Christian Leaders Respond to Obergefell vs. Hodges: A Symposium

Thinking Through the Supreme Court Ruling on Marriage

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ID-100256429This symposium consists of both statements sent directly to the Colson Center, and excerpts of articles published elsewhere. Keep checking back for updates, as we will be adding more statements over the next few days!

Ryan T. Anderson, The Daily Signal:

"We must work to restore the constitutional authority of citizens and their elected officials to make marriage policy that reflects the truth about marriage. We the people must explain what marriage is, why marriage matters, and why redefining marriage is bad for society."

Ryan T. Anderson, Ph.D., is the William E. Simon Senior Research Fellow in American Principles and Public Policy at the Heritage Foundation; co-author of "What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense," and author of the forthcoming "Truth Overruled: The Future of Marriage and Religious Freedom."


The Rev. Donald Armstrong
St. George's Anglican Church

Of course this is no surprise--the activist court has been developing a divine sense of itself to re-image creation and godly order for well over a hundred years.

The church has always stood apart from culture and state to speak truth to both . . . and we will continue to do so.

But will Christians be granted the protections to continue to speak and act according to their faith, or will Christian teaching become hate speech, Christian practice become discrimination? Will the cross become the next Confederate flag?

What sort of rule of government will we have? Charles Murray tells this story in American Exceptionalism”: “As Benjamin Franklin left Independence Hall on the final day of the Constitutional Convention, a woman asked him, ‘Well, Doctor, what have we got? A republic or a monarchy?’ Franklin replied, ‘A republic, if we can keep it.”

The emotional terrorism of the left has already made our positions dangerous to even contemplate. FOX News was relieved to focus on Justice Roberts' conflicting judicial argument for Obamacare and against same-sex marriage, instead of talking about the implications of the ruling.

The risk to keeping the balance that makes America exceptional is high. Will we keep the balance that allows for religious freedom and freedom of speech . . . or will religious institutions face sanctions, denied the very rights and benefits same-sex couples have just won?

The Rev. Donald Armstrong is rector of St. George's Anglican Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado.


Hunter Baker
Union University

The Supreme Court has now ruled on gay marriage. They have proved zealous in their protection of a particular view of liberty. I can only pray that they will now prove equally zealous in protecting the religious liberty that will likely be severely endangered in consequence. As I looked for glimmers of hope in the majority opinion, this passage stood out to me:

"Finally, it must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned. The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths, and to their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered. The same is true of those who oppose same-sex marriage for other reasons."

I also take some solace in the fact that the opinion was 5-4 with the Chief Justice in dissent. He has been raked over the coals as some kind of fake conservative. Whatever one might say about him, he took his stand on maybe the biggest decision since Roe v. Wade. He flatly stated something that I think has needed to be heard by all during the last decade:

"And a State’s decision to maintain the meaning of marriage that has persisted in every culture throughout human history can hardly be called irrational."

The war over gay marriage appears to have been won. What remains is to see how far the consequences extend. I hope that Christian institutions will retain their convictions and that they will be permitted to continue to participate on an equal footing in American society. Liberal nostrums about the value of dissent are likely to be much tested in coming years.

Hunter Baker, J.D, Ph.D., is an associate provost at Union University and author, most recently, of "The System Has a Soul: Essays on Christianity, Liberty, and Political Life."


Jim Daly
Focus on the Family

"Many people of faith are concerned that this decision will fan the flames of government hostility against individuals, businesses, and religious organizations whose convictions prevent them from officiating at, participating in, or celebrating such unions. We've already watched this hostility operate against wedding vendors, military chaplains, and others, and anticipate that today's decision will open the door to an unwelcome escalation of this problem. Ultimately, however, no court can change the eternal truth that marriage is, and always has been, between a man and a woman.

"In the days to come, we must remember to season our words with salt. It's time to be a light in these dark times. It is not time to be combative and caustic but remain faithful, always, to what Christ has called us to and redeemed us for."

Jim Daly is president of Focus on the Family.


Robert P. George, First Thoughts, First Things:

". . . The Republican Party, the Republican Congress, and a future Republican President should regard and treat the decision just as the Republican Party, the Republican Congress, and the Republican President—Abraham Lincoln—regarded and treated the Dred Scott decision. They should, in other words, treat it as an anti-constitutional and illegitimate ruling in which the judiciary has attempted to usurp the authority of the people and their elected representatives. They should refuse to treat and regard it as a binding and settled matter. They should challenge it legislatively and give the Supreme Court every opportunity to reverse itself—especially as new justices fill vacancies. And they should work to fill vacancies on federal courts at all levels with jurists who reject judicial usurpation and can be counted on to respect the scope and limits of their own constitutionally specified authority."

Robert P. George, Ph.D.,
is McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University, co-author of "What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense," and recipient of the 2015 Wilberforce Award.


Tom Gilson, Thinking Christian:

"Court rulings are often overturned. This one should be. The justices have created for themselves the right to create rights. The circularity there should be obvious. It’s an invention out of vapor, an action based upon nothing. In another sense, it’s a base sort of action.

"The judgment that counts is this one: 'Forever, O Lord, your word is settled in heaven' (Psalm 119:89, NKJV)."

Tom Gilson is the vice president for strategic services at Ratio Christi, the chief editor of True Reason: Christian Responses to the Challenge of Atheism,” the author/host of the Thinking Christian blog, and a columnist at BreakPoint.org.


Sean McDowell
Biola University

Two points stand out in response to the SCOTUS ruling on same sex marriage. First, while this raises serious religious liberty concerns, we should see this as an opportunity for the gospel. Jesus is still risen. The world is not ending. God is still sovereign. We have an opportunity to respond with grace and truth to a culture increasingly confused about sexual issues. Second, we have the opportunity to show the world real love. As a church we must love each other, and our world, unlike ever before. Jesus said they will know us by our love. Whether by modeling marriage in our families, by how we love and incorporate singles into the church, or by how we love outsiders, we must show the world what true love looks like as a body of Christ. This may be easier said then done, but it must be our goal. If we do this, we have an opportunity for the gospel to shine.

Sean McDowell, Ph.D., is assistant professor of Christian apologetics at Biola University and co-author with John Stonestreet of "Same-Sex Marriage: A Thoughtful Approach to God's Design for Marriage."


Russell Moore, Acts of Faith, The Washington Post:

"This gives the church an opportunity to do what Jesus called us to do with our marriages in the first place: to serve as a light in a dark place. Permanent, stable marriages with families with both a mother and a father may well make us seem freakish in 21st-century culture.

"We should not fear that. We believe stranger things than that. We believe a previously dead man is alive, and will show up in the Eastern skies on a horse. We believe that the gospel can forgive sinners like us and make us sons and daughters. Let’s embrace the sort of freakishness that saves."

Russell Moore, Ph.D., is president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.


Jennifer Roback Morse
The Ruth Institute

Today’s decision undermines the natural right of every child to know the identity of his or her own parents, and as far as possible, to be in a relationship with and to be raised by both his or her mother and father.

No amount of legal mumbo-jumbo or cultural happy-talk can fully compensate for this fundamental structural injustice.

Forty-two years after Roe v. Wade, the majority of the country opposes abortion -- the ultimate structural injustice to children. Future generations will come to their senses and realize the injustice that a genderless marriage institution inflicts on children. But when those people of the future overturn today’s ruling, not a single child born motherless or fatherless in a gender-neutral marriage will get his or her missing parent back. The structural injustice to children will be deep and permanent.

The thin disguise of “marriage equality” will not fool anyone. Nor will it atone for the wrong done this day.

Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D., is the founder and president of the Ruth Institute, which brings hope and healing to the victims and survivors of the sexual revolution.


Swallow Prior, Her.meneutics, Christianity Today:

"So just as ultrasound images of the babe in the womb often serve as the best argument against abortion, the portrayal of our own robust marriages—signifying the mystical union between Christ and his church—will make the case for natural marriage. Just we have shown compassion toward those who have gone to the abortion clinic and to the divorce court, so must we do the same for those who go to the altar of gay marriage. We can stand for principle and love people, too. . . .

"A culture that sees through the dark lens of radical autonomy ('Don’t like abortion/gay marriage? Don’t get one!') will likely misunderstand our motives. We can expect accusations against our character, calling us driven by hatred ('misogyny!'), fear ('homophobia!'), and personal piety rather than social good ('how does gay marriage threaten your marriage?').

"If we know these charges to be false, then we must show them to be. If we are confident we are not on 'the wrong side of history,' as many aver, then we must acknowledge and repent of the times when the church was on the wrong side: slavery, segregation, women’s suffrage—the list is much too long. We must reprove such accusations less with our words and more with our lives."

Karen Swallow Prior, Ph.D., is professor of English at Liberty University, Research Fellow with the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and author of "Fierce Convictions--The Extraodinary Life of Hannah More: Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist."


Jay Richards, The Stream

"It’s tempting to give into fear and intimidation, to abandon our posts and to retreat into our private ghettos and enclaves, but these are temporary rear-guard actions. The best defense in this case is a good offense. Besides, we have a responsibility to our culture and to our fellow Americans, even if at the moment they hate us for it! It’s time for a counter-offensive. Real love in this case means that we must stand. We must suffer. We must fight for the truth, for the real good of our fellow citizens, for real marriage, and for real freedom. We must be willing to stand up to the mob, the media, the big corporations and the state. And we must do it together."

Jay Richards, Ph.D., is excecutive editor of The Stream, an assistant research professor in the School of Business and Economics at The Catholic University of America, and co-author of "The Hobbit Party: The Vision of Freedom that J. R. R. Tolkien Got and the West Forgot."


Rob Schwarzwalder
Family Research Council

The great challenge for leaders of the believing church is to recognize that the threat to our religious liberty is not something looming in a distant future -- it's now. Pastors need to assume a more prophetic stance, teaching their people that the truths of Scripture regarding human sexuality are not malleable and that neither the rulings of a court nor the pressure of secular culture should sway their allegiance to clear and authoritative biblical instruction on men, women, family, and marriage.

The most immediate political priority is defending the tax-exempt status of houses of worship and religious schools and colleges that will not accede to the legal implications of a finding that there is a constitutional "right" to same-sex unions. The loss of such status would cripple Christian ministries and schools across the country. Congress needs to pass the First Amendment Defense Act, which would protect "those individuals and institutions who promote traditional marriage from government retaliation."

Rob Schwarzwalder is senior vice president for the Family Research Council.


Glenn T. Stanton, GlennTStanton.com:

"As this issue will no doubt be like the abortion issue has been ever since 1973 and before, we as a people of one nation have a long road of passionate and deeply held disagreement before us in the public square, over the back fence, around the water cooler, over the dinner table and in our places of worship. We must each ask ourselves and seek answers to the question of 'How do we as a Americans disagree with substance and passion while still treating each other with care, dignity and respect?'

"No court can answer that question for us. It is up to each of us to seek the answers and demonstrate them the best we can.

"Can we agree on and commit to that?"

Glenn T. Stanton is the director of Family Formation Studies at Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs, a research fellow at the Institute of Marriage and Family in Ottawa, and the author of "Loving My (LGBT) Neighbor: Being Friends in Grace and Truth."


Glenn Sunshine
Central Connecticut State University

The SCOTUS decision doesn't so much redefine marriage as abolish it. In every culture throughout history, the single unifying characteristic of marriage has been that it is ultimately about connecting fathers and mothers to each other and to their children, so that children can be brought into the world and raised in a stable environment. Because it performs such an essential role for the survival of society, marriage has always been given a privileged position. It is not just about the couple, or the government would have no role in regulating what would amount to be a private relationship between two people. In effect, SCOTUS has preserved the name of marriage but has abolished the institution with this decision. We are now in uncharted waters, and the decision will have both foreseen consequences for religious liberty, and a host of unforeseen and unforeseeable consequences for society as a whole.

Glenn Sunshine, Ph.D., is professor of early European modern history at Central Connecticut State University and author of "Why You Think the Way You Do: A History of Western Worldviews from Rome to Home."


Eric Teetsel
Manhattan Declaration

Exactly two years to the day after ruling against the federal Defense of Marriage Act, the Supreme Court has ruled that the constitution requires every state to license same-sex marriage. It is the wrong decision: an act of judicial activism that curtails the legitimate democratic process with no basis in the Constitution. Chief Justice Roberts succinctly offered the most appropriate response to the ruling in his dissent, asking of those who would toss out an understanding of marriage that has existed in every society throughout human history, "Just who do we think we are?"

How should Christians respond? Though we must not mitigate the consequences of this decision, ours is a long-term view. The church has persisted through unjust kings and courts before, and will until Christ returns once and for all. In the meantime, we have a job to do. The Manhattan Declaration describes it well:

"To strengthen families, we must stop glamorizing promiscuity and infidelity and restore among our people a sense of the profound beauty, mystery, and holiness of faithful marital love. We must reform ill-advised policies that contribute to the weakening of the institution of marriage, including the discredited idea of unilateral divorce. We must work in the legal, cultural, and religious domains to instill in young people a sound understanding of what marriage is, what it requires, and why it is worth the commitment and sacrifices that faithful spouses make."

Eric Teetsel is executive director of the Manhattan Declaration and co-author of "Marriage Is: How Marriage Transforms Society and Cultivates Human Flourishing."

Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

John Stonestreet
is co-host of BreakPoint Radio and host of The Point Radio. He is co-author with Sean McDowell of "Same-Sex Marriage: A Thoughtful Approach to God's Design for Marriage" (Baker, 2014.)

Articles on the BreakPoint website are the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the opinions of BreakPoint. Outside links are for informational purposes and do not necessarily imply endorsement of their content.


Yes, God Wins . . .
But our sanguinity (joy/optimism) must never be a papering over of our own unfaithfulness. It is irresponsible to put on a happy face when we ourselves are in large measure responsible for letting evil triumph. The proper response is lamentation, mourning the sins of ours which brought on the righteous judgment of God. Proverbs 29:2 is instructive: “When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, But when a wicked man rules, people groan.” We should be following Jeremiah's lead and be lamenting (recall he wrote called Lamentations) our decades of sinful compromise with the world rather than simply and solely rejoicing that God, in His covenant faithfulness, will, despite our sinful irresponsibility and the ensuing evil it will bring, use this to purify His church and ultimately turn the tables on the devil.

God is ultimately in control, no question about it. But that does not mean that everything that happens is His will. If, for example, an intruder comes into my house and rapes my wife and kills my children, that may indeed be the will of God, a la Job 1-2.

However, if the intruder was effectively invited into my house as a result of my gross irresponsibility (e.g., my knowing he was in the neighborhood intent upon doing evil, and I not only left the door open, but advertised the fact that we were defenseless), then no, it was not the will of God for the evil to happen. It was my blatantly going against His will and giving a foothold to the Devil for him (the Devil) to work HIS will (cf. Eph 4:27).

Does that mean God is not in control? Of course not. But it means instead of working good BY me He has to work good IN SPITE OF me. He is always able to bring good out of evil. But His control is despite my egregiously sinful irresponsibility, not because of it. He never wills our irresponsibility.

It is useful to recall that the only thing worse than an an infidel is one who irresponsibly refuses to care for his own (1 Tim 6:8). That--our sinful irresponsibility--is, I submit, in great measure why we are now dealing with this SCOTUS ruling. It was not the will of God to bring this judgment upon us. But because we, His people, did not repent (see my earlier comment below), He essentially had no choice but to bring it. After all, the Judge of all the earth will do right (Gen 18:25).

You say we must not “lose our saltiness”. We already have. In great measure we already have. Those who fail to see what is happening is a manifestation of God's righteous judgment upon us, His people, would do well to reacquaint themselves with Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Amos, etc.

God ultimately wins, no question about that. The question is, are we on the Lord's side? That remains to be seen. It is precisely what the days immediately ahead will determine. We have decidedly NOT been on His side these past several decades as we ought to have been.

The apostle Paul exhorts us to “run so as to win”. God will win. Will we? Will He find, when He returns, faith(fulness) on the earth? We decide that.
Hope -- God is always in Control
>> It is easy to lose hope when seeing the growing influence of evil, but we must remember that a fruit of the Spirit is joy! We also read in Psalm 2:4 when the arrogant rise up and shake their fists against God, He laughs. Nothing is a challenge to Him, and He lets evil people rise -- so He can use them as tools.
>> The gay movement won't stop at "marriage." Soon they will be dissatisfied with this and will look for others to desecrate; the church, children, animals, etc. They promise freedom, but are slaves to depravity. Slaves of Satan -- and he doesn't know when to stop.
>> As the world grows darker -- the church will be able to shine brighter. So, it is imperative that we stay with our Lord, and not lose our salitness.
>> God wins! This is our joy and hope. Let's hold tight to His love and truth.
Primary Political Priority
I am disappointed to come across the quote from Rob Scwarzwalder, stating that defending the tax-exempt status of houses of worship, etc., needs to be the first order of business.

No sir! Taxes are everyone's responsibility, especially followers of Christ, who commanded the People of His day to, "Give to Caesar that which belongs to Caesar."

The primary political priority now must be to elect and appoint persons who believe that the Constitution is the rulebook, not merely a jumping off point for legislative, executive, or judicial improvisation.
The Elephant in the Vestibule
Are we, the church, learning anything from the tsunami of lawlessness and depravity that's sweeping our nation? I don't mean, are we devising go-forward strategies to mitigate the effects. Such strategizing is all well and good. What I mean is, have we figured out yet WHY God is judging us?

To hear most of my evangelical friends talk and blog, the answer is no. There's now plenty of open acknowledgement of the culture's accelerating downward slide. But precious little confession of “nos culpae” (our fault) from the church.

Yet the fact is, our own sins are legion and high in the catalog of things most offensive to God. Forgetting that to whom much is given much is required, we've let ourselves be characterized by everything from prayerlessness, to epidemic unconfessed involvement in pornography, to being ashamed of unpopular parts of the Scriptures.

But these sins, and many more, pale in comparison to the signature sin of our generation, the “elephant in the vestibule”, as some call it: namely, 42 years of unutterably abominable persistence in deliberately passing by, apathetically and Pharisee-like, the 58 million children aborted on our watch. We have taken leave of both our senses and our Bibles if we imagine for a moment that this is not, in large measure, what has precipitated God's righteous judgment on us this day.

If we don't learn our lesson and beat a hasty about-face, millions more will suffer unimaginably, for there will be no reason for God's judgment to lift. The about-face must begin with mourning and lamentation for decades of lukewarm Christianity. Then fruits need to be faithfully brought forth in keeping with our newfound repentance.

What Christ said of His own in the 1st Century is eminently applicable today:

“I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.” (Rev 3:15-19)

I'm still waiting for that repentance to happen. But as Neil Young sang, “I'm growing old.”