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A correction for Christians

June 30, 2015

In the previous blog, I mentioned the problem of the current love and commitment view of marriage which leaves space for same-sex marriage and which is also held by many Christians. The recent Supreme Court case should provide a serious motivation for Christians to re-examine their basic view of marriage.

The opposition to the Supreme Court case is presented as being a religious one, and, as we all know, religious beliefs aren’t allowed to have a say in what goes on in secular society. All that’s left to fight for is personal religious freedom. Which will win when religious freedom is pitted against secular freedom? While people of faith might not be forced to do things themselves that go against their beliefs, the issue itself is settled in favor of secular thinking.

What we aren’t hearing in the news is that there are non-religious arguments in favor of one man/one woman marriage. It isn’t simply that the currently victorious opinion goes against God’s Word. It is bad in itself. Such an argument is made in the book What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense by Sherif Girgis, Ryan Anderson and Robert George. (I’ve read that this book was mentioned by one of the dissenting Supreme Court justices, but its arguments were not considered.)

This book can be slow going (as can an article by the same title that appeared first and can be found online here), but it is worth becoming acquainted with its main points. Readers who don’t want to take on either document can find an accessible review article by Bill Muehlenberg that summarizes the argument here.

In addition to the value of the book as an argument for the one man/one woman side, it also has a lesson for Christians regarding our view of the fundamental nature of marriage. According to the authors, the current view of marriage (that also underlay the Supreme Court decision) is that marriage is “the union of two people (whether of the same sex or of opposite sexes) who commit to romantically loving and caring for each other and to sharing the burdens and benefits of domestic life. It is essentially a union of hearts and minds, enhanced by whatever forms of sexual intimacy both partners find agreeable.” Now take out a few phrases and read it again: “Marriage is the union of two people . . . who commit to romantically loving and caring for each other and to sharing the burdens and benefits of domestic life. It is essentially a union of hearts and minds, . . .” Isn’t this the core of what many Christians believe about marriage? If so, nothing is left to stand against such things as same-sex marriage except what the Bible says, which means nothing in secular society. And given the current divorce rate among Christians, biblical commands often lose out when the emotional love fails.

Christians not only should be able to say more in defense of the conservative view than “the Bible says so” (as important as that is); we also need to think more deeply about the very nature of marriage–what God created it to be–to strengthen our own resolve. God’s law, yes, but also God’s design, built into us, and necessary for the full development of children and the strength of a society. As the authors write, “the more people internalize this [revisionist] misunderstanding of marriage, the less positioned they are to live out the real thing.” Or, to turn it around, the more people internalize God’s design, the better positioned they are to live out the real thing.

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