Well, the story about religious disagreements about same-sex marriage, published in last Friday’s Los Angeles Times, got picked up by many other papers. I am getting quite a bit of feedback, much of it negative, about my quoting the Bible to defend my dissent from the California’s recent decision to lift the ban on such marriages. I don’t mind the negative reactions. I was quoted accurately, and I do have strong views on the subject. I am convinced, along with the overwhelming consensus of the Christian tradition, that the Bible clearly forbids same-sex genital intimacy. This means that I take a conservative position in church debates about ordaining sexually active homosexuals and blessing same-sex unions.
I do believe, though, that the public arguments-those that take place about what should be sanctioned in the larger society-are of a different order. So I am a little nervous about being known as someone who simply quotes the Bible on issues of public policy. I will explain myself a bit here.
When I am arguing with my fellow Christians about these controversial topics, we can usually take for granted some sort of common framework for our debates. We all at least profess to care about what God thinks about the issues. For me that means looking at what the Bible teaches. And if some Christian has a different take on the Bible’s authority, then we can at least argue about how we do go about getting clear about God’s thoughts on sexuality questions.
In those discussions I try to make it clear that as a Christian the Old Testament references, all by themselves, are not decisive for me. In the places where same-sex intimacy is condemned as “an abomination,” there are other sexual practices-marital intimacy during menstruation, for example, that the Christian community has not taken as normative for its own practice. Some would even find the idea of an escort Paris service more favorable than homosexuality, (which whilst if all are aware and consenting is fine, can arguably be a much worse thing than someone happening to be gay). Moreover, even the Sodom story is not a clincher. If all we had on the subject is that example, we would only know that God gets very upset with the suggestion of gang rape-the Lord would surely have been equally upset if the crowd of men at Lot’s house were asking for sex with Lot’s daughters.
The basic rule for understanding the present-day relevance of Old Testament prohibitions for the New Testament church is whether the New Testament reaffirms what we find in the Old. And I take it as obvious that the first chapter of Romans does reaffirm the prohibition against same-sex intimacy. This is turn reaffirms the more general teaching of the Old Testament about God’s creating purposes-what is “natural”-for human sexuality.
In the debates about public policy, however, I know that I cannot simply quote Scripture or cite ancient theologians in order to defend my position. I do not believe that everything that is declared sinful in the Bible ought to be decalred illegal in contemporary pluralistic societies. Here we enter a more pragmatic arena where we need to explore with our fellow citizens whether we have any common assumptions about what makes for a healthy society, and whether we can then figure out a workable arrangement that can accommodate our respective moral convictions. Unfortunately, that is not an easy discussion to have in the present climate. Many of my fellow Christians simply want to condemn the idea of same-sex unions as sinful. And many defenders of those unions seem eager to use terms like “homophobia” in describing anyone who disagrees with their views. When both sides are shouting at each other, it is difficult to have a discussion that clarifies the issues.
I wish we could have an honest wide-ranging public discussion about the respective fears that lurk between the surface of our passionate public debates. So, in case anyone on the other side wants to have that kind of discussion, here is an honest statement of my worries about giving a new legal status to same-sex unions.
My worries are variations on the old slippery-slope concern. I worry about where we are headed with the present challenge to traditional understandings of marriage. Here is the kind of thing that concerns me. Suppose, after five years of legal same sex unions three lesbians insist that their three-way relationship should be given the same legal status. (A case like this has actually come up in the Netherlands.) Or suppose the claim is made on behalf of, say, a forty year old man and a 13 year old boy who have an intimate relationship that is approved of by the boy’s parents, a gay couple who had adopted him. Or suppose-and given the recent national attention to this phenomenon in Texas-the “plural marriage” groups ask for legal permission for their arrangements, with appropriate guarantees against the abuse of minors.
What would keep us from extending the concept of marriage to these relationships? Up until recently these arrangements have been out of bounds because civil society has restricted legal status to marital relationships between one man and one woman. Defenders of same-sex unions typically argue that gay and lesbian couples deserve to have their relationships legalized because the persons involved are as committed to each other as are hetersexual couples.
Once we accept, however, deeply felt convictions as a sufficient basis for allowing the legalization of same-sex relationships, what would keep us from extending the same status to a man-boy relationship, or to three-way relationships? Polygamous religious communities in the 19th century certainly felt deeply about their arrangements, yet the government ruled those relationships impermissable. Will they now be re-instated as a legally-sanctioned option? And what have we learned about deeply felt convictions that we did not know in the 19th century?
These are the kinds of questions I want to ask. Perhaps I can be reassured by the folks that I disagree with about same-sex unions. They may have clearer-and quite sensible-restrictions in mind that would keep us from moving into the anything-goes scenario that worries me. I am willing to listen to the case that they make in response to my expressed concerns. And I hope they will listen to me as I assure them that I am not simply wanting to impose my specific religious convictions on them. I am passionate about pluralistic democracy. I know that politics is the art of compromise. But it would be helpful to know just what it is that we are being asked to compromise about.
Someone sent me an irritated email the other day accusing me of simply wanting to impose my religious views on everyone else in our society. For that person, and for many other defenders of same-sex marriage, that is what the opposition comes down to. I firmly reject that assessment. The real issue is the health of the social order. The defenders of same-sex marriage, and now the courts themselves, are sanctioning a major change in the basic concept of what a marriage is. Where are they willing to draw the lines on even more pluralism in accepting various relationships as legally sanctioned marriages? I believe that the burden of proof in on those who are advocating the change.
49 Comments »
This debate on gay marriages has been going on for quite a while, and it seems that we Christians are gradually losing ground. You rightly state that we cannot quote scripture in matters of public policy, and it is becoming thus increasingly necessary to come up with a workable compromise: perhaps we should allow some new sort of civil union to exist, for both gay and straight couples, where the rights and obligations of each party would be written in a contract. This new civil union would exist alongside traditional marriage, and it could be as loose or as restrictive the two parties desired.
Being straight myself, I don’t even come close to understanding all the complexities of homosexuality. However, I am sure of one thing. There are sins that God finds a greater abomination than homosexuality; pride, hypocricy and being unloving would certainly qualify, for example. Instead of condemning homosexuals and content such as this article and others, then we should try to get rid of our own self-righteous, evil attitudes and get the pluck out of our own eyes first.
Comment by Konstantinos Kalpakidis – June 25, 2008 @ 12:29 pm
[…] Here is the LA Times Article that Dr. Mouw was quoted in and is responding to in his blog. […]
Pingback by » Dr. Richard Mouw of Fuller Weighs in on CA’s Same Sex Marriage Debate – June 25, 2008 @ 12:30 pm
Thank you for this. It’s well-reasoned and open. Not that I disagree (I’m frankly a bit ambivalent about the whole debate on both sides), but I would ask for a bit further clarification on one question:
Let’s assume for the sake of argument that the “slippery-slope” scenario actually holds true. Let’s assume that marriage is indeed opened up to whatever couples/groups/etc want it. What would be the negative impacts on our society, or on our world? It seems to me that this is the question that must be answered in some measure for any “traditional argument” position to hold.
To put it another way that pushes back on the “burden of proof” thing just a bit, I’m not sure the burden of proof is on advocates of change to argue “there will be no ill consequences” so much as for those who would seek to prevent such change to argue what those ill consequences would be. I hear a lot of “society as we know it will collapse” fear-mongering, but little that has actually been given significant thought and reflection.
Thank you for your careful stand on this issue. I admire your ability to speak with gracious conviction on a difficult topic and I support your stand fully.
God bless you!
Comment by Jeff – June 25, 2008 @ 2:37 pm
Thank you for the commentary Dr. Mouw and standing behind the sanctity of marriage. It is extremely important that every believer understand the consequences of what has happened not only for the welfare of the family but for the future of America as a whole. Judgement will fall on this nation if this issue is not addressed and the amendment to uphold traditional marriage is not passed.
Comment by Carlyle Castle – June 25, 2008 @ 7:11 pm
I am a gay Christian that has been called to the ministry. I was about to submit an application to your seminary until I read the article in the LA Times. Everyone always talks about engaging in some sort of dialogue regarding gay Christians and their place in the body of Christ according to “(s)criptures,” but I feel that the discussion should now point to the harmony needed within the body and a homosexuals God-given right to minister to the people of God.
I think the Master’s Seminary is more welcoming than yours.
Comment by I’m Gay but not Happy – June 25, 2008 @ 7:48 pm
I am responding to the gay person who signs Gay but not Happy. You must be an intelligent and thouhtful person to be considering entering a seminary. If you are truly called to the ministry, neither humans nor demons will stop you. The Bible teaches that we should seek first his kingdom, and everything else, happiness, ministry, and fulfillment will come into place. There will never be complete harmony in the body of Christ, but I am sure of one thing: an obedient Christian is a happy Christian. Are you happy and joyful? Do you feel God is blessing your life and ministry? You do not have to have got it all together to consider entering the ministry, but ministry flows out of being and you must be a fulfilled person to be able to minister to others.
I symbathize a lot with your situation, I do not even come close to understanding it, and I will be praying for God to be on your side every moment.
Comment by Konstantinos Kalpakidis – June 26, 2008 @ 2:28 am
I’m sorry that you don’t feel that Fuller would be welcoming to you (and I’m forced to agree that you’d probably be right), but I think that the statement that you “think the Master’s Seminary is more welcoming” is strange in the extreme. On what basis do you make such a statement?
I think your point about needing arguments from social order, etc. rather than just arguments that are understood within the faith tradition is exactly the same point that Sen. Obama was trying to make in his speech two years ago that so hit the news this week with Dobson’s misunderstanding (?) of it in his response.
I am so grateful that someone of your prominence has spoke so thoughtfully and gracefully on this issue. I too believe that a nationwide conversation is required before we would make such changes, but that’s clearly not going to happen.
Though pretty convinced that homosexuality is not God’s plan for marital relationship, I’m not convinced that such relationships fall under “sin”. Having said that, I see two important points.
First, society’s interest in marriage is that of protecting the family unit. Since we have allowed homosexual couples to be parents (and I don’t know how you could stop that), then it behooves us to legalize that relationship for the sake of those families.
As a believer in equal rights for homosexuals, I used to think that legal partnerships should suffice, and let’s leave marriage to one man – one woman. However, the recent column in the New York Times – Thinking About California: Maybe Gonna Get Married By KIM SEVERSON – convinced me that such partnerships are seriously lacking in offering such rights.
Second, I share your slippery slope concern. If any two people are ok, why not 3? or 4? or 40? However, I don’t have an answer for that. The same argument can, and I’m pretty sure was, used against inter-racial marriage.
I would love to see prominent Christians speak out who…
1. Believe that homosexuality is or might be sinful.
2. Support legalizing gay marriage because it’s the “fair” thing to do.
3. Maintain their restrictions on marriage for one man and woman within their own denominations.
Comment by Dianne Parsons – June 26, 2008 @ 1:12 pm
This is a brilliant response to a question that I am being asked to discuss and pray about on a regular basis. We are inundated from the media about what is right and what is wrong with Christian views, and asked to accept the social views of the masses. Though I live among fellow Christians and non-Christians with differing views, I do not feel required to accept differing opinions, or even ask that others fully understand or accept mine. Slippery slope is as good a reason not to accept same sex marriages as any, but what about that same sex marriage is simply wrong? Do we not have a moral obligation to set any boundaries within the society that we live? If I were to see my neighbor commit murder, and not turn him in to the police, would that be acceptable? Oh, woops, guess that is already happening in some neighborhoods, wouldn’t want to rat out to the police. Or what if I knew of someone tying up their child to a tree in the extreme heat, and beating him? Wouldn’t want to offend a fellow worker…sorry that child died. If we do not draw a line about what we will accept socially AND morally then there is no slippery slope Dr. Mouw, it is a downhill toboggan with our morality at stake when Christ looks down to see who will take a stand. I for one will. Sex is used to procreate, at least that was the original intent, I think. Perhaps there is pleasure, but do we not also derive pleasure when eating as well? On the other hand, we could morph through frozen sperm and in 1,000 years we really can believe in evolution. It could even be a same sex race! God bless you, may you hold strong to your convictions, and may they be strong ones.
Comment by Concerned Southerner – June 26, 2008 @ 1:43 pm
Dr. Mouw, I’m supportive of your conclusions. My comment is along the lines of your question, “Where are they willing to draw the lines on even more pluralism in accepting various relationships as legally sanctioned marriages?”
A few years ago five former moderators of the PCUSA jointly convened a gathering of 200 or so, of which I was a part, for almost a week of discussions on the issue of the ordination of practicing homosexuals. We were trying to find some solution or way forward. What we found was that the organizers had not invited those from what could be considered the far left and far right ends of the spectrum.
The insight I had there was that the more liberal end of those there simply wanted to draw the line only to where they were comfortable (limited to two persons), and in that sense, we realized we were speaking to only the conservative end of the progressives. Those progressives were not able to articulate why the line should be drawn at where they were comfortable.
The question of who draws the line, where the line is drawn, is quite important. And it’s instantly murky upon what authority one can call upon to draw the line once you move beyond the classic orthodox line of one man and one woman.
Comment by Dave Hackett – June 26, 2008 @ 2:20 pm
To “I’m Gay but not Happy” I would like to apologize on behalf of our Seminary and assure you that President Mouw does not speak for the entire Fuller community. While I am unsure of Fuller’s exact stance on this issue (and am not hopeful given this blog) I do know that many professors and students have a more open and loving stance towards homosexuals. I would hope that we are indeed more welcoming than Master’s given its rather conservative approach to Christianity. I personally know gay students and believe that Fuller is better off because of their presence. This learning community is far more diverse, progressive and loving than we seem from this portrayal. It is hard to depict an entire community’s complexities via these means, but I hope that I am filling out some more of the picture.
I think the slippery slope metaphor is incredibly offensive. I happen to be straight and in a loving marriage, but the love that my wife and I share has little to do with the civic ceremony that the state recognizes. Our love is in no way dependent on what other marriages consist of. Our loving relationship will last regardless of what it is called and regardless of the legal limits placed on marriage. If two men want to get married, what difference could that possibly make in my marriage?
Further, to group homosexuals in the same category as polygamists and pedophiles is distasteful, demeaning and birthed from a strange fear. The articles that flooded the newspapers following the recent decision were full of love, hope and joy: two individuals (regardless of gender) completely happy to commit to one another before the state. Why must we assume that these marriages will lead to a society in disrepair? It doesn’t seem to logically follow that once we allow the two women down the street to marry (after a twenty-year relationship forged in a society unfriendly to their personhood) that it would necessarily lead to older men taking advantage of boys under the sanction of the state.
That a state would consider shutting off a segment of its society from the economic, personal and social gains that marriage brings is disheartening. Thank you, Dr. Mouw, for at least not taking a shallow and unfair look at the Bible for answers to this question. The biblical example of marriage is at best far removed from our own understanding and at worst downright dysfunctional. But, to deny homosexuals the right to marry is incredibly shortsighted, unloving and not the normative stance of the Fuller community.
To Tim (response 13): You are right about the slippery slope metaphor, and maybe Mouw was not correct (By the way, you too seem to present polygamy as worse than homosexuality in your post – where in the Bible did you get your facts).
Now, some things are not clear in your post.
There is no doubt that Christians must love homosexuals. You do not indicate in your post however whether you believe that homexuality is sin, an issue where Mouw took a clear position siting the Romans. By calling it sin, it does not follow he or Fuller are being unloving towards them. The problem in this debate is that the gay people do not want to call it sin but a biblicaly acceptable practice. People must simply make up their mind on this.
Now about the slippery slope metaphor. Living in a pluralistic society, we should allow the law of the land to prevail. If the majority vote for polygamy, or gay marriages, or whatever, then this is the law. In democracies, Christians should vote according to conscience without becoming loud and polemical. Instead, they should fight their spiritual battles in the spiritual realm by praying. And yes, in the end legalized unions should probably be the way to go, and should be allowed for both gay and straight couples, in order not to deprive anybody of any rights. To satisfy Christian sensibilities, we could dialogue together, and perhaps invent some alternative form of civil union that would include straight couples as well, and arrive thus in a third alternative synergistic solution which of course would have to be, a compromise, that is meet each other in the middle of the road.
Comment by Konstantinos Kalpakidis – June 27, 2008 @ 4:11 am
Thank you, Dr. Mouw, for your thoughts on this topic.
What I find amazing within much of the discussion among Christians of homosexual marriage and other assorted *rights*, is the near total lack of acknowledgement that homosexuality is a sin, pretty clearly classified as such in Rom. 1:26-32. I keep hearing Christians who either say, “Well, maybe it’s a sin, perhaps,” or who simply are silent on the matter.
But having said this, the same Romans passage also condemns such things as greed, envy, deceit, arrogance, disobedience to parents, and (gasp!) gossip. Whether homosexuality is a worse sin than deceit, arrogance, or envy (as I’ve heard some Christians maintain), I don’t really know. The passage doesn’t seem to give a hierarchy of sins here, so suffice it to say that all are contrary to God’s will and character, and hence are sins. Nevertheless, we allow the arrogant to marry; there are no sanctions against gossips in our society (unless it spills over into slander).
The other thing I keep coming back to is that when it comes to public policy, can we really expect an unbelieving world to behave as Spirit-indwelt Christians by basing laws upon a Christian system of ethics and behavior? I read quite a bit of Francis Schaeffer in the ’70s, so I’m familiar with references to the “Christian consensus” that used to exist within society, where Christian values were the norm and were respected and observed by the vast majority, even by those who were not Christians. But that consensus is gone. People now talk about American culture being “post-Christian.” I’ve heard others say that the culture is so far gone it’s beyond “post-Christian” – it’s now more like “pre-Christian” in that so few know or have a memory of the gospel of Christ there isn’t even an echo of the Christian consensus. We’re much like Rome in the first century, some say. If so, we have reason to be optimistic, because the gospel took deep root in that society and culture.
In an email exchange earlier this week, my son wrote, “I’m over the whole Christianity-as-a-social-movement thing and am resigned to being a small percentage of the population. This is the way it has been for virtually all of Church history, this is the way I’m convinced it will remain until the time of The Second Coming.” To me, my hope rests not on any politician, not on the Republican Party, not on the Supreme Court, not on “vox populi” (voice of the people), but on God whose hand is on history and events. What I think we all want is revival in America – an outpouring of God’s Spirit so overwhelming that the wider society is brought back to God (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Awakening , http://www.amazon.com/Revival-Martyn-Lloyd-Jones/dp/0891074155/ref=pd_bbs_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1214584234&sr=1-1 ). Such a revival won’t come through legislation or ballot initiatives. Prayer’s pretty much been the means by which revival springs forth. I’m weary of much of the church that is trying to address spiritual issues using the means of the world, and ignoring the means and resources we’re given by God’s Spirit.
This said, if the constitutional amendment designating marriage as between one man and one woman makes it to the California ballot in November, I’ll vote for it. (And the culture wars will continue to rage on.)
I appreciate Dr. Mouw’s civil tone and nuanced position, however I strongly disagree with the “slippery-slope” argument. As others have pointed out, it’s extremely degrading to compare homosexuality to pedophilia. However, apart from that, I wanted to point out that Dr. Mouw never clarifies exactly why it would be so bad to go down the road of the “slippery-slope.” He takes it as self-evident that a three-person marriage and polygamy would be detrimental to our society on a PRAGMATIC level. What’s the basis for this position? I will grant that the case of the boy and the adult male relationship seems self-evidently wrong, but in that case we are dealing with statutory rape as opposed to two consenting adults.
Comment by KH – June 27, 2008 @ 9:58 am
[…] Marriage: The Public Debate – I really appreciate reading Richard Mouw’s (President of Fuller Seminary) as he articulates […]
Pingback by Spanglish Gringo » Blog Archive » On today’s reading – June 27, 2008 @ 12:51 pm
I am most disappointed that neither President Mouw’s blog entry nor his comments quoted in the Times show any evidence of any discussion with gay Christians playing any part in his judgment. While different Christians put more or less emphasis on various inputs considered in reaching conclusions or judgments, Wesley’s quadrilateral (scripture, tradition, reason and experience) represents the rationale for most of our conclusions. Dr. Mouw’s blog glaringly fails to mention experience in any way.
I know that Dr. Mouw is not averse to engaging in dialogue with people of other religions. I am quite disappointed at his unwillingness to engage in dialogue with Christians of other sexual orientations, or if he has done so, to mention in any way how such dialogues have informed his opinions.
Comment by Susan – June 27, 2008 @ 3:22 pm
Mouw’s argument is about coming up with a basis/criteria for establishing social order that is acceptable by all parties involved. If his understanding of the current criteria for such social order is wrong he welcomes correction and the formulation of a different one. But since nobody has come up with a better or different one, than it is the only item on the table he can interact with. His logical connections and implications are flawless if seen in this perspective. Or not?
There is however an essential point to make in this discussion. The moment we’re talking about public policy, realizing that we need to change our language and approach is just the start. It is critical we understand who the accepted players in this debate are. As much as we would love a public debate on issues like this one, unless you’re in positions of public policy decision making, you’re really not invited to participate in the public debate and if you do speak you have little or no consequence on the issue at hand. With this in mind what we need to do is help elect to these public positions people who share our values but also, understanding the nature of public debate, are highly skilled in this “pragmatic arena” of a pluralistic society.
Comment by Florin Paladie – June 28, 2008 @ 10:24 am
I find this topic interesting as I am wrestling with this issue, especially as I prepare for ordination in the PC/USA.
I’m not sure about the “slippery slope” metaphor. I’m not sure if its helpful in the dialogue. However, I do think there are definite social issues that need to be discussed openly and honestly.
I have often thought that “civil unions” would be the way to go in this issue. However, I must admit that I haven’t explored the issue as much as I should.
I have said this in relationship to our denomination: we should stop making emotional pleas based on conservative or liberal cultural leanings. There is probably a “third way” of dealing with homosexual ordination and marriage/civil unions. We should look at scripture and spend an amount of time, say a couple of years, not making big statements or changes to our various ecclesiastical constitutions, but spending that time in prayer and reflection on these issues, as well as honest dialogue. I have a sense that we are afraid to do that because God may tell us we are all wrong in some way.
To my “gay and unhappy” friend, I would invite you to take a closer look at Fuller. It may not be the place for you, you have to determine where God is calling you and who God is calling you to be. But from my experiences, from Dr. Mouw and throughout this seminary, there is a spirit of community and dialogue that is God-ordained and very special. It is rare in that I have not found in many other Christian institutions, both “liberal” and “conservative” ones.
Comment by Rich – June 28, 2008 @ 2:53 pm
Quote from Fuller Seminary’s Formal Statements of Community Standards:
“Fuller Theological Seminary believes that sexual union must be reserved for marriage, which is the covenant union between one man and one woman, and that sexual abstinence is required for the unmarried. The seminary believes premarital, extramarital, and homosexual forms of explicit sexual conduct to be inconsistent with the teaching of Scripture. Consequently, the seminary expects all members of its community–students, faculty, administrators, staff, and trustees–to abstain from what it holds to be unbiblical sexual practices.”
I believe Dr. Mouw is right in applying a different standard to the question of homosexual marriage in a secular context. However, it seems to me, some want to apply secular standards to the Christian community even as they agree we should not impose our standards within the larger culture. As Dr. Mouw said, within the Christian community we should all profess to take seriously what God thinks and so look for what the Bible teaches. As Christians, often our moral and ethical standards will conflict with culture at large and this can give rise to serious questions of right and wrong within our faith communities. How we resolve these issues speaks largely to our identity as Christians in the world. I believe this identity is largely based on a high view of scripture as God’s word and should have primary relevance in the discussion within the body of Christ. How we relate to the culture at large is a different question.
Comment by James Kim – June 29, 2008 @ 11:41 pm
I have thought long and hard on this issue for sometime. I agree and disagree with many in this string of comments. I did not grow up Christian and was in the world of ballet, which means I came in contact with a lot of homosexual people. (Sorry about the stereo-type, but for the most part it seems to be true that there are a lot of gay men in this industry and some gay females…atleast in the US.) Anyway, I never thought it was wrong and then, I became Christian and explored all of my long held beliefs, settling on the fact that homosexuality is a sin. Recently, I had a very close friend tell me that she was a lesbian. Did this make me love her any less? No, it certainly did not. However, I feared for her. I felt that she would never feel the true blessing of God because she was living outside of His will. She, however, is not Christian and I can not judge her by my standard. Many people argue saying that people are born gay. I believe that it is a great possibility that many people are genetically predisposed to a variety of behaviors. As examples, addictive behaviors, feelings of depression, compulsive behaviors, etc. However, ultimately it is your choice to act upon these things or not. It is not just a nature vs. nuture issue, but there is the third element of choice. I am a single female and have struggled for a while with sex before marriage, but I know that when I have failed this is sin and I try again to be celibate. As a Christian, I believe that homosexuality is a sin and if a homosexual person can not happily be with a person of the opposite sex that he/she should remain celibate. Difficult? Yes, but no one ever died because they did not have sex. Okay, so that is a long paragraph not speaking to the issues of law.
I do believe that a civil union governed by the state should be permissible. Let the government manage civil unions and the church manage marriage. Marriage is in the eyes of God and should be between only a man and a woman, but let the government manage contracts between individuals who want to be with each other. I don’t agree that it should go as far as polygamy and definitely not to under-age people, but I have not any extremely good reason for not agreeing to polygamy. It’s just my gut reaction.
Comment by Carrie – June 30, 2008 @ 5:47 pm
Dear Dr. Mouw,
As a recent graduate, I appreciate your candor and willingness to dialogue about such pertinent topics. After reading you blog, I had one question that I would love for someone (hopefully you) to address. This is a lingering question that I have been wondering about for quite a while. The question is this, “What does the Bible have to say about equality and equal legal rights for persons of different genders, sexual orientations, religious backgrounds, and ethnic identifications?” Quite honesty, I’m not very clear on what the Bible specifically says about this matter. The reason I ask is that it seems to be the central issue behind this movement to legalize same-sex marriage. Most of the lesbian and gay persons I know highly value equal relationship, and want to get married for these reasons. They simply want to honor each other as equal loving partners, and to legally protect themselves and their children from being oppressed. Is this something we Christians could get on board with? Is this value of equality in the marital relationship and in terms of legal rights for their families something that Bible would uphold? For me, this is potentially where the line is drawn. Polygamy and pederasty are thus problematic as they are unbalanced in terms of power and violate this central value. I’m still trying to work this out as a Christian and I would love your feedback.
Comment by Joey – July 1, 2008 @ 11:29 am
I would really like to comment on the posts made by the commentators here, but then I think I would be commenting on everything BUT what Dr. Mouw has said. I will comment on one post though. “KH” in post 16 for instance, did not appreciate Dr. Mouw’s comparison to pedophilia. Dr. Mouw is not comparing them in such a way as to the identity of the two sexual issues. Dr. Mouw is simply saying that society could come to accept pedophilia AT THAT POINT (law formation is in fact a long process of public recognition of the state. In this case it would not be the recognition of realities based in creation order, but of the state CREATING the “reality”–calling something a marriage when it is not–thus a mis-identification of reality). In other words, at that point, there would be nothing “degrading” about associating the two together. On Dr. Mouw’s perspective, those like “KH” who find it degrading must ask themselves if it is genuinely degrading or whether it is something that just upsets their personal moral tastes. They may not like pedophilia or the comparison of the two “sexual orientations” but so what? Who are they to impose their tastes on those who want pedophilia to be legally recognized as a marriage?
But getting back to Dr. Mouw’s post, though you do not want to use scripture in the public arena, (of which I agree) it should be no less apparent, when you say, “I do believe, though, that the public arguments-those that take place about what should be sanctioned in the larger society-are of a different order.” that those public arguments are ultimately no less religious in nature as are the arguments used by defenders of gay marriage. Usually when the Wesleyan Quadrilateral is brought up, and we talk about, “Scripture, tradition, reason and experience” we should not be inclined to think “experience” is somehow devoid of bias religious underpinnings. In other words, when we speak of experience, we should be aware of what Jamie Smith calls “correlationism” in which we accept, for example, psychology as if it is a “neutral secular” account of reality–of “the way things are” and then as Christians, getting our theology to fall into line with that and in this case, having someone who is a defender of gay marriage telling us we have no right to speak or have religion influence our public laws. Usually, when we speak of “experience” the culture is what wins out, not Scripture. The naked public square in this sense is not naked.
Comment by Brandon Blake – July 1, 2008 @ 12:12 pm
I graduated from Fuller back in 05 with an M.Div and I wanted to comment on some of the garbage I have been reading.
First, I agree with Dr. Mouw but for more obvious reasons. The problem with most Christians and most of the above posters is that they obviously like to bend the truth.
I don’t mean to drop some reality checks on some of you but the truth of the matter is that being gay is a sin and people who indulge in that perversion will go to hell.
Now, I’m tired of hearing some of my Christian brethren water down the gospel so that it can possibly mean love everyone and accept their sin. Sorry but homos will not and cannot enter the afterlife and worship my God, the one and only God, the Christian God because they have defiled their human existence.
Now everyone here seems to be tiptoeing around that simple fact just because some gay guy (#6) said he wasn’t going to go to the seminary. Boo hoo! You have got to be kidding me.
What a joke some of you people are for actually siding with the homosexual and talking against Dr. Mouw and the seminary.
I would like to ask for the proper authorities at Fuller to do an immediate investigation regarding some of these heretics making slanderous accusations against the president and the seminary, and I would like to have those students/staff/supporters to be removed from the seminary immediately.
Further, #21 points out the written regulation that states gays are not welcome in the seminary because it is a sin and non-biblical. Just because I am saying what the other 19 people who have posted here want to say, means that Fuller seminary is directly contributing to the enemy by graduating these “kids” who feel it is our Christian responsibility to bend the truth and welcome fags into our church and ministry.
Dr. Mouw is obviously running around the truth but I will not! The funny thing is that I am 27 and I live in San Francisco. 4 of my friends from high school are now gay and I pray for them every night.
Most of you responding to this lazy attempt to discredit homosexuals in Christianity have like 1 gay friend and/or reading a book about a gay Christian and how they are now loving their neighbor…so now you feel that you have a right to comment on homosexuals in the ministry. What a joke kiddies…
And even though your lack of experience is laughable, I applaud your attempt to bend Christian truth as you see fit.
In closing I would like to say,
#6: pick another profession
To #6’s supporters: Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!
Comment by Darrin – July 2, 2008 @ 1:54 am
I find slippery slope arguments to be pretty unconvincing. Often the only way to move is along a slippery slope. For example, consider the American Revolution. Wasn’t the idea of declaring independence from the king (“by the grace of God”) a slippery slope? Wasn’t anarchy a likely possible result? Or perhaps this is a result of breaking down the barriers of mixed race marriages, a slippery slope that had to be traversed. Don’t avoid the slippery slopes. Travel with caution, but keep walking.
Comment by Darrel Manson – July 2, 2008 @ 7:35 am
It’s still an entirely arbitrary stand. Mouw finds support in Scripture (surprise!) for where he think lines should be drawn, based on his own preconceived notions. As it has ever been.
It’s much more rational to draw a line between the “two adults of the age of consent” restriction and other possible arrangements than it is between same-gender vs. mixed gender marriage. Mouw is doing exactly what the defenders of laws forbidding interracial marriage did when it was no longer fashionable to defend public policy by pointing to Scripture. They retreated to “the good of society” arguments. Of course it was really racism dressed up as a rational argument. Mouw is simply dressing up homophobia in a false rational argument.
If you’re going to pick a spot on the “slippery slope” and make it your last stand, at least pick one that’s less arbitrary. Limiting marriage to two adults is a much easier spot to defend. It’s a much clearer distinction than the one Mouw strains to make regarding gender. Gay couples are everywhere, and ever have been. How many people do you meet in the grocery store who are in three person relationships? There are slippery slopes, and then there are things that happen on other planets. The same goes for marriage to children. In both cases, you can build good secular rationales for why it’s unnatural and unhealthy. On the other hand, the only thing bad about gay marriage is the way it causes people like Mouw to spout prejudice dressed up as reason.
Mouw seems to think that what gay people REALLY want is to destroy all the assumptions about family, and have people marrying multiple partners, children, animals, or whatever. Not sure where he gets these ideas, or where other people do, but that’s clearly the implication. If that’s not what he’s trying to say, then his suggestion that gay marriage is somehow harmful falls flat.
Doesn’t it occur to him, or the rest of his ilk, that this is demeaning and insulting? So much for respect for those with differing opinions. The fact that Mouw is married doesn’t cause me to assume that he wants to be in a relationship with multiple women or children or animals. I don’t make subtle connections between straight people and child molesters. Could he maybe grant the gay community the same favor?
Gay people want the same rights and protections that he has, that’s all. Attaching lots of other scary stuff to it is just demonization, that’s all. It evil. One might even say sinful.
Mark my words, we will see the day when homophobia is embarrassing the way racism is now. Racism used to be defended with precisely, exactly, the same arguments. Those days are gone. These days shall also pass. Maybe then the Mouws of the world will have a little perspective. And repent.
Comment by Paul Spyksma – July 2, 2008 @ 11:17 pm
For an unusual approach to this topic, readers can Google “God to Same-Sexers: Hurry Up.” Interestingly, I have spotted this article, sometimes with a different headline, on a number of sites. Flo
Comment by Flo Banks – July 3, 2008 @ 12:01 am
What’s love got to do with it? Nothing and everything.
When cultures who practice arranged marriages do so why do they consign their children (whom they love) to a partnership whose emotional component can’t yet be known? On what basis do they make the match?
On what basis was interracial marriage (usually thrown into this discussion) prohibited?
The irony in this is that the debate really is created by the victory in our culture of the assumption that husbands ought to love their wives (Eph 5) combined with the re-definition of that “love” as romantic love.
Did you every wonder why in nearly every single pop culture movie the main character has to have a love interest? Get Smart is about 86 and 99 falling in love. Their romantic love propels the plot forward. There was a preview in the theater about a guy who has a water stain that looks like Mary. He’s depressed but he’s saved by the beautiful woman who lives next door (with the wounded child) through their romantic love.
If there is a bigger salvation narrative than revolution in our culture it’s romantic love.
For most of human history love in marriage was a nice add-on but not central to the institution. The institution was about paternity and property, bloodline and bottom lines.
Interracial marriage (and when I STILL hear quiet comments about it) was about the polluting of the (white) race. Want to talk about myth-of-progress ideas? By the 19th century fueled by Darwin everyone “knew” the evolutionary path led to light skin, skinny noses and thin hair. It was obvious that the nations from these races were technologically, mentally, and socially superior to everyone else in the world because they ruled the world (colonialism). Science (Darwin) “proved” it until the two world wars and Hitler made it unfashionable (debunking the “scientific” notions came much later with DNA). Spout an idea like that today on the radio directly and you might be put in jail for hate speech. Any argument that appeals solely to what year it is may find itself in real trouble 100 years from now.
If you want to trace the court’s journey on this you have to look at the palimony suits. Habitual, consensual sex with co-habitation without a legal contract implies legal contract. Classical cultures would have mocked such a thing. “Wives are for heirs, courtesans for romance and companionship, slave girls for the daily needs.” Christians want to combine the roles because of their crazy idea that a person doesn’t HAVE TO have regular access to sex. Do you want to look for an idea that is out of favor in our country, look at that one. Sexual satisfaction is nearly a “right” in our culture.
Culturally we’ve made the ideal of sexually satisfying, romantic love to be the highest salvation experience for humanity. We’ve ceremonialized it and legalized it within marriage. The church has done little or nothing to challenge this idea, instead we’ve mostly propagated it in hopes of propping up the institution of marriage. Is it any wonder courts find barring gay couples from this to be “discrimination”?
It also makes sense of the cultural reality that gay couples seek to reproduce heterosexual marriage (complete with children) just as heteros are failing at it and even abandoning it (co-habitation). In many ways this debate is about nothing that universal marriage (before and beyond the scope of the Christian world) and everything about what our culture has done with marriage, romantic love, and aspirations for finding salvation within its context. pvk
Dear Chairman Mouw,
Wow! What a concise and articulate bit of confusion for the Christian Church and American Society you have written here! I am almost ashamed to say that I graduated from Fuller, except that I know the Old Testament is very clear on forbidding homosexual activity. It is just as clear in the same passages that beastialty and incest are wrong, too. But, we don’t hear anyone arguing in favor of bedding down with sheep or with their own siblings (though, as for bedding down with our siblings there is far more “biblical” precedent in couples like Abraham and Sarah than for practicing homosexuality)! It scares me to know that you can speak of “common grace” and societal change on that basis, but use the broader disclaimer of being “a little nervous about being known as someone who simply quotes the Bible on issues of public policy.” What a convenient and cowardly retreat from biblical, civic responsibility. Do you hold to the same lack of biblically informed standards where murder, rape, pedophelia, drunk driving, bestiality and incest are concerned? What, exactly, is your standard for public policy? Do you have one? I do not believe, sir, that you are anymore conservative about anything than politicians like Barak Obama or his former church leader are about their confused views. I think that Fuller really needs to redifine itself and call for your resignation in place of an unashamedly biblical standard of education. You have worked hard, for years, to give true “evangelicalism” a soft touch and remove it from its true conservative, biblical tenets of upholding godly values by placing it squarely within the arena of revisionist theology and the bogos notion of “common grace.” Please resign.
Comment by Jeff Avants – July 3, 2008 @ 8:38 am
Dear Dr. Mouw and Kind Readers,
I believe that I and my wife of 17 and our children have been treated quite unfairly for some years now.
I have an 8 and 11 son and daughter. They both go to a Christian grade school. It was discovered by school administration, last year at Christmastime, that my wife and I are half-brother and sister. We married in Kentucky believing that we were first cousins (this is not uncommon in the Mountain areas there, though less common than 60 years ago). We knew after my wife was expecting our first child, that we were siblings because our grandmother living in another town at the time of our marriage came forward to tell us after she found out that we had married. It was a complicated issue that involved incest and was kept quite as a result. Long-story-short, my wife and I decided to stay married because of the way we felt about each other. We did not “feel” like broter and sister, but like true lovers and soul mates who were as passionate about eachother as any newly married couple. That hasn’t changed. We have even said, that had we known, we would have married anyway. Our children are perfectly healthy and our daughter is extremely intelligent with an I.Q. of 140. We discovered that all the talk of recessive gene traits and such were mostly very overexagerrated, and as much the exeption in our circumstances as in “normal” society. Unfortunately, my daughter made this discovery on her own, despite the fact that we moved to west many years ago, by looking through some old family documents and photos of ours – i.e., she connected the dots. Now we are faced with having to take our children out of Christian school and, worse, possibly having our marraige nullified and our family broken up. My question to folks like Dr. Mouw is why? Others can practice “gender” incest, but we cannot share the loving relationship we’ve held for years. We aren’t hurting anyone simply becasue society and the Church refuses to accept us on the same basis that they reject homosexual unions (which I, personally, find deplorable). If it was good enough for Abram and Sarai, why not us? On what basis should we not be allowed the same priviliges as the rest of society?
Comment by John – July 3, 2008 @ 8:57 am
Dear Joey, et al,
See “John’s” comment # 25 of July 3rd. His really begs a rational answer, doesn’t it? There is no imbalance of power here, but every prospect for his children to be “opprossed.” And, even if there were the serious possiblities of genetic defects in children of incest parents (and he is right, it is rare) then why could they not, like gay couples, either adopt or inseminate or use other means of having a family? Is one really anymore unnatural than the other? By the way, I think the term “gender incest” hits the nail on the head? After all, except for broader acceptance of homosexuality than incest, what’s the big difference? Shouldn’t people just learn to live and deal with what two (maybe more) consenting adults want? After all, isn’t equality and egalitarianism the very virtues that “consenting” consist of? And, isn’t that how democracy is made, particularly in a pluraistic society?
Comment by Jeff – July 3, 2008 @ 9:12 am
If we are so concerned with protecting the sanctity of marriage, and upholding social order, where do WE draw the line with our OWN efforts? Why don’t we press for divorce to be illegal? Why not arrest adulterers and prosecute the 40% of pastors surveyed who admit to using porn? These realities seem to pervert and corrupt “God’s Plan” for sexuality far more than we even come close to acknowledging, yet we STILL focus our attention on legislating the limitations of homosexuals. It is nonsensical, and inconsistent. Stop saying that we are trying to prevent the decay of society by preventing gay marriage. What is the basis for this mindset other than a couple very unconvincing Bible verses? Heterosexuals Christian and non-Christian are doing a fine job of destroying the sanctity of marriage all by themselves, but I don’t hear Christians trying making that reality into some kind of public policy. Number 13, I love you and couldn’t agree with you more. Making the case that permitting gay marriage opens the doors to permitting pedophilia is as logical as saying legalizing gay marriage will mean we may have to legalize gang violence. I am so tired of this debate. I think the history, pain, and lack of understanding that Christians have should lead us to sit this one out, let people marry who they want, and see what happens. And not out of apathy or surrender to “sin” but as a way to get out of the way of what the Holy Spirit may be doing.
Comment by Danielle Graham – July 4, 2008 @ 3:12 am
Dear Dr. Mouw,
As a gay Christian and Episcopalian at that, I know what you speak of when you speak about the condition of this debate. What ought to be a healthy debate about human sexuality has gone to a point where we dehumanize those on both sides of the debate. The fact that you express (and I hope this is true of you) a desire to hear from the other side and that you respect the other side is very refreshing. Although I disagree with you, I welcome the debate as long as it is respectful, honest and above all else, Christian.
Initially, I had reservations about applying to Fuller Seminary to obtain my theological education. I respect an opinion that is not relativistic yet maintain an open healthy respect for those with a different opinion. Now I will definitely fill out my application.
Yours in Christ
Hi Dr. Mouw,
I admire your candid and plain argument about the issue on same-sex marriage. Your explanation with regards to possible far reaching effects of the decision of the Supreme Court, to me, was as clear as the sea. You have articulated your opposing view with regards to this issue. This is a free country that promotes free speech and the freedom of expression. And no one has the monopoly of truth! We have arrived, unfortunately, in to postmodernistic society where everyone is free to do whatever he or she pleases. Even if endangers that future of our children.
I couldn’t agree with you more when you said that eventually those who live in a polygamous life, those who are committed, even to their animals, may one day ask the Supreme Court to sanction and legalize their connection or union. I would not be surprised. This is where the world is heading after all. But your voice and my voice may save some people who would listen. I think people just need to use their common sense which I feel, that the judges in the supreme court lost when majority of them ignored the voice of the majority of Californians and sided with the homosexuals.
I have friends who are straight and homosexuals. Some Pastors that I know who suffered so much because their children who have chosen to live a homosexual life style. Some of these children died young because of AIDS. I was just listening to one homosexual who was testifying of the joy he felt when the Supreme Court finally granted their wish. He told us that five of his committed partners never reached this point of their lives because all them died early. I asked myself. Why do all of them died?
The Surgeon General of the United States, in his paper on homosexuality, claimed that those practicing homosexual are more vulnerable to AIDS, HIV, sexually transmitted diseases, hepatitis, diabetes and the like. The Medical Journal of the New England said the same thing. I felt that those who approve of this same-sex marriage are giving our children the wrong signal. That living a homosexual life is healthy, that taking the opposite stand is heartless and cruel. That dying young with AIDS is ok.
When I was in the seminary, there was an older brother who was studying theology to become a pastor. He was a chain smoker and I became his friend. One day I told him that smoking was detrimental to his health and he should quit smoking. He took it personal and decided to stay away from my group. After a couple of months, he appeared to us while we were eating dinner. He told us, “You are my true friends because you spoke the truth about my smoking habit.” He told us that his doctor told him that he had cancer of the lungs and he may not live that long. He was thankful to us and we told him that we did what we did because we love him.
Sometimes people may not understand what we are trying to do. But what is important, to me, is that we are doing what we are suppossed to do because we love our fellowmen or fellow women. I love my homosexual friends.
Another experienced that I had was when I was a teen-ager was my own nephew who believes he was born homosexual. He joins all the activities of the homosexuals, joins their parade, joins dancing and all the parties. But one day he knocked on my door and requested to solemnize his wedding. Now, he has four beautiful kids and enjoying a married life with his beautiful wife.
Same-sex marriage is simply going to opposite direction of all that is normal and scientific. Same signs of the gravitational force repel. Opposite signs attract. Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis believe that homosexuality is a psychosexual problem but the American Psychological Association (APA) already trashed that claimed because of the pressures of the Homosexual Liberation Front. But I will continue to express my opposition to same-sex marriage and by doing this I might be able to save some. After all this is my job.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my story in this corner. I believe that I have a job to do, and that is to tell the truth in love.
God bless you.
Comment by Nel – July 4, 2008 @ 4:40 pm
“Same sex marriage is simply going to opposite direction of all that is normal and scientific.”
What is the basis for what is “normal” and “scientific?” And please give me something more specific than “The Bible says so.”
Sigmund Freud also said that women were castrated men. His views on homosexuality were rejected because scientifically they didn’t hold up.
The Surgeon General’s essay on homosexuals being at a greater risk for HIV/AIDS has to do with promiscuity not just the mere fact of being gay. That is one of the reasons he is criticized because he advocates for condom use in order to stop the spread of the disease. If more gay people marry, and a culture is permitted to flourish where monogamy is valued, we could potentially see a drastic reduction in HIV/AIDS.
Comment by Danielle Graham – July 5, 2008 @ 1:48 pm
Nel – I have to say that your viewpoints have got me thinking about my stance on civil unions. I do not want people to believe it is acceptable to be gay. As a matter of fact, I think that gay couples are seen younger and younger, because society has stated that it is acceptable to be gay and unacceptable to speak against it. I agree that loving someone sometimes means that we have to tell them something they may not want to hear. I am struggling with telling some of my homosexual friends what I believe. One knew my viewpoint before telling me she was gay, but I avoid talking about it now and then, there are two friends at work that know that I am Christian, but are uncertain of how liberal or conservative I am. Someday, I fear losing friends because of what I believe, but I will never deny what I believe to be right.
Anyway, I have to comment on #25 (Darrin). I do not feel that what you are saying is out of love. You call homosexuals deragatory names, such as fags. How is that showing love? Nelson, above, convinced me that he speaks to people out of fear for them. You on the other may want to examine your self-righteousness. Christ came to save the sinners. Homosexuals are sinners, as are you and me. Should we convince ourselves that a sin is acceptable? No, we should not, but none of us can be perfect that is why we need to rely on Jesus. A homosexual who is struggling with the sin and who repents when failing can be forgiven and be in heaven. Just as we all can when we fail. Please look at what you are saying to others and examine your motives. Check to see that what is said is in love. I say this because I believe that you want to draw others closer to God and the best we can do that is through love and yes, sometimes that is tough love.
Comment by Carrie – July 6, 2008 @ 1:12 am
response to Tim
I’m curious to what authority YOU have to speak on the behalf of Fuller? How have you been empowered to apologize on behalf of our seminary? What if we don’t want to be apologized for? I’m not sure your intent, but I felt compelled to tell you how pridefull your post comes accross.
Actually Mouw DOES speak on behalf of Fuller. I am enthuastic about Mouw having his position here and would suggest those unhappy about him (current or prospective student) respect our seminary and apply elsewhere instead of verbally slandering our president and having the nerve to apologize for him and our institutuion.
One happy student who loves Fuller
Comment by evan – July 7, 2008 @ 1:23 pm
I dusted off my old Logic textbook since I vaguely remember the slippery slope being informal and difficult to classify. Since there have been so many posts that seem to take its fallacious nature for granted, here is the Hurley definition: “The fallacy of slippery slope is a variety of the false cause fallacy. It occurs when the conclusion of an argument rests upon an alleged chain reaction and there is not sufficient reason to think the chain reaction will actually take place.”
This makes it difficult to prove or disprove and, it seems to me, the arguer’s worldview plays a significant role in determining the validity of an informal argument. One can argue whether there is sufficient grounds to establish ’cause’ in the chain reaction, but one cannot merely dismiss it as fallacious simply because it argues on the basis of causal relationships. In fact, it seems to me, some of the posts engage in their own versions of slippery slopes on the other side of the argument. For those who do support homosexual marriage, they must do so on the basis that it is a societal ‘good’, and this can only be argued on causal grounds. So, it is not just on one side that the burden of proof exists. Underlying the whole issue is the simple question: is it good for society? Or put another way, will the California judicial lifting of the ban on homosexual marriage improve or worsen our culture? Whichever position you take will require the establishment of causal relationships in arguing that question. And it seems to me there is compelling historical grounds to argue that societies and civilizations worsen where ethical and moral standards are loosened or abandoned. As a further note, it is not helpful to the discussion when some choose to engage in emotional appeals and ad-hominems such as calling for the resignation of the president. Such posts are not really helpful to the discussion and disengenious at best. We can argue with respect for each other.
Comment by James Kim – July 7, 2008 @ 5:27 pm
Dear Dr. Mouw,
I’m deeply touched and proud of your bold stance on an issue that has divided churches across America. Many people had equated this as a social injustice issue. But I believe people that are advocating this issue, is upsetting the social order as you indicated, and they are doing a fantastic job. When churches are no longer calling sin as sin but “something else”, they’re already rotting on the inside, much like the social disorder evident across America.
Comment by Phil – July 7, 2008 @ 10:33 pm
Part of this issue comes down to the question of how much authority do we as Christians understand the Bible to have? I understand the Bible to be the highest authority for my life, as it is God’s word to his children. That being the case, the Bible will always trump the social climate (which changes drastically over the course of a person’s life time). The Bible will always trump the political context (which always evolves). The Bible will always trump the religious doctrines of the day (many of which are sadly lacking in Biblical witness).
Now, much of the present religious doctrine, social climate, and political context is harping on the issues of gay marriage and gay rights. However, the scriptures which discuss homosexuality, though they are few, have not changed as the social and religious climate has changed. Certainly these scriptures have been viewed in a different light as the times have made homosexuality more of an issue. However, be they few, the scriptures of the Bible which address homosexuality are pretty clear that homosexuality is against the original intended order of human relationships. Even if you entirely ignore the Old Testament passages (which I would argue is a bad idea), the few New Testament passages are still pretty clear on the issue. But let’s be fair: the Bible does not tell us that homosexuality is a ticket to hell, nor does it tell us that homosexuality is absurdly worse than other offenses which are listed along with it. But the Bible does tell us that it is not the intended order of God’s creation. I believe that I have to let the Bible trump the social climate.
However, many Christians who are more liberal than I will understand the scriptures to carry a lesser weight in this debate. In that case, I can understand how concern for gay rights might outweigh how one understands the biblical evidence. However, I believe that stripping the Bible of its authority is dangerous. After all, our politics will change 50 years from now, as will the social climate. However, God’s Word does not change. Whether or not gay marriage is an issue 50 years from now , the Bible will still contain the same passages on homosexuality.
Comment by Sean Love – July 7, 2008 @ 11:47 pm
To Brendan (comment no. 24): Well said. How do you respond to those who compare the plight of the African American to that of the gay American? Thank you.
Comment by Mike M. in Colorado – July 8, 2008 @ 6:29 pm
I have asked myself: Why does this debate spark so much among all the debates of our time? I think it is because our “American” culture lacks the resources on its own to deal with this problem. But Christian culture, contained in the Bible, explains God’s will in the matter (against of course). Lets recall that the founding fathers knew democracy would only be successful if it is filled with devout, religious folk. The founding fathers criteria for success has obviously failed, for America is declining in all areas of religious participation.
Some Christians (focus and family and company) attempt to resolve this by defending America as a “Christian nation” founded on “Christian values.” But that does little to sway the masses, only to mobilize some conservatives.
I personally am uncertain how much we should expect the nation’s legal system to reflect Christian values, but we should definitely DESIRE our nation’s praxis to reflect Christian.
But the one thing we have to do is to at least, within our churches, be faithful to God, and call ALL sin what it is. This includes homosexual relations, as well as many other things people have states. But we also have to care for people, and truth telling is part of that.
Though I’m not sure about the politics of it all, given the choice in a candidate or a proposition, I have to vote my conscience, and say that monogomous homosexual relationships are not marriage. Call it want you want, give them tax breaks, I don’t care. But it the nation is going to call it marriage, Christians need to call it something else.
If our nation sanctions homosexual unions, then this is a perfect time for the Church to reflect theologically on marriage, and restate it with a truer name.
Comment by Paul Frields – July 9, 2008 @ 9:52 am
Some light on the slippery slope argument:
There are seven boundaries that define marriage:
1) You cannot have multiple marriages. (bigamy).
2) You cannot marry a near relative.
3) You cannot marry someone against your will.
4) You cannot marry a minor.
5) You cannot marry a non-human.
6) You cannot marry more than one person. (polygamy).
7) You cannot marry someone of the same gender.
Obviously, the CA Court removed boundary #7. Apply the court’s (and your) reasoning to the other remaining restrictions. Why must the other boundaries stand? If one stands, isn’t that discrimination? According to Anna Quindlen of Newsweek, “it’s all about love.” If so, all these barriers must be removed. There’s your slope. The harm is what it does to kids, society, and one’s relationship to God, who has spoken.
Several posts took offense that Dr. Mouw lumped together other relationships like polygamy and man-boy love. Why be upset? What is the compelling reason to keep age boundaries in place, or number boundaries in place, but not gender boundaries? Especially if, as Dr. Mouw argued, those are loving, committed relationships? Why would you deny those loving relationships their “rights”?
One real evidence of the slope: Andrew Sullivan and other advocates of same-sex marriage have argued that marriage doesn’t require exclusive fidelity.
The foremost expert supporting the argument of Dr. Mouw is Dr. Robert Gagnon, Associate Professor of Pittsburgh Seminary. Consult his website at www.robgagnon.net
To Mike M in post no. 42. If I understand your question correctly, the argument is use says something like, “Inter-racial marriage was not allowed back in the day and that changed, so why not allow that with regard to gay-couples?” To that I would say that the law **WAS** wrong. That the law was not based on any MATERIAL DIFFERENCE between a racially mixed marriage and a same-race marriage (the whole idea of “race” is a presupposition which should necessarily be accepted out right either, but that’s beside the point) but based on prejudice against blacks. Once the law was changed to disallow racial discrimination there was no longer any basis for prohibiting heterosexual people, of any race, to marry and eventually the practice was rectified. So, on the contrary, heterosexual marriage does not exist because of a prejudice against gay marriages. It exists because of the distinct identity of heterosexuality. Hope that helps.
Comment by Brandon Blake – July 13, 2008 @ 11:42 pm
Thank you for this post in which you make some logical and valid points. I will be attending Fuller beginning this fall, and I look forward to the education that await me there.
There was a comment early on that suggested a certain homosexual individual is no longer interested in Fuller because of your stance. I would like to respond by saying that your stance makes me all the more sure that I have chosen the right seminary. When I learned of Fuller’s general position on this issue as a prospective student, it was one of the key factors in my decision to attend because it gave me insight into the character of the school. This article comes as an added relief to me, as I am now confident in your personal position on the subject.
One thought: You note that politics (social issues, etc.) requires great compromise, and I agree. There are many areas of our lives that require sincere openness and compromise. However, my willingness to compromise does not exceed my determination to obey God. Thus, I have no problem rejecting the idea that homosexuality is acceptable, either on a religious or a social level.
I appreciate the strength that I know it takes to stand firmly for what you believe concerning this issue, and I thank you again for doing so with grace and fortitude.
Comment by Rebekah – July 18, 2008 @ 9:21 pm
President Richard Mouw
Fuller Theological Seminary Feb.16, 2009
Dear President Mouw:
I am writing in response to your NEWSWEEK “My Turn” column of February 9, in which you argue against the legal recognition of same-sex marriage. I delayed writing because I figured that you might be deluged by angry letters, and I wanted you to have a chance to get over that. My intent is not to send you an angry response, but to try to get you to understand a bit more about why the gay community is so upset by Proposition 8.
If you are truly sincere about wanting to have a conversation, I am volunteering to do so. But it is not only a question of “Can we talk?” but also “Can we listen?” I was raised Christian, and so I know intimately the arguments against homosexuality in the Bible. When I was a child I was very religious and my goal was to become a minister. However, my awareness of my feelings of attraction to other males led me, finally, to reject Christianity and leave the church. Because I remain a spiritual person, ultimately I became a Buddhist. I feel that Buddhism is morally superior to Christianity in its view of what is moral and what is not moral. Instead of seeing sex as sin, Buddhism says the greatest moral good occurs by creating happiness for others. By devoting oneself to compassion and loving kindness to others, that is how to improve the world. I know this theme sounds a lot like the teachings of Jesus (I am sure you are aware of the scholarship that suggests Jesus was influenced by Buddhism, which had spread to his area of the world by his time). But the big problem with Christianity is that it is not limited to the teachings of Jesus, which I greatly respect. In my view Christianity was polluted and perverted by Paul and his followers.
I agree with you that the Bible, both Old Testament and New (not Jesus, but Paul) condemns homosexuality. I do not deny that. But, though the Bible has many good ideas, it also expresses great evil. In my view, the Bible is so filled with evil that it is a morally corrupt text, and should be no guide for modern society. In fact, I think the Bible is as great a danger to American democracy than anything else. If you wish to discuss these ideas further, I will be glad to do so.
Now, these are my ideas, and I do not hold out any hope that I can convince you to my way of thinking. But imagine if my Buddhist temple paid a lot of money to enforce a law that said, because Christianity is so evil, we are going to bring a Proposition before voters to declare that marriage between Christians should be illegal. If I tried to impose my will and my beliefs on all of society, that would be a gross violation of your equal rights.
We live in a democracy. The First Amendment to the Constitution says “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” Yet, because the Catholic Church, the Mormon Church, and your brand of Protestants think that homosexuality is a sin, you have supported the establishment in law of your religious views to be imposed on everyone. The 14th Amendment to the Constitution guarantees to every citizen of the USA “the equal protection of the laws.” That means that every person should have the same rights as every other person. Yet, all the legal rights of marriage (over 1,300 specific legal rights) are restricted as a “special right” of heterosexuals.
This is not just an abstract issue. It is an issue that has affected me personally. Let me give you just one concrete example (I can give you more cases of other kinds of discrimination I have faced due to unfair laws, but here I will just mention one). A number of years ago I was sent by the U.S. government to work in Indonesia. While there, I met a wonderful person, and we fell deeply in love. We lived together for over a year, and became as close as any married couple. But when my work was finished in Indonesia I wanted to bring him back to live with me in California. He was a very smart accountant, and would have been an advantage to our economy. Yet, it was impossible for me to get a visa for him. In sharp contrast, when I returned, one of my colleagues had gone to China, fallen in love with a woman, and he was able to bring her back to America on a marriage visa. It was almost the same exact situation as mine, with the only difference being the sex of the partner. I was happy for my colleague, but sad that the laws of the USA did not permit me to apply for a marriage visa for my partner. This is not the equal protection of the laws.
I pay my taxes just like you or any other person, yet I cannot do with my life what people like you take for granted. In California, the state constitution says that there shall be no discrimination on the basis of sex. Yet, forbidding people to marry another person because that person is of the same sex, is at base, discrimination on the basis of sex. It is as clear a violation of all these principles of democracy as that two plus two equals four. When the California Supreme Court wisely recognized the unconstitutional nature of preserving marriage as a special right of heterosexuals, and they made marriage equality for everyone, it was the Christian churches that organized and paid for the removal of this basic right. If it were not for the millions of dollars raised by the Mormon Church, the Catholic Church, and evangelical Protestants, Proposition 8 would never have occurred.
I do not hold out any hope that I might convince you, a writer who seems like a decent person, to abandon an evil religion for a more morally superior religion. But I do hope I can convince you to support democracy.
The Declaration of Independence says the purpose of government is to promote “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” What is more central to “the pursuit of happiness” than being able to marry the person of your choice? The Preamble of the Constitution says the purpose is to “secure the blessings of liberty.” In the pledge of allegiance it says “with liberty and justice for all.” These bedrock phrases do not include the words “except for homosexuals.” Liberty means freedom, and democracy means everybody.
Almost all of the organized opposition to equal rights for gays and lesbians has come from the Christian churches. You ask “What is it about people like me that frighten you so much?” We are not just frightened by the 2,000 year old war against homosexuals conducted by the Christian church, in which many thousands, indeed millions have been killed in the name of Jesus. Today, instead of fright, I would say the dominant mode is that we are angry, because we know that it is people like you who continue to make our lives so needlessly difficult. Please, just stop interfering in our attempt to exercise the same exact rights that every other American has, and leave us alone. Believe me, if you leave us alone, we will leave you alone.
You have every right to believe whatever you want, and your church has every right to say “we do not support same sex marriages, and if you want to do that you must leave our church.” But you do NOT have the right to impose your views onto everyone. That is exactly what Proposition 8 does. Proposition 8 takes the standards of one religion, that marriage should only be between a man and a women, and forces that on everyone. That law is an establishment of your religion. That is not constitutional, it is not right, it is not democratic. But it is morally shameful. I am sorry you feel angry because people have said bad things about you for your support of Proposition 8. Try to imagine, if you can, how much more angry you would feel if I and my Buddhist friends passed a Proposition with 52% of the vote saying that Christians cannot legally marry. Can you see that if we did so, and I wrote a “My Turn” essay in Newsweek saying that I was angry because you Christians called me bad names, that you might have just a tad of justifiable resentment against me? Can you see that point at all?
The Constitution is there to protect everyone, and that includes Christians. As much as I feel that the Bible is evil and foolish, and that it ought to be prohibited to read it to children, I do not have the right to prohibit that by law. You have rights, and by living in a democracy I have to accept your right even to the deluded way of thinking that you espouse due to this horrid book.
Living in a democracy means that we have to tolerate others of different beliefs. And it means that, no matter how much we differ and condemn others, we have to respect equal legal rights for all. That is what the California Supreme Court ruled, and that is what people like you overturned in Proposition 8. So many young people are turning away from Christianity because of its prejudiced beliefs, so I would think that Christians might be worried that one day you will be the minority. If so, you will have to appeal to the equal protection of the laws just as I have done. The Constitution is there to protect everyone.
We do not have to agree. We do not have to like each other. You can condemn homosexuality all you want to in your churches, or any other crazy ideas you get from that awful book. But the minute you try to enforce your standards on everyone else, through legal means, then you have crossed the line and at that point you become my enemy. I, and others like me, will do everything within our power to discredit you and remove you from political influence. We will not give up, because we know that justice and true morality is on our side, not yours. Time is on our side as well, as most young people agree with my position. They see what you do not.
I am sorry to have to be so blunt, and I would rather not be antagonistic toward you or any other Christian. It does not have to be like this. You ask “What would you need to hear from us that would reduce your anxiety?” My answer to you is succinct: “Nothing.” That is, if you would just stop talking about the issue of sexuality, and recognize that the ideas in the bible are antiquated and incompatible with modern scientific understandings of sexuality, then the whole issue would just disappear from public discourse.
When I was growing up in the South, I used to hear many white preachers saying that interracial marriage was sinful. They said idiotic things like “God put the races on different continents so they would not mix, and we need laws to prevent people of different races from marrying.” They were called miscegenation laws, and in making it illegal for people of different races to marry they are exactly parallel to Proposition 8 prohibiting people of the same sex from marrying. Yet, today, I never hear Christian preachers saying interracial marriage is a sin. In 1967 the United States Supreme Court ruled that the right to marry is a fundamental part of human liberty, and the whole issue just went away. Now, our nation has a President who is the product of an interracial marriage. Religion not only can change, but has changed. Drastically. It is now long overdue to make this change on same-sex marriage.
What I would like to see is for Christian churches to treat homosexuality exactly the same way they treat slavery. 150 years ago my ancestors in the South used the Bible to justify their support of slavery. There are many more passages in the Bible that support slavery than there are passages condemning homosexuality, yet I never hear preachers advocating slavery because it is in the Bible. If someone did so, they would be condemned as an idiot. What does your seminary teach about slavery? Whatever that is, I suggest doing the same on homosexuality. I predict that within the next generation or so, homosexuality will become exactly the same kind of unmentioned verses as the Bible verses on slavery. Those verses encouraging heterosexuality may have been justified back then, when people needed to produce children to provide care for them in their old age, but those rules simply have no applicability to modern life.
Please go and reread all of Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, and tell me if you would seriously advocate all of those rules for modern society. Would you follow the orders of god in those books, to go out and massacre whole cities, including children, and rape the women? If your answer is no, then why can’t you do exactly the same attitude toward only four verses (two in Leviticus, and two in Paul’s letters). If you are really interested, I will be happy to show you the verses that persuade me that Jesus was accepting of same-sex relationships [it was only Paul who was condemning; if it were not for two verses by Paul I do not think Christianity would have even become anti-gay in the least].
Again, when you ask “Can we talk?” I say yes, but I also ask “can you listen?” Though I will be happy to listen to what you have to say, in all truthfulness I know your viewpoint all too well. It has been crammed down my throat for my whole life. In contrast, I doubt that you have ever seriously listened to a viewpoint that suggests the whole idea that sex is sinful is itself perverted. I really do feel that Christian ideas on sex are so wrongheaded as to be a great danger to the world. At this point they might even see an older woman enjoying the pleasure of featuring in adult films to keep herself sexually active after a life well lived, and they might still ask for an explanation as to why she’s not devoted to the one man. When in reality, there could be many reasons as to why they are choosing to live the remainder of their life as they are.
To give a few examples, the Catholic Church opposition to the use of condoms is directly responsible for millions of people becoming infected with AIDS. Christian opposition to abortion is directly responsible for the deaths of many women. Christian statements that “the only purpose of sex is reproduction” (an idiotic statement) and Christian teachings against birth control are directly responsible for the vast increase in human overpopulation, to the point that we are driving many other species to extinction. Christianity has a lot of blood on its hands. Before trying to impose your standards on everyone, Christians should express sincere apologies for the millions who have suffered and died because of the teachings of your religion.
Practically every week there is a story in the newspapers about a man killing his wife. Part of the reason for that is the Christian notion that marriage should be for life. There are numerous cases where a woman wants to leave her husband and he responds by killing her. I know the churches do not directly advocate this, but the whole idea of marriage for life and that divorce is evil are the supports that underlay such insane actions.
You say that you want to prevent gay and lesbian people from having the legal rights of marriage, because you have “deep concerns about the raising of our children and grandchildren.” Well, I have deep concerns also, about the psychological damage that is done to children by telling them that they will go to eternal hell if they masturbate. To me, that is child abuse, to say such a terrifying thing to a child. When puberty hits, it is natural for teenagers to have strong sexual feelings. Christian teachings against sex, suppressing not only sexual activity but also even masturbation, are ludicrously wrongheaded. Christian ideas have caused millions of people to feel misery as they try to repress or deny their natural sexual feelings. The damage that I feel in my life was not due to sex, but due to the years of torment that I put myself through in trying to repress my sexual feelings. I drove myself nearly to an ulcer, in trying to conform my body to Christian teachings. Only after I rejected those ideas was I able to rescue my health. How many millions of people like me died because they were NOT able to free themselves from such unnatural, delusional thinking?
You say that you are worried about children who are taught to respect same sex marriages. If you really want to know what is and is not damaging to children, take a look at the research that has been done on the psychological status of children raised in gay and lesbian households. What this research clearly shows is that such children are on average a bit more psychologically stable and mature than children raised in heterosexual households. The research shows clearly that what is important is not the sex of parents, but whether or not a child is raised in a stable loving household. Children can get plenty of role models for their gender development from society in general, and it does not matter if they have two mommies or two daddies at home. Do not worry yourself about the children raised in an accepting society. The kids are alright.
Modern research shows that sexual orientation is something either inherited, or deeply part of the individual psyche. Gay people are part of humanity, and it is more wise to accept that and to look for the good that they can contribute to society, than to drive them to suicide and self hatred. Acceptance was the attitude of most world religions before the spread of Christianity. Same sex marriages were accepted in most societies before Christian influence changed that. I wrote a book on this subject as applied to American Indian religion: THE SPIRIT AND THE FLESH (Beacon Press). I also recommend you read a book by Professor Louis Crompton HOMOSEXUALITY AND CIVILIZATION. It was the Christian church that “redefined marriage” by restricting it only to a man and a woman. And now Christians have the audacity to claim, falsely, that marriage “has always been” only between a man and a woman. Any anthropologist and ancient historian knows that this statement is a lie.
Homosexuals were an advantage in the past, but they are an even greater advantage for the 21st century world, for several reasons. To give only one reason, homosexuals tend not to reproduce. This lower rate of reproductiveness is needed because of overpopulation. It took all of human history until the year 1830 to reach one billion people. By 1930, only a century later, human population had doubled. However in the 79 years since then, something quite terrifying has happened. The world went from two billion to almost seven billion people. This drastic increase in population is a catastrophe. If humanity is going to survive, we are going to have to drastically reduce our birth rate. Demographers estimate that the ideal population for humans to live without destroying the environment is between two to three billion. One part of the way to accomplish a reduction in human numbers is by encouraging (not just tolerating) same-sex marriages. By encouraging population growth, Christianity is part of the problem instead of being part of the solution.
In my opinion, government should not be involved in matters of sex or religion. Marriage should be removed from the law altogether, and become solely a religious institution. So, in your church, you can restrict marriage to a man and a woman only. My Buddhist temple can perform marriages without discrimination on the basis of sex, so gay and lesbian couples can marry. And, yes, if the Mormons want to have plural marriages then they can do that within their church. I never understood how Christians are so condemnatory of polygamy when King David, King Solomon, Abraham, and other patriarchs had plural wives. Did god change his mind?
The whole idea is that government should get out of peoples’ sex lives altogether [except for rape, which can be condemned and prosecuted not because it is sex but because it is an assault. Rape should be prosecuted under assault laws]. No one should be forced to marry against their will, or to suffer sexual imposition when they do not want it, but government should not be trying to enforce one religious view over another. Each church should be free to define marriage however they wish, and government should not take sides [which is what Prop 8 does, on the side of your Christian view]. Government should be a level playing field.
Though I respect the teachings of Jesus, Christianity does more harm than good when it comes to questions of sex. It is exactly parallel to the damage done to our country by Christian opposition to the teaching of evolution. The United States today is under increasing challenge by rising powers like China and India. For us to keep our top economic position requires us to be on the forefront of scientific research. Yet, Christian opposition to the teaching of evolution-which is central to an understanding of any of the biological sciences-is extremely damaging to science education. In the 150 years since Darwin, so much evidence for evolution has been amassed as to be evident to any unbiased observer. However, Christians are not only prevented from accepting evident fact, but they insist on denying American children a good education in biology.
Three hundred years ago, Christians believed that lightening was God’s thunderbolts. If a person’s house was struck by lightening, that was seen as God’s displeasure. Yet, when Benjamin Franklin did scientific experiments with lightening he found it was electricity. He saved countless lives by inventing a weather vane that conducted the lightening charge into the ground. Would you pass a law saying that weather vanes are illegal, because lightening is God’s judgment? If so, that would make about as much sense as statements by Christian leaders from Emperor Justinian to Pat Robertson, saying that earthquakes and hurricanes are caused by homosexuality.
Christian ideas about all things related to science have been proved wrong so often that Christians should withdraw from trying to dictate to others in the form of laws that relate to any aspect of science. And that includes the science of sexuality. That is all we want. Keep your delusions if you must, and you can even believe that the sun revolves around the earth if you wish, because your book of authority says so. But stop imposing these idiotic ideas on everyone else in the form of laws that deny us the same rights that you take for granted. Can you understand that distinction?
If you are truly sincere about wanting to have a dialogue with opponents of Prop 8, I offer to do so. But it means you need to listen as well as talk.
Comment by Walter Williams, Ph.D. – February 16, 2009 @ 10:33 pm
In light of NY’s legalizing gay marriage, I read your blog. Do you have any further comments on this debate?
What’s your stance on civil unions?
What that be a reasonable ‘compromise’?
SIS graduate 2010
Comment by John Mark – July 5, 2011 @ 3:22 pm
Sorry for my messy writing, I meant would (civil unions) be a reasonable ‘compromise’?
Also, my regards and prayers with the health of your wife.
Comment by John Mark – July 8, 2011 @ 8:30 am