Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Amy Plantinga Pauw's "It's Time:" my thoughts

Having read Amy Plantinga Pauw's thoughts about marriage in her sermon given at the Covenant Network Conference, Marriage Matters, I was amazed at some of the scenarios she set up because they had little to do with sexuality or even marriage in general. Little to do with Scripture either. But, perhaps I could put that a different way, the scenarios Pauw sets up do a better job of affirming same gender friendships than affirming same gender marriage.

Having quickly dismissed the Old Testament views of marriage, we can't accept them, because they have to do with polygamy, brothers marrying their dead brother's wives and hierarchical roles in marriage, Pauw turns to the New Testament and finds little help there either.

She brings out several points, Jesus wasn't married and created a community which had nothing to do with marriage. Jesus called people away from their families as an act of following him. Marriage is not permanent; it does not belong to the kingdom of God but to the earthly realm. This is the way she begins: “At the center of the gospels is Jesus, an unmarried man creating around himself an alternative to the traditional household: an itinerant group of men and women mostly unrelated to each other by blood or marriage, called away from their own households to follow him.”

The wording is loaded here. Pauw is wrong, Jesus was not creating “an alternative to the traditional household.” The traditional household as well as the single person, who were generally included in the household, were meant to be a part of the Kingdom of God. Jesus was simply asking individuals and groups to put him first. Jesus has priority in all things.

And Jesus did have some things to say about marriage and isn't that what the conversation is about—marriage. Jesus never stated that people should not marry, nor did he affirm same sex marriage. But, in his discussion of divorce he, by going back to the beginning, affirmed several things. He affirmed that the original marriage was between a man and a woman. He affirmed that the husband would leave his father and mother and cling to his wife. He, and this is important, affirmed that it was God who joined a man and a woman together.

Pauw asks who is a model for marriage in the NT. Perhaps we should see Priscilla and Aquila as a model of Christian marriage. They worked together making tents; they also taught together. And they both risked their lives for the sake of Paul and the gospel. There is no doubt, Jesus Christ came first in their marriage.

And then Pauw asks some interesting questions that I believe highlights a problem that the LGBTQ community has created. She states:

“The principle of complementarity sees a man and a woman as two halves of a whole. Some theologians have even read Gen. 1:27 that way. When Genesis says that God created all humankind in God’s image, and created them male and female, some theologians have concluded that only male and female together are in the image of God. Man without woman or woman without man are incomplete images of God. It is a short step to concluding that the bond of heterosexual marriage is the clearest image of what it looks like to be created in God’s image. Does this mean that people who for whatever reason are not part of a heterosexual couple–Jesus for example–are somehow less in God’s image?”

It is a shame that the LGBTQ community has so twisted the biblical understanding of friendship in general, which includes same gender friendship, friendship between a man and a woman as well as community friendship, that they must, even negatively, apply an erotic connotation to all relationships. The emphasis in the complementary, as I understand it, has to do with the complementary of being, not just with sexual organs. The single person in her friendships and in her community is modeling the image of God in humanity. How could it be any other way when we worship a triune God.

In fact, I am surprised that although Pauw tries to say that the story of a man and a woman being joined in Genesis is a only a “foundational instance” and not a “limiting instance” she does not see complementarity and the image of God in the same way. (And I want to be quick here to say that I see the principle of the complementarity in marriage simply meaning that each, husband and wife, have their gifts that they offer to each as well as to their children, I do not see it as hierarchical relationship. But it is a marriage of difference and not of sameness. The “other” is healthily honored and welcomed in marriage. )

And then I want to come to that part of Pauw's sermon where she speaks of marriage as fruitful and suggests that there are other ways of being fruitful then procreation. That is true, but all that she accomplishes with this is to gird up my argument that friendships in their fruitfulness display the image of God in our humanity and do not call for sexual union. Pauw has not made a case for same gender marriage. She has made a case for Christian friendship.

And I believe that if Pauw had really attended to Scripture and had talked about marriage as sexual union she could not have found any words to fulfill her task. It matters not whether marriage is a covenant or an ordinance one cannot leave out that part which is sexual and therein lies the sin. Scripture, both the NT and the OT, prohibits a woman having sexual relationships with a woman or a man with a man. The authority of Scripture still stands.

Toward the end of her sermon Pauw quotes from Bonhoeffer's letter to his fiance Maria, “Our marriage shall be a yes to God’s earth; it shall strengthen our courage to act and accomplish something on the earth.” She uses the quote to assure the listener that all kinds of marriages can say yes to God's earth. But this is not so. And Bonhoeffer would have none of it. He would love Pauw in her mistaken theology; he would love the homosexual that she is advocating for; but he would confess the sins of our denomination as he confessed the sins of the church of Germany. [1] Unrepentant sin will not cause us to flourish but rather to whither and stand in sorrow before our Savior. We say yes to God's earth by obedience and trust in Jesus Christ.

[1] See Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Ethics

1 comment:

Clark said...

Great comments. I think Pauw also misinterprets Luke 14:26 when she quotes with approval Mark Jordan, to the effect that Jesus was dismissive about marriage. Jesus was not denigrating human/family relationships (that would put him at odds with the 5th Commandment); rather, Jesus is teaching us to exalt his own person.