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SUPPLEMENTAL ARTICLE: Same-sex relationships and the law: A response to Brian Edgar

 

by Roger Birch

Introduction

There has been increasing concern from a number of evangelical Christians both within the ACT and also from other states about the Australian Christian Lobby’s (ACL) position which was to promote the introduction of a same-sex register not only within the ACT but potentially in other parts of Australia as well. Andrew Lansdown has written an excellent critique of the ACL’s position in the June/July edition of Life News1 which highlights many weaknesses in the ACL’s own logic. Lansdown’s paper is highly recommended for anyone having concern with the ACL’s position or even those who might have accepted the ACL stance to see just how potentially dangerous it can be and where it might lead.

The major difficulty created by the ACL stance is that their position is primarily looking for political compromise as a means of dealing with the same-sex problem but in the process has created a theological compromise by failing to address basic issues surrounding the homosexual lifestyle.

Andrew Lansdown’s paper suggests that the ACL has been stung by the criticism of their position from a number of evangelicals who are concerned about its theological implications and a paper has subsequently been produced by Brian Edgar from the Australian Evangelical Alliance entitled “Same-Sex relationships and the Law” which would appear to have been written to provide theological support for the ACL’s stance. Edgar’s paper purports to discuss the “Biblical, social and legal aspects of the debate.”

This response has been produced as a critique of Brian Edgar’s paper and the context just outlined is believed to be both important and relevant to that critique even if Edgar’s paper was written independently of the ACL.

Overview of Edgar’s paper

Edgar’s paper attempts to provide the theological justification for a same-sex register that many evangelicals have been requesting, but the paper, possibly inadvertently, acknowledges the dilemma involved when it admits that although financial justice can be achieved for same-sex couples through modifying existing legislation, “there is no doubt that there will be continuing debate especially about family and child related issues.”2

As this response will attempt to demonstrate, Edgar’s paper fails to address this dilemma and does not adequately deal with the issues created by it. Although the paper claims to discuss biblical aspects, its focus is almost entirely on the social aspects of the debate and so if the paper was produced to support the ACL stand, those evangelicals hoping to find the requested biblical justification will be sadly disappointed.

The problems with Edgar’s paper can therefore be summarised as follows:

  • The almost total absence of Scriptural references3 supporting the register position;
  • The distorted view of justice which fails to take into account the fact that the Greek word from which it comes can also be translated ‘righteous’;
  • The focus is more on a liberal social justice platform than an evangelical position which normally upholds biblical principles;
  • The use of liberal terminology which could virtually have been taken from the humanists’ manual;
  • The absence of key options such as the power of God to transform lives;
  • The absence of any discussion on crucial issues relating to the breakdown of these same-sex relationships and adoption issues;
  • The absence of any critical analysis of what other legal options could be considered; and, crucially
  • An apparent lack of understanding of the true origins of marriage together with a dismissal of concerns that this proposal can lead to further pressure on marriage, i.e. a lack of understanding of the real motives of those promoting this whole concept.

At a recent meeting of the Victorian Christian Legal Society, a visiting speaker from England, Roger Winter-Smith4, a pastor who has also been involved part-time in legal matters, delivered a talk the basic message of which was “Is the Church on its last chance?” He criticised the evangelical church for not telling the truth and claimed we had to tell the truth about who God is and also who Jesus is.

In her book Londonistan, Melanie Phillips states:

In Britain […] the Church of England has been in the forefront of the retreat from the Judeo-Christian heritage. At every stage it has sought to appease the forces of secularism, accommodating itself to family breakdown, seeking to be nonjudgmental and embracing multiculturalism. […] A church that can no longer distinguish the truth from a lie no longer believes that its own message is true.5

The question for evangelicals here in Australia is whether we do still believe our message is true or whether we, like the church in England mentioned above, are going to follow the liberal road and try to appease those trying to destroy our Christian heritage and value system. There may be the reality that certain ungodly laws have already been enacted, but that does not mean we have to agree with them or assume they are the starting point for any further proposals.

Specific Concerns

1.The use of the term ‘justice’

The English words ‘justice’ and ‘righteous’ come from the same Greek root, namely dikai-. Since these are quite different words in English, but the same in the Greek, there is a need to look at what justice means in a New Testament setting rather than from a secular perspective. Edgar’s paper appears to have taken the latter approach and, as such, has missed a crucial aspect of what is involved in justice.

Quotes from three theologians will help highlight this omission:

a.Millard J. Erickson

In addressing the goodness of God, Erickson deals with a potential tension, or polarity, between love and justice. What he says is, “Love in the biblical sense, then, is not merely to indulge someone near at hand. Rather, it inherently involves justice as well. This means that there will be a concern for the ultimate welfare of all mankind, a passion to do what is right, and enforcement of appropriate consequences for wrong action.” 6 (emphasis added).

b.Wayne Grudem

Grudem confirms that righteousness and justice come from the same word group in Greek (and Hebrew) and claims God’s righteousness means “God always acts in accordance with what is right and is himself the final standard of what is right.” He then defines ‘right’ as being “whatever conforms to God’s moral character.”7

c.George Eldon Ladd

Ladd states that “Righteousness is the standard God has decreed for human conduct” and “Righteousness means upholding the norms of right conduct – the acquittal of the innocent and the condemnation of the guilty.”8

In looking at the problems in the evangelical approach to ethics, Daryl Charles asserts that when there is a polarity, such as between law and grace, “Any construal that negates or effectively cancels one side does irreparable harm to our theology and our ethics.”9 He goes on to add that “the term justice is perhaps one of the most prostituted words of the English language as we enter the twenty-first century. In the United States every conceivable minority or political-interest group locates its interests in the nebulous, albeit all-encompassing, authority of ‘social justice’”. Further, “its [justice’s] purportedly objective points of reference are illusory” and “the definition of justice is subject to the whims of whoever invokes it.”10

The best way for evangelicals to avoid prostituting the term justice and avoiding doing irreparable harm to our theology and ethics is to use the biblical understanding of the word. As seen above, the basic meaning involves righteousness. If any concept of wrong-doing is removed from our argument in relation to homosexuality (as is implied by Edgar in his apparent rejection of a biblical condemnation of a homosexual lifestyle11), then one side of the polarity has been ignored.

In his summary statement on page 1, Edgar claims “A Christian consideration […] supports […] the necessity to act justly for all, irrespective of their beliefs.” As seen from the above, this in not a correct biblical perspective of justice and thus negates much of the rest of his paper. His summary point is taken from page 3 where he lists “Two significant facts” but both of these contain either the implication or the direct claim that there are “many” Christians, presumably including himself, who believe that same-sex relationships are acceptable12. It is for this very reason that a number of evangelicals around the country who do take a more biblical position are concerned with this push for same-sex registers!

Returning to the summary statement on page 1, the “two sets of convictions” which Edgar asserts need “support” from a Christian consideration are, in fact, mutually exclusive. It is simply not possible to promote a biblical view of marriage and family and at the same time to talk favourably of, or even to recognise other relationships which are unbiblical and which are almost certainly intended to be an attack on the very institution of marriage itself. An article in the Canberra Times by Angela Shanahan stated that had the Stanhope government wanted simply to protect the financial issues surrounding same-sex relationships, which seems to be Edgar’s major focus, they could have adopted the Tasmanian model without infringing constitutional issues. Although Shanahan does not indicate whether she is in favour of a register, or even whether she understands the difference between a civil union and a register, she does at least highlight the fact that there are other issues and motives at work. The article continues:

“However, the debate was not about the Act's attempts to satisfy the teary-eyed gay-rightists. No, it was about the legality of the Act. But actually, like the RU-486 Bill, which the pro-choicers kept saying was not about abortion but in fact was, the Civil Unions Act was really about homosexual relationships. Indeed it is really about the nature of such relationships. It is about sex. There was no other reason for the introduction of that Bill. It is about a group of people who want their kind of sex accepted in the same way as most people’s brand of sex. The public is being bamboozled into accepting that it is the same as heterosexuality, therefore those relationships are just as good.”13

The implication in Shanahan’s comments above are that the homosexuals already have most if not all the rights they need anyway in terms of justice, and all a register does is to remove the two year wait for recognition by law and having to prove the relationship. Shanahan then continues in relation to some of the so-called social justice issues:

“Already the completely pointless emotional arguments of the Greens and the Democrats are testimony to that and the so-called debate is degenerating into mere demagoguery and Bob Brown demanding to know why his relationship isn’t as good as anyone else’s. Because Bob, it isn’t.”14

Ironically, we find Edgar actually supporting such relationships.

Of even more concern, Edgar later acknowledges (bottom of p7 and top of p8) that a Tasmanian-styled register actually permits the adoption of children. To suggest, as he does, that this is either likely to happen or has already happened in some jurisdictions does not make it right. Justice is not being served if we fail to consider the welfare of the children. How can Edgar talk on the one hand about justice for an ungodly lifestyle and ignore the injustice being perpetrated on any children involved?

The bias in Edgar’s paper can also be seen in the absence of options on page 1. Why, for example, is there no inclusion of an option which would bring God into the picture whereby the Church can help people who have drifted into a homosexual lifestyle to be restored to normality? Is Edgar, and presumably those who support homosexual relationships, going along with the secular thinking that homosexuality is a valid lifestyle? Homosexuality was only removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM) - the psychologist’s ‘bible’ listing all mental conditions - in 1980(15). By removing homosexuality from DSM, there is an implication that any attempt to treat it must be invalid and even harmful. However, the removal of homosexuality from DSM was as a direct result of homosexual activism and highly questionable research16 and subsequent studies have indicated that it can be treated 17 which would suggest that the initial decision to remove it from DSM was wrong.

As evangelicals, what is our focus? Is it to assist people to continue living in a sinful lifestyle or are we going to look to the power and love of God to help restore them?

2.Language used in paper

Another disturbing feature of Edgar’s paper is the language it uses. Although it might be considered politically correct and non-offensive (to homosexuals and humanists), it could just have easily have been produced by a homosexual activist. Instead of preventing an offence being committed the focus now appears to be in preventing offence being given?18 The catch cry of “long-term, committed same-sex relationship” is directly out of the activists’ manual and the concept of “caring” relationships is nothing more than a smokescreen as evidenced by the fact that no one has used this provision in Tasmania since their law was enacted.

Whereas in a paper on homosexuality it is probably impossible to avoid the term ‘partner,’ this merely highlights that evangelicals must be aware that a wider deconstruction of marriage has already occurred in the very language we use. Politically correct government departments now prefer to refer to all people under the generic term of partner which in itself is part of the conditioning process to undermine marriage. The very fact we even use terms like partner has the effect of minimising the importance of words like husband, wife or spouse and provides a degree of legitimacy to same-sex or de-facto relationships despite both being unbiblical. In Canada this deconstruction has reached a point where the preferred option is now parent A and parent B rather than mother and father.19

3.Focus purely on money

One of the major areas of concern for Edgar appears to be in relation to financial matters. He talks of a lesbian woman in a “long-term, committed same-sex relationship” who apparently had a will challenged after the death of her partner. Now this type of hypothetical argumentation is directly out of the abortion and euthanasia manuals, i.e. create a one-in-a-million, emotive scenario and use it to establish legislation. Then, once the legislation has been enacted, leave it up to the courts and society to produce the ripple effect whereby the impact gets broader and broader with each new case that tests the law.

Edgar does not mention whether the scenario is real or hypothetical. Certainly there is no provision of the place or year when it was supposed to have happened. If the example is purely hypothetical, then it is another “completely pointless emotional argument.”20

However, even assuming this was a real incident, and even further assuming it is not a rarity, then given the liberal interpretation of the judiciary today there are still issues which need clarification, such as:

  • Would such a case today still produce the same result?
  • Could the will have been successfully challenged on any other grounds, e.g. was the testator of sound mind or was there a presence of duress or fraud?

However, given that the Edgar paper focuses so much on so-called justice in this area, there are some additional questions which need consideration, namely:

a.Does any legislation actually need modifying to provide financial safeguards?;

b.Even if the legislation does need modification in a number of areas for financial issues, then why, as his paper concludes, is this a less effective approach?;

c.What is the scope of the problem, i.e. just how many of these “long-term, same-sex couples” exist where there is injustice?; and

d.Is the paper attempting to provide theological justification for the wrong question?

The reality is that if financial issues were the only issue, then the proponents of a same-sex register would be far better served in looking at the law as it exists today and determining whether there are any problem areas concerning finance and not creating smokescreens if this is not the case.

In relation to the “will” scenario above, as part of their submission to the South Australian Parliament regarding the Statutes Amendments (Relationships) Bill (2004) which analysed all the Acts potentially affected, the Festival of Light demonstrated that there were no problems with wills in South Australia for same-sex couples21. Furthermore, Richard Egan of the Festival of Light has also shown that there are no financial issues for same-sex couples in the ACT. He states:

“Same-sex relationships are already considered, along with marriages and opposite sex de facto relationships, to be “domestic partnerships” under ACT law (Legislation Act 2001 Section 169). Same-sex partners are treated equivalently to spouses in all ACT legislation. (The Domestic Relationships Act 1994 provides procedures for resolving maintenance, property or other financial disputes between parties of a domestic relationship other than marriages. Marriages are not covered by this Act because such matters are covered by the Commonwealth Family Law Act 1974).

Neither the Civil Unions Bill 2006 nor the Registration of Relationships Bill 2006 would give any new practical benefits to same-sex partners other than making such relationships immediately subject to the provisions of the Domestic Relationships Act 1994 which currently only applies to relationships of two years or more in duration. Persons in a same-sex relationship, like any other persons, may already choose to enter into binding agreements about property and finance at any time.

The real significance of each Bill is that each would enhance the legal and symbolic status of same-sex relationships.”22 (emphasis in original).

In other words, the only issue, certainly in the ACT, regardless of whether it is civil unions or a register, is a recognition of the type of relationship entered into by same-sex couples. It is nothing to do with justice but in Shanahan’s words above “It is about a group of people who want their kind of sex accepted in the same way as most people’s brand of sex”.23

Regardless of all the smokescreen issues surrounding the justice of these relationships, even Edgar admits that there is just one real issue behind the whole push, namely “the continuing debate especially about family and child related issues.”24

If we are not to be high-jacked in these debates, then evangelicals need to be very cautious as to just who is driving the agenda, and be very clear in knowing what question(s) we are really trying to answer. Even in addressing a political debate, evangelicals must ensure that we are dealing with fact and not fiction.

4.Adoption and the problem regarding children

The mention of children raises another major weakness in Edgar’s paper, namely that this topic is all but omitted. The third point in his conclusion25 claims that “what is of primary theological importance, however, is the life of the church which is to live out marriage and family relationships in a positive and healthy manner and in a context where justice is done for all.” However, in terms of this claim, I would assert:

a.Edgar has failed to prove his point in linking what is of primary theological importance to the concept of justice for all;

b.Any link, either implicit or explicit, between marriage and/or family, especially when qualified by words such as “positive” and “healthy,” and same-sex relationships is totally invalid; and

c.He has actually breached his theological principles on justice in arriving at this conclusion especially in relation to the interests of children.

As previously stated, one of Edgar’s primary concerns regarding justice appears to be in relation to financial matters. If homosexual couples do not have children, then it could be argued that they are actually advantaged financially since it is now suggested that it costs several hundred thousand dollars to raise a child. However, this is where this secular, skewed concept of justice becomes problematic since it introduces the ideas of discrimination and the victim mentality which go hand-in-hand with much of the rights movement. The only way there might be genuine equality between a same-sex and heterosexual couple is if the same-sex couple were allowed to bring children into that relationship either from a previous marriage, a de facto situation, adoption or assisted reproductive technology (ART). At the top of page 8, Edgar does not appear to have problems with this situation and certainly does not state it is wrong.

This raises the obvious question as to whether such arrangements constitute a biblical picture of a family and whether such a picture is “positive” and “healthy.” It is one thing to cite that there are jurisdictions where homosexual adoption and/or ART are legal, but it is a completely separate scenario, especially from an evangelical position, to consider it to be just. Research has shown that children from normal families do better at school, whereas those from a same-sex household tend to be far more withdrawn.26 This would strongly indicate that such arrangements are neither positive nor healthy.

By ignoring the issue of the adoption of children, together with divorce implications which will be discussed later, Edgar has clearly failed to deal with his own claim regarding the theological issue of justice for all. By remaining focussed on the narrow, discrimination-based debate and not looking at the bigger picture and real issue, he has failed to provide justice for children.

This raises the question as to whether it is possible to be in favour of same-sex relationships but against adoption of children. In essence, this is what the ACL have done in the ACT by opposing homosexual adoption but promoting the same-sex register. However, is this consistent?

To answer this question, we must again come back to the justification used to defend each position. Opposition to adoption was based on the desirability for each child to have a mother and father, a position supported both by the Bible and by the research mentioned above. However, if the only justification for same-sex relationships is this nebulous concept of justice, then there is a major contradiction.

Even if we ignore the many ethical issues associated with ART27 and restrict the concern to adoption, if Edgar’s primary focus is on justice in terms of these “long-term relationships” then it is simply illogical to claim that a homosexual coming out of a marriage or some other prior relationship where there is a child involved cannot take that child into his/her new relationship, especially if the other spouse or partner is in some way incapable of looking after the child or has also moved into a similar same-sex relationship. To prevent such an adoption scenario would require some form of statement justifying the inconsistency as to why it is possible to support virtually every other benefit in society except that of looking after your own children. Surely this would compromise his position of justice for all.

However, once adoption in this category is conceded, it is then impossible to argue against other forms of adoption or ART. The only way such a situation does not involve injustice for the children is if it is then accepted that homosexuality is normal, or at the very least “positive” and/or “healthy” and from the wording of Edgar’s paper, where there is certainly no clear statement to the contrary, this appears to be the position he is taking.

Once adoption and/or ART are conceded, then it is impossible for anyone adopting such a position to speak out against the teaching of homosexuality in other areas as being abnormal. So, when pre-school children as young as five are expected to act out plays where they have two mothers, they must also remain silent. Ironically, real wisdom can often come from the simplicity of a child such as the five-year-old who once wisely pointed out: it isn’t actually possible to have two mothers.28

If evangelicals are serious about saving marriage, then we must save all aspects of marriage, a major aspect of which are the interests of the children. To support homosexual registers which have even the potential to lead to adoption of children is simply inconsistent with what biblical marriage is all about and most definitely nothing to do with biblical justice.

5.Divorce

Sadly, not all marriages last a lifetime and some end in divorce, but the Edgar paper is also virtually silent on what happens in the breakdown of a “relationship,” not just involving same-sex couples but also, potentially, heterosexual ones since the Tasmanian model, being promoted by the ACL in the ACT, caters for these also. The attacks on the institution of marriage are coming from many directions. The advent of no-blame divorce has had a devastating effect on all marriages, including Christian ones.

The provisions for divorce in Deuteronomy 24:1-4 may well have been for hardness of heart, but if the overall fight is for marriage, then surely evangelicals need to be strengthening the laws allowing people to dissolve a marriage rather than advocating a register whereby a simple letter to the registry office means that the relationship is over one month later. Given the earlier acknowledgment that this legislation can lead to the adoption of children, what consideration should be given regarding any children involved in the relationship? With heterosexual couples, this can be a major issue in divorce proceedings, so why would it not be equally so in a homosexual relationship?

It is important to stress that the Tasmanian model being proposed by the ACL in the ACT covers heterosexual couples as well as same-sex ones. So, if both same-sex couples and any heterosexual couples using this legislation can be divorced inside a month, how long before the now ‘disadvantaged’ married couples start applying for justice and equality and push for their quickie divorce inside a month as well? Where then would be the justice for our children? The deconstruction of marriage has just taken another step.

To suggest that the law “can help prevent injustice and it can punish certain behaviours” (para -2, p5) is correct in one sense (even though the linkage to salvation is completely irrelevant), but to add that it will “not prevent homosexual behaviour and should not be used to try to do so” is subjective and unbiblical. Whereas it is true that it is not possible to legislate morality, at least in the sense of compelling it, the law can be and is used to suppress, or at least minimise immorality, e.g. in areas such as murder, theft and even divorce. In the case of divorce, harsher laws can keep marriages together. It could no doubt be suggested that to do so would mean people might remain unhappy in their marriage, but even this concept is invalid on at least the following grounds:

·While a couple remain together there is the possibility of God working in their lives (irrespective of whether they are Christian or not);

·Christian couples should have better teaching regarding marriage and better counselling if there are problems; and

·A recent, 25-year study has shown that the children of unhappy marriages could actually be better off if their parents did not divorce.29

As evangelicals, then, just how serious are we are about protecting all aspects of marriage? Just because some jurisdictions have passed laws does not mean we have to sit back and accept the situation – we should be in there fighting to have them changed for the sake of justice.

6.Marriage – what is it and where is it going?

The purpose of this paper is not to produce a complete definition of marriage but rather to challenge the views in Edgar’s paper as well as those of other evangelicals who look to biblical authority and yet all too often ignore it. In this regard, the “Statement on Marriage and Family” attachment to Edgar’s paper is disturbing since it admits to being extensively based on a Canadian document, a country with some of the most liberal laws in the world regarding homosexuality, but furthermore also makes mention of a Canadian interfaith coalition. I am unclear as to what additional authority is to be gained from an interfaith source over the biblical authority that I have always assumed evangelicals normally rely on.

It is, however, appropriate to comment on Edgar’s statement that “Marriage is defined primarily as a social institution” together with his observation that all the world’s major religions and cultures believe in it. Marriage is unquestionably a social institution, but my concern with this perspective is that Edgar is again missing where the institution of marriage gains its fundamental authority, namely from God. Scripture does not define either marriage or the marriage ceremony itself, but records their presence throughout the whole Bible30. In responding to the Pharisees, Jesus did not look at marriage as being primarily a human institution but went back to the creation account31 thereby making it very clear that marriage gains its sanctity from God’s own authority, and not that of man32. Also, when Jesus spoke to the woman at the well, He indicated that de-facto relationships are not considered to be marriage33.

Now clearly, marriage has also become a social institution but we must always remember its theological roots so that we fully understand the ramifications of tampering with it. Although Edgar claims the creation of a same-sex register should not be seen as an alternative to marriage, does this logic stand up to scrutiny even if we restrict our analysis to what he has covered in his paper? There are at least two areas which would suggest his logic is not valid:

a.He claims that “Christian support for this form of personal relationship legislation is appropriate” even though he notes it is “not problem-free.” The one example he cites to show there might be problems is that such relationships will be allowed to adopt children, if they are not already able to do so. This immediately negates one of the purposes of marriage which is to provide the infrastructure in which children are to be raised. This has been discussed earlier, but his conclusion relating to justice for all is surely destroyed on this one point alone and it is hard to see how this is not a major attack on marriage.

b.Edgar’s dismissal of the potential for a same-sex register to be seen as the “thin end of the wedge” with pressure then coming for larger social reforms would appear short-sighted, especially when he has not considered the issues of children and divorce in his paper nor really dealt with the main thrust behind this whole push for civil unions in the ACT, i.e. the real motives of the homosexual lobby. Those evangelicals concerned with protecting marriage must surely look at the bigger picture of what marriage is, why it is there and the source of its authority and if there is pressure to change, we should resist it unless all the potential ramifications have been thoroughly thought through and if bad laws have already been enacted, we should be fighting for their repeal. We should not be promoting political compromise which has the result of harming the institution of marriage.

Surely we have already passed the thin end of any wedge once we concede that children can be adopted by same-sex couples34. So, how much further up the wedge do we go? In the UK, a blind eye is already been turned to the practise of polygamy with some Muslim men marrying four wives35, so could that be next? Polygamy is found in the Bible, so how do we argue against it? Furthermore, given that our society now treats as normal the fact that people can have multiple sexual partners throughout their life and multiple children can be produced by different fathers or mothers, then why should a minority be obliged to toe a cultural line which is rapidly disappearing?36 If polygamy is permitted, then does a relationship between two lesbians and two homosexuals become allowable? After all, this would circumvent the current argument that a child should be raised by a man and a woman.

Edgar’s comment about the thin end of the wedge indicates he is dismissive of concerns about future pressure to modify marriage, but these concerns are not merely hypothetical. The article by Andrew Bolt in the Herald Sun, dated 21 June 2006, which is attached to this response, shows that certain activists are already thinking this way.

The reality is that the institution of marriage is under major attack as part of a broader attack on Christianity as a whole. Any recommendations which have the potential to affect negatively the institution of marriage in any way, even indirectly, need to be given extremely careful scrutiny.

7.The need for Salt

So, to summarise Edgar’s paper:

  • He appears to be dismissive of certain biblical teachings;
  • He appears to be happy to have a register of couples living a lifestyle which is unbiblical;
  • He is concerned about justice for people living this ungodly lifestyle, especially in relation to financial rights, and yet it would appear that legislation already provides those rights;
  • Although focussing on the justice for people living an ungodly lifestyle, he shows no apparent concern for children raised in a same-sex situation;
  • He shows no apparent concern for a society where homosexuality is being taught as normal to pre-schoolers;
  • By accepting and even promoting a register, he would appear happy not to be able to speak out in future on what our children are taught;
  • He shows no apparent concern for a further watering down of divorce provisions which now come down to 1 month in either a same-sex situation or even a heterosexual relationship for those choosing to use the ACT legislation;
  • He uses material from an inter-faith movement from Canada including a quote from an Islamic representative, a religion where polygamy is practised in some areas; and yet
  • He is apparently unconcerned about the pressure from other groups regarding further modifications to marriage.

Mention was made earlier about the need to tell the truth about who God is and also who Jesus is37. The same-sex issue provides an opportunity to do just that. If we fail to be “salt and light"38, and do not “go into the world and make disciples and teach them to obey everything I have commanded”39 then we are of no value.

Sodom was eventually destroyed because ten righteous people could not be found within the city. Are we going to change the meaning of words such as righteous and convert them into a prostituted understanding of the word justice?40 Are we going to adopt the secular humanists’ rights doctrine and its associated victim mentality and claims of discrimination and injustice, thereby adopting an agenda which is designed to destroy Western values by abolishing moral norms altogether? Or, is the evangelical church going to fight this and restore moral order in our country?

The Bible is replete with stories of prophets warning the people to turn back to God41 and equally there are many examples of God using pagan kings to discipline His own people42. Whether Roger Winter-Smith was correct is his assessment that the church is on its final warning43 is obviously extremely difficult if not impossible to prove. However, if the church is to avoid constantly fighting – and losing – battles over multiple issues, then there is an urgent need to stand up and proclaim the power of the resurrected Christ for all people and to proclaim the truth of the Bible.

Failure to do this will not only harm the church, it will also harm all those whom the church is called to help, including the homosexuals.

References

1.e.g. Andrew Lansdown “Serious Misjudgment” Life News, Number 93, June/July 2006.
2.Page 8, section 4.
3.The main body of the paper contains just two Scriptural references, both relating to the same issue
4.Victorian Christian Legal Society meeting, 2 June 2006.
5.Melanie Phillips, Londonistan, New York: Encounter Books, 2006, p.139.
6.Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, Baker Book House: Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1985, p.298.
7.Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, Baker Book House: Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1994, pp. 203-203.
8.George Eldon Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament, Wm B. Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1993, p.481-483.
9.Daryl Charles, The Unformed Conscience of Evangelicalism: Recovering the Church’s Moral Vision InterVarsity Press:Illinois, 2002, p.208.
10.ibid, p.209.
11.Paragraph 3, page 5.
12.The first “significant fact” states that “churches are, in the main, strongly opposed to any form of same-sex relationship” but then qualifies this by adding “which has the same social or legislative standing as marriage.” In other words, Edgar is saying that there are many churches who do not oppose same-sex relationships provided they are not seen as marriage. This position is strengthened in the second “significant fact” where he asserts the need to protect people living in such an ungodly lifestyle.
13.Angela Shanahan, “Dumb, dumber, dumbest: that’s the Stanhope Government,” Canberra Times, 17 June 2006, p.B9.
14.ibid.
15.The first edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM), produced in 1952, had 112 disorders. DSM II (1968) had 163, DSM III (1980) had 224, DSM-III-R (1987) had 253. DSM-IV (1994) currently lists 374 mental disorders (Phillip Day,“And They Call This Science?”Credence Health Review, Summer 2002, 17-20).
16.One study has found that a very high success rate has suggested that sexual reorientation is indeed possible for at least some individuals who are religiously oriented and wish to divest themselves of their homosexual orientation (Kim W. Schaeffer et al,“Religiously-Motivated Sexual Orientation Change:A Follow-Up Study,”Journal of Psychology and Theology, Vol. 27, No. 4, Winter 1999,336.).
17.Phillips, Londonistan, p.52.
18.Shanahan,“Dumb, dumber, dumbest”, p.B9.
19.ibid.
20.Festival of Light Australia, “Submission on the Statutes Amendments (Relationships) Bill (2004)”, 25 Feb 2005.
21.Page 8, section 4.
22.Top of page 2 and also last point on page 9.
23.S. Saratankos, “Children in Three Contexts” Children Australia Vol 21, No 3, 1996.
24.Including, for example, what are the rights and/or responsibilities of the sperm donor? Should they pay maintenance, as per heterosexual procreation? What about access rights?
25.Shanahan,“Dumb, dumber, dumbest”, p.B9.
26.Judith Wallerstein, The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce, Hyperion, New York, 2000
27.For example, people were being given in marriage up to the Flood (Matt 24:38); the Law details rules relating to marriage; Jesus attended a wedding; and Paul refers to husbands and wives in his Epistles (e.g. 1Cor 7 & Eph 5:22-33).
28.In Mark 10:6-9 referring to Gen 2:24.
29.Matt 19:6; Mark 10:9.
30.In John 4:18, Jesus tells the woman that the man she is now living with is not her husband.
31.Here in the ACT, the ACL has already argued against same-sex adoption and the Opposition stated they would overturn the law if elected at the last election. However, now that the Opposition has also been convinced by the ACL to promote a same-sex register, their position may well be reviewed prior to the next election which is not for another 3 years or so.
32.Phillips, Londonistan, p.98.
33.ibid.
34.Roger Winter-Smith, Victorian Christian Legal Society meeting, 2 June 2006.
35.Matt 5:13-17.
36.Matt 28:19.
37.Charles, The Unformed Conscience of Evangelicalism, p.208.
38.e.g. Amos just prior to the Northern Kingdom being wiped out
39.e.g. Nebuchadnezzar
40.Victorian Christian Legal Society meeting, 2 June 2006.

Roger Birch ran a non-denominational ministry in Brisbane called Impact for mature-aged divorcees (35-60 year-old) for 7 years between 1996 and 2002. During that time, he gained a DipMin from Garden City School of Ministries, a BMin(Theol) from the Queensland Baptist College of Ministries (QBCM) and a GradDip(Theol) through the Australian College of Theology. His BMin(Theol) thesis on Divorce/Remarriage was given the award for Advanced Theological Studies at QBCM. He lectured in biblical Greek at QBCM for 5 years. He now resides in Canberra where he lectures for Unity College in Theology, Biblical Ethics and NT Interpretation.

 
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