In the first part of my discussion of fellow United Methodist pastor Paul Purdue’s recent blog post, “The Bible and Homosexuality,” I tackled the ever-popular argument that we the church should affirm homosexual practice because, after all, Jesus didn’t say anything about it; therefore, it must not have been a big deal to him. As Rev. Purdue puts it, “Can an issue Jesus fails to address be considered essential to Christian faith?”
As I argue in my previous post, the answer is an emphatic “yes.”
After offering several examples of Jesus’ talking directly about sex and marriage, Purdue wonders why Jesus would fail to mention homosexuality. I answered this “argument from silence” in my previous post. But I still have more to say.
Specifically, I want to draw attention to one of Purdue’s own examples, Matthew 19, which includes Jesus’ prohibition of divorce in most cases. Purdue’s exegesis is both inadequate and misleading. He begins:
In Matthew 19 Jesus affirms monogamy and condemns easy divorce. “Haven’t you read the Scriptures?” Jesus replied. “They record that from the beginning ‘God made them male and female.This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’ Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together’. Jesus affirms life-long monogamy and straight marriage. While affirming heterosexual marriage Jesus does not condemn homosexuality.
To his credit, Purdue concedes that Jesus’ words don’t affirm “homosexual marriage,” only “heterosexual marriage.” In other words, he doesn’t believe that the Creation accounts of Genesis 1 and 2, from which Jesus quotes, can accommodate anything other than a man and woman in a lifelong marriage. They don’t apply, for example, to any two adults. He seems to agree with me that the complementarity of male and female (Genesis 1:27) is one prerequisite for the kind marriage that’s described in Genesis 2.
Jesus affirms this as well, Purdue says. But by affirming this kind of marriage, Purdue says, Jesus isn’t ruling out gay marriage. How does Purdue know that Jesus doesn’t rule out gay marriage? Because Jesus doesn’t mention it!
Do you see the sophistry in this argument? The very weakness of the biblical case for gay marriage, from Purdue’s point of view, becomes its strength! The Creation accounts of Genesis 1 and 2, which affirm marriage between a man and woman, alongside Jesus’ affirmation of marriage between a man and woman, somehow bolster the case for gay marriage! What an amazing argument this “argument from silence” is! It’s bullet-proof!
Still, I would challenge Purdue to think more deeply. Jesus isn’t saying, “Here’s one kind of marriage, although there may be other kinds, which I won’t bother to mention now.” He’s saying, “Here’s what marriage is—here’s why marriage is—here’s what makes marriage marriage. And it’s for these reasons that divorce is impermissible in most cases.” As I argued in the second of two recent sermons on the subject of homosexuality, this “two becoming one flesh” only happens through sexual intercourse between male and female.
Why? Because God takes the “side” of the man (likely a larger part of the man than just a “rib,” although it doesn’t detract from my point) to create the woman, and when they come together through sexual union, the man realizes that this woman (only) has this part of himself that he’s missing, and vice versa. Through coming together sexually, the “two become one flesh” again, we might say—a reunion has taken place. That human being that had been divided by the creation of its only suitable “help meet” is now made whole again—through sexual intercourse. “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh,” the man says.
It’s fair to say, then, that a man can’t give to another man what that man is missing, any more than a woman can give to another woman what that woman is missing. Complementarity of male and female matters when it comes to sex. It reflects God’s intentions for sexual behavior.
Someone might object, “Yes, but Genesis chapter 2 isn’t meant to be taken literally; it’s figurative; it’s poetry.” For the sake of argument, let’s say that’s true. Doesn’t poetry communicate the truth? In fact, doesn’t poetry often communicate the truth more effectively than a “literal” history or science textbook? And if that’s the case, then what truth is being communicated here? That God intends for sexual activity to be between male and female only—because they complement one another physically, psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually.
The point is, if it were possible for two men or two women become “one flesh” through sexual union, we would need a different Creation story—figurative or otherwise.
I’ll continue looking at the rest of this blog post later.