Marriage, Sex, and Procreation

It seems that everywhere I turn, folks are responding in some way to the North Carolina amendment 1, which solidifies NC’s legal ban on gay marriage and also forbids the state from recognizing civil unions of both heterosexual and homosexual couples.

Today I want to respond to one way that my evangelical Christian friends have stood in opposition to gay marriage. This is particularly pertinent to evangelicals, though there are some ramifications for Catholics as well. Here’s the argument from The Gospel Coalition website:

Marriage is more than a union of hearts and minds. It involves a union of bodies–and not bodies in any old way we please, as if giving your cousin a wet willy in the ear makes you married. Marriage, to quote one set of scholars, is a” comprehensive union of two sexually complementary persons who seal (consummate or complete) their relationship by the generative act—by the kind of activity that is by its nature fulfilled by the conception of a child. So marriage itself is oriented to and fulfilled by the bearing, rearing, and education of children.”

Evangelicals have no ground to argue on such a basis because we have embraced birth control.

You cannot simultaneously say that marriage is thus tied to sex-which-produces-children and then turn around and support the use of contraception which inhibits the production of said young ‘uns.

But then, what about other people who cannot make babies through their sex? Should the church refuse to marry any woman who has gone through menopause? Does entering mid-life without a partner mean that you should consider yourself doomed to die without a partner, even if you at long last discover a true companion? Do we refuse marriage to everyone over the age of 50something?

What if a couple in your church wants to marry, but the woman had a tumor as a child that has rendered her incapable of having children? Should the fact that their sex life will not be able to fulfill the telos of marriage as rearing children render her unmarriagable in the sight of the church?

And if this great and grand vision of marriage-for-raising-children fails? What do we do with infertility? It would seem that the stipulations laid out here would make infertility a viable cause for divorce. If violating the one-flesh union through infidelity is grounds for divorce, why not impeding the Great Purpose of child-rearing through inability to reproduce?

It is convenient for evangelicals to grab onto arguments about reproduction when we want to argue against something that we already oppose on other grounds. But I doubt that very many of us actually want to embrace the ramifications of such arguments as they come into the everyday lives we live ourselves.

This is an argument we have to leave aside. At least, most of us do. Because it strikes at the heart of what too many of us consider normal, and what none of us is willing to change.

The problem is, we’re too busy getting the speck of this argument out of our neighbor’s eye to notice that in so doing we’re clobbering him with the plank in our own.

54 thoughts on “Marriage, Sex, and Procreation”

  1. I’d share this (as I do agree with it), but I’m not prepared to deal with comments from my family, who although they may be okay with birth control in the abstract, still give my wife and I a hard time about the fact that we haven’t yet had children (and I’ve told them that children are not a foregone conclusion for us).

  2. In defense of evangelicals who are merely trying to preserve marriage in accordance with what the Bible says, even Jesus himself said:

    And He answered and said, “Have you not read, that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female,
    5 and said, ‘For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh ‘?
    6 “Consequently they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” (Mat 19:4-6 NASB)

    This combined with the Creation account in Genesis 1:27-28 makes it quite clear that marriage is most certainly wrapped up in having children. The fact that there are reasonable and notable exceptions such as infertility does not dislodge the main design of marriage as God put it forward in Genesis. We do not define the rule by exception in any case and passages like 1 Samuel 1 should help us understand that infertility or similar issues are no barrier to marriage nor does it reflect badly upon a couple to have such issues.

    Note Jesus’ words though. There is no room in his conception of the Creation story and the marriage dictate to see husband and husband or wife and wife, but he is specific enough for us to see that marriage is composed of one man and one woman by design. I suppose you’re free to interpret the Bible as you like, but I’ll follow our Lord on this one. Story and all.

    1. To those arguments you could possibly add Malachi 2:15.

      Also Jesus’ argument in Luke 20:27-40 seems to rest in part upon the assumption that the purpose of marriage is bound up with procreation both to fill a pre-eschatological world and in order to replenish a dying population. Lacking these ends in the new creation order, marriage ceases to exist.

  3. Two points.

    First, your view does not undermine the Roman Catholic Church’s absolute binding of sex to procreation, right? (Rather it merely points out an inconsistency in evangelicalism.)

    Second, consider the following lines from the Marriage Rite in the Book of Common Prayer: “The union of husband and wife in heart, body, and mind is intended by God for their mutual joy; for the help and comfort given one another in prosperity and adversity; and, when it is God’s will, for the procreation of children and their nurture in the knowledge and love of the Lord.”

    Based on this, can it not be the case that openness to procreation (when “God’s will”) IS essential to marriage but NOT to sexual activity, strictly speaking?

    Now, the availability of adoption and artificial birth methods for gay couples means that my argument does NOT imply a rejection of gay marriage. That is, “Hey, gay couples can have children, too! Therefore, the children-as-essential-to-marriage argument does not amount to a invalidation of gay marriage.”

  4. I don’t know anything about the relationship between the NC legal ban and the statement by The Gospel Coalition. Some sort of connection between them seems to be implied in your piece, Daniel. If there is a link, then its legal basis would be interesting. Possibly the legislators or courts in NC are in some way influenced by or aligned with The Gospel Coalition. I wouldn’t know. So my remarks may be irrelevant to the issue (which is, I know, the criticism of evangelicals on the basis of their ‘embracing’ of birth control). Possibly the word ‘embraced’ is a little stronger than the reality. Maybe a better word would be ‘tolerated’.

    However, the point I would wish to make is that Christians of whatever sort should not seek the right to dictate morality to those outside. They should not try (if they do) to influence legislators or courts to support their own Christian’ views of marriage. What goes on between Christians and within the Christian communities should be a matter for them. By all means let them set examples and so show in the pattern of their own lives the character of Christ’s kingdom. Let them act, within their own boundaries, as it were, as the colonies of heaven.

    But if it is once granted that Christians have the right or power or authority to influence public policy in their own direction, they necessarily lose the right to prevent other groups from equally influencing public policy. If we want to maintain our own liberties, then necessarily we must grant those rights to other people, other opinions, other groups, other ideologies.

    Personally I think homosexual sexual practice is nauseating and loathsome, but that opinion does not give me the right to make it illegal. Neither does my opinion give me exclusive ownership of the meaning of a word, whether that word is ‘family’ or ‘justice’ or ‘marriage’.

    Incidentally, I can see no reason why the granting of freedom for same sex couples to marry should not be extended to the marriage of a man with his sister or his dog. Do they do that sort of thing in NC? I’m English; I wouldn’t know.

    1. Comparing adult consensual relationships with incest or bestiality is offensive and I urge you to seek to education on this and reconsider your choice of words.

      Incest is most often a form of non-consensual abuse done by adults to children. Even if it were to occur between consenting adults it does clear and demonstrable genetic harm to the next generation. There is no connection between incest and same-gender relationships. Indeed in NC marrying your first cousin is legal, but they just banned same-gender marriages. Slippery slope debunked.

      Animals cannot consent by definition. Bestiality is always rape.

  5. Some will say that a marriage need only be “open to procreation” as a justification for why infertility, age, and birth control don’t invalidate marriages. They will cite Sarah and Hannah and Elizabeth as examples saying that God has set a precedent for such marriages. But their argument is self-defeating. God can raise children of Abraham from the stones. A same-gender couple can be just as “open to procreation” as an infertile or elderly couple or a couple that is correctly using birth control methods – if the definition of “open to procreation” is as wide as “god can perform miracles”.

    1. I think this is an important point. God does indeed have a pattern of confounding conception. But your starting point is that God sanctions homosexuality and its marriages. Those on the other side would see no reason why God would confound his patterns for a sexual union that is not in line with his purposes (or if they are really traditional whether gay sex actually represents a sexual union at all). I don’t think you are being fair to the argument in changing its starting points.
      That said, I don’t think we can understate the importance the openness to children played in marriage up until recent history, it seems like a problematic argument in our modern world.

  6. Aric, I agree. If “gay marriage” is wrong, it must be for reasons other than pro-creation & childbirth, although my reasons for thinking this are different than JRDK’s.

  7. I think the question for Evangelicals should be, does political activity in the secular world such as the NC amendment tend to lead people into discipleship with Christ or the reverse? Does it set the captives free or does it pile on new chains?

    Personally I think that we have much more important things to worry about than a same-sex couple in a permanent loving relationship. For instance, Every child should be raised by a loving family. 1 Sam 1 was mentioned: recall that as soon as Hannah had a bit of time playing with her son, she left him on the temple doorstep. It’s nice that God had a use for Samuel, but a model of Godly motherhood Hannah was not. She didn’t want a child, she only wanted bragging rights.

      1. Just asserting that I’m wrong isn’t very convincing. I don’t claim any special authority, I’m just looking at the text; you’re welcome to show me how that isn’t what it says. Isn’t it marvelous how God uses flawed people to his purpose, praise His Name.

        Personally, I think you are misreading Mat 19 (and likewise Mal 2) which is explicitly about faithfulness and against divorce … certainly no argument can be made that divorce is congenital, rather clearly it is a personal choice. And I say again, we should be opening doors into faithfulness for all of our worldly brothers and sisters, lost sheep though they may be. Especially the lost sheep, if that’s what you think they are.

        1. I don’t have to argue against your read of Scripture to call it out as grossly mistaken. I’m happy, however, to be more specific for you. The fact is, you psychologize the text of 1 Samuel 1 and infer motive on the part of Hannah where none is stated in the text. Furthermore, you clearly deny that which the text points out, that Hannah in fact did want a child and prayed to the Lord for him. All in all, such makes for a very bad read of the passage.

          As far as Matthew 19 goes, the text is also very specific in naming marriage to be between man and wife and not people of the same gender. Given that it is very much an interpretation of the earlier Genesis account which it quotes–what we have in that text is an authoritative statement on the part of our Lord about marriage. And, given the fuller context of the Creation narrative and the Dominion mandate that our Lord was undoubtedly aware of, it’s quite natural to see him ready to endorse the command of the covenant God of Israel to “be fruitful and multiply” as inherently part of marriage going forward. And, what do we have in the very next few verses of Matthew 19 except Jesus blessing the little children that come to him. All of this fits too tightly to be denied in the name of some agenda designed to redesign the nature of marriage to salve the consciences of those who cannot live by the law of God.

          1. 6 And her rival used to provoke her grievously to irritate her, because the Lord had closed her womb. 7 So it went on year by year. As often as she went up to the house of the Lord, she used to provoke her.

            She asked God for a fruitful womb, but she didn’t feel a desire or need to raise a Godly offspring; she chose to abdicate that to the church. Which worked out well thanks to God. Yes, children are important to God, so they should be to us.

            As far as I know, none of the marriage initiatives are taking steps against people who divorce and remarry, so your reading of Mat 19 seems awfully selective to me.

            1. “She didn’t feel” – the text does not say how she felt (except that she exulted in the Lord, somewhat of a prefigure for Mary and the Magnificat, cf. 1 Samuel 2). You are reading that into it.

              Also, she wasn’t abdicating her motherhood or the child. She was giving the child to God and such a vow was an ancient expression of love and devotion to God. Even after Samuel went to the temple, she continued to look after him (cf. 1 Samuel 2:19) and then the Lord gave her three more sons and two daughters. The picture you paint of her is drastically different than what the real account tells us. I wonder why.

            2. Additionally, Matthew 19 is not just about divorce or remarriage but we can draw conclusions from the text even when such things may not be the main point of what’s being said. After all, Jesus inferred from the mere grammar of a verse that the resurrection was a reality (‘I *AM* the God of Abraham…cf. Matthew 22:32). We’re not restricted then to the main point(s) of the pericope as if Scripture has nothing more to say to us about these things.

  8. The scholars cited in the the Gospel Coalition piece actually tried to address this inconsistency – essentially they said that infertility, age, etc isn’t a problem because sex between infertile/old/on-birth-control couples is still coitus. So, even though it can’t actually produce babies if the couple is old/infertile/etc, it’s still valid married-sex because it takes the same form as sex-that-can-produce-babies.

    Their logic goes somethign like this:

    Marriage is oriented toward the raising of children. Therefore the only valid married sex is sex which can produce children – coitus. (Even if a couple is infertile and there is therefore no potential for production of children, coitus is still valid married sex because it takes the form of child-producing sex.) Therefore, only marriages that can do coitus are real marriages. Thus, gay couples can’t be married. QED.

    Their logic is impeccable…by which I mean circular and stupid.

    Here’s a link to their article here: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1722155

  9. Daniel, you wrote: You cannot simultaneously say that marriage is thus tied to sex-which-produces-children and then turn around and support the use of contraception which inhibits the production of said young ‘uns.

    This is a real, not rhetorical, question: why not? The long-held view that marriage and procreation go together doesn’t have to entail every single marriage. But it is true that procreation requires a man and a woman,in some way, shape or form. And it seems that the Gospel coalition (and other evangelicals, but not only evangelicals)still hold that the best (and we hope biblical) way, shape and form for procreation is the committed relationship of a man and a woman we know as marriage. Just because there are other ways that children come into our world and families (and in my family we have a number of dear adopted nieces and nephews), would not overturn that view either, would it?

    The view that marriage and procreation go together — however we want or need to nuance it — is one I hope we would not give up.

    1. My initial response is to ask how the two go together. We might say that procreation belongs withing marriage without demanding that all marriages be measured against or strive for procreation.

  10. I think that the argument of this post badly misses the point. In particular, it fails to recognize the difference between the following two statements: ‘an integral purpose of the institution of marriage is the bearing and raising of children’ and ‘unless you bear children, yours is less than a true marriage.’ The first statement concerns the ends of the institutional form of marriage; the second statement concerns those ends as they are expressed or realized in a particular marriage. To say that procreation is an integral purpose of the institution does not mean that particular marriages that do not fulfil (or maximally realize) this purpose are any less marriages on that account.

    An integral purpose of the institution of the military is to engage in warfare. The institution of the military takes a form that is ordered towards this end. In fact, if there were not such a thing as war, it is highly unlikely that we would have a military at all, even though the military may serve many ends not directly related to warfare. Many armies around the world never engage in warfare at all. Does this mean that such armies aren’t really armies at all, or that they serve no purpose? Of course not! Does this mean that the existence of such armies justifies the reinvention of the institution of the military in a manner that treats the waging of war as something accidental to its purposes? Such a claim is rather ridiculous too.

    The same applies to marriage. The form of the institution of marriage integrates several ends, much as the form of the institution of the military integrates several ends (peace-keeping or disaster relief work, for instance). The form of the institution of marriage serves to protect the interests of children. It protects the unity of biological (genetic and gestational), social, and legal parenthood. It protects the interests of both men and women in the raising of the next generation. It protects the norm and ideal of children being raised by their biological mother and father. It protects the norm and ideal of children only having two parents, and not additional step-parents, surrogate or egg donor mothers, and sperm donor fathers, for instance. It protects bonds of blood that connect siblings to their progenitors, siblings, and extended families, giving them identity and kinship.

    Marriage protects the humanizing norm and ideal of children finding their origins in an aneconomic, pre-technological, pre-political loving exchange of pledged bodies in a lifelong exclusive union. Marriage takes the form that it does because the union of a man and a woman is the source from which all human society must ultimately spring (bringing together the two halves of the human race in a unitive and generative union marriage is the protological form and icon of society as a whole), and is a more fundamental human reality than the market, politics, the law, technology, or medicine, protecting the truth that we transcend all of these other manifestations of human choice, providence, right, control, intervention, payment, or measurement, finding our deepest origins and deriving our truest identity from an economy of joyful gift and gratuity.

    If it were not for the fact that a certain form of sexual union between male and female is procreative, it is unlikely that wider society would take that much interest in it, although the Church perhaps might as an icon of the unity of the sexes. As Bertrand Russell observed, ‘it is through children alone that sexual relations become of importance to society, and worthy to be taken cognizance of by a legal institution.’ This is not to deny that marriage serves many other ends both for society more broadly (stability and provision for its members, establishing the norm of a loving and lifelong cooperative bond between the sexes, etc.), and for the individuals that enter into it (companionship, sexual relationship, mutual provision, etc.). However, the chief reason why almost every single human society has formed an institution around the sexual relationship between a man and a woman, and imposed norms and structure upon such relationships, is because such relationships produce children.

    For these reasons, we need to be very careful of conflating the ends served by the institution of marriage with the ends served by a particular marriage. On the one hand, we should not presume that the ends of the institution must be fully and maximally realized in every individual marriage. On the other hand, we should not redefine the institution in a manner that reduces it to the lowest common denominator of the ends that can be served in all particular marriages.

    1. A homosexual marriage is capable of “raising Godly offspring” (Mal 2:15). Just because it isn’t capable of also *bearing* children, and thereby *maximally* fulfilling its purpose seems to be no reason to condemn it.

      BUT WAIT! A female homosexual union CAN bear children!

      1. Homosexual ‘marriages’ (an impossible and not merely impermissible reality), in contrast to genuine marriages, have no intrinsic connection whatsoever to the bearing or the raising of children, nor are they ordered in terms of the goods of these ends. The ‘union’ between a homosexual couple is categorically different from the organic bodily union that can exist between a man and a woman. A homosexual union is completely irrelevant to the bearing and raising of children. Homosexual unions bear no relation whatsoever to the marital act by which children are conceived. The parties in such a union are not the two natural parents of any children that they raise, and there is always the intervention or involvement of some third party. A homosexual union also radically departs from the natural mother and father form of parenthood.

        There is no more reason to recognize such a union on account of the fact that the couple may happen to be raising a child between them than there would be to recognize a union between any two persons who happened to raise a child between them apart from a sexual relationship. Their sexuality and their sexual partnership really is an irrelevancy as far as the ends of child-bearing and rearing go. In contrast, there are extremely good reasons why society should take cognizance of committed sexual partnerships between men and women, because these are the sorts of relationships that are conducive to, congruent, and consistent with the natural ends of both child-bearing and rearing (connecting children to their natural parents, giving them both a mother and a father, representing the two halves of humanity and society in their upbringing, etc.).

        And female homosexual unions cannot bear children at all. A lesbian can bear a child, but the fact that she is in a union is absolutely unrelated to this capacity. Furthermore, she can only bear a child through the involvement of some man outside of the relationship.

        1. It’s bad because it’s wrong, and it’s wrong because it’s bad. Check.

          In the Law, if a man dies without children, it becomes the duty of a “close male relative” to father the child, which is considered to be the man’s; hence the sin of Onan. I’m not a rabbi, but I believe the case would apply if the husband suffered and injury or was otherwise rendered impotent. Again, recall that Sarah sent Hagar to Abraham to bear a child on her behalf. Again, do you condemn artificial insemination as a sin? I don’t believe it is condemned in these secular marriage ordinances.

          But I believe that all this nitpicking is beside the point, since our Lord commanded us to show mercy as we hope for mercy, and the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” (Gen 2:18).

          1. According to Jesus (and really the Old Testament text as well), the “helper” is a woman for a man and that’s part of the relevance of Matthew 19 which you seem to miss. There is no man for man or woman for woman equivalence here because it’s against the divine design for mankind.

    2. Alistair, it seems that your first paragraph makes my point very well. If a marriage’s validity isn’t measurable by reproduction, then it is no argument against homosexual marriage.

      1. You seem to miss the point entirely. Read the comment again. The important point is the distinction between the ends of particular cases of marriage, and the ends of the institution itself.

        It is the form and ends of the institution not each individual marriage that is the issue here. The form of the institution is maintained and its ends are still served in admitting infertile marriages between men and women. However, if we allow same-sex marriages, the form of marriage can be changed, and the institution is no longer ordered towards the end of procreation.

        The form of marriage is a lifelong covenant union between a man and a woman, consummated in penile-vaginal intercourse. Although not every such union will produce offspring (the significant majority will), the form of the institution is very clearly ordered towards procreation. To say that marriage is a lifelong covenant union between two persons, consummated (if it needs to be consummated) in some sort of intimate sexual act is to change the form of marriage, and to detach it from the end of procreation. This really should be obvious.

  11. You can’t say that people who are focusing on whether or not the sex is actually reproductive are “missing the point.” The sex IS the point! It’s not about the “orientation of the relationship.” Two women can do everything a man and a woman can do, minus having reproductive sex. And no one has a moral problem with two women roommates who are in essence each others’ family, save that they’re not having sex. SEX is the point! Straight people who are freaked out by gay sex are so because they don’t have a desire to do it or an understanding of anyone who wants to. Not because it’s “unnatural.” It’s unnatural to YOU because it doesnt appeal to you. That plain and simply put is called “homophobia.”

    1. Saying I was born this way or this is who I am is simply begging the question. Everyone has been born a sinner and yet we don’t allow people to murder, steal, and commit adultery. Neither should we allow sodomy on the same basis. It’s simply condemned in Scripture (all the postmodern magic wand exegesis of controversial texts to the contrary). Would that we would just follow the law of God on these points and live in accordance with his commandments. After all, that’s what God defines as love in the first place and biblical marriage between man and wife is an exemplary witness to that fact.

      1. Kevin, did you know that Peter Damien, who essentially coined the word “sodomy” in the 11th century, considered any sex not intended to issue forth in children to be “sodomy?” Is that the thing which is “simply condemned in Scripture?” Or by “sodomy” are you referring to something else?

        1. Actually, the origin of the word is tied directly to the mention of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19 and the homosexual perversion condemned there by God. Therefore, a proper etymology carries much more of a connotation than you claim regarding sexual perversion especially given the overwhelmingly Christian nature of Western Civilization at the time the word was introduced into English.

  12. Kevin answers your complaint more specifically in his book, Don’t Call It A Comeback in chapter 13. He writes on page 169, “The issue is not whether every couple will be able to have children, but whether the marriage union itself reflects God’s original design for two people to come together who were given sexual organs to reproduce, one with the other.”

  13. I have to ask: does “wet willy” have a particular meaning in American English, or do Gospel coalition evangelicals have some strange practices? In British English “willy” is an inoffensive euphemism for penis, and that makes this a rather odd analogy.

  14. I’m baffled as to why not much has been said about love in these comments yet. I’m a bit depressed at the general tone being mostly about the nuts and bolts of sex – to use a metaphor. As a British Quaker, I’m delighted that the UK is going to introduce gay marriage legislation (civil partnerships having been legal since 2005). Here, just about everyone knows someone who is in a gay civil partnership. Friends and neighbours and all kinds of people in every class and walk of life, right and left of the political spectrum, religious and secular. Britain Yearly Meeting looks forward to being allowed to celebrate gay marriage in meetings for worship. ‘Seek to know each other in the things that are eternal’ . I would suggest that means knowing each other in love, most of all.

    1. No one is preventing anyone from loving anyone else. But unless its one man and one woman it is not marriage no matter how many times it is said.

  15. Yes, Doug Chaplin! Willies lost in translation. I got bit of a shock and then terrible fit of giggles at the ‘wet willy in your ear’ analogy. I sincerely hope this is one of those American phrases that British people find hysterically funny for the wrong reasons. Like fanny-pack. But let’s not go there…

  16. Kevin, Sodom is referenced multiple times in the Bible as an example of great sinning, but not once for men or women having sex with each other.

    In Isaiah 1:10-17 the sin is thought to be injustice, not rescuing the oppressed, defending the orphan, pleading for the widow. In Jeremiah 23:14 it is adultery. In Ezekiel 16:48-49 it is the sin of not aiding the “poor and needy.” In Zephaniah 2:8-11 the sin is bullying, boasting and pride. In the Wisdom of Solomon it is “the bitter hatred of strangers.”

    Further, several of the leading voices in theology on the anti-gay marriage side of the conversation agree that this passage should not be used as a proof text against consensual marital homosexual intercourse. This includes well-known evangelical author Dr. Richard Hayes, prominent anti-gay author Dr. Robert Gagnon of Pittsburg Theological Seminary, and Bob Davies, Former Executive Director of Exodus International, the largest Ex-Gay group in the world.

    Genesis 19 tells of the the rape of men by other men and the oppression of the stranger. It speaks not at all to consensual homosexual relations.

    1. Vince,

      The fact that Sodom is mentioned several times in the Bible for a variety of sins does not mean that the city itself was somehow not guilty of the sexual perversion I have already specified. After all, when one breaks one point of the law he has broken it all and so there is a sense wherein we can see Sodom indicted on a number of issues instead of thinking we must read the text so monochromatically as you suggest. Genesis 19 does not necessitate a read anyway that forcible rape is involved but rather that the men of the city were overly demanding in demanding sex from other men. Even if we grant for the sake of argument that the text concerning Sodom and Gomorrah does not speak to “consensual homosexual relations”, a canonical read of the Bible suggests an absolute unqualified condemnation of homosexual behavior from the Mosaic Law through the last pages of the New Testament. Sodom and Gomorrah would then just serve as an extreme form of what the Bible universally condemns.

      I’m really not concerned that “several of the leading voices in theology” say this or that. We never get to the truth by majority vote even in the scholarly world and such witnesses can be countered by 2000 years of Christian scholarship on the matter to the contrary. Besides, not all conservative scholars agree with your contention.

      I would recommend readers who are interested in the exegetical details of Sodom and Gomorrah (and the other major texts concerning these issues) review _The Same-Sex Controversy: Defending and Clarifying the Bible’s Message About Homosexuality_ by James White and Jeff Niell–both Fuller graduates, by the way. The book itself has been out for a good ten years now and represents a readable and popular-level treatment of the issues at hand.

    2. Additionally, I find it very interesting that the sin of Sodom is supposedly about forcible rape when the guests in question not only did not consent they also did not participate. As a result, concluding that Genesis 19 is about forcible rape rather than condemning homosexual behavior rings rather hollow. Are we really to believe that the mob of homosexuals would have differed in their behavior had the matter become consensual?

  17. Thanks for the dialogue on this. Two questions in my mind come from the Matthew 19 passage in our discussion. First, what is the relevance of Christ’s teaching on the original design for marriage in light of the nature of the question coming from the hardened heart of the Pharisee? Is it possible that the primary task of this teaching is for protection from abuse? And, I am not necessarily spinning ramifcations out of that, just want it on the table. Second, has the subject of what makes a “eunuch” ever encouraged any scholarship beyond the obvious conclusion? We guess at what being a eunuch denies, but I am not sure of what a eunuch accepts or relationally promotes. Daniel, if these questions are not germane, feel free to ignore or answer privately. Thanks, everyone.

  18. Infertility and age are easy. We just need to look to the story of Abraham who was “as good as dead” and yet fathered a child. With God, all things are possible.

    As to birth control, and other voluntary means of preventing children, though an Evangelical, I tend more toward the Catholic view on this point. That is, were I a pastor, I would have great qualms about marrying a couple who told me, during counselling, that they would not have children at all. I would view their reasons for marrying to be entirely selfish. That is, insorfar as the unity among love, marriage, sex, children and family is concerned, there is a big distinction between controlling the timing of children and their rejection altogether. The Catholic marriage ceremony includes a phrase about “welcoming children” which is, I think, the essential point.

    Given our demographic collapse, Christians must again emphasize God’s first command to multiply and cover the earth with God’s image bearers. A culture which rejects children rejects itself and its future.

  19. Respectfully, I think the point is specious.

    The nature of sex isn’t just about procreation, it includes other provisions as designed and given by God. According to Genesis 2:23ff the original creation of sex was, yes, about progeny, but also protection and pleasure. Sex is the seal of marriage and is the covenantal consecreation of the union between a man and woman.

    Of course humanity has corrupted this intention, but in Christian marriage we see a hope for the restoration of God’s original vision. As believers we are bound to the design of God and rediscovering that through the legitimate use of sex in all its functions as prescribed by God for man and woman.

    Just because some evangelical couples (well let’s be honest this is the overwhelming majority) use some kind of birth control doesn’t invalidate their use of sex.

    If we consider the various household codes in the NT, this idea is reinforced and strengthened. 1 Corinthians 7:1-7 discusses the nature of the sexual union and does not identify that act as only child bearing. There is something more significant (not that children aren’t significant) behind the act. Anyways, I just think (as others have mentioned) the post misses the point. Thanks for the opportunity to engage.

    1. I used to know a man who would grow no flowers in his garden. He seriously believed that Christians should not engage in such frivolous and un-useful activities. He would grow only vegetables. I note, however, that the LORD God made every tree grow in Eden that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. In that order. Is it not therefore conceivable that sexual activity might be both sensually enjoyable and for the purpose of procreation? In that order…

  20. The point is that procreation is a signpost to part of the designed purpose of sex, and to the reason behind traditional marriage. Not that that end can or must be fulfilled in every instance. This retort doesn’t really counteract the logic in the argument at all, it just confuses what the argument actually is.

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