Confused. Convoluted. Self-contradictory. Laughable and arrogant. But enough about me. What I am here to say is that two leading spokesmen for the Southern Baptist Convention have really blown it out their ears.
Russell Moore is the President of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) for the Southern Baptist Convention. He has co-authored an article called “What Should Christians Think About Governments that Criminalize Homosexuality?” with Andrew Walker, Director of Policy Studies for the ERLC.
With all Christian charity, my evaluation of their piece is that, if brain-farts actually smelled bad, these guys could clear an outdoor stadium.
The errors and Biblical fallacies, if not outright Scripture-twisting, that these two ethicists have presented are so haphazard in their arrangement, I’m just going to address them as they strike me.
After noting anti-sodomy laws in places like Uganda and Russia, our duo stressed that they believe the traditional, Christian view of sexuality: That is, that sex was designed for use within the confines of man/woman marriage. All other sexual practices are sinful. Then they say, “At the same time, we believe laws criminalizing homosexual activity to be unjust and an affront to the image of God embedded in all persons.”
I’ll attack that assertion in two parts. First, the bit about the adjective “unjust.” Laws criminalizing homosexual activity are unjust? Biblical Inerrancy in the SBC just went into cardiac arrest. In suggesting that such laws are unjust, our ethicists have accused God Himself of injustice.
He commanded, through Moses, “If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them.” (Leviticus 20:13) God is the original criminalizer of homosexual acts. Jesus endorsed the righteousness (or, the “justice”) of this and all the other laws in Matthew 5:17-20. Paul also, writing by the Holy Spirit’s direct inspiration, says, “Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good.” (Romans 7:12, emphasis added.) The New Testament sees the commandments of the law as holy, just and good. In fact, the New Testament specifies that it is “good” to apply the instruction of the law to homosexuals in 1 Timothy 1:8-10. But Moore/Walker, educated men no doubt, wish to demur.
The normal refrain at this point is for the opponent to say, “Yes, but that law was given to ancient Israel at a specific point in history, for a specific purpose.” Okay. So does that mean that God’s ideas of what is just and unjust change over time, and with changing situations? Is God a situation ethics type, a moral relativist? Is He learning and changing as the world moves forward? Or is justice an absolute? When He originally criminalized homosexual activity, it was just; but now it’s unjust? Must be fun to live in your bouncy, stretchy, plastic playhouse.
The second part of Moore/Walker’s assertion is just as baffling. They write that making laws against sodomy is an “affront to the image of God embedded in all persons.” To which, my highly trained theological mind says, “Umm…what?”
Yes, the Bible says in a small handful of places that humans (both male and female) were created in the image of God. But, y’know what? It never really goes on to explain a whole lot about what that means. In fact, if you want to watch a Christian theologian squirm, ask him what remains of the image of God (the Imago Dei) in the race of fallen, sinful humanity. And have some sort of recording device with you, because this is going to be a lot of fun: you’ll wanna keep going back to it. The doctrine of the Imago Dei is hardly a firm peg on which to base social policy, especially when you divorce it from the rest of the Bible.
“An affront to the image of God embedded in all persons.”
We shouldn’t seek civil sanctions against sodomites because that will be an affront to the image of God in them. Just so I get this straight: You mean more of an affront than the buggery itself? That’s really the whole issue. The reason this and other forms of sexual perversion should be publicly punished is precisely because of the affront to the image of God they represent. Sexual perversion defaces the image of God in man just as surely as a spray-painted smiley face would deface the Mona Lisa. (By the way, if I objected to that defacement of the Mona Lisa, would that make me a smiley-phobe?)
Get a big Bible, one with all the pages and the maps and a concordance and everything. Find me one place where the image of God in man is held out as a reason not to punish a criminal. Let me know how that works out for you. In fact, the very opposite is the case. One of the few times that the Imago Dei is mentioned, it is mentioned in connection with capital punishment. But rather than provide a reason to avoid it, God mentions His image in man as the reason why the death penalty was mandatory! Don’t believe me, check out Genesis 9:5-6.
My last issue with Moore/Walker’s use of the image of God as a reason not to punish wrong-doing is that it can be applied to anything. Every rapist was made in the image of God, yet we generally try to punish them. Ditto every child molester, every thief, every high-finance embezzler. Are we offering an affront to the Imago Dei when we criminalize these activities? If not, why not? Which crimes may be safely punished without insulting God’s image? My guess is, whichever crimes Moore/Walker don’t feel political pressure to justify. Of, if not to justify, to at least let them slide and avoid saying anything difficult.
To their credit, Moore/Walker do strongly state their opposition to government coercion of private citizens and businesses, who may be forced or otherwise penalized for not wanting to be involved in same sex weddings. Yay, I’m clapping now.
But again, it’s not right to punish perverts, apparently. Wouldn’t that include economic sanctions? Sanctions of the type that a business may enforce by refusing to trade with you? Telling them to go pack sand, or fudge, at another bakery is okay, as long as you’re nice about it. But public, legal sanctions are an insult to the Image?
Then, Moore/Walker muse on the purpose of civil government. They do believe it’s the government’s job to punish wrongdoers. “But,” they write, “governments, as noted above, that single out persons for harassment and fear of their lives represent, in our view, a State that has overstepped its bounds drastically and unjustly.”
Here’s a place where I wish people who call themselves ethicists would study the theory of law and how laws work. You see, every law that is written makes a target out of those who are breaking it, or would break it. As R. J. Rushdoony noted, all legislation is really a war waged against the outlaws. Would Moore/Walker have us avoid singling out domestic terrorists for harassment and fear of their lives? What about singling out shoplifters for fear of getting caught? Or kidnappers? All criminal law singles out the law-breaker as a target. That’s exactly what it’s supposed to do.
To me, their stated reasons for opposing anti-sodomy laws sound like a big bowl of spaghetti thrown against the wall to see what sticks. They maybe went to the Bible looking for answers (I’m guessing, giving benefit of the doubt: nothing in their writing betrays any depth of study) and finding none there that suited their conclusion, they then began casting about for any port in the storm.
They go on to explain that governments should not become a “theological broker.” That’s code for: Government should not allow Biblical teaching to direct its activity. But their reason for wanting to keep sodomy legal is….wait for it….theological! That whole Image of God thang, ‘member?
They want the government to abandon Biblical rules for righteousness, in favor of showing “gospel mercy” to sodomites. But they’ve already stated their agreement with the idea that the government is God’s minister of vengeance, not mercy.
Then, they go on to trot out the far Left’s ultimate historical boogyman, the Puritans and other colonial Christians. They were so eeeevvvillll, because they wanted to use Biblical law as a basis for their own civil laws! Hiss! Cue the guy in the top hat, curling his mustache maniacally as he ties the maiden to the train tracks. (Hey, does that girl have an Adam’s Apple?)
Halt! They shout in their best Dudley Dooright. It’s not your place to govern in light of Biblical theology! Instead, show the sinner the mercy of Christ and remember the Image of God embedded in all men!
Wait, um, what?
If I sound hard on these guys, it's because they're in my own camp, as Southern Baptists. But, honestly, what they're saying here is really an object lesson. When your church's methodology, if not its official theology, is based totally on being likeable, not giving offense to anyone for any reason, for the sake of making rebels feel safe in your storefront, Starbucks church, your head policy wonks are probably going to come out with stuff that looks just like that. When the Great Commission becomes a slogan printed in big font on the flag you wave, and you equate getting people to raise their hands, walk the aisle, or sign a card with fulfilling that commission, it ought not surprise anyone that the whole uncomfortable bit about teaching the nations to obey God's commandments has fallen by the wayside.Don't forget to Like Freedom Outpost on Facebook, Google Plus, & Twitter. You can also get Freedom Outpost delivered to your Amazon Kindle device here.