BreakPoint: Are Sex and Marriage Issues of Orthodoxy?

Yes, they are…

Can Christians agree to disagree about same-sex “marriage”? Or is accepting homosexuality heresy? These are big questions, and I’ll venture answers, next on BreakPoint.

Most of us are familiar with the Nicene Creed, the statement of faith adopted in 325 A.D. to unite Christians against the Arian heresy. It is, to this day, the most widely-used summary of Christian orthodoxy.

Lately, “orthodoxy” has become stickier to define. In the wake of the sexual revolution, some who call themselves Christians and would affirm the Nicene Creed, also accept unions between members of the same sex.

Here at the Colson Center, we believe, as the Christian Church has taught for two millennia, that any sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman runs contrary to God’s design. It is serious sin, condemned in no uncertain terms in both the Old and New Testaments. So to justify homosexual behavior, or any other expression of sexual deviance, one must do imaginative hermeneutic gymnastics.

Recently, Christian philosopher James K. A. Smith, whose work I’ve benefitted from immensely, wrote that while he cannot question the historic stance of the church on homosexual behavior and understands it to be sinful, he disagrees with elevating this issue to the level of the o-word. “Orthodoxy,” he writes, refers only to the creed and the doctrines it affirms, like the creatorhood of God, the divinity and humanity of Jesus, and the Trinity.

Adding traditional marriage to the Nicene list of non-negotiable Christian doctrines, he worries, distracts from the life and work of Jesus and reduces Christianity to a set of morals. Evangelicals and Catholics who use the categories of orthodoxy and heresy to talk about sex, he suggests, are being selective and maybe even a little obsessive. After all, there’s never been a marriage council in church history, right?

Now, Smith isn’t saying that he agrees with so called same-sex “marriage” or that it’s no big deal. He’s simply worried that we’re muddying the meaning of “orthodoxy.” And that is a valid concern.

But as theologian Alastair Roberts points out, Smith has forgotten that the very first council in church history, the Jerusalem Council recorded in Acts 15, did take up the issue of sexuality. Gentile Christians were told to “abstain from sexual immorality,” which for the Jewish apostles would mean the list of practices condemned in Leviticus 18, including homosexual behavior.

Second, the Nicene Creed was never meant to be the exhaustive description of the Christian faith. Rather, the creed functions as a summary of God’s full revelation—one specifically tailored to address a destructive heresy.

All the councils and creeds were, in fact, responses to particular heresies. I’d suggest it’s quite telling that sex and marriage were never considered “up in the air” for the Church since the Jerusalem Council until now.

And when the Nicene Creed uses words like “almighty,” “judge,” “holy,” and “sins,” we’re not free, writes Roberts, to plug in our preferred definitions. The creed’s words are defined by God in Scripture.

And that’s ultimately why theology that accepts homosexuality is outside of Christian orthodoxy. When the writers of the creed spoke of “sin,” they assumed God’s definition. In the same way, when they spoke of God as Creator, they assumed His design for the world, including the creation of male and female, which Jesus Himself considered authoritative when He talked about marriage.

By responding to the homosexual error some Christians have embraced, evangelicals and Catholics aren’t being selective or obsessive at all. We’re doing precisely what the authors of the church’s creeds were doing when they defended truth against the popular errors of their day.

The Church of today must stand firm on sex and marriage, just as the Church of yesterday stood firm on the deity of Christ at the Council of Nicaea. After all, He’s the same yesterday, today and forever.

 

Are Sex and Marriage Issues of Orthodoxy: Yes, they are…

This is a perfect opportunity to delve into the historicity of Christian practices and beliefs. Check out the links in our “Resources” section to help deepen your knowledge and appreciation of Christian orthodoxy.

Resources

Orthodoxy
  • G. K. Chesterton | Ignatius Press | July 1995
Christian Beliefs: Twenty Basics Every Christian Should Know
  • Wayne Grudem, Elliot Grudem | Zondervan Publishing Company | November 2005
Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs
  • Packer, J. I. | Tyndale House Publishers | February 2001
A Remark on Creedally-Defined Orthodoxy
  • Alastair Roberts | alastairadversaria.com | August 5, 2017

Comment Policy: Commenters are welcome to argue all points of view, but they are asked to do it civilly and respectfully. Comments that call names, insult other people or groups, use profanity or obscenity, repeat the same points over and over, or make personal remarks about other commenters will be deleted. After multiple infractions, commenters may be banned.

  • Phoenix1977

    “After all, He’s the same yesterday, today and forever.”
    Yes, your god (or better, your believes in a god) remains the same. However, our knowledge of the world and our understanding of humanity does not. So early interpretations cannot be easily translated to modern times. The best known issue in that thinking is Galileo.
    So, in the end, earlier interpretations of the bible are only relevant from an historic point of view, but, as pope Francis shows today, not in clarifying doctrine and policy.

  • Ynot NOW

    It comes down to whether we are willing to consider Scripture to be the final word on Truth (with a capital “T”), or if we are willing to re-consider Scripture on the basis of the latest cultural interpretation. Because that is the only sound foundation for our Faith, and really our entire worldview.

    • gladys1071

      The problem is that nobody really follows everything scripture says. We pick and choose what we follow, even as Christians we do. One example in divorce and remarriage, we don’t follow scripture on that, Christians divorce and remarry all the time, completely disregarding Jesus comandment on marriage as till death. What about head coverings, Paul said women should wear headcoverings and that women should be silent in church. Do Christians all follow that? NO.

      So Christians that have gotten divorced and then remarried, they have more assuredly RE-CONSIDERED scripture on the basis of the latest cultural interpretation where no fault divorce is available. Obviously scripture is NOT being used as final authority at all, by most christians today.

      I will NOT condemn or approve of LGBT, because , I consider Jesus the final authority on this issue and let him be the judge of each person on this matter.

      • Scott

        “I consider Jesus the final authority on this issue and let him be the judge of each person on this matter..”

        This I believe to be a very good stance. We are not the judge of others… Jesus does tell us what is right and wrong though and we will be held accountable for our own choices. I will not pick and choose based on my own convictions, but rather consider all of what Jesus says in the New Testament. And when I fail, I will fall on my knees and thank Jesus for the cross.

  • John Lody

    Since the beginning of this entire controversy, the linchpin issue that keeps muddying the waters and muddling the logic is that of “I was born this way.” This is the false premise that the LGBT advocates use to equate this issue with all traditional civil rights crusades. Just as being a member of a certain race is a neutral fact that should not be a matter of moral debate, by continually foisting the idea that sexual deviance is also purely an accident of birth, the LGBT voices seek to make the issue morally neutral and parallel with racial issues of civil rights. Unless we can disallow this moral neutralizing at the beginning of the discussion, the LGBT will continue to play it as their ace-in-the-hole that reduces their opponents to the level of racists, bigots, and nazis. Writers like Rosario Butterfield and others have the most devastating argumentation on this point of the issue, and should be kept in the forefront of our rhetorical arsenal. We can no longer relegate voices like hers to the fringe if we are ever going be able to argue clearly about the essentials of this issue. Sexual deviance is a sin like any other; the hateful attitudes that seek to relegate it to the category of unforgivable sin are actually bolstering the position of the LGBT advocates by acting as if sexual perversion is beyond Jesus’ power to heal!

    • Phoenix1977

      “Unless we can disallow this moral neutralizing at the beginning of the discussion, the LGBT will continue to play it as their ace-in-the-hole that reduces their opponents to the level of racists, bigots, and nazis.”
      Except you can’t. Biomedical science agrees with the LGBT community here and state the fact they haven’t found the explanation yet doesn’t mean it’s not there. Several clues have been found, like the brain anatomy (the brains of gay men resemble those of straight women and those of gay women resemble the brains of straight men, as already published in 1991 by prof. dr. Dick Swaab), hormone levels and biochemistry. All that is missing is the genetic code associated but, as several geneticists have already stated, it’s most likely there is not a single gene responsible but a cluster of genes, probably located on more than one chromosome. After all, there are several grades of “gayness” (by lack of a better word) and if a single gay gene or a cluster of genes would be located on a single chromosome being gay would follow a Mendellian inheritance pattern.
      So, so far geneticists have not recognized the cluster of genes or it’s significance. But that’s only a matter of time. And it’s not like there are any other (credible) voices in the scientific community. After all, who pays attention anymore to the calls homosexuality is a deviance and a sin? Only Christians still do and we also know what is happening in the West with the influence of Christianity, not in a small part BECAUSE of your continued crusade against LGBT rights.

      • Steve

        Which rights exactly to you want for LGBT people? You keep talking about the crusade against rights.
        Do you want gay men to be able to conceive together? Do you want two lesbians to have children without a male father?
        Unfortunately there are only so many “rights” that people can confer on each other. That is why many rights and the rights in the US Constitution are considered God-given.
        What will it take for you to be satisfied?

        • Phoenix1977

          “Which rights exactly to you want for LGBT people? You keep talking about the crusade against rights.”
          How about the right not to be discriminated against, for starters? Not to have to think if your very existence might be offensive to others? Or simply planning your wedding and raising a family without having to worry if the wedding venue, the baker, the florist or the photographer actually wants to do business with you?

          “Do you want gay men to be able to conceive together? Do you want two lesbians to have children without a male father?”
          The technology is available.

          “Unfortunately there are only so many “rights” that people can confer on each other. That is why many rights and the rights in the US Constitution are considered God-given.”
          Actually, not true. The human potential is pretty much endless. The sky is the limit if only people would stop trying to block progress every step of the way.

          “What will it take for you to be satisfied?”
          What makes you think I will ever be satisfied? I have no interest in settling or compromising. Nothing less than total equality will do.

          • Scott

            You might guess that my Christian perspective is slightly different. : – )

            “Not to have to think if your very existence might be offensive to others?”

            This is unrealistic. There has never been a time throughout the history of humanity when everyone has been accepted by everyone. Didn’t you cause me of being a romantic? : – )
            Also you have tied your existence to your sexuality… sexuality is just one aspect of a person and not the most important (although importance is a matter of opinion).

            “Or simply planning your wedding and raising a family without having to worry if the wedding venue, the baker, the florist or the photographer actually wants to do business with you?”

            Human desire and Conscience often oppose each other. The things you mention above may instead be about a persons eternal health. Whether or not you believe that to be true makes no difference because you cannot prove your beliefs are any more valid than those who might refuse based on differing beliefs. Just because you don’t think their conscience should object, you can’t force them not to. Also, it is entirely possible that refusal of business has nothing to do with “want.”

            “Actually, not true. The human potential is pretty much endless. The sky is the limit if only people would stop trying to block progress every step of the way.”

            Is it?.. There are no natural barriers to limitless potential? This might be a slight exaggeration… I think science would back me up.

      • ARB

        “And it’s not like there are any other (credible) voices in the scientific community.”

        Of course, a large part of this is the fact that anyone who questions the narrative gets called an “anti-LGBT quack” and has their credentials revoked. An assertion like this *terribly* underestimates the deleterious effect that the modern intrusion of politics has on science. I say this as one who has written things into papers on federally-funded research which I did not agree with specifically to please my project leader, who was highly prejudiced towards the outcome of the research and would have likely found another researcher had I deigned to make my disagreement with the research’s methodology and conclusions known.

        As a Christian, I do not believe that there is any reason to assume that people are not “born that way”—the orthodox teaching of the Christian church does not assert humans are born innocent, but rather with sin deeply ingrained in them, and we have no religious reason to assert that homosexuality is not one such sin. But as a scientist, I am (and must be) intensely skeptical of any claim which asserts differences like these without demonstrating actual causation, or which rests an entire theory on a single paper, an incredibly risky proposition in this era in which research is constantly being found entirely unreproducible or fabricated outright.

        • Phoenix1977

          “But as a scientist, I am (and must be) intensely skeptical of any claim which asserts differences like these without demonstrating actual causation”
          No research has ever shown smoking caused lung cancer. Even the squamous cell type lung carcinoma, which is the type of cancer associated with smoking, is not seen exclusively to people who (used to) smoke, just as not everyone who smokes developes lung cancer. And yet, no one will deny smoking and lung cancer are related. There is just no causality. Are you, as a scientist, ready to openly state you don’t believe in the relationship between smoking and lung cancer because causality has never been proven? Or cardiovascular disease? Or obstructive lung disease? All conditions linked with smoking but without proven causality. Probably because causality is virtually impossible to prove. As a scientist, you should know that.
          Than again, a religious scientist is a contradictio in terminis to begin with: as a religious person you believe beyond a doubt something that can never be proven while as a scientist you doubt everything no matter the amount of evidence.

          • Scott

            “Than again, a religious scientist is a contradictio in terminis to begin with: as a religious person you believe beyond a doubt something that can never be proven while as a scientist you doubt everything no matter the amount of evidence.”

            Interesting?.. Francis Collins has a different opinion. Should we not consider his work on the Human Genome Project as the work of a scientist? Some would argue (quite credibly I might add) that science was born out of judeo-christian values. Is your intention to discredit ARB as a scientist just because he might disagree your assessment of the evidence for or against God? Your beliefs are impossible to prove as well… but that is not a basis to discredit your scientific work.

  • Richard Bliznuck

    I’d love to hear what the Colson center has to say about contraception in marriage….?

    • Scott

      Me too. What say you?

  • Michael Willemse

    Thanks for a good, clear article John! I was keen to read Alastair Roberts’ article but your links all take me to the one by James K. A. Smith?

    • Gina Dalfonzo

      Trying to figure out what happened there, and where exactly the Smith link was supposed to go, Michael. But in the meantime, there’s a link to Roberts’ piece under “Resources.” Thanks for the alert!

  • Scott

    “And some would argue, just as credibly, that religion has held scientific progress back for centuries.”

    Bringing us back to our differing set of beliefs. You would say yours are better than mine and I would argue the opposite… mere opinions based on beliefs.

    “ARB already gave enough ammo in his own comment to question that claim, from the fact he/she believes something is only proven if causality is shown to the fact he/she allowed his/her project leader to dictate the outcome of the research.”

    The language ARB used:

    “I am (and must be) intensely skeptical of any claim which asserts differences like these without demonstrating actual causation, or which rests an entire theory on a single paper”

    Using your example (the relationship between lung cancer and smoking), smoking damages the cells that line the lungs. When you inhale cigarette smoke, which is full of cancer-causing substances (carcinogens), changes in the lung tissue begin almost immediately. With repeated exposure, normal cells that line your lungs are increasingly damaged. Over time, the damage causes cells to act abnormally and eventually cancer may develop. Thus demonstrating causality. Enough research exists to back this up.

    I see nothing in ARB’s statement contradicting any of this.

    As for the nature of ARB’s project leader… that is another matter. It sounds to me like this person put their set beliefs above the integrity of their work thus compromising the outcome (as well as the credibility) of the project. This is not ARBs fault. Forcing someone to have to choose between their job and the integrity of their work is criminal in my opinion.

  • Scott

    “But it were Christians who decided my sexuality was enough reason to oppose my basic human rights and to classify me as a second rate human being.”

    Not this Christian. You are equal in the eyes of God and He loves you. That is good enough for me. Just because we have come to different conclusions about our core set of beliefs, does not mean that your rights should be lesser than my own.

    “I was talking about potential, not about what we can actually achieve at this moment.”

    Okay… but to clarify the potential you speak of is theoretical… I was referring to known quantities.

    • Scott

      Sorry, the last statement should have read:

      Okay… but to clarify the potential you speak of is base on theoretical quantities… I was referring to potential based on known quantities.

      I’m moving too fast for my own good today. : – )

  • Scott

    “But that doesn’t mean the smoking causes lung cancer. It enables it; contributes to the risk. So no causality is there.”



    I think we might be talking about the same thing but wrestling over semantics here. The definition of causality:

    “1 the relationship between cause and effect.
    2 the principle that everything has a cause.”

    There is no doubt that a cancer free non-smoker can take up smoking and as a result, end up with lung cancer. In this case, the newly added habit of smoking would be the proverbial “straw that broke the camels back.” It would most definitely be one of the causes (and perhaps the main cause) of the lung cancer. It does not mean that it is the only cause. But because it is one of the causes, it does play a role in the relationship between cause and effect… Hence the Surgeon General’s warning on all cigarette containers.

    I do agree that it is not the only cause and in the case of non-smokers with lung cancer, not a contributing factor (except maybe second-hand smoke).

    As for ARB:

    “In the eyes of the scientific communtiy, however, ARB is just as guilty to compromising scientific integrity as his/her project leader. And should someone discover what happened ARB would be rejected from the scientific community along with that project leader and all papers ARB published would be deemed worthless as well, simply because ARB showed a willingness to compromise the research under pressure.”

    Tell me Phoenix, do you believe this is morally right? Should a person be condemned for something forced upon them by their superior? It doesn’t sound like ARB was a willing participant at all. Sounds to me like he was forced/threatened to do as he was told or else. What if ARB’s loss of employment cost his/her ability to support his/herself. What if this conflict of interest caused ARB to seek other employment and get away from the corrupt superior… and upon leaving he/she came clean about the project. Neither you nor I are qualified as ARB’s judge.

    If a person is forced by a superior to do something less than ethical, shouldn’t the person directly responsible for the compromise be held most responsible? All others were merely following orders. Those (following the questionable orders) who disagree, should at the very least be allowed to find work in a place where their integrity isn’t under attack.

    • Phoenix1977

      The definition for causality is different in (medical) science:
      “The direct and only relation between a factor and effect”.

      “It would most definitely be one of the causes (and perhaps the main cause) of the lung cancer. It does not mean that it is the only cause. But because it is one of the causes, it does play a role in the relationship between cause and effect”
      It doesn’t work that way in (medical) science. There is either THE cause or contributing (risk) factors. There is no such thing as multiple causes. If a condition is not caused by one factor it means there are several (mostly independent) risk factors. But in medical science that, by definition, disproves causality.

      “do you believe this is morally right?”
      Whoever said that morals play any role in science?

      “It doesn’t sound like ARB was a willing participant at all.”
      But still a participant, willing or not.

      “Those (following the questionable orders) who disagree, should at the very least be allowed to find work in a place where their integrity isn’t under attack.”
      I could agree with that, if ARB had left the moment his or her integrity was compromised. But ARB admitted to have manipulated the outcome of research so apparently his/her own interests weighed heavier than (scientific) integrity. That’s unacceptable.

      “If a person is forced by a superior to do something less than ethical, shouldn’t the person directly responsible for the compromise be held most responsible? All others were merely following orders. ”
      Mid 20th century that was a very popular line of defense, together with “Ich habe es nicht gewusst” (“I didn’t know”, in German).

      “Neither you nor I are qualified as ARB’s judge.”
      I’m afraid you are wrong there because I am part of the scientific community.