The Christian Post recently ran an op-ed piece by Rob Schwarzwalder titled “The Truth About Human Sexuality: It All Comes Down to the Bible.”
The crux of his article is his assertion that “what one believes about human sexuality comes down to whether or not the book Christians proclaim as the written Word of God is, in fact, that.”
He then briefly discusses 3 questions:
- Is the Bible authoritative? (Yes.)
- Is what the Bible teaches about human sexuality clear? (Yes.)
- Is what the Bible says about human sexuality sufficient? (And, again, yes.)
I’m sympathetic to his argument here, but I don’t think he is entirely correct on this. Mostly, but not entirely.
For one thing, if it were truly the Bible itself (as a textual document) that was the basis for the belief in the conjugal, complementary view of marriage (cf. Anderson, Girgis, & George), then we would expect this view to be found primarily only those Christian cultures who came along after the compilation of a significant portion of the biblical text.
But that’s not the case. By-and-large, this view truly is a universally held practice in almost all human societies and cultures. Even in societies that practiced polygamy, had a non-egalitarian view of women, or approved of homosexuality, this has been the dominant view of marriage for millennia. Scripture certainly gives us the basis for this reality — the image of God stamped into humanity — but the Bible itself is not the origin of the practice. The practice has been present and observable since the beginning.
As Anderson et al note, this traditional view of marriage has been long recognized and upheld in human society, both ancient and modern. Our legal definition of it is merely a recognition of what is, not the act of defining what we want it to be. The meaning is an ontological statement, not a cultural one. SSM advocates seek to apply this latter, cultural meaning to the government’s role in marriage, and, hence to its definition.
Now, as to his point that it is only in the Bible that we find a clear and sufficient explanation about the nature of human sexuality: on that he is correct. The Bible reveals three essential realities about the meaning of human sexuality. All of them have their root in the image of God. According to Genesis 1-2, God created humans as bearers of his image, to be creatures who shared something of his nature but were not clones (or even equals). Those three realities:
- The full image of God in mankind is expressed in both maleness and femaleness. God’s image required him making both a male and a female. Either one without the other is an incomplete picture of the nature and character of God.
- The image of God is stamped in us through oneness involving two complementary but not identical beings.To be one with the other person required something in the experience that the individual could not provide for themselves (physically speaking, this is literally true). The kind of unity and oneness symbolized by sexual intercourse is not possible with two creatures of the same gender, modern notions of emotional and romantic love notwithstanding.
- The image of God is stamped in us through the possibility of sexual intercourse bringing forth a child. Human sexuality was designed such that its pinnacle was a reciprocal self-giving love of one being (a man) toward another (woman), one of my kind but not the same as me, that resulted in the creation of yet another being who shares the essential characteristics of both parents but is not fully identical to either. Just to be clear here: God does not himself create through sexual activity. Rather, human sexuality is symbolic or expressive of the unity and diversity and self-giving love found in God himself (what the early church would eventually speak of as the Trinity).
That’s a family. Certainly in a fallen world, there are all kinds of realities that have broken that perfect ideal: death, divorce, abuse, abandonment. But the brokenness doesn’t diminish the ideal. The ideal is what we have simply termed “marriage”.
We can redefine our terms but it doesn’t redefine reality.
It is true that the Bible is the foundation of our capacity to understand all of that and to give it names, clarity, and theological or sociological explanations. But the experience and reality itself was around from the start. That is something that was innately fixed in humanity, even when we go astray and seek to bend reality to our own whims. And it’s inescapable, really, because no matter where we want to go with what we think marriage ought to be, we cannot get away from two simple facts.
Fact 1: The government’s interest and, hence, legal definition, in marriage lies only in the fact that human sexual intercourse between two people have the possibility to bring forth children. It is incumbent on society, governments recognized, to ensure that those parents proceeded to care for and nurture the new lives they created. A more crass position might see that simply as the need to avoid the rest of us having to care for these children should they become unwanted after the fact. And, indeed, all societies are a testimony to that happening.
Fact 2: This kind of relationship with the potential for children and thus a family requires a male and a female to bring it about. Even in cases like are all around us in society where we see wonderful men and women stepping up to adopt unwanted or orphaned children, all of these situations required the same thing: a man and a woman.
The perfect ideal is that a child has its birth mother and birth father, both of whom are healthy, loving, and supportive. Obviously that does not always happen. But it does not change the ideal. Family is inseparably linked to two genders. You simply cannot have a family any other way.
Katy Faust had a great article on the Witherspoon Institute blog in which she makes the following argument:
If it is undisputed social science that children suffer greatly when they are abandoned by their biological parents, when their parents divorce, when one parent dies, or when they are donor-conceived, then how can it be possible that they are miraculously turning out “even better!” when raised in same-sex-headed households? Every child raised by “two moms” or “two dads” came to that household via one of those four traumatic methods.
The only possible way to have a same-sex couple family structure (or any other alternative form) is through the destruction of the original structure. In other words, for SSM marriage to be a legitimate family structure, it requires that the natural, original form — a man and a woman — be broken.
It’s that biologically indisputable fact that makes SSM a false premise. SSM is by definition not marriage because marriage refers to that whole package of two complementary, gendered individuals who have the potential for bringing forth life out of their union. And it is not the courts that define this, it is the natural order.
As to the homosexuality argument in more general terms, the question of human sexuality cannot legitimately be divorced from the question of family structure and marriage. Certainly, sexuality exists outside of marriage (to society’s detriment) and certainly marriage is not merely about procreation and raising children. But marriage in its fullest meaning (procreation, covenant, self-giving, unity in activity and body) is the institution that defines and affirms the ultimate purpose, meaning, and nature of human sexuality.