We cannot let routineness overwhelm or supplant how Scripture and the Christian tradition have reflected on the uniqueness of conjugal marriage. Same-sex “marriage” is not marriage. Truth is truth no matter the untruth, and the created order defies societal manipulation. A marriage where husband and wife are rightly geared towards procreation is a blessing to society, and it is truly irreplaceable.
Since 2015’s Obergefell ruling, same-sex “marriage” now seems as quintessentially “American” as baseball, apple pie, and Chevrolet. New “normals” that gain mainstream acceptance mean nothing, though, when the “normals” in question defy Scripture, natural law, and creation order—as same-sex “marriage” unquestionably does.
The Truth of What Marriage Is
To address the challenge of same-sex “marriage,” we must first ask: What is marriage? How one answers will reveal a number of insights about other important aspects constitutive to human flourishing. Scripture assumes a grand a priori pertaining to sexual ethics: The normative expression for sexual activity is the conjugal union of man and woman who become husband and wife through the union of their wills, affections, and preeminently, their bodies (Gen. 1:28; 2:18-25). The Bible’s standard for sexuality from the first chapter of Genesis assumes that the complementary relationship between husband and wife is the exclusive expression of God’s will for sexuality in creation. Any deviation from that explicit pattern is thus unbiblical and unreasonable due to the undermining of marriage as the moral good of Scripture.
I define marriage as the conjugal union of one man and one woman united to one another within a permanent and monogamous bond that is, absent any medical problems, ordered to procreation. It is an institution that provides an outlet for safeguarding procreative potency, sexual fulfillment, and relational companionship. The consummation of a marriage is fortified by the unitive and procreative goods securing husband and wife, jointly, in a bond of mutual self-giving.
We must also understand the logic of marriage that makes it singularly unique with an intelligible purpose that other types of relationships lack and also thwart. To say there is a “purpose” to a particular thing, X, is to say that there is an ideal fulfillment for what X ought to be. For example, if one plays basketball with a football, basketball’s telos as a sport is disrupted. It is impossible to bounce a football even if one could hypothetically “shoot” with a football. Everything about the game itself would be disrupted by awkwardness. Playing basketball requires the coordination of a team with the necessary parts (which includes, obviously, the right type of ball). Basketball and football are thus different sports because of the different constitutive elements that comprise the games. The coordination of organized parts that completes (or brings about) a particular end gives explanation to an entity’s essence or nature.
How does this relate to marriage? The coordination of male and female toward the integrated end of reproduction is what gives intelligibility to the marriage union, since coordination toward an end is what gives intelligibility to a thing in question. This feature is what separates other types of human relationships in that the depth of union experienced is unparalleled in what other human relationships can achieve. Marriage is thus intelligible by kind—not simply “degree”—ultimately by its reproductive end. To be “one flesh” as Genesis speaks of is not only a metaphor. It vividly depicts the fully organic integration of embodied persons joined together in coordinated activity. As a solitary person’s circulatory system is self-enclosed and sufficient all on its own, so marriage is enclosed and sufficient only with two persons whose total persons unite at all levels of their being in gamete donation that each body is fit to contribute.
Looking beyond the good of just the individual husband and wife, marriage as a creation order institution and public good is the building block of human society. Marriage is civilization in microcosmic form. It is civilization’s chief organizing principle, since society is nothing less and nothing more than the aggregate number of families that comprise it. Though not all marriages will produce children due to involuntary circumstances outside the control of spouses (i.e., infertility), what gives marriage its structure is the complementarity of male and female that makes procreation possible. The nature of marriage is tied to the complementarity of male and female reproductive ability. If you remove the unique role of procreation intrinsic to male-female union, marriage would cease to be intelligible as a union distinct from other types of unions. Moreover, if the procreative primacy and uniqueness of marriage as an inherently and exclusively complementary union is denied or lessened, marriage is open to endless redefinitions. Marriage has an ontological structure such that the removal of complementarity negates the ability for any relationship that strives to be marital to actually be marital. The reason that marriage and its orientation to family life is upheld as the moral good of Scripture and the natural law tradition is that it safeguards the design for sexuality with the outcome of sexuality: Children. Marriage, in other words, prevents the severing of procreation, sexual drive, and society’s need for stability. It unites them all together under one beautiful canopy.
Marriage is thus inherently oriented to the common good by providing the guardrails and sanctuary for the proper rearing of children. This bringing forth of new human beings to the civic community is essential to the common good’s relationship to marriage, for, apart from marriage, society is robbed of the seedbed for civilization’s flowering and renewal. An earthly society with no children is a dying society. Conversely, where marriages break down or fail to even form, incalculable damage is done to the social fabric of the civic community. A society that fails to champion the primacy of marriage will cease to offer any normative vision for society’s future apart from the fleeting needs of the present. Atomizing and de-populating societies, such as our own, represent the inversion of creational norms and the slow suffocation of civilization.