The Incoherence of Redefining Marriage

Originally posted via Facebook: Severing marriage from its procreative telos, and redefining it as nothing more than a bond of individual emotional fulfillment, will ultimately render marriage incoherent. If we accept (as the early Protestants did) that the laws and values of a society can serve as a preparatio evangelica (“pre-evangelism”), then evangelicals can’t afford to surrender on this contested issue. Conceding this redefinition will ultimately pit nature against grace and make the gospel more and more implausible. Unbelievers will see Christianity’s ethical demands as an arbitrary sacrifice of personal happiness rather than as a means to true human flourishing. Note, however, that the traditional definition of conjugal marriage doesn’t depend on any distinctive Christian doctrines! This view of marriage is discernible simply through rational reflection on the nature of man, woman, procreation, and society.

Additional comments of mine in response to feedback: First, let me emphasize that openness to procreation is not the only defining feature of marriage. Christians know that there are other features, such as marriage’s reflection of Christ and the church. However, it is important to distinguish between those features that are knowable only via special revelation, and those features that are knowable via general revelation. If we are going to advocate a particular definition of marriage for the purpose of public policy, then I think we ought to highlight those features that are publicly accessible to non-Christians.

Second, a foundation in openness to procreation does not negate the value of infertile heterosexual marriages. These marriages still share the same structure as fertile marriages, even though infertility is a real and lamentable loss for them. On the other hand, gay marriages are intrinsically infertile and are therefore structurally different from conjugal marriage.

Third, this also means that, apart from compelling reasons in exceptional circumstances (such as risks to the mother’s or child’s health), intentional childlessness in marriage is sinful. Procreation ought to be considered the “default setting” in marriage, much like the default setting is for a child to have a right to their natural mother and father (again, excepting compelling reasons to the contrary, like cases of abuse).

About Kyle Dillon

A teaching elder in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), assistant pastor of theological instruction at Riveroaks Reformed Presbyterian Church, and theology/languages teacher at Westminster Academy in Memphis, Tennessee.

One Response to “The Incoherence of Redefining Marriage”

  1. To expand on the point about same-sex unions as necessarily infertile, any children born to a same-sex couple necessitate an extramarital figure as (absentee?) parent, whether a sperm donor, surrogate mother, etc.

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