One of my seminary professors, a systematic theologian named Dr. Richard Lints, told me that all good theology begins in Genesis 1. If this is true, which I believe that it is, then we must think about Genesis 1 correctly if we are going to think appropriately about God. This first chapter of Scripture lays the foundation for the way in which we understand God. It’s no wonder, then, that this is one of the most contentious and hotly-debated texts in all of Scripture. Coupled with the trajectory of modern science since the publication of Darwin’s Origin of the Species, the interpretation of Genesis 1 has served for many as a litmus test for true belief. Yet even within evangelicalism, there is a vast spectrum of belief on this text, ranging from Biologos to Answers in Genesis, and many in between.

There are many different ways to interpret Genesis 1, just as there are many different ways to interpret, for example, the book of Revelation, or Daniel, or the Psalms. It is worth noting, though it should go without saying, that people who love Jesus very much can come into sharp disagreement over the interpretation of biblical passages–especially Genesis 1. The litmus test for true belief, however, is not what one believes about Genesis 1, but whether or not one believes the Gospel–that Jesus died for our sins and rose again. With that said, I’d like to lay out what I take to be the meaning of Genesis 1.

What God Wanted to Say

The first and most important question we must ask with any biblical text is this: What did God intend to communicate through the original author to the text’s intended audience? We ask this question because the meaning of a text cannot change. As Fee & Stuart have written in their excellent work, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, “The Bible cannot mean what it never meant.” While personal and communal applications of a text may change across time and culture, the meaning of a text does not change.

So when it comes to Genesis 1, we must ask the question: What did God intend to communicate through Moses (or Abraham, or Ezra, or whoever actually wrote the passage) to the Hebrew people in the hymn that is Genesis 1? Approaching the question this way, one thing should come immediately to mind: Moses did not write Genesis 1 as a polemic against Darwinian evolution. Darwin’s book was published roughly 3,000 years after Genesis 1, so to assume that this text is about evolution/creation is to commit an historical anachronism of the first order. It’s simply not possible. 


The litmus test for true belief is not what one believes about Genesis 1, but whether or not one believes the Gospel–that Jesus died for our sins and rose again.

When we step into the culture of the Ancient Near East (which you can’t physically do, but two books, The Lost World of Genesis One and The Bible Among the Myths, can help you understand a great deal more about it) we see that Genesis 1 is not a polemic against Darwinian Evolutionary Theory or naturalistic materialism; it is, however, a polemic against pagan pantheism. The real problem that Genesis 1 sets out to address is not the mechanism by which God created the universe, but rather which god is the true creator.

In fact, the unique genius of Genesis 1 is that it presents a monotheistic theology of creation that holds humanity in high esteem. Typically, the creation myths of Israel’s neighbors presented a pantheistic (many gods) view of creation with the heavens and the earth being the byproduct of some cosmic war. In this pagan scenario, humanity is an unwelcome addition to this world of chaos, thereby establishing their bottom-rung value in the universe, useful for little more than serving the needs of the gods.

But in Genesis 1 we get something radically different. We see a singular God speaking the heavens and the earth into being by himself and on purpose. What is more, in this story humanity is the pinnacle of creation, bearing the very image of this all-powerful, speaking Creator God, who called humans “very good.” Even more radical than this, the text declares that God created humanity male and female, meaning that women have as much inherent, created dignity, worth, and purpose as men. You might say that Genesis 1 erases and rewrites everything–EVERYTHING–that Hebrews, inundated by Ancient Near Eastern cultural values, knew about creation, divinity, and themselves. It may just be the most powerful, worldview-deconstructing and -reconstructing text ever written.

Imagine that you are a Hittite, or an Egyptian, or a Babylonian living around 1400 BC. You believe in many gods, and they are all powerful, vengeful, angry, and often possess little or no moral character. They are strong, but they are not good. You also believe that humanity exists to be, in essence, the slaves of the gods, and are completely subject to the whims of the members of the divine pantheon. Furthermore, whatever dignity exists within humanity is entirely invested in males, especially firstborn males. Women are good for child bearing and little else. This is your worldview. These beliefs, more than anything else, form the way you look at the world. And then you find the text of Genesis 1. What happens to you? No one has ever even conceived of these things before! You have no category for what you read here. Creation comes into being, not through divine warfare, but through divine proclamation. All creation is called “good.” Human beings, both men and women, are called “very good.” This changes everything.

The Pattern in the Days

I had been reading Genesis 1 for a long, long time before someone pointed out to me the pattern in the days. Have you ever noticed it before? The first three days line up with the second three days. In other words, day 1 is associated with day 4, day 2 with day 5, and day 3 with day 6. Check out the tabbed table below for more info on the days.

[tabs] [tab title=”Day 1″] On the first day of Creation God made light, separating it from the darkness. He called the light “day” and the darkness “night.” Notice that he hasn’t yet created any celestial bodies to shine or reflect any light, much less anything for the light to shine upon. No light-producers–no sun, moon, or stars. He has simply created light. It’s as though light exists as an empty field or canvas, unpopulated and unmarked. [/tab] [tab title=”Day 4″] Three days later, God created the celestial bodies–the sun, moon, and stars–to govern the passage of days. In other words, God filled or populated the empty field called “light” he made on the first day. Now, light does not simply exist, but serves the function of the passage of time. [/tab] [tab title=”Day 2″] The second day is really interesting because it is the separation of the waters. This concept comes from Ancient Near Eastern cosmology, in which it was understood that there was water behind an “expanse” or “vault” in the sky. This was how they understood the process of rainfall, which, given the scientific understanding of the time, is perfectly reasonable. What happened on this day, though, was that God separated two realms–the sea and the sky. Like on the first day, there are not yet any inhabitants of these realms. They are empty. [/tab] [tab title=”Day 5″] On the fifth day, God created the fish and the birds–the inhabitants of the sea and the sky! He painted an empty canvas on the second day, and then, just as with day four, he filled it up, though this time with beautiful, powerful, awe-inspiring creatures. [/tab] [tab title=”Day 3″] The third day was when God pulled back the waters of the sea and created dry ground. An interesting note about this day is that, unlike with days 1 and 2, the land produced something on day 3–vegetation! This points to the Hebrew understanding that vegetation and land are one and the same, and that the land exists to produce vegetation for… [/tab] [tab title=”Day 6″] Animals and humans! Day 6 is connected with day 3 just like the other two pairs in that God first created an empty field, and then filled that field with his creatures. God created spaces, and then he filled those spaces with creatures. [/tab] [/tabs]

There is an unmistakeable, and, I believe, a God-breathed pattern in the first six days of Creation. God creates a space, and then God fills that space with creatures who give it purpose and life. The order of the Creation text is no accident, and is, in fact, meant to lead us to an understanding of the order of Creation itself. But it leaves us with a question, doesn’t it? What about that seventh day? Why no pair for that day? What does it mean?

Divine Enthronement

The design of Genesis 1 is meant to point us to a profound cosmic reality, one that gets lost in the modern debate over the age of the earth and the origins of the universe. The three pairs of days are meant to point our attention toward the final, unpaired day, and make us ask the question, “What is so special about this day?”

Of course we all know that the seventh day is the Sabbath, the day that God rested. We imagine that this is the day God kicked up his feet, drank some lemonade, and maybe read a good book. Or took a nap. Whatever he did, we think of it as God taking a break from work. But there’s a crucial question that we haven’t been trained to ask, and that is this: “What did it mean, in the Ancient Near East (the culture in which Genesis 1 was written), for a god to take his rest?” In his excellent book The Lost World of Genesis One, John Walton writes that an ancient god always takes his rest in his temple.

So what happens on the seventh day is not so much a prolonged divine lunch break as it is a moving day. God takes his rest in his creation. Creation is God’s temple. God moves into creation. God is present within, while at the same time distinct from, the cosmos he has just created. All creation is God’s holy place. The creation myths of Israel’s neighbors begin, so to speak, with a world already thrust into chaos, sin, and death. But the Hebrew creation story begins with a good creation inhabited by a good and beautiful God–a holy world functioning in perfect harmony because of the presence of its Creator.

It is vital, I believe, for us to understand the world, and ourselves, primarily in the light of God’s original creation. Too many Christians functionally believe that Genesis and 1 and 2 are nothing more than happy myths, faerie tales, and that the Bible doesn’t really start telling the truth of creation until Genesis 3, the fall. Too many Christians think of themselves, the world, and even God, as though Genesis 3 were more true than Genesis 1. But Genesis 1 describes reality as it was and will be again, while Genesis 3 describes reality as it is now but will someday no longer be.

The Living God

Genesis 1 isn’t about geology or biology; it’s about a good Creator creating a good world, a home suitable for creatures that are more like he is than the angels are. On that sixth day, God made human beings, and he made them in his image. This is significant.

In the Ancient Near East, every god’s temple had to have an image–a statue, an inscription–to signify whose temple this was. For example, Dagon’s temple would have an image of Dagon in it. Baal’s would have an image of Baal, and so forth. So what did God choose to put as his image in his temple? Us. Humans. We are the inscriptions, the living statues on earth that testify to every living creature to whom this temple belongs, what sort of God he is, and how we might know him.


Genesis 1 tells us that God is alive because you are alive.

If you understand human beings from a Genesis 3 perspective, you would naturally conclude that the God in whose image they were created is a foul, nasty, cowardly, shallow deity bent on sex, food, and power. But if you understand human beings from a Genesis 1 perspective, you would see the Creator God as a good, wise, benevolent deity who sought the best for his creatures. (It’s important to note that Jesus was a Genesis 1 kind of human.) But here’s the most important part: all the images of all the other gods were made of wood, stone, or metal. In other words, they were dead. The breath of life was not in them. But the image of the Hebrew God is made of flesh and blood. It breathes. It moves. It is alive. And if God’s image is alive, how much more alive is that God? Genesis 1 tells us that God is alive because you are alive. You are a living apologetic to the existence of God.

God is not like the other gods. He does not need anyone to make him a house or a temple. He made his own temple and came to dwell within it, setting up his own living images to govern and care for it. His intention was and is for his living images to spread over the earth, subduing it, caring for it, ruling over it in the same way he rules over the cosmos–with wisdom, strength, and mercy. These living images, however, were not merely his minions, created solely to do his bidding. They were and are individual lives, minds, and personalities, meant to know and be known by one another and, most importantly, by God himself. God’s intention has been, from the very beginning, to dwell with humanity within his creation–within the beauty and holiness of his temple. This is the way it was, and to the praise of his glory and grace, the way it will be again.

Ezekiel, my three year old son who suffers from persistent epilepsy, slept between me and Breena last night. That afternoon he was laying on my lap when he had a major seizure. While he typically has a near-constant barrage of micro seizures (usually lasting about 2 seconds, occurring every 10 to 20 seconds), he hasn’t had a major seizure in several months, and to our knowledge, never while sleeping. But as he lay sleeping on my lap, his whole body began to jerk in a semi-rhythmic pattern. This was unlike anything I had ever seen him do before.

I called for Breena, and she came running downstairs. His eyes were open, but they were straining upward and to the left. A major seizure. We gave him a medicine called Diastat, which is essentially valium, and is designed to significantly slow the brain down, ending all seizure activity. Though he did seem to come out of his seizure, something else seemed to be going on, as well.

He rested his head on Breena’s knee, staring into the corner of the room. I moved my head into his line of sight, and it looked like he recognized me–like he was looking right at me. But as I moved my head away, his eyes did not follow. In fact, they didn’t move at all. Nor blink. What I saw terrified me unlike anything in all my life. I saw death in his eyes. For what felt like an eternity, they didn’t move or close. He just lay there, empty.

Breena screamed his name as I scrambled for the phone to dial 911. While I was fidgeting with the password, looking down, he came out of it. He blinked, looked around, and came slowly back to consciousness. Or whatever. From wherever. His right arm lay useless at his side, exhausted from seizing. But he seemed cheerful enough, at least for a kid who has just seized like crazy and been loaded up with valium. Breena took him to the ER where he eventually regained movement in his arm, and received the necessary drug treatment. Then they came home, and we continued on with our life, now with the burden of the knowledge that he can have a major seizure while sleeping.

I thought I had watched my son die. My wife and I are both convinced that, had he been in his bed napping instead of with me, he would have died. These thoughts weigh heavily on us.

But we are also lifted–lifted by the prayers of saints both here in our town, across the country, and all over the world. We feel that. We really do. And it gives us courage. The prayers of the saints and the support we receive from family and friends allows us to persevere through the hell of Ezekiel’s epilepsy. We have seen, and been the beneficiaries of, the kingdom of God on earth.

We continue to pray, of course, that God would heal Ezekiel, and we know that many around the world are praying this with us. God is good, and we trust him, so we’re asking him for the best possible outcome. And why not? The Scriptures tell us to approach God’s throne with freedom and confidence. Jesus said to pray with audacity.

So we do. And we wait. Some days we struggle. Others we thrive. Some days the disease wins. Others it doesn’t. Through all of it I’m reminded of the certainty of the hope we have in Jesus–the hope that we will one day, like Jesus, rise again from the dead to everlasting, full, whole, renewed life.

Life that will never be tainted by death or disease.

Life where Ezekiel is my brother, and where we can talk for long hours about the goodness of God and the beauty of life.

Life where we can sing praises to our God in beautiful harmony. (Something we could never do in this life, though not because he can’t talk or sing, if you know what I mean.)

Life where he can ponder the mysteries of creation, and where his steady hands can build a home, tall and strong.

Life where I will look into his eternal eyes and see…Life.

That’s my hope. And I have it because of Jesus. Come, Lord Jesus.

Those who know my wife and I personally know that we have a son with special needs. Our three year old boy has epilepsy, and it is ravaging his brain. He has a seizure every 15 seconds–all day, every day. He falls all the time. He can’t speak, so his only form of communication is grunting, yelling, screaming, or crying. Sometimes he can’t walk, and has to push himself around on his knees. My wife had to take him to the ER tonight because he cracked his head multiple times today, opening up an old wound on the back of his head. We think that he’s in constant pain, or at least frustration at his brain’s and body’s inability to cooperate.

Many of you are praying for him, and for that my wife and I are exceptionally grateful. Though it is difficult, at times, to cling to God in the midst of this chaos and hell, we know that we would be utterly lost without him. Your prayers give us strength and courage. I wrote a prayer for Ezekiel tonight, and I thought I would share it here.

Jesus, Living One, Hope Anchor
Be blessed for dying for our sins
Be blessed for rising again
Jesus, Death Killer, Life Giver
You whisper the words that revive my soul
You stretch your arms wide to embrace me, to die, to bear the burdens of we who have grown sick, to rise again, to rule, to invite the prayers of your people

You are a son
Like my son
I am a father
Like your father
But I need his son to heal my son
My boy is hurting
He seizes, he shudders, he falls, he bleeds
He groans, he aches, he shouts, he cannot speak
Chaos advances upon him every minute, every moment
Hell comes in the night, seizing him
Clutching, shaking, gripping
It doesn’t let go
Iran claws lay siege to his brain, his body
Relentless, violent, bloodthirsty
The mouth of hell opens wide to swallow him

Shut its mouth, Jesus!
Break its fangs, Warrior King
Deal death a deathblow; throw chaos into chaos; send the demons running
Break loose the iron grip upon his brain; break its hands with a word
Speak, Jesus, speak to your Father because my son can’t speak to me
Give him voice, not that he might speak, but that he might sing, sing the praises of the One who set him free

Bless him, Blessed One
Bless him with a song to sing, the Gospel to proclaim
Still his mind
Silence hell
Order chaos
Arise, Risen One
Arise, Victorious One
Arise, Lord of strength and life and love
Be the strong God of my son
Be the saving God of my boy
May he walk without shuddering
May he sing without stuttering
May he proclaim the goodness of God in the land where the living dwell

Arise, my Father’s Son to heal my son
Heal my boy in your resurrection glory
Stretch out your arms
Embrace him
Release him
Revive him
Resurrect him
Arise, Jesus, arise
You are my hope
There is no other

Creation

The manner in which God created all that exists was a rather humble undertaking, especially when compared to the creation myths of ancient Israel’s cultural relatives. Many other ancient creation myths tell the story of cosmic war, of a battle being waged between the gods where the loser’s carcass becomes the earth and its drops of blood becomes humans. (Or other such things.) In this scenario, all humanity is meant to serve the victorious god as his slaves, providing for his various wants and needs. But in Genesis, we see creation accomplished by the mere act of God’s speech. There is no violence; there is no victory. There is only, “And God said…and it was so”.

Humanity, in Genesis, is not placed on earth to be God’s slaves, providing for his miscellaneous divine needs. Instead, they are placed on earth to rule and subdue it, to be fruitful and multiply. They are, most profoundly of all, created in God’s image. God is neither so immanent that he requires human slaves to meet his divine needs, nor is he so transcendent that he would not deign to have a creature represent himself on earth. God, in his deep humility, created human beings just a little less than himself, and set them apart from creation to bear his image and rule the world for its and their own good.

We bear God’s image in that we are free moral agents. God intentionally created us with the freedom to choose to obey him or disobey him. This is remarkable! God had every right to create intelligent beings without freedom; beings who would always choose to obey him no matter the circumstances. Instead, he created us: intelligent beings who could freely use their powers for evil—people who would set themselves up as rivals to God. God knew this would happen, and yet he showed such unconcern for his own unique majesty that he created free moral beings, a little lower than himself, and gave them the charge of ruling creation. In this he has revealed not simply his all-surpassing power, but the infinite well of humility out of which all else that is true of him flows.

Abram

When human beings used their God-given freedom to rebel against him, sin entered the world and poisoned everything good that God had made. At that time, when confronting Adam, Eve, and the serpent, God promised that, one day, one of Eve’s offspring would contend with the serpent and overcome him. This is the first promise of a Savior, or a Messiah. Thousands of years passed, however, before God began to set that plan into action. The man he chose was a pagan named Abram, whom God called to leave his homeland and go to Canaan.

When reading the account of God and Abram, the humility of God is not necessarily self-evident. It crops up here and there, but really the story is about God creating a nation through Abram’s offspring—of which he has none, though he is quite old. But there is one strange passage that holds the whole story together, and in it we see God’s humility on display unlike anywhere else in the Old Testament.

Genesis 15 | The Lord Makes a Covenant with Abram

1 After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision:

“Do not be afraid, Abram.

I am your shield,

your very great reward.”

2 But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?”3 And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.”

4 Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.”5 He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”

6 Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.

7 He also said to him, “I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.”

8 But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?”

9 So the Lord said to him, “Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.”

10 Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds, however, he did not cut in half.11 Then birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away.

12 As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him.13 Then the Lord said to him, “Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there.14 But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions.15 You, however, will go to your ancestors in peace and be buried at a good old age.16 In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.”

17 When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces.18 On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates—19 the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites,20 Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites,21 Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.”

In the ancient near east, covenants like this were made (literally cut—because of the cutting of the animals) between two parties, one greater (the suzerain) and one lesser (the vassal). The suzerain determined the terms of the covenant, and the vassal was required to obey them. The vassal symbolized his agreement to the terms by passing between the pieces of the animals, saying, in essence, “If I break the terms of this covenant, may it be to me as it has been done to these animals”. But in this covenant, the vassal (Abram) does not pass through the pieces. Instead, the suzerain (YHWH) does. In this act, God is saying to Abram, “If you [or your descendants] break the terms of this covenant, may it be done to ME as it has been done to these animals”. God kept his promise, but Abram’s descendants failed to keep faith with this or any other covenant they made with God. He knew this would happen, and yet God made this covenant with Abram anyhow. Nothing shows his humility more than God’s willingness to die for the faithlessness of his creatures.

There is no doubt in my mind that gay marriage (or, marriage equality) is one of the most important issues of our time. For many people, it has deep, personal significance, and therefore deserves to be treated with respect. In this post I would like to lay out, as briefly as possible, my thoughts on gay marriage. While I have already sketched my thoughts about marriage on this blog (and if you have read that post you already know where I stand on this issue), I would like to talk specifically about gay marriage. My hope is to contribute something to the larger, cultural discussion, that is both gracious and thoughtful. You can judge for yourself whether I have done so at the end of this post.

Let me begin by sketching, as best I can, the current case in support of gay marriage.

Marriage is a basic human right, and human beings ought to be free to marry whomever they choose, insofar as that person is a willing participant in the relationship. Love does not discriminate between genders; homosexual love is qualitatively the same as heterosexual love. A gay man’s love for another man is essentially the same as a straight man’s love for a woman. To deny two consenting adults the freedom to marry is discrimination of the first order, akin to racism, and definitively unAmerican. Our nation’s deepest values, after all, are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness–at least two of which are flatly denied to homosexual couples through the prohibition of gay marriage. Therefore, gay marriage is not simply about marriage; it is about civil and human rights.

I hope that I have captured the essence of the argument in support of gay marriage, though it is not my intention to debunk this argument. In fact, if I were to approach the issue from a purely American standpoint, I could not debunk it. Within the American political and cultural climate, this argument is perfectly logical, and we, as a people, would have a moral obligation to immediately legalize gay marriage.

However, I do not approach this issue, or any other, as an American. I approach this issue as a Christian whose faith in Jesus is authoritatively informed by the Bible. Based on how I read the Scriptures, I make the following assertions:

The Church, especially the evangelical church and the individuals who compose her, needs to repent of the way in which she has treated homosexuals.

Whatever we believe about homosexuality, there is no excuse for the way the Church has typically treated homosexuals. What we see in Jesus is that God has not treated any human being with contempt or disgust, but has graciously given each of us sinners infinite worth. Rather than extending that grace and worth to homosexuals, we Christians have played the part of the ungrateful man whose massive debt was repaid but who would not forgive the smallest amount owed to him.

I, too, have participated in this hypocrisy, contempt, and disgust. I have told innumerable gay jokes. I have used caricature and overdone imitation to get laughs. I have been thoughtless, careless, and judgmental toward homosexuals. For all of that, I am sorry. I was wrong.

God is neither impressed nor moved by our notion of romantic love.

Somewhere along the way we have developed this idea that there is no higher thing than romantic love. Though billions of people have lived lives at least as happy and healthy as our own without romantic love, we take it to be as important to our well-being as the air we breathe. It is worth fighting for, dying for, or killing for. Romantic love, we believe, is inherently good, and therefore anything that stands in its way must be evil. We are lost without it, and therefore entitled to it. Romantic love is a fundamental human right.

God does not share such a high opinion of romantic love. Don’t get me wrong, God likes romantic love–after all, he created it. But I believe that he created it as an aid to human life, not as the aim or highest ideal of it. Romantic love aids us to have good marriages where union and intimacy are present more often than not. But, as almost all of us have experienced, romantic love can be a real pain. It is no fluke that the ancient Greeks depicted Eros, the god of romantic love, as a mischievous child-god who caused love to grow between two people who had no business being in love. (Think: Evil Cupid.) Romantic love, while a beautiful and glorious thing in the appropriate context, can create feelings within us that, in the wrong contexts, blind us to the truth. 


Agape is the love that lays down its life, forgoes its rights, forgives sins, and brings life where there was death.

But perhaps the most important reason that God is not impressed by our overwrought notion of romantic love is that it keeps us from pursuing the greatest love–agape. I’ve written and spoken on agape extensively, so I don’t want to get into it too much here, but I will say that agape is the love that lays down its life, forgoes its rights, forgives sins, and brings life where there was death. It is the love most clearly on display at the cross of Jesus, and it is the love that all who follow Jesus are called to demonstrate. Agape is the love that sustains eternal life, the love upon which the Great Marriage–between Jesus and the Church–will be founded. The agape of God is the most adventurous love story and the most beautiful love song, a poem of love beyond compare. This is the love that is no mere aid to life; it truly is the highest ideal to which we can aspire, for it brings us to the lowest point of ourselves–of dying to ourselves–which is the point at which we will most fully find God and flourish.

Romantic love (Eros) is idolatrously worshipped in our culture, by Christians and nonChristians alike.

While this assertion is related to the previous one, it is worth stating clearly. We worship romantic love. Eros is the god of our age. It dominates our art and entertainment. It gets ratings and sells books. It is, quite literally, everywhere. But Eros makes a fickle god, and I believe that we are experiencing a pandemic of sexual confusion as a result of our idolatry.

This idolatry has manifested itself within the church through our normalization of marriage and marginalization of singleness. We don’t know what to do with people who, like Jesus or Paul, don’t get married. We spend more time teaching our young people how to choose the right spouse than we do training them to become like Jesus. Again, romantic love is important, but agape love is more important.

God created humanity as male and female; this gender complementarity is vital to human flourishing.

It is not for nothing that God created humanity male and female. The vastness of his image could not be borne in a single man–the man needed a complement in order to accomplish his God-given task. Each sex brings elements that are vital to create a good society in which humans and creation can flourish; Adam and Eve each bear one part of the complete image-of-God-on-earth. To forsake one gender in the most basic and important of human social units–the family–whether through divorce, death, or gay marriage, is to throw off the balance of creation and create environments that are adverse to human flourishing. One of our most basic needs as human beings is to have both a father and a mother.

Homosexual activity is contrary to God’s sexual design and purpose, and the Bible consistently names it as one of several sexual sins.

I have heard the arguments that the Bible is not talking about committed, monogamous homosexual relationships when it condemns homosexual practice; that the authors of Scripture did not know about sexual orientations; and that the passages in Leviticus were only concerned with pagan, cultic sexual practice. I am not convinced by this exegesis. The testimony of Scripture is clear that homosexual practice, like infidelity and bestiality, lies outside of God’s design for sex. (I’d like to take a hot second to make the remark that most of the marital relationships in Scripture do not, in fact, reflect God’s design for sex and marriage, either.) God designed sex to achieve a purpose, and contrary to popular teaching both within and without the Church, the purpose of sex is procreation, not to be the ultimate demonstration of romantic love. (I take this as biologically self-evident, and if I were a Darwinian Evolutionist, I would be even more adamant on this point than I am.) As with all created things, the purpose of sex informs the design, and not the other way around. In other words, because the purpose of sex is procreation, sex is designed to be an act of unparalleled union, intimacy, and pleasure. God designed sex this way because these are precisely the things that are most important to a child as he grows–to know that his parents are united, that there is a shared intimacy within the family, and that the parents are pleased with one another and the child. 


Because the purpose of sex is procreation, sex is designed to be an act of unparalleled union, intimacy, and pleasure.

When sex becomes about the gratification of sexual desire, or merely a demonstration of romantic love, it becomes disconnected from its created purpose. Like anything else, when sex becomes disconnected from its created purpose it becomes a caricature of itself. We have embraced the caricature. We have replaced the design for the purpose. We have mistakenly declared that the purpose of sex is pleasure, intimacy, and union. Pregnancy is the last thing we want out of sex. (And yes, I think that abortion is extremely relevant to this discussion, but I don’t want to get into that here.) Based on this assumption, very little sexual activity can be declared out of bounds. When sex becomes about pleasure, intimacy, and union, only rape and certain kinds of pedophilia can be wrong.

But the truth is that God has fenced sexual activity in order to create healthy families, which in turn create healthy societies. In this sense, what appears to be a great big “NO” to human desire and happiness is actually one resounding “YES” to human flourishing and joy. On a global scale, the purpose of sex is to populate the world with healthy, whole human beings who rule the earth with strength and wisdom.

It is neither gracious nor loving to encourage and support others in sinful behavior.

Many Christians believe that the most gracious and loving thing we can do for our homosexual neighbors is to help them achieve marriage equality. While I understand this notion, and believe that it is rooted in good intentions, I think it is misguided. Here is why: Our access to the grace and agape love of God is entirely dependent upon our repentance of sin and faith in Jesus Christ. Grace and agape love forgive and expel sin, not foster and enable it. As the representatives of Jesus Christ on earth, we do no favors to anyone by enabling and supporting sin of any kind, and specifically to our homosexual neighbors by enabling and supporting gay marriage. When we fail to graciously and lovingly call people to repentance, we fail to bring them to the cross of Jesus.

The Gospel offers hope for all who find themselves in bondage.

This is the Gospel: Jesus died for our sins according to the Scriptures, he was dead and buried, and he rose again on the third day according to the Scriptures. This is news of an event that has actually and already happened. The Gospel is the most powerful force on the face of the earth. If Jesus overcame death, and if you follow and trust Jesus, then there is nothing that can keep you in bondage. There is real, tangible hope in the Gospel that can’t be found anywhere else. You do not have to be in bondage to the god of romantic love. You do not have to be in bondage to your sexuality. You do not have to be in bondage to the sins you have committed or the sins that have been committed against you. Jesus has overcome the world and all of its sin, evil, and idolatry. When you find yourself in Jesus, then you, too, have overcome all of this through his power that lives inside of you.

Conclusion: I cannot support gay marriage.

God’s design and purpose for life, love, sex, and marriage leave no place for gay marriage. This is hard news for many people. But if we have eyes to see and ears to hear, it is an opportunity for life, glory, and a love that does not fade with time and age. I believe that God is offering us something that is far more wonderful and incredible than anything our sexuality can offer. Does it sound good now? No, it sounds like bad news, doesn’t it? Hateful, even. But then again, the cross sure looked like defeat and folly for a while, too. Then came resurrection.

And that’s the way it always is with God. He leads us to this place that demands our death, asking us to do something we believe will kill us. And in a way, it does. But then comes resurrection. On the other side of God’s demand is a life more full and flourishing than we ever thought possible.