TWO POSTS AT “THE LIFE PROJECT”

branches of governmentDon Merritt is steadily working his way through the Book of Romans. Recently, he realized a lack of “planning.”

Obviously I haven’t planned very well, for we have arrived at these verses at a moment in time where many of us don’t really want to hear this, at least many of us in the US. Like many of you, I am not terribly pleased with my government right now; I am looking forward to the next election, and I’ll just leave it at that. (from here)

‘s problem post is Lesson 4: Dealing with Government, and the subject is Romans 13:1-5. In that passage, the Apostle Paul says we should be subject to the governing authorities. Of course, preaching on that passage just after the Supreme Court’s decision on same-sex “marriage” is decidedly unpleasant.

Of course, one thing just had to lead to the other. Nevertheless, instead of writing his own post,   chose a reblog for his following post, Rabyd Opinion – A Little Rational Perspective on Gay Marriage for Christians (original post is here). Since it is excellent, I can see why  reblogged Rabyd’s post. I have just one minor point of disagreement. That’s with Rabyd’s second point.

2) The Bible condemns homosexuality, not homosexual marriage specifically.  We are acting like now that the state has to acknowledge the marriages of homosexuals that it has elevated homosexuality to some greater level.  Such is not the case.  The Bible simple say the existence of homosexuality is enough.  Marriage in this issue is not relevant. (from here)

From a Biblical perspective, same sex “marriage” may not be an issue; however, as a practical matter, same sex “marriage” is a big issue. Why? Here are two major reasons.

  • When government licenses same-sex “marriage,” government signals its approval of homosexuality. Because many people already have this foolish tendency to approve of anything that isn’t against the law, that makes the government’s outright approval disastrous.
  • When they achieved the “right” of same-sex “marriage,” homosexual rights advocates and their many allies set the stage for an assault on Christianity. How far will this assault go? God only knows.

So what about Romans 13:1-5? When we read the Apostle Paul’s words, they can be quite confusing. When I wrote my take on the Christian’s obligation to be obedient to government (see WHAT IS SPEAKING TRUTH TO POWER?), I did not claim to have a complete answer, and I still don’t. However, based upon history what the Bible says, I think these three observations relevant.

  • Our first loyalty is to God. When the authorities insist we must do something in disobedience to God, we must refuse.
  • Even a bad government is better than no government at all. Therefore, if we cannot replace a bad government with something better, it is sinful to rebel against the government. Note that although early Christians did not always obey their Roman rulers, they did not rebel. They simply chose to obey God first.
  • The legitimate government is that government that has the support of the people. That’s why our Declaration of Independence is a moral document. King George had lost all legitimacy. Yet because we are our own worst enemy, we sometimes choose awful people to lead us. When the happens, we must remember the reason. Instead of trying to virtuous — as God wants us to be — we have chosen to do what seems right in our own eyes.

52 thoughts on “TWO POSTS AT “THE LIFE PROJECT”

  1. RE your last sentence, true enough, at least as it applies to the New Testament. What does that have to do with the basis for this claim of yours that Obergefell is going to be the platform from which there will be an assault on Christianity?

    You have a strong and repeated tendency to retreat into clouds of 1st person plural bromides and commonplaces, Tom.

    Scout

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  2. Yes – my comments were directed to things you said. They strike me as having virtually no links to the real world. The “gist of it” remains very obscure and your last comment certainly doesn’t provide any illumination. The worth of my assessment is probably best judged by people other than you, Tom. It is your post and comments that I was addressing. You may not be particularly objective in your judgments of my comments. I think you’ve developed an almost Pavlovian, reflexively oppositional stance to virtually everything I offer here.

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    1. @scout

      What you are illustrating is the point I tried make here => https://citizentom.com/2015/06/30/two-posts-at-the-life-project/#comment-65209.

      When we insist upon seeing things only from our own point of view, our pride blinds us to the simple fact we cannot see very much. That is why the Bible is so important. The Bible helps us to understand our sinful nature, especially the danger posed by our pride. The Bible shows us the importance of love, of thinking of we instead of just I. And the Bible shows just how much God loves us.

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  3. To be sure, Tom, China does some really offensive things. And I think I already went on record with you as saying that it strikes me as a criminal offense if an adult “transgenders” a child. But my assessment is that religions generally are extremely well-protected in this country, and that Christianity, by dint of its strong dominance in the population for most of our history, probably is in a more favored position in this country than perhaps anywhere in the world outside Vatican City. It trivializes the real problems Christians face in other countries to act as though there is some sort of massive “assault” on Christianity in this country and makes people who run around like Chicken Little fretting about this look absolutely silly. As a Christian, I’m always concerned that people viewing this sort of irrational behavior may think we are all a bunch of ninnies.

    Scout

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    1. @scout

      Have you seriously considered anything Keith or I have said? Obviously not, but here is the gist of it. With your studied ignorance, what is your assessment worth? Zilch!

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  4. I know I can count on you to give me a holler, Tom, when the Government starts forcing people into same sex relationships or forces “trans-gendering”. I’m far more worried about dinosaurs escaping from Jurassic Park, frankly. That’s a much more likely event.

    If you’re that worried about imaginary issues, how do you ever manage to get through a day of real world concerns?

    Scout

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    1. I have to prove to a Christian the depravity of humanity? Don’t you know why WE need a savior?

      THINK!

      Given all the things governments have done, why do I have to prove governments are capable of doing any evil?

      At the same time you deride imaginary concerns of others, you defend the officialization of same same “marriages.” Same sex “marriage” is real?
      🙄

      Government already covers abortions, and just because some people find babies inconvenient, we have over a million abortions every year.

      We can already show examples of children being transgendered, but you blew that off. We have examples of people trying to get their transgender operations paid for with tax dollars, yet in the interest of “realism,” it seems you will most heroically contrive to be ignorant.

      Consider that China forces its own people to have abortions. How unlikely is that our social engineers will dream up something more “kind” and forward thinking here? “Sure, you can have more than one child, but if you have more than one, you just have to have the boys turned into girls. Boys are just too much trouble.”

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  5. If the government starts forcing people to enter into single sex marriages, Tom, then I will make common cause with you in opposing that. I don’t think we are anywhere near that. It seems to me the correct Christian response to the legalization of civil same sex marriages is to avoid entering into one. I see no reason to believe that a Christian could not refuse, as a matter of conscience, to marry another of the same sex. And, Keith, you’re quite right, I regard recent media and blog world bayings about “assaults on Christianity” in the US to be utter hokum. There are a lot of places in the world where Christians (and other religions, depending on the region) are under very real, daily threats to life and liberty. We do very well, however, in this country and are extremely well protected by our Constitution.

    Scout

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    1. @scout

      Look where you have chosen to stand. Are you standing on the bedrock of principles or the sands of moral relativism? I see you standing upon sand. Therefore, if it looks like the government can and will start forcing people into same-sex sexual relationships, I fully expect you to shift your tent to another place in the sand. To where exactly? Well, just to show yourself how reasonable you are you could offer to make common cause with Conservatives if the government forces people to be transgendered (in the interest of population control, perhaps).

      Would you follow through? Would you show some fight at that point? Perhaps. After all, being transgendered is personal, and if you were one of the people chosen to be transgendered, that would be personal, but for all I know, you may have already had yourself transgendered.

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  6. I always find you a little spooky, Tom, when you get all plural on us. Who is this “we” you’re always talking about? You may want to see someone about that.

    In this thread, the issue that prompted your Romans response was my question as to why you see Obergefell as setting the stage for an “assault on Christianity”. Your response was a non-response. If there were indeed such a danger out there, as a Christian, I would be very concerned. However, because the Court’s decision does not address (and, under our Constitution, could not possible address) religious rites, I feel pretty durn confident that nothing changes in Christian doctrine because of that decision and that your fears are overblown, either because you haven’t thought through the reality of the situation, or because you are, by nature, a fearful person who has an inclination to see everything as a “threat” or attack on your views. We aren’t discussing differing views of the Bible, we are discussing differing views of the impact of the Obergefell decision.

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    1. @scout

      We have debated long enough I know you will not address the substance of the issue. Nature says marriage is between a man and a woman. The Bible says homosexuality is wrong, a sick delusion. Thousands of years have shown us homosexuality is just plain unhealthy. The evidence before our eyes shows us that homosexuals seek public approval for their sins, and since the legislatures have said no, they are abusing the court system.

      So what is your response? It is the “perfect” Liberal response. Instead of refuting the message, you attack the messenger. Thanks for the illustration.

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      1. Actually, *scout is a rare commodity. He is perhaps the single person in the United State unaware of the current attack on Christianity here. Most of his fellow progressives have joined in the attack, religious conservatives are feeling it, non-religious conservatives are annoyed by it … but *scout isn’t even tracking on it despite all the legal cases in the news, the death threats, the hostile pronouncements by politicians and courts at multiple levels, the societal treatment in materials ranging from school textbooks to movies and cartoons (from whence America’s education seems to really derive).

        I can hear his rationale: He doesn’t want to destroy Christianity, and probably his spouse doesn’t either, so what are you even talking about?

        The laser-focused, studious unawareness that *scout professes is … unique.

        ===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

        Liked by 1 person

    2. @ *scout, who wrote:

      In this thread, the issue that prompted your Romans response was my question as to why you see Obergefell as setting the stage for an “assault on Christianity”. Your response was a non-response. If there were indeed such a danger out there, as a Christian, I would be very concerned.

      Good for you. Let’s try a simple question. As usual, the response requested should begin with one of Yes/No/Don’t know and then you can expand as you feel it necessary to do so.

      Are you aware of current legal attacks upon Christians in the United States for choosing not to participate in, or provide service for, certain rituals based upon religious beliefs? Again, please start with Yes/No/Don’t know.

      ===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Keith

        Putting the witness on the stand? That is a great question, but trying to get scout to answer the answers he should answer is about as difficult as President Obama to answer the questions he should be answering.

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      2. Yes, Keith, I am aware that there have been a few cases of merchants being cited for refusing service to customers in situations where the merchants offer as a defense to their refusals a religious justification. I am also aware of cases of that sort brought against Muslims for refusing service to non-Muslims because of professed religious concerns. We’ll see how these play out. It strikes me that most of these are self-regulating in that no one in his right mind would want to buy a consumable product from someone who loathes him. I have said, however, that the Oregon situation needs close scrutiny in that news accounts indicate that the refused consumers appear to get some sort of monetary award. That seems to invite ambushes and provocations. It would be far better if the remedy were simply penalties.

        But, returning to the larger issue, the mind of man is almost infinitely creative in dreaming up religious justifications for abysmal behavior. If the context is truly a religious rite, one has to pretty much accept whatever cockamamie (or valid) reason the religion puts forward as justification for the taboo that is being observed. Here, however, we are not talking about religious rites, but commercial transactions. The difference is significant.

        My point remains this – selling merchandise is not a religious activity (unless perhaps the merchant is the church itself – for example, selling indulgences might be a religious activity even though imbued with commercial overtones, but it is not a present real world issue, thank God). You are old enough, as am I, to remember why we have laws at the federal, state and local level requiring merchants to provide service to customers indiscriminately. In the 1950s and 60s, merchants refused food and accommodations to African Americans. Many of those merchants invoked associational or religious justifications for refusing that service. Similarly, some states, including the one in which I live, refused interracial couples access to civil marriage licenses.

        I don’t see a substantive difference between refusing cake to a homosexual purchaser and refusing a cup of coffee to an African American in a context where each refusing merchant bases his refusal on religious grounds. I, of course, would oppose any effort to require a church whose doctrine forbids same sex marriage to perform a same sex marriage. That is not a real world issue, however, is it?

        Scout

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        1. Surprise! Surprise! Keith got an answer.

          I would observe that of necessity same sex “marriage” is also self regulating. No government involvement is required.

          What is the point of demanding that politicians force businesses to serve customers they don’t want? The government loses potential tax revenue? Yet the problem is real enough. Yet here you are okaying the whole idea, moderately, of course.

          Some people try to make every moment an act of worship. When Christians walk with God, they give their lives to God. Near the end of his life, the Apostle Paul put it this way.

          2 Timothy 4:6-8 New King James Version (NKJV)

          6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.

          With respect to work, one of our presidents observed.

          I agree that the measure of success is not merchandise but character. But I do criticize those sentiments, held in too many respectable quarters, that our economic system is fundamentally wrong, that commerce is only selfishness, and that our citizens, holding the hope of all that America means, are living in industrial slavery. I appeal to Amherst men to reiterate and sustain the Amherst doctrine, that the man who builds a factory builds a temple, that the man who works there worships there, and to each is due, not scorn or blame, but reverence and praise. — Calvin Coolidge (from his second speech to the Amherst Alumni Association in 1916)

          If someone cannot serve us in good conscience, we have no right to demand their service. And Frankly, that includes the original excuse for these sort of laws. Even though it was wrong for businesses to refuse to serve blacks, it never should have been illegal. Public abhorrence and loss revenue was sufficient to fix the problem.

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        2. @ *scout: You seem to be having your own private family reunion of moral relatives. You wrote:

          Yes, Keith, I am aware that there have been a few cases of merchants being cited for refusing service to customers in situations where the merchants offer as a defense to their refusals a religious justification.

          Note the coy language here. You are not even willing to accept for the purposes of this conversation that they actually have religious objections, merely that they “offer” them “as a defense.” You distrust them. Of course; they’re Christians — the same folks you tend to sneer at here.

          I am also aware of cases of that sort brought against Muslims for refusing service to non-Muslims because of professed religious concerns. We’ll see how these play out.

          There is one category of these, which is backed by additional laws and regulations for safety reasons, and yet the Muslims generally suffer no consequences: Guide dogs. Muslim taxi drivers generally refuse to carry guide dogs, and have been doing so despite laws guaranteeing the dogs’ access for many years.

          One Muslim did do 120 days of jail time — but it was because he broke the blind girl’s wrist throwing her out of the car.

          CAIR has been quick to defend these drivers. And the taxi companies generally ignore complaints, even when television exposés have been done.

          It strikes me that most of these are self-regulating in that no one in his right mind would want to buy a consumable product from someone who loathes him.

          A blind person does not have much choice in the matter, particularly when most or all of the drivers are Muslim as is true in some locales. Usually, they just drive past and leave the passenger waiting for hours.

          I have said, however, that the Oregon situation needs close scrutiny in that news accounts indicate that the refused consumers appear to get some sort of monetary award.

          By “Oregon,” you must mean the cases now underway in many states, the legislation offered in state legislatures across the country, and the proposed IRS regulatory changes to remove non-profit status from any church who voices lack of acceptance of same-sex weddings regardless of whether they perform weddings or note.

          What you downplay as “being cited,” as if it were a traffic ticket, is in fact their lives and livelihoods being destroyed, and them being made pariahs in society with the willing help of government and the media. You sound for all the world as if this is new to you — though you seemed to have some “but not just Christians!” defense all lined up.

          There are myriad public access policies having to do with guide dogs for straightforward reasons. What cases are you aware of where a non-Muslim customer was refused service at a storefront by a Muslim for religious reasons, and was successfully sued for this?

          That seems to invite ambushes and provocations. It would be far better if the remedy were simply penalties.

          What do you think the appropriate penalty is for the exercise of religious freedom. Is $135,000 about right in your mind?

          But, returning to the larger issue, the mind of man is almost infinitely creative in dreaming up religious justifications for abysmal behavior. If the context is truly a religious rite, one has to pretty much accept whatever cockamamie (or valid) reason the religion puts forward as justification for the taboo that is being observed.

          This is why we have, for example Sikhs carrying ceremonial daggers in federal facilities where all other persons are required to be disarmed. All just justifications seem to be treated seriously … except for those of Christians, of course.

          Nevertheless, courts have for many decades ruled upon the validity of religious objections; “cockamamie” notions do not fly. Your attempted defense here is ludicrous.

          Here, however, we are not talking about religious rites, but commercial transactions.

          Ah, a commercial transaction regarding providing service for a religiously connected service and specifically in opposition to the providers’ own religion.

          The difference is significant.

          No, it is not. Compelling a person to an act he finds abhorrent is not remedied by having him get paid for it.

          My point remains this – selling merchandise is not a religious activity

          No? One should be required and compelled to support activities one finds morally objectionable for religious reasons?

          (unless perhaps the merchant is the church itself – for example, selling indulgences might be a religious activity even though imbued with commercial overtones, but it is not a present real world issue, thank God).

          A bit of your disdain for Christianity peeking out. No surprise here.

          You are old enough, as am I, to remember why we have laws at the federal, state and local level requiring merchants to provide service to customers indiscriminately.

          And now, laws preventing any discrimination against people who think they are the wrong gender. These laws cover (as of 2013) more than 50% of the transgender population, and have steadily increased since.

          In the 1950s and 60s, merchants refused food and accommodations to African Americans. Many of those merchants invoked associational or religious justifications for refusing that service.

          The “associational” aspect would be hard to bring in court. And I’d wager that very few indeed invoked religion as a justification.

          Similarly, some states, including the one in which I live, refused interracial couples access to civil marriage licenses.

          This, however, is quite different. This is a government entity operating in defiance of the 14th Amendment. Such is the legacy of the Democrat party; were this a fair world, they’d be talking about banning that party rather than just one of their flags.

          As an aside, when South Carolina hoisted the Confederate Army Battle Standard in 1961, they had not had a Republican legislator in sixty years.

          I don’t see a substantive difference between refusing cake to a homosexual purchaser and refusing a cup of coffee to an African American in a context where each refusing merchant bases his refusal on religious grounds.

          Nor do I, except for the fact that the latter would be nearly impossible to defend — unless, of course, the refuser is a Muslim … in which case it would be no problem.

          I, of course, would oppose any effort to require a church whose doctrine forbids same sex marriage to perform a same sex marriage.

          Your phrasing is odd. You are pretending that there is not already a massive, multi-state regulatory move underway to do exactly this. The most commonly suggested technique is to strike their tax exemption or non-profit certification of they preach anything against same-sex marriage.

          That is not a real world issue, however, is it?

          The fact that you affect such astounding ignorance of real-world issues has always struck me as a very poor argumentative technique. But you don’t seem to have many others at your disposal.

          It is worth noting that these cases are not about refusing service to customers per se; famously, Memories Pizza had no problem serving pizza to homosexuals. It was the specific hypothetical posed to them — catering a homosexual wedding — that they declined, earning them death threats, protests, and lawsuits. These instances, wedding photography, cakes, et cetera are all about participating in/providing specific support for homosexual ceremonies, not just selling items off their shelves to customers.

          Just in case you are actually, this time, as exquisitely uninformed as you continually pretend to be, you can examine recent news using phrases like “tax exemption” and “same-sex” to see what turns up. Many of the 129,000 hits I just got are framing the discussion in terms of the Supreme Court ruling that you have been denying could have any effect.

          ===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

          Liked by 1 person

  7. The Bible requires no defense. The problem usually arises with people quoting it without proper context. When I defend Scripture, it usually is because someone has contorted its meaning from the original context or even original language and tried to apply it to a situation that the original did not contemplate.

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    1. Because our pride, we expect everyone to see things our own way. With experience we learn that does not happen, but we still try to persuade people. That is because every now and then we experience a bit of success, and that success urges us on. Thus, we gain more experience with the knowledge that everyone does not want to see things our way.

      So it is that more and more I measure my success differently these days. Instead of trying to get other people to see things my way, I try to see things as they are, as God sees them. That task is, of course, beyond me, but there is no better way to see things. Therefore, instead of trying to get others to see things my way, I am more inclined to persuade people to read the Bible.

      Since you say you have read Romans, it seems no such persuasion is necessary. That raise a question. What is left to discuss? We can discuss our differing perspectives on the Bible. What is there to learn from that? We can learn humility. We can begin to understand the true extent of our fallen nature.

      Can we both be right? That does not seem likely. So what does our difference in opinion prove? Even when the plain truth stands before us, so long as God allows us a free will, we will choose to believe what we wish to believe.

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  8. I think I explained my view that licensing is not a sign of government approval and used, for example, the issuance of licenses for liquor sales, young minors driving and for carrying hidden firearms. There are a lot of activities (perhaps too many, in some people’s opinions) that we choose to have our governments at different levels license or regulate, not because we “approve” of them, but because there is deemed to be some need for recordation or substantive regulation. So I think I fairly addressed the “approval” issue and have not seen your response to that.

    As for the Romans passage, you trotted it out in response to my question up the thread as to how you saw the Obergefell decision as “setting the stage for an assault on Christianity” by “homosexual rights advocates and their many allies” The passage clearly conveys, as I previously acknowledged, St. Paul’s disapproval of homosexual acts, but doesn’t say that state marriages will provide some sort of blueprint for assaulting the Christian faith. In fact, it seems more obvious that he is distinguishing early adherents to the Christian faith from non-Christians of the day and their practices (one suspects there may be an issue with non-intact manuscripts as the narrative transitions from the verses preceding verse 18 to those that follow – it’s not clear who the “they” are in the passage).

    Because the Court’s decision was limited to state licensing actions and does not (and cannot possibly, given the protections of the First Amendment) address religious marriages, I remain puzzled as to why you think that it would in any way provide a platform for an “assault on Christianity.”

    Romans is an amazing book – of seven likely authentically Pauline writings, I think it is perhaps the one with the most theological meat on its bones. It was written at the height of Paul’s mission. But it doesn’t explain how Obergefell will lead to an assault on Christianity. Perhaps you had something else in mind. If so, I would be interested to hear about it.

    Scout

    Like

    1. I think the Bible can defend itself better than I can defend it.

      As it is, you remind me of someone who thinks abortion is murder, but thinks it perfectly appropriate to pay taxes that are used to fund abortions. After all, a woman has a “right” to choose.

      Like

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