When Evangelical Leaders Go All Flippy-Floppy on Marriage
A popular evangelical leader and author shared his thoughts on marriage this past weekend. I won’t mention his name because his MO seems to be to say provocative things when he has a new book coming out to kick up publicity. No reason to help him with such marketing. Anyway, this author was asked at a forum — hosted by a mainline church in San Francisco and organized by his publisher — about his views on marriage. His answer was pointed and immediate:
“I am for marriage. I am for fidelity. I am for love, whether it’s a man and woman, a woman and a woman, a man and a man. I think the ship has sailed, and I think the church needs — I think this is the world we are living in, and we need to affirm people wherever they are.”
WOW! So we’re just making it up as we go along now? Jesus was clear and unequivocal on what He thinks about marriage. Matthew 19:4-5 says,
“He answered, ‘Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”?'”
Regardless of what ship has sailed, no believer is in a position to tell God that what He clearly said is a bit too narrow and that He might want to think about getting with the times. Let’s break down what’s wrong with this line of thought:
1) “I am for love, whether it’s a man and woman, a woman and a woman, a man and a man.”
Then you’re simply not for what God is for. God created man and woman as distinct and unique image-bearers, and the first thing He did with these two remarkable kinds of humans was to bless their marriage. There is something dramatically special and divine about this union that joins the two streams of humanity closer than any union does. And the male/female angle is not just traditional. It is uniquely and powerfully divine. This leader and author is more than denying what God has established. He’s saying the essential gender diversity we find in God’s design does not matter in the least. It is merely optional. Such a view clearly puts one at odds with God himself.
2) “I think the ship has sailed, and I think the church needs — I think this is the world we are living in…”
To put it another way, “Church, let’s cast off unfashionable historic Christian teaching and get in line with where the culture seems to be going.” Yes, let’s just jettison the prophetic role of the church. Rather than the church working to transform culture, let’s just reinvent ourselves in its image. I don’t think so.
3) “…we need to affirm people wherever they are.”
This is a sloppy and ill-informed framing of an important Christian truth. All of us came into Christ’s family as sinners. Only sinners are the ones who are invited. And that is exactly how each one of us came into the Kingdom.
But “to affirm people wherever they are” is quite different than to love people wherever they are. The very guts of the Gospel is how Christ has made a way for us to leave our sin and be transformed into new creatures. Do a word search through the gospels for “repent,” and see how often John the Baptist, Jesus and the disciples spoke of the need for people to change their minds and actions regarding their disobedience and rebellion. In fact, “to affirm people wherever they are” is anything but loving. It is permissiveness. God’s love, thankfully, does not leave us where we are.
Now we don’t have to pile on leaders who stray from the clear, historic teaching of our Lord and our faith by making their mistaken teaching personal. It’s not about them personally. But it very much is about their faithfulness (or lack of) to the profound responsibility of their position (self-proclaimed or given by others) as teachers of God’s Word. Heresy is not a bad word when it’s properly applied to teaching that clearly denies or rewrites what Christ has clearly taught. And if it doesn’t apply to statements like this, it doesn’t apply to anything.
About the Author
Glenn T. Stanton is the director for family formation studies at Focus on the Family. He debates and lectures extensively on the issues of gender, sexuality, marriage and parenting at universities and churches around the country. Glenn is the author of four books and a contributor to nine others. He’s a huge Bob Dylan fan, loves quirky movies, and picked out and bought the first piece of clothing for himself when he was 28. Glenn and his wife, Jacqueline, have five children and live in Colorado Springs, Colo.