When Evangelical Leaders Go All Flippy-Floppy on Marriage

When Evangelical Leaders Go All Flippy-Floppy on Marriage

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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.

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  • Well said, Glen.

    It is NOT loving to "affirm" people in sin,,,,, It is not loving to encourage people in a belief and attitude that will result in their eternal damnation. Jesus never did offer that kind of "unconditional love".

  • I have to admit, I'm MUCH more curious about what the boundless folks have to say about THIS portion of the interview:

    "I think there is a very narrow, politically intertwined, culturally ghettoized, Evangelical subculture that was told "we're gonna change the thing" and they haven't. And they actually have turned away lots of people. And i think that when you're in a part of a subculture that is dying, you make a lot more noise because it's very painful. You sort of die or you adapt. And if you adapt, it means you have to come face to face with some of the ways we've talked about God, which don't actually shape people into more loving, compassionate people. And we have supported policies and ways of viewing the world that are actually destructive. And we've done it in the name of God and we need to repent"

  • Why should we be surprised? Soon it will be legalized in the whole US and more churches will embrace it for the sake of not losing membership. Becomes politics. It's a trend till the end... Almost feels like Rom 1:

    25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. 26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts.

    If it's what the people want, let them have it, And let God's wrath come in its due time.

  • Amen!

  • I think that this whole "sexual revolution" is partially to blame. It seems to me that today's culture finds homosexuality far more acceptable than celibacy. While more congregations are embracing the idea of homosexuality, the idea of celibacy is put down. If young persons are unattached and want to stay that way, others tend to say that they need to have "that problems fixed." I know, because I am one of them. If a man wants to leave his father and mother, must he hold fast to a wife?

  • The majority turned away from Jesus, too. Are we trying to be more popular than He was?

    I'd rather be more concerned to be approved of by him, than by popular culture.

    We KNOW that the chasm between the Church of Jesus, and the "churches" that court popular culture and public approval is going to become more distinct. Why should that concern us? WE also know that heretics are going to tell lies about us. They told lies about Christ and the Apostles, too.

  • I agree with the pastor that ''that ship has sailed''. we can argue about what is right vs. what the world think is right, but gay marriage is going to happen eventually, whether we like it or not.

    I'm tired of the whole debate, I would just like for it happen already so that we can all move on...

  • Never cared for his meandering approach and outlook, so I can't say I'm surprised.  He just sounds weak.  I'm all for thinking through issues and different perspectives of looking at things... but it appears he just uses that as an excuse to never come to a definitive stance on anything.  

    Ashley regarding that quoted tidbit... at best he's holding up a slice of believers he doesn't care for (and I may have my criticisms as well) and using it as a basis for his theology.  Sounds just like a coworker I have... I would rather he come right out and state his beliefs than try and dress it up in some high-minded, hipster dialogue.  He may fool some but he isn't fooling everyone.  Hopefully he loses some of his following.

  • I agree with very much of what you said!  I find it interesting how much of the phrasing on this entire topic ties "love" inherently with marriage.  For example, standing on it's own, I would be able to support the statement "I am for love, whether it is a man and a woman, a woman and a woman, a man and a man."  Out of the context it was stated in, I think that's a great statement.  I'm not married, and live now where near my family, so I most often hear "I love you." from my friend Kristine.  And you know what, I need that once in a while.  But, there's absolutely nothing remotely romantic in our interactions.  Kristine, her husband and her four boys have been a bit of a surrogate family for me at times, and Kristine herself has been friend, advisor and mentor, depending on the day.  The meaning of her "I love you" is far different than the "I love you" I'd hope to hear from a husband some day.  I think we all have need of those deep friendships, so, yes, by all means I believe it reasonable to be for love, woman and woman or man and man.

    In the context of supporting marriage between woman and woman or man and man though, I can't support the statement.  And that's where I think our language, and the way it is used and mis-used is tragic.  In the statement made by the leader in question, it's so subtle the way reasonable statements are blended into this (from a Christian perspective) outrageous statement.  He's for marriage.  Great.  He's for fidelity. I should certainly hope so!  He's for love... of course, that's a given based on the first to statements.  How many people don't even think to question the rest of that quote?  He's started out with easily believable statements, and then thrown in a curveball that looks rational because of what just came before.  

    I'm not expert on the crafting of well-made arguements, or the proper terminology of debate, but I think this tactic is used so very often.  A few statements that can't be argued with, and then the statement that really should be in question is tacked on at the end.  How can we question it?  Isn't it now clear that it fits with those first statements?  Only a fool or a horribly unadaptable person would argue with such a thing.  So many stances are crafted this way.  

    This is indeed the world we are living in.  The push is on to normalize homosexual relationships.  This is not something never before seen in the world.  It has happened before, not in American culture but in other places and other times.  I don't think though that this means the church should agree with culture on this one.  A light is largely recognized by being different than the dark that surrounds it.  I'm not saying people within the church haven't made mistakes in how they try to be that light.  We're all human; we're going to make more mistakes.  Yet, for those who are Christains, we are still called to be that light as best we can, recognizeably different than the world in some ways and trusting God's sovereignty and grace to bring about His will sometimes in spite of our efforts.  Thankfully, also by our efforts at times.  

  • Say, just noticed there are no comment numbers to refer to.  Anyhow...

    >>Why should we be surprised? Soon it will be legalized in the whole US and more churches will embrace it for the sake of not losing membership. Becomes politics. It's a trend till the end... <<

    If you check actual attendance and which churches are growing, you'll find that the ones that walked away from the Bible are shrinking, while the non-denominational ones who stick to the Bible are growing.

  • Amen Glen!! I often wonder how those people not telling the truth of the Bible, or twisted the truth don't seem to "Fear God" at all. They have some gut to offend God seriously. I have no time for the big lies coming out of the mouth of many pastors/preachers. False teacher indeed! They ought to be ashamed for lying to the public and to the non-believers!!

  • Word! Thanks for sharing this.. God's standards don't change, it's timeless

  • James79: I disagree. I'm not sure I back Bell's stance on marriage -- I still believe that biblical covenant marriage is between a man and a woman as represented by Christ and his church -- but I DO agree that we have this highly sepratist, intensely political ghettoized subculture that shoves people away from Christ by citing mottos like "The gospel is offensive" and trying to use secular governing bodies to enforce their specific morality on those who haven't even accepted Christ. While I might not match up with his Theology, and never really cared for the Nooma videos or many of his teachings, he is SPOT ON with the diagnoses that much of the chruch is much more obsessed about what the rest of the ghetto dwellers think of them than they are actually leading people to Christ.

    And that's a shame.

  • It was Rob Bell.

  • I agree with statement #2 wholeheartedly. The SSM ship has indeed sailed. The Church® can either stand on the pier shaking its fist at the ship as it sails away, or it can get back to business of ministry. There is plenty of other work to be done!

    Also, to the folks talking about God's wrath falling upon us over SSM: It doesn't seem that the Lord saw fit to put the smackdown on the US over the Native American genocide or slavery. I doubt very much that SSM grieves Him more than those periods of our nation's history.

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