The Gay Marriage Debate: Leave your belief at the door


1It is often said that Christians should not push/impose/force their beliefs on the rest of society.

I find this not a little bit interesting.

What is meant by such a statement?  It is quite simple: You have beliefs that impact your life, which I don’t care for.  So please refrain from doing whatever you’re doing in the event that your beliefs end up impacting my life in a way that I don’t care for.

The premise is simple – this is my life not yours.

An issue has again raised its very ugly head due to events that are taking place over in the US.  For more on this check out the front page of the NY Times here.

I’ve been reading blogs, Fb posts, and articles around the traps that are hellbent on wiping the other side out.  These kinds of ethical issues draw out the worst of both sides, which is a real shame.

It is immature.

Whether it is the legalisation of prostitution, the privatisation of the state-owned railway or the implementation of industrial reform there is a political process that is to be followed in order to create legal norms in our societies.  One aspect of this is public debate in which exists numerous parties (not two!) that fight it out for their own piece of the ideological pie.

Shhhhh!But no matter how many parties are fighting for the pie, how dare anyone or any party try to remove opposing voices from the debate.

The call for Christians to leave their beliefs at the door is not only naive (how can they?), but also contrary to the very pillars that our modern societies are based on.

Furthermore it is simplistic.  There are many people who are not religious that hold ‘traditional’ views on this matter.  So what request is to be made of them so that their view/s might not impact in a similar way to the christians’?

What we see in these debates (on both sides) is a kind of insecurity, the kind of insecurity that one can see in autocratic states where any given ideology cannot fly by political persuasion alone.

Voices are silenced.

Perspectives are outlawed.

Make no mistake, debate is to be had, due process is to be followed, and outcomes are to be respected, but on no terms are Christians (or any other party) to be quiet because their beliefs impact their voice, whether we agree with them or not.

Trying to do the Impossible – Part 2


My friend who is gay was weighing up the merits of Christianity.  After months of going though the details of redemptive history, and months of putting out theological spot fires it all came to down to the homosexual issue.  He asked, ‘Who should I believe about all this.  You or the other pastor down the road who has the opposite opinion on homosexuality?’

I grinned.

What was I supposed to say?  Derr, believe me!  Or believe whoever you want?  Or read the Bible and decide for yourself.

Christian Smith’s book The Bible Made Impossible: Why Biblicism is not a truly Evangelical Reading of Scripture hurts your brain.

The book is like a heat seeking missile that does not let up and when it finally hits the target you are left wondering.  I like that.  It means that he has tapped a raw nerve; one that is exposed; one that needs attention; and one that is certainly vulnerable.

And it is vulnerable because he identifies the very thing that undermines the evangelical church’s credibility before the world.  He pin-points the Bible’s apparent internal inconsistency.  What is his proof?  My scenario above.  The stark contradiction between our claim that the Bible is consistent and clear, and the reality, which is characterised by pervasive interpretive pluralism.  Our claim and the reality do not match up.

For all the negative press that the book has attracted, I think a little credit is due at this point.  You don’t have to be a theologian to realise that there is a dreadful problem that does undermine the church on the ground.  Smith has got this bit right and we should acknowledge it.  My own experience above shows this.

The problem then is this: how can we get the diverse ranges of right, truth and meaning to converge into one version of rightness, truth, and meaning.  His answer to this question is to throw out the old way of reading the BIble (Biblicism) and bring in a new way (a Christological hermeneutic or a Christ lens).

Again, despite the poo pooing on the idea, this is right!  The evangelical church needs to stop with many  of the Biblicist methods floating around, namely, the  Bible is a handbook model (4 ways to parenting, etc), the Bible is all we need (throw out history, creed and tradition), the perfect Bible (it all fits perfectly together without loose ends), and the seven other things which he identifies.

A note of caution:  It is far too simplistic to say, as Smith does, that Biblicism is the reason for the quagmire of truth that we live in.  A more balanced approach might be that Biblicism is a hermeneutic that gives an inch, which happens to be just enough for anyone to run a mile.

I’m reminded of an Orthodox theologian called Khomiakoff who draws a distinction between the Roman Catholic Church and the Protestant church.  He says that unity in the RC church is found at the cost of freedom, whereas in the Protestant church freedom is found at the cost of unity.  Great stuff!  Let’s recognise that Smith, inspite of his overemphasis, has picked a hole in the Biblicist hermeneutic and it is incumbent upon those who subscribe to such a hermeneutic to take stock.

So, what value is the Christological hermeneutic?  Can it bring the myriad of interpreted meanings back to some common point?

I think from the responses to the book we can be certain that this is not feasible, but this is the challenge of the book.  He is basically asking who is willing to let go of doctrines that are not clear in the Bible (see the eyebrows go up) and instead stick to the Gospel.  Meaning, who is willing to stop teaching the OT as directly applicable to now, but through Christ?  Who will dare apply a parable without first having it interpreted though Christ.  What is the book of James, without Christ?  Christ is key!  And I agree.  Please, more of it.

In the end Smith falls back on the ol’ adage, ‘In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; in everything, charity.’

This sounds like a great idea until I find out that Smith doesn’t think that penal substitutionary atonement is essential to the gospel.  And we are back to the start.

What gives?

Not my essential (gospel), that’s for sure!

So what use is the book?  Well, I still have a hurting brain.  We both still believe that the Bible is the Word of God, which is truth.  We still have a problem because we still have a vast amount of divergence on what we consider to be the true interpretation of it.

We are chasing our tales.  In most instances such tale chasing would be deemed as a waste of time, but in this instance it is invaluable.  Smith has got us out of our seat of complacency; which was a vantage point that had no problem with, or at least turned a blind eye to, the fact of pervasive interpretive pluralism.

Being aware of the problem is a start.

Gay marriage and the logical compulsion


I’ve had some calls for thoughts on this current issue.  So here are some from a different perspective.

For those of you who are not up with Australian current politics, we’ve just had one of our most decisive arguments (in the right and, at times, wrong sense of the word) about the merits of legalising gay marriage.  As per usual the Christian voice was divided, weak, poorly thought through, and at times inappropriate in its manner of opposition.

But I am not about to add to the for/or against debate, but rather raise another issue that does not get enough of a hearing.

The de-liberalisation of society rarely occurs.  This is not necessarily a bad thing, which some of us may have immediately thought.  For example, it was not a reality for women and indigenous Australians to vote 110 years ago.  It is is inconceivable that such rights would ever be turned over.  Once the ball was rolling when women gained suffrage, it was only a matter of time before all Australians of age had the opportunity to vote.

Giving women the right to vote must not be seen as the start of the slippery slope that gave way to indigenous Australians having the right to vote; rather, it was the appropriate outworking of the law – that if a man could vote, then so could  a woman and so could indigenous Australians of both genders.  In this instance, the fact that one law followed on from another was not a slippery slope but a logical progression.

In this post I want to describe the logical compulsion that we as a society and church must deal with.

If marriage becomes legally something other than between a man and woman, then the concept of marriage is logically compelled to open itself to all permutations that might present itself.

In The Australian newspaper on the 10th of December there was an article that shocked me.  Not because of the content, but on the logical certainty of it.  The title read, ‘Three in bed more of a good thing.’  Now, polygamy is practiced throughout the world – legally in some countries, and illegally in places like Australia, but never has it ever been presented in such a way that it was in line for being recognised as a legal entity.

The first line of the article was telling,

FOR weeks, Sydneysiders and Melburnians who believe menages-a-trois and other polyamorous relationships can be just as committed, loving and valid as marriage between a man and a woman, slaved away together to earn their place in the sun.

The question is begging, how can we deny these people the rights that I enjoy with my wife, if marriage can be open to something other than a man and a woman?

The article goes on:

The polyamorous community has a further cause for celebration.

They believe last weekend’s vote by the ALP national conference to change the party platform to legalise same-sex marriage is a base on which they can build.

The agenda now is to seek recognition and the removal of prejudice against multiple-partner relationships, perhaps legislation to grant them civil unions and even legalised polyamorous marriage.

“My personal view is that any change that moves us towards a more loving, open and accepting society can only be a positive,” 

Notice the language: removal of prejudice; seek recognition; movement towards a more loving, open and accepting society.  We’ve heard it all before – many times!  Voting rights, women in the work place, the gay and lesbian marriage push and many more.  In every equal rights movement the language is the same, and how can we resist such inclusion?  My argument is that on many of these issues we cannot.  We are logically (though not biblically) compelled to show the tolerance that others on the same grounds have been afforded.

The photo above reads: Love knows NO Gender.

If this be true can we say that love knows NO Number.

Could we then say that love knows NO Age.

Further, perhaps it would be legitimate to say that love knows NO kinds of being, whether animal or human?

Ok, I’m getting a little silly but you get my point.

The issue that confronts us is not when do we stop, or when to draw a line in the sand, but on what grounds do we stop?  What reason do we have to give for saying ‘No’ to the next bunch seeking recognition, love, and tolerance for their lifestyle.  How can we say, ‘Sorry, that’s not marriage.’

If we cannot find a moral absolute then we have no basis to say to ‘No’ to any of the above searchers for equality.

It’s quite the moral conundrum… for some.