Follow-Up to O'Reilly, the Bible and Gay Marriage
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.
Let me try to anticipate a couple more objections before I close. One objection is that America has always been a secular humanist state with a wall of separation between church and state. One answer is that the founding fathers never meant a separation between God and state, as is proved their many public (Christian) prayers and national days for appeal to the God of the Bible (on which our public officials take their oaths when entering office). In reality, liberals believe that America's officially established religion is secular humanism. This is the viewpoint that O'Reilly assumes in demanding that Christians stop asserting the Bible's moral authority. It is also the viewpoint responsible, Christians believe, for the moral chaos and societal collapse that is before us now. From a Christian perspective, the only thing keeping America together all these years has been the moral influence of the Bible, which until recently still exerted considerable authority in our culture. This is why Christians cannot agree to remove the very influence that has opposed immorality of all kinds any more than we can agree to the official establishment of atheistic humanism over our land.
Lastly, some will complain that the appeal to Paul's teaching in Romans is antiquated and irrelevant. To this I simply point out the extensive similarities between the moral climate of America today and that of the Roman Empire in which Paul lived. Indeed, the irony is rich. In towering hubris, post-Christian America imagines itself to be blazing a new trail of tolerance and humanity, when it is in fact succumbing to the ancient paganism in which so many people languished in abject misery until the light of Christ and God's Word shined upon it. Believing this, dear Mr. O'Reilly, Christians cannot begin the debate by excluding the only hope for true enlightment mankind has ever possessed. We believe, with King David, that God's Word is a lamp for our path and a light for our feet (Ps. 119:105) and, believing this, we cannot serve our country in this moral crisis without letting it shine.