Well, it’s been forever since I’ve written one of these, but the latest cultural clashes have driven me out of the woodwork for a number of reasons. First off, I see lots of angry people. There are Christians who don’t seem to be very good at hating the sin and loving the sinner. There are liberals and homosexuals who have viciously declared (cultural) war on Christians. There are folks who just don’t seem to understand why Chick-fil-A is a big deal. The list just goes on and on. Social media, for all its many virtues, doesn’t really permit a very good discussion, so I’ve turned to the old, dusty blog to flesh out some thoughts. For this first post, I’m going to argue for a very specific view on marriage, based primarily in Genesis 1-2. This is the account not only of the creation, but of the first man and woman. In this account, Adam is made first, and then Eve. While the word “marriage” is never used in these chapters, (as some opponents of the biblical view of marriage have pointed out) it is described in Adam and Eve’s relationship, and the pattern for all future marriage relationships is prescribed by God Himself.
In Scripture, we can glean a few important points very early on. We can know that marriage has a number of characteristics. It is:
- Heterosexual- God created humans to be Male and Female, and He commanded that they “be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the earth.” While a heterosexual couple may be physically unable to have biological children due to any number of physical problems, a homosexual pairing is completely incapable of fulfilling this first command, even when both people are in perfect medical condition. Samuel H. Dresner has observed that “heterosexuality is at once proclaimed to be the creation order.” Genesis 1-2 is not merely a descriptive account of the first couple but a prescriptive theology for all time– a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave unto his wife.
- Dual- When God saw that it is not “good” for Man to be alone, He created Eve. This was always His intention, not an afterthought. Adam recognized he wasn’t complete without another. By the way, it is very significant that the word “Good” during the period of Creation deals primarily with completion and functionality, not with morality.
- Monogamous- A single rib is taken in making a single woman, and man and woman are singular in the first marriage. God has provided only for monogamy within marriage. Though righteous and unrighteous men and women within the Bible narrative have broken this commandment, they are not examples of marriages permitted by God.
- Egalitarian- While man and woman are biologically different, there is no indication of a hierarchy. Man is not greater than woman. Eve is not greater than Adam. Both are commanded at the beginning to take up the dominion of the earth. Both are blessed by God. Both are responsible in the act of procreation. The Bible is fundamentally egalitarian with respect to the relationships between the sexes, within marriage and without. Even calling Eve “a help meet for him [Adam]” expresses this equality. Rather than meaning that women take a fundamentally servile role, the word meet means “fit, equal”. The word for help is not one of subjugation. The same Hebrew word describes God as Israel’s helper, and He is by no means subject to them! Of the 21 times the word is used in Hebrew, 16 times it refers to God and 3 times it refers to a military ally. It is a word emphasizing a beneficent power, capable of doing great good. Inferiority is the last thing that the word could possibly mean. If you wanted a wordy translation of the Bible, then you could say that Eve is to be a “counterpart equal to Adam.” This is about being a true soulmate.
- Wholistic- It is no mistake that the generic term for humans in Genesis 1-2 is ha adam, and it includes both male and female. You can’t have one without the other, to echo a certain crooner. Both man and woman are made in God’s image, and- this is very significant as well- you cannot have a true view of the image of God in man without both sexes being present. On the marital level, on the communal level, in business and government and churches, God’s image is only expressed by both sexes working in union and communion with each other. The sexes complement each other perfectly. While the sexes are egalitarian in nature- they enjoy equality- that does not mean that they are not functionally and aesthetically different. “Let US create man in OUR own image…male and female created He THEM,” we are told of the Godhead’s creative act. The use of plural- while it may be a hint at the royal Trinity- is also a hint at what makes humans unique: God’s imagine within us corporately.
- Exclusive- The male-female marriage relationship is an exclusive one. The sexual relationship within marriage does not permit adultery, additional partners, or any other form of fornication. Jesus’ comments regarding lust, by the way, extend this exclusivity even into the thought life. Leaving and cleaving demands not just the obvious physical exclusivity, but also emotional and mental exclusivity. Priorities, traditions, and influences should be uniquely agreed upon by the couple.
- Permanent- Adam’s reference to Eve as “flesh of my flesh and bone of my bones” expresses both exclusivity and permanence. They were uniquely one flesh, and that could not be changed. It was his marriage vow, a formal covenant. It was an expression of “devotion and an unshakeable faith between humans; it connotes a permanent attraction which transcends genital union, to which, nonetheless, it gives union. (Collins, The Bible and Sexuality) Physical sexuality is given meaning by this marriage covenant.
- Intimate- Becoming one flesh emphasizes the physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual, and intellectual unity that is unique to the marriage experience. In other words, sexuality and marriage in the Bible is not simply about reproduction, as is so often claimed by some. It is about a oneness and intimacy that- unlike the emotional co-dependency of some heterosexual and all homosexual relationship- unites a couple on every level of human experience. This “become one flesh” scenario is hinted at being a process by the original language, by the way. It is not instantaneous. Transparency may take place slowly in a Fallen world, but Adam and Eve were initially not ashamed before one another.
- Procreative- Healthy married couples are commanded to have children. It is an additional blessing not associated with the intimacy of marriage or the communion of being made in God’s image. This is a distinct blessing that does not result from the other gifts of sexuality and marriage.
So we see that from Genesis 1-2, there was a specific requirement behind marriage’s design. It is not that Christians are to hate or fear those who do not follow this template. They should obey the Bible’s command to love those who are in sin or lost. It is not that Christians should deny rights to those who demand them- that is not the intention behind opposing homosexual unions. It is rather that- even if gay marriage is recognized by the government (as it most certainly will be)- it is still not an actual marriage. The command and pattern regarding marriage has already been given, and no individual or government can alter that pattern. “Rights” may be bestowed upon counterfeit marriages, but they are not authentic. Only the genuine article has God’s blessing. A marriage that does not meet these criteria is not a marriage at all. Some marriage- such as one in which there has been an affair- may be mended, but some- such as a homosexual union- cannot be mended because it was never a marriage in the first place. That self-identifying homosexuals are people with genuine, sincere feelings is a fact, but the union cannot be created if the necessary components are not present.
We must love those who do not follow God’s commands, but that is a subject for a different day requiring a whole new post, so I’ll end here for now. In the near future, I will address the Bible’s perspective regarding fornication, the denigration of women, and divorce. I’ll also be addressing the perfect picture of marriage in a fallen world (Song of Solomon) as well as some thoughts on how to address these issues in the culture.