This post by Kevin DeYoung was sent to me by a respected inquiring mind. Because I regard both the person and the heart-felt conversations we’ve engaged in over the past several years with high esteem, I offer this–my reply–to honor his request and in the same kindness of heart and spirit that he has extended to me.
As I have posted elsewhere, I wish to clarify that I am not stating any position on the topic. I have been disheartened that my attempts to further conversation and understanding have been read and interpreted as furthering an agenda. I contend they are different, both in kind, and in spirit. To reiterate, I hope my reflections further and deepen the conversation towards greater understanding.
Below is the post in full with my response and reflections.
by Kevin DeYoung
July 1, 2015
For evangelicals who lament last Friday’s Supreme Court decision, it’s been a hard few days. We aren’t asking for emotional pity, nor do I suspect many people are eager to give us any. Our pain is not sacred. Making legal and theological decisions based on what makes people feel better is part of what got us into this mess in the first place. Nevertheless, it still hurts.
via: The opening tone of this post is sincere, but is also perplexing, and misses swaths of reality. First, to many, the pain of not getting one’s religious ideologies codified in law that oppresses targeted populations in America is quite a different kind of pain than what our LGBTQIA+ brothers and sisters have experienced through civil and religious exclusion. DeYoung says he’s not asking for “emotional pity,” yet decries that “our pain is not sacred.” What specifically is being asked for, by this privileged and religious community in a constitutionally governed country?
And for clarification, what pain is DeYoung referring to? If one reads the Supreme Court decision carefully, the arguments were fundamentally not about “gay marriage,” but about whether or not the laws regarding gay marriage should be decided through the judicial courts or through the legislative systems (there’s much more nuance to it than that, of course, but that’s why the decision is over 100+ pages). Five justices said the judicial, four said the legislative. Prior to this decision, marriage was already legal for same-sex couples in 37 states, in over 20 countries, and the attitudes in the United States have been rapidly shifting. If it’s been a hard “few days,” perhaps it is because it’s been a hard “several years?”
And does DeYoung really believe that “legal and theological decisions are based on what makes people feel better?” Two things. First, if this is true, are the evangelicals to which he is referring exempt from this derision? Second, contrarily, is this evaluation an honest one given the depth and breadth of discussion that has been had, both legally and theologically? The attitude of that statement could be perceived as one of “pride of place,” a posturing of superiority which may not bode well for furthering the conversation.
There are many reasons for our lamentation, from fear that religious liberties will be taken away to worries about social ostracism and cultural marginalization.
via: Yes, there is legitimacy in the concern of religious liberties (Justice Roberts mentions this in his dissent). But this is not a fear grounded in totalitarianism, but in democratic debate, a far different kind of fear than the “Christian holocaust” that one particular YouTube evangelist is irresponsibly touting. While DeYoung is not that extreme, it appears to be of the same “kind” of sentiment.
Regarding social ostracism and cultural marginalization, Carey Nieuwhof addressed this thoughtfully.
But of all the things that grieve us, perhaps what’s been most difficult is seeing some of our friends, some of our family members, and some of the folks we’ve sat next to in church giving their hearty “Amen” to a practice we still think is a sin and a decision we think is bad for our country. It’s one thing for the whole nation to throw a party we can’t in good conscience attend. It’s quite another to look around for friendly faces to remind us we’re not alone and then find that they are out there jamming on the dance floor. We thought the rainbow was God’s sign (Gen. 9:8-17).
via: As the non-affirming side is growing more lonely by the minute, I acknowledge the lamentations of those, like DeYoung, who feel further alienated from family and friends. Regarding the rainbow, DeYoung does not seem to realize that it has a very long history with lots of meaning and is not necessarily an affront to Genesis.
If you consider yourself a Bible-believing Christian, a follower of Jesus whose chief aim is to glorify God and enjoy him forever, there are important questions I hope you will consider before picking up your flag and cheering on the sexual revolution. These questions aren’t meant to be snarky or merely rhetorical. They are sincere, if pointed, questions that I hope will cause my brothers and sisters with the new rainbow themed avatars to slow down and think about the flag you’re flying.
via: I consider myself to be someone who deeply loves the Bible, is dedicated to following Jesus, and attempts to honor God in life, word, and deed. I myself, in addition to many who are celebrating the Supreme Court decision, are not carrying a “flag and cheering on the sexual revolution,” which is a critical distinction and clarification that needs to be made.
In the same sincerity to DeYoung as to my friend who forwarded me this post, I hope that these reflections will also promote genuine thinking, and cause all to question all the flags that are flying, be they rainbow colored or evangelically convicted.
1. How long have you believed that gay marriage is something to be celebrated?
via: I opine that many would be hard pressed to identify a time as many are still “on the journey” of discovering, learning, and understanding. Take Campolo’s recent statement as an example, someone who has been journeying for quite some time, and held a variety of positions on the topic throughout his ministerial career. Conversely, how long has DeYoung (and others) believed that gay marriage is something that is to be condemned and what relevancy does that have to the conversation?
2. What Bible verses led you to change your mind?
via: Two things. First, an honest evaluation of one’s ideological journey may yield that a “change of mind,” may not be as accurate as “the forming of a mind,” in the first place. If you study the development of spiritual growth in people, people frequently report that they simply “believed what they had been taught growing up.” Often times, through personal study, holy conversations, and thoughtful consideration, one develops an opinion or belief on a subject/topic that, while is different from what was believed growing up, is genuinely their own. While it may look as if it is a “change” of mind, perhaps it is simply the “forming of a mind.” This is not to deny that that minds do change, and many minds have. It is simply to say that the ideological developmental process needs more nuance.
Regarding “what Bible verses,” there are several things that need to be considered. First, the idolization of the Bible (i.e. “bibliolatry”) is something that many evangelicals are taking to task, and asking some serious questions regarding the nature and authority of the Bible (see Enns, Enns, Smith, Wright, McKnight, Beal, Pelikan, in addition to Sparks, Cox, and many more). So, DeYoung is right in asking this question, but wrong is supposing that many are grounding their opinions solely on the Bible. Second, works by Matthew Vines, John Boswell, James Brownson and scores of others evidence that there has been deep theological work done to address the Biblical texts.
3. How would you make a positive case from Scripture that sexual activity between two persons of the same sex is a blessing to be celebrated?
4. What verses would you use to show that a marriage between two persons of the same sex can adequately depict Christ and the church?
via: I believe my response to #2 above addresses #3 & #4.
5. Do you think Jesus would have been okay with homosexual behavior between consenting adults in a committed relationship?
via: Three things. This is the most tricky of the questions, and one that is complicated for everyone. Jesus did not speak on the subject at all (Matthew 19 is substantively on monogamy and divorce, not on homosexual relationships). Speculating on what Jesus would have been “okay” with is tenuous territory for everyone. Second, Matthew 23 does speak to Jesus’s condemnation of religious oppression, something that may be important for our contemporary conversation. Third, the references above do highlight that there are ethical extrapolations that are possible through the teachings and gleanings of Jesus’s agenda.
6. If so, why did he reassert the Genesis definition of marriage as being one man and one woman?
via: The Genesis narrative no doubt posits “male and female,” (זבר ונקבה). But there is debate as to whether “gender complementarity,” is the primary aim of both Genesis and Jesus’s reference. As I said above, the passage is about the debate around monogamy and divorce. David Instone-Brewer’s extensive book on Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible does not even mention homosexuality.
7. When Jesus spoke against porneia what sins do you think he was forbidding?
via: There are some who have suggested that “porneia” (πορνεια) refers to “illicit” sexual behavior, both civilly and religiously. The question emerges, what does that word mean when what is “illicit,” changes over time? In other words, after June 26, 2015, marriage between same-sex couples is no longer “illicit.”
8. If some homosexual behavior is acceptable, how do you understand the sinful “exchange” Paul highlights in Romans 1?
via: First, his parsing of “quantity” is perplexing. What does DeYoung mean by saying “some” homosexual behavior? Second, exegesis of Romans 1 is quite extensive, to which Brownson offers a thoughtful reply. This includes understanding idolatry, and “nature,” in addition to cultural references and historical events.
9. Do you believe that passages like 1 Corinthians 6:9 and Revelation 21:8 teach that sexual immorality can keep you out of heaven?
via: 1 Corinthians explicitly states “the Kingdom of God,” which is a distinctly different idea than the post-mortem “heaven” to which DeYoung is presumably referring. Revelation 21 mentions the “lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death,” quite the apocalyptic language which may have first-century connotations and resonances.
10. What sexual sins do you think they were referring to?
via: Again, debated.
11. As you think about the long history of the church and the near universal disapproval of same-sex sexual activity, what do you think you understand about the Bible that Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, and Luther failed to grasp?
via: The problem with this question is two-fold. If we’re going to posit “the long history of the church” there are a whole host of issues that have shifted, changed, and developed over time. The same questions could be asked of all those other issues. “What did Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, Luther, and others grasp that those who went before them or after didn’t or don’t?!” Augustine was deeply convicted about not reading Genesis literally, contrary to many today. Luther was deeply anti-Semitic. In other words, the reference to historical figures only substantiates the reality that theology evolves and continues to evolve. Second, John Boswell’s posthumous work, Same-Sex Unions in Postmodern Europe would be an important read to understand how we assess our historical understandings of same-sex relationships.
12. What arguments would you use to explain to Christians in Africa, Asia, and South America that their understanding of homosexuality is biblically incorrect and your new understanding of homosexuality is not culturally conditioned?
via: This is quite an intriguing question. Any arguments on any topic are de facto culturally contextualized. I’d be curious myself to read how this is playing out in those cultures.
13. Do you think Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were motivated by personal animus and bigotry when they, for almost all of their lives, defined marriage as a covenant relationship between one man and one woman?
via: First, as with everyone, we ought to trust what they say as their personal motivations (though admittedly, some psychological analyses are helpful as well). Second, as discussed above, many people go through developments and changes along their ideological journeys (as mentioned above). Third, what is the real relevancy of this question, especially in light of the fact that they have both “changed their minds?”
14. Do you think children do best with a mother and a father?
15. If not, what research would you point to in support of that conclusion?
via: The Child Well-Being in Same-Sex Parent Families: Review of Research Prepared for American Sociological Association Amicus Brief, by Wendy D. Manning, Marshal Neal Fettro, and Esther Lamidi conclude:
Our assessment of the literature is based on credible and methodologically sound studies that compare well-being outcomes of children residing within same-sex and different-sex parent families. Differences that exist in child well-being are largely due to socioeconomic circumstances and family stability. We discuss challenges and opportunities for new research on the well-being of children in same-sex parent families.
A Meta-Analysis of Developmental Outcomes for Children of Same-Sex and Heterosexual Parents of the Journal of GLBT Family Studies finds,
Results confirm previous studies in this current body of literature, suggesting that children raised by same-sex parents fare equally well to children raised by heterosexual parents.
From the American Academy of Pediatrics, Promoting the Well-Being of Children Whose Parents Are Gay or Lesbian abstract concludes,
Many studies have demonstrated that children’s well-being is affected much more by their relationships with their parents, their parents’ sense of competence and security, and the presence of social and economic support for the family than by the gender or the sexual orientation of their parents. Lack of opportunity for same-gender couples to marry adds to families’ stress, which affects the health and welfare of all household members. Because marriage strengthens families and, in so doing, benefits children’s development, children should not be deprived of the opportunity for their parents to be married. Paths to parenthood that include assisted reproductive techniques, adoption, and foster parenting should focus on competency of the parents rather than their sexual orientation.
The Nontraditional families and childhood progress through school study published by the US National Library of Medicine & National Institutes of Health concludes,
The results show that children of same-sex couples are as likely to make normal progress through school as the children of most other family structures. Heterosexual married couples are the family type whose children have the lowest rates of grade retention, but the advantage of heterosexual married couples is mostly due to their higher socioeconomic status. Children of all family types (including children of same-sex couples) are far more likely to make normal progress through school than are children living in group quarters (such as orphanages and shelters).
Conversely, there is vigorous debate around the work of Mark Regnarus. His report, How different are the adult children of parents who have same-sex relationships? Findings from the New Family Structures Study, and website, Family Structures Study, initiated by the Loren Marks’s study, Same-sex parenting and children’s outcomes: A closer examination of the American psychological association’s brief on lesbian and gay parenting, have come under fierce scrutiny (The Regnerus Fallout), and even rebuke by his own sociology department at the University of Texas, Austin.
16. If yes, does the church or the state have any role to play in promoting or privileging the arrangement that puts children with a mom and a dad?
via: The church and the state has a role to play in promoting and privileging any arrangement that benefits children. If gender played a big role in this, then yes. According to the studies above the primary benefits of socio-economic opportunity, stability, and love are most critical. Accordingly, it is ironic that religious ideologies are playing further into the social stigma that is adding to the conditions that cause children to fare worse.
17. Does the end and purpose of marriage point to something more than an adult’s emotional and sexual fulfillment?
via: Religiously, yes. All religious people I have read and talked to personally agree with this sentiment.
18. How would you define marriage?
via: “Covenant” would be an appropriate Biblical word.
19. Do you think close family members should be allowed to get married?
via: It depends on what you mean by “close.” 6 states currently allow first cousins to be married, and those marriages are generally recognized nationwide. In California, there are incest laws.
20. Should marriage be limited to only two people?
via: The implications of this line of questioning, as well as consecutive questions that are coming, appear to fall under the category of “slippery slope” arguments. The problem with this is two-fold. The first is abusus non tollit usum. The second is that any shift of any ethic at any time succumbs to the “what if…” onslaught. This does not invalidate the new ethic.
21. On what basis, if any, would you prevent consenting adults of any relation and of any number from getting married?
via: Through the judicial and legislative branches of government, civilly. Through the local church, religiously.
22. Should there be an age requirement in this country for obtaining a marriage license?
via: Yes. Right now, that age is 18, age 16 and 17 with parental consent.
23. Does equality entail that anyone wanting to be married should be able to have any meaningful relationship defined as marriage?
24. If not, why not?
via: No. Now, whether marriage should be fundamentally defined by the state or the church is part of the discussion that doesn’t seem to be platformed much. Why and how did the state obtain power over a sacrament, and should it still maintain such power? Regardless, more to the question, the systems of governance, civil and religious, have the prerogative to grant sanction over what kinds of relationships are eligible for the status of marriage. That is exactly what is happening.
25. Should your brothers and sisters in Christ who disagree with homosexual practice be allowed to exercise their religious beliefs without fear of punishment, retribution, or coercion?
via: No citizen of the United States is allowed to civilly discriminate, or to obstruct justice and the freedoms of another. This is where the rub gets raw. What happens when religious convictions conflict with civil freedoms? This is a great debate, one mentioned in the Supreme Court ruling, and one that shall be had through the current civil and religious conversations and systems in place.
Regarding “fear of punishment, retribution, or coercion,” the problem is that fundamentally, there are no “practices” of the religiously convicted that have been disallowed. The recent civil battles of bakers, Pizza shops, and photographers, many would argue, are not about “religious practices.” They’re about “services,” and one cannot discriminate on the “services” one provides to the general public.
26. Will you speak up for your fellow Christians when their jobs, their accreditation, their reputation, and their freedoms are threatened because of this issue?
27. Will you speak out against shaming and bullying of all kinds, whether against gays and lesbians or against Evangelicals and Catholics?
28. Since the evangelical church has often failed to take unbiblical divorces and other sexual sins seriously, what steps will you take to ensure that gay marriages are healthy and accord with Scriptural principles?
via: Interesting question. As with all pastoral counseling, those who endeavor to “ensure that gay marriages are healthy and accord with Scriptural principles,” would have to prayerfully and thoughtfully engage with best practices and philosophies.
29. Should gay couples in open relationships be subject to church discipline?
via: Whatever the denominational practice, it should be applied equally.
30. Is it a sin for LGBT persons to engage in sexual activity outside of marriage?
via: If a church upholds the purity standards of the “marriage bed,” then of course.
31. What will open and affirming churches do to speak prophetically against divorce, fornication, pornography, and adultery wherever they are found?
via: This line of questioning is beginning to feel like a non sequitur to the issue of “waving rainbow flags.” These issues, while related by subject, are distinctly different from each other, and many churches are continuing to uphold these biblical ethics, even with an “open and affirming” stance.
32. If “love wins,” how would you define love?
via: To answer this question would be to accept its premise, which, according to other statements above, I am dubious to do. What/Who really “won?” “Love,” is a lengthy conversation. The “definition” of love is even lengthier.
33. What verses would you use to establish that definition?
via: At the risk of sounding pithy, Genesis through Revelation.
34. How should obedience to God’s commands shape our understanding of love?
via: I’m sure many would point to Jesus’s statement, “if you love me, you will obey my commands.” (John 14:15). Additionally, the most important verse in the Bible, Deuteronomy 6:4-5, begins with שמע, “shema” which connotes “obey.”
35. Do you believe it is possible to love someone and disagree with important decisions they make?
via: I don’t know too many people that would answer “no.”
36. If supporting gay marriage is a change for you, has anything else changed in your understanding of faith?
37. As an evangelical, how has your support for gay marriage helped you become more passionate about traditional evangelical distinctives like a focus on being born again, the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ on the cross, the total trustworthiness of the Bible, and the urgent need to evangelize the lost?
via: As mentioned elsewhere, many who are shifting on gay marriage are shifting on a whole host of issues, which may indicate that the cultural trends that are happening, particularly in evangelicalism (as per this conversation) are bigger and deeper than many are realizing. Not addressing those broader shifts may be what is perplexing to DeYoung and others.
Phrases like “being born again,” don’t have the same meanings as they once did. John 3 may be a descriptor of liberation found in the narrative of Exodus, which means something different than having a “personal conversion experience.” “Substitutionary sacrifice,” is not really being reworked, but it is being rethought in light of the theological developments of heaven, hell, and atonement. “Total trustworthiness of the Bible” is being completely reworked (see the references above) as textual, critical, and theological developments take place in our understanding of previously held beliefs such as “inerrancy.” And, “the urgent need to evangelize the lost,” is taking on new forms of expression, away from “proselytization” to encompassing a fuller “Gospel life.”
38. What open and affirming churches would you point to where people are being converted to orthodox Christianity, sinners are being warned of judgment and called to repentance, and missionaries are being sent out to plant churches among unreached peoples?
via: I do not personally have the knowledge to address this, though there are plenty of resources available to help people find those churches (gaychurch.org, GLAD alliance, Alliance of Baptists, AWAB, The Anthem Network, Covenant Network of Presbyterians, Evangelical Anglican Church in America, Lutherans Concerned/North America, Reformed Church in America, and many others).
39. Do you hope to be more committed to the church, more committed to Christ, and more committed to the Scriptures in the years ahead?
via: Reading the literature concludes that the vast majority of Christians engaged with this topic affirm these commitments.
40. When Paul at the end of Romans 1 rebukes “those who practice such things” and those who “give approval to those who practice them,” what sins do you think he has in mind?
via: A perplexing question to end on. Let’s just let Paul answer this, from Romans 1:28-32.
28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind and to things that should not be done. 29 They were filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness, they are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters,[f] insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, rebellious toward parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 They know God’s decree, that those who practice such things deserve to die—yet they not only do them but even applaud others who practice them.
Food for thought, I hope. At the very least, something to chew on before swallowing everything the world and Facebook put on our plate.