Since 2015’s Obergefell ruling, same-sex “marriage” now seems as quintessentially “American” as baseball, apple pie, and Chevrolet. New “normals” that gain mainstream acceptance mean nothing, though, when the “normals” in question defy Scripture, natural law, and creation order—as same-sex “marriage” unquestionably does.
The Truth of What Marriage Is
To address the challenge of same-sex “marriage,” we must first ask: What is marriage? How one answers will reveal a number of insights about other important aspects constitutive to human flourishing. Scripture assumes a grand a priori pertaining to sexual ethics: The normative expression for sexual activity is the conjugal union of man and woman who become husband and wife through the union of their wills, affections, and preeminently, their bodies (Gen. 1:28; 2:18-25). The Bible’s standard for sexuality from the first chapter of Genesis assumes that the complementary relationship between husband and wife is the exclusive expression of God’s will for sexuality in creation. Any deviation from that explicit pattern is thus unbiblical and unreasonable due to the undermining of marriage as the moral good of Scripture.
I define marriage as the conjugal union of one man and one woman united to one another within a permanent and monogamous bond that is, absent any medical problems, ordered to procreation. It is an institution that provides an outlet for safeguarding procreative potency, sexual fulfillment, and relational companionship. The consummation of a marriage is fortified by the unitive and procreative goods securing husband and wife, jointly, in a bond of mutual self-giving.
We must also understand the logic of marriage that makes it singularly unique with an intelligible purpose that other types of relationships lack and also thwart. To say there is a “purpose” to a particular thing, X, is to say that there is an ideal fulfillment for what X ought to be. For example, if one plays basketball with a football, basketball’s telos as a sport is disrupted. It is impossible to bounce a football even if one could hypothetically “shoot” with a football. Everything about the game itself would be disrupted by awkwardness. Playing basketball requires the coordination of a team with the necessary parts (which includes, obviously, the right type of ball). Basketball and football are thus different sports because of the different constitutive elements that comprise the games. The coordination of organized parts that completes (or brings about) a particular end gives explanation to an entity’s essence or nature.
How does this relate to marriage? The coordination of male and female toward the integrated end of reproduction is what gives intelligibility to the marriage union, since coordination toward an end is what gives intelligibility to a thing in question. This feature is what separates other types of human relationships in that the depth of union experienced is unparalleled in what other human relationships can achieve. Marriage is thus intelligible by kind—not simply “degree”—ultimately by its reproductive end. To be “one flesh” as Genesis speaks of is not only a metaphor. It vividly depicts the fully organic integration of embodied persons joined together in coordinated activity. As a solitary person’s circulatory system is self-enclosed and sufficient all on its own, so marriage is enclosed and sufficient only with two persons whose total persons unite at all levels of their being in gamete donation that each body is fit to contribute.
Looking beyond the good of just the individual husband and wife, marriage as a creation order institution and public good is the building block of human society. Marriage is civilization in microcosmic form. It is civilization’s chief organizing principle, since society is nothing less and nothing more than the aggregate number of families that comprise it. Though not all marriages will produce children due to involuntary circumstances outside the control of spouses (i.e., infertility), what gives marriage its structure is the complementarity of male and female that makes procreation possible. The nature of marriage is tied to the complementarity of male and female reproductive ability. If you remove the unique role of procreation intrinsic to male-female union, marriage would cease to be intelligible as a union distinct from other types of unions. Moreover, if the procreative primacy and uniqueness of marriage as an inherently and exclusively complementary union is denied or lessened, marriage is open to endless redefinitions. Marriage has an ontological structure such that the removal of complementarity negates the ability for any relationship that strives to be marital to actually be marital. The reason that marriage and its orientation to family life is upheld as the moral good of Scripture and the natural law tradition is that it safeguards the design for sexuality with the outcome of sexuality: Children. Marriage, in other words, prevents the severing of procreation, sexual drive, and society’s need for stability. It unites them all together under one beautiful canopy.
Marriage is thus inherently oriented to the common good by providing the guardrails and sanctuary for the proper rearing of children. This bringing forth of new human beings to the civic community is essential to the common good’s relationship to marriage, for, apart from marriage, society is robbed of the seedbed for civilization’s flowering and renewal. An earthly society with no children is a dying society. Conversely, where marriages break down or fail to even form, incalculable damage is done to the social fabric of the civic community. A society that fails to champion the primacy of marriage will cease to offer any normative vision for society’s future apart from the fleeting needs of the present. Atomizing and de-populating societies, such as our own, represent the inversion of creational norms and the slow suffocation of civilization.
The Futility and Falsehood of Homosexuality and Same-Sex “Marriage”
As Scripture is the Christian’s highest authority, that alone would suffice to explain the prohibition of homosexuality and same-sex “marriage.” Propositional claims in Scripture, however, assume the existence of intelligible reasons for what Scripture considers to be morally illicit. We must, then, deduce the necessary and important arguments for why homosexuality and same-sex “marriage” are immoral according to Scripture and Scripture’s testimony of creation order and natural law.
First, homosexuality is an antithesis to the good of marriage and family life since it is oriented toward neither of these. Homosexual couplings are by nature non-generative and thus non-marital by design. When same sex couples pursue children, they are pursuing them as a reality extrinsic to what their relationship really is: fruitless. Homosexual couples provide the civic community with nothing of generational consequence. Children thus become a product of manipulation, instead of embodied love. Homosexuality nullifies the procreative purpose of sexual design by disconnecting the body’s form from its essential purpose, resulting in a sort of anthropological Gnosticism that views human embodiment as completely divorced from our nature as male and female. Homosexuality is thus inherently sterilized sex by nature at odds with the body and sexuality’s essential purpose—procreation.
Second, homosexuality dishonors the body’s design by violating the organization of the body as a reproductive structure. As J. Budziszewski writes, “when a man puts the part of himself that represents new life into the cavity of another man that represents decay and expulsion, at the most basic of all possible levels he is saying ‘Life, be swallowed in death.’” Such a stark statement vividly captures the moral repugnance of homosexual sodomy that Paul echoes in Romans 1:24–27.
1. J. Budziszewski, What We Can’t Not Know: A Guide, Revised and Expanded Edition (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2011), 93.
Third, following from the previous statement, homosexuality is a repudiation of creation order and the generativity that is required for society’s continuation. It represents the apotheosis or culmination of an inverted creation mandate, where instead of fruitful sex meant to serve creation, sex is turned back toward the service of the self alone. Homosexuality and same-sex “marriage” do not serve the common good and in fact frustrate its fulfillment by teaching falsehood regarding what counts as human flourishing. Children in these arrangements are commodities trafficked by a regulatory regime that denies the child their natural right to their mother or father.
Fourth and relatedly, homosexuality is an idolatrous self-worship that collapses creational distinctions for the disordered love of similarly-sexed persons instead of love being directed toward “the other.”
Fifth, Scripture speaks condemningly of every instance of homosexuality within its pages (See for example, Gen. 19:1–13; Lev. 18:22; Lev 20:13; Rom. 1:18–32; 1 Cor. 6:9–11; 1 Tim. 1:8–11; Jude 1:7). Even if reason and logic were not available to confirm the problem with homosexuality, Scripture’s prohibition would be sufficient to justify its condemnation. And critically, such prohibitions are not clobber texts, picked at random. Rather, the whole tenor of Scripture frames marriage as an institution between man and woman. This is true in the beginning with Adam and Eve, in the Law of Moses, or in culmination of marriage—the union of Christ and his bride, the Church.
Pressing the point further, Scripture affirms the natural law’s evaluation of homosexuality as a misuse of the body. In Romans 1:26, Paul specifically identifies the fruitlessness of sodomy as “contrary to nature.” This passage captures the theme of natural order and designedness that helps explain homosexuality’s illicitness. Paul is speaking to the observance of a fixed created order, of a givenness to creation order that naturally reveals itself. When Scripture speaks of homosexuality being “contrary to nature,” for example, it is speaking in this capacity—it is against nature to use the body in ways that thwarts its design, purpose, and telos. Paul is not conceiving of one possessing either a “homosexual” or “heterosexual” nature (though there is no reason to believe that Paul was unaware of exclusively same-sex attracted persons). Rather, his condemnation is all-encompassing: there is a telos and purpose to the design of a human body being met in its sexual counterpart, but homosexuality utterly negates this. Homosexuality is a rejection of the created nature of sexual design as such, regardless of the form of homosexuality being practiced. To sexually use the body in a way that does not direct it toward its intended fulfillment (whether realized or not) is to violate the body and treat is like a sub-personal extrinsic instrument divorced from the overall organization of the body’s created purpose.
For this reason, we must be clear that same-sex “marriage” does not exist in any ontological sense of the term; it is not real but is merely a legal fiction (thus the air-quotes around the term). And given the absence of any limiting principle to same-sex “marriage,” the introduction of polyamory will eventually show how aberrant sexualities are hoisted by their own petard, resulting in the undoing of any sexual norm apart from sexual anarchy itself. Which, scripturally speaking, anarchy is both the purpose and consequence of dissolving all sexual boundaries and norms. Spiritual blindness works as an acid to where the very desire for sexual anarchy is the judgment itself in being given over to debased desires (Rom. 1:24).
Legal licenses are issued to couples believing themselves to be in a same-sex “marriage.” But a license issued by the state can no more effect the truth of marriage than it can declare that water—or H2O—only has one hydrogen molecule. In no way are these statements offered to be provocative, but to deal matter-of-factly with the claim on a metaphysical reality that same-sex “marriage” tries to make. Same-sex couples cannot be married in any true ontological way since same-sex “marriage” is at odds with metaphysical order. By this standard, same-sex “marriage” amounts to a form of imaginative wish-casting that can effectuate no true reality.
Christian moral principles always defined marriage as an exclusively opposite-sexed union. Absent the principle of bodily complementarity, marriage as an ontologically distinct union unravels. Once a society defines marriage based on the emotional and physical affinities of the persons in question, it is impossible to deny “marriage” to a same-sex couple, “throuple,” or “quad”—these “marriages” become crafted around whatever desirable basis people want.
Without bodily complementarity, it becomes impossible apart from brute assertion to explain why marriage must be either permanent or monogamous. It is the case, as of this writing, that concerns about the dissolution of marriage are slowly coming to fruition in the increased presence of, and advocacy for, polyamorous unions. Marriage is either the conjugal union of husband and wife united around their offspring, or else marriage as a normative institution ceases to exist apart from social construction.
But the theological, philosophical, and anthropological falsehoods of same-sex “marriage” necessarily portend tragic cultural consequences.
Four Final Threats Imposed
There are four additional threats posed by same-sex “marriage.” The first is that same-sex “marriage” and same-sex parenting treats mothers and fathers as indifferent to a child’s needs. To see a child growing up in a same-sex household is to see a child without the differentiated love of either a mother or father. A child is owed their mother and father by natural right, and to deny him or her a relationship with one or both is an injustice.
Second, same-sex “marriage” yields tremendous authority to the state. By denying that marriage is an inherently procreational institution, the natural bonds of family life and the corresponding rights that interlink parent with child are called into question. Defining the boundary of the family without regard to biological kinship accedes tremendous power to the state in arbitrarily configuring the most basic unit of society.
2. This comment should not be interpreted as a criticism of adoption. Adoption is a virtuous action taken to repair a familial breakdown. Same-sex “marriages” where children are present are, rather, intentionally designed from the start to deny the child either a mother or father.
Third, same-sex “marriage” is yet one additional devolution in weakening the norms around marriage, thereby weakening the need to enter marriage. Though marriage’s precipitous decline is not the fault of same-sex “marriage” alone, same-sex “marriage” will only further weaken the intelligibility of marriage as a cultural standard.
Fourth, same-sex “marriage” will and indeed does pose threats to religious liberty. As same-sex “marriage” has gained steam culturally, along with it has been an unwillingness to accommodate the persons, business owners, and religious institutions that dissent from it.
While it is understandable that Christians may grow accustomed to the normalcy of same-sex “marriage,” we cannot let routineness overwhelm or supplant how Scripture and the Christian tradition have reflected on the uniqueness of conjugal marriage. Same-sex “marriage” is not marriage. Truth is truth no matter the untruth, and the created order defies societal manipulation. A marriage where husband and wife are rightly geared towards procreation is a blessing to society, and it is truly irreplaceable.