Skip to comments."Should We Oppose Same-Sex Marriage?" (Westminster prof "could affirm domestic partnerships")
Posted on 08/15/2012 7:38:20 PM PDT by darrellmaurina
I appreciate the responses to my previous posts on this issue and, after reading some of the questions, thought somewhat pressed to write this last one. OK, so we know what Christian marriage is. We preach that, teach it, and expect believers to embrace Scriptures instructions regarding sexual conduct, although we are still sinners who must continually repent, trust in Christ, and receive his pardon. Got it. But what about the public argument?
As I said in the last one, we arent authorized to speak in Gods name where he hasnt spoken, but we are commanded to do so wherever he has. This is where it gets dicier, though. Id like to frame my response, first off, in terms of two extremes that we have to avoid:
1. Treating references to homosexuality in the Old Testament as either irrelevant or directly applicable to the current question.
You see this in public debates of the issue, where extremists on both sides talk over (and past) each other. One thing they often share in common is interest in quoting passages from the Old Testament on the question. Then the person on the left reminds us that the sanction mentioned is stoning. Do you want to stone gays?, one shouts. No, but I believe what the Bible says about homosexuality. Well, right next to that verse it says that you should stone disobedient childrenOh, and not eat pork, and not touch a woman who is having her period. Bottom line: the skills of biblical interpretation are about equally as bad on both sides of the table.
The statements in Leviticus are part of the Mosaic covenant. They pertain uniquely to the covenant that God made with Israel as a nation. The laws that governed every aspect of private and public life, cult and culture, were a unique episode in redemptive history. Their divine purpose cannot be rationalized in terms of sanitation, public health, or personal well-being. The whole focus was on God and his desire to separate Israel from the nations, preparing the way for the Messiah to come from her womb. Therefore, there is no more biblical warrant for stoning homosexuals today than there is for avoiding Scottish cuisine.
If theres every reason to distinguish these two covenants, we have to be very careful nonetheless that we dont make the opposite interpretive blunder of contrasting the Old and New Testaments on the question of homosexual practice itself. Ive heard of late several times committed Christians acknowledging that the Old Testament forbids it, but the New Testament is silent. Its mean Moses versus nice Jesus: a familiar but completely baseless contrast. Affirming that the the civil laws are now obsolete doesnt mean that the rationale explicitly given for some of these laws should be disregarded, especially when God singles some acts out not simply as dependent on Gods will for that time and place, but as abominations. Homosexuality is included in that list, as it is also in the New Testament (1 Cor 6:9; 1 Tim 1:10right up there with murders, enslavers, liars, and perjurers). The church does not have the power of the sword in the new covenant. Nevertheless, Gods statement on the matter is pretty clear: he hates homosexuality. It violates the natural orderreflecting the extent to which fallen humanity will go to suppress the trutheven that which can be known by reasonin unrighteousness (Rom 1:18-32).
Jesus brings forgiveness of sins, not a newsupposedly easer, happier, more fulfilling law. In fact, he upbraids the lax view of divorce tolerated in his day. Jesus does not ground marriage between a man and a woman in the Mosaic covenantor in the new covenant, but returns to the order of created nature: He answered, Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate (Mat 19:4-6).
It should be added that Pauls point in Romans 1-3 is to sweep the whole worldJew and Gentileinto a heap, condemned under the law, in order to announce that Christ is the Savior of all, Jew and Gentile, and justifies the ungodly who trust in him. We are all called to repentlifelong repentance, in fact. In this, as in everything, we fall short; our imperfect repentance would be enough to condemn us if we werent clothed in Christs righteousness. However, to repent is to acknowledge that God is right and we are wrongon the specifics of precisely where we want to assert our sovereignty.
2. Allowing same-sex marriage because since this isnt a Christian nation, we should not seek to make the traditional Christian view public law.
Yes and no. The argument sounds like a two-kingdoms approach, but I think its actually more on the historic Anabaptist side.
First, it is certainly true that America is not a Christian nation and in any case Christians should not seek to promote distinctively Christian doctrines and practices through the properly coercive power of the state.
Second, however, I believe that we have to carefully distinguish general and special revelation, common and saving grace, the kingdoms of this age and the kingdom of God. Traditional Roman Catholics and Protestants are the vanguard of the pro-life movement, but in addition to witnessing to the depth of Christian conviction on the subject they also make arguments that can appeal to the conscience of non-Christians. The goal is certainly to legislate morality (just as the pro-abortion lobby attempts). However, it is the attempt to include the unborn in the category of those to whom the most basic right to life applies (namely, human beings). It is not a distinctively Christian view that the unborn are human beings (many pro-abortionists even agree, but rank the mothers choice and happiness higher). Nor is it a distinctively Christian view that human beings shouldnt be murderedregardless of the parents economic or psychic well-being.
I think that the same can be said here as well. Marriage is not grounded in the gospel, but in creation. Special revelation corrects our twisted interpretations and gives us a better map, but general revelation gives sufficient evidence at least for minimal arguments from antiquity. Knowledgeable people will disagree about the strength of those arguments, since, for example, Greek elites often had teen-age boys entertain them on the sidewith the approval or at least the awareness of their wives. Yes, others reply, but that was part of the downfall of the Greek civilization. In every case, it will be a debatable pointnot to say that it isnt worth arguing, but in the light especially of recent studies, it probably will not change a lot of minds.
Third, in my own wrestling with the political debate, love of neighbor looms large. Some on the right may offer arguments that reflect more the same demand for special rights as those on the left of the issue. The legal aspects of that are beyond my pay-gradeand they are important. Others may treat this issue as irrelevant: Look, it doesnt affect me. I just dont want to live next door to some creepy home like that. However, in terms of specifically Christian witness, love of neighbor (as Gods image-bearers) should be front-and-center. We have to care about our non-Christian neighbors (gay or straight) because God cares and calls us to contribute to the common good.
The challenge there is that two Christians who hold the same beliefs about marriage as Christians may appeal to neighbor-love to support or to oppose legalization of same-sex marriage.
On one hand, it may be said that if we can no longer say that Judeo-Christian ethics are part of our shared worldview as a republic, then the ban seems arbitrary. Why isnt there a campaign being waged to ban providing legal benefits to unmarried heterosexual couples? Or to make divorce more difficult? It just seems more symbolic than anything else: it looks like our last-gasp effort to enforce our own private morality on the public. On the other hand, we might argue that every civilization at its height, regardless of religion, has not only privileged marriage of one man and one woman but has outlawed alternative arrangements. Same-sex marriage means adoption, which subjects other human beings to a parental relationship that they did not choose for themselves. Are we loving our LGBT neighborsor their adopted childrenor the wider society of neighbors by accommodating a move that will further destroy the fabric of society?
I take the second view, but I recognize the former as wrestling as much as Im trying to with the neighbor-love question. Legal benefits (partnerships) at least allowed a distinction between a contractual relationship and the covenant of marriage. However, the only improvement that marriage brings is social approvaltreating homosexaul and heterosexual unions as equal. Although a contractual relationship denies Gods will for human dignity, I could affirm domestic partnerships as a way of protecting peoples legal and economic security. However, the marriage card is the demand for something that simply cannot consist in a same-sex relationship. Human love is defined not by a feeling, shared history, or animal attraction, but by something objective, something that measures usnamely, Gods moral law. To affirm this while concluding that its good for Christians but not for the rest of us seems to me to conclude that this law is not natural and universal, rooted in creation, and/or that we only love our Christian neighbors.
At the end of the day, what tips the scales toward the second view is that I cant see how neighbor-love can be severed from love of God, which is after all the most basic command of all. Even if they do not acknowledge nature and natures Godor anything above their own sovereign freedom to choosereality nevertheless stands unmovable. Like the law of gravity, the law of marriage (of one man and one woman) remains to the end of timenot just for Christians, but for all people everywhere.
Dr. Horton treats legalization of homosexual domestic partnerships as being an open question with legitimate arguments on both sides. While he opposes gay marriages, he says this: "Although a contractual relationship denies Gods will for human dignity, I could affirm domestic partnerships as a way of protecting peoples legal and economic security." Again, "The challenge there is that two Christians who hold the same beliefs about marriage as Christians may appeal to neighbor-love to support or to oppose legalization of same-sex marriage."
This is based on Dr. Horton's longstanding and wrong belief that Judeo-Christian ethics are not a valid ground for civil law. In his words, "On one hand, it may be said that if we can no longer say that 'Judeo-Christian' ethics are part of our shared worldview as a republic, then the ban seems arbitrary. Why isnt there a campaign being waged to ban providing legal benefits to unmarried heterosexual couples? Or to make divorce more difficult? It just seems more symbolic than anything else: it looks like our last-gasp effort to enforce our own private morality on the public."
However, we need to keep in mind that Dr. Horton has done a great deal of good. Often when there's smoke, there's fire. Sometimes, however, there's just a lot of smoke because somebody set off a stink bomb in the house. Certainly a stink bomb isn't good, but it's not as bad as a full-blown four-alarm fully-involved structure fire with people trapped inside.
As Calvinists, perhaps this will help us remember that as much as we may respect prominent men, we revere God's Written Word, not man's many words. In this case, we have an author who has done a lot of good for the church whose bad theology on "Two Kingdoms" has led him down a wrong path.
Dr. Horton is not a liberal and anyone who thinks otherwise doesn't know the meaning of the word "liberal." However, it should be a major warning to all of us when a man like Dr. Horton can write something this bad and get away with something which, if written by a PC(USA) minister, would spark howls of protest from conservatives who thought he'd gone soft on homosexuality.
Reformed people on Free Republic may want to "Freep" Westminster-West. Their president is Dr. W. Robert Godfrey, who was one of the leaders of the secession from the Christian Reformed Church that began the United Reformed Churches in North America, in which both Dr. Godfrey and Dr. Horton are ordained ministers. I believe Dr. Godfrey will listen carefully to well-reasoned concerns from well-meaning Reformed people -- and he is very much aware that a major reason why his seminary started was because conservatives were upset with Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids.
Dr. W. Robert Godfrey Westminster Theological Seminary 1725 Bear Valley Parkway Escondido, CA 92027 (760) 480-8474 www.wscal.edu
If you write, be respectful. Dr. Horton is an ordained minister and deserves to be treated with the respect due to his office. That goes double for Dr. Godfrey, who I strongly suspect is very unhappy with the comments in this article but quite correctly has to follow proper procedures to respond to things written by his professors.
“anyone who thinks otherwise doesn’t know the meaning of the word “liberal.”
Part of what is means to be a “liberal” is to write tripe like that article, which is wrong on many points.
Wolves in sheep’s clothing don’t deserve respect.
“First, it is certainly true that America is not a Christian nation and in any case Christians should not seek to promote distinctively Christian doctrines and practices through the properly coercive power of the state.”
Seriously!? The first point may be up for debate but his “in any case” is a complete load. Christians MUST promote distinctively Christian doctrines and practices. Why should Christians withhold the moral force of the LAW (which is a blessing) from others. Does the Marxist in Chief hold back from pushing his doctrines and practices on all of America. I would argue that when Christians stopped promoting their values and doctrines the Marxists filled the vacuum.
This is the fruit of the heresy which teaches that marriage is a contract when it is actually a sacrament.
One cannot read the Written Word (Genesis 2:24, Leviticus 18:22, Romans 1:26-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, 1 Corinthians 7:216, 1 Timothy 1:9-10) and conclude that men can marry men and women can marry women without incurring the wrath of God. This is, unless you don't care about what God says.
Can I just remark on this ridiculous ASSUMPTION that the only REASON to NOT think homosexual “marriage” is a right-—comes from RELIGION?????
It comes from NATURAL LAW THEORY-—the basis of all Western Traditions-—from Pagan through Christianity. It was the guiding theory of even Stoics and people who believed in no gods. All things in nature have TELEOLOGICAL ENDS-—Common Sense-—and for humans to be “fulfilled” and “happy” and “prosperous” that means marriage can be just ONE thing-—between a man and a woman. BUT in homosexual societies whose companions were only male—(women had no worth) also had recreational sex with boys-—(learned behavior) —where women were only breeders and treated like chattel—polygamy could also occur, since women had less worse than a man. They had no “equality” of anything—private property equality between male/female was NON existent.
Even the homosexual Greeks and homosexual Samurai-—thought marriage was ONLY between MEN and WOMEN. This absurd “logic” to twist the meaning of “marriage” comes from Marxist ideology-—to eliminate roles for male and female (radical egalitarianism) so children will become eventually the property of the State. Children will have no worth—NO NATURAL RIGHT to a biological mother and father——so they are dehumanized, can be bought and sold to whomever-—since homosexual “marriage” will make biology MEANINGLESS like Marx wanted.
The US was built on the Ideal of Natural Law Theory-—(laws of nature and nature’s God) which means that we have ONE STANDARD of RIGHT AND WRONG-—we have MORAL ABSOLUTES-—and believe in a FIXED NATURE of man (not an “evolving” perfectible nature which Marx thought).
So, there can be NO homosexual “marriage” if our Constitution is the Supreme Law of the Land. Common Sense rules-—Right Reason rules and Nature rules under the Rule of Law system of Justice. Sodomy is a Vice under the Laws of Nature-—and Vice can never be a Virtue-—as stated by all our Founders was the element of Justice (also a Virtue).....Can’t have Just Laws promote Vice. It is irrational-—like German Postmodernism/Marx.
“This is the fruit of the heresy which teaches that marriage is a contract when it is actually a sacrament.”
Nailed it. To the state, it is simply a piece of paper denoting a contract that carries benefits and strictures that can be broken and resumed between any parties that judges, pols, or the majority decide should have them. And that’s it. Pope Leo XIII warned about it 130 years ago.
It is a very bad thing when a professor at a conservative Reformed seminary could even consider stating that he “could affirm domestic partnerships” for homosexuals. It is especially bad considering how much good Dr. Michael Horton has done for the church.
Dr. Horton is a well-known figure in Reformed circles. He was named to Christianity Today's list of 50 young evangelical “up and coming” theologians in 1996:
In addition to his teaching duties at Westminster Theological Seminary in California, he's editor of Modern Reformation and host of the White Horse Inn radio program. He's done a lot of good in the church world and is probably best known as the author of “Putting Amazing Back Into Grace” and numerous books critical of bad theology among evangelicals. He's also spent a lot of time building bridges between Reformed people and conservative Lutherans, especially those in the Missouri Synod. He believes, with good reason, that confessional conservatives need to work together to stem the flood of bad theology filling evangelical circles which too often denies the fundamentals of the faith.
His views on political engagement are not new, but his statements about homosexual domestic partnerships are very disappointing.
This is not an issue that should even be on the table for discussion. The least that can be said is it makes Westminster-West look bad and creates a PR problem. Perhaps more of a concern is that this “Two Kingdoms” theology is leading its adherents, step by step and perhaps too slowly for them to notice, into some very bad places.
Perhaps it's true that frogs don't jump out of boiling pots if they're heated slowly. It's the job of seminary professors to be more discerning than frogs.
For more details on this “Two Kingdoms” theology, in both its “Radical Two Kingdoms” (R2K) and more moderate and nuanced “Escondido Two Kingdoms” (Es2K) versions, read more here:
Kudos to Martin Snyder of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in North America for alerting me to this article on the White Horse Inn website; he's credited Mark Van Der Molen, an Indiana attorney and elder in the United Reformed Churches in North America, for alerting him to it.
Westminster Theological Seminary in California was begun in significant measure due to dissatisfaction by Christian Reformed conservatives in Southern California over problems at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids. Years after the seminary began, the current president, Dr. W. Robert Godfrey, helped lead many of the larger west coast Christian Reformed congregations out of the CRC and into the URCNA. While the main issues in founding the URCNA were such things as the ordination of women, toleration of theistic evolution, and attacks on inerrancy, increasing demands for toleration of homosexuality in the CRC were on the list of complaints.
So far the Christian Reformed Church hasn't yet dropped off the homosexual cliff, and the URCNA isn't even close to that point. However, there are very uncomfortable parallels between Christian Reformed problems in the mid-1990s with homosexuality and this article on the White Horse Inn website.
Back in the 1990s, Calvin Theological Seminary dismissed a visiting professor from the Netherlands, Dr. Jan Veenhof, when it was discovered and reported in Christian Renewal that the professor had written an article advocating gay civil unions but not marriage.
Unlike Dr. Veenhof whose views were much worse, the rest of Dr. Horton's work makes clear that his views here are an aberration, not part of a broader pattern of support for homosexuality, and I have no desire whatsoever to get Dr. Horton terminated from Westminster-West.
What I do want is to call attention to the consequences of what has been called “Radical Two Kingdoms” theology and urge Dr. Horton to back off before it's too late. I'm fully aware that he opposes homosexual practice; the problem is that his views on political engagement are leading him into a political position which is virtually indistinguishable from that of theological liberals.
My coverage of the Dr. Jan Veenhof incident is here:
This got extensive media attention in the Grand Rapids Press, Detroit Free Press, and the Banner. Most of those articles aren't online, but here are some links to articles from the Calvin College Chimes which make clear this was a very big deal:
Here is some more recent Grand Rapids Press coverage mentioning the earlier incident with Dr. Veenhof:
As CRC historian Dr. Robert Swierenga has written: “Relations with the GKN were further strained in 1996 when Calvin Theological Seminary released at mid-year visiting professor Jan Veenhof, a highly respected member of that denomination, who had written approvingly of faithful Christian homosexual couples. His controversial dismissal, together with the local crusading work of Jim Lucas, prompted the staff of Chimes, the Calvin College student newspaper, to devote its final spring 1997 issue to the topic of homosexuality at the college. The editors called for greater ‘understanding,’ ran an article by religion professor Philip Holtrop that noted the possibility of reading the Bible to allow for homosexual practices, and carried an ad for a college-sponsored gay and lesbian student discussion group ‘to provide a safe and accepting place on the Calvin campus.’”
It should be patently obvious that things aren't anywhere near that bad at Westminster-West. The question for Dr. Horton is not whether homosexuality is good or bad — unlike Dr. Veenhof, Dr. Horton makes clear he's opposed to homosexual practice, not just homosexual marriages — but rather what the state should do about something that the church opposes as a matter of biblical ethics. There are limits to the parallels with Veenhof, and also, for that matter, to the Peter Enns controversy over at Westminster-East.
Dr. Horton is an orthodox Bible-believing scholar. We must never forget that. He is a brother and deserves to be treated as such. People can have wrong views on politics without being heretics, and the main problem with Dr. Horton and the “Two Kingdoms” theology is that they fail to understand the importance of applying their conservative theology to politics.
However, I believe that if Westminster Seminary doesn't do something to at least indicate that these views are not representative of the rest of the faculty, Calvin Seminary professors will quite legitimately be asking some tough questions.
Why should they not claim that conservatives have a double standard for blaming Calvin Seminary for inviting a visiting professor who Calvin later got rid of after his views on homosexual domestic partnerships became known based on an article written in a foreign country in a foreign language, but nobody seems to have gotten very upset about a long-term Westminster-West professor who advocated very similar views publicly on the White Horse Inn right here in the United States?
I'm not a Calvin Seminary professor, obviously, but if I were one, I'd be saying some of the people who seceded from the Christian Reformed Church need to apologize to Calvin Seminary if they don't complain about this happening at Westminster-West.
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The issue of same-sex "marriage" shouldn't even be the primary consideration for clergymen, the issue should be that homosexual behavior is inherently sinful.
Our Lord was quite explicit when He said, "Go and sin no more." Of course, He knew that we would continue to sin, but He wasn't validating the sin and He DID recognize that there are sinful acts that we can refrain from. Same-sex "marriage" or "unions" or "partnerships" or whatever else some would call it, explicitly validate the sin itself.
It's high time that Christians began to show homosexuals the same Christian charity that we show other sinners. We DO NOT "love them just the way they are." We love them "as He loves us" and that means we tell them the truth, the same way we would be truthful with an adulterer, a prostitute or someone who abuses their wife and children.
The homosexual's sinful behavior CAN be overcome, but only if they are told the truth.
For someone of Dr. Horton's stature to be saying something like this is awful.
I understand the complexities of applying Scripture to politics — I really do. If it were easy, we wouldn't have had debates on the matter in Christian circles since the days of Constantine. For those of us in Reformed circles, we need to keep in mind the Southern Presbyterian “spirituality of the church” tradition; not all errors are heresy, and this new “Two Kingdoms” theology, at least in its moderate rather than R2K form, has parallels to the older Southern tradition.
But what has happened with Dr. Horton shows that we're in danger of losing sight of the forest for the trees. Wagglebee is right — homosexuals need to be called to repent. To say the state should consider allowing some form of domestic partnerships for homosexuals is to say the state should consider officially endorsing sinful behavior.
Why is it so hard for some Christians to understand that the state should not be officially endorsing sin?
1. It violates God's instructions.
2. It is unnatural.
3. It changes my culture for the worse.
You cannot have a bisexual marriage without allowing polygamy.
Looks like the Reformed about to go gay.
“Dr. Horton is an orthodox Bible-believing scholar. We must never forget that. He is a brother and deserves to be treated as such. People can have wrong views on politics without being heretics”
This is not just a “political issue”. The Bible is quite clear on sodomites in both the OT and NT. Consequently, he is not orthodox. He needs to be counseled as the Bible requires, and then shunned if he persists in this gross heresy. And, yes, this teaching is heretical.
By the way, all legislation is an expression of values. Those values will either be informed by the Bible or by something else.
Many love to say: "you cannot legislate morality."
But all legislation that is not purely procedural in nature has a moral agenda.
When someone says: "you cannot legislate morality" what they are really saying is: "You can't legislate your morality, because it would conflict with my attempts to legislate my morality."
Amen to that; however, while it is a sacrament in the Catholic church, it is merely a "covenant" in the Protestant realms. This shocking fact, along with several others, greatly weakened my loyalty to the Protestant church of my upbringing. Among Protties, there are only three sacraments: communion, baptism, and confirmation. It boggles the mind, really, that the ordination of pastors is not even considered, much less leaving out marriage, which Christ said is like unto His relationship to the Church.
Treading on theological ground here, but I'm not sure that marriage is a Sacrament at all, because a Sacrament is when the Word is joined to a material object for the explicit purpose of delivering God's grace and forgiveness of sins.
Having said that, marriage is definitely an institution ordained by the Lord in the first place. We can't treat it as a contract or as a tradition--it has been instituted by the Almighty for our good, and we do the Lord and ourselves a great disservice by pretending that it is anything but divine in nature.