Thursday, August 21, 2008

What is "Godly Marriage" - Part II

...a continued analysis of objections to Genesis 2:24 being the definition of God recognized marriage. (go to part I)

3. The verse is only an example of one kind of marriage.

This is an opposite form of #2, and is an argument from silence. It postulates that there are other types of unions which God recognizes as marriage, but those unions are simply not discussed in the bible. At best, then, Genesis 2:24 is proof of only one form of "marriage" and other equally legitimate forms can't be disproved.

This argument again relates to polygamy, in that it contends that one man/multiple women unions are not discussed in the bible. It also encompasses same sex unions. Again, since the bible is presumably "silent" on these unions, you can't prove God doesn't recognize them as marriages.

The flaw in the argument is that the bible does in fact discuss these unions. There is no doubt that they existed in biblical times, and God, through His word, does not shy away from recognizing them. But He never calls them "marriages".

There was a form of one man; multiple women union which was quite prevalent in biblical times and which the bible illustrates on several occasions. It wasn't a marriage, of course - we call such arrangements a "harem". The best example which also contrasts the two unions is the various female relationships attributed to King Solomon.

In 1 Kings 11, we learn that Solomon had "seven hundred wives...and three hundred concubines". Each relationship with a wife was a separate marriage, unique and autonomous. If he wanted to break the unions with his wives, he would have to do it one at a time. His harem of concubines, on the other hand, he could deal with individually, in groups, or en mass. Both literally and figuratively, his union with this group of women could not be recognized as a "marriage".

And what of same sex unions? Did these exist and does the bible deal with them? Well, the answer to the first part is that they certainly have existed for all of human existence (see Romans 1:18-32). It is clear, for example, that many forms of sexually immoral unions existed in Sodom, including same sex unions. In Leviticus 18, the law deals with homosexual unions along with a variety of other forbidden relationships. And we know historically that both Greek and Roman cultures not only had such unions but they were often condoned and even encouraged. Paul deals with these unions along with others in several passages, notably 1 Corinthians 6:9. Now, none of these passages focus solely on homosexual unions or single them out for condemnation. And there is certainly vigorous debate about who the participants are in the specific types of relationships addressed. My point is not to use these as proof texts against homosexual sex but simply to demonstrate that, like harems, the bible is not silent on the existence of such unions. Still, they are never called "marriages".

Another homosexual argument that arises is the relationship between Jonathan and David. I have analyzed that relationship at length in another blog (beginning here) and demonstrated clearly that David and Jonathan were not homosexual lovers. But let’s say for example sake that they were. If such a fantasy were true, it would actually bolster my argument, because it would describe clearly a homosexual “union” which still was never called a “marriage”.

4. Genesis 2 does talk about marriage but verse 24 is not the marriage verse.

This was a new twist that I heard recently. It plays a shell game with Genesis 2 by claiming that verse 18 is actually the verse pertaining to marriage. After acceptance of that, either argument 2 or 3 above then apply to verse 24. Verse 18 reads:
Genesis 2:18 Then the LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him." (NASB)
The objection here is two fold. First, it is claimed that the verse refers to humanity in general, not specifically male humans, and even more so, not a specific male human, namely Adam. The reference, it is argued, is gender neutral. The follow up is that the “helper suitable” is also not gender specific. Therefore, any person can be “married” to any other person as long as they fulfill this “helper suitable” role. Another way to look at it is that this is the "love" argument. That argument states that as long as there is a committed loving relationship; God is happy and recognizes the "marriage" of the individuals. There are three rebuttals to this flawed logic.

The first counter is exegetical. The verse does not refer to humanity in general but to “the human” (the definate article is used indicating a specific human being as the subject), namely Adam. Two things are very clear. It is a male who is not benefiting from being alone and it is a female who completes him. This is confirmed by Adam’s exclamation when being presented with Eve (vs. 23a), Adam’s clearly gender based naming of Eve (vs. 23b), and even more strongly by verse 24. The “reason” that verse 24 is addressing is the “not good” status of the alone male of the species illustrated in verse 18. All of these verses tie together into a strongly gender biased design for godly marriage.

Secondly, as noted in argument 1, both Jesus and Paul point directly and unilaterally to verse 24 when preaching on marriage. Even more, when Paul does mention verse 18 in 1 Corinthians 11:9, he explicitly does assign gender to the two parties, keeping intact the heterosexual integrity of the relationship. Paul explicitely corroborates the heterosexual arrangement in verse 18.

Thirdly, in relation to the "love" argument, the response, surprisingly, is "what's love got to do with it". Certainly, we expect there to be love in a marriage. But you can not be married to just anyone you love. If you are in love and committed to a person other than your spouse, it is still adultery. We noted Solomon’s many relationships above and the text says that Solomon loved all of these women equally. But he was not married to all of them. Love is fickle and can often lead us astray, far from the type of union God would recognize as a marriage. So, love and commitment alone can not be used as justification to claim you are married in God's eyes. The parties still need to fit the only biblically allowed pattern for marriage which remains heterosexual and monogamous.

5. The Genesis story is an allegory and therefore not applicable at all to real life.

This is a red herring meant to distract us from the teaching and truth conveyed in the text. The premise of the argument is: since Genesis 2 is "just a story", it has no applicability to the issue of marriage. In reality, it is the argument itself which is moot. I should just ignore it. But since I am rather fond of herring, let's examine this further. I will address both the contention (Genesis 2 is fiction) and the conclusion (Genesis 2 is irrelevant).

Were Adam and Eve real people? Is the Garden of Eden a real place? Were the first two humans created as the story asserts, or are we really the evolutionary product of a genetic mutation that was perpetuated by the first male or female homo sapien? These are all valid questions when looking at Genesis. I do not desire to spiral the conversation into an evolution vs. creation debate, so I will bypass a discussion of how the first two humans came about and focus only on them as the first two humans. Cretainly, the human species had a first couple. But were they the first couple mentioned in the bible; were they Adam and Eve?

There are two main arguments used to discredit the Genesis couple as being our real flesh and blood original parents. Neither is biblical. One is the evolution argument. It says that since the creation aspect of the Genesis account can't be true because of the "fact" of evolution, the outcome of that false event also can not be true, namely the existence of Adam and Eve. The second argument points to other similar cultural and religious creation and first couple accounts and states that since these surely aren't true, neither is Genesis.

Although there are logical falacies in both of these arguments, I reject the arguments for a much simpler reason: because my source of truth is the bible. And since we are talking about the biblical, godly definition of marriage, that is the text that must solely be used to prove or disprove the question. It is fine with me if people want to dismiss creation and dismiss all (or accept other non-biblical) creation accounts. That is their choice. But it has nothing to do with what the bible says about Genesis, and that is all that matters in this discussion.

So, what does the bible say about the Genesis account? Considering the very specific geneologies in both the Old and New Testaments, beginning with Adam and Eve, and the very frank discussions by Jesus and Paul about Adam and Eve in which they are addressed as very real people, I see sufficient evidence within the bible that Adam and Eve were two very real people in a very real place who had very real experiences. But does it even really matter? Quite frankly, no.

Even if Genesis is allegorical as detractors claim, it doesn't change the power and truth of the message. Simply because something is fiction doesn't mean it doesn't point to factual realities in regards to the human experience. Again, we have to look no further than the bible to prove this. Jesus was a master user of allegory in his parables. The fact that Jesus' parables were allegorical doesn't change the indisputable, unchangeable truth that they conveyed. Such powerful topics as grace and love were thoroughly articulated through Jesus' "stories". There is no reason to believe that the fundimental aspects of God's definition of marriage couldn't similarly be taught.

To conclude, Genesis 2 contains the universal and inalterable picture of marriage in God's eyes. It is monogamous; it is heterosexual. Not only is there no biblical argument that can be sustained against that conclusion, but there is ample biblical evidence supporting it.

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