Russell and Duenes

Is “Consent” What Makes a Marriage?

with 18 comments

Once again, Touchstone Magazine is chock full this month of wonderful articles, not least of which is the piece entitled, Let No Man Join Together, by Vigen Guroian. In it, Guroian attempts to give a theological basis showing why same-sex “marriage” is a fiction. I appreciated this piece because Guroian gets at the heart of the issue, which is the biblical teaching about marriage. The church can and should make the “natural law” case for marriage in the face her current detractors, but this alone will not suffice, nor should it. God has called us to proclaim the gospel to all the nations, and this includes the truth about what marriage is. And marriage is primarily a physical and spiritual union of a man and a woman which shows forth the reality of the relationship between Christ and His Bride, the Church. This teaching cannot be arrived at by natural law, but comes to us by way of revelation. And it is this revelation with which we must begin, rather than trying to begin on some equal epistemological footing with unbelievers. We may be laughed at for beginning with the Bible, but what else is new? Below is a conclusive summary from Guroian which sums up the case rather well, I think.

“This sacramental union of bride and groom is no mere cipher or allegory of human relationality, as represented by some proponents of gay marriage. Bride and groom are not nominal titles that may be bestowed upon any two persons, irrespective of their sex or gender, who enter into a “loving relationship.” There is nothing incidental, accidental, or volitional about heterosexual bumanity or the fact that the male is groom and the female is bride, or that the marital union of a man and a woman is an icon of the eschatological union of Christ and the Church. Christ is the Groom and the Church is his Bride of the New Creation…Human willing and choosing cannot change marriage’s essence, or the symbolism that God has ordained for it. Thus, there simply is no such thing as same-sex marriage. There is not a same-sex equivalent to bride and groom. To insist that there are such equivalences, and to act upon this error, not only represents marriage as something it is not, but also envisions salvation as something it is not.”

Guroian argues that even we Christians have been captivated by the notion of “consent.” We seem to think that marriage is something that occurs when the man and the woman consent to it. But I think he makes a good case for why this is false (and if you want to read his case, I highly, highly recommend you subscribe to Touchstone. There is not a better Christian magazine out there, for my money.) Further, our culture has run with this notion of consent, and now we justify almost anything as long as the two parties are “consenting.” But marriage is what it is, and is not what the same-sex marriage proponents say it is, not by our consent, but by God’s decree and ordination. I admit, this was a new idea to me, and I’m gratified to have been exposed to it. I’ll have to think on it some more.

We are only beginning to join the struggle in contending for God’s glory in the mysterious union of husband and wife, which refers to Christ and the Church. Let us live and proclaim the truth humbly, yet firmly. Much is at stake.


Written by Michael Duenes

January 20, 2011 at 8:52 pm

Posted in Duenes, Ethics, Theology

18 Responses

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  1. I haven’t read the whole article, so I won’t vociferously attack it directly. But I would like to ask, is “sex” what makes a marriage? If so, then what is sex? Is it my chromosomes? Is it my genitalia? Is it my hormones? Must all three align? What if I have female chromosomes, male hormones, and the genitalia of both sexes? I would like to read your answer to this question.

    As an aside, it’s time to stop being dishonest about your epistemological starting point. It’s not the bible, it necessarily can’t be. The bible is just a book, a physical object of paper and ink. It must be “read” for one to derive meaning. In order to read and interpret, we must use reason. Therefore, reason is, by necessity, the epistemological starting point, not textual revelation. (It also follows that you must justify the validity of the text, using reason, before you claim to derive truth from it. Moreover, your derivation of truth can be flawed.)

    I know these are two really big separate issues (unless, I suppose, you believe the Bible defines sex, then you would approach the second before the first in one single post).

    Joshua House

    January 21, 2011 at 6:57 am

    • Josh – First, it’s time for you to get out of your echo chamber on epistemology and start reading some heavy-weights who disagree with you. The question you need to answer, which I don’t believe you will be able to, is this: Give me a reason why we ought to start with reason? Tell me how you even know you have reason, that you are even thinking right now, and not just fizzing like a bottle of Dr. Pepper and calling it “thinking.” Answer that, and then we can go somewhere. But charges of dishonesty are really too much.

      Your assertion that the Bible is “just a book written with paper and ink” simply begs the question. Further, it fails to grapple with the Bible’s own attestation to “what the Bible is.” The words of the Bible may be written down on paper, but the Bible has existed, along with God, eternally, and I know this because the Bible reveals it, not by reason. You will say to me, “But you can’t ascertain anything the Bible says without reason.” This is true in a manner of speaking, but when I say that our starting point is the Bible, I mean the Bible as it has existed for all eternity alongside God. It thus precedes any human reason at all and is the basis for it. By the breath of the Lord came forth “reason.”

      And I think you need to read the article before you comment further. You discussion of sex and chromosomes is an aside. But even taking the quote on its own terms, the author is saying that marriage is not defined solely on the basis of sex. It’s defined by the reality of Christ and the Church, to which man and woman joined together as “one flesh” is a pointer and image. As I said, and I’ll say it again, since you don’t seem to want to address it directly: This is not something that comes to us through reason or even natural revelation. It comes to us in the gospel, by special revelation, which is our starting point.


      russell and duenes

      January 21, 2011 at 9:42 pm

      • I’ve read the presuppositionalists and even other biblicists who insist on the same concept. But it makes no sense. Without reasoning, I am unable to attach significance to words. They are just blots of ink on a piece of parchment. In order to turn a physical blot of ink into a word, I have to perform a mental act. This mental act is the epistemological starting point, not the words in the text. Do you disagree with this?

        Joshua House

        January 22, 2011 at 6:19 am

      • Yes, I disagree with it because epistemology does not start with me. The Bible is prior to my thinking anything, and is the basis for the fact that I can and do think anything. It not only describes reality, but is the basis for reality. “He spoke and they were created.” Thus, my epistemological foundation is the Scriptures. Were it not, I would have to have a higher authority than Scripture, namely, reason, but the Bible clearly reveals that there is no higher authority than the Scriptures.


        russell and duenes

        January 22, 2011 at 7:37 am

      • “Tell me how you even know you have reason, that you are even thinking right now, and not just fizzing like a bottle of Dr. Pepper and calling it “thinking.” Answer that, and then we can go somewhere.”

        I don’t need to know that I am thinking. I know that I can put one apple next to another and say I have two apples and that saying such is a tautology. Is that thinking? Did I do any of that out of free will? It doesn’t matter. The point is that the mess of chemicals that make up my ‘self’ was able to form a tautology. Moreover, others seem to be able to agree with my tautology, by defining their terms in a similar fashion as 1+1=2.

        I agree with you that “By the breath of the Lord came forth “reason.”” I would actually go further and say that God=Reason and that ‘human reason’ is an imperfect reflection of that Universal Reason.

        However, when you say “the Bible as it has existed for all eternity alongside God,” you need to justify that using reason. Reason is your first revelation, your natural revelation. Your use of it is imperfect, just like your reading of the Bible could be imperfect, but reason is what tells you whether the Bible is worth reading in the first place (unless you have had some direct, special revelation) and is in fact the thing which lets you read at all.

        To put it simply, I can have a relationship with God having never read the Bible, but I can’t be human if I don’t have reason.

        Joshua House

        January 22, 2011 at 7:04 am

      • Josh – Actually, you can’t have a relationship with God having never read the Bible. Paul clearly says that unbelievers are “darkened in their understanding” and are cut off from any true knowledge of God. For any such true knowledge of God comes only through spiritual regeneration through faith in Christ. And no, God does not equal reason. This would be to deify reason. God is reasonable, which is why we’re reasonable. Indeed, human reason is imperfect, marred as it is by sin. To say that I need to use reason to think about Scripture is perfectly true, but it does not follow from this that my epistemological foundation is reason. It is Scripture, which exists prior to my reason and tells me why I have reason. This was true of the first human beings, who did not have the Scriptures written down. They were still living “upon every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”


        russell and duenes

        January 22, 2011 at 7:43 am

      • P.S. My aside about direct, special revelation was ill-placed. Reason is still required to interpret those direct revelations as either from God or another source. Reason is also required to interpret the content of those revelations.

        Joshua House

        January 22, 2011 at 7:06 am

      • “The Bible is prior to my thinking anything, and is the basis for the fact that I can and do think anything.”
        “It is Scripture, which exists prior to my reason and tells me why I have reason. This was true of the first human beings, who did not have the Scriptures written down. They were still living “upon every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”

        This is your metaphysical starting point, not your epistemological starting point. That is, you are asking me to accept your metaphysics (the pre-existence of scripture). My epistemology, that is, my way of knowing, starts with brain then moves to scripture. I need to know other things before I can comprehend scripture. You, in contrast, are speaking of a metaphysical starting point.

        “I would have to have a higher authority than Scripture, namely, reason, but the Bible clearly reveals that there is no higher authority than the Scriptures.”

        This deifies the scriptures in the same way I deified God/perfect/universal-reason. I do not see the difference. Also, you can’t use the text to claim that it’s authoritative on its own matters… that assumes the conclusion. The question is what is the authority of the scripture in order that I may read it properly. You can’t claim that reading it illuminated its authority, because one needs to know authority before one can find intent.

        Joshua House

        January 22, 2011 at 8:53 am

      • Josh – You may be right that I am in error in my use of terminology. If that is the case, then yes, I’m starting from a metaphysical view that the Scriptures are the foundation for all knowledge. If you are simply saying that reason has existed for all eternity in that God is a God of reason, then I won’t disagree with you. I would say the same about the Scriptures. They have been in the mind of God forever, so in that sense, they are eternal. Where we might disagree is over whether “using the text to claim the text’s authority” is valid. Is it circular? Indeed it is in a sense. But everyone of necessity MUST resort to circular reason when appealing to ultimate authority. For whatever one’s ultimate authority is, that authority must be appealed to in a self-attesting way. So everyone must come to a point where they say, “I accept my belief in x as the ultimate authority based on faith.” Everyone has a faith position, just some people don’t admit it. I think you admit it, but I could be wrong.


        russell and duenes

        January 22, 2011 at 11:11 am

  2. I’m inclined to say that sex, something (but not exactly) like race, is a set of attributes. The Platonic Form of the woman is chromosomally, physically, hormonally, and mentally female.

    Where does that leave people who are medical aberrations in one way or another? I think they can still be categorized fairly well. Chromosomes are the least important factor; for example, women with congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) are indeed phenotypic women even if they have male chromosomes. What about genitalia and hormones, then? Well, they generally align. Again, for instance, women with CAH are phenotypically female because they have female hormones in spite of their male chromosomes.

    What if I have female chromosomes, male hormones, and the genitalia of both sexes?

    I think you would need to be a bit more specific about what you are describing – remember that all normal women have a certain level of “male hormones”. If you mean to say “What about a genetic female with male levels of every hormone from Day One in the womb”, then this is extremely likely to be a male with non-functioning female genitalia as a congenital abnormality.

    In short, even these people can almost always be considered male or female, and in fact I use words like “generally”, “almost always”, in order to hedge, but I am unaware that there is anyone who is, for example, “hormonally female” but with male genitalia.

    It is theoretically possible that someone exists who really does defy categorization. I don’t think this breaks the idea that marriage is a male/female union. Which “sex” should this person be for the purpose of marriage? Perhaps they simply shouldn’t marry.


    January 21, 2011 at 6:15 pm

    • Samson, well-put, but I think it breaks down our definition of sex, not of marriage. Unless Christians posit an EXACT definition of male or female, they are unable to label any particular relationship as homosex or heterosex. I’ve never gotten an answer from any Christian as to how to define sex that I wasn’t able to show is not principled (except for the soul argument, which is ridiculous because then I would need to know the sex of someone’s soul to condemn them).

      Joshua House

      January 22, 2011 at 7:13 am

      • Josh – Once again, you’re starting point is wrong. Christians manifestly do not need to posit an “exact” definition of sex. It is not the definitions of Josh we are trying to satisfy or any other human tribunal. We only need to define sex and the nature of male and female as they are revealed in the Scriptures. Our “principled argument” is to present what God has revealed. And God has revealed that “from the beginning He made them male and female.” Genetic anomalies come to us as a result of sin and the corruption that is in the creation because of God’s curse. But your notions about sex and gender come from modern, scientistic ideas about gender being “fluid” or “undefinable” or “a social construct.” As I have shown, the Bible resists this, and frankly, the mass of human sexuality resists it as well. To take an incredibly small proportion of humanity that feels and acts differently, or that has physiological abnormality, and therefore throw out notions of male and female because of it seems a dubious process. Perhaps I’ve misunderstood your argument, but you may certainly correct me. God made us male and female to image forth something of His relationship with his people, the complementary nature of it. If God says that He has done this, then it follows that notions of male and female cannot be so muddled as to make it impossible.


        russell and duenes

        January 22, 2011 at 7:54 am

  3. Well, my question is, in what way does the Bible guide me to believe that person x is male and person y is male, such that I can objectively tell persons x and y not to be together.

    I can grant you that God created male and female, but I can at the same time accept that it is for Him to determine whether or not person x is one or the other. In that case, Churches need to stop protesting marriages they deem “same-sex” because, of course, they have no way of really knowing whether persons x or y are either male or female. It would be an issue between those subjects and God.

    Hence, my question is, in order for the Church to make such objective determinations, it needs to provide an objective answer. Think of it this way: I am trying to avoid marrying someone of my sex. Yet, I am asking you, what sex am I? In addition, what should I be looking for in order to see whether a potential mate is also that sex?

    “Genetic anomalies come to us as a result of sin and the corruption that is in the creation because of God’s curse.”

    How do you define anomaly? Your height is an anomaly, that is, a random gene that signals the height you will grow to happened to fall in your ancestors’ DNA (people used to be much shorter). Your ancestors procreated successfully and that gene has now ended up in your DNA. What was an anomaly at one point is now a pretty average phenotype. From the point of view of genetics, there is no “normal” since it’s pure “anomaly” that your semen-ancestor continued exist at all (and not one of the other thousands of semen your father launched).

    Joshua House

    January 22, 2011 at 9:03 am

    • the “since” in my last sentence was supposed to be a different transition –

      “From the point of view of genetics, there is no “normal.” Moreover, it’s pure “anomaly” that your semen-ancestor continued exist at all (and not one of the other thousands of semen your father launched).”

      Joshua House

      January 22, 2011 at 9:07 am

    • Your position here, Josh, amounts to the obliteration of male and female. It does no good to say that “God knows whether any person x is male or female, but we humans have no way of determining it.” To say this is to void anything the Scripture has to say about male and female, and frankly, it has quite a lot to say. I might begin with Paul when he says,

      “For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.”

      This assumes that we can know what is “contrary to nature,” and it is simply sophistry to say that there are some human beings about whom we have difficulty ascertaining their sexual status, so therefore we simply can’t determine anything about male and female. Paul says we can, which means that God says we can. Paul further says,

      “Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a wife to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering.”

      So nature teaches us somethings, even in the face of “hard cases,” which are the great, great exception. Comparing differences in “height” to sexuality is comparing apples to oranges. Yes, we’re all of different heights, but that is the nature of our being human. But if you line up 100 males and 100 females randomly off the streets, you will likely find that the male genitalia is the same and the female genitalia is the same, and you will also likely find that they have certain other physical and emotional characteristics that they have in common as male and female, but not across the sexual divide. Exceptions to this are just that, exceptions.

      But frankly, there’s not much point in arguing this further if you are of the mind to believe that we can know nothing about masculinity and femininity. If that’s the kind of world you want to live in, so be it, but I can’t imagine anything more dreadful, or unworkable in practical reality. If you don’t see the loveliness and beauty of our differentiation as male and female, then you are like a person for whom honey can be put on your tongue, but you cannot taste it’s sweetness. In that case, argumentation will be to no avail. The tastebuds are shot.


      russell and duenes

      January 22, 2011 at 11:30 am

  4. […] About What Constitutes “Male and Female” One of my commentors (See comments on “Is ‘Consent’ What Makes a Marriage?”) has said that we cannot know who is male and who is female because the gender categories are not […]

  5. I have a question that may require a new blog post (in fact, this comment may be worth a guest blog): Is there a reason why you chose to put faith in book ‘x’ as opposed to book ‘y’?

    The classical philosophers believed that natural law revealed why we should pay attention to the Scriptures. For example, Augustine presents an a priori proof for God and the consequent authority of scripture. It is true that his proof requires “faith”, but it appeals to concepts that all humans accept by faith as a matter of being human, i.e., a priori truths. (If Augustine had met someone that denied a priori truth, he probably would not have found such a person worth arguing with.)

    Your view seems to be (at least, if it is standard presuppositionalist) that one starts with the Bible (and a certain interpretation of it) and then reasons from there. By doing so, it is said, starting with Bible can be shown to be the best method because only by starting with the Bible can ‘consistency’ be achieved. However, doesn’t this mean that ‘consistency’ as a value was conceived prior to the examination of the text? If you say that consistency is value because the bible says so, then it doesn’t show that starting with the bible is the best method and you still leave the observer wondering why you started with the Bible. You could chalk it up to blind faith, but that would seem to run afoul of 1 Peter 3:15.

    In sum, it is great that you have faith, but how do you give an accounting for your faith? If you simply say, well everyone has a starting point and mine is this (which is itself an appeal to reason), how would you convince someone to believe your text and interpretation are correct but theirs are not? What objective reasons (that is, truths that the both of you already accept) can you give that they should have your starting point?

    Joshua House

    January 22, 2011 at 12:48 pm

    • Josh – Your comment brings up a worthy topic. If you would like to submit a guest post, send it to me on my facebook, and we’ll get the discussion started once I post it here. I have some thoughts in response to your question, but I agree that it might be better for you to introduce it in a guest post, and then I’ll post a rejoinder, though we might agree to a more significant degree than one would think.


      russell and duenes

      January 22, 2011 at 1:18 pm

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