Marriage in the Dock—The Supreme Court Considers Same-Sex Marriage

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Sean Fericks's picture

Federal and state government should get out of the marriage business entirely.  Marriage is the most intimate of personal contracts, and governments should not infringe on our liberties either by promoting marriage through tax policy, or limiting marriage through licensure.  Using the force of government to either advocate or prohibit certain forms of marriage turns the issue into a political hot button where ill-informed sound bytes rule, emotions run high, and the Christian mission to win souls through the gospel of Christ is mis-directed into a losing battle to force Christian principles on a secular society.

When you are using the force of government to make your neighbor live within biblical constraints, he will view you as an enemy of his freedom.  If you respect his liberty to make his own decisions in life, he will be more willing to hear you as a friend.  Whether he has a commitment ceremony or a marriage license makes no difference to his soul, and very little difference to society.

On this issue in particular, I believe Christians should embrace individual liberty.  We want to win the hearts of those who sin.  We don't want to impose on their actions.  Convert individuals with the gospel.  Don't impose on society with the force of law.

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

When you are using the force of government to make your neighbor live within biblical constraints, he will view you as an enemy of his freedom.  If you respect his liberty to make his own decisions in life, he will be more willing to hear you as a friend....Don't impose on society with the force of law.

 

So, Sean, why have any laws at all?

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Sean Fericks's picture

Chip,

I believe the goal of law should be to promote liberty, not to promote righteousness.  We need laws that keep people from infringing on other people's liberties (murder, rape, theft, foreign aggressors, etc.).  We need Christianity and the Church to promote righteousness (marriage, sobriety, charity, etc.).

I beleive we should separate the two terms, "sin" and "crime".  All crimes are sin, but not all sins should be considered crime.  Government is ill-equiped to prevent people from swearing, committing adultery, getting drunk, etc.  Additionally, in a secular or pluralistic society like ours, Government is ill-equiped to define sin.  My good LDS friend believes that drinking coffee is a sin.  Some of my Democrat friends believe it is a sin for me to teach Christianity to my children.  Do we really trust our congressmen or our society to correctly define sin?

Yes, I acknowledge that all sin affects society to some degree, and we cannot neatly categorize all sins into: 1) directly infringes on another's liberty; or 2) does not directly infringe on another's liberty.  Take the cases of DUI, a mother's use of alcohol while raising children, or (more germane to the topic at hand) homosexual couples adopting.  But I think these two categories can bring clarity to the debate, and they can provide a general framework to reign in our out-of-control nanny state.

Finally, if we use the Constitution as a guide, we can see what arenas of life should be governed by the feds, by the states, and even by the individual.  In the case before the Supremes right now, I believe that it is California's right (though ill-used) to define and regulate marriage.  I would vote against Prop 8, but I believe it should be upheld by the SCOTUS.

Alex Guggenheim's picture

To believe government is not the proper divine institution for regulating marriage is to misunderstand the divine intent and practical function of government. The state or state of being agreed upon by a group of people including its establishment and continuation is precisely the purpose of God in giving humanity the divine institution of marriage which is to regulate through authorized bodies the policies agreed upon. And when disputes arise concerning matters of the establishment, government is the mechanism by which such issues are resolved. Government bodies can come to errant conclusions but the problem is not government acting rightly to govern.

Sean Fericks's picture

I'm sorry Alex.  I read your second sentence a couple times, but my thick skull is preventing me from understanding what is says.  Can you break it down a little more for this simpleton?

 

And just to clarify one point, I believe that Christianity can thrive under many types of government.  I also believe that dictatorship and socialism are valid forms of government according to the Bible.  I strongly prefer our Constitutional Republic to the others because I think it works best.  In other words, governments have the biblical right to regulate smoking, marriage, dress, and travel.  But governments that limit themselves appropriately (our Constitution is a good historical example) do better than those that enforce righteousness by the sword.

TylerR's picture

Editor

Whether you're a dispensationalist or not, an honest expositor must admit that Gen 9:6 established the principle and foundation of human government. The world had just been destroyed by a flood, God made a covenant with Noah that he would never judge the world in this fashion again, and human government was introduced as a check upon man's inherent lawlessness - lest he use God's promise as a license to rampant sin. Now conscious knowledge of good and evil was coupled with human government as dual restraints upon men.

The specific issue at hand was capitol punishment, and the justification was that man has inherent virtue by being made in God's image. The very principle of human government is a Biblical one, and based on God's standards.

I am a dispensationalist, so I take this point very seriously. The fact that the world is largely secular, and governments more so, does not do away with this fact. Governments which do not support Biblical values reflect the inherent rebellion of mankind in general (Rom 1:18-32). It is easy to forget about this in our day and age of secularism, but it is important.

Sean:

I believe your position is a dangerous capitulation to pragmaticism. You are correct to say we cannot legislate morality; the Israelites proved this for us! You are wrong, however, to suggest this gives us license to stop advocating for Biblical standards in the public square. Acceptable behavior becomes an acceptable standard, and the damage done to future generations is even harder to undo. The more removed people are from Biblical values, the more difficult it becomes to speak to them about Biblical values.

That being said, I believe proponents of traditional marriage are wasting their time because they are couching their arguments in secular reasoning. Regarding witnessing to homosexuals or really anybody with any sin problem, we must speak the truth in love. I served with homosexuals in the military. I didn't shirk from shaking their hands or standing watch in the dark hours of the night with them, alone. Folks who are afraid to actually interact with homosexuals, or sinners of any stripe, really, are being downright silly. I know many Christian men who would be literally repulsed by sitting down with a gay man. I wouldn't be and haven't been. Not sure why the disgust is so obvious. They're sinners, like everybody else.

Folks who would be hesitant to speak with homosexuals should watch the video testimony of that lesbian intellectual (forget her name), and how much she appreciated being treated like a human being. This undoubtedly aided her conversion.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Sean Fericks's picture

Tyler,

Do you believe that governments should enforce the entirety of God's law in their jurisdictions?  What of those issues that are debatable (tithe, Sabbath day, moderate consumption of alcohol, tobacco, modesty in dress, music choices)?  If not, how should governments decide which spheres of life to impose upon?  In other words, should they limit themselves?  If so, how?

TylerR's picture

Editor

This is a dispensational issue, and I just don't have the time to parse the distinction between the economies of law and grace with you - no offense.

We are coming at this issue from completely opposite paradigms. You are thinking pragmatically. I am thinking of Biblical ideals - which I admit will never come to pass until Christ establishes His own Kingdom. That doesn't mean we should give up.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Sean Fericks's picture

TylerR wrote:
Sean:

I believe your position is a dangerous capitulation to pragmaticism. You are correct to say we cannot legislate morality; the Israelites proved this for us! You are wrong, however, to suggest this gives us license to stop advocating for Biblical standards in the public square. Acceptable behavior becomes an acceptable standard, and the damage done to future generations is even harder to undo. The more removed people are from Biblical values, the more difficult it becomes to speak to them about Biblical values.

I think you misunderstood me.  I am asserting that legislating the marriage issue damages our ability to advocate for true Biblical marriage in public and private venues.  I am absolutely in favor of advocating biblical standards in the public square.  But I am more interested in winning individuals (heterosexual or otherwise) to Christ than I am in attempting to make society (by force of law) recognize the biblical definition of marriage.  I think that this wrong-headed (but good-hearted) attempt causes unnecessary stumbling blocks in our testimony.

I think we also agree that society at large will continue to be in conflict with Christianity until the return of our Lord.  Maranatha!

Alex Guggenheim's picture

Sean Fericks wrote:

I'm sorry Alex.  I read your second sentence a couple times, but my thick skull is preventing me from understanding what is says.  Can you break it down a little more for this simpleton?

 

And just to clarify one point, I believe that Christianity can thrive under many types of government.  I also believe that dictatorship and socialism are valid forms of government according to the Bible.  I strongly prefer our Constitutional Republic to the others because I think it works best.  In other words, governments have the biblical right to regulate smoking, marriage, dress, and travel.  But governments that limit themselves appropriately (our Constitution is a good historical example) do better than those that enforce righteousness by the sword.

I corrected it, thanks. Government in place of marriage and a comma after bodies.

The state or state of being agreed upon by a group of people including its establishment and continuation is precisely the purpose of God in giving humanity the divine institution of GOVERNMENT, which is to regulate the state through authorized bodies, the policies agreed upon.

Sean Fericks's picture

Thanks Alex.  Then I would pose the same question to you as I did to Tyler: "Do you believe that governments should enforce the entirety of God's law in their jurisdictions?  What of those issues that are debatable (tithe, Sabbath day, moderate consumption of alcohol, tobacco, modesty in dress, music choices)?  If not, how should governments decide which spheres of life to impose upon?  In other words, should they limit themselves?  If so, how?"

TylerR's picture

Editor

Sean:

I understand you're saying. I just believe we have an obligation to tow the line for Christian morality in the public square. I do not believe, however, that arguments in favor of Biblical morality which refuse to base their objections on the Bible will ever get anywhere. 

Regarding your other question - the next theocratic kingdom won't come until Christ returns! So we certainly shouldn't regulate church attendance, etc. We should, however, advocate loudly and proudly for Biblical morality. Prohibition didn't work so well, however, so this is a morass I'm not too anxious to tread into. 

People won't conform to Biblical morality unless they really want to, and they won't really want to unless somebody takes the time to develop a relationship with them and share the Gospel. You're right about that. I still believe we should advocate for Biblical morality with our government, however, and it is significant that the first vestiges of human government were founded on God's values. It shows us how far we've drifted from that standard. 

I guess my point can be seen as pointless, in the end, but it makes sense to me. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Alex Guggenheim's picture

Sean

I would say that a state should have their government limit itself with regard to whom God is speaking, first, as it relates to divine revelation and law. For example, God's requirements to the Theocracy of Israel were mostly particular for that form of government and that divine institution and that one alone. Thus, these were special commands for only that divine institution and I would and do argue that none of that can apply since it requires a theocracy for it to succeed and we do not have that.

Outside of that the Bible does not give a great deal of direct statements regarding the objectives of government with a few exceptions such as Romans and government's objective. Most of what we understand non-theocratic government's objective is by way of observing texts in the Bible and concluding in postulated form various principles of the objective of the divine institution of government.

Thus, it ends up being, in most cases, matters of collective or representative agreement about what state of being the members of a particular group wish to reside.

Now, with that said, if one is going to appeal to the wisdom of Scripture, I would say that they then ought to further consider its treatment of things by degrees. For example, things which are broadly social such as marriage warrant broad social policy, especially when it is presented as dogmatically as it is. 

However, things that are personal such as fornication or the consumption of alcohol are just that, personal. Thus regulations on those matters appears to only manifest themselves when the personal consumption affects society more immediately and broadly such as drunk driving.

I do believe there is a misconception for some, however. Namely, that to derive morality via the Bible requires, then, that we see this as an enactment of a state religion. Morality is not religion and religion is not morality though one may be part of the other.

However, if it is a matter of religion such as a Sabbath and it is enforced, the state is dead wrong in my view. It now has become an enforcer of something religious, not to mention something theocratic. Thus, religious matters are out of bounds but moral matters are not.

Maybe that clears things up some but leaves a few more questions.

Sean Fericks's picture

Tyler, I think we pretty much agree that the society we ultimately desire will not be realized until the return of the King.  Maranatha! 

Alex, from my recollection of the OT, Sabbath was taught as a broad social policy, and very dogmatically.  In fact, the Sabbath principle preceded marriage.  Also, the Sabbath is a much clearer doctrine than "one man + one woman for life = marriage" (polygamy?).  I think that, in the end, your position leads to simple democracy.

 

Alex Guggenheim's picture

Sean Fericks wrote:

Tyler, I think we pretty much agree that the society we ultimately desire will not be realized until the return of the King.  Maranatha! 

Alex, from my recollection of the OT, Sabbath was taught as a broad social policy, and very dogmatically.  In fact, the Sabbath principle preceded marriage.  Also, the Sabbath is a much clearer doctrine than "one man + one woman for life = marriage" (polygamy?).  I think that, in the end, your position leads to simple democracy.

 

Sean,

The first time the Sabbath was enforced was during the Theocracy of Israel and via its context, was only for the Theocracy of Israel.  If you can cite a passage, otherwise, I would be interested. As to my position, I did not reveal what form of government would be agreed upon. What I spoke about was what could be considered regarding Scripture. And what I suggested could be implemented via a Monarchy, an Oligarchy, a Republic, or a simple Democracy. What form of government a group of people decide upon is up to them.

Sean Fericks's picture

Joe Carter Article wrote:
In endorsing laws based solely on the secular liberal-libertarian conception of freedom (at least those that produce no obvious self-harm), they are doing the very opposite of what Jesus called them to do: They are hating their neighbors, including their gay and lesbian neighbors. You do not love your neighbor by encouraging them to engage in actions that invoke God's wrath (Psalm 5:4-5; Romans 1:18). As Christians we may be required to tolerate ungodly behavior, but the moment we begin to endorse the same then we too have become suppressers of the truth. You cannot love your neighbor and want to see them excluded from the kingdom of Christ (Eph. 5:5).

I think Mr. Carter confuses "libertarian" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libertarianism with "libertine" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libertine.  I am a Constitutional libertarian, and I advocate personal liberty in the political world.  I am a Christian, and I advocate biblical principles in my personal life, my social life, my business life, and my preaching.  I believe homosexual action is sinful.  Homosexual tendencies are not sin, but they are a broken condition that require personal and spiritual care by believers and the Church.  I am definitely not a libertine.  Rod Bell's betrayal of the Bible is a libertine action.

As a politically libertarian Chrisitan, I appeal to Ephesians 6:12 

Quote:
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
Too many Christians are trying to solve the moral morass of our society with the force of government (flesh and blood).  I suggest that we advocate for individual liberty.  Our libertine neighbors will listen better to our witness if we use personal testimony, scripture, prayer, and frindship rather than trying to leverage the force of law against their sin and their liberty.

JobK's picture

"I believe the goal of law should be to promote liberty, not to promote righteousness.  We need laws that keep people from infringing on other people's liberties (murder, rape, theft, foreign aggressors, etc.). "

That is Enlightenment thinking. As man is fallen, nowhere does the Bible promote human liberty. Quite the contrary, God intervened to inhibit human liberty with the Tower of Babel. But the Bible makes it clear that the purpose of government is to restrain evil, which is by definition sin. Romans 13:1-4 reads "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to [execute] wrath upon him that doeth evil.

1 Timothy 2:1-3 is even more problematic: "I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, [and] giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and [for] all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this [is] good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour." If that isn't a prayer for rulers to legislate morality, I don't know what its purpose is then! It certainly isn't a prayer for rulers to promote human liberty, because human liberty is in direct conflict with "a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty ... good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour" due to our original sin natures.

Really, all things must serve God's purpose in one way or another, and having the law facilitate human liberty, which allows man to indulge himself in his fallen nature, does not serve God's purposes. Unless your belief is that man is naturally good and that government is a corrupting force - an idea that seems to be at the core of neoconservative and other modern conservative politics - then it doesn't work. Instead, man is naturally evil, and government restrains that evil. Human liberty is the liberty to sin, both in personal/moral matters and also economic matters, and government acts as an impediment.

Also, where does the idea come from that murder and rape are infringements on liberty? Plenty a missionary can tell you that those ideas are not universal. Meanwhile, more than a few liberals - especially in Europe but increasingly in America - will tell you that homeschooling your child or sending your child to a Christian school that teaches him that Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven and that homosexuality is a sin is an infringement upon the liberty of the child and upon civil society. To put it another way ... go to the nation of Israel right now, and you will find that the vast majority of its citizens believe that attempting to convert Jews to Christianity constitutes an assault on liberty on both the personal and state level. So that's the problem: there are going to be major differences on what constitutes infringements on liberty not only across different cultures and contexts, but even within them.

 

 

 

Solo Christo, Soli Deo Gloria, Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, Sola Scriptura
http://healtheland.wordpress.com

Sean Fericks's picture

Alex, I believe the first time that "one man + one woman for life = marriage" was codified was NT.  Both heterosexual monogamy and the Sabbath were enacted by the Lord at the Creation.  Both have very broad social, personal, and religious implications.

http://www.openbible.info/topics/polygamy

Alex Guggenheim's picture

Sean Fericks wrote:

Alex, I believe the first time that "one man + one woman for life = marriage" was codified was NT.  Both heterosexual monogamy and the Sabbath were enacted by the Lord at the Creation.  Both have very broad social, personal, and religious implications.

http://www.openbible.info/topics/polygamy

Again, no text for your Sabbath argument. I do not disagree with heterosexual monogamy being instituted in Genesis 2:24:

24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.

But without a text to support your argument, your assertion that the Sabbath was enacted is just an assertion without support. But let's pretend you have a text, but you don't, it is clear in the NT that the Sabbath was pointing as a shadow toward a greater Sabbath, the Sabbath, Christ and now our Sabbath is Christ, hence the former is no longer practiced. Again, you do not have a text in Genesis establishing the requirement by God that people observe the Sabbath.

TylerR's picture

Editor

Sean, you wrote:

Homosexual tendencies are not sin, but they are a broken condition that require personal and spiritual care by believers and the Church.

I beg you to explain this remark . . .!

Alex:

Off the cuff, I suspect Sean is going for the principle that God created the world in six literal days, then rested. This is a basic principle which informed the corresponding law in the Mosaic Covenant. I don't think you hold to young earth, so you may disagree!! 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Sean Fericks's picture

Alex, I'm gonna go with Genesis 2:3 for the institution of Sabbath.  But my main question is how will we decide what aspects of life to regulate?  Liberty allows you to disregard Sabbath while others observe.  It also allows you to discuss the topic in a friendly manner and persuade each other.  If it were a current political hot button, the defensive walls would go up, and 30 second illiterate sound bytes about Sabbath would rule Fox News while the issue was being debated by a bunch of heathens in Congress.

Sean Fericks's picture

JobK wrote:
"I believe the goal of law should be to promote liberty, not to promote righteousness.  We need laws that keep people from infringing on other people's liberties (murder, rape, theft, foreign aggressors, etc.). "
That is Enlightenment thinking. As man is fallen, nowhere does the Bible promote human liberty. Quite the contrary, God intervened to inhibit human liberty with the Tower of Babel. But the Bible makes it clear that the purpose of government is to restrain evil, which is by definition sin. Romans 13:1-4 reads "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to [execute] wrath upon him that doeth evil.

Two main points emerge from Romans 12.  The primary point seems to be that Christians should honor the law of the land.  The second seems to be that the ordained purpose of government is to punish evil.  I think both can be accomplished with a Christian libertarian philosophy of government.  It is a well-known historical fact that governments tend to violate their ordained purpose.  How can we balance having a government that is a terror to evil with the tendency of government to be the actuator of evil?  Libertarians (and our founding fathers) suggest limiting the size and scope of government.

Quote:
1 Timothy 2:1-3 is even more problematic: "I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, [and] giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and [for] all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this [is] good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour." If that isn't a prayer for rulers to legislate morality, I don't know what its purpose is then! It certainly isn't a prayer for rulers to promote human liberty, because human liberty is in direct conflict with "a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty ... good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour" due to our original sin natures.

It actually is not a prayer for rulers to legislate morality (in the sense we are discussing).  It is a prayer for wisdom for rulers so that they can preside over a quiet and peaceable society where Christians can practice and promote their faith in all godliness and honesty.  I would suggest that our Constitutional form of government has done a very good job of providing such a society. 

You mention that human liberty is in direct conflict with a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty due to our sin nature.  Shall we advocate for a totalitarian Theocracy of some sort?

Quote:
Really, all things must serve God's purpose in one way or another, and having the law facilitate human liberty, which allows man to indulge himself in his fallen nature, does not serve God's purposes. Unless your belief is that man is naturally good and that government is a corrupting force - an idea that seems to be at the core of neoconservative and other modern conservative politics - then it doesn't work. Instead, man is naturally evil, and government restrains that evil. Human liberty is the liberty to sin, both in personal/moral matters and also economic matters, and government acts as an impediment.

Governments are made up of evil men (Nero, Hitler, Soviet Union), and are capable of great evil when unrestrained in their size and scope.  Good governments restrain evil, but evil governments perpetuate evil.  Yes, man’s liberty allows him to sin.  It also allows him to repent and follow Christ in a quiet and peaceful society.  Government power also enables men to sin, and to sin on a grand scale.  Our founders recognized both the evil of the individual and the evil of unrestrained evil governing men.  That is why they limited the size and scope of government in the Constitution (a document that many libertarians cherish).

Quote:
Also, where does the idea come from that murder and rape are infringements on liberty? Plenty a missionary can tell you that those ideas are not universal. Meanwhile, more than a few liberals - especially in Europe but increasingly in America - will tell you that homeschooling your child or sending your child to a Christian school that teaches him that Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven and that homosexuality is a sin is an infringement upon the liberty of the child and upon civil society. To put it another way ... go to the nation of Israel right now, and you will find that the vast majority of its citizens believe that attempting to convert Jews to Christianity constitutes an assault on liberty on both the personal and state level. So that's the problem: there are going to be major differences on what constitutes infringements on liberty not only across different cultures and contexts, but even within them.

It is not a perfect response to your question about the nature of liberty, but it is pretty good:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=muHg86Mys7I  I would start the video by saying that God owns my life and he has delegated it to me to live for His glory.
If we cannot agree that rape and murder are infringements on liberty, we don’t have a common language.

Sean Fericks's picture

TylerR wrote:

Sean, you wrote:

Homosexual tendencies are not sin, but they are a broken condition that require personal and spiritual care by believers and the Church.

I beg you to explain this remark . . .!

Homosexual tendencies, like the tendency to lust after another woman, is not sin.  It is temptation.  My understanding is that we are to bear each other's burdens, and that may include difficult temptations.  Regarding "broken", homosexuality is not sexuality as originally created in God's perfect world.  It is broken.  But so is man's tendency toward adultery, drunkenness, etc.

TylerR's picture

Editor

You appear to want to differentiate between inclinations and impulses and the actual act of sin itself. What warrant is there for assuming there is an actual Biblical distinction between the two? 

If somebody comes to you and confesses they are having homosexual thoughts, will you not tell them these thoughts are sinful? If a male teenager comes to you and confesses he can't stop fantasizing about a 17-yr old girl in Youth Group, will we not tell him his thoughts are sinful? 

I understand Biblical counseling and I get that we must be loving. Not an issue. Part of being loving is telling the truth, though. Sin is the root cause of inclinations, impulses, tendencies - whatever you want to call it. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Sean Fericks's picture

I was going for the progression mentioned in James 1:15,

Quote:
Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.
Temptation definitely comes from the sin nature, so it is sinful in one sense.  However, Hebrews 4:15,
Quote:
For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
and Christ was tempted by Satan in the wilderness.  I am pretty sure that when Satan suggested that He turn the stones into bread, Christ hungered for bread and had some physical desire to do so.  At what point does desire, even broken desire, become sin?

When my sons confide in me that they can't stop fantasizing about girls, I will thank them for trusting me to help with their challenges in life.  I will point out that they, like me and the other men in our church, are designed by God to be attracted to girls, and that this is one of the great blessings in God's creation.  Eventually, they may find joy indulging in these desires with their wives.  But sin has perverted God's blessing of sex, and the world has broken and twisted it.  The Bible gives boundaries, and God gives grace to protect us from those perversions of God's gift, and to restore the blessing He intended.  Violating these boundaries is sin and leads to pain, broken relationships, and distance from God.  I will urge them to guard their thoughts and bring them into the captivity of Christ.

TylerR's picture

Editor

Sean:

I must disagree! Your analysis of Heb 4:15 suggests Christ was literally tempted to sin, but constrained Himself. I submit the verse actually suggests Christ was presented with opportunities to sin, but remained without sin in thought or deed. I am genuinely interested in hearing from any conservative expositor who supports your view. I'm not trying to be snarky - I'm stuck at work and don't have my commentaries with me. I believe your position denigrates Christ's sinlessness - perhaps not explicitly, but implicitly. The verse says Christ was without sin in deed or thought - He had complete triumph over sin in every possible way. 

Calvin says this:

And doubtless the restriction, without sin, would not have been added, except he had been speaking of the inward feelings, which in us are always sinful on account of the depravity of our nature; but in Christ, who possessed the highest rectitude and perfect purity, they were free from everything vicious

Taking a step back, sin is most basically defined as the opposite of complete holiness (Lev 19:2; 1 Pet 1:16). Any deviation from this standard is therefore sin. I submit to you, Sean, that your definition of sin is deficient. 

You and I both understand what you're saying. I get where you're coming from. Those whom we teach and minister to are not always so discerning . . .  

By the way, this kind of discussion demonstrates the value of this blog, in my opinion. I'd never heard anybody advocate your view before. You're wrong (!), but I appreciate the interaction. 

 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Alex Guggenheim's picture

Sean Fericks wrote:

Alex, I'm gonna go with Genesis 2:3 for the institution of Sabbath.  But my main question is how will we decide what aspects of life to regulate?  Liberty allows you to disregard Sabbath while others observe.  It also allows you to discuss the topic in a friendly manner and persuade each other.  If it were a current political hot button, the defensive walls would go up, and 30 second illiterate sound bytes about Sabbath would rule Fox News while the issue was being debated by a bunch of heathens in Congress.


Your text provides no codification by God for humanity as does Genesis and its marriage reference. In fact, the only codified Sabbath observance prescribed by God and revealed in Scripture was for Theocratic Israel. Hence, you would be using a Biblical text incorrectly if you were trying to use Biblical mandates for humanity by way of government.

Marriage is explicitly codified by God for all of humanity.

Aaron Blumer's picture

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And just to clarify one point, I believe that Christianity can thrive under many types of government.  I also believe that dictatorship and socialism are valid forms of government according to the Bible.

Yes, and Christians can thrive as they die of cancer, march to the pyre for martyrdom or see their children taken from them and executed. What we can thrive under and what we ought to pursue are not the same thing.

It's one thing to accept what is beyond your control--another vehicle smashes into you on the freeway. It's another thing to park on the railroad tracks and say "Hey, Christians can thrive in auto accidents!"

As for marriage and the government. Here's one reason why government always has been and should continue to be involved in it:

  • The fundamental unit of society is the family. Marriage is a major component in defining what a family is. The family unit cannot define what a family is for itself or for other families. It needs another unit, another institution to do that. Logically, marriage and family must defined by something outside themselves.

Of course, believers have this on God's authority. But we know that government is necessary because most do not accept God's authority.  (But per Rom. 13, government actually is God's authority -- in a form even unbelievers are forced to recognize)

So there you have it. It makes no sense to say "Every two people who feel like it get to decide what a marriage is." The effect of that is that there is simply no such thing as marriage. A word that means anything you want means nothing. Of course, in that scenario, believers still have what we know marriage is, but think about this please (and I'm talking all of the this "this doesn't matter" view): do you really want to live in a society where only Christians know what marriage is? Do you really want your children and grandchildren to grow up in such a world?

Marriage has meant one thing in stable, thriving societies for thousands of years... and it looks like as a culture we're ready to casually walk away from that as if it were a whim. The height of folly.

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