Duke Chapel against a blue sky. Richard Hays, dean of Duke Divinity School, is one of four top theologians who offer their opinions on the recent religious conscience debate. - Image courtesy of Zophos (http://bit.ly/1pt8Ym8)

Duke Chapel against a blue sky. Richard Hays, dean of Duke Divinity School, is one of four top theologians who offer their opinions on the recent religious conscience debate. – Image courtesy of Zophos (http://bit.ly/1pt8Ym8)

The evangelical world blew up this week over the question of whether Christian business owners and individuals should refuse goods and services for same-sex weddings. Many Christian theologians, pastors, and bloggers—particularly hailing from the evangelical new-Calvinist movement—have argued the answer is yes in some cases.

In a Daily Beast column I wrote with Kirsten Powers, we argued that the Bible does not prohibit such service. Sean Davis at The Federalist blasted the column as “a masterpiece of Biblical ignorance.” He points to a passage in 1 Corinthians where the Apostle Paul addressed whether Christians should eat meat sacrificed to idols as proof that Christians should not provide service to same-sex weddings.

Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), made a similar argument and cited the same scripture in a response to our column. He reasserted his position that Christians should “sacrifice the business for the conscience” when there is an obvious deviation from Biblical standards. ERLC Director of Communications Joe Carter took to Twitter to accuse Kirsten and I of having “embarrassed” ourselves with the column.

So, is our argument really that far off base? I reached out a variety of leading theologians the evangelical world respects to get their take.  They uniformly found the use of 1 Corinthians in this case to be a misapplication.

David Garland is professor of Christian Scriptures and dean at Baylor University’s Truett Seminary and author of the Baker Exegetical commentary on 1 Corinthians. He said that he thought using this passage 1 Corinthians to justify refusing service for a same-sex marriage is difficult to square with the text, especially when you consider the entire context of the passage:

Paul’s argument actually goes from chapter 8 through ten. In chapter 9, the emphasis is on how to ultimately win unbelievers. The argument here is actually about giving up one’s right out of love for others and the sake of the faith. The goal in 8 and 9 is answering the question, ‘How do you win people over?’

When asked what he thought Paul would say to the Christian church on these issues, Garland replied, “I think Paul would say, ‘How can you witness to someone whom you will not serve?’ That doesn’t mean you condone, but you can serve without condoning.”

Next, I spoke to Scot McKnight, professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary and author of several commentaries and books. He characterized Moore’s column as “uncharacteristically elliptical” and said the 1 Corinthians passage is about not engaging in behaviors that might cause a weaker Christian to sin.

“Paul would be saying to the photographer don’t photograph if it would make a weaker brother or sister to fall into the sin of same-sex relationships,” McKnight said.

Craig Blomberg, distinguished professor of New Testament at Denver Seminary and author of numerous books, including the NIV Application Commentary on 1 Corinthians, agreed with McKnight’s analysis of this passage:

“The issue in this passage is what to do when another Christian tells you that an action you’re involved in is a problem for them,” Blomberg said.” To apply to a cake-baking situation, you’d need a weaker brother saying that if they saw you selling cake for a gay wedding, they were going to not only bake a cake but go commit some sin. Somewhere in the world of 7 billion people, there might be someone like that. But I don’t think so.”

Richard Hays, professor of New Testament and dean of Duke Divinity School, echoed McKnight and Blomberg’s sentiments about the scripture passage:

I don’t think that passage has much of anything to do with your own conscience. It has to do with not engaging in behavior that would negatively affect those who are more morally scrupulous than you are. Paul is talking about restricting your freedom when your conscience is not offended, not about how to live when your conscience is offended. It certainly doesn’t have anything to do with protecting my own conscience.

In his book, The Moral Vision of the New Testament, Hays argued that the church should not support or bless gay unions—even lifelong, monogamous ones. When I asked him about whether or not he thinks it’s okay for a Christian to refuse to bake a cake for a gay or lesbian person who was getting married, he responded:

“Jesus was condemned by the scribes and Pharisees for associating with people of whose conduct they disapproved. The charge of eating and drinking with them tells us that Jesus’ enemies did regard him as complicit in their behavior. But he did it anyway,” Hays said. “I worry that the people who can’t bake a cake for people are putting themselves inside the bubble of Pharisaism. I just can’t go there.”

And what of those vendors who refuse services to same-sex couples but turn a blind eye to other kinds of unbiblical weddings? Should we be concerned about the apparent double standards of our brothers and sisters?

Craig Blomberg thinks so.

“Do the people involved regularly inquire about such things? If not, why would you change things just because someone happened to volunteer the information that they are gay and this is for a wedding,” he said. “I try to look for consistency of application no matter what principle you’re following. Whatever principle you’re applying for heterosexuals who you may not approve of, you should do the same.”

McKnight agrees: “There is a fair charge of hypocrisy since it concerns itself with only one kind of sin.”

121 Comments

  1. This is a good discussion to have and I am glad it is anchored by text interpretation. Key here I believe is to do so in love toward one another as believers and with prayer for direction. We need to pray that God would lead us by his word in this time. Scripture is sufficient for ‘every good work’ and it is sufficient of this. But we need to know that this is not a fight we need to win but one where we need to hear each other and listen to God. Praying for you all and for great leaders like Russell Moore and pastors in tough cities and military chaplains like myself.

  2. Jonathan, the people who are using Scripture to support refusing to bake a cake remind me of the Old Covenant practice of keeping women and gentiles in the outer courts, a practice so corrupted that it led to turning the outermost court into a marketplace. Is that what these people are afraid of, someone interfering with their modern marketplace? They should be, because Jesus’ gospel overturns these present day tables and wares just as he physically tossed them around in the temple.

    I bet those people would have been the ones asking why Jesus ate with sinners and tax collectors, or would have been ready to criticize his conversation with the woman at the well. They’d deny that, of course, but disassociating with people engaged in a sin they find particularly abhorrent is really a tacit criticism of Jesus’ lifestyle.

    Frankly, I think Jesus wants us to have gay and lesbian relationships, and I think he’s pleased with mine.

    Cheers,
    Tim

    • At least you are honest that you agree simply because you want to live they way you choose instead of living in Gods will. Sad. Jesus is not pleased with any sinful behavior.

      • Frank, my faith is solid. I don’t promote sin. I do promote interacting with sinners. That’s how people reached me with the gospel, and that’s how I hope to reach others. If you’d read the linked post you’d have seen that I did not write about me engaging in homosexual behavior, but about me being friends with people who have.

        Blessings,
        Tim

    • How can you say we all would be asking that of Jesus? I for one am proud to know that Jesus ate with “the lowest of those.” It goes up show us that he has compassion for everyone. But that doesn’t mean that he is okay with any sinful act. And homosexualality is sinful, it clearly says so in the New Testament of The Bible. So, no Tim I am sorry I don’t think Jesus wants you to have a gay relationship, because it is sinful. I pray that God will touch your heart and one day open your heart to His truth. May God bless you Tim.

      • Kim, did you read the link in my comment? Or even the response I gave to Frank above? I’m not engaging in homosexuality nor condoning it. I’m saying Jesus would have been a friend of those who do, and so should we.

        • Hi Tim. I was, at first, taken back with your comment stating, “Frankly, I think Jesus wants us to have gay and lesbian relationships, and I think he’s pleased with mine” because I read it as you stating that you were involved in a personal homosexual relationship. However, I did read your post and I loved it.

          From what I can tell from your post about your life, you are a living as a example of Christ.

          1 Corinthians 5:9-13 strongly supports your position by stating that we are supposed to associate with those in the world without judgment. Our judgment is reserved for those in the church, and should be brought against ourselves at least as much as against our brothers and sisters in the faith. It is God alone who judges those outside the church and, that being the case, we are called to love, to witness to, and to live as examples to those in the world, including gays and lesbians.

          • I see people — evangelical people — openly ducking the issue of whether Jesus would provide tacit approval of peoplle’s sins (regardless of what those sins may be), via providing business goods or services that are knowingly intended to celebrate, validate or affirm those sins.

            We’re all agreed that Jesus would “associate with sinners”, “eat dinner with sinners”, “serve sinners”, etc. Hopefully we all would follow His example.

            But it’s time to stop ducking already. Those same sinners are watching us Christian sinners ducking, and they KNOW that the reason we are ducking is because they IMPLICIT APPROVAL of gay marriage/unions is unavoidablly tied in with this issue.

            So why are evengelicals ducking?

        • Tim, I am truly very sorry. I didn’t read your other comment before replying. I ask for your forgiveness. I “jumped the gun” and replied too quickly.” It sounded like you were saying something else. And I am very sorry Tim about what I said. I pray you can forgive my actions and my comment.

          • All is well, Kim! Forgiveness for sure, and love all the way around. We’re bonded by the Spirit of Christ even in disagreement and misunderstandings!

        • Keith Pavlischek

          Did you forget to ask Richard Hays whether he agreed with you that Caesar should REQUIRE Christian photographers to photograph gay weddings even if they believe that such events are intrinsically immoral (as he does)?

          Notice, I’m not asking whether Hays or you to AGREE with the Christian artists who own Elane photography. I’m not asking whether you think they are being “Pharisaical” or disobeying Jesus because they have the wrong answer to the “what would Jesus do” question. Your opinion on that question is clear. You think they are behaving in immorally and being disobedient to Jesus in refusing to photograph that gay wedding.

          I’m asking you a related but distinct question–why are you are not willing to defend their right as conscientious objectors to a law requiring them to violate their conscience? Seems to me that you still have a preferential option for Caesar on the question and not for a Christian conscientious objector. But I would love to be convinced otherwise.

          And I’m wondering what Hays would say to THAT? Maybe you can ask him and take that up in your next post.

          http://juicyecumenism.com/2014/02/24/jonathan-merritt-christian-artistic-expression-and-the-preferential-option-for-caesar/#comment-178756

        • Correct Tim, you don’t see him celebrate sin! Yet you are now telling other Christians that they are IN THE WRONG if they refuse to celebrate sin!!! The “eating with sinners” analogy holds no water AT ALL in this discussion…now, if you have a reference that shows Jesus HELPING a tax collector cheat someone, or pointing out the nearest prostitute to a “John” that’s looking to score, then you would have a valid point…

          Baking a cake, doing flower arrangements, taking the photos at a gay wedding are all being a PARTICIPANT in sin…I would NEVER tell a gay person they could be my friend, or eat lunch with me, or anything like that, but if they asked me to be their best man I would be forced by my love for the LORD to say no…if they asked me to go on a double date with their new partner, I MUST SAY NO!

          I simply cannot grasp how people can claim to have an understanding of the nature of Christ and then attempt to say he would actively participate in a gay wedding…sad

        • Actually, eating with tax collectors and sinners was a HUGE deal in Jesus’ day. The Pharisees (correctly in my opinion) recognised it as Jesus accepting such people as fellow members of the community of God’s people. Most of the Pharisees would not have dreamt of doing such a thing. Yet none of the gospels suggest the Jesus required them to repent and amend their ways before doing that. And it is clear that they welcomed him, which suggests to me at least that Jesus’ didn’t make it his opening shot to condemn them for their sins but worked to establish a relationship of trust. This isn’t to say he condoned sin, just that he treated them as normal human beings with humanity.

    • You really miss interpreted the law, the reason it will be a problem serving a gay person will be if they wanted you to provide a service for there ceremony, from the front to the back God says being gay is a abomination, i notice while reading the article it missed out on key verses to make it look like people standing firm in God law are the wrongs ones, which that is not so !

    • Michael Todd

      Tim,
      It’s one thing to be friendly toward others since we wish to win them, by God’s mercy, to Christ. Yet, to affirm a person in unrepentant sin is a significant error as Romans 1:26-32 shows:
      ” For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 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. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.”

      and 1 Corinthians 6:9-11:

      “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11 ESV)

    • 1. The Lord Jesus didn’t over-turn the tables to let sexual perverts in the temple.
      2. Likening the Lord Jesus’ cleansing of the temple to compelling true Christians to celebrate sexual perversion is itself perverse and suggests you have no concept of Christianity.
      3. Witnessing to and having friendships with homosexuals is quite another thing that to celebrate their perversion by aiding in a “homosexual wedding”.
      4. I don’t think you have any concept of what the true Jesus is pleased with.

  3. Adam Thornton

    Jonathan,

    Great article and fair discussion of the scriptures and textual interpretation. I agree with the comments concerning the use of 1 Corinthians as a proof text to answer your question. I think that as a believer we live in the tension of eating (and by that the scripture means fellowshipping) with those that Jesus spent time with and supporting issues that the scripture seems to indicate are contrary to biblical teaching. This is not an easy place to be, yet we are called to be there. The concern that I have is concerning the use of government to compel people to do something that seriously violates their conscience as Christians. In fact, I have grave concerns about the federal government compelling anyone to do anything against their will.

  4. Perhaps the greater concern should be whether or not the government should be able to force people to do something that is against their religious beliefs. If we substitute forcing a Christian doctor to perform an abortion or requiring a Christian minister to perform a marriage between same sex partners would we be so quick to say they should do it? In James 4:17, Christians are taught that if they know to do something good and do not do it, to them it is sin. My thinking is that some Christians would have no problem baking the cake and others would. Each will stand on their own in the eyes of the Lord. I do not think the government should be the deciding voice in something this personal, which is to say I think Jan should sign the law.

    • The difference between the First Amendment and this absurd law designed to discriminate is precisely that the first Amendment is about the government impeding on the practice of religion. This law allows businesses and individuals to decide whether they want to discriminate against others because of their “sincere religious belief.” Ironically, what this bill does is to impose Sharia law on Arizona. The real victims are going to turn out to be other Christians and Muslims and Mormons. Lots of people have sincere religious beliefs that they believe should be above the law. Muslims are going to be able to ignore noise abatement laws. Some people will make a point of discriminating against Mormons because they have funny beliefs. Etc. Etc. Etc.

      • you aren’t really this dense are you, Jay? You obviously haven’t taken a serious look at this law AT ALL…all the law says if the all people have the right to deny a good or service based on religious beliefs, THAT IS ALL…no sharia, no “noise abatement” loophole, none of that. This only says that I am allowed to tell you I won’t service you, whether its baking a cake, performing an abortion, catering a satanic human sacrifice, ect…get a clue man

  5. I wouldn’t have a problem playing the piano at a commitment ceremony for a gay couple; my conscience does not bother me. Having said that, I find the left’s willingness to force people to choose between their conscience and their business to be abhorrent. One wonders what comes next.

    I find what Al Mohler said at his recent talk at BYU to be ominously prophetic: “We may not be going to heaven together [referring to evangelical Christians and Mormons] but we will surely go to jail together.”

    • You are correct. Jailed Christians and Jailed Mormons (and any other religionists or even atheists who dare to say “No” to the gay religion.)

      Welcome to the new diversity. Hope we survive it.

    • I doubt a gay couple would want you to play for their service. I find the right’s willingness to allow people to be mistreated and discriminated against and marginalized and segregated to be abhorrent. I suppose your grandparents really really loved the Jim Crow laws.

      • “I doubt a gay couple would want you to play for their service.”

        I agree. Nor do I think gay couples really want these cakes, photos.or what-have-you, either. What they want is to force morally repugnant choices on others. Otherwise they would dramatically and ferociously boycott, as they do “homophobes” who actually want to serve them, like ChickFilA.

  6. I’m with Earl. The question is not whether we should do something against our religious beliefs, but should the government force us to bow the knee to Ba’al. Whatever happened to religious freedom? And I think there’s something to be said about violating your own conscience. As hard as it is for me to say that I agree with a Southern Baptist, I would rather lose my business than violate my conscience. Having said that, we should also not participate in other marriages that are clearly against the teachings of Jesus, i.e., when one or both of the people had an unbiblical divorce or were becoming unequally yoked. You have to be consistent, or what’s the point. My person solution would be to make it clear that my business does not do marriages (any marriage). Having said that, I, like Jesus would eat with sinners. I just would not participate in the after dinner orgy.

  7. You’re still writing about this topic I see. I still don’t think Jesus would approve of a gay marriage. I can’t see him attending a gay marriage. Or baking a cake for a gay couple. In my humble opinion I just still think that Jesus doesn’t approve of homosexuality, because it is sexual immorality.

    But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, & each woman with her own husband.1Cor7:2

    I am Pro-Traditional Marriage because the Bible says that marriage is between one man and one woman, just like the verse above in 1 Cor 7:2 says.

    I still think that Christian business owners should have the right to say no to anyone they do not want to serve based on their religious beliefs. Not just gays.

    • Kim, by that same logic Churches should stop marrying divorcees also. Yet in churches all over America pastors are marrying people they know are separated from their first spouse, an action which God calls an abomination and adultery.

      And there are far more warnings in scripture about adultery than homosexuality. Why aren’t you as concerned about that as you are about a gay couples desire to marry?

      • Something does not magically become “ok” just because a group has been practicing something for a very long time (add to the list Gluttony, Lust, Greed, Covetousness, Unforgiveness, etc). The fact of the matter is that part of the break-down of the american family (and the church) can be traced to the un-biblical practice of marrying “unjustified” divorcees. (See Matthew 19) I happen to be an ordained minister, and my policy (along with several of my peers) is to follow the guidelines that Jesus laid out in regards to divorce and remarriage.

        That being said, can and does God work through families that are the result of divorce and remarriage? He most certainly does. God is pretty awesome like that, with His immeasurable and incomprehensible grace. However, as Paul advised, we shouldn’t go around divorcing like crazy and remarrying just so that God’s grace can abound. (Rom 6)

      • Andrew,
        We aren’t talking about divorce here in this article now are we? No, we’re not. Yes I know all about the countless number of times it’s mentioned in the Bible about adultery and not that often about divorce. These people that are remarring are sinning, unless like this verse below states

        Matthew 5:32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

        They can’t get married to someone else until they are legally divorced. You said in your comment they were getting married while separated from their first spouse.

        I am a Pro-Traditional marriage woman. I am not here to debate about divorce or adultry, that’s not what I am taking a stand on. Yes they are sinful. So is homosexualality. Sin is sin. But God clearly states that marriage is between one man and one woman. Period. End of arrgument.

    • Johnny Laguna

      Kim, Jesus never said a word about homosexuality in the Gospels so your belief that he would not approve of or even attend a gay marriage is based on, well, nothing but your own bigotry.

      My God, this obsession of fundamentalist extremists with preventing same sex couples to commit their lives to one another is so morally sick…

  8. Jonathan,
    Thanks for your ongoing investment in cultivating this dialogue.

    Did you ask any of the theologians (or anyone not included in the article) if they thought it was apt to make the comparison between either (a) the Maccabees who refused to eat pork; or (b) the early Christians who refused to offer sacrifice to the Roman deities, despite both being required by the established government of the time, and both representing a violation of the Law?

    Since you’ve limited your inquiry to Biblical texts, it’s tough to explore the full range of concerns articulated by Christians, inasmuch as the matter of material/formal cooperation with evil (as most forcefully articulated by Aquinas, though certainly put forth by others), is the most salient matter for many Christians? Insofar as the rendering of services in exchange for payment, as part of an event that a person might sincerely believe to be intrinsically immoral/sinful, would constitute cooperation with evil in the Christian ethical tradition, and thus complicity/culpability, do you have any reply?

    Thanks much.

      • Why was Dr.Robert Gagnon left out of those asked about the interpretation? It would be interesting to hear what he has to say as the only voices in your article heard in favor of an interpretation that is against a Christian supporting a same-sex ceremony were the ones you quotes as coming from blogs.

        • The question about the omission of Robert Gagnon particularly interests me. Gagnon’s answer would likely have been more incisive (hence more interesting) than the academics cited. I’m tired of all the softballs lobbed at the academics. The other issue seldom discussed by evangelicals is the matter of Gleischaltung (forced coordination of society). It’s coming. Roman Catholics are discussing it, but evangelicals seem oblivious.

  9. Jonathan: In the first paragraph you take great pains to show this is a debate amongst Evangelical Christians, and not all Christians in general. Thank you. However, I wish there had been some recognition that there is a broader Christian world, and not every Christian layperson, cleric, or theologian would read the Bible like this. There are many of us who read the Bible as God’s inspired message, who grant it authoritative status for faith and practice, and who still do not think the Bible prohibits monogamous same sex blessings. So for us, the debate is a non-starter, because the blessing of a same sex union is not sin, but rather a lifelong covenant that glorifies Christ.

    • You said:
      who read the Bible as God’s inspired message, who grant it authoritative status for faith and practice, and who still do not think the Bible prohibits monogamous same sex blessings”

      But what Bible are you reading from? And are you disregarding these verses in

      1 Corinthians 6:18-20
      Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

      Homosexualality is a sin according to the Bible. And the same chapter also tells us that marriage is between one man and one woman.

      1 Corinthians 7:2
      But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband.

      I’m sorry if you don’t agree with my pro-traditional marriage views. But I stand on God’s word. I have nothing against you as a loving Christian person at all. It’s the sin that you choose to commit that I don’t agree with. I am the same way with every person, I am not prejudice. I am a very loving, Christian, who even has a gay brother. I love him as he is, but not his actions to choose to be with other men.

      I pray that God will help you read the word of God in the right light. May God bless you.

      • Kim i was thinking the same thing finally someone who speaks the true instead of sharing bits a pieces to fit there lifestyle…. God has many blessing for you for shining the light :)

  10. I have no doubt that if people photograph weddings, (and bake cakes, and do dress fittings, and play the violin, etc.,) that the humanity of the people they work with will make it harder for them to hold onto their fundamentalist views. In fact, it is already happening as gay people come out of the closet and others see them as friends, neighbors and family members they love and respect. Those pushing for the Arizona legislation know that being gay is not shocking so many of us anymore, and that means more of us are rejecting a strict fundamentalist view. Ruh roh.

    I find the use of that Corinthians passage interesting. As a thought experiment, how many Christians have felt empowered to enter a bar or attend a party and drink beer because Jesus did? And if any of those people developed a problem, does that mean Jesus violated the spirit of Paul? Roh roh again. Seems like the logical consequence of this argument is become Amish. Stay away from anybody or anything you don’t agree with — because you just might find the humanity of others more compelling than your tidy theological system.

  11. Robert Neville

    There are two main issues here. The first has to do with defining acceptable Christian behavior and the second with the broader question of whether the state has a right to compel someone to violate their conscience.

    In the first instance, of course, the bible does not explicitly say that a baker can’t or shouldn’t bake a cake for a same sex wedding. Instead, we are left to deduce principles from the text which may not apply in every case. In the New Testament, the practice of homosexuality is cited along with other sins. Therefore, it’s safe to say that we, as Christians, should not encourage someone to sin or approve of their ongoing sin. Does baking a cake meet this threshold? I don’t believe there is a black and white answer to this. It depends on the situation.

    In the second instance, Christianity has never accepted the practice of same sex marriage as being anything other than sin. No society of any kind has, to my knowledge, ever accepted this as a normative practice, let alone encouraged it.

    To claim that it is a civil right is tantamount to claiming that a murderer should be celebrated for his actions because he has latent anger issues.

    In the civil arena, I could care less about an individual’s sexual behavior, but when you go against thousands of years of civil and religious morality to compel me to approve of your actions, you are violating *my* rights.

    • Our civil laws never have to abide by your religious beliefs. A civilized society of people other than fundamentalist Christians demands that you treat people with human dignity.

      To deny goods or services to others because of hostility and prejudices is not making a stand of conscience. It is being hateful and selfish. Very unChristlike,
      However, Jesus would forgive those like yourself who would declare some people unfit to love, to care for children, to serve their nation, or to be full members of their society.

      -Your argument 50 years ago
      “As good white Christians, we have never accepted racial integration as normal. No society ever encouraged it. God forbids it”

      “When you go against hundreds of years of treating black people as inferiors and compel me to treat them like equals, you are violating my rights.”

      • And when it comes to pass, that the local Black American wedding photographer informs the happy same-sex couple that her biblical Christian faith will not allow her to employ her portrait services to help celebrate, validate, or affirm homosexual marriages, and therefore she is offering them the name and phone number of another photographer that does offer gay wedding portraits,

        and then that happy gay couple files a lawsuit against her that could put her out of business unless she caves in,

        your position is that the Black American lady had it coming to her, isn’t that correct Larry?

        • So you think changing the race of the discriminator makes the action better? You are still ignoring the important thing. It is the discriminatory action itself and the person it is used against which is the material issue here.

          Any member of a minority group which thinks this kind of law won’t be used against them is a short sighted fool. Once you start legalizing one form of discrimination, it all becomes fair game.

        • Keith Pavlischek

          Well, Doc. Don’t hold your breath waiting for Mr. Merritt to respond to THAT question. But yes, Mr. Merritt would side with the gay couple over the black woman. The logic of his position DEMANDS that conclusion. In case you missed it, this is called “social justice” by progressive Evangelicals these days.

      • That comment will not work either, as you could go even further back and say that abouot all those black people who sold black people. I do believe we have a right to choise, after all God made us that way. However, to be made to accept someones choice is wrong. God does say that lifestyle is wrong (Romans 1: 17- end) and I do not accept it. I do not hate the people, (I do have gay friends) just hate the sin that with repentance keeps them out of Heaven.

      • Your rights are not being violated because you are to love and be respectful of your neighbor. Being black is not brought on by feelings it is how God made them, it is not sinful. Jesus did go among sinners but he always said go and sin no more. In addition not all sins are an abomination and no one should be expected accept them. If anyone wants to live that lifestyle that is their business but stop insisting on everyone accepting it as a norm. People are not so shocked about people coming out anymore because they are being bombarded by the media, TV, movies, radio, commercials etc ad nauseam. They have become brainwashed because the majority do not truly follow church teaching anymore, they follow their own interpretation. Thank God that no matter how bad it gets Jesus promised “The gates of hell will not prevail against His church”

        • Totally agree with your view point Mary, very well written. We have all become desensitized that it’s okay to go along with the “alternative lifestyle” now. I find that so disturbing. I can only imagine how upset God is with all of us as a people for all of the sin that is taking place in this world now. May God Bless every one of us.

    • Robert, I couldn’t agree with you more. Very well said. You have said what I think so many of us are thinking; well, at least me anyway. Thanks for your point of view.

  12. Interesting topic and comments by all standards. I don’t think serving same sex marriages by way of business should be a problem to many of us Christians however many with consciences that will hunt them, will not. If I knew that some guys who come to my church are gays or lesbians, will I walk them out of my church before I preach? I don’t think so. In the same way I will gladly serve gays so I can chip in a word or two to them about the love of Christ.

  13. A couple of things to get off my chest in response to some of the talking points employed in favor of the AZ and KS bills:

    I. The arguments used in support are ignorant:

    1. They are the same arguments that were used to support segregation and to support activities which necessitated the Civil Rights Act in the first place.
    (Right of association, people should do business with whomever they want, God compels me not to treat these people with human dignity…)

    2. Government already has the right to tell businesses they have to serve the entire public at large if their business is open to the public. Laws forbidding discrimination in businesses open to the public has been part of the Civil Rights Act and federal case law for over 50 years. People are arguing against a right the government already has and exercised for several generations.

    3. Right to free exercise of religion has never given legal license to harm others.

    II.The bills and arguments used in favor of them are stupid:

    1. The bills cover more than just wedding services, they cover all businesses. So essentially they can be used to bring back segregation of ANY KIND. The whining bigotry of a couple of small business owners is no excuse for upending the Civil Rights Act and local anti-discrimination laws. Any minority group or faith supporting these bills is giving rope to hang themselves with. Such laws would most definitely be used against them.

    2. The government has a right to force people to avoid behavior which is harmful to society. Business level discrimination is harmful to all commerce, civil liberties and basic human dignity. This is not 1956, it is an established fact that discrimination in business harms the public at large. The government has a right to regulate commercial activities and what is acceptable within them.

    3. These bills are corrosive to the 14th Amendment notion of equal protection under the law. [Jan Brewer has a history of treating the 14th Amendment like toilet paper] Essentially it is the government saying that any group of people no longer can expect the protection of government as long as those discriminating can cough up some lame theological excuse.

    4. There already is a way one can discriminate in their business without running afoul of anti-discrimination laws. Don’t have a business open to the public. Use private channels, private clubs, work within a church milieu. Once you open that shop, put that ad in the phone book, or otherwise make yourself available to the public at large, you owe a duty to serve everyone.

    5. These bills have ZERO chance of ever being implemented. So they are a waste of taxpayer dollars. Immediately after becoming law, there will be injunctions to prevent them from being implemented. The state governments will definitely lose. Their arguments have no legal or rational merit to them. Case law is solidly against them. (Google “Romer v. Evans”) The laws spit in the face of 14th Amendment ‘s, “equal protection under the law”.


    Essentially people are saying, “My deeply held religious beliefs compel me never to serve blacks, jews or atheists at my shop”. “It is a matter of conscience that I treat someone else like garbage!”

    • More likely examples:

      Would the Christian Identity real estate agent be wrong refusing to show a black family into a home near his own?

      Would it be wrong to hang a sign in your shop or restaurant, “No Jews allowed”?

      How about a landlord who refuses to rent an apartment to a gay couple?

        • I was being sarcastic. I thought his questions and mine were alike. I answered his further down.

          I said the photographers have to do the job they were hired for.
          [Of course if the photos all come out as the photographer’s middle finger, that is an assumed risk the church took by hiring them]

          The examples FDR made are perfect example of dishonest analogy. Unless you can show me where bigoted white christians are a group typically covered by anti-discrimination laws, they do not usually get the protection of them.

          We have laws in existence which prevent business discrimination for various groups. There is no compelling reason to get rid of them based on someone’s lame allegedly religious excuses. The government has a right to tell businesses not to engage in discrimination. Discrimination is harmful to commerce in general and to basic human interaction. Legalizing personal animus is not the government’s duty.

          • And of course, the Black American wedding photographer whose biblical Christian faith won’t allow her to spend a couple hours helping the happy gay couple celebrate their nuptials via her services, is guilty of “animus” merely by refusing the gig because of her religion (even if she offers them a referral to a nearby pro-gay portrait service),

            and therefore that Black American photographer has earned the government’s (the court’s) punishment unless she caves in and violates her own faith and conscience.

            You (and not just you, by the way) ARE saying that, aren’t you?

          • Why should the race or whatever characteristic of the person DOING THE DISCRIMINATORY ACTION be material to whether a discriminatory action is bad?

            Are you really that dense? Do you not understand what I am talking about or have you just run out of talking points?

            Anti-discriminatory laws concern the action and the object of the action. Changing the photographer to a group which is also protected by anti-discriminatory laws doesn’t change that. Just because you can be discriminated against, doesn’t give you license to discriminate against others.

  14. What if the photographer can’t do her job well because she just doesn’t find beauty in same-sex weddings? Shouldn’t she be able to choose if she does it or not?

    • Good luck explaining that to the customer.

      Imagine how this is going to fly:
      “I can’t take decent photos at Latino weddings because I find them to be disgusting people”

      “I can’t sell you those candles because you are going to use them for your Jewish Sabbath and Jesus hates people who do not believe in him”

      • Selling something doesn’t make sense. If they want to buy candles they can do whatever they want to them.

        But in services, if the final product is in risk to be poor, why do it? The photographer well can deny shooting landscapes, or as you say, latino weddings. Why not? She can always say she can’t guarantee a good job.

        • Nobody said discriminatory practice have to make sense. They usually don’t.

          The idea that you can come up with some excuse to act in a blatantly discriminatory manner is silly. Its not the reasons for discrimination which is why its illegal, its because the discriminatory act itself is a bad thing in of itself. No matter what justification you use.

          Commerce is commerce. Discrimination in commerce is destructive to civil society. A person is hired to perform a service to the best of their professional abilities for money. Their opinion on the services being performed is never important. Just their ability to do so.

          If you have “moral qualms” with serving the entire public, you should not hold your business open to the public. Do your business in private discriminatory members only clubs or with churches, or by word of mouth.

          You can say such things, but it is rude and in some cases blatantly discriminatory. The idea such bad behavior needs legal sanction is ridiculous.

  15. This is an important discussion to have. In my mind there is a difference between simply providing a good or service to a person who engages in the sin of homosexuality, and providing a special-order item in conjunction with a celebration of a sinful event, like a same-sex wedding. Serve the pair a cake if they want to buy one, but not if it is requested specifically for their wedding.

    I realize that some Christians may disagree in this case, yet do you want the government to force them to violate their conscience on it if they believe it is wrong?

    • This is only an important discussion for people who are not honest about their bigoted behavior and actions.

      These laws are not very specific. It is about denying gay people ANY goods or services on the basis of an alleged religious objection. It is about wholesale discriminatory practices of all businesses towards them.

      They are so loosely written that they can be used to justify ANY form of discrimination provided you come up with a religious based excuse. The level of hateful stupid required to support these bills is astounding.

    • That is PRECISELY what they want to do.

      Otherwise, they would simply refuse to patronize the business, a la Chick-Fil-A, and urge their friends to do the same.

      This is why I’ve always wished these businesses would agree to bake the cake, or whatever the service in question is, while making their moral repugnance manifest. Which would require the prospective clients to show their true colors, and decide whether forcing a violation of conscience upon the business is worth putting their money into the business’ pockets.

      • Have you been living in a cave? The government doesn’t “want” to do that. It has held the right to do that for 50 years! The government has the right to regulate commerce. A right which since 1964 includes prohibiting discrimination within it.

        The desires of a group of people to act like malicious uncivil people in conducting open commerce is hardly a compelling reason to upend those existing laws. There is no act of conscience when one engages in business level discrimination, nor is someone being oppressed for prohibiting it. Its just being malicious with an attempted socially acceptable excuse.

        • Learn to read. This isn’t about what government wants to do but about what those who bring actions against these businesses want to do. They do not in in way desire the services of “homophobic” businesses. What they desire is to force a morally repugnant choice upon the business owners. If the “homophobic” business actually wanted their patronage, they would instead boycott the business with great bombast and fanfare, as per the silly spectacles they have created nationwide over ChickFilA.

  16. Larry,
    I think you are missing the point. The person refused to make a cake for a gay wedding. As far as we know, they may sell cakes everyday to homosexual people. Big difference. I would love to hear Jonathan’s take on this. Thank you.

    • Not at all. I just find your distinctions to be phony and dishonest. There is no excuse for engaging in discriminatory practices in a business open to the public. Period. Just because you swap out one form of prejudice for another, it is still the same old Jim Crow type private business segregation.

      The laws being proposed support wholesale denial of ALL commerce to others on the basis of alleged religious objections. Either you are too wrapped up in your own hair splitting nonsense to notice this or don’t care.

    • If you sit next to me in a bus and I am gay and you do or do not know it you are not endorsing my lifestyle but if you sit next to me and my partner and we start making out, you have every right to get up and move because you do not approve of this kind of behavior. You can do the same sitting next to a hetero sexual couple acting out in this manner, you do not have to put up with, approve of or condone it. I may say you are offending me but obviously I am offending you.

  17. Sounds like this person is against an “event” based on his religion. In my opinion, he has every right to do what he did. Do you think gay people should be required to take pics for Westboro Baptist holding “God hates gay people” signs..

    If this person sold cakes to gay people in general, the whole article by Jonathan kind of falls short… don’t you think..

    • Your opinion can be used to justify any form of discrimination in business. Therefore it is not something I would ever find worthy of respect. The person’s opinion of the event the services or goods are used for is never material to the transaction. Just because you think you have an excuse to discriminate, doesn’t mean it has to be taken seriously. The act of discrimination is what is the wrong here.

      The problem with your silly analogies and hypotheticals are you are dishonestly using them for groups which NEVER were covered by existing civil rights/anti-discrimination laws. Bad analogy is typical of someone who does not have a legitimate argument.

      We have laws in existence which make business discrimination against people on the basis of various characteristics, including sexual orientation, illegal. There is no rational justification for removing those laws. Religious exercise never gives you the right to harm others. Denying goods and services for discriminatory reasons is harmful to others. There is no crisis of conscience in refusing to do business based on one’s personal bigotry (even if you claim it has a religious basis). It is simply engaging in behavior which attacks basic human dignity.

      The answer to your question is YES, the gay have to take the photos. They were hired to do a job, they do the job. If you are too stupid to come up with the excuse “we are all booked up”, you take whatever lumps you get with the business that walks in the door. :)

  18. so, by what you are saying.. If a German came to a Jewish baker in Arizona and wanted him to bake a cake celebrating the Holocaust with a picture of a gas chamber and dead Jews in it.. He would “have” to do it by law.. no he doesn’t..

    • Go back and read my previous comment.

      Show me where in the Civil Rights Act or your state’s anti-discrimination laws where Nazis are mentioned as a “protected class”.

      Sorry, David Duke, but bigoted white Christians are not a group usually expected to be covered by civil rights legislation. At least not until now. Arizona and ilk are proposing that they are a group whose rights supercede the civil liberties of everyone else.

    • Very successful one given your response.

      1. When you show me where Nazis and the Westboro Baptist Church are groups covered by existing anti-discrimination laws, I can take your questions seriously.

      2. Show me where these laws make any distinction between goods or services involved. They refer to all businesses

      3. These bills are so stupid and damaging in nature that every major industry in those states oppose them. Kill jobs and destroy a state’s reputation all because your hatred of gays (and minority religions) is so great that you can’t be even remotely civil to them in a public setting. Nice.

    • I think its quite obvious from your response that you are the one who belongs in middle school here. Your basic lack of knowledge of the Civil Rights Act is embarrassing to say the least. One should try and educate themselves in the law if arguing against it surely.

  19. What concerns me more is the social pressure being placed on individual that do have a qualm with with doing these activities, and the fact that they could lose their whole business and be sued into poverty.

    While the bible does not expressly forbid a lot of things (e.i. cyber-terrorism) most people can use reason and their conscience to figure out that it’s in-congruent with the direction God would want his people to go towards. If your argument hinges on the fact that you are not the individual sinning excluding you from culpability, bear in mind that you are only one degree of separation from an activity that is widely agreed to be a sin. Would you have the same spirit towards a Christian who sold guns to a warlord, Or sold a car to someone that they knew was paid for with stolen money.

    Also the bible is very clear that going against your own conscience is a very bad idea, and should be avoided at great cost. And many very noble Christians have risked life and limb to remain true to their consciences. So you should ask yourself is your action as a stronger, more enlightened Christian protecting individuals who are weaker and still conscience bound, or bullying them to come in line with what you believe is right? As Luther said “…to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God. Amen.”

  20. You said – “He characterized Moore’s column as “uncharacteristically elliptical” and said the 1 Corinthians passage is about not engaging in behaviors that might cause a weaker Christian to sin.”

    Well, exactly. That makes Sean Davis’ point.

    If someone from my Church or another Christian I know sees me taking photographs at a gay wedding, doesn’t the fact that I am there signal my acceptance of it? It would to me. Particularly if the photographer was a strong Christian or a leader that is looked up to in his community.

    It’s saying to other (maybe weaker) Christians that you are accepting of gay marriage. I think that’s what Paul was trying to get at. People would do well to look just a few chapters earlier at 1 Corinthians 6:9 – ” Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men”.

    Now, I know that Jesus mixed with sinners (much to the shock of the Pharisees), but I’m not sure he would show up to support a gay wedding, which goes against the Laws of God his Father. I actually imagine Him standing up to condemn it.

    In 1 Romans, Paul says – “Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

    […]  Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them”.

    The last sentence there, “they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them”, says to me that even approval of such things is wrong, and I would suggest that public approval is even worse.

    • I can see how a member of the KKK can feel embarrassed if his business no longer was allowed to turn away people on the basis of their skin color. Their deeply held beliefs, backed by religious fervor that God meant for him never to associate with other races as equals. I can see why someone like that would have problems with anti-discrimination measures. Damn government taking away his moral and god given obligation to not endorse racial equality or civility. Such oppression!

      But you know what, there is a price to be paid for civility. Some people, especially in a business open to the public have to suck it in and deal with it like mature adults. Laws may not prevent people from feeling bigotry and prejudice, but they keep the rest of us from having to suffer from it.

      • Except that skin color and civil rights have nothing to do with gay marriage. Gay marriage is not a “right”, civil or otherwise.

        For “equality”, the two things being compared must be equal, or “the same” with regard to the unique attributes or innate characteristics that define what those things are. Marriage has always been based on the complementarity between a man and a woman – this is not “the same” or “equal to” two women or two men.

        Are a male/female couple the same as a male/male couple or a female/female couple? No, they are not. There are differences. For a start, two men or two women can’t have sexual intercourse (coitus).

        Some might argue that this argument falls apart when we compare it to racial equality – that in the past people have argued that a black man and a white man aren’t “the same” or “equal” either and used that inequality as a basis for segregation; however, in this case the color of a man is not an attribute that defines what a man is or what makes him equal to another man. The color is a secondary characteristic, much like an apple is an apple, no matter if the skin is red or green. But marriage itself is defined by having a man and a woman. It is not a secondary or arbitrary characteristic of marriage.

        Marriage is based on the complementarity of the couple based on gender. Because of this complementarity, their union is not only spiritual but bodily. So, one of the things that define marriage is sexual intercourse, which gay couples cannot have.

        Proof that the union of a man and a woman is natural or normal is that there are resultant offspring or children. This is not a man-made convention, but something that occurs naturally and something that is good. It is something that only happens between a man and a woman and is proof of the ‘rightness’ or correctness of male/female relations and the goodness of the family. 

        • Race is different from sexual orientation, but your arguments are the same that racists use. Every bigot tries to claim that their animus is somehow justified through some dishonest self-styled nonsense. You are just too caught up in your own to see it.

          It doesn’t matter how you distinguish your bigotry. Racism is as good as sexism or sectarianism when it comes to discriminatory actions. Just because the object of bigotry has changed, it doesn’t mean the actions one takes according to it are any less repugnant.

          Your arguments are exactly those that were used by racists 50 years ago when segregation was shot down. You are trying to justify actions which were no different from them. Denying people goods and services based on your animosity towards them. An animosity which is entirely prejudicial and based on external characteristics. The fact that you want to trash existing anti-discrimination laws to further this animosity is short sighted, hateful and dangerously stupid.

          Your view of marriage is insultingly reductive. Marriage is far more than procreation. Procreation never requires marriage either. Marriages without natural born children to them are not real? It is a legal state between people defining rights and obligations of a family. Gay marriages HAVE children. You are arguing as if this doesn’t ever exist.

          You are not an oppressed person because the laws prevent you from discriminating against others. You are not taking a stand of conscience when you discriminate against others in a business. You are certainly not acting Christ-like either by attacking the basic human dignity of others in a spiteful fashion.

  21. It seems like Religion News Services can’t stop writing columns about LGBT people, whether or not religious people should refuse to interact with us commercially, and about how sinful/”least of thee” we really are.

    Please stop. These comments are debate points for most of you. It’s a constant drip-drip-drip for those of us who are the target of your debates. Please. Enough…

    • I agree. When I saw another article about this topic I was thinking, when are they going to just stop and move on already? How many times can they discuss this point? Thank you for bringing this up.

  22. The debate about how many angels can stand on a pin is about as relevant as this nonsensical “debate.” If you are a bigot, you can find a lot of bigoted views in the Bible. If you are a person who values the Great Commandment of love, you will know better than to be a bigot.

  23. I say let these dopey Christians be bigots if they want to be. It’s actually very helpful for the cause of gay rights to have the bigotry right out there in plain sight for everybody to see.

    In fact, bigots have been our best argument all along – so don’t squelch them, whatever you do. They’ve made the gay rights case for us, without our having to do any work at all….

    • Yeah but we don’t have to trash our fairly functional, good laws, to do it. :)

      I am getting tired of these, “The current laws don’t allow me to treat other people like a discriminatory hateful dillhole, I am being oppressed” arguments.

  24. Jan Brewer dropped that bill like the radioactive dookie it was. Even she was not stupid enough to sign it into law.
    http://www.cnn.com/2014/02/26/politics/arizona-brewer-bill/

    Had the fiscal conservatives had their way, this nonsense would never have made it through the House.

    • A lot of pressure — fascist pressure — was placed on Gov. Brewer to veto the bill.

      Slimy big businesses that have sold their slimy souls to You-Know-Who (and I don’t mean God, baby!) threatened the governor with economic reprisals (like loss of jobs) and boycotts against her state.

      She was too weak, too tired from the threats, and so she failed to do the right thing.

      She sacrificed every Arizonan Christian’s and non-Christian’s constitutional freedoms of religion, In order to save her own political hide, (and also to save the Arizona economy).

      It’s hard to fight against the gay fascism. They aren’t even trying to hide their hatred of religion. But the fight MUST be done. Raw and blatant evil, must be opposed, not appeased. Religious liberties are for everybody, not just the politically correct.

      • Fascist pressure?

        It was free enterprise!

        Those big businesses you glorify when a conservative political candidate runs for president put the pressure. People who knew that discrimination under the color of law was bad for business and capitalism.

        What’s the matter, are you a Commie or something?

        These are your job creators! The people who not long ago you were saying deserve all of the benefits of government and none of the responsibility!

        What kind of conservative are you?

        This was not the first time Jan Brewer was given the opportunity to treat the constitution like toilet paper. She refrained this time out of common sense. Maybe she is not a complete idiot after all. Heaven knows she has spent her entire governorship cultivating that reputation.

        Its funny how you want to play the victim even though you supported measures to intentionally and maliciously harm others.

  25. Is it proper Christian “service” to assist someone in doing something immoral and/or dehumanizing? (As in helping with a same-sex “wedding”)? We can, and should, befriend all sorts of people, have them over for dinner, and serve in other ways, but not be forced to help, or approve, in doing something wrong…. Unless you don’t think it is wrong. Jesus was with all sorts but did not “serve” by helping them do wrong… Grace & truth

  26. I agree with Fletch. Let us look at same-sex “marriage” from a non-Biblical standpoint. To avoid “discrimination”, Larry, should society approve of bi-sexual marriage, polygamy, polyandry and even bestiality? Why not? Some people want these things. But having said that, I am glad Brewer vetoed SB1062; I thought it was a solution in search of a problem and did violate civil rights. Maybe we did actually learn something from the 2010 passage of SB1070 and all the negative ramifications.

    • “Larry, should society approve of bi-sexual marriage, polygamy, polyandry and even bestiality?”

      What do any of those have to do with gay marriage? Are they the same thing? No. You lump them together because you don’t want to discuss gay marriage on its own facts. None of them are the combination of consensual adult couple that marriage is.

      The problem with bad analogy is you spend more time defending why I should equate things rather than discussing the topic. The problem with the “slippery slope” argument is it is dishonest here. Gay marriage is legal in several countries and states. If you can show me anywhere in those places where it has led to any of the things you mentioned, then I don’t have to dismiss it out of hand as an obvious dodge of the subject.

  27. This article has a lot of flaws in it which takes people attention away from the truth, its shame that people will go out there way to throw only a few Bible verse instead of the main key verse that speak against homosexuality and clearly states that marriage is between one man and woman ….smh

  28. Jonathan,

    Thanks for forcing us to think more carefully through this question. And thanks for this post—it’s helpful to take another look at the context in 1 Cor. 8-10, esp. 10:29: “I do not mean your conscience, but his. For why should my liberty be determined by someone else’s conscience?”

    But I do wonder if there’s another angle in the food-sacrificed-to-idols / weaker/stronger brother concept that has not been adequately considered—the one from Romans 14. One can try to make a nuanced case that baking wedding cakes for gay weddings is not sinful in itself, but may in fact be loving (I have yet to be convinced, but for the sake of argument, I’ll grant it). If so, this would be the stronger-brother position (“one person believes he may eat anything,” 14:2). Yet for many, to do so feels wrong. Though it may be hard for you to believe, it seems to them that they are somehow complicit in a ceremony that God condemns; i.e. to take that client and bake that cake would be sin. This would, in this scenario, be the weaker-brother position (“while the weak person eats only vegetables” 14:2). According to Paul, though a case might be made that eating meat is good and clean, for the one who is convinced it is sinful, it is in fact sinful for him to partake. “I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean” (14:14). “But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin” (14:23).

    If that analogy is sound, then it seems to me that to call someone a hypocrite for not participating in an activity they are convinced is sinful is not only unloving to your brother or sister but comes dangerously close to laying a stumbling block before them that risks destroying the one for whom Christ died (as Paul puts it, 14:15). That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have the conversation (“So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil,” 14:16). But the upshot of your article (if I am reading you correctly) is that people should participate in this activity even if they are convinced it’s sinful, or be condemned as a hypocrite if they refuse. This seems to be the exact opposite of the posture Paul would have the stronger brother take.

    “As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand” (14:1-4). “Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother” (14:13). “Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats” (14:20).

    I appreciate your journalism a ton. And though I’m not personally compelled by your case here, I really appreciate the importance of wrestling with such a question. I do wonder about the implications of Romans 14 for your conclusions, and the pattern this sets for others in the conversation. Something for consideration.

    • Brandon,

      Thanks so much for your comments. You basically said the exact things that I was thinking about in regards to this. I’m finding it re-affirmed over and over again in scripture two specific things. It’s all about God being glorified (and by all I mean all, like everything; creation, humanity, salvation, damnation, grace, and judgement) The second is, as believers, our love for each other is THE standard of our faith. (not the basis, but the standard or proof of it)

      My freedom in Christ to do this or that, does not give me the right to shove it in your face, when you disagree with me. Nor does it give me the right to scorn your lack of “freedom”.

  29. Tim (From down under)

    Hi Guys,
    While I sympathise with the view expressed here and the rights of gays and lesbians as citizens and fallen people just like us, I can’t escape the inference Jesus makes when he talks about marriage in Matt 19 (and parallels) Jesus reaffirms that marriage is designed for male and female with no provision for same sex. So does that not Infer that anything outside marriage would be immoral.

    Now, while Jesus dined with tax collectors and prostitutes etc, he did not pull punches. If a lifestyle was wrong he said so: Remember the adulteress “Go and sin no more.” The woman at the well – to name a few.

    So, I am in full agreement that we should be serving these people and mingling with them and befriending them as with all others in our sphere. However, I struggle with the prospect of providing a service that would condone and even encourage that or any other lifestyle that would distance a person even further from the realms of salvation.

    nuf said

  30. Just because certain forms of marriage do not legally exist in Arizona or the rest of the U.S. now does not mean they will not be a part of the future, either by courts or voter approval. Look at Utah, where polygamy is now on the table. If gays, transgendered, etc. have “feelings/love” for a combination of 3 or more people at the same time, why shouldn’t this be allowed? It is non-discriminatory. Once the definition of marriage is changed, then anything goes. Traditional marriage is 1 man/1 woman. It has existed to create future generations here on Earth. How many 2 male or 2 female “couples” have produced a baby without outside help? (Yes, there are many infertile heterosexual couples who get help, but gays always need this to get children). Same-sex couples cannot procreate without some sort of aid in every instance. Earth could easily continue to be populated with 100% heterosexual couples. Larry, were your biological parents heterosexual? If so, you owe your existence to them, right? Odds are, they were not same-gender. By the way, are you not bigoted for apparently opposing 3 or more people from “marrying” in whatever combination if it is consensual?

    • “Segregation Now, Segregation Forever!” is what you wanted to say. :)

      Are you done lying for The Lord, Rod?

      Polygamy is not on the table in Utah. Utah’s law was an unconstitutional attack on people who were polygamous in lifestyle but not under the law. Gay marriage had nothing to do with it. Laws concerning unmarried cohabitation did.

      If gay marriage confuses you so much, don’t worry. Nobody is forcing you to be in one. If you can’t understand why polygamy is illegal in of itself, look up your state’s laws on estates, child custody, property rights, and debt obligations. The fact that your whole argument involves equating the two means you have no real argument and are incapable of discussing the subject on its own facts.

      Rod have you ever heard of adoption, medically induced pregnancy or children to unwed parents? Obviously not. Rod, there is no legal requirement for parents to be married to each other. There is no requirement of a marriage to produce natural children. So your take on marriage is dishonest garbage. Reducing marriage to just having kids is both ignorant, insulting and reductive.

      Maybe you feel that is all to marriage, but anyone actually married doesn’t. I pray you are not married. I would fear for your wife. You seem to only expect her to be just a breeding machine.

      If you wanted to discuss polygamy, you should do so when that is the subject of the thread. I am not a member of the LDS. I have nothing against polygamy per se. But if you can cough up how to adjust our existing laws to polygamy in a fair, reasonable and sane fashion, I would support it.

  31. Jonathan,

    I have found your perspective on the current issues between culture and the church very inspiring. By that, I do not mean convincing or compelling me to change my position or convictions. However, your thoughts very much drive me into scripture and deep thought about these very real issues in our communities. I am grateful for the sharpening that happens when I hear an opposing view.

    I am wondering if you would view a church as a “business” in regards to refusing services? (For example, our church has in our facilities rental policy that we will not rent to a group or person to host something that goes against our statement of faith. So, a medium cannot rent our facilities for a seance and a porn site cannot shoot film in our sanctuary)

    I also struggle with the thin line of civil freedom and the free market here. If I refuse to print t-shirts for a Hogwarts School of Witchcraft fundraiser, that should be my prerogative. Just as it should be their prerogative to not use me as their screen-printer because I’m an evangelical christian. I know many folks would disagree with this, but I don’t see someones sexuality, religious practice, or employment status, the same as their race or nationality. It would be very different for me to refuse to print shirts for a Pakistani family reunion, just because they are Pakistani.

  32. I am not for segregation in any way, shape or form and never have been. Now who is putting words in whose mouth? My main point, and it is not a “slippery slope”, is that soon there will be lawsuits on other types of marriage because we are a very litigious society. The “Supremes” and other courts have been wrong before, still are and always will be. Courts are made up of humans and make mistakes just like we all do, Larry. You and I are certainly no exception.

  33. Chandler Scarborough

    You write that “Joe Carter took to Twitter to accuse Kristen and I of embarrassing ourselves.”

    That should be ” … to accuse Kristen and me of … ” Joe accused Kristen, and Joe accused me. So Joe accused Kristen and me.

    But Kristen disagrees with Joe, and so do I. So Kristen and I disagree with Joe.

  34. Here’s a question that builds on the one in your post’s title, Jonathan: Does the Bible prohibit a Christian who is a judge from performing same-sex marriages and granting no-fault divorces? My answer: http://timfall.wordpress.com/2014/03/26/gay-marriage-heterosexual-divorce/

    Cheers,
    Tim

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