In his Letter from Birmingham Jail, Martin Luther King wrote there are two types of laws: just and unjust.” He went on to ask “How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law.”
While King was protesting segregation, his argument drew on a theological tradition going back to Augustine, Aquinas, Locke and others, namely, that right and wrong is not defined by governments but by the law of God. Governments are under God’s authority and cannot command absolute allegiance. Of course the state can and often has good reasons for tolerating actions contrary to divine law but if the states endorses them, is complicit in their commission or attempts to legitimate them as valid, then it usurps its authority. When it does this its citizens have the right to resist it.
This theological tradition is the reason many Christians oppose same-sex marriage. King was correct to claim that the law of God grants equal dignity to all people regardless of race; the law of God also instituted marriage as a union of one man and one woman. Sexual activity between people of the same-sex is morally wrong, just like people of the same family or sexual activity with multiple partners at the same time. The state may have good reasons in a fallen society for tolerating such actions but has no right to declare them valid.
We believe that given certain defensible theological presuppositions this position is defensible and robust.
The above summarises the basis for our opposition to same-sex marriage; this is why we believe the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill should not be passed. Over at Whale Oil our guest post, “Critiquing the Case for Same-Sex Marriage“, offers rebuttals of the arguments that have been advanced by proponents of the Bill.
Readers of both this post and the one at Whale Oil will note that in this post we appeal to theological premises – this is because we are describing why we oppose it and we, as Christians, accept these theological views – but on Whale Oil we are offering a rebuttal of other people’s arguments; hence, there we draw on premises that those who support the Bill are likely to be committed to.
In the comments section at Whale Oil we have been accused of being sneaky in taking this approach. We disagree. We are quite happy to speak about our own position; however, that was not what we were doing on Whale Oil. What we were doing on Whale Oil was offering a critique of our opponents’ position – the dialectical context was not the same. Offering reasons why we accept something is not the same thing as offering our opponents reasons why they should reject certain arguments they have advanced. Far from doing anything sneaky, we are simply trying to engage our opponents on their own terms.
When there is a fundamental difference in presuppositions between one’s opponent and oneself then a critique of one’s opponents’ argument only provides them with reasons for rejecting the argument if the critique appeals to premises they accept or are logically committed to by virtue of their presuppositions.
Appealing to theological beliefs they do not themselves hold provides them with no reason for accepting anything. Incidentally, the converse is also true: attempts to rebut theologically based positions do not provide religious people who hold such positions any rational reason for abandoning them unless those rebuttals appeal to premises the religious person accepts and is logically committed to. This is not being sneaky, it is called effective rational dialogue. The alternative is simply talking past each other in a dialectical stand-off of assertion and counter-assertion where neither side is listening to each other, no true engagement occurs and no understanding is possible.
So that said, check out our guest post: ”Critiquing the Case for Same-Sex Marriage“.
For all those who state that the passage of the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill will not have any impact on Christians like us consider section 56 of the Marriage Act 1955, then consider the statement we made at the outset of this post expressing our religious viewpoint in light of the Marriage Act being amended as proposed (and no, the proposed Bill does not propose amending this section):
56 Offence to deny or impugn validity of lawful marriage
(1) Every person commits an offence against this Act, and shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding $200, who—
(a) alleges, expressly or by implication, that any persons lawfully married are not truly and sufficiently married;