By / Nov 6

Well, I’m back. This is Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, and this is Questions and Ethics, the program where we take your questions about moral dilemmas that you are facing and try to look at them from a gospel perspective.

We have been on a little bit of a hiatus while I have been finishing a book. The book is done, coming out next year, and so, I am ready to go back to talking to you about whatever is on your mind.

And the first question that we have comes from a listener who writes and says, “Dr. Moore, we are planning our wedding, and we were planning to write our own vows, but after watching the Livestream of the ERLC National Conference, we noticed that you said that you don’t let couples write their own vows. Can you talk a little bit more about that, and should we rethink this?”

Okay, well, when I say this, what I am not saying is that there is some inspired, inerrant set of wedding vows. I normally use the Book of Common Prayer wedding ceremony. There is nothing that is handed down by God on golden tablets in the Book of Common Prayer. I certainly, as a Baptist, wouldn’t think that.

But what I do think the issue is, is what is the wedding. And this is the reason why I don’t let couples write their own vows when I am doing the marrying—because I think we are in a culture right now where many people assume that the wedding is the celebration of the love of the couple. Now, of course it is that to some degree, but it is so much more than that, and the main point of the wedding is about more than highlighting the individuality of the couple.

In a biblical understanding of marriage the couple is being given to one another, and there is an accountability, a public accountability for the marriage, for the wedding. That’s the reason why Jesus is present as part of the community at a wedding at Cana, and in the epistles of the New Testament the writings about marriage are not simply to the couples themselves but to the entire body of Christ. We are members of one another, and we are responsible for one another.

And so, when we are gathering together for a wedding, we have a gathering of witnesses. That’s why in the traditional Anglican wedding ceremony we gather “in the sight of God and these witnesses to join this man and this woman in holy matrimony.” The people there aren’t just guests at the party. They are people who are witnessing the vows that are being made with the implicit message there—we are representing the body of Christ to hold you accountable to these vows, to help you through these vows, to support you as you seek to keep these vows.

And when a couple writes his or her own vows, or when a couple together writes their own vows, what’s happening is that couple is suggesting somehow that their vows are unique. The

vows are not unique; as a matter of fact, as a friend of mine who is a pastor puts it often, what makes the wedding, any particular wedding, significant is not what makes it different from every other wedding but what makes it the same.

A couple starting out a wedding frankly don’t know the vows that they need to make without the rest of the body of Christ, with those who’ve gone before them. A twenty-five-year-old couple, they are not thinking about Alzheimer’s disease. They are not thinking about what happens when we find out that our small child is dying with cancer. They don’t think about what happens if one of us commits adultery and we have to work through the aftermath of that. The rest of the body of Christ is speaking of the fact that the vows you are making to one another aren’t simply when things are in conditions as they are right now, and it’s not simply when things are in conditions that you can imagine right now, but it’s in sickness and in health; for richer, for poorer; till death do us part. Those are the sorts of vows that ought to be made.

And also because what’s happening in that wedding ceremony ought to be something that is the same sort of thing that ought to happen when we baptize. The people who are gathered there who are married ought to be seeing a reenactment, in as much as possible, of what it is that they themselves have vowed to do. They are participating in this not only by witnessing these vows but also in memory of remembering and recommitting to their own vows.

So, when a couple comes to me and says we want to write our own vows, I usually say well then I’m the wrong guy to officiate at this wedding because I really think we need to think of the wedding as about much much more than that.

What’s your question? Send it to me at [email protected]. Maybe there is a moral dilemma that you are facing at your work or maybe something going on in your family or maybe something you have come across in the Bible, and you are just asking how should I think this through as a Christian? Send it to us, [email protected], and I will be glad to take it up when we come back next time for Questions and Ethics. This is Russell Moore.

By / Oct 15

When we talk about marriage, whether it be “marriage equality” or “traditional marriage,” it’s easy to overlook a key component in the argument: the wedding. In fact, I am convinced that the current state of weddings in the Western world has been instrumental in leading us to where we find ourselves in the marriage discussion—with a high divorce rate and an unending argument about the meaning of marriage. Weddings are far from the only factor, but they contribute nonetheless, and I think we should take a closer look.

For centuries in Western countries, weddings, and therefore marriages, were the domain of the church—be it Catholic or Protestant. In the Protestant church, wedding vows were universal, taken from the Book of Common Prayer and determined by the diligent study and arguments of many over several years. There was a commonality to marriage. If everyone said the same vows, then marriage meant the same thing universally.

Fast-forward to the present day. Just about anyone can become licensed to perform a wedding, no vows even have to be made, and the meaning of marriage is up to each individual couple (or person) to determine. In a society that places a premium on individuality, marriage can mean one of a thousand different things. And why not? Somehow we have to justify our decision to get married. So we determine why marriage is important to us and go for it.

It is worthwhile to ask why getting married is important to people who don’t see any inherent universal value or meaning within the institution. Maybe we see the wedding industry and want the whole big thrill of a wedding. Maybe it’s the rights and value assigned to being married, rather than living together. Perhaps we want what our grandparents or parents had or like the legitimacy of being married.

So we work through these questions, create a wedding around our answers, and present to our guests our own unique version of “marriage.” And really, it makes sense. If marriage is merely a construct of society, then each society, and each member therein, can determine why it is important and what it will look like in his or her own context.

Where it doesn’t make sense is in the church. When we talk about the future of marriage in the church, we cannot make the mistake of overlooking our weddings. The Bible begins and ends with a wedding. Throughout both the Old and New Testaments we see that God’s creation and institution of marriage was for a greater purpose. The one-flesh union of Adam and Eve in Genesis points all the way to the culmination of the Church’s union with Christ in Revelation 19. Marriage was created so we might understand how dearly God loves us.

Marriage matters. And if the wedding is day one of the marriage, then it matters too. When we—a man and a woman—choose to vow our love and devotion to one another with words that reflect God’s design for marriage, we are starting our lives together on a firm foundation. When we proclaim that our ability to keep our vows is dependent on the grace of God—that we will fail, but he is faithful—we are setting up a cornerstone that we can look back on when difficult days and years come. When we gather with friends and family in corporate worship in our wedding ceremony, we are demonstrating the reality that our particular marriage is not just about us. We are saying it is about the glory of God, and it is dependent upon the encouragement and support of the church.

My prayer is that the church might come alongside engaged couples and encourage them in the freedom of how truly meaningful a wedding can be. I believe Christian weddings can be the most joyful, reverent, and celebratory events we have the privilege of witnessing. And perhaps as we embrace and proclaim the meaning of marriage in our weddings, we will build a firm foundation for marriages that, by his grace, point to Christ, build strong families, and transform the world.

By / Aug 19

Catherine Parks, co-author of A Christ-Centered Wedding, sits down with Trillia Newbell to discuss her book and how to make God the focus of your wedding.

“The Bible begins and ends with a wedding. That shows us that weddings matter,” Parks says. “God has infused marriage with meaning that we didn't understand when we were first reading Genesis, you don't see the big picture. But then Christ talks about marriage and then in Revelation we see our own marriage with Christ.”

Twitter: @CathParks

By / Feb 28

Hello, this is Questions & Ethics, and this is Russell Moore broadcasting here from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina. This is a program where every week we take a question that you have about something going on your life, in your church, in your family, your neighborhood, and talk about it.

This week’s question comes in about an issue that I think a lot of people have to wrestle with pretty consistently, and that is when it comes to attending and going to weddings, should I go to a wedding? Should I participate in a wedding? And this comes from a mom who is writing in about her daughter, and she says, “My daughter is an atheist. She is living with an atheist, and she now plans to marry him.” And the mom wants to know, should I allow my other daughter to be in the wedding as a bridesmaid? Should I support the wedding financially? Should I go to the wedding? I want to honor God, but I still want to be a mom.

Okay, that is a really good question and I think one that we ought to spend some time thinking about. I remember several years ago I was serving a church, and I had a lady who came up to me after the service, and she whispered, and she said, “Could you pray for my daughter. She has gone to college, and she has become an atheist.” And I said, “Why are you whispering?” And she said, “I don’t want anyone to overhear me, because then they will know that I am the mom of that atheist girl.” And as I started talking to her it became clear, she thought somehow that that would make people think that she has done something shameful in her own parenting.

That’s crazy. We have got to eliminate that within the church. Throughout the Bible, you have family after family after family—it’s hard for me to think of a family in the scripture that doesn’t have a prodigal somewhere in the family. So we don’t say that because a child is going through some rebellion that that means that the parents are deficient. Not at all! And also we need to recognize that parents love their children, and families are to stay together, and we are to maintain those avenues of connection with our children as much as possible and to provide a means for those prodigals to come home. And prodigals do come home. These rebellious times don’t always last forever. And sometimes you have someone who is just going through a time of questioning, a time of confusion. Keep those avenues open.

I would also say that I understand why the mom is concerned about this, because the scripture tells us that a believer is not to marry an unbeliever. We should not be unequally yoked, as the Apostle Paul puts it. But that’s not what’s going on here. Instead you have a professing unbeliever marrying a professing unbeliever. Marriage is something that the scripture tells us is a creation ordinance given to all people; Genesis, chapter 2, “It is for this reason that a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” That’s not only true for Christians. That’s true for all people. So marriage is a good thing for everybody, including for atheists.

It seems to me that in this situation, you have a couple who are doing the right thing: not living together, but instead committing themselves to one another and marrying. If, Mom, you don’t have any other objection to this guy other than his atheism, and if your daughter is an atheist too, I would see this as a creation ordinance, and I would not have one qualm at all in going to that wedding, in having the sister serve as a bridesmaid. I wouldn’t have any problem financially contributing to that wedding.

Now, I think it’s a different story when it comes to the church officiating the wedding. I wouldn’t do the wedding for a couple of atheists. I wouldn’t officiate as a pastor, because I think that signifies the accountability of the couple to the church. That couple doesn’t have an accountability to the church; they are not under the I Corinthians 5 discipline of the church. But as a civil ordinance, getting married, I would go.

Now, if you have some reason to think that this man is harmful or abusive or dangerous, then no, you put your foot down, and you go to the matt for this. But if your only problem with him is that he’s an atheist, I would go. I would be kind, and I would seek to continue to share the gospel with your daughter and with your new son-in-law as time goes on. I would recognize that marriage is a good thing that God has given to all people.

And I also would just really encourage all of those parents out there who are going through a situation with your children—parents of atheist children; parents of agnostic children; parents of children who are going through times of moral rebellion, not just intellectual confusion or questioning or whatever—don’t be ashamed of your kids. Don’t cut off connection with your kids. Remain in contact. Love your children, and don’t be worried about what people are going to think about you. This is not about you; this is about loving the children God has given to you.

What’s a question that you have? Maybe you are reading through the Bible and a question comes up to you or something that is happening in your neighborhood or in your church; maybe something you are talking about in a Bible study or community group that you are wondering about, or something that is coming up in your workplace or your family. Just let me know. Send me an email at [email protected] or on twitter with the hashtag #askrdm, and we will take the question up here on Questions & Ethics. 

By / Feb 24

Hello, I’m Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, and this is Questions & Ethics, the program where we take an issue that you are struggling with, something that you have sent in, and we look at it through the lens of the kingdom of Christ. And today I want to take up an issue that one of you hasn’t asked about, at least not this time, but something that is in the news right now; and that’s the question of should a Christian baker bake a wedding cake for a same-sex wedding?

Now this is very similar to a question that I addressed a while back about a Christian photographer. We had a Christian who is in the wedding photography business who said, “Look, I’ve been asked to photograph a same-sex wedding. Should I do it or not?” I think it is a very similar situation in this case. And the reason why it has come up is because there was an article by Kirsten Powers in USA Today this week that talked about laws in places such as Tennessee and Kansas seeking to protect people who are not wanting to participate in same-sex weddings in terms of their religious liberty. And in the article she talks about such laws as being sort of like Jim Crow segregation laws for gay people. And she quotes Andy Stanley, pastor of North Point Community Church saying look, you need to just serve people you don’t agree with, and bake the cake. And if you don’t want to bake the cake, don’t bake the cake, but don’t put Jesus in it, because Jesus, of course, was with tax collectors and sinners.

Look, Kirsten Powers and Andy Stanley, I know both of them. I love both of them. I respect both of them. I don’t have any desire to bash them at all. I think they are good people. But I disagree with them on this, and here’s why. Because I think that if you are saying to me—first of all let’s bracket for a minute the legal reality here, because that is the question. When we are dealing with these laws in Kansas and Tennessee and in other places, what it is attempting to do is to protect, legally, the religious liberty of people from having their consciences violated by the government. And that is going on in New Mexico. It’s going on in Washington State. It’s going on in all sorts of other places, where people are saying, I can’t participate in this wedding, because it violates my religious beliefs and the exercise of my religious convictions, and so somebody else should do this. And the government is coming in and saying, no, we are going to force you to do it. Let’s bracket that for just a moment. I think, clearly, we do need legal and religious liberty protections or those people.

But then let’s address the question that Kirsten and Andy both are saying is really what they are wanting to address, which is the question of whether a Christian should be a vendor, to use the language used in many of these articles, in such a wedding. So if a baker said to me, “Should I bake a cake for a same-sex wedding, when I disagree with same-sex weddings and with homosexuality as being immoral as defined by the scriptures?” Here’s my answer to that. I think first of all, what I am not saying is that vendors shouldn’t be involved in same-sex weddings, generally and across the board. I think if you have a—you know, the other day was Valentine’s Day. I was going to get my wife flowers. I walked into Kroger on the way home, and there were flowers everywhere, flower arrangements you can have, they are selling it; I go and get those flowers, and I go through the checkout line. I don’t think that the checkout person ought to be saying, now wait a minute, who are those flowers going to? Is this an extramarital affair? Is this a homosexual relationship? Is this going to result in fornication, or is this for your wife? No, this is a vendor just providing these floral arrangements that are out there. They are generally for everybody. In the same way, if you are running a Chick-fil-A restaurant, and you have these packages and platters of food that you are selling to people, I don’t think you need to go and interrogate; Wait a minute! Is this for a Super Bowl party, or is this for a bachelor party for a gay wedding, or is this? I don’t think you have a moral obligation to interrogate those sorts of things. You sell your stuff, and you have it already prepared, and it’s out there, and you are just providing it to people to use.

I think where the difference comes in is when you have people who are being asked to become creative participants in an event that has, for Christians and for other religious traditions, sacred implications. So, if you have somebody who is selling material to be used for a wedding dress, well, that person isn’t involved in the wedding. But somebody who is, for instance, a photographer is somebody who is participating in the wedding, somebody who is using artistic gifts in order to create a narrative about this wedding. That is something that the conscience, in the case of the person who wrote to me earlier a couple of years ago about this, wouldn’t allow to happen. So if you are a baker, and you say, “Should I provide a wedding cake for this?” If you have a bakery, and you just have wedding cakes that you are making, and they are out there—and there are bakeries like this; people can come in and just say, “I want that cake.” They pick it out—well, don’t interrogate. You don’t need to interrogate who this is for or what they are going to use it for, because you are not participating in the event. You are just selling your product to whoever is there.

But a lot of cake decorators and bakers, and in fact, I would say most of them, are involved instead in actually participating with the couple and trying to say how do we tell the story of this wedding? How do we make this wedding unique, make this wedding beautiful? And they are putting their creative abilities and their creative talents into that event and into that wedding. I think it would be kind of similar, if you talk about the diversity of gifts, it would be kind of similar to someone saying to me, “Look, I am a liberal Episcopalian pastor. I am going to be marrying a same-sex couple, and I would like you to write the sermon for me. You don’t need to do the wedding, but I want you just to craft a sermon for me that I would be able to preach at this same-sex wedding.” Or a fundamentalist Mormon pastor saying to me, “Can you help me to write a beautiful wedding sermon for this wedding that I am doing for this man and this woman and this woman and this woman?” I would have to be able to say, “You know, I can’t do that. I can’t use my creative gifts in that way in order to participate in this wedding.” And I think the same thing is true here.

Biblically speaking, the issue that is relevant comes down to most particularly what the Apostle Paul is talking about in I Corinthians, chapter 8, where there is a controversy that comes up in the church at Corinth over the question of meat offered to idols. And what does the Apostle Paul say? He says a number of things. He says first of all, you don’t need to interrogate, when you are buying meat, where this meat came from. You don’t need to go and find an investigator to say what is this? Was it ever offered to idols? Because he says we know that an idol is not really anything in the world anyway. But he says if someone says to you come and eat this because it has been offered to idols, now you have a situation where your participating in this can do violence perhaps to your conscience, but more importantly it could do violence to someone else’s conscience. It could become a stumbling block and a scandal to someone else. I think that is very relevant to this question of what we are to do as we are participating in something that we don’t believe in.

The same thing is true with Romans, chapters 12 through 14, talking about the difference of levels of conscience, that people sometimes have differences about issues of conscience that aren’t clearly defined in scripture. And what does Paul say? He says you don’t bind one another’s consciences. He also says that you don’t judge one another’s conscience. And he says someone who is sinning against his own conscience is someone who is sinning. To do anything that is not from faith, the Apostle Paul says, is sin. That’s one of the reasons why I am so concerned about the religious liberty implications here. Some people will say well, what difference does it make? Somebody who is a florist, somebody who is a baker, it’s not the same thing as requiring someone to actually officiate at a wedding or to host a wedding inside a church. Yeah, but if you are coming in and saying to someone whose conscience says my being involved in this, using these creative gifts that God has given to me in order to tell this story in this way, is something that I feel like is rebellion against God, and I am going to have to stand before God in judgment, I do not think that the state ought to come in and pave over the conscience of that person.

And frankly, I don’t think that is in anybody’s interest, including in the interest of gay and lesbian people, our neighbors, and our friends, for a state to be powerful enough to do that. When it comes to the question of you, Baker, should you provide the cake, I think you have to ask am I simply just selling cakes to people, or am I actually participating and being involved in that wedding, in something that I believe, and I think the Bible does teach, isn’t of the Lord? It’s something we disagree with a lot of people in our culture about, but it’s something that the Bible speaks to, and the Bible speaks to our consciences about. So I think, in that case, when you are being asked to use your creative gifts in order to participate in something that you don’t believe in, I think you need to say, “I can’t do that. You need to find somebody else who can.”

Having said that, as I said to the photographer, you don’t be mean. Sometimes you have activists who are coming in and they are trying to catch you in something. A lot of times though, that is not the case. You have people who, made in the image of God, they are loved by God, they ought to be loved by us, and they think that this is the right way for them to go. “There’s a way that seems right,” the scripture says, “to a man.” They think this is going to lead them to the kind of happiness that they are looking for. We disagree with them, but that’s what they think. And they are coming and saying we want you to participate. There’s no reason for us to scowl. There’s no reason for us to rage. These aren’t our enemies. Ephesians 6:13 tells us that we don’t wrestle against flesh and blood. I think you just need to say, “I would love to be able to help you in all sorts of things, but I can’t in this, because I have beliefs about marriage. I have beliefs about sexuality that I am happy to talk about if you want to talk about it or not talk about it if you don’t want to talk about it, but they are informed by the gospel. They are informed by what Jesus says is the way that God designed the universe from the beginning, and that it points to the gospel of Jesus Christ. And it won’t allow my conscience to participate in this way. So I thank you for asking me, but you are going to have to get someone else to participate in this wedding, because I can’t do it according to my conscience.”

And I think we need to be very diligent about making sure that we wind up with the kind of public square that allows the sort of pluralism where people can disagree on these sorts of issues without having the state coming in and saying you can have your cake and eat it too, because you have to be forced to bake and to use your creative talents; you have to be forced to arrange those flowers; you have to be forced to photograph; you have to be forced to write the script. That’s not the sort of republic that many people fought and bled for. And more importantly, the scripture tells us that’s not what God created in the image of God when he created the conscience to be free.

What’s your question? Do you have something that you are thinking about, you are wrestling with? Maybe you are reading the Bible, and you’ve got a question about something that you are reading there. Maybe you are having a conversation with a neighbor or with a family member. Or maybe there is something happening in your family or in your marriage or in your church or in your workplace, and you are saying I just can’t figure out what’s the right thing to do in this situation. Well, shoot me an email at [email protected] or by Twitter at the hashtag #askrdm. And we will take up your question here at Questions & Ethics. Until next time, seek the kingdom, and walk the line. This is Russell Moore.

By / Feb 23

Today Kirsten Powers and Jonathan Merritt wrote an article for the Daily Beast accusing conservative Christians of hypocrisy and unchristian behavior for suggesting that some persons’ consciences won’t allow them to use their creative gifts to help celebrate same-sex weddings. Since I was a key example of this hypocrisy, I’ll respond to that charge.

At issue is a response I made, reposted this week over at The Gospel Coalition, helping a Christian wedding photographer think through whether he ought to work for a same-sex wedding. In the photographer’s question, he grapples with the question of how his conscience ought to play in this decision not only as it relates to weddings of people who, for all he knows, might be involved in all sorts of unbiblical behavior. Powers and Merritt suggest if he refuses to photograph one “unbiblical wedding,” he ought to “refuse to photograph them all.”

As a matter of fact, they say, to do anything else is to be “seen as a hypocrite” and to “heap shame on the gospel.” More specifically, they point to my advice that the photographer doesn’t have a moral obligation to ferret out the circumstances behind every wedding he shoots. I am telling him, they say, to do something “wrong” as long as he doesn’t investigate the background. “Apparently, ignorance is bliss.”

This sort of sarcastic response could just as easily apply to the biblical text at the root of our conversation: the Apostle Paul’s teaching on the conscience in the context of the marketplace in Corinth. Paul tells the believers there that they have no obligation to investigate whether the meat set before them was sacrificed to idols. If something’s put before you, Paul says, eat it to the glory of God, no questions asked.

But, the Spirit says through the Apostle, if the food is advertised as sacrificed to idols, abstain from it for the sake of the consciences around you (1 Cor. 8:7-9). I suppose the first-century Daily Beast could have sarcastically dismissed this with “ignorance is bliss.”

The article quotes me telling the photographer that he need not investigate the background of every wedding he performs, but they do not quote the next sentence: “But when there is an obvious deviation from the biblical reality, sacrifice the business for the conscience, your own and those of the ones in your orbit who would be confused.”

Here’s why this matters. The photographer has, in most cases, no ability or authority to find out the sorts of things a pastor or church elders would about a marrying couple. Most evangelical Christians, this one included, believe there are circumstances in which it is biblically moral for a divorced person to remarry. And all Christians—regardless of what we think about a church’s responsibility—think that marriages between otherwise qualified unbelieving men and women are good things, grounded in a creation ordinance.

It’s possible, of course, that the man and woman who’ve contracted with a wedding singer are just marrying to get a green card. It’s possible that they don’t plan to be faithful to one another. It’s possible that she’s already married to three other men. It’s possible that their love is just a reality show stunt. Or, to take us back to Corinth, it’s possible the blushing bride is the groom’s ex-stepmother. But unless the photographer has a reason to think this, he needn’t hire a private investigator or ask for birth certificates and court papers to make sure it’s not.

In the case of a same-sex marriage, the marriage is obviously wrong, in every case. There are no circumstances in which a man and a man or a woman and a woman can be morally involved in a sexual union (I have no reason to assume that Powers and Merritt disagree with apostolic Christianity on this point. If so, they should make that clear).

Now, the question at hand was one of pastoral counsel. How should a Christian think about his own decision about whether to use his creative gifts in a way that might, he believes, celebrate something he believes will result in eternal harm to others. I recognize there are some blurry lines at some of these points. But what isn’t blurry is the question of state coercion.

It’s of no harm to anyone else if Kirsten Powers and Jonathan Merritt (both of whom I love) think me to be a hypocrite. It’s fine for the Daily Beast to ridicule the sexual ethic of the historic Christian church, represented confessionally across the divide of Catholicism, Protestantism, and Orthodoxy. It’s quite another thing for the state to coerce persons through fines and penalties and licenses to use their creative gifts to support weddings they believe to be sinful.

That’s broader than just homosexuality. I don’t want wedding singers forced to use their lyrics and voices to tell us how great it is that Herod and Herodias or Henry VIII and fill-in-the-blank wife’s name are soul-mates.

This article maintains that there are no circumstances in which the Bible “calls Christians to deny services to people who are engaging in behavior they believe violates the teachings of Christianity regarding marriage.” Really?

Does that apply only to the morality of marriage? Should a Christian (or Muslim or Orthodox Jewish or feminist New Age) web designer be compelled to develop a site platform for a legal pornography company?

Now, again, we might debate the best ways to see to it that consciences are protected by law and in the courts. But acting as though those concerned about such things are the reincarnation of Jim Crow is unworthy of this discussion. Moreover, the implications for conscience protection are broad and long-lasting. This isn’t just a tit-for-tat Internet discussion. The lives and livelihoods of real people are on the line, all because they won’t render unto Caesar (or to Mammon) that which they believe belongs to God.

And we might disagree about what sort of pastoral counsel should be given as a Christian seeks to live out his or her life in the marketplace, but in order to do so we’ll have to deal with what the Bible teaches about our responsibility both to love our neighbors and to testify to what we believe to be true: that they, and we, will face a God who has revealed himself in our consciences and in the Scriptures. We might disagree on whether or when to bake the cake, but surely we ought to agree that it’s worth at least asking the question of whether and when the icing on the cake might imply, “hath God said?” (Gen. 3:1)