Here is a response that my (C. Michael Patton) friend Mark Gaither, Th.M., Dallas Theological Seminary and author of Redemptive Divorce, wrote to my post on Homosexual Marriage. It is very well thought out and provides a helpful perspective that, while we may disagree, is important.

With great respect to my friend and colleague, Michael Patton—and I mean that sincerely—I take issue with his article, “Changing our Thinking about Same-Sex Marriage.”

First, I find the starting premise flawed. The thesis states: “The government should NOT make homosexual marriage illegal.” The word “illegal” makes the premise factually incorrect. To make something illegal is to prohibit certain actions or behaviors. The various “Defense of Marriage” propositions do not make homosexual marriage illegal (assigning punishments to people claiming same-sex unions); these proposals seek to define marriage a certain way so as to determine how to apply privileges and protections to people based on marital status. That is a crucial distinction.

His article also proposed that “the government should stay out of the marriage business all-together.” The line of argument then proceeds from there, the core of which really turns on this question: Should Christians in America become libertarian? The issue of same-sex marriage turns out to be a good test case for this question, prompting us to reconsider the role of government in marriage and, as he suggests, all other theological matters. Consider the following line of reasoning based on what I consider a better starting premise.

In the United States, our laws reflect the collective theology of citizens on any given issue. The definition of marriage by the government does not presume to determine theology; it is the other way around in a participatory government such as ours. “The government” is us, “we the people.” The U.S. Constitution does not erect a wall of separation between church and state; Jefferson overstates its political-social impact. Our founding document establishes an officially secular government with these intended benefits: every philosophical persuasion is given a voice in government and religious institutions are protected from official government intrusion. Our democratic-republican form of legislature then permits—indeed expects!—government to reflect the collective values of its citizens, who may or may not hold religious values.

As it relates to the issue of marriage . . .

The “definition of marriage” in the legal sense merely identifies who shall be subject to our laws concerning marriage. Our government recognizes and honors the institution of marriage with certain privileges and burdens because “we the people” wanted it that way. The government deemed certain unions “valid” based on criteria stipulated by its citizens, who were informed and influenced by the Bible—at least in days gone by.

It is true that our government is officially secular. Rather than choose a particular moral code on which to base its laws, the U.S. Constitution frames a system whereby the legal code reflects the values of U.S. citizens. Put simply, if the preponderance of citizens believe stealing is good, then robbery will be legalized. (That’s obviously hyperbole, but you get the point.) Historically, our laws concerning marriage reflected a Judeo-Christian code of ethics. This is undeniable, regardless of whether the Founders were evangelical Christian or deist or atheist in their personal beliefs. (Even atheists today draw their personalized moral systems from their Judeo-Christian forebears, whether they realize it or not.) Today, however, with more people drifting away from the biblical view of homosexuality as sin, an ethic of equality has begun to take precedence.

The question then becomes, What is our role as Christians in all of this? A more libertarian stance would be to offer the following compromise: remove the issue of marriage from politics and government altogether; recognize no civil union, whether traditional or homosexual. Should we take a more libertarian stance or pursue an even more active role in shaping our government to reflect our values?

Jesus left His followers on earth not merely to preach the good news and make disciples. We have a duty to the biblical definition of divine justice, we have a responsibility as heavenly envoys to transform our world until every human institution in every corner of the earth reflects the values of God’s kingdom. We must pursue this through our own personal interactions and en masse through churches and para-church organizations using any suitable means available. Fortunately, our participatory government gives us a divinely orchestrated opportunity to do just that in the United States.

I have considered the libertarian compromise myself because I, like many Christians, would prefer to keep theological debates out of the courts and in the public square. Unfortunately, the libertarian ideal, which seeks a minimalist government, is a good idea that will never gain traction. Unless everyone agrees to minimalist government, no one can reasonably expect it. Too many other factions want a bigger, more active government. In the debate over the legal definition of marriage, we can withdraw our theological argument, but our opposition will not. And, frankly, I’m not ready to cede the argument because I have a duty, as a Christian and as a voice in participatory government, to have God’s view of marriage prevail.

The non-viability of the libertarian ideal notwithstanding, I still considered the proposed compromise myself. Stated again, it is to remove the issue of marriage from politics and government altogether, to recognize no civil union, whether traditional or homosexual.

That appears reasonable until you begin to consider all the implications. The traditional view of marriage as the union of a man and woman—in the eyes of all religions, not only Christianity—is woven into the fabric of every human institution and government in the world. Now, homosexuals want to co-opt the institution of marriage—a religious invention older than recorded history—yet without accepting the entanglements of religious devotion. To save all religions from having to rewrite their ancient texts or forsake their sacred traditions and grant homosexuals their face-value demand for equal status under the law, we must scrub our legal code of any privileges or considerations for married couples. Individual taxes for all, no community property except by contract, no marital consideration in probate, etc., etc., etc., so that all people are treated as individuals, regardless of who plays house with whom. That would be like unweaving a sweater to remove a particular color yarn only to re-knit it anew. Possible, I suppose, but quite a task.

In the end, however, I think this compromise will not help matters. As it stands right now, homosexuals can cohabit with no governmental intrusion. They can call themselves anything they want without governmental sanction or prohibition. Most of what they seek in terms of privileges can be obtained through legal instruments, such as living wills, medical power-of-attorney documents, trusts, etc. So, let us not think the debate is merely about civil equality. Homosexuals crave, more than anything, legitimacy. Not merely tolerance. And gay rights activists won’t be happy until everyone in America calls homosexuality “good” and “natural.”

Michael’s article asked, “If the government eventually ‘legalizes’ all gay marriage, so what?” This libertarian-style retreat merely cedes ground to our opposition in the sincere hope that it will stop there. Make no mistake, the agenda won’t end with marriage laws. Homosexual activists have patterned their movement after the black civil rights movement, seeking the same protections and provisions of the law as it relates to race. Holding the theological position that homosexuality is a sin will become no less a crime than declining to hire someone based on color. The social groundwork has been laid. The Supreme Court has fallen. Capitol Hill next. Hobby Lobby is fighting for its life. Soon our churches. Homosexuals will not be satisfied until they receive complete sanction for their lifestyle choice or all opposition has been stamped out, leaving no one to call it sin.

I would rather not compromise until defeated. I think an America that adheres to and honors divine truth is a stronger, better nation. Our Constitution provides a God-ordained opportunity to have the kind of influence Christians could only dream of having in centuries past, a privilege they most certainly would have exercised. As it happens, we have a practical means of shaping our country to be more godly rather than less. Consequently, I cannot be libertarian. I cannot compromise.

    43 replies to "Thoughts on Homosexual Marriage, Libertarian Government, and Christian Duty"

    • Chancellor Roberts

      Mark, you’re right. It is not “illegal” (a crime) for two people of the same sex to shack up and call themselves “married.” It is, however, a crime to engage in bigamy or polygamy.

      Politically, I’m a Libertarian and a Constitutionalist. Accordingly, I believe that the government should not be giving benefits, recognitions, privileges, etc. to ANY marriage – gay, straight or otherwise. It isn’t the government’s place to dictate what relationships consenting adults may enter into. It is, however, the Church’s place to communicate the truth that God designed marriage to be an opposite-sex marriage and to refuse to recognize relationships that violate God’s word (such as “gay marriages” or the remarriages of people who divorced for reasons other than those set forth in the New Testament).

      In America, governments didn’t start involving themselves in marriage until the 19th century when they started making laws against interracial marriage. The federal government got involved in 1920 when it set forth a list of different ethnicities that whites were prohibited from marrying.

      My particular concern with governments involving themselves in marriage, besides the fact that the federal government has no constitutional authority in that area, is that governments may eventually decide that Christians cannot marry, bear children, raise children, etc.

      I agree that ” Most of what they seek in terms of privileges can be obtained through legal instruments, such as living wills, medical power-of-attorney documents, trusts, etc. So, let us not think the debate is merely about civil equality.” However, heterosexuals can do the same. The issue is the mistaken belief that the government can provide “legitimacy” to a relationship (along with the un-American notion that rights come from the government; they don’t, they exist naturally and are inalienable; governments can only give permission or privileges).

      I want the government out of marriage.

    • Doug H

      The claim that there is a “homosexual agenda” that seeks to make holding a particular view illegal is ridiculous, and the comparison to the civil rights movement (in that regard) spurious at best. It is not illegal to be a racist – it is illegal to base a decision that impacts other people on racism, whether that decision is legal, or educational, economic, etc. It will never be illegal to be a homophobe – but it should be illegal to base a decision that impacts other people on homophobia. That is the legitimate comparison to the civil rights movement – that it is a movement against discrimination. If, along the way, many people’s beliefs are changed, all the better.

      There is a huge difference between ‘calling something sin’ on the one hand, and discriminating against people on the other hand. To say that a person cannot hold a particular view on homosexuality if they don’t have the government’s sanction and authority supporting them is absurd. That’s like saying I am not allowed to be a Christian pacifist because the US engages in warfare. The issue is not beliefs or feelings, it is the standing that people have, or do not have, under the law.

      • Mark W. Gaither

        Doug, you’ll have to explain a little more about what you mean by, “The claim that there is a “homosexual agenda” that seeks to make holding a particular view illegal is ridiculous.” I’m not sure how to address that objection.

        You’re right to see a difference between thoughts and actions. The first amendment protects the free expression of thoughts and ideas and viewpoints. (Well, for the most part at least.) And you’re right, the issue of legality comes into play only when we begin to apply what we believe. The problem is, our topic involves both: a point of view that necessarily leads to application. If U.S. law is headed where I think, people who hold to the traditional view of marriage will be prohibited from acting on their belief. (After all, a viewpoint that has no bearing on behavior is irrelevant.)

        When the moral position of a private business or corporation guides their policy, and that policy conflicts with U.S. law, the distinction between thought and action goes away. Hobby Lobby now knows this all too well.

        Your argument also makes a analogous association between racism and “homophobia,” which illustrates my point. The very term, “homophobia,” was coined for that very purpose. The term rests on the assumption that homosexual behavior arises exclusively from an ontological disposition (“I was born this way”) and that autonomous choice plays little nor no part. This view is not accepted by those who agree with the Bible that the homosexual act is sin. For those who derive their ethics from the Bible, the issue is a question of morality, not discrimination. Even so, I dare say most who hold this position don’t have a problem with homosexuals living however they please, until we are compelled to act or behave in a way that contradicts our belief.

      • Mark W. Gaither
    • Delwyn Xavier Campbell

      Doug, your final argument fits only because we no longer have a draft. If we went back to a draft military, your claim to pacifism could land you in jail, as it did for some during Vietnam. If you are willing to suffer the consequences of your beliefs when they go counter to government power, so be it. THAT, however, is what this debate is REALLY about. Homosexual activists have already used to courts to attack business owners who refuse to provide goods and services in support of homosexual weddings. You are either lying to yourself, or trying to deceive others, if you say that the only issue is whether homosexuals should be treated differently regarding marriage.

    • Truth Unites... and Divides

      Mark Gaither: “I would rather not compromise until defeated. I think an America that adheres to and honors divine truth is a stronger, better nation.”

      Curious. What does defeat look like in this context?

      • Mark W. Gaither

        Defeat would be a redefinition of marriage by our government that contravenes the biblical definition.

    • Truth Unites... and Divides

      “Defeat would be a redefinition of marriage by our government that contravenes the biblical definition.”

      For the Christians who live in states where marriage has been redefined by the government, have they been defeated?

    • Clint Roberts

      A good point is raised here in the consideration of the difference between our political context and that of the New Testament writers and early believers under Rome. The idea of conceding all of these things (rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s) is most attractive when the heat is turned up & we’d rather not deal with all of the flack.

      But it is interesting to think about what THEY might have said had they awakened one morning to find that Rome was a democratic republic in which everyone was now a citizen with equal rights and the power to speak freely in the open market and to vote. Would they have availed themselves of this to effect changes?

      It’s not the first time that Christians have been met with bad press & public defamation for taking a position contrary to certain viewpoints of prominence. Groups like the Quakers took it on the chin for being vocal about the slave trade when it wasn’t really the popular position. Some of them were surely tempted to withdraw and live the truth among themselves as the Church & let the political realm handle what is its responsibility.

      Beneath the surface is the charge that taking the position against gay marriage isn’t just unpopular or disliked. It’s WRONG. If we say, “Hey we’re citizens too so we have just as much right to exert our will to shape things as we think they should be,” the immediate response will be that our will is wrong, that the way we think things should be is immoral, bigoted, discrimination, etc. This is still a deeper moral question that is on the table, not merely a political one.

    • Jay Altieri

      Chancellor, I object to limiting divorce to reasons “set forth in the New Testament.” How about the OT? After all Jesus was just restating what Moses had already said? I would have put it this way: “limiting divorce to reasons set forth in the Bible.” Is that ok?

      As such many modern evangelicals will be surprised that Scripture allows for divorce for more than just adultery.
      Ex 21:10-11 Moses permits divorce for refusal to provide food, clothing and marital rights. Another words for abandonment. Telling your wife, no she can’t buy that dress, or telling your husband (what’s good for the goose is good for the gander) no I have a headache tonight- does not constitute abandonment.

      Point being abandonment is legitimate cause for divorce, although clearly the believer should never be the one initiating the abandoning.
      Highly recommended book for this difficult divorce topic: Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible by David Instone-Brewer.

      But I digress, we are talking about marriage. Chancellor are you advocating the FEDERAL gov to be strictly limited and not define marriage? Or are you saying that no governmental power should be there? (State, county, city, etc). Are you libertarian when it comes to state gov too? If so, you may tread very closely to anarchy. Currently marriage certificates are not issued by the FedGov anyway, it is a state thing. Your arguments almost sound as if you are thinking we shouldn’t have a civic marriage policy (which is performed on the state level). Europeans will be totally confused reading this, because we Americans are one of the few nations with a Federal system.

    • John

      I think the point missed is that you might have to adopt a different stance depending on whether you are in the majority or minority. If you think you can win this fight, by all means fight it. But if you are in the minority, an all out assault on your #1 choice might not be feasible. The difference between living in a Christian theocracy vs under a Muslim caliphate. Right now this battle might be just winnable. In 10 years it might not be. The libertarian position might be better than an all out loss.

      BTW many countries recognize partners, defacto etc as pretty much identical for all legal purposes. You don’t need government marriage to have such tax confessions or property rules.

    • Dave Z

      …we have a responsibility as heavenly envoys to transform our world until every human institution in every corner of the earth reflects the values of God’s kingdom.

      Really? Our role as believers is to transform human institutions? And here, I’ve been wanting to transform human hearts. Boy, do I feel silly.

      Sarcasm aside, is this a new form of post-millennialism?

      Also, I think TUaD raised a good point, which has not been responded to – are Christians in SSM states defeated?

      I meet with a group of pastors every month. This month, it happened to be today. We talked about this very thing. Also, we’re in California, where a law was just passed that kids in school can use whichever bathroom aligns with their preferred “gender identity.” Some churches want to “take a stand” and sign petitions to force a ballot initiative. “The people must be heard!”

      My thinking is that the people have already been heard – back when they elected leaders who will submit and pass such garbage legislation.

      If your definition of defeat is when laws we disagree with are passed, then you have already lost! You were defeated when the people elected leaders who bend whichever way the wind blows. Now our task is to figure out how to teach our kids to deal with it.

      • Mark W. Gaither

        I’m not sure what to do with the sarcasm. I can’t tell if I’m supposed to respond or not, so I’ll just leave it be for now.

        As to the question, “Is this a new form of post-millennialism?”, my response is no. My statement comes from a personal conviction, the details of which I’ll save for another time. Put simply (and without trying open a new can of worms), that whole “salt and light” thing involves more than a verbal proclamation of the gospel. I realize that most mature Christians will affirm that statement; we should proclaim the gospel with our lives wherever we happen to live. I would like to push that further and encourage my brothers and sisters to be more proactive, to seek out opportunities to help fix some broken part of our world. The world, of course, will remain hopelessly distorted until King Jesus returns and puts evil in its place. (I am PreMil.) In the meantime, however, we honor God when we feed the poor, right a wrong, etc.

        In terms of politics, I think Christians have a duty to use any reasonable means to see the biblical view of anything become policy, especially when our system of government invites us.

        On the “defeat” question, I don’t know where TUaD was going. If it’s the same point you articulated, then my response is to both of you.

        By “defeat” in this context, I do mean when a law or policy passes that contradicts biblical ethics. However, a “defeat” isn’t final until we’re either dead or have given up. Just because we lose a court decision or lose an election doesn’t mean we’re defeated. I’m not willing to concede a righteous cause. As long as God is alive, it’s winnable.

    • Dave Z

      “As long as God is alive, it’s winnable.”

      And will be won, eventually. But judging by Jesus’ statement that the world will hate us, I don’t see that win happening until he returns.

      Some of your statements indicate we should make the world a perfect place, which is akin to the post-mills of the past… that’s what prompted that remark. I was not saying that you are post-mill, just seeing a similarity.

      Without sarcasm, I have to say that I don’t see any clear commands in scripture to “shape our country to be more godly rather than less.” What I do see is that God has appointed our government, whether godly or not. What do we do with that?

      And I have to be honest, the idea that we’re to make institutions…how to put it…maybe conform to the image of Christ, is completely foreign to me.

      Maybe it’s just a wording thing. I’d agree that it would be amazing if so many people’s hearts were transformed by following Jesus that human institutions, filled as they are by people, became holier, but to use government in an attempt to make that happen…I just don’t get it at all.

      I agree with you that we should “be more proactive, to seek out opportunities to help fix some broken part of our world.” I think we disagree on how and what. I’d say yes, let’s find a way to feed hungry people and let’s visit people in prison and care for the oppressed and all – we’re commanded to do those things (the sheep and the goats), but to use the power of government in an attempt to “shape our country to be more godly rather than less,” that makes me very nervous. I do not see that command in scripture, and I don’t think the church has a very good record when it tries to run the government.

      • Mark W. Gaither

        Dave Z:

        It probably is a wording thing, and I have not made my point as brilliantly as I had imagined. 🙂 I can see now that my presentation of that topic (biblical justice, Christian activism, or whatever we want to call it) could use a more thoughtful treatment. Perhaps soon.

        Thanks for the insightful feedback.

    • Chancellor Roberts

      Jay Altieri, you wrote: “I would have put it this way: “limiting divorce to reasons set forth in the Bible.” Is that ok?”

      No, it isn’t ok. The teachings of the New Testament supercede those of the Old Testament and, as the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 made clear, Gentiles are not bound by the Law of Moses. Jesus was the one who said that remarriage after divorce “except for the cause of fornication” was adultery. Paul was allowed to add that if a couple is married, one of them becomes a believer and the unbelieving spouse chooses to leave, the believing spouse may remarry (but may only marry another believer).

      You wrote: “Chancellor are you advocating the FEDERAL gov to be strictly limited and not define marriage? Or are you saying that no governmental power should be there? (State, county, city, etc). Are you libertarian when it comes to state gov too? If so, you may tread very closely to anarchy. Currently marriage certificates are not issued by the FedGov anyway, it is a state thing. Your arguments almost sound as if you are thinking we shouldn’t have a civic marriage policy (which is performed on the state level).”

      I want all government out of the marriage business entirely – except maybe to have courts mediate (not dictate) contract disputes between the parties. Also, in 1920, the federal government did pass a law listing certain ethnic groups whites could not marry. If, however, you’re going to insist on government involvement, then the public acts clause in the Constitution, and the 14th Amendment, require states to recognize the public acts (such as marriage licenses) of other states.

    • JFDU

      …we have a responsibility as heavenly envoys to transform our world until every human institution in every corner of the earth reflects the values of God’s kingdom.

      Does your personal conviction originate from a biblical mandate? If so, then it should have global application, meaning, that Christians who live in an Islamic, Buddhist or Hindu state, should try and “transform” their countries to make them “reflect the values of God’s kingdom”.

      Where do they start? Abolition of barbaric practices like female genital mutilation? Getting thrown in jail for kissing your wife in public (Dubai)? Freedom to read a Bible without fear of execution? Or let’s apply this ideal to ex-communist Russia and the underground church. The homosexual issue would be the least of their worries in all of these examples.

      • Mark W. Gaither

        I do take this conviction as a biblical mandate, and that it does have global application.

        Where anyone starts is where they are. The beauty of God’s plan is that each believer can find an injustice close at hand. And he or she is uniquely qualified to discern its intricacies, what will work and what will not. He or she then guided by prayer and the Holy Spirit and other like-minded Christians can determine how to begin righting the wrong.

        Each situation demands its own wisdom. When confronted with large-scale institutionalized oppression or where evil practices have longstanding tradition, a good place to start might be giving aid to victims while aiming the good news at the hearts of oppressors. On the other hand, a full-frontal assault might be in order. That is for the Christian in situ to determine through prayer.

        It would appear that Paul chose the former tack when addressing Christians in the slave-owning culture of the Roman Empire. I lift this quote from Chuck Swindoll’s Insights on 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus:

        To the disappointment and confusion of many—in our day, not his—Paul didn’t set his sights on social reform, beginning with the abolition of slavery. As a result, modern critics have accused him of giving tacit approval to the practice. Pro-slavery expositors in the American South even used his letters to argue against abolition. And I admit, my initial question was probably the same as yours: “So, why didn’t Paul take a stronger stand and condemn slavery?” After giving that further thought, perhaps a better question would be, “How should a fledgling movement utterly opposed to human bondage begin to address such a formidable institution?”

        Paul chose a uniquely Christian approach. It’s so brilliant, it could have come only from God. In these six verses (1 Tim. 6:1–6), Paul not only gave practical advice to slaves in the present, before the eventual undoing of slavery, he also advanced the gospel as a means of world change. Activism can reform a society, but only when the time is ripe. Revolutions—the bloodless kind—begin with transformed hearts, which then transform institutions. And the results speak for themselves. Two thousand years later, Western societies—Christian in their origin—have rejected slavery. Today, even nonbelievers give no quarter to the thought of human bondage.

        Source: Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010), 119.

        Perhaps this would be a good topic for another post, where the discussion could continue.

    • a.

      reflecting, does bring to remind, how many don’t know the plans of the One True God, so for sure we need to be about that unequivocally. Maybe step one=(from Christian Post I think): “Evangelicals should declare a national day of humiliation or confession where Evangelical Christians confess to God and apologize to the country for not being more authentically Christian, culminating with a heart-felt individual and corporate resolve to do better in the future.”

      Rev 19: 11 And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. 12 His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. 13 He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. 14 And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. 15 From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. 16 And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.”

    • Tyson Cadenhead

      Wow… I’ve definitely never heard anyone refer to the libertarian stance as a compromise. Murray Rothbard, one of the foremost thinkers in Libertarianism worked to build a distinction between our will as the governed and the the will of the government. He wrote that one of the most slippery slopes is the idea that “we are the government.” We are not the government and the government is not us. I think that is an important distinction to make.

      Understanding that, even if the government passes a law that green is blue or that 2 + 2 = 5, it is not a reflection of us as Christians or individuals, but just a nonsensical law that cannot be properly reflected in reality. We cannot be held responsible for laws that the government in our country makes anymore than we are responsible for laws that are made in other countries. If the government bombs another country, it is the government that did it, not us. Sure, we can try to replace psychopaths with new officials, but in the end, hardly anyone keeps their campaign promises, so there is no way to know what principles you are really voting for.

      In the end, I am glad that the Christianity of the Bible is not about politics but about the individual hearts and minds of God’s people.

      I must say, too, that I typically really agree with most of what the Credo House ministries put out, but this is something I must disagree with.

    • Lothars Sohn

      I have presented a very simple THEOLOGICAL argument for homosexal marriage here

      Could someone please tell me where the flaw in my reasoning lie?

      • Mark W. Gaither

        I think this might be problematic: “One of the implication might be to give up Biblical inerrancy.”

        If we cannot agree that the Bible is God’s definitive standard of “right” and “wrong,” “moral” and “immoral,” then we have no common ground upon which to reason.

        For me and many of my peers, the Bible is step-one in any line of logic. Any supposed standard of morality that does not proceed from our Creator is arbitrary.

    • Lothars Sohn

      Hello Mark.

      “For me and many of my peers, the Bible is step-one in any line of logic. Any supposed standard of morality that does not proceed from our Creator is arbitrary.”

      I know and this leads your peers to assert it is sometimes morally mandatory for soldiers to kill babies and pregnant women alike (Joshua) while being indignant about every abortion.

      But in order to SALVAGE inerrancy, you have to show that one of my premises or reasoning steps is flawed.
      Which one would you reject?


      • Mark W. Gaither

        Respectfully, I do not have to salvage anything. Scripture is its own truth. One can either accept it or deny it.

        I accept it.

        The truth of Scripture is not invalidated by people who misuse Scripture.

    • theo

      Dan Fischer has written extensively about why we are to obey and cooperate with a Godly government, not a bad government. We are to oppose a bad gov. and uphold Godly principles always. Of course.
      Romans 13.

    • Jay Altieri

      Lothars, Greetings in Christ from USA. I looked at your WordPress. In your article point #4 you said “homosexuals who have to constantly repress their basic sexual feelings and regard them as sinful are suffering a horrific ordeal.” Do you think that it is likewise unfair for people to have to repress all sorts of other natural urges? Is expression of anger sinful? When my boss or my neighbor ticks me off, must I repress my feelings of anger? Or would it be natural, (and healthy for the free expressiveness) for me to bloody them up a bit? What about hetrosex urges? Must we repress those and channel them through marriage? You could advocate that since sex urges are normal, then it is unfair to repress them exclusively into marriage. Let’s have open free sex with anybody that you want.

      Your statement in quotes above is the key underpinning of your entire thesis. In a nutshell the thesis is that it is unfair and unhealthy to repress natural urges. However, many natural urges of humans are intrinsically sinful because we are fallen creatures in need of a Savior.
      I agree that the homosex urge is primal and normal to humans. So is murder. Jesus had all of the temptations that we have, since he was human, but Jesus OVERCAME. He did not succumb to them. He conquered them through the Spirit. It displeases God when we wallow in our urges and fallen nature. It further displeases God when we contradict Him by calling good, what He has called bad. Consider Isa 5:20.

      I fully agree that it is a horrific ordeal to suffer through life as a sinner with uncontrollable urges. But by the power of the Holy Spirit, these urges can be quieted, although they will never go away until the resurrection. May the Holy Spirit fill your life!

    • Jay Altieri

      Lothars GutenTag and BonJour:
      You ask a classically difficult question about Joshua killing babies. Here is my humble attempt at reconciling justice with ethnic extermination:

    • Lothars Sohn

      Hello Jay, since I reject the doctrine of the sinful nature (found nowhere in Genesis 3 and 4 I don’t believe that God cursed us with sinful desires he will eventually punish us for.

      What I do believe is that our natural desires can lead to sin in quite a few situations if we don’t keep them in check.

      But in my argumentation 2 and 3) are the most crucial point.

      The justification of the Canaanite genocide you linked to is terrible. Does it make sense to slaughter babies because many of their parents did so?
      What is more, we have very strong textual grounds for thinking that the HARAM warfare later attributed to Joshua was a massive human sacrifice, as Thom Stark showed.

      I give an in-depth analysis of this problem here

      There are solutions but everything Conservative Evangelicals have come up with is untenable.

      Lovely greetings in Christ.

    • Porter

      Unless the biblical definition of marriage is a piece of paper that gives you tax benefits I don’t see how you can say that you are defending it. By fighting the battle over the piece of paper and benefits that the government uses to represent marriage you have redefined marriage as those things. If it is something else then you have already lost and are only making the situation worse by continuing your present course of action.

      This isn’t simple theory either. I have only met a handful of people under the age of 40 who see marriage as being meaningful or significant. The overwhelming majority see it as a certificate you get from the courthouse. Most Christians I talk to say the same thing only adding in God’s permission to have sex.

      • Mark W. Gaither


        I put your first two sentences together to form a single statement that I hope fairly represents your proposition.

        “By fighting the battle over the piece of paper and benefits that the government uses to represent marriage you have redefined marriage as [a piece of paper that gives you tax benefits].”

        I want to make sure I’m responding to what you’re actually saying. So for my own benefit, I have restated your comment as for basic statements. If I understand you correctly (please correct me if I’m misunderstanding), you assert the following:

        1. The government uses the legal definition of marriage to determine how to apply marriage-related laws.

        2. “Defense of Marriage” advocates are trying to keep the government from redefining marriage away from the traditional, religious (man+women) arrangement.

        3. DoM advocates are doing this to preserve tax benefits and related laws for traditional marriages.

        4. In doing so, we diminish the real value of marriage, which is a God-ordained covenant.

        I think we’re agreed on #1 and #2. They merely describe the political situation. #3 and #4 would be your position as I hear you.

        Have I fairly represented your point of view?

    • Jay Altieri

      Chancellor, I agree that the Mosaic Cov was exclusively to Israel (Ex 34:27) + now has been voided (Heb 8:13). However the NewCov is closely aligned with the OC, because they have the same author(God). It is a grievous mistake to toss away the OT and say that it is not applicable. Try this for my non-legalistic, yet thoroughly Hebraic view:

      You are correct that Paul permits divorce for abandonment in 1Cor 7:15. It is NOT coincidental that this abandonment clause is identical to the Mosaic rule given in Ex 21:10-11. Paul is quoting Moses. The NT is based upon the OT. If you toss out the OT, then the remaining testament has no foundation.

      I used to carry your position on divorce, but with an open heart of humility I read Instone-Brewer book above (post#8). Please review it before becoming dogmatic about divorce. It has good answers about Jesus’ conversation. However, the divorce topic is a different thread, maybe CMP needs to blog one on that for us.

      On the libertarian stuff, I understand your point, thanks for sharing. On the upside for your view, maybe it would save some tax$ and record keeping. On the down side: I think traditional marriage is worthy of promoting through tax benefits.

    • Jay Altieri

      Lothars, I agree with you in rejecting Augustinian Original Sin. Original sin was Augustine’s idea about 400ad. Very Catholic, absorbed by many protestants, but you are correct: it is not biblical.
      Basically, the idea is that every human is guilty of sin when they are born. The baby is already a criminal at birth.

      I disagree with original sin. I take a more Orthodox perspective, they call it Ancestral Sin. The baby is born innocent, no guilt, no sin, blank slate. However he is born with the steering wheel locked in position toward sin. Sinning will be inevitable and death is the inheritance.

      Lothars, this is fundamental to Judeo-Christian Biblical thinking: Death is the consequence of sin.

      We have the sin prone nature inherited from Adam, but no culpability for sin that somebody else committed. Everyman is responsible for his OWN sin.

      Ezekiel 18 says about capital punishment that the son will not die for sins of the father and the father will not die for sins of the son. Every man will live or die based on his own sin. Another words don’t stone the kids for a father’s evil deeds.
      For me that rules out a RCC Augustinine view of Original Sin.

      On the Canaanite question: do you accept or reject capital punishment? My thesis is based on the idea that CP(death) is the just (fair, righteous) penalty(consequence) for sin(disobedience). For justification of CP, see Gen 9:5-6 given to Noah waywayway before Joshua.

    • Thrica

      “For me and many of my peers, the Bible is step-one in any line of logic. Any supposed standard of morality that does not proceed from our Creator is arbitrary.”

      This is the argument for libertarianism. It’s exactly why we don’t “have a responsibility as heavenly envoys to transform our world until every human institution in every corner of the earth reflects the values of God’s kingdom” – because those values don’t mean anything to the unregenerate, don’t do them any good without regeneration, and won’t bring them any closer to regeneration. The very fact that God has not elected everybody – that there are people who will always have different foundational beliefs about what is good – means that the libertarian compromise is the only feasible détente, if peace means anything at all separate from regeneration (and Paul suggests it does – e.g. Rom. 12:18).

      Our mission to the world as Christians is evangelism, not statecraft. More here:

    • Jay Altieri

      GutenTag Lothars, your argument in #2+3. No arbitrary command. Homosex laws are arbitrary, thus you reject them.
      I found elsewhere on your blog further definition of what this means, correct me if I err:
      Your theory is that all laws given by God are for healthy +protective reasons, preventing people from hurting each other. Sin is defined by you as behavior that hurts someone, so laws are given to prevent harm. Is this correct?

      I think I might actually agree. But you are shortsighted in what is harmful and to whom.
      In your theory: homosex doesn’t hurt anybody, thus homosex is not sinful. Correct?
      What about prostitution? Not human trafficking, but well paid, clean/no disease, voluntary prostitution? No body gets hurt-thus by your standard no sin. Correct?
      I was on to something above in #23 with free open sex. No body gets hurt, thus no sin. Correct?
      Sexual sins are the first to be accepted with your utilitarian theory.

      Of the 10commandments: honor parents, murder, adultery, theft, lie, jealousy; All clearly hurt somebody. Adultery hurts your spouse with whom you made a promise. Jealousy hurts yourself.
      I agree with your program so far.
      What about idolatry+ blasphemy? They hurt God. Will you accept that so far?

      Sabbath? Maybe trickier, but key to where I am going. Disregard of Sabbath (by ancient Israel) hurts God too in regard to His Covenant that He had made with them. Sabbath was a sign that Israel had a contract with God(Ex 31:13; Ex 31:17; Deut 5:15). Disregarding Sabbath was to forget the terms of the contract. Are you with me so far? I am not advocating Sabbatarianism for moderns, it was a contract with Moses’ people.

      TBD soon…

    • Jay Altieri

      This same reason is why sex sins are wrong. Almost entirely ignored by people today. The 2nd most important purpose for the existence of marriage and sex is to make offspring for the next generation. God could have created us like hydra (jellyfish sort animal) wherein offspring bud from our legs. The #1 REASON we have sex is for symbolism. Just like Sabbath, sex/marriage is a SYMBOL. Eph 5:22-33 explains. The intimacy of sex is analogous to the intimacy that God has with the believer. The whole book of Ephesians is about UNITY. When mated partners join together Paul says that they become one (1Cor 6:15-16). Greek Ortho call this Theosis, whereby believers unite, join, become 1 mind with Jesus. The Western church has forgotten our eastern roots, there is much wisdom is that.

      We are the BRIDE ofChrist (Rev 19:7; 2Cor 11:2). What do husbands +brides do? They have sex. Please don’t go erotic and genital on me, I’m being symbolic. The image is of unity and intimacy between disparate members. God is god. Believers are created beings. So too man and woman are different. Homosex wherein both partners are men destroys the symbol.
      Unmarried sex wherein there is no commitment destroys the promise. Prostitute sex wherein the unity is temporary destroys the eternality.

      In conclusion, I agree with Lothar’s idea that all sin is harmful to somebody. But I reject the idea that homosex (and any sex outside marriage) is not harmful, hence not sinful. Immoral sex is harmful. It hurts us by hurting the symbolism of henosis with our Creator.

    • Lothars Sohn


      Shortly, all the things you mention have noxious long-term emotional consequences.
      BESIDES what you call utilitarianism, I believe that one of the purposes of human life is to grow in one’s ability to give and receive love.
      A lifelong committed love relationship is certainly far superior for this goal.

      Idolatry and blasphemy are ONLY a sin if:

      1) someone believes that God is real and perfect
      2) but consciously chooses to insult Him and to makes gods out of earthly things

      I blaspheme against the god of Calvinists all the time, but I don’t view that as a sin because for me this being is utterly imaginary at best, a deceitful and lying demon at worst.
      See also:

    • Jeff Ayers

      Mark W.G.:

      Cheers: “For me and many of my peers, the Bible is step-one in any line of logic. Any supposed standard of morality that does not proceed from our Creator is arbitrary.”

      Jeers: “we have a responsibility as heavenly envoys to transform our world until every human institution in every corner of the earth reflects the values of God’s kingdom.”

      The former is accurate and should be embraced so long as when we hold to a Bible Believing position, that we understand the Bible dispensationally. The OT laws for governing Israel are NOT applicable or apropos for our day. We do not stone disobedient teens, witches and adulteresses etc. Ergo, we cannot go to the OT as a prima facia source and appeal to marriage of one man and one woman as being the proper model (and law of the land – DOMA) . Namely, Adam and Eve – not adam and steve….OR sodomy is an abomination to God before, during and after the law etc.

      The latter statement (Jeers) belies a lack of Bible believing position. For it is clearly NOT our responsibility to transform our world. We could not even if we tried. I wonder if you have ever made it your mission to “… to make ALL MEN see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:” (Eph 3:9).

      Is making all men see the fellowship of the mystery on your priority list?

      Lastly, would you object to one man and two women being married legally? Can you defend that biblically?

      Adam and Eve were examples, yes. But is their marriage prescriptive or descriptive only?

      God gave David his wives (plural 2 Sam 12:8) and Polygamy was never rescinded, commanded to abstain as forbidden nor even spoken against. In fact the requirement for a bishop and deacon to have one wife implies that outside of those offices it was accepted and even expected.

      • Mark W. Gaither

        Just one example of the homosexual agenda in action: My assertion is tragic, not “ridiculous” in the words of one comment.

        I plan to study and write on the biblical mandate for Christian activism in society and politics. Until then, let’s agree to this: If you see an opportunity to do good or oppose evil, pursue it.

        Do good. Oppose evil.

        • Mark W. Gaither

          Well, it took a long while, but I have written my first work on “the biblical mandate for Christian activism in society and politics.”

          When I first posted this original article in response to Michael Patton, I was surprised (truly) that several took issue with the following assertion: “We have a responsibility as heavenly envoys to transform our world until every human institution in every corner of the earth reflects the values of God’s kingdom.”

          Having re-read some of the objections, I do see how some critics assumed I had taken a post-mil perspective. Others, however, failed to make the distinction between effort and success. I will accept some responsibility for not making my point more clearly; but, after all, it was not the primary point of the original article.

          Jesus called us to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” He then assured us, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matt. 28:19-20)

          His “Great Commission” did not place upon us the sole burden of success. Universalism is not promised here. And we will not have failed if “all nations” do not become disciples. He simply outlined the scope of our mission (co-mission), gave us a genuine stake in carrying out His mission, promised His power (Acts 2:8-9), and assured us that He is with us now and through “the end of the age.”

          In other words, conversion to Christ (regeneration) of one person, or of all people everywhere, is not something we can accomplish. Success is God’s domain. We are called to do our part in obedience to His command.

          Similarly, we are called to a Great Commandment, and to be “salt and light.” That applies to all Christians, in all contexts, in all domains of life. Yes, “we have a responsibility as heavenly envoys to transform our world until every human institution in every corner of the earth reflects the values of God’s kingdom.” I write that in the same grammatical spirit as when Jesus commissioned us to “make disciples of all nations.” I’m not calling for a post-mil perspective; I am not suggesting that success is within our grasp; I am not even suggesting that Jesus expects success. Never did. I’m merely clarifying the scope of our mission (co-mission).

          We are to be envoys of God’s kingdom by our very presence in every sphere we enter. Not because we will be successful, but because it’s a COMMANDMENT. Success is God’s domain. Obedience to the Great Commission AND the Great Commandment is ours.

          Not long after writing this response on 2013-10-11, I began to study the issues of “social action,” “compassion ministry,” “humanitarian aid” . . . whatever terms applied. I thought I would arrive at some conclusions reasonably quickly, only to find a massive can of worms. Now, after a personal, theological, vocational, and finally academic journey that has taken six years (!) so far, I finally feel ready to begin writing and discussing our role, as believers, in “social action,” “compassion ministry,” “humanitarian aid” . . . whatever terms apply.

          I will present my first paper at the 2018 meeting of the Evangelical Missiological Society (South Central Region) on April 7. (

          I will also propose it to the committee for the upcoming Evangelical Theological Society national conference (2018). I pray the Lord allows me that privilege.

    • Chancellor Roberts

      Lothats Sohn, you wrote: “I blaspheme against the god of Calvinists all the time, but I don’t view that as a sin because for me this being is utterly imaginary at best, a deceitful and lying demon at worst.”

      So, you’re saying that there is nothing wrong unless you believe it to be wrong? That morality is, what, entirely subjective? If someone doesn’t believe murder is wrong then, for that person, it isn’t wrong to commit murder?

      Sorry, but that just isn’t going to work. Further, it doesn’t matter whether you believe something is right or wrong, it only matters what God and His word say about it. Blasphemy is sin regardless of whether you believe it to be. Murder is sin regardless of whether you believe it to be. Stealing is sin regardless of whether you believe it to be. It cannot be otherwise because if right and wrong are not objective and absolute, then there is no right or wrong and there is no legitimate basis for law and order in human societies.

    • Jay Altieri

      Thrica and DaveZ, You both seem to be coming from the point of view that gov should not be utilized for morality control of the unsaved. Our job is evangelism not moral police. But would you agree that evangelism means sharing the good news? Would you agree that the “Good News” is that God loves them? And if God loves them then so should we? So would you agree that evangelism means our showing unconditional love to all people in the world? This doesn’t just mean preaching to save their soul. True evangelism also includes helping people with their daily life problems. How can we claim to love somebody, when we see desperate physical needs, and the only thing that we do is hand them a Gideon bible and a Romans Road tract? That’s not love. Love will give of ourselves to help whatever their sundry problems may be. True evangelism includes helping charity for food, shelter, medicine, etc. Of course the gospel of the resurrection will be appetizer and desert.

      Everything that a believer is involved with should ooze this sort of love. Since the Word “never comes back empty” (Isa55:11), everything that Christians touch or work with should come away better and more godly (eg:more Word like and Jesus IS the Word). Examples would be Joseph working for Pharaoh and Daniel working for Nebuchadnezzar. Egypt and Babylon were pagan gentile nations, but they were better during those years of godly service. God greatly blessed those nations BECAUSE believers were involved in their political hierarchy.

      I agree with ya’lls point that that we needn’t coerce unbelievers into the well lit room. The HS will draw whom he will. However, I thought Mark’s point was that if we’re involved, than well lit rooms will follow in our trail.

    • Thrica

      @Jay: The epistemological point is more important than you realize, and for that reason there has to be a dichotomy. If we’re aiming for people’s spiritual good, politics is illegitimate and worse than useless. Paul aimed for the soul of Agrippa, but never tried to nudge policy to reflect “Christian values” because he was clear that the Kingdom of God is not built with such methods. Politics won’t light any rooms, but it’ll darken our own if we try to use it that way. Again: Christian values are meaningless to the unregenerate, don’t do them any good without regeneration, and won’t bring them any closer to regeneration. Scripture has given us the methods we are to use, and manipulation by political means isn’t one of them. And in general it’s a fantasy to think that there’s a specific Christian way to do public policy (any more than there’s a specific Christian way to do medicine, or truck repair, etc).

      If we’re aiming for their carnal good however (e.g. peace, which as I mentioned before is a good in its own right), then politics are a necessary aspect of that. This latter aim requires that we speak a language epistemologically compatible with non-believers, which severely limits the issues to which policy is an appropriate response. Within that small circle we can advocate various policies according to our consciences. But the issue of marriage falls in the former category, where policy is an illegitimate expression of Christian love.

      In short: Christians can be involved in politics as they are called, but as Christians politics is of no concern to them.

    • Jay Altieri

      Jeff, Within the Greco-Rom culture polygamy was NOT normal. A few old school Orientals in Judea may have still practiced it, but when Paul wrote requirements of a deacon, he was writing what was already readily accepted. Hebrew Bible never condoned it. Polygamy IS spoken against in Deut 17:17. It was never from creation the intent of marriage. However in ages past, God winked at moral immaturity (Acts 17:30), but now with the fullness of His son, we are to be held accountable.

      As to 2Sam 12:8, I concur with this interpretation: David did not take Saul’s wives.
      I do not agree with the 2nd half of that link. I think polygamy is being acknowledged (but not condoned) in Ex21.

      Abraham was polygamous. He took Hagar to wife. That mistake has resulted in 1000’s of yrs of Arab-Israeli conflict. Jacob’s 4 wives were a constant source of family feud and the causal reason for the split of the kingdom in the10th centuryBC. The Hebrew bible has a negative tone about polygamy, however where there is no law, sin is not accounted Rom 5:13.

      Instead of saying that OT is “not applicable or apropos”, it would be better to say that God’s children have now grownup. Our rules have evolved with our maturity, but our childhood will always be applicable to who we are.

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