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If you want to “Protect Marriage” make sure the foundation of your argument is firm

01 Aug

In about 48 hours I will be serving as the celebrant to a wedding. A Christian wedding. A union between one man and one woman.

And, yes like most other Christians around the world and throughout New Zealand I believe that ought to define who is permitted to marry. Marriage should be between one man & one woman for one lifetime.

As the debate in New Zealand continues to unfold I am very thankful for websites such as “Protect Marriage” among others.

However, I am convinced, the basis for many of the arguments offered in defence of marriage as one man & one woman are insufficient.

If you read articles and blog posts written by many Christians or listen to their radio/TV interviews you will hear similar elements to their argument:

  1. Marriage between a man and woman is necessary for reproduction.
  2. Marriage between a man and a woman is something that has been valued and practiced across a multitude of cultures throughout human history.
  3. Children who are reared in a home with both a Mum and a Dad are better off emotionally, physically, spiritually, etc.
  4. Redefining marriage to allow same-sex marriage is a “slippery slope” that will lead to polygamy and ultimately the persecution/discrimination of ministers who refuse to conduct such ceremonies.

Here’s a “devil’s advocate” response to each of these elements:

  1. Marriage isn’t necessary for reproduction at all. Only the uniting of a male’s sperm to a female’s egg. This can take place in a test tube, outside of marriage through heterosexual intercourse, etc.
  2. Sure, marriage between a man and a woman has been valued and practiced across a multitude of cultures and throughout human history. But, it isn’t valued today, at least not here, and as culture changes, so should its institutions.
  3. I can give a long list of statistics of children reared in homes with one Mum and one Dad that show instability, abuse, confusion, etc. I can also appeal to numerous anecdotal stories of children reared in homes with two “parents” of the same gender and they have turned out “fine.”
  4. Everyone is so paranoid and Christians seem to be the worse. Even advocates for same sex marriage are not arguing for broader definitions and they are “promising” to not persecute/prosecute ministers who refuse to conduct their ceremonies.

You see, although you may not like my “devil’s advocate” responses, they show how the original elements to this type of argument are insufficient. I’m not saying they are invalid or unhelpful; they are just insufficient to form a foundation for the Christian position on marriage. Only once a firm foundation is established can other elements to the argument be built on top.

So, if I were asked to give a foundational argument in defence of defining marriage between one man and one woman what would that be? I am glad you asked…

I would start with God and His Word, the Bible. Here goes…

The Bible is quite clear that marriage was created, designed and instituted by God, as such He has the prerogative to determine who qualifies to participate in this institution.

Genesis 1:26-31 & 2:18-15 provide for us the clear account of God’s creation of man and woman and his uniting them together in marriage for the purpose of companionship, procreation, and creational stewardship.

Matthew 19:4-6 provides us with Jesus’ clear affirmation of this creational design for marriage. They were created in the beginning male and female.

Ephesians 5:22-33 provides us with the Apostle Paul’s pattern for how this male/female marriage is to function as an outworking of a man and woman’s mutual confession of their sin and faith in Christ which forms the glue to their convental commitment with one another in marriage.

Paul specifically sates in Ephesians 5:32 that marriage between one man and one woman was intended by God from the time of creation and before sin entered the world, to picture the love Christ has for His bride – the church.

Wait a minute:

  1. Where are the children?
  2. The Bible is full of stories where God’s followers commit adultery, polygamy, divorce, rape, abuse, etc. How can we use the Bible as a basis for this?
  3. The Bible is really old! The people who wrote what is in the Bible had no idea how genetics work, what drives sexual orientation, etc.
  4. The Bible was written to particular people in particular cultures and we don’t live in those cultures today.

I think, I can respond to each of these critiques, and not simply respond, but respond based on the same foundation – the Bible:

  1. Children are implied in the command to the first married couple in Scripture to multiply and fill the earth. However, they were united in marriage and declared by God to be husband and wife before there were any children and before there had even been any sexual intercourse. In other words, they were seen by God as married independent of children or even the act of sex. Yes, if they would have refused to obey God and not reproduced themselves through the sexual union they would have been disobedient. Yet, their status of marriage was not contingent on this. Nor was it exclusively to achieve this. They were united in marriage to picture Christ’s love for His bride the church and to glorify God as they each fulfilled their unique role: one as husband/head the other as wife/helper.
  2. Of course the Bible is full of stories where marriage is practiced in all kinds of sinful ways. The vast majority of the Bible contains the accounts of God’s people sinning and making a mess of all of God’s created purposes and not just marriage. We have murder, lying, stealing, you name it. Sin came into the world through Adam and affected every human since (Romans 5 & 6). As a result sinful mankind has managed to systematically ruin everything God created – the physical world, marriage, family, government, etc. However, the other side of this narrative coin is the unfolding of God’s plan to redeem a people to Himself and restore His original created purposes through the death, burial, and resurrection of the Promised Seed of the woman (Genesis 3:15) – His Son, Jesus Christ – for all those who confess their sins and trust in Christ alone by faith alone.
  3. Yes, the Bible is really old. Yet it wasn’t written simply by human authors. The Bible is the very Word of God. As a result we have a true and reliable revelation of the Creator of the Universe – more specifically, the Creator of all people. Therefore, sure Moses, David, Paul, etc. wouldn’t have had a clue about topics like genetics. However, the Ultimate Author who guided the human authors to write His very word knows man’s makeup better than the most learned geneticist.
  4. Yes, the Bible was written to particular people in particular cultures. And, to be honest, this makes understanding and applying certain portions of the Bible quite challenging. However, not it’s teaching on marriage. God’s establishment of marriage and the paradigm set for who ought to participate in the marriage union occurred before there was culture – any culture. What philosophers and theologians generally see as the basic components of culture are not present until Genesis 4: children/family, cities, art, craftsmanship, etc. In other words, God’s design for marriage transcends culture, all culture, for all time.

Now in a real discussion there would certainly be responses to each of these. However, any reply to those responses would continue to build on the same firm foundation – the Scriptures/Bible/Word of God.

That is until someone says something like, “Well, fine, but I don’t believe the Bible at all, I don’t believe it is from God, I’m not even sure I believe God exists.”

That may be the other person’s position, but:

  1. They are not disagreeing with the structure of my argument. They are questioning its foundation. They may not believe my foundation exists, but if they are honest, they will agree that my argument is consistent with this foundation.
  2. If they don’t believe my foundation exists, I will then ask them to explain the foundation for their position. Because their foundation will not be based upon any transcendent authority, I would then proceed to show them how their conclusions are inconsistent with their own foundation, or how their foundation is completely relativistic and if relativism is to rule, then who says, as a society, we have to choose their position over another.

I have waxed eloquent on this, because I believe it is critical as Christians that we not only argue for the right position, but we argue for it in the right way based on the right foundation.

In fact to do otherwise, I believe, demonstrates the same relativism & lack of authority we are arguing against.

(To read what I would say to those who claim this position is homophobic or shows a lack of love for homosexuals, please read this blog post on The Kiwifruit Blog.)

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5 responses to “If you want to “Protect Marriage” make sure the foundation of your argument is firm

  1. hooksmith

    01/08/2012 at 4:08 pm

    I can see why you don’t want gay christian marriages, but why do you have a problem with civil marriages? Surely its nothing to do with you or your religion? I am heterosexual, and have a wife; our marriage (like many others), has no Christian basis.

     
  2. Joe Fleener

    01/08/2012 at 4:22 pm

    Thank you for the comment. That is an excellent question…

    You are correct, a “gay Christian marriage” would make no sense in my understanding. However, not only because gay (and by this I mean practising homosexual) and Christian are incompatible, but because gay and marriage are.

    In my understanding of God’s Word, His purposes in Creation and His design for marriage, marriage between a one man and one woman isn’t only best for Christians, it is best for all of God’s creation – all people, everywhere, in all times.

    Therefore, I believe, it is best for society to structure itself and function according to the purposes for which God created it. I don’t expect this to be done perfectly in any culture or even any given family (certainly doesn’t in mine!). However, I am convinced from the Word of God, that He knows what is best for all of His creation, whether they come to faith in Christ or not.

    I am not basing this on pragmatic reasoning, or statistical proofs. I am simply basing this on the unchangeable nature, character, & purposes of God as revealed in His Word.

     
  3. Jared

    03/08/2012 at 4:42 am

    Thanks for timely apologetics! In agreement that God is designer/creator, he knows how it all works best. Thankfully he’s always sovereignly involved in how it and we (all humanity) operate. True that God is the instigator of the Christ/church couple model regardless of our epistemology or present society’s redefinition of the term marriage.
    I like your statement: “He knows what is best for all of His creation, whether they come to faith in Christ or not”. For me, this pointed at creation for God’s glory alone regardless of all else. It also follows that he decides right or wrong. Could also say “He does what is best…”, it’s fair that our rebellion results in our death and eternal rejection. I thank God that “He is what is best…”, in Jesus there is redemption, and his resurrection means he rules and will return.
    I’m liking that your argument starts and ends with the bible. You say: “as Christians that we not only argue for the right position, but we argue for it in the right way based on the right foundation.”, Genuine question: do you mean by publicly voicing a political stance? Wouldn’t it be better to argue god/the bible (foundation) alone from the get go? i.e. assume starting position of our nation “Well, fine, but I don’t believe the Bible at all, I don’t believe it is from God, I’m not even sure I believe God exists.”? I mean streuth, we might not even get time to start on marriage?

     
  4. Joe Fleener

    03/08/2012 at 9:06 am

    Hi Jared,

    Thank you for the encouraging words.

    Your observation and question is very accurate.

    In this blog post, I am assuming the topic of conversation is why, I as a Christian, believe marriage should be defined in such a way as to exclude a committed homosexual relationship. (Keep in mind most everyone defines marriage in a way that restricts someone – 10 year olds, brothers marrying sisters, sons marrying mothers, etc.)

    I believe it is critical to defend my belief based on the nature and character of God as found in His Word, not on culture, nature itself, what is best for children etc. Though this may come into the discussion at some point, they will not for the foundation for my argument.

    You are correct to observe that, in all probability, I will be talking with someone who at best simply doesn’t believe the Bible and possibly doesn’t even believe in God at all.

    Hence in an actual conversation that starts on Homosexual Marriage (or any other topic for that matter) may end up in a discussion about God Himself – whether He exists, can the Bible be trusted as a Revelation from Him, and Who is Jesus.

    Yet, even for this, my appeal will be to Scripture.

    But, I will also seek to ask them questions so as to reveal their presuppositions. What are their assumptions they build their argument on? In doing this, I will endeavour to help them see that their position is full of inconsistencies and is therefore not as firm a foundation as they may have thought.

    I would then aim to show them, that even if they don’t agree with my argument, or even my foundation, it does make sense and I can apply it consistently.

    Of course, in all of this, I am not trying to win an argument by the use of sound logic and reasoning. I am seeking to lead them to the place where they see God for Who He is as revealed in His Word and themselves for who they really are and then to show them Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, Who can forgive them of their sins due to His death and resurrection.

    I recognize, throughout the whole discussion, that Spiritual truth cannot be discerned by one who has not by given Spiritual life in Christ, through the Holy Spirit. Therefore, no amount of logic, or rational evidence is going to convince them. Only the Gospel has the power to change a person, giving them new life, enabling them to understand the things of God.

     

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