Marriage and Freedom in America – Part 1
Marriage and Freedom in America – Independence Day Special (2015)
July 2, 2015
Before we get started we’ll have a few moments of silent prayer so you can make sure you are in right relationship with the Lord. Remember, Scripture teaches that if we trust in Christ at that instant we are completely forgiven of all sin, past, present, and future. That has to do with our eternal destiny and our eternal relationship with the Lord. There’s no sin that’s not covered. When we sin, though, after salvation that breaks our rapport with God, our on-going walk by the Spirit, and so we need to admit or acknowledge our sins to Him. At that instant we are restored to fellowship and we resume our walk by the Spirit. That’s why we begin every class with a few moments of silent prayer. So after a few moments I will then open in prayer. Let’s pray.
“Our Father, we’re thankful for all the many ways in which You watch over us. You protect us and You’ve provided for us just a rich, tremendous heritage in this nation that is based upon Your Word. Even though there are great assaults against Christianity and against the truth of the Bible today, nevertheless it was men and women committed steadfastly to the truth of Your Word who thought deeply about what was revealed in Your Word. It permeated their souls. It permeated their thinking and their understanding of the world around them and of government and politics. It influenced their thinking to write such profound documents as our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution. We have a basis for this government that is grounded in that Judeo-Christian heritage because they took the Word of God to be literally true. They understood that people were who the Bible said they were. They were in Your image, created in Your image, and yet they were corrupted by sin. They gave us a form of government that would insure liberty and attempt to protect us from those who would seek to corrupt the power of government. Father, today there are many who fail to understand the significance of their views. There are others who understand the significance of their views and they hate and despise those views and seek to destroy it. Father, we pray that You would continue to raise up godly leaders, men and women who understand Your Word and the truth of Your Word as it reflects reality and defines reality. We pray You would raise up such men and women and that You would restrain and refrain those who are operating in hostility to Your Word in such a way that they may not achieve their ends and that in the coming years we would see a reversal. Above all, we pray for the people in this nation that they might turn back to You, turn to You, trust in You, go to the Scriptures for truth and that there we would find true genuine liberty and freedom. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
Tonight we’re going to start a mini-series that I hope is going to be only three lessons. I don’t want to spend an enormous amount of time on this because, frankly, this isn’t a topic that I really planned to address. It’s not one that when it comes to dealing with topics relating to sin, when it deals with certain kinds of things are going on culturally, they need to be addressed from the Scripture but they are not necessarily things we want to camp out on.
I remember in 9-11, aside from all the horrors that took place, one of the things that I really personally resented for many years was the fact that I was going to have to spend a lot of time studying Islam and Islamic theology and Islamic history, which is not something I wanted to do. I would have to spend time studying the Koran because we needed to understand our enemy. As a pastor it’s part of my responsibility to train and equip people in the church to think Biblically about the contemporary issues.
Over the last month as I was thinking what I might do for an Independence Day special this year, I hadn’t really gotten around to a real focal point on my message. Then last Thursday and Friday occurred when we had two different opinions handed down by the Supreme Court which really changed things. I think they made a radical shift in the culture of our country. I knew that I needed to address this. It’s not something I really wanted to address. I much prefer to do verse-by-verse exposition or deal with some of the other critical topics in Scripture.
Over the last week and especially last weekend we just heard so much that was going on. Some of it was good and some of it wasn’t quite so good. I know like many of you I was so inundated by a lot of this that part of me was like, “Okay, I really want to escape all of this. I really don’t want to be thinking about it.” On the other hand, we know there are people who need to think this through. We all need to think it through a little bit more. Last week, as you know, in the Supreme Court decision related to Obergefell v. Hodges, they declared that no state can prohibit the issuing of marriage licenses for same-sex couples. Further, they determined that any marriage performed in one state for a same-sex marriage must be recognized in all other forty-nine states.
The reaction from most evangelicals [and I’ll talk about a survey that came out today a little bit later] was one of dismay and sadness. I think a lot of you and a lot of Christians were truly grieving over the weekend. We heard a lot of different things that were said, some from Christian politicians, and some from many other Christian leaders. Many conservatives believe that the Supreme Court had redefined the historic understanding of the Constitution. It’s a moving target now. We don’t really know what the Constitution says because if you read it in terms of its original intent or in terms of the day-to-day vocabulary, then all the sudden the Supreme Court comes out and says, “No, it means something completely different.” So how in the world can we be sure what our form of government is?
In effect, what happened as a result of this decision, when they declared that there is an inherent right to same-sex marriage that is the intent in the 14th Amendment, then they basically declared that everyone from Bill and Hillary Clinton who have both made statements against same-sex marriage all the way back to George Washington were actually in violation of the Constitution when they declared that marriage was to be between one man and one woman and homosexuality was wrong. In the case of people like George Washington and leaders in the 19th century, they believed that it was a criminal act.
Even Justice Roberts commented in his dissenting opinion that in the majority opinion it now made anyone in the past wrong. It made them bigoted. It made them into those who denigrated, disrespected, and inflicted harm on the dignity of those who hold to same-sex marriage. Anyone from this point back is someone who has been a homophobe. Then he went on to describe the various problems that this will inflict on those who held to the view that was the normative view. It was not only the normative view for the last 200 years of the Constitution but it was the legally defined view. We went from those who were constitutional and legal eight days ago to where now we are those who are really the enemy. We have been declared those who have taken away the dignity of the homosexual and we never recognized that they had this inherent right. How bigoted of us! That’s part of the implications and the direct statement of those who wrote the majority opinion.
I thought about this last week and was wrestling with how I was going to approach this. I realized three things. First of all, we rarely ever get to pick our battles. Our battles are foisted upon us by circumstances. Many of you will now have battles and challenges and even opportunities to present the gospel. We need to look at this from a more positive framework. As we go through life now people are going to make a lot of wrong assumptions, sometimes horrible assumptions about us. We’re just a nasty, bigoted homophobic Christian. By our lifestyle and by the way we live in terms of grace orientation and kindness and generosity to those who are different, those who oppose us, those who are living in what we believe to be sinful lifestyles, we can demonstrate the life given to that belief.
We’re going to get all kinds of opportunities. We’re going to get opportunities to answer questions and to help people think through the issue. There’s a certain number of people who all they’re going to do is make up their mind in hostility and negativity towards Christians. There’s nothing anyone can say that’s going to change their mind. That’s fine. That’s good. As Jesus said, “We don’t want to throw pearls before swine.” There are a lot of folks who simply want to understand our position. They want to understand what the issues may be and they might ask you. It might come while you’re at a family barbecue this weekend and you’re cooking. While you’re distracted, you need to understand this well enough to right out of the blue be ready to explain why you believe this was a problem. You can’t pick the time and you can’t pick the battle. You need to be prepared to handle it when it comes.
Second thing, as believers we are mandated from Scripture to give an answer for the hope that is in us. (Slide 3) 1 Peter 3:15. Notice what it says here. We’re to sanctify the Lord God in our hearts. That means we set apart the Lord. We focus on the fact that He is the priority and as Paul states we are ambassadors for Christ. That’s part of what that entails. In our sanctification, which is spiritual growth, we’re always to be ready to give a defense. That word for defense is the Greek word for APOLOGIA which means to give a reasoned, thought through answer for the hope that is within us.
Last week if you read a lot of e-mails and heard from a lot of people, they felt pretty hopeless because their circumstances had changed and they didn’t realize that circumstances shouldn’t affect their hope. We’re supposed to be hopeful and our hope is built, as the Scripture says, on nothing less than Jesus’ death and righteousness. That’s the basis for our hope. It’s not in a republican form of government. It’s not in the Constitution of the United States. It’s not in the Declaration of Independence. It’s not in any of the amendments in the Bill of Rights. Our hope is based on something that has eternal, unchangeable values.
When we have that hope and that impacts the way we act and our thinking, then people will notice a difference and they will ask. 1 Peter 3:16 says, “Having a good conscience.” Part of that implies we’re not responding in anger, bitterness, resentment, and irritability when somebody asks us, “Why is it that you think this Supreme Court ruling was such a bad idea?” We’re to have a good conscience so that “When they defame you as evildoers.” Trust me, there are segments of our society now that are shouting the most horrible invectives against Christians. They say that if you’re a Christian, you’re just lower than the scum of the earth because you are preventing, or you want to prevent, these wonderful, loving people from fulfilling themselves in a loving committed relationship. So we are defamed as evildoers.
We’re to have a good conscience so that those “who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed.” We need to be able to give an answer for the hope that is within us. As this comes up, a lot of us don’t want to engage in this battle. I don’t know about everyone here. I know some of you have family members or friends that are in the homosexual community. I have family members that are in the homosexual community and I have been involved with people in the homosexual community. We have to treat them with love and kindness personally and not with a judgmental attitude. That’s where the battle is.
(Slide 4) A quote I learned years ago from Martin Luther who’s the one who originated the Protestant Reformation in 1517 said, “If we defend the fortress at every point, expect where it is being attacked, we will lose the battle.” This is where we are being attacked at this point. Luther was thrown in prison and he was called before the Holy Roman Emperor and he was tried. In fact, they sentenced him to death at one point.
(Slide 5) He stated in his trial, “Unless I am convinced by proofs from Scriptures or by plain and clear reasons and arguments, I can and will not retract, for it is neither safe nor wise to anything against conscience. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen!” What he meant by not doing anything against conscience was his conscience, the norms and standards in his soul, were based upon the Word of God. He had to stand on the Word of God and the Word of God alone.
This became an underlying factor in the thinking in Western civilization that the basis for freedom of religion from the tyranny of the state was the freedom of conscience. That this isn’t just some trivial thing like, “Well, that violates my conscience so I’m not going to do that today.” This was based upon something that was well thought out and was a person’s sincerely and deeply held convictions and beliefs.
Another thing we need to realize as we talk about hope is a promise that’s dear to most of us. (Slide 6) Going back to Jeremiah. Jeremiah lived at a time when he warned the southern kingdom of Judah that the Babylonians were going to come because they had violated God’s Word, they had violated the Law, and they had succumbed to all manner of abominations, as the word is used many times in Jeremiah, through idolatry and all manner of different things. The word basically refers to anything that violates the Law of God. As a result of that, God brought judgment upon the southern kingdom and destroyed it and Jerusalem.
In Lamentations 3:20–23 he says, “My soul still remembers [the horrors of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonian destruction when the Babylonians came in and completely destroyed Jerusalem, destroyed the Temple, and killed hundreds to thousands in Jerusalem and buried them in the Valley of Gihon]. He lived through that and when he remembered that the horrors of his nation completely falling, he said, “My soul still remembers and sinks within me.” He had sadness and sorrow. There’s nothing illegitimate about that. The solution is then stated in verse 21, “This I recall to mind. Therefore I have hope.” Even though the circumstances were as dark and depressing as we can imagine, nevertheless he had hope, he had confidence. “Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning. Great is Your faithfulness.”
What I want to do in these lessons is accomplish two or three things. First of all, I want to shed light on what the Bible teaches. There are a lot of believers today who are uncertain. Questions are being raised in conversations and they are uncertain. They may understand in some sense that the Bible clearly teaches that homosexuality is wrong but they’re hearing all these comments from other people and they don’t really know how to respond to that. We need to clarify what the Bible teaches. There are some people, unfortunately, within the Christian community who misrepresent homosexuality. They treat it as a sin that can cause you to lose your salvation. They treat it as an unforgiveable sin. They treat it as a sin that is categorically different from any other kind of sin. They’ve elevated it all out of proportion of what the Scripture says. We need to understand what the Scripture really says.
We need to avoid heat and we need to shed some light on what the Bible actually teaches. And there’s some hate out there, even within the Christian community. There are people who have expressed some very awful things about homosexuals. They would never say those same things about their friends who are adulterers or their friends who are liars or their friends who are cheats or the fact that they cheat, maybe, on their income tax. All of these kinds of sins are lumped together in the Bible in the same list that include homosexuality. They’ve singled this out and there have also been some Christian groups, so-called Christian groups, where they have used this as an excuse to carry out violence against homosexuals. This is just dead wrong and is not acceptable and you can’t conform this to Christianity.
The same kind of thing happened with people who didn’t understand the Bible and called themselves Christians and conducted anti-Semitic attacks and murdered hundreds of thousands of Jews down through the centuries. It’s an ignorance of the Scriptures and a failure to carry out the virtues that are emphasized for every Christian. So we want to shed light on what the Bible teaches and not heat and not hate but to have a clear understanding of what the text says.
Second, we want to understand what the Founding Fathers meant in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and how this truly impacts the legal aspect. This goes to the issue of authority because you and I as Christians look to the Word of God as the absolute and final authority. That’s where we need to stake our ground. We, as Christians, believe in the Word of God and as Luther said, “Here I stand. God help me. Amen.” This is our position.
When we’re talking to the unsaved community and when we’re talking to people for whom the Bible is not an authority and we’re not talking about apologetics at this point. We’re talking about conversations with a neighbor, with a friend, with a business worker, or whoever might ask you, the appeal is not to the Word of God because that has no authority to them. The appeal is to the law, the Constitution, and history. This is a different issue from the way I would teach apologetics in terms of teaching Biblical truth related to the Person and the work of the Lord Jesus Christ or the authority of Scripture. It’s much the same thing I taught when the question comes up of what gives Israel legitimacy to the land. Granted, the Bible clearly teaches that God has given the land to Israel but we know that Israel is not going to completely fulfill that until we get into the end times and into the establishment of the kingdom. If you’re talking to an unbeliever it’s important to go to the law and go to what happened at San Remo and an understanding of the Balfour Declaration. It’s important to go to those areas to demonstrate from history and from law that Israel has a right to the land, historically and legally. And the same thing is true for this issue, to understand what the historical and legal aspects are in terms of this particular discussion.
We have to understand first and foremost what God says about marriage and sexuality and only then can we know the truth. As Jesus said in His argument in John 10 with the Pharisees, “When you know the truth, the truth will set you free.” That’s been misquoted and misused to I don’t know how many people. But when Jesus uses it, He’s referring to the truth of the Old Testament. Deal with Jesus in context. It’s not talking about whatever you think is true but when you understand God’s revelation, which is absolute truth, that is the truth that will set you free. It will give you true freedom. So the only way we can have genuine liberty and genuine freedom is to understand the Word of God. True freedom brings proper spiritual freedom and it’s always grounded upon the truth of God’s Word. But for some Christians and all non-Christians any appeal to the Bible appears to be a conflict with the so-called separation of church and state issue. We need to think that through.
As I pointed out last Sunday the problem is that ultimately when you think about this issue and defining marriage it always comes down to a religious assumption, a religious presupposition. We have to stop and help think about these issues of authority and truth and knowledge. We also want to address two fundamental issues that are raised in this debate. One is the preservation of the 1st Amendment which says we are guaranteed the free exercise of religion and how that is going to take shape under the new law. Another fundamental issue that has to be discussed is the issue of marriage. At the very core here is an assault on marriage which includes issues related to gender and sexuality and these are things that have eroded within evangelicalism as the ideas and the teaching of the Church have been infiltrated over the last 50 years.
Finally we need to think through how we are going to “speak the truth in love”. How are we going to interact with those who disagree with us? And those who are saying vile things about Christians. How are we going to present Christ and our views in a hostile environment? Now I’m really addressing what I’m saying in these lessons to those who have a genuine desire to understand truth. They really want to know, saying “I want to know the right thing.” They may be confused already. They may be going down the wrong path already but they’re not so far down that they’re locked into a hostile attitude. They’re willing to talk and understand. We need to know how to address this in the light of so many hateful things that are said about Christians and distortions that are said over and over again about the Bible from people who truly do not understand the Bible.
We live in a world now where we as Christians who have believed the same thing about marriage, sex, and freedom for the last four hundred years in this country are now considered the enemy. We believe as Christians the same things about marriage and sex for two thousand years since the birth of Christianity since the birth of Jesus Christ and His death on the Cross. Views that were held for the previous two thousand years during the age of Israel going back to the call of Abraham. Before Abraham these things were true going back to creation. Now we’re basically declared to be criminal and to have hate speech and to be hostile to those who disagree with us. We see this is a critical topic.
What I want to do since this is Independence Day I want to remind us in this series of what the framers of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution said. What did they say in regard to religion? Where did they get their ideas? How did that impact what they said? If we’re going to properly understand and interpret the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence we need to understand where they’re coming from, and how they used words and vocabulary. If we don’t understand what they mean by the words they used, if we assign, in some cases, modern meanings to the words that they used at that time, then we’re going to completely misunderstand and distort what it was that they intended, so we need to understand where they got their ideas.
Primarily it was from the Word of God. Computer studies and computer analysis of the speeches and letters and the writings of the Founding Fathers indicate they got the vast amount of their ideas from sermons and from the Bible. That’s the language that they used. That was their source of their information. The sad thing we have today is that for so many evangelicals they are working overtime to try to prove that the Bible really doesn’t say anything negatively about homosexuality. They are just flipping the Bible over on its ear. We need to understand some of that that’s going on.
So first of all what I want to do is just run you through some statements from our Founding Fathers. (Slide 7) I’m going to do this at the beginning of each time so that we see their framework. They’re the ultimate authority in terms of the Constitution. They’re not the ultimate authority for us as believers but what we see is they derived their ideas, their thoughts, that which formed and shaped our government. It wasn’t a perfect government but there were flaws but yet they built a system that was self-correcting.
Sometimes it was a harsh self-correction as in the War Between the States dealing with the problem of slavery but it was a self-correcting document. We look at John Jay who was a president of the Continental Congress. He was also the first Chief Justice and a contributor to the Federalist Papers. He stated, “Providence” – that’s a reference to God [in that generation they referred to God as the Almighty, as Providence, and in these more formal terms: The Supreme Being, the Creator. These are some of the ways they described God. That’s how their generation approached and wrote at that time]. He said, “Providence has given to our people the choice of their elders, and it is the duty as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian nation…” Notice, here’s the first Supreme Court Justice identifying the United States as a Christian nation. He’s not identifying it with a particular sect of Christian beliefs but as Christian. Not that everyone in it is a born again believer. Not because in it has their theology correct but because the ideas that shaped the nation had their source in the Judeo-Christian heritage which came from the Bible. So he continues, “The interest of our Christian nation, to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.”
(Slide 8) Now we’re going to skip up to a modern quote. This is from Justice Clarence Thomas a few years ago. He was speaking in New York at the Wriston Lecture at the Manhattan Institute. He said, “Let me put it this way: there are really only two ways to interpret the Constitution [this is one of my favorite quotes], try to discern as best we can what the framers intended or make it up.” Those are really the only two options. You either do your historical research. Read the writings of the signers of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and come to understand what they meant and interpret the document in terms of the original intent of the writers or, you just make it up.
That is what we’ve been seeing for the last fifty years under activist judges as they think that the Constitution is a living document. No, it’s articulating universal absolutes. The more we’ve gotten away from that idea, the more we’re going to see the Constitution morph into things we can’t really imagine. So how can we guarantee freedom for the future if the document that guarantees that freedom isn’t always interpreted the same way? He goes on to say, “No matter how ingenious, imaginative or artfully put, unless interpretive methodologies are tied to the original intent of the framers, they have no more basis in the Constitution than the latest football scores.”
(Slide 9) “To be sure even the most conscientious effort to adhere to the original intent of the framers of our Constitution is flawed, as all methodologies and human institutions are; but at least originalism has the advantage of being legitimate and, I might add, impartial.”
(Slide 10) The U.S. Supreme Court, in 1892 ruled, “There is no dissonance in these declarations. There is a universal language pervading them all, having one meaning; they affirm and reaffirm that this is a religious nation, this is a Christian nation.” That’s the Supreme Court. How far we have fallen.
(Slide 11) Here we have Daniel Webster who is the author of the American Dictionary of the English Language who wrote quite a bit about the Constitution in the early 1800s. He is also the author of one of the spelling books that was a standard tool in the early 1800s in American schools. He wrote, “In my view the Christian religion is the most important and one of the first things in which all children, under a free government ought to be instructed… No truth is more evident to my mind that that the Christian religion must be the basis of any government intended to secure the rights and privileges of a free people.” This is in the Preface to the American Spelling Book.
(Slide 12) He also said in 1828 in the dictionary defining marriage. He writes as the definition of marriage, “the legal union of a man and woman for life”… which served the purposes of “preventing the promiscuous intercourse of the sexes,… promoting domestic felicity, and… securing the maintenance and education of children.” This is how they thought in the early 1800s.
(Slide 13) He also said, “Our citizens should early understand that the genuine source of correct republican principles… [not in contrast to democrat, they didn’t have a Republican party when he wrote this. That is talking about our government as a republic]. Our citizens should early understand that the genuine source of correct republican principles is the Bible particularly the New Testament or the Christian religion.”
(Slides 14–15) We also know that the Bible was printed by authorization of Congress. Charles Thomson, the Secretary of the Congress wrote or signed the resolution passed by Congress, “that the United States in Congress assembled highly approve the pious and laudable understanding of Mr. Aiken, as subservient to the interest of religion, as well as influence of the progress of arts in this country, and being satisfied from the above report of his care and accuracy in the execution of the work, they recommend this edition of the Bible to the inhabitants of the United States and hereby authorize him to publish this recommendation in the manner he should think proper.”
Congress appropriated the funds for the publication of the Bible so if this is what they believed they were doing then they had no sense of creating this kind of wall of separation between religion and government. In fact, that term is not found anywhere in the founding documents.
(Slide 16) Charles Carroll who was a signer of the Declaration of Independence wrote in a letter to James McHenry on November 4, 1800, “Without morals a republic cannot subsist any length of time.” Notice the emphasis which we’ll see in the next couple of quotes of the importance of morals and virtue as foundational to government. Without morals and virtue and a government that is promoting the instruction of morals and virtue to the children of the country, then there’s no guarantee that the next generation can survive. He says, “Without morals a republic cannot subsist any length of time; they therefore who are decrying the Christian religion, [that applies to a lot of people today].” What he really means by this is not Christianity per se but the Judeo-Christian heritage, the Judeo-Christian framework. He says, “Whose morality is so sublime and pure… are undermining the solid foundation of morals, the best security for the duration of free governments.”
(Slide 17) John Adams says in a speech to the military in 1798 when he was vice president, he warned his fellow countrymen stating, “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion.” They understood that every human being is corrupt by human nature and that the corrupt human nature enticed every human being to various passions and lusts. In order to be a good citizen, they had to be taught how to bridle, how to control those passions and lusts and that could only be done by teaching morality and religion. He said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
(Slide 18) Now at the beginning of the Declaration of Independence in the preamble Thomas Jefferson and his companions on the committee who wrote the Declaration of Independence stated, “We hold these truths to be self-evident.” Self-evident means everyone recognizes this without giving it any analytical thought. “That all men are created equal.” He doesn’t mean all males; he means all human beings. And they’re created. They didn’t happen by chance. It isn’t the result of an accidental lightning strike on some mass of protoplasm that caused all of a sudden inorganic matter to become organic matter. He says, “They are endowed by their Creator.” These rights don’t come from government. They don’t come from the Supreme Court. They don’t come from the legislature or the president. That these rights are inherent in each human being because they are created in the image and likeness of God. That phrase isn’t used here but that’s the implication. Whether they were Christians or whether they believed everything in the Bible or not, this was an era when people were controlled by a theistic worldview and whether they were Christian or non-Christian, whether they were Deists or atheists and few were atheists, if any, or Unitarians, they all thought within this Biblical view.
Just like today most Christians, most evangelicals, even though who were well taught and are growing in Christ, are still influenced and think in terms of relativism because that’s the dominant worldview today. Just as Christians today often think in terms of a non-Christian worldview, non-Christians at that time thought within a Biblical worldview because that was what surrounded them. The Declaration goes on to say, “That they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
All I want to do is comment on happiness. Happiness today means the pursuit of personal pleasure and joy. That’s how most of us read it. In the original document it was to pursue life, liberty, and the pursuit of property.” James Madison wrote that the greatest property that we have is our conscience. That’s our greatest property. To be able to follow our conscience and do what each of us believes to be right or wrong. That is the foundation for the 1st Amendment.
(Slide 19) George Washington said, “There is no truth more thoroughly established, than that there exists in the economy and course of nature, an indissoluble union between virtue and happiness.” For them happiness isn’t the pursuit of personal pleasure. Happiness is the pursuit of virtue and the control of passions. That’s how they understood happiness.
(Slide 20) Thomas Jefferson said, “Without virtue, happiness cannot be.” What they meant by happiness isn’t what most Americans think of. (Slide 21) Just a couple more quotes. The New York Supreme Court once stated, “The morality of the country is deeply engraved upon Christianity. The people whose manners and morals have been elevated and inspired by means of the Christian religion.”
(Slide 22) The Florida Supreme Court stated, “The Christian concept of right and wrong, or right and justice, motivates every rule of equity. It is the guide by which we dissolve domestic frictions and the rule by which all legal controversies are settled.” The Christian concept of right and wrong. These were state Supreme Court rulings and federal Supreme Court rulings. The reason I’m emphasizing this is that when we look at the reasoning, the rationale used in the majority opinion in this statement they don’t cite legal precedent because they can’t.
When you read Justice Robert’s dissenting opinion he is citing the writings of the original writers of the Constitution. He is referring to legal precedent in numerous laws that again and again and again for the last two hundred years the law of this land, property rights, inheritance rights, and numerous other decisions have been predicated upon a specific legal definition of marriage. You change that definition of marriage, it throws a monkey wrench into all of these legal precedents. It’s a tidal wave. It’s a tsunami that is going to wreak havoc in the legal system. There will be innumerable court cases trying to untangle the knots that have come from this.
Now, what do we need to do when we talk to folks? This is a problem. It’s not always easy. A lot of times we get in situations where you may be going out and walking with a neighbor or a friend or you may be just with family at the 4th of July and someone may just casually say, “What do you think about this?” They may just be making conversation or maybe they’re really interested and you have to respond. How are you going to respond? That is something each of us needs to think through. What is the strategy going to be for how we’re going to express why we believe what we believe?
Here’s what happens. (Slide 23) We’ve got an iceberg here in the picture. I’m using that as a background to understand that the iceberg represents the various issues that are going on in life. At the very top we just see that about one tenth of the iceberg appears. When we have disagreements with people and we have conflicts with people and we have arguments with people, such as political arguments, social arguments, and cultural arguments, it always takes place in terms of those above-the-water line surface issues, the most obvious things. There’s more to it than that. That only represents about 10% of the issue.
(Slide 24) What we’re doing here is that on the left side is the statement: Logical sequence. There’s a logical sequence to the way we think. (Slide 25) So the Logical sequence looks like this. (Slide 26) We have a Foundation of all thought. (Slide 27) In philosophical terminology it’s called metaphysics. It has to do with ultimate reality. What do you believe is ultimate in the universe? Is it an infinite, personal God? Is it matter in strict evolutionary or Darwinian terms, then what you have is matter. Is it energy? Is it just nothing? Do you have a religious belief like Buddhism or Hinduism where ultimately there’s just nothing and when it’s all over with we’re just going to go to nothingness? And there will be no identity.
What is your ultimate reality? If your ultimate reality is a personal, infinite Creator God, to whom you are answerable, then everything else will flow from that. If your answer is that ultimately there’s just impersonal matter and there’s really nothing to distinguish us, which in fact is what modern science believes, that our thoughts, our feelings are just biochemical. There’s no volition. We are simply a result of different chemical reactions that take place in the brain. In that case no one can be held responsible for anything because there’s no volition, no free will, and no immaterial soul. These are vastly different approaches.
(Slide 28) What you start with in metaphysics is going to impact the next important area which is called epistemology. That’s a big word. A lot of people have never heard that before. It refers to the study of knowledge, essentially the authority in knowledge. How do you know truth? You say this is the way things are. How do you know that? Someone else says they’re another way. How do they know that? It’s more than just personal opinion. These things are just well thought through and we have to determine how we know truth. How we know right from wrong. We make these various claims. How do we know just or unjust? Someone says, “Well, that’s wrong.” Well, on what basis?
(Slide 29) That gets us into the next area. That is Ethics. The question of what is right. What is wrong? What is good or bad? Value judgments. These relate to issues today that we hear a lot about. Everything from family values to civil rights. How do we determine what is the ultimate source of information. That takes us down to the source of knowledge. Where do you get truth? (Slides 30–33) Then built upon those three levels, those three stories of knowledge and information we have political/ national or individual decisions.
In your life and my life the political decisions and the national decisions, the everyday decisions, policy decisions, parenting decisions, and the decisions you make about how you’re going to be entertained, all of those decisions presuppose that you’ve already answered the ethical questions. Those ethical questions presuppose a particular kind of epistemology which is logically an outgrowth of what you think is ultimate in the universe. If you’re a Christian you believe that ultimately we are ruled by a personal, infinite God who is going to hold us accountable. He has revealed to us knowledge and truth on which we can build our lives. On the basis of that knowledge and truth He has revealed to us we can make ethical decisions. We can determine what is right and what is wrong and what is good or bad. It’s not dependent on any individual feelings or perceptions. It’s based on a standard that is outside of us. Then when we begin to deal with political, national or individual decisions, it’s pretty much set.
(Slide 34) So today we’re talking about the issue of same-sex marriage. That’s a political/judicial decision and people just want to argue about it just in terms of “well, don’t homosexual couples have the right to love each other and have the right to dignity?” But those questions presuppose a whole host of other issues and that’s where the conversation needs to go. If we don’t get below the surface and talk about those issues, all we’re going to do is throw bricks back at each other. All we’re going to do is insult each other. All we are going to do is get mad and angry because we’re not talking about the real issue. We are just talking about the surface issue.
(Slide 35) So this is the area we talk and argue about up here but as I pointed out it’s these three areas: ethics, epistemology, and metaphysics, where the conversation needs to take place. But these three areas are usually ignored. Now let me make another point. One of the reasons I’m doing this is because all of us need to be challenged and need to improve our critical thinking skills. You’ve got children, grandchildren, people who are listening online and live streaming, people all over the world, and people who will access this because they’re going to be searching on same-sex marriage and this is going to come up in a Google hit or some other search engine which is going to find it. They’re going to be asking these kinds of questions. So we need to understand how to think this through and we need to develop our critical thinking skills.
In a couple of weeks I’m going to be going to Gulfport, Mississippi. I’ve been asked to come out there and speak at a Bible Conference on a Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. There were some former students of mine at the black pastor’s conference that I used to spend a lot of time with, WHW, and one of these guys found out I was going to be there. He said some of the pastors would like to come and have me talk to them. The other day, I believe it was last Saturday, I e-mailed him and asked, “What’s the plan? What do you want me to do? What’s the schedule?” He said, “We would really like you to come and talk to us about what these issues are in same-sex marriage, how it’s going to impact the church, how we should respond to this and what we should do.” So this is just some of the kind of things going on. We have to develop our critical thinking skills and sadly, in our culture, we have so dumbed down education that many segments of our society no longer have the critical thinking skills to think through these issues.
When you say this is a whole lot more than just two people who say they love each other and want to live together legally, it has all kind of implications. Others just look at you with a glazed look because they’ve never heard that before. We need to be able to think about those things and to talk about those things. (Slide 35) What happens when the pressures of life come, such as decisions like this, then we have to drive down from the top? We have to say, “Well, these kind of political decisions are based on a certain kind of ethic. Where did those ideas of right or wrong come from?” Well, it come from a certain kind of authority, a certain view of God. It gives us an opportunity if someone will listen to ultimately take this to a place where we can talk about the gospel.
In the past we’ve talked about the fact that when God created man in the Garden of Eden he instituted three things: individual responsibility, marriage, and family. (Slide 36) This was all done before their sin. After the flood, there are two more divine institutions: Government and nations. So it’s these first three that come before the Fall. They’re designed to promote productivity and to advance civilization. Therefore these are for every member of the human race whether they’re a believer in God or not. Government is established after the Fall as well as national diversity and these are designed to restrain evil.
Now I want you to open your Bibles to Genesis 1. (Slide 37) Turn to Genesis 1:26 and we will at least begin to look at what the Scripture says as we go forward. Today there was a study that came out from the Barna Group. Some of you may be familiar with the Barna Group. Every now and then I mention this. I posted the link to this on the Dean Bible Ministries Facebook page today. It’s a new survey they conducted just after the Supreme Court ruling came out last Friday. It’s a highly respected religious polling firm. They’ve been in business since at least the mid-80s and in my opinion, they have the best and most clear definition of who is and is not an evangelical.
For example, there was an article that I believe was on the front page of the New York Times earlier this week and the headline had something to do with “Evangelicals Rethinking Their Stance on Same-Sex Marriage”. The problem is that in most of the alphabetical soup of media people and your more liberal newspapers like the New York Times and the Washington Post and LA Times that they have a loose view of an evangelical. Their view of an evangelical is that if you think you are one, then you are. It doesn’t matter what you believe. They don’t have an objective standard. If you just think you’re am evangelical then you are. Barna comes along and has 9 points of what makes an evangelical. They believe in the Trinity. They believe in the inerrancy, infallibility of Scripture. They believe Jesus was the God-man. They believe in the virgin birth and several other things. They have a pretty decent understanding of what an evangelical is. They realize that you can’t just throw the word around. It has a clear, objective meaning. The people who are filling this out are people who believe in those things.
If they’re filling out the research form or survey form and they don’t believe in all nine of those things, then they’re not counted as an evangelical. They may be counted as something but what they came out with as a result of their survey last week was that unlike the article in the New York Times which made it appear as if evangelicals and pastors were really rethinking this whole thing and they were going to come around after all and they were going to eventually approve of same sex marriage the Barna poll found that only 2% of evangelicals support the Supreme Court decision. 94% of evangelicals in this country are completely, strongly against the Supreme Court decision and that would leave about 4% that are undecided. So you have 94% against, 2% in favor and 4% undecided. He also found that 66% of practicing Christians, meaning they may not be evangelical in all their beliefs but they’re committed, practicing Christians, who make up 42% of the population and 66% of them disagree with the ruling. That is a huge number.
Okay let’s look at the foundation for marriage. Genesis 1:26–28, “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ ” So initially God is saying He is going to create everyone in His image. That is what gives dignity to man. A large part of the argument in the majority opinion was that we need to give dignity to homosexuals. Dignity comes from the fact that they are human beings and they’re created in the image and likeness of God. It’s not a utilitarian or pragmatic concept.
Based on an evolutionary presupposition which governs the thinking of those five justices, they don’t even have a right to think about dignity because rocks and trees and protoplasm do not have dignity. If they believe man is the accidental product of an electrical discharge that somehow made inorganic life organic then they have no basis in thought to assign dignity to man. It’s just a pragmatic or utilitarian concept. So that’s illogical, irrational, and not consistent with their foundation.
As Christians we believe that everyone, whether they agree or disagree, whether they are Muslim, terrorist, criminal, or homosexual, whether they’re a liar, whether they’re a liberal, whether they’re conservative, and yes, whether they’re a Democrat or a Republican, they all have equal dignity because they’re created in the image and likeness of God. Genesis 1:27 says, “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” So God created male and female.
This applies not only to their physiological makeup but also to their soul makeup. They were complementary. We’ll get into that in Genesis 2. They were designed to complement each other, not to be interchangeable parts. That’s an important statement because going back to the early 60s, the thinking that came out of the feminist revolution that was very much a part of the sexual revolution in gender identity issues starting in the late 60s and into the 70s is that men and women are identical in everything except a few incidental physiological parts and so they are completely interchangeable. There’s no real substantive difference between men and women. Christianity says yes, they are both in the image of God, they are equally in the image of God but God made men as men and women as women. What has happened is we have lost that distinction.
The command in Genesis 1:28 is that they are to be fruitful and multiply. This is an argument against homosexual marriage because homosexuals cannot be fruitful and multiply. You have to have a man and woman to fulfill God’s intended design for human beings, which is to be fruitful and multiply. This is not just something restricted to a pre-fall command. Think about this. (Slide 38) In Genesis 8:17 God speaks to Noah and tells him to bring out all the different living beings. They’re going to come out on the earth so they may abound and be fruitful and multiply on the earth. Now that’s applying to the animals. But then He applies that same phrase, the same phrase He used back in Genesis, chapter 1. In Genesis 9:1, “So God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them: ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.’ ” Then in Genesis 9:7 “And as for you, be fruitful and multiply; Bring forth abundantly in the earth and multiply in it.” So God states the command twice, to be fruitful and multiply, in a post-fall, post-flood fallen corrupt world, God is sticking with His original blueprint of one man and one woman making a marriage. It was together as complementary people that they would fulfill God’s plan and purpose.
(Slide 39) In Genesis 2:18 “And the Lord God said [to Adam, on the sixth day of creation] ‘It is not good that man should be alone.’ ” He’s talking about the male here. He says it is not good for the male to be alone. He is saying He didn’t design the human race for loners. There needs to be a partner so God said, “I will make a partner.” The word there is EZER and that refers to the woman. What happens from feminist politics that comes out in the 60s is that this denigrates women. This is just patriarchialism. You have to understand the Scripture. This is a high compliment, a high position, because the only other person who is said to be an EZER in the Old Testament is God, Himself. He is our helper. This elevates the woman to an extremely high position. This is not treating her as some domestic slave or household servant. She has a very high position.
So she is created to complement the man and to help him achieve God’s original design to rule over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and the beasts of the field as he is going to be God’s representative. He’s not doing it alone. He needs a partner to help him fulfill that. Genesis 2:18 sets that up showing that the roles of male and female are complementary. (Slide 40) Then we have the creation of the woman in Genesis 2:21–24, “And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, closed up the flesh in its place.”
God doesn’t create the woman individually. She’s not the product of some separate evolutionary process. This is one of the problems you have with evolution. If, according to evolution you have this by chance evolution and then by chance, you have first a male, then how are they going to replicate the species without a female? If the female came along, she would be the product of a different evolutionary chain and they’re going to have to find each other somewhere in the world so that they can then replicate.
This shows that they, at the very least, would have a distinct line. They’re not of the same species. Biblical creation teaches us that they are from the same source. They’re identical and have the same DNA. Adam says in Genesis 2:23, “This is now bone of my bone 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 mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Not joined to another person of the same sex.
(Slide 41) This is referred to by Jesus in Matthew, chapter 19. He completely affirms the original creation design of God as male and female and there’s to be a heterosexual union. The Pharisees came to Him and questioned him about divorce, saying, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning made them male and female?” See we just read that in Genesis 1:26–27. Then Jesus said, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” That is Genesis 2. So Jesus quotes from Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 showing that Jesus did not view these as distinct or contradictory accounts of creation but He gives equal authority to both of them and he said, “So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”
What we see here is the foundation of marriage. It is the foundation for true freedom in the human race. Why? Because Jesus said you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free. So you have your greatest liberty when you are operating in reality and on the basis of what God has revealed.
Now what I want to do is come back on Sunday and we’re going to talk about the attacks on marriage. If God instituted something and it is established, then when sin enters into creation, there are going to be attacks on marriage. We have to understand what takes place and that will give us an opportunity to go through the Scripture and see why Scripture emphasizes the exclusivity of a one man/one woman union in marriage. We’ll see this in Genesis before the Mosaic Law and then we’ll see it after the Mosaic Law. One of the things I read as I read these blogs and the hateful things said about Christians is that they talk about all these contradictory things said in Scripture and that we cherry-pick what we want to apply and not apply out of the Mosaic Law. It’s a failure to understand, either willingly or unwillingly, that in Christianity we believe the Mosaic Law was only given to the Jewish people as a nation for their law. The Mosaic Law did not make these things in and of themselves criminal. Murder was criminal from Genesis 4 on. Adultery was criminal and sin from Genesis 4 on. All of these things are sin. They’re instantiated in a law code for Israel in order to preserve and protect the nation. That’s the function of the divine institutions, to preserve and protect and provide stability for the human race. Without those the result is social chaos. We’ll come back and look at this and develop it some more on Sunday morning.
“Father we thank You for this opportunity to look at Your Word and to be reminded that we live in a great nation. It is wobbly. There are serious cracks that have appeared in the walls of our structure and they may cause the walls and roofs to fall down. But we still live here. We still have freedom. We still have the freedom to teach Your Word. We will always, no matter what happens, have the opportunity to express Your grace and love to unbelievers. We need to be strengthened in our own spiritual life, not to ever even in our own thinking, think hate toward homosexuals or towards anyone who is wrapped up in any kinds of sin. We are not here to judge other people. We are here to offer them the gospel and to explain God’s wonderful love to every single human being and that Jesus Christ has paid the penalty for sin and that all sin was paid for at the Cross and that there’s a free offer of forgiveness of sin to one and all simply by accepting the gift of salvation, trusting in Him as the One who died for our sins. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”