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By Grant Mortenson
Recent events on campus — not the least of which is the article penned in last month’s issue of the Clarion, “Safe Spaces, Brave Places” — have underscored the existence of multiple worldviews here at Bethel University. A worldview is a lens through which each person observes the events occurring around them and by which they explain the significance of everything they encounter. While we should not fear interacting with people who hold a different worldview than our own, there are some that cannot and will not coexist with each other. When worldviews conflict, one will trump the other (cf. Matt. 6:24).
In the larger Western culture—and increasingly at Bethel—there is a conflict between two particular worldviews: Biblical Christianity and the Sexual Revolution. The sexual revolutionaries have been calling for ‘tolerance’ and ‘inclusivity’ at Bethel for a few years now. This is not exclusively the worldview of the LGBT community, though they are by far the most vocal proponents of it. Rather, the sexual revolution began with the concept of no-fault divorce and every change that followed can be traced to the misconception and devaluation of marriage. The primary tenets of the sexual revolution are these: “you may do with your body whatever you please,” and “you are free to love whomever you please, so long as all parties consent.”
Both fly squarely in the face of Biblical Christianity and undermine some of the most basic principles in understanding our relationship to Christ. On the first, we are not autonomous. We are enslaved at all times, either to the lord of this world or to the Lord of heaven. When we were born, we were born children of wrath (Eph. 2:1-3). But Christians are ransomed from our former master by the blood of Christ so we are called to glorify God in our bodies (1 Cor. 6:19-20) which means we must flee sexual immorality (1 Cor. 6:18). We do not own our own body. Either the prince of the power of the air owns it, or Christ owns it. 1 Corinthians 6:20b commands us to glorify God in our bodies. Since Christ literally owns us, Christians must do as the Master commands, or else we are disobeying him, and consequently we are not glorifying him.
To state the matter plainly, sex is not the same as tea.
On the second, we used to have a clear sign of consent. Marriage. But the institution of marriage has been eroded by divorce. No longer is marriage deemed a lifelong bond—a covenant, even—but merely a contract that may be broken when either spouse is not receiving the satisfaction they think they deserve from it. As such, new principles of consent had to be invented, including the horrendous analogy which equates sex to a cup of tea. To state the matter plainly, sex is not the same as tea; the only reason this rubbish exists is because some people decided, “we don’t need marriage to have sex!” and they later discovered that sinful men on college campuses do exactly what we would expect a man with sinful, unchecked desires would. Now we live in what some call a rape culture and we need these terrible analogies presented by a British narrator. All because we have devalued marriage.
So, what’s the big deal with marriage? Why is sexual activity restricted to marriage? And why is marriage only between one man and one woman? There are a few oft-given answers, many of them certainly valid. Some offer the analogy of rules in a sports game. The rules of any sport exist to ensure fair play for everyone involved and to minimize the chances of injury. In the same way, they say, marriage is the rulebook for sexual activity, and these rules make sex enjoyable for everyone and reduces or eliminates the chances of spreading disease by way of sexual transmission. While I think this is a reasonable answer, it is lacking in authority. It is an argument by analogy, and analogies break down if you stretch them too far.
Some simply say, “Well, God commands us to marry someone of the opposite sex to have sex, so that’s what we’re going to do!” This also is valid. But how do we come to that conclusion? That’s the critical question, and it requires answering why marriage exists in the first place. I argue that marriage was not created solely for ‘human flourishing’ (whatever that is), but as a portrait of the gospel. Permit Paul to explain.
If the church continues to redefine marriage, we will destroy the most visible picture of Christ’s love for his church.
In Ephesians 5, Paul refers to marriage as a profound mystery. Up to this point, the only reason for marriage is because God commanded it of the Israelites in the laws given at Mount Sinai. Paul explains that marriage is a picture of the relationship between Christ and his church. “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,” (v. 25) “as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.” (v. 24) When Christ returns, he is returning to his bride—the church—to take her to the home he has built for her. (John 14:2-4, cf. Jewish marriage practices) So the whole point of earthly marriage is to point to the heavenly marriage that will take place on the last day—i.e. the gospel message.
Due to our Biblical illiteracy, we have allowed marriage to become a mystery once more.
If the church continues to redefine marriage, we will destroy the most visible picture of Christ’s love for his church. There are not two Christs, there are not two churches, there is not one Christ and multiple churches. There is Christ and the church. As Paul says, this mystery is profound, and due to our Biblical illiteracy, we have allowed marriage to become a mystery once more.
As the rest of the culture continues to follow the sexual revolutionaries, it should be obvious that Bethel University has a decision to make: do we submit to Christ or do we whore after the world as Israel whored after other gods? (cf. Deut. 31:16, Judg. 2:17) If Bethel would truly “be the Christ-centered university of choice for this century” then we must truly follow Christ. Bethel must refuse to follow in the footsteps of the rest of the world. True, we may be outcast from society. We may be mocked. It may even cost the school its academic accreditation. But as Jesus said, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it has hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” (John 15:18-19)
To those who think they can redefine marriage—faculty and students alike—make your case! Only make it from the Word of God as followers of Christ have always done. If you cannot or will not, then I ask you to have enough integrity to admit you do not hold to our Affirmation of Faith and Covenant for Life Together. Since being a part of this institution requires you to hold these standards, honesty and integrity would require you to depart for a school such as Augsburg that will accommodate your beliefs. We cannot serve two masters.
If you are willing to listen to the gospel call and submit to Christ, then hear this message and hear it loudly. As rebellious slaves, none of us deserve to be ransomed by Christ. All of us have lied, stolen (even small things), dishonored our parents, hated others, and looked at others with lust. All of us have broken the commandments and we are not capable of keeping the two greatest commandments, love God and love others. We fail every day. And so God descended to earth and became a man, Jesus of Nazareth. He lived the life that we couldn’t live, free of sin, and died the death that we deserve for our rebellion. He has risen to new life, defeating sin and death.
The life that he offers us is not one that we can earn, not even by keeping the two greatest commandments. (Because we can’t!) Repent of your sins—including the sins you identify yourself by—and trust in him. Rest your identity in Christ. Your old self will fade away. For it is no longer you who live, but Christ who lives in you (Gal. 2:20).