The radical two-kingdoms perspective has recently addressed homosexual marriage. The result has been erudition in the service of confusion. This result includes the familiar R2K progression:
1) There is a social conflict involving civil law and Christian values.
2) “Christians should not seek to promote distinctively Christian doctrines and practices through the properly coercive power of the state,” and . . .
3) Mosaic Law is that which must not be mentioned unless you subsequently, immediately dismiss its validity for today.Therefore, you end up with only two alternatives:
1) Stand aside while pagan forces like abortion and gay marriage “further destroy the fabric of society” (totally unacceptable, of course), or
2) Rationalize coercion based upon legal standards claimed to be not distinctively ChristianBut this latter position always leads to ethical, cultural compromise.
And thus Dr. Horton concludes,
Although a contractual relationship denies God’s will for human dignity, I could affirm domestic partnerships as a way of protecting people’s legal and economic security.There is a third option: claim biblical standards that clearly derived from theonomic (Mosaic) law, but pretend that they’re not. Thus, this position also appeals to loving one’s neighbor as a basis for creating civil laws and penal sanctions. But dismissing the Mosaic grounds for this really opens to door to tyranny.
The question involved is civil government is, “For what actions are we biblically sanctioned to use coercive force in society?” The subsequent question must be “and how much force?” in various cases, but we can leave that for another time. The primary question is in view here.
The Promise of Jonadab: Building a Christian Family Legacy in a Time of Cultural Decline
The main aspect is simple: adultery. There are others, for example, enforcement of inheritances, but adultery is the main thing.
The State should not apply force in regard to the composition of a marriage except when the oath of marriage has been violated in a specific. And even this is only at the behest of the victim.
But this means “adultery” has to be defined. What is adultery?
Adultery is consensual sexual relations of a married person with someone outside his or her marriage.
But supposing two men could possibly take a marriage oath and then be recognized as having a “marriage,” the definition could apply to married homosexuals as well.
Thus, we need to define “marriage” first. This is why the social fight is targeted on this issue.
On the issue of divorce, Jesus refers to the creation ordinance of Genesis:
He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matt. 19:3–5).From this we could derive a definition of marriage as the joining together of a male and female in a covenantal and physical sexual bond in which they are considered by God and man, judicially, “one flesh.”
But the creation ordinance itself does not explicitly exclude homosexual marriages (and Jesus does not quote it in regard to this issue anyway). I, for one, am satisfied that it is a definitive ideal and that it thus implicitly excludes homosexual marriage. But to be sure, it is not explicitly stated.
More importantly, in post-fall word, it is going to be asserted by many that not only is it not explicitly stated, but it is unclear, and even purposefully not excluded.
Now, the R2K view feels this problem. This is why it appeals not just to the creation ordinance itself, but to the fact that societies throughout history have actually upheld the creation ordinance. But this is an appeal to human convention.
Thus, a trump card comes in: “in terms of specifically Christian witness, love of neighbor (as God’s image-bearers) should be front-and-center. We have to care about our non-Christian neighbors (gay or straight) because God cares and calls us to contribute to the common good.”
But this, too, suffers from lack of clear definition, which is recognized on the R2K front:
The challenge there is that two Christians who hold the same beliefs about marriage as Christians may appeal to neighbor-love to support or to oppose legalization of same-sex marriage.Exactly. Who defines what position “love” must take?
Worse, this view means that the answer to the question of “coercive force” is without limit as long as it is justified by love for neighbor or common good. Instead of clearly delimiting the powers of government, this view gives it a blank check—signed, “love.”
This is why the “love your neighbor” argument for the civil realm is so dangerous: nearly any intrusive or tyrannical behavior can be justified by it. All you have to do is argue that you are de facto loving your neighbor by forcing him to do something against his will for his own good or for the good of society.
Under the guise of common good, or “loving neighbor”, laws could be justified to force you and your children into centralized government schools. Or prisons. Or concentration camps.
So who determines what, exactly, contributes to “the common good,” and what exactly comprises “loving your neighbor” in society?
Without a clear, divine standard to answer that question, we will be left with some form of the opinions or traditions of fallen men.
And since when do we interpret the Word of God based upon the conventions, or pragmatism, or the definitions of men anyway?
What we need is a clear map.
Both of Jesus’ “great commandments” (Matt 22:37–40) to love God and neighbor are taken from the Mosaic code—Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:15 respectively. Jesus also explained, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15).
And specifically, what commandments in the civil realm? For what are we allow—no, commanded—to use force in society?
The argument must come from Scripture, not man. R2K realizes this much, and states, “Special revelation corrects our twisted interpretations and gives us a better map.”
True. But there is only one place in Scripture where anything like this can be answered without creating broad standards that open the door to tyranny.
Only Mosaic Law gives us the clear revealed standards for civil law that forbid homosexual “marriage.” Because marriage is a physical bond, it is not properly consummated without physical sexual relations. But this is strictly forbidden for homosexuals:
If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them (Lev. 20:13).And unlike adultery, there is no victim here. This is by definition a matter of State. This is not a mere civil suit, but a criminal suit. Both shall surely be put to death.
Now, note a couple things here:
(Ravi Zacharias makes a good argument distinguishing between the proclivity and the act of homosexuality here. While he does not go into the crime aspect—which he would not, not being a theonomist—he does make an important distinction, and does so with characteristic power.)
Secondly, there are always privacy and legal protections. Under Mosaic Law, two witnesses are required to bring conviction. In the case of even a private homosexual act, who would be the witnesses? Unless two practicing homosexuals were willing to tell on each other, were filming themselves, or were engaging before hostile witnesses, it would be difficult to bring a conviction even in OT society.
Moreover, private property laws are very strict, and false witnesses would be guilty of the crime for which they sought to prosecute someone else (Deut. 19)—in the case of sodomy, death. Thus, you would largely have people minding their own business.
But, granted, this is still a stark position: it’s a death penalty after all. And holding forth this position is anti-gospel according to the R2K guys. Thus, despite asserting that special revelation provides that “better map,” it must default to the sin-obscured version—“general revelation”—interpreted through the lens of fallen human traditions, nature, and cultures:
Special revelation corrects our twisted interpretations and gives us a better map, but general revelation gives sufficient evidence at least for minimal arguments from antiquity.“Minimal arguments”—agreed. But not clear and simple by any means. Again, Horton acknowledges the weakness inherent in the system:
Knowledgeable people will disagree about the strength of those arguments, since, for example, Greek elites often had teen-age boys entertain them on the side—with the approval or at least the awareness of their wives.But the clear and strong Mosaic standard is, well, clear and strong, and it makes a remarkably stark command. It thus so often gets opposed, or dismissed, and R2K relegates the whole Mosaic code to a former time and place:
The statements in Leviticus are part of the Mosaic covenant. They pertain uniquely to the covenant that God made with Israel as a nation. The laws that governed every aspect of private and public life, cult and culture, were a unique episode in redemptive history.You know those “statements in Leviticus” like “love you neighbor as yourself” (19:18)? Yep, all gone. It was a unique episode in redemptive history. R2K concludes,
Therefore, there is no more biblical warrant for stoning homosexuals today than there is for avoiding Scottish cuisine.On this point he is simply flat wrong. Paul wrote, “whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Phil. 4:8). Therefore, there is clear biblical warrant for avoiding Scottish cuisine (except for Scotch, proper, of course).
But to some degree there is truth in the statement of no biblical warrant for stoning homosexuals. This is not the Mosaic view and never really was—the injunction is against the act of sodomy, not homosexuality in and of itself in the broad sense. But this is the problem: sodomy is clearly outlawed upon penalty of death, and therefore the State cannot countenance the concept of homosexual marriage—not even as an adjunct, admission, exception, or loophole to the creation ordinance of marriage.
This Mosaic injunction is not an addendum or unique interlude; it is an elucidation and protection of God’s creation ordinance: it is an elucidation of the very moral law that Horton wishes to uphold, and it is the civil expression of the protection of it.
This civil protection is nowhere else upheld in Scripture or in nature.
And by not following the revealed standard, but relying upon human-filtered standards, the R2K cannot logically prevent 1) other forms of legally sanctioned homosexual civil unions, as long as they’re not called “marriage”, and 2) all the other humanistic State tyrannies that have attached themselves to the institution of marriage.
In a biblical law society, neither of these injustices would continue, including the heart of the modern problem: State licensing of marriage.
A Biblical Blueprint
The State should be forced out of licensing and regulating marriage, period. This is the way it used to be. It is becoming a more widely-known fact that state-regulated marriage licenses in this nation began solely as a way for bigoted statists to prevent interracial marriages. Before that, while marriages were registered with the States, the State’s permission was not required.
Who Owns the Family? God or the State?
The State maintains control over licensing because we continue to accept its validity in regard to taxation, welfare, and several other areas of life. Bust this, and there remains no advantage to marriage for the homosexual except for an anti-Christian social statement. Horton is correct about this ultimate difference. But instead of criticizing state involvement to a perverse degree to begin with, he sanctions civil unions with equal state benefits up to but not equaling the point of calling these unions “marriage.”
But the state licensing is the first thing that should go. Then all of the taxes and benefits leveraged to it.
A definition of marriage is essential, but so also is the law against sodomy.
Then, in a biblical society, we would (re)institute laws against adultery and sodomy. Marriage would be covenanted through private means with witnesses. Churches and/or private organizations would keep notarized records. In the event of adultery, the records and the evidence would be presented in court, should a case be brought. This is the only area a state would get involved.
In such a society, even homosexuals could pretend to get married, but law would not recognize the union based on the definition of marriage. They could even call it “marriage,” but they’d better be quiet about it. Indeed, public ceremonies of this sort would be a risky indicator of sodomy to follow. The state would have no other input; and it would be ridiculous for a homosexual to bring an adultery suit against his partner. The law would not honor it and he would be publicly exposing himself again as a sodomite.
In short, a biblical society suppresses homosexual conduct by pushing it underground.
What about visitation rights during hospital stays? Another place government should be forced back to only its theonomic limits—in this case, private property. All hospitals should be privatized and run like private businesses. A hospital in that case is private property. Owners can decide the rules for visitation at their own hospitals. No doubt, devout Christian hospital owners would not countenance homosexual partnerships, and would not consider such partners as “family”. Others may not have such high restrictions. In time, people would learn and choose hospitals according to their preference. Don’t like a pro- or anti-homosexual hospital? Don’t use it. Problem solved.
Granted, in dire emergencies you may not have a choice, but if you knew your community well enough in advance, these types of problems would be minimized.
What about adoption? This is a slightly more difficult issue. But it is important to note that homosexual singles are already allowed to adopt in many states. Some forbid it, and other make it difficult, but many allow it. This is, therefore, not so much a milestone at stake.
If a single person period is allowed to adopt, then a single person with spiritual proclivities toward homosexuality, but not practicing, is not much different. An open sodomite, however, is a whole different story. Here again, the laws against sodomy come into play, not the homosexuality itself. The legal issue here is not adoption, but sodomy.
Otherwise, without getting into the full involved discussion, the best advice I can give Christians in order to stop homosexuals from adopting here and now is two-fold:
1) Start adopting more themselves, and
2) Fight to make adoption less expensive for the average ChristianAdoption is so highly regulated and red-taped by the state today that it is highly cumbersome and expensive—average cost is around $20,000 and $30,000. If Christians were really concerned about adoption, they’d simply get more involved in the real problems associated with it. Adopt the kids yourselves before the homosexuals can blink.
It is clear why the fight has centered specifically on the definition of marriage. It is also clear why the issue appears now at the end of decades of ignoring and weakening adultery laws and divorce laws:
Christians have not taken the judicial aspects of marriage seriously for fifty years, or more. And we have not taken them seriously because we have refused to adopt a social and judicial theory based on biblical law.
We dismiss Moses, and then pretend as if our appeals to human convention and our assurances that we, really(!), are loving our neighbor somehow honor God in the civil realm. And you think that will stop the homosexual lobby and the activist courts?
Guess what: human conventions and definitions change. Homosexual lobbies are wise to that fact. They know that it favors their agenda. They will keep trying to push us the next step down the road, just as the humanists always have.
And if one of our celebrated Reformed theologians have their way, we will have the next step down that road at least: “domestic partnerships.”
The answer for civil society lies in Moses, and in the courage to embrace him.
- Biblically, the degree of penal sanction in cases of adultery is to be determined by the victim, the spouse. Thus, while the death penalty is an option, a merciful victim could call for much less. Thus, when Joseph suspected Mary of adultery (before he had the visitation from an angel informing him of the truth), he chose to divorce her quietly because he was “a just man” (Matt. 1:19). [↩]
- Obviously there are exceptions for circumstances where this is made impossible through accident, dismemberment, etc. [↩]
- This is not to ignore that many Christians are indeed involved, and passionately, wholeheartedly. My criticism is not to these fighters. [↩]