Nashville, TN — The Church will not surrender the biblical view of marriage despite opposition and the prediction of a former megachurch pastor, attendees were told in a panel discussion at the National Religious Broadcasters’ International Christian Media Convention.
Owen Strachan, President of The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, told attendees on Thursday that the church would neither capitulate nor call a truce on the issue. He addressed the matter after Rob Bell, author and one-time pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville, MI, recently predicted the Church is “moments away” from accepting same-sex marriage.
“Rob Bell is absolutely wrong,” Strachan said. “The Church is not giving this up.
“Marriage is an image of Christ and His Church,” he said. “[At the peak] of what we think about marriage, we have Jesus dying for His bride. We are not giving that up. . . . [T]here will be no truce. There’s not going to be a way, as in Germany in the 1930s, that we bargain down this issue.”
Strachan and two other young evangelicals — Ryan T. Anderson of The Heritage Foundation and Eric Teetsel of the Manhattan Declaration — joined British marriage defender Alan Craig in a panel on “Protecting Marriage: How to Get the Media Message Right for This Generation” at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville.
The panel — moderated by Penny Nance, President of Concerned Women for America — addressed the issue at a time of rapid gain by advocates of same-sex marriage. Gay marriage is now legal in 37 states, nearly tripling the 13 states where it was legal in mid-2013. It also is legal in the District of Columbia.
The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to hear oral arguments in April and issue a decision before it adjourns this summer. By the end of June, the high court could end any state’s authority to define marriage and legalize same-sex marriage throughout the country.
Teetsel said, “I think it’s highly likely in June we’ll see the Roe of marriage.” Roe v. Wade was the 1973 opinion in which the Supreme Court outlawed all state bans on abortion and legalized the lethal procedure nationwide.
At that point, the Church will face a “long process to renew and rebuild the foundations,” said Teetsel, Executive Director of the Manhattan Declaration.
The Church’s role “is to be the moral ballast in society” by speaking the truth, Teetsel said. “The Church has abdicated that responsibility for far too long, not just outside the Church but within the Church.”
Christians can stand for truth and justice while evangelizing the lost by “training our eyes on the Gospel,” said Strachan, who is also assistant professor of Christian theology and church history at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Boyce College in Louisville, KY.
He cited three important truths Christians should recognize about the Gospel on this issue:
“The Gospel creates ethics.”
Pastors and other leaders need to clarify that Christians “don’t have the option of doing theological buffet, ethical buffet,” he said. “When we come to faith in Christ, we inherit a body of ethical thought. We inherit ethics. We don’t choose them or create them. They are given to us.”
“The Gospel also creates clarity.”
This is an age of “moral anarchy,” Strachan said. While the culture rightly critiques rape culture, “it then turns around and buys a $15 ticket to an IMAX [showing] of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey,’ where a woman consents” to sexual abuse by a man, he said. Christians “have to share and speak a better word than what our culture says, he said.
“The Gospel creates activists.”
“The Gospel creates people who cannot be silent about these issues, and millennials need to know that,” Strachan said, referring to evangelicals 18 to 29 years old. “Millennials need to clear their throat, pray to God for courage, and find their voice.”
Two main dynamics are at play in the effort to persuade millennial evangelicals on the marriage issue, Teetsel said.
On the one hand, millennials “have no idea” about the arguments for traditional marriage from both reason and revelation, he said. Both inside and outside the Church, millennial commitments to gay marriage “are extremely shallow, very placid notions of justice and equality.”
Also, Teetsel said, “The millennial generation wants desperately to be fully Christian and fully modern.” That differs from a previous generation in which “being counter-cultural was a badge of honor.” Truth remains important to millennials, he said, but “[d]eference and kindness are the utmost virtues.”
The charge that same-sex marriage is akin to inter-racial marriage is unfounded, said Anderson, a Heritage Foundation fellow and co-author of the book What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense.
Every great thinker through the centuries, regardless of religion, said marriage was between a male and a female, Anderson said. None of them considered race relevant to marriage, he said.
The American colonies “were the first political communities in the history of the world to ever ban inter-racial marriage,” Anderson told the audience, adding they did so to prop up the unjust system of race-based slavery.
“So they redefined marriage,” he explained. “When the laws finally were struck down, they were returning to the truth about it. Marriage has to be color blind. It can’t be gender blind.”
Craig, Founder of Gay Marriage No Thanks, told attendees, “In the United Kingdom, unlike here, the debate is over — completely.” Gay marriage is legal, and the Church “has thrown in the towel,” he said.
For those against it, “we now have to change our tactics,” Craig said. First, British defenders of biblical marriage “have to remind ourselves as Christians that our Lord reigns,” he said. “The second thing I would like to say is there actually are people who are not going to give up.”
They will continue to resist, he said. Craig asked American Christians to pray God “will turn the tables around soon.”
By Tom Strode
Published: March 2, 2015