Denny Burk is a popular and influential Southern Baptist pastor and college professor, and he writes articles for The Gospel Coalition, as well as for his own website. One of his most recent articles is “Four Stages of ‘Evangelical’ Affirmation of Gay Marriage.” According to Professor Burk, more than one well-known evangelical has gone through the following four stages, and he’s concerned that others will follow:
- Openly and unequivocally opposes gay marriage
- Shuts up about the topic to avoid offending homos and liberals
- Declares himself in favor of gay marriage
- Begins to demonize people who oppose gay marriage
A few days after he published the article, he stated, in response to a reader’s email, that there are probably more than four stages, but he’s not planning on writing a follow-up article. So I thought I’d do it for him, as well as for his readers who expressed an interest in reading more about the topic.
There are a lot more than four stages of evangelical acceptance of gay marriage. And I think Denny knew that when he wrote the article, but deliberately left some of them out because he doesn’t want to make waves.
Here are just some of the stages of evangelical acceptance of gay marriage Denny Burk should’ve mentioned but didn’t (and some of these stages overlap):
Shut up about the topic, not so much to avoid offending homos and liberals, but simply to avoid controversy. This is where almost all Christians were a few years ago. In 2006, evangelical leader Brian McLaren suggested that Christians should stop talking about gay marriage for five years, because the issue of what the Bible says on the topic is so complex, and it’s so easy to unintentionally offend “our gay neighbors.” Most evangelical leaders aren’t quite as far gone as McLaren, and are well aware that there’s nothing “complex” about the Bible’s teaching on gay marriage, so they would never make such an idiotic statement. But they’re also aware that these days, not much good comes to people who boldly affirm what the Bible teaches about homosexuality and related topics. As a result, for all practical purposes, evangelicals have taken McLaren’s advice. They’ve simply shut up about the issue.
Gay marriage is really not that big of a deal. This stage came right after shutting up about it. Fifteen to twenty years ago, while the gay marriage movement was just picking up steam, and unholy sodomy hadn’t yet been legalized in any state, it was quite common to hear evangelical leaders declare that legalizing gay marriage would be a direct assault on the very foundations of our nation and way of life, and that it would mean the end of Western Civilization. Needless to say, they don’t talk that way anymore, and on the rare occasions when they do broach the topic, they don’t talk about gay marriage being the end of Western Civilization, and they spend at least half their time warning Christians not to be mean or rude to sodomites, “married”or otherwise.
Russell Moore, Burk’s colleague and peer, and one of the most influential Southern Baptists today, says that Christians shouldn’t attend a gay wedding if we’re invited, but we should attend the reception to show the sodomite couple that we love and support them. Moore should’ve been fired on the spot from the ERLC for this apostasy, and removed from the masthead of The Gospel Coalition right after that. But he wasn’t. In fact, his statement barely caused a stir. And I’m pretty sure Denny Burk never publicly raised a peep of protest. He certainly didn’t tell The Gospel Coalition that he wasn’t going to be writing any more articles for them as long as an apostate like Moore was still part of their organization.
Doug Wilson, the legendarily squishy Reformed pastor and author, did say that Moore was wrong, and that Christians have no business attending gay wedding receptions. But he didn’t call him apostate. And then Wilson turned around a few months later and said that if the happy homo couple moved in next door to him in Idaho, he’d attend parties at their house, invite them over for backyard BBQs, etc., because “the Lord Jesus was a friend to sinners.” But if they ever invited Wilson and his wife to a party celebrating their gay wedding anniversary, Wilson would have to refuse to attend, because gay marriage is an abomination.
So Wilson says it’s wrong to attend a party a gay-married couple throws the day they get married, or on their anniversary, but any other time we should treat a homo-married couple next door just like we’d treat Ward and June Cleaver. Because, no matter what they said twenty years ago, most Christians believe gay marriage isn’t really a big deal. And Wilson is considered a far-right extremist by many evangelical leaders.
Gay marriage is only important insofar as it threatens us directly. This is where most Christians are right now, and it goes right along with the last stage. Hey, as long as we don’t have to bake the pillowbiters a wedding cake, and as long as Biola University won’t lose its tax-exempt status for not accepting gay-married students, everything’s hunky dory.
Endorsing gay marriage is not apostasy, and good Christians can disagree on the topic. This is the next stage, and most evangelicals will wind up here; more and more Christians are already adopting this view. Twenty years ago, pretty much every evangelical, from the pews to the publishing houses, would have said that any person who supports homosexual marriage has left the Christian faith, no matter how many other doctrines they affirm, or how much they talk about Jesus. But not anymore.
Yes, there was a fuss raised recently when Eugene Peterson endorsed gay marriage, but that was an exception. The country singer Carrie Underwood endorses gay marriage and is still invited to perform at massive evangelical conferences. Evangelical TV star and writer Jen Hatmaker endorses gay marriage, and you should see some of the big evangelical names who pal around with her on Twitter, and treat her as if she’s an orthodox believer.
Bono, the lead singer of U2, has been very publicly endorsing and celebrating gay marriage for at least two years. (As if there were ever any question about which side of the debate he would come down on.) Yet many evangelical leaders love Bono and regard him as a fellow Christian, some even calling him “prophetic” because of his “compassion” for Africa. In fact, you know who’s a huge Bono fan? Denny Burk himself. Here’s Denny telling people to watch Bono talk about the Psalms.
So, with his acceptance of Russell Moore and Bono, regarding them as Christian believers despite their calls for Christians to celebrate gay marriage, Burk himself is obviously in this very late stage, which is practically the same as endorsing gay marriage outright. Yet to hear him tell it, he’s standing strong against evangelical affirmation of gay marriage. He needs to read the last paragraph of his own article:
I think this trajectory is important to be aware of for a couple of reasons. One, we need to examine our own hearts to see if there might be inclinations along this trajectory. Two, we need to be discerning and careful about teachers/leaders/ministries that are clearly moving through these stages.
Actually, there’s really no need for “discernment” in this area. It’s way too late for that. No matter where they are today, nearly all evangelical leaders, ministries, and colleges will eventually endorse gay marriage. And it won’t be that long from now. They’ve already pretty much stopped actively opposing it; even strong “defenders of traditional marriage” like Denny Burk regard people like Bono as Christians even though they endorse gay marriage; the worst sin an evangelical can commit is not being nice, and the Jews and homosexuals aren’t about to drop their crusade to force Christians to toe the line.
So do the math. Liberals may have hit a speed bump with Trump, but even that’s not certain. And even if Trump does slow their rate of progress, the Jewish left isn’t about to stop pushing the homo/tranny agenda. And evangelicals aren’t about to stand up to Jews and homos, because that wouldn’t be very nice. Very few evangelicals will be able to withstand the onslaught that is coming in this area. The gay marriage battle is over: Jews won; Christians lost. Now it’s just a matter of time until the victors start collecting their spoils.
(The gay marriage battle was actually over long before Obergefell. But that’s another article.)