REVIEW. Winter 2015 Vol. 40 No. 1
Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society Book Review by Andrew M. Bowden, September 2014
“Marriage: Can We Have Justice Without It?” by Robert P. George, Plough Quarterly, Autumn 2014
“Judicial Activism, Judicial Abdication”, National Review, November 3, 2014
“Tim Cook: Is Being Gay a Gift of God?” by Jim Denison, Denison Forum, October 31, 2014
“Top Ten Harms of Same-Sex ‘Marriage’” by Peter Sprigg, FRC.org
“The New Normal” by Sophia Lee, World, September 20, 2014.
(PDF version available here.)
by Dr. Ralph Blair
Bowden, a grad student, grants that emeritus professor William Loader, whose Making Sense of Sex (Eerdmans, 2013) he reviews, “has established himself as an expert in the field of ancient Jewish and Christian views on sexuality”. But he complains that Loader now “lobbies against discrimination against homosexuals who should be allowed to express themselves like everyone else”. Like Bowden and his wife are allowed? He ridicules the idea that “such discrimination should be dropped just as it was towards slaves and women.” He says: “ Loader seems to assume that his research into ancient sexuality gives him the expertise to approve modern ‘developments’ and to disregard texts that differ. This raises an important question: If someone is an expert about ancient sexuality, does this also make one an expert about modern sexuality? Loader seems to think so, since he freely offers his opinions about modern sexuality, yet without the backing of any scientific research on the topic.”
To the contrary, it’s because Loader sees the difference between ancient assumptions and findings of scientific research, that he concludes as he does. But Bowden assumes that his own lack of such research in ancient assumptions, let alone his own lack of expertise in the scientific study of sex, gives him the expertise to reject Loader’s conclusions. Bowden and most of our fellow ETS members – though not all – impose their ignorance of homosexuality into ancient texts and today’s experience, while oblivious to relevant research.
George teaches jurisprudence but he’s better known for fighting against marriage for gay couples. Complaining that justice is now “a very individualistic concept of rights [that are, he claims] incompatible with Christian faith”, he fails to see self-centeredness itself, as the assumption behind Jesus’ command to love others as we love ourselves. Knowing how we want to be treated should tell us how to treat others. So, George’s loving himself enough to marry his college sweetheart, as he did, should clue him into loving others enough to allow them to marry whom they will. As he doesn’t! He says that, “the goal is the flourishing of each human person in all the diverse aspects of his or her personality and being”, yet he fights against such flourishing for others, demanding imposed lifelong celibacy with its high rates of depression or the enforced estrangement of a mixed-orientation marriage he’d never want for himself. He sees marriage as the “best department of health, education, and welfare”, yet fights against such blessings for same-sex couples. His activism thus adds to the terrible strain of mixed-orientation marriages, duplicity, promiscuity, broken families, adversely impacted kids and divorce.
Aggressively self-assured of “the will of God” on what was foreign to ancient cultures, and thus, biblically unaddressed, his opposing same-sex marriage now apes outdated proof-texting on “the will of God” against mixed-race marriage of but a few decades ago.
Upset that the Supreme Court “ducked” marriage equality, National Review contends that, with “marriage redefined” as NR puts it, the “next” changes will be to polygamy and polyamory. But polygamy was traditional marriage under male dominance and ours is a gender-egalitarian society. Legal polyamory is oxymoronic! NR frets loss of gender role or anatomical “complementarity” when real comlementarity in marriage – same-sex or heterosexual – is in the fascinating otherness of a cherished partner. It’s not about a vagina or penis per se; it’s about a particular person. NR spins fear fantasies about kids of gay couples committed to bringing them up right while nearly half the kids born to mothers under 30 are out-of-wedlock births and 72 percent of black kids don’t have dads.
In shockingly selfish self-contradiction, NR asserts that, “defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman restricted nobody’s freedom. Same-sex couples were free to live as they chose, they lacked only official recognition of their unions”. “Only” that, hm? – all the social, economic and other support given to legally married couples and their kids?
Denison faults Apple CEO Tim Cook’s calling his being gay “among the greatest gifts God has given me” and saying it’s “made me more empathetic” toward the marginalized. Jesus called for such identification with the marginalized, but Denison’s too busy doing anachronistic eisegesis. He violates his own advice: “The right way to seek God’s will is to ask first what Scripture intends to say, then apply that intended message to our context.” But what’s addressed to ancients wasn’t intended to address what was foreign to them, i.e., our understanding of same-sex orientation and same-sex marriage of peers.
Sprigg tries to have it both ways: “relatively few same-sex couples even bother to seek such recognition or claim such benefits” (italics his). He fears gay couples’ kids will be eligible for benefits if a partner dies! So, punish the kids? He says kids won’t have “a married mother and father”! Has he seen the stats on kids of single-mothers abandoned by heterosexual impregnators? One in three American kids is already reared in a biological father-absent home. Sprigg fears schools will teach that gays should have equal rights! As was feared about equal rights for women and blacks? He says his religious liberty will be at risk! Do all heterosexual marriages meet his standards? He fears fewer will marry, fewer babies will be born and monogamy and lifelong marriage will wane! Does he not know that all this is now the case without marriage equality?
Lee says the film, Love is Strange, is a “debased cultural shift in which homosexuality is utterly ordinary.” She dislikes the depicting of an “aging gay couple … as an ordinary, loving, dedicated couple.” She complains: “The subtle but sinful message here is, So what if it’s homosexual love? We’re all humans with real emotions, real experiences and responses. We all recognize true love.” She resents what others respect: that same-sex couples cherish each other through health and illness no less than do heterosexual couples. She and World don’t get this; they refuse to get this. And, as a result, gays and millennials aren’t getting the Gospel. Ironically, this same issue of World carries a relevant quote from Gypsy Smith: “There are five Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and the Christian. But most people never read the first four.”