While it might be politic to cite the opinion of someone whose idea of things is, at least superficially, similar to our own, that doesn’t negate the requirement to examine that opinion with an eye toward the presuppositional commitments of the one expressing it. When we, as Reformed believers, committed to Sola Scriptura, look at a subject like the current push for “gay marriage” – what sort of things are we taking for granted when we take that look? I refer, of course, to the columnist Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, who recently wrote an article entitled “Why so many Christians won’t back down on gay marriage.” I have seen this link all over Twitter and Facebook recently. What I haven’t seen attached to the references to this article, in most cases, is the information that Mr. Gobry is a Roman Catholic. As soon as the previous line is read, there will be a sizable group that instantly reads the rest of this article as “Anti-Catholic bigot Joshua Whipps addresses…” I know that. For those readers who are tempted to think just that, ask yourself something – something important. If this is true, as you are tempted to think – then is not equally true that both myself and Mr. Gobry should, by this way of thinking, be accurately described as “Anti-Gay bigots Whipps and Gobry”? In other words, defining people by who they are against, especially in prejudicial and inflammatory terms, is incredibly damaging to the thinking process – and your own argument(s). As we have discussed before, many times on this site, if retortion applies immediately to your statement, it is not an argument – it is an assertion. For instance, if we listened to the crew at Catholic Answers for any amount of time, and applied the same standard to their statements concerning Protestantism as is typically applied to those whom the “anti-Catholic” label is applied, we would be forced to call them all “anti-Protestants” – right? So, moving on.
The first clue, to my mind, that Mr. Gobry’s article is something I would be hesitant to endorse is that while there is a use of the term “exegete” – it is a fairly negative one. Leaving aside the fact that “medieval exegete” is, generally, a non sequitur, conjoin this to the fact that the only references to “The Bible” are from a particular hypothetical objection he addresses. It isn’t mentioned again, nor do words like Scripture appear in his article. Instead, vague generalities like “the faith” are used, instead – or “Christianity,” and used in such a way as to emphasize that there are various “streams” of such. Essentially, he has given an exceptionally vague depiction of the very thing he claims to be explaining, is it not? With such a nebulous depiction, he can hardly be said to have succeeded in explaining why, in reality, Christians won’t back down. Now, the reasons he gave may be said to be true insofar as his own convictions. I don’t think this is true, however. Why? Well, he wrote a followup, which can be found here – where he addresses various objections made to his initial post. In this post, written to a generally religious audience on Patheos, and to his primarily Romanist readers there, he specifically mentions “the Church”, and various dogmatic reasons he has for saying what he said on The Week. When he does so there, there is once again a notable absence, of, well, Scriptural anything. He offers a few generalities on the topic of revelation, but little more. As he says in this second piece;
My view was not to advocate for a particular position, but rather to argue for pacifying by seeking to explain why most Christians wouldn’t give up on it.
I guess my question at this point is this; if you aren’t going to advocate, and you don’t actually explain anything – why did you even bother? It neither pacified anyone nor explained a thing. As I’m sure you figured out, my plan was to offer an alternative. Instead of offering vague generalities and assertions, why don’t we just lay out why, precisely, Christians – and by Christians, since this is a Reformed outlet, I mean those who hold to what Scripture alone teaches – won’t back down on the non-Christian redefinition of what marriage is.
First, and foremost, because Scripture teaches precisely what marriage is, and what it means. Let’s be honest. The current meme is that there are only 6 references to homosexuality, and the remainder of the meme is about telling people why those verses don’t say what we think they say. The arguments that they use are utterly specious – and so, of course, is their conclusion. What this meme overlooks (and I believe intentionally, at least on the part of those who are the driving force behind it) is that the Scripture speaks a great deal about 1) what marriage is and 2) what marriage means and 3) what human sexuality should be. The instances where an aberration is mentioned from the norm are important – but equally important are the definitions of the norm.
Second, because marriage is a God-ordained institution that was meant, from the inception, to picture the Church’s relationship to Christ. Contrary to Mr. Gobry’s claim, it is not a picture of Trinitarianism, but of Christ’s humility, redemptive work, and triumphant union with His bride. What marriage is, is central throughout the Scriptures – because the Scriptures say it is. Look at Gen 2:24 – man, wife – joined in one flesh – a union. This is cited by Christ in Matthew 19 – with the additional comment – what God has joined together, let no man separate. Note first, that it is meant to be permanent. Not only are the circumstances for divorce tightly prescribed, but the violation of those prescriptions is very frankly called “adultery.” Let no man separate them. Second, it is meant to be covenantal. It is not merely that you pledge before God – but that God is who joins the two of you together. Third, it is meant to be a union. Those who are married are no longer two individuals, but one. Fourth, it is meant to be complementary. See Eph 5:22-33. There is a mutual self-giving in the relationship – and there is a complementary role to be played by each half of the marriage union. We, as male and female, are meant to complement each other, and to unite in this mutual completion. Fifth, it is exclusive. Nobody else is in this union save the man and his wife. Nobody else is to intrude upon it, nor are we to depart from it for another.
Look, we’re Reformed. Look at some of the names of the elements of marriage pictured. Covenantal, Union. The Federal theology we hold to is directly paralleled with with marriage, in Ephesians 5. Our union with Christ is pictured in the union of husband and wife. We are called the “body of Christ” – why? Because we are joined in Union with Him. Each and every aspect of salvation is pictured in the marriage bond – and that, in specific, is what is under fire.
Our identity as Christians, and as humans is what is at issue. What is being proposed – and is fast becoming what is being mandated – is a redefinition. As beings created in the image of God, male and female, and united to Christ, we simply cannot back down from this issue because to do so necessitates that we abandon the fundamental doctrines of Scripture, wholesale. The meaning of what it is to be the church, what salvation means, and what it means to be human are all things which this redefinition of marriage will likewise redefine. It is not enough to say, as Mr. Gobry does, that we have things we have believed for a very long time, and we are quite attached to them. It is necessary to say, precisely, what we believe, and why. This isn’t an exhaustive look, and wasn’t intended to be. It was intended to advocate, and it most definitely is intended to explain. I pray it has done both. There are a rather large variety of works you can reference further on this subject – and there always will be.
For more information from this site:Homosexuality
- Fred is Dead: A Christian Response to the Followers of Fred Phelps, Founder of “Westboro Baptist Church”
- Peripatetic 23 – Love is Love and God Isn’t Mad At You?
- Peripatetic 25 – Ignorant Objections, Bigotry and Duck Dynasty
- 1 Peter 1:14 and the Continuing Sexual Revolution
- Peripatetic 29 – Theological Inclusivism
- Link to Open Letter to Dan Haseltine of Jars of Clay
- Love is Love and Other Tautologies
- Standing our Ground: But Not Because of Tradition
- Christian Homosexuals