Thursday, December 11, 2008

Speaking of Biblical Marriage ...

If we're really after BIBLICAL Marriage, here are some propositions we should be seeing in upcoming elections:

A. Marriage in the United States shall consist of a union between one man and one or more women.
(Gen 29:17-28; II Sam 3:2-5)

B. Marriage shall not impede a man's right to take concubines in addition to his wife or wives.
(II Sam 5:13; I Kings 11:3; II Chron 11:21)

C. A marriage shall be considered valid only if the wife is a virgin. If the wife is not a virgin, she shall be executed.
(Deut 22:13-21)

D. Marriage of a believer and a non-believer shall be forbidden.
(Gen 24:3; Num 25:1-9; Ezra 9:12; Neh 10:30)

E. Since marriage is for life, neither this Constitution nor the constitution of any State, nor any state or federal law, shall be construed to permit divorce. (Deut 22:19; Mark 10:9)

F. If a married man dies without children, his brother shall marry the widow. If he refuses to marry his brother's widow or deliberately does not give her children, he shall pay a fine of one shoe and be otherwise punished in a manner to be determined by law. (Gen 38:6-10; Deut 25:5-10)
G. In lieu of marriage, if there are no acceptable men in your town, it is required that you get your dad drunk and have sex with him (even if he had previously offered you up as a sex toy to men young and old), tag-teaming with any sisters you may have. Of course, this rule applies only if you are female.
(Gen 19:31-36)

(Thanks to DAILYKOS for this one!)


JCF said...

In the graphic, one should show of a couple of the females in chains, to symbolize handmaids (slaves), ala Jacob & Wives.

Fran said...


So I just started working in the office of a parish, not my own. A more conservative parish than my own, although a mere 15 minutes away. (Roman Catholic, for the record.)

There is one woman there whose son is getting married in another country this spring. She was really complaining about it because in her words "Can you believe that in other countries you have to have a civil wedding? The church apparently does not matter!"

She said the words civil wedding as if they were poison!

I wonder if her dedication to "church" or Biblical marriages would include the tenets you name in your post... Yes, I am really wondering...

douglas hunter said...

I think this post raises an excellent issue. In that when more conservative Christians than ourselves speak about marriage and the Bible, aren't really only talking about the garden narrative and then ignoring the rest? So why use the word "Biblical"? And why not have a broader discussion about all the different ways that the Bible describes relationships between people in intimate relationships? Would this be too threatening, leading to the obvious conclusion that the Bible does convey the social and political conventions of the times in which the various narratives were composed?

Anonymous said...

Well two can play at this game, Susan. How about this:

1. "Marriage" has no essential, lasting or permanent definition or self-nature. Marriage is a human behavioral, social, cultural, religious and legal construct. As human behavior, society, culture, religion and law change, so does marriage.

2. "Marriage" is presently understood as a relationship between at least two adults who have reached the age of majority as defined by civil law where they live. A word used to describe adults in such a relationship is "spouses," though other words may be used.

3. Adults entering into "marriage" should be able to demonstrate they are entering voluntarily into this relationship with full, informed consent and without internal or external coercion.

4. "Marriage" is not necessarily a lifelong relationship. It does not require commitment, faithfulness or monogamy according to any exterior standard; these terms are defined entirely by those entering into this relationship. Those definitions are subject to change, based first on the wish and will of those in the marriage.

5. "Marriage" is ordered to the good of the spouses as those adults define "good."

6. "Marriage" is ordered to the procreation and education of children as those adults define "procreation" and "education."

7. All spouses are individually and severally responsible for the financial support and education of their offspring, until the offspring reach their majority.

8. More restrictive definitions of marriage are permissible as long as they do not interfere with a prior, continuing and unrestricted right to redefine marriage as desired or needed from time to time.

Hiram said...

The author of this piece has absolutely no grasp of the principles of exegesis. There is a difference between prescriptive and descriptive passages - some examples in Scripture are meant to serve as bad examples, not as requirements.

Some of the Old Testament laws are God's accommodations to human frailty, such as our hard hearts (divorce) and the realities of death. Polygamy was permitted partially because of death in battle or work, leading to more women than men. Levirate marriage was to show the importance of continuing family lines.

In his teachings on marriage, in the Sermon on the Mount and in Matthew 19 and Mark 10, Jesus restores God the Father's original plan for marriage - "One man, one woman, one lifetime." That being said, divorce is permitted by the Bible - for adultery or desertion. Again, this permission is an accommodation to human frailty. That which God permits does not describe what God desires - and what God desires is what is truly best for us.

And yes - believers are supposed to restrict their choice of spouse to a fellow believer. Sometimes one person comes to faith in Christ after marriage, while the other does not - and that is not a reason for the believing spouse to depart. A person fully committed to Christ and his Kingdom married to someone who is not is going to experience strains in life in general and in marriage in particular - while a husband and wife fully committed to Christ will find that as they grow closer to Christ and his purposes, they are drawn ever closer to each other, and their delight increases.


Hiram ...

... OR the author of this piece applies exegesis in the context of a hermeneutic that includes historical critical methodology with perhaps a feministi/womanist critique and/or a liberation theology perspective.

To dismiss another biblical scholar as "having absolutely no grasp on the principles of exegesis" because they come to a different conclusion than you would is ... let me think of the word ... ummm ...

... predicatable.

uffda51 said...

Chuck Norris, to cite one example, says of Prop 8 supporters, “They are American citizens who are following 5,000 years of human history and the beliefs of every major people, group and religion – that marriage is a sacred union between a man and a woman.”

Hiram, thanks for proving, with your examples, that marriage has not remained unchanged for 5000 years, and that marriage is a reflection of the society which defines it.

Over time, we have dispensed with various forms of marriage common during the Bronze Age. Should we still live, in the 21st century, according to a Bronze Age understanding of human sexual orientation?

gerry said...

The reality is and always has been that marriage is not a function of the "state" or the "church" but of the mutual giving and accepting of vows and promises between two persons in presence of a community of witnesses.

During the Medieval period in many and perhaps most places a newly married couple came to the church porch for a blessing of their union.

In early America, ie 1608 into the 1840s, my ancestors, especially in the southern colonies exchanged vows in the home in front of witnesses from their community. If a priest were available he blessed the union but did not "marry" the couple.

Sometimes a circuit riding priest blessed the union and christened the first child at the same time.

Most were Anglican or Episcopalian and even the several priests wed in this way. The earliest record of a priest being present for a wedding was in 1838 when a set of great-great-great grandparents were married in Virginia.

Three of my ancestors who were Anglican and Episcopal priests between 1776 and 1841 never presided at a wedding ceremony.

Hiram said...

It is possible that what the article posted is an example of feminist, womanist, or liberation theology interpretational methods, or a combination of these. However, the tone of the article seems to be more along the lines of "let's take an example of conservative interpretation and show how ridiculous it is."

The trouble is, the article is nowhere near an example of conservative interpretation. I believe it to be more an example of the method that progressives think conservatives use. What we actually use has been called "the historical-grammatical method." (I got this phrase from John Stott and from one of my professors at Gordon-Conwell.)

One studies the setting in which a given book was written, taking note of the various things in that setting which impact upon life. One also studies what the words actually say - seeking to grasp what they would have meant to the earliest readers/hearers - while taking into account the genre of the literature under consideration. Poetry is of course to be interpreted differently than prose, and reasoned exposition differently than narrative.

I have to admit that I do not understand feminist, womanist, or liberation principles of interpretation too well, as every time I read such an interpretation, it seems to me that the author has detached the passage from its historical roots, floated it off into thin air, and pulled it apart according to some motive outside the passage, indeed, outside the Bible at all. (I remember reading an article by Bp Barbara Harris - before she was a bishop - in which she said, "Make your theology fit your politics." Such a statement, and the essay in which she wrote it, said to me that her real god was political, and that she was merely using the Christian faith as a tool for a purpose of her own.)

Of course there are a number of methods of interpretation - but if this person thought that he or she was using conservative methods, then she or he failed miserably. The article is merely something progressives will use to say to each other, "Aren't those conservatives silly!" while not having any real rebuttal to conservative approaches. Read Robert Gagnon or John Stott - who have different approaches, but the same basic regard for Scripture as God's Word written.

JCF said...


One also studies what the words actually say - seeking to grasp what they would have meant to the earliest readers/hearers

amounts to EXACTLY the SAME as this,

Bp Barbara Harris - before she was a bishop - in which she said, "Make your theology fit your politics."

[i.e., to paraphrase our soon-to-be-ex-President: each and EVERY one of us is, re the meaning(s) of the Bible, "The Decider"]

I can see that, and I have very little doubt that +Barbara Harris can.

Can you, Hiram? You're no more, and no less, subjective (re Scripture---Tradition & Reason, too) than I am. EVERY SINGLE ONE of us creates God "in our own image." Lord have mercy!

MarkBrunson said...

Well, Hiram, let me make it simpler for you.

Conservative beliefs on sexuality and marriage are being ridiculed because they are ridiculous.

There is no better response to nonsense and outright self-delusion than to call it silly. The fact that there's been any attempt to respond logically to something so - well, you're own word there is best - silly, is an example of intense compassion and kindness.

I'm not particularly burdened by that toward you people.

Anonymous said...

Hey y'all...Hiram has a blog, you ought to read what he didn't have the nerve to post here....incest,'s lovely, really.

uffda51 said...

In the reality of 21st century America, couples are marrying to obtain health insurance. This is not something that the writers of the Bible anticipated.

Meanwhile, back in the Land of Unrealistic Fears, Conservatives should feel encouraged that even Leona Helmsley did not marry her dog. Perhaps the clerk at City Hall ruled that a paw print, instead of a signature, was unacceptable.

Perry Lee said...

"In lieu of marriage, if there are no acceptable men in your town, it is required that you get your dad drunk and have sex with him (even if he had previously offered you up as a sex toy to men young and old), tag-teaming with any sisters you may have."

Good Lord, Susan. Are you saying that the Bible requires incest? That Lot's daughters are held up as an example to be emulated??


No, Pilgrim. I'm not saying anything.

I'm posting reflections from someone else pointing out that the idea of "biblical values" regarding marriage is a lot more fluid than Saints Ozzie & Harriet.

Hiram said...

JCF says, “You're no more, and no less, subjective (re Scripture---Tradition & Reason, too) than I am. EVERY SINGLE ONE of us creates God ‘in our own image.’ Lord have mercy!”

I will grant JCF that everyone comes to any piece of writing with his or her own background as part of how he or she interprets that writing. That is why I try to read very carefully and to discern as clearly as I can what the text actually says. But if JCF is right and the subjective aspect of reading is so great that we each “create God in our own image,” then he is saying that it is impossible to communicate clearly.

You may wish to attribute my understanding (and that of the Christian Church at large for 20 centuries) of the Bible’s teaching on marriage to my emotional biases, rather than try to deal with the exposition on its own merits by showing a more logical and rational meaning to the texts as they stand. However, if you seek to discount my arguments because we are all emotionally biased, then you saw off the branch upon which you sit. Are you alone, of all humanity, free of bias and so able to assert with authority that the understanding of marriage so long and widely held by the Church is wrong? I do not think so. If language is that filled with emotional bias and subjective backgrounds, then language in the end is useless; we are simply babbling to each other. Furthermore, it becomes impossible to uphold any universal rights, because all we can speak about are our preferences.

Mark, the historic perspective on marriage is not silly. If it were, it would not have lasted for millennia. I will grant you that the details of marriage have varied from one culture to another and from one time to another, but the basics of one man and one woman in a lifetime commitment have occurred in culture after culture – and history shows that when a culture begins to tolerate sexual couplings of all kinds, and commitment is seen as optional or even foolish, that culture’s days are numbered.

And Anastasia, I gladly invite people to go to my blog and read what I wrote. I did indeed speak of incest and bestiality – not of course to advocate such practices, but to show where a certain line of thinking will lead, even if one does not intend such an outcome.

Here is the paragraph to which Anastasia refers, with some emphases added:
“But if you have made the subjective aspect – affectional preference – the basis for marriage, then what do you do about all the other affectional preferences that exist? Why is “two” the magic number? Why not three, four, or more? Why not father and daughter? Why not an adult male and an eight-year-old boy? Why not siblings? Why not the living and the dead? Why not affection for animals? If all you have to base marriage on is affectional preference, you have no reason to exclude any affectional preference.”

The “if” and the “then” tell you that I am demonstrating a progression in logic, not advocating those things named in the “then.”

I seek to read things as carefully as I can, and to comment as clearly and dispassionately as I can. I am sure that I do not succeed as fully as I seek to do, but I believe I do more than simply to read and then react.

Unknown said...

“But if you have made the subjective aspect – affectional preference – the basis for marriage, then what do you do about all the other affectional preferences that exist? Why is “two” the magic number? Why not three, four, or more?"

I don't know. There certainly was nothing "magical" about it in OT times. The rule really was, "one man and as many women as he could afford to keep (buy)." I suppose if I were formulating a justification for the current "rule" it would be based on two factors, (1) it is very difficult to have the same degree of serious affection for more than one partner and (2) with regard to hets, there is ample historical evidence of the kinds of controversies which can erupt when there are multiple heirs of different wives.

"Why not father and daughter? Why not an adult male and an eight-year-old boy?"

It is well-settled in our system of law that consent is an essential element of any contract. We deem minors incapable of giving consent and subject to undue influence from adults. Seems pretty simple to me, but then you're not a lawyer, Hiram.

"Why not siblings?"

This rationale applies only in the case of hets I suppose - because there is ample medical evidence of the dangers posed by sibling breeding.

"Why not the living and the dead?"

Can the dead give consent?

"Why not affection for animals?"

Can animals give consent?

If all you have to base marriage on is affectional preference, you have no reason to exclude any affectional preference.”

Yes you do; there are plenty of reasons. And if all you have to base marriage on is biological necessity and property concerns, you really don't have much to base marriage on, do you.

Hiram said...

John, I quoted one paragraph of one of my own blog entries. Go to it and read the whole entry, where I deal with the basis for historic marriage on a broader scale.

uffda51 said...

“I did indeed speak of incest and bestiality – not of course to advocate such practices, but to show where a certain line of thinking will lead, even if one does not intend such an outcome.”

Hiram, do you not understand how incredibly offensive and insulting such a statement is? And how utterly nonsensical? 16,000 gay marriages in California WILL, to use your word, lead to incest and bestiality, even if the parties do not intend to do so?

“ . . .and commitment is seen as optional or even foolish . . .”

Why would 16,000 couples in California make the lifelong commitment to marry since June if they saw marriage as “optional” or “foolish?”

“I seek to read things as carefully as I can . . .”

And your careful reading of the Bible has taught you that God created a group of second class persons to be demonized and scapegoated by the likes of you?

Hiram said...

Ufda, there is an old saying that "ideas have consequences." I am not saying that any particular relationship will find itself engaging in bestiality or incest. What I am saying is that, once you have concluded that any sexual relationship is based on affectional preferences, then there is no way to forbid someone's practicing incest or bestiality because those who wish to do so can say, "That's the way I am, that is my preference, and its fine." Apart from the age of consent, there is no barrier. (And NAMBLA is working hard to drop or remove the age of consent.)

I am sure that the 16,000 same-sex couples who got married in CA intend a life-long relationship. But that does not mean that there are other people who will not say, "I am built for one-night stands; it's just the way I am."

We are ALL sinners, called to repent, to ask forgiveness through the work of Christ on the cross, and to shape our lives according to what God has revealed as his will in Scripture. It is a lifelong process of spiritual growth, and no one is perfect in this lifetime. There are no "second class" people. All of us are (morally) "as filthy rags" before the Holy God - and ANY of us can come to him, forgiven through Christ and wrapped in Christ's righteousness. Romans is a great book.


Hiram, I couldn't agree with you more.

Ideas do, indeed, have consequences.

And the idea that straight, white men have the power to decide what is "normative" for the rest of humanity is an idea whose time has past.

The idea that gay and lesbian people are inherently flawed and undeserving of equal protection is like unto the idea -- popularized by Thomas Aquinas -- that women were flawed at conception and ontologically incapable of bearing a sacerdotal presence. (Learned that one in seminary!)

The idea that same gender loving people who want to make life long commitments of love, fidelity and mutual respect will lead to beastiality or incest is like unto the idea that if we let African Amiercans swim in "whites only" swimming pools that would lead to one of them marrying your sister.

But most importantly, the idea that human beings, made in the image of God -- declared fearfully and wonderfully made -- trusted and empowered to be the Body of Christ in the world and to be co-creators with God in making that Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven ... the idea that human beings are inherently "filthy rags" is an idea that explains volumes about your world view.

Ideas have consequences. And the idea that bigotry or discrimination against ANY human being is sanctioned by the God of mercy and justice is an idea that belongs in the dustbin of history.

Hiram said...

Susan, I believe that I have said before (but probably long ago) that it is NOT people, but behavior. God nowhere says, "Anyone who has had a lustful thought towards a member of his or her own sex - let alone same-sex activity - is categorically denied a relationship with me." But God does say that he created women for men and men for women, and he says that same-sex sexual activity is not acceptable to him. Not people - but behavior.

Of course, that brings us to the topic of the authority and reliability of the Scriptures - I do not have the time to get into that. It is, in many ways, the topic that started this whole discussion, for the author of the article was seeking to show that the Bible cannot be trusted by using methods of interpretation that do not treat the text with respect.

The authority of Scripture also raises the question of "straight white males." What the Bible asserts is not true just because human beings say it is true, and another teacher could assert something else. There are many men and women, of diverse cultures, who are convinced that the Bible is true because its ultimate author is God. If I were not convinced that the Bible is from God and is true and reliable, my life would be much different than it is now - and not for the better.

As for "filthy rags" - take it up with Isaiah, not me. And Jesus for that matter. He knew how corrupt the human heart could be; much of his ministry was spent in pointing that out. We are created in the image of God - but we are also rebels against God, and our only hope is the mercy of God and the power of the Holy Spirit to transform us and re-create us into what we were meant to be. We are not ignorant and in need of instruction - we are dead and need to be raised to new life.


Hiram ...

It's a REALLY busy time in parish-priesthood-dom but in an effort to be polite let me just respond by saying:

Yes. I've heard you say that before. More than once. I disagree. I do not think that is what God says about same-sex sexual activity.

We read the same scriptures and come to different conclusions.

I'm glad your life is better now because of how you use scripture to inform your faith.

Can you ... just for even a nano-second ... stretch your imagination to be open to the possibility that the same is true for those who read the same passages as you do and come to different conclusions?

Hiram said...

Susan, I should have been clearer about how Scripture has made my life better - it is not so much a matter of making life more pleasant for me, but in confronting my sin and selfishness, and some particular traits which made life more difficult for others - Scripture drove me to my knees, broke my heart, and (through the power of the Holy Spirit) enabled me to change. My life changed for the better - and especially for the better of those around me. I am not yet what I ought to be, but I am changed from what I was, and that has made life better for others.

I have no doubt that you have read the Bible, interpreted in the manner which made most sense to you, and have been comforted by it.

Perhaps this is exactly where the problem lies: how do we read and interpret Scripture? Is it an authority, or is it THE authority. I am convinced (for reasons that would require at least a long article) that Scripture is God-breathed, and is profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness (2 Tim 3:16, 17). Thus, according to my understanding, Scripture is THE authority. because it comes from the sovereign God of all.

For others, Scripture is "inspiring, not inspired" - the product of the experience of certain human beings as they have encountered the numinous and have reflected on that encounter. It is not guaranteed to be reliable, but it is extremely helpful in understanding spiritual experience and brings wisdom from extraordinary sages, chief of whom is Jesus of Nazareth.

What one believes Scripture to be has a lot to do with how one interprets it. As I have said above, the method of interpretation I and nearly all other conservatives use is the historical-grammatical method - what does the text actually say, and in what context? If God is indeed the ultimate author of Scripture, then this method is, almost certainly, the most suitable.

Other ways of reading Scripture (feminist, etc,) seem to be ways to find reasons to ignore what the text says and get it to say what you like the most. At least, that is the way it looks to most of us who uphold the classical teachings of the Christian faith.