The Icons of God in Marriage: Nature and Election

The Christian debates about same-sex marriage are fraught and contentious. And one of the problems, in my estimation, that contributes to the conflict is a false dichotomy that is often at work.

On the one side of the argument is the traditional appeal which privileges nature. That is, the biological and reproductive complementarity between a man and a woman is taken to be theologically and morally normative for Christian marriage--the icon of God.

On the other side of the argument, as I've argued it borrowing insights from Rowan Williams and Eugene Rogers, is the privileging of election. That is, the icon of Christian marriage, the image of God's love as expressed in YHWH's election and marriage of Israel, is how the marital union expresses the grace of election. In this view, election trumps nature, the same way grace trumped nature when God unnaturally "grafted" the Gentiles into the story of Israel. The same way election trumps the kinship bonds of the biological family. The same way grace is described as adoption along with reproduction. Overall, such a view of marriage includes marital covenants that fall outside the "natural" complementarity between a man and a woman.

Now, the point I want to make is that in the debates about marriage the battle is often fought between these competing visions. Is marriage defined by nature or election? Is the icon of God in marriage best captured by nature or election? Traditionalists argue for nature. Progressives argue for election.

But this is a false dichotomy, leading both camps to disparage, diminish and demean the icon of God as expressed in the alternative vision.

I don't think the grace of God as symbolically and sacramentally expressed and mediated in the covenant of marriage can be reduced to either grace or election. Both are involved. But far too often we diminish the icon of God held up by the other party.

Specifically, worrying as they do about heteronormativity, progressives will often seek to ignore, minimize or marginalize the biological complementarity and reproductive aspects of traditional marriage. Worries duly noted, I think this is a mistake. Clearly, God's command "be fruitful and multiply" mediates God's grace in the world, expresses the icon of God. Each one of us exists because of heterosexuality. Even gay couples wanting to have a family are dependent upon the reproductive grace of sex, their own of that of others. And the Christian response to the grace of reproductive sex, it seems to me, is a deep and lasting gratitude. 

And yet, to swing to the other side, traditional Christians often ignore, minimize or marginalize the elective and adoptive aspects of marriage. In this, traditional Christians also err badly, demeaning the icon of God. There are things that nature can never, ever display about the grace and love of God. And the only marriages and families that can demonstrate this grace are those that do not, for a variety of reason, place biology and reproduction at the center. In fact, when biology and nature come to trump grace and election all sorts pernicious and dark theological dynamics are introduced into the Kingdom of God. These are same nature-based dynamics that Jesus's aggressively rejected throughout his ministry.

In short, both nature and election reflect vital, distinctive and complementary aspects of the image of God. Alone neither vision is complete, failing to incorporate critical theological aspects of God's covenantal love and fidelity as revealed and symbolically expressed in the biblical narrative. 

A point here is that if you argue that the natural biological complementarity involved in heterosexual marriage cannot be rejected because it carries--biblically, theologically and sacramentally--the image of God then I'd like to say that I'm in perfect agreement. And the stronger you make that case the more I will agree with you. You cannot make that case strongly enough.

But where I will differ is if one goes further to say that the icon of God in marriage reduces to or is exclusively manifested in heterosexual marriage. I reject that reduction as a false dichotomy that leaves out critical biblical, theological and sacramental material related to how the grace of election expresses the love of God in a way that nature cannot.

In a similar way, I think Christian advocates of same-sex marriage, rightly worried about the oppressions of heteronormativity, are too quick to ignore or explain away how heterosexuality and procreation function as deep biblical symbols and, thus, as conduits of God's revelation of grace.

In sum, I don't think there is a choice here. It's a both/and rather than an either/or.

And all that to say nothing about how singles are icons of God in a way married couples--gay or straight--can never be.

That single person, sitting with her friends in the pews.

That gay couple, always with their kids in cute matching outfits.

That married couple, always running late to services because they have nine children, and she's pregnant with the tenth.

All these, and more.

All these, the Icons of God.

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43 thoughts on “The Icons of God in Marriage: Nature and Election”

  1. It seems to me that you are trying to have your theological cake and eat it. God's command (or blessing) to be fruitful and multiply is addressed to all animals and not restricted to mammalian sexual dimorphism. Plus one must make a choice: either man and wife are complementary and complete each other (though I fail to understand how exactly) or they are an icon of Christ and his church, but I truly cannot see how the church can be said to complete Christ in any orthodox way.

  2. As usual, a unique and fresh perspective attempting to build
    bridges of conversation and understanding between "opposing" camps. I
    am not sure if I ultimately agree or disagree, which isn't exactly the point
    anyway. Yet it does seem that there remains space for interpretation and
    elucidation regarding just exactly how the icon of election fulfills its role
    as an icon of God, and maybe that of marriage for that matter. Because I think
    it could be argued that if election is an icon of God, it could be expressed in
    sacrifice. And that, in a deeper way, sacrifice itself is the thread between
    the dualist icons of marriage and election. It seems that marriage expresses
    sacrifice in its covenant and commitment that manifest the mysterious love of
    God. Would it be that election expresses a sort of freedom in Christ? Is there
    still a thread of sacrifice found in the freedom of election or is it simply a
    totally different icon in kind? If the sacrifice thread is true, in election it
    matters what exactly you are sacrificing. It could be the safety and security
    that comes with heteronormativity, it could be the sexual act itself that is
    manifest in many lives of singles. It simply seems that more work is needed
    here to help to clarify the space left in your proposal. So here's my question,
    what is it about election that makes it an icon of God?

    Also, to clarify, it seems we are in fact talking about the
    covenant and sacrament of marriage. Is it that marriage and election both in
    their own way manifest the covenant and sacrament of marriage? It seems that
    this is where you are going, and if this is true how does a single person, in
    their election manifest the covenant and sacrament of marriage? Perhaps it is
    in their fidelity to their community and place? If this is true, I think it
    brings us back to the thread of sacrifice, or more specifically, the sacrifice
    of commitment in the binding of person to person in marriage, and/or person to
    persons in community, or person to place in stability.

  3. Ultimately marriage is a sexual union. I'm not so sure that anyone would be against a union based on biblical grace, but its rare indeed for a marriage to be based on anything other than a personal desire to be wanted by another. Both physically and emotionally.

  4. Sorry, I don't buy it. The "elective grace" that you associate with homosexual union is not uniquely associated with homosexual union in the way that "reproductive grace" is uniquely associated with the heterosexual union. Heterosexual union in marriage is also pervasively elective (patriarchal history notwithstanding).

    That the grace of God MAY be displayed in the homosexual union is of course plausible, but the elective vs. reproductive framework you posit is hardly dispositive. By contrast, the mysterious grace of human reproduction occupies a privileged place in the heterosexual order. What you make of that fact is another matter.

  5. I like that focus on sacrifice, because I think it brings us to notions about love and kenosis.

    And I think it also applies to reproduction. The quickest way that I know of to reveal your own selfishness is to have or adopt children (or be a foster parent). Family life is a monastic life of sacrifice and radical availability to others.

  6. I hear that. I just feel that the icon of God in marriage does not reduce to (or privilege) animal fecundity, especially how it imports dark Darwinian impulses into the Kingdom of God.

  7. This really is a specious argument. A few points in response:

    First, marriage always entails a break with nature—a man ‘leaves his father and mother’—and has an element of election and adoption—he chooses a wife and brings her into a new kinship bond (‘my sister, my bride’).

    Second, the icon of marriage is broader than just the procreation-centred vision. Incidentally, I posted on this very subject very recently. However, procreation is never excluded from the picture.

    Third, we can recognize icons of the kingdom beyond the male-female bond in marriage—who exactly is denying this? What you don’t seem to have successfully demonstrated is why these other icons should be recognized as marital, which is a rather crucial point for your argument.

    Fourth, if we are truly getting beyond nature, why are genital relations maintained as an intrinsic dimension of this? Surely chaste friendship is the true icon here. Besides, even if genital relations could be a dimension of this committed friendship, why should homosexual relationships be accorded a significance of their own or be placed in a distinct category from non-genital friendships between two persons of the same sex? What intrinsic meaning is there in sexual relations between every same sex couple that automatically puts their relations into a special class?

    Likewise, although adoption can be an icon of the kingdom, there is a difference between adoption understood as an act of charity for the sake of those in need and adoption conceived of as a ‘right’ belonging to those who ‘want a family’ or of the use of artificial insemination by donor or surrogate mothers in order to circumvent and manipulate nature for entitled ends. In the case of sexual relations between persons of the same sex, adoption as right, and artificial means of reproduction, we are instrumentalizing nature against its ends, rather than undertaking any meaningful movement beyond it. What we are dealing with in the case of SSM is less about some gracious ‘excess’ that goes beyond nature than about a denial of or assault upon nature’s own order (which is exactly how Scripture treats relationships between persons of the same sex).

    Fifth, how exactly is it expressive of a ‘deep and lasting gratitude’ towards the grace of reproductive sex to normalize situations where children are separated from at least one of their parents and to instrumentalize that ‘grace’ for the private ends of same sex couples?

    Sadly, all of this smacks of a sophistic attempt to justify something to which Scripture is explicitly opposed.

  8. Lovely entry. Just lovely. Had not heard the theology of election used in this way. And I learned a new word that i love -- "heteronormativity."

  9. The church carries on Christ's work in the world (or is supposed to, anyway). That seems some sort of completion to me.

  10. Dr. Beck: A question on a related topic.

    How important do you think that sexual union is to a marriage covenant? Could you still have a marriage covenant that reflects the image of God if both partners were chaste? And could you still have a marriage covenant that reflects the image of God if both partners were consensually sexually active with others (ie, polyamory?)

    I ask since the topic recently came up in a conversation I had with friends. The core question was "Are Biblical commands against adultery universal and absolute -- in other words, does God forbid sex with someone who is not your spouse, period?

    Or is God concerned with the harm of adultery (betrayal, deception, etc), and it's fine as long as you could sleep with someone else without the harm (through mutual agreement and transparency)?"

    Obviously, most Christians would disagree with the second option. But considering how many clear commands in the Bible many Christians have decided are not moral absolutes (eg, non-violence), and considering how many OT patriarchs had polygamous relationships/concubines without the Biblical narrators batting an eye, it seems as though you could make a strong argument for God being okay with consensual adultery.

    So I was curious about your take. It's a thought exercise for me -- I'm not married, and not particularly attracted to the idea of polyamory even if I was. But I have (non-Christian) polyamorous friends and it seems to work very well for them, so I'm not sure if it's something that I should condemn out of hand.

  11. Not sure I understand you... what does Christ lack that the church brings? I cannot understand the so-called complementarianism in marriage either: what does a single man lack that a woman would give, and conversely? What kind of incompleteness did our Lord and most of the apostles experience?

  12. I mean the church cannot in any meaningful way redeem, save or sanctify anyone apart from Christ, so it does not complete his work in any active way. I can understand how she may be the completion of his work, I guess, but that can't be what you mean.

  13. This question is important, as it exposes something of the self-serving arbitrariness in many Christian SSM-affirming positions. First, the arbitrariness of giving gay couples a special and distinct status from committed friendships on the basis of the sexual component of their relationships, when that sexual component lacks both the unitive and procreative capacity of sexual relations between a man and a woman. Second, the arbitrariness of expecting sexual—rather than just 'emotional'—exclusivity in situations where there is a genital relationship divorced from the objective natural meaning that such acts bear in relations between men and women. Third, the arbitrariness of stopping with the affirmation of gay relations. Why shouldn't loving polyamorous relationships be affirmed too? Surely an 'icon of God' cannot be narrowed to the relationship between just two persons! Surely the threesome, with the third person also being an expression of the love passed between the other two, is a much more apt Trinitarian image...

    Where exactly is the line of principle being drawn here? What makes you think that it will hold? When we cease giving divine revelation the determination of what is and is not an icon of God and start to venture forth in the speculative art of symbol-forming, what criteria remain?

  14. 1. This sort of position (affirm the specialness of male-female sexual relationships because of their connection to procreation, but then say that other kinds of sexual relationships can be good too) is that it slices up the human person. The male or female form of a human body is important, or not. This implicitly separates a person's soul from their body.

    2. Grace redeems nature, but does not abolish it. If you follow Lubac and the Radical Orthodoxy people, nature is already graced, as it were.

    The position advanced here by Dr. Beck can't really avoid collapsing back into a kind of gnosticism.

  15. "Surely the threesome, with the third person also being an expression of the love passed between the other two, is a much more apt Trinitarian image..."

    I think that analogy would work if there actually was a distinctive "third gender" involved in our reproductive cycle, but that's not the case - although surrogates, wet nurses and others might qualify in a sense.

  16. Perfectly stated - This coming from one who married a woman on welfare with 3 teenage children. Though we did see the chidren through, well into their adulthood, our marriage eventually failed after 18 years. My ex and I never had children of our own. Ultimately, something about this seems to be the final expression and definition of our real life "Christian faith". #any icons left over for a divorced man?

  17. I think that the analogy doesn't work. However, the question is for those who affirm same sex marriages. Same sex marriage supposedly doesn't require a 'two-ness' of sex/gender, just a bare alterity of persons. If this can be affirmed, why not the threefold alterity of the threesome too?

  18. I love your chain of thought here! Again, I think the concept of "Covenant" and "Sacrifice" is key to adding even more credibility to Richard's position. I would ague that the idea of "Monogamy" is also of paramount importance here in that it not only expresses the commitment of Christ-like love but also fulfills aspects Kant's Categorical Imperative where we are to - "Treat on one as a means to and end, but as an end in themselves".

  19. One of the things that I'd bring to the issue of discerning all this is that the issue, for me, isn't really about harm. I think that's the way a liberal would look at it, that as long as "no one is harmed" then sexual choice shouldn't be censored. But, as I see it, much more than harm is at work here.

    Specifically, the marital covenant is a monastic space where eros becomes trained and directed toward agape. Kenosis, self-sacrifice, service, and cruficformity go well past the concern about harm. And critical to all this is binding it all up in covenant fidelity throughout the lifespan. (Otherwise we'd bail when we find the discipline of marriage hard going or our erotic affections drifting toward others.)

    All that to say, when you sent all this out, the theological and pragmatic dynamic point me to a covenantal dyad.

    Regarding the couple being celibate, I've not thought much about that. But it seems that there are resources in the monastic tradition that might be of use.

  20. I don't believe "the natural biological complementarity...carries--biblically, theologically and sacramentally--the image of God." In EO, the genderedness of humanity, especially in the worship setting, is an icon of the union of the unseen/non-material/divine with the seen/material/human aspects of reality, and points to the Incarnation of Christ. That's why St Paul can say that marriage points to the union of Christ and the Church.

    There can only be union if the two being united are both alike in the sense that there is something held in common on which to base a union, and different in the sense of real difference with complementarity (however defined, certainly not in any way devaluing either person). The first would correspond to Christ's humanity and our humanity (and in marriage the humanity of each partner); the second would correspond to Christ's divinity and our humanity (and in marriage the difference in gender of each partner).

    So I do not see this as being about people, married or single, simply being icons of God. Of course all persons have worth because all humans are icons of God, but that's not the issue.

    You wrote: "Specifically, the marital covenant is a monastic space where eros becomes trained and directed toward agape. Kenosis, self-sacrifice, service, and cruficformity go well past the concern about harm. And critical to all this is binding it all up in covenant fidelity throughout the lifespan. (Otherwise we'd bail when we find the discipline of marriage hard going or our erotic affections drifting toward others.)"

    The marital relationship as a monastic space is really crucial, I believe, and you expressed it well except for one thing. I've come to see the notion of covenant as engendering fidelity as a legalistic notion - rather than God simply being faithful in his relationship toward humans - that did not carry over into the understanding of the early Church. The concept is nowhere to be found in the Apostolic Fathers or the Cappadocians. It is not a covenant that supports fidelity; it is love. It is self-sacrificial love that enables anyone to keep whatever promises they have made. Even the Jewish Ketubah does not exist to engender love within each person, but rather to give the woman a measure of protection. I think the thing I love most about the Orthodox wedding service is that there are no vows; the bride and groom don't say anything except "Lord, have mercy," "Amen," and the Our Father - just like all the other Christians who are present. We really do believe that love will keep the couple together, God's love imparted directly to each, and filling their own love toward one another.

    There are many examples of Orthodox saints who were married and chose to "live as brother and sister," sometimes from the beginning of the marriage and sometimes at a point later on, whether they had had children or not. It has to be agreed to by both people, with input from their spiritual advisor/confessor. Very often they would simply agree to part and to go to separate monasteries.

    I am for full civil rights for any 2 people who wan to be in a civil union. For Christians, I believe Jesus taught that both marriage (as commonly understood as between a man and a woman) and celibacy are good, and are ways people can express deep kenotic, self-sacrificial, and cruciform love. We just in general do not really understand or value that type of love as the basis of all relationships. If there is no real love, genital sex is superfluous and arguably harmful. Celibacy is certainly difficult, but also as certainly not impossible. Neither one is ultimately the point.


  21. The question is also for those who affirm a "Biblical worldview." Why not polygamy, which is found throughout Scripture?

  22. Of course gay sex is "unitive." This "tab-A-into-slot-B" literalism is really astonishing.

  23. This is absurd - and definitely the first time I've ever heard anybody refer to homosexuality as a "collapse into gnosticism."

  24. Hi Alastair. To your numbered points...

    To your first point: I agree that
    "marriage" as a act of election is "a break from nature." The act of
    selecting a spouse is an act of grace and something
    that transcends nature. And yet, that recognition is often elided in these discussion (not by you, but by others). For many traditional Christians, the ability to reproduce is taken to be the sole criterion for what it mans to be "married." But as you note, there are elective aspects in play as well. My effort in this post is to 1) draw attention to that very distinction and 2) suggest that the clearest mediators of this truth are non-reproductive couples.

    To your second point: "[P]rocreation is never excluded from the picture." I don't believe I said procreation was excluded. I said that marriage can never be reduced to procreation. It might be non-present in some marriages (e.g., sterile couples), but I think that's different from exclusion.

    To your third point: That's a legitimate observation. I'm
    not suggesting that you and I will reach an agreement on if these "icons should
    be recognized as marital." I don't think we will. But this post isn't about defending gay marriage. This post has a narrower, more logical aim. It's simply rejecting the false dichotomy that if one endorses gay marriage via an appeal to election that one is, necessarily, rejecting all the biblical and biological material related to human procreation and complementarity. All I'm saying is that in arguing for one I'm not arguing against the other. To be sure, that's a narrow point and it doesn't go to the issue regarding if gay marriage has biblical support. But the post wasn't about that. Why not? Because I don't expect agreement on that point. All I did in this post was to articulate my own position in clarifying how I reject a certain dichotomy that is often forced upon me in these debates.

    In short, this isn't a post trying to change anyone's mind. It's simply a logical clarification.

    To your fourth point: I see the issue as being less about genital relations than about eros and desire. So when you ask the question--"What intrinsic meaning is there in sexual relations between every same
    sex couple that automatically puts their relations into a special class?"--my answer goes to how marriage is a monastic discipline that directs eros toward agape. All sexual creatures will struggle with eros and marriage is one of the monastic disciplines available to Christians who pursue the divinization of sexual desire. I think this discipline is available to eros as it is incarnated in either gay and straight persons.

    To your fifth point: I'm not sure what you are trying to say. For example, I'm struggling to see what is problematic, say, when a gay couple adopts orphans and how they would express gratitude for the biological processes that brought these children in their lives.

    Thanks, as always, for your feedback. I thought you might comment on this post! I appreciate the way you handle these discussions.

    Be blessed my brother.

  25. Except, of course, that gay relationships are not solely about "genital relations."

    It's fascinating - and highly amusing, in fact - that one person here is arguing that gay relationships are defined by "genital relations" - while another person is arguing that pro-gay arguments "separate people from their bodies."

    I think this is a pointer to the fact that people on the "anti-" side really don't have any idea at all what they're talking about.....

  26. (Agter Richard) Hi Alistair,

    (1) Your first argument, apart from being unbearably patriarchal, is puzzling: leaving father and mother to marry is a break with parents, not with nature (hence marriage, traditionally in Protestant thought, is an “order of creation”). Besides, how do the parents whom spouses leave to marry get to be parents – if not by marriage!

    (2) Neither Jesus nor Paul associates marriage with procreation. Nor is marriage ever denied to couples who are infertile; and, at least in the C of E and the Free Churches, neither is it denied to couples who choose to be childless. Procreation, blessing though it is, is certainly – empirically – excluded from these pictures; it is clearly not a necessary condition of marriage.

    (3) Same-sex unions may/should be recognised as marriages because this icon derives precisely from the marital imagery of the divine election of grace, which involves two – and only two – parties. And while Israel/Church, as brides, are metaphorically gendered as female, they are (obviously) not literally composed only of women, while (conversely) historically men have been their leaders. In the discourse of election, gendered language does not require gendered representation (Eugene Rogers).

    (4) I do not see why genital relations are necessarily intrinsic to marriage, i.e., why there may not be celibate marriages (celibacy understood as a charism). Indeed, there clearly have been (see Dana’s comment) and no doubt continue to be celibate marriages. On the other hand, why should genital relations in their unitive dimension not apply to same-sex couples as they do to heterosexual couples? Empirically (again), it clearly does (as blsDisqus impatiently – quite rightly! – observes).

    (5) Why should the raising of children by same-sex couples be considered an intrinsically instrumentalised action for private ends? Why not a compassionate, indeed a sacrificial action, and for communal ends, even the common good? Conversely, are there not heterosexual couples that have children for selfish purposes?

    Two further points. First, the fallacy of the argument from “complementarity” based on sexual difference has been seriously (if not fatally) exposed and undermined by Andrew Davison, in an article in the Church Times (4/4/14). Empirically (yet again – Wittgenstein: “Don’t think, look!”), it is clearly not the case that sexual difference by itself establishes the complementarity of two people (that is, real people, not philosophical abstractions); complementarity is a much more nuanced and complex phenomenon than mere biological differentiation. In fact, etymologically (as Davison observes), complementarity has to do not with difference or similarity but with completion or fulfilment – which points us to “Christ and his relationship with the Church” and to “participation in the life and love of the Trinity”.

    Finally, – Hi Thursday201 – Lubac and Milbank and friends may follow Aquinas’ “grace does not destroy nature but perfects nature”, but there is a Reformed position that grace redeems nature only as it first disrupts nature – including the disruption of the male/female dyad. To wit, observe how, in Galatians 3:28 (NRSV), the conjunction changes from “no longer Jew or Greek “, “no longer slave or free”, to “no longer male and female”, clearly a reference to, and subversion of, the “male and female” of Genesis 1:27 – “for all of you are one in Christ Jesus”.

  27. There are several senses in which gay sex cannot be unitive in the way that sex between a man and woman can be. Here are just three:

    First, male and female bodies constitute two parts of a single biological system. Procreation is the one bodily function of this kind. If procreation were like breathing, one person has suggested that it would be as if men had the diaphragm and women the lungs and they had to come together to take a breath. By virtue of the role of our bodies in procreation, a male and a female body can be united in a way that no other two bodies can. No same sex couple can be united in this objective way. This unity between men and women also unites men and women with their bodies. In such relations, men and women aren’t merely using or instrumentalizing their bodies for pleasure and an intense ‘sense’ of connection (as one might derive pleasure using one’s body against its natural function in snorting cocaine), but are realizing the natural purpose of their bodies in a personal way, uniting body and person. Even when such relations are not procreative, this doesn’t change the fact that male and female are ordered towards each other.

    Second, male and female are the two halves of the human race, the two kinds of human being. Marriage brings them together as one flesh and upholds the importance of enduring loving and cooperative bonds between the sexes in society. Same sex relations neither represent this greater anthropological union in microcosm, nor ensure its reality in society.

    Third, male and female are united in their offspring. The child is a very visible manifestation of the one flesh union between its parents, a union of their genetic material. But there is much more here as we look deeper. The child is begotten in marital relations between its parents, in a private and loving relation between them, a relation that precedes economics, politics, law, technology, and all other forms of human ‘making’. The child is existentially rooted in a deeply personalizing loving bond between two persons, not in an impersonal process or merely contractual arrangement. This gives the child a particular dignity and personal recognition that is often not afforded to those who are conceived in different circumstances. Looked at from another direction, the relationship between a couple and their family is not a secondary decision added onto the prior sexual relation between the couple, but is something that organically grows out of it and serves as a natural extension of it.

    The union between the husband and wife gives unity of origin to the family that develops from it, something that contrasts with families of same sex couples, whose children will necessarily have origins beyond the union and never be able to express the same degree of oneness as a result. The relationship between male and female in their offspring goes further when we examine the details. A woman bears a child that belongs to her husband inside of her, bearing the union within her in a powerful way. Likewise, a man is related to his child through the bodily mediation of a woman. All of this merely strengthens the bond between the unitive and the procreative purposes of marriage.

    Same sex relations are a pale shadow of this unity.

  28. Sorry - that should be "(After Richard) Hi Alastair"- sorry I misspelled your name!

  29. Polygamy is still founded upon marriage between one man and one woman. It isn't the same thing as a group marriage, but one man entering into a number of marriages. And, in certain contexts, such as those with very high male mortality and a family-dependent social infrastructure, polygamy can be a reasonable concession to the necessity of bearing offspring, social security, etc. It is clearly not the biblical ideal.

  30. Indeed, gay relations are not solely about 'genital relations'. However, this dimension is essential to their claim to marital status, as something distinct from a form of non-marital friendship.

    Pro-gay arguments do drive a wedge between people and their bodies. This isn't because same sex relations don't involve an experience that can be both intensely bodily and personal—obviously they do. However, they involve a reduction of the body to mere instrumentalization in sexual relations, using the body without regard to its natural purpose. While the body may be the site of the experience, it is dishonoured in the process.

  31. It is important to recognize that the full gift of the self is only possible in the case of complementarity. I can fully give myself to a woman, because she is the sort of being who can receive the full potential of my male being. And vice versa. She can bear my child and I can father hers. No man can give himself in such a manner to another man. He may perform pleasurable sexual actions with the other man, but he cannot truly give himself entire. Another man just isn't able to receive his gift of self.

  32. No worries! I get that all of the time. Comes of having a name with over thirty official spellings and many of them rattling around in theological and Christian circles. :-)

  33. Thanks for the detailed response, Kim.

    I have tangentially and sometimes very directly addressed a number of your points in my various other responses here. However, as I said in my response to Richard, I needed to drop out of the discussion and had determined to do so when I had finished responding to the comments already posted in response to me. While I have rather a lot that I would want to say in response, I hope that you will forgive my failure to engage with your thoughtful comment at this point. Blessings.

  34. And here are just three heterosexual exceptions to your "rules": older couples, infertile couples, and couples who can't have children together for other reasons. You continue to beat this tired, nonsensical horse in order to "win" some sort of sad little argument - meanwhile disregarding or disenfranchising all kinds of other human beings.

    Thank God the world isn't as you describe it - a poor, pale shadow of the reality of God's world.

  35. OK - show of hands: how many here agree that "polygamy is founded upon marriage between one man and one woman"? (Wondrous that words and ideas can be made so elastic! You'll have to give us pointers sometime.)

    While you're at it, please quote us some Scripture that demonstrates that polygamy is "clearly not the biblical ideal."

  36. Um, no: same-sex relations do not "involve a reduction of the body to mere instrumentalization in sexual relations," per se. That's your invented idea, which you have clearly not checked against the facts.

    You are so ignorant about this topic that it's hardly worth talking about it with you. And you seem completely uninterested in learning anything about it; you simply repeat your own utterly faulty opinions.

    But perhaps you're mainly interested in impressing people who are as ignorant about all this as you are. If you'd actually like to know something about it at some point, I'll be happy to help; just ask.

  37. It's true, of course, that "no man can give himself in such a manner to another man." There are other manners of life, however.

    The fact is, that having children is just one of the things that human beings do together. And not all people do it, either; do you at all care about the infertile, or the elderly? Do you give a damn about people who can't have children for one reason or another - or those who never marry at all? You've been arguing that life outside of procreation is hardly worth living - and I'm afraid that ignores the reality of thousands if not millions of people.

    I'm very glad, I must say again, that the church is not really like this at heart; that this argument is a cruel modern one concocted primarily to argue against homosexuality. (And the whole "male being" thing? I mean, come on, really....)

    God's world is just a lot bigger and better than yours is, thank goodness.

  38. Are you aware of Firefighter Jim Sparks who gave one of his own kidneys to his fellow firefighter and friend John Hall to save his life in 2009? Through an incredible act of generosity and self-sacrificial love, his friend now [shares] his body part. I don't know if they are Gay, but that would be beside the point. This is an abstraction of what your saying but if that's not "giving" [with a serious risk that costs you] then I don't know what is!

  39. "The portion in Revelation 19:7-10 describing the marriage scene in which the Bridegroom makes His Bride His wife, is worthy of full consideration. A woman, of course, only becomes a wife on the completion of her marriage to the man to whom she has been engaged or espoused. In this age of Grace, the church is the affianced Bride of Christ. At the marriage of the Lamb, she becomes His wedded wife (Ephesians 5:22, 23; 2 Corinthians 11:2).

    The joy over such a blessed union will be mutual. It will be Christ’s highest occasion of joy when His redeemed church, complete, is by His side forever in the new heavens and new earth. Then the completion of this union will also be the source of rejoicing and unending joy."

    The beauty of this picture is that the "Bride" includes all Born Again Believers in our Lord - Young, Old, Male, Female, Gay, Straight, Transgender, etc...

  40. A slight divergence away from the theological arguments: As gay person myself, allow me to share with you the fact that the great majority of the people I know, Christian and non-Christian, do not support same-sex marriage because they have convinced themselves by way of apologetic hoop-jumping that it can be supported by their religion. Rather, they support it because doing otherwise cannot be reasonably justified by the civil laws which are the foundations of our society.

    I do understand that the debate here is whether Christians can theologically justify their own opinions on the matter, so my point is not likely to have much impact with either faction.

    I haven't considered myself a Christian for nearly two decades. However, I visit this blog every few days and very much enjoy it-- I even recommend certain posts to my Christian friends and family members. Thank you very much, Richard, for sharing your thoughts.

  41. Marriage is an "OFFICE" Particular Only to opposite sexes weather or not they can or will bear children. That is the order ordained by God and written in stone and wants that become "needs" do nothing to change that. Let us Never usurp the role of God by redefining God's Laws to conform to our wants or to accommodate our egos for Truth does not change at all and in the end we have to answer to God Alone not any creature
    Thats not to say that gays can't love. Gays must look elsewhere for anything like a marriage and with Trust in God rather than imposing themselves

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