Hiding Behind The Cross?

Open Quote 3 linesNo one in California will be able to hide their prejudice behind a cross, no one!

 

Those were the words of a LGBT advocate during a recent broadcast discussion. Thanks to HB reader Gus Garcia for alerting us. The debate about homosexual marriage has become increasingly heated because, in part, advocates of homosexual marriage have succeeded in persuading legislatures and the courts that marriage is defined not by nature but by affection and consent.1 Now Christians are being coerced to act against conscience informed by God’s moral law, by natural law, to support and/or endorse same-sex marriage (SSM) under threat of civil and financial penalties. What was a theoretical discussion about what would be best for society has become a genuine crisis, which will only intensify unless the Supreme Court decides to reverse the growing number of laws and court decisions. This seems unlikely.

In that case those Christians who are convinced that SSM is contrary to the natural/moral law, who act on those convictions, should expect to face criticism and even civil/financial sanctions. It will be essential for Christians to explain clearly the ground for their opposition to SSM and that ground is not the cross but nature and law. When it comes to opposition to SSM, Christians are not hiding behind the cross but standing on nature. It is self-evident that human beings belong naturally, ordinarily to one of two sexes, male or female. There are a very small number of people who do not hence the adverb ordinarily. Procreation only happens as a the result of the union of a male and a female. It’s fundamentally false to say, as LGBT advocates now chant, “If the hearts fit, the parts fit.” Saying it does not make it so and they know it. That’s why they seek to silence opposition.

It is perfectly American to appeal to “nature and nature’s God” as a basic principle for civil liberties. This is the language of the Declaration of Independence. So it is the declaration of Christians who seek civil recognition of their independence from unjust laws that seek to bind their consciences and force them to act against principle and against conscience informed by the moral law of God. The same moral law which tells them that they must not commit idolatry, that

  • they must worship God only
  • as he has commanded,
  • they must revere him as holy
  • God has set aside one day in seven for rest and worship
  • Divinely ordained authority must be respected
  • murder is a crime
  • sex and sexual affection belongs within marriage between a man and a woman
  • theft is crime
  • lying is wrong
  • coveting is wrong

Their conscience, informed by the moral law, tells them that they may not sanction or support violation of those laws.

Our late-modern culture suspects all laws to be mere conventions, arbitrary, and capricious. We did not, however, invent these laws. They are not arbitrary. They are not mere conventions or constructions to be deconstructed at will. They are woven into the fabric, the nature of things. There is such a thing as nature.  If you doubt me climb to the top of a building and jump off. What happens next is the function of nature. None of us invented the law of gravity. That’s nature. It matters not whether you want to float in mid-air. What you want is irrelevant. Gravity just is. The same God who instituted the law of gravity also instituted natural moral laws. They are analogues of natural physical laws. To be sure, the moral laws can be broken whereas physical laws cannot. Nevertheless, Holy Scripture (Rom 1–2) tells us that there are penalties attached to the violation of God’s moral laws.

Christians are commanded repeatedly to submit to human authorities (see 1 Pet 2) and to honor them but there are limits. Paul writes in Romans 12:18:

If possible, so far as it depends on you, llive peaceably with all.

Sometimes it is not possible. That is why the Apostle Paul and the Apostle Peter were martyred for the faith. We may not put submission to civil rulers ahead of submission to God.

To our LGBT neighbors, to advocates to SSM, when we resist supporting and condoning SSM it is not because we hate you—Fred Phelps does not speak for us—but because our conscience is captive to God’s Word, to the moral law, which has been revealed both in Holy Scripture and in nature. You know the moral law. You agree with us that theft, murder, and lying are wrong but you disagree with us about homosexuality and yet we believe that you know, in your conscience, that it is wrong. You choose not only to violate that law but to force others to help you do it. We may not do that. You would not seek to compel someone to help you murder or steal so why do you seek to compel others to help you violate the natural, moral laws regarding sex and marriage?

There is a sense, however, in which we Christians are indeed hiding behind the cross, but not in the sense alleged. We do not resist cooperating in SSM because of the cross but because of nature but we are hiding behind the cross. We confess that we, like you, are by nature corrupt in heart, mind, and will. All our faculties are naturally bent and misdirected. We confess that  God has graciously given to us a new, spiritual life. We confess that he has graciously opened our eyes to our own sinfulness and actual sins. Among those sins have been speaking about others without due regard for their common humanity, their status as image bearers. We’re sorry for the cruel things that we have said about homosexuals. We confess that we’ve committed, in our hearts and with our mouths, innumerable crimes against God and his moral, natural law. We also confess, however, that Christ is God the Son, who took on flesh for the sake of sinners of all sorts, that he obeyed God’s moral/natural law for the sake of all those for whom he came to save, and that God the Holy Spirit works wonderfully and mysteriously to impart that new life through the announcement of the good news about Jesus the Savior.

The culmination of Jesus’ saving work was his death on the cross. It represents God’s hatred for sin and love for sinners.

For God so loved the world (sinners) that he gave his only begotten Son so that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16)

That’s more than a placard at a ballgame: It’s the good news for all of us.

So, yes, we Christians are hiding behind the cross but not for the reasons you might think. We hide behind the cross because, by nature, we are lawbreakers and under divine condemnation. By grace alone God has opened our eyes—we did not come to faith because we are special or clever—and through faith alone he has, by his Spirit, united believers to the risen Christ. Jesus was crucified and buried but he did not remain in the tomb. On the third day, on this day (Sunday) his friends, women and men, came to tend to his tomb and they found it empty. He had been raised. That’s our hope. Should we die before he returns we expect to be raised as he was.

So we owe him obedience on two grounds: nature and grace. Our conscience is captive to his law. Our hearts are captivated by his grace. We understand that you do not agree with our opposition to your desire for social sanction for SSM but we hope that you’ll understand our motives.

NOTES

1. This analysis, that marriage has been redefined thus, is borrowed from Robert George.

    Post authored by:

  • R. Scott Clark
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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

    More by R. Scott Clark ›

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4 comments

  1. Thank you for this article. You argued the issues well, and it was well thought out in its effects and the consequences for those on both sides.

  2. Regarding this point, “It is self-evident that human beings belong naturally, ordinarily to one of two sexes, male or female. There are a very small number of people who do not hence the adverb ordinarily,” I think it is important to keep 2 points further in mind:

    1) True hermaphroditism, with two sets of fully functional genitalia unknown in humans. If either is functional, the other will be deformed.

    2) Environmental pollutants and medications are often a factor in the conception of such children.

    These two facts, taken together, make it rather spurious to attempt to posit “a third gender” out of such unfortunate cases. Nonetheless, such is precisely the argumentation often advanced.

  3. Amen. Well spoken, sympathetic and honest. Thank you. As someone who for a short season visited San Francisco’s City Church–which has sadly gained notoriety for it’s stand on SSM–I left years ago, knowing they were going down a bad road regarding women in eldership. What is shocking is seeing how far down that bad road they went. There can be no ‘let’s just all agree to disagree’ nor any ‘let’s dialogue’ about this topic. While we must always strive to be gracious, humble and wise with those image-bearers with whom we disagree, there are only two choices: yes or no. It’s no for the Church of Christ.

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