Theonomists for Gay Marriage

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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.

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33 Comments

Jeremy,

Just want to clarify something you wrote:

"We should welcome [into the church] 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."

I think you perhaps should clarify what you mean by how we should welcome anyone. When I first read this I thought you meant we should welcome those who profess to be Christians and are openly practicing homosexuals into church membership. I'm assuming that's not quite what you mean.

My pastor puts this in a way I appreciate. He says something like "We welcome sinners: Homosexual sinners, heterosexual sinners, every sort of sinner. But we require all sinners to repent and believe in Jesus Christ." The way that plays out is that we're eager to have people come to church, regardless of what sin they have been or are engaged in. But if they want to become a Christian and a member of the church, they have to repent of their sins, which means turning away from their sins, to Jesus Christ. If someone is a member and is openly engaging in sin, something has gone very wrong.

But more directly related to your post: The whole idea of gay marriage/homosexuality as judgment, even if true, wouldn't show that we ought to allow it. Consider Numbers 25, where a plague breaks out among the Israelites because of their sexual immorality with the Moabites. Moses and the other leaders are weeping and praying before the entrance to the tent of meeting, and the sexual immorality continues, as a man gets ready to engage in further sexual immorality right before their eyes. Do they argue that they should let the sexual immorality and the plague continue because it's God's just judgment for their sin? Nope. Phinehas puts the man to death, and the plague comes to an end.

I'm not at all suggesting that the solution the problem is putting anyone to death. But the passage does show clearly that even in a theocracy, the solution isn't to let sin and judgment (in this case, the plague) run their natural course. The solution is to bring sin to an end as quickly as possible. This would suggest that it's not wise to allow gay marriage if we're concerned about God's judgment, just like Israel had to put an end to sexual immorality to escape God's judgment.

Granted, we're not a theocracy, so things may be somewhat different. But I think this Numbers passage demonstrates that the argument that we should let God's judgment continue is silly.

I didn't say anything about church membership. I'm talking about welcoming people to come be part of what we do. Whatever requirements we place on people, they're not requirements as conditions for our welcoming of them as people. I said quite plainly that we speak the gospel, and the gospel is a gospel of repentance.

I think the crucial point is not that we should accept anything when it's a judgment but that when something is a judgment for some further sin, it's the further sin that we should first focus on, and that's the sin of heart rebellion against God. We should acknowledge that it is a judgment, though, and we should acknowledge that about every sin of our nation, including and really especially the ones we commit. We should identify with it and say that what is needed is repentance, especially of the deeper rebellion against God. I don't think the best way to do that is to have political goals that turn people off before they can hear the more fundamental message, and to the extent that the church has jumped on the "ban gay marriage" bandwagon I think it's been damaging the message of the gospel by blurring the lines between the moral message and the political action, by confusing the role of God's people in interacting with the world, and by prioritizing something that in many ways is very low on the biblical authors' priorities with respect to what we should do as God's people.

Jeremy,

I totally agree, and I appreciate your post. I just wanted to point out that statement I quoted in my first comment: It would be easy to take that the wrong way. Obviously people who did so would be missing your point, but...

A couple of questions:

A gay couple comes to your church and you correctly welcome them with open arms. Without officially gaining membership to the church, they participate in any functions that they are allowed as non-members. They love your church and the years start adding up. At every bible study they firmly argue homosexuality is OK and God loves them and wants them to love each-other. What do you do? What if they are not gay, but openly support some other sin that's less controversial?

Jesus said to render unto Caesar; were American Christians commiting sin by rebelling against Britain? Should they have remained neutral?

I think one issue you have to clarify before I can answer that is whether they are professing belief in Christ and status as members of the church universal. If not, then any response wouldn't fit under the category of church discipline. Paul tells us what to do with people who profess faith who consistently live a life that the Bible declares to be immoral and show no hesitation and even take pride in it. He doesn't say what to do if someone makes no claim at all to be a Christian but simply attends a congregation's meetings for two or three years and speaks vocally about views that they not only agree with but live out that contradict the Bible's moral teachings.

Since the American Revolution was an unjust war, I would say that it was immoral for Christians to participate in it. You wouldn't need to be a Christian for it to be wrong to participate in it. You need a much graver offense than what the British were doing to justify an armed rebellion. Maybe what was being done to the slaves would count, but those were the colonists who were doing that, not just the British. Even then, I'm not sure it's enough for all slaves. It has to be pretty oppressive slavery, and not all American slaves were in such conditions. Some of them had it pretty nice and basically lived the way butlers and nannies do with rich families today. People with only one or two slaves were also not all that oppressive, certainly no more than the slaveowners in the NT period in the Roman context, in which Paul told slaves to obey their masters and display the righteousness of Christ to win their masters over.

Oh, and I looked at the response, Tom. It doesn't really say anything that goes beyond the original piece. All the points had to do with people who saw a word or phrase but didn't bother to read the whole thing and then got all alarmist about something you could stretch to mean something a reader of the whole piece would know they didn't mean.

I not quite sure how to respond. I would assume that they would be publically professed Christians, therefore laying claim to being part of the Body of Christ. My question I guess would revolve around membership of both. If they applied for church membership, what would you do? If a unbeliver came up and asked you: "Are they Christians?" What would you say?" If a fellow church member came up and asked you: "Are they Christians?" What would you say?" If a THEY came up and asked you: "Are we Christians?" What would you say?" What if they asked to be married by your pastor?

Since you say that the Revolution was an unjust war, I assume that Thomas Paine did not convince you of the Biblical justice of the war?

My congregation certainly wouldn't accept them into membership or marry them. With a question about whether they're genuine believers, those are the sort where I always say I don't know, and I would then explain what the Bible teaches, including the clear statements that those who are saved do not continue to walk in sin, never mind be proud of it but that sometimes which sins the Holy Spirit convicts someone of soonest will vary from person to person. In the end, everyone needs to deal with God individually, and I'm not the judge. I'll preach the gospel, but I won't judge which people have accepted it in any absolute way (out of those who profess belief, anyway). That means the most difficult cases are the ones I'm least likely to say anything about.

I haven't read Paine in a long time, but I don't think Christians should even be raising those kinds of concerns as complaints against a government that's over them in the way the British government was over them. It's different when you're part of the government and thus have a say in trying to shape the government to be as best as possible. That's the situation we find ourselves in, and it screws around with some of the ways you apply Romans 13 and other similar passages. If you're part of the government you're submitting to, as every U.S. citizen over 18 is, then you need to be able to be a responsible leader within your sphere of influence. When that's not the case, you simply submit to those in leadership. That's the biblical command.

With the gay question, I agree with the entire paragraph. I believe that would be the proper biblical response. I oppose gay marriage for political and libertarian reasons; I do not like to be told what to do.

As for the Revolution, I guess that we could quibble where just exactly a citizen stood in the British Empire, but yes, the US government is us.

Yet, I can't help at marvel at the way that America came into being. Do we have statesmen even CLOSE to what we had in 1776? Did God's hand not play a role? Even later, does the Civil War and 600,000 dead not suggest a judgement from God over slavery?

I'm trying to figure out how allowing someone else to do something means you're being told what to do.

It's certainly not just possible but absolutely certain that God had his hand in the creation of this nation, as with every nation in the history of the world. That doesn't mean the actions founding it were moral. It didn't mean the actions founding Nebuchadnezzar's Babylon were moral, and God had his hand in the creation of that regime. The implication of the prophets' statements about that should apply to Hitler's Nazi regime as well.

Hey Jeremy, two quick things. First, I didn't think Doug's points about homosexuality being a judgment for sin and a judgment on the church relied solely upon Romans 1. If I remember correctly, he cites a number of different Scriptures. So, I think there's something to what he's saying, though you couldn't get it purely on Romans 1 exegesis.

Second, he's posted some further comments on his blog which, it seems to me, scale back nearly all of the "political advice" in the original column. You can read them here.

There's a Malachi passage taken out of context. It says that God will provide the new covenant so that the earth will be saved from the curse. That doesn't exactly support the claim that the sins of gay people are a curse on the members of the new covenant. There are other scriptures in the piece. They bring in Jeremiah 29, which I already discussed. That's not about this. They bring in I Cor 6, one of the homosexuality mentions in the NT, to remind people that Paul ends that list of sins by saying "such were some of you". They bring in Dt 23:18 to say that we should oppose "apostles of that fruitlessness" as rebellious "dogs" (scare quotes theirs). [The verse says this, according to the ESV: "You shall not bring the fee of a prostitute or the wages of a dog [1] into the house of the Lord your God in payment for any vow, for both of these are an abomination to the Lord your God." (footnote: or male prostitutes)] Not only is this a really suspect interpretation of the verse, but it doesn't support the thesis that the curse related to homosexuality is a curse on the church even if the ESV got it wrong. Those are all the scriptural passages they discuss in the whole piece.

I don't think he scales back the political advice. That's how I interpreted them all along. Their complaint was about spending all this money and time to get gay marriage outlawed when it could better be spent working on the more fundamental problem, which they interpret to be exclusively related to church reform. I never really got the sense that they were telling people in government to vote for gay marriage or people who vote to vote for it. It was mainly a resistance to the furor that's arisen over this, on the grounds that the people mad about it are really at fault themselves and thus shouldn't get mad at others over it.

I disagree with how they assess the problem and on what we should do as a result of it. In my posts on this, I've said that the fundamental problem is sin, which is much more expansive than what they're saying. Sin is among believers, but the fundamental problem related to homosexuality isn't necessarily sin among believers, though that may be part of some of the problems. The fundamental problem is the problem the gospel is the answer to, and thus the place to focus our energies is in knowing and befriending people who are gay in a way that shows we care about them as people. If we really love them, they will see that. Love requires preaching the gospel, if indeed the gospel message is what they most need, but it can't involve merely preaching the words of the gospel and it will most likely be distracted and resisted if we focus all this ridiculous amount of energy simply giving political resistance against their right to visit their partner in the hospital and such things.

Come on now, Jeremy. You surely do not think that government endorsement of a gay marriage will have NO affect on me, do you? I invite you to take account of every way that marraige affects us. EVERY way, both big and small. From what my children are taught in school to what my tax money pays for. Unofficially, from school books to cartoons to schoolwork, this will be pushed onto me and my children. From the laws that affect who I can hire to who I can rent to, the government will tell me what I can and cannot do.

You may not mind, but I certainly do. Nothing is stopping gays right now from shacking up or going to the nearest "Queer Eye for the Big Guy" "church" and getting married--it neither picks my pocket not breaks by leg.

As for the revolution, if you see no difference between the USA or Babylon...

Of course it won't have absolutely no effect on you. I'm not sure how it's supposed to have enough of a bad effect on you to overcome the powerful argument for allowing people who are living as a family from hospital visitation or to be able to be involved with decisions about disposing of their loved one's body after death. No matter how immoral the relationship is, it's a relationship that functions in enough ways like a traditional family that at least those benefits ought to be given. Anyone denying them is just cruel. (I'd say the same about refusing to rent to a gay couple on the ground that they're gay. That's simply immoral.)

I don't so much mind those who want to resist refusing the word 'marriage' to describe such unions, though I think this would only be a very small corruption of what remains from the Christian concept of marriage compared with all the other ways the society we live in doesn't recognize crucial elements of marriage from a Christian point of view.

Did I say I see no difference between the U.S. and Babylon? All that matters is that what they have in common is what's important for this argument, and what they have in common is that they are the secular, worldly environment that the people of God find themselves in while living as exiles in the world. They both raise up idols in the place of God, and they both excel at things the Bible firmly calls immoral. These aren't manifested in entirely the same ways, but we do live in a wicked nation, one that has many features in common with Babylon. The persecution is virtually nonexistent as compared with what Daniel had to deal with, but the societal pressures are probably stronger, given that most of the Judahites live in their own communities in Babylon, at least at first, and not directly among the Babylonians (though Daniel and his friends are clear exceptions, as Nehemiah and Esther were among the Persians who followed Babylon).

What does gay marriage have to do with hospital visitation and the like? What you need are bureaucratic changes, not the redefinition of marriage. I also agree that gays should determine all of the things you mention and more, my position is libertarian, remember. If you tell me that I must rent to a gay couple, then you are surely telling me what to do, something that you seemed unsure of.

I also wouldn't refuse to rent to a gay couple just because they're gay, but once again you are telling me what to do. What other sins can't I discriminate against? Liars? Cheats? Rapists? Murders? Molestors?

Christians are pretty much commanded to live among but outside, aren't we? Nations are also judged as well. While I agree that America is not exactly headed in the right direction anymore, I refuse to believe that God has no preference among nations. Not respect for, for He is not a respecter of men, but he loves us. Was the USSR and USA exactly, in every way the same in God's eyes? Not to put us on the same plain as Israel, but I do believe that our creation started a covenant (one that we have long since abandoned) but I refuse to exsist that this was all some accident.

Hospitals only accept family. If you make it law that gay partners can be declared family, then they can visit in the hospital. Have you not been following the discussion? This has been the primary motivation for people like Andrew Sullivan in arguing for gay marriage. I wasn't just talking about using the term 'marriage'. The civil union solution will accomplish this just as easily without offending people who don't realize that marriage in the U.S. changed from the Christian concept a long time ago.

I didn't tell you what to do. I told you what was immoral. You're making a mistake people frequently make when criticizing Christians for telling them what to do when Christians are simply stating that something is wrong. I said it's wrong to refuse to rent to people simply because they're gay. That doesn't constitute telling you what to do. Is there reason to think murderers and rapists will make bad tenants? If so, then there's grounds for discrimination. I can think of no such grounds for thinking gay people will necessarily be bad tenants.

Most of the Jews in exile lived in their own communities apart from where the Babylonians lived, at least at the beginning. You're not suggesting that's what Christians should do, are you?

Nations can follow God more or less than other nations, and he will end up judging nations and leaders of nations on that basis. That doesn't make a nation Christian, which would undermine what the church is. Do you really think a bunch of people who were mainly led by deists (even if most of them weren't) could on their own declare that they were in a covenant with God? It would have been arrogance on their part to think that was what they were doing. A covenant with God is initiated by God, and the covenant God has made with human beings in this period of salvation history is the new covenant in Christ Jesus. Some of those people were not in that, and they were leading the pack. If they thought they were in some additional covenant instead of that one, they weren't basing it on anything the Bible might have allowed for.

I'm trying to figure out how this is supposed to add to the discussion. He's already said this before. It's not even as if the defense he's making against against Veith's way of describing his views is new.

So you do not support laws that will force me to rent to gays? Your not seeing anything that would make you not rent to a gay couple says more about your comfortability (ney respect?) for that lifestyle. Gay "marriage" has nothing to do with legal access to hospitals nor "love," it is simply a ruse to have the government enforce the normality of homosexuality. Government schools will preach from kindergarden on that it is normal, moral and just. Any person that dissents will be punished. It can hurt to be different, especially when you are young. Why not force people to be nice to you, punishing all dissent. Why be convicted by your sin when you can legislate it away?

It is not necessary to declare it a marriage to get these rights. I'm paying for that hospital room, why should I not, within reason, decide who can visit me? You have bought into an argument that cannot be won. America run by lawyers, not free men. Just because marriage is abused doesn't mean that the standard should not be raised. I ain't exactly perfect, should I divorce and shack up--marriage means nothing anyway?

To not see the fact that America is just a little too special; and not see that we sure didn't do all of this by ourselves... Were Christians not led to this unknown continent? Who led them? Why? What led the founders, deists and all the myriad beliefs, to seek the blessings of God? To create a land of free men, recognizing that that freedom is delivered not but from Him?

I don't know how any law could force someone to rent to gays. Laws might make it illegal to discriminate against gay people when it comes to renting, but I can't see how they'd force anyone to rent to gays. There aren't any laws that force you to rent to anyone, never mind to gays. I haven't taken any view, as far as I know, on whether discrimination in this way should be illegal, but even if it is that won't force anyone to rent anything to anyone. It might provide incentive (to avoid penalties) for those who choose to rent not to discriminate against gays, but that's not what you said.

My not seeing anything that would make me not rent to a gay couple says nothing about my view that homosexual acts and relationships are inherently sinful or about my attitude toward the lifestyle. What it says something about is my unwillingness to let those things illegitimately interfere with my comfort with people who happen to be gay. Gay people are people, and the only difference between them and every other sinner in the world (i.e. everyone) is that they have identified with a particular sin that most people don't struggle with, and their sin gets picked out as reason to discriminate against them the same way people did with tax collectors and prostitutes in Jesus' day.

I don't want to persist in the constant lie of those who claim that they love the sinner but hate the sin but won't demonstrate it by showing comfort with sinners the way Jesus did. I have no problem with that line in principle. When Augustine coined it, it didn't have all the baggage it now has. Most people who say the line nowadays simply don't mean it, and I think refusing to rent to a gay couple is evidence of not meaning it. In the disputed passage that found its way into John that we now call John 7:53-8:11, Jesus tells the woman not to sin anymore, but he does that after he refuses to treat her as if she isn't important with human needs. He speaks against what the woman at the well in John 4 has done, but he spends time with her and treats her as a real person with genuine concerns and needs. The equivalent of telling gay people that you won't rent to them because they're gay would be deciding not to bother associating with the woman at the well because of her sexual sins or Zaccheus because of his financial sins. After all, it's his time. He has the right to do with it as he chooses. Instead, he goes out of his way to make sinners welcome, particularly those who commit the biggest taboos of the cultural environment he faces. For us now, that's clearly gay people, at least if you take the taboos of the religious majority as the standard, which is what he did.

The arguments for gay marriage or civil unions do indeed have to do with recognition of hospital visitation and acquiring family health insurance, including for children of gay people, whose concerns most of those opposing gay marriage have shown they don't care about. It's immoral to pick out your pet sins and try to impose societal punishment just on the people who commit them just because they're less socially accepted sins than sleeping with someone of the opposite sex outside marriage or divorcing someone without the very few biblical grounds for divorce. Even if you're going to do it, though, I can't see how something that will affect the children of gay people should be part of your chosen means of societial punishment.

You're trying to tell me that I can have whoever I want visit me in the hospital at any time of the day, even if a hospital's policy restricts my visitors to family members and refuses to admit anyone else except during visiting hours? Apparently you've never dealt with a hospital.

Your straw man of my argument is ridiculous. I never said sin is ok. I said the argument for resisting gay marriage isn't a good argument. The argument claims that the word 'marriage' is going to be redefined away from how the Bible defines it if we allow gay marriage. I said that's crazy, because the concept of marriage that most people have is light years away from biblical complementarian marriage in the image of the relationships within the Trinity. They've already lost the key element that would explain why marriage can only be between a man and a woman. Given the current cultural definition of marriage, there's nothing to rule out gay marriage. The argument thus fails, because the word simply doesn't mean what you're saying it means to most people.

That doesn't mean I think people shouldn't see marriage the way the Bible describes it. It means they'll have to add those concepts to the more minimalist one they already have. The standard should be raised, but it should be raised by Christians who set a good example. I'll defend the legal legitimacy of laws against sodomy, even laws based on religious motivations. I'm not going to defend the current mindset of too many evangelicals who think they can be better Christians by treating some issues of personal morality as if political disaster is happening while ignoring equally (or even much more) weighty concerns.

I have no trouble with the idea that God guided the events that led to the founding of this country. I already said that. That in no way means God would endorse their actions in rebelling against their divinely-appointed ruler. The ideas that the settlers had certainly included immoral ones, even if the war that overthrew that government was just. The Puritans were trying to start a Christian nation, which goes against the very nature of Christianity. The southern settlers were trying to make lots of money off cheap, abusive labor that destroyed families and damaged the message of the gospel.

Please! Non-discrimination laws are making me do something! This argument is such a fallacy I won't waste time arguing it. I invite you to break the governmental laws against discrimination and then tell me that you aren't being made to do something. Those "nice" government folks knocking at your door ain't there to give you a cookie.

Jesus did indeed forgive and refuse to publically condem this woman, but he did not open a whore house or join a swinger's club. I ask again, what sins would you draw the line at? What makes homosexuality so special? Gay is not some before unbeknownst gender that someone forgot to tell us about, it is an action. What other actions would you let slide? Just because you refuse to rent to them doesn't mean they'll be sleeping out in the street. Washing you feet of someone that is doing wrong is sometimes the only thing that you can do.

The changes in laws that would give gays these benefits would also apply to everyone else. Why allow a gay guy to get his boyfriend on his insurance plan and not his mother? I ask again, what is so special about homosexuality? The fact that courts all over the place and inventing "rights" to gay marriage belies your claim that homosexuals are such a poor, put upon class. Somebody hates sombody for everything! Once again, placing homosexuality on some pedestal.

Telling me that I ain't living up to God's standard for marriage is like telling me that the sun rose today. Lowing the standard will give you just that, lower standards and the people who love them. Is that the "help" that you really want to give them?

All I'm saying is that laws against discrimination are laws against doing something, not laws that force doing anything. Laws that prohibit something don't force you to do anything. That may it illegal not to do a certain thing, but not allowing one thing doesn't force you to do anything else.

Saying anti-discrimination laws force you to rent to gay people is like saying anti-sodomy laws force you to have vaginal sex (rather than abstaining altogether). It's like saying laws against lying would force you to tell the truth (rather than simply not say anything). It's like saying laws against cheating someone in a business deal force you to do business with them honestly (when you might just not do business with them at all). It's like saying laws against downloading copyrighted software force you to buy the CD (as opposed to simply not having the music at all).

You're right that these laws place a restriction on you. All I've been saying is that you're misdescribing what that restriction is. It does not force you to do anything. It forces you not to do one particular thing (assuming that's even the right verb, which I don't think is the case). Laws restricting what you do when you engage in an activity simply do not force you to engage in any activity, because they restrict those who choose to engage in that activity to begin with, which no one is forced to do.

How is renting to gay people like opening a gay bar? How is having your gay friend watch your kids for the night tantamount to engaging in gay sex? Would you rent to an unmarried couple? Would a teenager who you know is having premarital sex count as a candidate for watching your kids? Would you refuse to rent to someone who has just moved out because of a pending divorce, when it's clearly the fault of this person that the divorce is happening?

I think we have a responsibility as Christians to seek out such relationships. Not wanting to be involved in the life of a nonbeliever who happens to be sinning (which is what nonbelievers do, by the way, in case you didn't notice) seems to me to be doing exactly what Paul forbids when he says not to go out of the world but merely to send professing believers who refuse to repent out of the church. This is not letting sin slide. It's seeking out the sinner in order that they may be involved in the life of someone whose life is shaped by the gospel. That can't happen if you choose certain sins and then refuse to act as if someone engaging in them is a real person, while you don't do that with other sins.

I'm not saying we should lower the standards. I already explained how that's not what I'm saying. It's one thing to lower standards. It's quite another to protest to a society that has already lowered its standards that if they do X they will have be lowering standards to a point that the standards are pretty much already at. They're not going to be moved very much by that argument.

Pointing out how bad that argument is does not concede that the standards should be that low. What it does is show that the standards need to be constructed at a more basic level before such an argument will make any sense to the general culture, and it's not clear to me that starting with this issue is the best way to do that. There are more basic issues that this relies on, and much work needs to be done to bring people to see those things first before the Christian view on this issue can even make sense.

I'd much rather spend my time arguing even something as basic as that sex has more purpose than pleasure. For those who are on board with that, I'd focus on motivating the value of marriage as the best context for the purposes of sex that go beyond pleasure. I'd rather spend time arguing that the differences between men and women amount to something important and good and should be affirmed rather than hidden. I'd rather argue that something is less good about a family with two parents of the same sex because of the complementarity of maleness and femaleness.

This doesn't seem to me to be the place to fight. Family structures in our society include grandparents raising grandchildren, single parents raising children, gay people raising their own biological children on their own, adoptive parents, and many other combinations. No one would dispute this. It would include people who aren't gay but who aren't married to each other raising their own biological children together. What strikes me as odd is accepting that as normal but not being willing to treat two gay people raising children together as a family.

Any of those other arguments would be a great thing to have a national discussion about. I just can't see why evangelicals have decided to dig in their heels on an issue that's much more incidental than those foundational concerns, and it just makes them look stupid because the plausibility structures for the view aren't there. If you don't accept everything Christianity teaches on these other issues, opposing gay marriage just looks idiotic, because it is on any view that even appears remotely plausible to most people who don't share those assumptions. You need these other things even to make sense of that position, and it's not the common position among most people, even sadly for many Christians. You can't start at gay marriage any more than you can start arguing for Christianity with an atheist by telling them the Bible says they need to repent. You need to get them to a place where they even find the idea of God remotely plausible first.

Thanks for saying : "It's like saying laws against cheating someone in a business deal force you to do business with them honestly (when you might just not do business with them at all)."

But I want to do business. If I do, the government makes me not discriminate. I reject the same logic you give as when a dental office said that you don't have to give us your social security number, as the law says I don't have to, but you'll have to pay up front. It may be a step from holding a gun to my head, but just a baby one.

Actually, I would rent to a gay couple as I would anyone else, my complaints are libertarian. Being gay is different than race or religion. Race you can't change and religion is a long undstood special case, widely agreed a special area of life. How is sex, any sex, equal with these? What other actions should we protect? Bakers? Polo players?

There are people who disagree with me and I respect their beliefs and their right to practice what they believe. When I was a teenager, I was angry at my parents and decided that I was going to move into an apartment with a male friend of mine. The apartment that I inquired about said that they do not rent to unmarried couples. Many years later, my wife and I applied to an apartment and was told that they only rent to people with 3 kids or less. These incidents were unfair, but I lived and moved on. I respected their rights to do with their property as they saw fit. The market does work.

Lowered standards can be raised. The bible is quite clear how bad the world will get. I do not believe that it says to throw up our hands and say: "you win, do what you want."

Who started at gay marriage? Not only did I not start, I'd rather not talk of homosexuality at all. It is politically leftist gays that are trying to change the culture in a way that will damage our already fractured society. How better a country (not perfect, but better) if the lefties lost the 60s culture war? Shall we just sit down and do nothing?

Actually, I agree with many of your "strategies" in helping the sinner. My argument is what role the government should play. Two gays living next door neither breaks my leg nor picks my pocket.

We have different interpretations of the end times I'm sure, but it appears that we share many beliefs and I am glad that you write so engagingly. The end is inevitable, I refuse to pack my bags and wait it out. Some times you confront someone with love and kindness; sometimes you just flat out tell the truth. I guess we'll have to just disagree.

As I said, my point isn't that it's a restriction on your behavior. My point is that it isn't forcing you to rent to gays. It's forcing those who rent not to discriminate against gays if the discrimination is simply because they are gay. There are plenty of other reasons people might discriminate against those very people, and there are plenty of ways other people might seem better tenants, depending on the case. You haven't said anything to question my point. You're just talking about one way this is restrictive, which isn't in conflict with the way I'm saying it's not restrictive. It doesn't force anyone to rent to gays. That's an inaccurate description.

So are you saying that a dental office doesn't have the right to conduct business the way it wants to by requiring those who won't submit credit-safe information to pay upfront? That's not very libertarian.

Not only are the facts against you on the empirical question of whether being gay is a choice, but most conservatives who think homosexuality is wrong disagree with you. People who approve of homosexuality seek to explain it in terms of genetics. People who disapprove seek to explain it in terms of cultural factors such as lack of a strong father figure or too strong a mother figure. In both cases you have an explanation that has nothing to do with choice. The reality is that the arrival at the belief that one is gay does not feel like a choice to the person who comes to believe it. How that belief comes about it a complex process, and it's not a mere choice any more than it's a mere choice to believe anything else. See Wink's recent post on this. You can't just choose to believe something. You come to believe something as a result of a number of factors.

Question what point? I feel the same way when the DMV tells me that I am paying a "fee," not a tax. Justify your abuse of state power with any language you want. I believe that SS should not exist--it does. Justify the breaking of the SS privacy laws any way you want. The Constitution (nor the law) is a suicide pact.

I did not say that homosexuality was a choice (though there has been much documentation of some feminist women choosing to have sex with other women (the definition of homosexuality) in college and then giving up the practice after graduation. Though I am not a psychiatrist, my research and personal experience would lead me to believe that homosexuality is related to a fetish. With a definition like this:

Something, such as a material object or a nonsexual part of the body, that arouses sexual desire and may become necessary for sexual gratification. ETYMOLOGY: French fétiche, from Portuguese feitiço, artificial, charm, from Latin factcius, artificial.

I can see how homosexuality could be related. What is it that makes this fetish so all consuming? Personal experience tells me that images from early childhood can have an effect. Not natural, but part choice, part "uncontrollable" urge.

Enviromental factors probably also play an effect. Growing public approval will also increase the numbers--the removal of morality from sex didn't lead to sex without responsibility like the 60s folks said it would.

I have a feeling that you are not gonna like my views on choice either. I know that this may sound like a cop-out, but this is what I truly believe. I suppose that you would call it a freewill choice for predestination. The knowledge of good and evil is engrained in our nature, we also DO have a choice. A choice of love. A choice of belief. God, being omniscient, knows what decision will be made. God gave us the knowledge of his love--I did not know my sin until he showed it to me.

I am more than a puppet on a string. I do have choice. Do not blame God for my sin; I got this way mostly on my own. I could do no other--it's our nature.

The point I keep making. The point that this is a restriction but not the restriction you falsely described it as. I don't know how many ways you want me to put it before you acknowledge that the way you described it is simply inaccurate. It's such a small point that I can't see why you keep insisting that it's a restriction on your behavior absolutely rather than admitting that it's a restriction on your behavior given that you want to rent out property. All you've done is insist that it's still an important restriction, which I've never denied in the whole conversation. Yet every comment you give insists on arguing for that very thesis that I haven't denied. You still haven't admitted that it's inaccurate to describe it the way you did. You just keep arguing for something I haven't disagreed with and then saying that it's a defense of the claim that I do disagree with, which it isn't.

Women having sex with women during college but not after is not homosexuality. It's heterosexual women having sex with women during college and then not afterward. If they were really gay, it would be more difficult to overcome than simply saying they don't want to do that anymore. Talk to people who have tried to overcome being gay, and you'll see something of that. It may be ok to think of such people as gay in some extended sense, as long as you realize it's not what most people mean when they talk about people who are really gay.

I don't know anyone, Arminian or Calvinist, who would blame God for sin. I do know Arminians who unfairly portray Calvinists as blaming God for sin, but that just shows that they don't understand Calvinism. Calvinists are compatibilists, which means they insist that weare free, make real choices, and are morally responsible. We're not puppets, and you can't blame God for what we do.

The issue about belief has nothing to do with Calvinism or Arminianism. It has to do with belief. I first became convinced of this view by an Arminian. He pointed out that you can't control what beliefs you arrive at, but you can accept certain things as true in certain contexts. The former is involuntary. The latter is voluntary. He wanted to describe Christian faith as acceptance, though I think it's much more like belief. That's not the point, though. The point is that you can't choose to believe that you have eleven fingers instead of ten. You can't choose to believe that it would be good for you if you killed yourself. You can't choose to believe that the truck headed for you as you stand in the middle of the street isn't really there. You can't choose to believe that what you remember doing this morning didn't really happen. Beliefs come to us involuntarily.

You might find yourself believing something that isn't true, because your abilities to perceive or think clearly aren't functioning properly, but this isn't the sort of thing where you can just choose what to believe in any absolute sense any more than you can just choose to fly after jumping off a cliff. We just don't have that ability. Our beliefs are formed by a complex process. It involves perception. It involves being convinced by reasoning. It involves being taught certain things when we were very young that it hasn't even occurred to us to question. Not one of those things is voluntary. This is the subject of the other post, though, so we should be talking about it there and not here.

Since we keep repeating ourselves, this should probably end. But, before then:

I cannot admit to something that is not true. All of man's law is enforced from the barrel of a gun.

Homosexuality is not some before unknown gender. It is someone who has sex with someone of the same sex. As for people who are trying to leave the lifestyle, I believe my fetish example above speaks for itself.

As for belief, we also disagree. It seems to me that the cross would not be nescessary if our free will was not involved in a major way. Why answer the knock?

Thanks for all of your wonderful posts--very thought provoking.

Homosexuality is an orientation, and it's deeper-seated than just actions. There are debates about the causes, and there are debates about whether it's a good thing. There are debates about whether the actions are sinful. None of that has to have any bearing on the fact that people who identify as gay have some deep-seated orientation toward people of the same sex beyond what's true of those women who by choice act as if they're gay so they can avoid having to explain to guys that they want to remain virgins (as if they do so by having sex with women anyway) or the women who for political reasons reject men as inherently rapists and seek to satisfy their sexual desires with women.

I don't think those cases are anything like the person who just finds themselves attracted to people of their own sex, because in most of those cases they start out not liking this about themselves and wishing it would go away. I've known more than one person who would describe it that way. In two cases they were Christians who believe they should seek not to be that way. It's nothing like those who choose to engage in homosexual acts.

No one who is gay defines their gender as otherwise than their sex would indicate. Being transgendered is a different phenomenon. Being simply gay is being male and being attracted to men or being female and attracted to women. It doesn't mean you reject identifying yourself as your own gender. Transgendered people reject the gender assignment that comes with their biological sex.

I don't see the relation between the necessity of the cross, free will, and anything I said. (1) Compatibilists believe in free will. (2) This issue isn't about free will anyway. (3) The cross is an action on God's part, which doesn't require our free will at all. The only thing we can do is respond.

Respond with our free will? Make a choice to believe?

If that's what you mean, it isn't about the cross making no sense without free will. It's about Christian conversion making no sense without free will.

You can choose to repent. Repentance is the first action of the Christian life. It doesn't matter whether belief is voluntary for the issue of salvation, because demons believe. That doesn't save them. They don't repent.

Repent for what? For being gay? Not possible. If one is gay, it is not because they are God-hating, insolent monsters who deserve to burn in hell, no matter what the theonomists say. They simply are attracted to the same gender.

"It is someone who has sex with someone of the same sex."

Homosexuality is not all about ahving sex with the same sex, just as heterosexualtiy is not about having sex with the oppostie sex. They are both about establishing strong relationships, and, by the way, if two people love each other, are they not allowed to be married, no matter what gender the two people are? If God denies those rights, then, He is not necessarily promoting love and peace. He is promoting conformity.

Ramblings over.

Of course God promotes conformity, though not necessarily to whatever human standards someone might set up. God promotes conformity to what's truly good and right. That doesn't always match with popular views today about who it's fine to have sex with. As I've been saying all along, homosexuality isn't about having sex. It's an attraction, and it's one that doesn't necessitate acting on the basis of the attraction. What the Bible declares to be sin is homosexual sex, not being homosexual. What it says about that is that it's a negative condition caused by the fallenness of the world due to human sin.

That issue has nothing to do with what theonomists say, by the way. It's simply what the Bible says.

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