Summit Lecture Series: What Is Marriage?

Summit Lecture Series: What Is Marriage? September 6, 2021

What Is Marriage?

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John Stonestreet:

Now let me give you the conclusion then, a conclusion that we get from G.K. Chesterton that’ll help us understand this issue that we’re going to talk about now, which is same-sex marriage. The reason we do this in this order is because the only way to really understand the challenge and the issue fully of same-sex marriage is by answering the question, what is marriage? And this is precisely what Chesterton said. He was talking here, by the way, about divorce, and what he said is the triangle of truisms, father, mother, and child, can not be destroyed, it can only destroy those civilizations, which disregard it. That’s what the research shows over and over and over again, that mother, father, child are very important.

When President Obama stood up during his first term and said that every child deserves a dad, he was partially right, every child does deserve a dad. But what the research tells us is not that every child needs a dad, it tells us that every child needs a dad who’s married to his mom. Not just the dad, but our dad who’s a husband. Does that make sense? In other words, that marriage relationship is the context in which fatherhood and motherhood actually makes sense. Now, what we mean then is, this is the longstanding understanding of marriage, it’s what we call the traditional view, or it’s what we call the natural view, and a very important book that you need to pick up, it’s a book called What is Marriage?, and we got it in the bookstore, What is Marriage? written by a guy named Robert George and Ryan Anderson, and there’s a third author named Girgis, Sherif Girgis. But What Is Marriage? What they do is they call this view of marriage the conjugal view.hat is Marriage? - Book

Now that’s a clunky term, but what they mean by this is the traditional conjugal view of marriage is distinguished by these three things that always go together, ready? Marriage, sex, and babies throughout the year, the history of the world these three things have gone together, marriage, sex, and babies. The reason they go together is because sex makes babies, and newsflash, sex makes babies, and throughout most of recorded history there weren’t reliable forms of birth control, and so the risk of having sex was to have a baby. And if you had a baby with someone, you were expected to take care of that baby, and the best way to take care of that baby is to what? Marry.

So marriage sex and babies go together. That’s the traditional conjugal view. And the traditional conjugal view, by the way, is distinguished by this oneness. This definition, this understanding distinguishes marriage because of its oneness, because it actually brings husband and wife, man and woman together in a oneness in every possible way, and that actually has what we might call the potential for procreation, or the potential for making babies. Now this has always been held together, only in the 20th century, and it didn’t start with same-sex marriage, only in the 20th century did we start divorcing marriage from babies, or sex from babies, or marriage from sex, these are all pretty recent innovations in Western history.

Now this is the natural conjugal view of marriage. If this is true, then marriage has to involve a couple things. Number one, it has to involve male and female, it has to have a gender diversity, because if it doesn’t have a gender diversity, it doesn’t have the potential for babies. Does that make sense? The government is not interested and just regulating people’s strongly held feelings for each other, the government is interested in that stuff which makes babies. The reason that this view of marriage is best for society is because of these three realities, here’s the three realities, number one, sex makes babies. Number two, society needs babies, because if society doesn’t have babies, society what? Dies. Number three, number one, sex makes babies, number two, society needs babies, and number three, babies do better with a mom and a what? Dad.

Here it is ready, here’s why marriage matters in this view. Whenever a baby is born, usually there’s a mom nearby. Most of the time. No, all the time, right? Why is marriage important? Because by promoting and protecting and endorsing marriage, society makes sure that when that baby is born, not only is there a mom nearby, there’s also a, what? Do you get the point? That’s why marriage matters.

There are a lot of couples that have really strong feelings for each other that we don’t consider to be married. Think for example of two elderly sisters, one is a widow, where she got married early in her life and then her husband died early and so she moved in with her sister, and for the last 30 years they’ve lived together, they share a bank account, they share a mortgage payment, they go to church every Sunday, they eat together, they work together in their garden, and they haven’t missed an episode of Jeopardy in 25 years. They love each other. They love each other. Are they married? No, no one would say they’re married, because their strongly held feelings for each other do not make a marriage, because marriage requires that idea of male and female. Does that make sense?

Now what’s happened as we talk about same-sex marriage is that we find ourselves as Christians in a really awkward place, in a society in which it used to be okay to not believe in same-sex marriage. President Obama at one point did not endorse same-sex marriage while he was president, it was only late in his first term. People forget this, in 2008 President Obama held a position that right now got Brendan Eich fired as the CEO of Mozilla Firefox. It got a baker down in Denver fined and sent to sensitivity training. It had a photographer in New Mexico fined and run out of business, and it’ll get you in a whole heap of a lot of trouble.

So we’re entering a culture now, it seems like a tsunami, a culture in which it seems to be so unbelievably dramatic, unbelievably hard to take a stand on this. And I know for some of us, and I feel this as well sometimes too, that I feel as a Christian I’ve got two principles of Christianity conflicting on this issue. The one principle is what I see in the scripture, what the church has historically always taught about marriage, and I see that as something that should be important to me, and the other thing is this thing that Jesus says called love my neighbor. Do you guys feel like those two things are clashing on this issue? Yeah.

And that’s the thing, we’re in a culture where to deny someone this freedom, “freedom,” is tantamount to not loving them. But what you need to understand is, is that ideas not only have consequences, ideas have context, and the context of same-sex marriage, having the tsunami of success that it has had in American society, is what’s going on is that this definition of marriage has been replaced with a different definition of marriage. The authors of What Is Marriage? call it the revisionist view. The conjugal view, the traditional view is distinguished by its oneness. The revisionist view of marriage is distinguished by its intensity. In other words, strong, intense feelings are all it takes to get married.

Because what we say, what we hear is, is wait a minute, wait a minute, they love each other, they authentically love each other. This lesbian couple, this gay couple, they really, really love each other, why can’t they get married? Why can’t we just expand the definition of marriage to include them? And what you need to understand is, is by expanding the definition to include same-sex couples, you’re not expanding marriage, you’re actually substituting this definition for a new one. It’s no longer about oneness, it’s no longer about babies, it’s no longer about the future of society. The gay relationship, I’m not even talking about the rightness or wrongness of homosexual sex, that’s another conversation, but I’m just talking about marriage right now and here’s what I’m going to say, it is obvious on every level that the man-woman relationship and the homosexual relationship are not the same.

Think about it this way, if every single person in society lived in a committed, loving, heterosexual relationship, would society be better off because of it? Yes, we know that children would be better off, and we know that society would go on, because if everyone lived in a loving, committed, heterosexual relationship, there would likely be what? Little kiddos. Now let’s say that everyone lived in a loving, committed, homosexual relationship. I’m not talking about promiscuous, I mean even loving and committed, sincere feelings, and that sort of thing. Would society be better or worse in the long run? Why would it be worse? Because it would cease to-


Do you see the issue? All we’re saying is these aren’t the same relationships, they’re just not. The guy who argued this, it’s really interesting, Rick Warren did this on national TV, only Rick Warren could say something like this on national TV, but I think it’s really important to get. Rick Warren said, “If you march a naked man and woman up in front of us right now and you look at them, just observe them, it’s pretty obvious how the parts all fit together, and if the parts fit together they’re likely to maybe to be a baby. If you march up in front two naked men or two naked women, it’s just obviously not the same thing.”

Now here’s the point, throughout history there have been cultures that have tolerated, even celebrated, homoerotic or homosexual behavior, but they still did not say that these relationships were the same as a heterosexual relationship. Why? Because observably, just patently obviously, they’re not the same, are they? To say that these relationships are the same as these relationships is to say that physical skin, biology, real biology reality, is irrelevant, and the only thing that is relevant in this conversation is an intensity of what? Feelings.

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