Newsweek has recently done an article called “Gay Marriage: Our Mutual Joy.” While many errors have already been addressed surely, let us look at the author’s own method of argumentation and see where she went wrong. She is identified as Lisa Miller. For those who want to make sure the article is being addressed fairly, a link to it is found here: http://www.newsweek.com/id/172653
She starts off by saying that she will define marriage as the Bible does. The first question then is does the Bible define marriage or does it describe marriage? The latter is opted for as the Bible is written within a specific social context where the concept of marriage was known. The Bible no more defines marriage than it defines the moral law. What is meant is that we don’t believe murder is wrong simply because the Bible says it. We believe the Bible says it because murder is wrong. It’s part of the moral law that we all know and the Bible agrees with it.
Let’s look at their illustrations. Notice that she gives illustrations. She does not give teachings. It’s as if she said “Want to know what a Buddhist believes? Let’s look at the life of this Buddhist.” If you want to know what the Buddhist teaching on a subject is, the best place to go to would be a writing a Buddhist would consider authoritative. While you could learn some things perchance, you would never know for sure how authoritative they are.
First off, Abraham who slept with his concubine is mentioned. It doesn’t seem to bother her that this is a concubine or that Abraham had one wife and he only re-married after that wife died. (But if Abraham had looked upon polygamy with approval, wouldn’t he have married the second one at any time?) Note also this act was not approved by God but seen as a distrust of God.
What about Jacob? Lisa doesn’t mention that Jacob was tricked into marrying the wife he did not want to marry and was given Leah instead of Rachel. She seems to think though that because the Bible records an event, it means tacit approval of that event. She might as well think that because Jacob tricked his brother and got the blessing from Isaac instead, that would mean that the Bible approves that as well.
As for David, the great sin of David is seen to be sexual sin, notably with Bathsheba. Again, the polygamous marriages of David are never approved. It is a wonder that Solomon is cited as one who fell away because of his marriages, a direct violation of Deuteronomy 17:17. It seems she wants us to ignore the context of the passages and is counting on her readers being unfamiliar with the text.
Their next argument is to mention all the kings of Judah and Israel. All of them? For many of the kings of Judah, we don’t know how many wives they had. It could be argued that the ones who were faithful to God were mainly monogamous though as Joash is specifically mentioned as having two wives as if this was unusual, most likely because the line of Judah from David had been severely damaged by Athaliah.
Why not mention the kings of Israel? Because there is not one listed king of Israel whom God looked on with approval in the text. Does Lisa mention this? No. Let it be hoped that the reason is that she isunfamiliar with the text, in which case she should not be writing an article on what the text says anyway.
What of the New Testament? Well, Jesus wasn’t married. Okay. This proves Jesus wasn’t married and nothing more. There is nothing in Jesus’s message that condemns marriage and when we come to such in the article, it will be dealt with. As for Paul, let us consider what can be said about the situation in Corinth. Did she check any commentaries that would have told her about events such as a famine at the time and about possible persecution starting as well? She will not find the support she desires in this passage and seems to ignore other passages like 1 Tim. 4:3 where Paul condemns those who condemn marriage.
She asks if any newly married couple who woke up on their wedding day with newfangled ideas about gender equality and romantic love would turn to the Bible as a “how-to” script? For “how-to” what, she doesn’t say. She has said nothing in the article thus far of how a husband is to be towards his wife or how a wife is to be towards her husband and we can be sure that for the joy of the marriage bed, the Bible need not go into specifics on that. As for gender equality, one would think a night in the wedding bed would convince someone that there are differences between the genders, though both are equally human. My personal contention is that it would be best to speak of the sexes as sex is a term that applies to people and gender relates to objects. What we call gender now would have in the past been called sex. Romantic love, as it is seen also, is historically not the reason for marriage but more a result of marriage. In many societies to this day, marriages are still arranged.
She then goes on to speak of how this institution has been brought into the religious domain and how this hasn’t happened since slavery. Let it be noted that she poisons the well by saying that the traditionalists had their Thornwell and the advocates for change had Harriet Beecher Stowe. Obviously, any traditionalists today then in regards to marriage would have sided with Thornwell and any one who wants change would side with Stowe.
But what does she know about the history of slavery? Is she aware that Christianity has often been a force that helped to end it as happened with Bathilda, the wife of Clovis II? Is she aware that when the Bible speaks about slavery, it speaks about something quite different than what happened in America? In Scripture, slavery was already present and it was done as a way to help the poor instead of for the rich to get free help. This isn’t an article though about slavery as practiced in the Ancient Near East, but it would help the authors to familiarize themselves with that. Also, is she familiar with the great Greek philosophers like Aristotle and their opinion of slavery or of influential Christians in ending the slave trade like John Newton and William Wilberforce?
She is also comparing apples and oranges. Race is something inherent in a person that does not change, but the issue of sex attraction is not like that. There has yet to be conclusive evidence of a supposed gene causing homosexuality. The findings of Dean Hamer have been called into question. A good reference to this with multiple links can be found here: http://www.fathersforlife.org/gay_issues/gay_gene.htm
Of course, we could simply ask how Lisa got to the ideas of traditionalist and advocate for change. Is she automatically saying that all change is good? Would she be in favor of change supported by eugenics? Is she saying that if any change comes along, then that change must be good? If she got her way and homosexual marriage is approved of, would she support advocates 100 years later, if our country lasted that long, who wanted to change that?
She quotes a minister saying that the Bible defines marriage as between one man and one woman. I disagree. Marriage is not defined but described. Marriage is an aspect of the natural law that we all know in that one does not need the biblical text to know marriage is between one man and one woman. However, her later question asks if any sensible modern person would want to have their marriage the way the Bible describes it. (Could be we do. Some of us might like that passage in Proverbs 5 about ever delighting in the wife of your youth and notice it refers to the wife, not the wives.)
It is interesting that she speaks of biblical literalists as well. Does she define this term? No. So what does she mean? I don’t know anyone who always takes the Bible literally, for instance, when Jesus says he is the door, we do not think he is made of wood, or when the Bible says “God is a rock,” we do not think that means that God is mineral. One should take a passage according to its genre.
Her stance is that the Bible is a living document. She speaks of it as something that is powerful in that it speaks to us as we change through history. However, if the meaning of the Bible were to be open to the interpretation of any time period without regard for the time period it was written in, then would Lisa like her writings to be treated the same way in the future? Would she like someone to read the meaning they want into her articles instead of the meaning she intended? Shealso makes this assertion, but give no reason for believing it. It is simply an assertion.
She then decides that they will show how the Bible actually gives excellent reasons for homosexual marriage. Her reference is Alan Segal, but she gives no reference behind this and would seem to ignore any on the other side who would disagree with Segal, as there are several.
She then tells of adoption and reproductive technology and sterile heterosexual couples. It would seem though that children born from adoption, which was around in the time of the Bible as well, came through the same process of the sperm meeting the ovum. This is also what is done in labs through technology. While the method of bringing them together might be different with technology, it’s still sperm and ovum required. Fortunately, God has given a better way of bringing them together that has stood the test of time and met the resounding approval of many heterosexual couples. As for sterility, this is quite an odd case to use. The reason sterile couples don’t have children is because of a mistake in the system. For older couples, it is because the system has lost its capability for bringing about children over time. In homosexual couples though, the problem is not a flaw within the system but the system itself. Someone might as well complain that their coffee maker cannot be used as a telephone.
As for the New Testament, it is acknowledged that Jesus was never married, as if this is to make a point somehow. Did Jesus speak of a bond between brothers and sisters in Christ? Yes. However, he never condemned marriage and if the account of James and John wanting the seats of honor in the kingdom should tell us anything, it’s that family contact still mattered. Note that many of his followers took their wives with them on their journeys. (1 Cor. 9:5) Jesus also did not say there would be no marriage in Heaven. He said there would be no giving of marriage in Heaven. If you do not get married on Earth, you will not get married in Heaven. There is no reason though to think that Heaven destroys the bond between husband and wife. If anything, it would improve it. To say Jesus never mentioned homosexuality is simply an argument from silence. Homosexuality was not an issue in Israel. The Law was quite clear. It was in pagan areas Paul was evangelizing in. We might as well say Jesus never mentioned child pornography so he obviously would have no problem with it. Did Jesus condemn divorce? Yes. Why? That was a problem in Israel, which Christ said Moses allowed due to the hardness of hearts, although Malachi addressed it. (Malachi 2:13-16)
She tells of how the Bible nowhere condemns sex between women, obviously ignoring Romans 1:24-27. However, she refers to Leviticus as throwaway lines. Interesting that she wants to start at the beginning by taking those who believe the Bible at their word, but then says “But we’ll only believe certain parts of the Bible, like the kinds that can be used to argue our position.” Why should these passages in Leviticus be given authority though when Leviticus has several rules that we no longer follow today? Such an objection does not note the difference between civil law, ceremonial law, and moral law in Leviticus, but both passages that speak against aberrant sexual activity, including bestiality, end the same way. Leviticus 18:24-30 and 20:22-26 both say how the people who practiced these actions are being expelled from the land. Note they are not being expelled for failing to follow dietary laws. They are being expelled for failing to follow moral laws. In effect, God is saying that they know better. What is being condemned is what can be contained under the concept of “Natural Law” and does not rely on a biblical text. If Lisa considers homosexuality laws throwaway lines, would she consider bestiality and child sacrifices to Molech throwaway lines also?
In speaking of Romans,she cites one source from the progressive side, note that lovely poisoning of the well again, and ignores what anyone else says. Here’s why it doesn’t refer to Roman emperors though. Paul talks about those who “knew God.” He is referring to past peoples and showing the natural slide people make when they turn from God and turn to idol worship. Nero and Caligula could hardly be seen as those who knew God before. How can these actions show that Nero and Caligula were depraved, but when done by the common folk do not indicate depravity at all? Instead, Paul speaks of exchanging natural function and he means function by that.
She says that objections to homosexual marriage are not rooted in the Bible at all. This is hardly an issue though for while the Bible does condemn homosexuality, a Christian need not have the Bible to argue against homosexuality. This writer has made the argument against homosexuality without any Scriptural reference at all but simply by pointing to the natural law. She tells us the Bible affirms slavery, but it can be asked what she knows about slavery in ancient times and how it was belief in Scripture that actually ended slavery. She also speaks of how it condones the death penalty for adultery, not noting that this was to be done in Israel, where the people were to represent God by living pure lives as a community that mirrored him to a pagan world and how in 1 Cor. 5, when a man is caught in adultery with his step-mother, Paul says excommunication is the punishment seeing as he didn’t live in a theocracy. She also says it provides shelter for Anti-Semites, giving no argument behind it, which is quite odd since the huge majority of Scripture was written by Semites and Jesus himself was a Jew.
For her information on marriage changing throughout Christian history, she gives no citation, so we have no place to look, although we could point out that 1 Tim. 3:2 speaks of an overseer being the husband of one wife. More interesting is her usage of Jonathan and David, forgetting that such emotional responses between men were common in that day and age and did not indicate homosexual behavior at all. If anything, David’s problem was his heterosexual behavior.
Interestingly, she cites different examples of marriage such as Moses with a foreigner and Esther with a non-Jew. Notice though that each of these is a man with a woman. Whatever point she’s wishing to show has no bearing on the issue. To call Joseph and Mary’s marriage unorthodox leaves someone scratching their heads. Joseph was formally engaged already and the betrothal was legally binding in that time period. They went on and married when the news was found about the virgin birth. Unusual? Yes. Unorthodox? No.
Lisa points to how Jesus was inclusive. Yes. Jesus was inclusive of people, but he was not inclusive of sin. People are not their actions. Because I am a heterosexual, does that mean Jesus would approve of heterosexual sin? Not at all. Jesus also did not leave people as they were but encouraged them to change. He welcomed the prostitutes into the kingdom, but that does not mean he approved of prostitution and wanted them to stay prostitutes. (If she thinks this, what would be her response to Jesus welcoming the tax collectors?)
When speaking of the United Church of Christ, she again refers to them as a progressive group, a technique that has already been noted. Her reasons though for supporting such an idea have been found to be lacking and the veiled ad hominem to her opponents does not support her case.
It would be interesting to know what she is thinking when she says we want to love one another for our own good and not to be grandiose about it, but for the good of the world. So I am to get married and love a lady for my own good? One would think love was more other-centered in that the joy is not that she loves me, but that I love her. She cites a priest friend who says his favorite passage is Psalm 139 and how it speaks of the beauties and imperfections in us and says that Jesus would love the homosexuals and lesbians today as he would not want them to be sad and lonely.
I first want to ask what category the homosexual is put in? Is it the beauty or the imperfection? If simply beautiful, there are other passages that speak of the beauty and not of the imperfections. Why not go to those? The second thought is that yes, Jesus would reach out to homosexuals and lesbians. Let it be remembered though that he reached out to prostitutes and tax collectors as well. He did not leave the prostitutes to be prostitutes. He would love the homosexual and lesbian for the same reason, to lead them into the life God intended for them.
My conclusion is that Lisa needs to do her homework more. This is an argument designed to pull at one’s heartstrings, but it lacks substance. Thinking something to be good does not make it good and wanting something to be true does not make it true. Lisa has not told us why homosexual marriage would be good or true.