Defending the Faith in An Age of Sameness (Part 1)
The culture in which we live grows stranger by the day. We who are in the world, though not of the world, carry the prodigious task of defending the faith before an ever changing culture. In the following article we find help for defending the faith by following three main considerations:
1. The historical march of a secular agenda to redefine men and women,
2. the importance of addressing the prevailing presuppositions of our day, and
3. the consistent biblical approach to defend the faith for the sake of the gospel.
After 40 years of struggle, a key stronghold in the marriage equality battle is now under the control of the LGBT movement. The day was June 24, 1973. An unknown arsonist entered the French Quarter of New Orleans and set fire to the UpStairs Lounge, a gay bar. On the second floor met our country’s first official gay church: The Metropolitan Community Church. After the service free beer and dinner were provided to a throng of attendees; sixty of whom were listening to the piano man on the second floor. Just before 8:00 pm, the downstairs door-buzzer sounded. The bartender asked one of the patrons to open the door, expecting the arrival of a taxi driver. As the door swung open, a growing inferno leapt through the frame and swept through the lounge. Thirty-two souls perished in the fire, while thirty more narrowly escaped the fiery evil. This undeniably deplorable act was the worst attack on the LGBT community in American history. No one was ever charged with the crime, and some label this an intentional disregard by investigators – a negligence fueled by the ostracism of gays and lesbians in the 1970s, an era most known for its Jesus Movement.
But now, nearly forty years to the day later, much has changed. As recently as 1986 the Supreme Court upheld sodomy laws in a number of states. Over time, the liberal agenda gained enough influence in American thought, churches, and politics to turn the tide of public opinion against the biblical view on marriage and so-called same sex unions. Today the union of two same sex people is not only legal and recognized within the laws of all fifty states, but such unions are cheerfully celebrated.
The Supreme Court’s ruling on Friday, June 26, 2015 garnered a wide range of responses from Christians and other supporters of traditional marriage. For some the ruling brought a sinking despair over what they perceive as the continued decline of historical American values. Others felt anger and disappointment over the Court’s unusual method, by which the nine justices usurped the rights of the states to democratically decide such matters for themselves. Still others were nearly unaffected by the ruling because it met their expectations, though perhaps sooner than they anticipated.
Regardless of your worldview or your opinion of this most recent decision, the broadened definition of marriage matters to you. Even those who claim to have no interest in these fundamental issues of life and law will feel their impact in concrete and meaningful ways. As a Christian pastor, my highest concern is not how weighty decisions impact my brethren, but rather how my brethren impact others through the passage of these decisions. Namely, I am interested in how we Christians will defend the faith once for all delivered to the saints.
On the heels of the Supreme Court’s 5-to-4 decision to recognize so-called same sex marriage in all fifty states, the blogosphere and ticker-tape and news feeds and twitter accounts were inflamed with varied rhetoric - celebrations, critiques, complaints, condemnations, arguments, counter-arguments, counter-counter arguments-ad nauseam. And at this moment the internet continues to swell with a billowing monologue and dialogue of confrontation and consternation and all the rest. On and on it goes. But where is all this talk leading? What is the goal of our laborious, meandering discourse? If we may cut through the tension and emotion inherent in heavy controversies over the definition of marriage, perhaps we can also step back and discern the opportunities which accompany the polemics of our age. Again, we have been granted an opportunity to defend the faith with the wisdom of Solomon and the winsomeness of Paul. But how? Our friends and family members, co-workers and classmates, neighbors and strangers need a reasoned response from the Christian remnant in their homes and offices and schools and communities. So we ask, “How will we defend the faith in this unbelieving age?”
Peruse the rhetoric and you will find the majority of arguments from Christians, on the topic of gay marriage, could be summarized along the lines of one or more of these statements:
- 1. The Bible teaches homosexuality is sin.
- 2. Jesus said marriage is between a man and a woman.
- 3. Paul exhorted husbands to love their wives, not their husbands; and vice versa.
Of course, these three statements and many more like them are good, true, and right. They represent the objective propositions of Scripture about men, women, and marriage. But is that all there is to be said? In defending the truth of Scripture are we only left with a handful of propositional one-liners? Again, these statements and others like them need to be said and said often. But left alone, these statements do not reason well, because they do not require a dialogue about truth. These propositions are likely not to lead us into the rich gospel conversations for which we long with our friends in the LGBT community. Furthermore, these simple statements of truth – employed as though they hold the brute legal power of our persuasiveness – do not reflect the biblical teaching we believe about unbelief and the power of God to convince and convert the unbelieving heart and mind. So we must once again ask, “How can we best defend the faith in this unbelieving age?”
Stay Tuned: In Part 2 of this blog series we will take the first step in answering this important question.
To learn more about defending the faith in our challenging era of history: Apologetics to the Glory of God by John Frame Reasons of the Heart: Recovering Christian Persuasion by William Edgar Always Ready: Directions for Defending the Faith by Greg Bahnsen and Robert Booth Every Thought Captive: A Study Manual for the Defense of Christian Truth By Richard Pratt "Presuppositional Reasoning with False Faiths" by Greg Bahnsen (article)