Archives For same-sex marriage

There are a few who claim to affirm the inerrancy and authority of the Bible, who claim to be Evangelicals and who affirm homosexuality and same-sex “marriage.”

One of those individuals is Matthew Vines, who has written a book articulating and defending this view: God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships. There have been a number of good responses to this book.

It is helpful and important to hear the interpretation of key biblical texts on this issue. In a recent article there were two who interpreted these key texts, one affirming that marriage is between a man and a woman, the other, Vines, affirming that “marriage” is not limited to a man and a woman. I include only Vines’ interpretation of these key texts of Scripture.

ROMANS 1:26-27: Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.

Paul is explicit that the same-sex behavior in this passage is motivated by lust. His description is similar to the common ancient idea that people “exchange” opposite-sex for same-sex relations because they are driven by out-of-control desire, not because they have a different sexual orientation. And while Paul labels same-sex behavior “unnatural,” he uses the same word to criticize long hair in men in 1 Corinthians 11:14, which most Christians read as a synonym for “unconventional.” Christians should continue to affirm with Paul that we shouldn’t engage in sexual behavior out of self-seeking lustfulness. But that’s very different than same-sex marriages that are based on self-giving love, and we shouldn’t conflate the two in how we interpret this text today.

 LEVITICUS 18:22: Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.

Christ fulfilled the Old Testament law, and the New Testament teaches that Christians should live under the new covenant rather than the old one. Consequently, this verse has never applied to Christians. For a man to lie with a man “as with a woman” violated the patriarchal gender norms of the ancient world, which is likely why Leviticus prohibited it. But the New Testament casts a vision of God’s kingdom in which the hierarchy between men and women is overcome in Christ. So not only is Leviticus’s prohibition inapplicable to Christians on its own, the rationale behind it doesn’t extend to Christians, either.

MATTHEW 19:3-6: Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh?’ So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”

Jesus responds to a question about divorce by emphasizing the permanence of the marriage bond. He was asked about a man and his wife, and he responds accordingly, by referring to male and female. Same-sex marriage wasn’t on the radar screen in the biblical world, so it’s not surprising that neither Jesus nor any of the biblical writers addresses it. Therefore, Christians today have to ask whether gay relationships can fulfill the core principles of Scripture’s teachings about marriage. Based on Jesus’ teaching here and other texts like Ephesians 5, the essence of Christian marriage involves keeping covenant with one’s spouse in order to reflect God’s covenant with us through Christ. That’s something same-sex couples can and do live out today.

1 CORINTHIANS 6:9-10: Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

In this text, Paul uses two Greek words—malakoi and arsenokoitai—that likely refer to some forms of male same-sex behavior, but not the modern concept of homosexuality. The predominant forms of same-sex behavior in the ancient world were sex between masters and slaves, sex between adult men and adolescent boys, and prostitution. In all those cases, men used sex to express power, dominance and lustfulness, not self-giving love and mutuality. Committed same-sex unions between social equals represent very different values than the types of same-sex behavior Paul would have had in view in 1 Corinthians 6.

In light of Vines’ interpretation, how would you interpret these texts? How would you respond to Vines?

I encourage you to think this through along with fellow leaders. It is important to know what God’s Word says, and how others, particularly those affirming same-sex “marriage,” which we believe the Bible condemns as sin, interpret these key texts. Our desire and prayer is noted in 1 Peter 3:15-16a: “in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience.”

Alliance Defending Freedom Webinars

Greg Strand – June 25, 2015 1 Comment

We in the church are facing significant cultural and legal challenges and changes. One of the resources I encourage leaders and churches to use is the document written by the EFCA’s Spiritual Heritage Committee: A Church Statement on Human Sexuality: Homosexuality and Same-Sex “Marriage” – A Resource for EFCA Churches.

Another helpful resource I have referenced previously is the work of the Alliance Defending Freedom. Below is a copy and paste from an email sent out by ADF regarding a webinar they are hosting.

As you know, the Supreme Court will rule later this month on the recent marriage case.  Regardless of the ruling, we will have our work cut out for us to help restore a culture of marriage across the US and abroad.  As you also know, the church, and pastors specifically, are a central part of this restoration.  In order to help pastors understand this issue and learn how it affects their congregations, ADF is hosting three separate topical webinars that we would like to invite you and your pastor to be a part of.  ADF is inviting our network of pastors and we know that you each have even more pastors that would benefit from this content.  We would love for you to personally attend and invite your pastor or other church leadership to attend.  This is sensitive information that is designed specifically for pastors so please limit your invitations to church leadership.  We will have future opportunities for webinars that you can invite your friends and family to.

The invitation is below with all of the relevant event information and the links to register.  Each individual who will watch the webinar on their own device, needs to register ahead of time.

We want to invite you to join ADF and our allies for three live-streamed presentations that will address the Supreme Court’s decision on marriage and what we can do moving forward. These presentations will feature ADF attorneys as well as special guests Dr. Jim Garlow, Senior Pastor of Skyline Church, and Dr. Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.

The live-stream sessions will take place at the following times:

Tuesday, July 7, 2015           11:30 AM PST / 2:30 PM EST

Session 1: Understand what the ruling on marriage means to everyday Americans – featuring ADF attorney Erik Stanley and Dr. Jim Garlow

Click Here to Register

Wednesday, July 8, 2015     10:15 AM PST / 1:15 PM EST

Session 2: In-depth legal analysis and answers concerning the High Court’s ruling – featuring ADF attorneys Jim Campbell, Jordan Lorence, Gary McCaleb, and Austin Nimocks

Click Here to Register

Wednesday, July 8, 2015     11:30 AM PST / 1:15 PM EST

Session 3: What is the next move for the Body of Christ in American culture? – featuring Dr. Russell Moore

Click Here to Register

Tony Campolo now supports same-sex marriage. For those who know Campolo, this is not really surprising since he has leaned leftward theologically for as long as I have listened to him and read his writings. Interestingly, Campolo and his wife had differing views on this matter with his wife supporting homosexuality and he believing it is sinful. So although his announcement may not be a surprise, it is a shift.

What is surprising and sad, grievous actually,  is that David Neff, former editor of CT, praises Campolo for making this move. Furthermore, in correspondence with Mark Galli, present editor of CT, Neff thinks the church ought to support such relationships.

I think the ethically responsible thing for gay and lesbian Christians to do is to form lasting, covenanted partnerships. I also believe that the church should help them in those partnerships in the same way the church should fortify traditional marriages. 

Writing an editorial on behalf of CT, Galli notes their sadness over Neff’s statement and he also reaffirms CT’s commitment to the authority of the Bible and that marriage is, based on the biblical teaching, “to be enjoyed exclusively by a man and a woman”:

At CT, we’re saddened that David has come to this conclusion. Saddened because we firmly believe that the Bible teaches that God intends the most intimate of covenant relationships to be enjoyed exclusively by a man and a woman. We’ve stated this view explicitly in many editorials, and it is implicit but clear in many of our feature stories. . . . That theology [that undergirds our ethics] has been either assumed or articulated by the great theologians and Christian philosophers in the Protestant, Orthodox, and Catholic traditions. . . . We at CT are sorry when fellow evangelicals modify their views to accord with the current secular thinking on this matter. And we’ll continue to be sorry, because over the next many years, there will be other evangelicals who similarly reverse themselves on sexual ethics.

I appreciate Galli, on behalf of CT, standing firm!

In response to this disclosure by Campolo, affirmation by Neff, and editorial by Galli, Al Moher writes of the “moment of decision” faced by each individual believer and every local church, and also every Evangelical institution. We must, he notes, stand firmly on the authority of the Bible regarding “teachings on marriage and sexual morality,” and we must do so with “compassion and conviction”:

This is a moment of decision, and every evangelical believer, congregation, denomination, and institution will have to answer. There will be no place to hide. The forces driving this revolution in morality will not allow evasion or equivocation. Every pastor, every church, and every Christian organization will soon be forced to declare an allegiance to the Scriptures and to the Bible’s teachings on marriage and sexual morality, or to affirm loyalty to the sexual revolution. That revolution did not start with same-sex marriage, and it will not end there. But marriage is the most urgent issue of the day, and the moment of decision has arrived.

In this season of testing, Christians committed to the gospel of Christ are called upon to muster the greatest display of compassion and conviction of our lives. But true compassion will never lead to an abandonment of biblical authority or a redefinition of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Might we, individually as believers and corporately as the local church, reaffirm our commitment to the authority of the Scriptures, specifically in the realm of marriage and sexual morality, those issues that are presently used to undermine the Bible’s ultimate authority, and might we do so with “grace and truth,” and with courage, compassion, conviction and kindness, speaking the truth of the gospel while manifesting the transformative power of the gospel in our lives.

In the EFCA this is our commitment and this is our prayer.


Last year’s general assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) voted to change the language regarding marriage in their Book of Order, their governing constitution. In order to enact the assembly’s decision, it was required that a majority of the 171 presbyteries also needed to approve the change. This past Tuesday marked the approval by the 86th presbytery ensuring it is now codified in the Book of Order.

The PCUSA now defines marriage as “a unique commitment between two people”: PCUSA Makes Marriage a ‘Unique Commitment’

Here are the two definitions of marriage:

Book of Order (Previous Definition):

Marriage is a gift God has given to all humankind for the well-being of the entire human family. Marriage is a civil contract between a woman and a man. Christian marriage is a covenant through which a man and a woman are called to live out together before God their lives of discipleship. In a service of Christian marriage a lifelong commitment is made by a woman and a man to each other, publicly witnessed and acknowledged by the community of faith.

Book of Order (New Definition):

Marriage is a gift God has given to all humankind for the well-being of the entire human family. Marriage involves a unique commitment between two people, traditionally a man and a woman, to love and support each other for the rest of their lives. The sacrificial love that unites the couple sustains them as faithful and responsible members of the church and the wider community.

Marriage of a man and a woman is God’s divine design, not a human, social construct. The PCUSA’s previous definition reflects God’s design, while the new definition is contrary to God divine design as revealed in the Word of God. The definition of and design for marriage is not to be changed. In fact, more accurately, it cannot be changed. If there is an attempt to do so, it is done in defiance before the face of God and with utter denial of His authority. Furthermore, it is done to our own demise. Grievously, this is where the PCUSA has decided to go.

In our document A Church Statement on Human Sexuality we have defined marriage as follows:

Marriage is the original and foundational institution of human society, established by God as a one-flesh, covenantal union between a man and a woman that is life-long (until separated by death), exclusive (monogamous and faithful), and generative in nature (designed for bearing and rearing children), and it is to reflect the relationship between Christ and the Church.

Here is a brief word from the Word on God’s divine design and intent for marriage, the texts that were foundational in articulating our definition.

The Lord God created man, male and female, and it was “very good” (Gen. 1:31).

Genesis 1:27-28: So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

God’s Design was for Adam and Eve to be united in marriage.

Genesis 2:20b-25: But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

The Lord Jesus Christ affirms the Father’s design for marriage.

Matthew 19:4-6: “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

The Apostle Paul affirms the teaching of God the Father and God the Son.

Ephesians 5:31: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”

In God’s design, marriage between a man and a woman reflects the Christ and the church.

Ephesians 5:32-33: “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”

What God has joined, we must not separate – marriage between a husband and wife; God’s authority and our dependent, obedient, joyful response.

Matthew 19:6b: “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

With the changing cultural landscape regarding homosexuality and same-sex “marriage,” many mainline denominations have progressively (defined by culture) followed suit and approved same-sex “marriages” and homosexual and same-sex “married” persons. Evangelicals have remained tethered to the Text and affirmed the notion of “welcoming but not affirming.”

Is this a throw-back to tradition and only a matter of time before Evangelicals, too, wake up to the “right” interpretation of Scripture? Or can Evangelicals allow a third way, and simply co-exist by agreeing to disagree? Is this a moral matter that allows that?

To state this at the outset, I do not believe the Evangelical belief and response is based only in tradition or that it is a moral matter in which we can agree to disagree. It is a biblical matter that will require much convictional kindness and pastoral wisdom and sensitively to stand firmly and to walk toward others lovingly.

Ed Stetzer recently interviewed Jonathan Merritt, senior columnist for Religion News Service, Sarah Pulliam Bailey, national correspondent at Religion News Service, and Trevin Wax, managing editor of The Gospel Project at LifeWay Christian Resources, about evangelicalism, the culture and issues impacting the church. One of those issues raised was same-sex “marriage.” During the conversation Ed asked this question:

Will evangelicals eventually agree to disagree on the legitimacy of same-sex relationships and same-sex marriage, much like evangelicals have agreed to disagree on women’s ordination, the exercise of spiritual gifts, how to handle divorce, and other contentious issues?

 Though it might be weighted since he was personally involved, Wax summarized each person’s approach to this question like this:

 Sarah comes at this question with her reporter’s hat on (although her infamous hats are conspicuously absent in this video!). She analyzes it from a journalistic perspective.

 Jonathan comes at this question by drawing on his own experience and his relationships with evangelical leaders. He sees this issue as far from settled and wonders out loud about how evangelicals will address the issue.

 I come at this question by putting it in context of global evangelicalism, the authority of Scripture, and the history of church controversy throughout the centuries.

As Merritt thinks out loud of this possible future (at about minute 38 of the interview), he wonders if once the dust settles Evangelicals will eventually respond to gay “marriage” in a similar what they have responded to divorce. Though theologically it will be considered a sin, pragmatically it will not be a moral matter to which members will be held accountable.

Three important questions for us:

  • How do you think, ponder and process the biblical teaching of divorce and then develop policy in the church that reflects that teaching, and how do you, then, pastorally apply it in lives of people?
  • How do you think, ponder and process the biblical teaching of homosexuality and same-sex “marriage and then develop policy in the church that reflects that teaching, and how do you, then, pastorally apply it in lives of people?
  • How would you answer this question posed by Stetzer?