Thursday, May 12, 2016

Dear Salvation Army: Please don't change your stance on Marriage

marriage, stock photo via

The views on this blog do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of the Salvation Army, it's employees, or partners. The views on this blog are solely those of the writer.

Dear Salvation Army, 

You rock.  I'm serious.  You're doing a great job reaching out to the least of these.  You're really doing it.  You're "Christianity in action" as Billy Graham said.  You've got great people, great leaders, and great programs.  You're on the cutting edge of culture and engagement.  It's an honor to be a part of this army.  So let me share something on my heart with you.  Because you rock, at least in my humble view.  

These are the opinions of one person, me, who would humbly encourage you in one area: Please stand firm on the issue of marriage.

There is a lot of cultural pressure in this day and age for churches, organizations, and movements to compromise in the area of marriage.  Frankly the issue is that of gay marriage and Christian practice toward those of the LGBTQ community.  

Jesus Christ was once asked about marriage and divorce.  He replied in this way:

“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” -Matthew 19:4-6 NIV

The biblical formula for marriage is between one man and one woman.  The Salvation Army position statement on marriage is as follows: "The Salvation Army affirms the New Testament standard of marriage, which is the loving union for life of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others."

There is mounting pressure in Europe, Canada, and the United States for Christian organizations to turn coat on the issue of marriage.  

The Salvation Army's current policy is quite excellent regarding gay marriage and the LGBTQ community: The Salvation Army's mission is to carry the gospel and serve all people without discrimination.  LGBTQ individuals are served, cared for, and invited to church just like anyone else.  That is missional love and the showing of mercy to those in need.  That's a good policy.  

In addition, individuals who are homosexual or other gender identities may be hired by the Salvation Army.  But here's the line: Like any other organization, for ministry leadership positions the individual must be in agreement with the core doctrines and values of the organization.  Someone who practices homosexuality would not be eligible for officership or other ministry positions because that person would be living in contradiction to core army truths.  However, if someone of homosexual disposition had committed to celibacy and God's mind on the issue, then that person would most certainly qualify for officership.  That person, like all of us, have decided to do things God's way instead of their own.  That person is not only qualified but highly qualified, given they have renounced old ways and put on Christ.  

In recent years some Christian organizations and denominational movements have made moves to change their marriage doctrines to allow for gay marriage to be practiced.  The arguments have been that this is about love, inclusion, tolerance, and equal rights for gay couples.  The results have overwhelmingly been that there is a mass exodus from the movement.  And with the core principles of the churches compromised, soon other compromises come about, and the movement dies off completely.  I don't want to see the same thing happen to the Salvation Army.  

We must never, never, never endorse a practice that the scriptures show clearly to be sinful. Regarding homosexuality, the New Testament writer, the Apostle Paul addressed this issue in the flagship book of Protestantism, the book of Romans.

Paul was writing regarding those who disbelieve in God, who refuse to obey His standards when he wrote: "For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised.Amen.

Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error."
-Romans 1:21-27 NIV

Critics say that this scripture doesn't apply because the context is that it's addressing idolatry.  It is true that the context is how God deals with idolatry, which is that he then gives people over to indulge in sin.  It makes sense, if people don't want Him, then he turns them over to their own desires; desires which God defines as sinful.  And God indicates that these sinful desires include homosexual activity.  Which means despite the context being idolatry, implicit in the scripture is the clear truth that homosexual practice is indeed sinful.  Another attack on this scripture is saying that Paul was addressing the pedophilia practiced by men in Rome. But Paul doesn't say children, he says men.  Which means he's talking about adult men.  And he also talks about women indulging in sinful behavior with women.  How could that have to do with pedophilia?  Paul wasn't addressing pedophilia.  He was addressing idolatry, and implicit in his description of idolatry is the truth that homosexuality is a sinful practice.

Another attack levied against biblical marriage is ceremonial laws of the Old Testament. The objector will start listing off ceremonial and judicial laws from the Old Testament, mainly from Exodus and Leviticus.  They say: "Do you eat pork? Do you eat shell-fish? Should you stone your wife if she commits adultery?  Do you think a woman who is on her period is unclean?  How can you pick and choose!"

The answer to this is that the levitical laws were ceremonial rules for the ancient nation of Israel, mainly for their health and safety.  These laws were for an ancient nation 4,000 years ago, to help them stay healthy and to eat the right foods, and so on and so forth.  We are not under the ceremonial laws.  The judicial laws in exodus were for the ancient nation of Israel once again, as rules for an ancient people to begin to learn to obey their God. They were the very beginning of government laws for an ancient people.  

The Bible is what we call a "progressive revelation."  Meaning over thousands of years God interacted with people by slowly revealing His will and plan in ways they could understand.  We still look back to the Old Testament at things like the 10 commandments in Exodus, because those commands are spiritual in nature.  We still look back to the OT in other areas for inspiring stories and wise teachings, but the ceremonial and judicial laws are no longer binding.  We are directly under the teachings of the New Testament today. And time and again homosexuality is directly prohibited in the New Testament (1st Corinthians 6:9-11, Romans 1:26-28, 1st Timothy 1:10).  

In fact during the spread of the early church in the book of Acts, the Jerusalem council meets to decide if Gentiles (non-Jews) should be required to keep the OT laws (See Acts 15:1-35).  The decision is made that Gentiles must not be placed under the OT laws, because of the grace of Christ, but that the Gentiles should be taught to live holy lives, and it's specifically mentioned at the Jerusalem council that gentiles should be taught to abstain from sexual immorality.  Included in the umbrella term "sexual immorality" is of course prohibited homosexual practices as described in the NT.

Look, I'm not trying to be mean, or judgmental, or unloving.  But the Bible says what it says, and doesn't say what it doesn't say.  And given the choice between the Bible and someones opinion, I'll take God's word every time. 

There is a very simple question to ask: Is the Bible the word of God?  Does the Salvation Army as a Christian church movement believe that the Bible is the true, real word of God?  The answer is of course yes, given doctrine 1.  So if the answer is indeed "yes" which it always ought to be, then we have absolutely no business encouraging that which God has forbidden.  It's just that simple.  

At the end of Romans 1 Paul also writes: "Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them." (v.32)  Do we want to join the growing number who have decided to approve of those who practice such behaviors?  

Additional scriptures dealing with homosexuality: Genesis 19:1-13; Leviticus 18:22;20:13; Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9.

Articles regarding the Bible & homosexuality: 

Scientific, Logical, and Sociological Evidence against Gay Marriage:
Watch a presentation by the Christian apologist Frank Turek on the issue of gay marriage.

This is a very tough issue.  Let me repeat that: this is a very tough issue.  The culture is quite convinced that anyone standing for natural marriage is on the same level as the most demented, backwards, evil bigot.  Human rights organizations have and will condemn anyone who dares to a take a stand on this issue.  Those who stand for natural marriage have been and will be called hate-mongers, bigots, homophobes, and discriminatory religious zealots.  

But it's worse than that. Sadly gay activists have taken to suing Christian businesses, slandering Christians who take a stand, and getting Christians fired from their jobs for standing for their religious values in the public square.  Some in the government wage a war on religious liberty, demanding that Christian business owners be forced to participate in gay marriage ceremonies or be shut down and fined hundreds of thousands of dollars.  That could very soon continue forward into the area of ministry and pastoring.  Now the Department of Justice is demanding that all bathrooms in the country be open to anyone.  If a biologically male individual prefers to be considered female, then he must be allowed to enter and use the female restroom.  The same is being forced on public and private schools, for locker room use and restroom use.  This agenda will only continue.  We can't avoid politics, even if we aren't interested in politics, politics is interested in us. 

Many top companies in the U.S.A. have taken to bullying states to push forward the redefinition of marriage.  National companies may boycott you or your entire state, as Indiana was boycotted for attempts to protect religious liberty and how recently North Carolina has been boycotted by musicians, employers, and over 120 different major U.S. companies.  Some of the companies involved include: The NFL, the NBA, Paypal, Starbucks, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter, Pepsi, Whole Foods, Hyatt, and many others.  We may find ourselves attacked, boycotted, and slandered for defending natural marriage, but who do we want to be?  God's people or the favorites of the world? 

The Salvation Army has had to deal with attacks from the LGBT community, and the response of the Salvation Army has been excellent.  The Salvation Army has reached out to LGBT individuals, despite hatred and vitriol toward a time honored charity.  The Salvation Army is right to reach out.  But there must also be limits in regard to this issue.  These limits have been extended tactfully by army leadership.  But some in the Army fear that leadership may begin to move to the left on this issue, and eventually adopt a full on position of support for gay marriage.

This would be a profound mistake, and a major departure from the shared meanings of the past.  It would no doubt splinter the organization and cause mass resignations.  The cost is high, but the Salvation Army must stand firm on the issue of marriage.  Dare we change God's design for cultural acceptance only to find ourselves outside the will of God? 

Let's think outside the box.  How can we encourage a change of heart and mind in those struggling?  How can we compassionately call people to repentance from harmful behaviors?  How can we treat people with dignity and respect, yet also carry the full gospel message?

The Salvation Army is a conservative biblical Christian movement.  All that means is that we take scripture to literally mean what it says: We literally believe Jesus Christ resurrected from the dead.  We literally believe God is real.  We literally believe that the teachings in the Bible apply today.  Which is a good thing, because these are not just our beliefs, they are facts of life.  God is in fact real.  Jesus Christ is in fact, Lord.  Thus we must never abandon that which the Bible teaches.  Small compromises lead quickly to a pattern of compromise and that is very dangerous.  

God is real.  He is active in the world.  God's Bible is real, true, and infallible.  It is the description of God's timeless truths.  Thus when the Bible tells us something is sinful, we must never call it anything but that.  There have always been heavy pressures from the cultures we engage in.  At the founding of the Salvation Army most churches hated the army, and people threw rocks at brass bands and those attending open air meetings.  In the 1950s atheistic communists took control of Seoul, Korea and captured a Salvation Army officer named Major Noh.  This Salvation Army officer was shot as he lifted his Bible in one hand and his song book in the other declaring, "Whether I live or die matters not, Christ lives!"

Should we change our marriage stance?  Should we encourage that which God has forbidden for the affection of the LGBT community, for the acceptance of U.S. businesses, for the sake of "equality and inclusion?"  Never.  Because it doesn't matter what happens to us, live or die, fired or labeled haters, none-the-less Christ lives!  

Our application of God's word adapts to the culture as it shifts.  But the eternal truths found in God's word do not change.  Marriage is a sacred union between man and wife, to the exclusion of any other combination.  Let's carry the message of the gospel in the fullness of grace and truth, standing firm in His word despite what the culture demands. United, here we stand, God help us: One Army, a Christian army. 

Please feel free to share this article and the pictures.  If you're an adherent, soldier or officer in the Salvation Army please consider being an active advocate in your area for a biblical foundation of marriage, family, and core theology.  We need voices like yours, standing firmly for the truth.  Thank you! 

From the Salvation Army position statement on marriage and divorce
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