Properly Loving One’s Neighbor

Douglas Wilson (there, I’ve now lost half my reading audience) has posted some shots at Horton’s piece on “gay marriage.” (link to Wilson) Wilson was struck by something Horton said, something that also struck me: “The challenge there is that two Christians who hold the same beliefs about marriage as Christians may appeal to neighbor-love to support or to oppose legalization of same-sex marriage.”

There are a number of problems with what Horton says. Here are a few:

1) The second table of the law best describes our duty to love our neighbor. If we disregard the law of God, we are simply having friendship with the world, not Biblical love of neighbor. None of that entails that we cannot be kind, friendly, and loving toward our neighbors who sin. On the contrary, we must be those things. However, we must do so without compromising the second table.

2) The law given to Israel did accord with love of neighbor, and particularly with the second table. In other words, the harsh punishments of that law for the sin of Sodom were not unloving, nor were they in any way a violation of the second table or the duty to love our neighbors as ourselves. Whether or not those precise punishments should be imposed, if those precise punishments were imposed, there would be no injustice.

3) The appropriate neighbor-loving reaction to Sodom’s sin (by the civil magistrate) is not affirmation or tolerance of that sin, but judicial correction of that sin. In other words, the general equity of the civil law of Israel applies. That general equity is at least that such sexual behavior deserves punishment by the civil magistrate (whether or not that general equity extends to the degree of punishment or the mode of punishment, we can leave to another discussion).

In short, Horton is wrong if he means that Christians can legitimately appeal to the principle of neighbor love to support or oppose such legislation.

Horton writes: “Although a contractual relationship denies God’s will for human dignity, I could affirm domestic partnerships as a way of protecting people’s legal and economic security.”

The problem, though, is that Horton is affirming something that he (as civil magistrate) ought to condemn. Legitimate concern for the person’s economic security cannot trump the civil magistrate’s duty to oppose evil.

One wonders if Horton would say the following:

Although a contractual relationship denies God’s will for human dignity, I could affirm mafia partnerships as a way of protecting people’s legal and economic security.

Although a contractual relationship denies God’s will for human dignity, I could affirm pimping/prostitution partnerships as a way of protecting people’s legal and economic security.

Although a contractual relationship denies God’s will for human dignity, I could affirm contract hit partnerships as a way of protecting people’s legal and economic security.

Although a contractual relationship denies God’s will for human dignity, I could affirm false witness for hire partnerships as a way of protecting people’s legal and economic security.

I hope the answer would be an emphatic, “well, of course not.” Horton wouldn’t want the shield of the state to be used to protect organized crime, pimps, hitmen, or sons of Belial in the course of their evil. So, Horton is being inconsistent (the hallmark of E2k) in supporting “domestic partnerships.”

I’m glad that Horton ends well (I quote his conclusion below), but I fear that he gets to the right conclusion without a solid framework:

At the end of the day, what tips the scales toward the second view is that I can’t see how neighbor-love can be severed from love of God, which is after all the most basic command of all. Even if they do not acknowledge “nature and nature’s God”—or anything above their own sovereign freedom to choose—reality nevertheless stands unmovable. Like the law of gravity, the law of marriage (of one man and one woman) remains to the end of time—not just for Christians, but for all people everywhere.

That’s where the rubber meets the road. If your interpretation of “love of neighbor” leads you to compromise your duty to God, it is not true love of neighbor. Love of God is the first and great commandment, and together with love of neighbor, it is the hermeneutic for understanding the entire Old Testament.

-TurretinFan

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