LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Court deliberations over the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8 carry remarkable weight in the culture. The question is, “How should the church respond?”
“The outcome of the institution of marriage in American culture has to do with more than just this case,” R. Albert Mohler Jr. said in a Prop 8 panel discussion at Southern Baptist Thelogical Seminary. “Proposition 8 has become a symbol of the conversation into which we are all now drawn.”
But Mohler, president of the seminary, noted, “The fate of marriage in the church, that’s a topic of ongoing conversation of even greater urgency.”
Joining Mohler in the discussion were Russell D. Moore, senior vice president for academic administration, dean of the school of theology and professor of Christian theology and ethics at Southern Seminary; Barrett Duke, vice president for public policy and research and director of the Research Institute for the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention; and Eric Bancroft, senior pastor at Castleview Baptist Church in Indianapolis.
A video of the panel’s discussion of “Marriage in a Post Prop. 8 Culture” can be accessed at the SBTS Resources webpage, www.sbts.edu/resources.
People on both sides of the national debate must clarify their understanding of marriage, Moore said in the discussion held at Southern’s campus in Louisville, Ky., in mid-September.
“It’s not just that we oppose same-sex marriage; we don’t believe it exists,” Moore said. He continued, “The problem is not just one of biblical morality, but it is also one of love of neighbor. Our neighbors who want to be married in these same-sex unions are not going to find what they’re looking for. So [there are] those who are thinking we’re going to find love, we’re going to find fidelity, we’re going to find this lifelong union that is going to be exactly the same as a union between a man and a woman [when] it doesn’t exist; this isn’t a marriage, which means, out of love for neighbor and out of concern for the Gospel, we have to spend a lot more time defining what marriage means.”
Duke noted how the cultural discussion buffeting Prop 8 affects the church on practically every level.
“We’re looking at a movement toward public policy that would declare that people who believe the biblical teaching about homosexuality are bigots. That will affect how the entire rest of the culture perceives the church,” Duke explained.
Bancroft highlighted a pastoral and evangelistic concern for how local churches deal with those from the homosexual community.
“Not only does a church need to understand marriage in the context of culture but in the context of creation. They also need to understand marriage in the context of the Gospel,” Bancroft said. “Therefore, you have people in the local church who need to understand that their position on marriage is more than where they are politically; it’s where they are biblically, not just as to the union between a man and a woman, but also as to how that union is accurately or inaccurately pointing to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Josh Hayes is director of news and information at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.