Reflections on Obergefell One Year Later (Part 1)

June 25, 2016

Five Theses on the First Anniversary of the Obergefell Decision

The Obergefell decision remains a travesty and assault on democracy.

The first anniversary of Obergefell will no doubt be celebrated throughout the media as a reminder of the universe’s long march toward (social) justice.

Whatever one may call the anniversary of Obergefell, the Christian can never allow the defacing and revision of a holy, conjugal estate such as marriage to be considered a victory for truth.

Five Philosopher-Kings’ views on marriage are no better than the views of hundreds of millions of other equally situated citizens. Let me repeat: The silence of the Constitution on marriage means that marriage must be left to the states. By refusing to hew to the Constitution’s bounds, the Supreme Court has once again overstepped its authority and is on the wrong side of the Constitution. Furthermore, by refusing to hew to the natural laws of God, the Supreme Court is once again on the wrong side of truth.

Obergefell’s fall-out is worse than Obergefell.

The #LoveisLove and #LoveWins campaign is showing that it will never be content with its victory until it settles every score.

Citizens were told that “marriage equality” was simply about treating all citizens equally. That is decidedly not the outcome thus far of Obergefell. In instances too numerous to list, LGBT activists colluding with government and cultural cronies are showing that the path to equality is paved over liberty. The gay rights movement, not dedicated to protecting any viewpoint other than its own, is currently demonstrating the lack of magnanimity that many have long feared.

The Christian response has been successfully measured.

Christians, for the most part, have responded admirably to the disaster that is Obergefell. One particular response, the ERLC’s “Here I Stand” Declaration was a massive attempt to demonstrate that Christians will dissent from a bad ruling while simultaneously working democratically to continue testifying to the truth of marriage.

Same-Sex Marriage continues to not exist (because it can’t).

Same-sex marriages aren’t actual marriages. To some, this will sound unnecessarily harsh and insensitive. But what is truth worth if it can’t be spoken when unpopular?

Under the pretentious usurpation made possible by raw judicial will, same-sex couples are awarded marriage certificates today in America. That certificates of marriage are distributed does not actually signify that a marriage has taken place. The government is as impotent at declaring squares to be circles as it is to tell citizens that marriages between same-sex persons are actual marriages. This is conceit, and as such, it will not be able to permanently suppress the truth. While it will take an untold number of years to undue Obergefell, it is impossible—in the long run—for the truth not to win.

God’s kindness still leads to repentance.

The Apostle Paul implores his audience in Romans to remember that it is God’s kindness that leads to repentance (Romans 2:4). That ought to be the presiding ethic and ethos of evangelical Christians in America. While we speak truth about the conceits of Obergefell, if we’re going to do so as Christians, it will mean that we close every statement of concern with a call to those whose consciences know that everything isn’t okay.

The refugees of the sexual revolution only continue to grow. Same-sex marriage continues the revolution by rendering incoherent the grounds and intelligibility of actual marriage. What will result is the continued culture of marriage dissolution, the atomization of society into units organized around sexual coupling or throupling, and an understanding of family life not centered around the natural family.

So what this means is continued mission in the face of mounting opposition. But if the church isn’t there to stand in the gap and tell those around them of a better way, why bother telling them that anything is wrong in the first place?

Owen Strachan

Looking Back: We Are All Activists Now

The moral revolution in American culture of June 2015 has changed our society. Laws shape mores, and so we expect that the revolution will continue apace.

Here is what stands out to me one year later: in the age when homosexual marriage passed into law, Christians have a tremendous opportunity to show their neighbors what marriage truly is. We should energetically engage the public discussion, but we should also recognize that our activism takes no greater shape than in our marriages and our homes. Every Christlike husband and every churchlike wife is a shining, shimmering glimpse of cosmically covenantal love. Every happy family ordered according to Scripture and nature presents the world with a tangible, visible argument for the goodness of God’s wisdom. In our marriages, in our homes, we are all activists.

We American evangelicals might feel restless in considering these words. We like effecting change in D.C. We like influencing policy through voting. We like winning directly and decisively in the public square. We are firmly convinced of the rightness of our views—as well we should be—and we want them supported in law. But now we have entered a different moment, when the law is against us. This is not an easy reality. We are living in an age that, with few exceptions, defies Scripture and nature in unprecedented degree. Never has the plain truth been more opposed in public than this. Marriage, we hear, is malleable, not what it has to be for the survival of humanity; identity, we are informed, is subjective, not what our bodies tell us it is. In the age of ascendant atheistic science, nothing is more anti-science than these ideas.

In such an age, our challenge is this: to recommit ourselves to happy marriages, happy families, happy churches, happy lives. When the gospel creates this way of life, we are offering the world the most powerful living apologetic we can. There is nothing so important in natural terms as a father and mother united in love. This is the cornerstone of society, and it is the gateway to security and flourishing for children. We can and must make these arguments today; but it is of equal importance to live these arguments, to show the world that our worldview yields impossible joy.

There is nothing fancy about this. We must remember, in Christ, that we are all activists. We must pray and work to be good fathers. We must pray and work to be good mothers. We must invest in our children and choose to prioritize them, over and over again. We must cultivate our marriages, laughing and dancing and repenting and cherishing every moment together. We must show the world that singleness does not depend on sexual activity for fulfillment, but on the Spirit.

It is natural today to feel profoundly discouraged about our country. The light, to paraphrase Tolkien, seems to be going down in the West. Goodness seems overshadowed. What are we to do? We need to remember what the early church knew well. If they could speak to us, their faces wizened by suffering, their bodies creaking from aches and pains caused by Roman torture-racks, they would not tell us to flee for the hills. They would urge us to plunge back into the city of man.

They would remind us that the law was against them, dead-set against them. They would tell us that they were hated and despised. They would assure us that they felt powerless, and in truth were politically powerless until Constantine reversed their fortunes. But they, holy men and women alike, would look us in the eye and remind us that by God, they turned the world upside down. They made history. They outlasted Rome. They were salt and light in a world that wanted neither, but loves its decay, its rebellion, and the darkness in which it hides its evil deeds.

Their example calls us to see afresh that the world can hate you, the state can rule against you, but that if God is with you, no human hand can hold you back. The early church was an activist church, and this activism took shape not only in public advocacy, but especially in love, kindness, fortitude, and the demonstration of godliness.

So it is with us. Obergefell has changed America. But we have a force stronger still: the gospel of grace, which has changed the world, and has changed us, and will change many who now hate and oppose us.

Andrew T. Walker

Andrew T. Walker is Associate Professor of Christian Ethics at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a Fellow with The Ethics and Public Policy Center. Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24