The Blankenhorn Defection on Gay Marriage

David Blankenhorn was a key witness in California’s “Proposition 8” trial. As an author and expert on marriage, Blankenhorn made his case for marriage in that trial, and he was pilloried by David Boies on the stand. After the trial, advocates of gay marriage heaped scorn and ridicule on Blankenhorn for his views and his defense of Proposition 8. As it turns out, their jeering had its intended effect. Blankenhorn has caved and has decided to accept gay marriage.

In an op-ed for The New York Times on Friday, Blankenhorn announced his support for gay marriage. In my view, the article is morally incoherent. Blankenhorn reaffirms his view of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Nevertheless, he says that he no longer has the will to fight against the social pressure to accept gay marriage. In other words, against his principles, he’s decided to stand down. That’s the way I read it, anyway.

Maggie Gallagher has a different take on Blankenhorn’s reversal. She argues that Blankenhorn has been divided all along. She writes:

What makes David Blankenhorn singular and I suspect lonely in this fight is his view of gay relationships. In his book The Future of Marriage, David also endorses the, “equal dignity of homosexual love,” and says in a footnote he disagrees with the Biblical view of sexual morality. He struggled to reconcile what he called a, “conflict of goods”…

In David’s mind, gay marriage represents not a case of good versus evil, but a conflict of goods. He has not stopped believing that marriage is the union of male and female, he has simply lost hope he can help strengthen marriage as a social institution by opposing gay marriage…

In short, Gallagher says that Blankenhorn’s views were never tethered to biblical revelation. It was always for him a matter of what was best for children, and he came to believe that marriage was the best way to ensure that children had a connection to their mother and father. Blankenhorn believed that connection to be an intrinsic good that society should uphold and maintain by privileging traditional marriage in law.

But Blankenhorn has simultaneously held that homosexual relationships ought to be respected and valued as a social good as well. Thus, for Blankenhorn, the struggle for traditional marriage was never a struggle of good vs. evil, but a struggle of good vs. good (with children’s connection to parents being the weightier good). On Friday, Blankenhorn abandoned children’s connection to parents as the weightier good.

I can’t help but look at Blankhorn’s defection from a Christian perspective. I appreciate and support people who are fighting to keep marriage defined as one man and one woman. I’m grateful that folks like Robert George and Maggie Gallagher are fighting the good fight in the public square using arguments that are not necessarily religious in nature. Having said that, I’m becoming increasingly skeptical of the prospects for success in winning the argument on those terms alone.

The apostle Paul says that the “mystery” of marriage is great, “but I’m speaking with reference to Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:32). The mystery of marriage is something that was once hidden in the Old Testament but that now has been revealed in the gospel. The deepest meaning of marriage is that it is an enacted parable of another marriage—the marriage of Christ to His bride. Can anyone really know that definition of marriage apart from God’s revelation of this mystery? Perhaps the world can know penultimate purposes of marriage (procreation, social order, etc.), but what can it know of the ultimate purpose of marriage apart from the specially revealed gospel of Jesus Christ? If marriage is a gospel mystery, the answer has to be very little.

I’m increasingly of the opinion that the best we can do with public square arguments is to convince some people of some of the penultimate purposes of marriage. But even there, those purposes may appear less and less evident to secular people who do not accept God’s law and the revelation of His ultimate purpose for marriage (e.g., David Blankenhorn). That means that while we hope and pray for the best in terms of our public policy, we as Christians may need to be preparing for the worst. We may actually find ourselves sooner than we think standing against an avalanche of public opinion set against us. We may find ourselves with no other argument than what we find in scripture. When that happens and it becomes costly to stand, will we stand? I hope and pray that we will.

In the meantime, we need to remember that our first priority is not the reshaping of public policy but the preaching of the gospel. Our commission from Jesus is to make disciples. In season and out of season, let us be about that business above all else.

7 Responses to The Blankenhorn Defection on Gay Marriage

  1. Ken Temple June 25, 2012 at 12:43 pm #

    This is very sad indeed.

    We have seen the slow erosion of decency, culture, truth, normality, sanity, society on this issue since the 70s

    The Psychological / Psychiatric -Medical associations changing their stance from homosexuality as a mental and emotional disorder to normalizing it.

    Hollywood and media doing it.

    Liberal theologians

    Liberal ACLU lawyer Barry Lynn in the 80s until now has been doing the devils works as the others below,
    and it is working its effect on our culture –

    Allowing homosexuals to adopt children – one of the biggest mistakes toward normalizing it.

    Liberal apostate Episcopal bishop John Shelby Spong,

    Liberal Baptist Tony Compolo,

    Emerging/Emergent Church (another form of theological liberalism) movement main spokesperson Brian McLaren,

    Liberal emerging Egalitarian Rachel Held Evans

    Liberal theologian who drove Fuller Seminary into liberalism in the 70s – Jack Rogers (PCUSA)

    And supposedly Christians in the popular media/ music culture –
    Miley Cyrus, Carrie Underwood,

    now this guy.

    What religious background is David Blankenhorn?
    I had never heard of him until now.

    • JStanton June 25, 2012 at 8:38 pm #

      I just take issue with one specific thing you mentioned. Is homosexuality a sinful lifestyle or a mental disorder? Perhaps you think it both.

      • Ken Temple June 26, 2012 at 4:11 pm #

        This is from the Wikipedia article on Homosexuality and Psychology:

        “In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder. The American Psychological Association Council of
        Representatives followed in 1975.[3]”

        Yes, I believe it is a sinful lifestyle and a mental and emotional disorder. One of the first steps toward normalizing it in society was in 1973-1975, those 2 associations declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder.

  2. Reg Schofield June 25, 2012 at 2:47 pm #

    Very well said. I totally agree that if we detach marriage from biblical revelation , ultimately we don’t have a leg to stand on. I fear there is a cost coming , may we be ready to stand and suffer for the gospel of Christ and all it encompasses .

  3. Don Johnson June 26, 2012 at 12:21 pm #

    I am concerned for the correct interpretation of Scripture, in this case Eph 5. For Paul, a mystery is not something mysterious, it is something revealed. In this case, earlier in Eph the mystery is gentile inclusion in the body of Christ, that is, there is one body with Jewish parts (that is, Jewish people) and gentile parts (that is, non-Jewish people) with Christ as head serving the one body. The mystery is that there is ONE body of Christ, which is not just Jewish (because of gentile inclusion), and also not two bodies, one Jewish and one gentile. So there is unity in diversity, one body composed of many parts.

    This is not just true for cultural things (Jew vis-a-vis gentile) it is also true for gender things and economic things (free vis-a-vis slave), there is unity in diversity in the body of Christ among those groups also. So there is a one body ethic among believers. So Paul can refer to this one body of Christ (and the ethics derived from it) in discussing how wives and husbands are to relate as they are also intended by God in marriage to be one flesh, that is one body, also also further in the text in Eph 6 in the other parts of the household code can refer to kids and parents and slaves and masters. But the mapping is using the one body of Christ in its diversity as the model to look at for marriage, and not looking at marriage as the model to look at for the body of Christ, in this Eph 5-6 teaching.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. The Blankenhorn Defection on Same-Sex Marriage | Kentucky Family - June 25, 2012

    […] Denny Burk has wise counsel on how to interpret Blankenhorn’s surrender: Blankenhorn has simultaneously held that homosexual relationships ought to be respected and valued as a social good as well. Thus, for Blankenhorn, the struggle for traditional marriage was never a struggle of good vs. evil, but a struggle of good vs. good (with children’s connection to parents being the weightier good). On Friday, Blankenhorn abandoned children’s connection to parents as the weightier good. […]

  2. Check out | HeadHeartHand Blog - June 26, 2012

    […] The Blackenthorn defection on Gay Marriage Like Denny Burk, I haven’t given up, but as the ultimate argument against gay marriage is Scriptural, there is less and less hope of successfully opposing it in a society that has become untethered from the Scriptures. […]

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