Theologian and author Carl Trueman asserts in a new column that Christians should never attend an LGBT wedding because to do so is to affirm the relationship and to make “a mockery of a central New Testament teaching and of Christ himself.”
Trueman, a professor of biblical and religious studies at Grove City College in Pennsylvania and the author of The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self and several other books, says in his column for First Things that the question of whether Christians can attend a gay wedding is becoming more frequent as society grows more secular.
“It is not hard to guess what reasons a Christian might give for attending a gay wedding: a desire to indicate to the couple that one does not hate them, or a wish to avoid causing offense or hurt. But if either carries decisive weight in the decision, then something has gone awry,” Trueman writes.
Christians, though, should not attend a gay wedding, Trueman argues.
“Whatever the alleged gains that might be made by showing the couple a morally amorphous form of love or by avoiding giving offense, the price of attendance is huge,” he writes. “Much has been made of the perplexity sown by the Pope’s recent statement about blessing gay couples. Just as momentous for individuals and churches could be the confusion sown by a failure to think clearly about attending gay weddings. After all, attendance so as to show ‘love’ or avoid giving offense is a form of blessing, just without the name.”
There are, Trueman writes, multiple reasons why a Christian should decline to attend.
“Many wedding liturgies, including that of the Book of Common Prayer, require the officiant to ask early in the service if anyone present knows any reason why the couple should not be joined together in matrimony,” he writes. “A Christian is at that point obliged to speak up. I would hazard a guess that such an intervention would be far more offensive than simply refusing to be at the service.
“The issue can also not be separated from the broader question of sex, gender, and human nature,” he writes. “If marriage is rooted in the complementarity of the sexes, then any marriage that denies that challenges the Christian understanding of creation. It is one thing for the world to do that. It is quite another for Christians to acquiesce in the same.”
Declining to attend a gay wedding is not a sign of hatred, Trueman writes.
“To consider a declined invitation necessarily a sign of hatred is to adopt the notion of ‘hate’ as a mere refusal to affirm,” he writes. “That is our secular age’s understanding, and not that of the Christian faith. A refusal to attend might also cause offense, but to make the giving of offense itself into a moral category is to replace moral categories of right and wrong with aesthetic categories of taste. The latter should always be subordinate to the former in the realm of ethical questions.”
Attending a gay wedding, he writes, involves “remaining silent when one should speak."
“It involves a concession on bodily sex that undermines any attempt to hold fast to the importance of the biological distinction between men and women,” he writes. “And it involves approving of a ceremony that makes a mockery of a central New Testament teaching and of Christ himself. That’s a very high price tag for avoiding hurting someone’s feelings. And if Christians still think it worth paying, the future of the Church is bleak indeed.”
Trueman’s column was published as Christians continue debating comments by Ohio pastor and radio preacher Alistair Begg, who encouraged a Christian grandmother to attend a transgender wedding. Begg’s advice included a few caveats. Trueman’s column did not mention Begg.
“People may not like this answer,” Begg said, “but I asked the grandmother, ‘Does your grandson understand your belief in Jesus?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Does your grandson understand that your belief in Jesus makes it such that you can’t countenance in any affirming way the choices that he has made in life?’ ‘Yes.’
“I said, ‘Well then, okay. As long as he knows that, then I suggest that you do go to the ceremony. And I suggest that you buy them a gift.’ ‘Oh,’ she said, ‘what?’ She was caught off guard.
“I said, ‘Well, here’s the thing: your love for them may catch them off guard, but your absence will simply reinforce the fact that they said, ‘These people are what I always thought: judgmental, critical, unprepared to countenance anything.’”
Begg added, “We’re going to have to take that risk a lot more if we want to build bridges into the hearts and lives of those who don’t understand Jesus and don’t understand that he is a King.”
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Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.