Gay Marriage and the Bible: My response to the Sonoma Sun

In light of the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize gay marriage in all 50 states, the church will face increasing pressure from a culture in which the majority rejects the bible’s teaching on marriage–as a union defined exclusively as covenant between one man and one woman.

Last month an article was published in the Sonoma Sun in which columnist Ron Ellis wrote that gay marriage is biblically defensible. Ellis, who is evidently ordained as a Southern Baptist minister, chastised those–like our own church–who have not endorsed gay marriage as a denomination. I copied his article with my response attached. The link to the Sonoma Sun online is here http://sonomasun.com/2015/05/11/same-sex-marriage-and-the-bible/

Same sex marriage and the Bible
Posted on May 11, 2015 by Ron Willis Ed.D.

I love being married to a woman. In fact I love it so much, I’ve done it twice. My first marriage lasted 16 years and rewarded me with a wonderful daughter and son. My second marriage is in its 36th year and has rewarded me with two great step-children and with my own kids, eight grandchildren — six girls and two boys. My son is engaged to a wonderful woman who is the mother of two girls and a boy so if you add them in, we have 11 grandchildren. Life couldn’t be better. We’re happily enjoying the later years of our lives and, no matter what the anti-gay marriage fanatics have to say should the Supreme Court hand down a decision making gay marriage legal, you can’t make me believe that that action some how will diminish what Jeri Willis and I have had together for 36 years and will continue to have “until death do us part.” Their condemnation of homosexuality has fostered warnings that such unions denigrate the very sanctity of marriage. I find those condemnation without merit and rather silly.

As I have mentioned on my radio show a time or two, I am an ordained Southern Baptist Minister and have been since 1966 and I would officiate at a gay marriage without hesitation. The anti-gay evangelical right has roundly denounced any minister who officiates over such unions as an abomination and counter to Biblical teaching. They judge in anger and speak with a loathing rhetoric.

They justify their positions with the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy and insist that we judge the LGBT community in accordance to its indicts. In doing so they reveal either an ignorance of, or disregard for, the New Testament teachings. The Old Testament begins with the creation and man’s fall from grace. It reveals the wrath of God — His judgment and condemnation. The New Testament focuses on the love of God — His mercy and forgiveness. Metaphorically there is a pronounced shift from darkness into light, from rigidity to compassion, Old to New.

I find it impossible to reconcile the inability of some Christians to make the leap from the Old to the New Testament, largely ignoring the teachings of Christ that established the basis of the very theology they profess. Randomly selecting passages to support a position is dishonest and belies a true understanding of the scriptures and over-reliance on the Old Testament. The passages below reveal the miracle that unfolded in the New Testaments and its shift in focus from the Old Testament.

I can’t understand how they can balance believing that love has extended to them from God through Christ with an attitude of anger and hatred toward the LGBT community. Have they taken time to read St. John 4:8 which simply, yet profoundly states that “He that loveth not, knoweth not God; for God is love”? I John 4:16, “And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love in God, and God in him.”

St. John 3:16 states that “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life….For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world but that the world through him might be saved…..That light is come into the world [when] men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.”

St. John 8:3-11 chronicles the Sadducees and the Pharisees, religions parties of Jesus’ day who strictly adhered to the Law of Moses. They viewed it as the ultimate authority and rejected any subsequent revelation. They brought a woman before the court and challenged Jesus; “Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?….He said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to cast a stone at her.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn thee: go and sin no more.”

Jesus offered a new covenant and revealed the hypocrisy in their thinking. In the book of Romans, St. Paul spoke of being “delivered from the law…wherein we were held, that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not the oldness of the letter.”

It is because I believe in a loving God who created all of us including our LGBT friends and families and who gave the Law to Moses and tempered those Laws through the life and death of his Son. Jesus instructed his followers, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” Somehow some professed Christians have failed to recall the answer Jesus gave when He was asked “who is my neighbor?” In response he laid out what is often called the parable of the Good Samaritan. It the one about a man stopping to aid someone laying in a ditch whose needs had been ignored by some very self-righteous religious folk. The Samaritan stopped and helped the one in need.

I think its time for the good people of the Evangelical Christian Church to open their hearts and their pews to the LGBT community and full fill Christ call that we all love all our neighbors as ourselves.

My response to Mr. Ellis posted on May 20th is below:

I appreciate Ron Willis’ willingness to address a vital cultural issue through the lens of the Bible. This shows that the Christian scriptures are still relevant to the conversation on the nature of marriage.

As a Southern Baptist Pastor in Sonoma, however, I find many of his conclusions deeply troubling.
First, Mr. Ellis seems to pit the Old Testament against the New Testament. He talks about New Testament teaching as characterized by love, mercy and forgiveness, as opposed to the Old Testament showing God’s wrath, judgment and condemnation. Such a conclusion is both superficial and erroneous.

God’s loving kindness (Hebrew Hessed) is a recurring Old Testament theme. Psalm 86:15 says, “But you O LORD, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. Turn to me and be gracious to me.” In the book of Jonah, we see the prophet desired wrath for the city of Nineveh but God spared the penitent people. To which a disgruntled Jonah responds, “for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and relenting in disaster.” The loving character of God pervades the Old Testament. To divide the Testaments is to create two different gods—a heresy first propounded by Marcion in the 2nd century A.D., and condemned by the church.

Second, Mr. Ellis seems to assume his readers will agree that the New Testament says nothing of homosexuality. He cavalierly glosses over three texts:

Romans 1:26–27 “For this reason God gave them over to dishonorable passions, for their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another. Men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

1 Corinthians 6:9–10 “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

1 Timothy 1:8–11 “Now we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and the sinners, for the unholy and the profane, for these who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine.

An honest reading of scripture will find that homosexuality is not condemned exclusively, but with every other sin people commit, it warrants judgment apart from grace. The perfect law of God necessarily leads us to the cross of Christ for deliverance. He is gracious and merciful to us—if we repent. But to go against 2,000 years of Christian history with glib references to “love” and “mercy” tends to a conclusion that cultural trends have affected Mr. Willis’ interpretation of the Bible.

God’s love and mercy in scripture is not the indifferent, insipid brand of tolerance that has become America’s cardinal virtue.

The God of both Testaments passionately pursues men and women calling them to lovingly commit to him by submitting all areas of their lives—including their sexuality—to him. He claims marriage as the Bible teaches will lead to human flourishing. Will we believe him or not?

2 Comments

  1. Benjamin Pennington

    Ron’s article is a regurgitation of the same-old, unhelpful “progressive” discussion of “love.”

    THE COVENANTS
    Granted, I favor a view that we are no longer “under” the Mosaic Covenant (Exodus 19–24), but the New Covenant. However, Jesus clearly did not abolish the authoritative canon of the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 5:17). We are still to look to those Scriptures for “teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” The abstract principles from the Scriptures under the Mosaic Covenant still teach us much about God, man, sin, salvation, and ultimately, Christ Himself. I don’t “strictly adhere to the Law of Moses.” I adhere to Christ who is the ultimate interpreter and lens through Whom we understand the fullness of the OT Scriptures.

    THE IRONY OF THE NEW HERMENEUTICS OF HATE
    I find it ironic how often the “progressive” community calls us out on our “self-righteous” anger and hateful past toward those who claim to be LGBT, and yet am I the only one hearing the polemical hateful tone of people like Ron? By his self-righteous spectacles—complete with log—Ron has unknowingly stated his own position, complete with polemical “anti-this” or “anti-that” terminology. This is a hermeneutic of hate because he makes himself the judge of man’s heart and intentions, judging the Church by the world’s blindness. He calls for love while operating in his own modern-day toleration of bigotry.

    LOVE
    For people like Ron, love is nothing more than “loving our neighbor as ourselves,” and it is a boundless term from them. They think that by making the love of God without boundary that they are somehow expanding the love of God. I believe that they are wrong, and that they are, indeed, shrinking the love of God (as Jonathan Edwards would say). Ron’s boundlessness is seen in his willingness to marry a gay couple in a heartbeat. That’s the problem: too many ministers are willing to marry anyone today without regards to their relationship to Christ, their relationship to the Church, their holiness, their submission to their elders, etc., etc. And that’s how the love of God has been cast aside, making it something alien to who God has revealed Himself to be.

    What he cannot understand is that Love is not acceptance of everything as okay for a Holy God. He cannot understand this so much so, that he has even edited portions of Scripture that aren’t working for him. Does he seriously blame us for contextual distortions all the while editing the Scriptures to his own liking?? Where is “St. John” 3:17 in his citation? “…whoever does not believe is condemned ALREADY, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” Or how about St. John 3:36: “Whoever BELIEVES in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not OBEY the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” Notice that the “believing” and “obeying” are inseparable parallels. “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” Our love extends to the LGBT community by not only caring for them as our neighbors but by calling them (and OURSELVES) to repentance and obedience—an obedience only possible through the power of God Himself.

    Further, Ron simply uses the straw man argument. Who is he arguing against specifically? I know many conservative, SBC members who lovingly care for those who identify themselves as LGBT, yet will not budge on their understanding of that lifestyle as sin against their Creator (nor dare budge on the other blatant sins in the Kingdom community: gossip, slander, hate, blasphemy, all forms of sexual immorality, gluttony, laziness, etc., etc.).

    The God of the universe has come for us. A Good Shepherd (Ezekiel 34:11-16), He has sought us and plans to keep us for all time, that not “one of these little ones should perish.” O, the love and mercy of our God of True Justice!

    • ryansrindels2014 (Author)

      Ben,

      Thanks for your response to this post. I will make a few comments.
      As for the Law, I also agree that we are not under the Mosaic Law. I do maintain however, that perfect obedience to the law was expected, is expected, and will be expected for a person to be brought into communion with God (Deuteronomy 27:26; Psalm 1, 15, 24:3–6; Jeremiah 30:21). And yes, I do agree that Jesus affirms this in Matthew 5:17, 18 as does Paul in various texts (e.g. Rom. 10:4; Phil. 3:7–11; Gal. 3:6). Interesting enough, John, in describing the New Jerusalem writes (Revelation 21:27) “But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” We are therefore led to find our righteousness in Christ who imputes it to us.

      As for the Christian life, Galatians 6:2 tells us that we are under the “law of Christ.” I understand that the Law of Christ is best summed up in the Decalogue and is therefore, still binding on Christians. As for the Sabbath, I perceive a typological fulfillment (Hebrews 4, Romans 14:5) as the best interpretation in light of the New Testament and the New Covenant.

      I wrote an article in the religion section of the Sonoma newspaper around Easter titled, “Love re-considered” in which I asked the question of whether we can understand what love is apart from Christ. 1 John 4:10 says, “In this love; not that we loved God, but that he loved us first and sent his Son to a be propitiation for our sins.” This text shows us that love is truly understood in the Father’s sending of his son to die for our sins. We should note that love, by scripture’s definition involves (among other a variety of other attributes) Propitiation (appeasement of wrath) and transgression. If we espouse a view of love apart from a concept of righteousness, justice and sacrifice, then we are left with a bland version of tolerance that is neither good nor loving. The Bible teaches that in love, God prescribed a design for marriage and sexuality that has boundaries (Genesis 2:24). But like a good parent, boundaries are not restrictive for the purpose of suppression, but these limitations exist for protection. Autonomy is the dominant idol that has plagued humanity from Genesis 3 onward. The gospel dispels this myth. In Christ, we bow our knees to our savior who rescues us, loves us and continues to conform us to his image.

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