Gospel and State

To the community of believers, empowered by Gospel of Jesus Christ. An Appeal of Gospel Application in the voting process. Please forgive the length of this letter, it is not my intent to bowl anyone over with words, but any shortening on my part may be misconstrued. For a summation of this letter refer to the last page. Also please forgive any typos in this!

After talking to individuals within our church I have come to understand that there is widespread confusion as to how being faithful to Scripture, through political action, to help encourage city-wide shalom (peace), is attained. In other words I have seen a “disconnect” between how we view God, and how God informs the state, and therefore; how we think and vote in this civic process to attempt to maintain a unity between Scripture and state. Because of this disconnect, we don’t know how to enjoin God’s idea of city-wide shalom and our role in encouraging this through a vote, or whether this is even proper. As an elder of Kaleo it is my responsibility to shepherd you through this thought process and help you make an informed decision come election time. Well, election time is here, in fact it is tomorrow, and I know as a community we are woefully ill informed as to how Scripture and the state are to exist together, and how our role as Gospel practitioners has a voice in that relationship.

There are many issues we can speak to that illustrate the relation of Scripture and state, but the one that has spurred my thinking on this subject is California State Proposition 8, where the term “marriage” seeks a definition. The official ballot description of 8 is:

“Eliminates Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry. Initiative Constitutional Amendment”

* Changes the California Constitution to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry in California.
* Provides that only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California. 1.

How, as Christians committed to God, and committed to city-wide shalom, how are we to view this matter in light of Scripture, and how are we therefore required to vote? I used the term required because there is a requirement in Scripture to be faithful to God and therefore to act (and vote) in accordance. We are to live lives in harmony with God and his commandments, not in contradiction to Him or them; therefore an obligation or requirement is upon us. The obligations that are put before us daily are sometimes hard to see and therefore hard to interpret, and the obligation that we have placed before us is an amendment that seeks a definition of marriage. Let’s look at this issue in a principled way rather than an emotive way or “way of feeling”.

If it’s true, as a people devoted to God and His teachings, we are required to act in accordance with Him and them; then on the face of this amendment, we would be required to vote in support of proposition 8 because God in fact DOES define marriage between a man and woman and not between a man and a man or a woman and a woman. Why is this the case that we would support this measure? Well it’s the case because the state should always seek alignment from Scripture with what it affirms, through this alignment, the state seeks Justice for its people and what is Just is defined by Scripture. When a state no longer seeks alignment from Scripture with what it affirms, it drives a wedge between the Scripture and itself. What I mean by that, is that a state that is healthy ALWAYS seeks to be aligned with what Scripture says in what Scripture affirms and what the state affirms. The state’s interest is the administration of Justice through what it affirms. This authority is given to the state from Scripture. Without the state there would be no mechanism of justice. The church does not exist to promote Justice; it promotes the Gospel, which is grace. But Justice has a place in this life and its place is given to the state. The state, in addition, has an interest in its own life and that is, to promote justice for the sake of the people through what it affirms. So the state’s role it to promote Justice and through that role the state, has to serve its own interests, to perpetuate something greater than itself, that is Justice. It is when the state begins to become an interest unto itself, without regards to Justice, and thus Scripture, then a state has lost its proper authority, affirming that which Scripture, and therefore God, denies.

In seeking Justice, the state therefore affirms or denies decisions by it’s citizens that:

1. Affirms or denies Justice (always seeking alignment with Scripture) and

2. Maintains the perpetuation of the State (not for the sake of its own interests but for the sake of Justice).

The state’s interests are at stake because Justice is at stake. This is why the state got involved with marriage in the first place. The state recognized that affirming marriage between a man and a woman had its own interests at stake which is to encourage procreation in a safe and secure environment where babies are born. The state has an interest to sanction or approve of marriage between man and woman because babies are born and that’s good for the state. The state wants to encourage and affirm marriage between man and a woman, where babies are naturally created, which in turn encourages and promotes solidity and community. This is why the state doesn’t affirm and encourage prostitution, or fornication, divorce, or adultery — it doesn’t affirm its own interests — in fact it destroys its own interests by creating environments that prove destructive to solidity and community, not only to the individuals involved but to the state itself. Therefore the state has an interest in marriage because babies are born in ideally secure environments. BUT even though the state doesn’t affirm fornication, divorce, or adultery, it allows it. In the same way God doesn’t affirm fornication, divorce, or adultery, He allows it. Thus, we as Gospel participants, disavow any theonomic appeals or appeals to a “Christian State” by allowing sin but not affirming sin.

How the state views and defines same-sex marriage therefore should be similar to how it affirms or denies sexual relations outside of marriage, it doesn’t affirm it, but it allows it. The state defines marriage between one man and one woman because it is in the interest of the state. To change the definition becomes superfluous and hints at an agenda at odds with the state’s purpose of Justice by affirming an action it has no direct interest in. The simple reason the state has no compelling interest to affirm or sanction same-sex marriage is because babies are not born. That is the secular reason, i.e. non-theological reason, why the State has no interest and therefore should have no say to the definition of marriage outside of “opposite-sex”. The state has no compelling interest. It can allow all the benefits of “marriage” if society allows it through, wills, powers of attorney, private benefits, and so on, but the state’s interests are not at stake so the state should have no say. Which, by the way, all privileges of a hetero-sex couple can be attained by a same-sex couple through powers of attorney and other legal mechanisms for little to no cost. (Are you a gay couple and you want tax benefits or the authority to make medical decisions for your loved one? Ask me how!)

As a believer in Christ, I am less concerned with the secular reason for the state’s interests, but I am more concerned with the theological reason. We as a citizenry have been given a privilege to vote our conscience and as Christians our conscience should be informed by the Scriptures. It’s been said the Gospel changes everything. Law changes nothing, but the Gospel changes everything including how we cast our votes to inform state law. You see, that is what a vote is, it informs law. And this is what Scripture is to the state, it informs that state as to what are the limits and extent of its authority. We as a voting citizenry, are therefore a part of the administration and application as to how the Gospel informs the state.

The first thing to keep in mind when casting your vote for any person or proposition is that the state’s interest is Justice (Rom 13). And the definition of what is Just or Right or Good is found in Scripture, therefore there is a duty upon the Christian to inform the State in such a way that upholds Scripture and doesn’t deny Scripture. There is an expectation that good government will align with Scripture and bad government can be measured by the degree as to how far off they are in upholding Justice as defined by Scripture. Justice is defined by God as to what He says His Creation was created to be. Any deviation from that Standard is considered unjust. That certainly is the case but caution needs to reign when administering law because as we stated earlier law changes nothing and the Gospel changes everything. This means that the state’s interest in Justice doesn’t extend to prohibitions for the sake of sin, but it HAS to be in the business of affirmations for the sake of the Gospel. What I mean by that is that the state cannot be in the business of prohibiting sin, just because it’s sin, but it should be in the business of affirming what God declared Right; where affirming something is declaring it right and Good. This principle applied can therefore be extended to divorce, it doesn’t affirm divorce but allows it, it doesn’t affirm homosexuality but it allows it. We are granted the “right” to sin but we are not granted the “right” to call sin Right. The just state recognizes this and works within that limitation. In the case of Proposition 8, the State is now declaring Right, not granting “rights”.

This understanding can be applied therefore to proposition 8. A “No” vote on proposition 8 affirms what God denies. God created man and woman to procreate and provided the environment for that procreation by commanding man to protect and provide for the family that would result in the union of man and woman. If we as Christians vote “No” on proposition 8 we are effectively saying that God’s idea of Justice where “rights” flow from is wrong. We are now saying the State can define marriage apart from God’s Justice. We are effectively driving a wedge between the State and Scripture, the very thing we as Christians should be seeking to uphold, a unity between Scripture and the state as surely as we attempt to uphold a unity between Scripture and person, not for the sake of law but for the sake of the Gospel! Let me say it again, “Law changes nothing, the Gospel changes everything.” It is because of the Gospel of Jesus Christ that I am able to love the homosexual by counseling her to remove herself from the grip of homosexuality. And it is through the Gospel as to how she is removed, not by law, but through the Gospel, which informs law by our vote.

How do we, on the one hand, call people out of the homosexual lifestyle, because it is unjust and unloving, and on the other hand vote as if it is just and loving? Or, another way to ask the question is, how do we affirm with our vote what God denies and deny in the church what our vote affirms? The only way we can do that is if we either believe the Gospel shouldn’t inform the state, or “rights” are not defined by God but are defined by the state, or both. The Gospel changes everything; including how we use our vote as a voice to inform the state of what is Right, as in “this is our Right” which is a point of Justice. The only way we know what is “right” is to first look to God who defines that right and then administer that right through our vote. God very clearly disallows homosexuality and calls it an abomination to Him. This is not a “right”; far from it, it is a practice that destroys community by its very biology. Casting a “No” vote on Proposition 8 is a hammer blow that continues the wedge between Scripture and state and a wedge between the Gospel and person. I pray that none of Kaleo’s hands are on that hammer. We as believers can love the homosexual community, we can celebrate the Gospel with the homosexual community, we can eat and drink with the homosexual community but when a man asks us if it is his “right” to marry another man surely we would counsel against this because we love them and want the best for them. If we can’t affirm with our voice what God denies, how then can we affirm with our vote what God denies?

In Sum, while the state has no authority to outlaw sin, that does not hinder it’s own interests, it also has no authority in sanctioning or affirming what God has declared wrong, and that is what a “No” vote on Proposition 8 does, it declares Right what God declares Wrong; hindering the Gospel by setting itself up as the Standard for Right and Wrong.

Your servant,
Tom

(2 Cor 10:5)

1 comment for “Gospel and State

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *