Neutrality In The Civil Arena
One of the most vicious errors in our current moment amongst evangelical circles is the myth of neutrality. It is imperative that we as Christians understand what Christ made clear, you are either for Him or against Him (Matthew 12:30). Seeing this reality allows us to then visualize everything else in the world clearly for we are standing upon Him who is the treasures of all riches and knowledge serving as our foundation for all of life (Colossians 2:3). Contrastingly, many advocate for some variation of neutrality particularly in the public square. They believe the doctrine of political theology must be driven by the art of compromise between Christianity and secularism.
Recently, Joe Carter released an article on The Gospel Coalition which in my view clearly demonstrates the path neutrality takes. He is seeking to set forth a way forward that he believes Christians should advocate for on the issue of homosexuality. On the one hand, he rightly states:
“But doesn’t that fall back on a religious argument? Can’t governments determine the standard for civil marriages? No, they cannot, because marriage is both a prepolitical and prereligious institution that was instituted by God before any formal government or religious institutions were created.”1
I have no issue with the concept that the family is the foundational and first institution created by God since that fact is clearly found in the Scripture as recorded in Genesis 1-2. This testimony from Scripture is the stable basis upon which to begin any examination of the subject of either marriage or homosexuality. However, I find the notion of the family being termed “prereligious” slightly confusing given the fact that the central role of the family is to be founded on God and teach His commands (Deuteronomy 6:7). Certainly, God did ordain the family before He called the nation of Israel or Christ founded His church. Therefore, it entirely depends on what is meant by “prereligious” but I find such language to be confusing at best and detrimental at worst. Nonetheless, I would add to Mr. Carter’s point that both the church and the state are founded by God. Christ said “you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18).” Paul clearly says the civil authorities have been instituted by God and are in fact His servants to administer justice (Romans 13:1-7). Therefore, we are just as obligated to honor God in the public square as we are in the family.
A Problematic Solution
Joe Carter, while drawing from the work of David French, starts out to try and develop a solution that he believes Christians and secularists will find appealing. He states:
“The tide of public opinion is unlikely to be turned by publishing another article pointing out why French and the other 40 percent of churchgoers are wrong. Still, there’s a solution to the problem that is easily implementable and that should be acceptable to almost every Christian (and most secular Americans)—yet no one’s talking about it.”
I have absolutely zero interest in starting my analysis of this area on the foundation of what will turn public opinion or what is a solution that might be palatable to secularists and almost every Christian. Ultimately, we must start from ground zero by seeking to understand what God desires. Carter may agree on that point, I do not know his motives only what he said. His clear goal is to set forth a solution that Christians and secularists might agree upon. I believe that is the doctrine of neutrality at its finest. Give me argumentation set forth for the glory of God according to what He desires as revealed in His Word, I care for nothing else. What is the solution Carter promotes around marriage and homosexuality? It is a concept known as civil unions, he says:
“Rather than using them to provide legitimacy to homosexual relationships, civil unions should be completely desexualized and open to any two adults who desire to enter into a type of contractual relationship known as a mutual beneficiary contract.”
Carter’s opinion is that if two consenting adults want to enter into a relationship called a civil union, then they are permitted to do so. He views this as being “desexualized” in the sense that a daughter-in-law and mother-in-law could enter into such a union without any sexual component, but merely to support one another if both their husbands passed away (as one illustration). Where does he try to find biblical support for this position? He goes straight to the book of Ruth:
“Our model for such civil unions comes from a most unlikely source: the Book of Ruth.”
Indeed, it is a very unusual source considering that the word civil union is never used in the entire text. Neither is there any mention of a government formally recognizing Ruth and Naomi in any similar capacity. Carter points out Ruth’s amazing dedication to her mother-in-law (indeed!). He then says:
“But what if Ruth and Naomi lived in modern-day America? Would they be able to keep this commitment to each other without hindrance from laws that recognize only dependents, guardians, and spouses—including same-sex “spouses”? The law may very well provide them equal protection under certain circumstances, but with the labyrinth of rules and regulations, how would they know what applied?”
Hold on a second folks, first of all, how does Mr. Carter expect to prove that the government actually recognized Naomi and Ruth’s relationship as a civil union? Secondly, even if he can (which he can’t), then how do we go from a daughter-in-law helping her mother-in-law to the subject of homosexual civil unions? A daughter-in-law lovingly caring for her mother-in-law is not in any way similar or related to the topic of homosexual civil unions at all. Such is an example of an interpretative approach which is purely speculative seeking to insert an idea on top of the text that is found nowhere in the actual passage. Yet, this is Carter’s only line of argumentation from the text of Scripture for this concept of civil union. He is using a passage that has nothing to do with the concept of civil union because that idea is foreign to the text itself. Particularly, God never authorizes the government, nor any other institution, to recognize such a union as two homosexuals coming together. Such is a blatant perversion of His holy design (see Romans 1 and 1 Corinthians 6:9). Mr. Carter’s view is driven by neutrality which is causing his interpretation of Scripture to go astray on multiple points. Instead of going down the path of “civil unions” for homosexuals, I propose we hold to marriage as being one man and one woman for life as defined by God in His Word!
The Take Home Point
We close by examining Carter’s concluding thoughts from his piece:
“Similarly, the government also doesn’t create relationships in which two adults agree to take care of one another. But when stripped of any sexual connotation and reserved for a two-person, dependent, commitment-sharing relationship, the state should recognize their value and make it easier, not harder, for modern-day Ruths.”
Carter’s article is not about promoting daughter-in-law and mother-in-law relationships once their spouses have passed. His piece has the objective of promoting homosexual civil unions. Let’s not confuse the matter by talking about modern-day Ruths when that is not the heart of the conversation. If he would like to discuss what the government should practice as it pertains to in-law relationships, then that is a completely different article for another time. But, I conclude where I began, Carter has no biblical basis for his views on homosexual civil unions. They are instead driven by a neutral approach to promote a solution which he believes will appeal to secularists and Christians. Believers should have a better approach, and it is to teach the nations the commands of Christ and their obligation to obey Him (Matthew 28:18-20). Our duty is to inform the civil government as to their duty before the holy God and to warn them that they shall face judgment if they do not serve Christ (Psalm 2). Neutrality? No thanks! We shall hold firm to the Lordship of Christ in every realm standing on Him as our solid foundation being guided by His Holy Word!
1 All quotes from the TGC article can be found here: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/solution-same-sex-civil-marriage/