A college professor name Abigail Rine has an important article over at the First Things website titled “What is Marriage to Evangelical Millennials?” She says that in the last several years, she has noticed a change in the evangelical students that she teaches. Whereas students used to be on board with a biblical view on marriage and sexuality, that is no longer the case. She tells what happened when she recently assigned for her students to read “What Is Marriage?” by Robbie George, Ryan Anderson, and Sherif Girgis:
My students hated it, as I suspected they would. They also seemed unable to fully understand the argument. As I tried to explain the reasoning behind the conjugal view of marriage and its attitude toward sex, I received dubious stares in response. I realized, as I listened to the discussion, that the idea of “redefining” marriage was nonsensical to them, because they had never encountered the philosophy behind the conjugal view of marriage. To them, the Christian argument against same-sex marriage is an appeal to the authority of a few disparate Bible verses, and therefore compelling only to those with a literalist hermeneutic. What the article names as a “revisionist” idea of marriage—marriage as an emotional, romantic, sexual bond between two people—does not seem “new” to my students at all, because this is the view of marriage they were raised with, albeit with a scriptural, heterosexual gloss.
You should go read the rest of Rine’s article. Her observations here are important because they show that evangelicals lost the marriage argument long before gay marriage was even on anybody’s radar screen. Evangelicals succumbed to an unbiblical view of marriage a generation ago when they let the ubiquity of contraception and no-fault divorce go unchallenged. She is undoubtedly right about this. We have sown to the wind, and we are now reaping the whirlwind with the Millennial generation.
The practical upshot of this for pastors and church leaders is that we need more biblical instruction and formation on these issues, not less. Yes, we need clear instruction about what the Bible says about homosexuality, but that by itself won’t be enough. Our children need to learn what the meaning and purpose of marriage and sexuality are. And this involves not only teaching them the truth, but also providing models of healthy marriages and family life. And we have to show them that God’s design for marriage and family is the best way of life, not just the best theory. In short, we have to be a bona fide counterculture if we are going to win the next generation.