We’re considering Richard Beck’s post at his Experimental Theology blog summarizing four arguments for affirming same sex marriage. He did not endorse or advocate these arguments.
2. Marriage as Grace
“Male and female God created them” and “Be fruitful and multiply.” …
[Pro-gay marriage or pro-GM] views of same-sex marriage argue, however, that there is another marriage found in the Bible, the marriage between God and Israel. This marriage is not based upon biology but upon election and grace. In this marriage the Image of God is witnessed in covenantal fidelity.
The primacy of grace over biology is also highlighted by Paul when he discusses the inclusion of the Gentiles into the church, the non-biological children who are grafted into Israel “contrary to nature” via the grace and election of God. This grace is also displayed in the family of the church, a family not formed through biology but through the Spirit and our pledges of covenantal fidelity to God and each other.
Does the Bible evidence covenantal unions that are not literal heterosexual marriage? Are some analogized by the scriptural authors to heterosexual marriage? Absolutely. Do any of these covenantal unions (other than heterosexual marriage) involve actual sex? Of course, not. Apples and oranges.
In fact, when the prophets compare God’s relationship with Israel and when Paul compares Jesus’ relationship with the church to a marriage, both are specific that it’s a heterosexual marriage and that God or Jesus is the husband and Israel or the church is the wife.
Homosexual relationships were known in the ancient near east (and here) and in the Grecian world of NT times, and so the prophets and Paul could have used gender-neutral language to describe the relationship of God with Israel and Jesus with the church, but they chose to speak in terms of husband and wife.
The inclusion of Gentiles “contrary to nature” is not contrary to the created order.
(Rom. 11:24 ESV) 24 For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree.
It’s a brilliant analogy that Paul is using to make a point. “Contrary to nature” means “Gentiles are treated as part of the elect nation of Israel contrary to genetics. Gentiles aren’t born Jews.” But “contrary to nature” here does not mean “contrary to the created order.” In fact, the grand narrative of scripture is that the division of mankind into separate nations and ethnicities is contrary to God’s original design for creation, and the Kingdom re-unites the nations to become a single people under the Messiah — taking us back to Genesis 2 and before Babel. (This is a major theme of the Revelation, as shown in the recent series on that book.)
However, in Rom 1, when Paul declares homosexual acts “contrary to nature” (Rom 1:26), his point is that such actions are against God’s original purpose and design.
Does this mean Paul uses “nature” is two very senses in the same epistle? Yes, it does. This is hardly shocking given the limited number of koine Greek words available to Paul (5,264 root words in biblical Greek compared to over 1,000,000 in English). In Ephesians he uses pneuma to refer both the Holy Spirit and to Satan. Context rules.