Dr. Michael Brown has written an article for The Stream in response to a letter he says he received from a self-professed bi-sexual Christian, and another man’s commentary on his Facebook page, entitled, “Sorry, But We Won’t Re-Write the Bible for Gays and Lesbians“. Knowing what we do about the extensive history of biblical revisionism and man-voted “culturally-relevant” revision of denominational doctrines / practice, we couldn’t help doing what it immediately comes to mind to do when such articles come out, goring the other guy’s ox but leaving our sacred cow untouched. Had there been a fiery Dr. Brown to take up an equally-vigorous defense of the Matt. 19:6-end of God’s definition of marriage, would we be where we are today?
SIFC Notes: Dr. Michael Brown is an Assembly of God ordained pastor, who by his own testimony, came to faith in 1971 after growing up in a Jewish heritage. In 1973, about 2-1/2 years after the first blatantly-unconstitutional unilateral divorce law was signed by Gov. Ronald Reagan in California (1969), the AOG in their annual General Assembly voted to abandon their 60 year old “bylaws” that prohibited all AOG pastors from performing a wedding involving anyone with a prior living spouse, and banned from pastoral credentials anyone who was remarried with a prior living spouse on either side of the remarriage. We have blogged about this 1973 event previously. Dr. Brown’s biography doesn’t indicate the year of his AOG credentials, but it seems clear the earliest possible date would have been late-1970’s. He married Nancy Gurian Conway Brown in 1976 at age 21, recently passing his 40th wedding anniversary. (We know Nancy’s maiden name is Gurian, but we do not know where the Conway name comes from.)
In response to my open letter to I.M. Sanctified, who describes himself as a divorced and remarried Christian, Richard S. posted a lengthy comment on my personal Facebook page, including this statement: “The logical conclusion to your theology (remarried people can’t physically repent from their ongoing state of sin, if they do, it must be because they don’t have faith or are deceived) is extremely damaging to the souls of people who have been through divorce and have married somebody else. That was the point of I.M.’s letter. No amount of nice words will erase the damage [of implying that his 2nd, 3rd or 4th “marriages” were adultery]. Only honest reconsideration of your theology will bring healing. Please don’t discount/deny the faith of you divorced and remarried brothers and sisters. They have much to contribute to the church.”
Of course, Richard has completely misstated what conservative Christians believe (we don’t say or believe that if adulterously- married “Christians” don’t exit those immoral unions “it must be because they don’t have faith or are deceived”), just as other parts of his comment (not quoted here) were also based on serious misunderstandings.
But that is secondary to the bigger issue, and Richard is one of many who are telling serious Bible believers that, “Only honest reconsideration of your theology will bring healing.”
He could not be more wrong.
First, what Scripture says on marrying somebody else’s inseverable one-flesh spouse while they remain alive is not negotiable, and no amount of new books or videos or personal stories will change that.
As I explained in my book “Can You Be Married to Somebody Else’s Spouse and be Christian?“ no new textual, archeological, sociological, anthropological or philological discoveries have been made in the last fifty years that would cause us to read any of these biblical texts differently. Put another way, it is not that we have gained some new insights into what the biblical text means based on the study of the Hebrew and Greek texts. Instead, people’s interaction with the divorced and remarried community has caused them to understand the biblical text differently.”
Simply stated, if not for the sexual revolution, no one would be reexamining what the Scriptures state about God’s intention for His creation. No one would be wondering if two divorced people could “marry” or if a husband could be joined by God to both a covenant and a non-covenant wife. No one would be doubting that the Lord made men forwomen for life, and that any deviation from that pattern was contrary to His design and intent.
As one New Testament scholar was candid enough to admit, it was clear to him that the Bible forbade marrying another while having a living, estranged spouse, but when his own daughter came out as the fiancée of such a man, he changed his opinion on the subject.
That’s why I’ve often stated that there is not a single argument that can be brought from God’s Word to defend the practice of marrying adulterously after man’s divorce, but there are powerful emotional arguments that can be brought. In that context, I’m often reminded of Jesus’ words that, “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.” (Luke 14:26).
Second, if there was something to reconsider in our theology we would gladly do it. The truth be told, as impossible as the “adulterously remarried Christian” arguments struck me, I went to the Lord about them, buying the books that defended this new way of reading Scripture, reading the stories (and listening to the stories) of professing adulterously remarried Christians, allowing my heart to be torn and my mind to be challenged.
At the end of the day, as a biblical scholar, a lover of Jesus, and a lover of people, it was impossible for me to accept their arguments. The Word is just too clear on this, and without some kind of emotional or social or other pressure to reconsider what Scripture states, no one would deny this.
Third, those who argue that Christians agree to disagree on lots of things without denying each other’s faith fail to realize that they do not agree to disagree on behaviors that Scripture strongly condemns — unless they themselves are living in some kind of moral compromise.
We’re not dealing here with a question of whether speaking in tongues is for today or whether Christians are required to tithe or whether Jesus is coming before the tribulation. We’re dealing with redefining the very meaning of marriage and claiming that a behavior that is plainly condemned in the New Testament — I’m talking about cohabitation with someone else’s God-joined one-flesh spouse— is now blessed by God.
And while God alone is the judge of every professing Christian, be that person gay or straight, we cannot embrace as fellow brothers and sisters those who are affirming, practicing, and even celebrating sanctified, legalized adultery.
We will put our arms around everyone who struggles with lusting after someone else’s spouse and refusing to forgive or reconcile with their own spouse, loving them and embracing them and encouraging them in their walk with the Lord, whether their walk entails transformation from unforgiving to forgiving life partner or whether it entails celibacy. But we will not and cannot affirm and bless what the Lord Himself opposes. To do so is to do a disservice to those perishing in the divorced and remarried community.
Fourth, God’s message of grace and truth brings healing and wholeness and deliverance and freedom, as millions of people from every walk of life can attest, including large numbers of people who once were in adulterous “marriages” which they’ve now exited to reconcile with their own spouse.
I’m quite aware that there are genuine haters of “standing” covenant spouses in the Church (I plan to address this yet again in the coming days; God is their judge as well), and I’m quite aware that Christians have often failed to demonstrate Christlike love and compassion to the divorced-against-their-conscience community (to put it mildly).
But I’m also quite aware that when we speak the truth in love and people actually hear what we’re saying (not the interpretation they put on our words but the real message of our words), if that message is received it will bring life not death.
To all of you reading this article who say, “I’m divorced and remarried, I’m Christian, I’m involved in a union with someone else’s covenant spouse, and we’re thriving in the Lord,” I invite you to call my radio show or to send me your story or, if you live in my city, to get together with me and some of your friends — not for the purpose of debate but for the purpose of honest, loving, heartfelt interaction.
And if you have time, would you watch my video, “Can You Be ‘Married to Someone Else’s Spouse and Christian?” and tell me what I don’t understand and where I don’t display genuine empathy?
And if you’d like to read my book by the same title and you genuinely can’t afford it, email me your story, include your address, and I’ll send you a copy for free. You will not find a hateful word in the book, but you will find someone who cares.
In the end, though, your issue is with the Lord not with me. I can assure you that He understands and He will provide everything you need if you truly entrust your life to Him.
You [adulterers and ] adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her? For He says, “The two shall become one flesh.” But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him. Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body.
1 Corinthians 6:16-18
What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said:
“I will live with them
and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
and they will be my people.”
“Come out from them
and be separate,
says the Lord.
Touch no unclean thing,
and I will receive you.”
“I will be a Father to you,
and you will be my sons and daughters,
says the Lord Almighty.”
2 Corinthians 6:16-18
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