On June 16, 2012, a seemingly innocuous comment made by a Christian businessman in support of traditional marriage during an interview on a radio program sparked a national debate on homosexuality. Media outlets covered the issue at length and a fast food chicken company was thrust into the limelight as the poster-child for “intolerance.” Pundits, politicians and celebrities disapproved of the businessman, Dan Cathy’s, stance on homosexual marriage. These were Cathy’s statements:
We are very much supportive of the family—the biblical definition of the family. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that. We want to do anything we possibly can to strengthen families. We are very much committed to that…. I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say ‘we know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage’ and I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.1
This essay will examine the worldview of those who call Cathy’s statement “intolerant;” this worldview will broadly be labeled “Secular America.” There will not be sufficient space to examine Secular America’s entire worldview, so we will study only the rational basis for morality within Secular America. In a larger context we will see the intellectual bankruptcy of the secular worldview and, hopefully, demonstrate the absolute sufficiency of the Christian worldview as the only coherent way to make sense of this fallen world which we, by God’s grace alone, inhabit.
The pretended neutrality fallacy2
At the most basic level, this entire issue is about a clash of different worldviews. How do people view the world? What presuppositions or standards inform values? Everybody has these values; everybody has a controlling factor in their life, a certain precondition which informs their decision making, values and their concept of justice and truth. John Frame observed, “any theory of knowledge must specify the ultimate standard or criterion for determining truth and falsity. The Christian’s ultimate standard is God’s word in Scripture; the unbeliever’s ultimate standard must be located elsewhere.”3 Ronald Nash echoed this point, “a person’s metaphysical, epistemological and ethical constructs are entirely based on their point of ultimate concern; it is their “god.”4
This means secular America approaches the issue of homosexuality from a distinctly non-Christian point of view. The ethics of the proposition are evaluated on some ultimate standard other than God. The faithful Christian approaches homosexuality from a distinctly Christian point of view. The ethics of the proposition are evaluated by God’s standard, as revealed to man in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.
Neither side of this debate is neutral; each approaches the issue on the basis of their respective presuppositions.
Identifying presuppositions and worldviews in the Chick-Fil-A controversy
It is difficult to capture the presuppositions of Secular America’s response to the Chick-Fil-A controversy, precisely because this is not an intellectual debate carried out in academic journals. Its effects are felt in popular culture, and statements by public officials claiming to speak for constituents will be examined to determine presuppositions.
Recently, Philadelphia councilman-at-large Jim Kenney wrote a letter to the President of Chick-Fil-A, Dan Cathy. He called Cathy “intolerant” and “insensitive.” He condemned Cathy for “resorting to cheap comment which seek to demean some and divide us all.” Kenney went on to write he intended to introduce a resolution to condemn Chick-Fil-A for “intolerance and hate.” Kenney concluded by remarked that young Americans should be “commended for shedding the prejudices of the past.”5
Chicago Alderman Proco Moreno wrote an op-ed piece for the Chicago Tribune in which he called Cathy’s opposition to gay marriage “bigoted” and “homophobic.” Moreno went on to write he intended to block a Chick-Fil-A restaurant from opening in the 1st Ward, called Cathy’s views “ignorant” and concluded with this; “[e]quality for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) people is the civil rights issue of our generation. This decision is me taking a stand.”6
Broadly, then, Secular America’s presupposition is that culture defines morality. Kenney’s praise for “shedding the prejudices of the past” are particularly revealing on this point. Culture is currently redefining how acceptable homosexual marriage is; this is why Dan Cathy’s comments are so incendiary. Homosexual marriage advocates claim Christians are intolerant and discriminatory. They say this because they look at the world through a different lens; they have a completely different worldview.
Secular America’s worldview on Chick-Fil-A can be expressed in the following way:
- Culture determines moral values;
- Culture says gay marriage is morally acceptable;
- Therefore gay marriage is moral.
A Christian worldview is not based on culture; it is based on God’s general revelation of morality and His special revelation to man - the Bible. Morality is not determined by culture, but by God and His word. Jesus Christ, the very Son of God, proclaimed God’s word was truth (John 17:17). He does not change; therefore according to the Christian worldview, standards do not change either. A Christian’s presupposition on the Chick-Fil-A issue is that all people are made in God’s image (Gen 1:27) and have an innate sense of morality “written in their hearts” which their conscience bears witness to and convicts them of (Rom 2:14-15). Scripture explicitly condemns homosexuality (Rom 1:26-27). It is a vile affection before God. It is an abomination (Lev 18:22), which can also be expressed as detestable or repulsive.7
Accordingly, Christians view the act of homosexuality as sinful and perverse. The sinner who participates in this conduct stands guilty before God; their conscience bears witness of their sin. Every man is a sinner (Rom 3:23) as a result of the Fall (Gen 3), and all men rightly deserve death because of their sin nature (Rom 6:23). The sinner can have forgiveness for sin only through faith in Jesus Christ (John 14:6), which alone makes men justified before God (Rom 3:24). This gift of salvation is an expression of God’s love for men (John 3:16). God did not send His Son to damn (condemn) people, but that through faith in Him they might be saved (John 3:17).
The Christian worldview as related to Chick-Fil-A can be expressed as follows:
- God’s word, as revealed to mankind through general revelation and in the special revelation of the Old and New Testaments, is the absolute standard for morality;
- God condemns homosexuality as immoral;
- Therefore homosexuality is immoral.
We will examine these worldviews in a later article. Do they make logical sense? Do they line up with what we know about the world and ourselves? Can somebody consistently live out his worldviews in the real world? This is so much more than a dry academic exercise—unbelievers go about their lives each and every day, blissfully unaware of the inherent contradictory nature of their beliefs.
The whole creation was produced in a literal six-day event by God Himself, man was made in God’s image, willfully rebelled against His authority and marred God’s perfect creation. The whole account of Scripture is God’s unfolding plan to redeem His entire creation, including mankind, for His glory through Jesus Christ.
Biblical prohibitions against homosexuality, and many other things besides, are not based on arbitrary rules from a detached “celestial dictator,” to borrow a phrase from the late atheist Christopher Hitchens. They are reflections of God’s own holy character, which we who are saved by His grace are called to imitate to the best of our ability. This is serious, and Christian must be willing to engage these attacks and call them what they are–a rebellious, selfish desire for autonomy from the God who created and sustains us all. God, by His grace, provided a means of reconciliation for mankind through Jesus Christ. We must speak the truth in love, but we first must be willing to speak out against these brazen attacks against God and pray for those “who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them” (Rom 1:32).
1 Z6 Mag. “Chick-Fil-A Anti Gay Statement: Dan Cathy, CEO Stands Ground on Ken Coleman Show,” Z6mag.com. http://z6mag.com/business/chick-fil-a-anti-gay-statement-dan-cathy-ceo-s…. 08/15/2012.
2 Greg L. Bahnsen and Gordon Stein, The Great Debate: Does God Exist? Covenant Media Foundation, 1985, mp3 # GB 433 & GB 434. “Pretended neutrality fallacy” was a term coined by Bahnsen in his opening remarks during this debate.
3 John M. Frame, Apologetics to the Glory of God (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 1994), 10.
4 Ronald Nash, Worldviews in Conflict (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992), 27.
5 Jim Kenney, letter to Dan Cathy, 25JUL12, retrieved from Kenney’s Facebook profile at https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=10483115&l=c35365aa86&id=12075375…. 15AUG12.
6 Proco Moreno, “Why I Won’t Let Chick-Fil-A in My Ward,” Chicago Tribune, 26JUL12, http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-07-26/news/ct-perspec-0726-moren…. 15AUG12.
7 William Mounce, Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2006), 2.