Monthly Archives: November 2014

The Marriage Pledge

In this post, I will put up links and then a little commentary on Reno’s and Doug Wilson’s piece. First, we have the pledge itself with the second being a response by Leithart to critics with the third being an endorsement by R.R. Reno and the forth being a critical response by Doug Wilson to the pledge itself. A sixth one has responses by various authors and lastly, a seventh response is by Catholic lawyer, Edward Peters.

Looking at what Reno says:

“But the season of sewing is ending. Now is a time for rending, not for the sake of disengaging from culture or retreating from the public square, but so that our salt does not lose its savor.”

A. What, pray tell, does “salt losing it’s savor” mean if not something more tangible then what Reno is saying? What does Reno mean by this? In what way would the Church being losing it savor by not backing out of the civil marriage? Would “losing it’s savor” in this context mean that there is too much concentration on moral issues while neglecting the “more weightier” matters of the Church ie., preaching, sacraments, etc? If it has to do with offending our neighbours over a moral issue and not the Gospel then I think this is a poor reason. I think of that scene in Acts 16 when Paul and Silas were thrown in prison unlawfully. As citizens, they had certain rights that were violated. Paul not only insists that they be escorted by those who violated their rights but he even seems to “rub it in” in this act and when asks to leave, he rubs it in a little more by not leaving right away but by going to Lydia’s house and THEN leaving. It seems to me he knew how to balance “pushing the issue” and “backing away.” Would we say that he lost his savor by pushing the issue with the authorities and insisting on his citizenship? Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about not offending people for the most part, but there is SOME point at which, well, you can’t help it. Can there be such a thing as “offending in love?” Kind of like, can we actually “kill our neighbour out of love” or kill our neighbour while loving them at the same time? If love is narrowly defined, I can understand opposition to it. If it is broadened enough to include a wider goal for a wider situation, ie., someone is killing someone and you kill them or put a “stop action” to their action for not only their sake but for the sake of a greater good then it might be possible to see this as loving.
B. On the point of Doug Wilson’s post, while I would agree that this is not a time of retreat, and with his stance on marriage, I don’t agree that ministers sending people to Caesar is as much of an ethical issue as he says it is PER SE. It’s not as if the state itself is evil. The state may do evil things at times, but it isn’t exactly sending folk into a lion’s den. If a pastor sends a couple to the state to have their marriage recognized, how would doing THAT be unethical? The state will simply recognize those marriages as well as “same sex” marriages. Is that a bad thing for the opposite sex couple involved? All this would be is the government recognizing all relationships that come to them for marriage AS a marriage. They are not doing the “dirty paper work” by simply going to the state to have it recognize their marriage. The problem is the so-called foreseeable future where pastors perform marriages not the couple seeking marriage. The problem is, if the couple go to the state, and then go to the church and the church/pastor performs and recognizes a marriage, then they would be discriminating against same-sex couples if they opt out of performing/blessing THEIR “marriages.”

Alas, the problem of the government legitimizing same-sex “marriages” as marriages is that there others will be forced to legitimize same-sex marriages or recognize same-sex marriages as marriages. This, doesn’t just stop at the church door for it will eventually insist, like the wolf in the fairy tale of the Three Little Pigs, of blowing the whole house down and coming on in. For example, say we go along with the Pledge where pastors don’t perform marriages and leave it to the couple to seek the legitimacy of their marriage with Caesar who recognizes other relationships (same-sex) as marriage. What happens then? Say that same couple who went to Caesar to legitimize their marriage want to open a photography business or open a bakery? Or let’s say they don’t even do anything of that nature. Regardless, that couple will be forced to legitimize same-sex marriage that the state has legitimized. In other words, once the state legitimizes same-sex marriage it expects everyone else to follow suit–tow the line, which is to say that it will insist that churches recognize, in some way, shape or form, that the marriages that it has legitimized need to be legitimized by them as well, at which point they will baulk such that we are back at square one of whether we are losing our savor or not. It would seem to me that all we have done by this pledge is push the line we drew in the sand just a bit further back only to say, “OK, NOW I’m serious. Don’t cross THIS line.”


More On Assisted Suicide: Another Eschatological Paradigm?

One of the problems I’ve had with “dying with dignity” is this question of autonomy. But first let me say that I really don’t like the terminology. When someone asks someone else to assist in their death they ask no small thing. It is to actually KILL ANOTHER. HUMAN. BEING. for, in most cases to end their suffering. Now, if we are willing to assist someone to kill themselves, then it seems that this claim (to kill them for the reason of ending their suffering) has such a powerful sway or ENOUGH sway over us such that the question should be asked about restricting such a killing to those who are competent fully autonomous determinative agents. Surely there are people who suffer greatly but are not competent enough to request someone to kill them. But there are some who don’t suffer greatly, and ARE competent ENOUGH to request help but whose pain is not that great. In other words, there is the problem of the measurement of pain as well as the problem of the expansion of candidates such that folks who were once thought not “worthy” of such assistance are now suitable for it (which is actually what is presently before the courts and what the debate is coming down to).

This really should concern us as a society. As autonomous individuals we seek not only to define our own destinies through the killing of ourselves, when and how (an unbiblical eschatology but an eschatology nonetheless) by the way) but we seek to to be little messiahs in defining the destinies of others.


Ethics: Attempting To Sort Through The Maze

Three of my favorite areas of study are: religion (theology), politics and ethics. I’ve read a number of good books on ethics. Mouw’s, “The God Who Commands” while it is not an applicable piece, he does approach ethics from a theological, philosophical angle. “Readings in Christian Ethics” Volumes 1 and 2 (one is theory the other is practical). “The Moral Quest” by Stan Grenz. “Ethics,” by Arthur Holmes. Wyndy Corbin Reuschling,”Reviving Evangelical Ethics.” Richard Longenecker’s short book on Christian social ethics and a few others.

I’ve ALWAYS thought that there was no such thing as an “ethical-less” Christianity. With W.D. Davies and Longnecker I came to the conclusion that Jesus wasn’t only the Saviour but that he was also a Rabbi and a teacher. Being that Rabbi and teacher he also gave us ethical imperatives to follow. On the other hand, on Greg Boyd’s Open Theism boards years ago and with the reading of Vanhoozer and his quote from David Clark, the idea of being guided by “principles” was brought into question with the this: “What happens when one principle “tops” another? Are they no longer absolute?” And of course, we see this sort of questioning going on with the whole picking and choosing of ethical principles and scripture and whatnot that progressives consistently point to. This, seemingly, goes the route of relativism.

Now, there is an area of ethics in which ethics are situational. I don’t doubt that. But there are areas in which ethics are, no matter how much one may claim otherwise, “absolute.” They are for all times and all places. It is on that broad strand that ethical principles do not cross or “top” the other. On the situational level, yes. On the broad categories, no. And let’s remember something, to live ethically is to live in loving relationship with God and others. It is to love God AND my neighbour.

David Gill’s book, “Doing Right” has been very instrumental in helping to put this all together right in the beginning of the book. The failure to understand what he means by “cover principles” and “area principles” is, I submit one of the reasons for mass confusion about hermeneutics (why we pick and choose this scripture over that) and in ethical deliberation within evangelical and progressive circles. I’ll have more to say in the future.