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Saturday, May 26, 2012

On Marriage

I've tried to make my case for the longstanding, traditional definition of marriage without referencing the morality of the competing behavior that is trying to steal the concept from its historical moorings. I've explained that "marriage" throughout history has always meant "the union of a man and a woman". At no time in history has it ever meant "any old union you want to have". Until now, of course. Now the move is on to rip away that standardized definition to make it something else. Oddly, while everyone knows and most even admit that we're talking about a definition change, no one seems to be giving any reason why the definition change is good, necessary, or right. That is, you don't hear an argument that says, "The reason we want to change the longstanding, traditional definition of marriage is ...". What you hear is "It's not 'marriage equity' as it stands right now." And that is simply not true. If marriage is defined (as it has always been defined) as the union of a man and a woman, then heterosexuals are not allowed to "marry" their horses, their houses, or themselves (just to name a few possibilities). That is, "marriage" has meaning and that meaning causes limitations to whomever addresses it. If, for instance, a well-meaning guy wanted to "marry" another fellow for purposes of obtaining a visa, it would not be allowed under the definition of "marry". This isn't a matter of "marriage equity" or keeping people from their rights. It's a matter of definition. It's like saying, "I want my car painted red so it looks just like the ocean." The guy doing the work will say, "But ... the ocean is blue." Simply saying, "Well, I want it painted that color and I want it called 'red' -- I have the right to paint my car whatever color I want!" isn't going to fly. "Red" has a meaning, and my desire to change it or my "rights" on the subject are irrelevant to the definition. Thus, anyone who is sexually attracted to the same gender has the same right as anyone who is not to consumate a union between himself/herself and someone of the opposite gender and call it "marriage" because that's what marriage is. And that is "marriage equity".

However, I'm not so sure that I've been quite fair in approaching this without the biblical aspect of the question. Or, to put it bluntly, leaving God out of the question is not a good idea. While I'm quite sure that many folk won't much care what the Bible has to say on this issue, I think it's still unwise to leave God out of the equation. So, for those that might be interested on the Bible's input, we'll take a look at that angle for a moment.

Genesis 2 offers the first "marriage", the first union. "Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh" (Gen 2:24). Now, some may argue "That's not a definition; that's an event." I would refer these people to Christ Himself. When He was asked about dissolving marriage, He said, "Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, 'Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate" (Matt 19:4-6). That was Jesus's definition of marriage as well. The reason Jesus opposed divorce was that it was a union. More than that, it was 1) a male-female union, and 2) this union was produced by God. This essentially puts it outside of human control.

Now, of course, we should also examine the Scriptures that give counter-examples, those passages that discuss or at least reference some other sort of union that could be called "marriage". Unfortunately, no such passages exist. The Bible is silent on "gay marriage" because it falls outside the biblical definition of marriage. Outside of Scripture, history concurs. No society has ever understood marriage under any other definition. The concept of "gay marriage" made no sense. It had no purpose. It just didn't exist. It wasn't "evil"; it was nonexistent. Scripture concurs.

Which brings us to the next question. I said that the concept of "gay marriage" as it is presented today didn't exist prior to this. I said it "had no purpose". What, then, is the purpose of marriage? And since I'm approaching the biblical version, the question is what the Bible says is the purpose of marriage. In general, marriage is intended to reflect the character of God -- to glorify God. Well, everything is supposed to do that, so what else? First, we can look back at Jesus's own statement. He quoted God in the book of Genesis and indicated that the reason was that "the two shall become one flesh". One key purpose of marriage is the union of a man and woman. Second, an overall purpose of marriage is procreation. It was one of the very few commands given to Adam and Eve -- "Be fruitful and multiply" (Gen 1:28). It has been an ongoing purpose throughout Scripture where over and over family and childbearing has been the focus of marriages throughout biblical history. This is not to say that a marriage is defined by reproduction, or that all marriages must produce children. It was intended by God, however, that it would be one of the aims of marriage -- a purpose. Third, it was designed to be a mutual-support structure. When God said that it was not good that Adam should be alone, He designed a "helpmeet", Eve. They were to work together to "fill the earth and subdue it" (Gen 1:28). Marriage, then, was designed to be a team effort where male and female work in tandem both raising children and doing their work in a structure where one gender complements the other gender and one side helps fill in the gaps left by the other side. That is the three-fold biblical purpose of marriage.

There is one other key function, and it is vital that we touch on it. Paul, repeating God's definition in Genesis 2 and Jesus's agreement in Matthew 19, says more about it. "'Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.' This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church" (Eph 5:31-32). This is a component of the purpose of marriage that is almost never discussed. According to Paul, the union of a man and a woman is a profound mystery. According to Paul, it is the image of the Bridegroom, Christ, and His Bride, the Church. There is a union here that exceeds human comprehension ("This mystery is profound") and, as Jesus points out, is not accomplished by human efforts, but by God. It images the relationship of Christ to the Church and is always and only referenced in terms of Bridegroom and Bride. Messing with God's images is a dangerous proposition. I recommend against it.

Changing the definition of marriage, then, would be hazardous in biblical terms. It would dismantle the biblical image -- the only biblical image -- of the union of a husband and a wife. Moving away from that biblical definition to "a man and a man" or "a woman and a woman" would negate the biblical purposes of union, of procreation, and of complementary cooperation. It would violate the God-ordained image of union that portrays the mystery of Christ and the Church. One other point in biblical terms. The Bible has lots of instructions for marriage and family. There are biblical examples of errors, biblical commands for doing it right, and so on. All references are always in terms of male and female, husband and wife, father and mother. Redefining marriage to include "male and male" or "female and female" would necessarily negate those commands. If there is no "husband" or "wife", how are we to interpret distinct commands to wives and to husbands? If marriage now is to include "father and father", how are we to interpret the distinct commands to fathers and to mothers? Thus, if marriage is redefined from the biblical version, it also requires the rewriting of gender roles as laid out in Scripture and their correlated instructions. This is no small deal. And suggesting otherwise requires a large effort to reduce, rewrite, or ignore God's Word. Unfortunately, that's not a problem for too many these days, even those who call themselves "Christians".


Dan Trabue said...

I would post the many reasons why your hunches are non-biblical, immoral, unjust and irrational as hell, but why bother? You just don't care.

Lie on, little brother. Don't worry about morality, about justice, about rationality or what God wants. Just stick to your narrow little cultural biases and say you're doing it all for God because God has appointed you the divider of all that's good.

Whatever lets you sleep at night.

But one day, when you have a bit more preparedness to seek NOT cultural traditions, but rationally seeking God's ways, let me know and we can talk.

In the meantime, I wil repeat the charge that this is base cowardice to not allow a rational response, someone to respond and at least offer the other side of the story. Cowardice and intellectual dishonesty.


Stan said...

You see, dear reader, how it goes. Presenting a biblical argument is classified "non-biblical, immoral, unjust." The only reason anyone would use a traditional, longstanding, historical argument like this is because of "cultural biases", immorality, and cowardice. Expect it, dear readers. The Bible, history, and reasoning will not be acceptable. And it will not be a friendly discussion.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

And don't forget they are nothing but YOUR "hunches." Of course those who make that claim are just using their own biased "hunches" without any moral standard to go by except their own beliefs and "hunches."

Marshall Art said...

I always allow Dan to comment on my blog. I have great hopes that someday he can fill in, even partially, the many holes in his arguments defending his position in a manner more substantive than, "agreeing to disagree" or some such sign of defeat.

I would also like to know how he defends the idea that we are creatures of cultural biases, when those biases are based on the teachings of Scripture understood in this manner for thousands of years. In other words, our "biases" don't dictate our understanding of Scripture. Scripture dictates our understanding of morality and thus, our "biases" align with Scripture. To clarify even further, Scripture came first and from Scripture flows our "biases".

I wonder, in the meantime, where in your post is a lie. I can't seem to find one. I don't even see a "hunch", as everything said is directly from Scripture with no need to "intuit" anything. No reading between the lines here, only reading the lines themselves. Indeed, the totality of Scriptural references on the subject is as stated by Neil so many times, that 100% of them describe marriage as between a man and a woman, that family consists of a father and mother and that nothing exists to suggest any other possibility or that any other possibility could possibly be regarded as acceptable to Him. With such overwhelming evidence in support of the traditional and true definition of marriage, where is the lie or hunch? The lie is that there is something here that is untrue. The hunch is that somewhere within all this overwhelming evidence is some possibility that what God regards as abominable behavior has some context within which He wouldn't.

Dan said...

How can Dan be so certain of his view that your position is unbiblical? There are many variations of people's views, but Dan seems to be suggesting that only people who see your views in the same narrow way he does can be right.

Stan said...

When you're free to read the Bible in whatever way it fits best with your own view, then anything that doesn't align with it is "hunches". That's just the way it works. Reading the Bible for what it says and allowing that to say whatever it says is not considered wise in today's liberal Christian world.