“To bake or not to bake?” A reflection on Christian liberty and the prerogatives of conscience

Should be bork the borks? There are no easy answers.

Should we bork the borks? There are no easy answers.

Constitutionally speaking, there is no question that a business-owner has a right to refuse service to anyone for any reason. In the absence of considerable moral hazard (the exception), this is just a no-brainer. I’d probably take this to ridiculous extremes: if a business wants to discriminate against me because of my race, that is their right. It’s their property, not mine. This is as plain as day to me. The alternative is having Nanny State adjudicate the fairness of all social and economic interactions. Sound familiar? It’s what we currently have. Do you like it? I don’t. So, to reiterate, as a legal-constitutional matter, it’s an open and shut case. Business-owners have the right; it should be protected. Fin.

Now, the unrelated religious question is this: when should these business owners use that right? A right is not the proverbial hammer before which everything is a nail. You don’t have to use your rights all of the time. You have a right to keep and bear arms (theoretically), but you don’t have to pack heat if you don’t want to. You have a right to free speech and a free press (theoretically), but you don’t have to be a journalist.

First of all, we should probably consider whether the business-owners in question have a duty to refuse service to homosexual patrons. It has been stated that because the goods in question (cakes and floral arrangements) have to do with weddings, and since weddings between homosexuals are immoral, that, yes, the putative bakers and florists have a Christian duty to refuse their services.

The problem with this, at least in my mind, is that cakes and flowers are completely extraneous to a wedding. Essentially speaking, they have nothing to do with marriage. You may as well insist that the Christian owner of a gas-station refuse to fuel up the limo that’s going to transport the gay couple from the courthouse to the reception and that his failure to do so would be a sin. Now there is a school of ethical thought that lends itself to such casuistry. Since I promised to try to be brief, though, I’m not going to get into it beyond saying that it sure ain’t Lutheran — it’s Roman Catholic. If you’d like to read a brilliant example of what it looks like in a case of concrete ethics when it’s developed to its logical conclusion, then I commend this document to you. It’s fascinating. However, it’s also highly problematic for reasons which I won’t attempt to get into now.

Strictly speaking, there’s no such thing as a wedding cake. And there are no such things as wedding flowers. Incidentally, there’s also no such a thing as a homosexual wedding. (I could take this a bridge farther and say that there’s no such thing as a homosexual, ontologically speaking, but that’s a whole other discussion.) Whatever ceremony is occurring, whatever profession of vows takes place, etc., what’s happening is not a wedding. “What God has joined together, let no man separate.” And if God has not joined it together (and in the case of a homosexual union, He has not), don’t think that a merely human joining-together is going to constitute (or even approximate) the indissoluble bond of marriage, because it is not.

Another thing we must remember about marriage is that its institution is part of the Orders of Creation — it precedes the Church. It even precedes the Fall. It is a civil ordinance in the most primal sense of the term, as the entire civitas (city) was made up of but two cives (citizens) at that time. Therefore marriage is not properly the purview of the Church but of the State. Therefore it is not quite accurate to state that a baker or florist who provides their services to a gay couple is participating in the profanation of the Divine Service. They’re not. If the ceremony is taking place in a church, and they’re calling it a wedding, then, yes, it’s profane already, and the Divine Service of that church is likely already profane if they’re the sort of church that would host such a ceremony. But even a wedding that is blessed by God in the Church is performed by the minister as a legally-vested agent of the State in accordance with divine institution and the Word of God. It could be conducted outside of the Church and still be a wedding.

In his Pastoral Theology, C. F. W. Walther writes that

Before the preacher officially consecrates a marriage, he should not only be sure that he is authorized for that function according to the laws of the state but should also familiarize himself with the laws of the state in which he is. Observing them is required for a valid and legitimate marriage, and he should proceed according to them insofar as they are not contrary to God’s word. (Pastoral Theology, C. F. W. Walther, translated and abridged by John M. Drickamer from the Fifth Ed., 1906; Lutheran News, Inc. 1995, pp. 155-156.)

Rev. Rolf Preus explains that “Walther was following Luther in this matter. As Germany was trying to extricate itself from the church/state confusion created by the pope’s intrusion into civil government’s domain, in 1530 Luther offered theological counsel to pastors on marriage matters.” Luther’s words are apposite:

No one can deny that marriage is an external, worldly matter, like clothing and food, house and property, subject to temporal authority, as the many imperial laws enacted on the subject prove. Neither do I find any example in the New Testament where Christ or the apostles concerned themselves with such matters except where they touched upon consciences. (Luther’s Works, Robert C. Schultz, ed.; Concordia Publishing House, Fortress Press, 1967, Vol. 46, p.265.)

So, really, there’s nothing wrong with selling someone a cake or some flowers. What they do with the cake is none of the baker’s business and, moreover, not his responsibility. If it’s for a gay “wedding”, then that is sad, yes, and doubly sad if the State is so blind and corrupt as to give legal sanction to the misnomer. But the Christian baker should remember that a cake is not part of a wedding and that no wedding is even taking place, regardless of what it’s being called. God is not wedding them. They are not wedding each other. That verb and its participle have nothing to do with the goings-on. They should no more be denied a cake than should fornicators, adulterers, gluttons, or the slothful or greedy. And if you want to deny all of them cakes, that’s your right. But just keep in mind that if you apply that standard liberally and honestly, your business is going to tank.

Well, that’s all I have to say on the matter right now. I’d welcome discussion in the comments if anyone is interested. I didn’t edit this at all, so please excuse my dear Aunt Sally for any inconclusive paragraphs, logic-chopping, malapropisms, etc.

 

+VDMA

23 Comments

  1. “Neither do I find any example in the New Testament where Christ or the apostles concerned themselves with such matters except where they touched upon consciences.” I see your point, but does this last phrase have any bearing? A cake or some other contribution to a “Planned” “Parenthood” gathering? T-shirts for the annual “Adult” “Entertainment” convention? It seems that even though it is clearly a matter in the realm of the State, consciences formed by the Word of God may indeed be convicted in any of these situations. It certainly is not black and white as to how far someone’s conscience will let him go, but is it all permissible? Is it all beneficial? I wonder of it might be helpful to use Robert Benne’s criteria of how close a particular civil action falls to the center of the Faith. Ephesians 5 puts marriage, though a civil ordinance, pretty close to the center of the Faith.

    • Pr. Winterstein,

      Thanks for commenting. I would say with Dr. Luther that to go against conscience is neither right nor safe (if, in fact, he actually said that). So, yes, perhaps your conscience really would be bound to refuse service to a homosexual patron. I won’t judge. But to me the larger question is whether the converse argument holds: does the baker have a moral obligation to refuse service? If I may delve into a little bit of casuistry, I would suggest (and I do mean suggest — I’m really just thinking this through), that there is an essential difference between the baker and the purveyors of goods and services in your examples. It seems to me that knowingly to contribute refreshments to a Planned Parenthood function would constitute participation in the event and give them material support. I’m not sure about selling a cake, to be perfectly honest. When I say that I’m not sure what difference it makes, I’m not being a pragmatist: I honestly don’t know what differentiates selling a cake to Planned Parenthood from selling a cake to an unbeliever.

      T-shirts for a pornfest? That seems to be very different. That constitutes advertising and knowingly profiting directly from sin. The chapter meeting of Planned Parenthood is not inherently sinful — what are they going to talk about today? Maybe disbanding. I know that’s an out-there hypothetical example, but I think it holds. A pornfest has a pretty set objective: to promote lust.

      “Ephesians 5 puts marriage, though a civil ordinance, pretty close to the center of the Faith.” Amen. But how about a cake at a reception for something that’s not a marriage? Again, I don’t know.

  2. Trent,
    I appreciate your post here. I certainly do not think this is black and white at all. While the extras – cake, flowers, etc – do not make a wedding a wedding, it is not always a simple matter of going to the store, picking up the items and the service provider having no idea what it’s used for. For larger weddings the baker or the florist will go to the venue, help setup, will cut and serve the cake, yada yada. To me this is different than, say, simply filling an order that you have no idea what it’s being used for later.

    Furthermore we must remember that perception matters. Though the church does not, the world sees the ceremony as a wedding, equal to that instituted by God. Supporting that, whether you believe it’s a wedding or not, sends the message to your neighbors that you condone the ceremony.

    We will likely never agree on this issue, but I thank you for taking the time to write your views 🙂

    • Very good points, Vanessa. The participatory nature of the wedding business is very much the reason this becomes a conscience issue.

    • Thanks for commenting, Vanessa.

      Just a few thoughts in response:

      For larger weddings the baker or the florist will go to the venue, help setup, will cut and serve the cake, yada yada. To me this is different than, say, simply filling an order that you have no idea what it’s being used for later.

      Again, none of that is part of a wedding even in the case of a real and/or Christian marriage. To take this to its logical conclusion you would have to say that Christians cannot cater an event for non-Christians. “All that does not proceed from faith is sin,” says St. Paul; ergo, you can’t help them do anything, because anything an unbeliever does is a damnable sin. I don’t think that holds water, though.

      Furthermore we must remember that perception matters. Though the church does not, the world sees the ceremony as a wedding, equal to that instituted by God. Supporting that, whether you believe it’s a wedding or not, sends the message to your neighbors that you condone the ceremony.

      But the question is whether providing cake or flowers at a reception does, in fact, support the ceremony. Perception matters, yes, but you can’t prevent all misperception of your actions, and not all of it is your fault. This is why clear public articulation of the truth is important. “Preach the gospel to all the world, and if necessary use words.” Yeah, but it’s always necessary, pace St. Francis…

      • Thanks for the response. I think the issue comes up with the definition/perception of “support”. I know we don’t all agree on which actions support and which do not.

        ergo, you can’t help them do anything, because anything an unbeliever does is a damnable sin.

        I disagree with the conclusion here. While Rev Fisk’s video is not specific to vocation, I did think his points on how we serve the unbeliever and all sinners is superb. And I will fall back to his words, as he is much more knowledgeable than I. http://www.worldvieweverlasting.com/2014/02/15/sinful-sins-and-the-sinners-who-sin-them/

  3. Good thoughts on the issue. Honestly, I would have no problem myself baking them a cake unless they asked me to put two little men (or women) on top. Then I would feel as though I was forced to participate in the mockery of God’s institution. I would have a much harder time accepting the job as the photographer.

  4. For me to go around saying that the baker, catering service, florist, photographer and DJ at my wedding all approved my marriage would be absurd. I hired them to do a job. Which they did. The end.

    • Upon reflection, I think the real issue here is being party to the perceived mockery of one of God’s institutions. I think a similar example (sticking with the cake theme) would be a de-baptismal cake, at the request of an Atheist. Sure, there is no such thing as a “wedding” cake or a “de-baptismal” cake per se. Cake is cake. But it is the message sent by what is being celebrated.

      At the end of the day, it’s about conscience. If I were a baker, I wouldn’t feel comfortable participating. Perhaps that makes you view me as the weaker brother, but I think the bible says something about that.

      • Good thoughts, Nick. We would do well, though, to pay mind to the distinction between a disordered civil arrangement such as a homosexual “marriage” and a blasphemous act such as a “de-baptism” (which at least in a formal way is the unforgivable sin itself).

        “But it is the message sent by what is being celebrated…”

        It may seem a niggling distinction, but I do agree with Pastor Price:

        For me to go around saying that the baker, catering service, florist, photographer and DJ at my wedding all approved my marriage would be absurd. I hired them to do a job. Which they did. The end.

        It is even more absurd, I think, to say that a hired baker or florist is “celebrating.”

        And I wouldn’t feel comfortable baking a cake either, for the record. I also can’t bake worth beans. But the question remains: does the Christian baker or florist have a duty to refuse service to homosexuals, or is this a matter of Christian freedom? And I don’t think it’s quite accurate to invoke the “weaker brother” clause here as though it is a categorical imperative which would come alongside and stipulate that, yes, it’s a matter of Christian freedom, but there’s this second Law that says that you must freely choose A rather than B. It cuts both ways. A weaker brother’s conscience might also be injured by the baker’s refusal to bake the cake. What do you do then?

        I’m not trying to offer a pat answer, seriously. I’m a stranger here, myself. I just don’t find your reasoning to be compelling here.

        • When you ask the question, do Christians have a duty to refuse, I think faithful Christians can come to different conclusions about that. Perhaps you meant to steer the conversation away from the way the “dialogue” in the culture has been going, but that’s generally not the way the question has been asked. It seems to me that the question is (again, generally) about whether Christians are allowed to refuse, either according to their Scripturally-formed conscience or according to a First Amendment right. I think one can refuse for the first reason, and it ought to be permissible by the State according to the second. Perhaps this discussion should cause Christians (especially Lutherans) to present a more nuanced case for the reasons why, but the wider issue in the United States is that this snowball ain’t slowing down. I suggest that if we don’t fight for a person’s rights in this area (recognizing that rights belong only in the civic arena), there will no longer be any right for preachers or individual Christians to have freedom when it comes to any conversation about sin (gay, straight, poly-, or otherwise). I’m no fatalist, and I also don’t take ultimate comfort in the Constitution of the U.S., but that doesn’t mean we ought not try and preserve the right to freely proclaim both Law and Gospel. Certainly, I will continue to preach both whether that freedom is granted under the civil law or not; but it is, all other things being equal, a good thing if I don’t have to go to prison for doing it.

          • When you ask the question, do Christians have a duty to refuse, I think faithful Christians can come to different conclusions about that. Perhaps you meant to steer the conversation away from the way the “dialogue” in the culture has been going, but that’s generally not the way the question has been asked.

            Yes, correct. I did want to steer it away. This is why I stated very emphatically that the civil right to refuse service to anyone for any reason must stand. Otherwise our laws are meaningless and there is no such thing as liberty. Perhaps I should have emphasized the importance of defending this civil right. Make no mistake about my convictions here. However, there is little doubt in my mind that this battle has already been lost.

            It seems to me that the question is (again, generally) about whether Christians are allowed to refuse, either according to their Scripturally-formed conscience or according to a First Amendment right. I think one can refuse for the first reason, and it ought to be permissible by the State according to the second.

            Right. The question is whether this is truly a matter of Christian freedom or whether Christians’ consciences are bound one way or another. The First Amendment ostensibly protects a Christian business-owner’s right to refuse service to anyone for any reason.

            Perhaps this discussion should cause Christians (especially Lutherans) to present a more nuanced case for the reasons why, but the wider issue in the United States is that this snowball ain’t slowing down.

            Yes.

            I suggest that if we don’t fight for a person’s rights in this area (recognizing that rights belong only in the civic arena), there will no longer be any right for preachers or individual Christians to have freedom when it comes to any conversation about sin (gay, straight, poly-, or otherwise).

            Right. Agreed. But we’re already losing this battle.

            I’m no fatalist, and I also don’t take ultimate comfort in the Constitution of the U.S., but that doesn’t mean we ought not try and preserve the right to freely proclaim both Law and Gospel.

            Respectfully, Father, I would suggest that the proclamation of Law and Gospel is a joyful duty, not a right. Pastors preach the Gospel with wild abandon like the apostles, sowing liberally like the Sower Himself:

            And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest asked them, saying, “Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man’s blood on us!”

            But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree. Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.”

            As I have contended before, we Christians in America need to be less concerned about our rights and more concerned about preparing for martyrdom.

            “Certainly, I will continue to preach both whether that freedom is granted under the civil law or not; but it is, all other things being equal, a good thing if I don’t have to go to prison for doing it.

            I know that you will — thanks be to God! But this is not our choice. The world is changing. But the Church is watered by the blood of martyrs, now as always — or rather, by the Blood of Christ which flows from the wounds of the dying saints who have drawn from Christ the Vine all of their earthly lives, if you’ll indulge me a bit of poetic imagery (that at least seems theologically sound). “For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed,” writes St. Paul,

            but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you. And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith, that your rejoicing for me may be more abundant in Jesus Christ by my coming to you again.

            Yes, it’s good not to go to jail. It’s also good to go to jail. Which good will be granted to any of us is not up to us. We are called to be faithful, whether the State gives us the “right” to be faithful or not.

          • “Respectfully, Father, I would suggest that the proclamation of Law and Gospel is a joyful duty, not a right. Pastors preach the Gospel with wild abandon like the apostles, sowing liberally like the Sower Himself…”

            Sorry, that wasn’t phrased correctly. I was connecting “right” to “freely,” not to “proclaim.” For what it’s worth, I agree with everything you said in response.

            Thanks.

          • Thanks for the clarification and for the dialogue. By the way, I know your nephew Jonathan. When I lived in Alexandria we attended Immanuel together. I also taught with Katie at the school there. They are both good friends of mine!

    • But if one of them did refuse to participate because of some reason or another (even if not particularly good or valid), that would certainly be evidence that they did not approve. And I think someone ought to be able to do that. I think I agree with you that there’s nothing particularly “Christian” about it, but that’s not the real question in the First Amendment argument.

  5. For what it’s worth:

    “Jesus might bake the cake, but would he perform the nuptials?”

    I need to correct Scalia on one thing, though:

    “Jesus is the source of articulated doctrine on both marriage and divorce.”

    Yes, as long as we don’t forget that Christ/God first articulated this doctrine in Genesis, not St. Matthew’s Gospel. Again, Rev. Preus’s thoughts are wonderfully helpful:

    God established marriage before he established the Church and there can be no sacrament apart from the Church. To think that since marriage is a holy institution of God it must therefore be a sacrament may be motivated by sincere piety, but it is a misdirected and wrongheaded piety. In fact, it is an intrusion of the Church on the prerogative of the state. God established marriage in creation. This means that if we want to understand marriage, we must go back to the beginning. That’s what Jesus did when he was questioned about the permanence of marriage. He responded by appealing to history. Rome teaches that Christ the Lord raised the matrimonial covenant “to the dignity of a sacrament” (CCC, paragraph 1601). I would suggest that he returned it to its original and inherent dignity by grounding it in God’s creation.

    I can’t recommend Preus’s piece highly enough. It is quite long, but, man, it is a belter.

  6. I think you’ve got it almost right; but here’s the thing: your point hangs on an absurdity. Your entire position stands or falls with your statement that, “Strictly speaking, there’s no such thing as a wedding cake. And there are no such things as wedding flowers.”

    In a sense you’re right: the cake is a cake, and the three identical chocolate cakes – the one served at a wedding, the one for Timmy’s birthday party down the street, and one “just because” way across town – they all taste just the same. But you can’t just throw out the symbolical. The one’s a wedding cake. The other’s a birthday cake. The last one, sure, is just a cake cake. It’s not associated with anything.

    Let’s make the symbolism even more explicit: let’s say a man walks into your jewelry store and asks for help picking out an “engagement ring” for his boyfriend. You’d want, to be consistent, to say, “Well, it’s just a ring, right?” Yet it’s not being used as “just a ring”. The man wants to use it as a symbol of something – something unreal, but something he perceives as valuable – and if you sell him the ring you aid and abet him. You are helping him along in his delusion.

    To get to the point, we do have a Scriptural test on these things: that test is knowledge – and over knowledge, perception, conscience. 1 Cor. 8 (I offer a precis, from the NKJV) explains our basis for these decisions:

    “Now concerning things offered to idols: We know that we have knowledge… we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no other God but one…

    However, there is not in everyone that knowledge; for some … eat [things offered to idols] as a thing offered to an idol: and their conscience, being weak, is defiled…

    Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat [krea]…”

    Here Paul is talking about our regard and care for other brothers in Christ; however, he picks up the theme, this time with regard to unbelievers, in chapter 10:27-29:

    “If any of those who do not believe invites you to dinner, and you desire to go, eat whatever is set before you, asking no questions for conscience’ sake. But if anyone says to you, ‘This was offered to idols,’ do not eat of it for the sake of the one who told you, and for conscience’ sake… not your own [conscience], but that of the other.”

    Although we rarely deal with physical idols these days, other kinds of immorality besides idolatry would seem to follow the same principles. Some guy wants to buy a chainsaw? Sell it to him. Some guy wants to buy a chainsaw and tells you he’s going to murder his dad? Don’t sell it to him (and call the cops). Some guy orders a cake? Bake it for him. Some guy orders a cake specifically for his “wedding” to another dude? Say, “Sorry, I can’t do that.” The wedding cake for Joe and Sally really is a wedding cake, because Joe and Sally really are getting married; the “wedding cake” for Jim and Bob isn’t any such thing, but they think it is, and we’re amiss if we encourage them in that thought.

    • Hi Jon. Nice to hear from you again.

      I’m glad that you’re advancing this thesis. Just to be clear, you’re siding with those who say that this is not a matter of Christian freedom, but that the Christian has an obligation to refuse service in such instances, yes?

      “[T]he ‘wedding cake’ for Jim and Bob isn’t any such thing, but they think it is, and we’re amiss if we encourage them in that thought.” Yeah, but we’re not encouraging them. We’re selling them a cake.

      I think your argument is tendentious. I’m going to get really nit-picky on this one. I’ve cited my proof-text already that establishes the sinfulness of all unregenerate human activity. Romans 14:23 says that all which does not proceed from faith is sin; unbelievers do not have faith; ergo, everything that unbelievers do, even their civilly-righteous acts, is sinful. In the case of a gay “wedding”, we have a weird conundrum. The civil union that is effected with the authorization of the state is legal. It’s not marriage. But it’s legal. Now, the two guys getting “married” are deluded, as you rightly say. And they’re leading an openly sinful lifestyle. Their sins are (Biblically understood) lust and sodomy. Contracting a civil arrangement in the eyes of the state? I’m going to wade into some hot water here, perhaps, but I’m going to go ahead and say that although the civil union of homosexuals is absurd, and although it has no historical precedent in any culture ever…in and of itself, it’s not wrong. Or, rather, it’s not more wrong than the statutory category of a Class C corporation. Please understand what I am and am not saying by this. I don’t think it’s a good thing, and I do not support it. Sorry to be graphic, but what makes homosexual “marriage” wrong is not the ceremony but the sodomy. And we’re not talking about a ceremony, really (there’s no argument to be made for Christians participating in such a ceremony); we’re talking about a party. Now, I wouldn’t go to such a party. And I wouldn’t go to the “wedding” that preceded it. But if I’m a baker, and they want a cake? Here’s a cake. I’m not helping them get “married” if I sell them a cake. I think that this is all messed up, and I feel sorry for them. And I hope they repent. But I probably don’t have the kind of relationship with them that would allow me to say any of those things.

      Or so it seems to me.

      Obviously, if the gay couple claims to be Christian, there is an unequivocal Scriptural mandate to have nothing to do with them as long as they are continuing in manifest sin. That’s easy.

      • Trent,

        I haven’t thought through how this plays out regarding the current debate here, but when you said you hope they repent, it dawned on me that their wedding (as they would label it) is nothing short of a declaration that they are committing to never repent of their sodomy.

        • Interesting. Perhaps it is. How so?

          Let’s say it is. Then what is their reception? What is their…eating at a restaurant? What is their…buying a hammer at a hardware store? You might argue that baking a cake constitutes participation in the “celebration” of their pseudo-marriage, and that selling them a hammer a week after their pseudo-marriage does not. But I don’t buy the distinction. It’s an aesthetic distinction, but I think it lacks a solid rationale. Now, just to be clear, I wouldn’t solicit their business. I wouldn’t donate a cake. But if they approached me as customers, I think I’d bake the cake and sell it to them at a fair price.

          Come to think of it, this raises some interesting questions about the morality of advertising!

          All I am arguing is that this is a matter of Christian liberty. But it seems like whenever one of these instances arises, people always hanker after some kind of canon law. There just isn’t one to be had here, I don’t think.

      • Okay, let me be very careful here. You ask, “Just to be clear, you’re siding with those who say that this is not a matter of Christian freedom, but that the Christian has an obligation to refuse service in such instances, yes?”

        To this I reply, “Sort of”. I, personally – me, myself, I, ego, etc. – can find no room in Paul’s (inspired) advice which allows me to do anything other than refuse to bake a “wedding cake” for a homosexual “wedding ceremony”, in the hypothetical scenario where I am a baker.

        Now for the caveats. First, at what point is a line crossed?

        Let’s take the most egregious example: two men come in, flaunting their “relationship”, and try to order a cake with bright pink icing, and “Congratulations to the groom and groom” on it in purple and the little people thing you stick in the top is two guys. At that point I’d say making this cake itself – as described – is morally unacceptable (except possibly for some joke, which in this hypothetical it isn’t, and would anyway be in bad taste).

        Now, suppose they just order a sheet cake, or a bunch of pies, or whatever, that happen to be served at their farce of a “ceremony”. I don’t think I would have a problem here. The entire problem is the perceived symbolic value – which you just want to ignore. But you can’t: we all know what a wedding cake looks like, and nobody serves a wedding cake at a garden party. Of course having a wedding cake at a homosexual “marriage” doesn’t add anything in reality, any more than the “ceremony” itself does. But in terms of cultural symbolism, it’s a fairly big one. The question isn’t, to me, what I may do in the abstract; it’s a question of charity towards the conscience of the would-be customer: not permitting him even the mild respite of, “Well, the Christian baker was okay with a cake with two guys on the top.”

        Second, do I say all Christians have this obligation as I perceive it?

        I am unwilling to say so. First, this is clearly a matter of conscience, and so I – especially as a layman – would be reluctant to give any advice in an actual case, let alone lay down a rule of conduct to another – a cake is as you say after all just a cake, and the ceremony in question is, as Paul says, a “nothing”, and we as Christians know that. I see the question one way, and don’t see a way around that interpretation, but this very well may make me the weaker brother here.

        Second, it always seems difficult to tell which advice in the New Testament still applies, and how rigorously, and when and where. To take one example: the Jerusalem council advised the church not to eat meat with the blood. Paul in the passage I quoted says to eat anything served without qualm, with only the exception that a Christian should not eat something his host offers as a thing sacrificed to an idol. Yet I am fairly certain most Greek and Roman butchers were not kosher. Or another example: in that passage in 1 Timothy on behavior in church, Paul says that women should “adorn themselves… not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing…” Yet in our culture, especially for girls or young women, one or two neat braids are very nearly a stereotypically “modest” hairstyle. (Gold and pearls, too, when not ostentatious, are often symbols of purity.) You will find some wanting to take Paul literally and saying he is stating some eternal principle of modest appearance, but I find this doubtful – if for no other reason than his continual insistence on (well-ordered) Christian liberty. So again, while I see a clear principle in the passages I quoted, I am reluctant to constrain others to that interpretation, when, if nothing else, simple cultural change may make my reading untenable even as in analogy.

        To return to my hypothetical, were I as the baker to consult my pastor on the issue, and he thought I was being too conscientious (I think there’s a word for that, but I can’t recall it at the moment), or maybe too worried about appearances, I would probably take his advice and bake the cake after all – even the super-flamboyant one.

        In short: I’m content to call it a question of Christian liberty, I just have trouble seeing how anyone could reach a conclusion other than mine.

  7. You stated: “Constitutionally speaking, there is no question that a business-owner has a right to refuse their services to anyone for any reason’… ”

    You have made a very bold conclusive statement here without citing to any particular portion of the US Constitution. I will assume you would make the same arguments that were made in the Heart of Atlanta Motel v. United States case which was decided against your stance 9 votes to 0.

    The point is moot for the issue you are bringing up since the wedding case and the florist case both deal with state law not federal law on whether a business can discriminate customer who are gay. States have always had wide latitude in regulating commerce.

    If I were in the baker of florist decision, I think it would be a great opportunity to apply Matthew 5:41-42

    If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

    • Mr. Mulinix,

      Well, it’s nice to meet you…

      I get to make bold conclusive statements here. It’s my website, see. My property. I pay for it. And I can refuse service to any commenters. It’s my right.

      Your comments lead me to think that you misunderstand me; the fault, however, is partly mine. Owing to its place at the beginning of the sentence, the adverb “constitutionally” is capitalized in the sentence which you excerpted. However, that is the only reason it is capitalized, for it is of course possible to refer both to the Constitution of the United States, and the constitution of the United States. I intend both, and so opt for the more inclusive signifier. Moreover, I do not rely on the Supreme Court to interpret the Constitution (intentional capitalization). Do you? If I did, I suppose I would just sit on my hands and bob my head to such decisions as Roe v. Wade and other such judicial “findings” of legal penumbras. In any event, I was making a philosophical statement about the architectonics of property and commerce per se. I’m not interested in having a debate about stare decisis and legal positivism.

      If the point I was making were moot (and it’s not) then your comment would be moot, as well. But of course, the point I am making is not moot. I am therefore left with no other choice than to regard the first three paragraphs of your comment as pompous and irrelevant. Call me old-fashioned, but you’re a guest here. You’re free to participate in the comment section of my site, but if I were you I’d make a more decorous entry. Pretend that you’re a guest in someone’s home and that you’re joining a dinner-table discussion that’s been going on for awhile. Say “it seems to me…” and “I would submit…” and “with all due respect…” and pose rhetorical questions where you really might just like to make a statement. Maybe open with a “Hey, thanks for the interesting article. First-time reader, first-time commenter. I’ve been reading through the comments, and I have a few observations,” or some suchlike.

      I’d be interested in seeing you develop the suggestion you make in your final two paragraphs. If you’ve been reading the comments thus far, you’ll see that I very likely agree with what you’re saying.

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