Tom Gilson

How Prepared Are You?

As I said at the close of my last post, the reason I chose homosexuality as a topic for discussion is because it’s the most glaring example of our unpreparedness. It is a very difficult topic. It is also impossible to ignore. We have to deal with it, but we cannot deal with it well unless we (pardon the repetition) learn to deal with it well.

Our position and reasoning cannot be explained in sound bites. The ideas don’t sit on a bumper sticker as easily as (for instance) “Hate is not a family value.” SSM advocates have lots of sound bites. They can say Jesus never mentioned homosexuality—and they’re right! Touché! It’s quick, sharp, and to the point. They can say that Old Testament (OT) commands against homosexuality are mixed in with other manifestly outmoded and barbaric commandments. Right again! Ouch!

And the student encountering such repartée (it’s all over the Internet) concludes, maybe there isn’t a good answer even in the Bible, and maybe it really is weird and wrong to believe what my church is telling me about SSM. Maybe my church is wrong about a lot more than that besides.

Of course these two SSM sound bites only work for those who don’t know what they’re talking about, but unfortunately that number includes far too many of us, both in the church and outside.

For in fact the Bible supports man-woman marriage from Genesis 1 through the Epistles (arguably even Revelation). Jesus explicitly affirmed it. The Bible clearly says that sex is a good that is to be experienced between a married man and woman, and that it is immoral and humanly damaging in other contexts. Given that, the Bible hardly even needs to mention (though it does say it) that sex between man and man or woman and woman fails to meet the standard for morality.

As for those so-called barbaric OT commands, Christians down through the centuries have known about them and have developed intellectually and historically responsible ways of sorting out which ones apply where and why, and which one’s don’t. Does the rest of the world think these passages just popped out of nowhere. Did SSM advocates discover them just now for the first time ever? How odd that they would treat them as if that were so!

Well, look: there’s a pair of pithy paragraphs the beleaguered Christian student could use to answer her pro-SSM friend right there! Except for this: she’ll have to explain it. The rhetorical situation is uneven: when one side says “Hate is not a family value,” everyone knows exactly what they’re talking about. When we say, “Marriage was always for man and woman throughout the Bible,” not even Christians typically understand what that’s about. (“What about polygamy?”) Or when we say, “The Bible explains, and thoughtful people have long explored, just what it is that distinguishes some OT commands’ longevity from others,” that’s yet another thing that needs some serious explanation.

And then there’s the deeper problem: whether the parties care that these so-called biblical jabs have sound biblical answers. Many think the Bible is irrelevant for any purpose other than showing how foolish we Christians are for believing the Bible is relevant. Thankfully there are excellent secular grounds for the defense of marriage, too.

So my question remains, how prepared are we to provide either biblical or extra-biblical (secular) explanations for our position? How much damage are we taking upon ourselves by not being prepared? Christians, consider these 5 Cs:

Challenge: Can you state one good secular reason to support man-woman marriage??

Caution: Complementary male-female plumbing isn’t among them; that is, it’s an argument of sorts, but not one of the better ones. Try it in debate and you’ll likely lose.

Corollary: If you can’t hold your own in these debates, neither can your son, daughter, niece, nephew, or grandchild.

Comprehensiveness: The SSM question is one of the most likely ones but it’s hardly the only one. “What, you believe in the Bible? How could you deny science that way? Don’t you know miracles can’t happen? What about all the other religions? What makes you think yours is so great? You can’t really mean Christ is the only way, can you?” And the student quietly slinks into acquiescence, concluding that Christianity really is just as weird as his friends tell him it is.

Comfort: You get points if you know where you would go right now to find an answer. It’s not as important that every church member know how to defend the faith in every respect, as it is that every Christian know that it can be defended, and that we all know where we would go to start looking for answers.

This series will continue and will move toward some new, extremely practical ways for you, your family members, and your church to become truly prepared. I think you’ll be excited about what I’ll be unveiling between now and the end of the year.

Series Navigation (Awakening Church):<<< UnpreparedPost-Comfortable Christianity >>>
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11 thoughts on “How Prepared Are You?

  1. Tom, it’s unbelievable that you *just* wrote an article on the coming “persecution” of Christians, and then a couple days later write an article about how homosexuals shouldn’t have the freedom to see each other in the hospital if one is dying (i.e., get married). Don’t confuse others being *less* persecuted by Christians and their ancient value system with you being persecuted by them.

    Look around the OT passage on homosexuality. As far as the Bible is explicitly concerned, obesity is *as much* of a sin as homosexuality is. So, um, why don’t you write a post about the immorality of obesity? What is this strange, paraphilic fixation on whether or not the nice couple I know down the street who’ve been together for literally 25 years can sign a stupid contract with the government? Let people be free, Tom. Let people have the freedom to pursue their own ends by the means of their choosing, as John Mill would put it? Not everyone is a Christian — and, indeed, not all Christians even share your particular views.

  2. Phil,

    Wow. Thanks for sharing, but really, now. I did not say homosexuals should be denied the freedom to see each other in the hospital. You’ve dumped a truckload of assumptions on me in order to reach that conclusion.

    As far as the Bible is explicitly concerned, homosexual practice is much more of a sin than obesity, though perhaps not more than gluttony and self-centeredness. I think in fact the redefinition of marriage on same-sex terms is actually related to both, though in complex ways that are just as applicable to certain heterosexual unions. I touch on it briefly here, though not in anything like the form of a full argument.

    If letting people be free is the moral option of choice, then why choose this freedom rather than any other? You have no consistent basis for your complaint.

    And as for “a stupid contract with the government,” you have echoed one of my arguments quite nicely: if it cast off the meaning of marriage as it’s been known for millennia, it wouldn’t be very smart at all.

  3. Phil, you’re first paragraph is a ridiculous characterization of Tom’s position, let alone that of most SSM opponents.

    What is this strange, paraphilic fixation on whether or not the nice couple I know down the street who’ve been together for literally 25 years can sign a stupid contract with the government?

    If it is so stupid, we could ask the SSM lobby that has made this an issue in the first place the same question. But of course it’s not the cute little simplification you make it out to be, now is it. At any rate, if you’ve been paying attention to the blog as a whole – and it sounds like you may have – you’d know the answer.

    People are free, Phil. Unless access to a “stupid contract with the government” was a prerequisite for freedom, of course… not that we should distort definitions.

  4. Phil,

    So, um, why don’t you write a post about the immorality of obesity?

    If there ever becomes a loud and obnoxious movement of obese people wanting to be legally/medically classified as “healthy & fit” so they can get the same insurance rates that others do, that would be a good idea. Let Tom know when that happens and maybe he will write a series of blog posts on it.

  5. Even though it’s loaded with false assumptions and is a ridiculous mischaracterization of my position, not to mention that of other SSM opponents?

    Some people are too easy to please.

  6. Two words for Phil: moral relativism.

    “Christian persecuation” is not equal to “lack of freedom to sin.”

    Phil’s argument is a bum argument to begin with.

  7. I love Phil’s comment, too, because I feel like it strikes at the heart of the matter: that Christians don’t want gay people to have what they have. Whether it’s spending millions to try to keep them from getting married or inflicting psychological torture to make them “normal,” Christians are doing their damnedest to make the lives of gay people as miserable as possible.

    I suppose this is all an attempt to beat them down until they believe what you believe. Well, I’m glad to see that it doesn’t appear to be working.

  8. Phil’s comment is depressing enough, but worse than that is the level of support he finds on a Christian blog. As a secularist, I had hoped to find more nuanced thinking about SSM among Christians than among my fellow secularists. Sadly, even here the rhetoric of the relativists has made converts.

    Tom’s original post is beautifully done. The point that easy rhetoric does not always equate to sensible thinking is valid. Having started as a Left-liberal myself, I have arrived at conservative and traditionalist values after a lifetime of experience and reflection. Not that instrumental evaluations are dispositive, but I have seen too many of my contemporaries, whose lives were devoted to free love of all kinds, wind up miserable. The path from noble-sounding endorsements of freedom to hedonistic narcissism is short.

    Society’s institutions must take stock of human nature. Usually that means some portion of the population will feel disadvantaged. SSM, which has no precedents in western history, redefines marriage. Under SSM, the new marriage is now wholly about the satisfaction of the partners. (Here I imagine many readers will say, “Of course!”) But, marriage historically has served many more purposes than that. While mutual satisfaction is part of the reason for marriage, far more important is the utility to society of a traditional marriage in raising children. We have taken “pursuit of happiness” to extremes, and now many of us cannot imagine that concepts like obligation or duty have moral value.

    Still too long for a bumper sticker: “Marriage–it’s about the kids.”

  9. God is a God of love but also a God of holiness and purity. It seems that in today’s society we assume that if something feels right and it is what we want, that it also is what God wants for us. Espescially if we think that circumstances beyond our initial control have caused us to have certain proclivities and desires. Why is it we don’t ask Him what He wants for us? He can change our very desires and proclivities if we only submit these to Him and surrender self. It may take time and effort but nothing is impossible with God.

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