behind sexual orientation. No ‘gay gene’ has been found but many specialists think the data suggests that homosexuality, bisexuality, polyamory and other sexual orientations are natural inclinations and not simple lifestyle choices.
However, instead of grappling with the data and developing other arguments for traditional sexual ethics some conservatives simply deny the evidence, dismiss it as a conspiracy of the gay lobby or cling to the absence of evidence for a ‘gay gene’.4
Mascord’s view is stronger and more open. His logic and argumentation are instructive, and shows how an unbiblical view of social issues like gay ‘marriage’ is a logical consequence of compromising about the truth of the Bible’s historical claims. He openly uses the denial of a global Flood to move on to denying the Bible’s statements about marriage.
Mascord argues that “it is possible to go back to the relevant biblical texts … and to rethink them in the light of contemporary knowledge and experience. Indeed, in failing to do this, those Christians who refuse to budge on homosexuality also find themselves locked into unsustainable ways of reading the Bible.” To illustrate, he goes to the story of Noah’s Flood, which he takes (correctly) as a story about a Flood that is actually presented as global:
Moreover, whenever the story is referred to elsewhere in the Bible, the writers appear to take the story as factual. Jesus appears to have accepted the story in this way (Luke 17:26–27). Jewish and Christian interpreters have also mostly taken it that way as well, until the past few hundred years.
But, Mascord concludes, “The big problem with this is that the Noah flood story is almost certainly not factual.” He goes on to say that creationists who insist on a global flood have the advantage of consistency, but have to deal with the scientific evidence. He makes it clear that the text doesn’t allow the localized flood that many people prefer to believe in. He argues:
the only reason a plain (and church-history-long) reading of the Noah story has been overturned in favor of seeing it as a localised flood, even if unconvincingly (or more convincingly, as myth), is that scientific discoveries have made that necessary. Many of the first geologists were Christian clergymen. It was under pressure from their discoveries that the biblical text came to be reread and reappropriated.
But this is simply not the case. Geological pioneer Nicolaus Steno (1631–1686) was a biblical creationist. However, things changed after the ‘Enlightenment’ in the 18th century, which rejected biblical revelation in favor of autonomous human ‘reasoning’. This was the framework by which many geologists, even in the Church, rejected the biblical text in favor of faulty interpretations. This is very clear from the ‘father of uniformitarianism’, the physician and deist James Hutton (1726–1797), who decreed, ‘the past history of our globe must be explained by what can be seen to be happening now.’ Then the lawyer Charles Lyell explicitly wanted to free geological science ‘from Moses’.
There was strong opposition from the Scriptural Geologists, including some who were more knowledgeable in geology than Hutton and Lyell, such as George Young and George Fairholme. They warned of the serious danger to biblical truth of the long-age compromise, and also showed how weak their science was.
Having said that Christians need to ‘reinterpret’ (code for ‘disbelieve’) the Bible’s teaching, Mascord goes on to say:
“There is good reason to think we will need to do the same [i.e. overturn ‘the plain (and church-history-long) reading’ of the Bible’s words] with the issue of marriage equality. Throughout history and across cultures, and within the Bible itself, homosexual practice has been almost universally condemned. But we now know, or have increasingly strong reasons to believe, that people are born gay or lesbian.”
Though it would in any case not alter the clear and authoritative stance of the Bible on the matter, the irony is that many gays disagree with the ‘born gay’ argument. For example, in our article What’s Wrong With Bishop Spong? we relate how one lesbian in Wellington, New Zealand, argued that the ‘born gay’ (and ‘gay gene’) argument “implies a naturalness to heterosexuality and an aberrance to homosexuality”. She further claimed that this was dangerous “ … because the underlying assertion is that if we weren’t born that way, we wouldn’t want to be like this.”5
In any case, the reasoning displayed by such evangelicals urging a ‘rethink’ on gay marriage is unchristian—by definition. If to be a Christian means to follow Christ, then part of this would be thinking the same way that Jesus thought. If someone says, “Jesus believed X, but I believe not-X”, then it is not a slur to call this unchristian—it is simply descriptive. But if we’re going to make scientific acceptance the basis for whether we accept what the Bible says or not, the logical end would be deism at best and outright atheism at worst.
In the same way, accepting homosexual marriage is unchristian—Jesus did not accept homosexuality as a non-sinful option, and neither does the rest of Scripture. Some people argue that Jesus did not say anything about homosexuality, but this is a dishonest tactic. During His earthly ministry, Jesus’ audience consisted of Jews who universally viewed homosexual behaviour as a perversion—there was no need for Him to tell them so. But Jesus expressly affirmed that marriage was a male and female. He also condemned sexual immorality (Matthew 15:19), which to a Jew talking to Jews would automatically include homosexual acts.
Conversely, Paul was ministering in a Gentile context where homosexuality was much more accepted, and he made it clear that both male and female homosexual behavior is a sin. This was along with other sexual sins such as adultery and fornication. See the article Homosexual behaviour v. the Bible.
But the Bible passages about homosexuality are only half of the equation. When we look at what the Bible says about marriage, we understand why homosexual unions are so fundamentally out of line with God’s purposes for human sexuality and marriage. One major biblical meaning of ‘sin’ is ‘missing the mark’ (cf. Romans 3:23),6 and this applies to all sexual relations outside God’s standard of marriage.
The world is sinful and fallen—this includes man’s inclinations. So it’s useless to appeal to the desire of some to have sexual or married relationships with people of the same sex—that’s a product of the Fall, just like adultery, lying, and any other sin . The Bible says a few things about the need to resist all sinful desires, and the good news that Jesus is the answer, including to homosexuals (“such were some of you”—1 Corinthians 6:11).
God’s will—His ‘mark’ we should aim for—was revealed in creation itself when He created humans as two equal and complementary sexes—male and female, and He created them to be in married relationships that would promote childbearing. That doesn’t mean that every person will be married, or that every married couple will have children, but that this is the normative and proper setting for human sexual relationships (Genesis 1:28, Malachi 2:15).
Furthermore, theologically, marriage is used as a ‘picture’ of the relationship between Christ and the Church. This suggests that an unbiblical view of marriage may also result in an unbiblical view of Christ’s relationship with His Church—does a definition of marriage that accommodates homosexual unions still accurately depict Christ’s relationship to believers?
The slippery slope of ‘science says’
Mascord agrees that a consistent reading of the Bible presents a global flood and a ‘young’ earth—around 6,000 years old. He rejects the consistent witness of Jesus and the authors of Scripture based on ‘science’. (The ‘science’ he is appealing to in his acceptance of homosexual marriage is in any case uncertain—for more information see Creationism and the problem of homosexual behavior).
This is in effect raising science to be an authority over Scripture, and even over the words of Jesus Himself. ‘Science’ says that virgins don’t give birth and dead people stay dead. And generally, this is the case. But the Bible makes claims that aren’t strictly scientifically testable because 1) they deal with historical, one-time events, and 2) many times, the entire point of the claim is that it isn’t something that normally happens—that’s how we know the power of God was at work in that instance. See also The limitations of physical evidence and Miracles and science.
As we have pointed out before, this is hardly an isolated incident, or just an Australian thing. In America, the ostensibly evangelical theistic evolutionary organization BioLogos published a paper which stated:
If Jesus as a finite human being erred from time to time, there is no reason at all to suppose that Moses, Paul, John wrote Scripture without error.7
Summary and conclusion
If naturalistic scientism and secular psychology are taken as authorities, then all of the Bible’s major claims would be overturned, because the premises that underlie these secular ways of thinking are fundamentally opposed to the claims of Scripture. And when Christians take secular ideas as their authority, it is simply consistent when they use them to justify ever-further departures from Scripture’s teachings. This is what we feared would happen as a result of the compromises as promoted by even once-solid institutions such as Moore College. And it is now being demonstrated in those from such circles such as Mascord, who are, tragically, only being consistent.
Gay marriage, politicians, and the rights of Christians
Everywhere the gay agenda has advanced, Christian freedoms have been sharply curtailed8, which is why this should be a major issue in the Church. However, by and large, the church has been taken by surprise. Many times, the homosexual lobbyists have promised that churches and Christian schools would be covered by exemptions. But this is only a ploy to pass the legislation. Once it is through the door, these groups will point out that a law with an exemption is a bad law, and fight to remove these exemptions.
We can already see this in Scandinavian countries. For example:
The nation of Denmark has voted to force churches in the established Evangelical Lutheran Church to perform same-sex ‘marriage’ ceremonies inside their sanctuaries, although one-third of all the denomination’s priests say they will not participate in such rituals.
And in Sweden, Pastor Åke Green was even jailed for a sermon on the wrongness of homosexual acts, although he also said that people who commit them can be “set free and delivered” and “We cannot condemn these people — Jesus never did that either. He showed everyone He met deep respect for the person they were (…) Jesus never belittled anyone.” He was later acquitted on appeal, but the case shows the intolerance of many homosexual activists.
It may therefore be futile to think Christians will be safe if they ‘stay out of politics’—the politics won’t stay out of the Church for long. Also, anti-Christians can just define more and more issues as ‘politics’, such as marriage and abortion, and the church’s ability to be ‘salt and light’ is further diminished.
- Muehlenberg, B., This Is Exactly Where All This Is Heading, billmuehlenberg.com, 19 June 2012. Return to text.
- Mascord, K., Beliefs must be tempered by facts, smh.com.au, 18 June 2012. Return to text.
- Cited in: McNeil, J., Sexuality—a make or break issue, Challenge Weekly, New Zealand, 21 May 2006. Return to text.
- Dickson, J., Art of persuasion not so simple, Sydney Morning Herald, 9 July 2011, accessed at m.smh.com.au 7 August, 2011. See Patristics scholar Dr Benno Zuiddam’s refutation of Dickson’s attempt to use the Church Fathers to justify his unbelief in Genesis. Return to text.
- There are also many examples similar to the UK politician Crispin Blunt, mentioned above. He left his wife of 20 years “to come to terms with his homosexuality” (although they had two children together). This seems more consistent with the notion that his homosexual inclination was developed later, not inborn. Return to text.
- Enns, Paul, Moody Handbook of Theology, p. 310, Moody Press, Chicago, 1989. Liddell and Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon entry for the Greek word for sin, ἁμαρτάνω (hamartanō), the normal NT word for sin, says, “1. to miss, miss the mark, hence 2. Generally, to fail of doing, fail of one’s purpose, go wrong: to be deprived of a thing, lose it.” Simon Wallenberg Press, 2007. Return to text.
- Sparks, K.,“After Inerrancy, Evangelicals and the Bible in the Postmodern Age, biologos.org, 26 June 2010; accessed 27 June 2012. Return to text.
- CMI contributor Bill Muehlenberg documents some examples on his website billmuehlenberg.com, e.g. his columns “But We Told You So”, 8 June 2012, and “Homosexual Marriage: Everything Will Change”, 15 May 2012; and in his book Strained Relations: The Challenge of Homosexuality. Freedom Publishing, 2011. Return to text.