Friday, August 22, 2008

Jesus vs. the Constitution

I have heard it preached, and preached quite frequently in our evangelical circles, that America was “founded on Christian principles”. I have seen the bible used to bolster every argument imaginable, some which I agree with and some with which I most certainly disagree. The existence of such debates begs the question: “is the premise itself correct?” What follows is my investigation into that premise. Is American government founded on Christian principles?

The challenge is for any Christian who claims a Christian foundation for America to illuminate any principle of Christ embodied in the principles of our government. I contend that even more than being not foundationally Christian, our constitution is directly opposite of the type of “government” Jesus has founded. To illustrate, I use the preamble, which rightly can be called the foundation of the Constitution, and therefore of American government. The preamble outlines the objectives of the constitution and the purpose for the government it establishes.

There are six basic objectives in the preamble:

Create a more perfect government
Establish justice
Insure domestic tranquility
Provide for the common defense
Promote the general welfare
Secure the blessings of liberty

Let us review these principles of American government and see what, if anything, they share in common with Christian principles as outlined by Jesus.

Create a more perfect government

Jesus said “My Kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36a)

(In this one statement alone, Jesus renounces ANY affiliation with any worldly government)

Establish justice

Jesus said “Put your sword back in its place,...for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.” (Matthew 26:52)


“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you.” (Matthew 20:25-26a, Mark 10:42-43a, Luke 22:25-26a)


“God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” (John 3:17)

(Jesus makes it very clear that His disciples – which include us - will not act in the manner of worldly governments. Worldly governments, by necessity, live by the authority of the sword, “Not so with you” if you are a Christian. Jesus was perfectly capable of establishing justice in the entire world, but that was not his purpose and is not the mission he gives to the Church. This is especially significant considering how evil and barbaric the Roman justice system was. Certainly, if any system of justice needed reforming, it was Rome’s. And yet, Jesus not only did nothing to change Roman – let alone Jewish – law, but humbly subjected himself to it.)

Insure domestic tranquility

Jesus said “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble.” (John 16:33a)


“But be on your guard; for they will deliver you to the courts, and you will be flogged in the synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them. The gospel must first be preached to all the nations. When they arrest you and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but it is the Holy Spirit. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by all because of My name...” (Mark 13:9-13a)

(The domestic tranquility clause is generally regarded as the “law enforcement” clause. Jesus makes it clear, though, that in the end, law enforcement will not be used to promote tranquility but to promote tyranny, and that even within the family domicile, there will be no peace.)

Provide for the common defense

Jesus said “Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?” (Matthew 26:53-54)


“You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” (Matthew 5:38-39)


“You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:43-44)

(Although Jesus had the capability to end all war and violence and therefore eliminate the need for defense, both personal and communal, and had the capability of sparing the church from any harm or persecution, He did not do so – at least not yet! Instead, He makes clear that those practices were to persist but that the Church is to be non-violent. I do not believe that means all Christians are commanded to be pacifist or that we can’t ever defend ourselves. But our true security in the Kingdom of God lies not in violent resistance to physical force and worldly power but in the peace of knowing that this world is not our home and that neither “tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword” can separate us from the love of Christ.)

Promote the general welfare

Jesus said “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes...And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well...Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Luke 12:22-23;29-31;33-34)

(The Christian life should be symbolized by humility both in actions and in lifestyle. Although I do not believe it is sinful to be affluent, it is not the Church’s mission to make us so. In contrast, America from the very beginning was a land of great financial opportunity. Indeed, to a great extent, we as a country have fulfilled this particular objective in the constitution. But it is quite clear from scripture that such an objective was not part of Jesus’ ministry or His calling for the Church.)

Secure the blessings of liberty

Jesus said “Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave-- just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:26b-28, Mark 10:43b-44)

(Jesus calls those in His kingdom to pursue servanthood and sacrifice, not liberty. We are all free in Christ, but that freedom is very different than the freedom the world, and especially America, strives for.)

In summary - As good and noble and just and free as our Constitution and government are, they are antithetical to the “government” Jesus establishes and the Church through which it is advanced. Although it may be argued that in some cases the verses cited above are taken out of context, it then falls on the opponent to demonstrate through Jesus’ words any semblance of cooperation or compatibility between the gospel and the preamble. Not only did Jesus never proclaim, command, or endorse any of the objectives in the preamble as His mission or as the goals for His church, His kingdom clearly, by virtue of His own words, operates on exactly the opposite principles.

Two books that may be of interest:

The Myth of a Christian Nation: How the Quest for Political Power Is Destroying the Church - Gregory A. Boyd

UnChristian America: Living with Faith in a Nation That Was Never Under God - Michael Babcock

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Calif. Court: Docs Can't Withhold Fertility Treatment to Gays

Benitez v. North Coast Women's Care Medical Group

As much as it pains me to say it, my opinion is the CA Supreme Court got this one right.
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — California's high court on Monday barred doctors from withholding medical care to gays and lesbians based on religious beliefs, ruling that state law prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination extends to the medical profession. (By The Associated Press Mon, Aug. 18 2008 02:44 PM EDT)
The court's opening paragraph in their opinion pretty much sums it up.
Do the rights of religious freedom and free speech, as guaranteed in both the federal and the California Constitutions, exempt a medical clinic’s physicians from complying with the California Unruh Civil Rights Act’s prohibition against discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation? Our answer is no.
The unanimous majority and the relatively brief opinion (18 pages) points to a pretty no brainer decision. Although I have my reservations about public accommodation civil rights statutes (I would prefer the market sort such things out), there seems little doubt that they apply even in the case of physician practices. Christians need to take the long view here. Would you like to be denied care from an atheist doctor (there are plenty of them out there you know) just because you are a Christian patient? We can argue whether or not marital status and sexual orientation should be protected classes (I think they should) but for now, one must deal with the law as it is.*

The distinction here is pretty easy to follow. You can have a moral objection to a particular procedure (abortion is a better example) and therefore choose not to perform that procedure for anyone. In cases such as that, I agree that the state should have no power to compel you to render that service which you morally object to. I suspect most of our gay friends would agree, although possibly with reservations. But this is not a case of objection to the procedure, it is a case of objection to the patient. Having grown up with a physician father, I can assure you that such an attitude is not "doctorly". I shudder to think of the ramifications of allowing physicians to pick and chose patients who they will treat based on how they feel about those patients' personal life.

*At the time of the events in this case, CA law did not include sexual orientation as a protected class. The court found, though, that case law had incorporated sexual orientation under the statute and in 2005, the CA legislature "made it official".

It is also important to note that marital status was not a protected class under CA law at the time, nor was there any case history addressing it. The trial court left the actual reason for refusal of the doctors open for veting at trial and the Supreme Court did not reject a marital status refusal as they did a sexual orientation refusal. The trial has been on hold because the doctors persisted in their first amendment defense against the claimed reason (sexual orientation). This decision only resolves one motion in that trial. I persume with that out of the way, the trial will now proceed. My suspicion is that although the doctors claim marital status as their reason, they will not be able to prove that if all details of their practice are disclosed. That is why they tried this failed approach to getting the case dismissed. If we see continued legal wranglings by the doctors that avoid the direct question - i.e. what the real reason was for the doctor's refusal of care - then I will considered my suspicions validated.

What is "Godly Marriage" - Part II

...a continued analysis of objections to Genesis 2:24 being the definition of God recognized marriage. (go to part I)

3. The verse is only an example of one kind of marriage.

This is an opposite form of #2, and is an argument from silence. It postulates that there are other types of unions which God recognizes as marriage, but those unions are simply not discussed in the bible. At best, then, Genesis 2:24 is proof of only one form of "marriage" and other equally legitimate forms can't be disproved.

This argument again relates to polygamy, in that it contends that one man/multiple women unions are not discussed in the bible. It also encompasses same sex unions. Again, since the bible is presumably "silent" on these unions, you can't prove God doesn't recognize them as marriages.

The flaw in the argument is that the bible does in fact discuss these unions. There is no doubt that they existed in biblical times, and God, through His word, does not shy away from recognizing them. But He never calls them "marriages".

There was a form of one man; multiple women union which was quite prevalent in biblical times and which the bible illustrates on several occasions. It wasn't a marriage, of course - we call such arrangements a "harem". The best example which also contrasts the two unions is the various female relationships attributed to King Solomon.

In 1 Kings 11, we learn that Solomon had "seven hundred wives...and three hundred concubines". Each relationship with a wife was a separate marriage, unique and autonomous. If he wanted to break the unions with his wives, he would have to do it one at a time. His harem of concubines, on the other hand, he could deal with individually, in groups, or en mass. Both literally and figuratively, his union with this group of women could not be recognized as a "marriage".

And what of same sex unions? Did these exist and does the bible deal with them? Well, the answer to the first part is that they certainly have existed for all of human existence (see Romans 1:18-32). It is clear, for example, that many forms of sexually immoral unions existed in Sodom, including same sex unions. In Leviticus 18, the law deals with homosexual unions along with a variety of other forbidden relationships. And we know historically that both Greek and Roman cultures not only had such unions but they were often condoned and even encouraged. Paul deals with these unions along with others in several passages, notably 1 Corinthians 6:9. Now, none of these passages focus solely on homosexual unions or single them out for condemnation. And there is certainly vigorous debate about who the participants are in the specific types of relationships addressed. My point is not to use these as proof texts against homosexual sex but simply to demonstrate that, like harems, the bible is not silent on the existence of such unions. Still, they are never called "marriages".

Another homosexual argument that arises is the relationship between Jonathan and David. I have analyzed that relationship at length in another blog (beginning here) and demonstrated clearly that David and Jonathan were not homosexual lovers. But let’s say for example sake that they were. If such a fantasy were true, it would actually bolster my argument, because it would describe clearly a homosexual “union” which still was never called a “marriage”.

4. Genesis 2 does talk about marriage but verse 24 is not the marriage verse.

This was a new twist that I heard recently. It plays a shell game with Genesis 2 by claiming that verse 18 is actually the verse pertaining to marriage. After acceptance of that, either argument 2 or 3 above then apply to verse 24. Verse 18 reads:
Genesis 2:18 Then the LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him." (NASB)
The objection here is two fold. First, it is claimed that the verse refers to humanity in general, not specifically male humans, and even more so, not a specific male human, namely Adam. The reference, it is argued, is gender neutral. The follow up is that the “helper suitable” is also not gender specific. Therefore, any person can be “married” to any other person as long as they fulfill this “helper suitable” role. Another way to look at it is that this is the "love" argument. That argument states that as long as there is a committed loving relationship; God is happy and recognizes the "marriage" of the individuals. There are three rebuttals to this flawed logic.

The first counter is exegetical. The verse does not refer to humanity in general but to “the human” (the definate article is used indicating a specific human being as the subject), namely Adam. Two things are very clear. It is a male who is not benefiting from being alone and it is a female who completes him. This is confirmed by Adam’s exclamation when being presented with Eve (vs. 23a), Adam’s clearly gender based naming of Eve (vs. 23b), and even more strongly by verse 24. The “reason” that verse 24 is addressing is the “not good” status of the alone male of the species illustrated in verse 18. All of these verses tie together into a strongly gender biased design for godly marriage.

Secondly, as noted in argument 1, both Jesus and Paul point directly and unilaterally to verse 24 when preaching on marriage. Even more, when Paul does mention verse 18 in 1 Corinthians 11:9, he explicitly does assign gender to the two parties, keeping intact the heterosexual integrity of the relationship. Paul explicitely corroborates the heterosexual arrangement in verse 18.

Thirdly, in relation to the "love" argument, the response, surprisingly, is "what's love got to do with it". Certainly, we expect there to be love in a marriage. But you can not be married to just anyone you love. If you are in love and committed to a person other than your spouse, it is still adultery. We noted Solomon’s many relationships above and the text says that Solomon loved all of these women equally. But he was not married to all of them. Love is fickle and can often lead us astray, far from the type of union God would recognize as a marriage. So, love and commitment alone can not be used as justification to claim you are married in God's eyes. The parties still need to fit the only biblically allowed pattern for marriage which remains heterosexual and monogamous.

5. The Genesis story is an allegory and therefore not applicable at all to real life.

This is a red herring meant to distract us from the teaching and truth conveyed in the text. The premise of the argument is: since Genesis 2 is "just a story", it has no applicability to the issue of marriage. In reality, it is the argument itself which is moot. I should just ignore it. But since I am rather fond of herring, let's examine this further. I will address both the contention (Genesis 2 is fiction) and the conclusion (Genesis 2 is irrelevant).

Were Adam and Eve real people? Is the Garden of Eden a real place? Were the first two humans created as the story asserts, or are we really the evolutionary product of a genetic mutation that was perpetuated by the first male or female homo sapien? These are all valid questions when looking at Genesis. I do not desire to spiral the conversation into an evolution vs. creation debate, so I will bypass a discussion of how the first two humans came about and focus only on them as the first two humans. Cretainly, the human species had a first couple. But were they the first couple mentioned in the bible; were they Adam and Eve?

There are two main arguments used to discredit the Genesis couple as being our real flesh and blood original parents. Neither is biblical. One is the evolution argument. It says that since the creation aspect of the Genesis account can't be true because of the "fact" of evolution, the outcome of that false event also can not be true, namely the existence of Adam and Eve. The second argument points to other similar cultural and religious creation and first couple accounts and states that since these surely aren't true, neither is Genesis.

Although there are logical falacies in both of these arguments, I reject the arguments for a much simpler reason: because my source of truth is the bible. And since we are talking about the biblical, godly definition of marriage, that is the text that must solely be used to prove or disprove the question. It is fine with me if people want to dismiss creation and dismiss all (or accept other non-biblical) creation accounts. That is their choice. But it has nothing to do with what the bible says about Genesis, and that is all that matters in this discussion.

So, what does the bible say about the Genesis account? Considering the very specific geneologies in both the Old and New Testaments, beginning with Adam and Eve, and the very frank discussions by Jesus and Paul about Adam and Eve in which they are addressed as very real people, I see sufficient evidence within the bible that Adam and Eve were two very real people in a very real place who had very real experiences. But does it even really matter? Quite frankly, no.

Even if Genesis is allegorical as detractors claim, it doesn't change the power and truth of the message. Simply because something is fiction doesn't mean it doesn't point to factual realities in regards to the human experience. Again, we have to look no further than the bible to prove this. Jesus was a master user of allegory in his parables. The fact that Jesus' parables were allegorical doesn't change the indisputable, unchangeable truth that they conveyed. Such powerful topics as grace and love were thoroughly articulated through Jesus' "stories". There is no reason to believe that the fundimental aspects of God's definition of marriage couldn't similarly be taught.

To conclude, Genesis 2 contains the universal and inalterable picture of marriage in God's eyes. It is monogamous; it is heterosexual. Not only is there no biblical argument that can be sustained against that conclusion, but there is ample biblical evidence supporting it.

What is "Godly Marriage"

One common question that I run across when debating same sex marriage, sexual immorality, and the like, is what exactly is "marriage"? Or more specifically, what does God recognize as a marriage? Can any combination of people count as a marriage in God's eyes, or is there a universal rule, a concrete definition that sets the standard around which the debate must revolve? I believe God does indeed set such a standard. In this post, I would like to discuss that standard and the typical objections to it.
Genesis 2:24 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. (NASB)
There is little doubt in my mind that this is indeed the definition of marriage from God's perspective. One will note two things about the relationship described - it is monogamous, and it is heterosexual. It is an undeniable fact that every relationship described as a "marriage" in the bible fits this pattern. Conversely, any arrangement that does not fit this pattern is not recognized by God as a marriage. What society wants to call it is irrelevant if we are considering God's stand.

The Objections

I have run across five main objections to this verse as being the definition of marriage from God's perspective. I would like to tackle each in turn. The first two will be dealt with in this post and the remaining three in a subsequent entry.

1. The verse doesn’t mention marriage, so it is not about marriage.

Of course, the knee-jerk reaction to this protest is simply "if not marriage, then what is it about". Thankfully, God provides us ample confirmation in his word that the verse is indeed about marriage and only marriage.

In Matthew 19 (and the parallel in Mark 10), Jesus quotes Genesis 2:24 when discussing divorce. Jesus describes divorce as the rending asunder of that which God, exemplified by the Genesis definition, has joined together. Jesus universally associates Genesis 2:24 with God recognized marriage.

Paul echoes Jesus' use of Genesis 2:24 in even more conclusive terms. Paul repeats the marriage definition in the quintessential marriage passage - Ephesians 5:22-33. Paul is talking about nothing but marriage here, and puts force behind his message by reminding his audience of the initial, and unchanging, definition given to us in Genesis.

2. There are other relationship configurations that the bible calls "marriage".

This is what I call the "polygamy defense". The argument goes - "since polygamous unions are called 'marriages' and violate the 'one man; one woman' rule, Genesis 2:24 is not all inclusive of God's perspective". The extension of the argument, then, is: “if polygamy is also ‘marriage’ in exception to Genesis, there may also be other unions which qualify as marriage.”

This is a flawed argument because it actually incorrectly defines polygamy. Polygamy is not a marriage of a man to a group of women, but a group of simultaneous marriages between one man and individual women. Therefore, the one man; one woman paradigm is in tact.

It should be noted that although polygamy was culturally accepted in ancient times, there is no indication that God actually approved of it. Just like divorce, it seems likely that God merely tolerated the practice due to the hardness of the human heart toward God's "good" design. That being said, polygamy did not violate the definition of marriage, even though it certainly negatively impacted the "one flesh" potential of each individual union.

(go to Part II)