The Wrong Question About Kim Davis

It’s understandable that unbelieving, pro-gay activists or even unconvinced by-standers might condemn Kim Davis for her actions. To them, her decision to not give in to the coercion of the “supreme” court and act against her own State Constitution (the mandate of her constituents) is both hypocritical and illegal.

“She is disobeying the law of the land”, is their cry.

“Elected officials are exempt from religious exemptions and should enforce the law”, is their protest.

Well, other than the short memories that these folk seem to exhibit (Obama refused to enforce the US law disallowing same-sex marriage, sanctuary city mayors refuse to enforce Federal immigration laws), the bias here is understandable. They wouldn’t know the ethical debate in Christian theology of whether Mrs. Davis had the right to disobey Romans 13.

That brings us to the other condemners of Kim Davis…Christians.

There is a debate in theological circles and the laity that proposes the question of whether Mrs. Davis should’ve refused to obey Federal law. Most of that debate centers around the question of whether there is sufficient cause as explicitly defined in Scripture for her to disobey the mandate in Romans 13 (obey the government) and to act contrary to her covenant with the people of her county.

I read one post by Jack Cottrell, a professor at Cincinnati Christian University, which he stated that Mrs. Davis “WRONGLY ASSUMED that her religious belief left her with the sole option of going against what she was legally required to do.

I’m not sure that she was “legally required” to do anything first of all. But to say that she “wrongly assumed” that her religious belief left her with this dichotomy begs the question.

Other Christians like to pose the question of consistency.

She puts her names on divorces, doesn’t she”, one woman posted.

We can’t pick and choose (sins)”, another wrote.

For so many, the only thing that is cut and dry is that nothing is cut and dry.

A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed.-K. Chesterton[1]

Actually though, I believe these folk and others are asking the wrong question about Kim Davis. In a Christian subculture that is used to being spoon fed ethics, many folks want a Bible verse to say, “Kim Davis should not give out marriage licenses”.

It ain’t in there.

What is in there is this…“But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” (Romans 14:23, ESV)

As Paul confirms Christian liberties like eating and drinking alcohol, he warns mature Christians to refrain from rubbing their liberty in the face of less mature Christians so as to not cause them to sin against their conscience.

That’s the question of the faith of Mrs. Davis. It is not whether we can find sufficient cause in the Scripture for her conscientious objection. Although I believe that’s pretty easy, it’s not a matter of explicit mandates in the Bible.

Neither is it a question of whether you believe her actions are Biblical or Christian. You are not the party making a moral decision.

The Christian question for Mrs. Davis and in fact the 1st Amendment, is this; “would issuing same-sex marriage licenses cause Kim Davis to sin against her conscience”.

She may not be consistent. She may not understand the nuance between obeying her legal obligations while being true to Scripture (although I think she nailed it). She may seem as though she is picking and choosing. None of that is relevant.

The only question is one of her conscience. Does she believe that issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples is wrong according to her religious beliefs?

That’s all that matters as far as she’s concerned.

If she believes issuing same-sex marriage licenses is wrong, she should not do it!

That would be sin, period.

That’s Paul’s point, and it should be ours.

Oh, we can debate the theology. We can post our opinions on the extent of Romans 13. We can discuss the line we will not cross.

But we cannot condemn her for not acting against her conscience. She should not.

And, oh! that this truth were fixed in the minds of men, that nothing ought to be attempted except what the mind feels assured is acceptable to God, men would not then make such an uproar, as they often do now, nor waver, nor blindly hurry onward wherever their own imagination may lead them. For if our way of living is to be confined to this moderation, that no one is to touch a morsel of meat with a doubting conscience, how much greater caution is to be exercised in the greatest things?[2]-J Calvin


[1] Ritzema, E. (Ed.). (2012). 300 Quotations for Preachers. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[2] Calvin, J., & Owen, J. (2010). Commentary on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans (p. 512). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

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