Has anyone else noticed that our confession of Christian faith has changed recently? The Apostle’s Creed now seems to read*:
“I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth…
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord…
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church…
I believe in two complementary genders and marriage solely for a man and a woman.”
John the Baptist’s call to faith (Mark 1:15) has been slightly updated as well: “Repent and believe the good news! …Along with a regulated view of gender and sexuality.”
It feels slightly heretical to even write those words down. *And just to clarify, The Apostle’s Creed hasn’t actually changed, although it’s funny how believable that added wording really is. But it expresses a concern I am becoming more and more deeply worried about…
…Have we changed the gospel in our defence against same-sex marriage?
When I was at university, a leader from our Christian student group invited me out for a coffee (Sidenote: can Christians please cool it with the queer-concerned coffee dates?!). I assumed we were going to chat about how to read a gospel with someone else, because that had been the context of our previous conversations. Oddly, we turned to 1 & 2 Timothy and started reading. I can’t remember the exact passage we read from, but here’s a snippet which sums up the theme:
“The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.” (1 Timothy 4: 1-2)
We were reading about false teachers. As a sidenote, it’s interesting that in the next verse of this passage, these false teachers were forbidding people to marry…
My leader then turned to 2 Timothy 2:17 where Paul names Hymenaeus and Philetus as two false teachers because they were preaching that the resurrection had already taken place. Ok that’s fair enough. But then he turned to me, and told me that he would start publicly naming me as a false teacher to those in our group. This was because I was posing questions and challenges to my peers about sexuality in the Bible. Sincere and personal questions that I was living through at the time and felt couldn’t be safely directed to my leaders (I obviously had something right).
That “concerned coffee date” really shook me and has remained with me since. I believe the Holy Spirit keeps it in my heart so that I will always remember to hold firmly to the gospel, and only the gospel, in all I do (if only it were that easy!).
I’m telling you about this experience because it’s extremely relevant to the context of our current Christian discussions about same sex marriage, as well as gender and sexuality more broadly.
When Christians challenge our traditional view of marriage and sexuality, we can’t put them in the box of “abandoning the faith” and “following deceiving spirits”. When we start equating a Christian support for same-sex marriage as a loss of their true Christian faith, we’re changing the gospel. We are no longer saying that Jesus is the only thing that puts us in a right relationship with God.
When we do this, we have also forgotten who our true enemy is, and that the holy catholic church is commanded to live in unity and service to one another (Ephesians).
I recently sat through a “forum” on same sex marriage at a church where three people with three very Anglican views preached at our audience about not wavering on our traditional views of marriage and gender. This was followed by a range of questions from the audience about how people can steer their friends who have fallen away back to the right path. They weren’t talking about friends who were no longer Christian, they were talking about Christians who were starting to support same-sex relationships.
This issue has become so central to evangelical Christian faith, it is creating a dangerous message: the gospel is just a liiiittle bit different now.
Disagreeing on the issue of marriage doesn’t make me a second class Christian, or no Christian at all. It doesn’t discredit my faith in Jesus or my heart that attempts to honour Him. Christians should be able to challenge and disagree on issues of gender and sexuality without being treated as if they have lost their faith. We can’t keep placing people outside of God’s Kingdom, that’s dangerous stuff.
Paul lays out the gospel in the third chapter of Romans:
“For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood.”
Let’s not lose the gospel in the same sex marriage debate.