Greg Forster serves as the program director at the Kern Family Foundation, where he directs the Oikonomia Network, a national learning community of evangelical seminaries that equips pastors with a theological understanding of faith, work, and economics, and is also the editor of Hang Together a group blog on religion, politics and national identity. He picks up and comments on the phenomenon noted by Peter Leithart in a couple of articles.
In the first, “The New Fight for Marriage,” he frames the contemporary struggle for Christians in articulating their view of marriage:
Most marriage advocates today build their main arguments around one of two major themes. The most common approach involves philosophical arguments growing out of the natural law tradition. Those who don’t follow this approach typically fall back on explicit appeals to Christianity, sometimes softened by references to “Judeo-Christian tradition.” And of course some use both themes.
I believe in both Christianity and also natural law philosophy. Both of them will always be critical components of the fight for marriage. In particular, we who call ourselves Christians must do all in obedience to Christ and for the love of his kingdom.
But those are not the places to start when making the case for marriage, and they should not form the center of our message. Natural law arguments, while true and important, can’t remedy the deepest and most powerful cultural changes undermining marriage. Those changes are non-rational and won’t respond to rational arguments. And “because it’s Christian” is not the right reason for the civil law to institutionalize marriage. In fact, it won’t even help convince people to value and reinforce marriage outside the realm of the law, since American culture doesn’t feel responsible to reproduce Christianity. Christians can be called to fight for marriage as their way of serving Christ without holding that Christianity is the reason law and culture should value marriage.
Forster notes that the “Post-Christendom Challenge” is that neither the argument from natural law nor the argument from Scripture are compelling any longer to most people who have imbibed the contemporary cultural mores. It is important to emphasize that Forster agrees with both arguments. He just does not believe they are convincing to most people. To many people today, using those arguments is heard as a foreign language, “alien terminology,” or plain old “gibberish.”
Does this then lead to pessimism? Certainly not!
The turn to pessimism is wrong. Neither God’s sovereignty nor the failure of our current strategies is an excuse for fatalism. God is still at work in the world, and despair is a sin—it denies God’s providence.
The institutions of human civilization are God’s instruments. Our job is to play those instruments. If we’re not making the right music, we shouldn’t blame the instruments. We should figure out a better way to play.
It is being faithful, trusting in God and resting in His sovereignty. Additionally, we ponder and pray about a more excellent way of defending and living the truth of God’s Word about man and woman, husband and wife.
Forster followed this with his attempt to articulate a better way:
As you read Forster’s recommended “better way,” here are a couple of questions:
- What do you think of his better way? Do you agree or disagree?
- Do you believe there is a better way? If so, what is it?