This is the weekend of the 6th Annual Gay and Lesbian Day at Disney World in Orlando, Florida. No doubt homosexuals who attend the gala will be in the mood to celebrate. Just two weeks ago the United States Supreme Court struck down an amendment to the Colorado Constitution which would have prohibited the creation of special rights for homosexuals [Philadelphia Inquirer, 5/22/96, A1].
The ruling of the Court has given homosexual activists heavy ammunition to use in the next battle in the culture wars: the battle over homosexual “marriage.” One lawyer for the Lambda Legal Defense Fund argued that “… the only motivation for… the refusal to recognize single-sex marriages is the discomfort, the hostility, the dislike some people feel about gays—and the Supreme Court now says that is not enough” [in Inquirer, A8].
Sooner or later, the issue of same-sex “marriages” will affect us here in Philadelphia. Up until now, homosexual unions have been celebrated in far away places like Hawaii and San Francisco. But financial benefits for the domestic partners of gay and lesbian civic servants still loom on the legislative horizon of the Philadelphia City Council.
Tonight I want to offer a few thoughts—from the perspective of the Christian world view—about the quest for homosexual “marriages.” I am not going to talk about homosexuality in the church on this occasion, although it is worth emphasizing that members of the pastoral staff of Tenth are always available to give spiritual counsel to those who are wrestling with homosexual temptations.
The attempt to redefine marriage is a sign that we live in postmodern times. We have talked before about the chaos of the postmodern mind. Postmodernism says that there are no absolute truths: “What is true for you is not true for me. If you believe that God exists, that is great for you, but it is not true for me. If you believe that marriage is a covenant between one man and one woman, that is great for you, but it is not true for me.”
Redefining marriage and sexuality is a primary goal of postmodernism. One of the founders of the movement, Michel Foucault, talked about sexual mores like this:
Rules are empty in themselves… and can be bent to any purpose. The successes of history belong to those who are capable of seizing these rules, to replace those who have used them, to disguise themselves so as to pervert them, invert their meaning, and redirect them against those who had initially imposed them… so as to overcome the rulers through their own rules [Michel Foucault, Language, Counter-Memory, Practice (Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP, 1977), p. 151].
That is exactly what the homosexual movement is trying to do with marriage. It is declaring that social rules about heterosexual monogamy are empty, and that they need to be seized and replaced with new rules which can be used against those who define marriage in traditional terms. For example, the Philadelphia Gay News now refers to opponents of same-sex “marriages” as “anti-marriage.” You will not be surprised to learn that Michel Foucault—who helped to start that kind of language—was a self-professed child molester, or that he died of AIDS in 1984. His philosophy was partly an attempt to legitimize homosexual sin by changing the rules.
Changing moral rules is proving to be an effective strategy in postmodern America. But it does not carry much weight with God. You can only redefine “marriage” if it does not have a divinely-ordained meaning. But, as a matter of fact, marriage does have a God-given, objective meaning. There is an eternal definition of marriage that is true at all times and in all places. “Marriage” is whatever God says it is.
Jesus Christ explained what marriage is in the Gospel of Matthew. Some of the cultural elites were toying around with the meaning of marriage and they wanted to know what Jesus had to say about it. Their questions did not have to do with same-sex marriage. They couldn’t have, because the idea of homosexual marriage is a complete novelty in the history of humanity [Arguments to the contrary, such as John Boswell’s Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe (New York: Villard, 1994), are speculative]. But their questions did have to do with the definition of marriage.
Jesus could hardly believe that they were calling the meaning of marriage into question. He said:
“Haven’t you read that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate” (Mt. 19:4-6).
Marriage is not hard to define: one man plus one woman equals one marriage. “Homosexual marriage” is thus an oxymoron, like “jumbo shrimp” or “safe sex.” To advocate “homosexual marriage” is to take scissors and paste to God’s dictionary.
But the push for homosexual “marriages” also confirms that homosexuals are persons made in the image of God. In Romans 1 Paul talks about how homosexual men have abandoned natural relations with women for indecent acts with other men (v. 27).
Paul has a good point. The homosexual community tries hard to paint a portrait of a gay couple living in a nice brownstone with flowers in the windowboxes and 2.4 kids in the rumpus room. That is not what homosexual sin is all about. When the homosexual movement began with the Stonewall riots in Greenwich Village in 1969, homosexuals were calling for complete sexual freedom to do whatever they wanted, wherever they wanted, with whomever they wanted. And for the most part, the homosexual community has got what it was asking for: the bondage of sexual liberation.
But the desire for homosexual “marriage” shows that men and women are longing for the commitment, the intimacy, the fidelity, and the security that marriage represents. Like everyone else in the world, homosexuals are sinners who crave God’s moral order. Paul tells us in Romans 2 that when homosexuals,
who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts… (2:14-15a).
When homosexuals seek the stability of marriage they are still lawless, but they also show that the requirements of God’s law are written into their hearts. Homosexuals are human beings, and like all human beings, they need to receive the grace of God, in Christ, by the Holy Spirit before they can obey that law.
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