This Fall, voters in November will vote on whether to define marriage as between one man and one woman as the governing, constitutional law of their state.
Through a series of blog posts and a recent sermon, Dr. John Piper has been discussing the issue of homosexuality and, at least off-hand, the marriage amendment campaign. It’d be hard for him not to. Such amendments always capture massive media attention and proponents of them would welcome the endorsement from a pastor of Dr. Piper’s stature and following.
Still, there is something bittersweet about Dr. Piper’s announcement that you can read here on his blog.
It’s different from what we’ve seen elsewhere. It’s not an endorsement. It’s certainly not a, “vote against” statement. It is instructive, thoughtful, and careful. Perhaps too careful? I’d encourage you to read the whole thing, but here are his main points:
- There is no such thing as so-called, “gay marriage.”
- Same-sex sexual relations are sin.
- Not all sins should be proscribed by human law, but some should be.
- The legal significance of marriage makes a statutory definition necessary.
- It is wise that our laws define marriage as between a man and a woman.
Those are each given some explanation by Dr. Piper and one has to commend him for his plain commitment to instruct his church as to what Scripture teaches.
One could make the criticism that Dr. Piper should endorse the marriage amendment. I’m not one to force that position. I would say that pastors have that right and I would defend their freedom to so speak, but that is a matter left to the church and it’s elders, deacons, or governing leadership. There is something in me that is a bit disappointed by Dr. Piper’s decision to come to the edge of an endorsement, but not go the full way. Not only does his church look to him, but so do many pastors across Minnesota, the nation, and the world.
Yes, I’m grateful that Dr. Piper took a very Biblical stand on the definition of marriage and homosexual behavior. But why not go forward? It’s my prayer that God will use this post (and other posts and messages by Dr. Piper) to motivate voters to the polls this November in favor of the amendment. Experience could suggest otherwise, but Dr. Piper is, at least, correct to rest in God’s sovereign plan – even over constitutional amendment discussions.
There is, however, one bone I’d like to pick with Dr. Piper, if I may do so humbly.
It comes in his third point when he says,
But where to draw the line on which unethical actions are made illegal is a judgment call that in our system of government is made by elected legislators. It’s a pretty good system that balances the freedom of the human conscience (Luke 12:57; 2 Corinthians 5:11; Acts 17:11) with the rights of government to make laws and use force (Romans 13:1–4).
Did you catch the problem there? Yes, government has been instituted by God to make laws and use force. Yes, it’s a good system that we have wherein we delegate certain responsibilities to our elected leaders. Yes, at times, we give them the right to draw such lines.
But, when it comes to issues like an amendment to the constitution, we can no longer punt to elected leaders. The problem Dr. Piper makes with this statement is that he assumes that government is “them” and not “us.” In our system of government, it is the citizens who retain ownership of our government. We retain the rights and only lend a few of them to a central government for careful stewarding.
Nowhere is this more clearly seen then in constitutional measures. In effect, what the Minnesota legislature is saying to its citizens is, “Hey, your representatives cannot make this call. You limited our authority and our lawmaking stops at the preamble to the state constitution. The constitution belongs to you. Do you want to define marriage as between one man and one woman within your state constitution?”
When government is viewed this way, Dr. Piper is punting to a team who is not permitted to catch the ball. In other words, his statement that our leaders should settle the issue is addressing the wrong question. They cannot or will not settle the issue, nor should this issue be settled by legislators or judges. It is a decision properly made by the citizens.
What he may have though of adding to this paragraph is one more sentence which would read, “And, since in this country God has graciously permitted a system of government whereby you and I as citizens retain the rights and responsibilities of good government, it falls to you as citizens of Minnesota – and not lawmakers or judges – to make this constitution-altering decision.”
Again, I hesitate to offer too much criticism. I respect Dr. Piper immensely and am thankful for his constant pointing of his congregation (and those of us watching from a geographically warmer distance) to the greatness of our God and the glory of Christ.
I am certain that I will join him in praying that God’s perfect, sovereign will will be accomplished this November.
What do you think? Did Dr. Piper make the right call?
About Jeremy Dys
Jeremy Dys is the FPCWV's President and General Counsel. In addition to his duties of providing strategic vision and leadership to the FPCWV, Dys is the chief lobbyist and spokesman. Dys is regularly featured in local, state, and national print, radio, and television outlets. He lives close to Charleston with his wife and growing family.