Religious Freedom vs. Gay Rights

The issue at the core of the controversy created by the religious freedom laws in Arkansas and Indiana is not simply about cakes for gay people. I have lived for extended periods of time in both Arkansas and Indiana and gay people have no trouble purchasing cake or otherwise getting served in places of business in either state.

No, the issue at the core of this whole thing is rooted in the fact that the “gay community” has been trying to force everyone to affirm their lifestyle. Furthermore, they have been trying to utilize the force of the state to do it — with a measure of success…

Arkansas and Indiana simply considered legislation to protect people who have a religious objection to the concept of gay marriage. You know, to keep them from becoming the targets of the kind of intimidation enumerated above.

But the issue has been deftly managed. It’s not portrayed as a protection for religious people. It’s portrayed as an attack on gays. There are Christian business owners in both states who have no problem providing goods and services to gays. It’s really not even an issue. The key difference here is the inclusion of a wedding into the mix. That changes everything.

weddingringsWeddings are inherently theological — to Christians anyway. They are a picture of the ultimate wedding between Jesus Christ and his bride (the church). Scripture speaks in depth on the roles of husbands and wives. It also speaks on the sinful nature of homosexuality. When you are asked to attend or participate in a wedding you are being asked to AFFIRM what is taking place. Your mere presence is tacit approval of the whole thing. So is your participating in peripheral ways… say, baking the cake or taking the pictures.

This is the whole reason weddings have that part about “If anyone knows why these two should not be joined in HOLY matrimony, let him speak now or forever hold his peace.” This is a problem for Christians because we are instructed in Scripture not to approve of sin (Isaiah 5:20, Romans 1:32).

Personally, I hate that the whole thing has blown up the way it has. But, there is only one reason it has… the gay community forced it. Had they not been so bent on forcing anyone and everyone to affirm their lifestyle (regardless of religious convictions) legislators in Arkansas and Indiana probably would not have felt the need to protect those with religious convictions.

This has never been about cake — sorry, that just doesn’t fly. There are way too many talented bakers in both states who would enthusiastically bake a cake for a gay wedding. This has been about intimidating people who do not support gay marriage into silence. It has been about destroying those who would not be silenced.

I saw a protest recently where signs were held up that said, “Jesus loves Gays!” and “What would Jesus do? He would bake a gay wedding cake!”

Jesus definitely loves homosexuals, no doubt about it. But he did so much more than bake a cake for them. He died to pay for their sins — even the sin of homosexuality.

Both sides could get along just fine if they would not try to use government force against the other. I don’t recommend using government force against homosexuals. I don’t think it’s irrational to expect to be treated in kind.

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The immeasurable value of a wife

This morning I heard about a woman who wrote an article entitled, “I Look Down on Young Women with Husbands and Kids and I’m Not Sorry.” This drew my attention because it is a direct attack on my wife, Peggy. From a strictly financial/market perspective I will say this: The kind of care and home management my wife provides our family is simply unavailable on the market. I could not find the services she provides anywhere. And, if I could find them, I certainly could not afford them. There is simply no substitute for the love and care of a stay-at-home mom. None.

So, when I heard about this little gem of an article, I thought I might respond. Turns out others already have. I’ll simply refer you to a response by Matt Walsh entitled, “Stay-at-home moms: You don’t owe the world an explanation.

And, if his response is not enough, I submit to you the Word of God certainly is…

An excellent wife who can find?

She is far more precious than jewels.

The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.

She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.

She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands.

She is like the ships of the merchant; she brings her food from afar.

She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens.

She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.

She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong.

She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.

Her lamp does not go out at night.

She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle.

She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy.

She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet.

She makes bed coverings for herself; her clothing is fine linen and purple.

Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land.

She makes linen garments and sells them; she delivers sashes to the merchant.

Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.

She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.

She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.

Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:

“Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.”

Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.

Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates. — Proverbs 31:10-31

Never forget, stay-at-home moms, what the world regards as wisdom is foolishness before God. You are likely assaulted daily with messages prompting you to get a “real job.” It is foolishness. You have entered into one of the most noble and most valuable of all professions.

God’s Word trumps it all.

The Calvinist: A Poem by John Piper

Go here to see a printed version of the poem. For more resources about the sovereignty of God in everyday life visit desiringGod.org.

Is God Jealous?

Few people have had as large an impact on American thought and culture in the last 20 years as Oprah Winfrey. Her television talk show and books influenced countless people. This would not have been a bad thing except that Oprah began advising her viewers on spiritual matters. Professing a belief in Jesus Christ at one time, she began advocating a brand of New Age spiritualism with statements like these…

  • “One of the mistakes human beings make is believing that there is only one way to live… but there are many paths to what you call ‘God.’”
  • “God isn’t something to believe, God is. God is.”
  • “God is a feeling experience, not a believing experience. If God for you is still about a belief, then it’s not truly God.”
  • “I thought Jesus came, died on the cross, that Jesus’ being here was about his death and dying on the cross when it really was about him coming to show us how to do it, how to be — to show us the Christ consciousness that he had and that that consciousness abides with all of us.”

After years of gaining the trust of her viewers, much of this spiritualistic tripe was accepted without question — even among Christian viewers. And, according to Oprah this journey into spirituality began with her gross misunderstanding of one word. Here’s Oprah…

Oprah had a real problem with the idea of God being jealous — as if being jealous is always a bad thing. We frequently associate jealousy with an abusive jealous boyfriend or an overbearing jealous girlfriend. And, in those cases, jealousy is wrong. Those people have no right to be jealous. But, does anyone ever have a “right” to be jealous?

Yes.

When a man and woman get married, they have committed themselves to one another in a covenant relationship. They have made a promise to one another. A husband has a right to the affections of his wife and a wife has a right to the affections of her husband.

If your spouse cheated on you would you we upset? Of course. You would have every right to be upset because they had broken the covenant they established with you. You would have a right to be jealous of their affections.

Do you think God has any less right of expectation for the affections of His people? Do you think He has no right to be jealous for us?

Let’s take a look at where God expresses His jealousy for His people…

“And God spoke all these words, saying, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before me. “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God…” — Exodus 20:1-5

God is speaking directly to His people, Israel. He created them, He delivered them from Egypt, He sustained them in the desert — He is their God. Notice, it is in His prohibition against idolatry and false gods that God mentions His jealousy. Why? Because He has every right to expect their unwavering praises, their undivided loyalty, and their unceasing worship. To give any of these things to another is tantamount to adultery. It is like a wife cheating on her husband. This kind of language is used all through Scripture to describe Israel’s tendency toward idols. They are compared to harlots, prostitutes, and adulteresses. In the New Testament, God’s people are described as the “bride of Christ.”

ThidMan1Are you beginning to see the connection?

A man’s bride is (or should be) precious to him. Christ’s bride is precious to Him. He died for her. He has every right to expect her affections and every right to be angry when those affections are directed toward another.

Is God jealous? You bet He is — with a righteous jealousy. And, if you are a believer in Christ, then you can take comfort in knowing He is jealous for you, having every expectation of your affection, because He has established a covenant with you through the shed blood of His Son. But you should also know that God does not look lightly upon us loving something else. His warning to Israel is applicable to the Church…

“Observe what I command you this day. Behold, I will drive out before you the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. Take care, lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land to which you go, lest it become a snare in your midst. You shall tear down their altars and break their pillars and cut down their Asherim (for you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God), lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and when they whore after their gods and sacrifice to their gods and you are invited, you eat of his sacrifice, and you take of their daughters for your sons, and their daughters whore after their gods and make your sons whore after their gods.” — Exodus 34:11-16

There is no question that God has a right to be jealous for our affections. The question that does remain is this: Are we making covenants with the inhabitants of the land where we reside? Are we chasing after the gods they chase after, sacrificing to the things they sacrifice to? Our land today is just as full of idols as the lands referenced in Exodus 34. We are not to chase after them.

Our God is jealous.

Homosexual “Marriage”

Whether or not homosexual marriage should be legalized in the United States is one issue that just will not go away. It continues to be an epic fight with battle lines (apparently) clearly drawn…

RingAnnouncer-bwIn this corner, representing “fairness,” “progressive ideas,” and the “full rights of citizenship for all,” the ADVOCATES OF LEGALIZING HOMOSEXUAL MARRIAGE!

And in the other corner, standing tall for “traditional values,” “the sanctity of marriage,” and a “biblical worldview,” the CHAMPIONS OF TRADITIONAL MARRIAGE!

The first side is working tirelessly for the legalization of homosexual marriage everywhere. The other side is fighting hard to make sure that the only legally recognized marriage in the United States remains the marriage between one man and one woman.

And, if you happen to find yourself in a discussion on the topic, you should be prepared for a couple of things:

  1. If there are people in the discussion who have opposing views on the matter, the discussion will likely digress into an argument.
  2. You may be asked which side of the issue you are on — and the choices offered to you will likely be one of the two outlined above.

But, I would like to offer a third alternative. You see, I am standing firmly in a neutral corner.  Don’t misunderstand me, now. I stand firmly with the Scriptural teaching concerning the sinfulness of homosexuality and the definition of marriage. But, if you look closely at this bout, you will see the sinfulness of homosexuality and the biblical definition of marriage are really not the issues. What is at issue is how the state will ultimately rule on the matter — as if their decree will decide anything.

I think Christians who are engaged in this fight are making a terrible mistake. Not for standing up for what the Bible clearly says about homosexuality or marriage, but for arguing theological points with politicians. To argue theology with them is to miss a much larger point. It’s also an implied acceptance of a premise we ought to reject outright.

Fighting this battle in its current context assumes that the state has the authority to define what is and is not marriage — and it does not.

Marriage was instituted by God. He created it. He defines it. The state has no more authority to define marriage than it does to define salvation. The matters are just not open to debate. God has spoken. It is settled.

Don’t fall prey to the erroneous notion that something is morally or ethically right merely because it has been passed into law. All sorts of morally repugnant things are laws:

  • Abortion is legal is many parts of the world.
  • In China married couples are legally prohibited from having more than one child.

Likewise, many legitimate activities have been criminalized:

  • In many parts of the United States, if you own a milk cow it is illegal for you to consume the raw milk it produces.
  • You can even be fined for cutting someone’s hair without a license.

So whether or not something is legal is a very poor indicator of its inherent rightness. Never forget, God is Lord of the Law, too. And, with that in mind, I really could not care less whether or not any state recognizes my marriage to my wife. It’s not open to their scrutiny. What matters is whether or not God recognizes our marriage. Do our brothers and sisters in Christ see our marriage as consistent with Scripture? Did our church authorize our union? These are the things that matter. I’ve always wondered why marriage licenses even exist. Marriage does not belong to the state so why does the state need to issue permission in the form of a license to anyone? It’s ridiculous.

BoxingGlovesMost Christians would agree that the issue of salvation is a more important theological issue than same-sex marriages. We don’t have state licenses for salvation. The state does not recognize anyone’s conversion. Why not? Because, it’s none of their business.

I have friends who adhere to different religious beliefs than I do. I can share my faith with them and they with me. But we don’t try to force our beliefs on one another through the power of state coercion. If we did we’d cease to be friends. Our freedom to choose for ourselves how we will conduct our lives is paramount in a free society.

I don’t mind if two men get “married” in a ceremony by someone professing to represent God as a priest or pastor. I think they should be free to do that and the state should butt out. Is that form of “marriage” an abomination before God? Yes. Will I recognize their “marriage” as legitimate? No. No more than I will recognize someone’s professed salvation through Buddha. But, according to 1 Corinthians 5:12, it is none of my business to judge those outside the church for their sinful behavior. God handles that. I am accountable to my brothers and sisters in Christ and am to hold them accountable in turn.

But we all should agree on one point: In matters of theology — whether it concerns salvation or marriage or whatever — politicians should never be allowed to operate under the illusion that they are the ones who define such matters.

They are not.

Offended by Christian beliefs

It’s in vogue these days for many of the less-than-biblically-minded to claim offense at this or that particular Christian belief. “You don’t think gay marriage is legitimate?” they say,  “I’m very offended by your beliefs.”

Oh, Christian beliefs get WAY more offensive than that.

Dan Phillips explains.

stackobooks

Who defines marriage? (a repost, sort of)

Note: This bulk of this post originally appeared on March 4, 2008. The introductory paragraph has been changed to fit the context of June 2011.

The state of New York has officially legalized gay marriage. Now, it is always heartbreaking to see sin defended and celebrated as if it were not only legitimate but also honorable, but it’s not new. This should not be surprising to anyone. You can always count on sinful men to behave sinfully. The Bible makes this abundantly clear.  We should not be shocked when we see news reports to that effect. Neither should we get bent out of shape when sinful men feign to declare something evil as good.

“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! — Isaiah 5:20

Quite frankly, I could not care less what the state of New York has to say about the definition of marriage.

canofworms.jpgDon’t get me wrong, I firmly stand with the Scriptural teaching concerning the sinfulness of homosexuality and the definition of marriage, but I think conservative, orthodox Christians are making a terrible mistake in arguing the theological points with politicians. To argue the theology of this issue is to miss a much, much larger point and accept a premise we ought to reject.

Liberals have been pushing for federal government recognition of same-sex marriages and “civil unions” while conservatives have advocated a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman consistent with Scripture. This fight has spilled over into the state level — as recent events attest. However, fighting the battle in this context assumes that the state has the authority to define what is and is not marriage — and it does not.

Marriage was instituted by God, Himself. He created it. He defines it. The state has no more authority to define marriage than it does to define salvation. The matters are just not open to debate. God has spoken. It is settled.

I really could not care less whether or not any state recognizes my marriage to my wife. It’s not open to their scrutiny. What matters is whether or not God recognizes our marriage. Do our brothers and sisters in Christ see our marriage as consistent with Scripture? Did our church authorize our union? These are the things that matter. I’ve always wondered why marriage licenses even exist. Marriage does not belong to the state so why does the state need to issue permission in the form of a license to anyone? It’s ridiculous.

Most Christians would agree that the issue of salvation is a more important theological issue than same-sex marriages. We don’t have state licenses for salvation. The state does not recognize anyone’s conversion. Why not? Because it’s not their business.

I have friends who adhere to different religious beliefs than I do. I can share my faith with them and they with me. But we don’t try to force our beliefs on one another through the power of state coercion. If we did we’d cease to be friends. Our freedom to choose for ourselves how we will conduct our lives is paramount in a free society.

weddingrings.jpgI don’t mind if two men get “married” in a ceremony by someone professing to represent God as a priest or pastor. I think they should be free to do that and the state should butt out. Is that form of “marriage” an abomination before God? Yes. Will I recognize their “marriage” as legitimate? No. No more than I will recognize someone’s professed salvation through Buddha. But, according to 1 Corinthians 5:12, it is none of my business to judge those outside the church for their sinful behavior. God handles that. I am accountable to my brothers and sisters in Christ and am to hold them accountable in turn.

But we all should agree on one point: In matters of theology — whether it concerns salvation or marriage or whatever — politicians should never be allowed to operate under the illusion that they are the ones who define such matters.

They are not.

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