Friday, February 26, 2010

Why the Christian Church is not Authorized to Change the Traditional Understanding of Marriage

Something has happened in the past half century in North America that is far more rev olutionary than any Marxist-inspired uprising and of far greater importance to the future health and happiness of the human race than any other event or trend in our culture since the dissolution of the metaphysical realism that provided the intellectual foundation for the Christian culture of Medieval Europe during the fourteenth century.

In some important ways, the sexual revolution is the outworking of that intellectual shift that centered on the rise of nominalism, that is, the doctrine that there are no universals and that Divine laws are nothing more than arbitrary commands. The sexual revolution is a denial that there is a Divinely created order in the world to which we either must submit or against which we must rebel. The sexual revolution is the endpoint of an intellectual decline that we know as “Modernity.” This decline witnessed the loss of teleology, that is, the loss of the understanding that the human body (like everything else) has been created for a reason and understanding the purpose of the body is central to understanding sexual morality.

The Church of Jesus Christ does not have the authority to alter traditional doctrines concerning the nature of the human person, sexual morality and the nature of marriage because the Church did not create these doctrines in the first place. The Church is the creation of the Holy Spirit and the Bride of Christ; her role is to receive joyfully the self-revelation of God in Jesus Christ as it is revealed in the Holy Scriptures and to proclaim the Good News of the Gospel.

Part of the Gospel is the doctrine of original sin, which enables us to understand ourselves as rebellious sinners who have broken God’s law and come under God’s righteous wrath. Sin means rebellion against the Divine Logos inscribed in creation that is there because a gracious Creator has built it into His creation. The Church Fathers, the Medieval theologians and much of the continuing tradition both Roman Catholic and Protestant in the West has recognized the creation, including the human body, as part of God’s good creation and as being the work of the Logos, who is Jesus Christ. In Matthew 19, Jesus points to Genesis 1-2 To reject the meaning of creation inscribed in it by God is to join in the rebellion of modernity in which human beings regard nature as just so much raw material for the human will to modify, use and abuse as we humans see fit.

The moral law of God, as revealed in the Old Testament and re-affirmed clearly by our Lord and His apostles in the New Testament, teaches us the true meaning of the created order and, especially, of our bodies. The moral law coheres with the created order in such a way as to reinforce and interpret that created order with special revelation that leaves us in no doubt as to our responsibilities as human creatures. The Good News of the Gospel is that even though we have rebelled against God’s law and God’s created order, we can be forgiven and escape Divine judgment. But there is more: we also can experience transformation in our lives here and now as the Holy Spirit comes into our lives and fills us with the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. This means that the moral law of God, which we find ourselves unable to keep in our own strength because of the enfeeblement of sin, can now be kept by the power of the Spirit.

The Gospel offers hope to fallen creatures – hope for forgiveness for past sins and hope for the overcoming of sin in the future as well. The Christian hope is that we will be enabled to experience the integrity of being at peace with God, with nature and with our own bodies. The Gospel is about sin and salvation, but it is also about the victorious, transformed life of sanctification. It is at once a call to holiness and a power for holy living. And that is good news!

Some today would have us give up the preaching of the Gospel of forgiveness and transformation in the name of inclusiveness and tolerance – those key words of the false gospel of the liberal Church. Liberal Christianity, which has lost its faith in the Christian doctrine of creation, has accepted the modern nominalist revolution and no longer views the human body as having been created by the wisdom of God for certain ends or purposes. This means that it can only view the body as raw material upon which the human will can work its own purposes as those purposes change over time. This leads to a rejection of the moral law of God and the natural law of creation – which are the same truths revealed in different ways – and it also leads to a denial of sin as the greatest problem facing human beings. Sin is redefined according to modern liberal concepts of tolerance and becomes a moving target – an evolving “common sense” or “tradition” of modern society as it evolves endlessly and purposelessly. The basic problem with modern, liberal Christianity, then, is that it denies that the human body is created for certain purposes – among them traditional, fruitful marriage between a man a woman – and it denies both the natural and the moral law as revealed in creation and Scripture.

Evangelicalism joins with conservative Protestants and Roman Catholics in affirming three things that are rejected by those who urge us to embrace the sexual revolution, with all its perversions, including homosexuality, divorce, fornication and cohabitation. These three thing are essential to the faith once delivered to the saints and cannot be abandoned by the Church except as the Church becomes sinful and rebellious.

First, we joyfully affirm the natural law of creation as clarified by the moral law of God in Scripture. We sadly admit that, although we are created in God’s image, we have fallen into sin and therefore we are in need of a Savior, of forgiveness and of salvation. As part of our fallen condition, we break the moral law of Scripture and the natural law of creation by using our bodies selfishly for pleasure instead of keeping them in holiness.

Second, we joyfully affirm the Good News that Jesus, the Divine Son of God, has come into the world to die for our sins and to provide forgiveness for sins by His atoning death on the cross. We preach Christ crucified and risen again to a world in need of salvation.

Third, we joyfully affirm that new life in the Spirit is given to all who repent of their sins and believe the Good News. Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead and to be in Christ is to participate in eternal life and to experience progressively the holiness of God in our being. We are called to live lives of holiness by the power of the Spirit and to experience the joy of living according to the natural law of creation and the moral law of Scripture.

As Evangelicals we are part of the Christian Church and neither we ourselves nor the Church as a whole has the authority to reject either the natural law of creation or the moral law of Scripture in our natural desire to reach out in love to those who find themselves in the grip of homosexual or heterosexual temptation. We have been commissioned to preach the Gospel of grace through faith. Jesus says “Come unto me all you who are burdened and I will give your rest.” We, who have experienced this rest know that it consists not of indifference to sin or tolerance of sin, but the true rest of forgiveness of sin and the joy of holy living in the power of the Holy Spirit.

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