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Why 47% of younger evangelicals support gay marriage

Ryan Denison is the Senior Fellow for Theology at Denison Forum, where he contributes writing and research to many of the ministry’s productions.

He is in the final stages of earning his PhD in church history at BH Carroll Theological Institute after having earned his MDiv at Truett Seminary. Ryan has also taught at BH Carroll and Dallas Baptist University.

He and his wife, Candice, live in East Texas and have two children.

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Recent trends towards acceptance of same-sex marriage within the Church have been well-chronicled of late, with believers on both sides of the debate arguing their case in an attempt to sway those still somewhere in the middle. A new survey from the Pew Research Center found that one side appears to be growing, especially among the younger generations.

Roughly 47 percent of evangelicals born after 1964 now support same-sex marriage. Compared with the 26 percent of those born before 1964 who said the same, it’s clear that the future of the evangelical stance on this issue is trending towards acceptance. And as The Washington Post‘s Sarah Pulliam Bailey describes, there is a similar trend across Christian denominations. But why?

That younger Christians across the spectrum are more likely than older to support causes such as same-sex marriage should not come as a surprise. Generally speaking, younger generations have frequently been more willing to question existing thought and challenge previously held beliefs than their parents and grandparents. To some extent, it’s just part of being young and less established in one’s way of thinking. That alone, however, does not explain the growing generational gap, especially among evangelicals, on the issues of homosexuality and gay marriage.

In many ways, the present direction is simply a continuation of the trends that started in the sexual revolution of the 1960s and 1970s. To be sure, there were Christians who opposed that movement then, just as there are those who oppose the legalization and acceptance of same-sex marriage today. Overall, however, it seems that the church did relatively little to effectively change the hearts and minds of young people. As that generation grew older and took over the leadership of churches and families today, acceptance of sex outside of marriage became more entrenched in the Christian culture.

Given that environment, the acceptance of same-sex marriage and homosexual activity in general was simply the next logical step. Why, after all, should heterosexual sex outside of marriage be permissible but homosexual sex be forbidden when the Bible clearly condemns both, often in the same sentence (1 Corinthians 6:9–11)? If Scripture’s stance on the former is outdated or irrelevant, why would the same not be true of the latter?

The hypocrisy in condemning one but not the other removes much of the foundation upon which any biblical argument against the acceptance of same-sex marriage must be built. The larger culture, and even other believers, have little reason to listen when we tell them that Scripture’s view of homosexual activity is correct if we’re singling out that sin to the exclusion of others.

While it’s important to stand for the Lord’s view on homosexual activity, it’s equally important that we teach and obey the full counsel of Scripture regarding all sexual activity. People deserve to know God’s plan for their lives, but far too often that plan is obscured by the hypocrisy and failings of his people. Ultimately, whether people accept or reject God’s truth is up to them, but they deserve to see Christians living it out faithfully. The one who made us knows what is best for us, and his word provides guideposts to keep us safely on the road of his perfect will (Romans 12:2).

It’s often been said that we don’t break God’s rules—we break ourselves on them. Unfortunately, the loudest voices speaking out in condemnation of same-sex marriage sometimes come from those who stand broken and unrepaired by the other sins in their lives (Matthew 7:1–5). Are you among them?