Marriage is wonderful … a precious gift from God the Creator. God designed marriage. God has preserved marriage through the fallen and frustrating history of humanity. God is even now redeeming marriage because of the life and death and resurrection and reign of His Son, Jesus Christ. Marriage is “holy” in that it is set apart, different from other institutions, arrangements, and relationships which might also have their good places. Marriage(s), and all humanity which depends upon healthy family life, suffer when individuals and cultures disrespect the terms and boundaries and purposes assigned to them by God. The near-half divorce rate among heterosexual couples in the United States is a case in point, underlying most troubling measures of cultural, economic, and legal malady in our modern world. We redefine and restructure God’s gifts to our own hurt.
God blesses us with commands which we always discover are for good & for life, not their opposites. One commandment: I am to love my neighbor as myself. I must desire and work toward attitudes, behaviors, and systems which help all of my neighbors to truly flourish … living according to God’s original (good) designs. So as a Christian pastor, one outworking of this obedience is to offer counseling to young couples who plan to marry. Romance and physical attraction are insufficient as bases for long, happy, fruitful, God-pleasing unions which help our world. To the surprise of many, we NEVER run out of Biblical content which could help couples understand God’s intentions for healthy relationships in general, communication, fighting fair, sexuality, parenting, work/rest balance, honesty, repentance/forgiveness, goal-setting, budgeting, selflessness, etc.
Try as one might … there is no Biblical content to show us that or how two men ~ or two women ~ may enter into healthy relationships which include sexual intimacy. There are (on the other hand) steady prohibitions of such behaviors and mindsets (through clear, didactic statements and negative illustrations from humankind’s checkered past). This is necessary background for any who wonder why the Christian church at large has NOT jumped onto the recent same-gender marriage bandwagon.
“Orthodoxy” is an old-fashioned term which stands for the concept that philosophies, faiths, and religions have the right to define themselves for those who would want to reflect upon them. “Orthodoxy” stands against the post-modern ideal that any individual should be able to define for himself what (for example) Christianity is or ought to be. As a religion which depends upon revelation, Christianity must be measured by what God declares, and this our God has done in what are called the Holy Scriptures (a.k.a. the Old and the New Testaments of the Bible).
While I aim to be as agreeable as possible, I am being unfaithful to my calling as a minister in the Christian church if I say “yes” to practices about which God’s word says “no.” Men who did this very thing in Bible times were termed false prophets, false apostles, heretics, antichrists, & etc. These are not desirable labels! The great strength of Biblical Christianity for at least 2,000 years (and one reason why this faith has been such a help to humanity at large the world over) is that it stands for something permanent and unchanging, speaking a necessary word from beyond to a humanity which must change (in terms of territorial expansion on planet Earth, population growth, technological and scientific development, etc.). Every culture of man has this tension of trying to respect what is from former times (hopefully representing what endures) while adjusting to the best of what is developing. Some possible developments would be harmful to humanity, and this judgment (What is harmful and what is helpful?) implies a standard, a measuring stick, something straight & true & eternal & good … by which to judge a new possibility.
Gay marriage does not line up with Christian orthodoxy. It does not pass the test of what God says marriage is to be: one man and one woman committing to live together in an exclusive kind of loving intimacy for as long as both are alive. “Gay marriage” is (in fact) working against clear Biblical prohibitions of sexual relating. “Gay marriage” was not endorsed by any major branch of Christianity even one generation ago. Though gay marriage seems to be gaining popularity in some places today, the majority church (in Central & South America, Africa, and Asia) is firmly resisting it against strong pressures from liberal denominations in Europe and North America.
Plymouth Congregational Church in Lawrence boasts about 160 years of ministry in our community, but gay marriage was not a priority for that communion until very recently. Such a possibility would have been positively condemned by them even two generations ago. While the current manifestation of this downtown congregation occupies the same property and wears the same name, they are not in line with their own faithful history, let alone with most Christian churches in Lawrence and around the world. Professor J. Gresham Machen wrote a book almost a century ago which speaks a clear word to our day, through its title alone: Christianity and Liberalism. Dr. Machen’s point was that there is a version of public Christianity which does not deserve to wear that title. Biblical Christianity and liberal (unorthodox) Christianity are different religions; only one of them is truly “Christian” in God’s eyes. Having given up on historic doctrines of the Christian faith (many of them more critical for the saving gospel than issues of sex and morality) Plymouth shows that Jesus Christ has removed His lamp-stand from them. Sadly, what was once a pillar and support of the truth is no longer; November’s action is same-old, same-old (heartbreakingly so). I pray that its leaders and members will return to their first love soon and so flee from the coming wrath. Until then, Plymouth’s theology and practice bear closer resemblance to more honest religions which are unashamed to be known as neo-pagan and neo-gnostic … different faith-systems altogether.
Sousa and Bergeron, post-ceremony, are no more “married” in God’s eyes than they were prior to that November day, since marriage is an institution designed & sustained by God, not by man, nor by the federal court system, nor by the pastoral staff at Plymouth. State and [one] church are colluding to give these men the sense that something good now exists in their lives. This is a lie, and since lies lead only to frustration (then death), my heart is broken for them & for all of us. Pastor Peter Luckey (in a brief video interview following the ceremony) used these words & phrases: “legal,” “fantastic,” “sanctuary,” “feel at home,” “great feeling we’re married,” “full partners in marriage like everyone else.” All this was spoken in a beautiful facility, by a man in “holy” garb … but it fell far short of being the clear proclamation of God’s saving truth these men needed.
My church and I will never perform gay ceremonies, no matter what our state allows or mandates. How could we bless activities & relationships our God forbids?! To do so would prove us to be false. That said, we welcome all people to hear the word of God proclaimed from our pulpit and through our various ministries. We want to speak the good news of Jesus to every person, in homes and in on-the-street conversations, as we come and go, and in the stated times of worship on Sundays. Christians are not the best people in the world, the most moral or spiritual or religious. One of our greatest heroes (the apostle Paul) described himself as the chief of sinners ~ not exaggerating for rhetorical effect. God saves individuals from all races, classes, personalities, sin-patterns, and habits of life. But this Savior forgives us AND THEN CRUCIALLY cleanses us from our sins; He does not leave us in them … either to wallow in their misery or to enjoy their tempting poison for a brief season. Your readers may enjoy this stirring autobiography: http://rosariabutterfield.com/