The video is 11 minutes and 21 seconds long. It is well-worth listening to, but for those who would rather read than listen, I have written out his dialog:
Moderator: How do you respond to unbelievers who say Christians are hateful toward people who support lifestyles that are not according to the precepts of our faith?
Zacharias:Very important question. I would be a dishonest person if I told you I don’t think about that question or worry about it. In fact, our speakers’ team has sat around a table and asked, “How do we deal with this question, the trying social issue of our time.” And even if the word is not used in the question – the homosexual lifestyle and all that has come about in our lifetime. How should Christians deal with it?
Let me give you three panels for an answer on this, okay?
The first panel is the logical or sociological problem. The second panel is the theological problem. The third panel is the relational problem – how do you communicate it.
So, first, let’s take the sociological issue here. What is the problem now? We talk about tolerance.
I was speaking at a prestigious university and someone walked to the microphone and asked this same question about homosexuality.
I said to this person, “I will be glad to answer your question if you first answer mine. What kind of culture are we living in right now? You have to define it for me.
“I see three cultures in relation to absolute.
“The first culture is called a Theonomous culture where the Law of God is so embedded in our hearts that we all think in the same way.
“Once, upon a time, we talked about the natural law as in “we believe these truths to be self-evident. The early framers believed in the natural law. We don’t believe in natural law anymore nor do we believe in the Theonomous culture in the West.
“So, what’s the second culture?
“It’s a heteronomous culture. This means that the mainstream of a culture is dictated to by the top or its leaders. If you look at Marxism in secular terms, it is a heteronomous culture with the handful at the top controlling the masses. If you look at Islam, it is a heteronomous culture. The mullahs or sheiks or ayatollahs at the top tell the masses when they can eat, what they must wear, who they can be seen with and so forth. It is a heteronomous culture with the few at the top dictating to the masses below them.
“So I looked at the questioner and I asked, ‘Are we a Theonomous culture?’ He said, ‘No.’ ‘Are we a heteronomous culture?’ He said, ‘No.’
“That leaves with us the third which is an autonomous culture, which means each person dictates their own moral prerogatives. So, I asked him, ‘Are we an autonomous culture?’ He said, ‘Yes.’
“Okay, if we are an autonomous culture and I answer your question, are you going to give me the privilege of my autonomy, too? Or as soon as you disagree with my answer, will you switch to a heteronomous mode and dictate for me what I must believe as well?”
That is the sociological dilemma.
If A disagrees with B, A wants to enforce his principles on B. Not only that, B wants to do the same to A. So there is a mutual autocracy being sought here.
But it will never be consistent in a culture that is neither Theonomous or heteronomous because everyone has their own autonomy. That’s the sociological issue.
Now, the theological issue.
Years ago, I did some forums at Indiana University. At one, a reporter came and asked if she could film some of our program that night. I said yes. She only planned to stay for a part of the program, but ended up staying for all of it, even the question and answer period afterward. She ended up walking with me back to my lodging on campus.
The reporter asked, “I have a question for you.”
“Is this an on-the-record question or an off-the-record one,” I replied.
She said, “No this is just for me. It will not appear in print.”
“Okay,” I said. “Go ahead and ask.”
She said, “I have a problem with Christianity. Christians are generally against racism, but when it comes to homosexuality, they discriminate against the homosexual. How do you explain that?”
“I find your comments so interesting,” I said. “In the first part of your question, it’s an -ism you’re talking about. In the second part of the question, you particularize it with an individual. That fascinates me.
“The reason we believe ethnic discrimination is wrong is because the race and ethnicity of a person is sacred. You do not violate a person’s race or ethnicity. It’s a sacred gift.
“And the reason we believe in an absoluteness to sexuality is that we believe sexuality is sacred. You will help me better understand your question if you tell me why you treat racism as sacred and do not do the same for sexuality.
She replied, “I never thought about it in those terms.”
Here’s what I want to say to everyone: marriage as God has given it to us is the most sacred relationship you will ever enter. Love is given one word in the English but it has four words in the Greek: agape, philio, storge and eros. Agape is God’s love. Philio is friendship or brotherly love. Storge is protective or parental love. Eros is romantic love.
Marriage is the only one that pulls these four loves together. And if you take agape out of this mix, eros is gone. Romantic love will become redefined.
For believers, the Bible gives the sacredness of marriage as God gives Christ to the church, the bridegroom and the bride. In the sacredness of the beauty of that consummate relationship between a man and a woman in the singular marital vow: “I do and I will…” When you say I do to the one, you say I don’t to all of the others. When you say I will to one, you say I won’t to the others.
Any departure from this beauty and sacredness of the full union of love is against the biblical notion of what it really means to be married. Just to take one behavior and make it look like it is aberrant is not right. All departures from this model of a man and woman are not right in the sight of God.
The theological position is a consummate relationship between a man and a woman in the procreative act and the sacredness and paying each other the ultimate compliment of taking each other at his or her word.
Theologically, we are put in a conundrum. So, how do we deal with it? This is the hard part.
I accept people with a love and genuineness on anything if their views are different than mine. I have learned to love humanity. I can put my arm around a person who has a different view on marriage.
God gives us the most sacred gift: the prerogative of choice. But God does not give us the privilege of determining a different outcome of what the choice will entail for us . Consequences are bound to the choice.
That brings us back to the Book of Genesis 4:7, where it says, “If you do what is right, you will be accepted, but if you don’t, sin crouches at the door and desires to have you.”
When I look at the sacredness of marriage, any change from the biblical point of view is a departure from the biblical mandate. But at the same time, the Bible commands us to love even those we disagree with. Our responsibility as a church is to never to hate individuals. Our privilege is to love. Only God can change the heart of a person and He is the ultimate judge. Let us be light, salt and learn to love one another and let God be the judge. We can make errors and He does not.