I was amused to read an editorial in the Guardian today titled ‘Gay marriage: torn asunder from reality’. It made the extraordinary claim that ‘it is surprisingly hard to find in the Bible a consistent endorsement of heterosexual marriage as we now understand it’.
I will return to a full fisk of the editorial piece later (now available here) but for the benefit of Guardian readers here is a quick overview of biblical teaching on marriage and sexuality.
Marriage is a divine invention. It was God who first said that it was ‘not good for man to be alone’ and who created the unique complementarity of the marriage relationship for companionship, pleasure, procreation and the raising of children – ‘one man, one woman, united for life’ (Genesis 2:24).
Marriage is also in this way illustrative of Christ’s own self-giving abandonment to his bride the church (Ephesians 5:31, 32) and points to a greater richness of human relationships beyond the grave of which the very best on earth are but a pale shadow (1 Corinthians 2:9, 10).
The Bible is full of references to sex and marriage -from the first chapter of Genesis to the last chapter of Revelation (Gn 1:28, Rev 22:17).
The one man and one woman for life pattern is an Old Testament creation ordinance, upheld by Jesus and Paul in the New Testament (Gn 2:24; Mt 19:3-12; Eph 5:22-33).
Sex in the context of marriage (Gn 2:24, Mt 19:3-12)
...is viewed as the good gift of a good creator (Pr 5:15-20, Song 4:11-16)
...and a sign of Christ’s coming marriage with the church (Eph 5:32, Rev 19:7)
Anything outside this context is seen as a disaster (2 Sa 11, 2 Sa 13, Gn 34)
... offensive to God (Lv 18:6-30, 20:7-21; 1 Cor 6:12-20)
... and accordingly judged (Lv 18:29; Dt 22:20-22, Rev 21:8)
All wrong patterns are spelt out specifically in detail (Lv 18:1-30; Lv 20:1-27; Ex 22:16-19; Dt 22:13-30) and include all homosexual acts (Lv 18:22, 20:13; Gn 19:1-29; Jdg 19:1-30; Rom 1:24-27; 1 Cor 6:9-11; 1 Tim 1:8-11)
God’s people are called to be ‘set apart’ in sexual behaviour (1 Thes 4:3-8; Mt 5:27-32)
Scripture is accordingly replete with love stories which affirm marriage: Isaac and Rebecca (Gen 24), Jacob and Rachel (Gen 29:16-30), Boaz and Ruth (Ru 3)… and similar narratives about how sex and marriage can be distorted – some examples:
Shechem and Dinah (Gen 34) - rape
Judah and Tamar (Gen 38) - prostitution
Amnon and Tamar (2 Sa 13) - incest
David and Bathsheba (2 Sa 11) – adultery
Zimri and Cozbi (Nu 25) – fornication
Sodom and Gibeah (Gn 19; Jdg 19) – homosexuality
Polygamy, whilst tolerated and permitted in Old and New Testament times (but with strict rules of faithfulness), was never endorsed or commanded and I am struggling to think of a single instance where it did not have serious consequences for the families involved in terms of jealousy, favouritism, rivalry, apostasy and family breakdown.
Lifelong, heterosexual monogamy is the consistent pattern.
Guardian readers are of course entitled to their opinions about what they think of biblical teaching but they should be aware of what the Bible actually says and similarly aware that Guardian editors are about as adept with scripture as 'a fool is with a proverb' or 'a paralysed man is with his legs' (Proverbs 26:7).