Tuesday, August 4, 2015
Letter to the Editor: A Third View on the Supreme Court's Redefinition of Marriage
Recently, there have been many letters written in about the Supreme Court’s decision to redefine marriage in our local newspaper. I hope to offer a third view in a open letter format that I decided to submit here on my blog instead of in the paper due to length.
Respectfully, the constitutional question seems to be decided for now. Speaking as an laymen, in order to turn over the recent contentious ruling, the Supreme Court would have to change its mind (unlikely, Google “stare decisis”) or a national constitutional amendment would have to define what marriage is and is not. The question is there political will to do so? This would partly hinge on a rational compassionate case for a certain definition that is compelling, cogent, and concise, especially at the university level. This is where future lawyers and judges will be trained. They have to be convinced one way or the other to set future judicial precedent.
Next, another constitutional issue will be monogamy. This will likely unite, at least some, advocates on both sides of the recent decision. Polygamy and the like have not been unheard of in our nation’s history. Supporters of it will likely test the judicial waters sooner rather than later.
Constitutional issues to the side, there have been some letters written about how our country is the next “Sodom and Gomorrah.” Moreover, about how our country is abandoning our biblical values and other, after a quick glance at Facebook, comments against these biblical value statements and so on. From here on out, I speak more from a professional, though limited, point of view.
Scripture is not as straight forward as we would like to admit. About salvation, yes, any learned or unlearned man can understand the salvific statements (i.e. Romans 10:8-10) in the Old and New Testaments. This is called by scholarship the “perspicuity of Scripture.” Certain other Scriptures, beyond salvific ones, can be understood through careful laymen study. However, other statements in Scripture are not as clear.
Can we clearly label our recent situation with the Sodom and Gomorrah one? No, I think this stretches the text, because that conclusion is based on a text that cannot clearly be paralleled to our day. Granted, Sodom and Gomorrah’s sin was serious (Genesis 18:20) and sexual in nature (Genesis 19:4-8). However, for anyone to conclusively say America is heading down the same path in not using humble interpretation. An Old Testament true historical story that nations or regions are held accountable by God, yes, but, for fallible humans to make the theodicy umpire call of when and when not divine judgment has been or will be rendered? No, for this is to paradoxical – namely, beyond out knowable field of vision.
A more direct text about government and following what it says can be drawn from Romans 13:1-6 where Paul says to obey the Roman government (clearly not Christian). Hence, in our day, we should obey just laws set forth by federal, state, and local authorities. However, before he gets around to this, he says there is another type of morality that is written on our hearts (Romans 2:14-15) though this moral code should not be, when striving to interpret it correctly and soundly, contrary to Scripture (2 Tim 3:16-17). Many will follow this moral call, hopefully in a civil manner.
Can we clearly and humbly show that redefinition of marriage and same-sex sexual acts (not orientation) is sinful on equal par with heterosexual (Matt 5:28) ones? Yes, through careful study, I think we can (Romans 1:26-27, 1 Cor 6:9). Robert Gagnon’s hermeneutical (science of interpretation) study is pretty conclusive that the Old and New Testament should be interpreted in the traditional sense. Can we say, in light of recent events, that biblical values are being undermined to the point of for sure divine judgment similar to Sodom and Gomorrah? Respectfully, I think that is committing what NT scholar Mike Licona calls a “hermeneutical water boarding” to the text. Namely, making the Bible say (many with pure intentions) what we want it too, instead of striving for an objective meaning by looking at the historical background, grammatical structure, and so on (Google “exegesis”). It may make your head hurt, but it’s worth it in the long run to do justice to the loving eternal truths that Scripture has to offer for all of us.
Posted by Jonathan Hanna at 10:03 AM