I would be remiss not to comment on Lisa Miller’s cover story in this week’s Newsweek magazine, “The Religious Case for Gay Marriage.” The title of the article says everything that you need to know about this piece. In essence, Miller argues that a right understanding of the Christian tradition would actually favor gay “marriage” rather than oppose it. She appeals to the Bible and to history to make her point.
This piece is disappointing on a number of levels, and the subsequent critiques have been sharp and justified (e.g., Albert Mohler, Christianity Today, Mollie Hemingway). For the most thorough response, see Robert Gagnon’s 23-page essay
(HT: Justin Taylor). I have little more to add to these, but a few remarks are in order.
Miller sets forth two lines of argument in this piece that are fundamentally at odds with one another. The first line is that the Bible (rightly understood) actually encourages gay “marriage.” The second line is that the Bible is not a reliable guide for ordering the family or society. These two themes are present throughout the essay, and Miller doesn’t seem to realize that they are self-defeating. It’s fallacious to appeal to the Bible for guidance while simultaneously arguing against the Bible’s relevance for modern culture.
Miller also profoundly misstates the New Testament teaching on marriage. She writes,
‘The New Testament model of marriage is hardly better. Jesus himself was single and preached an indifference to earthly attachmentsâ€”especially family. The apostle Paul (also single) regarded marriage as an act of last resort for those unable to contain their animal lust. “It is better to marry than to burn with passion,” says the apostle, in one of the most lukewarm endorsements of a treasured institution ever uttered’. . . while the Bible and Jesus say many important things about love and family, neither explicitly defines marriage as between one man and one woman.’
Jesus’ teaching about marriage can hardly be characterized as one of indifference. Jesus taught that faithfulness in marriage is a matter of discipleship. He even defined marriage according to Genesis 2:24 as the union of one man and one womanâ€”a union that should not be dissolved cavalierly by divorce (Matthew 19:5).
The apostle Paul also defined marriage according to Genesis 2:24 and argued that God intended the one flesh union of man and wife to symbolize the relationship that Christ has with his church (Ephesians 5:21-33). For Paul, the gospel itself is the innermost meaning of marriage. To distort the one is to distort the other.
Time and again, Jesus looked at the most learned people of his day and said, “Have you not read?” We might ask the same question of Ms. Miller.