The State of the Evangelical Church in Tennessee Will Be Revealed This Tuesday

Mar 7, 2024 by David Fowler

The State of the Evangelical Church in Tennessee Will Be Revealed This Tuesday
Next Tuesday will be a watershed day for the institutional Bible-believing, evangelical churches in Tennessee. On that day, its theology and what it has been feeding into the lives of the Christians in our legislature will be revealed for all to see. The vehicle for this revelation will be a House subcommittee’s disposition of House Bill 1386 by Representative John Ragan. Here is what I think will be revealed, and you may be interested in the testimony I will offer in support of the bill.

The bill is known as the Marital Contract Recording Act. It makes a dramatic and seismic-in-nature statement about the nature of law and reality.

In our day, most people, including most, if not perhaps all, the Christian legal organizations I know, think in terms of law coming from either judges or legislators. They say they don’t believe that, but as a practical matter, looking at the way they draft bills and couch their legal arguments, that is how they think. As a practical matter, they act as if they believe what atheists believe.

What This Modern Belief Meant for Marriage

This modern belief about law was the predicate for the United States Supreme Court excising from state marriage licensing laws the historic definition of marriage and substituting a new definition (Obergefell v. Hodges, 2015). The new definition was predicated on human beings being androgynous, interchangeable widgets.

Why must that be true? Because that is the only understanding of what it means to be human that could lead the Court to conclude that a sexual relationship between two men who are, in principle, sterile is equal in the eyes of the law to a relationship between a man and woman who are, in principle, procreative.

What Does Failure of the Bill Mean?

Absent approval of House Bill 1386 and its companion version in our state Senate, there will remain only one understanding of the marital relationship in our state and nation—the one defined without regard to sex—and all others will remain unenforceable as a matter of law.

In other words, the vows made in your church before your minister are irrelevant and meaningless as far as the law in Tennessee and our nation are concerned. To get marital benefits allowed by law, a man and woman and their minister must bow down to this new thing.

How Does the Bill Change This?

As an alternative to bowing down before SCOTUS’ God-denying conclusions, HB 1386 is predicated on the belief that not all relationships are created by civil statutes, some relationships should not be redefined by civil government, and persons should not be alienated from the lawfulness of those relationships because five Supreme Court justices want to substitute something new in their place.

The bill does this by asserting that:
  • the marital relationship between a man and woman is not created by statute,
  • a man and woman have a right to form a marital relationship defined strictly as husband and wife and not just as two people who happen to be a man and woman,
  • this right is not granted or bestowed on them by any act of civil government, and
  • civil government is obliged to acknowledge its reality and existence.
To assist the couple in later proving their marital status, they can go to the county clerk’s office that issues marriage licenses and file an affidavit informing everyone they have married.

What I Think a Multi-year Pursuit of the Bill Has Revealed

So far, pastors and the titular leaders of the three largest denominations in our state have chosen to say nothing publicly in defense of God’s institution of marriage as He designed it.

I can count about ten ministers among the many I have reached out to over the last eight years who have personally expressed concern about what the Supreme Court did, and for them I am grateful. But only one, in Kingsport, has responded to any of my communications about the bill over the last several weeks.

What we need to realize is that the public witness of the institutional Church, except for progressive denominations now known strictly for their “social gospel,” has been largely silent since the onset of the Civil War, and on this issue its silence has been deafening.  

What’s ironic about this public silence is that when the Christian (Triune) God “disarmed the principalities and powers, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them” by way of “the cross” (Colossians 2:14-15).

The preceding is the revelation I think we’ll get on Tuesday. I predict the bill will move forward only if God, of His own accord, and for the sake of the glory of His own name, decides to direct the hearts of the committee members in favor of the bill, even as He directs channels of water in the course they should go (Proverbs 21:1).

Only God can get the glory now, and that is the way it ought to be.

My testimony is at this link if you are interested.

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