We are thinking through additional counter-arguments to those in favor of gay marriage proposed by Richard Beck in his blog.
In yesterday’s post, I pointed out that we are given two biblical templates for life in the image of God — heterosexual marriage and celibate singleness. Both are declared to be in the image of God — and nothing else is.
Why? Well, perhaps this will help our understanding —
This metaphysics of sex, however, only finds explicit statement once in the Bible: “for love is fierce as death, passion is mighty as Sheol, its darts are darts of fire, a blazing flame. Vast floods cannot quench love, nor rivers drown it” (Song of Songs 8:6–7). Otherwise, there is no explicit reflection on the meaning of sexuality nor its place in the cosmic order.
The reason for this absence may be monotheism itself. There is no sexuality in the divine sphere. God, usually envisioned as male in gender, is not phallic; God does not represent male virility, and is never imaged below the waist.
The prophets use a powerful marital metaphor for the relationship between God, the “husband,” and Israel, the “wife,” but the relationship is not described in erotic language. God neither models nor grants sexual potency or attraction.
This absence of sex from the divine realm and of God from the sexual realm is accompanied by a separation of sexuality from the realm of the holy. Moses and the people had to abstain from sexual activity for three days before the revelation at Sinai (Exod 19:15). So too, David assured Ahimelech that he and his men could eat hallowed bread because they had been away from women for three days (1 Sam 21:4–5). The priests of Israel were not a reflection of God, and celibacy was a totally foreign idea; yet they modelled controlled sexual behavior. When the sons of Eli slept with the women who came to worship, they forfeited their family’s right to be priests (1 Sam 2:22–24). The priest could not marry a prostitute or a divorcee (Lev 22:7), and if his daughter was not chaste, she was to be burnt for profaning her father (Lev 22:9).
All hints of sexuality were to be kept far away from cultic life and religious experience. People had to wait a day after sexual intercourse or nocturnal emission before coming to the temple (Lev 15:16–18), and the wages of a prostitute could not be given to the temple as a gift. …
The separation of sexuality from the realm of the holy should not be seen as a polemic against pagan religion but as a result of the lack of sexuality in the conception of the divine.
Tikva Frymer-Kensky, The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary, 1992, 5, 1146.
The gods of the pagans were sexual beings. They had sex with each other. Some had sex with humans. And the pagans were fascinated by and influenced by their gods’ sexuality. To them, sex was identity — even a path to unity with their god.
Asherah was worshiped in various ways, including through ritual sex. Although she was believed to be Baal’s mother, she was also his mistress. Pagans practiced “sympathetic magic”, that is, they believed they could influence the gods’ actions by performing the behavior they wished the gods to demonstrate. Believing the sexual union of Baal and Asherah produced fertility, their worshipers engaged in immoral sex to cause the gods to join together, ensuring good harvests. This practice became the basis for religious prostitution (1 Kings 14:23-24). The priest or a male member of the community represented Baal. The priestess or a female members of the community represented Asherah. In this way, God’s incredible gift of sexuality was perverted to the most obscene public prostitution. No wonder God’s anger burned against his people and their leaders.
But YHWH is not like the pagan gods. The God of the Jews was no prude, and certainly never speaks ill of sex — which he invented. But he invented sex for humans as a temporary expedient to fill the earth and preserve the race once death entered the world. Sex is not who we are. It’s not our identity. Sex is good, holy, and a gift from God — but we attain unity with God (theosis) and our true identities as images of God by entirely different means. And sex is something we’ll leave behind when Jesus returns.
This fits nicely with —
(Matt. 22:29-30 ESV) 29 But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. 30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.”
Jesus was likely referring to —
(Dan. 12:2-3 ESV) 2 And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. 3 And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.
Not only does this passage point us toward the resurrection of God’s people, but we’re told they’ll be resurrected to “everlasting life” and “forever and ever” and shall “shine like the brightness of the sky above … like the stars.” We’ll arise from our graves with glorified bodies that will last forever, ending the need to reproduce to preserve the species. We’ll pass from the Darwinian need to procreate to pass our genetic material to the next generation to eternal glory — like God.
Well, actually Jesus says “like angels in heaven,” as though we obviously know all about angels in heaven. But it is clear from scripture that angels, like God, are eternal beings. And unlike the divine beings, gods, and demigods of the nations that surrounded the Jews, the Jewish God and his heavenly hosts were asexual — sex being a temporary expedient for our very human, temporary state of mortality. Unlike the pagan gods, YHWH is never pictured as a sexual being.
That is, we tend to see sex and sexual desire as a part of our essential natures. It’s part of our identity. It’s who we are.
God disagrees. We are called to be in the image of God.
Heterosexual marriage is not a violation of God’s image, we learn from Gen 1 – 2, but neither is it essential. This is why, contrary to centuries of rabbinic teaching, Paul does not require Christians to marry and have children. It’s not wrong, but it’s not necessary to be like God. And the goal of everything is for us to be like God.
Therefore, for Christians, singleness may be a preferable choice, as Paul teaches in 1 Cor 7.
(Search “theosis” in the search box if you don’t recall the posts on that topic.)