I’ve been thinking about this one quite a bit. It might take a while to get it all out.
My main contention is however simple – there are very good reasons why every Christian (particularly the reformed, literalist kind) should believe that same-sex marriage is a prophetic new way of God speaking to us today. And similarly, there are no good reasons why to think that it isn’t.
My main contention was partly in response to Cardinal Keith Patrick O’Brian’s interviews and writings on this issue (I have blogged about this a little while ago). I am by nature a churchy sort, and I do believe the church sometimes speaks prophetically to society on issues (fair trade, for instance, abolition of slavery, society, the alleviation of the poor, environmental concerns, you know the things that actually matter). I also however believe that a church which claims to possess exclusive access to God’s will and prophesy tend to die out, pace the Pharisees around 70AD. I’m quite keen this doesn’t happen for more reasons than having to find another job.
It seems to me that we should examine the claims of prophesy of any kind with some kind of criteria.
A recent trawl of websites of all kinds of Christian theologies (not to mention all my lovely catholic catechisms and textbooks) has produced many different criteria, but happily there seems to be a broadly agreeable themes:
1) Does it bring people to Jesus? i.e. is it evangelistic?
2) Is it from the Spirit?
3) Does it agree with God’s word? i.e. is it in accordance with the teaching of scripture?
4) Does it give new, clarity on an issue on which the bible has been unclear/silent?
5) Does it liberate people into the “glorious liberty of the children of God” ie does it free people up to being God’s people?
These are many ways in which these arguments need to be nuanced, but looking at that list I believe the idea of same-sex marriage fulfils all those criteria much more powerfully than, say, the abolition of slavery. It is liberating, it is evangelistic, it certainly agrees with the teaching of Jesus, and does not disagree with anything in the bible. Whether it is from the Spirit is arguable of course, but in reality that is what the other criteria are there to judge. I cannot think of any single issue which fulfils the idea of prophetic teaching than the idea of same-sex marriage. Of course I’ll elaborate on this later, but if you agree with those criteria, then I would have thought the case is all but closed.
In terms of the arguments against, I confess I’ve had real trouble getting arguments which are specifically against same-sex marriage rather than the idea of homosexual practice in general, but I believe there are four main themes.
1) The Bible is against it in specific texts.
2) The main thrust of biblical teaching is for single, monogamous heterosexuality to be the foundation of a Christian society.
3) The history traditions and theology of the church is against it.
4) It would have deleterious social effects on marriage and society.
5) Gay people can’t swim.
One of these I made up.
Of these four arguments, I believe none of them can be substantiated by being loyal to the bible, and there are very powerful reasons why some of them really shouldn’t be used as arguments at all. I’ll elaborate on these next time, specifically the issues raised by the most public contributors, Cardinal Keith Patrick O’Brian and Archbishop John Sentamu.
Where you, dear reader, might be of help would be in steering me if I go awry. Do you think my criteria for prophesy is correct? Are there main arguments against same-sex marriage which I am missing? Do let me know.