Duck Dynasty and natural law

Religious Liberty
by Marvin Olasky

Posted on Tuesday, December 24, 2013, at 2:47 pm

We’re getting lots of thoughtful mail regarding the Duck Dynasty controversy and our coverage of it. Here’s one of my favorites, published by permission of its author. I’ll append a couple of thoughts.


As a long time subscriber, I’ve noticed that you frequently ask for our opinions. Never given you mine before but the occasion of the Duck Dynasty controversy affords the perfect opportunity. I hope you find it helpful.

To me, Phil Robertson’s dilemma was clear: How do you communicate sin as sinful to a sin-soaked culture? His answer was as wise as it was effective. He used both natural law and revelation to clearly convey his point. Natural law is the truths communicated through the design of nature. They are self evident by design. When Phil described and contrasted gay anal sex with the obvious design of a woman’s vagina, his point became immediately clear to nonbelievers. That is what made GLAAD so furious. Everyone, be they believer or nonbeliever, immediately understood what he was saying and it made sense to almost everyone.

Then he followed it up by using revelation (the Bible) to drive home his point with Christians. By quoting 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, he also provided the spiritual foundation for his beliefs and thus persuaded a vast number of people that he was right. But it was his use of natural law that fulfilled Ephesians 5:11: “Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them.” Exposing that which is done in darkness to the light infuriated gay activists because people—whether believer or unbeliever—immediately grasped his point.

Phil Robertson is not only a good communicator. He is a good theologian.


Gary Brown

Gary Brown is also a good communicator, and he’s right to say we have a sin-soaked culture. Look at how the big-media message has changed so quickly. A decade ago we were supposed to tolerate homosexuality. Last year we were supposed to embrace it. In 2013 we were supposed to envy it. Articles had headlines like “The greatest romances are gay” and “The gay guide to wedded bliss.” For example, The Guardian, a British newspaper, argued that “homosexual love stories now work so much better than hetero.” The Guardian stated, “Straight romance is too easy, too dramatically slack, too impediment-poor.” (What? Every romance fights off impediments of some kind.)

One more example: Former Washington Post reporter Liza Mundy argued in The Atlantic,“Research finds that same-sex unions are happier than heterosexual marriages.” (The “research” Mundy quoted was from a 1983 book co-authored by a gay advocate and filled with questionable assertions. One is that “fairness” in a marriage means an exactly equal distribution of tasks and responsibilities. Since lesbians in the study were “almost painfully egalitarian—in some cases putting money in jars and splitting everything down to the penny,” they were supposed to be a model for the rest of us.)

I’ve been thinking that God’s intervention is our only hope for stopping this cultural revolution, and I still believe that, but Gary Brown raises the natural law question. Is homosexuality so much a reversal of the natural order—including the way that God made men and women—that it cannot stand? Did Phil Robertson upset GLAAD so much because he stated in his blunt way some physical truths that the gay lobby cannot gainsay?

As Gary said, we do need to follow Robertson in using revelation rather than just relying on natural law. The greatest revelation tells us of God revealing Himself in the most earthy of ways two millennia ago. And that’s why I’ll now turn my thoughts from sad trends to how Christ brought joy to the world.

Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD and dean of World Journalism Institute. He joined WORLD in 1992 and has also been a university professor and provost. He has written more than 20 books, including Reforming Journalism. Marvin resides with his wife, Susan, in Austin, Texas. Follow him on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

Read more from this writer