God must be starting to feel about his Australian Church much like he did about Sodom or Jeroboam's Israel, and Manasseh's Judah. Because prominent Church leaders and teachers are increasingly promoting the acceptance of sin:
"On November 12, the NSW/ACT Baptists voted in favour of a motion to require all of its ministers and member churches to affirm a Biblical perspective of marriage. Churches not in agreement will not be able to remain in the union. (I am thankful that my own state denomination had the wisdom and foresight to affirm such a position in 2018).
What interested me, in particular, were the responses from several Baptist academics in NSW/ACT that endeavoured to frame the issue as a matter of conscience or a non-core issue. This is evident in Erin Martine Sessions’ opinion piece for the ABC in which she writes:
So, if the Baptist Association of New South Wales and the ACT wants to disaccredit me for thinking, for dissenting over category errors and logical fallacies, over eschewing history and Baptist identity, over a reductionistic view of marriage, for exercising freedom of conscience, thought, and interpretation, then they can pry my accreditation from my cold, dead hands. People were burnt at the stake and drowned in lakes for Baptist beliefs and practices. Maybe next time we vote, we can at least do them the honour of remembering what it means to be Baptist.
This reframing of marriage to a second-order matter is also evident in Michael Frost’s blog post on the subject:
But instead of rallying to fulfill these bold visions for Christian mission, we’re debating the ins and outs of how to expel a tiny number of churches that don’t agree with the majority on yet another non-core issue."
Marriage a non-core issue? Marriage is integral to creation, it is integral to the propagation and flourishing of the human race. And more importantly it speaks to the heart of the gospel itself:
"22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband" (Eph. 5:22-33).
The mystery of marriage speaks directly to the relationship between Christ and the Church. The Church is the bride of Christ, this is core, basic, orthodox Christianity, it is a sacred union. To deny this is to deny an important element of creation and Christianity.
As Tim notes in the article, early Baptists never envisioned marriage as among the disputable, non-core issues. They consistently affirmed the States authority to regulate marriage, adultery, fornication and more, because according to their reading of Romans 13 the state has the authority to punish according to the second tablet of the law.
If the state has the authority to punish adultery, how much more important is it for the Church to uphold the sacred relationship of marriage between a man and a woman? It's vital. Both the state and the Church have no right to redefine marriage or allow for the denigration of marriage, both are servants of God to ensure his teaching is upheld.
To abuse liberty of conscience as a permission for churches to promote sin, is an egregious abuse of a beautiful Christian doctrine. It's the logic of Sodom, the sin of Jeroboam and needs to be challenged.