same sex marriage

A few thoughts before I fly home

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I’m in Manchester for the Launch Europe event. My last engagement before flying out of London for Melbourne. I'm heading home after three years in Britain. Apologies to the readers of this blog and listeners to the podcast. With the move back home, a string of commitments and work on a new book, I’ve had to cut back on the blog and podcast.

I’ve been prompted to dive back in after news, as expected, that Australians have voted in favor of same-sex marriage. I’m not a cultural warrior. I’m not focused on saving Western civilization. My concern is the spread of the gospel, multiplying disciples and churches.

The world will do what the world does. And face the consequences. The great tragedy of this vote is how easily church leaders and ordinary believers forsake (or remain silent about) the clear teaching of the Scriptures.

The Anglican church in England has a leader who can’t say publicly whether same-sex sexual relations are right or wrong. He has endorsed a new transgender policy in Anglican schools. He has awarded an LGBT activist with the Thomas Cranmer Award for Worship. Cranmer was burnt at the stake rather than surrender his commitment to God’s Word.

These are not matters where we can agree to disagree. The teaching of Scripture is clear. Jesus was clear — you can choose to build your house on rock or sand. But you can't choose the consequences.

There is only one true church and that church is under the authority of God’s living Word and the Holy Spirit. The only way out of this morass is to return to being governed by the Word and the Spirit. It’s not easy in this cultural climate, but God gives grace for what he expects us to do. That’s the example Jesus set. He obeyed the Father regardless of the cost.

Any movement, church, individual believer, denomination, Christian organization that steps away from the safety and blessing of obedience, will face God’s redemptive judgment. He will defend his Word. He loves us that much.

Twisting the nose of Jesus

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I am neither an untrue man … nor a mere nose of wax to be twisted this way and that

Sir Walter Scott

True north in the confusion over human sexuality and marriage is what the Scriptures teach. Jesus made it clear in Matthew 19, affirming Genesis 1-2.

This is what Christians have always believed. Until recently. What changed? Western culture changed.

When I make this point, the response is sometimes, well it is more complicated than that. We have to balance what Jesus taught on marriage with what he taught about love.

So now we have loving Jesus versus Jesus the authority on marriage in the 1st century. In the 21st century, we prefer the loving Jesus. And we get to define the true nature of love.

These are attempts to create Jesus in our image. Jesus is Lord, his words are the words of the living God. For all time in all cultures.

Disciples are those who are learning to obey his teachings, not avoid them (Matthew 28: 18-20).

So the real Jesus has a problem with sexual sin in ALL its forms. It’s better to pluck out an eye than give yourself to sexual sin and find yourself in hell (Matthew 5:29). God will judge us if we give ourselves over to sexual sin. To be silent about this is not an act of love — unless Jesus got it wrong. But then you wouldn’t be his follower, obeying his teaching.

The real Jesus welcomed the woman who wept at his feet (Luke 7:36-50). He announced to a room of men who were judging her, “Her sins are many.” And her sins are forgiven. Her faith saved her from God’s judgment. She went home at peace with God.

Who is this man, who welcomes sinners and forgives them?

Jesus took sexual sin seriously, warned against it, and gave his life as a ransom for sinners (Mark 10:45). He died so we could be forgiven and know new life through the Holy Spirit. We are not alone in our sexual brokenness and sin. There is a Savior.

So don’t twist Jesus’ nose. He is the one hope we have of being rescued from our brokenness, our shame, and our sin — in all its forms.

Australia to vote on same-sex marriage

Dale Stephenson is a good friend and the pastor of our sending church.

Australians will shortly be given the opportunity to participate in the postal vote about whether we ought to change the definition of marriage to include the unions of same sex couples. I encourage everyone to participate in this process.

There have been few, if any, more divisive issues for Australian society in my lifetime than the same sex marriage debate. Some voices from both the ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ camps have been extremely ungracious in their tone and content and I encourage a gracious and loving tone from both sides. Good people have drawn divergent conclusions on this matter and neither side deserves to be demonised for the conclusions that they have reached. In this process much harm has been done to vulnerable people on both sides, especially to young people struggling with their sexual identity, and pejorative comments do little to advance either perspective.

As best as I can understand the Bible and from my Christian faith, I believe that marriage is between one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others. This definition of marriage has served our Australian society well historically. Jesus said, “For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh.” The Apostle Paul wrote to a Roman audience, who had same sex marriage and casual same sex unions, expressing that this was not the Christian way. The major world faiths of Islam, Judaism, Christianity and Indigenous cultures all affirm marriage as between men and women.

It is also worth us realising that the very nature of law is to define inclusion and exclusion. A line is drawn and certain relationships are not called ‘marriage' even though they have the right to exist and even be celebrated by portions of society. For example, three people cannot experience marriage equality because by definition marriage is only for two. Some relationships between consenting adults cannot be recognised as marriage because the parties are too closely related. If either person is too young it cannot be called marriage. The definition by law excludes some relationships because that is what law does.

I have serious concerns about the impact on freedom of speech and freedom of religion in Australia implicit in the proposed redefinition of marriage. We are a richer society as a result of our capacity to speak freely and exercise our faith convictions freely even though this inevitably causes friction across the board. In countries that have redefined marriage to include same sex
unions the law has been used coercively against people of faith and against people’s conviction on these matters. This is not conducive to a free society.

Jesus told us we are to love our
neighbours as ourselves, love even those who hate us, pray for those who persecute us and bless them. I take these words to heart and it is with love and respect that I uphold Crossway's official position in support of the traditional definition of marriage.

Dale Stephenson
Senior Pastor
Crossway Baptist Church

Gotta Serve Somebody


You may be an ambassador to England or France
You may like to gamble, you might like to dance
You may be the heavyweight champion of the world
You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls

But you're gonna have to serve somebody, yes
Indeed you're gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you're gonna have to serve somebody


Bob Dylan, Gotta Serve Somebody 
 

I was saddened to hear recently of Eugene Peterson’s on again, off again support for same-sex marriage.

He’s written some great books on spiritual formation. I particularly recall his reflections on Jonah: Under an Unpredictable Plant.

His writings are a great help in learning obedience to God's word. He wrote as a man under God's word. That's where he should have remained.

For thousands of years, the Jewish-Christian scriptures have clearly spoken on the nature of marriage. Jesus made it clear he stood in that tradition (Matt 19). One man, one woman for the whole of life, forsaking all others.

No Christian scholar has questioned that teaching, until recently. The cultural wind has changed and now influential leaders are taking advantage of it. Or at least remaining silent for fear of alienating the people who attend their churches and conferences, buy their books and read their blogs.

Jesus warned (Matt 24) that in the time before his return false prophets and false messiahs would emerge and attempt to deceive God’s people. The love of many will grow cold. Despite this falling away, the gospel will be preached throughout the world. God will triumph.

Paul warned the Ephesian elders that after he left, "savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock" (Acts 20: 29). We’re at war. Expect incoming missiles, expect casualties. Why then did Paul leave? What resources did the Ephesians have to remain true to what they had received? Just two—Paul committed them to the Word and the Holy Spirit.

Ask yourself, whose word is supreme? Ours or God’s? Progressive or liberal Christianity places human experience, culture and rationality above Scripture. Start there and anything goes.

The incarnate Son of God submitted his life and ministry to the living Word of God, we must do the same. Place culture above the Word and you’ll live a peaceful life, accepted by those around you as enlightened. The pressure to conform is enormous. You won't be a target if you remain silent or even better, bow the knee and sacrifice to the Emperor. Get your certificate of approval.

In 250, the Emperor Decius ordered everyone in the Empire to sacrifice to the Roman gods and to the well-being of the Emperor. The sacrifices were to be performed before a magistrate and a certificate issued confirming the act. The religious motivation was minimal. The Emperor wanted to know that his subjects were loyal to the state. Yet Christians died rather than bow to the demands of a pagan culture.

A disciple is someone who is learning to obey what Jesus commanded (Matt 28). No matter what the price. In the end, we all have to choose. Has God spoken? Do we place our lives under the authority of his Word? Do we follow the example of Jesus who went the Cross rather than disobey the Father?

Satan offered Jesus the world if he would bow. Jesus chose instead "It is written!." He preferred the Cross to expediency.

InterVarsity did the right thing

Scripture is very clear that God’s intention for sexual expression is to be between a husband and wife in marriage. Every other sexual practice is outside of God’s plan and therefore is a distortion of God’s loving design for humanity.

InterVarsity

InterVarsity has made clear its position on marriage and sexuality. This is a rare thing, many Christian organisations, leaders and churches would rather duck the issue.

We live in strange times when it’s news that a Christian organisation believes what Christians have universally taught on sexuality for 2,000 years.

The Atlantic warns:

Organizations like InterVarsity are not infrequently torn between older, conservative donors and powerbrokers, and the younger donors and activists who hold the key to their future.

If public-opinion polls are any indication, a polarizing position like this may sharply limit the field of future supporters. 

If that’s the case the mainline churches must be bulging with a surplus of young activists and donors. Instead they’re in an unending spiral of decline and decay.

This is the lesson of history — move away from Biblical orthodoxy and you’re finished as a movement. There is no other pattern.

The Bible and Same-sex Relationships: A review article by Tim Keller

Tim Keller

The saddest thing for me as a reader was how, in books on the Bible and sex, Vines and Wilson concentrated almost wholly on the biblical negatives—the prohibitions against homosexual practice—instead of giving sustained attention to the high, (yes) glorious scriptural vision of sexuality. Both authors rightly say that the Bible calls for mutual loving relationships in marriage, but it points to far more than that. 

Tim Keller 

Tim Keller responds with grace and wisdom to two books, one by Matthew Vines and the other by Ken Wilson, that argue that the Bible either allows for or supports same-sex relationships.

Tony Campolo comes out in favour of same-sex marriage

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Tony Campolo becomes the latest in a long line of cultural evangelicals to come out in favour of same-sex marriage.

According to Carl Trueman

What is surprising in the statement is the complete absence of any thoughtful argumentation in his articulation of his position. Though he professes to have heard every kind of biblical argument against same-sex marriage, he does not burden the reader with any of these, or why he has found them so lacking. Instead, he prefers to use straw men, false dichotomies, and the rhetoric of social science to present his case.

keep reading >>

Theological liberalism is decaying, long-live progressive evangelicalism.

This is folly. Jesus was clear. Scripture is clear. No amount of postmodern creativity and reimagining can substitute for obedience no matter what the culture demands of us.

From a movements perspective there is no other future for Tony Campalo and friends than spiritual impotency.

UPDATE: Mark Galli responds on behalf of Christianity Today.