Marriage In the Dock

Next Tuesday, April 28, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) is to convene to hear oral arguments in Obergefell v. Hodges. At issue before the bar is whether a state must recognize a same-sex marriage license from another jurisdiction where same-sex marriage is legal, and/or whether or not a state can refuse to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple.

Congress attempted to address the first issue with the Defense of Marriage Act. Same-sex couples who had been legally married in states allowing it wanted to claim federal spousal benefits, and Congress felt the need to define what a legal marriage was and wasn’t. DOMA said marriage was between a woman and a man, thus invalidating federal benefits to spouses in same-sex marriages.

About two years ago Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy writing the majority opinion for the Supreme Court struck down DOMA because it showed “both moral disapproval of homosexuality, and a moral conviction that heterosexuality better comports with traditional (especially Judeo-Christian) morality.” I believe Justice Kennedy was right in his decision but wrong in his reasoning.

The last amendment in the Bill of Rights, the Tenth Amendment, reads, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Since the Constitution does not say anything about marriage it has historically and legally been a matter addressed by the individual states. DOMA should have been dismissed because Congress has no constitutional authority to regulate marriage, not because Justice Kennedy found it morally objectionable.

What has followed in the wake of Justice Kennedy’s decision is a number of lower courts, using Kennedy’s reasoning, have overturned the laws defining marriage as being between one man and one woman in several states as being unconstitutional. When, in point of fact, the Tenth Amendment gives the several states and the people of those states the constitutional right to define what marriage is or isn’t.

There exists a tension between the rights of the states and their citizens provided by the Tenth Amendment, and the states’ responsibility to provide equal protection under their laws as required by the Fourteenth Amendment. Former President Jimmy Carter said, “You cannot legislate morality.” He was wrong, the truth is someone’s morality, or lack of it, will be legislated.

“Many seek the ruler’s favor, but justice for man comes from the Lord,” Proverbs 29:26. This verse informs us that manmade governments do not guarantee justice for all. Lady justice may wear a blindfold, but do not be fooled into thinking Supreme Court Justices are deaf to the clamor of our culture. We must take solace in the truth that ultimate justice comes from God, because the real Supreme Court does not convene down here.

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Live It

It was 1925 in Dayton, Tennessee. High school science teacher Thomas Scopes had been charged with violating Tennessee’s ban on teaching evolution in the classroom. He was defended by renowned defense attorney Clarence Darrow and prosecuted by William Jennings Bryan. The trial became a media circus from the outset with Darrow trying to frame the issue as a debate between Evolution and Creationism. The case became known as the Scopes Monkey Trial with many thinking the Bible was on trial, not Thomas Scopes.

I have read the trial transcript. A professed Christian, William Jennings Bryan made an effort to defend the cause of Creation, but frankly, he was no match for Darrow. Not that Darrow’s position was tenable, but Bryan was ill-prepared for Darrow’s withering cross-examination and wilted on the stand. When I read about this historic trial I get the impression it was an embarrassment to the people of Tennessee. Since then, it seems that Tennessee has wanted to set the record straight.

Tennessee State Representative Jerry Sexton has introduced a bill to make the Bible the official book of Tennessee. Many states have a state motto, bird, tree or flower. I don’t know how many have a state book. But Sexton is a republican and has met opposition to his bill within his own party. Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam opposes it. The controversy is centered around whether this would constitute an establishment of religion contrary to the Constitution of the United States and defensible from any legal challenges sure to follow.

Sexton, a pastor himself, in defense of his bill says, “This does not establish any form of religion, and any move to denounce it, I think, is to silence those of us who would like to see reverence given to a book that has played a role in all our lives” to “memorialize the role the Bible has played in Tennessee’s history.”

I believe Sexton’s intentions are good, though myopic, and I agree with his sentiments. For me the Bible is the Book of books. But I am not convinced legislating its enshrinement is the path to take. Not because of the controversy. I am not one to shy away from controversy if needed, but the issue to me is not whether we pass a law to show our respect for the Scriptures, the issue for me is do we show our respect for the Scriptures by studying its truths, and with the help of God living them out each day.

In a nation that is increasingly becoming biblically illiterate day-by-day and alienated to God, there is a desperate need for those of us who say we believe the Bible to be the Word of God to read it and live it. Let us like the psalmist enshrine God’s Word in our hearts, “Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I might not sin against You,” Psalm 119:11. If you love it, learn it and live it.

Really Frank?

The recent debates in Indiana over the adoption of religious freedom legislation drew national attention and in its wake a host of opinions. Frank Bruni, a writer with the New York Times, wrote a commentary for The Columbus Dispatch titled Frank Bruni commentary: It’s time to cross homosexuality off the list of sins.

His title tells me Frank is making three false assumptions: there is no God, God has not revealed His holy nature and divine will to us, and morality is not divine in origin, but human. The Christian believes there is a Holy God infinitely righteous, He has revealed His holy nature and divine will in the Christian Scriptures, the Bible, and He is the Author of all that is morally good.

This is why we cannot just cross homosexuality off the list of sins; we did not put it on the list, or any other sin for that matter. God put it on the list, and He is the only who can take it off, and He hasn’t.

Frank tells us “all writings reflect the biases and blind spots of their authors.” While there were forty human authors who penned the Scriptures, Christians believe “men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God,” 2 Peter 1:21. Although He is biased toward sin, He has no blind spots.

Frank writes, “several prominent denominations…have come to a new understanding of what the Bible does and doesn’t decree.” They have, denying doctrinal morality they have capitulated to the culture because “they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God,” John 12:43. Although the LGBT community calls conscientious Christians bigoted homophobes, we do not hate them, we just love God more.

Frank claims Christians act “as if the advance of science and knowledge meant nothing.” Then show us the scientific evidence of any religion or culture on the face of the planet that has flourished supporting same-sex unions that are biologically incapable of producing the next generation.

Frank suggests Christian orthodoxy “ignores the extent to which interpretation is subjective, debatable.” On the contrary, we decry those same-sex sympathizers who employ eisegetical methods to pervert the objective truth in the Scriptures. Who do you think perverts the plain and simple truth “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination,” Leviticus 18:22. Only a grammatical contortionist can interpret “it is an abomination” to mean, “it is okay.”

Frank continues, “the view of gays, lesbians and bisexuals as sinners is a choice.” Frank and I finally agree. It is a choice to obey God and trust His guidance, just as it is a choice to ignore His Word and practice a sinful lifestyle.

One person who commented on Indiana’s version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act said he was against it because he did not want to be forced to live by Christian “rules.” Here’s a news flash, Christians aren’t the ones trying to make someone bake them a cake.

The Resurrection

The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the most pivotal event in Christianity and human history. Christianity is founded upon it and human history is divided by it. This truth is central to the Christian creed, and, indeed, Christianity stands or falls on its historical authenticity. So, what happened almost two thousand years ago?

There is a difference in faith and blind faith. Do Christians believe, and ask others to believe, blindly in the Resurrection? Faith will always be a necessary element for the believer, but we have not been left totally in the dark. The evidence of the Resurrection is clearly seen in the lives of the apostles, and the faith that was founded on their eyewitness accounts.

In his book Why I Believe the late Dr. D. James Kennedy shares the following statement of Scottish theologian Dr. Principal Hill. Hill said, “But if notwithstanding every appearance of truth, you suppose their testimony to be false, then inexplicable circumstances of glaring absurdity crowd upon you. You must suppose that twelve men of mean birth, of no education, living in that humble station which placed ambitious views out of their reach and far from their thoughts, without any aid from the state, formed the noblest scheme which ever entered into the mind of man, adopted the most daring means of executing that scheme, and conducted it with such address as to conceal the imposture under the semblance of simplicity and virtue. You must suppose that men guilty of blasphemy and falsehood, united in an attempt the best contrived, and which has in fact proved the most successful, for making the world virtuous; that they formed this singular enterprise without seeking any advantage to themselves, with an avowed contempt of loss and profit, and with the certain expectation of scorn and persecution; that although conscious of one another’s villainy, none of them ever thought of providing for his own security by disclosing the fraud, but that amidst sufferings the most grievous to flesh and blood they persevered in their conspiracy to cheat the world into piety, honesty and benevolence. Truly, they who can swallow such suppositions have no title to object to miracles.”

History is inundated with accounts of those who have died for what they believed, but they did so believing them to be true. If the disciples stole the body of Christ and hid it, is it reasonable to believe they gave the remainder of their lives to suffer privations, persecutions and death knowing that the Resurrection was a lie?

The disciples did not profit preaching the Resurrection. On the contrary, they were disinherited by their families and ostracized by their countrymen. They were maligned as fools, arrested, tortured and martyred because they were faithful to declare the things they had witnessed.

This is the point Dr. Hill makes so cogently. Ours is not a blind faith. An empty tomb gives mute testimony to the angel’s words “He is not here, but He has risen” Luke 24:6.