Sunday 31 March 2013

Gay partnerships – how far should we go in tolerating ‘evangelicals’ who endorse them?

The Bishop of Liverpool, James Jones (£), and Baptist minister Steve Chalke have both recently come out in support of the church affirming monogamous gay (sexual) partnerships.

James Jones says that gay partnerships are among a number of major moral issues where ‘the church allows a large space for a variety of nuances, interpretations, applications and disagreements’.

Steve Chalke has written a special liturgy for gay partnerships that he has published on his Oasis charity website along with a full ‘evangelical exegesis’ of his pro-gay stance (More here and here).

The House of Bishops’ pastoral statement on civil partnerships of July 2005 specifically precludes the clergy of the Church of England from conducting services of blessing for those who have entered into a civil partnership.

It states: ‘Clergy of the Church of England should not provide services of blessing for those who register a civil partnership.’

Steve Clifford, general director of the Evangelical Alliance (EA), has said that he believes the conclusions Chalke has come to on same-sex relationships are wrong. He has also expressed ‘sadness and disappointment’ at the way Chalke, an EA member, ‘has not only distanced himself from the vast majority of the evangelical community here in the UK, but indeed from the Church across the world and 2,000 years of biblical interpretation’. 

And yet both Justin Welby, the new archbishop of Canterbury, and Steve Clifford seem committed to an ongoing dialogue with those with whom they disagree. Welby has called for the church to disagree ‘gracefully’ over gay marriage and Clifford has stressed that ‘as we have this discussion let's remember that Jesus requires us to disagree without being disagreeable’.

Am I alone in finding this all rather disturbing?

To Jones and Chalke, the issue of whether or not one should bless gay partnerships is a secondary issue on which evangelicals can legitimately take different positions – in other words both views (acceptance and rejection of gay partnerships) fall within the boundaries of evangelicalism. 

Neither is offering his resignation. This is particularly interesting given that the Courage Trust resigned from EA in 2002 when it decided to take the same position on gay partnerships that Chalke is now espousing and affirming.  

But it seems to me also that, in spite of Clifford’s and Welby’s clear personal stance on the issue (both take the orthodox position that the only context for sex is within monogamous, heterosexual marriage), in practice they appear to regard gay partnerships as being in the category of what Paul called ‘disputable matters’,  issues (of the Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8 & 10 variety) on which evangelical Christians can legitimately disagree and yet remain 'in fellowship'.

I say ‘in practice’ because they appear to be taking the view that those who hold to and teach Jones’ and Chalke’s view on gay partnerships should be debated with ‘gracefully’ and ‘agreeably’ rather than being disciplined.

This approach seems to be at odds with EA's own official position which reads as follows (emphasis mine):

'We believe both habitual homoerotic sexual activity without repentance and public promotion of such activity are inconsistent with faithful church membership. While processes of membership and discipline differ from one church to another, we believe that either of these behaviours warrants consideration for church discipline

EA appears not to be abiding by its own policy but a far more important question is, 'Does ongoing 'gracious debate' square with what the Bible teaches?' I’m not at all sure that it does.

The ‘one man, one woman, for life’ (marriage) context for sexual relations of Genesis 2:24 is a creation ordinance for all mankind. Furthermore the complementarity and permanence of the marriage relationship mirrors the complementarity and permanence of Christ’s relationship with his body (and bride) the church (Ephesians 5:22-33).

Old Testament teaching on sexuality (detailed in Leviticus 18 & 20) makes it very clear that the only proper context for sexual relations is within (heterosexual) marriage. These two chapters straddle Leviticus 19 with its injunctions to ‘Be Holy because I the Lord am holy’ (19:2) and to ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ (19:18).

Jesus upholds the creation ordinance of marriage (Matthew 19:4-6) and indicates that sexual purity goes beyond mere actions to thoughts and motivations (Matthew 5:27-32).

Paul points out the unique nature of sexual sin (porneia) in that it involves sin ‘against one’s own body’ (1 Corinthians 6:18-20) and argues that sexual purity is part of sanctification, living a holy life (1 Thessalonians 4:3-8).

Furthermore we receive the grave warning in Revelation (21:8 and 22:15) that the unrepentant sexually immoral are destined for the lake of fire and will not partake of the tree of life.

The book of Hebrews (10:26) tells us that ‘If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God’.

The Bible is also very clear that homosexual practice in particular, as well as being included within the boundaries of sexual immorality (porneia), is also a specific marker of a society that has turned its back on God – Genesis 19, Judges 19 and Romans 1 are familiar examples.

Jesus himself calls the church of Thyatira to repentance over ‘(tolerating) that woman Jezebel’ who ‘by her teaching’ ‘misleads my servants into sexual immorality’ (Revelation 2:20-25).

Sex outside marriage is viewed very seriously indeed in Scripture but false teaching which leads people into sexual sin is viewed even more seriously (Luke 17:1-2) and warnings about the affirmation and endorsement of sexual immorality (2 Peter 2 and Jude are poignant examples) are particularly strong.

Those who lead ‘little ones’ astray (Matthew 18:6), like those they mislead, are in great danger. This is why it is so important for us to exercise godly discipline with them (Matthew 18:15-20; Luke 17:3-4; Galatians 6:1; James 5:19, 20) for their own sakes, as well as for those who they might mislead or have already misled.

Those who raise these uncomfortable issues in the church are often are told ‘not to judge’, but the Bible is very clear that in the case of sexual immorality or false teaching it is actually our responsibility as Christians to ‘judge’ and to exercise discipline (1 Corinthians 5:1-13).

When there was a serious issue that threatened the integrity of the early church (with whole groups being led astray) the apostles called a council. We read about it in Acts 15. The matter (in that case circumcision) was seen as serious and meriting prompt action. It is interesting that one of the conclusions of that first council was that all Christians were to avoid sexual immorality (Acts 15:29). When the church has encountered other serious issues throughout the centuries councils have similarly been called to bring resolution.

I am no expert on church history and cannot ever recall a church council specifically on sexual morality but I can also not recall a time in history when senior church leaders sought to affirm or bless sexual behaviour that the Bible clearly teaches is immoral.

Can we imagine the apostle Paul leaving a situation like this to smoulder and fester? Would he not rather have urged his co-workers to ‘command certain men not to teach false doctrines’ (1 Timothy 1:3) and to ‘gently instruct in the hope that God will grant repentance’ (2 Timothy 2:25). Would he have not insisted that false teachers ‘must be silenced’ (Titus 1:11)? 

Do we really think that Jesus himself, given his clear warnings about the dangers of false teaching, would have allowed a situation like this to persist unchallenged? Should we be acting any differently? Is it really enough to ‘disagree without being disagreeable’ and to debate ‘gracefully’?   

When false teaching is allowed to fester in the church, and when godly discipline is not exercised with those who are propagating it, whole households, churches and communities can be ruined (Titus 1:11).

I am becoming increasingly uneasy about how we evangelicals have allowed this particular situation to drift. I believe that the time for tolerance and discussion is over and that we need now to act.  


  1. Peter, thank you for a very clear treatment of the issue facing those who, like Justin Welby, seek to play politics within the Church by tolerating wickedness.

  2. Perhaps we have reached the stage when we need to consider abandoning the term "evangelical". I'm very reluctant to do this; I think the term does have clear content, and that it marks out a robust, biblically faithful Christian tradition.

    However, if groups like the Evangelical Alliance are not prepared to defend the boundaries of that tradition the term becomes meaningless. In fact, Chalke abandoned, critcised and mocked the evangelical tradition when he abandoned penal substitution.It wasn't merely his shift in doctrine that mattered - he clearly doesn't even have any sympathy for penal substitution, or those who preach it!

    So - unless EA and other groups are prepared to clarify what they mean by "dialogue" - many Christians might seek a defintion with stronger boundaries.


  3. By all means let’s disagree ‘gracefully’ and without being ‘disagreeable’. But we need to recognise we are dealing with heretics and false teachers whose ‘Jesus’ is not the Jesus of the Bible, not the Jesus who brought salvation from sin and who rescues us from the wrath to come. There can be no ‘reconciliation’ with such people while they remain unrepentant. And although we will be kind and gracious, as to all people, if they continue as false teachers in fellowship in the churches we belong to they will continue to do damage to the gospel.

  4. But Peter, the revolution is coming from the bottom up, not from the top down. Ordinary people in ordinary ‘evangelical’ churches are finding that gay people are part of their own social, work, neighbourhood and family networks. Theology is meeting reality and taking a battering. Many committed evangelical families are finding that they have gay family members and that after prayerful consideration, their response should be to continue to love these people as they believe Jesus would wish them to love them – unconditionally. Not only that, but they would like their family members’ committed relationships to have the same opportunity to be blessed in church as they themselves have had.
    For some church families, their church’s hostile and intolerant attitude to gay people have made it impossible to stay – thankfully, there are plenty of ‘inclusive’ churches whose ministers would support Jones’ and Chalke’s position.
    We don’t need evangelical churches to become polarised and then segregated with respect to their stance on inclusion – which is why the ‘graceful’ dialogue is crucial at this stage of the LGBT inclusion process.

    1. Jane, whether bottom up or top down surely we should be seeking to obey Jesus’ teaching and follow scripture?

      ‘Theology is meeting reality and taking a battering. ‘

      Surely if theology is the reality then we maintain that and let everything else take a battering? Doesn’t seem an evangelical concept, or even Christian one, to alter one’s theology according to changing perceptions of ‘reality’.

      ‘Not only that, but they would like their family members’ committed relationships to have the same opportunity to be blessed in church as they themselves have had.’

      With unconditional love how can there be a ‘not only that’? Jesus loved us unconditionally by taking in his death on the cross the punishment we deserved. He didn’t say ‘not only that but I will bless you so you can keep on sinning’. The latter would be a denial of the purpose and cost of the former. To encourage people in sin is a denial of our profession of unconditional love and a rejection of the cross.

      I would be interested to hear how your so-called ‘committed evangelical families’ evaluate their decisions in the light of the scriptures that Peter has discussed.

    2. Hmmm
      The myth of progress is alive and well in the Church.

    3. Meledor, I appreciate your comment and the points raised. These strike at the heart of the Big Debate as we explore this issue in this generation.
      ‘Surely if theology is the reality then we maintain that and let everything else take a battering?’
      Yes, but on this issue we are seeing a diverse understanding of theology as different churches make their stance on inclusion clear, both sides having spent much time in prayerful reflection, studying the scriptures and seeking God . For many ordinary lay members of evangelical churches, they might find that their (previously unchallenged) understanding of the scriptures on gay relationships now becomes at odds with their everyday lived experience, as they encounter gay people in their communities. So we find there is no longer just one theology – but every chance to look at Scripture, reason and tradition and to discern if the Holy Spirit is speaking to the Church in this generation on this issue.
      ‘Doesn’t seem an evangelical concept, or even Christian one, to alter one’s theology according to changing perceptions of ‘reality’. ‘
      Although it may be said that the Church has been known to do this, on more than a few occasions, in response to more than a few issues – over the last two millennia (the theology on slavery, the place of left-handed people in the church and women’s ordination are the three that come to mind immediately). Of course, where one group wishes to maintain the status quo, it tends to be seen as ‘altering theology’, but another group wishing to see change might argue that they are re-aligning theology (God’s wider Kingdom purposes versus a narrow and exclusive interpretation).
      ‘To encourage people in sin is a denial of our profession of unconditional love and a rejection of the cross.’
      This is of course the crux – and where we diverge. On our side, we believe that gay relationships are not inherently sinful in the same way that straight relationships are not inherently saintly. There is the capacity in both for sinful behaviour but also the potential for blessing and fulfillment. We would not consider that blessing same-sex relationships is encouraging people in sin, but blessing that which self-evidently contributes to the flourishing and life-in-all-its-fullness of the individuals concerned.
      ‘I would be interested to hear how your so-called ‘committed evangelical families’ evaluate their decisions in the light of the scriptures that Peter has discussed.’
      I wouldn’t presume to speak for these people as it is probably the case that each person represented here would have made their own journey. I was thinking of Rob Portman as I wrote the comment so may I ask you to look at
      Thank you, Jane

    4. There is nothing new about the experience of same sex erotic attraction. It is a matter of how one deals with it practically.

      Christians fall into two groups here - those who allow their feelings to dictate their actions and those who orient their actions to the plain teaching of God's Word.

    5. Quite so...but the points you raise in your article, Peter, centre on how we deal with (in your view) renegade church leaders. You call for resignations, church discipline, commanding certain men not to teach false doctrines, calling to repentance - even people being silenced.
      Do you not hear a shrill controlling voice here rather than a voice willing to engage in gracious debate?
      ‘I believe that the time for tolerance and discussion is over and that we need now to act.’
      With all due respect, Peter, may I ask what you intend to do?

    6. I have been involved in graciously debating this issue for very many years and have soberly put forward my arguments here as to why I think it is now time for the church to act.

      If you disagree with my conclusions then show me from Scripture where my argument is flawed rather than uncharitably accusing me of being a 'shrill controlling voice'.

      That's ad hominem nonsense - attacking the person and not the argument. Let's hear your arguments as to why church discipline is inappropriate.

    7. Church discipline is inappropriate – perhaps because Christians are allowed to hold their own views on all sorts of issues without intervention from human church authorities. Perhaps because Christians are allowed to discuss and explore issues without fear of falling foul of some theocratic ‘Thought Police’. The whole point about the debate is that we keep talking in the hope that the Holy Spirit speaks into our church and life experience and leads us into the future that he plans for us. The last thing we want is calls for people to be silenced!
      When you say ‘it is now time for the church to act’ - which part of the church? And how should it act? And what to you hope to gain? And why particularly now?
      I apologise – I had no intention of ‘ad hominem-ing’ you.

    8. I don't think it's a matter of "thought police" Jane. I'm more than willing to dialogue with atheists, for example. But we can have a constructive dialogue an atheist can't be an evangelical and an evangelical can't be an atheist. We have well defined positions, and know what is at stake.
      And I'm very happy to engage in that sort of dialogue with whoever you like. But I do want to draw some boundaries around classical/traditional Christian ethics and the definition of evangelicalism. Those traditions are important to people. They help people get a bearing on many issues. We shouldn't define them away.

      I don't want Mr Chalke, for example, to pretend that he is an evangelical, or that he shares the traditional Christian sexual ethic. That makes dialogue difficult because he is blurring boundaries. Now, maybe he's right to shift position and I'm wrong (a narrow minded bigot for resisting the winds of change, or something like that...) But to have a reasonable discussion we need to be clear on what we are rejecting and why.


    9. So, if I had time to start a dialogue here Jane, I'd probably begin by pointing out that you seem to assume (1) there is a "LGBT inclusion process" (2) that this process is irresistable (3) that this is a good thing and (4)LGBT is an identity that God would recognise.
      Now, maybe you're right and maybe I'm wrong. But assumptions aren't arguments, and I'd need a lot of convincing about 1&2 (history is too contingent, too messy) and I'd be abandoning the biblical worldview to accept 3&4.

      I'd also be interested to understand what you mean by "Church". Our understandings and expectations of the Church might differ considerably.
      And that would probably get us back to our understanding of Creation and Revelation...and the painful journey of salvation.
      I might not get time to return to this thread - but I think those are the sorts of presuppositions that need teased out before we can get a constructive dialogue off the ground.


    10. Dear Graham
      Thank you for your comments. You've given me a lot to think about here. But please may I come back to them at a later date - I'm off to Spring Harvest today and won't have ready access to a computer.

    11. That sounds great Jane. I was a bit worried that I'd given us a lot to talk about - and then realised that I have to decorate my daughter's room this week! (-:

      I'll keep checking back. Enjoy Spring Harvest, and God bless!


    12. Graham
      Thank you for checking back and thanks too to Peter for posting my comments previously.
      Starting with Steve Chalke – who, along with many others, myself included, have signed up as members of Accepting Evangelicals and as such “believe the time has come to move towards the acceptance of faithful, loving same-sex partnerships at every level of church life, and the development of a positive Christian ethic for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
      'Accepting Evangelicals' is for everyone who would call themselves Evangelical” (
      From what you write, perhaps you would feel it necessary to challenge our understanding of the term and self-identification of the label, solely on the basis of our beliefs about the place of LGBT people in our churches? This may keep you busy...Steve Chalke is not a maverick voice in the wilderness but one of a growing number of ministers and pastors who are adopting this viewpoint, let alone a groundswell of support from lay people in many denominations.
      However, even if you wish us to stop calling ourselves ‘evangelical’ (and here we have the debate once more on the ‘definition’ of a term), we would still continue to pray for, work for and seek opportunities for evangelism in the places God has placed us. Yes, I agree with your second point about not sharing a traditional Christian sexual ethic, but this is what the Big Debate in this generation is about – does the traditional Christian sexual ethic need re-evaluating? (Many of us believe that it does.)
      The LGBT inclusion process – the steps that churches are taking to integrate LGBT people into their congregations. Thankfully, we all agree that gay people should be welcomed into our churches (and this wasn’t the case even a few years ago) but it’s how they are treated once they cross the threshold on which we will differ. Some churches will accord civil partnered couples the same privacy, autonomy and respect that we currently extend to married couples, other churches don’t. For those churches that ‘don’t’, their relationships with those couples may become strained, lacking grace and become increasingly difficult – leading to those couples leaving these churches (and even Christianity) altogether.
      So under the LGBT inclusion process we want our churches full of LGBT people just as we want our churches full of (black/white/young/old/left-handed/red-haired/Audi-driving/pizza-eating/football-playing) people – but some churches will make sexuality an issue whereas other churches will not make it an issue. Yes, the LGBT inclusion process is a good thing in the same way that the pizza-eating people inclusion process is a good thing. God is already aware of peoples’ sexuality, their relationships, their backgrounds – and is more than capable of conviction of sin through the power of the Holy Spirit when people come to faith (he is not even asking us to be doing this job for him but some churches just can’t help themselves). So, yes, God recognises people who identify as LGBT – of course he does, why wouldn’t he?
      When I mention the Church, I am thinking of UK Christendom, recognising that it covers all sorts of denominations, varying beliefs on sexuality and pastoral approaches.
      Thank you

    13. Jane,

      I appreciate all your comments and applaud your patience:

      I notice that you got no reply to the question of 'what would you do?' and 'how are 'renegade Church Leaders' to be 'silenced'?'

      I shouldn't think anyone wants to bring back the inquisition, or to bring in some Calvin - like repression - how many of those who can't tolerate any questioning of Penal Substitutionary Atonement, for example, have read about the history of Calvin's Geneva?

      Jane, I wish you many blessings, Mark.

  5. This is a very welcome article. Three points:

    1. Sin. Much of the article references sin, but those who seek to "affirm" homosexual behaviour seek to remove the notion of sin from that behaviour. Perhaps the most deceptive attempt at this is the "permanent, faithful, stable" approach. Permanence does not transform sin into non-sin. It transforms sin into permanent sin.

    2. Compromise. Compromise is like rust, eating away until there is nothing left to eat. In the case of homosexual behaviour, that erosion begins with the compromise that - in certain circumstances - homosexual behaviour is not sinful (point 1).

    3. Motivation. I have recently noticed that i often have a hypocritical phrase close to the tip of my tongue: "S/he's not a real Christian". I have no idea what Steve Chalke's motivation is. I have a good idea of the motivation of Jeffrey John! :) The test is this: are Christians who approve of homosexual behaviour interested in dialogue? Have they reached their stance through mistake? Are they in fact scared to debate, because they are scared of being shown their errors?

    There does have to be dialogue, but only in order to make a judgement. If cutting off the foot saves the knee, then the foot has to go. There is no such thing as a marriage that is not sexual, permanent, heterosexual, and exclusive to two people. If somebody (Justin Welby?) thinks that another type of marriage might exist, then that somebody is somebody who does not know what marriage is.

  6. Predictable but reprehensible innuendo in the article and remarks (re motivating Jeffrey John etc. Grow up (into the full stature of Christ) - Perfect Love casts out all fear.

    1. Jesus said, 'If you love me, keep my commands'.

    2. "Perfect Love casts out all fear".

      And all fear casts out perfect love. There is fear in indugence, but no fear in Truth.

  7. Maybe it is time for the church to move away from civil marriage. The Government have invented a new partnership & taken the name 'marriage' to describe it. Maybe we need to move in a different direction to protect the relationship instituted by God. All legal ceremonies to take place in civil registry offices. Where two Christians are marrying each other, then their own church family can also organise a separate exchange of purely biblical vows - either during a normal Sunday worship service or at a separate time. The key thing is that the church is no longer responsible for meeting the Govt definition of 'marriage' and God's concept of marriage is maintained. One of my friends has even come up with a name for it: GAY marriage - God Approved Yoking! but that may be a step too far!

  8. I find this whole thing sickening... There is a world out there lost, that desperately needs Jesus, but instead of us getting the Word out, the world has crept in. Every time we sin, we give a foothold for the enemy to have authority in our lives. Every time anyone engages sexually with another, the two become one. That means all the junk the one person was tempted with, the other person also becomes tempted in the same areas. What do we the church do? Treat it as though it's normal behavior and accept it. If so, then why don't we say it's okay for a kleptomaniac to continue stealing? Or a sadist to continue torturing people because he/she gets pleasure out of it? It is about time we started calling sin 'SIN', encourage people to repent of it, and help them be free of it. We may fool men with our play of words, but God is absolute in His laws, and He is not fooled by the words of men. No one will be able to debate God about what He really meant to His face. IT certainly looks like we've entered the time of the 'Great Falling Away.' Incidentally, on the brighter side, I have seen many people who have been delivered from the spirit of homosexuality, and went on to get married (to the opposite sex), and have families of their own.

  9. I think the Archbishop is in a different position from EA.
    (a) I think he clarified his position a BBC interview. One man, one woman, for life.
    (b) As a non-conformist evangelical I believe that the Church is the gathered people of God, and that its purpose is to preach the Gospel and disciple Christians. But some take different views about the unity and the purpose of the Church. (The unity might be in the sacraments and the Church might have an important social function.)
    Now I can't stress how committed I am to the "gathered people" model. But the Archbishop is Anglican first, evangelical second, and he might end up saying things that sound very suspect to my ears, simply because we have a different ecclessiology.

    EA should be much clearer - they should be prepared to draw firm boundaries on marriage and the sanctity of life, because the central teaching of the Church has not changed in 2000 years - and because that teaching clearly articulates the direct teaching of scripture and the underlying biblical worldview.
    So EA can call for dialogue - and civil dialogue - but make it very clear that some leaders have left the evangelical camp. (But, again, didn't Chalke do that when he aggressively denied penal substitution and mocked those who held to it?)

    My reading is that this is EA's position...but they could make that clear.


    1. (Although I would like to know why the Queen articulates the Gospel with more clarity than the Archbishop...)

    2. EA has already made its position on church discipline over this issue clear - see

      Point 9 reads as follows:

      'We believe both habitual homoerotic sexual activity without repentance and public promotion of such activity are inconsistent with faithful church membership. While processes of membership and discipline differ from one church context to another, we believe that either of these behaviours warrants consideration for church discipline.'

    3. Yip, I noticed that. And I take your point. While he remains in EA, it does make "gracious debate" sound like "tolerance of a range of views on this issue." (Perhaps he has been asked to resign, privately?)


  10. Doc

    These three verses have bothered me for some time regarding the ‘Last Days’:

    37 But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
    38 For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark,
    39 And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.

    Matthew 24:37-39, King James Version (KJV)

    Now I have always considered these verses as ancient man living in ignorance of the then impending judgment.

    What’s always bothered me is why would our Lord point to normal activities such as ‘eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage’ as important signifiers of the coming of the ‘End Time’ judgments? After all, mankind continued to eat and drink, marry and give in marriage after the Flood judgment. So on a normal reading these activities should not point to the ‘End Time’ judgment as they are regular, normal activities – unless they conceal meanings that are different to the regular ‘modern’ literal reading.

    I have heard (I haven’t yet located the texts) that the ancient Babylonian Talmud (Rabbis’ interpretation) that the marrying and giving in marriage was between men and men and women and women. (I wonder if you or any of your posters have further information.)

    In the plain English Aramaic version of Rev.18:13 it is written that in the ‘Last Days’ mankind will trade in: ‘cinnamon, spices, ointments, frankincense, wine, oil, fine white flour, sheep, horses, chariots and the bodies and souls of the children of men’.

    Could the reference ‘bodies and souls of the children of men’ be in relation to IVF?

  11. It probably refers to the privatisation of the family which is what gay marriage is stripped back from sentiment.

  12. When distinctions between genders began to be overlooked in matters of leadership or function, it was only a matter of time before those same gender distinctions were ignored in what might be considered more fundamental areas of relationships. It is for good reason that the Genesis creation account specifically states: "God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them". But then we began tinkering with belief in creation itself ...

    Though I have much in common with those that wear the name 'evangelical', I've only really ever been comfortable with that of 'Christian'. God has spoken - can't we just take him at his word?

  13. Christians have a right to their belief. Evangelicals who operate under that belief should not use that belief to bless beliefs that oppose it. It doesn't make sense.

    That being said, Christianity does not have a monopoly on marriage. Marriage existed long before Christianity historically did, and even if it didn't, Christianity has no sole claim to it. As such, Christians do not have the right to define marriage as it applies to everyone else.

    If those evangelicals want to encourage gay marriage, that is their right to do so, and they should be able to do it (though as a civil union rather than a religious one).

    1. A review/summary of a book that deals with these issues in some depth - and that presents arguments that Chalke and co. have not dealt with -

    2. The article, in short, says: the idea that a couple could *theoretically* procreate is a prerequisite for marriage. The kicker is that they don't exactly have to be able to (in the cases of old and infertile couples), just that

      (1) they *want* to and
      (2) they would have been *able to* if they hadn't had the characteristics that made them unable to procreate (being old or infertile).

      How is that different from same sex couples who

      (1) *want* to procreate and
      (2) would have been *able to* if they hadn't had the characteristic that made them unable to procreate (same sex)?

      The concept of associating procreation with marriage is an old one and, in truth, not very relevant to modern times. People procreate without marriage and many young, fertile married couples choose NOT to procreate (Does this invalidate their marriage? I don't think so). People, things and even ideologies that refuse to adapt to modern times risk being stamped out. Why do you think the Greek gods are considered only mythology nowadays? Why do you think Christianity is no longer the powerhouse it was during the middle ages?

      Another point in the article is "a change in the law will place society’s definition of marriage at odds with religious views of marriage" --> I'm sorry, which religion/society are we talking about here? Christianity, where one man and one woman marry but can not divorce? Islam where one man can have multiple wives and can divorce as necessary? Maybe Judaism in which the Torah also authorized polygamous marriages (although the practice has long since fallen out--hey look at that: change!)? What about the Lahauli in India where polyandry is legal?

      Third, "In Britain, same sex couples can have exactly the same legal and financial rights as a married couple." If it looks like a potato, smells like a potato, feels like a potato, tastes like a potato, then it *must* be a potato! Oh wait... it's *not*? Oh! It's called a *starchy root crop*! I understand now.

      Lastly, the article claims if we legalize same-sex marriages, what is to stop us from legalizing incest, polyamory (though this legally exists in some parts of the world, FYI), and even *gasp* marriages between humans and animals?! Look: if it hurts no one else, who has the right to deny people what they want? You?

    3. Thanks for the response Sarah

      The argument of the article - written in bold font - was "marriage exists to form unions that can create and nurture the next generation." That does not reduce to "a theoretical ability to procreate".

      I must be crystal clear on one point - the article makes it very clear that no-one is advancing a slippery slope argument. The point of the thought experiments is merelyto illuminate why we value marriage and the role marriage plays in society...and not merely Christian society.
      You were correct - marriage does not "belong" to the Judaeo-Christian tradition. Statistically, monogamous marriage has dominated - where polygamy is allowed, it tends to be the preserve of the elites. (And there is a clear link to procreation in polygamy! Sort of the point, really...)

      It should also be very clear that this debate is not about what we tolerate. The debate about marriage is about what we publicly recognise, honour, safeguard and promote. It's the cultural and legal obligation to recognise and honor marriage that makes this a live debate. Otherwise we could all mind our own business.
      Marriage is not about honouring romantic love. If you want to honor romance you write a poem, not a law; you have a party, not a ceremony. Marriage is about honoring and promoting unions appropriate for procreation. This is about more than social utility. There is something sacred about our capacity to beget new human lives that is lost in this debate.
      The point of the thought experiments was to show that certain heterossexual relationships cannot qualify as marriages because they are not appropriate for procreation. And if there was not a link between marriage and procreation the institution of marriage would not exist. There simply would be no point.
      As a matter of brute, biological fact same-sex couple cannot even coherently wish to form a procreative union. The use of reproductive technology does not create such unions and it redefines the nature and meaning of family. The sexual revolution has enough casualties without more social experiments.
      The article concluded that the secular mind would have little sympathy for the case for marriage, beacuse secularism has no place for objective values. You illustrate this by allowing that a woman can marry a duck and a man can marry a hamster. (Why stop with the animate? Why not allow a man to marry his car and a woman to marry her mobile phone?)
      The danger is that in redefining marriage and family both become meaningless. There would be no point in honoring either - because neither could publicly mean anything would honoring!
      In other words, be careful what you wish for! But thanks for your thoughts and for having the guts to state and argue for a position that others could deride.


    4. And if there was not a link between marriage and procreation the institution of marriage would not exist. --> For this, I agree that you're right. In the past, marriage was necessary in order to procreate. However, definitions change, and marriage as a precursor to procreation has not been popular for a long time.

      The article in fact dismissed outright the modern rationale for marriage: that it demonstrates and solidifies love and commitment. Nowadays, marriage is no longer a precursor to procreation; people can certainly and definitely have procreated outside marriage. Nowadays, people want to marry for love.

      Saying that marriage is defined by the ability to procreate is the same as saying women are subservient to men: it is a sentiment that has fallen out of favor to many people (not coincidentally, it is also the highly devout members of many religions that still think women are subservient to men).

    5. Hi Sarah

      I don't see how marriage necessarily makes women subservient. In fact it legally binds fathers to mothers and fathers to children. In effect, it makes it less easy for men to desert their families.
      Furthermore, marriage is about so much more than solidifying love and commitment. You don't need laws, institutions and ceremonies to do that. In fact, that turns marriage into little more than a "lifestyle" choice - something a consumer might desire for their relationship.
      Like I said, if you wish to honor love or your lover, write a song or poem. You don't need a pubic institution like marriage to regulate romance or friendship. You don't need public ceremonies and obligations for mere romance.
      In fact, marriage says that there is more to attraction than romance - that there is more to a sexual relationship than sex. Sexual relationships have a natural end - the creation and nuture of the next generation of human beings.
      It seems that there are two different worldviews at conflict here. One sees purposes in nature and an objective morality that must be observed. The other says that morality is carved out of human preferences and that humans can shape their sexual lifestyles in any direction that they wish. Maybe that's what we should be discussing?


    6. Oh dear... I didn't say that marriage makes women subservient to men. It was an analogy.

      Marriage is defined as the ability to procreate = the idea that women are subservient to men

      Meaning these two ideas are dated and no longer applicable and those who think otherwise are, well...

      I agree, though. You don't *need* marriage to honor love, but there are people who *want* it on a symbolic level. That's what marriage has become nowadays: a symbol of unbreakable love (although ironically, thousands of heterosexual couples divorce every year, some of them after only months, weeks, days or even hours of marrying).

      Aside from that, though, with marriage comes legal ties: one can become the beneficiary of the other, there are tax breaks for married couples, things like that. Hence the perceived necessity for same-sex marriages.

      Anyway, I didn't enter into the conversation knowing I could convince you. It's nearly impossible for a single non-influential person to convince bigots to change their beliefs, anyway. I had a great time with the debate though, so thanks.

    7. 'Aside from that, though, with marriage comes legal ties: one can become the beneficiary of the other, there are tax breaks for married couples, things like that. Hence the perceived necessity for same-sex marriages.'

      The perception is wrong as Civil Partnerships provide those benefits.

      A wife, of course needs to be 'subservient' in the bedroom to be ploughed.

    8. Hi Sarah

      I enjoyed the discussion too. And if you and I could convince each other with a few paragraphs on a blog, our opinions wouldn't have mattered very much in the first place. I don't think that makes either one of us an unthinking narrow-minded bigot.
      You seem to have argued that marriage has been redefined in the public mind. I tend to agree. We differ in that I think this robs marriage of its meaning, andd is a net loss; you believe it promotes freedom of expression, and is a net gain.

      Best wishes

  14. Jane, as pew fodder, I do not want further error creeping in. There is no such thing as gay people, just sinners under the condemnation of an angry God.

  15. Jane and Sarah seem nice.
    The rest of you, especially you Dr Saunders should be ashamed of yourselves.
    This is just nasty homophobia. The self importance is breathtaking. Seriously, take a look at yourselves and stop it. Be nice, mind your own bloody business about who wants to spend their lives together.
    Mark P

  16. For the record, Mark, I do mind my own business. I think society is less civil when we lose respect for each other's privacy or when we feel the need to tell everyone every detail about our private lives.

    I also think that there's a time and a place for sharing one's opinion on certain topics. If I hear two people having a conversation on the bus, and they express support for gay marriage, I wouldn't interrupt them to tell them they are wrong. That would be rude and self-important. The same standard applies to someone visits an evangelical church - or a Muslim blog - simply to tell its members how bigoted they are. Its rude and self-important - and it hinders dialogue.

    Now, if we redefine marriage then I'll be legally obliged to recognise and honour relationships that conflict with my spiritual and moral convictions. So this debate is everyone's business to some extent. But we're not really discussing public policy here, so set that to one side.

    What we're addressing here is what evangelicals should believe given their convictions. Now, what we recognise as marriage when we exercise our right to gather for acts of public worship would be very much our business.

    And if you'd like us to change our minds, patronising us isn't necessarily the best place to start.

    Still, Sarah and Jane do seem like very nice people. I'll agree with that.

  17. This article on a public blog was advertised by Dr Saunders on Twitter. I won't be following him in future as his articles have simply made me angry and life is too short.
    You all have the right to your private beliefs. I have the right to point out hostile homophobia when I see it on a public forum.

    1. It seems to me Mark that you want those who believe by faith that homosexuality and its practise is wrong to keep it to ourselves.Yet you who believe it to be ok can freely talk to others about it hypocrisy comes to mind seeing your posts. Christians will not be silenced on this issue that would mean we by our silence approve of it.

  18. "Hetero-normativity" is a less pejorative term...
    (of course, some would argue that "gay marriage" is itself a product of a heteronormative culture.)

    Anyhow, I was simply pointing out that we won't resolve these debates by quickly stating what seems obvious to us. Life is short and the world is a small place. The time and space we have to share is quite limited - few debates will be resolved to everyone's satisfaction. But we can debate and discuss with civility by first learning why we disagree.

    I remain stubbornly optimistic - everyone can get along if we make room for civil disagreement. We can only do that when we refuse to assume that everyone who disagrees with us has malicious motives or slow wits.


  19. (Anything by Os Guiness on the topic of civility is good.)

  20. Zero tolerance. We should absolutely do all we can to excommunicate them, renounce them, and make sure the public knows they are no longer one of us. If they want to think and talk like anti-Christian unbelievers, then they should be counted as the anti-Christians they have become.

  21. And there we go. I'm not going to get into a debate with loons like Paul. I suspect he's made his mind up.
    I shall leave you all to pontificate with each other on the appropriateness of other peoples happiness.

  22. I find it amazing we the human race have,nt t learned the lesson of the first lie we listened to when Satan said eat of the forbidden fruit and you will live forever and we all know how that turned out.Today the lie is taste the forbidden fruit homosexuality as its about LOVE not sexual immorality and again Christians are tasting it and listening to the lie.Sin is Sin is Sin homosexuality is the sin of immorality and God forbids it yet some in the church ignore Him because it feels we accept this sin as its about loving relationships a LIE.Instead of the church being a light unto the world the darkness of the world is slowly but surely putting out that light.Now those leaders in the church who teach such things as right and true will one day have to stand before God for judgement and should think strongly on Jesus words to the Pharisees. They are the blind leading the blind....are whited sepulchres full of dead mens bones.I believe gay marriage will be accepted in the church as gay priests and bishops will in the not to distant future.Its the sign of Christs second coming...remember as in the days of Noah and Sodom so it will be in the days before His return.

  23. All men have sinned and are equal in the eyes of God. This talk against gay marriage comes across as though their sin is worse than yours.

    Also, and more importantly, homosexuality is not condemned as a sin. Homosexuality is someone being physically attracted to people of the same gender. This is never mentioned in the bible. What is mentioned is the physical act of sex between two men, which, as is pointed out elsewhere in this blog, was written a long time

  24. ago amongst other non relevant laws. Being attracted to someone of the same gender is not something you can control, and is not an action of any sort, so it cannot be a sin.


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