This transcript is taken from a Stand in the Gap Today program originally airing on Feb. 19, 2024.  To listen to the program, please click HERE.

Sam Rohrer:                      … hello and welcome to this Monday edition of Stand in The Gap Today, and another full week of programming. You’ll want to join us every day. I think we’re going to have key themes, good programs on important issues all week. With God’s help, we’re going to bring to you those headline news of greatest significance to all those, our primary audience, to those who fear God, and are committed to keeping His commandments. That’s what we’re told to do in Ecclesiastes 12:13. I add into that, to those committed to doing God’s will, God’s way, in accordance with God’s word. I hope that describes you. Now today I’ve asked Dr. Renton Rathbun, Director of the Center for Biblical Worldview at Bob Jones University, and a regular speaker for Biblical Worldview instruction at BJU Press, to join Dr. Isaac Crockett in me, for a careful and prayerful. I want you to know, I mean exactly what I’m saying, careful and prayerful consideration of a current topic that’s already likely impacted many of you listening to me. If it hasn’t, it soon will.

That’s the question of whether or not as a Christian individual, perhaps Christian parents or grandparents, whether or not we should attend certain weddings. In other words, just because as a Christian friend, or a family member, or a parent, or grandparent, we’ve been invited to a wedding, does it mean that we are obligated to attend? Should we attend, or possibly be directed by Scripture to not attend? This is a thorny issue. If you’re [inaudible 00:01:42] what I’m saying right now, you know exactly what I’m saying. This scenario has already confronted my wife, Ruth Ann and me, some years ago, and thankfully we’ve responded biblically, and God was honored by our choice then. But this question is not just confined to the more controversial weddings of the day, such as gay weddings, or now trans weddings, which are occurring with increasing frequency.

Today we felt that it would be helpful to identify in essence, and apologetic on weddings and marriages, and the Christian response. The title I’ve chosen for today’s program is this, are there some weddings Christians should not attend? Are there some weddings Christians should not attend? With that I welcome to the program right now, Renton Rathbun. Renton, thanks for being back with Isaac and me.

Renton Rathbun:              Oh, thank you for having me. It is exciting.

Sam Rohrer:                      Well it is, and we’re going to call upon you, and we’ve prayed before we started this program for wisdom and discernment, because this is a thorny issue, but God’s word gives clarity. Now here’s where we’re going to go from, ladies and gentlemen. A recent statement by a leading pastor, Alistair Begg. Many of you would recognize that on his radio program, produced a resounding nationwide negative response leading to the American Family Radio Network, and other Christian radio stations, canceling his Truth for Life daily radio program. That’s a big deal, hardly ever happens. Other Christian leaders, like John MacArthur, have also canceled the appearance of Pastor Alistair Begg at a large well-known pastors conference, because of this particular counsel and recommendation, which he continues to defend, because these entities have went back to him before they took his program off.

Now that statement in essence was in response to advice given to certain Christian grandparents, who were seeking biblical counsel on whether or not they should respond to an invitation to attend the wedding of a transgendered grandchild. Alistair Begg, in essence, said that they should attend, but not everybody agrees. Herein is the dilemma facing so many Christian people, and the jumping off point for today’s discussion. Renton, let me start here today with you. Since the world has its own idea about weddings and marriages, let’s go here. Would you define the gold standard? I’m going to say the divine definition for marriage, from a biblical perspective, lay down the foundation for marriage, if you would, from God’s perspective.

Renton Rathbun:              I think it all begins of course, as Ken Ham always reminds us, the answer always goes back to Genesis. There’s some truth to that, because when we really think about what a marriage is, we need to go back to the creational norm. That’s what I call it. How did God create man and woman to be? How did he create marriage to be, and what are the norms he’s demanding of that union? It comes down to Genesis 2:24, and this is a familiar verse. It’s repeated in Ephesians, “For this reason, man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Now, this is for this reason. Now for this reason, goes back to verse 22, where it says that God fashioned into a woman the rib, which he had taken from man, and brought her to the man.

In other words, she was fashioned, for this bond, with this man. I would define marriage, from a scriptural standpoint, is that it’s a form of image bearing, where we’re bearing some kind of image of God in this bond. The form of image bearing instituted by God, so that a man and a woman will covenantally bond, “by a man leaving his mother and father to cleave to a woman, for as long as they both shall live, and the man shall have headship over the woman, as they endeavor to obey,” Genesis 1:28. Of course Genesis 1:28 tells us that God made man and woman to be fruitful and multiply, to fill the earth and subdue it, and rule over it. There’s a purpose behind this bond. It’s not just a bond in general, there’s a purpose behind it, in this covenantal bond, between a man and a woman, as a woman was fashioned for the man.

Isaac Crockett:                  This description starting in Genesis, as you said, and goes throughout Scripture, all the way to the New Testament, is there anything in that… we see that today, we call that a marriage. We look in Scripture, we don’t necessarily see what a wedding looks like, but we see definitely what a marriage is. But the wedding ceremony, there’s different takes on that, but we don’t get that description necessarily in Scripture. But Scripture does say here’s what man and wife is, what marriage is. Has that changed now in 2024, that we’re living in, is there anything additionally, or taken away from that, from God-fearing people, how we should view a marriage, or what a wedding, a coming together to form a marriage is, even today?

Renton Rathbun:              Yes, absolutely. First of all, when we think of a wedding, that really is something that developed. In the Old Testament, what you see is a man making promises to a woman, and then they go and they consummate those promises, their wedding night, that we would call it. Obviously, throughout time men would make promises, consummate, and then deny they made those promises. A wedding, or something was instituted in some kind of regiment, so that those promises would be made publicly first, then the consummation of the marriage would be that night.

Sam Rohrer:                      Okay Renton, if I could, just hold that, because there’s not enough time for you to complete that. When we come back, ladies and gentlemen, after the break, I’m going to ask you to complete the balance of that question to Isaac, that he posed to you, whether or not there have been any alterations that God has permitted, from that one given in Genesis, to what is now. Then we’ll begin into the second aspect of marriage attendance, and what it means when we go, ladies and gentlemen. Those are the things we’re going to be moving into. Stay with us, we’ll be back in just a moment.

All right, welcome back to Stand in the Gap Today, our theme today is one I know you all have thought about at some point, or you must, you’ll be confronted with, and that is this, you’re invited, you get a wedding invitation from a family member or a friend. But perhaps it’s to a wedding of some person, or type that is like, “Well.” Our theme is this, are there some weddings that Christians should not attend? A special guest today is Dr. Renton. Rathbun is back with Isaac and I. Renton is the Director of the Center for Biblical World View at Bob Jones University, and a regular speaker for Biblical World View instruction for BJU press. Renton, Isaac had just asked you a question, you weren’t completed, if you could complete it. That is this, you established marriage as God defined it, man, woman, right back then Genesis. Is there anything that has been modified or has been changed, that God has permitted, through that time to the present, of which we ought to be aware, before we go into what it actually means to attend a wedding?

Renton Rathbun:              Yes, so marriage used to be as far as God intended, a bond fashioned for obedience to God’s word, and God’s word was to multiply, to subdue and rule over the earth, as image bearers to God. That has slowly, throughout the years downgraded to marriage is now for my own personal happiness. Marriage is now self-gratification. Some people wouldn’t want that strong language, they might want to say, “Well, this is just happiness in general.” Whatever it is, even Robert Reilly who wrote the book Making Gay Okay, who is not of our persuasion religiously, did notice that when America made contraception legal in marriage, it was making a statement about what marriage really was about. It was no longer about fruitfulness, no longer about subduing and ruling over the earth, as God had said, now it’s about my perceived happiness in this relationship. If children are going to impair that, then we find a way to eliminate that.

If orientation is going to be an issue, then I need to make sure that I can marry the kind of person I want to marry, even if it’s my own sex, or someone that is transitioning to something they think is another sex, all that is so that I can maintain the purpose of marriage, which is happiness, no longer obedience. That’s the biggest change.

Sam Rohrer:                      That is an extraordinary one, and we could go down the road a lot on that, but we’ll just hold it at that moment. Let’s shift to the idea of weddings, because ladies and gentlemen, when you think about it, weddings and the type of ceremony, it does vary from culture to culture. Some of you may be listening, you are married in different countries, it’s different. Marriages and weddings do occur though in all cultures, or something similar to it. Attendance at weddings by families and friends also occurs, in most cultures. Though I’m going to say the purpose and the meaning of the wedding attendance may vary. Herein is the concern, I think by all interested people today, who are invited to attend a wedding ceremony, and the official recognition of a marriage. That is, does my attendance at a wedding mean anything at all, or do I just go, and don’t worry about it?

All right, Renton, let’s get into it. At it’s most fundamental form, the question I think that all people must consider, which even professing Christian leaders disagree, and that counsel runs the gambit. For instance, I’m going to give two, ladies and gentlemen, two views from different Christian leaders. One of them says, quote, “Attending a wedding ceremony is a matter of supporting the bride and/or groom. It is not necessarily a stamp of approval.” A second one would say, “We’re not mere spectators when we go to a wedding, we’re witnesses. We testify to the legitimacy of the union being established before us.” All right, so there we have it. Renton, what does attendance at a wedding actually mean?

Renton Rathbun:              Before the break that’s what we were trying to get at. What is this attendance even mean, as referring to someone’s promises to the person that they’re going to be bonded with? In the Old Testament you had those promises, and then the consummation. The promises needed to be witnessed to, so that you can, so to speak, keep this guy honest. There’s this, also this sense… so there is a witnessing there that’s necessary for the whole point of the ceremony. The whole point of the ceremony is to witness the promises, so that the consummation means something. You are never attending a wedding without consummation in view, and never attending without being a witness in view. That’s the whole point. It’s not a spectator sport, in which people just show up and have a good time, because what we have to all understand is there’s nothing neutral about attendance.

You can’t be neutral, you cannot support the bride and groom, without approving in some way. I don’t know what support would mean if it doesn’t mean approval. I don’t know what approval would mean if it didn’t mean support. These syntax games are difficult, but we have to understand this, a wedding that rejects the creational norm that God has placed, is a wedding that should not be attended. It is a rejection, not only of God’s intent, but of God’s own character, when we are attending a wedding that rejects the simple image-bearing of being, between a man and a woman. It is a purposeful rejection. It is not a passive rejection. Therefore, we are saying something even about love itself, when we attend. As Christians, we understand love not to be something that brings me happiness necessarily, that’s a byproduct. But love has to be the person of Christ, and if we try to start mixing terms the way they do, our attendance can be problematic, as well.

Isaac Crockett:                  I really appreciate where you’re going with this Renton, and as you did, and our good friend Ken Ham does, you started all the way in Genesis, where so much of our theology and doctrines were given to us at the very beginning, as was this. But then it goes on, all the way to the Apostle Paul, it’s in the Gospels, as well, so it’s throughout the New Testament, but you took it to Jesus Christ. That’s what’s so important about marriage, is it is a picture. We find that the church is the bride of Christ, and we look at Galilean weddings, and has to do with how we wait for the Lord’s return, and all of these things. Going back to these teachings that started in Genesis, but really culminate in our understanding of love of Christ, because he first loved us, we love him.

But just to make it clear for those who are thinking, “Well, I’m just attending, I’m not a participant,” you addressed that. I know when I’m performing a wedding there’s usually something about before God and these witnesses, well that makes us a part of it. Often, in American weddings you’ll hear something, is there anyone who knows a reason why these two should not be joined together in holy matrimony? Then the famous phrase, “Speak now, or forever hold your peace,” again making us witnesses, but like you said, we’re holding them accountable. Can you talk to us? I know you mentioned it already, but can you speak more specifically on these aspects, between I’m just an observer, I’m just showing up, versus I’m a participant? I’m just an observer versus I’m an actual witness. I’m an integral part of this marriage ceremony.

Renton Rathbun:              Yeah, yeah. Looking back at Alistair Begg’s comments, he was saying that if the bride and the trans person know, or the groom and the trans person, whatever it is, know that you love God, and they know your position, then being there does not… lets them know you’re just being nice, or something, and nothing more. Therefore, not only should you attend, but he says you should bring a gift, to let them know how much you love them. See, this is the thing, the phrase you referred to is from the Book of Common Prayer, because Christians understand that there is a responsibility at a wedding. If anyone knows any reason why this couple should not be joined together in matrimony, obligates the Christian to stand up and say, “I know a reason.” They are rebelling against God’s design, and that God’s design is not just the best way things ought to be, they are the way things ought to be, to reflect God’s glory, because this says something about God, Himself.

In fact, even how we speak of love has to be very carefully understood, because the whole reason that Justice Kennedy decided to judge on the Obergefell case to allow gay marriage, he said this, “No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family.” He’s right, it does. The problem is we define love, not by my personal happiness, but by God himself. God is love, not a concept that we all get to participate in. He is a person, and without him, there is no love. When we are witnesses there, we have an obligation. Even if they don’t say that phrase, that phrase is burnt in our chest as Christians, that we ought to say something. Because what we see are two people committing sin, not against our personal feelings, or what we think is gross, or what we don’t like. These are people committing a sin against God Himself, and they are saying something about God.

We do have to stand up and speak, or not attend, and that can be our rejection of that. But there has to be something done. Attending does say something.

Sam Rohrer:                      Ladies and gentlemen attending does. In some respects, I wish we had a phone line right now, we could open it up and you can all call and say, “Yeah, I’ve been faced with that, and here’s the decision I made, or here’s what I did.” The point of it is, all who fear God, all who profess to be true believers, must think about should I go, should I not go? What am I saying when I go? What if I go, and I don’t agree, and I don’t say anything? All these ramifications, so that’s why we’re approaching this biblically, because the Scripture does give us clarity. We’ll continue when we come back.

Well, when it comes to the institution of marriage, and again, if you’re just joining us, we’re talking about marriage today. But the specific piece is this, are there some weddings that Christians should not attend? You’ve all been faced with that or you will, I know, and it is a difficult thing. But I find that the most disturbing thing, I would suppose, from my perspective, is that there are positions that are completely opposed to each other, which we’re trying to establish today. There is a clear and a consistent approach to how we, as God-fearing Bible-believing Christians, should address this matter of marriage, and weddings, and our presence at them. That’s what we’re dealing with today. Special guest Dr. Renton Rathbun, has been with us a number of times, and I know many of you really appreciate him, and I know we do.

When it comes to the institution though of marriage, there are commonly two aspects. You’re hearing that in the program today. One is God’s definition of marriage, and God’s requirements, usually falling within the designation of the church, or I’m going to put it in a broader universal perspective, that culture’s a sacred entity. It could be a very ungodly religious entity, but within that you have the religious piece. The other’s, the governmental, or civil requirements, in the definition of marriage. When the two align, as they once did in our nation… they don’t now, but when the two align controversy and division is minimized, almost eliminated. However, when government decides to begin redefining marriage, and its component pieces of what makes up a marriage, as this nation has done increasingly for about two generations or so, controversy then arises. What once was not even a slight consideration, becomes a point of hostility within government, the culture, and now even the church, where you have church leaders getting on board with the culture, instead of with God, and redefining marriage, and who can be a part of that institution.

All right, Renton, let’s go back now, and reestablish, if you would briefly, the universal, unchanging ingredients, established by God, regarding marriage, and the identified participants within his design of marriage. To put it this way, what are God’s unchangeable ingredients within the institution of human marriage, that you said clearly God defined, as we can find in the first part of Genesis.

Renton Rathbun:              I think the first is really clear, that the woman was fashioned for the bond with a man. In the bond of man and woman being put together, is to demonstrate image-bearing work, that the marriage is to have its purpose found in. A man and a woman is a non-negotiable. The purpose is to obey God, in his command of multiplying, subduing, and ruling over the earth. It being for a lifetime, is very clear throughout Scripture, as well. I think those things are at the very base, what we have to think about.

Isaac Crockett:                  All right, and sometimes people will point to instances in the Bible that maybe looked slightly different. What do we see when we look into the Bible, were there ever any variations that God permitted or that God allowed, at some point since creation, this model at creation of one man and one woman? Have there been any variations that God did allow, and are there any that God never indicated were okay, that he never permitted, if you would, if that makes sense?

Renton Rathbun:              Yes, so we see through Scripture people making exceptions. Now those exceptions happen only after the fall, obviously. The biggest one is David and Solomon who took on multiple wives, as kings. What we see is… we don’t see a verse that says, and they were in sin when they took that second wife. We don’t see that. What we do see is that every example where someone is taking on multiple wives, it leads to a disaster, especially with David and Solomon. This disastrous story, from these choices I think, is clear enough. I think some people would like something more than that. But even Moses allows divorce, but that’s because of the sin of the people. Jesus says that divorce is permitted when one person abandons the other. I understand that as well, but that also is in response to a sin-filled world. It is not the original intent, it’s not the original purpose and trajectory. You always see these exceptions, but these exceptions are always in response to sin, or lead to more sin.

Sam Rohrer:                      All right, and I’m glad Isaac, you asked that question. I’m glad Renton, you dealt with it, because ladies and gentlemen, we are trying to be very careful, and not letting out the hard question. That was a hard question right there. There are exceptions to one man, one woman, as God laid out, but you gave the reasons, and Christ himself was asked that, because there was an issue, and he did respond. Now we may come back and visit that, but I’ve got to move on to this next question, Renton, and that is this, and that’s the second part of what Isaac asked. Is there any combination of humankind coming together in a union… let’s put it that way, marriage or God’s definition, of whatever, that is strictly prohibited, or how would that be addressed? Then based on that, if God says absolutely not, then should an individual respond to an affirming of a wedding that God has prohibited?

Renton Rathbun:              First, as Americans, we have to be self-critical of how oftentimes overly sentimental we are, especially when it comes to ceremonies. These ceremonies are… as a Protestant, I don’t believe that marriage… or a wedding is a sacrament. I believe it’s necessary both for obedience to the government, as well as making public declaration before God and man, and keeping those promises. I understand that. But we have made a huge deal of weddings, because we are so individualized, and we almost celebrate ourselves quite a bit in that. We have to be self-critical of that first. But secondly, we have to see what God has said, that when at the very least God made woman for man. A man and a woman is one of those non-negotiables. Anything other than that does make a mockery of God’s creational norms, and God’s creational norms are not neutral, they are reflecting God.

A rejection of his norm is a rejection of him. Even if unbelievers don’t even understand what they’re doing, when a man marries a woman, even as unbelievers, there is still that image bearing work that you are seeing done. I think there are some that haven’t thought all this through, and there’s some ignorance involved. I know how judgy this can sound, when it comes to decisions people have already made, and felt okay about it, and all those sorts of things, especially in gay marriages, and things like that. But I think, with more information, and more knowledge, comes more responsibility, and deeper judgment, when we have knowledge of these things. At the very least, we need to ensure that if we’re going to a wedding, it is not mocking God, and it mocks God when anything other than a man and a woman are being brought together, in matrimony.

I think there’s other things that we have to consider. Things get a little more nuanced and difficult to gauge. But at the very least, if you have a man and a man, and a woman and a woman, or someone trying to mutilate themselves to the point of transitioning to something that appears different, whatever it is, if it is mocking, that simple idea that we find in Genesis where Genesis is talking about the glory, and this is important. This is a glory that God made woman for man. Even when you read Adam’s response to this, this is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh. He names her, she shall be called woman, because she was taken out of man. As you see that brought out, and then there’s a command to multiply. God is glorified when we imitate him, and multiplying is a way of imitation. When we are ruling and subduing over his earth, when we work together in obedience that way, even unbelievers do this, and so this is something we have to remember.

Sam Rohrer:                      All right, and that is a lot to remember, and it’s simple though, ladies and gentlemen. All right again, on this program, dealing with issues from a biblical worldview perspective. Two views of this world, of life, God’s view, man’s view, that’s what it comes down to. We’re trying to lay out, as best we can, clear as we can, God’s view of this matter of marriage, weddings, which reflect that. Then, all right, when we come back, we’re going to end up with this, what difference does this all make? We’ll answer some specific questions. Should I go to a gay wedding, as an example-