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Was Jesus Really Silent on Same-Sex “Marriage”?

The issue of same-sex “marriage” seems to be everywhere these days. Anyone who voices an objection to it is also, more and more frequently, accused of discrimination and labeled a “bigot.” Now, state and federal governments may very well change the age-old definition of marriage to include people of the same gender and marry two men or two women in civil ceremonies; but these ceremonies will not take place in the Catholic Church – nor do I see how they could in any Christian church – and the reason has absolutely nothing to do with bigotry. The Catechism of the Catholic Church expresses deep love for homosexual persons:

The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible … They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christian, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition. (CCC 2358)

The Church loves men and women living with same-sex attraction; but she has always defined “marriage” as a life-long, male-female relationship, open to bringing new life into the world. That is her Faith.

As you read that last line, I bet you recalled hearing someone say, “But Jesus never spoke a word against same-sex marriage!” I’ve heard it too, from fellow Christians. The assertion is that Christianity’s two thousand year history of opposition to same-sex relationships has been misguided. (Never mind everything St. Paul wrote on the subject [Rom.1:21-32, 1 Cor.6:9-11] under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.) Marc Barnes countered this argument from the silence of Jesus in a recent blog, noting how Jesus never uttered a word against rape, suicide, or pedophilia either; but to “assume a man’s approval of everything he doesn’t mention is silliness to the highest degree.” All of those issues, homosexual relationships included, were settled matters in Jesus’ first century Palestine; He would have been wasting His breath. As I read the Gospel passage the other day (Mt.19:3-12, August 17) however, I realized how Jesus’ words do undercut any question of same-sex “marriage” occurring in the Church.

Stay with me for a couple of minutes:

Jesus’ stance on marriage was strong. When the Pharisees asked Him whether it was lawful for a man to give his wife a bill of divorce He responded, “The Creator ‘made them male and female … a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’ … So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate” (Mt.19:4-6).

The apostles were stunned when He went on to say that only death could dissolve a (valid) marriage, and how anyone who divorced and remarried lived in adultery. “If that is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry!” (Mt.19:10 ) Jesus didn’t back-pedal; they had understood Him just fine. That was marriage in the Kingdom – marriage as it was before humanity’s Fall. Jesus knew it would be difficult, “Not all can accept this word, but only those to whom that is granted” (19:11).

Pay attention to what Jesus said next: “Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so; some, because they were made so by others; some, because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven” (19:12). A man’s ability to be united to his wife, sexually, was what made him a candidate for marriage. If he was unable to achieve sexual union because of a) birth defect, b) castration, or c) a vow of celibacy; then marriage was not his vocation.

The foundation of Jesus’ whole argument is biological. Unless “a man” and “his wife … become one flesh,” there is no valid marriage. For Jesus, and for anyone committed to His teachings, it is impossible to speak of a “Christian same-sex marriage.” Jesus’ words rule it out absolutely. The parameters for marriage between Christians, the parameters for a sacramental marriage, have been set by Jesus and cannot be changed. “Heaven and earth will pass away but my words will never pass away” (Lk.23:33).

Christians who argue differently undermine their faith. To make their argument they would have to assume that either a) Jesus was wrong on the nature of marriage (If so, He’s not God); or b) the Bible puts false words in Jesus’ mouth (If the Bible got Jesus’ words on marriage wrong, why believe it when it says that God loves us or Jesus died to save us from our sins?) There are some questions where Christians can honestly disagree with one another, but this is not one of them; Jesus teaching is plain, as is His warning to those who try to water His teachings down, “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels” (Lk.9:26).

When a Christian expresses his belief in “traditional marriage” it is absolutely wrong for others to jump to the conclusion that he does so out of hate and bigotry toward gay men and women. People can have valid, principled reasons for opposing the redefinition of marriage. (A strong argument, for example, can be made from natural law, rooted in the biological complementarity of the spouses.) As a Christian I think I have the most unassailable reason imaginable to love and respect gay men and women, living their lives as they choose, as well as to say that the Christian Faith views “marriage” as a life-long, male-female relationship, open to new life: the Person I believe to be God told me to. I can do nothing else. Western society can and will do what it wants in this matter (as it has with contraception, no-fault divorce and remarriage, and abortion), but within the Church the Sacrament of Marriage will continue on unmodified.

No hate here, just faith – the historic Christian Faith received from Jesus and His Apostles.

 


Christopher Eden has worked with evangelistic and retreat apostolates for 25 years.  He has served as a coordinator for RCIA as well as working in youth ministry.
  • Donna Ruth

    Rarely do I see Romans 1:18-32 quoted in reference to arguments regarding homosexuality. How much more explicit could it get? There is one Gospel account of Jesus words on immorality. It is found in Mark 7:20-23: He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. 21 For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”

  • Peregrinus

    The “foundation of Jesus’ whole argument” is really anthropological, and not biological; or at least it is not biological in the way you seem to claim. Jesus recognizes that marriage can only be between a man and a woman because that is the natural order (anthropological)that God established in the beginning (see Matt. 19: 4-7). He does not conclude that marriage must be between a man and a woman because only a man and a woman can become “one flesh,” as you seem to suggest. Indeed the becoming “one flesh” is the biological confirmation, if you will, of the anthropological order, and not vice versa.

    To base the Christian position on this biological confirmation, instead of upon the anthropological order established by God (the traditional Christian argument) is to make a weak argument; for claiming that marriage can only be between a man and a woman because a man and woman alone can become “one flesh” can be disputed. It could be argued that a man and a man can also become “one flesh.”

    A truly convincing response to the gay challenge to Christian marriage entails addressing several other difficult subjects, including the complimentarity between the sexes, the purpose of marriage, and the nature of true happiness (i.e., man’s final end). Finding a response that seems convincing without addressing these other subjects is, understandably, very attractive; but it is also ultimately impossible to do.

    Of course, we will never convince anyone of the truth about anything that he does not want to accept.

    • http://www.explainingchristianity.com Shane Kapler

      Peregrinus, I think the use of the term “biological” works here for a couple of reasons:
      1) Only a man and a woman can come together biologically so as to “be fruitful and multiply” – which is implicit within Jesus’ citation of the texts from Genesis, as well as the way Eden defines Christian marriage in the article (“open to new life”).
      2) Popular culture (many Christians included) no longer recognizes an anthropological order as authoritative; it is considered culturally relative. Biology on the other hand is something that even those who deny natural law still have to acknowledge as a reality.

      This is a popular article meant to answer a misconception that is starting to gain traction – “nothing in the words of Jesus have a bearing upon the present debate.” I think it achieved that goal and more. It explains why Christians stand against the cultural tide.

      You seem both knowledgeable and passionate on this issue. You might be just the person to put together that comprehensive response that addresses all of the difficult issues – if not in a book then possibly in a series of articles here on Catholic Lane. I hope you give it some thought.

      • Peregrinus

        The argument you present, Mr. Kapler, on behalf of the author of the blog article is not the one actually made in the article. You argue that marriage must be between a man and woman because “only a man and a woman can…’be fruitful and multiply.’” You claim that this point is implicit in Mr. Eden’s argument, since, you argue, he defines marriage as being “open to new life.” This is not, however, how Mr. Eden defines marriage in the article. He does not actually define marriage clearly there, but the implication of his argument is that marriage is essentially the “becoming one flesh” of two people. The conclusion that he draws, again unclearly, is that marriage must be between a man and woman because ONLY a man and a woman can become one flesh. The truth of this conclusion can be disputed, as I have noted above.

        The argument that you make, Mr. Kapler, is actually a stronger one than the blog article makes, but has its own deficiencies.

        I would hesitate to accept your claim prima facie that popular culture no longer recognizes an anthropological order. If, however, you are correct, then popular culture is, once again, in error for not doing so; and the Church must show culture its error and teach it the truth. Indeed, popular culture must recognize an anthropological order (i.e., that man has a specific nature with a specific proper end), if it is to understand why marriage, properly called, can only be between a man and a woman.

        I appreciate the invitation to use Catholic Lane as a forum for addressing “all of the difficult issues” entailed in the debate about same-sex marriage. To do so adequately would require a good amount of time on my part and probably the allowance of a series of three or four blog articles about the subject on Catholic Lane’s part. Both parties need to decide whether our time and resources are best spent in that manner. I know that I could not begin this kind of a project for several months, since I am currently working on an important one that requires much of my time. I may be persuaded to undertake the project around the new year, if someone more capable than I has not already done so. Contact me at (Enable Javascript to see the email address) at that time, if you are still interested then to host articles on the topic.

        • http://www.explainingchristianity.com Shane Kapler

          Um, the author defines marriage as being “a life-long, male-female relationship, OPEN TO NEW LIFE” following both his quotation from the Catechism and again in his final full paragraph. Me thinks you are missing the point of the article – two of Jesus’ three criteria on what would prevent someone from being married are biological impediments and the larger context of his remarks are the male-female pairing “as it was in the beginning.” There is a theological meaning of the body … which we can see borne out anthropoligically etc. If you do plan to do any articles you would need to contact Catholic Lane directly though as I do not speak for them – just write occassionally.

          • Peregrinus

            Do not confuse what the author states is his view (or even the Church’s view) with what he actually argues for as Jesus’ position based on Scriptural evidence. The point of his blog article is, after all, to explain what Jesus taught about marriage, and not what he, himself, believes.

            The author may be trying to make an argument to reach the conclusion that Jesus defined marriage as “a life-long, male-female relationship, OPEN TO NEW LIFE,” but he does not succeed in doing so. Simply stating that this is the case does not mean that this definition follows from his argument.

          • http://www.explainingchristianity.com Shane Kapler

            I did muddy the waters with my mention of “be fruitful and multiply,” as Mr. Eden did not specifically quote that text from Genesis. It was a deduction on my part based upon his appeal to biology and his repeated definition of marriage as lifelong, male-female, and open to life.

            Let me confine myself to what was actually said in the article: When Jesus speaks of marriage 1)it is as union of male and female, and 2)the couple must be able to achieve that union sexually. Male-female sexual union (a biological union) has to be present for it to be a marriage in the eyes of both Christ and His Church. That is all Eden has said.

            Eden does not claim that the biological/sexual is the only type of union between spouses, but it is obviously the element that utterly sets the marital relationship apart from all others. As I said previously, I think the mention of biology as opposed to anthropology is warranted based upon how two of the three impediments to marriage listed by Christ were bodily impediments. Combine that, as Eden did, with what Jesus had just said regarding marriage being between husband and wife (they become “one flesh,” – biology) and we arrive at Eden’s point: Christ’s mindset, which recognized the biology inherent in the marriage relationship, undercuts any Christian attempt at redefining Christian marriage to include “one flesh union between persons of the same gender.”

            A fuller explanation of the Christian vision of marriage is certainly welcome. You’ve put together well-worded replies here – you might be able to carve more time out of your schedule than you think. Instead of pointing out perceived deficiencies, you could craft the arguments you think Christians need to make. With the election coming up and same-sex marriage being made part of the Democrat’s platform, now would be the time. I believe CL’s contact form has info about the article submission process.

    • That Hat Lady

      “It could be argued that a man and a man can also become “one flesh.” NO, this assumption is biologically incorrect. Only a man and a woman can produce a child together who shares their genetic code. Two men and two women cannot accomplish this without outside donors, and it must be accomplished in a laboratory via unnatural relations. Heterosexual rape, fornication and surrogate motherhood do not qualify as a natural acts either, even if a child is conceived, because these acts occur outside the marital commitment.

  • Doug

    One way of addressing the remark- which I have also heard- is to use the Bible to teach the Bible:
    Jesus is the son of God, sent to teach the truth. (John 6:68,69; 18:37)
    He taught from the OT, there being no NT in his day :-) The Law, still governing Jews in his day, forbade homosexuality. and Jesus followed all things perfectly. (Lev 18:22, 20:13; 1Pe 2:21,22) Therefore his Father’s teachings were his teachings. (John 14:10) Therefore Jesus, if asked, would have taught explicitly against homosexual relations, ‘in marriage’ or not.
    Note, please, that these statements are true whether the Bible itself is fact or myth. (Zeus was the chief god of the Greeks. Why- because we believe in Zeus? No, because the myth says so.)

    As to approaching gay men and women, I find it helpful to show them 1 Cor 6:9,10, which shows that practicing homosexuals and practicing drunkards and practicing thieves and others all receive the SAME condemnation. (Many gays are convinced that the Bible singles them out, just because “Bible-believers” single them out.) Then ask, ‘Would we be correct in abhorring the actions of an unrepentant thief?’ Most will agree. Then point out that God condemns many practices, but also offers a way out of condemnation, and a wonderful reward for those who ‘turn their minds around’. (The literal meaning of “repentance”.) Then show some of the rewards- Ps 37:29, Rev 21:3,4, Isa 65:8 ff, and so on.
    But what Peregrinus says remains true: “Of course, we will never convince anyone of the truth about anything that he does not want to accept.” But we keep trying, isn’t that so? 2 Cor 5:14

  • Mal

    Matt19:4-6 is, in deed, the most telling. We know that Gender divides human beings biologically into two groups – male and female. When two people from these two groups commit themselves to each other the organs associated with these genders beautifully amd meaningfully complement each other and this creates a marriage. And this relationship then provides the community with stability and continuity. No other realtionship is like it. Jesus confirmed this when he said very emphatically that it was for this – namely marriage – that God created us male and female. Any follower of Jesus who denies this is defying our Saviour. And he who is not with Jesus on this is against him.

  • Doug

    And, as to one-scripture teaching, what about the often-repeated “each [reproducing] according to its own kind”? Followed perhaps by the viewpoint question, “Just how do homosexuals reproduce their own kind?”

  • Peregrinus

    I will let you have the last word, Mr. Kapler, in our exchange, notwithstanding that I remain unconvinced by your analysis. Let the reader decide which of us has given the more accurate assessment of the blog article.

    I will consider your suggestion about submitting a more comprehensive treatment of the topic to Catholic Lane or some other appropriate website for posting. I do not, however, see how I could begin working on that treatment before the new year, given my current obligations. The relevance of the treatment should not be diminshed, if it does not appear before the election; for this topic will continue to be of interest long after the election and any arguments that I could offer, I fear, will not convince the other side or change votes. The other side considers that giving up its position is, in fact, giving up the opportunity to be happy; and I am not optimistic that I can disabuse it of that notion.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kathleen.sable1 Kathleen Sable

    The Truth is the Truth! Always has been, always will be!