A Review of What is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense

The following are notes from a presentation delivered in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the course ME 8000 Contemporary Sexualities: Theological and Missiological Perspectives taught by Dr. Robert Priest and Dr. Stephen Roy at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, October 2015.


Summary

Introduction

  • Authored by Sherif Girgis, Ryan Anderson, and Robert George.
  • Published in December 2012, about two and a half years before the Obergefell decision (June 2015).
  • Based on an article published in the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy.[1]
  • Considered by many to be the most formidable defense of the conjugal view of marriage and has been highly read and engaged.[2]
  • Seeks to defend the conjugal view of marriage and demonstrate its rational and therefore constitutional basis.[3] The authors argue that “redefining civil marriage is unnecessary, unreasonable, and contrary to the common good.”[4]
  • They seek to do so without appeal to religious authority[5] or historical precedent (i.e., “It’s always been this way”),[6] and only secondarily by the support from the social sciences.[7] Their argument is mainly philosophical in nature.[8]

Framework

The underlying assumption that drives the entire project is the following: To argue that gay and lesbian couples ought to have equal access to marriage assumes a priori that same-sex couples can actually constitute a marriage. But this begs the question—the question that serves as the title to this book—what is marriage? A couple is not restricted from access to marriage if that couple cannot—by definition—constitute a marriage. We cannot simply argue that everyone ought to have equal access to marriage. We first need to make a case for what that marriage is to which we think everyone, i.e., everyone who can actually constitute it, ought to have equal access. As they state very succinctly, the issue at stake here is “not about whom to let marry, but about what marriage is” (emphasis added).[9]

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Legal Protections for the Church in Light of SOGI Rights and Laws

Gavel

The following is a paper submitted to Dr. Robert Priest and Dr. Stephen Roy in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the course ME 8000 Contemporary Sexualities: Theological and Missiological Perspectives at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, December 2015.

** Note: This is not an opinion piece. And, therefore, I do not express my opinions about same-sex sexuality, gender dysphoria, and contemporary laws related to them in this paper. Thus, you will note, I refer to differing views on the subjects without expressing my approval or disapproval. Please do not interpret my silence in this regards as either an endorsement or condemnation of any of the herein mentioned views.


Introduction

Recent U.S. legislation and court decisions regarding sexual-orientation and gender identity (from now on SOGI) rights create a new frontier of potential legal concerns for American churches that affirm a traditional, historic view of marriage, sexuality, and gender. Although only time can tell what implications such laws will have for religious liberties,[1] as Justice Roberts said in his dissenting opinion of the Obergefell ruling, “Today’s [i.e., the Obergefell] decision . . . creates serious questions about religious liberty.”[2] From potential loss of tax-exempt status[3] to non-discrimination suits,[4] churches have reason to demonstrate concern. For example, think of the following scenarios that are now imaginable:

  • A discrimination lawsuit is filed against a church that refuses to accept a practicing gay man into its membership.
  • A church is sued for discrimination when it denies a gay couple’s request to host their wedding.
  • A church disciplines a member for unrepentant lesbian activity. She sues the church for malpractice and discrimination.
  • A church discovers that an employee is undergoing sex-realignment surgery. Is the church legally able to discharge them on these grounds?
  • A church’s pastor is sued for malpractice by an ex-counselee due to claimed damages caused by counsel to “repent of your homosexuality.”
  • A church with a housing ministry is sued for discrimination when it restricts applicants to heterosexual couples.

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Goodreads Review of Bible, Gender, Sexuality: Reframing the Church’s Debate on Same-Sex Relationships by James Brownson

Bible, Gender, Sexuality: Reframing the Church's Debate on Same-Sex RelationshipsBible, Gender, Sexuality: Reframing the Church’s Debate on Same-Sex Relationships by James V. Brownson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

If you hold to the traditional, historic Christian position on same-sex relationship (like myself), this is a fantastic book to read in order to engage with the best of the revisionist position. It is well written, structured, and formatted. And his position, although one with which I disagree, is one with which to wrestle. In other words, this is not a “pop” apologetic of the revisionist position. This is a rather scholarly defense. (Don’t read this if you merely want to be able to “straw man” the revisionist view.) I find its position unconvincing and unacceptable; but this position that I hold to be dangerously wrong is nonetheless well presented and argued here. It serves as a fantastic representation of the revisionist position. And it would greatly serve as a catalyst for strengthening and forming a well thought out traditional position on marriage and sexuality. With that said, even though I disagreed with Brownson’s final proposals, I nonetheless learned from him and agreed with much he had to say leading up to those conclusions.

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J. Gresham Machen’s “Christianity and Liberalism”–Continued Relevance for a Continued Liberalism

As contemporary Christian continues its debate over homosexuality and (so-called) same sex marriage, my mind keeps drifting back to one of my favorite books of all time, Christianity and Liberalism (originally published in 1923) by J. Gresham Machen, one of my favorite authors of all time. (See my review of this book here.) This ‘Christian’ position in support of same-sex marriage as Christian is merely one manifestation of an ever present liberalism to which Machen’s words are as relevant as the day he originally wrote them.

If you haven’t yet read this book, please do yourself a favor and do so immediately. But in the meantime, allow me to share with you some snippets that I think exemplify this current relevance.


Machen


On standing for and proclaiming the truth.

The type of religion which … shrinks from “controversial” matters, will never stand amid the shocks of life. In the sphere of religion, as in other spheres, the things which men are agreed are apt to be the things that are least worth holding; the really important things are the things about which men will fight. (1-2)

The things that are sometimes thought to be hardest to defend are also the things that are most worth defending. (8)

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