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Changing the Theology of Marriage


In this chapter I will present information to show that the only biblical model for marriage is between a man and a woman.  Since the dawn of time every known civilization has practiced marriage and always between a man and a woman.  The Bible, and therefore God, prescribes marriage to regulate sexuality and ensure that children grow up with biologically connected mothers and fathers.  Thus sexuality is confined to a committed, loving and exclusive relationship between a man and a woman.  Marriage between one man and one woman is not merely a private matter but is a public good that is best for society, in particular for the children within a society and the future generations.

Gender matters much in the whole concept of marriage.  Same-sex marriage implies there is no relevance to gender and thus this results in the abolition of gender directedness of male-female in marriage.  Indeed the abolition of gender is advocated unashamedly today and the concept of male-female for marriage is regarded as an outdated, stereotypic model that has no exclusive place in modern secular society.

Same-sex marriage is paving the way for all sorts of variations and requests for the legalizing of polygamy and polyamory (group marriage) have been made in various countries of the western world.  A simple word search on the Internet reveals the agendas of the polygamy and polyamory movements are structuring their agendas on the “gay rights model” demanding recognition of minority rights and sexual orientation. Polygamy typically involves one man with multiple wives, whereas polyamory involves a variety of human relationships:

"Unlike classic polygamy, which features one man and several women, polyamory comprises a bewildering variety of sexual combinations.  There are triads of one woman and two men;  heterosexual group marriages;  groups in which some or all members are bi-sexual; lesbian groups and so forth."

South Africa is the firth country in the world to institutionalize gay marriage.  The others are Canada, Belgium, The Netherlands and Spain.  Already in 2001 the move to abolish traditional marriage and establish polyamory marriages had been set in mothion89 in Canada.  It is obvious to the discerning reader that once same-sex marriage is recognized by the government it becomes nearly impossible to deny minorities with other sexual relationships the same right.

Why all the fuss about marriage?  Why all the effort to defend marriage as a male-female gender specific institution?  Why do we hold onto the restricted definition that marriage means one man with on woman in a formal exclusive faithful sexual relationship?  It is because the word marriage carries meaning and denotes a norm.  Marriage is much more than just a man and a woman in a formal, state recognized relationship.  Marriage implies that a child needs a father and mother and a stable family situation that results from the fundamental permanent exclusive sexual and domestic relationship we call marriage.  Not two men and neither two women by themselves can produce a child and bring naturally a family into being.  This is how God designed humankind and intended it to be: male complements female and female complements male.  Even societies who did not know God recognised this as a given and Paul rightfully comments:

"For the invisible things of him since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived through the things that are made, even his everlasting power and divinity;  that they may be without excuse……" (Romans 1:20).

The truth of what the apostle Paul is saying is well brought under words by Stanton and Meier:

"Marriage is built on the paradox of humanity – that we exist as male and female.  The strong benefit of marriage is that males and females are designed with profound differences and these differences are coordinated in marriage so that each contributes what the other lacks.  Together they create something larger than themselves.  The polarity of the two genders is inextricably locked into the meaning and practice of marriage."

With same-sex marriage male and female are meaningless and interchangeable entities.  Thus marriage is robbed and stripped of its unique and desirable quality in uniting men and women into a voluntarily cooperative relationship where they complement and complete one another in their differences, physically and spiritually.  Same-sex marriage changes marriage into what it has never been and into something it was never intended to be.

Every marriage, expressed as monogamous, faithful, exogamous and opposite sex in character, is a declaration to all in society that male and female matters and that male and female are not interchangeable parts.  Males need females and females need males by design and intention of the Creator.  Every heterosexual marriage declares all other marriages other than between on male with one female to be false and of man’s own design and desire.

All societies of all times, since the creation of man, have limited marriage to be between men and women.  God is narrow in His definition of marriage and nature portrays this narrowness with remarkable consistency.

The Bible and marriage

God intended marriage from the beginning when He made humankind as male and female. The physical union of one man and on women in a permanent relationship is what God wanted from the beginning.  Marriage then is a naturally occurring condition for humans simply by being human.  We are male and female and the divine innate intention for our sexual togetherness is expressed in the urge for marriage, an exclusive condition for two people of the opposite sex.  Marriage manifests humanity’s God-given innate aptitude for community and family grouping.  Marriage is an attribute of the whole human race, irrespective of religion, nation or culture.  This fact had been adequately demonstrated over and over again by anthropology, sociology and archaeology.

Marriage is therefore not peculiar to the Christian church and marriage does not depend upon the admittance or acceptance of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.  Marriage does however, become uniquely Christian through the faith of the community and the couple in God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son and the powerful fellowship of Holy Spirit.  Christian marriage mirrors the Triune community and becomes a celebration of the fruits of the Spirit;  love, grace, patience, compassion and faithfulness (Gal. 5:22).

In Genesis 2:24 we find the phrase “the two shall become one flesh”.  Sexuality is expressed “from the beginning” in this promised union between a male and female.  Within the created order God had from the beginning vividly and prophetically envisioned through marriage the relationship between Himself and His people, as well as Christ and the New Testament church many millennia later.  Since the inception of marriage it always represented the physical, prophetical and eschatological nuances of meaning.  Marriage is therefore not one among more ethical concerns but is foundational to God’s intention for humankind.  Mankind in its bodilyness joins together the first things (createdness) and the last things (eschatological) related in the Bible.  Even more, marriage serves as an “icon” of our human nature and destiny, written into our bodies by our Creator and Redeemer.

Marriage is defined as a permanent relationship between two people that is monogamous, faithful, exogamous and opposite sex in character.  It is a special relationship between a male and a female with the intention to give rise to the smallest “community” in society, the family.  The integrity of God’s intention for sexuality requires the limitation of quantity, namely “two”.  Marriage smashes to smithereens when the created paired configuration of a male and a female and the limitation of “two” is violated.  Johnson explains as follows:

"Monogamous love is inherent in the sign (of marriage).  This Israel had to learn slowly, for Israel first had to live under the gracious pressure of the Lord’s “jealously”, which we translate into theoretical terms by the concept of monotheism.  One God – one spouse;  in the history of revelation, these truths, monotheism and monogamy, are uncovered as one at the same moment, in the great prophetic age of Hosea and Ezekiel.  So that finally these great truths, one God – one spouse, were confessed by Israel in that theologically mature and coherent text of Genesis.  Placed at the beginning of the canon, this theological “pre-history” served to pass judgement on the polygamy of the patriarchs and kings as a “defection” from the original will of the creator.  This is why in the time of Jesus the monogamous ideal was assumed in Israel."

The human destiny is therefore a two-fold, male-female and marital destiny.  “Two” is no mere numerical designation without content.  This “two-fold composition” has meaning beyond the prohibition of polygamy, adultery and other sexual orientations.  It satisfies no human coherent rationale but it represents the willful arbitrary inhibition by decision of a sovereign God, disparate with all other possible numerical cohabitation models the human mind can envisage.  It is tied exclusively with the male-female constitution of humanity as made in the image of God.  Male and female as complementary in the physical and spiritual realms of their existence, reveals “the image of God” by their “one flesh” union in marriage.  Sex within marriage enhances God’s “image”.  Any other “one flesh union” is void of the mystery of the physical, prophetical and eschatological intention of the Creator God in the moments of the genesis.

But marriage encompasses much more than “sexual intercourse”.  The phrase “for this reason a man will leave his father and mother” (Gen 2:24) and the phrase “your desire would be for your husband” (Gen 3:16) implicate for marriage the self-donation of the man and woman to each other.  This capacity to loose oneself in another and to find oneself in another is only possible because fo the created “otherness” of being male and female.  The sameness of male-male and female-female relations negate the created “otherness” to the point where the complementarity of male-female is wilfully discarded for the sake of homosexual “one flesh unions”.  Sexuality is integrated into heterosexual marriage from the beginning and totally assimilated into self-sacrifice and self-giving, so fundamental to marriage.  This marital capacity of the body so vividly displayed in the “physical otherness” of the male and female bodies, is foundational in creation.

Therefore God gave marriage.  Marriage and family is blessed by God.  He, being the author and definer of marriage, gave the command to mankind in Genesis 1:28 “to be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it”.  This command has normative status in the life of the believer and the church.  It cannot be ignored or invalidated by the wave of the hand.  “Fruitfulness” has to do with one of the basic profiles of life.  From the beginning man and woman have united to create and care for their offspring.  This was only possible because of their created “otherness”.

Their bodily differences and complementarities as male and female make it possible.  Only the female had been created to receive the man sexually and nurture the child born as a result of their “becoming one flesh”.  Neither the male-male union nor the female-female union in “becoming one flesh” is capable “to be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it”  Homosexual marriage by design and construct is false and a lie because it denies the very nature God intended for marriage.  It gives rise to a condition of continuous disobedience to the commands of God.

A man is bodily and psychologically not created to receive another man sexually and a female is bodily and psychologically not created to receive another woman sexually.  Thus homosexual marriages are barren by design and construct because it is not based on God’s created order but man’s own sinful design.  Therefore, blessing promised for heterosexual marriage becomes a curse for the homosexual marriage.  Sex in homosexual marriage effaces that part of God’s “image” intrinsically woven into human sexuality.

“Becoming one flesh” in marriage is not just about having sex within a valid circumstance.  Marriage makes the male and female co-creators with God.  In marriage man and woman becomes a sexual whole through uniting what is essential male and essential female.  God specifically gave marriage and designed man and woman for this wholeness in terms of anatomy, physiology, psychology, essential stimulation patterns and essential relational expectations.  Same-sex unions because of the “sameness” of the partners cannot provide the missing complement to bring about sexual wholeness. Homosexual marriage requires a total different creation narrative to make it an acceptable alternative to heterosexual marriage.

What did Jesus say about marriage?  According to Mark 10:2-12 Jesus spoke about human sexuality by appealing to Genesis 1:27 and 2:24.  This is especially important because Jesus was from the genesis (Jn 1:1-5) and He should therefore know God’s purpose with sexual differentiation and marriage.  John in his Gospel says:

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made;  without him nothing was made that has been made."

So, when the incarnate God, Jesus the Christ appeals to the genesis of everything, one should surely regard it as highly significant.  Jesus took Genesis 1:27 and 2:24 as normative for defining sexual practice.  He regarded these narratives as prescriptive and not merely descriptive for human sexual practice.  Thus is superseded Mosaic law (allowing for divorce) which Jesus regarded as inferior adaptations to provide for man’s sinful inclinations in contrast of God’s will for marriage.

For Jesus the focal point in sexual practice is the indissolubility of marriage and he takes for granted that there is a “two-some” wholeness in marriage, caused to be so by the simple fact that there be a “male and female” in marriage.  Jesus does not beat about the bush.  For Jesus the Creator ordained marriage.  Only a “man” and a “woman” are biologically capable to becoming “one flesh” trough sexual union and that in marriage.  “for this reason” presupposes that God made them male and female, complementary beings (1:27) and a man and a woman only may be joined in a permanent on-flesh union (2:24).

Marriage as a lifelong union of a man and a woman is not to Jesus a social construct to be nullified for any reason other than adultery.  Both the Bible portions Jesus cited with obvious approval as well as the questioning audience that Jesus addressed presumed the male-female prerequisite.  This comes as no surprise because the New Testament as a whole and therefore all the authors of the New Testament books accepted  the sexual and marital pronouncements of the Old Testament as “base theology” for their own theologies.  Male-female complementarity and heterosexual marriage were accomplishments and not mere theological opinions in first century Judaism.

Gay theology and marriage

The radical gay movement would be satisfied with nothing less than “marriage” as understood in Christian terms.  Their agenda would proceed irrespective of biblical verdicts, research results, scientific findings and dialogue.  The goal of the homosexual movement is to:

“…..fight for same-sex marriage and its benefits and then, once granted, redefine the institution of marriage completely, to demand the right to marry not as a way of adhering to society’s moral codes but rather to debunk America and radically alter an archaic institution”.

It is obvious that such a goal has major implications for the theology of marriage.  The biblical expectations for a monogamous lifelong union are not possible within homosexual unions if it is informed by such a goal.  It is all too clear that homosexual marriage is not the same as the biblical model of marriage.  Former practicing homosexual William Aaron explains why homosexual men do not practice monogamy:

"In the gay life fidelity is almost impossible.  Since part of the compulsion of homosexuality seems to be a need on the part of the homophile to “absorb” masculinity from his sexual partners, he must be constantly on the lookout for [new partners].  Consequently the most successful homophile “marriage” are those where there is an arrangement between the two to have affairs on the side while maintaining the semblance of permanence in their living arrangements."

Gay theology is based on the deliberate and intentional assumption that homosexual relationships should be “celebrated and affirmed”.  In contrast to the rejection of homosexual practice by the Bible whenever homosexual conduct is mentioned, pro-homosexual theologians declare that the Bible does not condemn homosexuality.  To be able to sustain these assumptions hermeneutical revisionism of biblical texts is practiced.

A homosexual reading of the Bible seeks to re-examine and reread those passages that have traditionally been understood to condemn homosexual practice.  Traditional interpretations are doubted, questioned and assumed to be informed by biblical scholars’ heterosexist bias.  Sometimes the contexts of Bible portions are compared to the contemporary homosexual context and if it differs it is rejected.  Homosexual David Comstock describes the process of revision of biblical texts as follows:

"Motivated by the hope that there might be a friendly note for us in Scripture, we have searched for a neglected word or fact that would reverse or call into question traditional interpretations.  We have, for example, minimized the importance of Leviticus….. We have argued that the sin of Sodom was not homosexuality,…… We have observed that Jesus said nothing about homosexuality, and that Paul was not critical of lesbians and gay men themselves, but of heterosexual men indulging in homosexual practices.  Some have argued that the kind of homosexuality condemned in the Bible is pederasty, not loving, caring, consenting relationships between adults…… I would suggest that our approach to the Bible become less apologetic and more critical – that we approach it not as an authority from which we want approval, but a document whose shortcomings must be cited."

The above being the case The Gay Liberation Front for example notes that they:

"….. expose the institution of marriage as one of the most insidious and basic sustainers of the system.  The family is the microcosm of oppression."

This typifies the radical attitude towards traditional marriage, especially in its Christian understanding.  The Christian insistence on monogamy in marriage is regarded by the homosexual movement as suppressing sexual liberty that is the  chief aim of gay liberation.  Lesbian feminists are some of the most outspoken critics of marriage arguing that marriage had been traditionally employed to enslave and brutalize women.  The Bible is seen as a heterosexist patriarchal book characterized by the institution of heterosexual marriage.  This enslaved women by the role of housekeeper, rendering them dependant on the male breadwinner.

The political legalizing of gay/lesbian marriage is a want because it is seen as having huge potential to destabilize the biblical gendered definition of marriage.  Marriage is all about discrimination and not sin, a human right and not a godly institution.  Granting “marriage” to homosexuals is seen as the issue that would most fully test the dedication of Christians who are not gay to give full equality for homosexual people.  Today, there are very few government policies in the world that explicitly discriminates against homosexuals.  The right to marry or establish domestic partnerships have been granted by most governments to homosexual couples worldwide.  But “marriage” in the church has remained the last heterosexual bastion to be breached.

Gay theology aims to refute the Bible’s normative claim that marriage ought to be male-female by definition.  To sidestep this biblical prerequisite for marriage it is argued that the dominant role of marriage is and should be to bring about oneness.  That is the spiritual and personal oneness of the committed couple and not pro-creativity.  Therefore the need for male-female complementarity in marriage is annulled if having children is the issue, and biological differences are negated if sexual intimacy is the issue.  Gay theologians contextually argue that being capable to produce children should not be a necessary condition for marriage;  neither should male-female complementarity be normative because post-modern society is a non-discriminative human rights society no longer informed by the Bible’s preconditions for marriage.

New authority contrary to the biblical norm of male-female complementarity is generated in modern society for example Scandinavia, the Netherlands, Canada, Spain, Belgium and South Africa.  Based on this new history it is therefore deduced that marriage must not necessarily be between a husband and wife but rather that marriage should be a social and political construct that serves social and political functions.  Obviously the Bible is out of line with this view and homosexuals demand that the modern church as the proclaimer of the Good News ought to reconsider archaic interpretations of Bible portions with reference to marriage.

Gay theologians contend that Christ’s teachings, recorded in the Gospel books of the New Testament, contains no condemnation of same-sex unions or intimacy.  Christ’s message is rather seen to affirm charity to others, compassion for those different from oneself and God’s equal love for every human being irrespective of gender, race or sexual orientation.  Comstock looks at the ministry of Jesus and says:

"Jesus’ ministry, to be sure, was remarkable, but it was not complete.  Jesus is, for example, observed to have broken traditional barriers in his relationships with regard to women;  and yet his organization of twelve disciples were all male (as it has been recorded in the Bible) and has provided for a model of patriarchy that holds for structuring church leadership to this day.  We have the task of expanding and altering that ministry and not accepting it as a finished product…… I do think, though, that we have from Jesus the encouragement to change that which is oppressive in our tradition and to break or repeal those rules, laws and immoral lessons in the Bible that serve death and pain."

Finding thus the authority to reinterpret and change Bible teachings on marriage and sexuality gay theologians have revised the traditional sense of marriage to:

"Marriage being the ultimate form of friendship achievable by sexually attracted persons."

Such a definition does not require heterosexual orientation and simply believes that marriage is based on an agreement between two people that they will live together as one.

A biblical theology of marriage

A biblical theology of marriage ought to include the following:

  • God designed humans at creation for heterosexual relations
  • The genesis of marriage allows only for male-female marriage
  • Man and woman compliment each other sexually and physically
  • Sex is to be confined to male-female marriage
  • Homosexual relations are a departure from God’s design for humans
  • Homosexual marriage is a perversion of male-female marriage

Genesis 1:26-28 and 2:18-24 sets the standard for a male-female prerequisite for marriage.  The cultural command from God to the couple to increase and fill the earth would be laughable and totally inappropriate if that was not the case.  The story of the human creation stresses compatibility and complementarity, not male dominance.  “Male and female” in combination express God’s image.  It is significant that Jesus took the creation of “male and female” as the basis not just for procreative acts but also for the wholesome joining of two in one flesh which is not possible in same-sex unions.

The Creator God ordained marriage.  Marriage is to be understood theologically;  it is not a social construct.  It is meant to be a lifelong union of one man with one woman for the purpose of forming an enduring sexual whole in an exclusive relationship.  Jesus clearly agreed with this standard.  Jesus was so adamant regarding the sexual purity of the married couple that he even declared that the man marrying a divorced woman committed adultery (Mk 10:2-12; Lk 16:18; Mt 5:32).

He further narrowed down lifelong monogamy by explicitly demanding that the heart and mind are both to be committed to the standard set at creation and no fornication is to be allowed there.  Jesus rescinded men’s assumed right to divorce their wives in the light of the standard set at creation.  Jesus, quoting Genesis 1:27 and 2:24, affirms that sexual intimacy, partnership and lifelong commitment are indispensable constituents of the bond that comes into being in marriage.

The phrase “it is not good for the man to be alone” (Gen 2:18) is no free ticket to indulge in sexual relationships of any kind.  Although one may argue that it is not good for humans to be alone, that is without a partner in marriage, it is far worse for humans to settle in a homosexual marriage.  To be alone is no sin but an incident of deprivation while homosexual marriage is an intrinsic sinful phenomenon violating a core standard established by God.  There are no assurances in this life that a lonely person will find a sexually satisfying marriage partner, let alone that peace, harmony and understanding will prevail at all times in a marriage.  But, to engage in one of the harshest forms of sexual immorality (same-sex intercourse) under the masquerade of homosexual marriage to avoid loneliness, is simply put, deliberate wickedness. Gagnon explains:

"In the scope of Scripture’s entirety, “becoming one flesh” with a sexual counterpart is far from God’s only answer to the problem of being alone, even if it is a significant answer…. Close intimate friendships – the koinonia or “partnership” with fellow believers – must always be kept in view as a counterweight to individual loneliness.  It is not necessary to have sex with persons to be bonded to them….. Singleness, even when experienced as a difficult deprivation, is not sin;  engaging in same-sex intercourse is."

The recognition of homosexual marriage is something that the Christian church and the Christian believer cannot allow and still remain faithful to the God of truth.  Marriage is God’s institution.  He sets its terms and determines the prerequisites.  It is also noteworthy that the Lord Jesus allowed the character of marriage as being male-female, between a man and his wife, to stand unchallenged (Mt 19:10).  Every instance of marriage in the Bible conforms to this pattern.  There is not a single example of a marriage other than heterosexual marriage.  No patriarch, matriarch, no priest of God, no prophet of God, no disciple, no apostle, no king;  not a single person in the Bible ever participated in homosexual marriage.  The whole history from the genesis to be expected eschatological apocalypse relates one standard for marriage only;  marriage is heterosexual.