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August 10, 2010


Great topic. This has been my primary reason for staying out of this discussion, but I will reconsider now.

In your next post, can you provide some ways we can engage society regarding this issue?

Here's a place to start - good and clear arguments and reasons. Be ready to engage reasonably and respectfully.


Consider the following principle:

Different-Sex Requirement (DSR): For any two persons S and S*, S and S* may enjoy the benefits and responsibilities of civil marriage with each other only if S and S* are not the same sex.

Some have objected to the DSR on the grounds that it is objectionably arbitrary and discriminatory. I won’t clarify the objection much, but I trust that everyone sort of has a feel for what the complaint amounts to.
There are two responses in defense of DSR that come to mind. I’d like to argue that both responses are bad responses.

First Response: The Same Rule Applies to Everyone

Some have defended the non-arbitrary nature of the DSR on the grounds that it applies to everyone without distinction on the basis of sexual preference, race, religion, etc. Whether or not you are heterosexual or homosexual, the DSR lays down the same requirements for marriage. The DSR is consistently applied to everyone, and so is not applied arbitrarily.

This response confuses Arbitrarily applying a principle with Consistently applying an arbitrary principle. The complaint raised against the DSR is not that it is applied arbitrarily, but rather that the DSR itself is arbitrary. To illustrate, consider the following principle:

Eye-Color Requirement (ECR): For any two persons S and S*, S and S* may enjoy the benefits and responsibilities of civil marriage with each other only if S and S* do not have the same eye-color.

It would be absurd to defend the non-arbitrary nature of the ECR merely on the grounds that the ECR quantifies over all persons without distinction. It is not the application of the ECR that is arbitrary, but the ECR itself. The ECR extends benefits and responsibilities to some while withholding it from others on the basis of an arbitrary feature.
So, defending the DSR on the grounds that the same rule applies to everyone fails.

Second Response: The Teleology of Civil Marriage

One might defend the DSR against the charge of arbitrariness by arguing that the teleology of civil marriage is the natural reproduction of children along with the upbringing of those children. This is the purpose for which the institution exists. Relative to this teleology, eye-color certainly is arbitrary. But relative to this teleology, being the kind of couple that can’t naturally produce children certainly is not. So, this provides a way of ruling out the ECR while retaining the DSR.

It does not yet seem true to me that the teleology of civil marriage includes the natural reproduction of children. If all of the sudden and forevermore all human beings were unable to naturally produce children but, miraculously enough, could produce children by mixing water and XYZ, the institution of civil marriage would not be harmed in the least. This is because the teleology of civil marriage is indifferent with respect to whether or not a child is introduced to a family via the natural reproductive activity of that very family. It seems that a couple that obtained a child in a morally legitimate but non-natural fashion would fulfill the teleology of civil marriage so long as they raised the child in a healthy manner. So, appealing to the teleology of civil marriage does not relieve the DSR from the charge of arbitrariness.


What's wrong with being arbitrary? Are you suggesting, then, a total ban on "spin the bottle"?


Why the qualification of "morally legitimate" in regard to the teleology of civil marriage? If we are bringing in moral standards, we should be talking about ecclesiastical marriage, not civil marriage.

The teleology of civil marriage need not be an affirmation of the upbringing of children. It could be a nullfication of the obligation of bringing up a child that is not yours.

Sorry, but I find this whole post utterly unconvincing. Nobody is restricting your religious freedom.

I don't know much about the legal action you mention, but I agree that churches should not be forced into performing rituals they do not want to. If that is what happens, it would seem that's a problem with the legal system, not same-sex marriage itself.

Marriage is *legally* not a religious institution. (I could argue it's not from a cultural standpoint either anymore in many societies but that is beside the point). Marriage licenses are not handed out by the Church, but rather by the Government. That's how it is here in Australia and as far as I know it's the same in the US. Say what you want about the moral/legitimacy of the marriages, but religion has no say in the legality of it.

When you raise children in a society, it is true that many of their values and thoughts will be shaped by the culture/society around them - but it's simply special pleading to argue that your particular values should be held in high esteem because otherwise you can't raise your children 'godly'. Why should your religious convictions trump other peoples religious convictions? When you say things like 'It will make the task of  raising Children to obey all that God has commanded that much harder', I just think ...so? I can argue that having no gay marriage makes it harder to raise kids that respect gay people as equals.
If you want to argue that it will have a negative effect on the culture, you're going to have to use reasons we can all agree on.


How do you account for the absence of civil marriage in the modern state of Israel?

Why not have the government provide civil marriages and the church provide religious marriages. Roger Olson makes a case for it here:



I don't have any knowledge of marriage in Israel. Are you saying it is administered by the Church but has legal power? Not sure what you mean by asking me to account for it, but if that's the case I strongly disagree with that arrangement as a supporter of Church/state separation systems.

What Roger Olson has written is a great idea. If a particular Church doesn't want to marry same sex people, no problem. But those two people should still have the same rights and opportunities under the law as everyone else.

Besides, I'm sure they can find a Church that will marry them!


The point is that civil marriage can be dispensed with. If, in the U.S., states are forced to change civil marriage to something they don't like, they might just abolish the institution altogether.


And make marriage a Christian only institution? I could be wrong, but if marriage kept the legal status that would be favouring one religion, and thus illegal (Church/State etc)?

From the main post: "So Christians have an interest for their children’s sake for the state of the culture they raise them in. It will make the task of raising Children to obey all that God has commanded that much harder."

Indeed. Parents have already been denied the right to have their elementary school children excluded from public school instruction which promotes a functional definition of the family and discusses sexual orientation in a way which is in conflict with their moral convictions.

One example from 2009: http://pacificjustice.org/news/parents-take-beating-school-district-court-anti-bullying-case

The Goat says: " But those two people should still have the same rights and opportunities under the law as everyone else."

I suggest that that has been the case for marriage in the U.S. prior to the uproar over same sex marriage.

After skimming Olsen's proposal it seems to me that it would still allow the deconstruction of the institutions of marriage and the family which, regardless of your religious affiliation, can be considered a really bad idea.


Take a look at the example of Israel. Ecclesiastical marriage is recognized for a number of different religions and sects. Law of marriage in Israel is the same as it was when Israel was part of the Ottoman Empire, a huge country that encompassed many peoples and religions. Search on the word "Millet".

Goat writes:
"I can argue that having no gay marriage makes it harder to raise kids that respect gay people as equals."

But there is no such thing as an isolated gay marriage just as there is no such thing as an isolated 5 dollar bill. In the case of the latter, the common currency is what we are talking about, not the bill in my pocket. The same is true of marriage. If the state declares gay unions a good, by default anyone who does not respect that good is bad. This is why in Massachusetts, Catholic Charities got out of the child adoption business. It could not, in good conscience, turn orphans over t gay couples, since such an arrangement violates Catholic moral theology. Marriage is not merely the product of individual choice. It is an institution supported by the wider culture and our legal institutions. So, a regime that permits same-sex marriage decrees marriage as inherently genderless and those that oppose it mistaken. Thus, in any public thing you do--whether it is receiving government grants, renting a room in your home, or shaping school curricula--you cannot act as if genderless marriage is mistaken. And you will be punished. No doubt about it. Read my First Things piece on this, here: http://tinyurl.com/2btfwr6

I agree with Francis. There is no doubt, people will be punished. People are already punished. The punishment if same-sex marriage is legalized, however, will be deemed mainstream and legitimate. Very public punishment. Change your beliefs, or else, you bigot.

Regarding Melinda’s post: If Christians would just shut up about things – more people could come to Christ? But what sort of idea of Christ would that be? I’ll say an inaccurate one.

As Christians we shouldn't try to legislate morality or try to make the government Christian. It wont work, (many historical examples) the only way to change the country is to share the GOSPEL and have peoples hearts changed, then the country will change. Just like the Jews wanted Jesus to become a political leader and activist he denied that mantle because it isn't about this earth, but his kingdom. Christians today are guilty of the same thing the Jews were, wanting Jesus/Christianity to be a political force, when it isn't. The only way moral issues in this country will change is with a change of peoples hearts, instead of focusing on the government and trying to change it as Christians we should be sharing the GOSPEL. My 2 cents... :)

"As Christians we shouldn't try to legislate morality or try to make the government Christian."

Can we legislate our math or economics? Or does your prohibition only apply to morality?


With many laws having moral significance, which morals are worth legislating and which are not?


That is up to the ruler. Under Romans 13:3-4, rulers are given authority that flows down a different path than the authority that God gives to his Church. All you need to qualify as a ruler is terror and a sword.

I think you are missing the point of the rest of my post. Yes Christians should vote etc. And yes government does legislate morality to some degree. But you are missing the point of my post.. the heart of the issue isn't the law of the land but the hearts of the people and sharing the gospel to change those hearts. When 80% of Americans (even Obama) claim to be Christian but there are millions of abortions etc... then the problem isn't the government it is the hearts and minds of the people. Thats why STR is so valuable, to educate and equip Christians who for the most part aren't educated or equipped. Biblical illiteracy is rampant. Most self-professing "Christians" in America dont have a clue what that means when they make the claim of Christianity. Even Obama claims to be a Christian, so we do have a "Christian" president..................

Most or many American Christians don't even know what the gospel is (the Christian gospel of grace).

Another item that I can't wait for is if prop. 8 is overturned then will the church's be tested as far as performing gay weddings? And if they refuse then will they be sued?
If this happens I can see many churches getting out of the wedding business. And the left claims that conservatives are taking away our personnel liberties----BS!


I agree with the part of your post where you say that we want people's hearts to be changed. But, Melinda explained that such "heart changing" doesn't happen in a vacuum. Rather, the morals and norms of the culture affect whether people recognize their sin and are, therefore, willing to turn to God. When, in your opinion, is it proper to stand up for a Biblical standard of conduct - or, in this case, to oppose societal recoginition and acceptance of sin?

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