“Who has the right to determine what is good or bad, or what is morally right or wrong in the culture? Who determines whether marriage as an institution should be adhered to?”
Most people have heard of the account of Adam and Eve. According to the first book of the Bible, Genesis, these two people were the first humans from whom all others in the human race descended. Genesis also records the names of three of Adam and Eve’s many children—Cain, Abel, and Seth. Christians claim that this account of human history is accurate, because the Bible itself claims that it is the authoritative Word of the Creator God, without error.
To challenge Christians’ faith in the Bible as an infallible revelation from God to humans, many skeptics have challenged the Bible’s trustworthiness as a historical document by asking questions like, “Where did Cain find his wife?” (Don’t worry—this will become highly relevant to the topic of gay marriage shortly!) This question of Cain’s wife is one of the most-asked questions about the Christian faith and the Bible’s reliability. In short, Genesis 5:4 states that Adam had “other sons and daughters”; thus, originally, brothers had to marry sisters.1
This background is helpful in offering the context of a conversation I had with a caller on a radio talk show. The conversation went something like this:
Caller: “I’m an atheist, and I want to tell you Christians that if you believe Cain married his sister, then that’s immoral.”
AiG: “If you’re an atheist, then that means you don’t believe in any personal God, right?”
AiG: “Then if you don’t believe in God, you don’t believe there’s such a thing as an absolute authority. Therefore, you believe everyone has a right to their own opinions—to make their own rules about life if they can get away with it, correct?”
Caller: “Yes, you’re right.”
AiG: “Then, sir, you can’t call me immoral; after all, you’re an atheist, who doesn’t believe in any absolute authority.”
AiG: “Do you believe all humans evolved from apelike ancestors?”
Caller: “Yes, I certainly believe evolution is fact.”
AiG: “Then, sir, from your perspective on life, if man is just some sort of animal who evolved, and if there’s no absolute authority, then marriage is whatever you want to define it to be—if you can get away with it in the culture you live in.
“It could be two men, two women or one man and ten women; in fact, it doesn’t even have to be a man with another human—it could be a man with an animal.2
“I’m sorry, sir, that you think Christians have a problem. I think it’s you who has the problem. Without an absolute authority, marriage, or any other aspect of how to live in society, is determined on the basis of opinion and ultimately could be anything one decides—if the culture as a whole will allow you to get away with this. You have the problem, not me.”
It was a fascinating—and revealing—exchange.
So the questions, then, that could be posed to this caller and other skeptics are: “Who has the right to determine what is good or bad, or what is morally right or wrong in the culture? Who determines whether marriage as an institution should be adhered to, and if so, what the rules should be?”
Some who defend marriage as a union between one man and one woman claim that it can be shown that cultures that have not adhered to this doctrine have reaped all sorts of problems (whether the spread of diseases or other issues). Thus, they claim, on this basis, it’s obvious that marriage should be between one man and one woman only.
Even though such problems as the spread of HIV might be shown to be a sound argument in this issue, ultimately it’s not a good basis for stating that one man for one woman must be the rule. It may be a sound argument based on the pragmatics of wanting to maintain a healthy physical body, but why should one or more human beings have the right to dictate to others what they can or can’t do in sexual relationships? After all, another person might decide that the relationship between one man and woman in marriage might cause psychological problems and use that as the basis for the argument. So which one is correct?
Say that a person used the argument that research has shown, for example, that the children of gay parents have a higher incidence of depression. Or the argument that since HIV kills people, it is vital that marriage is between a man and a woman. But note how such arguments have also been tried in the case of abortion and rejected by the culture.
Let us illustrate. Some researchers claim to have shown a high incidence of depression in people who have had an abortion. The culture, however, has rejected such pragmatic “we shouldn’t hurt people” arguments, claiming that it is more important that others have the “right to choose.” The argument that abortion kills people is an important one because most people still accept the basic biblical prohibition against taking innocent human life. So we should ensure that people know that the baby is really human. But is it going to be enough in the long term, as even this prohibition cannot be absolute without the Bible?
A slowly increasing minority of people, like Professor Peter Singer, the Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University,3 are quite content to accept the obvious fact that abortion kills human beings, but this does not affect their view of abortion in the slightest. In fact, consistent with the fact that he rejects the Bible and the view that man was made in the image of God, Singer has argued that society should consider having a period after birth in which a baby is still allowed to be killed if socially desirable (e.g., if it has an unacceptable handicap).
Ultimately, it comes down to this: How does a culture determine what is right and what is wrong? If the majority agrees on a set of standards, what happens when that majority is replaced by a different majority?
After all, the majority in power in many of our Western nations once believed abortion was wrong—but now the majority in power doesn’t believe this, so the rules have been changed.
The majority in power in many of our Western societies once believed the institution of marriage should be one man for one woman. But this has changed. Many are now allowing “gay marriage.” So how long before polygamous or pedophiliac relationships are allowed, which some people are starting to advocate?4 Who is to say they are wrong, if the majority agrees with them?
Before the Hitler era, nobody would have believed that the majority in a progressive, industrialized Western nation such as Germany could have agreed that it was ethically proper to mass murder the mentally retarded and those with incurable long-term illnesses. Yet the majority of Germans were convinced by their society to see euthanasia as ethically acceptable, even kindhearted.
Some might say that there is no way Western culture would allow pedophilia. Fifty years ago, however, most people probably would not have dreamed that America or Britain would ever allow gay marriage. Where does one draw the line? And who determines who draws that line? What’s the answer?
The gay marriage issue has been headline news across North America and on other continents. Even the acceptance of gay clergy has been widely noted in both secular and Christian media outlets.
As part of the public debate on the gay marriage issue, many Church leaders have been interviewed on national TV programs and asked to share their position on this topic. While the majority of Church leaders have been speaking against gay unions and have been defending marriage as being between one man and one woman, many of these same Church leaders have not been able to adequately defend their position.
One Christian leader was interviewed on MSNBC-TV and was asked about the gay marriage issue. The interview went something like this:
TV host: “Did Jesus deal directly with the gay marriage issue?”
Christian leader: “No, but then Jesus didn’t deal directly with the abortion issue or many other issues. . . .”
This is such a disappointing response. A proper response could have been such a powerful witness—not only to the interviewer but to the potential millions of viewers watching the news program, so people could understand why this Christian leader opposed gay marriage.
The same Christian leader appeared on CNN-TV doing an interview that, in part, went something like the following:
Interviewer: “Why are you against gay marriage?”
Christian leader: “Because down through the ages, culture after culture has taught that marriage is between a man and a woman.”
We believe this kind of answer actually opens the door to gay marriage! How? Because it basically says that marriage is determined by law or opinion.
So, why is it that we don’t see many Christian leaders giving the right sorts of answers? I think it’s because the majority of them have compromised with the idea of millions of years of history, as well as evolutionary beliefs in astronomy, geology, and so on. As a result, the Bible’s authority has been undermined, and it’s no longer understood to be the absolute authority.7
After reading explanations from Answers in Genesis such as those above, some critics have concluded that we are saying that belief in millions of years or other evolutionary ideas is the cause of social ills like gay marriage. This is not true at all.
It is accurate to say that the increasing acceptance of homosexual behavior and gay marriage has gone hand in hand with the popularity and acceptance of millions of years and evolutionary ideas. But this does not mean that every person who believes in millions of years/evolution accepts gay marriage or condones homosexual behavior.
What does the Bible says about homosexual behavior and gay marriage? Study the following verses:
But the more people (whether Christian or not) believe in man’s ideas concerning the history of the universe, regardless of what God’s Word appears to be plainly teaching, the more man’s fallible ideas are used as a basis for determining “truth” and overriding the Bible’s authority.
People need to understand that homosexual behavior and the gay marriage controversy are ultimately not the problems in our culture, but are the symptoms of a much deeper problem. Even though it’s obvious from the Bible that homosexual behavior and gay marriage are an abomination (Romans 1 and other passages make this very clear), there is a foundational reason as to why there is an increasing acceptance of these ills in America and societies like it.
Cultures in the West were once pervaded by a primarily Christian worldview because the majority of people at least respected the Bible as the authority on morality. It needs to be clearly understood that over the past 200 years the Bible’s authority has been increasingly undermined, as much of the Church has compromised with the idea of millions of years (this began before Darwin) and has thus begun reinterpreting Genesis. When those outside the Church saw Church leaders rejecting Genesis as literal history, one can understand why they would have quickly lost respect for all of the Bible. If the Church doesn’t even believe this Book to be true, then why should the world build its morality on a fallible work that modern science supposedly has shown to be inaccurate in its science and history?
The Bible has lost respect in people’s eyes (both within and without the Church) to the extent that the culture as a whole now does not take the Bible’s morality seriously at all. The increasing acceptance of homosexual behavior and gay marriage is a symptom of the loss of biblical authority, and is primarily due to the compromise the Church has made with the secular world’s teaching on origins.
For example, consider the following. A New Orleans newspaper printed a commentary entitled “In Gay Rights Debate, Genesis Is Losing.”8 The column pointed out (correctly) that God intended marriage to be between one man and one woman. The writer even quoted Genesis 2:24, which declares, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother and shall cleave to his wife and they shall be one flesh.”
The author then, mockingly, wrote, “Ah, Genesis. Heaven and earth created in six days, a serpent that talks, and a 600-year-old man building an ark. Just the guide we need to set rational policy.”
This secular writer recognized that the literal history of Genesis was the basis for the belief that marriage is one man for one woman. However, by mocking the Genesis account (just as many church leaders effectively do when they reinterpret Genesis 1–11 on the basis of man’s fallible ideas), the writer removed the foundations upon which the institution of marriage stands. This opens the door to gay marriage or anything else one might determine about marriage.
Human sexuality is very complex, and the arguments will long rage as to the causes of homosexual behavior. In this fallen world, most behaviors are a complex mix of one’s personal choices superimposed on a platform of predisposition. This can come both from one’s genetic makeup and one’s environment (for example, one’s upbringing). Few students of human nature would doubt the proposition that some personalities are much more predisposed to alcoholism and/or wife beating, for instance. But would anyone argue that this would make wife beating acceptable?
The case for a “homosexual gene” has evaporated, but let’s say that researchers really were able to identify such a gene. After all, mutations in a cursed, fallen world can cause all sorts of abnormalities and malfunctions. For one thing, that would be a result of the Curse, not creation. And would knowledge of such a gene make right what Scripture clearly says is wrong? Absolute right and wrong exist independent of any secondary causative agencies.
In fact, it is quite possible that a contributing factor to at least some cases of homosexuality is a dysfunctional upbringing right at the time when the child is gaining crucial environmental input regarding his or her own sexual identity. (Notice the importance the Bible places on bringing up children, the family unit, and so on.) But if anything, this highlights one of the huge risks of “married” gay people bringing up adopted children, namely the vulnerability of the children to confused messages about their own sexual identity. To put it simply, if one’s environment contributes to homosexuality, gay marriage will tend to increase the likelihood of the next generation being gay.9
In the Bible in Judges 17:6, we read this statement: “In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes” (NAS95). In other words, when there is no absolute authority to decide right and wrong, everyone has his or her own opinion about what to do.
So how could the Christian leader whose interviews were quoted earlier in this chapter have responded differently? Well, consider this answer:
First of all, Jesus (who created us and therefore owns us and has the authority to determine right and wrong), as the God-man, did deal directly with the gay marriage issue, in the Bible’s New Testament, in Matthew 19:4–6: “And He answered and said to them, ‘Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning “made them male and female,” and said, “For this cause a man shall leave father and mother and shall cling to his wife, and the two of them shall be one flesh?” So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.’ ”
He could have continued:
Christ quoted directly from the book of Genesis (and its account of the creation of Adam and Eve as the first man and woman—the first marriage) as literal history, to explain the doctrine of marriage as being one man for one woman. Thus marriage cannot be a man and a man, or a woman and a woman.
Because Genesis is real history (as can be confirmed by observational science, incidentally), Jesus dealt quite directly with the gay marriage issue when he explained the doctrine of marriage.
Not only this, but in John 1 we read: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made” (KJV).
Jesus, the Creator, is the Word. The Bible is the written Word. Every word in the Bible is really the Word of the Creator—Jesus Christ.10
Therefore, in Leviticus 18:22, Jesus deals directly with the homosexual issue, and thus the gay marriage issue. This is also true of Romans 1:26–27 and 1 Timothy 1:9–10.
Because Jesus in a real sense wrote all of the Bible, whenever Scripture deals with marriage and/or the homosexual issue, Jesus himself is directly dealing with these issues.
Even in a secular context, the only answer a Christian should offer is this:
The Bible is the Word of our Creator, and Genesis is literal history. Its science and history can be trusted. Therefore, we have an absolute authority that determines marriage.
God made the first man and woman—the first marriage. Thus, marriage can only be a man and a woman because we are accountable to the One who made marriage in the first place.
And don’t forget—according to Scripture, one of the primary reasons for marriage is to produce godly offspring.11 Adam and Eve were told to be fruitful and multiply, but there’s no way a gay marriage can fulfill this command!
The battle against gay marriage will ultimately be lost (like the battle against abortion) unless the church and the culture return to the absolute authority beginning in Genesis. Then and only then will there be a true foundation for the correct doctrine of marriage—one man for one woman for life.
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Answers in Genesis is an apologetics ministry, dedicated to helping Christians defend their faith and proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ.