Reformed Churchmen

We are Confessional Calvinists and a Prayer Book Church-people. In 2012, we remembered the 350th anniversary of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer; also, we remembered the 450th anniversary of John Jewel's sober, scholarly, and Reformed "An Apology of the Church of England." In 2013, we remembered the publication of the "Heidelberg Catechism" and the influence of Reformed theologians in England, including Heinrich Bullinger's Decades. For 2014: Tyndale's NT translation. For 2015, John Roger, Rowland Taylor and Bishop John Hooper's martyrdom, burned at the stakes. Books of the month. December 2014: Alan Jacob's "Book of Common Prayer" at: January 2015: A.F. Pollard's "Thomas Cranmer and the English Reformation: 1489-1556" at: February 2015: Jaspar Ridley's "Thomas Cranmer" at:

Friday, April 5, 2013

(Reformation21): "Follow-Up to O'Reilly, Bible & Gay Marriage"

Follow-Up to O'Reilly, the Bible and Gay Marriage

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Tim Challies was very kind to post a link to my previous post on Bill O'Reilly, the Bible, and Gay Marriage. One of his commenters brought up an objection that I thought I might respond to here. I had written that without the Bible, the only moral consensus open to man is a wicked pagan idolatry. The objection offered was that many people who do not accept the Bible nonetheless lead loving and moral lives. We therefore can have morality without the Bible. My answer is that while this is relatively true, my point pertained not to individual morality but the "moral consensus" of a society. This is a different matter entirely.

There is no doubt that many non-Christians are kind and caring people. In the context of the current debate, I should probably note as well that a great many practicing homosexuals are kind, caring, and delightful people. My point pertains to a society that self-consciously rejects the authority of God's Word, substituting its own malleable standards in the place of the Bible's standards, and exalting a human consensus to the place of sovereignty that God demands for himself. When this happens, moral chaos and a plummeting depravity are certain to result.

Note that I am not asserting that a society must be totally Christian in order to be moral -- no such earthly nation has ever existed. Nor am I expecting non-Christians to embrace everything taught in the Bible. I am merely objecting to Bill O'Reilly's prescription that Christians must agree to the rejection of God's Word as a moral standard and authority. To do this is to act as if God is not there, when we believe that he is. It is for us to pretend that God does not judge men and nations, when we believe that he does. It is for us to close our eyes to the biblical teaching on the devastating moral effects of idolatry, which this approach involves.
It is not by chance that the current moral debate is so at home in the apostle Paul's teaching in Romans 1:18-32. Paul urges that the idolatrous refusal to honor God with thanksgiving is at the root of moral perversity (Rom. 1:21). God responds with judgment on those who refuse to honor him, and this judgment includes sexual perversity in general -- "the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves" -- and homosexuality in particular -- "relations.. contrary to nature... men committing shameless acts with men" (Rom. 1:26-27). Paul goes further to list a veritable catalog of vices embraced by American culture. These include "envy, murder... insolent, haughty, boastful... disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless" (Rom. 1:29-31). Many of these evils are promoted in children's television programs, not to mention adult reality tv shows. Paul concludes by saying that people who have first committed themselves to idolatry will not only do these things but seek approval for them (Rom. 1:32), which is the very situation we have in the Supreme Court hearings about homosexual marriage.

Notice that from a Christian perspective, the real issue is not sexual perversity, whether it is heterosexual or homosexual, but idolatry. The root cause is the refusal to grant authority to God and the exaltation of public opinion to a place of ultimate authority. Seen in this light, Bill O'Reilly's prescription for Christians to stop "thumping the Bible" amounts to Christians combating the symptom by agreeing to the cause. This advice is sound only if the Bible is not true. Only if God does not mind the idolatry of secular humanism can O'Reilly's approach lead anywhere but to a moral cataclysm. As Christians who believe that the Bible is true, we cannot accept O'Reilly's advice to enter the debate on the premise that God must be left out of it. We believe that for public opinion to assume the role of ultimate moral authority is idolatry, the result of which can only be disaster. When we remember that public opinion consists wholly of persons who are themselves sinful (including Christians, by the way), the exclusion of God's holy influence can only lead in a downward direction.

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