Thursday, February 14, 2013

What Is It?

In the ongoing debate about "same-sex marriage" there appears to be little time spent on answering a very basic question: "What is it?" The term is tossed about. It litters the landscape. You will hear about "gay marriage" and "marriage equity" and the like and the arguments will rage around these concepts, but almost no one is asking, "What is it?" I mean, before you can answer what is right or wrong on the question, don't you need to know what the question involves?

Here is the primary question: Who should the government allow to be married? Stop. Wait. The primary question demands clarifying questions. First and most basic, what is this thing called "marriage"? Second and absolutely necessary, why does the government care? If you'd like to buy a gallon of milk, the government isn't going to regulate your milk usage. It doesn't care. If you're going to go next door and shoot your neighbor, it certainly regulates that. It does care. That is, matters that do not affect society are not the government's concern. Maintaining a healthy society is the government's concern.So why would the government have any input on marriage?

The first question you need to answer, then, is what marriage is. Debating whether a man and a woman, a man and a man, a man and a dog, or a wall and a woman can get married would preempt the question. You need to define what you mean by "marriage" before you can answer what's equitable in marriage.

Today there are two prevalent views. The traditional, historical, longstanding definition of marriage is the union of a man and a woman in a permanent commitment to each other with the natural aim of producing and raising children. It is the only definition found in the Bible. It is the only definition found in history (until the last century or less). The more modern, revised version is the union of two people (without regard to gender) who commit to love each other romantically and share life's burdens together. I would suspect that for a large number of people today that's the only definition that springs to mind. Children? Perhaps. Lifetime commitment? Maybe. Man and woman? Well, sure ... but ... maybe not.

Your definition of "marriage", you see, will determine a lot in the questions of "same-sex marriage" and "marriage equity". If you go with the only definition that anyone knew from the start of humanity, "same-sex marriage" is a non sequitur. It isn't "wrong" or "immoral" or "evil"; it simply doesn't make sense, like a "square circle" or a "silent yell". If marriage is "the union of a man and a woman" (for starters), then calling the union of a man and a man or a woman and a woman a "marriage" would be a violation of the definition. You can call it something else, but not a "marriage". And, of course, if that first definition is the definition you're going with, then the question of "marriage equity" also changes. No one is saying that same-sex people can't get "married" when "married" means "the union of a man and a woman". Everyone is given the same right to be involved in that union.

You need, then, to ask yourself what your definition is. You need to get that nailed down first. Most people involved in the debate are not asking that question. Most people are operating on a feeling-level definition without actually looking at the word and what it means. They know how they feel about "marriage", but do they examine what it actually means? Most do not.

In nailing down that definition, then, you may want to consider the other question. What does the government care? Why is civil authority involved in "marriage" (by whatever definition you choose)? If you choose the first, the government would be involved in regulating "the union of a man and a woman in a permanent commitment to each other with the natural aim of producing and raising children" because this is the cornerstone of society. The union is necessary. The permanence is important. The children are fundamental. Government, in order to insure a continued and orderly society, would have a vested interest in unions that produce offspring and the proper care of those offspring. And there really is no doubt whatsoever that a permanent union of a man and a woman as parents of offspring is the best platform for the proper care of that offspring. Thus, government regulation makes sense.

Does it make sense if you go with the new version of marriage? Well, first, the union of "two people" seems random. Why two? Why not more? If the aim is love and sharing burdens together, can't you love more than one and certainly isn't it best to have many hands to share life's burdens? So, why "two"? Second, the new definition has eliminated both any real need for permanence or children. Indeed, the CDC reports that in 2010 nearly 41% of all children were born to unwed mothers. No "union", no "commitment", no "marriage". The USA Today last year reported that the numbers of kids born out of wedlock are increasing, tripling from 2003 to 2010. Something around 80% of first children born to black women were outside of marriage with only 18% of these even cohabiting. For Hispanics the number was 53%. Look, "children" used to go with "mom and dad" like "glove" went with "hand", but no longer. Society as a whole is deciding to intentionally and repeatedly shortchange children to provide no "mother" and "father" let alone any sort of permanent relationship. And we're all aware that permanence is not part of marriage. Again, the CDC reports that, on the whole, something around 50% of all marriages end in divorce. Now, be careful with that. About 41% of first marriages (less than half) end in divorce. From there the numbers go up. Some 60% of second marriages and 73% of third marriages end in divorce. Other factors seem to include such things as the age at which a couple marries (20-24 appears to be the worst at just under 40% while 35-39 is way down below 10%) and their level of education when they marry. Living together increases the likelihood by some 40% and having children decreases the likelihood by 40%. (Think about that when you're defining "marriage" without children.)

Welcome, then, to the new "marriage". What was a lifelong commitment, a genuine union, and aimed necessarily at offspring (requiring, then, a man and a woman) is now a commitment of no time frame without a genuine union with or without children. So I ask why the government would care about regulating that? If this is the new "marriage", then the government should probably just stop. They don't need to regulate something without form or purpose to society like that. They aren't telling you to eat pancakes. Why are they passing laws on who you can be related to? How is it their problem?

My primary aim here is not to prove a point, but to ask questions. What is marriage? If your answer is "We should all be able to marry the person we love," you're not paying attention. Because we can't. We can't marry siblings. We can't marry parents. We can't marry multiple people. We can't marry non-human entities. That answer is naive. You need to ask yourself what marriage is. If it is what is commonly viewed today, then the question of "marriage equity" is pointless. The real question is "Why should the government be involved at all?" If your definition is the new definition, then let them get out of the equation. They're not needed there. But, of course, if your answer is the new definition, then the further question is about social justice, what the children need, proper parenting, the effects of failures of parenting on society as a whole, the increase of the welfare state ... oh, this just gets really, really big. So answering the question "What is marriage?" is essential before you head down the road of demanding government intervention in "marriage equity". There are meanings and there are ramifications. They need to be considered.

19 comments:

srp said...

My only concern with defining marriage with the inclusion of children as a fundamental element is that a man and woman who love each other and want to be in a permanent, committed, monogamous relationship but who also know (perhaps because of some physical abnormality) that they cannot have children should still be able to have a marriage. Or indeed finding out after the fact that a child is not possible should not nullify a marriage.

David said...

Based on what I understand, civil unions are already on the books. They can be between male and female, male and male, female and female. They are merely a means of keeping property and legal rights to specific people rather than allowing the government to step in and take it if something bad happens. The desire of the homosexual community to grab the name marriage is not for legal reasons. The true goal is acceptance as normal, good, healthy. They want society to accept them as not sinning. If they can get the definition of marriage remade, then they can feel good about themselves in the eyes of society. I'm pretty sure I've heard that somewhere before, something about calling that which is good, evil, and that which is evil, good.

Stan said...

srp, I've heard that concern before. However, the idea is not that marriage is defined by the presence of children, but by the intent of children. Think, for instance, of the biblical examples of barren women. At no time did anyone suggest their marriages were nullified. In all cases their plight was bemoaned, but not their marriages. The intent was children, even if the possibility didn't exist.

The Bible argues that marriage includes the aim of having children, not necessarily actually having them. It is God who opens and closes the womb. The question is the intent of the couple.

Today it is very common to enter into "marriage" with no intent to have children. "Having children" is not an aim, but an option, and an increasingly lesser one. No, no, get a career, have your fun, make some money, be comfortable, and perhaps then consider the possibility of maybe thinking about having a child. Or two. No one should have more than that. Don't be stupid. In direct contradiction to Scripture.

The bottom line, of course, is that I must not consider what the world thinks, but what God says. If God says that children are a blessing from God (Psa 127:3-5), then arguing otherwise may be fashionable or even "reasonable", but it would be wrong. In the same manner, if God includes "Be fruitful and multiply" as part of His definition of marriage, then to argue otherwise would be wrong.

Stan said...

David, there are those (even in the community of self-proclaimed homosexuals) who argue that they not only are looking for the seal of approval, but for the destruction of marriage as we currently know it, completing both halves of "calling evil good and good evil".

Dan Trabue said...

Blasphemer. Liar.

Shame on you, sir. HAVE you no sense of shame or decency?

Repent.

You know why.

David said...

How'd he get back in here? And what is there to be shamed about? Have to love such eloquent argumentation. Mean words, mean words, unsustained accusation, obfuscatory comment.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Stan,
What an excellent post!!! It's a good one for me to link to in a current discussion I am having with a homosexual in Ireland. (Long story of how he communicated to me).

But leave it to DT to come up with his nonsensical comments.

starflyer said...

C'mon Dan, tell us. What does Stan know that he isn't telling us? What is your objection to the post? What part of the definition of marriage did you not understand?

Stan said...

Oh, look! Dan got a comment through. I guess I'd better take it back to moderated comments. (I probably should, since I don't know what assault on God's good name -- blasphemy -- or falsehoods I've committed here or why I should repent.)

072591 said...

Alright, Stan, now that you have made the claim that the Bible commands married couples to desire to have children and have stated that Biblical marriage requires an intent for children, you're going to have to show me EXACTLY where in the Bible that is said. Not an implication from the Jewish culture that insisted that barrenness was a punishment from God, nor a verse saying children are a blessing (curiously enough, that verse does not say that children are a requirement, nor does nay verse in the Bible say that a blessing is required to be received).

I can tell you that 1 Corinthians 7:36 refers to marriage and NO mention of having children - only the desire to wed.

Also, when Jesus Christ was addressing divorce, He stated that a man leaves his parents to become one with his wife - conspicuously absent is any mention of "for the purpose of having children".

Craig said...

Now that Dan has embraced heresy, and refused to recant after multiple attempts on my part at encouraging him to do so, I guess he feels that he has some standing to criticize others. It's a great example of the whole pot/kettle thing.

Or he is defining marriage as blasphemy or a lie.

Dan, It's not to late to recant your heresy, and accept the gracious forgiveness available to you through Christ.

Stan said...

Okay, well, I think I already did that in the earlier comment:

"The bottom line, of course, is that I must not consider what the world thinks, but what God says. If God says that children are a blessing from God (Psa 127:3-5), then arguing otherwise may be fashionable or even 'reasonable', but it would be wrong. In the same manner, if God includes 'Be fruitful and multiply' as part of His definition of marriage, then to argue otherwise would be wrong."

So biblically 1) children are a blessing from God and 2) God's original command was "be fruitful and multiply."

Of course, I'd be foolish to suggest that I cannot be wrong on this. I know that I am certainly not popular on this. In the last half century or so the notion of having kids has really lost its savor to our culture, so the suggestion that children are to be expected in marriage is not likely going to fly with a lot of people, Christians included. Nor is any suggestion that contraception could potentially be a bad idea.

Two other points. First, if you're looking for a biblical reference that states, "God says that marriage is defined as the union of a man and a woman in a permanent commitment to each other with the natural aim of producing and raising children", you'll have to wait a long time. The text isn't there. There is, however, no text that offers any different definition, and all existing texts on the topic support this. Note, however, that what I said was that it was "the traditional, historical, longstanding definition of marriage." Then I said, just like I just did here, that it's the only one you'll find in the Bible.

Second, "1 Cor 7:36 doesn't say anything about it" is a poor argument. (Notice, by the way, that children are assumed -- 1 Cor 7:14.) It is not very reasonable to assume that every mention of every concept in every reference in Scripture is going to have a full-orbed, complete definition included. As a silly example, the Bible never mentions running people over with cars, so it must be okay, right? No, of course not. If you look at marriage in the full context of Scripture, you'll find it there.

One other thing, though. As I said, I could be wrong. Assuming I am and that God never intended any suggestion of anything regarding children in marriage, please fill in the blank about what God intended marriage for. The traditional, historical, longstanding definition of marriage includes children. You are arguing it does not. So if marriage is not intended for procreation, family, child-rearing, the basic structure of an ongoing society in general, what is it for? Eliminate that fundamental component and marriage is simply something to make us feel good. Find that definition in your Bible if you can.

Dan Trabue said...

Because you all appear to not realize of which you need to repent (specifically, Stan doesn't acknowledge realizing of what he needs to repent - where the lies, obfuscations, twisted truths and blasphemy lies), I'll answer the question. I am quite sure you won't publish it, because while you like to criticize (and even slander and falsely represent) others (and do so remotely, not in a conversation with the offenders, but rather, talking about and slandering others within the safety of your own echo chamber), you don't like it when others point out to you, your errors.

1. You lie when you say things like...

It is the only definition found in the Bible. It is the only definition found in history

1a. Factually speaking, the Bible does NOT define marriage. It simply doesn't. More on this later.

1b. Factually speaking, marriage has seen many models throughout history: Arranged marriages, polygamy, marriage and concubines, capturing the virgin girls of the enemy and making them your wives (ie, what might be called "rape marriage" or "slave marriage"), etc.

Again, these are facts of history, easily demonstrated.

2. You blaspheme when you conflate your opinions into God's Word. You presume that your interpretations hold the same weight as God's own Self. You make yourself into a little god and this is blasphemy, or at least dangerously close to it.

2a. You do this when you say, "The Bible defines marriage as between one man and one woman." The Bible factually does not say it. It simply does not. That is YOUR interpretation of some text that you've read into (eisegesis) the text that isn't there.

2b. The sad thing is, you don't seem to truly even realize this is what you're doing. You seem to truly believe that the text can only be interpreted in your interpretation and, in fact, you don't seem to even think that your interpretation IS an interpretation, you seem to think it is what it says, even though demonstrably it isn't.

2c. So, it may be that you're so blinded by your cultural biases that you aren't actually blaspheming, you're just so deluded that you simply don't know any better. The problem is, I've pointed this out multiple times and you just ignore the facts presented to you.

This is why it is time to repent of your error and your pride and your at least near-blasphemy.

Repent, brother.

Stan said...

Well, dear readers, this is helpful. You can see where Dan will need prayer. And if you do not believe in a Sovereign God who can supernaturally open eyes and ears, I think Dan's words are sufficient for you to realize the uselessness of praying for him. Dan needs more than a good argument; he needs Divine Intervention. That would be my first prayer.

You see, demonstrating that the Bible has no other options except "man and woman" for marriage isn't sufficient. Demonstrating that no biblical references exist that allow for anything but marriage for "man and woman" doesn't phase him. His inability to offer a single biblical model supporting his view doesn't bother him. Nor does his inability to correlate "definition" with "practice" when he conflates the practices around the union of a man and a woman throughout history (e.g., arranged marriages, polygamy, concubines, etc.) as opposed to the definition ("the union of a man and a woman") throughout all history. (Note to those who might be confused. At no time in history was marriage defined as "polygamy" as an example. In those cultures a man with one wife was still married. Nor was a man with concubines classified as "married" to the concubines -- as indicated by the very classification "concubines". The definition -- the union of a man and a woman -- held then and holds now.)

But, wait, it gets worse. When someone offers the historical, traditional definition held by all people for all time including all Scripture (including that found in the words of Christ), he not only disavows it, but he classifies it as lies and blasphemy.

Please, dear readers, because God wishes to seek and to save the lost, pray wholeheartedly that He will intervene in Dan's mind and heart, that He will open his eyes that are blinded by the god of this world, that He will violate Dan's obedience to the father of lies and bring Dan to Himself. I believe in a Sovereign God who is not limited to Man's-Free-Will permission, and that's the God I will address when I pray for Dan. It is, in fact, the only God who can reach this deceived man who calls evil good and good evil. Join me in praying for Dan.

Dan Trabue said...

And here we have me praying for you and your spiritual blindness and vice versa. Well, prayer is always good.

The thing is, you physically CAN NOT point to a place in the Bible where it says, "Here is God's definition of marriage." You CAN NOT do it. If you could do it, all you'd have to do is say, "Here it is, God's one and only definition of marriage as offered by God and this and only this is what God approves."

But you do not offer that passage because that passage does not exist.

Clearly, to all but the spiritually blinded, the OPINION that God wants only men and women to be married, only one man, only one woman and nothing else, is clearly an opinion.

In addition to the prayers for one another, I'd just ask logically that you look at the evidence and IF YOU CAN'T prove your point (and you can't), then you'd have the good sense and humility to back off your blasphemous claims.

In Christ,

Dan

Stan said...

And we will also wait for you to logically prove your point, demonstrate a single biblical support for ... oh, wait, you don't have an argument, do you? You don't suggest that the Bible has a definition of marriage, that the Bible supports homosexual behavior, that ... well ... any position you're taking here is biblical at all. Okay, good, well, that makes your side easier ... since you aren't making a biblical claim. God's view, in your view, is not a biblical view; it's just your opinion. My view of God's view is a biblical view. Mine, however, is a lie and blasphemy and yours is not. Interesting.

Please, before you call on anyone else to prove an argument, prove your argument, if you actually are making one.

David said...

It is amusing, heartbreaking, and maddening to read Dan's comments. He demands of you something he cannot do himself. "I'd just ask logically that you look at the evidence and IF YOU CAN'T prove your point (and you can't)" Several of us have laid out clear Scripture to identify our understanding. In ALL the conversations with him, all he can possibly do is deny clear Scripture. Not once has he ever give one Scripture WORD (let alone passage) that positively reflects his claim.

It is amusing because his arguments feel so desperate. Its heartbreaking to see someone that claims the name of Christian is ignoring logical, biblical interpretation. Its maddening because of his hypocrisy, demanding others to do something he himself refuses to do.

Marshall Art said...

I'm still waiting to see proof for the very possibility that God would bless, endorse, tolerate, or condone a union that would most likely lead to behavior He has called an abomination or detestable (depending on the Bible used). I've been waiting a long time for evidence from Scripture, of any kind, that suggests Lev 8:3 refers to "pagan religious" practices rather then merely the cultural practices of Egypt or Canaan as regards sexual behavior. Dan has long claimed his positions are driven by his study of Scripture but provides nothing whatsoever that comes anywhere near the standard he demands of his opponents. Holding one's breath until such evidence is provided is not recommended.

Andrae Walker said...

I know this subject is about marriage and what the bible says or does not say, but like stan says the Bible clearly depicts marriage as the union between the man and a woman. Genesis 2:24 and Ephesians 5:31 explicitly say a man shall leave his father and mother and cling to his wife. Not mate, not significant other, not life partner. And if that truth is for man than the assumption should be reciprocated to the wife leaving and cleaving to her husband. The bible says and does not say alot of things. It does not say you should dance to secular music that is not of God nor pleasing to God. But the Bible does say in Galatians 5:19-23 we get the fruit of the spirit and the fruit of the flesh and sinful nature. No where does it say explicitly but it does say what a holy life should be like. If it doesn't fall within these lines then it is not of God.