Many politicians, celebrities, and media personalities are aggressively pushing for a redefinition of marriage to include homosexual unions. How should the church respond?
Excerpted from David K. Bernard, The Apostolic Church in the Twenty-first Century (Hazelwood, MO; Word Aflame Press, © 2014). Used by permission.) Click here to purchase the entire book or visit www.pentecostalpublishing.com for other resources from Dr. Bernard.
The Old Testament teaches, and Jesus reaffirms, that from the beginning God’s plan is for one man and one woman to form a new, exclusive, public, lifelong partnership in which they are joined together physically, emotionally, and spiritually. (See Genesis 2:18-25; Matthew 19:3-9.) Both Testaments teach that homosexual activity is wrong and cannot fulfill God’s plan for marriage. (See Leviticus 18:22; Romans 1:24-28; I Corinthians 6:9-10; I Timothy 1:10; Jude 7.)
But we live in a pluralistic society—one in which people have many religious and moral beliefs. The government cannot and should not try to impose the views of one religion.
Nevertheless, society should uphold the historic, cultural, and legal definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman. Whether one believes in divine design or random evolution, the following points demonstrate that marriage is unique and cannot be redefined to include same-sex unions.
Biologically, homosexual unions cannot accomplish the fundamental purpose of sexuality, which is procreation.
Psychologically, male and female are not equivalent but complement one another. In the family, each contributes significantly and uniquely to the emotional development of children.
Sociologically, families created by the union of male and female are the basic building blocks of society. While we should support single parents, we need to uphold traditional marriage as the best environment for raising children and the best foundation for a healthy society.
Sexual orientation typically develops through “a blend of innate tendencies, environmental influences, and life experiences,” and “the rate of homosexuality is dramatically influenced” by social and cultural factors (W. P. Campbell, Turning Controversy into Church Ministry, 2010, p. 85). These factors can either foster or inhibit homosexual tendencies in children, which the American Psychiatric Association acknowledges as “gender identity disorder.” We should not restructure our legal system to promote a biologically maladaptive lifestyle.
Advocates of “same-sex marriage” appeal to civil rights, but this appeal is misguided.
First, homosexual couples already have the same civil rights as everyone else. They can live together, engage in private sexual conduct, own property together, give each other powers of attorney, and designate each other as heirs.
Second, an appeal to civil rights is an appeal to a moral standard, which ultimately must come from God. Random evolution does not provide a moral standard, for it promotes “survival of the fittest,” which by itself results in a morality of “might makes right.” The U.S. Declaration of Independence appeals to “the laws of nature and nature’s God” and correctly states that the source of human rights is the Creator, not government. The 1960s Civil Rights Movement invoked God’s moral law to oppose racist human laws. In the case of marriage, we not only have the moral law of Scripture but natural law as evidenced by biological, psychological, and sociological reality.
When government attempts to redefine a right contrary to moral and natural law, it invariably makes a wrong decision and undermines all rights. For example, in the 1857 Dred Scott case the U.S. Supreme Court upheld slavery by attempting to redefine personhood, saying that free African Americans were not “people or citizens” under the Constitution. Modern governments have tried to deny the personhood of unborn children by legalizing abortion up to and during birth. Some ethicists propose the legalization of “post-birth abortion,” or infanticide, stating that children should not have personhood until several days after birth. At the other extreme, some argue that government should grant personhood to great apes, in opposition to what they call “speciesism.”
Just as we cannot repeal natural physical laws such as gravity, so we cannot redefine natural human relationships to be something they are not. For example, we cannot make a parent-child relationship a marriage, and we cannot convey a right to do so. Thus, a woman may adopt an orphaned boy to make him her son, but she cannot “adopt” him for a sexual relationship. Similarly, it is illegal for schoolteachers to have sex with students, doctors with patients, and therapists with clients.
Third, the real issue is not civil rights but moral approval. Advocates want to replace one moral view (based on natural law) with a different one (based on libertinism). They want homosexuality to be endorsed, promoted, and subsidized by public schools, government agencies, the military, and even private businesses. They want to label all opposition as “homophobia” and “hate speech.” The result is not to expand but to curtail civil rights such as the freedoms of religion, speech, and the press, which is already happening in Europe and Canada.
A common argument is that people should be able to “marry” whomever they love. By this logic, however, we would need to recognize polygamy, group marriage, incestuous marriage, child marriage, and perhaps even marriage with animals. Such redefinitions would further undermine society.
As Christians, we believe all sexual relationships outside the marriage of a man and a woman—including fornication, adultery, and homosexuality—are contrary to God’s law. At the same time, we offer ministry, salvation, and transformation to people in such relationships (I Corinthians 6:9-11). We should love them as our neighbors, respect them as members of society, uphold their civil rights, welcome them to attend our churches like everyone else, and share with them the gospel of Jesus Christ.