C3 Forum – Considerations on Same Sex Marriage // Simon McIntyre & Phil Beuchler

If you would prefer to read as a PDF, please click here: C3 Forum_SameSexMarriage.

Human rights if not anchored in something outside of human rights will always end in being individual rights, my rights – in that, what I consider right is therefore indubitably my right, should be enshrined in law, and woe to anyone that suggests otherwise. Of course in any society that has a Christian moral memory, this may seem to work for a season, but once we have effectively stripped away God and the Bible we will be (are becoming) the victims of radical moral decay, with its attendant social misery. And in a strange twist (apparent) discrimination has come full circle so that the persons who once cried oppression are now at the vanguard of oppressing anyone that opposes their view. Any concept of community and moral well-being is thus swamped in the flood of ‘my rights.’

We believe and affirm that God sets both our value (very high) and the moral and ethical parameters that assist in maintaining that value, whilst the age we live in has championed the cause of total and complete freedom re. choices and morality, which in turn has caused an unprecedented collapse of family, moral integrity and personal disciplines, not to mention a crisis in mental health. The redefining of all these issues is the unapologetic agenda of cultural Marxism. Redefining marriage is part of the agenda of so-called progress. C.S. Lewis remarked, however, that people suffer from ‘chronological snobbery’ thinking everything modern to be necessarily better than anything ‘medieval.’

Redefinition of words, words that for millennia meant essentially the same thing, should alert us to the importation of concepts that are very different than those the words originally meant. This is an attempt to change a worldview within a culture by changing the language itself.[1] Many words have been re-engineered to mean something far from their original intent, and the effect of this is that people don’t see what is being promulgated, subtly or otherwise. (Postmodernity has no conscience when it comes to conscience.)

Politically Correct thought/speech has done some service in forbidding rampant and unacceptable verbal vitriol.[2] But equally, it is leading to the curtailment of free speech at a spectacular rate.[3] And coincidentally creating nervous hesitant communications.

There are many able apologists in the Christian world that graciously and wisely can take on arguments such as genetic pre-determinism and sexual orientation, human rights and ensuing legal arguments. This is not our goal in this paper. We wish to reiterate the view of scripture about the role and destiny of men and women, as this gives people hope and safety.

Scripture

We come back to the issue of the scriptures revelatory understanding that the image of God is seen in man and woman – not one, not a combination of the one, but the complimentary two, male and female. This is our starting point and the place we come back to.

The opening chapter of Genesis is very carefully crafted to ensure that we see the binary nature of the physical world – heaven and earth, land and sea, night and day, etc. This climaxes in the creation of man and woman – the binary picture in its most exquisite and final form.

From a mere physical point of view, there is no continuation of the human species without a man and a woman, and it can’t be argued that the optimal way to raise a child is with people of the same sex. Practicality may argue that it is better for two women or two men to raise a child rather than just a lonely one, or dysfunctional male and female. But the jury is out.[4]

Men and women are significantly different, and where that difference is downplayed or eradicated something of God’s own image is likely missing. The creative order is clearly binary and no naturally occurring productive options exist aside from a male and female. Part of God’s mandate of being made in his image is clearly seen in the reproductive increase of mankind upon the earth as we express God’s image and will.   A case can be made that marriage isn’t only for reproduction, but it still is normal to include this, and homosexuality can’t; by its very non-reproductive nature.

Not only so, but marriage, aside from being the foundation of just society and human relationships, is a picture of Christ and his church – according to Paul. This elevates marriage into the stratosphere in what it represents. The image of bride and groom is clearly in mind, nothing more and certainly nothing less. There appears no way this picture can be made anything but heterosexual in orientation.

And it is at this point that some insist that scripture is their truth source as well but has been discriminatory in treatment towards homosexual people. (Christians may have been – granted, sadly.) They present a hermeneutic that has revised the intent and outcome of every single reference in scripture to homosexuality. Dr Ian Paul has written a booklet on this – Same-Sex Unions: The Key Biblical Texts.[5] With scholarly care, he shows the traditional readings to be the ones that stand up to scrutiny, rather than revisionist readings.

A common argument used when attempting to validate same-sex unions is the (spurious) argument that the scriptures also speak of slavery in apparently acceptable terms along with poor treatment of woman. Both these areas have been championed by Gods church, so homosexuality should be, it is argued. Although the scriptures see a real change in attitude towards both woman (especially Jesus[6]) and slavery there is no such progressive movement when it comes to our sexuality. In this instance, the New Testament ratifies and strengthens

anything in the Old, so that the analogy between slavery and women, and homosexuality simply does not exist.

Another shift that has enabled a change in sexual behaviour is the change in how we use the word – love. It now means love as emotion, preference, inevitability, and is linked to my choice. If this is truly the case then it must needs to follow that all sorts of sexual preferences are viable – pornography, polygamy, sadism, incest, bestiality, and even necrophilia. To say these are all legitimate is consistent with our new definition of the word love, and we should hardly be surprised that these options are being presented as legal alternatives.

God is love but love is not God.

A biblical understanding and appreciation of love are that it is first and foremost a word used to describe a love that is sacrificial before it is fulfilling, ethical, before it is personal, and based on truth, before it is about my needs and emotions. This love was magnificently displayed for us in the cross of Christ, not in an Elvis chapel in Vegas. But it is costly and doesn’t always take into account our feelings, and therefore it is not so popular. Nevertheless, it is the stuff of legends.

Some have cleverly disconnected love from biblical injunctions about things such as holiness, but scripture marries the two. We are to love the sinner, as Christ did, but not their/our sin that he died for. It isn’t love to insist behaviour condemned by Gods word is viable, acceptable and to be promoted, and yet that is what is being insisted upon by those wishing to validate same-sex unions.

Further to this is the picture painted in Romans 1 about sexual denigration that is itself linked to idolatry, arguably the greater problem. Paul sees the issue of same-sex relationships as an inevitable outcome from the lack of honour and thankful worship to God because we chose to worship the creature and not the creator.[7]   This is a serious indictment of and insight into human nature – deeply idolatrous. This does lead to the idea of demonic influence over the direction and choices of communities/nations. Whilst an unpopular view, even in the Christian world, it does help explain at times the inexplicable, and it is certainly true to the writings of Paul in his letters, and especially in Colossians which speaks in clear terms of rulers and authorities.[8]

Without solid biblical warrant we will be subject to shifting sands of moral expectation, and to the strident demands of the world, we live in. It is to be remembered that the two defining features of the Jewish worldview that Jesus clearly took as axiomatic were: repudiation of idols and that sex before and outside of marriage was unacceptable, marriage being defined as that between a man and a woman.   This is our moral heritage and we need not feel ashamed of it or cowed by the world (itself a confusion of right and wrong). But it will make us unpopular.

Pastoral

Understanding some of these thoughts is half the picture. Responding is the other half.

We are all on a journey into the realised fullness of Christ, and need to take great care we don’t offend/belittle someone on the same path. We are all sinners saved by grace. We are saved by grace, and we are being saved by grace.

Our churches are open to all, and all can be saved.[9] In fact, our churches welcome anyone from whatever their background into the renewing fellowship of Christ and his church. But this is not the same as saying, come and stay as you are. Jesus Christ and he alone transforms us into his image – an image of truth, holiness and righteousness.

Our collective journey is out of sin and brokenness into righteousness and joy. This gives none of us a right to exclude and demonise, but neither are we to be held captive to the demands and social trends of the world we live in.

We are inclusive in that all are welcome and exclusive in that we believe Jesus is the only way of and to salvation.

Care should be shown to people who want to engage re their sexuality. And we should be careful of inflammatory language that is exclusionary by nature, in our preaching and teaching the good news of Jesus.

God is love, and the cross is the answer.[10]

Further Considerations

Sadly, taking into account current legal trends, we may be wise (if not forced) to redefine membership so that in our by-laws we only marry people who are current members, and that have received marriage guidance/counselling.[11] In this case, we are essentially presiding over Blessings Services – as the State itself provides the legal certificate of marriage.

Although the English Parliament, in legalizing same-sex marriages, has declared that churches will not be forced to marry same-sex couples, this is likely to be contested at which point we will simply disengage from marriage ceremonies as they stand and/or involve ourselves in civil disobedience, if the state demands we use our churches for same-sex ceremonies.

In some countries (Australia being one) marriage celebrants are also the ministers. It may be prudent to hand back marriage licenses and confine ourselves to Blessing Services for our people – which we see as the true validation of marriage, being in the eyes of God and his church. People will still wisely obtain a Legal Certificate of Marriage at Registry Offices.

Resources 

  1. Please see below Article from Revd. Canon J. John. Gay Marriage: Issues and Arguments. A good overview from the Canon.
  2. What Does the Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality? Kevin DeYoung. IVP, 2015. A straightforward, accessible, yet scholarly, look at the main arguments presented by revisionists re the texts on homosexuality in scripture. De Young is faithful to the tone and intent of scripture, and uncompromising in his conclusions. He refutes the arguments in favour of same-sex relationships with care and skill.
  3. Can you be Gay And Christian? Responding with Love and Truth to Questions about Homosexuality. Michael L. Brown. FrontLine, 2014. This is a comprehensive treatise by Dr Brown. He is a Hebrew scholar, which gives credence to his arguments against attempts to make the Scriptures into a text that affirms same-sex relationships. Brown is more provocative than DeYoung, and is, at times, sarcastic/provocative. His material is well researched and compelling, if not occasionally alarming.
  4. Same-sex Unions: The Key Biblical Texts. Ian Paul. Grove Books Ltd, Cambridge, 2014. This little book in the excellent Grove Biblical Series looks at all the Biblical Texts that mentions homosexuality. He responses to modern ‘revisionism’ that attempts to validate same-sex relationships. Typical of British Scholarship rewrites plainly and kindly, and whilst saying clearly that same-sex relationships can’t be biblically validated, he does so with grace. Dr Paul is an Associate Minister and Honorary Professor at Nottingham.

Gay Marriage: Issues and Arguments – Canon J.John[12]

1. Some General Observations On The Current Issue

It is interesting to ask why the gay agenda is currently so prominent. Let me suggest the following reasons.

  • Society has become fragmented and urbanised; the homosexual lifestyle that was unthinkable in a village of linked families now goes almost unnoticed in the anonymity of a city.
  • There has been an erosion of both churchgoing generally. Amongst those who do attend church regularly there has been a loss of confidence in Christian morality.
  • Relativism and ‘tolerance’ has undermined the absolute claims of Christianity.
  • Society has come to believe that the ultimate objective of existence is not doing God’s will but being personally fulfilled.       Finding sexual fulfilment is now not just a personal obligation but a creedal item. Churches have not been immune to the hedonist agenda; the unsung chorus in all too many places of worship might easily include the line ‘It’s all about me, Jesus!’
  • In many circles it is now fashionable to be gay. There is considerable subtle and open pro-gay propaganda at every level, which it is difficult to counter without being accused of homophobia. Ironically, in an age of political correctness, to be gay is now a positive advantage at interviews. There is very definitely over-representation of homosexuals in the media.
  • Fear of offence against the new morality of Political Correctness means that people with concerns on the issue feel obliged to stay silent.
  • There has been some clever ‘verbal footwork’, which has allowed gayness to be portrayed as being in the same category as colour or gender. The impact of this has been to portray ‘gay equality’ simply the next logical and inevitable step of emancipation.

It is worth noting that although the government talks of ‘consultation’ the word here does not bear its traditional meaning. In the past, a consultation was to ask people’s opinions before a decision so that their views could be incorporated into what was decided. Now the role of a consultation appears to be to minute people’s grievances after a decision is made. Certainly there is every evidence that ministerial minds are already made up. What controls political decisions in this, and other areas, is not so much a moral compass as a moral weathervane.

You do not have to be a Christian to have concerns about the issues raised by this concept. It is important to remember that despite the sneers, it is not homophobic, fundamentalist or politically incorrect to raise such concerns. Indeed you could argue – as some have – that redefining marriage in this way does no service to the gay community itself.

2. The Issues

Let me raise the issues as I see them.

a) First of all let us deal with the fundamental argument that is often made that ‘being gay’ is a genetic or developmental condition over which an individual has no control; the view that it is as much a given as race or hair colour. As such, the argument goes, homosexual practice cannot, and should not, be legislated against and should therefore be treated exactly the same as heterosexuality. On these grounds the ability to be married should extend to gay people. This argument is however profoundly flawed. Human sexuality is messy and includes a range of conditions which are, to say the least, problematic. These include: voyeurism, rape, addiction to pornography, polygamy, polyandry, incest, sadism, masochism, paedophilia, bestiality, necrophilia and, the inability to have stable relationships with a single person. Presumably many (or all) of these have genetic roots and those who engage in them would say ‘I can’t help myself.’ Now no one (one hopes) would want to say that all of these are satisfactory expressions of sexuality, which should be endorsed by society: we all draw a line somewhere. Gay-rights activists cannot even get out of it by saying that we should only endorse loving sexual relations between consenting adults. Passing over the difficulties involved in the word love it is important to note that polygamy, polyandry, sadism, masochism and – critically – incest might all be acceptable practices within this definition. In other words, Christians and atheists alike agree that there are some forms of behaviour that are unacceptable and should be outlawed and that those who wish to pursue them must resist the temptation to do so. There is therefore no logical difference between the gay position and that of the Bible-believing Christian; we both draw a line but we draw it in different places for different reasons. This is at the heart of the point that Christians are not against homosexual orientation but against homosexual practice.

b) There is what we might call the ‘progressive fallacy’ at work here. This is the view that emancipation is a continuous, unstoppable moral process. So first of all we liberated and gave rights to slaves, and then we liberated and gave rights to women and now, it is argued, the process inevitably continues, with the emancipation of gay people. This view is extremely simplistic. In the case of slaves and women, we are talking about a fundamental social or biological identity, not a behavioural practice.

c) Heterosexual marriage is endorsed as a fundamental basic of society by almost every human culture and is a phenomenon that is nearly universal throughout both history and geography. It is also an unarguable fact that a working marriage is the foundation of social stability, a proven source of human happiness and best basis for the nurture of children. Surveys suggest that most women (and many men) in partnerships would prefer to be married.

d) A related concern (shared by many who hold no religious position) is over the speed of change with which homosexual practice is being normalised. What is being proposed is a dramatic experimentation with marriage; a near-universal social structure lying at the very core of society with millennia of tradition behind it. We know almost nothing about the long-term stability and medical and psychological healthiness of gay couples and little more of the effectiveness or otherwise of such people in areas, for example, like the upbringing of children. On purely pragmatic grounds it would seem wise to wait a generation or two while gay marriages in countries where they are already allowed are observed carefully before encouraging gay marriage within our own society.

e) The motives for this proposed change are suspect. Civil partnerships have existed since 2004 and appear to work satisfactorily. So why is there this demand for a change in the basis of marriage? It’s hard not to conclude that this is a deliberate and aggressive attack on traditional heterosexual marriage. A small but vocal minority within the gay community seem to be pushing for ‘a take it or break it’ attitude to marriage. And within this government there appears to be little more than a desire to follow the crowd and gain votes. This combination of hostility and expediency is the worst possible basis for legislation.

f) As Christians we have to turn to Scripture. Unfortunately a lot of the debate has been fought over texts within the Old Testament or the New Testament letters, which condemn homosexual practice. These are important and should not be ignored but they are open to being dismissed as culturally determined ethical principles. We are surely on much safer ground by going back to the scriptural definition of humanity and marriage. In the first pages of Genesis we find first of all, the definition of humanity as being made male and female in God’s image (Genesis 1:27). In other words, neither sex on its own fully reflects God. The image of God is most obviously seen when men and women are linked together in marriage. Secondly, in Genesis 2 we see the setting out of a clear definition of marriage (Genesis 2:18-24): “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” Christianity has always upheld that the only legitimate expression of sexuality is an exclusive relationship between one man and one woman. What is important about these definitions is that they have the very highest possible authority. These verses are directly quoted and reaffirmed by Jesus. ‘“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” (Matthew 19:4-6). As if this were not enough, St Paul re-endorses the same passage in Ephesians 5:31. These statements are surely some of the most non-negotiable in Scripture.

g) There is the issue of precedent. If we feel that we are free to redefine marriage what, if anything, do we now exclude from legal ‘marriage’? Polygamy? Any combination and number of partners? Animals? Once you have dismantled the weighty historical and biblical foundations that uphold traditional marriage what other foundation will we erect in its place? And why, having done this, should this new foundation hold?

h) There is real and genuine concern that churches will be forced to conduct gay marriages. We are assured that this will not be the case yet the momentum of the gay rights juggernaut is surely not going to stop at the recognition of same-sex marriage. This raises interesting questions of oppression of human rights.The gay marriage movement raises significant and

i) The gay marriage movement raises significant and little discussed questions over gender. At the heart of the ‘gay marriage agenda’ is a presumption that men and women are sufficiently identical that they can be interchanged in relationships. It is taken for granted that it doesn’t fundamentally matter whether a relationship is male-female, male-male or female-female. Yet the Bible, psychology and experience combine to state that men and women are different in many ways. The biblical definition of humanity as made in the image of God includes not one but both sexes (Genesis 1:27). Feminism did not simply achieve a measure of equality for women but also a hard-won acceptance that women and men are different and that these differences can be celebrated. That victory will be trampled on by allowing same-sex marriage with its disregard of gender differences. Here are problematic issues to do with gender that need to be explored. We need to ask what will happen to gender relationships when we have some communities full of men who do not need women and others peopled by women who do not need men. These are issues that surely need asking sooner rather than later.

j) There is the further issue of how appropriate marriage is as a homosexual institution. Traditional marriage is designed – or has evolved – to accommodate the complementary psychological and physical differences that exist between men and women. Same-sex relationships are very different. So on what basis do we assume that marriage is appropriate for them? Legal homosexual relationships are a relative novelty in the West and surely we need time and study to find out what the best legal and social framework for them. To assume that it is marriage is yet another presumption.

k) A more subtle issue and one that has not been much discussed is the implications of gay marriage for Christian morality generally. Traditional orthodoxy has always held that human beings have two choices: celibacy or faithful heterosexual marriage and that anything outside these areas is sexual sin. Once we approve gay marriage we set aside a scriptural ruling in the specific area of same-sex relationships. We all know the pleas: the biblical passages are culturally determined, they are open to alternative readings, they do not take into account modern knowledge of psychology and behaviour etc. The point is that we have established the principle that if it’s a choice between sexual preferences and Scripture, our sexual preferences win. Staying within the area of homosexuality there must be real questions over what exactly we are endorsing when we approve gay marriage. Are we also approving all expressions of gayness such as the notorious promiscuity of some sectors of the gay community? There is an extraordinary silence over this. Moving beyond this, once gay sex is legitimised, why should we condemn any other form of sexual behaviour? Some men (and possibly women) appear to be genetically predisposed to be sexual adventurers, incapable or unwilling to form stable relationships. How can we now condemn them?

The problem goes further: the same strategy used to undermine the Bible’s authority in issues of homosexuality could easily be deployed in every other area of morality. So for instance, thieves could plead that they should not be condemned because their behaviour is genetically determined. Why, when we have removed its authority from the bedroom, should we accept the Bibles rulings on what happens in the boardroom? The Ten Commandments become written not in stone, but sand.

Two Final Points

There are many aspects of this issue that have not been fully discussed. One is the way that what is seen as increasing freedom for homosexual’s results in the loss of freedom of other people. Those people with legitimate grounds for dissent against the normalisation of homosexuality are now being penalised. If, as seems likely, these moves continue so that ultimately religious believers are forced, against their conscience, to affirm and allow gay marriage in their places of worship, then this movement will have become truly repressive. There is something of a tragic irony that what was a move for liberation against oppression has now become the agent of oppression itself.

One other very important issue is this. The gay community may wish the church to bow to public pressure and endorse its agenda. Yet do they really want the church that bows to media pressure and determines its morality by public opinion? Vox populi vox dei is a very dangerous principle. A church that, on that basis was tolerant of homosexuality today could easily bow, if the mood changed, to homophobia, tomorrow. It is in everybody’s interest that the church is allowed to be the church.

 Revd. Canon J.John.

[1] George Orwell’s 1984 is both an indictment and a prophecy about this practice.

[2] Political Correctness, as a term, was coined by Stalin, picked up by Mao Zedong, and is the currency of cultural Marxism with its lust of power and domination of all and any who disagree with its ideology. This alone should make us wary.

[3] See Trigger Warning: Is the Fear of Being Offensive Killing Free Speech? by Mick Hume, William Collins.

[4] In the UK there was a furor when it was suggested that a well known pop star and his homosexual partner were naturally not as well suited to raise their adopted child as a man and woman would be. They took this as a great offence. What was ironic was who said it – Doloce and Gabana, themselves gay, and proud.

[5] Grove Biblical – Grove Books Limited. Same-Sex Unions: The Key Biblical Texts. Dr. Ian Paul. 2014.

[6] See, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes by Kenneth E. Bailey – SPCK.

[7] Romans 1:18-32 and Revelation 2:14, 20, which link closely idols and immorality.

[8] Some prefer these terms to relate to human institutions, but the context and text itself tend to militate against this as the only viable option. It is likely both – human powers and demonic powers – aside from which, how do you separate them?

[9] In light of this please see this link to a great story from C3 Brooklyn https://vimeo.com/127182494

[10] It is still worth our while to realise that same-sex choice/orientation amounts to a very small percentage of society. The figures of 10% are wildly overstated and it is more likely to be 2%-4%. This is no reason for bad behaviour on our behalf but neither is it reason to accede to the same-sex lobby the accord their public volume demands.

[11] This is something C3 Long Island (New York State) has already enacted.

[12] Used with permission.

Joanna Mikac
June 12, 2017

One Reply to “C3 Forum – Considerations on Same Sex Marriage // Simon McIntyre & Phil Beuchler”

Peter Eastman says:

Encouraged to read this response to a difficult subject.

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