Continuing my series on Biblical and Secular Reasons for Man-Woman Marriage, I want to put it in context of the underlying worldview clash in the marriage debate. It is a background issue, rarely brought to the surface, hardly ever discussed, yet with intensely practical applications.
Marriage Is …
This debate runs deep. It goes straight to the core of worldview. I’ll illustrate that with an example. The position most advocates for man-woman marriage take is that there is something that marriage is, and that something is stable and enduring. In more technical language, marriage is what marriage is by its very nature or essence. To propose same-sex “marriage” (SSM) is to propose that we call something “marriage” that just isn’t marriage at all — because that’s not what marriage is.
So for most SSM opponents, there is an is-ness, or essence or nature, that defines marriage.
That is-ness is defined or understood in one or both of two ways. The first that comes to most Christians’ minds is that God created marriage at the very beginning, he made it to be for man and woman, and he hasn’t changed it since then. Its nature was and continues to be defined by the God who made it what it is.
But it’s not necessary to believe in the Bible to come to the conclusion that marriage has an enduring man-woman essence. Human nature itself tells us that men and women were made for each other, and yet not only for each other but also for the production, nurturing, care, and instruction of the next generation.
… vs. Marriage Is Becoming …
For many if not most SSM advocates, all this is nonsense. And it’s nonsense at a deeper level than most of us recognize.
It’s not just that we have the essence of marriage wrong, it’s that it’s wrong to suppose marriage essentially is anything at all. And just as our reasons are grounded in the very basis of our thinking, so do their reasons go all the way into the foundation of theirs.
It goes all the way back to where they believe we came from. The story of evolution is not one of is-ness but of perpetual becoming. No species is fixed, except for such a time as its environment encourages it to remain as it is. We live in a snapshot. Earlier snapshots would exhibit different species. Later snapshots will, too. Nothing is what it is for long, except as circumstances permit its staying that way.
Of course that rules out any reference to God’s view of marriage right from the start. It also undermines any stable, is-ness view of marriage based in human nature. What is human nature, after all? What, you’re giving yesterday’s answer? What relevance does that have to human nature today? Why think human nature is stuck where it was before? We’re all perpetually becoming something else!
Further: at this snapshot moment in a world of perpetual becoming, humans rule themselves and their institutions completely, with no transcendent reality to answer to. That makes our institutions almost infinitely malleable: and since the world is about perpetual becoming, there’s no reason not to let marriage become something new.
The Worldview Clash in the Marriage Debate
Do you see the worldview clash here? One reason we can’t agree on what marriage is, is because deep in our hearts we don’t agree on whether that’s the right question to start with.
Few people would verbalize it that way. I think few of us realize the strength with which these worldview currents carry us along toward our conclusions.
This helps explain why one side can view the other not just as wrong but as “bizarre.” It’s really, really hard to get into the opposing side’s mindset. It’s not just about the other persons’ view of marriage, it’s about their entire view of reality.
We hardly ever talk about it on this level. Until we do, not only will we fail to agree, we’ll fail to understand. We’ll even fail to understand why we fail to understand.
The Pastor/Teacher Perspective
Usually in these Tuesday Pastor/Teacher posts my goal is to give you something that’s really practical for you to use in your teaching ministry. This may not seem to be that way; it’s more in the nature of behind-the-scenes philosophical thinking. But it’s actually very practical. One immediate application is in helping the people we teach be more able to understand what’s going on where others disagree. Rather than labeling it bizarre, we can get a sense of how it really does make sense from their perspective. (This is where it’s really helpful to listen before jumping in with our answers.)
Following this, we can try to get to the heart of the question rather than deal with it on the surface. For those of us who believe in God, we can see the marriage debate as just one more outworking of the great question of the ages: is there a God, and if so, what does he have to do with me?
And even though it may look like this makes our side in the marriage debate purely “religious,” and therefore off-limits for public discussion (as some view it), it can actually open up new opportunities to discuss our position in public. I’ll come back to that next time.