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Posted by on Mar 28, 2013 in Culture | 27 comments

Defining Marriage

Defining Marriage

If you’re like me, your head is virtually spinning from all the talk, Facebook icons and pithy slogans surrounding the gay marriage debate.  As the Supreme Court faces a difficult decision that could send shockwaves throughout the cultural and religious landscape, it is not the argument on both sides that I find disturbing, but the conversation it seems we are not having.

The difficulty I see in taking arms for or against redefining marriage is that while people are talking about the re-definition, no one is talking about the definition.

So why add one more voice to the confusion?  My aim is to help Christian readers define what it is we are actually defending.  For those who will immediately dismiss my argument, I want us to recognize the fact that what we are differing over is not an emotive or equality issue, but is a division over biblical authority.  What is being missed in large part on both sides of the debate is the understanding of marriage’s original definition and why some are so stalwart in opposing a re-definition.

This is not about “hate,” cultural neanderthalism or tradition.  For those who believe the Bible is the true word of God, we trace marriage back to the very beginning.

“The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field.  But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him.  So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh.  And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.  Then the man said, ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’ Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”  – Genesis 2:20-25

From this passage, and the preceding creation account, we see that God is a God of separation, boundaries, and order.  He separates light from dark.  He separates land from sea and provides boundaries for both.  He creates creatures for sea and creatures for land.  He creates man and woman.  He gives order, roles, and purposes.

Then the God who creates separation, boundaries and order performs a startling act.  The one thing he reunites after separation is the man and woman in the act of marriage.  God brings the woman to the man (v. 22).  There is covenant language (v. 23).  There is a pronouncement made (v. 24).  The woman is then called his “wife.”

For Bible believers, this is the gift of marriage initiated, ordained, and purposed by God.  This is the definition of marriage.

Biblically, marriage is to be a life-long covenant (Mal. 2:16, Matt. 19:6) between male and female (Matt. 19:4) and should not be separated (Matt. 19:6-8).  It contains boundaries for the sexual relationship (1 Cor. 6:16).  This purpose cannot be fulfilled by a male/male or female/female relationship (Lev. 18:22, Rom. 1:25-32) nor in a human/animal relationship (Lev. 18:23), nor incestual (Lev. 18:6-17), or polygamist (1 Tim. 3:2, 12).

This list is not exhaustive, but as you can see, there are biblical boundaries for marriage.  Ultimately, Paul sums up the purpose of marriage in Ephesians chapter five.  He says the marriage relationship is given by God as a representation of Christ’s relationship with the church.  It is for mutual building up, humble service, love and respect.  He again quotes the Genesis 2:24 passage as Christ does in Matthew 19:5 referring to the male and female counterparts of the marriage relationship.

This is what marriage is.  It is the genesis and definition.  I did not make it up.  I did not define it.  If you find it objectionable, you are not bound to participate in it.  You have all the right in the world to say, “If that’s marriage, then I don’t want it.”

The difficulty stems from the fact that the government has borrowed the term “marriage” to offer governmentally sanctioned privileges such as tax breaks, hospital visitation and the like.  The issue is, while these are governmental rights attached to marriage, they have nothing to do with marriage itself.

The government is free to give rights to whomever the government wishes, assuming the government is free to bequeath those rights.  But the government has no right to alter the definition of marriage any more than it has the right to redefine baptism.  This is because neither marriage nor baptism are given by the government.  Their parameters are given by God.  Therefore He stands as the judge and standard-bearer.

Whether or not the government should afford the civil privileges to a gay couple that they provide for heterosexual couples is an entirely different debate.  However, the government cannot call those rights “marriage” or redefine the term to have civil implications that are not, or were not, originally attached to it nor coincide with its Author’s intent or design.  They should not be officiated by a minister, but a senator or government official.  They are not ordained by God nor do they honor Him as they are not in line with His purpose and design for what the Bible defines as marriage.  It is something else entirely.

If you are for so-called gay marriage, hopefully this article provides some clarity on the discussion and its terminology.  If the idea of marriage repulses you, you are not obligated to submit to it – just don’t use the term to describe something it is not.  Biblical marriage is not simply “traditional” marriage since it is not tradition that gave us marriage.  Biblical marriage is just that: biblical.

I believe we can aim the discussion more precisely when our terms are properly defined.  When we are borrowing words and remaking boundaries that are not ours to make, the shouting match ensues and no one comes across clearly in a shouting match.  May we be able to approach one another with love even as we disagree.  I do not hate gay people.  I am not afraid of gay people or homosexuality.  What I do object to is anyone, gay or straight, misusing the institutions or words of God for their own agenda.  Let the comments ensue and may they be graced with as much tolerance and love as we seek for ourselves.

About The Author

Ryan Smith
Ryan Smith http://ryanandrewsmith.com

Ryan is associate pastor at Eagle Heights Baptist Church in Stillwater, Oklahoma. He is the author of Not That God.

Ryan Smith has blogged 74 posts at wordslingersok.com

  • Well stated Ryan! You’ve said exactly what I’ve been thinking since this uproar began. With any discourse it’s always important to go back to the root of the difference and get on the same page. In this instance it’s on the definition of marriage, God’s marriage, not mans as you’ve outlined. Unless you start with a correct definition you’re going to end up with a wrong answer, plain and simple.

  • An open letter to anyone quoting Leviticus in a discussion about homosexuality.

    Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God’s Law. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination… end of debate.

    I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other elements of God’s Laws and how to follow them.

    1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighbouring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can’t I own Canadians?

    2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

    3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual unseemliness – Lev. 15: 19-24. The problem is how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offence.

    4. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord – Lev. 1:9. The problem is my neighbours. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

    5. I have a neighbour who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2. clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?

    6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination – Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don’t agree. Can you settle this? Are there ‘degrees’ of abomination?

    7. Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle-room here?

    8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die?

    9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

    10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev. 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really
    necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? Lev. 24:10-16. Couldn’t we just burn them to death at a private family affair, like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)

    I know you have studied these things extensively and thus enjoy considerable expertise in such matters, so I am confident you can help.

    Thank you again for reminding us that God’s word is eternal and unchanging.

    • Ms. Doyle-Henderson, I believe Tim Keller’s piece can help with your questions. http://www.redeemer.com/news_and_events/newsletter/?aid=363

      • From Kellers blog…

        “But in the New Testament the people of God are an assembly of churches
        all over the world, living under many different governments. The church
        is not a civil government, and so sins are dealt with by exhortation
        and, at worst, exclusion from membership. This is how a case of incest
        in the Corinthian church is dealt with by Paul (1 Corinthians 5:1ff. and
        2 Corinthians 2:7-11.)”

        Keller indicates that the church is not a civil government. I say if you have homosexuals in your church and they get married, they by all means, if they accept your punishment..great, if they don’t..then kick them out. As keller has indicated..your bible has no real place enforcing laws against citizens…

        • Hello Jimmy, I think you make a great point about how to deal with sins, but excommunication is in the context within the church. I would also agree that the church is not a civil government, but our government allows us civilians to participate. Your statement ‘your bible has no real place enforcing laws against citizens’ alienates all bible believing Christians from the conversation, and can even be seen to discourage their constitutional right to participate. I’m sure you don’t mean this, but that is what can be received as I am one who has taken it to mean. We are making decisions based on our beliefs just as you are making decisions off of yours, which we are entitled to do under our brand of government.

      • I disagree with the article. That is my right. You can’t use part of the bible to prove a point. This article confuses holy matrimony with civil unions. If you don’t like homosexual marriage by all means don’t marry one. Otherwise why not focus your writing talents on homelessness, child abuse, and hunger that is more prevalent than this issue.

    • Ryan Smith

      Kate,

      First of all, let me comment on the writing of your reply. I honestly enjoyed
      the wit and humor with which you write. Obviously the issues you bring up are
      saturated with sarcasm, but point to a set of real issues. What I am glad about
      is that this discussion is one of biblical authority. That discussion I am
      happy to have.

      Your understanding and approach to the book of Leviticus is one shared by many people. As a result, I know your questions represent the mindset of more than just yourself. What I would offer to you is a look at Leviticus in its context.
      The Law of God contained moral, civil, and ceremonial laws. While Christ came
      as fulfillment of the law, He did not come to, as He said, “abolish the law.” Given Christ’s sacrifice satiated the just penalty (Rom. 3:26 & the book of Hebrews), we have to consider what part of the Law was satisfied and what is still upheld.

      The ceremonial/cleanliness laws are no longer necessary because they were means of atonement for the Hebrew people. Since Christ has atoned for sin in His death, your issue with questions 4, 6, and 9 are no longer in play. I’m sure that will be of great relief. And don’t worry, most footballs are made of synthetic materials now so feel free to use or not use gloves.

      The civil laws were provided as means of governance to a specific people in a
      specific time and place. There was no constitution, United Nations, or EU in
      place. It was a theocracy. The purpose for the Israelite nation was to show a people set apart by God – not identifying with the nations surrounding who served false gods. From a general understanding and consideration of what this looked like in their time, there were things to avoid or represent. In order to model a purity of faith in one true God, they would avoid mixing certain things. This was a representation. As someone who has the “=” icon, it appears that you understand representation and would not welcome comments about how you don’t actually look like a sideways 11. So plant your crops, wear your jeans and cut your hair to your heart’s content.

      The moral laws are different. Jesus not only affirmed these laws, but in Matthew 5 fleshed them out to their fullest extent. This tells us God’s moral code and law is unchanging. Another way to think of it is that God’s boundaries are still in place regardless of time and culture. The message is still to point to the exclusivity of Christ (John 14:6). That is why we uphold them and contend for marriage (given pre-Law, affirmed in Old Testament times as well as by Christ Himself, and applied/upheld in the New Testament letters).

      It is obvious you are well versed and able to convey thought well using satire. You represent yourself and your argument well. Point taken. In order to further your writing style, I would offer one critique. Your post conveys an evident self-willed ignorance. To look at writings, circumstances, consequences and terms from an era several thousand years preceding your culture and context, you must avoid certain approaches. Approaching them through the lens of 21st, 20th, or even 19th century applications of terms and the like is basically lazy readership. I’m sure you are not a lazy person and would not want to be represented as such.

      When I was in junior high, we had some gang activity in our city. The two rival gangs represented themselves with the colors red and blue. For a while, there was a rule passed that students could not wear solid red or blue shirts. This was to curtail gang association or any mix-up from innocent bystanders. In several years, without knowing the context, people will look back on that rule and think it foolish kids were not allowed to wear solid colored shirts in red or blue. They may even write a sarcastic email to the superintendent. But the rule served a people in a time and place. Surely you can understand that and the application to certain categories of Levitical law.

      To view the term “slave” through an American Civil War era lens, or the idea of handling animals through a suburbanized non-agricultural mindset is erroneous. I’m sure cultures would look at what we 21st century Americans do on a daily basis (mowing, shaving, putting on makeup, grilling) and disdain it because of its foreign nature. This is what you are doing to the Levitical-era culture. This is what you argue against people doing who don’t understand or side with the homosexual culture.

      At the base level, we are having the discussion I hoped we would have as a result of this article. You have shown you do not believe in biblical authority. You will have to live with the consequences and outcomes of that. I do believe in biblical authority. I will have to live with the consequences and outcomes of that. This, Kate, is the core of the issue and not something to be taken lightly. I would be happy to discuss this with you at any time. I will buy you coffee or be glad to talk with you in person with a civil and healthy dialogue provided. I am not an expert. I am, however, happy to share what I know and believe.

      • Wonderfully said. I couldn’t agree more.

      • Ryan, you’re a pretty smart guy. And your article is well written, and thoughtful. I’m dismayed to see that you are still under the spell of Evangelical Christianity though, and wasting your talents defending bankrupt positions. To compare slavery to mowing the lawn is itself an abomination. Slavery is abhorrent. Forget whether the Israelites were nicer to their slaves than American plantation owners. They owned people and treated them like property. If they were foreign slaves, they could subjugate them for life. They were permitted to beat them, just not to death. They were encouraged to force female prisoners of war to become their wives and fulfill their duties as such. Any way you look at it, it’s pretty sick stuff. I don’t care if these practices occurred yesterday or thousands of years ago. It’s disgusting. The teachings of Jesus are irreconcilable with these practices, supposedly sanctioned by God himself. It’s impossible; stop trying. The longer you try to explain how revolting human rights violations are somehow acceptable because they are in the Bible, the sooner you will confuse your parishioners into apostacy. Have you noticed how young people are defecting from Christianity in droves? This is why. Keep telling them that the same God that required capital punishment for working on the Sabbath has something to say about gay marriage, and it ain’t good. See how long they stick around.

        • Ryan Smith

          Corey,

          It is great to hear from you. I know you are a smart person as well and I respect the thought process with which you approach such controversial issues. You are much more well-versed in many ways than I. As such, I welcome this discussion. It will, however, be difficult to engage with you in a meaningful discourse here. From the onset, your view of my position coming from a “spell” or “bankrupt” mindset does not cast us in a position for positive dialogue. I am not arguing from a position outlined in Narnia or Hogwarts. Again, this goes to my point in the article that ultimately this is a discussion over biblical authority. You claim it is fantasy. I claim it is real.

          Regarding your position on slavery, I am surprised that you link the analogy of lawn-mowing to slavery. Certainly those are the extremes listed in a discusion over things from cutting hair to wearing linen that were presented in a sarcastic way from Kate. You did not represent my position accurately. If I was confusing in the aforementioned post, I apologize, however I assume your connection was simply for shock value and to position my other thoughts in a negative light.

          In response to your thoughts regarding slavery, I would completely agree with you that slavery is abhorrent and should be fought against. In fact, Christians throughout history have been at the forefront of abolishing slavery in different forms. Obviously there are exceptions and objections on every side. However, to say God or the Bible is pro-slavery is erroneous. I’m sure Moses, Onesimus, and many others throughout the Scripture would be surprised to hear your assertion that the Bible condones slavery.

          I am not arguing, as you said, for human rights violations and agree wholeheartedly with your disdain for the slave trade in all its forms. Simply because it is mentioned in the Bible does not mean it is approved. As you know, the Bible was written by specific people in a specific time and place. During that specific time, slavery did exist. To use a broad analogy, one cannot claim that because the Bible says to love and pray for your enemies that the Bible is pro-enemy. Does the Bible contain instruction on how to live in a society with slavery? Yes. Does it condone or instigate a society of slavery? I would say no. By the very fact that neither slavery, enemies, nor other human rights violations were a part of the original creation, did not exist until after the Fall, and are non-existent in Revelation after the restoration of all things, we can assume God is not a pro-slavery God.

          Unfortunately we cannot gauge what is true based on what young people are or aren’t attracted to. You and I both know the truths contained in Scripture and even the very nature of Jesus Himself have been so perverted and misconstrued that I want nothing to do with them at times. However, just because that is how they are portrayed does not mean that is how they are in reality.

          I thank you for your addition. Hopefully this clears up my position to some small degree. I am beginning to see why authors rarely engage in the comment sections of their posts :). Regardless, it is good to hear from you and I hope you are well.

          • Ryan, great to hear from you too. I’m commend your tenacity. But I have to admit that I tricked you. See, the bible clearly condones slavery. Whenever God says “you may buy slaves from the nations around you… They will be your property” and, “you can make them slaves for life” any ambiguity is instantly dispelled. Examples like this are abundant and unequivocal. The bible condones slavery. So why would you insist otherwise? Is it opposite day? Maybe this sheds some light on the question of gay marriage, too. Since the bible clearly speaks of David having eight wives, it seems awkward to define “biblical marriage” as involving only one man and one woman. Another came of opposite dayitis? I don’t think so. I think it has something to do with foregone conclusions. Looks to me like you’ve already made up your mind on the issue of marriage and slavery. Since you’ve got to be right, and the bible cant possibly be wrong, the two of you must be able to harmonize your accounts. Let the theological acrobatics begin! Maybe if you let the bible say what it says, you can ascertain its message and learn from it. Here’s what I mean. The bible condones slavery. And slavery is wrong. Always has been. But the Israelites were vastly more humane as slave owners. They were way ahead of their time. So even though they were wrong, they were progressive for their time. That’s what we’re called to do. Being stuck in a cultural rut, and trying to justify it biblically is to defy the progress that defines and redeems the Judeo-Christian tradition.

          • Pdubble

            The reality is that the Devil can quote the Bible and make you believe what he’s doing is right. This is why the Founders made no religious tests and passed the 1st Amendment. You can say you view these things as in keeping with the teachings of Jesus/the Bible and Corey can say the opposite. Both are right, because in matters of religion and morality there is very little opening for logic. This is why the question of gay marriage before the Supreme Court is not a religious one, it is a civil matter. Ryan is free to refer to gay married people any way he pleases, and the gay married people are free to call him a bigot to their heart’s content.

      • I do believe that’s called a “double standard.”

  • Sharpside

    If marriage is necessarily tied to religion (in your opinion), then I think you may need to remember these words: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.

    Also, if marriage is still based on religion, why aren’t Christians trying to outlaw atheist marriages?

    Regardless, the argument you provide is almost certainly pointless because you’re ignoring the fact that marriage predates Christianity.

    • Ryan Smith

      Sharpside,

      Thank you for your post. I will be pithy in response.

      1) This is not my opinion, it is the Bible’s assertion. The argument is over biblical authority, not my whim or cultural wind. What is yours based on? Also on a quick reading of the article, it is apparent I am not arguing for Congress or any other government entity to make a law respecting an establishment of religion. Quite the opposite. I am upholding that line of thinking in that government should not legislate where it does not originate or define. That was basically the whole point of the article.

      2) Again, I am not trying to outlaw any kind of marriage. My goal is to define marriage by pointing to its biblical origin as bible-believers attest. God provided boundaries when He gave marriage. I am pointing to those boundaries as guidelines for true marriage. I argued for no legislation, outlawing or otherwise. Please reread the article.

      3) With all due respect, even the most elementary understanding of Christianity points to its roots in Judaism. Jesus, a Jew, was raised in Judaism and was the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, and as He said, the law, prophets, and writings all point to Him. Genesis is placed at the beginning of the canon. Jesus affirmed, as did Paul, the Genesis 2:24 passage.

      Again, with all due respect, I would urge you to reread the article for a more accurate understanding of the point I am making. You may have already given it due diligence. However, your questions show otherwise.

      • Ryan,

        Are you a presuppositional apologist? If so I can see where
        your reply to Sharpside may make sense to you, but I think it may be
        somewhat confusing to anyone not familiar with the pressup. position. I
        won’t propose here that I should explain the position of thought that
        you’re coming from, but it may be helpful for those people that aren’t
        familiar with presuppositional apologetics. Forgive me if I’m wrong,
        your response just strikes me as someone coming from that school of
        thought.

        I think perhaps you’re not fully understanding why
        sharpside is making the statements he’s making.. Perhaps I can elaborate
        his position (sharpside..please forgive me if I mangle your intent).

        I
        would agree that the purpose of government is not to legislate where it
        didn’t define, but it’s a very good idea that it should protect the
        minority when required. This certainly seems to be such a time. I don’t
        really care where marriage originated, I don’t think it originated with
        the bible, but I don’t think that really matters. The government
        certainly didn’t define a lot of things that it ended up later
        legislating, we should all be very happy indeed that it does step in.

        I
        would certainly not argue that the bible defined some boundaries for
        marriage (concubines, multiple wives, and later on one man and one
        women), and I think if Christians want to apply to themselves some rules
        about who they marry and when, no one should certainly interfere. But
        they should not make it their business to interfere with those that
        don’t share their beliefs. There is certainly no law saying that words
        cannot be redefined, words and their definitions change ALL of the time.
        Not all Americans presuppose that a deity defined these things for us
        and we should concern ourselves with what this deity has to say. It’s a
        little bit arrogant to assume that we should all read the bible and make
        an attempt to live according to what we read there. I have no intention
        of doing something like that and I’m sure there are many like me.
        Likewise, I would be completely in your defense if someone attempted to
        take that right away from you.

        I think that pretty much addresses
        your point number 1 (you really had the same information in 1 and 2).
        As for number 3..who cares. Why would one assume that Sharpside has even
        elementary knowledge of christianity? I don’t care about the bible,
        Jesus, Jews, Prophets in your bible. They mean nothing at all to me and
        they don’t mean much to a lot of people.

        I would defend your
        right to believe the bible is pertinent, but I would also defend the
        rights of others to care less about the bible. That’s one of the great
        freedoms in America, we get to choose.

        Peace,
        Jimmy

        • Ryan Smith

          Jimmy,

          Thank you for your insight and addition to this conversation. My aim in this article is not to make an argument for presuppositional apologetics, but I do take your comment to heart that we should not assume everyone is engaging the process through the same lens.

          I would concur with your first point in large part. The government is in place to protect the people. At times that protection may require definition. However, governments with a blank check to legislate religious institutions or initiatives by God based solely on adopted definitions (however loosely attached to their true meaning) must be held in check as well.

          My argument in the article is not that the government should legislate the biblical definition of marriage. It is to clarify for both sides what the real issue is – not an emotive or equality issue, but a worldview distinction over biblical authority. For instance, I object to being called a homophobe or the assertion that I am promoting “hate speech” by pointing to biblical definitions from the Scripture. It is not my opinion, it is the Bible’s truth claim.

          We come to a divergent point in your next point of emphasis. You are correct in noting that not all Americans share the belief in a deity. You claim that it is arrogant to assume we should all read the bible and make an attempt to live our lives in accordance with it. The first point of divergence is that the claim to authority is not my claim or a cultural claim, but is the Bible’s claim. Your issue then is not with me, but with the Bible itself which claims truth. This leads to our second point of divergence. You claim arrogance to assume biblical authority. Is it not arrogant to claim that the Bible is of a lesser authority than our government, cultural views, or changing vernacular? Both sides offer truth claims. One claims the Bible has authority as the word of God. The other claims the Bible is not the word of God or that said God does not exist. Both of these are truth claims. We are simply on different sides. Simply because “a lot of people” disagree with something doesn’t mean it is false. This is the argument you are making against thousands of years of “a lot of people” who ascribe to the truth claims of the Bible. There are a lot of people on all sides. That doesn’t mean all sides are wrong. This is a basic argument of subjectivity vs. objectivity.

          Certainly you would agree there is a reality. Just because people have differing viewpoints doesn’t mean they can create different realities. Either there is a God or there isn’t. If we stand on different sides of that, one of us is wrong. It sounds unpopular and intolerant, but it is truth at a most basic level. I appreciate the articulation and care you place into your response. Hopefully you find mine seasoned with the same grace. To the point of the article, the debate over gay marriage is simply an example of the plethora of ways this works itself out. The government’s role is not to redefine areas in which the government has no stake to authority of definition. This was given long before the United States and will continue long after. Hopefully I have explained this position well.

  • Parker B

    Nore you, the bible, god, or any religion, have a monopoly on words. If the people of America’s democracy wish to redefine the definition of marriage then they have all the right granted by our constitution to do so. If a religion has a different definition of marriage which conflicts with the Christian definition of marriage then in America it doesn’t matter because the only definition of marriage that matters is the one upheld by the government. And that definition can be changed anytime by the people. This is a secular nation ans therefore the Christian definition of marriage should not be given preference over others.

    • Agree with Parker here. While the Bible may have some definition for the term marriage, the government may choose to change that definition for its own purposes. The ideal that was church and state separation makes it such that government need not stick to the rules and terminology and definitions of any one holy book.

  • Ryan Smith

    The debate over this article is refreshing and I enjoy hearing your thoughts. My aim is to direct the debate over gay marriage to its real source – a debate over biblical authority. I would love to participate in lively discussion with each post. However, I am finding it is likely more profitable for me to let the article speak for itself and not create mini-debates in the comment section, no matter how drawn to them I am. Feel free to have the last word in any discussion I have participated in. Hopefully readers can grab the full breadth of all positions and come to an informed point of view. My additions to the comment section will henceforth be limited at most. Feel free to post your thoughts and views, engaging the article itself. Thanks again.
    – Ryan

    • Caleb S

      Ryan, I would like for you to clarify your position on a couple of things. I think we agree that the Supreme Court has no authority to change the biblical meaning of marriage. However, if private citizens want to engage in a contract that they choose to name a marriage pact, should they be stopped? And if a Minister wants to perform the ceremony, should he be stopped? My opinion is that Christians should not accept the government-endorsed doctrine of marriage, but they should respect the rights of individuals to enter into contracts and call the contracts whatever they please. As with all other sins, the church is called to love the sinner and hate the sin. I don’t want this to sound argumentative; there is nothing in your post that I really quibble with. I’m mainly attempting to grasp at the semantics of your argument.

  • Pdubble

    The main problem with all this is the first paragraph. Whatever the Supreme Court rules, it will have no effects on religion. As that is the case it will send no “shockwaves” through religious communities. Gay reeducation camps will still exist if homosexuals are allowed to marry. The Catholic Church, and many other religious groups, will not perform marriages of homosexuals. This is most evident in the episcopalian church, where they are already performing gay marriages where legally allowed, and were performing other “commitment” ceremonies before that.

    That all being said, the Bible endorses polygamous relationships more than it does monogamy. Seemingly the only monogamist in the Bible is God, who sticks with Mary, and she’s married to someone else! The idea of monogamous coupled relationships actually has more roots in the Roman tradition, which also gives us the idea of divorce being acceptable. Jesus actually spoke out against divorce, he is surprisingly quiet as to the question of who can be married and how many wives they should have. In the Middle East Arabic speaking Christians carry on polygamous relationships where divorce is not allowed just for this reason. I would just ask that any response to this, and I’m sure there will be some, would include an answer to the questions “How many times have you posted, marched, spoken out for traditional marriage?” and “How many times have you posted, marched, spoken out to end the state allowing divorces?” You can just post like this:

    “124:0 I don’t like your post because…”

  • Josh

    I’m going to go ahead and disagree with you, while at the same time not disagree with with your points, save one. Your points are good, but one point you make clouds your judgement and your argument.

    Here is my problem with your argument: It is our job to teach and baptize, as according to scripture. It is our job to plant and water seeds. It is not our job to force people to do things our way or God’s way.

    Remember the Crusades? Remember the Spanish Conquistadors? They used God’s law, changed it to support their own desires. Yet, in all of that, God’s word has not changed. In fact, it helped open our eyes to what scriptures say.

    The US has made many laws or taken away laws that are against the will of God. Yet God’s will still remains.

    Westboro has become the symbol for why Christianity is wrong. Their utter hatred for homosexuals has categorized all Christians as haters. Some, not within that group, still hate those who do not agree with God’s view of man and woman, but God had not changed.

    So, what’s the point that I am making? Here is your statement:
    “…the government has no right to alter the definition of marriage any more than it has the right to redefine baptism.”
    God has always wanted people to choose to follow him. That is free will. We have the right to choose to follow his will or not to. It is not a Christian’s job to take away any right bestowed by God. In effect, that is your claim. By saying the government has no right to alter a definition is to take away their free will and say that everything must be done our way. That is pride. This arrogant idea is that which pushes Christians to tell people that they MUST do it God’s way. Remember what the book of Proverbs says about pride and an arrogant spirit.
    Yes, it is our job to teach and to plant seeds. But that is a completely different story than forcing people to do things our way.
    If Christians feel strongly against gay marriage they are welcomed to protest it. It’s our right and a great right to have. I support that right. However, God does not give us the charge to force people to do it our way. If we choose to do that, that is our God given right to decide. But God didn’t command us to force people to follow his will.

  • All of you are trying to argue with Ryan over something he is not arguing for. His article is not trying to argue for legislation against gay marriage. He is trying to define the term “marriage” from a Christian perspective and why Christians oppose a redefinition. From the article, “My aim is to help Christian readers define what it is we are actually defending.” and “What is being missed in large part on both sides of the debate is the understanding of marriage’s original definition and why some are so stalwart in opposing a re-definition.” Can none of you read? Stop arguing with him about something he is not talking about. The article is about biblical authority and the biblical definition of marriage. If you actually read the article you would know this. If you are going to comment and try to argue with Ryan, please read the article and actually know what it is about before you open your mouth.

  • Chris Foosman

    You haven’t said how you think it would change religion, just that others don’t agree with your religion and that you’ve read parts of the Bible. I am thinking of turning away from Christ based on your stupidity.

    • bgco

      Chris, I’ve edited your post. Please keep keep comments constructive and refrain from personal attacks.

    • disqus_aue6WkVBhH

      How does it change religion? Frankly, it places a great amount of pressure on those who believe in the true authority of God’s word and its originated definition of a “one-flesh” relationship to recognize non-sacred relationships as sacred. Churches, individuals, and even business are attacked for simply taking a different stand. Case in point, Truett Cathy.

      Government favors, such as tax breaks, are an entirely different issue. That’s up to our country, but when pastors are persecuted because they refuse to acknowledge as sacred a relationship which the God of the Bible condemns (Romans 1:24-28), that impedes on one’s freedom of religion. If someone wants to be acknowledged as a life couple and can find an officiate to perform the ceremony, that’s their choice. However, attacking others for sticking to their beliefs is entirely different.

      I apologize for the long reply on my last post; sometimes I do get distracted from my point. I did, however, want to make sure I shared enough evidence that your claims on the Bible were simply not true. You should dig into it more; there are some wonderful jewels, John 3:16 for instance. 🙂

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