Defending the Faith in an Age of Sameness (Part 3)
WHERE IS THE DEBATER OF THIS AGE? In Part 1 and Part 2 of this blog series, I showed if we are to defend the faith well, we need to understand the modern age in which we live, and the presuppositions at work in the hearts of our hearers. This requires Christians to diligently study the world around us – to know the thoughts, concerns, and motives of others and how the objective truth of Scripture addresses them. The Apostle Paul displayed this when he powerfully asked the Corinthian church, “Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age?” (1 Corinthians 1:20) Paul sought to understand the presuppositions of the age in which he defended the faith. Paul’s writings show he understood people and made sense of the crucial issues of his day by disciplined commitment to think God’s thoughts after Him.
By starting with the wisdom of Scripture, we are able to recognize the general as well as the specific trends and agendas of modern people. Within a biblical life-and-worldview we can recognize the cultural conditions and circumstances, helping us wisely defend the faith. And what a challenge this is! We live in an age of plurality in which the intermingling of many differing worldviews have led people to embrace a relativity that aims to validate equally all beliefs. We live in an age of counterfeit tolerance, when the only thing that will not be tolerated is intolerance. Unless you tolerate everyone equally, you will not be tolerated. Furthermore, this high commitment to tolerance requires the rejection of objective truth, setting to our charge an additional challenge when defending the faith.
Even then we can be of good cheer - all is not lost. The world remains in the control of her Creator; His world is still governed by His truth no matter how unbelieving men seek to suppress that truth. Our task is clear in this present age: by the grace and wisdom of God we must sanctify Christ as Lord in our hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks us to give an account for the hope that is in us, yet with gentleness and reverence (1 Peter 3:15). And we may expect the recent legal victories enjoyed by the LGBT community and her supporters will open the door or more frequent conversations about these important matters, as well as better opportunities to talk of Jesus and His good news. Since the Supreme Court ruling it seems many more people are willing to engage in dialog around these decisions. So we ask, how will we go about defending the faith during this landmark period in history of marriage in America?
DEFENDING THE FAITH IN AN AGE OF SAMENESS As we consider the rhetoric of the LGBT movement one word stands out among the rest: Equality. The idea of equality has served as the battle cry of so called same sex marriage agenda. This theme is billboards, fliers, stickers, commercials, and t-shirts. Throughout American history equality has been a noble cause for which to fight. Issues like equal rights for all races and equal pay for all genders remain important. In the same vein, the LGBT movement has fought for what appears to be equal rights. Look more closely and you might see another, more specific objective, hidden within the notion of equality: sameness.
The recent advancements of the LGBT agenda reveals another indication of the prevailing shift in our modern age. The denial of objective truth has pushed the normal pursuit of equality to a new place. Instead of lobbying for an equality ensuring everyone is treated fairly, the new version of equality would see to it that all the most fundamental distinctions are removed – in this case, distinctions between men and women. Where complementarianism defines men and women as equal but different, the debaters of this age prefer a society in which men and women are equal and the same; not unlike the utopian society of Lois Lowry’s award winning novel, “The Giver.” The story follows a 12-year-old boy named Jonas, as he navigates life in a community committed to eradicate pain and conflict and to preserve structure, safety, orderliness, and equality - by removing all distinctions of color, climate, terrain, and erasing all memory of the past. The utopian society places her hope in this new and pervasive value; a value they call “sameness.” We are seeing a similar trend in many of our cities as local governments pass laws requiring identical treatment of all people, regardless of personal conviction, principle, or conscience. Drawing distinctions, no matter the reasoning, is becoming illegal in more places every day. (Strangely, as I type this, I am listening to a radio report on action groups who are fighting dog discrimination. The lobbyists demand new laws requiring people to treat all breeds of dogs - from poodles to pitbulls - as if they were the same.) Central to the marriage equality debate is the passionate application of the “sameness” principle to men and women.
In my city, a Christian photographer declined to shoot a lesbian ceremony. In response, the city council passionately passed an anti-discrimination ordinance. The law was in the books less than 48 hours when local businesses felt pressure to conform with the principle of sameness. One of these businesses - a spray tanning salon - offered equal tanning treatments to men and women, while still recognizing the normal distinctions between the sexes. The female owner required male patrons to wear bottoms during the service, and women were permitted to undress to their comfort level (possibly no bottoms). The operator was subtly threatened to forfeit her distinctions and adopt a new equal and same policy for both sexes - treat everyone equal and the same or else pay the price as transgressor of the new law of sameness. We are ever so slowly adopting a world without distinctions, and, contrary to God’s design, a world with diminished beauty, goodness, and truth.
God’s design for men and women to complement one another is apparent in creation and Scripture. Men and women are equal, fellow heirs of the grace of life (1 Peter 3:7). But men and women are not the same. We differ in design - as seen in our appearances. We differ in function - as evident in our abilities. We differ in role - as borne out in the equal-but-different way we relate to one another. God’s design is evident in God’s world and word, but this truth is being suppressed under the guise of equality; many of us have exchanged the truth for a lie (Romans 1:18). The LGBT movement is cultivating around us an age in which sameness seemingly reigns supreme. We observe this and mourn, regretting the slippery slope down which our culture is sliding – a slope that will darken the many beautiful distinctions God has embedded within His creation. On the other hand, we can also see an opportunity for a reasonable defense of the faith. Do you see it?
EXPOSING AND DEPOSING THE PRESUPPOSITIONS A biblical defense of the faith does certainly involve positively pointing out and explaining the truth. In many cases, though, false presuppositions function together as a proverbial roof built over the unbeliever’s head, acting as a makeshift shelter from the pressuring realities of God’s revealed truth. Keeping with the focus of this article, a commitment to the idea of sameness promises a place to escape from God’s created order. When faced with the commitments of unbelief, we should be willing to place ourselves upon the unbeliever’s position, with a purpose of showing it for what it is: an inconsistent, impossible, and altogether weak protection. From Scripture we endeavor to show one or more of the following:
1. We can show the impossibility of living consistently by the false presupposition of sameness. At the heart of the LGBT community is an assumption that the fundamental distinctions between men and women are unnecessary and can be blurred, or altogether eliminated. As the battle for marriage continues, the evidences are appearing more and more. Following the most recent Supreme Court decision, marriage licenses were not available in all areas because the applications for marriage licenses needed revising. The current application forms do not allow for two husbands or two wives. One can reasonably expect entirely new gender neutral terms to replace those of “husband” and “wife.” We aim to show the impossibility of living consistently in a world without distinctions. Although a person may claim to believe in these distinctions, he cannot help but live according to them because they are real. We might call this a “point of tension;” a point where a false belief crashes against an unchangeable reality of God’s world. It is good for us to press in at the points of tension so we may illustrate the frailty of our hearer’s stated beliefs.
One such reality should be immediately obvious when thinking of the physical design and function of male and female bodies. A man is not designed to carry and give birth to a child. 2007 did bring us the story of Thomas Beatie, who apparently gave birth as a man. Headlines cheered “The Pregnant Man,” subtly overlooking the fact that Thomas was born Tracy LaGondino. In reality Thomas was not the first impregnated man, but instead the first woman to undergo gender reassignment surgery and then become pregnant. We must challenge our hearer to bear the burden of proving he can live by what he says he believes. Boys are boys and girls are girls; from their earliest days they are treated accordingly. The fundamental distinctions between men and women cannot be escaped or eradicated.
2. We can show the impossibility of anything contrary to God’s revealed truth. Eliminating the distinctions between men and women is not only a bad idea to be frowned upon; it is impossible. Because the fundamental distinctions between men and women are unavoidable and unchangeable, those who pretend they do not exist or try to override them will find themselves fighting an impossible battle. The inevitable end will be disappointment, defeat, and despair. We must work to show our hearer the impracticality of his position. He prefers a world in which the truth is not true; he dreams a dream that cannot come true. Within our presuppositional method of defending the faith, this line of argument has been called “reasoning from the impossibility of the contrary.” Again, we must not only affirm the truth of the Christian life-and-worldview, but simultaneously must show the impossibility of any belief or way that is contrary.
3. We can show the logical end of living by the false presupposition. In love, we must be willing to place ourselves upon the position of the unbeliever, so that we might show what is the logical end-result of every position which is contrary to God’s way. Here I am not only thinking of the clear promise of judgment and condemnation by a righteous Judge, but also the mounting despair and defeat which will meet the unbeliever throughout his rebellious quest to have his way; an inevitable despair will consume him in the end. As Francis Schaeffer profoundly taught, the unbeliever needs help to see that his denial of revealed truth has resigned him to fall below the line of despair and into a position in which there is no hope of arriving at anything like the beauty, goodness, and true of the Christian message. We pray God will break through to our hearers, giving them a keen sense of their futile efforts to reshape God’s world into their own image, and granting them a captivating interest to turn from their way in surrender to the truth.
Stay tuned for final part of this blog series, "Defending the Faith in an Age of Sameness."
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)