Russell and Duenes

Definitely Don’t Start With the Bible

with 4 comments

jayrichards“You’re in an elevator and a secular liberal asks you, ‘Why should the state recognize marriage as between a man and a woman?’ What would you say? Most people don’t know what to do, or they think, ‘Well, I will talk about Genesis 1 or I will talk about what marriage means in the Bible.’ Well, we ought to see why that’s a problem. We know that if we’re trying to persuade someone that God exists, you don’t start by saying, ‘Well, it says right here in the Bible that God exists.’ You know, if it’s going to be a good apologetic argument, what you do is you appeal to something that the person already believes or has reason to believe is true, and then you show them that, if in fact they are consistent, it should lead to belief in God in this case. That’s just good apologetics. You don’t appeal to something that people don’t believe. . . Same thing is true when it comes to marriage. . .  If we want to say that the state and society should recognize marriage as between man and woman, we’ve got to provide public arguments for that particular position.”       – Jay Richards on the Bible Answer Man, March 25, 2013, explaining his view of how Christians should defend biblical marriage in public

Ten years ago, I would probably have agreed with Jay Richards’ approach to apologetics and public arguments in defense of marriage. I’m no longer convinced. Unfortunately, I think a good number of Christians follow his advice, and in so doing, I believe we have shortchanged not only marriage, but the gospel.

In other words, let’s play out Jay Richards’ scenario. I’m talking with the “secular liberal” who is convinced that same-sex marriage is a civil rights issue, and that it is bigoted and wrong to deny gays the right to marriage. I’m now looking to appeal to something the secularist already believes so that I can show him that, if he’s consistent, he will see that the same-sex marriage position is untenable. I’m casting about for arguments. How about this one: Same-sex marriage harms traditional marriages? He definitely won’t agree to that, and will likely say that heterosexuals have done quite enough to damage marriage themselves. How about: Same-sex marriage will be bad for children raised by gay couples? The likely response will be that studies show that gay couples do no worse in raising children, and frankly, there are a ton of heterosexual-couple homes where children are abused and treated horribly. Lets see, what else have I got? How about: Traditional marriage is shown to be better for people’s emotional health? Their answer: Shown by whom? Not by gay couples. The gay couples are being discriminated against and hated, and this cannot be good for them. Heterosexuals can do what they want and be happy, why not give gays the same chance? Uh, I’ve run out of “public arguments.” Turns out the secular liberal and I have no common ground on this one. That’s a problem.

But the bigger problem, I believe, is that when we don’t lead with the Bible, two things happen: 1) We miss out on a chance to bring the gospel into the conversation, and 2) Christians become further embarrassed by their biblical beliefs and retreat further into the privatization of their faith, so that the “public” sees Christian faith as something akin to a hobby, like fly fishing. Nice if that floats your boat, but it has no public value.

So here’s how I imagine a conversation might go if one leads with the Bible:

I say: I think the government should recognize marriage as between a man and a woman because God thought of marriage, not people, He created it, and doing what He says will be best for everyone. To which the reply might be: But I don’t believe in the Bible, nor do most people, so I think we should keep religion out of it. Keep your religion in your churches. The State should be secular. To which I might reply: I see, the State should be secular. Why do you say that? Do you have some authority that says that the State should be secular? To which they might reply: Clearly that’s what the people want? To which I might respond: That may be true, but what about what God wants? Is it best to do what God wants, the One who invented marriage, or what people want, for after all, people can be quite fickle, wanting something I like today and something we I don’t like tomorrow. To which they might reply: But I don’t believe in God, and I don’t think we can know God, so the government shouldn’t be in the religion business, basing laws on religion. To which I say: But the government is going to base laws on something, some authority, what authority should that be? And why do you think it’s impossible to know what God wants when it comes to marriage? Upon what basis do you believe that?

And . . . you get the picture. But notice that in the second dialogue, we’re talking about God, and God’s reality, and what God wants. We’re not simply discussing who has a better social policy argument. Perhaps we will even get off the marriage issue altogether and get to the real issue: Who is God and what has He said? But Christians have given this up, all in the hopes of having a “good apologetics,” as Jay Richards says. Don’t get me wrong, I like Jay Richards. I loved the book he wrote defending capitalism. But I absolutely think that Christians should start with the Bible in their public arguments, for God is a public God. He made everything, reigns over everything, and His truth is always relevant. We can certainly get around to extrabiblical arguments, and they are good and proper in their place. Yet we cannot decry the marginalization of Christianity in the public square and then hold that it’s a good apologetic to keep the Bible out of our public arguments. That just won’t do. I’m convinced this is one of the most important issues in Western Christendom today, and the church should be training its people, from a very young age, to begin and end with the Bible, and put to the secularist the question of where he or she thinks we should begin and end in such matters, and why.



Written by Michael Duenes

March 26, 2013 at 6:11 pm

4 Responses

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  1. While I understand the religious non-sanction of same-sex marriage, one must always remember that that is not the issue at hand here. Even if same-sex marriage IS wrong, it can’t be made illegal:

    K. Jean King

    March 27, 2013 at 11:27 am

    • K – Why can’t it?


      russell and duenes

      March 27, 2013 at 1:28 pm

      • Right, of course it can. Pretty poorly-reasoned piece, K.

        I read somewhere some time ago, and I think quite rightly, that the homosexual issue is arguably even worse for practicing Christians than the abortion issue – because at least when it comes to abortion, we can mostly avoid participating in our personal lives.

        Regarding the specific topic above: you’re right, of course. The time is coming, and may be here now, when the Church will be forced to stop hiding behind “secular” arguments that “everyone can agree with”. The battle lines are being drawn very clearly now.

        Samson J.

        March 29, 2013 at 7:11 am

      • For example, one of the things you commonly hear is that being “anti-gay” is just like being “racist”. Well, they aren’t the same thing – but why not? Because there’s an absolute standard of Right and Wrong, that’s why not.

        Samson J.

        March 29, 2013 at 7:33 am

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