Brian D. Ellison, Executive Director of the Presbyterian Covenant Network, in his sermon, Marriage Matters ... Why?, at the Network's “Marriage Matters Conference” uses as his text, 1 Corinthians 7-11, 25-38. Ellison uses Scripture in a totally unacceptable way as he make his case for same sex marriage. He first caricatures the author and then the text. He then lifts up one truth about the text; the only part which post-modern progressives would find acceptable. Ellison then uses the text, not as the word of God but as a model of how to deal with new ideas arising in a culture. And finally he pulls out a reason for same gender marriage that has no connection to Scripture or confession.
Rather sarcastically, calling Paul a romantic, and then putting several verses into bumper sticker type phrases, Ellison subjects the word to himself rather than subjecting himself to the word. He then pulls out the one thing he and his listeners can bear to hear. That is, Paul's egalitarianism in his words about marriage. Ellison does not elaborate but I will.
Neither the wife nor the husband are to deprive the other of sex which scripture considers an honorable part of marriage. Both husbands and wives must understand that through their faith and commitment to their marriage, their unbelieving spouse may come to know Christ. Both husband and wife will experience the tension that occurs between pleasing their spouse and pleasing the Lord.
Next Ellison uses the text as a model for how the church in the 21st century should carve out new ethics to meet a new cultural viewpoint. Ellison states:
“And it might also be easy to let our views on same-sex marriage overpower our honest reading of this text and the context it addressed: Opponents citing these gender-specific words as though Paul were writing a position paper for a 21st-century debate, have missed the mark. But so, too, have supporters who in laughing off the apostle as hopelessly out of touch with reality might forget that the faith community of Corinth—like another faith community we know—was one where sexual ethics and family arrangements were but one battleground in a rapidly evolving new world, where the church had no choice but to make up its answers on the fly because the questions were changing so fast. (italics mine)
Biblical authority, for Ellison, resides only in modeling not in the commandment of the word. God's commands in this particular chapter, when speaking of marriage, always emphasis the husband and the wife. These are not generalized statements that allow 'same sex couple' to be substituted for husband and wife. And in fact, although there was same sex marriage in the ancient world, God's word does not recognize such coupling as marriage but rather as sin. Therefore, as a matter of obedience to God's word one cannot define husband and wife in any other way than as man and woman.
Finally Ellison sees the main reason for marriage (or singleness) or same gender coupling to be a means to glorify God. Referencing The Westminster Shorter Catechism, He writes:
"Sisters and brothers, why does marriage matter? What is marriage for? There can be but one answer: To glorify God.But the question must be asked, “How can disobedience to God's word glorify God?” In the case of same gender sex, only the repentance of the sinner and the forgiveness of God will glorify God. Ellison has so ignored the biblical text that he finds it easy to simply slip any progressive viewpoint into the wording whether it is there or not. He cares so little for the integrity of the text that his sermon has no integrity.
The reason we marry is to glorify God. And that may also be the reason we don’t.
The reason we open the doors of marriage to all to enjoy its blessings is to glorify God, not daring to keep any away from what God might do—will do. (italics author's)"
Still, how is the text used with integrity? First one understands the importance of marriage as it is explained here. Leon Morris in his Tyndale Commentary on I Corinthians stresses that Paul is not giving recommendations but rather a commandment. And the text definitely speaks not only to Paul's 1st century audience but also to us in the 21st century as we face so much temptation:
"The general rule is that people should be married and the expressions his own wife and her own husband point to monogamy. Paul is agreeing that celibacy is good, but he is also pointing out that temptation abounded: there is so much immorality (the word is plural, pointing to many acts.) In the face of such temptation each should be married. Should have is an imperative, a command, not a permission. There will be exceptions (v.7), but Paul leaves no doubt as to what is normal. Since fornication was so common at Corinth it was hard for the unmarried to remain chaste and hard for them to persuade others that they were, in fact, chaste." (Italics author's)Morris goes on to point out that this is not Paul's “only reason” for marriage. He is simply addressing a need as Christians live in an unregenerate immoral community. And there is absolutely nothing in the text that allows for same gender marriage which would be a part of the unregenerate community's immorality.
One can and should glorify God both in singleness and marriage, but the glorifying occurs as one is directed by the word of God to the right knowledge and relationship with God. The word of God gives humanity both the right knowledge of God and how to enjoy and glorify Him. (see the first part of the Shorter Catechism-7.001 -7.003) There is no confession or biblical text that suggests that either singleness or marriage glorifies God. Rather we glorify God when we enjoy him, love him and obey him. And this is only accomplished through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Picture by David Larson