Posts tagged ‘Christianity Today’

Social Media Sins

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Credit: Erik Lucatero on Unsplash

A new study from the Journal of the American Medical Association finds that teenagers who spend as little as one hour on social media over what they normally would in a given year show increased markers for depression. According to the report:

Repeated exposure to idealized images [on social media] lowers adolescents’ self-esteem, triggers depression, and enhances depression over time. Furthermore, heavier users of social media with depression appear to be more negatively affected by their time spent on social media.

In an article for Christianity Today, Jeff Christopherson decries the dangers lurking in social media not only for teenagers, but also for society-at-large. He explains:

If the social media experiment was intended to connect and enlighten the world, it appears to have failed, and failed spectacularly. Our social connectivity has actually produced a more disconnected, isolated and polarized society. We have become more entrenched, angrier, and observably much, much dumber. Political, cultural, and – yes – theological echo chambers have only served to exhaust any semblance of critical thinking and extinguish any light for truth.

Mr. Christopherson’s sentiments are echoed by National Review writer Kevin Williamson, who, in an excerpt from his new book, describes how the memes we post on social media are often nothing but agents of attack on others rather than windows into an understanding of others. He writes:

We think in language. We signal in memes. Language is the instrument of discourse. Memes are the instrument of antidiscourse, i.e., communication designed and deployed to prevent the exchange of information and perspectives rather than to enable it, a weapon of mass intellectual destruction – the moron bomb. The function of discourse is to know other minds and to make yours known to them; the function of antidiscourse is to lower the status of rivals and enemies. 

All this is to say that there are plenty of dangers prowling around social media.

Sadly, Christians are not immune to these dangers. Mr. Christopherson, in his article, takes Christians to task for their sometimes reckless ways on social media. But even if we are not immune to social media’s sirens, we can fight against them. In a social media environment that feigns perfection in picture postings, we can point toward true perfection in Christ. In a social media environment that stupefies with anti-proverbs, we can teach with true wisdom from Christ. In a social media environment that inflames hatred, we can live out the love of Christ.

At the heart of many of our social media woes is a problem with comparisons. We either compare our lives to the idealized Instagram-filtered lives of our peers and find ourselves lacking and thus sink into despair, or we compare our opinions to those of others on Twitter and find others lacking and thus ascend into arrogance. But there is an antidote to the sins of despair and arrogance: humility. A humble person, instead of craving to compare, is comfortable in their own skin. They feel no need to measure up to others or to look down on others because their identity, worth, and world is not found in others, but in an Other – Jesus Christ. A humble person measures their self-worth not according to their own shortcomings or successes, but according to Christ’s death on a cross, which levels the playing field between all people as it reveals every person as a sinner in need of God’s grace.

In a social media ecosystem filled with comparison, perhaps we should post more about and point more to Christ. After all, whether a person is posting polished pictures on Instagram or vicious vitriol on Twitter, that person needs Christ, too.

August 19, 2019 at 5:15 am 3 comments

In Memoriam: Billy Graham (1918-2018)

Billy Graham was 99 when he entered his rest with Jesus last Wednesday.  The man who was a pastor to presidents and plebeians alike leaves a legacy that is difficult to overestimate.  Reverend Graham accomplished many things over his long ministry.  He founded what has become the practically official periodical of evangelical Christianity, Christianity TodayHe served as the president of Youth for Christ and headed the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.  He steadfastly, but also humbly, confessed a traditional, broadly orthodox Christianity, defending such doctrines as justification by faith, the sufficiency of Christ as the world’s singular Savior, the reality of heaven and hell, and the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture.  He declared these doctrines at a time when many churches, especially in the mid-twentieth-century, were drifting into modernism and began to deny these, along with many other, core tenets.  But Reverend Graham will perhaps be most remembered for his moving crusades, where he preached the gospel to stadiums chocked full of eager listeners and curious onlookers.  His association estimates that he preached the gospel to an estimated 215 million people in 185 countries over the course of his ministry.

I remember attending one of Billy Graham’s crusades as a child.  His passion for the gospel was infectious as his preaching resonated sonorously through the stadium in which I was sitting.  At the end of the evening, as he always did, he invited people to trust in Christ and come forward to receive prayer.  Thousands walked down to the stage that night as strains of “Just As I Am” wafted across the hall.  To say the least, it was a moving experience.

Whenever I remember my experience at this Billy Graham crusade, I am reminded of a conversation that Jesus has with Martha shortly after her brother Lazarus has died of a devastating illness.  Martha, understandably, is distraught and politely registers her disappointment that Jesus was not around before her brother died to lend some help and, perhaps, a miraculous healing to him.  “Lord,” Martha complains, “if You had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21).  Jesus, who never intended to heal Lazarus of the sickness that ailed him, but instead to raise Lazarus from the death that overtook him, responds, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in Me will never die” (John 11:25-26).  These words are some of the most famous in Scripture not only because they describe what Jesus would do for Lazarus, but because they reveal who Jesus is for everyone.  Jesus is the resurrection and the life.  What is less famous, however, is the question that Jesus asks Martha next: “Do you believe this” (John 11:26)?

This simple question was the question behind every Billy Graham crusade.  After Reverend Graham would proclaim Christ and His death for sinners, after he would declare that Christ’s resurrection can mean your resurrection, and after he would explain how Christ can bear your burdens and carry your cares, he would ask, “Do you believe this?”

When Jesus asks this question of Martha, she responds, “Yes, Lord” (John 11:27).  When Reverend Graham asked it of millions, they responded with a “yes” as well.

As one who is part of the Lutheran confession of the Christian faith, I have, over the years, heard many in my tradition criticize Reverend Graham for the way in which he often spoke of faith in terms of a “decision.”  His ministry even publishes a magazine titled DecisionIt is certainly true that Scripture does not speak of faith as a decision of the will, but as a gift from God.  The apostle Paul writes, “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).  Unfortunately, some in my tradition have become so concerned about the possibility of implying that faith is somehow an act of the will that they refuse to invite people to faith at all.  They forget to ask Jesus’ question: “Do you believe this?”

It is in this precious question of Christ that we can best come to understand and appreciate Reverend Graham’s legacy.  He was never afraid to ask this question.  And neither should we.  Sometimes, a simple invitation, because it is a reflection of Jesus’ invitation, bears the fruit of faith.  This is why this question is the question our world needs.  When was the last time you asked it?

Even without a sermon, a choir, and a stadium, when you ask this question, someone might just answer, “Yes.”  And all of heaven will rejoice (Luke 15:7) – including, with what I would guess might be an especially bright smile, Billy Graham.

February 26, 2018 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

A Camel Controversy

Camels 1And you thought it was it only impossible for a camel to go through the eye of a needle.

As it turns out, threading camels isn’t the only thing that’s impossible according to some archaeologists.  Domesticating them before the tenth century B.C. also turns out to be quite the trick.  Writing for the New York Times, John Noble Wilford provocatively declares, “Camels Had No Business in Genesis.”[1]  Wilford explains:

There are too many camels in the Bible, out of time and out of place.

Camels probably had little or no role in the lives of such early Jewish patriarchs as Abraham, Jacob and Joseph, who lived in the first half of the second millennium B.C., and yet stories about them mention these domesticated pack animals more than 20 times. Genesis 24, for example, tells of Abraham’s servant going by camel on a mission to find a wife for Isaac.

How does Wilford know that camels had no role in the era of the biblical patriarchs?  He cites a study, recently published by two archaeologists from Tel Aviv University, which employed radiocarbon dating to test some camel bones found in the Aravah Valley.  This study found the bones to be from the last third of the tenth century B.C., which, Wilford notes, is “centuries after the patriarchs lived and decades after the kingdom of David, according to the Bible.”  So there you have it.  Thanks to some late breaking bones, Genesis is discredited – at least the parts that talk about camels.

Now, before we fall prey to camel chaos, a few things should be noted.  First, the Tel Aviv archaeologists, by declaring that camels could not have been used in the way Genesis 24 describes them, are making an argument from silence.  Their assumption runs like this:  because we do not have domesticated camel fossils dating before first millennium B.C., there must have been no domesticated camels before the first millennium B.C.  The Bible must be wrong.  But a lack of evidence does not necessitate a lack of existence.  One need to only think back to 1961.  This was the year the “Pilate Stone” was discovered at Caesarea Maritima.  It had an inscription dedicated to the emperor of Rome at the time, Tiberius Caesar:  “To the Divine Augustus Tiberieum:  Pontius Pilate, prefect of Judea has dedicated this.”  Before this stone was discovered, because there was no hard archaeological evidence of Pontius Pilate, many assumed that Pilate was a fictional character, made up out of the sacred authors’ over-active imaginations.  Whoops.  So much for that argument from silence.

It should also be noted that the archaeologists who discovered these bones do not even have complete silence in favor of their argument against camels during the time of the biblical patriarchs.  They only have archaeological silence.  There are extra-biblical references to domesticated camels prior to the first millennium B.C.  Titus Kennedy, adjunct professor at Biola University, notes that a camel is mentioned in a list of domesticated animals from Ugarit, dating anywhere from 1950 to 1600 B.C.  In an interview with Christianity Today, Kennedy explains:

For those who adhere to a twelfth century B.C. or later theory of domestic camel use in the ancient Near East, a great deal of archaeological and textual evidence must be either ignored or explained away …

[Israel] doesn’t have much writing from before the Iron Age, 1000 B.C. … So there aren’t as many sources to look at. Whereas in Egypt, you have writing all the way back to 3000 B.C. and in Mesopotamia the same thing.[2]

Kennedy concludes that there were not only domesticated camels at the time of the biblical patriarchs, but before the time of the biblical patriarchs.  Thus, the biblical record is quite believable.  There is no reason that Abraham could not have acquired “sheep and cattle, male and female donkeys, male and female servants, and camels” (Genesis 12:16), just as Genesis says.

Ultimately, the difficulties with the premature conclusions drawn from this discovery reach much deeper than simply whether camels were around in the second millennium B.C.  These difficulties are summed up in Wilford’s conclusion:

These anachronisms are telling evidence that the Bible was written or edited long after the events it narrates and is not always reliable as verifiable history. These camel stories “do not encapsulate memories from the second millennium,” said Noam Mizrahi, an Israeli biblical scholar, “but should be viewed as back-projections from a much later period.”

In other words, the Bible cannot be trusted to get its facts straight – at least not all of them.  When reading the Bible, then, skepticism must be given preference over faith.

Finally, if I assume camels could not have been in Genesis based on an argument from paleontological silence, it is only reasonable for me to assume that a Savior cannot rise from death based on medical science.  After all, doctors have long known that dead people tend to stay that way.  Thus, Jesus’ resurrection must have never happened.   But if this is true, then my “faith is futile; I am still in my sins … [and] I am to be pitied more than all men” (1 Corinthians 15:17, 19).  Wow, that’s a downer.

Let’s hope the archaeologists are wrong on this one.  After all, I don’t really like to be pitied.


[1] John Noble Wilford, “Camels Had No Business in Genesis,” New York Times (2.10.2014).

[2] Gordon Govier, “The Latest Challenge to the Bible’s Accuracy:  Abraham’s Anachronistic Camels?Christianity Today (February 2014).

February 24, 2014 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

Making the Most of Marriage

At the end of each year, major news outlets publish their lists of the year’s top news stories.  For 2011, Osama bin Laden’s death and Japan’s earthquake and subsequent tsunami were the top news stories according to the Associate Press. [1]  Interestingly, it is not only mainstream news outlets that provide such lists.  Religious news outlets, editorial writers, and bloggers are now following suit.  I have seen lists of 2011’s top religious news stories in Christianity Today [2] and the The Huffington Post[3]  But it is a top ten news story in the Gospel Coalition blog that really caught my attention.  It is titled “Marriages Need Help.”  Collin Hansen, who penned this list, explains why this story made his top ten:

This story could have appeared in my 2010 list, and it might warrant an encore in 2012. Same-sex “marriage,” legalized by New York state in 2011, continues to grab the headlines. But here’s the bigger story: a growing number of Westerners have abandoned the institution altogether. The Pew Research Center recently revealed that a record low number of Americans – 51 percent – are married. The rate dropped 5 percent in just one year, between 2009 and 2010. [4]

If that statistic from the Pew Research Center does not make your jaw drop, it should.  At an increasingly rapid rate, Americans are either (A) getting divorced, (B) never getting married in the first place, or (C) living in lifeless, loveless, romance-less marriages.  It is worth noting that the statistics from Pew do not account for those in category C.

In his book, The Meaning of Marriage, [5] Pastor Tim Keller distinguishes between two kinds of relationships:  consumer relationships and covenantal relationships.  A consumer relationship lasts only as long as the needs of the partners in the relationship are being met satisfactorily.  As soon as needs stop being met, the relationship falls apart.  These kinds of relationships, then, are inherently self-centered, for they exist merely to gratify their participants.  Covenantal relationships, on the other hand, are binding relationships in which the good of the relationship trumps the preferences and immediate needs of the individuals in the relationship.   These relationships are based on a continual commitment rather than on a consumer-fueled contentment.

Part of the reason marriage is on such a sharp decline, Keller argues, is because we have taken what should be the covenantal relationship of marriage and have turned it into a consumer relationship.  In other words, many marriages last only as long as the partners are having their needs met.  As soon as a marriage hits a rough patch, or as soon as one spouse or both spouses feel as though their desires are going unaddressed, divorce all too quickly ensues.  Indeed, this is why many people don’t get married in the first place.  They don’t want to bother with the kind of covenantal commitment that marriage inevitably brings – at least from a legal standpoint, if nothing else.  As a pastor, I have heard more times than I care to remember, “We don’t need a piece of paper [i.e., a marriage license] to tell us that we love each other.  We don’t need to get married!”  This kind of statement breaks my heart.  For what a person who makes such a statement is really saying is, “I don’t love this person quite enough to make things as permanent as a marriage makes things!  I don’t love this person quite enough to enter into a covenant with them!”

Jesus’ words about a Christian’s life apply equally as well to a spouse’s life:  “Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will find it” (Matthew 16:25).  Self-sacrifice is the way of the gospel…and the way of marriage.  Marriage is not about getting your needs met.  It is about sacrificing selflessly for the sake of your spouse.  And yet, through such willing sacrifice, Jesus promises that your needs will indeed be met, even if ever so mysteriously.  You will “find your life,” Jesus says.  But take heed of Jesus’ warning:  If you enter a relationship with a consumer mentality, looking only to your own needs, wants, and desires – if you try to “save your life” – you will only wind up sorely and sadly empty.  You will only wind up losing your life.  Fulfillment in marriage – and in life – begins with emptying yourself in service.

So if you are married, but times are tough, in almost every instance, except those instances in which a family member is in danger, the road to recovery begins with serving your spouse.  If you are not married, but you’d like to be, selfless service is the path to your future spouse’s heart.  This is the help our marriages need.


[1] David Crary, “The top ten news stories of 2011,” The Associated Press (12.30.11).

[2]Top 10 News Stories of 2011,” Christianity Today (12.28.11).

[3] Paul Brandies Raushenbush, “Religion Stories of 2011: The Top 11,” The Huffington Post (12.8.11).

[4] Collin Hansen, “My Top 10 Theology Stories of 2011,” The Gospel Coalition (12.28.11).

[5] See chapter 3, “The Essence of Marriage” in Tim Keller with Katy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage (New York: Dutton, 2011).

January 9, 2012 at 5:15 am 3 comments


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