The Rev. David Bort's recent column ("The Bible and same-sex marriage," Aug. 11-12) suggested that President Obama's motive for affirming same-sex marriage was not political, but a matter of conviction. The first question then is whether Obama's motive or conviction is even relevant at all? The genuineness of Mr. Obama's motive does nothing to affect the truth value of the opinion. Rev. Bort makes the claim that ordained pastors are guilty of shoddy biblical scholarship because they hold to the notion that the Bible actually states that marriage is to be defined as a union of one woman and one man. It is true to say that the Bible does not explicitly make such a statement. What is also true is that it is there in significantly strong inference. Some years ago I wrote an article titled, "The Principle of Design," from which I quote:
"... There is a certain undeniable obviousness to the idea that God, the Creator and Great Designer of reality, had an intentional design and function in mind when He created male and female and named them, collectively, Man.
"Male and female are designed and clearly intended to go together as a unit. Historically, marriage has been defined and understood by this self-evident design. It would take an impossible stretch to suggest otherwise. Male and male do not serve any sexually fruitful function in keeping with that design. Nor do female and female. This truth is self-evident even for anyone who rejects a religious point of view, and opts for a strictly ‘scientific' or ‘evolutionary' view. Everything about the design of male and female works with wholeness-producing integrity. That is not the case in male/male, female/female sexuality."
This principle of wholeness is often overlooked, It comes from the biblical statement that "it is not good for the man to be alone," which gave rise to God's intent to provide a "helpmeet" for the man; not a helper, nor a stranger, nor a separate entity, but one who can achieve actual oneness and wholeness only by union: "bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh." This is modeled in the relationships of the Trinity where Father, Son and Holy Spirit are described by God as One, not many.
Rev. Bort's idea that over time "the rules of engagement, as well as the definition and practice of marriage, changed a number of times," is no doubt accurate, as is his description of the cultural norms where women were chattel treated as property not as human. It wasn't till Jesus came to focus on the radical transformation that is needed to change the human heart, that the power of sin and death which has dominated all of human history could begin to be overcome.
It is evident from Rev. Bort's article that his theology has no place for what is referred to as "The Fall." The implications of that are enormous. Without a proper understanding of human fallenness, we are left with a world in which pervasive dysfunctionality is the norm -- it is just the way things are, evil happens; it is a Pandora's Box that has been opened and cannot be closed; its content poisons the human race and all creation as well. Under those conditions there is no hope.
Those specifics that Mr. Bort speaks of, that Jesus sought to correct: the "excessive and repressive practices of civil marriage that abused woman (sic) and which were sanctioned by religious authority held by the all male priesthood," are all products of the fall. What is the antidote? It is so clear, and yet so easily misunderstood. Jesus said it very comprehensively: "A new commandment I give you that you love one another as I have loved you," that is, in the same way. That last phrase is the most important: "as I have loved you." How was that? He came not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many. 1 John 4:8 says "God is love." Do we take that as a kind of sentimental nicety? Don't. The definition of love as we see it in Jesus is the giving up of the self-life and the independent life, in order to exist for the good and well being of others, and for the whole, or as Paul put it "I urge you brethren that you present your bodies as living sacrifices acceptable to God which is your spiritual service of worship (or to paraphrase, it is what true worship is all about). "Greater love has no one that this, that he lay down his life for his friends" or even enemies, as Stephen did when they were stoning him to death.
Answer this question: Why did Jesus die on the cross? Was it to provide us with a ticket to heaven? Was it to give us "fire insurance"? I think not. What is the reason for our existence on this planet? Romans 8:29: "...for those He foreknew, He also predestinated to be conformed to the image of His Son. So that He would be the firstborn among many brethren." Conformity to the image of His Son is nothing less than the restoration of the image of God which was God's design for creating human beings in the first place before humanity freely opted for independence (life without love and life without God, a.k.a. the self-life.)
There is a little understood statement in Proverbs 1:30-31: "They would not accept my counsel, They spurned all my reproof. So they shall eat of the fruit of their own way and be satiated with their own devices. In other words, God's justice is very simple: You get what you want; though you may someday wish you hadn't (consider the implications of absolute independence; a bit of which we see in the character Jacob Marley in Dicken's "Christmas Carol"). That, all too briefly, is what the Bible really teaches.
The Rev. David Jinno is Pastor of the North Bennington Baptist Church, and frequent teacher of theology to young men and women in India preparing for ministry. He is author of the book, "Jesus' Foot," and president of the U.S. branch of Love-N-Care Ministries International. His book, "Love or Death: The Image of God: A Prospect for Hope in a World that Has a Love Affair with Death" will soon to be published.