Homosexuality: If Gay Marriage is Contrary to God’s Will, Shouldn’t It Be Illegal? Part 3

gaysurveySome principles

1. The United States is not a theocracy and not the Kingdom.

Although Rome had been a republic governed by a senate for many years, by the time of Jesus and his apostles, Rome was an empire ruled by an emperor. The senate’s power was severely curtailed by the time of Julius Caesar. Nonetheless, citizens did have some influence over government — varying greatly by location and time and limited to those with Roman citizenship — only a minority of those living in the Empire.

In Judea, the Romans gave limited autonomy to the Jews, who were ruled by a combination of the Sanhedrin (the Council of Seventy chaired by the high priest), Herod (or one of his sons) appointed “king of the Jews” by Caesar, and the Roman governor, such as Pilate. We don’t know how the Sanhedrin was appointed, but it evidently was a council of respected rabbis and other Jewish religious authority figures. After all, to the Jews, there was no distinction between religion and government.

In short, the Jewish common man had little influence over the government, but they were not entirely without recourse. They could have lobbied for particular laws or for or against a particular ruler, and in fact sometimes the Jewish people did influence Roman law making and leader appointments.

Nonetheless, we see absolutely no effort by the early church to lobby for changes in Roman or local laws or for the appointment of rulers who might be inclined to favor their positions.

Jesus was tempted by Satan to fall down and worship Satan in exchange for authority over every kingdom in the world, and Jesus declined the offer.

Jesus’ exchange with Pilate is instructive —

(Joh 18:35-37 ESV)  35 Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?”
36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”
37 Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?”
Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world– to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”

“My kingdom is not of this world” seems to plainly renounce any desire for a theocracy. The United States is simply not the kingdom, and the next president will not be our Savior or bring about the Second Coming. We really are bad to misplace our hope from Jesus to the federal government of the United States, and they are clearly not remotely the same thing.

2. The morality that pleases God is obedience by believers motivated by love for God.

We cannot please God by using the power of the government to force obedience by unwilling people.

3. The government has a God-given role to reward good behavior and  punish wicked behavior.

Paul and Peter are both clear on this point. However,

4. Wicked behavior is not the same thing as sinful behavior. Some sinful behavior is not prudently or wisely regulated by the government.

For example, there was little controversy when the U.S. Supreme Court found unconstitutional a Connecticut law prohibiting the use of birth control — even though the state’s law agreed with Catholic teaching with over 1,000 years of history.

My experience is that non-Catholics believe it would be a misuse of government for the Catholics to lobby the legislature to criminalize birth control — not just because most Protestants disagree but because it’s not the proper role of government.

Just so, we don’t care to the have the government criminalize sex between consenting adults, even if unmarried. Nor do we care to have the government tell us what to eat, what car to buy, whom to marry, how many children to have, how regularly to attend church, whether or how much to tithe to our church, or countless other questions — even though the scriptures speak to some of these subjects.

Then again, we generally would favor a law outlawing polygamy, the Mormons notwithstanding. Drawing the line is difficult.

The factors that weigh on where the line is are not generally agreed, even among political scientists. They include —

* Does the activity harm others, especially others who are easily taken unfair advantage of?

* Would society, as a whole, support the law or would the police and prosecutors refuse to enforce the law even if enacted?

* Is the government equipped to administer the law wisely? For example, if we want the government to regulate sexual practices by the unmarried, can we trust government officials not to abuse the law?

Obviously, among Christians, and among Americans more generally, we have widely differing views of the government. Some conservatives would argue that the government that governs least governs best (except when it comes to their pet issues). Some liberals would argue that the government should be involved in our eating habits but not our sex lives. Both sides push for laws that the other side sees as over-reaching. Please forgive the cliche, but it sometimes depends on whose ox is getting gored.

Profile photo of Jay Guin

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
This entry was posted in Church & Politics, Homosexuality, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Homosexuality: If Gay Marriage is Contrary to God’s Will, Shouldn’t It Be Illegal? Part 3

  1. Mark says:

    You only have to look at Saudi Arabia and some similar countries to see what happens when you have the religious police. They enforce religion with batons and extra-legal authority.

  2. rich says:

    rich says:
    August 22, 2015 at 6:00 am
    TO start the church …the people of the faith …
    should all pool their money… into a a
    church run bank… by this i mean run by people of the faith.
    started by and run by faithful men.
    what is the point….
    to service the faithful saints…
    and the needy…
    as we are expressly shone how to do,in the first covenant…
    now then that is a start. although this could be a hot dog stand.
    rich says:
    August 22, 2015 at 6:35 am
    or it could be a lemonade stand,
    ya know when the Spirit gives us lemons (Government,Capitalism,corporate structure ), and a loving hart…and freedom to bring about (express) GOD’S good(using profit) why can’t we make lemonade.
    cus .there just might be some smart people in pepperdine, that know a little about this….ya think…
    to say nothing of avenues of support organizations necessary.

    yes each would give up a little,,? what?
    this becomes a shift in perception instead of the secular corporate none initiates, that everyone of feeds into…we help in the mission of the lord by by a simple restructure and supporting that …

  3. rich says:

    actually it should be a woman to take advantage of minority benefits given to start up companies.

  4. Richard constant says:

    and actually this become something that we can do,
    other than something that we cannot do anything about and just griping about it.

  5. John F says:

    Stay away from MY ox; he is happily plowing furrows in MY field. And please build your field fence higher! MY ox thinks your soil is easier to plow :).

    As all laws have a moral base, the question is: whose morals will be enforced? Without a creator, there is no basis for morality, therefore no basis for law — just the enforcement of MY perceived self interest. And of course, MY perceived self interest is the product of my thoughts, which cannot be trusted (put faith in) since they are the product of a mindless universe — the swirling of random atoms in a body of chance.

    I was specifically excluded from the jury BECAUSE of my moral base — so whose morality (or lack thereof) will be enforced by statute?

  6. Richard constant says:

    @ John. f
    don’t ever forget Mars Hill.
    The epicurenistic philosophy still exist and has woven itself so tightly into our ideology that we don’t even see it as that.
    John and I’m sure that is as I bring this to the ground this word of Epicureanism, and you look that word up but you probably already know and, so we just call it by another name, what would that name be?
    it absolutely amazes me!
    do you know the history of the Areopagus (mars hill)?
    it only stretches back about 500 years from when Paul is talking.
    What is the Supreme Court?
    I could go on and on about, this subject, although that should be enough to get you started thanking just exactly what are the new names that we called the Stoics today what are the new names that we call epicurean today.
    And they promise Us quite a bit too just like they did in the past.

  7. John F says:

    Jer 29:3-8 Judah sent to Babylon to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, saying, 4 “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon, 5 ‘Build houses and live in them; and plant gardens and eat their produce. 6 ‘Take wives and become the fathers of sons and daughters, and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; and multiply there and do not decrease. 7 ‘Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare.’
    NASU

    As citizens of a land, we are to seek its’ welfare, which would indicate that to some extent at least Christians should be involved in the political process, seeking to uphold God’s moral code. So IMHO Lipscomb was wrong in his “not of this world” policy. But as his thinking (and others) took influence, Christians largely stayed away from positions of political influence. Especially the last 40-50 years, secular humanists of many stripes RUSHED into positions of decision making power and government emplyment and have used those positions to “enforce and implement” their secular agenda.

  8. Tom says:

    Hi Jay,

    I hope you’ve been having a great time at the beach.

    Thank you for your willingness to post on these controversial subjects.

    The questions I posted earlier on “Canadian Advice” were correctly understood to be pertaining to the legality of “same-sex marriage”. However, there is a much deeper and foundational principle concerning “judging” that I am trying to uncover. This principle has implications for much more than just “same-sex marriage”. You have indicated above favoring laws that outlaw polygamy, so let me reword my earlier question by replacing the word “conjugal” with the word “monogamous”.

    Lets say I live in a state that has a referendum on the ballot that states something like “Under the laws of this state, marriage shall be construed as being monogamous in nature.”

    If I vote in the affirmative for such a referendum:

    1. Have I neccesarily violated 1 Corinthians 5: 12-13?

    2. Have I been mean-sprited, placed myself in a morally superior position or in some way ungraciously judged/condemned those who disagree and would like the state to affirm that their own polygomous relationship(s) is/are a marriage?

    I am not really asking whether such a referendum ought to be passed, or whether a Christian person ought to vote “Yes” on such a referendum. I am just asking if neccesarily they have done something not in keeping with being a follower of Christ.

    Thanks,

    Tom

  9. Dwight says:

    I thought we had laws against polygamy, at least in most states, even though they are largely overlooked.
    I know there are many people who practice homosexuality that would argue for one-on-one relationships as law, even though this is highly hypocritical. I mean if you can redefine marriage from one man and one woman, to one man and one man, then why snot keep redefining it till it meets the needs of everyone.

  10. Monty says:

    I’m reminded of that famous quote of Edmund Burke, “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” I think that applies to voting. Good men in the O.T. sat at the city gates and were involved in the affairs of the city.

  11. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Tom,

    You ask a fair question, but I remind you that I began the series promising only principles and not answers. I’ve not sorted this out to the point of creating a decision tree or algorithmic answer. But good questions help with the sorting out process.

    Let me offer some questions to reflect on, rather than answers regarding polygamy.

    1. First, what does the Bible say about polygamy? I think the NT teaches monogamy, but plenty of people disagree with me.

    2. Second, what does the Bible say about polygamy for non-Christians? Does the Bible address how many wives a non-believer should have?

    3. Third, what impact does polygamy have on those who engage in the practice in today’s world? Does it treat women well? Does it tend to demean or objectivize women or men? One thing the Sermon on the Mount teaches is that we may not use people or treat them as less then fully human or of less than equal value to all.

    4. Fourth, what impact does polygamy have on a society? Recent studies have shown that polygamy has declined largely due to its inability to successfully compete against monogamous cultures, although the reasons for this are debated. Monogamous cultures historically defeat polygamous cultures — in war, in commerce, etc. Polygamous cultures tend to disappear.

    5. Fifth, the law is largely irrelevant to those in the church if we believe God calls us to monogamy (as I do). But if we expect to enjoy First Amendment protections for our own religious beliefs, shouldn’t we be careful not to infringe the religious beliefs of others? The Golden Rule applies here, as anywhere else. The First Amendment only benefits those who lack political power to protect their practices through the ballot box. Are we at risk of setting a dangerous anti-religious practice precedent if we push a law against polygamy? Of course, this would require that polygamy be taught by some religion as a mandate, not merely permissive.

    So, you see, to me it’s not as easy as “God is against polygamy and so I must vote to outlaw it.” While I believe God has rejected polygamy, I know that my view is not universally held even by Christians. And even I would concede that, for example, in a mission field we should not be destroying polygamous marriages as a condition to salvation. God wants monogamy but he has not declared polygamy sinful — and obviously the OT does not make polygamy intolerable to God. So it’s not an easy black/white issue.

    I would be very, very concerned that polygamy is bad for women. I’m not sure that’s been proven but it’s a very real concern that I would want to see investigated. It’s just so easy to imagine a strong male personality taking advantage of women in a polygamous relationship.

    On the other hand, there is the Bob Jones University holding of the US Supreme Court, which basically rules that a law doesn’t violate the First Amendment even if it requires someone to violate his religious beliefs so long as it’s broadly targeted and not enacted for anti-religious reasons. In the Bob Jones U case, the IRS threatened to take away their tax exemption because they opposed inter-racial marriage — based on a peculiar reading of Genesis. The courts upheld the ruling because the IRS position on race wasn’t targeting religion.

    Now, this is already the law. But the more the church cooperates in suppressing competing religions through the laws, the more precedents exist for suppressing Christianity. And the gay rights issue will be how it’s done. So acquiescing in banning polygamy may set the precedent that later is used against Christian teachings on homosexuality. Hence, the lawyer in me says to stay away from the polygamy issue. It’ll be used against us.

    On the other hand, if I were convinced that polygamy truly is bad for women and/or society, I think principle overrides prudence — if the risks to society are real. Love for women would compel me to vote against any law that threatens their mistreatment. I think Deuteronomy and the prophets are quite clear on this sort of question. If the church can’t stand for the oppressed, we have no business existing, much less claiming tax privileges.

    I realize that there are a lot of “ifs” is what I just said, but that’s how I’d approach the question. And my thinking is very much a work in progress.

    Ultimately, “love your neighbor” rules the day, and so voting to protect those who cannot protect themselves is right. It’s what Christians ought to do. Rather than seeing ourselves as sex police, we should think of ourselves as caring for those without political power and subject to abuse — sometimes even by the government. By thinking of others, we’ll both be doing what we’ve been commanded to do and also we’ll be perceived as caring people. Both would be very good things.

  12. gerrytparker says:

    A couple of points for thought. 1.There is, IMO, a greater motivator than my love for God. It is Christ love for us. 2 Cor.5 :14-15. 2. To be sure, there is no evidence that the early church lobbied Rome to get laws changed. But is that not the silence argument? Thanks for the blessing. I will be pondering for a while.

  13. John F says:

    And so, do we leave the culture to the secular humanists to DICTATE through law their view of (im)morality? In practice we have done so, and in so doing, we fail to seek the benefit of our communities (see above comment).

    We as Christians seek to change the heart, leading to changed behavior. A popular leading political figure (running for President) stated “I don’t believe in changing hearts; I believe in changing systems and laws.”

    We should support morality in our laws, not just because is is God’s will for Christians, but because it is good for the community in a general sense.

    Now in Kentucky we will be seeing whether professing Christians who are government employees have a 1st amendment right to work for the gov’t. that seeks to require them to violate their Christian convictions.

  14. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Gerry,

    The silence argument is a doctrinal argument that scriptural silence implies a prohibition due to lack of authority.

    I’m arguing that, as a historical conclusion, there is no evidence of lobbying or anything of the sort in either the scriptures or the other historical documents we have regarding the early church — which is quite a lot of literature. But that does not, by itself, lead to a doctrinal conclusion. Rather, it begs us to ask why?

    Well, the why? question has nothing to do with authority or the lack thereof. Rather, upon close investigation of the scriptures, it’s about purpose — why the church exists, why government exists, and what our respective missions are. Those elements are found, not in the silence, but the very clear passages of scripture regarding what we’ve been saved to become and to do.

Leave a Reply