August 18, 2015
This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
It’s Tuesday, August 18, 2015. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
Legitimacy of moral conduct codes at Christian colleges questioned
A recent article appearing in the Journal Gazette of Fort Wayne, Indiana tells us a great deal about the predicament that evangelical Christians and evangelical institutions now face. The articles written by Rosa Salter Rodriguez, the headline is this, “Same-sex benefits not found at colleges.”
She writes,Show Full Transcript
“Last month, Mennonite-affiliated Goshen College announced that it would extend benefits to the spouses of legally married same-sex couples. But the decision isn’t likely to signal a rush by other Fort Wayne-area religious colleges and universities to do the same.”
Now listen closely to the very next sentence in her article. She writes,
“That’s because few of those institutions have openly gay or lesbian staff members – in part because of little-known policies that make it unlikely they would be hired in the first place.”
Before continuing in the article at all, it’s just really interesting, very revealing that here you have a secular newspaper in Fort Wayne, Indiana of all places, suggesting that when evangelical or religious colleges are found to have historic issues with the morality of homosexuality, this is referred to as,
“Little-known policies that make it unlikely it would be hired in the first place.”
Those little-known policies are actually consistent with 2000 years of unbroken Christian testimony. She writes about evangelical institutions and other religious schools there in the Fort Wayne, Indiana area. She takes as an example Grace College in Winona Lake, she says,
“The evangelical Christian college requires applicants to agree to a 12-section document about beliefs in God, Jesus and the Scriptures or explain why they don’t, according to its online application.
“The college also has job seekers sign a “Statement of Community Expectations” that precludes homosexual behavior, among other activities, as “expressly prohibited by Scripture and … not acceptable among members of the Grace Schools community.”
She found a similar policy at Indiana Wesleyan University, based in Marion. That university has a community lifestyle statement that cites homosexual behavior, as well as drinking, possession of pornography, gambling and most dancing as unacceptable. She then goes to nearby Huntington University; it has a community life agreement and an accompanying document according to the report that states that
“Sexual relations are reserved for the institution of marriage between a man and a woman” and “other types of sexual relations are clearly condemned.”
She goes on to tell us that Huntington University is affiliated with the church of the United Brethren in Christ. She then goes to Mishawaka’s school, Bethel College; it also has a covenant of lifestyle. That school, according to Rodriguez not only has a statement expecting employees to recognize that marriage is between a man and a woman but also states,
“Bethel desires an environment whose people demonstrate behaviors aligned with their birth gender.”
She then goes on to cite Indiana University professor, Steve Sanders; he’s a professor of law in Bloomington. He said that these agreements are legal. He said that Indiana doesn’t include sexual orientation and its antidiscrimination law and even if it did such restrictions probably would be seen as a constitutional exercise of freedom of religion. The professor went on to say,
“You start from the principle that it’s not unconstitutional because these are private religious institutions.”
At this point this article from the Journal Gazette is mostly interesting for the fact that it was even published. That it appears to be news that historic Christian institutions are holding to an historic Christian understanding of sexuality and that they are setting forth moral expectations for students, staff and faculty. But it’s at this very point of the article takes a very strange turn. Professor Sanders said that much remains to be determined when it comes to the intersection of sexual nondiscrimination and religious liberty even for historic Christian institutions. Rodriguez then writes,
“If someone would be fired from a religious college for homosexual behavior after signing such a statement, he said, it would likely be up to courts to decide whether the statement was an enforceable contract or “an aspirational document.”
That’s a stunning sentence because it tells us, according to this law professor at Indiana University, that the courts are going to have to decide whether or not the stipulations and policies that moral statements that are adopted by Christian institutions are to be considered as enforceable contracts when it comes to faculty or whether they are merely “an aspirational document.” An aspirational document is one that simply states moral principles are behaviors to which the institution hopes that its employees, students, faculty and staff will aspire. That’s very different than a covenant of conduct in terms of the Christian moral understanding. The fact that a statement or explanation like this could come from a professor of law at Indiana University is sufficiently troubling. What this tells us is that there are those who are beginning to define the statements and codes of conduct to the covenant of lifestyle that is expected by Christian institutions of students, faculty and staff that they’re beginning to redefine these as merely aspirational documents, not as contracts having to do with criteria for hiring or admissions or any other issue related to personnel or students. This is a profound reversal of the Christian tradition and it’s very threatening to religious liberty. To put the matter bluntly, when Moses came down from the mountain he did not bring two tablets of stone on which were stated 10 aspirational principles. The reporter cites me on issues related to religious liberty, but then she goes on to explain that many institutions are deciding to join the moral revolution. She writes,
“Still, some institutions are comfortable expanding policies. Manchester University in North Manchester, affiliated with the Church of the Brethren, has had sexual orientation as part of its anti-discrimination policy for about a decade and added gender identity about a couple of years back, university President Dave McFadden said.”
President McFadden then went on to make a truly amazing statement. He said,
“We don’t ask about religious affiliation or sexual orientation when we hire,” he said, adding: “Part of this is based on our mission statement, and … the other thing about Manchester is that we always say to people that we’re a place where our students learn through differences, so we don’t have a statement of faith or lifestyle statement that faculty or students need to sign.”
Well, here you have the great divide in terms of institutions that in one way or another claim a religious identity. On the one hand you have those that are clearly tied and accountable to specific churches or denominations and on the other side you have institutions that are largely free to join the moral revolution and in this case you have an institution that clearly has. You’ll notice the distinction is embedded in this article is a distinction between those schools that clearly stated moral expectations based on biblical conviction and those that do not. Manchester University here you’ll recall says that it doesn’t even ask about religious affiliation, much less sexual orientation when it hires. Now at this point it’s important to see that the article said that Manchester University is in some sense affiliated with the Church of the Brethren. President McFadden said this,
“The denomination would say that same-sex marriage is not acceptable, but it also says we should not discriminate against people based on sexual orientation,” McFadden said. But “our policies and procedures are not bound by the denomination.”
Well there again is the great divide. It’s the divide between institutions that are clearly committed to and accountable to historic Christian commitments based in Scripture, in terms of morality and doctrine and those that are not. You will also note that this article in the Fort Wayne newspaper clearly divides schools that are on one side or the other in terms of this issue. They fall into category A or category B.
Lack of middle ground on gay marriage for evangelicals befuddles secular analysts
That point was also made in recent days by Jacob Lupfer writing for Religion News Service in an article headlined,
“For conservative Christian colleges, no middle ground on gay rights.”
The absence of this middle ground is a profoundly important worldview category. When it comes to an issue like sexual morality, middle ground is a form of compromise that actually isn’t middle ground at all. Lupfer writes,
“There is a persistent narrative among secular observers and religious progressives. It goes like this: Now that same-sex marriage is legal nationwide and isn’t hurting anyone, traditional Christians will quickly drop their objections and join the winning side of the most significant quest for justice in our time.”
Again, what he says is that’s a persistent narrative common to secular observers and religious progressives. The immediate prompt for Lupfer’s article is the recent decision by Union University to withdraw from the Council Christian Colleges and Universities. Lupfer’s point is that this is something now to be expected. Institutions that hold to a traditional Christian understanding of sexual morality are going to have to become more separate and more specific when it comes to the issue of defending that very conviction. In a very important paragraph Lupfer then goes back to the Union University/Council Christian Colleges and Universities situation and says,
“Moderates see in this episode an important opportunity to affirm Christian unity. But conservatives do not believe Christians can agree to disagree about homosexuality. Traditionalist institutions see no value in associating with moderate ones that have, in their view, traded the truth of the gospel for the idol of our time: eroticized, autonomous self-expression.”
He then goes on to say at the end of this article, however, that,
“This episode reveals that there is no middle ground for conservative Christians when it comes to same-sex relationships. If you “agree to disagree,” you affirm. And the broad center of U.S. evangelicalism simply does not affirm homosexuality.”
So those two paragraphs Lupfer tells us that what’s going on here is a very clear understanding on the part of conservative Christians at least that there is no way to agree to disagree on an issue of this fundamental importance. He then goes on to say that conservative Christian colleges,
“Have a long and difficult battle ahead of them, even if elites remain steadfast and unanimous in their commitment to historic Christian teaching on sexuality.
“Conservative Christian colleges’ survival depends on young people. As evangelical youth increasingly know and like gay people in their neighborhoods, schools, and churches, they will be pulled, perhaps irresistibly, toward affirmation of same-sex relationships.”
That’s an interesting assessment in and of itself. But we need to note it plays right into that very narrative that Lupfer identifies in the beginning of his article, the narrative favored by secular analysts and religious progressives. The most important point from his article, however, is the issue that there really isn’t any middle ground in terms of evangelical conviction on the issue, at least not as seen by conservative evangelicals who mean intentionally to maintain fidelity to Scripture and to the moral understanding of sexuality held as I said before, for 2000 years by the Christian church.
Historic Baptist church embraces gay marriage nondiscrimination policy
The idea that there might be some kind of middle ground on the issue is also raised by an article that appeared yesterday at Baptist News Global. Reporter Bob Allen writes a story headlined, “Historic Baptist church adopts gay non-discrimination policy.”
“A historic church formerly affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention is making headlines with a “discernment” process about how to relate to the LGBTQ community.
“In early May members of First Baptist Church in Greenville, S.C., approved an affirmation that: “In all facets of the life and ministry of our church, including but not limited to membership, baptism, ordination, marriage, teaching and committee/organizational leadership, First Baptist, Greenville, will not discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity.”
You’ll note that that is an absolute statement of nondiscrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity and that it is extended to all issues of church life, including but not limited to membership, baptism, ordination, marriage, teaching and committee organizational leadership. Earlier this month the Greenville News announced the story with the headline, “First Baptist opens its doors to same-sex couples.”
Eric Conner writing for the Greenville News writes,
“The conversation at First Baptist Church Greenville took place well before the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision this summer to legalize same-sex marriages.
“The dialogue was bold — particularly for one of downtown Greenville’s influential legacy churches that in its earliest years served as a birthplace for revered Southern Baptist institutions.
“Would the congregation be willing to allow same-sex couples to marry in the church?
“To ordain gay ministers?
“To embrace the complexities of gender identity?
:In an evangelical church born in the antebellum South? Whose founder more than a century and a half ago served as the inaugural president of the Southern Baptist Convention?
“Here, in Greenville?
“The answer to each was “yes.”
In a statement published on the congregation’s website, Pastor Jim Dant actually says,
“We made no decision regarding the issue of homosexuality – members hold different convictions,” Pastor Jim Dant wrote in the church newsletter. “We did make a statement on what it means to be church – diverse and respectful of God’s unique work in the life of every member, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Now, here’s the big issue – we have a congregation that has clearly adopted a statement saying it’s going to welcome same-sex couples, that it will perform same-sex weddings and that it will ordain openly gay ministers, but it says it’s taking no position on homosexuality. That is theologically, biblically, morally and even logically incoherent. The church most fundamentally has taken a position and that position puts the church at odds with Scripture, at odds with the history of the Christian church, and this is also significant, at odds with the denomination with which the church had so long been affiliated, the Southern Baptist Convention. This is a very poignant note – the church is 180 years old, it was the church that provided the first president of the Southern Baptist Convention, William B. Johnson back in 1845. It’s the congregation largely responsible for the establishment of Furman University and very close to home, it was the facility of the First Baptist Church of Greenville that was the first home of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, founded in 1859 in Greenville, South Carolina. The seminary first used the then old church house of the First Baptist Church of Greenville for its opening instruction. In the theological controversies that reshape the Southern Baptist Convention in the 1980s and the 1990s, the First Baptist Church of Greenville solidly sided with what was known as the moderate side, over against the requirement of biblical inerrancy along with other theological convictions in the life of the denomination and its institutions, including The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
In the reported Baptist News Global Bob Allen writes,
“First Baptist Greenville, voted to leave the Southern Baptist Convention in 1999 over differences about issues such as the role of women in ministry. For years the SBC has excluded from membership churches which “act to affirm, approve or endorse homosexual behavior.”
The action undertaken by the First Baptist Church of Greenville is not unexpected, but it’s still tragic. It reveals the trajectory on which any church denomination or institution is set if it is untethered to and accountable to a specific set of doctrines in terms of a confession of faith and to most fundamentally, the inerrancy of Scripture. The news story also points to the implausibility of claiming not to have taken a position on homosexuality when you simultaneously announce that you are going to ordain openly gay ministers and you’re going to conduct same-sex marriage ceremonies and welcome persons regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity into the full life of the church and its leadership. These are indeed strange days, getting stranger headline by headline.
Fertility clinics offer option of sex selection, reducing children to customized products
Finally, today’s edition of the Wall Street Journal has a very important article headlined, “Fertility Clinics Let You Select Your Baby’s Sex.”
Sumathi Reddy writes,
“About one out of five couples who come to HRC Fertility, a network of fertility clinics in Southern California, doesn’t need help getting pregnant.”
Now keep in mind – that’s 20%. Instead, she writes,
“They come for what is called family balancing, or nonmedical sex selection.”
Daniel Potter, identified as Medical Director of HRC fertility explains,
“They usually have one, two or three children of one gender” and want their next child to be of the other sex.”
She goes on to write,
“Women who want to select their baby’s sex undergo the costly and cumbersome process of in vitro fertilization (IVF) to create embryos that are also genetically tested before being implanted. Although the testing, broadly referred to as preimplantation genetic diagnosis, or PGD, is often used to test for genetic diseases, it can also identify the sex of the embryos.”
Now let’s keep in mind what we’re talking about here, chillingly enough, the Wall Street Journal is telling us that there is an uptick, a significant increase in business at in vitro fertilization clinics that has nothing to do with fertility problems at all, but rather with the fact that parents want a baby of one sex or the other. This also means we need to note the creation of multiple human embryos in order to use this pre-implantation genetic diagnosis to determine which of the embryos, if any, will be transferred to the woman. The others are merely destroyed because they are unwanted. In this case they are simply of the wrong sex. Potter told the Wall Street Journal,
“The growth part of our practice at this point is in fact the segment of the population that technically doesn’t have fertility problems,” which includes same-sex couples and couples with genetic diseases” [as well as those who are seeking a baby of the specific sex].
The Wall Street Journal notes,
“Nonmedical sex selection is a controversial practice legal in only a few countries, including the U.S. and Mexico.”
The United States and Mexico we need to note are part of what’s called the wild wild west of modern reproductive technologies. We have very few rules and this article makes that abundantly clear. As the article continues, it also tells us that there are those who have very significant moral concerns about the spread of this practice. Arthur Caplan, a medical ethicist at New York University school of medicine and as we have noted recently on The Briefing, who does not hold to a pro-life position it’s fair to say, does have very clear ethical concerns about this practice. He said,
“When you are treating the fertile in order to produce something that they prefer as opposed to a disease, I do think you’re really opening the door to a potential slope toward eugenics.”
Caplan also pointed worldwide to the fact that there are far more parents that are using these kinds of technologies along with as we should note, infanticide and abortion in order to have a boy rather than a girl. Even more amazingly later in the article, Jeffrey Steinberg identified as Medical Director of Fertility Institutes said,
“Nearly 90% of patients seen at the Fertility Institutes’ three centers have no fertility problem and come for family balancing.”
In this case we need to note again, this term ‘family balancing’ is a euphemism, it’s a cover term for the determination to destroy the embryos one does not want in order to use the embryos that are of the preferred sex. Note also that the percentages skyrocketed from the 20% at the beginning of the article to 90% from two out of 10 to nine out of 10. For years we’ve been told that all the concern about the age of designer babies was overblown and misleading. Now we know it’s already here. How long will it be before the centers offer the same kind of technology to parents who want to choose the eye color of their children, the height of their children, and the athletic or intellectual capacity of their children? This is the age that’s not somewhere out there in the indefinite future. As this article appearing in today’s edition of the Wall Street Journal makes very clear, this is the age that’s already here and ominously so. This is deeply subversive directly subversive of any affirmation of human dignity and the sanctity of human life. Children are being reduced to products to be ordered on demand and customized by choice. As this article makes clear from today’s news, the headlines are not only getting stranger, they are also getting scary.