In 1 Corinthians 10, Paul devotes ample space to the discussion of whether Christians should partake in ceremonies they believe to be sinful. His verdict? They shouldn’t. Unfortunately for Kirsten Powers and Jonathan Merritt, that passage appears to be missing from their Bibles.
Powers and Merritt’s Sunday column on same-sex marriage (“Conservative Christians Selectively Apply Biblical Teachings in the Same-Sex Marriage Debate“) is a masterpiece of Biblical ignorance wrapped with a sturdy veneer of rhetorical sleight of hand. Powers/Merritt are clearly entitled to their own political beliefs, but they are not at all entitled to claim that the Bible somehow demands affirmation of sin from faithful Christians. The age-old game of “Did God really say ______?” (Genesis 3:1) has never turned out well for humanity.
It doesn’t take long for their column to go off the rails, as the title itself acts as a powerful indictment of their own supposedly Biblical arguments. Nowhere in the Bible can you find an affirmation for same-sex marriage or same-sex sexual relations. Marriage is defined as an institution between one man and one woman (Genesis 2:24), and that very definition is later affirmed by Christ (Matthew 19:4-12). Before the Powers/Merritt argument can even get off the ground, it must first “selectively apply biblical teachings” regarding the very definition of marriage — one that is given to us as part of the creation story and again explicitly affirmed by Christ.
With that incredibly important point out of the way, let us turn to the three main arguments furthered by Powers/Merritt.
Society Cannot Cleanse My Conscience
Their first assertion relies on a clever (yet obvious) rhetorical dodge regarding conscience protections:
Many on the left and right can agree that nobody should be unnecessarily forced to violate their conscience. But in order to violate a Christian’s conscience, the government would have to force them to affirm something in which they don’t believe. This is why the first line of analysis here has to be whether society really believes that baking a wedding cake or arranging flowers or taking pictures (or providing any other service) is an affirmation. This case simply has not been made, nor can it be, because it defies logic.
Although they attempt to set up the paragraph with an affirmation that no individual should be forced to violate his or her conscience, they immediately segue to a discussion of who determines when a conscience has been violated. Is it up to me to determine that my conscience has been violated? Not according to them. Powers and Merritt write that “the first line of analysis here has to be whether society believes” that my conscience has been violated. If you want to know if an individual’s conscience has been violated, would it not be easier to ask the individual, rather than asking “society”?
While Powers/Merritt may certainly envy the power to determine whose conscience is clean and whose isn’t, that power thankfully does not belong to either of them:
I speak the truth in Christ–I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit (Romans 9:1).
So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God (Romans 14:12).
Would Powers and Merritt, under the guise of Biblical Christianity, seek to deny faithful Christians the right to conform their thoughts and actions to the Holy Spirit, and instead force them, via the threat of government force, to conform to the whims of society? I hope not, but that appears to be what they are endorsing.
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