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"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)

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  • « Images of the Savior (32 - Holiness to the Lord) | Main | Book Review: Faith on Trial, by Martyn Lloyd-Jones »

    Marriage is Defined by Love not Dogma?

    Before I start I want to make it clear that Scripture does not conceive of the church's primary role in the world as one of opposing public immorality through political means. This is because in doing so we promote the law without the lawgiver. This message gives the world the impression that if they just changed their behavior patterns then all would be okay but we all know this simply is not the case. The problem is with our nature, not the mere symptoms of that nature. So our first essential as Christians is to witness to the historic fact of the resurrection, to pray for our friends, to worship, and, by grace, to live pious & holy lives. This witness, is ultimately the only one that matters in influencing society at a root level. If there is to be a vast change of public ideas of morals, it would have to come through the grace of God by the power of the Holy Spirit, not by an imperial edict or judicial ruling. The hostility of unrgenerate hearts must be disarmed so they love the law so if we are to make a global impact, our proclimation of the law must be accompanied by the gospel. Culture wars generally tends to have the opposite effect on people. Laws do very little to change people's thinking or heart's disposition. And there is no evidence that Jesus went out of his way to take on any political causes, probably because, in themselves, they do have any power to change hearts.

    Of course, many wanted Jesus to be a political organizer but that wasn't His interest (except in an eschatological sense). So because of this I have always viewed moralizing crusades with great suspicion. Jesus' did not mistake any symptomatic aspect of our lost condition--sexual depravity, greed, poverty, war, ignorance--from the root cause (depravity) and remedy of that alienation: the gospel. So as Christians we should not distinguish ourselves by obsessing on the various homosexual and other political agendas. Of course when we vote, we must vote our conscience according to Biblical standards. But, considering the recent events in California, it is clear that homosexuality has by no means outpaced heterosexuality in the committing acts of evil.

    I say all this as a preface to some of the strange arguments coming from the pro-homosexual "marriage" rights people in California. I saw in front of some megachurches the holding up of protest signs with slogans such as this: "Marriage is Defined by Love not Dogma?" Look at this statement very closely. The slogan is severely problematic. It is a atrocious argument for the reason that it is essentially a dishonest statement. How? you ask. It is dishonest because it is distraction from itself. This is because the slogan that decries dogma is itself is inherently dogmatic. It is not neutral as it would have one believe. When someone says "Marriage is defined by love not dogma", is this not itself dogma? Is this concept not someones' arbitrary preference based on someones' self-declared authority? If the placard was honest it would say what they really mean which is: "marriage is defined by my dogma, not yours." But instead they have chosen a sleight of hand type argument. Unfortunately this is how most debates (on a variety of issues) are conducted these days and if you watch out closely for each persons presuppositions you can expose such hypocricy from the start. The honest thing to do from the start is to acknowledge that there is no neutrality and we all have core beliefs or dogmas. The question isn't love versus dogma but rather, which dogma will be imposed on our society.

    Posted by John on November 14, 2008 11:58 AM

    Comments

    Good post. Perceptive.

    Thank you for your post. I heartily welcome your insight. I do, however, have questions about your view of Christian's role in society. Yes, Christians need to be witnesses to the gospel, pray, and live holy lives.
    But will the gospel thrive in lands where the people's understanding is most darkened? And don't evil laws contribute to that darkened understanding? Shouldn't such laws (such as allowing homosexual marriage) be opposed not only for the sake of opposing immorality for also for the sake of upholding truth and the gospel? Don't Christians need to do much more for the sake of the gospel than "witness to the historic fact of the resurrection...pray...worship...live pious and holy lives?" Is it not also essential for us to uphold truth in all arenas including that of politics not simply for the sake of changing people's behavior but for the sake of holding back the spread of darkness which makes the gospel harder to see?

    Very good observation. I live in an area (large college town) where this issue is thrown around a lot, and I must agree that there is no neutrality in anyones argument. It really does come down to "my system of belief vs. yours."
    Insightful post.

    "If there is to be a vast change of public ideas of morals, it would have to come through the grace of God by the power of the Holy Spirit, not by an imperial edict or judicial ruling."

    This is very true. However, it is rather sad that the institution being most vocal on gay marriage is not the Christian church but the Mormon church.

    I've recently heard Christians leaders (my own in fact) state conservatives vote for moral issues while liberal Christians vote for social issues. They've tried to make the point that it doesn't matter since Christians simply have a different perspective. Christians today seem to equate the same degree of weight to moral injustice as to social injustice. Nothing could be further from the truth.

    The Ten Commandments are a list of moral codes given to us to help us recognize our sins and to bring us to repentance. They are not social codes. We cannot live by these moral codes but we need to recognize them for what they are-our failings before God. When Christians abandon preaching and standing up for morality, then Christians have simply abandoned discussion of the Law. Without the Law we cannot know grace.

    Failing to voice, or vote, against moral corruption is sin before God. The Pope was able to see this one and stated so.

    Norm and Harlan

    I think you may have partly misunderstood the post. It us a much more devastating argument to show that someones idea or wordview is self-contradictory and does not square with reality ...therefore being unintelligible. By going to the root presupposition, it shows how absurd the homosexual marriage argument actually is. Their viewpoint is simply asserted with self-declared authority in some pretended obejectivity.

    Next, if Christians merely speak of a law without also speaking of the lawgiver then the other side can merely say 'sez who?'. If Christians were to clean up society where there was no longer any swearing, any drunkeness or pornography and everyone was nice to one another and yet, at the same time, they rejected Jesus Christ then the devil would be just as pleased. Morality is just as damnable is immorality ... that is, if persons' obedience to the law does not spring from a renewed heart that loves God then their obedience is no better than someone elses disobedience. I believe many people fail to see their severity of our corruption as human beings. We are dead in sin -- meaning that, unless the holy Spirit changes our hearts, all our good works and bad works are equally filthy rags before God. One is no closer to heaven because he outwardly obeys some rule for selfish reasons. Unless the motive is love of God then nothing is gained.

    Norm asked >>>>But will the gospel thrive in lands where the people's understanding is most darkened?

    Yes it will as I have personally witnessed. I lived in China for 10 years where there is severe restrictions on Christianity but under this oppression we have seen the greatest revival in the history of mankind -- 1 million Christians in 1949 when the communists took over to 100 million today. Human goverments have no say or power over the gospel and kingdom of God advancing. God can and does use the greatest evil for good. Further are people any better or closer to God under Islam because they "obey" these laws we cherish? As the apostle Paul said when he was imprisoned, the gospel is not in chains.

    But again, let me be clear that I am not promoting the idea that we should not vote for good laws and such, but the fact is I am speaking about the imbalance modern Christians tend to have. The Christless Christianity that Horton speaks of is rampant. The law of God is good and we should promote it to restrain evil, but don't confuse it with our main mission. If we do not give unbelievers the lawgiver together with the law then we do them no good and our promotion of law only promotes an outward obedience, not one from the heart. Let me repeat I am not against voting for and promoting what is good in society, but ONLY the gospel can change hearts. No amount of lawkeeping will save anyone because they can't keep it all. By all means promote the law of God, but God is not glorified unless Christ is the reason people obey it.

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