Why I Do Not Support “Homosexual Marriage”

My more libertarian friends seem to believe we as Christians can get off scot-free in the political debate over so-called homosexual marriage. “Why not let the homosexuals have their heyday in the secular realm?” I am afraid I must vehemently disagree. Right off the top of my head, here are five reasons I do not support homosexual marriage even though I strongly sympathize with libertarian sensibilities:

1. “Homosexual marriage” is an oxymoron.

Christians have conceded the debate before it has begun by adopting the language of “homosexual marriage.” Marriage is, in terms of Christianity, between one man and one woman. The very concept of homosexual marriage is incoherent. How can any incoherent concept do anything other than harm society? While legal language and laws cannot put asunder that definition which God has joined together, legal language does define marriage in the legal realm, right where biblically derivative concepts have, until very recently, resided.

2. Homosexual marriage promotes a culture of death.

Homosexual couples, in principle, cannot bear children. Children are necessary to the continuance of a culture. The very existence of homosexuals depends upon the proliferation of heterosexuals. Homosexuality is a parasitic perversion of heterosexuality. Homosexuality rips the pro-life aspect of sex right out of heterosexual practice and thus promises only death. A homosexual race is self-destructive. There’s no such thing as a pro-life homosexual. But life is necessary to liberty.

3. Homosexual marriage harms children.

Homosexuals will, of course, want children to go along with their marriage. Since homosexuals cannot have their sexual interfail and children too, they will want to take children from others. A society where homosexual marriage is recognized is a society where homosexual couples attempt to raise children. The difficulty is the overwhelming amount of research showing that children, to oversimplify matters, turn out better with a father and a mother at home, not a father and a father or a mother and a mother. Advocates of homosexual marriage cannot consistently condemn the adoption of children by homosexual “parents” even though this practice permits the psychological rape of children.

4. Homosexual marriage infringes upon the rights of others.

Not just children, but others as well, must be harmed by homosexual marriage before all is said and done. Already we have seen report after report of Christian business owners who are forced by law to violate their consciences in serving, in some significantly symbolic way (wedding cakes and photos, for example), the desires of the homosexual lobby. Legally, all looks well and good. Christian business owners just need to deal or face the consequences. And that is where the problem is. What was once no legal implication at all has become one, and that legal implication infringes upon the rights of Christians who desire to both liberally exercise their religiously informed consciences and own and/or operate a place of business without the strong arm of the state government intervening. Not much legal wiggle room stands in between that corrupt state government and the church.

5. Homosexual marriage is far too socially conservative.

The arguments proffered on behalf of homosexual marriage aren’t nearly progressive enough. Some have rightly pointed out that homosexuality is an “extra right,” if you will. Given a number of legal conditions, all have the opportunity to marry in the United States of America. That is, if one meets the proper legal conditions to marry, then one may marry a person of the opposite sex. Homosexuals have that opportunity just like everyone else. But homosexuals have twinkered with the system. They argue that this age-old system is in some sense unfair to them. Homosexuals want to loosen the conditions people must meet in order to be married. The difficulty is that the slippery-slope argument does not a fallacy make in this situation. Why should homosexuals have the “right” to “marry” and not polygamists? Of course the homosexual lobby will fire back with arbitrary social norms and supposed psychological and sociological facts. But if the Word of God did not stop the homosexuals, if thousands of years of anthropological data did not deter them in the slightest, what makes anyone think a little sexual taboo here or there is going to amount to a hill of beans when it comes time to redefine our policies again?

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The Caner Controversy and the SBC

I remember taking a class at a Southern Baptist school. Not all of us taking the class were Southern Baptists. The professor had assigned a book written about the current state of the Southern Baptist Convention. One of the students pointed out the self-serving nature of the book. The book focused more on the future of the SBC than anything else. The authors were concerned that the future of the SBC does not look very bright. A non-SBC student asked, “Why doesn’t anyone in the book just say, ‘If the preservation and proclamation of the gospel means the SBC must die, then so be it!’?” It wasn’t a bad question.

The SBC is full of problems. I need not recite them here. The glory of Christ Jesus is infinitely more important than the ‘glory’ of the SBC. In that sense, I could care less about the SBC, just as I could care less about the OPC, PCA, and our other denominations. In another sense, the SBC seems to be doing some important work, despite its glaring flaws.

According to some, one of these glaring flaws is the manner in which the SBC has dealt (or to be more accurate, has not dealt) with one Ergun Caner. If you are not familiar with the Caner controversy, see this article or this video. At some point while Caner served as president of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary, the type of evidence linked to above started to turn up. When it did, Liberty looked into the matter, and to make a long story short, Caner is no longer at Liberty. He went to Arlington Baptist College. Most recently, Caner was hired as president of Brewton-Parker College.

Despite the overwhelming amount of information above, Caner has never, to my knowledge, responded to it. Whether innocent or guilty, one would think Caner would publish some sort of response to clarify the reasons for apparent discrepancies in his testimony and his no longer being at Liberty. If the accusations against Caner are true, they are cause for great concern. A small portion of the blogosphere has persistently brought this fact to light. Many are calling upon the SBC to act, but there may be some problems with this approach. I list them below.

1. The SBC is not an individual.

It seems obvious, but the SBC is not an individual. Moreover, the SBC is far from monolithic. (Perhaps that’s why the SBC does have so many problems?) The organizations and churches and people within the SBC vary concerning doctrine and practice. They vary in their opinions about Caner as well. When people call upon the “SBC” to act, it’s not clear what entities or individuals within the SBC they mean, which leads to my next point.

2. Many in the SBC have acted.

Many in the SBC have acted. Two notable examples are Gene Clyatt, Jr. and Jason Smathers. Clyatt is a teaching elder at Parkside Baptist Church and, from the looks of it, has busied himself concerning Caner for quite some time. Smathers is pastor of Golden Shores Community Baptist Church and was apparently sued by Caner for his involvement in the Caner controversy. Parkside and Golden Shores are both in the SBC, which means that Clyatt and Smathers are as well. Most likely, the bulk of their church memberships agree with them concerning the Caner controversy, though I do not know that for sure. Countless others within the SBC have also addressed the controversy, and some have paid a cost for doing so.

3. Some in the SBC may have good reason for not acting.

Some in the SBC may have good reason for not acting. The stronger critics of Caner seem to think, at times, that everyone should be every bit as zealous as they are about calling Caner to repentance. For them, this apparently means creating social media accounts in order to mock and obsess over the man. Some of them act as though the fate of the kingdom itself is contingent on the Caner controversy. Setting aside the workable excuses of time constraints and ignorance, some in the SBC may not want to address the Caner controversy out of political concern. I know what you are thinking. Truth is more important. I agree. So let’s strive to be known for preaching the truth, not our criticism of Caner. They are not necessarily at odds with one another. I know. But you must admit that some people are known due to their criticism of Caner, rather than their preaching and staunch defense of the gospel. Interestingly enough, it is politically advantageous  for some of Caner’s critics to point out that it is politically disadvantageous for others to address the controversy. Are political moves always wrong? I don’t think so. Shocking as it may be, not every hill is a hill worth dying on.

Take Albert Mohler, Jr., for example. Apparently some in the “Reformed community” have a problem with Mohler, whom they would consider one of their own, not addressing the Caner controversy. From what I have heard from students at his seminary, there are some professors, and perhaps Mohler himself, who have addressed the controversy on a more private level, but not publicly. Even if that is not true, Mohler likely has much bigger and more pressing concerns in his limited amount of time than pursuing the Caner controversy, but it’s fair to say that he addresses many other issues that don’t seem so pertinent as the Caner situation. One could try to argue that the Caner issue is not a gospel issue, although it certainly seems to have some bearing on the integrity of the gospel. But let’s set all of these possible excuses aside. Recognizing that this is all rather speculative, could Mohler be justified in acting out of sheer political concern? I think so. Several people with whom I have spoken have shared with me that Mohler has signed some sort of documents at his seminary that prevent him from speaking out against Caner, a former trustee (this is ‘news to me,’ as they say). Then there’s the negative social backlash of going after someone within the SBC. Here’s my proposal. It may be that Mohler believes it is more politically advantageous to let other people comment on the Caner controversy than for him to do so and risk his job, his seminary, and the future of the Reformed community in the SBC. I realize this still sickens some of the bloggers and pastors of much smaller churches out there, but that may be why they remain bloggers and pastors of small churches instead of one of the greatest reformers of our time at the helm of a major (now) conservative Christian seminary. Sometimes it’s not your sound doctrine that makes you an outcast, it’s your personality. Just sayin’.

4. Individuals within the SBC are relatively powerless.

Individuals within the SBC are not in the types of positions to make immediate changes in the SBC. Right, I just finished saying that Mohler is quite powerful. But look at the power he has over the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Look at the power he has to immediately effect wide-ranging change within the SBC. Oh wait. He has virtually no power in those areas. And if he doesn’t, so much the more for the pastors of small, independent churches within the SBC. Liberty went so far as to remove Caner from his position at their seminary. That did not prevent Caner from going on to teach at Arlington, and now reside and preside at BPC. Sometimes those who are not well-acquainted with the workings of the SBC do not realize how very independent its various churches and institutions actually are. Which brings me to my final point.

5. Caner is not so closely associated with the SBC at large.

Caner is not as Southern Baptist as many of his critics make him out to be. For example, Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary, where Caner once served, has no direct connection with the SBC. The SBC does not fund LBTS nor does it elect any trustees. Liberty University, the undergraduate school, is in partnership with the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia, but that is the extent of their relationship. Arlington Baptist College is not related in any way to the SBC. Finally, Brewton-Parker College is affiliated with the Baptist Convention of the State of Georgia, which, again, is not directly connected to the SBC and receives no funding or elected trustees from it. From this vantage point, BPC and those associated with it in Georgia are the ones most responsible, at this time, for dealing with the controversy, not some nebulous concept of “the SBC.”

The Caner controversy is as much a problem for Christians as it is for the SBC. I do not intend to discourage the work of those involved in this controversy, and there are many in the SBC who should be addressing the Caner issue as they can. I am certainly no apologist for the SBC. However, if the emphasis of this controversy is shifted onto the SBC, those calling for repentance will only hurt their case. We must remember to distinguish between obligatory and supererogatory duties, to be every bit as critical of ourselves as we are of Caner (or anyone else), to resist the temptation to make one’s stand on this issue a mark of orthodoxy, and to hold the proper parties responsible.

Dear Justin Edwards

I am going to respond to this comment by Justin Edwards – http://airocross.com/2014/02/07/dear-presuppositionalist/#comment-9130 His words are in italics.

Hi Neil, thanks for the comment. I don’t think the issue is never using evidences, but never using evidences to prove God to an unbeliever, as Romans 1 already affirms their knowledge of Him.

Justin is not clear on what he means by “prove.” He is not clear what he means by “knowledge.” Romans 1 may refer to potential or actual knowledge of God. These qualms I will set aside. Unfortunately, Justin rests his entire case on evidences later on in his comment, citing evidence from textual criticism as reason to deny Islam. I will set this observation aside as well and focus instead on a recurring problem amongst “presuppositionalists.”

Perhaps you have seen this before, but I have found it to be helpful (unsure of author):

Unbeliever: Why can’t some other “god” be the necessary staring point?
Christian: Cause there are no other gods.

Presumably, the Christian has already made a case for God through the so-called “TAG.” Now, the unbeliever asks a perfectly reasonable question pertaining to TAG. That is, why this particular God and not another? Unfortunately, Justin does not offer a valid answer for the unbeliever. He simply assumes there are no other gods. The basis for his assumption is the existence of God. Yet it’s the existence of God that the unbeliever is questioning. So Justin’s response lands him in a vicious circle.

U: How do you know that?
C: Cause God tells us: “For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the
Lord made the Heavens” Psalm 96:5

Here’s the trouble. The Christian is making a case for the existence of God. The Christian says God is “the necessary starting point.” When the unbeliever asks why another god cannot be the necessary starting point, the Christian merely asserts that God says otherwise. However, the existence of God is what is in question. In answering the unbeliever, the Christian assumes the very thing he has set out to “prove,” that is, the existence of God. This is a simple case of begging the question.

U: What about the gods of the other religions.
C: They don’t exist.

Again, Justin is free to assert that the gods of other religions don’t exist, but he has not shown it. He is resting his case on the existence of God, when that is what he is hoping to show. This sort of reasoning is not clever or cute, it’s just bad.

U: But other people believe that other gods exist.
C: I would argue that they don’t, as Scripture teaches us that they are
“suppressing the truth in unrighteousness.”

I wish he would argue! Instead, he continues to make assertions based upon the existence of God which he has yet to prove.

U: Could you demonstrate why Allah or Vishnu couldn’t be the necessary
starting point?
C: Sure, cause God tells us they don’t exist.

Again, this is not a “demonstration” at all. Rather, it is an assertion. It is an assertion without any backing, other than the assumption of the existence of God. It’s fine and dandy to assume and assert the existence of God, of course, but don’t offer mere assumption and assertion in lieu of an argument and then call that apologetics. That’s not helpful to the Christian cause, and it’s certainly not persuasive.

U: But their “holy” books would argue that your God doesn’t exist, how would
you deal with them?
Christian: Which one do you believe?

The way the Christian is about to “deal with them” is by not dealing with them at all.

U: None of them.
C: Then there is no sense arguing about them. We could also sit here and
argue whether or not the moon is made of green cheese, but since neither of
us believe that it would be a waste of time.

Actually, there is plenty of sense arguing about them, but the gung-ho presupper of doom is too naïve to spot why. Let’s take it from the top. The Christian has no doubt offered some claim about God being “the necessary starting point.” Necessary. Now, necessary means no other “starting point” is even possible. When the Christian makes that sort of claim concerning necessity, he bears the burden of proof in refuting all possible contenders. That means actually dealing with other “holy” books. The unbeliever is not being the nitwit here. He is requesting the Christian to make good on his earlier claim. Unfortunately, the Christian has written a check he cannot cash. The unbeliever is politely calling his bluff, and the Christian is dodging the question.

U: Surely you have heard of positing hypotheticals to disprove a claim?
C: Yes, that would make sense in other instances but we are talking about
the necessary starting point to make sense of argumentation, so it would not
make sense argue from a position that you don’t believe.

Positing hypotheticals would make sense in this instance as well. The reason the Christian offers as to why positing hypotheticals would not make sense in this instance is no reason at all. Yes, we are supposedly talking about “the necessary starting point to make sense of argumentation.” The Christian has asserted (repeatedly) that this starting point is God. It follows that the onus is on the Christian to support his claim. What does not follow is what the Christian is saying here. Take another look at how bad the reasoning process is in the following:

Positing hypotheticals to disprove a claim makes sense in some instances.

In this instance we are talking about the necessary starting point to make sense of argumentation.

Therefore, it does not make sense to posit hypotheticals in this instance.

Huh? Why not? How does that conclusion follow from the premises at all? It doesn’t. Let’s remember that the Christian has stated God is the necessary starting point to make sense of argumentation. The unbeliever has posited hypotheticals (which in this instance are also actuals) in order to see the Christian make good on his claim. Again, the claim in question, the claim to necessity, merits the request to see the refutation of all possible contenders. It does not follow that the unbeliever needs to explicitly hold any one of them. It also does not follow from the fact that the unbeliever does not explicitly hold to any one of them that the unbeliever cannot offer them as counters to the Christian’s extremely strong claim.

U: Ah, you are just saying that because you can’t refute my hypothetical
that Allah is the necessary staring point.
C: Not at all. Just for kicks, I will refute your hypothetical
Premise 1: If atheism is true, no gods exist
Premise 2: Atheism is true.
Conclusion: Therefore no gods exist and you have been refuted.

This sort of red herring is unhelpful to the apologetic endeavor. Let’s remember that the Christian is obligated to refute Islam as the necessary starting point for argumentation, given his claim that God is the necessary starting point for argumentation. The syllogism above merely assumes that atheism is true. No argument is made to that end. Further, as should be obvious, the truth of atheism is inconsistent with the truth of Christianity, and truth is, presumably (at least on some interpretations), a necessary characteristic of a transcendental. The intentions of the Christian are questionable at this point in the dialogue.

U: Um, but you are not an atheist!
C: Um, but you are not a Muslim! Do you see why refuting hypotheticals when
it comes to the justification for knowledge is pointless?

No. In fact, the syllogism above does not even pertain to someone’s adherence to atheism, Islam, etc., but whether or not atheism is true, which is an entirely different matter. The Christian in this hypothetical dialogue is either extremely confused or extremely dishonest. Again, refuting hypotheticals (which, again, are not merely hypotheticals) is necessary to defend the claim to necessity. The unbeliever is not being dishonest here. The same might not be said for the Christian.

If the things Justin wrote about in the main post on which he comments are true, and I suspect they are, then “presuppositionalists” must be equally careful to be loving in the content of their presentations. That means actually arguing their case, rather than making assertion after assertion about it and dismissing every counterpoint raised by the unbeliever. Are these presuppositionalists not out to persuade the unbeliever? (Perhaps not!)

The Teleology of Eschatology

I sat and listened as a preacher – perhaps unwittingly – revealed his eschatology. Satan, he argued, began as a garden snake in Genesis. By the time we reach Revelation, the garden snake has grown into a great red dragon. Beautiful imagery. Bad eschatology.

Though I did not get the opportunity to question this gentleman, I would have asked him where the ‘already not yet’ fits into his understanding of Satan. You see, Christ Jesus has inaugurated His kingdom. The kingdom of God is here. Already. But not yet.

Where is the already aspect of this gentleman’s eschatology with respect to the power of Satan? It seems Christ’s ministry has done nothing at all to hinder Satan. If anything, Satan has gotten worse since Christ came to earth. The kingdom of God may have come to earth in Christ, but the kingdom of Satan continues to gain power. Perhaps such an eschatology is defensible. I see no reason to accept it.

A separate, but related, question. What is the telos of creation in a non-progressive scheme of eschatology? Really, what’s the point of history if it moves in circles, or is wiped away in one fell swoop when Christ returns? To put it another way, where is the teleological aspect of eschatology with respect to non-progressive models of eschatology?

Capsized Canoes and Christ’s Commands

‘Transformationalism’ seems a bit of a loaded term. ‘Two Kingdoms’ seems a bit incoherent. Nevertheless, arguments against ‘transformationalism’ from those of the ‘2k’ position seem a bit weak.

One ‘argument’ 2kers use against transformationalism is to point out that the world is like a sinking ship. Trying to ‘redeem’ anything in this world is like polishing brass on that sinking ship. Dispensationalists also use this rhetoric. 2 Peter 3.5-7 appears to support the illustration:

For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.

Obviously, the antediluvian world is similar to the world we live in now in many significant ways.  Genesis 2.10-14 appears to support this contention:

A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and there it divided and became four rivers. The name of the first is the Pishon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. And the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there. The name of the second river is the Gihon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Cush. And the name of the third river is the Tigris, which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.

Moses assumes the audience he writes to after the flood is familiar with the rivers Tigris and Euphrates which existed before the flood. It would seem that at least two of the rivers of the world were left even after the flood. And if some geographic features survived the flood, and if the world shall perish in a similar geographical way in the future, then one might expect that at least some geographical features might remain after God destroys the world by fire. The observation is not limited to the Genesis text either, for all assume the world that was flooded is the very same world we live in today, changed though it was through flood, and changed though it will be by fire.

Of course, Noah and his family were saved from destruction. They went on living. They existed both before and after the flood. God will also destroy the ungodly in the future while saving His own through grace. So in the destruction and renewal of the world through flood and through fire, we observe great discontinuity and great continuity. And that leads to my next point.

The illustration begs the question. Supposing some form of postmillenial eschatological view is correct, the world is not a sinking ship at all. Many transformationalists are also postmillenialists. For them, the sinking ship analogy just doesn’t hold water. I imagine the same can be said for those onboard any eschatological view that affords some sort of continuity between the world before and after destruction by fire. And what eschatological view doesn’t?

We know our bodies will be destroyed. Will they will be raised again? Read 1 Corinthians 15. If the world is a sinking ship, how much more the body? None of us have ever experienced the destruction of the world. We have witnessed the destruction of the human body.

Theologian B.B. Warfield believed the individual believer is a microcosm of the world. Without knowing much about Warfield and his theology, I would take this to mean that just as believers are ‘sanctified’ (in the abstract systematic sense) and thus become ‘better’ in terms of Christ-likeness, so also the world becomes progressively ‘better’ in terms of the expansion of the kingdom of God and the beneficial implications of that expansion. Thus argued Warfield the postmillenialist. But let’s run his thinking in reverse.

Let’s say that the world is not getting progressively better. So, postmillenialism is out (and indeed, should be out of initial clashes between so-called transformationalists and 2kers, since one can in theory hold to other eschatological views and still be a transformationalist, and, if I am not mistaken, vice versa). The world is not getting progressively better, and is a sinking ship. Our work here on this planet will ultimately be destroyed. The new heavens and new earth will replace the old. The 2ker tells us this is a good reason to stop with the ‘redeeming x‘ garbage.

But is it? To take Warfield’s thought in reverse, do we really want to say that the process of becoming more like Christ Jesus with faith working through love is actually for naught? There are certainly times when we do not feel as though we as individual Christians are getting any better. In fact, if we were honest with ourselves, we often despair that we might be getting worse. We are like capsized canoes. We are going down (quite literally). We will die. Our bodies will rot. Our souls remain sinful to the last. The new glorified self – body and soul – will replace the old. Is this a reason to stop with individual transformation through the gospel? Is all of our work for nothing?

Of course not. I wrote that the illustration of polishing brass begs the question. And it does. It assumes that polishing brass does not count for much, if anything. That’s simply not true. We need not become postmillenialists to agree. We merely need to be Christians. Not only is the individual Christian transformed through the gospel, but he must be transformed through the gospel. It is Christ’s command, and he works toward obedience to that command, whether the brass is tarnished or burnished. So also for the transformation of the world through the preaching of the gospel.

More on Naïve Presuppositionalism

Apparently I ruffled some feathers with my post on Naïve Presuppositionalism. People wondered whom I was writing about. The answer? No one in particular. But if the shoe fits, then wear it.

When I looked around on the Internet at conversation regarding my post, I found that some people thought I was directing my comments at Sye TenBruggencate, a rising star of sorts in the apologetic world. However, naïve presuppositionalism was around long before TB. At the same time, some evidence (!) of naïve presuppositionalism can be found in TB’s material. For example:

In the video, TB assumes a dichotomy between evidences and presuppositions when he speaks of “evidences versus presuppositions.” This false dichotomy is inherent to naïve presuppositionalism. Not only is the dichotomy philosophically problematic, but it cuts against the testimony of Scripture.

Philosophically, evidences are useless without presuppositions, and presuppositions are useless without evidences. Both evidences and presuppositions are necessary to a robust philosophy, and thus also to a robust apologetic. The characteristic mark of traditional Van Tilian apologetics is not the observation that everyone holds presuppositions in virtue of which evidence is evaluated, as important as that realization may be.

Biblically, evidences are the very basis upon which people hold their presuppositions about God, and their presuppositions about God inform their understanding of those evidences. For example, in Psalm 19, the heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork. And in Romans 1, God is known because He is perceived in the things have have been made. Of course, such overwhelming evidence does not lead the ungodly to honor God as God, but if the sky and creation are not evidence, then I do not know what is.

TB’s courtroom analogy is not as helpful as it initially seems to be. I understand that analogies are not perfect, but the inference TB attempts to illustrate through his analogy does not follow. While someone does provide evidence to the judge and jury in a court case, the evidence is also being presented to the person who is on trial. If we are to hold a fair trial, it only makes sense that the person who is being judged should be present to hear the charges, evidence, and judgment brought against him. The person on trial has the evidence presented to him the same as the judge and jury have the evidence presented to them.

It does not follow from what has been said above that the one presenting the evidence is saying that the person on trial is really the judge. Likewise, it does not follow from the fact that an apologist presents evidence to an unbeliever that the apologist is saying the unbeliever is God. After all, God presents irrefutable evidence to the unbeliever. Is God saying the unbeliever is God? Of course not!

God knows the unbeliever is a judge, though the unbeliever is not the Judge.