Written by Sam Logan
Monday, 01 October 2012 00:00
In my previous two blogs, I have discussed the possible (and desired?) relationship between biblical precept (as we understand that precept) and civil legislation.
I ended my last blog with these questions:
What would laws look like which sought to require positive actions (and not just prohibit negative actions)? What would they say about such presently debated issues as health care, poverty, and immigration policy?
My question now is this: if we believe that the Bible prohibits gay marriage, what do we think the Bible REQUIRES of us who are married? And how, if at all, should civil marriage legislation reflect those requirements?
We evangelicals resent it when others say that we are “always so negative” in our attitudes. But, in fact, that really does seem often to be the way in which we identify ourselves.
You are really evangelical only if you PROHIBIT women from preaching.
You are really evangelical only if you OPPOSE abortion.
You are really evangelical only if you vote to continue to make gay marriage ILLEGAL.
We like to think that all of these “negative attitudes” are, in fact, simply the natural and logically expression of positive Scriptural values. And they may be. But if we are to obey Jesus in being “as wise a serpents” (as well as “gentle as doves”) in bringing the Gospel to our culture, should we not give very careful thought to exactly how our positions may be perceived? Should we not take whatever specific SCRIPTURAL steps we can to make sure that the essentially positive message of the Gospel is clearly heard?
The implied (and I think correct) answer is “yes.”
But how can we do this?
The answer – sometimes, legislation is the (or at least AN) answer. When such legislation seems appropriate (as it does in areas like health care, poverty, and immigration policy), we should be and be seen to be vigorously in support of such legislation. Even if those issues are not among our own personal top priorities, giving clear and public support to appropriate legislation in support of biblical position in those areas will help to dispel the caricature of Christians as “always negative.” And dispelling such caricatures is a Kingdom activity. Just as much as enhancing the power of a sermonic discussion on God’s grace by using concrete, experiential examples is an integral part of preaching, so appropriate dispelling incorrect caricatures of Christianity in general is an integral part of Christian witness.
Sometimes, however, legislation is not the (or even AN) answer. That seems to me to be the case with respect to positive presentations of what the Bible says about marriage. This does not, however, mean that dispelling of caricatures of Christian perceptions of marriage is any less important. It just means that the dispelling of those caricatures is somewhat more challenging.
Let me try an example.
When my sons were young, I was convinced that I, as a parent, had the responsibility to maintain the “special character” of Sunday, the Lord’s Day. But I did that entirely in terms of specifying what “we don’t do” on Sundays. Whether or not my understanding of what “keeping the Sabbath” should mean was correct or not, my way of implementing that understanding was absolutely wrong. I gave no thought to how I might make Sundays a “joy” to my sons and what I communicated to them quite effectively!) was that Sundays were defined by their “don’ts.” Even at my present advanced age, I am not sure exactly what courses of actions would have enhanced the joyfulness of Sundays. But I do believe that, had that been the proper priority for me, I would have sought more counsel from other Christian parents and I would have tried various possible solutions and I would, simply in my trying, have communicated better to my sons that the Lord and His day can and should be sources of joy and not merely of restriction.
Now, here is exactly where the evangelical Christian community might exercise some of its “body-ness,” as we seek to communicate not just what marriage should not be but also some of what it should be. How might those of us who believe that heterosexual marriage is the kind of marriage that God has designed for His people communicate appropriately the “joyful” side of that design? How might we help one another in our corporate attempt to dispel the image of negativity which our opposition to gay marriage seems to create?
These are not questions to which I yet have answers. But I hope that some of those who read this blog will have some suggestions and will share them here.
Sam Logan is Special Counsel to the President and Professor of Church History at Biblical. He is an ordained minister of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and he is President Emeritus at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. In addition to his work at Biblical, he serves as International Director of the World Reformed Fellowship ( http://www.wrfnet.org ). He is married to Susan and they have two sons and two grandsons. See also http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/samuel-logan