Simplifying Assumptions

Over the past few weeks, I’ve had a re-occurring conversation with several people.  Not surprisingly, the topic of that conversation has been on my mind a good deal lately:  Namely, the state of marriage in Iowa.

Let’s get two things straight before I begin:  I have never been married before.  And, in the future, I intend to make, as Thomas Jefferson put it, “entangling alliances with no one.”  Hence, my views can only be based on indirect experience, and my understanding of the Scripture.  At the same time, I have yet to hear a compelling, (Biblical or secular) argument to contradict these views.

In order to gain insight into the operation of a complex real-world system, engineers often make broad assumptions that minimize calculation.  While these conjectures often ignore details and extreme cases, they can be a powerful tool in understanding the overall behavior of the system.  This is what I’ve done in forming my current view of marriage.  There will be minor exceptions to a few of the following ideas, but I believe they match very well on the whole with both the Bible and common sense:

Let all humankind be divided into two groups:

  • Group A: Those who have chosen to reject Christ (Rom 3:23).
  • Group B: Recipients of God’s free gift of salvation (Rom 3:24).

From even a cursory look at God’s Word, it’s clear that there are two completely different standards by which groups A and B are spiritually judged by God:

  • Standard A: The standard of the Law:  Since God cannot tolerate ANY sin  (James 2:10), there is absolutely no hope (Matt 3:12, Rom 1:18-28) for those who do not receive supernatural cleansing from sin.
  • Standard B: The standard of Christ:  Once a person expresses faith in Christ’s ability to remove one’s sin, and commits his or her life to serving God, all of that person’s past, present, and future sin is erased (1 John 1:9).  As a voluntary measure of love and gratitude for Christ, His followers are given the command and power to live life in accordance with God’s Word (1 John 1:6, Rom 6).

In keeping with these, let us assume two types of sin:

  • Type A: Committed by an unbeliever.  Without the guiding influence of the Holy Spirit in one’s life, sin wields great power over a person, which they are unable to overcome — hence the term “slaves to sin” (Rom 6:5-7).
  • Type B: Committed by a believer.  Since God’s children have the power to resist temptation (1 Cor 10:13) there is no excuse for a believer to willingly disobey God.

All this gives rise to the following proposition:

Salvation first, then life-change.

In light of Scripture, there is no question whether or not homosexuality is a sin.  However, non-Christians who happen to be gay are in exactly the same spiritual state as non-Christians who happen to be devout Buddists.  By the same token, a Christian can’t honestly call himself or herself a follower of Christ if he or she is knowingly involved in any sinful way of living.  Whether this lifestyle is one of sin is gossip, hatefulness, or homosexuality, true believers will consistently steps to eventually “walk in the light”.

Thus, while there are moral absolutes, it makes no sense for the government to make laws which do not have clear secular benefit.  Because they are indwelt with Christ, believers have no need of moral legislation.  Conversely, there is no spiritual benefit (to Christians or non-Christians) to forcing unbelievers to be moral unbelievers.

There is a logical extension of this reasoning that implies that the legally-recognized institution of marriage (as opposed to the church-recognized institution) also makes no sense.  But, that will have to wait until another day.  🙂

8 thoughts on “Simplifying Assumptions

  1. Thus, while there are moral absolutes, it makes no sense for the government to make laws which do not have clear secular benefit.

    And, thus, the standard by which any law is judged is whether there is a clear secular benefit?

    If so, then who is empowered to make the decision about whether there is a clear secular benefit to any proposed or actual law?

  2. Smart people — akin to those empowered to validate scientific theories.

  3. In the interest of keeping the discussion going… It seems that you’ve just swapped one standard (what is immoral) for another (what has a clear secular benefit), while abandoning the basis to answer either question.

  4. I feel that I’ve merely made a distinction between the basis and roles of civil and moral law.

    The former is a human-defined set of rules that people enforce for mutual physical safety (no theft, murder, or irresponsible use of toxic chemicals) — and is applicable to everyone under a particular government.

    The latter is revealed by God to allow mankind to live in a proper relationship with Him — and is moot to all but believers.

  5. Very stimulating!

    However, I return to this question: On what basis does a society decide what has clear secular benefit? If the majority thinks that robbing from the rich to give to the poor has a clear secular benefit, is that sufficient for civil law? If not, why not? By what standard is robbing from the rich either right or wrong?

    FWIW, Paul taught that the moral law was given for the benefit of the unbeliever and is not moot to all but believers.

  6. This is proving to be a hot topic! 🙂

    In an ideal world, there would be no need for laws, since everyone would do what’s right. In a fallen world with a fallen government, laws are determined by the convictions or whims of whoever has the resources to enforce them.

    In a fallen world with an ideal government, laws would be written by experienced students of sociology and history. Just as physical fact is distinguished from error by the collective judgement of experienced scientists, so what is secularly good for society is measured by experts in the field — and is proven true or false by the test of time and study.

    One might question the solidity of such a basis, but doing so would be a purely philosophical exercise with no practical resolution — roughly equivalent questioning the logical axioms (which were determined in the same way).

    I’ve heard that statement before about Paul, and it seems like it could be true, but I haven’t been able to locate a clear passage — or resolve the idea with the fact that this life is meaningless without Christ.

  7. Pingback: Politics: What I think and why it doesn’t matter that much. | A Trip to Josiahland

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