3 Christian Arguments Against Gay Marriage & Why They’re Inconsistent

In full disclosure, I am a Christian who supports gay marriage. An evangelical even. I’m also a professor of philosophy & ethics. That means, at least in part, I’d like to think I think pretty logically. So when I hear some of the arguments from Christians as to why they are against gay marriage, I often scratch my head. These are 3 arguments that, if taken to their logical conclusion, end in inconsistency, at best, and hypocrisy, at worst. At least, in my opinion.

1. The “It’s a Sin” Argument

This is probably the most popular. The argument is this:

I believe gay sex/marriage is morally wrong because the Bible is against it.
I do not think the government should allow what I believe to be morally wrong.
Therefore, I do not think the government should allow gay sex/marriage.

The problem with this argument is that it’s hypocritical. How so?

According to this argument, if I am going to be against gay marriage, I should also be against the freedom of religion.

Why? Because the freedom of religion says that anyone can worship any god they choose in this country. And what does the Bible have to say about worshiping other gods? Well, let’s put it this way, there are 11 instances (if we’re really generous) against gay sex and over 250 instances where idolatry is condemned. Oh yeah, and pretty much all of Israel is destroyed because of it. So, you’re okay with allowing our country to endorse something condemned over 250 times in our Bible but not something condemned 11 times? Of course, the main difference is that the former affects you & benefits you while the latter doesn’t. Sounds like textbook hypocrisy.

2. The “The Bible is Clear that Marriage is Between A Man & A Woman” Argument

Many people like to start in Genesis, as though God creating Adam & Eve and telling them they’re perfect for each other, now go have sex (which, interestingly, we aren’t told they do until after they are kicked out of the Garden), is somehow the beginning of the institution of marriage. But if the Old Testament counts as what God had in mind for marriage, gay marriage might be more at home there than in our culture. After all, the most common pictures of marriage we have are

One Husband + Many Wives (Polygamous Marriage) – This list includes Lamech, Abraham, Jacob, Esau, Gideon, Saul, David, Solomon, Rehoboam, Elkanah, Ashur, Abijah and Jehoiada. There are a lot more but they were the “bad guys” so I’m assuming they don’t count as much.

One (Dead) Husband + One Widowed Wife + One Brother-In-Law (Levirate Marriage) – the brother-in-law of a deceased husband should impregnate (Ruth & Gen. 38:6–10) the widow so that she has an heir.

One Husband + One Wife + One Slave – Abraham, the Father of our Faith (Gen. 16:1-6) & Jacob, his grandson (Gen. 30:4-5).

One Husband + One (or more) Wife + Some (or hundreds) of Concubines – Nahor (Gen 22:4), Abraham (Gen. 25:5-7), Jacob (Gen. 35:22

Do you notice how many of these are from the same book as Adam & Eve? What gives? Why don’t these count as “foundations for modern marriage”? After all, the Fathers of our Faith practiced almost all of them, with not a word of condemnation from Genesis.

But that’s not all. If we follow the law, which, after all says that gay sex/marriage is an “abomination to God,” then we should also adhere to the following laws regarding marriage.

One Husband + One Prisoner of War – Deuteronomy 21:11-14

One Rapist Husband + One Victim Wife – Deuteronomy 22:28-29 describes how an unmarried woman who had been raped must marry her attacker.

Of course, there is also monogamous, heterosexual marriage in the Bible, especially if you like arranged marriages.

3. The “Procreation Argument”

This argument is as follows:

Marriage was intended for procreation (making babies)
Gay sex/marriage can’t produce babies
Therefore, gay marriage is wrong.

Welp, okay then, time to condemn those poor couples who can’t or won’t have children.

What’s my point? I guess it’s that unless we are willing to be an opponent of the freedom of religion, to account for which examples of marriage in Genesis we should still hold to today, or deem illegitimate the couples who cannot have kids, we shouldn’t use these arguments.

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19 responses to “3 Christian Arguments Against Gay Marriage & Why They’re Inconsistent

  1. Mind if I follow up “It’s a Sin” with a NT example?
    Paul condemns sexual immorality in 1 Corinthians, which we have often interpreted to include homosexuality; however, wasn’t the “homosexuality” Paul referred to include a man forcing himself on another man to demonstrate his dominance and masculinity rather than the consensual, love-based homosexuality that the much of the modern church has pitted itself against? I think everyone can agree that rape–whether it is between a man and a woman or man and man–is a terrible thing and should be condemned.
    I wonder if Christians would have as much of a problem with gay marriage if they read the Bible in light of the context in which it was written.

    Also, didn’t Jesus’ death on the cross replace Mosaic Law? We don’t really base any of our other actions on OT law, so why should marriage be any different?

    • Emily,

      While the New Covenant replaced (fulfilled) the Law, Jesus didn’t replace God. Jesus’ mission on Earth was different than the Law’s mission. The Law was Israel’s guardian, given by God. I think it’s wise of us to ask the reasons why God included some laws that may sound crazy to us. After all, the Law was actually very progressive at the time, very counter to the cultures around Israel. The problem we have is the mountain we have to climb to get our brains into that historical context.

    • Paul maintains that any same sex genitality is sin. Read his description in Romans 1. I would also argue that the Bible agrees that rape is always a sin, which is why the post misinterprets the Deuteronomy passage.

  2. I have been following this post for some time to get a clearer picture of the gay marriage debate inside the Christian community. I have to say that the logic in these responses to Christian “arguments” is underdeveloped. For example:

    1. Your first argument is a false analogy. Believing the government should exclude one form of marital union because it is a particularly heinous social sin (not my view but a common view) does not mean that one has to also endorse government regulated religion. The Catholic view on this point is consistent and I would invite you to read their catechism. Two, your point is inconsistency not hypocrisy. Hypocrisy would be arguing for saying that the government has to exclude one sinful union while fully recognizing other sinful unions (which evangelicals do hypocritically advocate in certain divorce and remarraige situations).

    2. Your exegesis of Genesis (and the whole Decalogue) is weak. First, it would be very hard to maintain that every marriage in the Bible is prescriptive of modern marriage. Interestingly by the time of the second temple the Jewish community was already realizing that polygamy was outside the intent of Torah. But even if it is granted that the Bible does not teach one man and one woman marriage, it certainly never affirms two persons of the same sex as a legitimate marriage relationship. This is a completely new interpretation that advocates of gay marriage are asking religious communities to accept. The younger evangelicals who want to move the community into this new interpretation have a tremendous burden to show why out of the thousands of years that the text has existed, no one has interpreted it as affirming gay unions, even though in some cultures (i.e. Rome) gay marriage was practiced.

    Also as a special concern, the Deuteronomy 22 passage does not recomend marriage for rape. It recomends marriage as the solution for premarital sex between two consenting partners (the Hebrew word does not always mean rape). The point of the passage is to help judges decide what is a case of rape, and what is a case of consensual sexual relations outside marriage. If said relationship happened while one of the participants was married, then it would warrant the death penalty. (See the work of Gordon Hugenberger.)

    3. Your final argument is the best, but again it misses the point that consistent opponents of gay marriage (like the Catholic church and other natural law endorsers) actually articulate. They would say that societies should recognize only those unions that can produce offspring. Even infertile couples are still a symbolic commitment to offspring producing relationships. They would also emphasize that our modern reasons for marriage (i.e. as spending the rest of life with one’s soul mate) have done as much damage to the institution of marriage as gay marriage would. But for the government to endorse gay marriage is to occicially accept that producing children is not an essential part of the marriage relationship.

    My comments above are not meant to boost the case against America recognizing same-sex marriage. They are meant to hold the discussion accountable. The “three arguments against gay marriage” are straw persons and not good examples of bearing a proper witness on behalf of the neighbors who disagree with us. I do agree with Jared that evangelicals have inconsistently asked the government to regulate certain unions that they do not like and overlook other unions which are Biblically problematic. My own position is that the government should not recognize any marriage, but only recognize civil unions for all. That way individuals and communities can hash out what marriage is. But alas that ship has sailed. Secretly, I would be all right with the government recognizing gay marriage if for no other reason than that Christian communities can start doing their work on sexual ethics independent of society. It is interesting that throughout the New Testament that a counter cultural sexual ethic was one of the indicators of an authentic church (check out the Jerusalem councils statement in the book of Acts).

    • Thanks for these David, very refreshing to hear good arguments.

      1. I think your response has actually changed my logic, not developed it. My point was that if you are against gay marriage “Because” (as your foundation) “we shouldn’t support the government to allow others to practice what we consider sin” then that same “Because” would say that you should not support the government to allow others to practice a religion other than Christianity, which is also a biblical sin.

      You seem to have changed the “because.” Maybe I’m misunderstanding you. Yes, if you change the because, then my argument does not follow. But that’s to change the argument entirely.

      2. Again, I am not sure if you’ve understood my logic. I am not at all saying that description is prescription. That would be, I think, an incoherent hermeneutic. Again, my logic builds upon the reasons often given in support of the view. The reason often given is “Because” (as your foundation) God established marriage as between 1 man & 1 woman in Genesis 2-3. I think the burden of proof is actually on those who support this view to show why Genesis 2-3, as a descriptive narrative, is chosen to become normative/prescriptive, rather than other descriptive narratives in Genesis. It seems you are saying that I think the Bible allows for gay marriage or something like that. But that’s putting words into the argument that are not there. My ONLY point is that until someone can explain the hermeneutic that privileges the description of Genesis 1-3 as normative for marriage over other descriptions that are not considered normative for marriage in Genesis, I think the argument is flawed. Perhaps there are good reasons why it should be privileged, but this is not the “Because” (the logical foundation) of anyone I have debated with around the issue.

      3. I agree that the Catholic position is consistent. But most people I talk to are not Catholic and are therefore inconsistent, which just goes to further my point. Again, I think in all of these instances you have found exceptions by going outside of the logical starting place, which changes things completely.

      It seems you are trying to argue against a position that I have not stated in the arguments above: that Christians should endorse gay marriage. In that case, perhaps you are presenting a straw man. My point is simply to point out the inconsistencies in the logic often presented in these arguments, that’s all, a wholly negative enterprise.

      Lastly, the ironic thing is that I think we are agreed on where we actually stand. I think that the government issuing any marriages is actually a breach of the separation of church and state and that it makes more sense constitutionally for everyone to get civil unions by the government, allowing religions freedom to pursue marriage in their own religious way.

      As always, I would love for you to prove me wrong in the above. These are all exercises in helping me get better at understanding logic, arguments, and how we use them! I don’t particularly have a dog in this fight since it’s a critique.

      J

  3. Good points Jared. I applaud you for making them. It takes courage and certainty in your faith, and will probably cost you in various ways.

    As to Apostle Paul’s admonitions against homosexuality,… he didn’t want ANYONE to have sex! He viewed the Second Coming to be imminent, so why waste time with happy orgasms when there is God’s work to get done! Any child born would have a short life in his mind, since Christ’s return end humanity when they were just kids. Hard to understand why Paul didn’t prohibit straight sex and endorse homosexual sex just for relief!

    Paul had a vision of the risen Christ who met him, spoke with him, converted him and directed him to expand this new faith beyond the Jews to all mankind. That sounds like a policy of inclusiveness to me. We don’t know where instructions from God spoken through that vision ended, and where Paul’s personal logic as a potentially flawed man took over.

    We do know that Paul’s understanding of God’s intentions were partially flawed. The Second Coming did not happen in his life. There was plenty of time to enjoy sexuality, either within a marriage with a reproductive bias, or just for recreation… AND still conduct God’s business. Wherever the actual words of Christ in Paul’s vision ended, Paul then extrapolated and construed what he felt served God best in his times, given the society he lived in, and its customs.

    Homosexuality in Paul’s time was often forced on young men or women as conquered or oppressed people. The “gay subs” then were most likely very low status soldiers, citizens or slaves forced into submission by the dominant elites of that time. Heck… why do you think powerful men created gay eunuch slaves to served their elite wives? Do you think the enslaved man captured in battle would gladly fan these royal ladies with palm leaves and rub their feet if they were not first brutally feminized? Woman elites then were brutal too. So, my conclusion is that the physical aspect of gay sex may not have been so much Paul’s issue as was the dehumanizing brutality of how it was imposed in ancient times. Maybe he also feared being imprisoned, raped… even feminized as a eunuch by Roman authorities. So perhaps Paul had some homophobia based on real dangers and horrific possibilities in his day.

    Gay men and lesbians today choose their gender bias from free will to fulfill their soul-felt needs as human beings who are wired different in their brains from straights. They oppose homosexual rape and forced, economic sexual slavery. That’s more than society in Paul’s time did. His world treated gender and sex much like the Taliban today in attitude and behavior.

    Do Christians want our society to think and order life like the Taliban? I sure don’t. Nor do the many brave Americans who served in our armed forces in Iran and Afghanistan and observed what that barbarity is life first-hand. Take away the brutality of gay sex in Paul’s time and maybe he’d have other fish to fry.

    In any case, Christ came to teach man to be humble, meek and caring to total strangers, even to our enemies… loving others as one’s self, and to do so to the point where the personal cost is humiliation, pain and death. I deem that to be the moral course for me as a faithful Christian… to be inclusive, accepting and loving of all people, any gender bias or lifestyle, even if I am appalled by some LGBTQ antics and extreme left politics.

    I can leave the job of judgment to God. I never got a memo from heaven that God delegated to me his right to judge others hearts and condemn them to eternal isolation from God’s love. Those Christians that do condemn homosexuals had better reread their celestial emails from God.

    I am 100% in support of Same Sex Marriages because I prioritize the teaching Christ showed through his life. Top on the list is that people with power (and matching pride) should release their elite status and wealth, then dedicate their hearts, resources and lives to those in need.

    The gay community is in need of the same rights of citizenship and the same income and estate tax breaks that our government grants to others just because they identify as straight couples who legally “married”. All the rest is just politics based on fear of “the other”, pride of being superior to another human being, and manipulation of both by immoral leaders who used human frailty to raise money and political muscle to bully the weak in society.

    • Although Paul expected the parousia during the first century, I think the reason he wanted people to remain single was that it was a dangerous time for believers. They didn’t need the extra “baggage” when trying to survive.

      At the time of many of his letters, the Jewish revolt had already begun. And to many Romans, there wasn’t a clear distinction between Jews and Christians (whether Jewish or Gentile). Many Roman authorities knew that there was a crazy man who started a cult religion and promised to destroy Jerusalem (Jesus) and that he was put to death by a Roman governor. So these Gentile Christians outside Jerusalem were guilty by association in many Romans’ eye.

      They also knew that this new cult was derived out of Judaism. So when the revolt began, Romans started to hate Jewish people, and thus believers by association.

      Also, at this time, Jews were pissed off that they were being lumped in with these heretics (Christ followers; believers) and were persecuting many of them in many places.

      This was not a safe time for Christians and thus the reason Paul spoke to Christians to be peaceful whenever possible.

  4. Jared I like what you have to say and I thank you for your blog!

    Here’s another argument that you did not mention- the slippery slope argument (I guess.) It’s not mine, but I would love to hear your thoughts (and other readers too) if you have time:

    “But my concern here is that when gay marriage is advanced, religious liberty (like the protection of Christian pastors not to marry gay members, photographers not to be hired to photograph gay marriages, etc) is reduced. And also that pro-homosexual messages will be advanced in schools. Perhaps it’s too late for the school thing. And can domestic partnerships cover all the difficulties that gay partners face? Justice Sotomayor made a good point that if marriage is a right, for whom is it a right? Everyone? Polygamists? Incestuous marriages? Perhaps civil marriages will cease to have meaning and we will marry before God in the church only. Is there a negative effect on society if it goes that way?”

    Thank you so much!

    • Yes, the ‘ole Slippery Slope. Used by folks on the right & the left, leaving both look both fear-mongering and silly.

      • Instead of slippery slope, why don’t we call it “seeing the future ramifications.” It’s just a bad name for forecasting models. But I think it’s smart to think about.

  5. My problem is purely calling it a marriage. If they want to have a union or partnership with the EXACT same benefits. Let them have it, I don’t see the problem. The ideal or covenant of marriage started within the bible. Meaning a “man, woman, and god” thus symbolizing a circle, now a ring is used. You simply cannot have a “marriage” or covenant in the sense between the same sex and god. Disagree? It’s your right, but your wrong.

  6. FOR GAYS ONLY: Jesus predicted that just before His return as Judge, there will be a strange, spontaneous, mind-twisting fad – a global steamroller notable for its speed, boldness, violence, and impudent in-your-face openness. In Luke 17 He called this worldwide craze the repeat of the “days of Lot” (see Genesis 19 for details). By helping to fulfill this worldwide mania quietly coordinated by unseen spirit beings, gays are actually hurrying up Christ’s return to earth and making the Bible even more believable!
    They’ve actually invented strange architecture: closets opening not on to bedrooms but on to Main Streets where kids can see naked men having sex in “Madam” Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco Brothel District. We wonder how soon S.F.’s underground saint – San Andreas – will get a 10-point jolt out of what goes on over his head (see the dire prediction about cities in Revelation 16:19)!
    What’s really scary is the “reprobate mind” phrase in Romans 1:28. A person can sear his conscience so much God turns him over to S, the universal leader of evil who can turn such a person into Mr. Possessed with a super-human strength that many cops together have trouble restraining.
    Remember, gays don’t have to stay bound to their slavery. Their emancipation is found in a 5-letter name starting with J – no, not James or Julia. As soon as they can find out the all-powerful J name, gays will really start living!

  7. After all that is n this article of how homosexuality is NOT wrong they still did not explain at all and i mean not at all o. f why it is right. No matter
    what they said here it still does not change the fact that GOD clearly states in several books of the bible that man shall not lay down with man and woman shall not lay down with woman.

    • I think perhaps you missed the point of the article. It was to show the flaws in the 3 arguments, not to posit any argument for or against homosexuality. So yes, you are right that it doesn’t at all, and I also mean at all, explain why it’s right. Because that wasn’t the point.

  8. @david… How does her post misinterpret the deuteronomy passage.? Read it and see below. Not much there to allow for misinterpretation.

    Deuteronomy 22:28-29
    New International Version (NIV)
    28 If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, 29 he shall pay her father fifty shekels[a] of silver. He must marry the young woman, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives.

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