A Gay-Affirming Christian, Part 2: The Biblical Case for Marriage

A Gay-Affirming Christian, Part 2: The Biblical Case for Marriage June 29, 2016
A Gay-Affirming Christian, Part 2: The Biblical Case for Marriage

This is the second post in a series arguing for the legitimacy of LGBTQ relationships from a Christian perspective. The previous post lays the foundation for having this conversation. If you have not read it yet, please do so before reading this one.

In the second chapter of Genesis, God observes the first problem in his creation, “It is not good for the man to be alone;” and he provides a solution, “I shall make a partner suited to him” (Genesis 2:18, REB).

The blessings of such a union are extolled throughout the scriptures. For example, a well-known proverb advises, “To find a wife is to find happiness, a favor granted by the LORD” (Proverbs 18:22, NABRE). And the whole Song of Songs is devoted to romantic love.

I want to be careful not to devalue singleness for those who are not seeking a relationship. Being single can be a wonderful gift of a different sort. But it’s not for everyone. Most of us are hardwired to crave companionship with a partner.

In fact, right after Paul praises the gift of singleness, he says that “if they do not have self-control, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with desire” (1 Corinthians 7:9, HCSB).

So while some may choose a life of singleness, everyone should be allowed to pursue marriage if that is what they desire. We have no right to force celibacy on any who do not want it.

But what exactly defines a marriage? Does a same-sex union qualify?

We hear a lot these days about a concept known as a “biblical marriage.” Is this the model we should be following?

According to the Bible, the formula for marriage is one man plus one wife… or at least that’s one option (Genesis 2:24–25).

But then again, it could also be one man plus one wife plus a slave (Genesis 16). Or one man plus two wives plus two slaves (Genesis 29–30). Or, in a more extreme case, one man plus seven hundred wives plus three hundred slaves (1 Kings 11:3)!

And take note of the fact that the man in this last example is the same guy whose marital advice fills Proverbs and the Song of Songs (at least according to traditional authorship claims).

Lest we be tempted to think that the Old Testament simply records examples of such marriages without endorsing them, let’s not forget that in certain situations, taking multiples wives was a biblical command (Deuteronomy 25:5).

Additionally, one law specifies, “If a man takes a second wife, he must continue to give his first wife the same amount of food and clothing and the same rights that she had before” (Exodus 21:10, GNB). Well, at least she won’t starve.

Those last instructions were given in the context of explaining how to sell your daughter as a slave (Exodus 21:7–9)—because women were considered the property of either their father or their husband. Speaking of slaves, it’s also well within the biblical view of marriage to take foreign women captive and force them to become your wives (Deuteronomy 21:10–14).

What are we to make of all this? Do you still think a “biblical marriage” is the way to go? I’d suggest the following points, based on what we’ve looked at so far:

  1. Marriage is God’s solution to being alone. Everyone is entitled to pursue such a relationship.
  2. Marriages come in all shapes and sizes. The Bible prescribes no single model as the ideal.
  3. Many of the Bible’s allowances regarding marriage are abhorrent. They must be rejected.
  4. We cannot give equal weight to every passage of the Bible to determine what a Christian marriage should look like.

Where does that leave us? Do we Christians have any standards we must follow within the realm of marriage?

Yes! The Christian marriage (as with every area of life) falls under the domain of Jesus’ law of love. And it is to this law of love that we will turn in the next post.

Posts in the Gay-Affirming Christian series:

  1. Entering the Conversation
  2. The Biblical Case for Marriage
  3. It All Comes Down to Love
  4. Confronting the Clobber Passages

See also, “It’s Time to Speak Out as a Gay-Affirming Christian.”

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  • Another good article. We tend to forget all the different marriages mentioned in the bible. You did a good job of reminding us that biblical marriage is not always one man, one woman. There may be a lot of misinterpretation and missed meanings in our world today from what was meant back when the bible was being written by men. The way of love…love God, love one another, is definitely the way of Christ for today. We each need to follow him and live in love, fellowship and companionship as he leads.

  • I’m not sure if delineating Adam & Eve’s sexual preference on individualistic terms really respects the archetypal narrative of Genesis 1-2? For example, the whole discussion of Gen 2:18-24 concludes with a summary moral statement which points beyond itself and sets a precedent:

    “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.”-Gen 2:24.

    Certainly interpreting individualistically & not archetypal fails to explain both Jesus & Paul’s interpretations (Mt 19, Rm 1) of the Creation narrative(s), where the complementarity of male and female is cited theologically as God’s representative creative order. Suggesting that the Creation account is “just one option” fails to present a cohesive doctrine of Creation, and mistakenly sides with an Epicurean view of the created order.

    But what about the commands of polygamy found elsewhere in Scripture? I would suggest that Genesis 1-2 are the foundation of the ideal, whereas post Gen 3, we see the un-ordering of the ideal, and hence the law given to curb the chaos of un-creation.

    • I hear what you’re saying, but that still skirts around the reality that one man and one woman makes for an unsuitable partnership in many cases. So we have ask what that means for such people? Do we forbid them marriage with one who would be a suitable partner? I don’t see any
      justification for that.

      • Yes, I agree that the one man, one woman does make for an unsuitable partnership for many who are not attracted to the opposite sex. But I am guessing that you are including within partnership as the expression of sexuality.

        I want to affirm your point that, “we have no right to force celibacy on any who do not want it.” I agree! Christian should be non-coercive, and servants of all.

        I guess another major assumption we will have to wrestle with is if the Genesis 2:18 declaration of “It is not good for the man to be alone;” is indicative of sexual intimacy alone or if we can allow for non-sexual partnerships? Might it be possible for the former third category of relationship to exist again? (i.e. “romantic friendship)

        If I could anticipate your response with “but what about Paul’s encouragement to not burn with desire’? I might response in two ways…

        1. Paul’s statements are in the context of his discussion of male & female relations. He opens up 1 Corinthians 7 with ““It is good for a man (ἄνθρωπος) not to have sexual relations with a woman (γυνή).”(7:1) and then continues with the husband & wife analogy for the rest of the discussion.

        2. It’s difficult to suggest that there is a possible allowance when in the previous chapter Paul explicitly prohibits μαλακός, ἀρσενοκοίτης, actions & the broader category of πορνεία.

        • I would argue the other way around. Given Paul’s admonition that folks marry rather than burn with desire (as well as his love-based ethic that I’ll discuss in the next post) it seems unreasonable to assume that he had our modern conception of gay marriage in mind for μαλακός or ἀρσενοκοίτης. But we’ll get to such things over the next two posts.

          • Yes, I am looking forward to the upcoming posts. Thanks for your courteous & respectful interaction.

          • Same to you!

  • improvislaw

    Chuck. I really enjoy your words. Been reading some of your other posts and they are very insightful.

  • Richard Worden Wilson

    As Christians we are called, as were the apostles and earliest disciples, to follow Jesus and his teaching. Denial of the historically unassailable certainty that Jesus believed that marriage was to be between a man and a woman (do I really need to quote the chapter and verse?), or that the apostles and New Testament authors all believed God continued to prohibit same sex sexual acts (do I really need to point this out?), is just as astonishing as denial of the holocaust. It seems that desire overcomes reason and then even without doubts. If wishes were bricks of gold we’d all be rich. Rationalizations have proliferated ever since the beginning of human relations with God: “did God really say….?” When will we stop thinking “my will, not thine, be done”?

  • Ron Reeser

    Thank you for this post!