The Church's Need for Confessional Conversation about Same-Sex Marriage

The Church's Need for Confessional Conversation about Same-Sex Marriage

One side wants the conversation ONLY if it yields the political victory they desire, the other side tells me talk is pointless it’s time to stonewall or to leave.



49 Comments on “The Church's Need for Confessional Conversation about Same-Sex Marriage”

  1. Which moral issues should the church take an uncompromising position on (like infanticide in 1st century) and which should the church attempt simply to ameliorate (like slavery in 1st century) because, say, the culture simply doesn’t see it as a problem? Abortion fits in the former category, but SSM might be in the 2nd.

  2. From a person who has been a liberal most of his life. I would say gay marriage can be part of the state but not of the church. Give to Ceasar what is Ceasar's.

  3. Your output is so fast! While I am pondering a comment on one thoughtful video, you come out with another. Hence, this comment will cover a couple of videos. I would like to add my voice to say that what you are doing is so valuable and important that I earnestly beg you to continue.

    John Vervaeke and you and others are engaged in a huge and important project. There is no question that the materialist stance of Western society has driven a large component of the population into a dead end of nihilism with the appalling results we see around us. John has identified the meaning crisis, and is actively trying to find a way out of it. He cannot just take the step across into faith because for him, and for many others, it is as wide and deep as the Grand Canyon. John’s devotion to the scientific method is as profound as, say, the Christian devotion to the Trinity. However, unlike Sam Harris who thinks the path to human happiness is smashing “religion”, John is very aware that there is more to know than reductive science. John is building, brick by brick, a bridge over the chasm, each one underpinned by scientific method.

    You, too, are building a bridge. Your willingness to engage those who are not in the Christian camp, but who are searching, find in your presentations a discussion of the issues from a Christian point of view which also takes into account the insights of Vervaeke and others. (I’m probably not alone in wondering whether John’s project of forming a religio for the 21st Century might not arrive, via a bridge built meticulous scientific brick by brick, at a religion which is scalable, has practices, has philosophic questions and resources, and has a proven track record of transforming an entire civilization, as Tom Holland argues.) Your gift to the many who were jolted into questioning by Jordan Peterson is that you, too, have been willing to meet them where they were. Not universally true, but the stance of most churches for a searcher is that the church knows the answer and is willing to guide you to it, but it doesn’t have much patience for someone who is not sure that the answer will work for him or her, but who wants to fully explore all avenues. Your willingness to talk to so many who have so many points of view, and let us listen in, has created a venue where many more can engage in exploring the issues of faith and meaning. Jordan Peterson lit a fire that has resulted in more people, great and ordinary, engaged in a project of finding a way out of the dead end we are in. Perhaps only at a time when the technology has developed to this stage would it ever be possible to have so many people addressing these questions. We need all the voices. John Vervaeke, Tom Holland, Brett and Eric and the Randos.

    I was much struck by the comments of the Finnish/Sami speaker. The ancient religions are so far in the past that it is easy to create a false nostalgia. People have forgotten that it was Christianity which brought light to the darkness and fear. Indeed, what does the world look like from the eyes of that rock shaped like a fish or a bear? The long history, recorded in the Bible, starting with Abraham and Isaac, of turning away from human sacrifice, and ending as Rene Girard observes, with the end of the easy option of the scapegoat, with the final sacrifice of the most innocent, is the vehicle which brought into being those values of restraint, compassion and love which have been the best parts of our civilization. I look forward to September. In Thunder Bay you will be hip deep in Finns! The city is crawling with them.

    The Lapsed (Finnish) Lutheran Heretic from the Connecticut meeting, Susan

  4. A couple points: Peterson is still a mediocre scholar on his best day. That's the lesser of the points, however, the main is this: I've read and listened to, I thnk, everything that you've said/written in your public forums about confessional conversations. I'm a relatively educated fellow and I still have no idea what you're talking about. Even in watching your recent example of a confessional conversation done right I didn't see anything that doesn't happen (at least in centrist contexts or within fringe camps). If it's simply that we are admitting to the a priori philosophies, theologies and hermeneutics that are behind particular positions that goes on all the time. If it's falling back to stale modernist vs. postmodernist dynamics that are manifested in various culture wars, it's a boring and fruitless effort that will fail because neither side trusts the other or is willing to cede any ground. If it's transformative post-post modern or metamodern approaches to dialogue it is intriguing but likely incapable of happening at the fringes and I haven't heard you talk in those terms. Perhaps, and maybe I'm just dense, you could take one of these videos and actually define "confessional conversation" and to where you might envision them leading.

  5. Paul, thank you, your courage and eclectic insights stimulate, inspire and encourage me every day (despite your Calvinism)

    Best wishes to you and your family, especially Jared. Best regards, Warren

  6. how about a video for setting expectations during online conversation? I'm pretty sure you called for more conversations, my perspective is that conversations get cut off, or people get upset, when they enter conversations with the wrong level of expectations. Or just bad expectations tend to toxify the conversation in a subtle way. Cheers.

  7. Perhaps someone might enlighten me as to what is the legal definition of same sex marriage. Does it involve a stipulation about sexual relations, and is there any concept of consummation and of infidelity? It could never be acceptable for a church to give approval to sexual relations outside of marriage (marriage being the lifelong union of one man and one woman). It should be possible for a church to accommodate a same sex couple who have made a civil partnership of lifelong commitment to care for each other, but the church cannot be forced to call their partnership marriage, nor to approve of sexual relations which the Bible and Church teaching hold to be sinful. If it were not an attempt to force the church to approve of irregular sexual relations, there would be no problem in accepting partnership commitments. The problem seems to be that some people do not envisage the possibility, by God's grace, to live free of any sexual relationship. Jesus Christ transforms people, and raises them above their passions.

  8. Dear Paul, I just want to express my deep gratitude for your content. I have returned to the church after 15 years. As a lover of Christ and a same sex lover person, it took time to come home in the Arms of the Good Shepard. I am a side a person. However, you are a person who reminds me that all people who may hold a more traditional view are not out to wish AIDS had killed us all off, or out to physically threatning the young feminine boy. Growing up Pentecostal and coming out makes for alot of hurt however. It is with the coversation offerd by opposing view in love that I find my ability to walk my walk with Christ with affirming or non affirming Christains knowing we are trying to find our way together. Please not Justin Lee (Geeky Justin) on this topic I would love to see you and hime discuss this topic.

  9. I think that in the United Church of Canada each congregation decides. My iPad refuses to display any results relating to how many such marriages there are. I’m not kidding, it just ignores it when I press the link. Very strange. I’ve tried several links.

    You can’t say it was tolerated in the ancient world. What was tolerated was a man as the “male” side of an act of sex, usually with a young boy (not always, could be another man) in the “female” role. There was no stigma attached to the male role. But there certainly was to the female role. (It’s like this in prisons too). By no means all men were interested in this type of sex. There wasn’t the same interest in what women did with each other. It could never result in pregnancy so it wasn’t all that important. These homosexual pairings were independent of official marriage that would produce offspring.

    But it is true that all such pairings were verboten to the Hebrews.

  10. In the age to come…the biggest question is how will there be such profound differences that the conversation could continue. Will there be a state of affairs a level of abstraction above true diversity that a good engaging dispute or a spirited game of some sort point towards…

  11. Paul:

    The quote "… if you view homosexuality as sinful you are a bigot."

    My response: So? There is nothing wrong with bigotry per se. It depends on many factors. Many sports fans, if not the majority of fans of some sports, are bigoted with respect to their sport, and much of this bigotry is an accident of geography. (*You* try rooting for the 'wrong team' in some bars or in some cities and this will become immediately clear.

    Some try to go to the heart of disagreement and the spiritual dynamics involved, which is perhaps the more pastorally sound thing to do. But language is bewitching even when not being consciously used as a weapon, and I am Wittgenstenian (I long to converse with another Wittgenstenian Dooyeerdian). One point of conversation may be the degree to which simply questioning about language use (not overtly questioning the user of language but asking questions in return that provoke exploration of what the words mean) might constitute engagement which is transformative without provoking hostility.

    Perhaps if the questions demonstrate the weakness of their position they may grow increasingly resentful during conversation, but the restriction of the discussion to language affords no surface for anger to surface and start to boil. Maybe it is like superheating water past 100 C. Perhaps this is a bad thing (they might suddenly boil furiously of a seed allows boiling to begin). Or perhaps the expectations of civility allow them to experience this as transformative, that the superheating may be a metaphor for the chance, at least, of metamorphosis. I am grasping at metaphors here.

    I am being provoked here by your questions "what is identity?" and "what is homosexuality?" which are to a large degree play a rhetorical role as well as being important to explore. I tend to ask, *nonrhetorically*, :what do you mean here my your use of word 'X'"

    I am trying to make no particular point here other than to share a bit about myself and to offer conversational gambits to any takers. There are not many people who approach others the way that I do. I don't think that I feel lonely as a person, but regarding such things I feel alone, if that makes sense to you.

    (I would probably question: is what you meant when you said "If you view X is sinful…' roughly equivalent to "If you believe God disapproves of X…"? (For that is a plausible rephrasing.)

    If 'yes', I would ask how is this different from my saying 'I believe Fred disapproves of X?' My belief that God approves or disapproves of anything has no necessary consequence regarding what I approve or disapprove of. And so what precisely is your beef (ir you have one)? T

    If 'no', I might ask them to offer a rephrasing of their claim so that I may understand precisely what they mean. For since you are spending time trying to communicate with me, then I honor you by not jumping to conclusions about what you mean but by seeking to understand you clearly. (And yes, this sometimes does place me in the position of being a midwife of ideas. But I have been more influenced by Wittgenstein than Socrates in this.)


    But if talking about marriage, I would not dare to try opine without a mu;ti-aspectual perspective of marriage in a Dooweerdian sense. I counsel young people that the point of official/published marriage (or at least a point of official marriage that might make sense to the councellees) is that leaving your marriage tacit rather than official/published is uncharitable to others. Other's don't know how to respond to you, or what to call you. It may be that a couple is de facto married and that to counsel separating would be to counsel divorce. But that couple does not 'regularize' their marriage in some way (perhaps through the church of not the state) then you put your parents in an awkward position of not knowing how many guest rooms to prepare of you visit.

    It is so much easier to talk about this and a host of other issues if you have the language of multiplicity of modal spheres–biological, social, ethical, economic, etc. Young folk don't want to be uncharitable. They often just need to have a clearer practical (not necessarily theoretical) ontology with which to see how charity manifests in the niches.

    Dooyeweerd is not the only or last word in such matters, but the thought that the tradition of thinking in which he played a significant role is disappearing is extremely extremely disheartening. We are like workmen abandoning our tools, or who have reached a state of asking 'what on earth is that?' if confronted with a lathe. 🙁

  12. Society and the state doesn't care if two friends live together and why would any vow need to be made? Who cares? But if it's a man and women it DOES care. Gay marriage is nonsense and it's time for Christians to stand up and not be afraid to call it as it is.

  13. When is society/state going to let bisexuals marry? Polygamy is coming. A woman will be able to marry a man and woman. Nothing special about a two person relationship, (when you ignore the children thing)

  14. PVK: “What do I want? I want the church to be one.”

    Until the church is one, it is difficult to consider anything like the Kingdom of God and peace on earth. Until the church lives as a voice for peace and not war, the church will be considered by many nothing but hypocritical. Until the church lives as one, there is no hope for a truly healthy individual liberty. Until the church demonstrates in action the love, charity, and benevolence, (and instead leaving all of this to the state), of what use is the church?

    This is why I appreciate very much your approach to dialogue with non-Reformed clergy, theologians, etc. You offer a great example. Our only choice is dialogue, and, ultimately, understanding that agreement on the big things is sufficient for the church to live as one.

  15. Maybe minds won’t be changed, even by talking about it. But it is certain that minds won’t be changed if we don’t; it is certain we won’t even understand each other – even if we still do not agree – if we don’t.

    PVK, I encourage you to continue in this vein, and pray God gives you the strength necessary to do so. I know it is not easy.

    FYI: I don’t put you on a pedestal. You are wrong about climate change, and you are wrong about the corona (meaning the manufactured reaction to it, not the bug itself). Both are designed to give more power to the state and to maintain central banking and corporatocracy, nothing more. Climate change has failed in this mission; the corona is working wonderfully.

    Other than that…well, OK. A very short pedestal!

  16. Hi Paul. Great to a follow up video on this topic, although I can understand some of the trepidation in posting. It’s funny to see what pushes people’s buttons – I have a deep and personal interest in this topic but mention trinitarian/Unitarian and my eyes start to glaze over. Great to see Melinda Selmys’s book get a mention. I think it’s one of,if not the most, reflective on this topic and very thought provoking, no matter where you sit on this issue. I was struck listening to this, and reflecting on your conversation with John Suk, about what sort of church I might look to go to. I have not attended any of late, due in part to Sunday work shifts and a disinterest in explaining my personal circumstances. I can’t say I would be queuing up to attend Johns church, no offence to him, nor their welcoming equivalent here in Australia. And why? I think someone, Andrew Sullivan maybe, mentioned LGBT christians attending more traditional churches in greater number and I could see myself being one of them. Part of it is a shared suspicion/ resistance of anyone putting me on a pedestal or celebrating me for being extra special and oppressed etc. Some of it questions what value can be found in a church that so resembles the culture (and there are plenty of ‘policing pitfalls’ long before you reach anything illegal) as to be indistinguishable. I think I would more prefer a church that disagreed with my situation and relationship but still let me attend – at least you know that stand for something and it gives you something to contend with. Even Sherlock Holmes needed his Moriarty after all!!! And maybe, just maybe, there might even be scope for those confessional conversations after all in that environment, so please keep doing what your doing. :). P.s if you know of anyone in the discord server that might want a conversation on this topic, please let me know lol.

  17. I was lgbt activist and saw that even here in Bulgaria things started to rot and go sideways, maybe even backwards. Now it is just opportunistic business activist exploiting idealistic children.
    I dont know what to make of this in todays world. I also dont know what to make of you not knowing what to make of it.
    But I am very glad to listen to you.

  18. Honest conversation would indeed be welcome. The problem here, as it is with anything in the “SJW” intersectional world, is that the activist left is dishonest, and seeks to silence all opposition to prevent the exposure of their dishonesty. When it comes to this issue within churches, the Bible and nature are both so absolutely clear, unambiguous, and in agreement about this subject, that anyone seeking a novel position can only be either ignorant or heretical. There is no serious and legitimate argument possible in favor of bending to the world. As I may have said on a previous video, the thing that is so hard to believe is that it is this issue that could cause this much of a problem. You don’t have to be a scientist to look at the human race (and all mammals for that matter) and understand human sexuality. It exists for the purpose of reproduction. The sexual anatomy can and has been used in an infinite variety of ways that do not result in reproduction. The claim that one, or a few, forms of non-reproductive behavior are innate, immutable biological traits, but all the others (like say, bestiality) aren’t, is nonsensical on its face. Nevertheless, attempts have been made through science to verify these claims, and they have not only failed to do so, they have completely contradicted them. And even some honest “alphabet people” will tell you that it’s not an innate, immutable trait.

    So when you are being attacked with a lie, that these issues are somehow equivalent to race or sex, and that you are equivalent to a Nazi or Klansman if you merely insist on truth and reality, there is no conversation to be had. And as I said, that’s how they want it. Because they know their agenda and claims cannot withstand scrutiny.

    The demand being made is that Christians reject the Bible, or if they are unwilling to do so, all of Christianity will be classified as a “hate group” and treated as such under law. That is, unfortunately, the situation, and it is that extreme pressure being brought by the left that has caused this wobbling and debate within churches. It is not a result of legitimate disagreement between people of good intent. It is a result of people’s personal interests being thrown into conflict by external pressure.

  19. You hit on a big part of what makes these conversations difficult to impossible on a scale larger than a couple of individuals well-known to one another, and that's the avoidance of what C.S. Lewis called "bulverism". How do you get into the nuance of self-imposed (or possibly group-imposed?) identity vs. personal actions or one theological point vs. the other when one side is screaming "heretic!" and the other "bigot!"? Once that attitude is assumed by one party the conversation quickly becomes toxic and the negative outcomes begin to outweigh the positives.

  20. Well, whatever one opines or draws out conclusions from the Bible regarding the phenomenon, the way that the Supreme Court came to its decision was totally unmoored from our country's Constitution. It is a matter that should have been left to the democratic processes in each of the states. There would be some difficulty with the mandate that each state must regard the judicial determinations of the others, but there should be some way of negotiating those differences in a federal republic.

    Biologically the conceit makes no sense whatsoever. There abides the fact that "sex" cannot be separated from procreation. The other activities should be called "erotic." (OK, I'm a Jew.) People have committed a category error, but what can one expect when cultural Marxists rule the roost? Our country will rue the day that the political process did not settle for civil unions. … But you are a pastor, your final focus is not the Constitution, but how you determine that the ancient doctrines shall adapt to modern times. (Still, Dave and Dave Rubin look kind of cute, as though mirror images of each other. Sigh, we never leave contradictions behind.)

    Something about you, Paul, nevertheless. Perhaps it is the fact that my brother's middle name is Paul, and that you are both, ahem, religious fanatics. <wink> … Your notion of the age to come sounds curiously similar to Plato's notion of the afterlife: there shall be honest and earnest dialogue forever! Perhaps that is why Dante, although he could not place him in the Christian heaven, spared him from the tortures of hell. .. Jordan is a Mensch, and a Mensch may or may not be a believer in the traditional sense. … I don;t know who said it, but I remember a particular Christian's having said that he could not dwell in heaven unless he were still able to shower benevolence on those who resided in hell. … There is that dialectic between doctrine and charity, nay?

    What I am about to write goes on a different track: one doesn't have to come to same conclusion that Thomas did after his prodding and poking to affirm that none can draw out Leviathan with a hook! <boo!> … Heh, heh, I know you have serious disagreements with Jung, but he's a guy you just can't dismiss altogether, nay? The stone that was rejected has become the cornerstone of the temple!

    Equality is WAY overvalued. It is pernicious when it tramples liberty. I sure can't find anything in the Constitution that mentions anything about "dignity," but, yes, the narrative has power…. Uh, Paul, it's far past time that sensible people rise up and say EFF this intersectional SH… Well, I don't expect you to indulge in such frank outrage, but it's past time to flush this excrement.

    Well, Paul, I know that your understanding of Christ's dispensation magnifies charity and forgiveness; but, really, even though you forgive aberrations, must you not accept norms (which are not diminished by the contingencies you mention). One should not conflate hate with an insistence on normativity. Christianity is nothing if it should fail to regard what must guide human communities from generations past to those in the future. Your Savior, although he may forgive all, lives not only from but in each age to age; today is not His only day, even if one.

    The worst aspect of the attack on the centuries-old acceptance of the meaning of marriage is how the Court (5 to 4!) dealt with it. … Aye, the decision cannot be properly reversed without an amendment. BUT IT IS STILL WRONG. What to do about it is a matter I cannot advise. … Oh, Paul, I know you know better than to spin the Wheel of Fortune. My divergence from orthodox Christianity DOES NOT depend on such trivialities. … Ah shucks, Give me that old time religion, It's good enough for me. … I'd like to have my brother listen to you, but, sigh, he would think that you are not "Biblical" enough. … I think that Peterson might be well viewed from a Catholic lens: a pagan Syballine Oracle. … Aye, I'd like to hear him lecturing on Exodus; It's the Jew in me, you know…. I told you this in our conversation: I do not agree with your dogma, but I admire deeply your commitment and the passion that consumes your soul.

  21. Sexual Authenticity by Melinda Selmys is indeed an excellent book. Can't believe I'm not the only person who's actually read it and I'm quite pleased to hear it mentioned here!

    I also recommend her book, Slave of Two Masters, which deals with another hot button topic which is economics. It's a great compilation of essays reflecting on conforming to Catholic social doctrine principles in modern life.

  22. I don't think you can talk about same sex marriage until we have a grasp on the effects of the pill has on society. For the first time in human history women can control our own biology. We don't need to manage our biology, we can actually say no to fertility. That has a unforeseen effects that are now being played out now, including the marriage bed. If the marriage bed can be rendered sterile by choice, than it is no different than a gay marriage. Marriage lost its status since then. Churches will have to define what a marriage is and its purpose first, before you can even talk about gay marriage.

  23. A book to consider checking out is Marriage, A History: How Love Conquered Marriage by Stephanie Coontz. In it she makes the point that in the West only around the 19th century personal choice for love became the dominating reason two individuals would get married, as opposed to a marriage arranged for familial, political, or economic reasons. Though it has faced challenges, the personal-choice-for-love criteria remains the most important one today. That criteria for personal choice continues to get stretched today.

  24. I am glad you are taking up this topic and that you decided to release this video. I also sincerely hope the CRC takes up your call for a confessional conversation.

  25. My 6 year old asked if boys can marry boys or girls marry girls…I legit didn’t know what to say…I just stuck with the facts and said that does happen sometimes, but mostly boys marry girls

  26. Paul, even your crazy state of CA voted it down, overwhelmingly. We are both from the just a crazy state of NJ. I know East Patterson, I mean Elmwood Park well.

  27. Ok. So, now that you’ve done 2 videos on “why we need to have this conversation” and “what the conversation actually is,” where do I go to listen to more details concerning the conversation itself? 😁

  28. Haven't listened to you for a while but I agree and applaud what you said about Jordan Peterson; you, Paul are as good! You are honest, courageous, love Father God and others…We definitely need you lift me up, enrich and encourage me….Hugs and love you brother! May the LORD continue to guard your heart and keep you dependent on your Shepherd!

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