Archive for May, 2012

The Problem with Our Politics

“Our politics is broken.”  I don’t know how many times I’ve heard a political pundit utter these words on a cable news show.  Usually, when a pundit speaks of broken politics, he or she is referring to the divisive and downright derogatory displays that so regularly parade across our national stage.  These pundits long for the days when politicians could reach across the aisle and work with others who held different points of view to get things done and to move our nation into a bold and bright new future.  “Why can’t we all just get along?” these pundits wonder.

This dream, of course, is encapsulated in our nation’s de facto, though not official, longtime motto:  E pluribus unum.  “Out of many, one.”  We dream of the day when those in the halls of power – and the population who votes for them – will finally be able act civilly.  And yet, as nice of a sentiment as E pluribus unum is, it is neither Scriptural nor realistic.  Simple observation verifies this.  We may be many in this nation.  But we are certainly not one.

This is why the Scriptural vision of unity, rather than being ad hoc and accidental, is grounded in Christ and is intentional. The apostle Paul explains:

There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to one hope when you were called – one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:4-6)

Paul uses the adjective “one” seven times in these verses.  And in each instance, the adjective modifies God and His gifts.  Thus, true unity can only be founded in the one true, Triune God.  Scriptural unity begins with oneness of God and not with the multiplicity of man, as does our folksy national motto.

But our problem goes deeper than a simple lack of political unity.  For disunity is merely a symptom of a more systemic and sinister problem.  Our deeper problem is that we buy into so many of the impossibly lofty things our politics and politicians promise.  We have saddled our politics with the responsibility of:

Fostering unity, creating jobs, saving the environment, caring for the poor, reducing the deficit, cutting spending, supporting unions and workers’ rights, formulating corporately friendly economic policies, reforming entitlements, ensuring the long-term fiscal solvency of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, providing for a world-class education, both deporting illegal immigrants and providing them a path to citizenship, and restoring prosperity.

If we just had all of that, then we would be happy.  Hmmm.  Is it any wonder we’re disaffected and disillusioned?  Does anyone really believe any human institution can deliver on all that?

Last week, I came across a column by New York Times writer Ross Douthat, where he poetically and succinctly summarizes the problem with the demands we make on our politics.  Douthat writes:

When strong religious impulses coexist with weak religious institutions, people become more likely to channel religious energy into partisan politics instead, and to freight partisan causes with more metaphysical significance than they can bear. The result, visible both in the “hope and change” fantasies of Obama’s 2008 campaign and the right-wing backlash it summoned up, is a politics that gives free rein to both utopian and apocalyptic delusions, and that encourages polarization without end.[1]

This is precisely right.  For all the help politics and politicians might be able to offer, and for all the good they might be able to do (cf. Romans 13:1-5), they are not up to carrying the weight of the metaphysical freight of the divine.  The expansive power of God is simply too much for them to bear.  Indeed, it is too much for any human to bear.  This is why strong religious institutions, as Douthat duly notes, that strongly trust in and teach the providence of God are so important.  For they proclaim the message that there is only one Messiah of metaphysical proportions and powers –and His name is Jesus.  Anyone else who attempts to do Jesus’ job for Him will fail miserably.  It is foolish to place superhuman hopes on simple humans, be they politicians or anyone else.

The upshot of placing superhuman hopes on simple humans can do nothing but result in the disastrous vacillation between “utopian and apocalyptic delusions” to which Douthat refers.  When a new politician is elected, we speak of him as if he will be able to usher in an eternal golden age of prosperity and unity.  When he unsurprisingly fails, we cry that the sky is falling.

I would submit that the Church stands at a particularly privileged position in our current political environment.  For we can serve as advocates for the One who can and does do what politics and politicians can only dream of.  We can serve as advocates for the One who not only provides for human beings, but changes human hearts.  We can serve as advocates for Jesus.  Sadly, many Christians have all too readily and willingly traded an advocacy of Jesus for advocacy of a certain candidate or political position.  Not that it is bad in and of itself to thoughtfully support a candidate, but we must remain clear on what our politics and politicians can and cannot do.  For our politics and politicians will not last.  And they also will not deliver – at least not in the way we might hope.  Jesus and His promises, however, will last and they will deliver.  In fact, not only will Jesus last and deliver, He will prevail.  As the Church, then, our call is to advocate for Him first.


[1] Ross Douthat, “A Nation of Osteens and Obamas,” The Washington Post (5.16.12).

May 28, 2012 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

What We Say (And Don’t Say) About Homosexual Practice

When President Obama declared his support for same-sex marriage in an interview with ABC News on May 9,[1] I knew I would get a lot of questions.  And sure enough, I did.  This is why the pastors of Concordia have prepared a Christian response to same-sex marriage specifically and homosexual practice generally.  You can find the response here.  This response will also be published this week in a booklet along with an appendix which will answer some of the questions we have received in response to the document.

I have found this whole brouhaha (to use a technical, theological term) to be fascinating – not so much because of the common, perennial questions I have received concerning same-sex marriage, but because of the way many prominent Christians have responded to this now top-of-mind topic.

It saddens me that when questions are asked, so many Christian people have responded in a breathtakingly nebulous way.  Take, for instance, popular Christian blogger Rachel Held Evans.  In her blog, “How To Win A Culture War And Lose A Generation,” she decries the way in which the Church has responded to homosexuality:

Every single student I have spoken with believes that the Church has mishandled its response to homosexuality.

Most have close gay and lesbian friends.

Most feel that the Church’s response to homosexuality is partly responsible for high rates of depression and suicide among their gay and lesbian friends, particularly those who are gay and Christian.

Most are highly suspicious of “ex-gay” ministries that encourage men and women with same-sex attractions to marry members of the opposite sex in spite of their feelings.

Most feel that the church is complicit, at least at some level, in anti-gay bullying.[2]

Here, Evans has no problem being sharply specific.  Evans places her finger squarely on the pulse of something profoundly tragic:  Those who are not Christian feel belittled and berated by the way traditional, orthodox Christians have often responded to homosexuality.  They have come across as judgmental, self-righteous, bigoted, and they have even contributed, at least in a complicit way, to the heart-wrenching stories of anti-gay bullying we read in the news.  Tragic.

So what is Evans’ way forward?  Her last sentence, “Stop waging war and start washing feet,” seems to present itself as her proposed solution, but I am still left puzzled.  Though I know there are some bigoted, self-righteous, mean-spirited Christians who delight in waging culture wars, brandishing about the word “sinner” like a weapon of mass destruction while refusing to serve and love according to Jesus’ call and command, I know many other Christians who make it their life’s work to humbly call sinners to repentance while serving them in love.  I see the service part of a Christian’s vocation in her statement, “Start washing feet,” but what about the calling to repentance part?  Are we not supposed to do both?

Interestingly, Evans wrote a follow-up post where she proposes yet another solution:  “We need to listen to one another’s stories.”[3]  People’s stories do matter.  And listening is terrific, yes.  But to what end?  Do we have nothing other than our own stories to share?  Isn’t the glory of Christianity that it is extra nos, that is, “outside of us” – that we have a righteousness not our own to save us from sin all too tragically our own (cf. Philippians 3:9)?  We need to come to grips with the fact that what Jesus says about us is far more important than what we say about ourselves.  His story matters more than ours because His story redeems ours.

There’s an old country song by Aaron Tippin where he sings, “You’ve got to stand for something, or you’ll fall for anything.”[4]  I fear that, when it comes to homosexual practice and same-sex marriage, we have abdicated our duty of standing – not charging, not belittling, not berating, not politicking – but just standing – standing in the truth and speaking that truth with grace.

The apostle Paul writes, “Stand firm in the faith” (1 Corinthians 16:13).  Notice the definite article in front of the word “faith.”  We are to stand firm not just in any faith, but in the faith.  This means that we say what the faith says:  Homosexual practice is a sin.  It is one of a million ways that humans have invented for themselves to break God’s law, just like I invent for myself a million ways to break God’s law too.  But God loves sinners.  God loves you.  That’s why He sent Jesus to die and be raised for you.  So repent of your sin and trust in Him.  And please allow me to walk with you and love you as do so, or even if you do not.

There.  Was that so hard?


[1]Obama Affirms Support For Same Sex Marriage,” ABC News (5.9.12).

[2] Rachel Held Evans, “How To Win A Culture And Lose A Generation” (5.9.12).

[3] Rachel Held Evans, “From Waging War To Washing Feet: How Do We Move Forward?” (5.11.12).

[4] Aaron Tippin, “You’ve Got To Stand For Something,” RCA Records (1991).

May 21, 2012 at 5:15 am 4 comments

ABC Extra – Building Your Endurance

When I lived in north Austin, there was a park close to the house at which I was staying with a beautiful jogging trail, complete with lots of forested areas and a breathtaking open field full of wildflowers.  At the time, I was overweight, so I decided taking up running might be just the thing to help me shed those unwanted pounds.  So one afternoon, I hit the gravel.  The trail was a mile and each tenth of a mile was marked.  I made it about two- tenths of a mile before I had to stop.  I was dripping with sweat.  I was out of breath.  But most of all, I was embarrassed.  “Two-tents of a mile?” I thought to myself.  “That’s not even once around a running track!”

After my embarrassing initial outing, I knew something had to change.  So I went out again…and again…and again.  I sweated.  I grunted.  I pushed myself.  I was tempted to give up and tap out.  But I knew the more I ran, the more my body and health would be transfigured and transmuted.  And so, I endured.  And that endurance made all the difference.

These days, I am thankfully many pounds lighter and can run much farther.  A three-mile run is now a part of my daily routine.  Although now, being a little older and wiser, I know that pre-dawn mornings in Texas are much better for running than are sun-scorched afternoons.  But beyond the temperature, it is my endurance that made all the difference in my health and fitness.  Endurance was the key.

In our text for this past weekend from 2 Corinthians 6, Paul rattles off a list of the hardships and joys he has experienced in ministry:

As servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything. (2 Corinthians 6:4-10)

With such a lengthy list, it does not take long to discover that Paul has had more than his fair share of ups and downs in ministry – everything from beatings and imprisonments and sorrows to purity and love and rejoicing.  Yet, it is the first thing in Paul’s list of ups and downs that sets the tone for the rest of Paul’s list:  endurance.  Paul writes, “As servants of God we commend ourselves in every way:  in great endurance” (verse 4).  Through all of ministry’s ups and downs, Paul highlights one thing that has made all the difference in his ministry:  endurance.  The Greek word for “endurance” is hypomonemone, meaning “to stand,” and hypo, meaning “under.”  Thus, to “endure” means to “stand up under” even the toughest times.  The great New Testament scholar William Barclay comments on hypomone:

It describes the ability to bear things in such a triumphant way that it transfigures them and transmutes them. Chrysostom has a great panegyric on this, this triumphant Christian endurance. He calls it the root of all goods, the mother of piety, the fruit that never withers, a fortress that is never taken, a harbor that knows no storms.[1]

Barclay’s thoughts describe precisely what Paul does with the ups and downs of his ministry.  He endures through them so that he might be transfigured and transmuted.  Rather than giving up or tapping out, Paul endures.  And you should too.

What ups and downs are you experiencing in your life?  When you endure through them, God can change you by them.  God can use them to “conform us to the likeness of His Son” (Romans 8:29).  So stand up under hardship.  Stand up under good times as well.  For standing up under life, which is the very definition of endurance, can be used by God for His purposes.  And God’s purposes will endure long after you fail and falter.  His endurance is an endurance we all need – for life and for eternity.

Want to learn more? Go to
www.ConcordiaLutheranChurch.com
and check out audio and video from Pastor Tucker’s
message or Pastor Zach’s ABC!


[1] William Barclay, The Letters to the Corinthians (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1954), 237.

May 14, 2012 at 5:15 am 1 comment

A Pastoral Statement on President Obama’s Endorsement of Same-Sex Marriage

Dear Friends in Christ,

The issues of same-sex marriage, or gay marriage, and the broader topic of homosexuality are not only “hot” topics in our society, they are also tender issues that reach to the heart of many families and individuals.  These are issues laced with personal and familial experiences that strike at the basic need we all share to love and be loved.  As a result, it is difficult to discuss these matters objectively.  Our desire is to do that very thing – to present these issues from a loving and compassionate perspective that seeks to share Biblical truth without compromising our desire to love all people (as Christ has loved us) without regard for their sexual orientation.

The Christian Church is often painted as “the enemy” of homosexual people.  Unfortunately, this picture has often been exacerbated by poor and confusing communication from the Church. We, however, see this characterization as a misunderstanding of the Church and its role.  Christian people are called to commit themselves to God and His Word.  In doing so, we are called to love all people unconditionally while also standing firm on the truths expressed in the holy Word of God.

In response to many questions and concerns expressed over President Obama’s recent statements regarding gay marriage, we have prepared this statement.  On the surface, this may seem a clear-cut issue to people on all sides of the argument.  However, it is our belief that this issue is complicated and worthy of careful consideration.  As a result, this statement is lengthy.  Please take the time to work your way through each of the topics and consider each point.  Please also, as time allows, take the time to consider the additional resources listed at the end of this document.

Finally, as you read this statement, know that we, your pastors, love you and your families.  Our passion to share God’s love and encouragement with you, your families, and all people is deep and compelling in our lives.  If you have concerns or questions about this document, please contact us.

God bless you!


Bill Tucker, Senior Pastor
Concordia Lutheran Church, San Antonio, Texas
www.ConcordiaLutheranChurch.com

A Summary of the Statement

This past Wednesday, in an interview with ABC News, President Obama expressed his support of same-sex marriage. In response to the widespread questions over the president’s comments, we thought it would be helpful to address the biblical stance on same-sex marriage in a four-section statement, prepared by the pastors of Concordia Lutheran Church.  Because we know that not everyone will have the time or the inclination to read the full statement, what follows is a brief summary of the major points of the paper.

Compassion and Conviction
As Christians, we are called to address every sin and every sinner with both compassion and conviction.  This is also true when it comes to the sins of homosexual activity and same-sex marriage.  We must speak compassionately to those in homosexual lifestyles, calling to their attention Jesus’ offer of salvation for those trapped in sexual sin (cf. Matthew 21:31).  At the same time, we must also speak with conviction concerning the sinfulness of homosexual activity specifically and all sexual immorality generally (cf. Romans 1:25-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9-12).

The Marriage Model
Our society is losing respect for the biblical model of marriage as a lifelong covenant relationship between one man and one woman until death parts them (cf. Matthew 19:4-6).  The passage of no-fault divorce laws in many states, the prevalence of adultery, pre-marital sex, pornography, and marital abuse all demonstrate this.  President Obama’s endorsement of same-sex marriage is merely the latest example of an affront against the biblical model of marriage.

Civic Policy and the Divine Order
Christians can stand against same-sex marriage not only on the basis of the Scriptural witness, but also on the basis of natural, moral law.  Because certain moral mandates are written on the heart of every human being (cf. Romans 2:14-15), our society adheres to a broad moral standard, derived from the natural order of things in our world.  This is why murder, stealing, lying, and the like are punishable by our civic system.  If we follow the natural order of things on these moral issues, why would we abandon this order when it comes to same-sex marriage?

Authority and Autonomy
Our society has a tendency to make moral judgments based not on absolute truth, but on shifting popular opinion.  President Obama himself exemplifies this method of moralizing when, in his interview, he references practicing homosexuals he knows and has known as justification for his endorsement of same-sex marriage.  As Christians, however, we cannot embrace the shifting sensibilities of our culture or our personal preferences to form our moral stances.  Instead, we must turn to the one and final standard of morality and goodness:  God Himself, revealed through His Word (cf. Luke 18:19).

We encourage you to read the full statement to learn more.  As Christians committed to the witness of Scripture, this is most certainly an issue worthy of our time, attention, and thought.

A Pastoral Statement on President Obama’s Endorsement
of Same-Sex Marriage

This past Wednesday, in an interview with ABC News, President Obama expressed his support of what is commonly referred to as same-sex marriage, or gay marriage:

I have to tell you that over the course of several years as I have talked to friends and family and neighbors, when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together, when I think about those soldiers or airmen or Marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married.[1]

President Obama’s comments mark a major milestone in presidential politics.  Never has an incumbent president called for the transformation of one of society’s foundational institutions.  Not surprisingly, a fury of political, sociological, and theological punditry has erupted around the president’s statements.

In response to the widespread questions over the president’s stance, because of the rampant confusion over homosexuality and its morality, and because this issue is not merely theoretical, but also relational and personal for many people, we thought it would be prudent to briefly address the biblical stance on this topic in four sections.  These sections include:  (1) The importance of speaking with both compassion and conviction about homosexuality and to homosexuals; (2) Reiterating the biblical model for marriage; (3) Understanding the interplay between the civic, political realm and the natural, moral realm; and (4) Submitting to Scripture’s authority while recognizing the dangers of our rampant cultural autonomy.  Let’s address each of these areas briefly.

Compassion and Conviction

Holy Scripture is clear in its command:  we are to show compassion to those caught in sexual sin, including homosexual sin, and we are to show and share the hope and forgiveness of the gospel with all sinners.  Indeed, Jesus was known for His compassion toward those mired in sexual sin and even opened His kingdom to them.   He says to the religious leaders of His day, “I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you” (Matthew 21:31).  People caught in sexual sin are included in God’s kingdom through faith in Christ.  Such is the compassion and grace of our God.  When a woman is caught in the act of adultery and the religious leaders seek to stone her, Jesus sends her accusers away and says, “I [do not] condemn you…Go now and leave your life of sin” (John 8:11).  In an act of extravagant compassion and grace, Jesus forgives this woman’s sin and saves her life.  It is important to note, however, that while Jesus offers His deep compassion, at the same time, He refuses to compromise His core conviction concerning the immorality of sexual sin.  He calls this woman to repent of her sin and not to return to it.  Thus, Jesus holds His compassion and conviction in perfect tension.  This is why the Bible says that Jesus comes to us “full of grace [i.e., compassion] and truth [i.e., conviction]” (John 1:14).  Both conviction and compassion are needed in a Christian’s response to homosexuality.  This means that our homosexual neighbors, friends, and family members deserve both our love and kindness as well as our candid thoughts and concerns.

With this in mind, just as we are compelled by Holy Scripture to show compassion toward those trapped in homosexual sin, we are also compelled by Holy Scripture to state our conviction that homosexual activity is sinful.  The apostle Paul writes pointedly:

[People have] exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator – who is forever praised. Amen. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. (Romans 1:25-27)

Please notice two things about Paul’s statements, inspired by the Holy Spirit, concerning homosexuality.  First, at the root of the sin of homosexual practice is the sin of idolatry.  The apostle argues that homosexual relationships exchange “the truth of God for a lie” and worship “created things [i.e., sexual desire] rather than the Creator.”  Sexual sin, along with every other sin, tries to do no less than dethrone God and crown our own desires as supreme, regardless of and in contradiction to God’s will!  It is an affront against the First Commandment:  “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3).  Second, Paul clearly sees homosexual activity as morally unacceptable.  Words such as “indecent” and “perversion” in verse 27 make this clear enough.  Moreover, in verse 24, Paul calls homosexual activity a “sinful desire,” “sexual impurity,” and “degrading.”  Scripture’s conviction on the practice of homosexuality is unequivocal:  it is sinful.

The Marriage Model

President Obama’s endorsement of same-sex marriage is merely the latest in a long line of attacks resulting in the slow erosion of respect for the biblical model of marriage.   Skye Jethani of Christianity Today explains:

The church was silent when state after state passed no-fault divorce laws.  These bills essentially removed the state from any interest in preserving or defining marriage.  No fault divorce laws defined marriage as an agreement between two individuals that may be entered or dissolved as the individuals desire without state interference or prejudice.[2]

The final sentence is key.  For if marriage is defined civically as merely “an agreement between two individuals that may be entered or dissolved as the individuals desire without state interference of prejudice,” the state is stripped of its ability to offer any definition of who those two individuals are and the kind of commitment those two individuals make.  Is marriage between a man and a woman?  A man and a man?  A woman and a woman?  Is it entered into under the assumption that it will be a lifelong union?  None of this is defined à la our states’ no-fault divorce laws.  Thus, so-called gay marriage is merely a consequential progression of the ambiguous marriage laws already on the books.

The Bible is not nearly so ambiguous.  Its stance is clear:  marriage is meant to be a life-long covenant relationship between one man and one woman until death parts them.  This is part and parcel of God’s created order: “A man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).  This created order is reiterated and reinforced by Jesus Himself:  “Haven’t you read…that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate” (Matthew 19:4-6).

The desire of Christians, then, should not be only to stand against same-sex marriage while loving homosexual people, but to stand for biblical marriage, being defined as the union between one man and one woman.  This means that we ought to raise the alarm not only over same-sex marriage, but over adultery, pornography, divorce, abuse, and anything else that impugns the biblical model of marriage where one woman and one man commit to each other, become one flesh through sexual intimacy, and serve, honor, and love each other.  Indeed, every married Christian should strive to attain this model in his or her marriage.  Marriage is God’s gift to us, bestowed in love, and is intended to be both an example of His love for us (cf. Ephesians 5:31-32) and an opportunity for us to experience the blessing and joy of loving each other.

Civic Policy and the Divine Order

When President Obama made his comments supporting same-sex marriage, more than one evangelical Christian rushed to his defense.  Consider this from an evangelical blogger:

Supporting gay marriage is not supporting sin. I know it is hard to grasp, but this matter has nothing to do with whether or not homosexuality is a sin. If it does, then you are probably being inconsistent since there are lots of things that Christians consider “sinful” that they do not legislate against. For instance, if God wants us as a nation to live by His laws, why are we okay supporting the freedom of religion? Shouldn’t we be out trying to ban other religions? If we are okay with freedom of religion, which is a law that basically mandates that our country allow for idolatry (according to the Christian), aren’t we being hypocritical?[3]

At first glance, some may find this argument compelling.  If we support legislation against gay marriage because of our Christian belief that homosexuality is a sin, what other legislation are we required to support?  Is insisting on a federally mandated Christianity an inextricable consequence of supporting a traditional definition of marriage in our civic law as this blogger suggests?

It is important to understand that legislation supporting traditional marriage is not theologically identical to federally mandated Christianity.  The difference between the two can be found in the distinction between general revelation and special revelation.  General revelation is that which can be known apart from Holy Scripture simply by observing God’s created order and the moral implications of this created order.   Another name for this is “natural law.”  Many of the Ten Commandments fall under this category of natural, moral law.   For instance, our society still recognizes that murder runs contrary to natural, moral law.  Likewise, lying, stealing, and (before the no-fault divorce laws cited above) even adultery has been considered by society-at-large to run contrary to this law.  Thus, one does not have to be a Christian to accept and adhere to natural, moral law because this law is written on the hearts of all people apart from Scripture and faith in Christ (cf. Romans 2:14-15).  In light of the universal character of this law, there are (and always have been) legal consequences in our civic system for actions which contradict natural law.

Homosexual practice and its immorality fall squarely within the realm of general revelation and natural, moral law.  Consider again Paul’s argument against homosexuality in Romans 1:

Women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. (Romans 1:26-27)

Once more, note Paul’s language.  He speaks of “natural” and “unnatural” relations.  “Natural” relations are those within heterosexual marriage while “unnatural” relations are those that are homosexual.  In this passage, then, Paul does not argue against homosexuality using a divine command, but using creation’s natural order.  Thus, same sex marriage is contrary to natural, moral law.  And if we as a society honor natural, moral law in instances such as murder, stealing, lying, and the like, why abandon such a precedent when it comes to marriage?

Special revelation is a different matter.  Special revelation refers to that which can be known only through the Bible and has to do with God’s specific and special plan to redeem humanity from its sinful condition.  General revelation, then, encompasses all people while special revelation is found exclusively in the Old and New Testament Scriptures and declares a specific message of salvation through Christ.  Thus, though Christians can support legislation that is broadly moral and applies to all according to the divine ordering of creation, we put ourselves in a precarious position when we demand civic laws that are specifically Christian in nature because faith in Christ cannot be coerced by legislation, it can only be shared by our witness.  This is why, while standing against same-sex marriage, Christians do not demand legislation that forces people to worship the Triune God.  Worship of the Triune God can be brought about only by faith in the gospel and not an edict of the government.

Authority and Autonomy

The way in which the news media has reported President Obama’s endorsement of same-sex marriage has been quite telling concerning the way many of us often craft our moral views.  Consider the following from CNN:  “A Gallup Poll released Tuesday indicated 50% of Americans believe same-sex marriages should be recognized by law as valid, with 48% saying such marriages should not be legal.”[4]  Many will cite polls like this one to make the case for the moral acceptability of gay marriage, making morality a mere function of democratic enterprise.  Indeed, President Obama even cited a democratic acceptance of homosexuality, albeit in an anecdotal way, as part of his reasoning for endorsing same-sex marriage.  Consider again his statement:

I have to tell you that over the course of several years as I have talked to friends and family and neighbors, when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together, when I think about those soldiers or airmen or Marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married.[5]

President Obama’s reasoning for same-sex marriage is simply this:  because he knows many people who are practicing homosexuals and are in committed relationships, same-sex marriage must be allowed!

As Christians, we must recognize this kind of reasoning for what it is:  the expression of an individual moral autonomy that has influenced the thinking of President Obama as well as many in our society.  This autonomy refuses to believe in any authority outside of itself.  Blogger Rod Dreher summarizes:

This is the fundamental problem we face when we argue over gay marriage, abortion, contraception, and so forth. It’s not about rights, not really; it’s about what it means to be a person, and what is the ultimate source of morality.[6]

The fact of the matter is, for many people, “the ultimate source of morality,” as Dreher calls it, is nothing more than an individual’s own sensibilities and sensitivities.  In other words, there is no standard of morality external to each individual.  All morality is merely a personal construct, erasing absolute truth.  This view of morality, of course, runs directly contrary to the Christian moral imperative which sees moral standards as external, rooted in the divine order and, finally, in God Himself!  As Jesus says, “No one is good – except God alone” (Luke 18:19).  God is the one and final standard of goodness and morality.  And He reveals His standard to us through His Word.

Moreover, when our culture’s autonomous morality is coupled with a selfish hedonism, the results are predictable.  Many people cannot imagine a God who would not want them to be happy.  If homosexual activity brings them such happiness, the argument runs, such activity cannot be wrong.  Statements such as, “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will find it” (Matthew 16:24-25) are either ignored or rejected as impediments to personal fulfillment and happiness.  Denying personal and sinful desires in deference to Christ and His call is clearly out of step with our prevailing culture autonomy.

As Christians, we are called to witness to the vanity of such hedonistic pursuits.  Even when denying oneself is difficult – especially in the arena of sexual desire, be that heterosexual or homosexual desire – we are called to declare the message that pursuing any desire in a way that is not consistent with God’s design will ultimately lead a person into choices that violate both divine law and basic moral constraints.  True fulfillment and satisfaction, along with the strength to overcome our old, sinful nature, can be found only in Christ.  As Paul writes, “My God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).  And as Jesus promises, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).  Everything we need for fullness of life is found in Christ!

It is our prayer that this statement serves as a guide to clarify both the biblical record and its natural, moral law corollaries on same-sex marriage.  We believe such a stance is foundational and necessary to the decent order and function of society-at-large.  We hope, as well, that this statement can be of help to those seeking to share with others a charitable Christian perspective on this issue.  We remain committed to both the biblical conviction against same-sex marriage and the biblical mandate to compassionately share Christ’s love with all people regardless of sexual orientation.

Additional Resources

If you would like additional resources which address President Obama’s statement endorsing same-sex marriage from a Christian perspective, you can consult the following:


[1] Rick Klein, “Obama Declares Support for Gay Marriage” (5.9.12), http://news.yahoo.com/obama-announces-his-support-for-same-sex-marriage.html.

[2] Skye Jethani, “Obama Endorses Same Sex Marriage – Now What?” (5.10.12), http://www.outofur.com/archives/2012/05/obama_endorses.html.

[3] Jared Byas, “I Still Stand as an Evangelical for Gay Marriage” (5.9.12), http://jbyas.com/2012/05/09/i-still-stand-as-an-evangelical-for-gay-marriage/.

[4] Phil Gast, “Obama Announces He Supports Same-Sex Marriage” (5.9.12), http://www.cnn.com/2012/05/09/politics/obama-same-sex-marriage/index.html.

[5] http://news.yahoo.com/obama-announces-his-support-for-same-sex-marriage.html.

[6] Rod Dreher, “Same-Sex Marriage & Post-Christianity” (5.8.12), http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/2012/05/08/same-sex-marriage-post-christian/.

May 11, 2012 at 4:11 pm 2 comments

God Does Not Speak To You In Prayer! Or Does He?

Recently, I read a flyer for a conference on prayer that contained this line:  “God does not speak to His children in prayer.”  I have to admit that when I first read this line, I was a little taken aback.  “Certainly,” I thought to myself, “There must be some mistake.  Of course God speaks to His children in prayer!”  Immediately, in the back of my mind, I began to rattle through some of the instances where God did in fact speak to His children in prayer.  I even ran across an instance of God speaking in prayer during my devotions just this morning.  Rebekah, Isaac’s wife, is barren.  But the couple desperately desires kids.  So Isaac, as a faithful husband, turns to God in prayer:

Isaac prayed to the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was barren. The LORD answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant.  The babies jostled each other within her, and she said, “Why is this happening to me?” So she went to inquire of the LORD.  The LORD said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.” (Genesis 25:21-23)

In just three verses, we read of two instances in which the Lord “speaks” in prayer.  The Lord “answers” Isaac’s prayer when He grants his wife a pregnancy and He speaks to Rebekah as well, foretelling the destinies of the twins within her womb.  So how can a conference on prayer dare to claim, “God does not speak to His children in prayer”?

A few points are in order concerning God and His speaking to us in prayer.  First, it is important to remember that these passages are descriptive and not prescriptive.  That is, they recount for us a specific and historical instance in which God answers Isaac’s prayer through an action and speaks to Rebekah’s prayer with a foretelling.  This does not necessarily mandate, however, that God will speak to our prayers in this same way.  An example of how God works in one instance does not necessarily set the pattern for how God will work in every instance.  Thus, while these passages contain a historical narrative, they do not necessarily contain a divine promise.  Second, apart from the consideration of descriptive and prescriptive passages of Scripture, it does seem as though biblical authors do indeed count on and even expect God to speak to them in prayer.  The Psalmist declares:  “I call on You, O God, for You will answer me; give ear to me and hear my prayer” (Psalm 17:6).  The Psalmist expects an answer from God when he prays to Him.  Thus, it seems only reasonable that we too, like the Psalmist, should expect God to answer our prayers, for we too, like the Psalmist, are children of God.  Third, we must finally ask not just, “Does God speak to us in prayer?” but, “How does God speak to us in prayer?”  This is the question that flyer for the prayer conference addresses next.

The flyer continues, “God readily speaks to His children in His Word and in the Sacraments, as the Holy Spirit gives His divine counsel through very clear direction or sometimes His ‘nudging.’”  In other words, if you want an answer to prayer, read your Bible!  Participate in worship and gladly receive Communion!  Keep an ear attuned to heaven for divine appointments!  For through these ways, God speaks.  God does indeed speak to us in prayer, just not necessarily through a miraculous sign or an audible voice.

God’s simple way of speaking to us through His Word in prayer comes out especially clearly in the Lord’s Prayer.  For instance, in this prayer, we pray to God, “Give us this day our daily bread.”  How does God answer this prayer?  Through His Word, of course!  “The eyes of all look to You, O LORD, and You give them their food at the proper time. You open Your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing” (Psalm 145:15-16).  In this prayer, we pray to God, “Forgive us our trespasses.’  How does God answer this prayer?  Through His Word, of course!  “If You, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with You there is forgiveness; therefore You are feared” (Psalm 130:3-4).  In this prayer, we pray to God, “Lead us not into temptation.”  How does God answer this prayer?  Through His Word, of course!  “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone” (James 1:13).  In each of these instances, God gives us a clear and unequivocal answer through His Word.  Thus, it is good to pray with a Bible in hand.  For through Holy Scripture, God speaks!

Can God speak to us in prayer through other means?  Of course He can.  He is omnipotent.  Ultimately, He can answer in any way He chooses, though He will never contradict what He has already revealed through His Word (cf. John 10:35).  But before you beg for some divine sign in the sky in answer to your prayer, crack open your Bible.  For while you are praying, God is answering most often in the simple way of His Word.  And couldn’t we all use an answer from God to our prayers?

May 7, 2012 at 5:15 am Leave a comment


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