Doug Wilson vs. Andrew Sullivan: Must-See Debate for All Christians

How can you argue about homosexual marriage in the American public square but yet argue from Scripture—while still making appropriately couched appeals to scientific studies? Listen to Doug Wilson debating gay conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan (whose blog I used to read in the very early days of blogging; it was pretty neat to see him and hear him for the first time).

I’m afraid I must agree with Peter Leithart that Wilson’s reliance on the slippery-slope polygamy argument ended up being the tiniest bit unfortunate (though it still had value).

And I’m even more afraid that I must agree with Leithart about an even more important issue:

Perhaps Christians are called to do no more than speak the truth without worrying about persuasiveness. Perhaps we have entered a phase in which God has closed ears, so that whatever we say sounds like so much gibberish. We can depend on the Spirit to give ears as He pleases.

Whatever the political needs of the moment, the longer-term response to gay marriage requires a renaissance of Christian imagination. Because the only arguments we have are theological ones, and only people whose imaginations are formed by Scripture will find them cogent.

This is a point I’ve tried to make before: if we limit our public arguments to citing scientific studies of homosexual marriage’s effects, to sociological impact surveys, or even to natural law arguments, we’re going to sound like bigots. Some of us may even be bigots, for all I know. We’re going to sound like bigots because bigots, after their public shaming in the 1960s, have learned to cloak their true motivations in more plausible, objective garb. “I like n*****s—in their place—I know how to work ’em” becomes “Marriage is between a man and a woman.”

I wasn’t alive to hear Emmett Till’s murderer make that first quote, but the latter one comes from a professing evangelical Christian and former president, George W. Bush—and I was there, in TV land, when he said it. I remember thinking, “It is? It just is? Who says?” Even the President of the United States of America doesn’t have that kind of fiat authority.

Authority is the ultimate issue, because the argument is not over an is but an ought: what should marriage look like? Will it be determined by tradition, by majority rule? The overwhelming cultural pressure to accept homosexuality will and must push faithful Christians back to the only ultimate authority we have for our answer, God’s own. Otherwise it’s very hard for a freedom-loving, individualist American to say “no” to consenting adults who want to do what, you know, they want to do.

Nonetheless, you can maintain a lovingly firm stand on that authority without limiting yourself to saying only, “God said no.” There is more to be said that is faithful to Scripture and wise to the needs of the moment. And Doug Wilson says it as well as anyone. Watch the video (or read the prepared comments).

Author: Mark Ward

PhD in NT; theological writer for Faithlife; former high school Bible textbook author for BJU Press; husband; father; ultimate frisbee player; member of the body of Christ.

1 thought on “Doug Wilson vs. Andrew Sullivan: Must-See Debate for All Christians”

  1. I’ve wondered for a while why so many Christian apologists are so eager to argue on secular terms. It’s a myth that you can argue secularly and arrive at principles that every reasonable person can accept. People have argued secularly for all kinds of things that reasonable Christians can’t accept (abortion, euthanasia, forced sterilization, etc). Christians have argued reasonably for things that some reasonable secularists can’t accept (the death penalty for certain offenses, a legal definition of marriage that matches the biblical definition, etc). Not to mention the wide variety of other world views (Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Spiritualist, etc).

    So, while there may be some benefit in arguing for certain moral truths using the premises supplied by other worldviews, these truths ultimately rely on premises that are distinctly Christian (God created us in his image, he gave us work to do, and prohibited certain activities, etc). We shouldn’t be surprised that the Christian worldview is “foolishness to those who are perishing” (1 Corinthians 1:18-25).

Leave a Reply