Same-Sex Marriage: A Seismic Moral Paradigm Shift for America | Part Two
Dr. Michael A. Cox | Pastor
First Baptist Church, Pryor, OK
***Editor’s Note: Dr. Cox’s book, “Not One Little Child: A Biblical Critique of Calvinism” is available for purchase HERE.
Click HERE for Part One.
Homosexuality: The Moral Perspective
Understanding homosexuality from the moral perspective necessarily includes an understanding of a Judeo-Christian ethic. This is an ethical standard supposedly given by God to the Israelites through Moses contained in what is now called the Old Testament combined with ethical standards supposedly given by God through the apostles and other New Testament writers. Judeo relates to Israel. Israel, the man, was named Jacob before God changed his name (Gen. 35:10-12). Jacob (Israel) had twelve sons. One was named Judah. This tribe settled in a particular region in the Promised Land. That region became known as Judea and included the great city of Jerusalem. One from the tribe of Judah was called a Jew, hence Judeo. Christian means rooted in the teachings of Christ, the apostles, and other New Testament writers. Jettisoning this time-honored Judeo-Christian ethic, which has proven to be a source of such great blessing to America, is to invoke the curses which come with rejecting such a God-given ethical standard.
While it is true that Christians wish to evangelize the world, meaning share the good news of grace and forgiveness found in Christ with everyone, Christians also understand that many will choose not to embrace the faith or the ethics imparted by Christianity. Both rejection and acceptance of Christ are personal matters, involving one person who, alone, will be held responsible for her or his rejection. But national ethical standards are an altogether different genre, if for no other reason because what one does in terms of ethics is not isolated in its repercussions only to the singular person. Others are necessarily, and unwillingly, dragged into the fray, and, therefore, into the consequences.
Who or what helps define moral, amoral, and immoral? One of the primary issues in the same-sex marriage dilemma is this question: What is the best ethical standard for America to follow? With no Judeo-Christian moral compass, who decides what is perversion? Regardless of whether such activity is homosexual or heterosexual, who says an eighteen year old fondling a twelve year old is a moral perversion? Can this general consensus change too? Who sets the minimum age for consensual sex? How is that minimum age determined? Can the minimum age differ from state to state? Christians answer that it is the Bible, and that it gives both direct and indirect descriptions of immorality and even prescriptions for morality, leaving very little “gray area.” Proverbs 29:18 says, “Where there is no vision [meaning identified boundaries of truth, right, and wrong], the people are unrestrained, But happy is he who keeps the law.” If there is no moral compass, then sexuality, and therefore morality, will be unrestrained, and people will do what is right in their own eyes.
Many others disagree strongly, instead advocating, it seems, that moral liberty is as constitutional as religious liberty, with far fewer constraints, thus making the passions of men and women and their fulfillment the new ethical standard. There are several “isms” vying to displace the Judeo-Christian ethic in America. Here are at least four leading candidates.
Secularism is the principle of the separation of government institutions and persons mandated to represent the state from religious institutions and religious dignitaries.
Humanism is an outlook, worldview, or system which attaches prime importance to the human rather than divine. It teaches that mankind, not any god, is the measure of all things, and is, therefore, the highest level of rationalization and consultation on all matters.
Hedonism is the belief that the pursuit of pleasure or happiness is the sole or chief good in life.
Postmodernism is a view which is skeptical about explanatory systems or stories, preferring instead a hermeneutics of suspicion. Postmodernism says that historical religious texts have no authority, that feelings and relationships are more important than logic or reason; that holism in community, meaning man is not the measure of all things, the community is, and it is supreme; that truth is relative; and that absolute truth, reason, and morality are denied. For the postmodernist, truth has shifted from the rational realm to the realm of subjective experience.
For many Christians, this replacement looks like human standards replacing divine standards. But divine standards are unchanging. Human standards change based on politics and personal preferences, on who is in office, on who occupies a seat on the Supreme Court, and largely on popular cultural trends.
A Judeo-Christian ethic is a moral compass rooted in the Old Testament and in the New Testament and is a reflection of the holiness of God. Replacing such an ethic with any “ism” is a recipe for moral collapse and national disaster.
Homosexuality: The Political Perspective
The rights of states are very much at stake in the same-sex marriage milieu. For example, you might not be personally against prostitution, but you are quite uncomfortable with the social implications on marriages and dating relationships which are inevitable consequences of legalized prostitution, so uncomfortable that you choose not live near a “house of ill repute” and are ever grateful that you have that option. But if “outlawing” prostitution were ruled unconstitutional by SCOTUS, thus legalizing prostitution nationwide, where would you go and what would you do? By disallowing states to make up their own minds through democratic vote on issues, preservation of moral and ethical preferences is exploded. Morally speaking, what is common in Las Vegas, Nevada, and San Francisco, California, can now become common in Mobile, Alabama, and Pryor, Oklahoma. And there is no state of refuge to which those with a different moral standard regarding homosexuality can retreat.
The United States of America is a democracy. A democracy means government by the people, most especially government by the majority of the people. It includes three branches of government: executive, legislative, and judicial. We have thought of, and presented, ourselves as “one nation under God” for hundreds of years, even embedding these words in our Pledge of Allegiance. The United States of America is also a republic, meaning that its government has a chief of state who is not a monarch [not a king], and who, in modern times, is usually a president.
For hundreds of years and through many wars men and women of the United States have fought bravely on many fronts: against the Fascism (authoritarian and nationalistic) of Nazi Germany; against the Imperialism (extending a country’s power or influence through military force) of Japan; against the Communism (all property is publicly owned by the government) of North Korea; against the Communism of North Vietnam; against the Terrorism of Iraq, Afghanistan, Al-Qaeda, and now ISIS. But while these armed forces personnel of the United States have fought against various isms, they have also fought for something – democracy, and the freedoms inherent in it, including moral freedoms as determined by the judicial branch of our democracy. This is the same democracy for which our soldiers, airmen, and sailors fought to preserve.
A theocracy, on the other hand, is a government by immediate divine guidance, meaning governed by God. Heaven is, and will always be, a theocracy. The earthly reign of Christ spoken of in Rev. 20:1-6, known as the Millennium [millennium means 1,000], which will last 1,000 years, will be a theocracy. But America was not, is not, and never will be a theocracy. Many of us wish it were. Some have demonstrated, or at least tried to demonstrate, that America’s founding fathers were Christians and intended for America to reflect Judeo-Christian values. But whether or not the founding fathers intended this is now a moot point, because the Supreme Court either did not see this connection, or saw it and disregarded it. Either way, whatever the founding fathers believed and intended concerning constitutional rights relative to abortion, same-sex marriage, and other issues apparently no longer matters. My suspicion is that if the founding fathers were here to explain themselves and stand against same-sex marriage, that it would not have changed the minds of five Supreme Court justices. Democracy is what we have and it has been influenced by Judeo-Christian values. Put simply, these Judeo-Christian values are being discarded and replaced with ethical values determined by various branches of our democratic government, in at least two cases by the Supreme Court, which has final say on the meaning of the Constitution, and these branches of government are influenced by popular culture: 1973 Roe v. Wade and 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges. The theocracy of heaven is not on earth, yet; but it is coming, although I know not when. Therefore, democracy, even with its flaws, is the best we have until then.
Homosexuality: The Practical Perspective
Ironically, every homosexual who has ever lived is the product of a heterosexual union, not a homosexual union. Widespread homosexuality should lead to a decrease in the population. In fact, homosexuality, if practiced by everyone exclusively, would lead to the extinction of the human race, as mentioned above, because the male reproductive anatomy is not intended by God, or, if you prefer, by nature, to reproduce when joined in any way with another male and because the female reproductive anatomy is not intended by God, or, if you prefer, by nature, to reproduce when joined in any way with another female. God’s, or, if you prefer, nature’s, plan for human sexual expression includes reproduction, which homosexuality negates (Gen. 1:27-28). Even Darwinian evolution, which I reject, champions the idea of the survival of the fittest, and, in so doing, in theory stands against homosexuality as an evolutionary survival model. Further, if homosexuality is genetically transferred [innate], which I do not believe, it would eventually expire. Thus, nature itself has installed a sign discouraging such sexual expression. The fact that homosexuality has not expired suggests that it is not genetically acquired. Many claim to be born homosexual, arguing that their sexual preference is innate, and, therefore, acceptable. The same argument may one day be made by a pedophile, a rapist, a murderer, and more: a lame excuse for lack of self-control!
Moreover, parenting by homosexual couples will be 100 percent dependent upon adoption. While children growing up with homosexual parents might incline them toward homosexuality, this cannot be determined with certainty. Plenty of children who grew up in a heterosexual home environment have emerged as homosexual.
Indeed, God created man and woman in his image, yet as complementary beings one to another, meaning one needs the other to complete the reproductive cycle of the human race. And, unless gifted with celibacy, to be a suitable helper (companion) for each other (Gen. 1:27; 2:18). As Robert Gagnon asserts, “An attempt at uniting sexually two males or two females would threaten to desecrate the image of God stamped on humans as complementary sexual beings.”[i]
Americans do not agree on a basis for establishing an ethical standard. The prevailing opinion in America was once that a Judeo-Christian ethic, rooted in the Bible’s Old and New Testaments, was true and best. But in recent years an ethical standard paradigm shift of seismic proportions has rocked America. Prayer in public schools was limited or banned. Abortion was legalized and its limits were broadened. Foul language surfaced in prime time television shows on the major networks. Marijuana has been legalized in some states. Gambling casinos have sprung up in states other than Nevada and now dot the landscape of once staunchly conservative states, like Oklahoma. The Ten Commandments have been removed from state property nationwide and are regarded as offensive, perhaps because they so forcefully remind of the old Judeo-Christian ethic once in vogue. And now same-sex marriage has been embraced by five Supreme Court justices, thus legalizing it in all fifty states. I expect far more components of this seismic ethical standard paradigm shift are still to come, perhaps even polygamy and marriage between humans and animals.
I grieve that many do not embrace the Jesus Christ of the Bible. I sorrow that many others do not embrace a Judeo-Christian ethic. But I am also compelled to grant all of these the freedom of choice not to accept either. Nevertheless, the Bible, which I regard as inspired, infallible, and inerrant says, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Isa. 5:20 NASB). Our task, then, is not to preach mere moral reform but to preach the gospel, the reception of which brings new birth and, with this new birth, comes moral reform.
So what now? First, Christians must be gracious toward those who disagree with our ethical standard. We must love sinners while hating sin and be instant an unceasing in drawing this distinction. We must never forget that we are all sinners in one form or another (Rom. 3:23). Second, gay-bashing must never be part of our repertoire. Opinions are fair game, but people themselves are off limits. Third, prayer for ourselves, our families, our churches, our president, our justices, and more is always in order. Fourth, there are many young Christians who simply do not know which way to turn, so we must explain to them the necessary components of this issue, just as I have sought to do in this article, and let them make up their own minds. Fifth, we must stand our ground and not be blown around by every wind of change, especially not by the wind of popular culture.[ii]
Finally, once an anchor is hoisted, a ship can sail. The question is who, or what, is controlling the rudder? In America, it is clear to see that the rudder is no longer under the control of a Judeo-Christian ethic. Some say “Good riddance!” Others say, “God help us!” If Americans truly want God to bless America, Americans had better start blessing God and giving him good reason to bless us.
[i]Robert A. J. Gagnon, “Russell Moore’s ERLC Posts a Flawed ‘Evangelical Declaration on Marriage,’” <http://m.christianpost.com/news/russell-moores-erlc-posts-a-flawed-evangelical-declaration-on-marriage–141652/>, accessed 21 July 2015.
[ii]Some of these observations were insightfully supplied by Paige Patterson, President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, in a letter to alumni shortly following the Supreme Court decision.