• http://patrickschreiner.com/ Patrick Schreiner

    Good post Owen. I want to be principled and stand up for what is right, but I also want to be practical as well. Therefore I am divided on this issue. So convince me.

    Here are my questions: why are we not fighting to outlaw pornography? Why are we not fighting to outlaw no fault divorce? Why are we not fighting to outlaw too big of portions at Olive Garden?

    Okay that last example is ridiculous, but you get my point. Do we fight the SSM battle b/c we are still have a shot at winning it? Do we fight it b/c it has more “fallout” than gluttony? But divorce also has a huge effect on society and families.

    So I am not completely sure of why this issue is compared to abortion. If we were to put these things on a heinous sin scale, abortion would be at the top of the scale in my mind. Therefore no matter what happens culturally, I will fight against abortion.

    Marriage is also a huge issue! But so is divorce. We are not fighting this battle. Sure we can see the ill effects of it, how it is destroying families but the religious right is not up in arms about it probably for good reasons. We would simply be written off, and they would move on.

    The question does not seem to me, are we going to be principled, but when should we be shrewd as serpents.

    I am open to being convinced but I think it would have to be along the lines of the effects of allowing SSM on society in comparison with divorce/pornography etc, and not “let us stand for truth.”

    • ostrachan

      Hey Patrick. Good thoughts. We’re witnessing a direct attack on the very nature of marriage. I think that’s why we’re focused as a movement on this issue. I am very much for fighting against the spread of pornography and the pervasiveness of “no-fault” divorce. I’m not sure, frankly, that I agree that “We are not fighting this battle.” Not everyone is, to be sure. But some are–right?

      I don’t think that being shrewd, by the way, doesn’t mean being principled. Not sure if you are meaning to imply that. I think shrewdness has much to do with how we put our principles to work in public.

      In terms of gluttony, I’m not sure how we would so directly engage that sin. The battle on marriage, as I wrote for Baptist Press a little while back, has come to us whether we like it or not. The fight is at the castle walls. There’s no choosing where to engage the struggle. It’s right there in front of us. This is true whether we like engaging politics or would prefer to never touch a “political” issue. I’m not aware of a similarly pressing, narrowly focused fight against gluttony. But please: enlighten me. I’m glad to join the battle. In fact, you’re giving me extra fuel to get to the gym this afternoon.

      We fight for first-tier issues with great intensity. We must pick our battles, to some extent. Some, though, come to us. This is true of marriage, which is not merely one issue among many but is the cornerstone of our society. I would be careful about pitting issues against one another. Some, though, have greater cultural significance, as you alluded to.

      In terms of Olive Garden, I’m not sure I would know a way to begin there, and the issue isn’t as pressing, right? Breadsticks are not singlehandedly going to overturn millennia of civilizational consensus, right? Actually, if I were going to pick a fight with Olive Garden, it wouldn’t be over portion but quality. Go to DiFabio’s Casapela instead. Local is better and all that. That’s the real battle there.

      • http://patrickschreiner.com Patrick Schreiner

        Thanks Owen. The Olive Garden example was more of a joke (and for rhetorical effect). I was not trying to make any significant point there, but simply pointing out that we have not necessarily abandoned our principles if we are not fighting against culture on particular sins.

  • James Coats

    How is giving in on an issue like homosexual marriage because we’re “losing culturally” different from what the “Emergent” church is doing? What other “secondary” issues will we concede so we don’t lose the culture? I’m honestly not seeing why you’re any more impressed with Tim than with Rob Bell or Brian Mclaren.


  • Robert Simpson

    Thank you, Owen. Good words.
    A couple of quick thoughts or questions.
    1. It is not loving our neighbor to acquiesce in them being blind to and misled about grievous and damaging sins. So, yes, we must continue to stand for this truth.
    2. Is it a problem that we in American Christianity seem to be speaking up mostly in opposition to homosexual, counterfeit marriage while not saying much about the underlying sin and falsehood of homosexuality? I.e., if homosexual behavior is not bad, it is harder to argue against “homosexual marriage”.

  • http://www.thepersistenceofsong.com/ Jason Adkins

    We are expending considerable resources on this issue. During the battle over Proposition 8 in California, for example, approximately $40 million was spent by those favoring the biblical definition of marriage. When the issue appears on ballots, evangelicals are also committing valuable time to the issue. Is this the best use of the limited resources we have?

    I’m concerned, as well, that we are evoking the wrong solution to the problem. A legal decision in our favor hardly addresses the issue. If homosexuality is indicative of a rebellion against God (Rom 1:18-32), then the solution is the “power of God for salvation,” the gospel (Rom 1:16).

    I think we are also burning contextual bridges to homosexuals by associating ourselves with the political effort. The legal referenda are a toxic brand to homosexuals; we need to offend them with Christ and not with a public, political campaign.

    • ostrachan

      Thanks for writing, Jason. Good questions.

      Marriage is the cornerstone of society. It’s hardly an inessential matter. Few things are more important. We could hardly spend money in a more neighbor-loving way.

      Keep in mind that marriage is the first social institution of God. There’s literally nothing that comes before it in earthly terms. My contention is that this order is not merely chronological, but theological. Marriage is of first priority, in other words.

      As I said in the post, I would be careful about the “contextual” argument. Can’t you say the same thing about abortion? Exclusivity of Christ? Banning substances? We are overplaying contextualization and underplaying fidelity to Scripture. Be faithful, preach the gospel, stand for truth, and let God save. The reality is, people hate the truth until God gives them eyes to see it. That shouldn’t make us lay the truth down, however; it should make us more committed to faithfulness.

      A legal decision has big, huge, massive ramifications. There is a meme going around in evangelicalism that governmental decisions don’t really matter; only “culture-making” matters. I love culture-making. But laws shape our worldview. See James Q. Wilson and Daniel Moynihan on “Broken Windows.” You must read that before you argue that laws and the government don’t matter. ASSIGNED TEXT. I love assigning texts. :)

      By the way, didn’t Jesus teach about marriage (Matt 5 and 19)? Didn’t he care about it? Didn’t Paul indicate that marriage depicts Christ and the church? Christians do not pit the gospel against the ethics of Christ. To do so is to fall prey to the Jesus vs. Paul debates, or perhaps the Jesus vs. Jesus and Paul vs. Paul debates. If Jesus taught on a matter, it’s privately and publicly important to believers.

      • http://www.projecttgm.com Brandon Smith


  • James Corona

    Amen Owen!

  • Tara

    I really enjoyed your thoughts on this, Owen. As of lately, I feel myself being tempted to drift into moral apathy. The idea of “giving in” so my political party can stay afloat seems rational on some days.

    However, I have to remind myself that although Christianity is never popular, everyone secretly wants what he have. If we give in, we aren’t doing anyone any favors.

  • C.J.W.

    Although I have little respect for Southern-Baptist theology and Al Mohler, I am in full agreement with this text that we must continue to support scriptural teaching of Scripture on homosexuality using every format available. On the same token, we need to offer grace to homosexuals and act the truth by loving them with the love of God through Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. We also need to stand firm on the issue of abortion as well as proclaim God’s distain for social injustice in all its forms.

    I admit that it is not easy to work in ways that extend the kingdom of God. It is complicated on the best of days, but compromise is not the answer. Lack of compromise does not have to mean we are hateful and ungracious, but it does mean that we are discerning the Spirit and Scripture by resisting the call to simply dismiss the teaching of Scripture and our mandate to proclaim and follow what the Lord has given us.

  • Bigben

    The question that i want to ask is this. As Christians, have we been called upon to engage in this manner with politics? Wilberforce comes to mind. But i think it had to go that way because the whole issue hinged upon the legality of it all. but when it comes down to SSM or issues of a similar nature, i am not sure it is really basically a legal or political ‘problem’, as much as it is a ‘moral ‘problem’, or more specifically, a familial problem. In the same way that the issues didn’t spring up overnight. it will also not go away with the ‘proper’ politics. as we examine the developmental trajectory of how things have developed, was it not because in the first place christians and the church have abandoned what it meant to be godly parents for example, in not leading their children to be free from the stain of materialism and worldliness? think of how commonplace and ‘normal’ consumerism has become. if i could ignore God’s call to not worship mammon, make work an idol, or forsake the marriage vow, what else is there left that is sacred? So i would say it is important not to compromise. but i would also say it is more important not to have compromised in the individual and familial sphere in the first place. it’s rather like having a cut on the leg and pouring generous doses of antiseptic on the left hand. it is still not too late for enough christians to live out the true christian life, not with pickets but with transformed lives to be able to make a positive change in the culture and society. It is far easier to lobby a cause than to live out the Sermon on the Mount. To many, it seems the former is more attractive and productive. but it is the in latter that our salt and light work their way in the society in a more enduring way.

  • http://www.cbcneenah.org Harry Shields

    I commend you for speaking boldly and biblically. I fear that a younger generation concerns itself with acceptance and the concern to have a hearing. We can still demonstrate the love of Christ, while also calling people to bend the knee to the living God. Thanks for your boldness in calling us back to our posts.


  • Rick

    The government’s sanction of homosexual marriage doesn’t mean that I’m persuaded me to embrace it, any more than the government’s sanctions of lotteries and casinos and liquor sales asks me to become a huge fan of gambling, or of whiskey. The government simply decides that some things are legal, and some things aren’t, and those laws change all the time; but as a Christian, I was never looking to the government for my moral code anyway.
    I also don’t agree with the idea that this one thing, more than anything else, will weaken marriage. Marriage is weakened by the people who have divorced and remarried multiple times, by the wifebeaters and child abusers, by the people who fornicated like rabbits prior to marriage and who are guiltless adulterers after marriage, and by anyone else who treats their spouse like garbage. In other words, the folks who seem bound for an appearance on Jerry Springer are the marriages we should worry about, but for some reason our bumper stickers are expressing a deep concern that Todd and Steve’s marriage is really the final nail in the coffin. I think evangelicals are excellent at defining what they hate, and terrible at articulating a reason why their faith is relevant to the culture. That’s tragic.

  • Jonathan Szish

    Owen: THANK YOU. ‘Nuff said!
    PS: This was great, too: “The reality is, people hate the truth until God gives them eyes to see it.”

  • Suo

    To even raise the idea that strained familial relationships is a reason to rethink the strategy on this most fundamental issue is contrary to the example of His life:

    “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven. 34 Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law— 36 a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household [Micah 7:6] 37 Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

    Matthew 10.

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  • A Hermit

    Evangelicals should, of course, stick to their guns when it comes to their beliefs and waht they practice in their own families and churches.

    What you shouldn’t be doing is trying to impose those beliefs through force of secular law on the rest of us who don’t share them. That is a violation of OUR religious liberty.

  • http://curtisofletcher.com Curtis

    I suppose my question is more one of…If we were living in a state that had no history of claiming to be connected to anything Christian, I don’t know, some sub tropical island, would we fight in the same way? I don’t agree with giving up and giving in but I sometimes wonder if we’re so connected to the Christian roots of our country that we don’t fully recognize how non-christian is has become. There is a subtle but important difference… in language, stance, and respect for others…between arguing for something and arguing against that things opposite. You may call that mere semantics, I’d disagree. :) I’m not ready to abandon marriage but I think we need to think and act smarter about how we argue in favor of it.

    • ostrachan

      I get your point, Curtis, and appreciate your tone.

      I guess I just fundamentally have to disagree. It is my conviction that wherever we have agency, we should stand up for our worldview. I guess I’m not clear on why we would not do so. Sure, we might struggle to gain traction. But since when was that the criteria for Christians to make the ethical and moral case for the faith and the Christian worldview? Doesn’t the early church–all the way up to Augustine–show us the importance of a holistic Christian witness in the public square?

      It is my contention, from my read of evangelical history, that our forebears surely did light the way for us, no matter what our position in society is. This is true especially on utterly foundational issues like marriage, as I was at pains to say in my blog post.

      • http://curtisofletcher.com Curtis

        I was thinking about this more today actually…and please take all of this in the spirit of mutual discovery rather than debate to win a point. :)
        Is there a position that allows for some sort of civil union…state based, not morally based. I know I may be splitting hairs here but it seems to kind of fall into that notion of “render unto Caesar”. I understand the biblical priority and sanctity of marriage defined as an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman. I too understand the biblical position on homosexual sexual acts as sin. No questions there at all. I think though that maybe…just maybe…our definition of marriage may be too broad?
        Marriage, you suggest, is the “first social institution of God. There’s literally nothing that comes before it in earthly terms.” I surmise you’re talking about Adam and Eve.
        Yet they had no ceremony, no sanctioning body either ecclesiastic or civil…how could they? Yet they were married. There was a relationship between a man and a woman…and it is called marriage.
        There is actually nothing wrong with a relationship between a man and a man, the issue is with sexual relations between the two.
        But sexual relations in the Adam and Eve example were not what defined marriage, or maybe they were? Maybe that is what makes adultery such a sin, it is entering into a second marriage?
        If the civil government allowed for a same sex, co-habitating, equal rights under the law relationship but didn’t refer to it as marriage could marriage retain it’s singular, moral, biblical position.
        I’m not suggesting we give up fighting FOR marriage. I agree with you completely and can’t come close to agreeing with those you’ve taken on in your original post. I just wonder if there is a third option.
        Sorry for the ramble, mostly thinking out loud.

  • http://mikesnow.org Michael Snow

    Yes, agreed, back to our posts. But the most critical factor in this battle is the discipleship of rank and file Christians. We need to be grounded in the basics so that we can be salt and light to our neighbors in explaining how the world has distorted Christian key concepts like ‘love.’ We get an idea how much work needs to be done from a bumper sticker that was making the rounds of facebook: “If WE cannot marry, then YOU cannot divorce” [I notice THAT topic was not listed above.] A secular ‘prophet’ noted at the turn of the century that “churches will eventually approve of homosexual unions.’
    Why? ‘I think in due time this thinking will change, just
    as most churches’ opposition to divorce, for example, has
    changed,’” –from http://tinyurl.com/ajnu5rr

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