The Biblical Case for Christian Disinvolvement, a.k.a. Extinguishing the Strawman

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The above meme and the recent decision by the Washington State Supreme Court in regards to the case of Baronelle Stutzman, got me thinking: can Christians make a meaningful argument for not participating in or providing services for a gay mirage.

I believe that, from a secular perspective, that one can make a meaningful argument for not participating in such in that government does not have the authority to force a citizen to associate with anyone for any reason.  Anti-discrimination laws are probably the most hypocritical and inconsistently enforced laws on the books and have no place in polite society, and are tools used by totalitarians to force people to violate their conscience and will, hypocrisy that can be seen in the number of people who refused to provide goods and services for the recent inauguration of Donald Trump. I can be be consistent and say that they had the right to refuse to associate with those with whom they disagree, even though they cannot prove a single accusation that they have leveled against the man. But what about a Christian? How can a Christian be consistent with their professed worldview in serving customers on a regular basis, such as a baker or a florist or a photographer, providing goods and services one minute, then suddenly throw the anchor and say that something is one step too far? Fortunately God has provided an answer in his revealed word.

In his first epistle to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul deals with such a question in the 10th chapter, writing in the context of the buying of meat offered in the marketplace and interacting in society, Paul writes,

“All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience. For “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.” If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience. But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience—I do not mean your conscience, but his. (1 Corinthians 10:23-29, ESV)

Now, Paul establishes certain categories by distinguishing between believers and unbelievers and ignorance and positive knowledge. But how does this apply to the question? Well, let’s think of it in those categories.

A believer, by his distinction as such (a Christian) has the right to interact in the marketplace in ignorance, by instructing his readers to, “[…] eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising question“. Paul has already told his audience that,

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. (1 Corinthians 5:9-10, ESV)

His focus on disassociation in that context was those who claim to be Christians but live in an antithetical manner. But, the vast majority of people are not believers, so Christians necessarily have to interact with them. If we take what Paul says about buying and turn that to selling then a Christian business owner can sell his goods and services without violation of his conscience in ignorance, seen in the statement, “If [an] unbeliever invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any questions on the grounds of conscience.” We can argue, in the inversion, that a Christian can therefore sell goods and services to an unbeliever without injury to conscience, such as taking portraits, baking birthday cakes, or making flower arrangements, without violation of their conscience or creed, and be fully conscious of the sinfulness of the person to whom they are providing those goods and services. But, then comes the sticky wicket: marriage.

The Christian has, in his worldview, a definition of the word and that definition is provided in the provision of God (see here). In fact, it is because such definition can only be true a meaningful definition from such a worldview that one can elucidate any consistent sexual ethic, whether it be in regards to age of consent, the number of permissible sexual partners, parental rights, and what constitutes permissible sexual behavior. It is for that reason that when a Christian who, under any other circumstances, happily has served a customer, for years even, when he/she finds himself/herself in conflict, mustunapologetically decline to extend their services? It is because the Christian has been moved from a position of ignorance to one of positive knowledge. 

Now, someone might say that I am simply splitting hairs here because in interacting with their customers that certain matters would certainly be noticed or assumed. Assumptions are simply irrelevant, because they can be wrong. Notice what Paul says in v25, “Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience.” What would lead him to make such a statement?

In the first century in Corinth, like many cities in the first century, meat markets were an extension of temple worship. People would bring their animals to sacrifice and the amount offered would exceed what could be burnt, so the excess would be sold. This was common knowledge and, for the sake of conscience, Paul advises his readers to not worry about where the meat came from unless someone pressed the issue. If we invert the principle we can say provide goods or services until someone divulges that they intend to use those services for something immoral.

Let’s say, as an analogy, that I was in the business of making and selling baseball bats. Baseball bats are for hitting baseballs. Now, suppose that a customer came in looking to buy a baseball bat and in the midst of our discussion the person let slip that he intended to bludgeon his wife with the bat. As someone who knows what bats are for and how they are to be used, I would have a reason, one might call it an obligation, to not sell the bat to the man. One might argue that there is no meaningful analogy there, but let’s think for a second, regardless of what the behavior is, if it is, by definition, immoral then there is sufficient reason not to participate by extension.

A gay marriage, by definition, is an incoherent proposition. It is also, as defined by God positively (e.g.Genesis 1:27, 2:23; Matthew 19:1-12 [Mark 10:1-9]; 1 Corinthians 7:2) and negatively (Exodus 20:14 [Deuteronomy 5:18]; Leviticus 18:6-18, 22-23). The Christian is therefore bound by what God has defined.

Well, what about divorce? Isn’t it a sin?

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Yes, and no. Some divorces are sinful, but some are excusable because of what is normally prescribed under God’s definition (e.g. Matthew 5:31-32). But that is something for a whole other post.

In conclusion, the Christian has a biblical basis, and a moral obligation not to provide goods or services once moved from the ignorance of casual involvement to the point of positive knowledge. We can therefore call the above meme a straw man and consider it refuted.

For further reading:

The incoherence of the Obergefell ruling

And this debate:

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