Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Maybe Homosexual Activists Can Help Us Think About Marriage

Reports circulated today about an initiative in Washington state that, if it makes it onto the ballot and is voted into law, would require heterosexual couples to have children within three years or else have their marriage annulled. According to media reports, "marriage would be limited to men and women who are able to have children. Couples would be required to prove they can have children in order to get a marriage license, and if they did not have children within three years, their marriage would be subject to annulment. All other marriages would be defined as 'unrecognized' and people in those marriages would be ineligible to receive any marriage benefits." The initiative was filed by the Washington Defense of Marriage Alliance. Lest the name fool you, they are "defending" homosexual marriage.

Now why would homosexual activists want to sponsor such an initiative? They stated their rationale this way. "For many years, social conservatives have claimed that marriage exists solely for the purpose of procreation ... The time has come for these conservatives to be dosed with their own medicine," said WA-DOMA organizer Gregory Gadow in a printed statement. “If same-sex couples should be barred from marriage because they can not have children together, it follows that all couples who cannot or will not have children together should equally be barred from marriage."

In other words, these sodomite activists are attempting to use a type of argument known as reductio ad absurdum, a "reduction to absurdity" of the idea that marriage is for the purpose of procreation. Obviously, if they can eliminate ideas of procreation from marriage, then that will be one less barrier for them to claim that they have a right to be "married." They want to prove that marriage is not for the purpose of procreation. So, according to the statement quoted above, here is how their argument runs.

"The purpose of marriage is solely procreation."
"This implies that all marriages must procreate in order to fulfill the purpose of marriage, and thus be valid marriages."
"But it is silly or absurd to think that all marriages must procreate in order to be valid marriages."
"Therefore, the purpose of marriage is not procreation."

Do any of you logicians out there see the flaw in this argument? It lies with one little word - "solely." In order for this to be a valid argument, the word "solely" must be in the conclusion. The argument must run like this:

"The purpose of marriage is solely procreation."
"This implies that all marriages must procreate in order to fulfill the purpose of marriage, and thus be valid marriages."
"But it is silly or absurd to think that all marriages must procreate in order to be valid marriages."
"Therefore, the purpose of marriage is not solely procreation."

This is a formally valid argument. But this is not the argument that homosexual activists want to make, for all "social conservatives" would agree with this argument the way it now stands. As Christians who want to think biblically, we too could agree with this argument. We do not claim that procreation is the only purpose for marriage. Thus, their whole argument is built on a false representation of what we believe.

There is another problem with the sodomite argument. It is what we might call "comparing apples and oranges." In the statement quoted above, Gadow said, "If same-sex couples should be barred from marriage because they can not have children together, it follows that all couples who cannot or will not have children together should equally be barred from marriage." But this is not a comparison of the same kind. Same-sex couples cannot have children by the very nature of the case. Their union in inherently sterile. But normal couples cannot have children only if something goes wrong. The sodomite argument is incoherent and irrational.

But since they have raised this topic, I do want to help us to think about it a bit further. Let's ask a couple questions. First, what is the biblical purpose (or purposes) for marriage? Second, what is the relationship between procreation and marriage? We will deal with the first question first.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The apex of his creative work was a creature made in his own image. God called this creature “man” and gave him a specific job to do: reproduce and rule the earth. In order to accomplish this purpose, God specifically made man with two distinct and complementary types, male and female. The male was created first out of the dust of the earth, then the female was created from his side in order to be the helper that fit with the male. God brought them together in a one flesh relationship, and on the basis of God’s actions we learn that God intended one man and one woman to function together in a sexual (reproductive) and economic (productive) covenant relationship for life. This covenant relationship is called marriage, and we can summarize the purposes for marriage in this way. (1) Marriage’s primary historical purpose is to enable the male and female to rule the earth together for God (Gen 1:26-27). Intrinsic within this purpose are two sub-purposes: to reproduce God’s image bearers (Gen 1:28), and to enjoy companionship with each other in the process (Gen 2:22-23). (2) Marriage’s eschatological purpose is to display by analogy the relationship of Christ and his church (Eph 5:32).

Having this foundation, we can now address the second question. What is the relationship between marriage and procreation? We have already said that procreation is not the only purpose for marriage. However, we must also see that procreation is a central purpose of marriage. The Bible says, "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them" (Gen 1:27). So what was the first thing God did with this male and female that he had made? "And God blessed them. And God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion...'" (Gen 1:28). God's blessing on them was that they would reproduce His image-bearers who would be able to exercise dominion over the rest of creation. Procreation is not an optional part of God's plan for marriage. The first thing, then, that we note about the relationship between marriage and procreation is that the intended result of marriage is procreation.

But that is not all. We also learn from Scripture that marriage is the only legitimate context for procreation. All forms of conception and child-bearing which fall outside of the bounds of an exclusive marriage relationship are illegitimate.

Since this is so, does it follow that marriages which do not produce children should be annulled? My answer is no, for an important biblical reason. That reason is that the Lord, not the man and woman, is ultimately in control of the fruitfulness of the womb (Gen 17:15-19; 29:31; 1 Sam 1:5, 19-20; Ps 127:3). In a sinless world, we might suppose that every marriage would be fruitful with children, but that is not the world we actually live in. Because of sin, our bodies do not always function the way they were designed to function. In fact, it is only the grace of God that keeps us functioning as well as we do.

Before I close, I would like to highlight one thing that this homosexual challenge to God's design for marriage does reveal. I believe it shows that our society's rejection of God's design for marriage began long before we had to debate such oxymoronic things as "same sex marriage." One of the aspects of this rejection was a rejection of procreation as a purpose for marriage. Here is one area in which these homosexual activists might help us think about marriage. Perhaps those couples who intentionally, willfully, and selfishly reject all childbearing should have their marriages annulled. That would certainly change the debate on marriage in our society today.

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