Russell and Duenes

“All Arguments Are To Be Treated Equally in the Public Sphere”

with 17 comments

bloombergsodabanThis is an argument that one of my readers has made to me, and I would rather respond to it here than in my comments section. The above assertion was made in an attempt to persuade me that arguments based on biblical morality have no place in public law, and therefore, “all arguments are to be treated equally in the public sphere.” But is this true?

Is the argument that whites should be supreme over other races “treated equally in the public sphere?” Even if a huge majority of people believed that whites are superior, could that majority enact “white supremacy” into law? The answer is obvious.

Is the argument that a brother should be able to marry his sister “treated equally in the public sphere?” Do we get to vote on it?

How about the argument that people should be able to engage in exhibitionism in public, or be able to walk around nude in public? Are we “forcing” people to not engage in these activities because these ideas are not “treated equally in the public square?”

Or what about Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who enacted a ban on large soda drinks in New York City? Wasn’t he depriving me of my freedom to buy any sized cola I want to buy? Were New Yorkers’ objections to Bloomberg’s idea “treated equally in the public sphere?”

I could continue to produce example after example. Fact is, the whole notion of having laws and ordinances presupposes that no ideas will be treated equally in the public sphere. Some ideas will prevail, and those ideas will be the basis for our laws. We exalt some ideas and disparage others. And we do this upon various rationales and justifications. We have laws against stealing. Yet why do we have them? What’s so wrong with me wanting to take something from someone else, if I can get away with it? My reader will no doubt respond that “it’s wrong to steal.” But upon what would he base such an argument? Would it be based on a “biblical morality?” Some other moral system? The idea that it “hurts others?” Who decides, and upon what basis does one decide, what “hurts others?” Is the pro-stealing argument “treated equally in the public sphere?”

The point is, the very word “equal” has to be carefully defined according to the contexts in which it is used. Everything that is sinful is not going to be made illegal. Yet when we make something illegal, we have to produce some kind of rationale for it; and sometimes our rationale will be based on a “biblical morality.” Sometimes it will be based on convenience. Sometimes it will be based on scientific discovery. But the notion that ideas will all be treated equally in the public sphere is simply not accurate. Nor is it even possible. Laws are going to curtail someone’s “freed0m” to engage in some kind of behavior. That’s the nature of laws. The question then becomes, when is it good and proper to curtail someone’s ability to act in a certain way, and upon what basis will we decide that it’s good and proper? The idea that we can never decide this based on biblical notions of sin and wickedness is historically naive, and frankly, troublesome. In the western world, it’s never really been tried. Ultimately, it would be no good for human beings.



Written by Michael Duenes

March 18, 2013 at 5:43 pm

17 Responses

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  1. Your site continues to be one of the best I know of, D, and in fact I don’t know why it isn’t more popular. You write in a way that is at once comprehensive but also accessible. If I had (or was teaching) high school-age teenagers, I would use material from your site for instruction.

    Samson J.

    March 18, 2013 at 8:44 pm

    • Thanks, Samson, that really means a lot coming from you, one whose writing ability I admire and wish I possessed. I appreciate your continued readership, and am glad that our Lord is able to use my words in some small way to edify you and others. Your blog has similar edifying effect.


      russell and duenes

      March 19, 2013 at 1:05 pm

  2. The problem with using the Bible for politics is that the Bible doesn’t clearly state which things should be legal or illegal and the logic behind such process. The Bible clearly states what is sin and what isn’t. From there on it’s pure subjectivity whether sin A or sin B should be legal. There isn’t a clear basis from the Bible that shows us what government should and shouldn’t allow. It’s subjective. Just because the Bible says gay marriage is a sin doesn’t mean that this means the Bible tells us that government shouldn’t make gay marriage legal.


    March 20, 2013 at 1:55 am

    • How do you know the determination of which sins should be illegal and which shouldn’t is “subjective?” Is your opinion that it’s “subjective” also “subjective?” Or do you have some authority to which I should submit myself and agree, and to which everyone else should submit themselves and agree, that it’s “subjective?” I don’t think it’s subjective, and I have authority, beyond just the Bible, for thinking that it’s not merely subjective. I’d be happy to write a blog post laying out the authorities I’m following in my assessment. What’s your authority for saying that such determinations are “subjective”? You? Are you, Manny, the authority? Or should I look elsewhere for the authority behind your opinion?

      Just because people have different opinions about things, as you and I do on this issue, does not mean our opinions are subjective. Don’t confuse “opinion” with “subjective.” They are not the same things. It’s my opinion that if I jump off my roof, I’ll fall to the ground. But that opinion is not subjective. It’s based on proper authority.


      russell and duenes

      March 20, 2013 at 12:06 pm

  3. It is subjective because there are costs and benefits to legalizing gay “marriage.” You’re concentrating on the costs. I’m concentrating on the benefits. The reason you believe the costs of gay marriage outweigh its benefits is because your political goals depict a desire to preserve “the moral fiber of American society.” You believe that legalizing gay marriage would make society “more sinful” and bring greater difficulty for individuals to come to Christ. The reason the benefits of gay marriage outweigh its costs for me is because my political goals depict a longing to give rights to minority groups that have been constantly rejected and outcasted by society. I believe there comes a point where if someone really doesn’t want to follow traditional Biblical teachings that badly, they should have the free will to not be harassed and discriminated against for wanting to live differently. I think it’s perfectly possible to oppose or support gay marriage for logical reasons that honor God. Politically conservative Christians and politically progressive Christians can both honor God because their philosophies show interest in what God desires. Conservatives value morality and God certainly does value morality. Progressives value rights for society’s outcasts and God certainly values this as well. It all comes down to what you think is more important: ensuring the highest degree of morality in our nation or ensuring the rejected have free will to live the way they choose a part from the majority. There is nothing wrong with believing the former or the latter is more important. Both are valid answers.


    March 20, 2013 at 5:43 pm

    • Again, you have not really answered my comment. The fact that there are “costs and benefits” to something does not make it subjective. The “costs” can be weighed by objective criteria, and the “benefits” can also be weighed by objective criteria. I do not dispute that there are benefits to both gays and non-gays to allowing same-sex marriage. There are definite benefits that come from the social approval that would attend to legalization of gay marriage. Gays have indeed been discriminated against, doubtless by many a “Christian.” I’m not ignorant of the benefits, nor do I deny them. Thus, I’m focused on both the benefits and the costs.

      However, you have mischaracterized my reason for “concentrating on the costs.” My views have nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with “political goals” that “preserve the moral fiber of American society.” My goals are centered on the nature and purpose of human existence, and a desire for human flourishing both in this life and in eternity. It has nothing to do with politics. I’m all for giving minorities and outcasts their “rights.” Indeed, gays can easily have, and in many cases, do have the same rights as I do. They do not need to be married to get all of the economic rights, and visitation rights, and so forth. And every citizen of the United States has the same right to marry as I do. Every man in this nation is legally able to marry a woman, and every woman, a man. They have that right. What gays want is a unique right, a special right that has heretofore never existed, namely, the right to have a sexual relationship with someone of the same gender, and call it “marriage.” That would be a new right, and one that I think we would be mistaken in creating.

      Yes, people on both sides can make their arguments based on logical reasons, but they cannot both honor God in doing so. God is not honored when we give legal sanction to things he finds abominable. God is manifestly NOT honored by our current divorce laws. I think these laws are wrong. And am openly against them as they currently stand. God is not manifested by our legal sanctioning of abortion. So just because society approves of certain things and makes them legal does not mean God is honored.

      But I’ve said enough for now. You don’t seem to want to answer my question, which is: Who determines what is subjective, or even what “subjective” means?


      russell and duenes

      March 20, 2013 at 8:14 pm

  4. Who determines what is subjective, or even what “subjective” means?

    Although objective criteria can be used to measure the costs and benefits of legalizing same sex marriage, “THE WEIGHT IN WHICH YOU MEASURE AND PLACE EMPHASIS ON THE COSTS AND BENEFITS IS SUBJECTIVE.” You can tell me that an objective cost of same sex marriage is the acceptance of homosexuality. I can tell you that an objective benefit of same sex marriage is less discrimination against gay families that are working just as to love and nurture each other as your heterosexual family. There is an objective cost and an objective benefit for you, but which is larger the cost or the benefit? How much weight shall we place on the cost and how much weight shall we place on the benefit? Scripture can determine which is greater, but you can still use Scripture to place extra emphasis on the cost or the benefit. You would probably say Romans 1 shows the “costly” consequences of the acceptance of homosexuality. However, I can point out that Jesus told us to love each other and how is it loving to go out of our way to call that gay family “NOT A FAMILY.” What does that do? Does that make gay people more likely to come to Christ? No, it distances themselves even farther from God because we are acting like the Pharisees and putting religious laws before God’s commandment of love. So now we have objective basis from Scripture for both a cost and benefit of gay marriage. However, it is subjective the weight you place on the cost and benefit and what that should mean for allowing gay marriage or not.

    ” Indeed, gays can easily have, and in many cases, do have the same rights as I do. They do not need to be married to get all of the economic rights, and visitation rights, and so forth. And every citizen of the United States has the same right to marry as I do. Every man in this nation is legally able to marry a woman, and every woman, a man. They have that right. What gays want is a unique right, a special right that has heretofore never existed, namely, the right to have a sexual relationship with someone of the same gender, and call it “marriage.” That would be a new right, and one that I think we would be mistaken in creating. ”

    To start I will make a laundry list of all the rights gays don’t have that you have so that you understand how much this minority is discriminated against: 1. the right to equal employment: an LGBT person can be fired or not hired simply because of his sexual orientation in many states. The EEOC does not include “sexual orientation” as discrimination 2. The right to donate blood 3. The right to fair housing; many landlords discriminate against gays 4. The right to protection from bullying in the public school system; again “sexual orientation” isn’t classified as discrimination 5. The right to join the boy scouts 6. the right to equal taxation/social security/hospital visitation/immigration etc. benefits 7. The right to join to military(not anymore, but there’s still much discrimination against gays there). 8. The right to adopt children and co-adoption benefits 9. the right to marry 10. The right to register children at a religious school. Do you ever think Redwood would accept a child under a gay household? Ya right! 11. The right to kiss in public: gay couples have often been told to leave malls or restaurants by security guards for doing this without even simply being asked to stop…12. The right to equal restaurant service: This isn’t that common, but in some conservative states like Texas gay couples can even be denied service to dinning venues..13. transgendered individuals can’t use opposite sex bathrooms in public schools and other places in public. 14. In Alabama homosexuality is forced to be taught “as a criminal offense” 15. Gays are kicked out of churches… what about teens who look at porn?; they would never be kicked out of church! 16. At a Christian university on the east coast a man was kicked out simply for saying he struggled with homosexuality and had a gay sexual orientation. He made no indication that he was “actively” gay. 17. Not enough resources for LGBT homeless youth like food stamps/housing etc…1 in 4 gays who come out are kicked out of their homes. Gays getting the right to marry is also not a special right. Heterosexual can marry the person they love, while gays can’t. The right for gays to marry the opposite sex is meaningless because they aren’t wired to love someone of the opposite sex just like the right for you to marry the same sex is meaningless because you aren’t wired that way. But hey don’t take my word for it! 81% of Americans under the age of 30 support gay marriage. How do you explain this consensus of young people? The opposition to same sex marriage is dying off LITERALLY. Only 36% of Americans are opposed to gay marriage legalization. The lie that gays already have equal rights is simply Fox News indoctrinated bs.

    ” God is not honored when we give legal sanction to things he finds abominable. ”

    This claim is ridiculous. This claim basically says that God is not ok with legalizing sin. Should we arrest every single person on this planet because we all sin? God gives us the free will to sin. Giving legal sanction to sin doesn’t dishonor God because God gives us free will to sin in the first place. The people who commit the sin are the ones dishonoring God NOT THE GOVERNMENT. If God Himself is honored in allowing us to choose to follow Him or not, how is the government dishonoring God by allowing individuals to do the same thing? That doesn’t make logical sense.


    March 20, 2013 at 9:57 pm

  5. I’m not sure Manny if you are deliberately avoiding answering D’s question or inadvertently doing so. You are still missing the key component: “On what authority do you know that gay marriage should be allowed?” Since you won’t answer, I will answer for you: YOU. As a Christian, we know what God intends through the Scriptures. You are not using the Scriptures. You are using deductive (and faulty) reasoning as to what God does, or does not want. You do not have that authority. God is blatant in the Scriptures when He says that Homosexuality is an abomination. Marriage is a sanctified relationship between those to whom God has intended it. God determined what marriage is and what it must be. Not you, and not me. Not society. So if you want to continue your thoughts on the issue, you may. But you are NOT thinking “Christianly” and you are NOT following the theological framework of the Old and New Testament. You are following YOU and your societal desires to see gay marriage aligned with the sanctity of the marriage vows God intends between a man and a woman to fulfill his mandates for marriage.
    You are missing some very important theological arguments throughout these comments. I don’t have the desire, or time, to comb through them one by one, but I will address the following: You say that “81% of Americans under the age of 30 support gay marriage. How do you explain this consensus of young people?” I explain it that they do not have a Christian Worldview and they have no conscious connection to the teachings of the Scriptures. As D’s has stated, and I will repeat, homosexuals are in the same “boat” all of us are in. We are sinners and need Jesus for redemption. That doesn’t mean that I am to agree with sanctioned sin. Your arguments are all based on presuppositions. The only question is where do you get the authority to argue these presuppositions? Answer again: You. Your presuppositions are not satisfying to me. I want epistemological truth from a higher authority.


    russell and duenes

    March 21, 2013 at 7:46 am

  6. You have no standard either. I repeat just because the Bible says something is a sin doesn’t mean it advocates that we make it illegal. The Bible makes no note of what governments should and shouldn’t allow. You are simply picking and choosing what sins you think should be legal or illegal based on your own judgement. By what standard should individuals be able to remarry 50 times and still call it marriage, but homosexuals be denied this right? You are simply using the Bible to justify your own fear and ignorance of homosexuals. All sins are an abomination before God NOT JUST HOMOSEXUALITY. I REPEAT JUST BECAUSE THE BIBLE SAYS NOT TO DO SOMETHING DOES NOT MEAN IT ADVOCATES THE GOVERNMENT MAKE IT ILLEGAL. You wouldn’t want this government to make lying or swearing illegal and those are common sins. Should we just arrest everyone who commits a sin because if the Bible calls something a sin it means it should be illegal? Horrible logic.


    March 21, 2013 at 11:41 am

  7. You are totally ignoring Genesis 2:22-24 and Matthew 19: 4-6. Both of these passages reiterate the same point. Namely that God “made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” In this, God ordained marriage. It is clearly between a man and a woman. It is clearly intended to be originated by God in this way. And it is intended not to be separated, which is why Divorce is also sinful.
    Manny, what we are discussing here is an issue with the Scriptures and the design God has for marriage. We aren’t talking about just any sin being legislated. Lying and swearing have nothing to do with the institution of marriage that God specifically defines. You are trying to discuss theology outside the bounds of its structure. Marriage is a sacrament. Swearing is not. Gay Marriage is not just a discussion of sexual sin. It is regarding the sacrament that God ordains in the parameters he requires. Marriage is the unifying of man and woman under the direction and purposes of God. Lying, swearing, or crapping on the street corner have nothing to do with it.

    russell and duenes

    March 21, 2013 at 12:27 pm

  8. You are ignoring Biblical design for marriage. The Scripture also says not to divorce and remarry yet I bet if your son remarried you would go to that wedding. You probably wouldn’t think twice about attending your son’s second marriage and yet if he married a man you would most likely make the automatic decision to not attend that ceremony. You are picking and choosing which sin should be legal and illegal based on your own comfortability with these sins. Since remarriage has become “PRACTICALLY NORMALIZED,” you would think it rude to call it “NOT A MARRIAGE.” However, because you are uncomfortable with gay marriage, you don’t think it rude to call it “NOT A MARRIAGE.” You probably wouldn’t tell your son that he is going to hell if he doesn’t stop living in sin for being with a second wife. However, you most likely would have no problem telling your son that he is going to hell for marrying a man. YOU ARE BEING HYPOCRITICAL. By Biblical standards both gay marriage and remarriage are “NOT MARRIAGE.” However, how is it fair for the government to allow a man to marry a woman as many times as he wants and yet disallow another man from marrying ONCE the love of his life who just so happens to be the same sex? There is no logical argument that can be made that this is fair.


    March 21, 2013 at 1:20 pm

  9. Once again, Marriage is a sacrament designed to glorify God. You don’t speak to this. It is apparent in your dismissal of my comments on Genesis 2, that you are unconcerned with marriage as a sacrament and as a bond to Jesus Christ. You seem to be much more concerned with marriage as a statement of sexuality. Sacraments are, by definition, sacred. The legality of it has nothing to do with comparing it to other sins.
    You say “You are picking and choosing which sin should be legal and illegal based on your own comfortability with these sins.” I am not comfortable with any sin. I hate my own sin, and I want to glorify Jesus Christ with my life. Comfortability assumes I have settled into my own sin while other sin is abhorrent to me. I want God’s design to rule and reign in my life. Period. I am not ignoring the Biblical design for marriage as my wife and I were legally married under the direction of the Scriptures. If you, or anyone else, were to marry someone of the same gender, your union would not be under the direction of the Scriptures. I won’t even fully address your statements as to what I would “probably” do in these scenarios you describe. You don’t have any clue what I would do. Your presumptions about me are quite ignorant and your treatment of the Scriptures is unwise.


    russell and duenes

    March 21, 2013 at 2:28 pm

  10. If heterosexual marriage is the ONLY marriage God created why does 2 Samuel 12: 7-9 say: “Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. 8 I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more?” God doesn’t sound like He opposed polygamous marriage in the Old Testament. If God didn’t directly and fiercely oppose polygamous marriage in the past, why do conservatives suggest He directly and fiercely opposes gay marriage today? That doesn’t make any logical sense whatsoever. You can say that God doesn’t condone polygamy in this passage, but He also doesn’t directly and fiercely oppose it either by calling it sin. In addition, the Bible never clearly condemns same sex marriage/love/relationships. The only mention of homosexuality is of gay sex in lustful orgies that have nothing to do with commitment or love. THERE IS NO PASSAGE IN THE BIBLE THAT LITERALLY SAYS YOU CAN’T MARRY OR LOVE THE SAME SEX. You are saying there is no evidence of same sex marriage in the Bible yet does not having evidence PROVE that it’s not marriage or at least that it shouldn’t be called marriage at all costs? NOT HAVING EVIDENCE E DOESN’T PROVE ANYTHING. By not having evidence you don’t disprove the claim that God could consider other relationships marriage besides just a man and a woman. Regardless even if gay marriage is a sin, not everyone in this country believes the Bible and shouldn’t be held by the same human standards as we do as Christians. How would you like it if a bunch of Muslims wanted to impose sharia law on you? You aren’t Muslim and should have a right not to be Muslim so you shouldn’t be held captive by what they believe. Now God will judge according to His standard, but that doesn’t mean you have the right to shove religious rules down people’s throats. Jesus is about relationship NOT RELIGION. You are missing this fact. You are being a modern day Pharisee because you give off the impression that if people don’t follow every religious rule of your interpretation of the Bible then they can’t have a relationship with Christ and thus aren’t saved.


    March 21, 2013 at 4:47 pm

  11. Manny – I think we’ve hashed this out quite enough on this thread. You raise many points, and all of them are important. But I think you’ve played your cards when you say that “the Bible never clearly condemns same sex marriage/love/relationships. The only mention of homosexuality is of gay sex in lustful orgies that have nothing to do with commitment or love.” I think I understand your position, but I don’t feel compelled to argue with it. If you are at the point where you truly think – you being a student of the Bible and knowing far better than many Christians do – that the Bible is OK with same-sex marriage and same-sex relationships of a sexual nature, then there are no more exegetical arguments to be made. The battle is no longer over what the Bible says.

    I am grateful for your life, Manny, and I am glad to have been one of your teachers. God’s word is what it is, and His Spirit alone has power to impress God’s truth upon our hearts and minds. With confidence in His grace and providence, I trust He will rule and reign in your life as He sees best. May it ultimately be to His praise, honor and faithfulness, as I hope for all people.


    russell and duenes

    March 21, 2013 at 6:21 pm

  12. I don’t know if you said some of the things in that last post sarcastically or with compliment, but I will assume the best. As for morality, the only part of homosexuality I’m wrestling with is accepting or rejecting the “sexual component.” I will hit that road when I get there though and I will do whatever I feel the Holy Spirit leading me to do regardless if it’s what the majority of Christians believe or don’t believe.


    March 21, 2013 at 6:51 pm

    • No sarcasm at all, Manny. My thoughts toward you are heartfelt and sincere.


      russell and duenes

      March 22, 2013 at 3:48 pm

  13. wow was told about this!!! Aww I miss Mr. Russell and Mr. Duenes!! I have to put my two cents, but my opinion is that Manny is not coming into the conversation open-minded, for he like many gay marriage advocates build up walls thinking us Christians are always condemning them, and they close their minds and ears to what we are saying. God loves them but that does not mean they need to live in sin. It all boils down to sin, and as a country I do not believe we should condone such practices. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 explains it all.

    Joseph Giltner

    April 15, 2013 at 6:04 pm

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