A few weeks back, influential New York minister Tim Keller spoke at a forum run by the US Ethics and Public Policy Centre, during which he made some comments on the issue of gay marriage. What he said attracted a lot of discussion, but was apparently misunderstood by some, and he subsequently issued an explanation.
His comments merit further thought.
What he said
you can believe homosexuality is a sin and still believe that same-sex marriage should be legal”
A lot of my own younger leaders are saying, why are we fighting about gay marriage? We are not trying to make the nation into a Christian nation. People should have civil rights.”
Reaction and explanation
Some of those reporting Keller’s comments inferred that he himself supported the establishment of civil gay marriage, but the transcript of his comments, and a subsequent explanation made it clear that he does not. Rather, he was observing that, in contrast to his more reformed viewpoint:
many younger evangelicals are taking an Anabaptist-like position; that is, that while they still believe homosexuality to be a sin, they don’t think the government should put that belief into law for the nation”
Three interesting issues
I think his comments raise three interesting issues:
Christianity is changing?
Is he right that increasingly, evangelical christians, especially younger ones, are adopting an approach that differentiates between christian ethics and civil law, and so doesn’t oppose gay marriage?
A 2013 Pew Forum survey revealed that christians in the US still mostly believe that homosexuality is a sin, but are slowly moving towards greater acceptance of same-sex marriage, even though this is still not the majority view. This follows the US public as a whole, where the greatest acceptance is in the younger age groups.
The Huffington Post referred to two other polls which indicated that a majority of younger evangelicals now support gay marriage. So it seems Tim was right in how he saw things panning out in the future.
Is it right to change?
I have blogged on this before, and my views haven’t changed. I agree with the Anabaptists that, whatever ethical view we hold on homosexuality, “we surely have better things to do than expending energy trying to legislate righteousness”
Keller does not support changing the law to allow gay marriage, but he nevertheless recognised there is a strong argument for not opposing it, when he said:
there are all sorts of things the Bible forbids …. that we would never want to be legislated. …. idol worship is the worst sin in the Bible, … but I think it would be quite un-American to make that illegal.”
Can we change a Bible-based teaching?
Keller raises this issue, which will be the subject of my next post.