This one really shocked me. This is from Doug Wilson, of all people. Gay marriage is a judgment on our culture, and as God's people Christians should allow that judgment to play out. Now this shouldn't be too shocking from someone who thinks we need to make a strong distinction between the heavenly reality of the church (what Augustine called the City of God) and earthly governments. Wink and I disagree on how much the government has a moral responsibility to represent moral truth as taught by Christianity, which we both believe to get moral teaching correct, but we agree on the strong distinction between the two cities of Augustine. For those who don't know who Wilson is, he's a theonomist, maybe the most influential one in the world. That means he sees no such distinction. For him to say something like this sounds really strange, at least if you think of theonomy the way pundits complaining about conservative evangelicals' politics think of it. However, those complainers don't understand what the more sane versions of theonomy really amount to, and Wilson's stance on this issue demonstrates that. [Hat tip: World, whose weird code for links I can never get to work either in Internet Explorer or Firefox, which is why I'm not giving any links to Wilson himself.]
On the more general point about Theocracy Paranoia, Gene Veith said something a few weeks back that I thought was incredibly insightful. The primary things people are worried about are the unsuccessful attempts by conservatives, many of whom are Christians, to limit abortion and to prevent marriage from being gender-neutral. Consider the failed attempt to limit what can best be described as the most barbaric abortion procedure ever invented That description of it is almost a direct quote from a Norwegian atheist philosopher friend of mine who is thoroughly opposed to the pro-life position. He says he doesn't know how American politicians like my senators can defend such an barbaric procedure. Even after Congress passed it and the president signed it, judges wouldn't allow the ban, claiming that it might sometimes be healthier for a woman to kill her child during birth than to go ahead and finish delivery. If the so-called theocrats can't even accomplish that small and relatively reasonable restriction on a dreadful procedure, I don't know why there's such paranoia about the looming theocracy that we all need to beware of. Anyway, in the light of that point, Veith asks the following question. "A few decades ago, when abortion was against the law and homosexuality was assumed by all sides to be immoral, was that a theocracy?"
Update: I hadn't thought to run my mouse over the World link and then type in the URL. I've done that. Apparently it's a piece by Doug Jones and Doug Wilson together. My thoughts on the actual piece follow below the fold.
I don't agree with Doug Wilson on many things. He's a theonomist. He doesn't just think slavery is ok in principle and in the biblical context. He defends American slavery. He's a paedobaptist who takes that conviction to the point of at least coming very close to some dangerous ideas, thinking of baptism as efficacious to bring someone into the covenant and then works keeping one in. That's a little oversimplifying things but only a little. I believe he's a postmillenialist who thinks things will get better and better until the whole world or at least the majority of it is Christian, not just Christian in name as medieval Europe was but genuinely Christian, and then Christ will return. That's why I was so surprised to see him defending a view that is both unpopular and very close to my own thoughts.
There is one thing in their argument that I find very odd. They claim that homosexuality is a judgment of a particular kind, one that is specially highlighted in Romans 1 as something not true of other sins. I think that's a misreading of Romans 1. Homosexuality is an effect of sin, and Romans 1 does make it clear that God sees it at least in part as a punishment for rejecting him. However, every sin listed in that passage is in that category, and homosexuality just stands out as one that's particularly obviously a judgment to Paul because of the degree to which it gets things upside down from God's created order. Paul says this just as the first step in a list of sins that are part of God's judgment that he handed humanity over to. He goes on:
Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve those who practice them. (Rom 1:28-32, NIV)
They also say homosexuality is primarily a judgment against the church. I don't see that anywhere in this passage. Romans 1 is about how God has handed people in general over to sin. The church doesn't even come in until redemption, which he hasn't talked about yet. (He hasn't even talked about Jews yet, which raises complicated questions about the relationship between those in the old covenant and those in the new, something I'm sure I would disagree with the two Dougs about.) Besides, how can something that primarily affects the culture around Christians be primarily a judgment against Christians? The evidence they give that Christians deserve judgment is actually of people in churches who, it turns out, don't have much faithfulness to Christianity to begin with. That's a judgment against Christians? I'd say it's at best a judgment against those who use the name 'Christian' but aren't in Christ.
Despite these hesitations, there's a lot of good in the piece. Curses are not removed by denouncing the victims of the curse but by repentance. The key is that repentance is not repentance of those who are gay of homosexual sins. It's repentance on the part of those who have rejected God, because that's the cause of the long list of sins in Romans 1. That's the sin that needs repentance first and foremost. That's what Christians should be focusing on when speaking against American culture. American culture has largely rejected God while trying to keep the Christian name and accoutrements. This ritual adherence to the outward things of God is not Christianity. It counts for nothing in terms of the worship of God, as the prophets say over and over.
I'm not going to get into their controversial claims about the immediate cause of homosexuality except to say that I think they oversimplify. Genetics and culture play a role, as does conscious affirmation of a gay identity. They almost acquit themselves at the very end when they come back to this, but the way they describe it earlier, I think, hurts their overall argument by not conceding this point when it mattered.
I encourage anyone who disagrees with the overall thesis of their statement to read Jeremiah 29 and think through its implications very carefully. These are the guidelines for how the people of Judah were to live while exiled in Babylon, and it's telling that nothing is said about protesting pagan laws. They were told to live in it, to seek its best, and to live peacefully, recognizing that God has his hand in their being there.
I also want to say that there's something to this idea of owning the sin. I don't like all of their formulations of it, but coonsider the repentance in Daniel 9 and Ezra 9, and think of Isaiah's identification with his people's sin in chapter 6. This is throughout the Bible, but these are obvious examples. Our western individualism leads us to miss the group solidarity the Hebrew mindset simply assumed. I'm not eternally responsible for the sins of people in my country that I've never met, but there's a sense in which I as an American bear some responsibility. I'm a U.S. citizen, and this is what the Unites States is like. That means I'm part of that, even if I'm not doing it myself. This goes as much for the general rejection of God as revealed in scripture as it does for anything to do with homosexuality (another place where I think the emphasis in the Dougs' piece is off, though they do begin to get into that with the failed fatherhood issue).
I also don't think they go far enough with welcoming gays. They say we should welcome refugees from the homosexual lifestyle into the church. I think the apostles would frown on limiting it to that. We should welcome those who are gay and proud of it, who are in sexually active gay relationships. We should welcome them to seek out Jesus the same way we should welcome anyone. This means welcoming them at our church meetings. It means not constantly focusing on this one issue. It means speaking the truth of what the Bible says, but it means focusing primarily on the gospel and speaking to the more fundamental issues most of the time. It means spending time with people who are gay, proud of it, and actively in gay relationships. It means being friends with them and enjoying their company. It means seeking to understand them. It's too easy just to say that you love the sinner but hate the sin. That doesn't cut it.