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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Cultural Bias

The accusation has often been thrown out there that the only reason that people like me oppose "gay marriage" is "cultural bias". It would be stupid to deny that all people are subject to cultural bias. Cultural bias is simply the tendency to interpret and judge phenomena by standards inherent in one's own culture. We all do it to some extent. It's a given. But in the case of marriage and my position, I would beg to differ.

First, I specifically and intentionally do not take my position on marriage from the current culture. Second, taking a position on marriage that is derived from 1) Scripture and 2) human history is by definition not "cultural bias" because it is at cross positions with the culture.

Indeed, if I were to look at the current culture and then compare my position with the recommended position on marriage and "gay marriage", I would have to argue that my position is not culturally biased while the one I'm being told I should take is exactly so. The current culture has been, over the years, dismissing marriage until it is very little more than a word with very little meaning and certainly very little value. It is simply an extension of the concept of "being in love". If you are "in love" you "marry" and, of course, if the former condition is unsustainable (as it certainly will be) you dissolve the latter condition. Not much substance there. So why not give that watered down, insipid, pointless concept to "gays"? That is a conforming to the culture. That is cultural bias.

I, on the other hand, would not likely find much support in my culture for my view of marriage. Indeed, I wouldn't likely find much support in fellow believers or even in my circle of friends for my view of marriage. (I only say that because I've already been told by fellow Christians and by friendly folks that I'm wrong.) But since I am taking my view from the Bible without much regard for culture, it's the only view I can find that works.

For the record, then, what is that view? I take my definition of marriage first from Genesis (Gen 2:24), a definition which is repeated in Scripture (e.g., Matt 19:5-6; Eph 5:31) and, therefore, affirmed throughout time. That definition is immersed in this repeated statement, "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." Marriage. The purpose of marriage is also first stated in Genesis at the creation of Adam and Eve. "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it" (Gen 1:28). Here, then, is God's grand idea. Two people, male and female, become one flesh for the purpose of reproduction and cooperation. It is the core element of society, the fundamental building block of any civilization, the basic component of human relations. And it runs afoul of nearly every perspective of what marriage is all about today.

You see, nowhere in any of that do you find the absolutely basic truth we know today that "you marry for love". It's missing entirely. If I were to suggest to someone that they marry for a union aimed at procreation and mutual cooperation, I would at best be laughed out of the conversation and, more likely, ridiculed as dangerous and evil. Everyone knows you marry for love. So it is ridiculous of me to see marriage as a mystical and mysterious union produced by God aimed at replenishing the race and raising the next generation of humans while working together to make our world a better place instead of that much higher purpose, being in love. Romance is a much better reason for marriage than those mundane things I think it is. Our culture, you see, has bought the lie (because it is a lie and can be nothing else) that the primary basis for all marriages is that momentary chemical rush (because, really, isn't "chemistry" the real issue here?) we call "being in love" and the purpose of marriage is to make permanent that momentary chemical rush of being in love. The truth is that the union of man and woman in one flesh with the purpose of procreation and mutual cooperation produces that response, but we've put the cart before the horse and now cannot abide the suggestion that marriage is anything but a product of "love" (where "love" means "a warm -- preferably hot -- feeling of affection for another" and nothing more).

Does my view of marriage -- opposing the redefinition to include "same-sex unions" -- come from cultural bias? Nothing could be further from the truth. My view does come from Scripture. But it is in sharp and even long-term opposition to cultural biases of the day. Whatever else you think of it (and I don't doubt that very few will nod their heads and say, "Yeah, he's right on that point"), it is not a product of cultural bias. My question, however, is the reverse. If my view is the product of biblical bias and you consider yourself a follower of Christ, why do you disagree? (It's a question, not a challenge or condemnation.)

Update: More than one commenter, both on this blog and via email, has pointed out that there is more to the notion of one's "culture" than the society in which one finds himself. There is, for instance, the very obvious notion of "subcultures". You know you can find a "high school culture" or a "workplace culture" or all sorts of localized and varied cultures. I acknowledge this. In this sense, however, no one operates without their "cultural bias". My "cultural bias" in this sense is the culture of biblical, historical, orthodox Christianity, and I will freely admit that my conclusions on this subject do indeed spring from that culture. I still end up with the question, if you consider yourself a follower of Christ, why do you disagree?


Dan Trabue said...

Just to clarify a bit more, where you say...

Second, taking a position on marriage that is derived from 1) Scripture and 2) human history is by definition not "cultural bias" because it is at cross positions with the culture.

It is, of course, a cultural bias - one that is based upon historical and religious biases. When people say "cultural bias," we are not always referring to the dominant, non-religious culture. In my case, I am specifically referring to your religious cultural biases which are, by definition, "cultural bias."

So, where you say...

I take my definition of marriage first from Genesis (Gen 2:24), a definition which is repeated in Scripture (e.g., Matt 19:5-6; Eph 5:31) and, therefore, affirmed throughout time.

You are demonstrating that cultural bias (perhaps without even realizing it?). How?

Well, if you look at the text you just cited you see...

The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man. ”

That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.

WHAT is "why?" To define marriage? No, in context, it is not making the slightest suggestion that "Here, God is choosing to define marriage..." It simply is not there in the text. In context, you have a mythical story that tells of how people started forming families in an empty world. In context then, you have this mythic suggestion that, in an empty world, men mated with women to have children and populate the world.

Then how does one GET to that place? Well, because of their cultural traditions and teachings which ExPAND upon what the text says.

Similarly, when you cite the NT text, you are adding to what the text says an understanding NOT in the text, but one which your cultural tradition informs you of. The text in Matt 19 says (specifically in response to a Pharisiacal question about divorce)...

Haven’t you read,” Jesus replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

In the context of THAT passage, Jesus is NOT defining marriage. He simply isn't, not in context. Rather, he's responding to a pharisaical question that appears to be in support of divorce (which, in context, was a way of a man abandoning his responsibilities to a woman and, in a patriarchal society such as that, condemning the woman to poverty and cultural exile, most likely). Jesus was saying, THE PURPOSE of marriage is to remain together, committed in love and fidelity and family.

All this is true for the Ephesians 5 passage, as well.

If anything, that is an endorsement of marriage equity, but setting that aside, it simply is not a definition of marriage. Not if English words mean anything.

So, you see (or, if not "you" specifically, then perhaps your readers), in just that little example, one can see how cultural traditions have caused many to make assumptions and presumptions that go beyond what the text actually says and, in so doing, they come to believe that they are speaking for God something that God has never said and, since they believe they are speaking for God, they cast on their beliefs the cloak of "I can't be mistaken, because God says so..." even when God never said so, but rather, only their cultural traditions have said so.

Stan said...

In the interest of allowing a dissenting opinion, I've posted Dan's comment. In the interest of explaining the problem with Dan's comments ...

The argument is that the Genesis, Matthew, and Ephesians uses of the concept of a "union of a man and a woman" is not a "definition".

Problem #1: "In context, you have a mythical story ..."

Without even addressing the accuracy of the argument, I need to point out a fundamental difference in perception here. In one perception (his), it is "myth". In another, it is factual history. Not the same thing.

Problem #2: The suggestion is that it is purely and solely about "men mated with women to have children". From a "mythical" perspective, I suppose that might be the case. From a "historical" perspective, it makes no sense. Nor does it make sense from the repeated use in the New Testament. (More to follow.)

Problem #3: "In the context of THAT passage, Jesus is NOT defining marriage."

Indeed, He IS. The question: Divorce. "When is it okay to dissolve a marriage?" The response: "Are you not aware of the nature of marriage?" Now if Jesus is referring to a mythical account pointing at human reproduction, it makes no sense at all. Jesus is explaining the nature of marriage -- a God-wrought union of male and female.

Problem #4: "All this is true for the Ephesians 5 passage, as well."

Well, not at all, actually. The topic is not divorce. The topic in Ephesians is how a husband and a wife are connected and ought to treat each other. The topic, beyond that, is the mystical union of husband and wife brought about by God in the concept of "marriage". Not about divorce. Not to the Pharisees. And not even possibly applicable to "husband and husband" or "wife and wife" since here (and oh so many other places) the Bible references the only biblically recognized marriage structure of husband and wife.

On the other hand, harkening to the current culture that says, "Marriage no longer means what it used to mean" and "Redefining marriage is the way to bring about marriage equity" is absolutely "cultural bias".

Naum said...

But your view of scripture is indeed culturally biased.

We're all fish in a fishbowl that are unable to see from above or beyond.

A text without a context is just a pretext to say what you want to say.

In the Hebrew Bible, ancient interpreters and anyone living in that age would certainly not see (or "define") marriage as you do with your post-enlightenment religious conservative milieu. Polygamy was sanctioned, and it was accepted by those of the time -- "adultery" was the taking of another man's property (his wife was considered his possession, as well as his livestock and land) or the spoilage of a bride to be.

The only constant is interpretation -- and to say we conduct it without to cultural bias is beyond ignorance. For ~1500 years, Christians firmly believed Scripture prohibited charging of interest. For the 1st ~300 years, no true Christian (read the early church fathers) believed a Christian could serve in the military (or even swear an oath) or even brandish a sword (taking literally, unlike most of today's Christians excluding the Anabaptists/Quakers and new monastics, Jesus SotM). Slavery, too, was justified on the basis of scripture until ~150 years ago, and even at that time, the "religious conservatives" of the day adhered to the notion that a faithful reading of the Bible upheld the practice of slavery.

Stan said...

Well, Naum, you and I have done this dance before, without a satisfying outcome. You say, "Polygamy was a definition of marriage" and I say, "Polygamy has never been a definition of marriage, but a marriage practice." In polygamy, a man marries a woman, then that same man marries another woman (get a pattern here?), but these women are not married. The man is married to women. Or, "the union of a man and a woman" ... you know, like I've said all along.

There are indeed cultural biases when we read Scripture. The Bible favors, for instance, arranged marriages and our culture is so biased against it that honest readers of the Bible will deny it. Taking interest, views on military service, all sorts of things have been influenced by their culture. Given. Agreed. But we're not talking about charging interest or slavery or polygamy. We're talking about marriage. My point here is what my point has always been. At no time in all of history has there ever been a definition of marriage that includes two people of the same gender. Nowhere. Not once. Not in Abraham's culture or Jesus's culture or Paul's culture or Augustine's culture or ... you get the idea. In this topic, then, I am not reading "marriage" any differently than it has always been understood -- the union of a man and a woman. Sometimes that union was repeated -- a man and a woman, that man and another woman, and so on. Sometimes it was limited -- a man and a woman of the same race. It has always, in various cultures, had variations of practices, as in polygamy, wives as possessions, taking your husband's last name, and so on. But it has never meant "the union of two people of whatever gender you wish to choose" and in that sense it is not borne out of a modern cultural bias. It is a biblical and historical bias.

Dan Trabue said...

Stan, may I ask a couple of questions?

If you are merely saying that throughout history, most (I don't think we can say factually "ALL" cultures, but most...) cultures have neither endorsed nor embraced nor recognized marriage between folk of the same gender, then we are in agreement. Historically speaking, that is factually true.

I suppose we're in agreement there, right?

Historically speaking, I think we can all agree that factually speaking, marriage has looked differently for different cultures (I refrain from using "defined" because that would be presumptuous and probably incorrect) - with some cultures accepting polygamous marriages, some cultures NOT accepting polygamous marriages; some cultures not accepting inter-racial marriages, some cultures accepting inter-racial marriages; some cultures treating women as chattel and some treating them as equal partners in the marriage. Factually speaking, this is all true, correct?

So then - if we agree on all that, no one is disputing the historical record of what has happened.

The next question then is: Are all these ideals of marriage something that we can agree with and think are morally "good" and something to be encouraged?

Here again, I think we can agree: No, not all of these ideals of marriage are something we can endorse as good models for marriage. We don't endorse polygamy or women-as-chattel any more, for the most part. We don't agree with arranged marriages for the most part (Do you, Stan? You suggested that it was acceptable culturally in the Bible, but were you going so far as to say it is not an ideal you'd endorse or call "good..."?). Right?

Then the next question is: Which ideals/practices are something we can endorse and why? Which marriage ideals/practices are NOT something we can endorse and why?

You SEEM to be suggesting that polygamy is not a marriage practice you want to endorse (even though it was accepted culturally in biblical times) and "gay marriage" is not something we want to endorse because it wasn't normative or accepted in biblical times. But on what basis would you reject the culturally normative model in the one case (polygamy) but not the other ("gay marriage")?

Marshall Art said...

Dan almost agrees with what I'm about to say, or so it seems: The Bible forms the "cultural bias" to which I adhere. But my adherence is not involuntary or compelled by anything other than the truth of Scripture and logic of the position I hold.

One must really be a chump for the agenda that does not exist if one believes, or tries to posit, that anything in Scripture is an argument for "marriage equity". Or, one must be willingly complicit in the agenda's desire to corrupt for their own selfish ends.

Naum brings up a tired argument that polygamy was sanctioned in the Bible. There is a big difference between sanctioning and tolerating, the later being the actual case. Also, if adultery was a matter of theft of property, there would be no need for the commandment against it, as there is already "thou shalt not steal". It is a sexual sin.

starflyer said...

Wow, calling Genesis a "myth". 'Nuff said...

Stan said...


First, we are in agreement that historically there has never been anything officially known as "same-sex marriage". Never. According to Wikipedia, "While it is a relatively new practice that same-sex couples are being granted the same form of legal marital recognition as commonly used by mixed-sexed couples, there is a long history of recorded same-sex unions around the world." Note from the top -- legal marriage status for same-sex couples is new. Other unions have existed, but not marriage. Interestingly, all of those were ended by the rise of Christianity. Thus, Christianity as an entity has always held that marriage was between a man and a woman. Fortunately, the "New Thinkers" have come along, managed to overcome the hardships that the Holy Spirit could not, and corrected Christendom of this 2,000-year-old error. And I'm the arrogant one?

Second, you're trying to use the same argument I just rejected from Naum. "Well, many cultures did many things in their marriage practices." Agreed. But none of them defined it any differently. Polygamy, "women as chattel" (which, I suspect is largely a statement from modern cultural bias), and limitations of interracial marriage did not redefine marriage. They were marriage practices, like how a wedding occurs or whether or not the bride takes on the husband's family name. These are not definitions. Or, to put it another way, in all cases the basic, underlying, bottom-line position has always been "the union of a man and a woman" regardless of what else you tack onto it.

Having disagreed with your position that marriage definitions have changed over history, the rest of the dialog breaks down. Sure, not all practices are good. But that's not the question. The question is the definition of marriage, not its practices. So we are not quite agreeing that "not all these ideals of marriage are something we can endorse" because these are not definitions, but practices.

So, historical definition doesn't count. Biblical definition doesn't exist. There is no biblical endorsement of anything "same-sex" at all in terms of sexual relations or unions, but that doesn't count. You can't make a biblical argument for "same-sex marriage", but that's irrelevant. And yet, you want me to hold that one model (which does exist in history and Scripture) is bad, but the other (which didn't exist anywhere until the late 20th century) is good. Here's the problem, Dan. Until we can come to a common definition of terms it will be impossible to figure this stuff out because we are two people continually separated by a common language.

(By the way, I am not opposed -- and I've stated so many times -- to arranged marriages. But, then, I define right and wrong, good and evil, moral and immoral from my Bible, not from my culture. A prime difference between you and I.)

(One other note, Dan. Nowhere does the Bible command me to kill my enemies. If you try to float that again, I think I'll scream. There was a specific command given at a specific time to a specific people regarding another specific people, but you cannot tease out any sort of universal command from any of that, so please stop that line of argumentation. It's simply annoying.)

Naum said...

@Marshall, polygamy was more than "tolerated", in the eyes of those living in that age, it was indeed "sanctioned" -- again, "adultery" applied to having relations with another man's wife -- see also the provisions about awarding women as spoils and the demand to marry after deflowering…

@Stan, there indeed have been instances and practice of SSM throughout history. Though, again, it is almost impossible to examine the social issue without acknowledging long history of misogyny that such relations are embedded in. For example, it is argued by those lobbying for anti-marriage equality that even the Romans who knew of and relished same-sex relationships did not permit SSM -- but that is because in their view, the "sin" of being a woman was far worse than a same-sex relationship -- meaning that one man in the relationship would have to be "the woman" of the pair. Lift the veil of misogyny there.

Your "truth of Scripture and logic of the position" you hold is indeed bound to culture -- like stated, if you lived in 1,012 AD, you would adhere to tenets that the Bible (of course, the layman was not even permitted to read and interpret the Holy text then) approved of slavery, considered charging of interest the sin of usury, etc.…

Granted, the Torah forbids same-sex relationships. There is very little in the NT (and arguably zero, once you consider hermeneutics, accounting for Koine Greek translation and context of Paul's letter(s)). But even in the OT, funny how most stuff is relegated to a "command given at a specific time to a specific people" category whereas LGBT is still condemned (maybe because most of us are not "wired" that way, and consider such behavior unnatural).

Dan said...

Two astronauts are floating in space. One looks at the other whose head happens to be pointing in the opposite direction and then accuses him of being upside down. If there is no objective reference point, who's to say?

Dan Trabue said...

Stan asked...

I still end up with the question, if you consider yourself a follower of Christ, why do you disagree?

We absolutely do NOT disagree with staying within the culture of God's kingdom, the Christian culture. What we disagree with is absolutely NOT God and God's ways, but with YOUR interpretation of the Bible and God's ways on some points. And, additionally, we disagree with the presumption that you get to speak for God - or that we do, for that matter.

For instance, the anabaptist culture disagrees with the larger US culture on the issue of militarization and warring. We disagree with the larger modern Catholic and evangelical subcultures on that issue. We agree with the teachings of Jesus as we think are abundantly clear, and the example of the early church for the first ~200 years of its existence.

We could ask why YOU disagree with God and the Bible, if we wanted to be belligerent (and sometimes, no doubt, we do). At the same time, we recognize that it is OUR fallible human understanding of an omniscient, omnipresent awesome God and in this world, we don't perfectly understand every point - even ones that seem abundantly clear to us. The difference, then, is that we try to keep in mind the distinction between our opinions/interpretations and God's Living Word whereas you seem to be conflating your interpretations with God's Word.

Stan said...

@Naum: I wrote an entire post on the topic of polygamy in which I address the whole question. Was it "normal"? Yes. Recommended? No. What the Bible does say: "Each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband". Leadership (the ideal, the model for everyone else) in both the Old and New Testament was forbidden from having multiple wives. The tired axiom that the Bible "sanctioned" polygamy is not true, and stating it repeatedly doesn't make it more true.

On "instances and practice of SSM throughout history", you're on your own. All the sources I've found say that there were instances and practices of same-sex unions throughout history, but the institution of marriage is a new thing. I'm not looking at biased "right wing" sources for this information.

Yes, I am bound by my "culture" ... the "culture" of biblical, historical, orthodox Christianity. I am standing on the same position that the Church has stood for 2,000 years. Throwing in "slavery" or "taxation" or "military service" doesn't answer the question, does it? That is, while some things have varied in Church history, this has never wavered. Now, if you are going to argue that all things Christian are variable, then you have a meaningless relativistic religion that you would be wise to throw out. That's not the Christianity I'm part of.

I find it interesting that you admit that the Torah forbids same-sex relationships. Many deny it. More ignore it. "So what?" You do go the way of the rest of the crowd, though. "It's no longer applicable." Surely you can see a fundamental difference between God's command to Saul to raid the Ammonites and God's command to His people to avoid adultery. One is indeed a specific command to a specific people; the other is generalized. On the other hand, if you're willing to say they're all specific commands to specific people, then, once again, you've arrived at a relativistic religion that you would be wise to throw out. And, again, that's not the Christianity of which I'm a part.

In the Torah, God indicated that same-sex relationships were forbidden. God indicated that they were forbidden and that they were abominable to Him. Your suggestion is that He got used to it, that it's not so bad, that, well, it was really horrid back then, but now it's okay. Unfortunately for you, that doesn't work. Nor is a call to biblical Greek going to give any relief from the New Testament agreement with the Old Testament rulings on the subject. I'm quite sure that you're able to find skeptical "scholars" who will tell us that the translation doesn't mean what it says and that all the current Bibles are mistranslated despite the fact that all the current Bibles are translated by reputable scholars. So then it's just your scholars against mine, and yours have no greater weight than mine.

Bottom line, Naum, yours is a relativistic religion that you would be wise to leave. God changes. The Bible is unreliable. We cannot understand what we do have. Jesus was wrong when He indicated that the Holy Spirit would lead His followers into all truth (since my position has always been the standard, so the Spirit has always failed to get the truth across). You'd do much better in a world without this clinging to a Christianity of your own design. It has no backing, no basis, no underlying proof or meaning. Or, even better, you might want to jettison that relativistic Christianity for a biblical, historical, orthodox Christianity. Now that one has power; that one can even save you from Hell. That would be a good thing.

Stan said...

@Dan (just Dan), absolutely! Objective reference point makes all the difference.

Unfortunately (@Dan T), your approach leaves NO reference point. You connect, for instance, militarization and same-sex "marriage" (like Naum did), making no sense at all. There has never, in any Christian culture at any time in any generation, been a place for "same-sex marriage". Not once. Not even in your anabaptist connection. So, I state that the Bible always indicated that marriage is "man" and "woman", "husband" and "wife", and I state that the Church has, despite disagreements on so many points, always agreed on this point, and you insist that it's "conflating opinion into God's Word". In other words, from your position, we must not assert anything about what God thinks and, therefore, each one of us ought to live according to our own private interpretation of what God thinks and ought to leave each other alone on this. Now, of course, I disagree, but, Dan (T), why don't you follow your own principle and leave me alone on what I believe God is saying? I've supported it with Scripture. I've explained it through Church history and human history. I've offered biblical reasons for it. Anyone can read them and decide for themselves. Why are you taking it upon yourself to correct me if all we have is "hunches" and personal opinion. Leave me to my opinion. It is certainly more thoroughly supported in Scripture and history than yours is. Why am I wrong for holding to a biblical, historical, orthodox Christian view and you're right for ditching it?

You've offered your objection. Dan (not T) has hit the nail on the head regarding reference points. My reference point is biblical, historical, orthodox Christianity and human history. Your reference point is something else. You keep arguing the point. Let people read my position, your objection, and my response like any normal debate would do and come to their own conclusion ... in accordance with your own principles.

Dan Trabue said...


You've offered your objection. Dan (not T) has hit the nail on the head regarding reference points. My reference point is biblical, historical, orthodox Christianity and human history. Your reference point is something else.

No, it absolutely is not. We're starting from the same points.

You and I BOTH believe in the Bible and that it is good for teaching us truth.

You and I BOTH believe that people can read the Bible and understand it wrongly.

You and I both take into consideration human history and church history.

You and I both recognize that points where the fallible humans involved made errors that are human and church history has clear in hindsight.

Where am I mistaken?

Stan said...

You are mistaken, Dan, because we are not using the same reference point. Certainly not on this issue.

I have taken the position based on what you agree is my "culture", the very same position that all of orthodox Christendom for all of history (as well as the rest of human history) has taken in its understanding of the Bible. This is not one of those "questionable items that Christianity has disagreed about" like others that are mentioned. This is the standard position for all time.

Now, you have taken a different position. You have not referenced biblical support. You have not referenced historical support. You have not referenced orthodoxy. Further, you have indicated that the Genesis account is a myth and the statement in question is about how humans mate while I have indicated that it is historical fact and about marriage. Different reference points -- myth or fact. But more to the point, when I said, "Your reference point is something else", I meant "You have not stated any apparent reference point. You have not given any apparent basis for your conclusions. You have disagreed with my biblical position and my position from Church history and my position from human history, but you have not offered a reference point that you are using as the basis for your own conclusions." I simply was avoiding misstating your reference point because I don't know what it is. I simply know it is not a shared reference point.

Dan Trabue said...


the very same position that all of orthodox Christendom for all of history (as well as the rest of human history) has taken in its understanding of the Bible.

I/we ARE orthodox Christianity, Stan, so it is easily demonstrated that "ALL" of orthodox Christianity has historically agreed with your interpretation.


This is not one of those "questionable items that Christianity has disagreed about" like others that are mentioned.

Says who?

Why is it okay to disagree with Jesus' clear teaching on killing our enemies and still be orthodox but disagreeing with tradition on marriage equity and it's not okay? Says who? Who gets to make that call? Did God die and place you in charge of orthodoxy or questions that are open to disagreement?


This is the standard position for all time.

But as Naum and I have demonstrated, the "standard historical position" is not always the right one.

The "standard historical position" of the church was okay with slavery for nearly two thousand years. That did not make it right.

The "standard historical position" of the church accepted "arranged (ie, forced) marriages" for a long time, but that does not make it morally right.

The thing is, Stan, the church is NOT infallible. Do you think it is? If so, on WHAT would you base such an opinion, because it's clearly not the teaching of the Bible that leads you to such a hunch.

Stan said...

And so we come to an end of another pointless discussion.

And, we have the bonus of illustrating that, once again, you and I are not speaking the same language! So, maybe it is not pointless. But it is at an end.

Now, I could be mean and point out that "orthodoxy" means most literally "straight thinking" and you are not thinking "straight" but "queer", but that would just be silliness. The common concept of "orthdox Christianity", once we moved outside of "Greek Orthodox" or "Eastern Orthodox" (as in, a particular sect of Christianity), is most often "conforming to the Christian faith as established by the early Church" or, today it is often generalized as "customary or conventional" or "sound in opinion or theological doctrine". I am offering the "orthdox" in the sense of that which is conforming with the early Church, that which has always been the "customary or conventional", that which has always been "sound in opinion or theological doctrine". Regardless of the approach or argument you offer, it cannot be denied that yours is new, not "conforming" or "customary". We've used "orthdox" in a radically different sense, where I tie it to Church history and the Bible and you tie it to "whatever is in line with my views".

I reference "questionable items that Christianity has disagreed about" and you bring up "questionable items that Christianity has disagreed about". Apparently we, again, are not speaking the same language. NO ONE IN ALL OF CHRISTIANITY IN 2,000 YEARS (except, obviously, in the last couple of decades) HAS EVER TAKEN THE POSITION YOU ARE TAKING ON THE TOPIC OF MARRIAGE. That's how this is not like "questionable items that Christianity has disagreed about". NO ONE HAS EVER QUESTIONED IT.

And, as you and Naum have both demonstrated, I understand that Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would lead us into the truth and He always has and you understand that He ... well ... didn't and apparently only now has managed it on this topic.

Since 1) I gave you the option to make your counter argument and 2) that argument has been made and responded to and 3) since we are not using the same language and 4) there is no apparent point in proceeding, this discussion is at an end. It's not that you are disagreeing. It's that there is no communication going on. Nor will there likely be, since this has always been the case -- two people separated by a common language. Oddly, you won't admit that. I suspect that's why it will always be the case.

Anonymous said...

It's odd seeing you two go back and forth going point by point putting forth seemingly rational, logical arguments and questions to each other. And yet you are both arguing from fundamentally different foundations so that no matter how well constructed the reasoning thereafter may be, it is ludicrous to the other.

It's like you're having a conversation about going to the market where one of you only thinks of the market as groceries and the other only thinks of it as stocks and bonds. One says let's go to the Olive Garden and the other let's go to the Exchange and both roll their eyes as though the other is crazy.

Until you can agree on whether you're trying to fill the fridge or pad your 401k, how are you ever going to get anywhere?

Naum said...

@Stan, on polygamy, you miss the point. Even on OT scripture as interpreted today, the conservative seminary (Baptist) I attended even acknowledged that OT sanctioned polygamy. But my point was not what you (or even a scholarly consensus) adjudicates what it means in 2012, but that NOBODY in that age would have deviated from the edict that scripture indeed sanctioned polygamy. Addressing your slant on "cultural bias", in another words.

Polygamy was practiced among Jews even up to a millenium after Christ, and even in Christian circles (though the early Christians and most of Christian stream did not). If polygamous marriage was not the modality of scripture, why was it blessed by the religious leaders of those ages?

Furthermore, Christians are divided on the SSM issue -- many denominations no longer adhere to the traditionalist view, just like what happened with slavery. Which the "traditional" biblical interpretation both sanctioned and blessed the abhorrent practice, and the "religious conservatives" of the day were on the wrong side.

Are you so sure that 100 years later, the "religious conservatives" of today will not appear to future generations like this?

Stan said...

@Anonymous, thank you! Yes! Precisely. Two people separated by a common language.

Stan said...


If you could, please:

1. Present the biblical argument that supports the redefinition of marriage from what all of today's society including the California Supreme Court understands is the "longstanding, traditional definition" to a new one that includes same-sex unions.

2. Offer some historical data from Church history in which same-sex unions would have at any time at all been considered "marriages" and accepted as valid.

I've offered biblical and historical data that says otherwise. Until someone can give me biblical and historical data that indicates there has ever been a disagreement on this subject, I will continue to reject the argument that it's just like polygamy or slavery. There has been disagreement over biblical passages and other matters, but never in all of Church history or Bible usage has this topic been one of them. In that, it stands as quite unusual, in fact. So comparison to polygamy or slavery is apples to oranges. These are not in the same category. Unless, of course, you're willing to put all biblical and Church teaching in the category of "relative and malleable". In which case I'm back to my original "you have a meaningless relativistic religion that you would be wise to throw out."

Naum said...


1. I will grant you, OT condemns SSM, but scripture condemns other activity (like charging of interest, for example) that today, we do not consider "sin". And you are framing with "redefine", when in fact marriage has evolved through the ages, and as I have stated in previous comments, inconceivable to fathom without acknowledging misogyny and inequality of woman. So I shall use "marriage equality", and reaffirm that Jesus admonitions to love your neighbor sublate those OT texts.

2. Irrelevant, as scripture was on the side of slavery and charging of interest too. (Yes, I realize there are creative interpretations of Paul's letters that theologians claim sublate defense/blessing of slavery). Allow me to twist this question and thrust back at you: why should a group of people be denied rights and humanity for Bible verses that were for "a specific time to a specific people" (i.e., just like purity provisions, mixed fibers, etc.…)

Here, admittedly, is that the intersection of church and state is where the real pickle is -- and that was a "redefinition" of marriage in history too -- the state getting involved (ironically, to enforce provisions against mixing races). Once the state is involved, it cannot discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. Even if you personally oppose SSM, you cannot advocate the state adopting such a moralistic plank without denying the humanity of a minority denied rights (i.e., insurance, survivorship rights, hospital visitation, etc.…).

Dan Trabue said...


Present the biblical argument that supports the redefinition of marriage...

I've offered biblical and historical data that says otherwise.

No, Stan, you have not. You've offered three verses that YOU SAY, ACCORDING TO YOU, constitutes a "definition of marriage" and by that, you mean a "This and ONLY this is an acceptable understanding of marriage..." The TEXT does not say, "This is God's understanding of the One True and Accepted understanding of marriage," that is YOUR interpretation, based upon your cultural understandings/teachings/traditions.

So there is the problem. You're citing "This is the definition, why should it change from what God approved..." and I'm pointing out, "That text does not say what you claim it says."

This is not a problem with language. We both speak English and know how to use a dictionary. It's ridiculous to claim that we are separated by language.

This is a problem with you conflating your interpretations with God's Word.

Answer this directly, please Stan: DO YOU UNDERSTAND that when you say, "This is the Biblical definition of marriage..." that what you actually mean is, "This is MY UNDERSTANDING of what God thinks a marriage is..."?

And, beyond that, do you acknowledge that YOUR UNDERSTANDING, and indeed, even the traditions of the church, being human traditions, are possibly wrong or mistaken?

Stan said...


Alright, I understand. There is no biblical argument for the defining of marriage in any different fashion than was defined in all of the Bible, and you don't care if all of Church history and all of human history had a standard, basic definition. You're willing to change that definition in order to include same-sex couples. And, apparently, the argument is "I don't care about what the Church has always said in regard to these things" as well. And it's pretty clear that while I've continued to argue that there has been a definition, even recognized by the judicial system, you're position is "No, there isn't." I think your argument is clear and, in fact, the most common. It may not be substantive, but it is clear.

(I understand your argument at the end there about the involvement of the government. I disagree, of course, but I understand it. First, many states already give "same-sex unions" the same rights as marriage provides. Second, retaining marriage -- as it has always been defined -- is not the same as denying a minority their rights. It is not a violation of "marriage equity". That is, if marriage is defined as "the union of a man and a woman" and has always been defined as "the union of a man and a woman", then no one is saying that people who are sexually attracted to the same gender are not allowed to get married. It simply says, "That union, whatever you may call it, is not marriage.")

Stan said...

@Dan T:

What a shame! While I thought we were two people separated by a common language, it turns out that you do speak the same language and you just don't care what I say. I mean, I don't think I was unclear when I said, "This discussion is at an end." And here you are still arguing ... the same points.

Let's see if I can say this in words you'll understand. I offered biblical data. Indeed, I offered biblical quotes. You can disagree with how I understand them and you can disagree with whatever conclusions I come to, BUT YOU CANNOT DISAGREE WITH THEIR SOURCE. They are from the Bible. As such, I provided biblical data. I have yet to see, on the other hand, a single biblical argument that favors same-sex relationships, let alone same-sex unions or any good reason to change the definition.

And why is it that regardless of how many times I offer the reference, it is your prerogative to wholly and completely ignore it? Want to know a secret? The first time this line of thinking ("Marriage is defined as the union of a man and a woman") really came home to me was not from a Bible verse or a right-wing preacher or an anti-gay rally (Do they have those? I've never heard of or been to one.). It was when I read the California Supreme Court ruling making homosexual unions into "marriage". They argued that the longstanding, traditional (their words) definition was the union of a man and a woman. That was what they said. But you just won't buy it, will you? You will stand your ground and hold your place and dig your heels in and argue 'til the cows come home.

Done, Dan. Don't expect me to post another comment from you, at least not on this topic. I don't think I'm using words with dual meaning. I don't think I'm being unclear. And I don't think I'm being unfair. You had your opportunity. Done. You have a blog. Feel free to take up the argument there.

Marshall Art said...

Wow, Stan! You're cutting Dan T off from the humor he'll provide showing how certain verses can be used to support his argument if you just hold them up sideways and squint. Nothing direct, like "Thou shalt not..." or nothing suggesting his perspective, such as any verse or passage indicating a makeup of marriage or family not understood as male/female-father/mother. So then we'd have to show how the verses CANNOT mean what he's contorting them to mean.

@Naum: It is an important distinction to say that the Bible might present situations wherein the people depicted sanctioned polygamous marriages, while at the same time acknowledging that no where within Scripture is there more than a tolerance of the practice by God.

It is also helpful to remember that there is, in the same way, no verse in Scripture, no words from above, that indicate slavery is "OK" with God. In this, it doesn't matter what church leaders have preached if what they preached is demonstrably wrong. Stan's position begins with Scriptural teaching, God's law if you will, and THEN moves to church traditions. If the starting point is wrong, church tradition alone cannot win the debate.

Naum said...

Seriously, @Matthew, have you read the Bible, especially the OT?

In Genesis 9, "Cursed be Canaan! The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers." -- in Christian "tradition", Canaan settled in Africa, hence, the curse of Ham

In Exodus 21, "If you buy a Hebrew slave…", "If a man sells his daughter as a female slave…", etc.… Also, slaves in ancient Israel were automatically emancipated after 6 years of slavery, but only if they were Jewish. However, if the slave owner "gave" the slave a wife, the owner could keep the wife and any children as his property. That is what it says in the Bible!

Leviticus 25, "Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves.…"

On polygamy, from Deuteronomy 21, "If a man has two wives, and he loves one but not the other, and both bear him sons but the firstborn is the son of the wife he does not love, when he wills his property to his sons, he must not give the rights of the firstborn to the son of the wife he loves in preference to his actual firstborn, the son of the wife he does not love. …". MInd you, this is in the same chapter where death by stoning is prescribed for not obeying father and mother!

Deuteronomy 17 says for a king not to take "too many" wives but doesn't specify how many "too many" is…

Polygamy was not banned in the Jewish community until about 1000 A.D.

Stan said...

Pssst! A couple of points.

First, "Matthew" hasn't made any comments here. I'm guessing you were talking to Marshall Art.

Second, Marshall Art referenced polygamy, while you were arguing about slavery.

Third, regulation of an act is not the equivalent of endorsing. I'm not arguing about whether or not there was polygamy (obviously) or even slavery (although I will always assert that their slavery and American slavery are two different things), but these remain in a different category than the topic in question.

Marshall Art said...

Indeed. Though I did mention slavery at the end of my last comment. But as Stan indicated, regulation does not equate to sanction or endorsement. So, Naum, you could have italicized your last comment, as well as emboldened it, and done so in caps, but it would not support the notion that polygamy was ever endorsed or approved or in any way presented in Scripture as something God intended or desired for us. And certainly you must know that there was only one Jew in history Who possessed the authority of God, and I don't recall case where HE endorsed polygamy. So it doesn't matter how many years the people of Israel did anything.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Stan, you have been doing such an outstanding job. Kudos! But I do need to put my 2 cents worth in.

False teachers have indeed used that Gen. 9 passage to condone slavery. False teachers wrestle ANY quote from its context to force their agenda, which is why there are so many cults. But the context is about Canaan and his brothers, and the curse was NOT on Ham.

Using O.T. passages discussing a theocratic nation under God’s laws to claim to attempt to condemn Christians for their beliefs only demonstrates your ignorance of the context and your use of typical atheist talking points which have been responded to zillions of times, and yet the responses are totally ignored (must be where Dan takes lessons). Slavery as describe in these passages, by the way, was in no way similar to the later slavery of the blacks.

On polygamy, the Scripture is still plain that the intent was for one man and one woman for marriage. That God permitted polygamy does not mean He changed His mind about one man, one woman unity - especially demonstrated when Jesus discussed marriage by going back to Adam and Eve. Christian leaders were forbidden to have more than one wife, since that was the original intent of marriage.

Deut. 17 did not say “too many,” but just “many.” We can debate what how many is “many,” but more than one fits that description.

Nevertheless, even with polygamy, marriage is defined as the union of members of the opposite sex. Period.

Vaughn Ohlman said...

Wow, what a discussion! Sorry I missed it :)

Stan said...

Well, feel free to round off the discussion, Von. Couldn't hurt.

Vaughn Ohlman said...

Well, I would say to your interlocutors that they are, basically, tilting at windmills. Marriage is what it is, and nothing they can do can change that. You can call a tail a leg, as the saying goes, but a horse will still have four legs.
Two Sodomites can live together, have sex, call each other husband and wife (you do know that Greek and Hebrew for that is 'man and woman', no?) and they will be no more married than a tree and the sun. That simply is not what marriage is.
I think modern Christians are vulnerable to some attacks from some quarters because we have accepted somethings that can't be accepted, making us vulnerable to 'slippery slope' arguments.

Naum said...

@Marshall, @Glenn, you're making my point about "cultural bias".

You may call it "false teaching" or an erroneous interpretation of scripture, but my point is, that for over a millenium of Christian church history, the "traditional" (excepting early hippie Christians and then the Quakers and Anabaptists) consensus viewpoint was that slavery was both blessed and sanctioned by scripture.

And that up until 1000 A.D., the "traditional" reading of scripture by Jewish religious leaders believed polygamy was sanctioned. As did the the people in the book of the OT, who knew no other way than "tradition" of polygamous marriage (but one-way polygamy - man with many wives, no woman could have multiple husbands).

Your "cultural bias" finds that reading abhorrent, but no ancient reading (er, hearing) scripture would be in agreement with you.

And @Vaughn, regarding Greek, here is 1 Cor 6:9

Ἢ οὐκ οἴδατε ὅτι ἄδικοι θεοῦ βασιλείαν οὐ κληρονομήσουσιν; μὴ πλανᾶσθε· οὔτε πόρνοι οὔτε εἰδωλολάτραι οὔτε μοιχοὶ οὔτε μαλακοὶ οὔτε ἀρσενοκοῖται

What do those two words mean? Back up your assertions with references to relevant literature…

Glenn E. Chatfield said...


SOME Christians sanctioned slavery by abusing Scripture, but it was CHRISTIANS who forced the end of slavery! You can’t blame a belief system for the false teachings of some in that system. O.T. slavery in Israel was not the same as slavery perpetrated by England, Spain, US, etc in later history. And the N.T. didn’t sanction slavery - it only acknowledges the existence of it and gives instructions to Christian slave owners on how to treat their Christian slaves as brothers in Christ.

What the Jews believed about polygamy is not the point. The point is what GOD decreed as proper marriage. The Jews have historically rebelled against God, the facts of which are continuously recorded in the O.T., culminating with God having them dispersed throughout the world after 70 A.D. Oh, and “polygamy” can only be “one way” - that defines the word. Nevertheless, even in polygamy the natural, designed use of human sexuality is intact.

And I’ll respond to your question about 1 Corinthians 6:9-10: Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

The English Standard Version combines two terms from the Greek and interprets them as “men who practice homosexuality.” The NIV translates the passage as “male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders,” the NASB says, “nor effeminate, nor homosexuals,” NKJV says, “homosexuals, nor sodomites,” and the KJV says, “nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind.”

With this many versions, let’s look at the original Greek to know exactly what was said here. The first word is arsenokoites. Where does this come from and what does it mean?

When looking at the Septuagint’s Greek translation of Lev. 18:22 we have the following: meta arsenos ou koimethese koiten gunaikos. Arsenos means “male” and koiten means “to have sexual intercourse.”

Next, when looking at the Septuagint’s Greek for Lev. 20:13 we have this: hos an koimethe meta arsenos koiten gunaikos.

Notice in both these passages the use of arsenos and koiten, and especially the latter passage where the two words are together. It becomes obvious where Paul got this word which means a man who has sexual relations with another man. He is referring back to the Levitical commands against homosexual behavior. It is this word which is translated as “homosexual offenders,” “homosexuals,” “sodomites,” and “abusers of themselves with mankind.” It’s meaning is “male bedder.”

What about the word translated as “male prostitutes,” “effeminate,” and “homosexuals?” This is the Greek word malakoi, which literally means “soft ones.” Supposedly this refers to those who were usually a passive partner in homosexual relationships (or should we say, the one who plays the receptor/woman?)

Nevertheless, both terms are used by Paul to describe those who practice homosexual behavior, and he states without equivocation that these people will not inherit the kingdom of God. Again, it is very plain that Paul is here saying that those who practice homosexual behavior are among the “unrighteous.”

There is nothing in any of these passages that allows for twisted interpretations to claim God permits homosexual relations as long as they are conducted in a committed relationship. The relations are not permitted at all.

But notice vs. 11 ends with good news. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. Paul says that some of those among the Corinthian church were practitioners of homosexual behavior before they became Christians, and that now they no longer are. So much for the claim that change is not possible!

Vaughn Ohlman said...

I rather wonder what I have said that raises any questions about the Greek of I Cor 6:9 but, since I was so politely asked, here is the Strongs on the words requested (see below).
By the way, lest you be tempted to try, I am not vulnerable on the issues of slavery or polygamy, so you don’t need to bother to try. But if you wish, feel free.
And while we’re at translating, how about you translate the words ‘man’ and woman’ (frequently translated man and wife) in I Cor 7:2?

G3120: Of uncertain affinity; soft, that is, fine (clothing); figuratively a catamite: - effeminate, soft.
G733 From G730 and G2845; a sodomite: - abuser of (that defile) self with mankind.
G730 male (as stronger for lifting): - male, man.
G2845 a couch; by extension cohabitation; by implication the male sperm: - bed,  chambering, X conceive.
It is used in two other places in the NT:
Mat 11:8  But G235 what G5101 went ye out G1831 for to see? G1492 A man G444 clothed G294 in G1722 soft G3120 raiment? G2440 behold, G2400 they that wear G5409 soft G3120 clothing are G1526 in G1722 kings' G935  houses. G3624
Luk 7:25  But G235 what G5101 went ye out G1831 for to see? G1492 A man G444 clothed G294 in G1722 soft G3120 raiment? G2440 Behold, G2400 they 3588 which are gorgeously apparelled, G1722 G1741 G2441 and G2532 live G5225 delicately, G5172 are G1526 in G1722 kings' courts. G933

Naum said...

For the record, those words ((μαλακοὶ, ἀρσενοκοῖται) are not anywhere else in Scripture (including LXX, Septuagint). The closest use is in Josephus (he uses other words in describing homosexuality) where he uses the first term to indicate "effeminate" men who stay home and make babies instead of going out to fight. For the second term, the closest use is in the Oracles, describing those who abuse little boys via rape. Pedarasty was common in Greco-Roman culture.

@Glenn, slavery has been the way of the world until 19th century. Until industrial revolution and great divergence, it was the major economic engine of the world. It only differed post-colonial (after Columbus) times that it was "industrialized" and "globalized". Most Christians, especially those of the "conservative" mantle, believed slavery was sanctioned and blessed by the Bible. Yes, Christians also opposed the practice and led the way to its demise (see Mark Noll *The Civil War as a Theological Crisis*).

Again, I keep repeating myself but the title of this post is "Cultural Bias", and for the people of the OT, marriage meant one man, many wives -- and anyone that suggested that God's will was otherwise would have been viewed as heretical. This is not to say it was correct, just that religious adherents of the age interpreted scripture differently than we do today. You can apply this on a whole host of matters, from purity laws to charging of interest, treatment of women, etc.…

Furthermore, it is hard to examine marriage without acknowledging that misogyny has been standard practice for most of human history.

Stan said...

Actually, the (transliterated) arsenokoites is translated by all modern Greek scholars as "homosexuals" (and the other one as "effeminate" ... you know, like you said). The puzzle has been the rarity of the word, but the answer is simple. In Paul's culture, the known Jewish law forbade "men who lie with men as with women". The term literally means "males on a couch" -- "men who lie with men". Paul was simply using a Greek term that captured the Jewish law. Quandary concluded.

And, truly, Naum, are you going to tell us that part of the biblical definition of marriage is misogyny? Or even polygamy? So, when Paul wrote that an elder had to be the husband of one wife, they were not by cultural definition "married"? Now, perhaps you are going to tell us that the Bible incorrectly defined marriage or perhaps you are going to say that the biblical definition is outdated, both of which ought to clear up the question, but surely (despite the fact that you will surely continue to ignore my statement that you are referring to practices while I am referring to definition) you are not going to say that marriage was defined as misogyny or polygamy, right? (If, on the other hand, you suggest either conclusion about the Bible, we're quite clear at this point. You have a different point of origin than we.)