Sex, death and marriage

In case anyone is interested, this is the paper I gave at an ETS panel on theological methodology for discussing marriage; many of the arguments have or will appear in print elsewhere, but I’m not going to publish this, so it may as well be here.


And I say to you, that whoever puts away his wife  – except on account of porneia – and marries another woman commits adultery.

[His] disciples said to him, ‘If that is the way it is for a man with his wife, it is not a good idea to get married!’ Mt. 19:9-10 (my tr.)

This retort from the disciples fascinates me, as does its neglect in recent commentary and ethical reflection. Let me pose my question straightforwardly: can any of us here imagine Christian leaders in our own context responding to a description of a Christian sexual ethic by asserting it is better not to marry? If, as I presume, the answer is no, it might be worth us asking why there is this difference: what did the disciples know that the we don’t, or what do we know that they didn’t?

Jesus has been challenged over the famous, if probably apocryphal controversy between R. Shammai and R. Hillel; he responds by citing Genesis, affirming marriage as a creation ordinance intended by God, and so not to be broken by human beings – ‘what God has united, let no-one untie’ (6b). They cite Moses’ stone tablets; he cites their stony hearts – a concession, but it was not so at the Beginning and now at the beginning of the End it will not be so again. Matthew’s Jesus then offers an exception – porneia[1] – and so offers a much more liberal reading than we discover in Mark or Luke; the disciples still however, recoil at the strictness of the interpretation – so hard it would be better not to marry at all. Jesus responds with the strange saying about varieties of eunuchs, and then turns to play with some children. Someone – a rich young ruler, on Luke’s telling – arrives and leaves, sorrowful, and we hear about camels and needles’ eyes, and Peter’s protest about how much he has given up already.

There are some textual variants, mostly apparent assimilations to the similar text in Mt. 5:31-32; none of them change the force of the teaching, or the strength of the disciples’ rejection. So how might this be read? Badly, would seem to be the general answer amongst us moderns. Some commentators – France (TNTC) for example – assume the disciples cannot mean what they say: ‘[w]as this a serious suggestion, or were these words spoken with a wry smile which the printed word cannot convey?’ Well, Jesus took it seriously, speaking of Kingdom castration with his next breath. Morris (Pillar) is equally weak: ‘[t]he disciples envisage problems in maintaining the marriage relationship with this hanging over their heads. They probably had no intention of making use of the provision for divorce, but they found it comforting that the provision was there in case of need.’

Hagner (WBC) does a little better, at least acknowledging the plain meaning of the disciples’ objection: ‘[t]he risks … were too great in their estimate’. But the risks of what? He says ‘becoming inseparably linked with an unsatisfactory wife, in whatever way’. Is that really it? ‘Unsatisfactory’? I think we need to recall the strength of the Jewish commitment to marriage at this point, and insist that whatever worries the disciples, it is a bit stronger than this. Hays[2] offers something more plausible: for a man to renounce the right to divorce would be, he comments, ‘startling … within Matthew’s patriarchal cultural context’, but it can, he suggests, be placed alongside renunciation of anger, turning the cheek, loving the enemy, as a principled embrace of powerlessness which is a mark of the Kingdom.

Older readers listened to the text more carefully. Calvin makes two fairly characteristic moves in his commentary on the harmony: he blames the devil, and he is surprisingly feminist.[3] For the latter, he criticises the disciples for not thinking about what wives have to endure – all assumed in the day that wives had no right of divorce, of course – ‘why do they not consider how hard is the bondage of wives?’ he asks. And he answers ‘devoted to themselves and their own convenience, they are driven by the feeling of the flesh to disregard others, and to think only of what is advantageous for themselves’. Warming to the theme, he asserts ‘it is a display of base ingratitude that, from the dread or dislike of a single inconvenience, they reject a wonderful gift of God.’ Then he warns that ‘Satan has always endeavoured to make [marriage] an object of hatred and detestation…’ Matthew Henry is similarly down on the disciples: ‘like sullen children, if they have not what they would have, they will throw away what they have. If they may not be allowed to put away their wives when they please, they will have no wives at all … Corrupt nature is impatient of restraint, and would fain break Christ’s bonds in sunder, and have liberty for its own lusts.’

These older writers see what only Hayes amongst the modern writers I have cited recognises: the disciples are complaining that the Christian view of marriage Jesus presents is impossibly strict; this is a call to holiness which makes their heads spin, makes them ask ‘who can possibly live like this?’ Henry is rather stoical in his recommendations for shouldering the burden – he remains a good Puritan after all: ‘whatever our condition is, we must … be thankful for its comforts, submissive to its crosses, and … make the best of that which is.’ Calvin and Henry, that is, see that – for the disciples at least – the demands Jesus makes concerning marriage are sufficiently onerous that they cast doubt on whether marriage is a good idea for anyone – a proposition no modern writer seems prepared to entertain.

Now, one response to this would be to turn back to Genesis, as Jesus himself did; there we discover marriage presented in simply positive ways: ‘it is not good for the human to be alone; I will make a well-matched ally for him…’ (Gen. 2:18). We should note, however, that everything is presented in simply positive ways in Genesis 1 and 2; that’s why we call it paradise… In Genesis 3 we discover temptation, disobedience and shame; sin, curse and exile – the knowledge of good and evil, which we were so much better off without. And in the curse, the easy companionship of the marriage relationship is broken: ‘your desire will be for your husband, and he will master you.’ (Gen. 3:16). The Hebrew words here are the same as those the Lord uses when speaking to Cain of lurking sin a few lines later ‘its desire is for you, but you must master it’ (Gen. 4:7). [4] The words together speak of a battle for control; the delightful companionship of marriage has become open warfare. And, think Peter and John and the rest, if there’s no escape from the battlefield, it is better never to enter it.

It is noteworthy that two other realities come together here in Gen. 3: childbearing, not mentioned at all in the description of marriage in Genesis 2; and death. Of course, they belong together; the begetting of children is, prior to knowledge of the resurrection, the only possible human response to death. The Scriptures make this clear enough: come the Kingdom, ‘they will neither marry nor be given in marriage, but they will be like the angels in heaven,’ says Jesus. When death ends, so does childbearing and so does marriage. East of Eden, we marry to have children, and we have children because we know we will die – a point Robert Song has demonstrated convincingly.

The Fathers knew this well enough: writing against Marcion, Tertullian taught that sexual intercourse began after the Fall, as a result of mortality. ‘Where there is death, there is also marriage.’ (C. Marcion IV 38.5.43-45, p.468 in SC 456) He makes the explicit link with our saying of Jesus when he writes on the resurrection: death ends in the Kingdom and so marriage ends too. (Res. Mort. XXXVI.5.24-25) The point became general in the fourth century: Chrysostom states it most pithily, almost echoing Tertullian: hopou gar thanatos, ekei gamos, (Virg. XVI.6.70 (SC 125, p. 142) but Basil, Gregory of Nazianzus, Gregory of Nyssa, Athanasius, Jerome, and Ambrose all make the same point. [5]

There was a eunuch, rendered so to serve his queen. He would die without children, but he was not far from the Kingdom. One day he was reading a prophet writing about another who would die childless: ‘[w]ho can speak of his descendants?’ But the prophet went on ‘he will see his offspring and prolong his days … because he poured out his life unto death.’ (Is. 53:10-11 NIV) Immediately the prophet reinforces the confusion: ‘Sing, barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband.’ (Is. 54:1 NIV). Death and childbearing come together once more, this time in paradox in the prophet’s strange song.

Philip opened the Scriptures, doing the work of an evangelist, told him the good news of Jesus. Death is done to death – and so, of course, childrearing and marriage are decisively reordered. Now there is no need to marry – and so a dangerous error repeatedly arises amongst those who believe in Jesus, that real discipleship is celibate. The error is dangerous because it is so close to the truth; Jesus is risen; death is conquered; and so marriage is unnecessary. The logic is profoundly attractive to any community who actually believe the gospel. The Corinthians were merely amongst the first such, and so the first of their questions to Paul turns on the claim ‘it is good for a man not to touch a woman.’ (1Cor. 7:1, my tr.)

Of course, Paul doesn’t disagree – not because he is misogynistic, not because he is horrified by sex, but because he believes in the resurrection. But he qualifies: although the Kingdom is coming, it is not yet come, and so he warns of the continuing reality of sin. Since porneia happens, he counsels, be married, be faithful, and be sexually available to each other. ‘I say this as concession, not command’ (1Cor. 7:6) – our hearts are stony still. Better not to marry, of course – but better to marry than to burn, he remarks laconically. So there is a mutuality of availability: wives own their husbands’ bodies and husbands their wives’; in marriage spouses surrender themselves to each other so that both may fulfil their physical needs. But still – concession, not command; this is not the best way; because Jesus is risen, marriage is unnecessary.

So the preoccupation of the early church with the ethical status of marriage was just right. This wasn’t the result of some Platonic distrust of matter; it was the result of the sure hope in the resurrection of the dead. The church of the martyrs believed in the resurrection, and so struggled with marriage. Now, I certainly want to follow the catholic reasoning that led to the affirmation of the goodness of marriage, but let’s trace that reasoning properly: it is a part of the Augustinian ethic of mediocrity, an acknowledgement that the self-control Paul speaks of is much more often lacking than not. Virtually all people burn, so marriage is – common and usual, if never normal – for Christians.

The genius of the Augustinian ethic though is to see that marriage can be discipleship, not just concession, and it can be discipleship in just the way celibacy can. Celibacy is of course the Christian norm – to assert otherwise is to deny the resurrection – but both marriage and celibacy, well practiced, are modes of asceticism, thick clusters of practices that serve to reorder our sinful and wayward desires and make us fit for the Kingdom. Marriage, Christianly practiced, is not a way of indulging our desires, but a way of redirecting them. The only way we can make Christian sense of marriage as anything more than a pastoral accommodation to human weakness is to see it as a mode of practice for living in the Kingdom, although in the Kingdom we will neither marry nor be given in marriage.

Our topic is not same-sex marriage, but let me say a word or two. The Christian ethical issue is not whether lesbian and gay people have a ‘right’ to marry, whatever that contemporary obfuscation might mean. Rather, we must look at three questions: can a same-sex marriage be a practice of ascesis that re-orders wayward desires Christianly? This position was argued by Gene Rogers in the best book yet written defending same-sex marriage. If we answer no, we might ask whether there is space for a third discipline alongside marriage and celibacy – this is the argument of Robert Song in his excellent recent book. If we answer no to that, we can only look for some form of pastoral accommodation, similar to that many churches have reached over divorce, or respond with compassionate refusal.

More interesting is why this has become an issue for us; I suspect that the answer is wrapped up in the same cultural realities that make us modern readers unable to comprehend the disciples’ retort with which we began. At some point in the twentieth century, we in the West became convinced that sexual activity is necessary for healthy and properly adult human life. Let me, inexactly, call this the ‘Freudian’ position. The call to celibacy in this context sounds like an act of astonishing cruelty, depriving someone of a basic necessity for human flourishing.

Our inherited ethical tradition does not have the language or arguments to deal with this challenge, because it is not the challenge it was crafted to address. We have, literally, nothing to say theologically (and this is true whether we think the right way forward is conservative or progressive, which is why there are presently so few good books on sexual ethics from any side).

It gets worse, though: for a couple of generations, we Evangelicals – and all other Protestants – essentially surrendered to this error by making marriage an inevitable part of Christian maturity. We constructed church programmes on the assumption that single people were either young adults preparing for marriage or elderly and widowed; we doubted ministerial candidates who was not married, because they could therefore not be properly ‘grown up’. This was a capitulation to an error, but it sort of worked OK – until the churches were forced to acknowledge that some people are lesbian/gay/exclusively same-sex attracted, and so not able to accept the inevitability of (traditional) marriage. If we think marriage belongs necessarily to the fulness of life, not in a response to death, then we have no answers for lesbian and gay disciples that are not culturally unimaginable and unspeakably cruel.

We can see this capitulation working itself out in the way in which, in many churches, the beginning and end of sexual ethics is telling young people to ‘save themselves for marriage’ as if sex was an uncomplicated human good that merely needs to be properly located by our moral reasoning. Let us be completely clear: that is not a Christian sexual ethic; that is the ethic of a pagan fertility cult that worships sex because it cannot believe in the resurrection of Christ. We should rather teach people, young and old, married and single – and in complex erotic relationships – that their lived responses to their sexual desires must be ever increasingly ordered to the resurrected life of the Kingdom.

The deep reflection of the Church on the Scriptures has led to the conviction that there are two, and only two, ways of life that are so ordered: marriage and celibacy. Marriage – if it is to be something good, and not merely a concession to our stony hearts, is absolutely not a space for the unlimited indulgence of sexual desires. Rather, it is a set of practices in and through which we learn to desire differently. We’ve heard already Paul insisting on a mutual bodily surrender between spouses in 1 Corinthians; these internal acts of mutual submission, of re-ordering our sinful and selfish desires, are reinforced by the necessary openness to procreation that exists in the marriage relationship. Children, in the light of the resurrection of Christ, are not a way of responding to death, but an opportunity for our crabbed and incurved selves to be opened out in love.

Celibacy, if it is to be something good, and not merely the presence of an absence, is similarly a set of practices in and through which we learn to desire differently. Lacking the opportunity to endlessly submit to a spouse, the celibate Christian will intentionally seek ways to open her life out in love – and the church, if it is to be faithful to the gospel of the resurrection – must offer her such ways. Inevitably these will involve practices of community, probably ordered by rule; I strongly suspect that they will need to involve the sorts of vowed friendships that Wesley Hill was talking about in part on Tuesday night.

Our hearts are stony and our desires misdirected; this is true of us all, without exception and without distinction. (To be clear again concerning one salient point: the erotic desires of the person who knows themselves to be lesbian, gay, transgender, or bisexual are not more misdirected than the desires of the person who knows themselves to be straight.) East of Eden, all our desires are warped and misdirected. Freed by resurrection faith from the need to procreate in response to death, we can marry, or be celibate, for Kingdom reasons, and in the endless self-denial and mutual submission of marriage, or the intentionally-embraced self-denial and submission of celibacy, we can become fit for the Kingdom, able, at last, to satisfy our one true desire, to look upon the face of the Lord and not be consumed.


[1] Which we should probably read to mean a breach of any of the sexual purity regulations contained in the holiness code of Lev. 18-20.

[2] Richard B. Hays, The Moral Vision of the New Testament (New York: HarperCollins, 1996), p. 365.

[3] Of course I am not proposing Calvin as a proto-feminist, but his readings of Scripture often seem remarkably open to what would now be regarded as feminist perspectives. I suppose merely that he is a faithful interpreter of Scripture, and that it is the inspired text, not the reader, which challenges patriarchal assumptions.

[4] I owe the suggestion of using this verbal parallel to interpret Gen. 3:16 to my colleague Dr Bill Tooman, who advanced it in a seminar he gave to St Andrews Baptist Church in November 2015.

[5] So Josiah Trenham, Marriage and Virginity according to St John Chrysostom (Durham theses, Durham University. Available at Durham E-Theses Online: p.89, n. 102.


  1. Terry
    Dec 3, 2015

    Thanks for this, Steve. It’s a very helpful perspective on the current debates, at least for me. You’ve shown that there’s far more to theology than merely flinging texts at each other.

    You mention ‘vowed friendships’. Would you say more about what was said on these, please?

    • steve
      Dec 3, 2015

      Thanks, Terry. My friend Wes Hill has been writing a bit about ‘vowed friendships’ in recent years; most expansively in his recent book, Spiritual Friendship. If you go to and search the topic, you’ll find a several posts. (Also, Eve Tushnet’s book Gay and Catholic discusses the idea.)

      • Terry
        Dec 3, 2015

        Thanks, Steve. I’ve had a quick look at the ‘about’ page and will go through the website more thoroughly in the future. ‘Spiritual friendship’ seems an important idea for anyone, regardless of gender or orientation.

  2. Theodore M Seeber
    Dec 3, 2015

    It is worse than that. St John Paul The Great, in Poland in the 1950s, and the great American Catholic televangelist Archbishop Fulton Sheen warned that our view of love was changing from a decision to will the good of the other, into mere emotion and lust. Pope Paul VI, in Humanae Vitae warned that the modern addiction to birth control would lead to the objectification of women and an increase in divorce.

    These things have come as predicted.

    • steve
      Dec 3, 2015

      Thanks for stopping by. There’s some important things to be written about birth control – the Protestant ethical acceptance was entirely built on an assumption that every marriage – so every licit sexual relationship – would be oriented to procreation, and this assumption has been lost. But I can’t help feeling that history shows that we were really good at objectifying women long before we had reliable contraception…

      • Theodore M Seeber
        Dec 3, 2015

        Not really- the Comstock Laws which were destroyed to create legal contraception, also banned other forms of obscenity in the United States, including pornography.

        • steve
          Dec 3, 2015

          Before the United States, most European law codes defined a woman as a ‘chattel’, the legal property of her husband. That seems like pretty comprehensive objectification to me…

          • E
            Dec 4, 2015

            I think that some traditional Catholic commentators have a very ahistorical and romantic view of marriage in the past.
            Many Protestants are now joining this view.

            I think the most important way to elevate women is to give them control over their own bodies (this is not to count as a vote for abortion btw).
            They must be allowed to plan their families.

          • Theodore M Seeber
            Dec 10, 2015

            Women are designed to be mothers. The European laws you cite were passed by Protestants for the most part- after the revolution destroyed morality.

  3. Chris
    Dec 3, 2015

    Dr. Holmes,

    Thank you for posting this. I’m sorry I didn’t hear it at ETS. I have a quick question: I don’t know that I’ve heard a lengthy comparison of the assumptions the Christian sexual ethic is built upon with the assumptions of the “Freudian” ethic. Do you know of anyone who treats that at length?



    • steve
      Dec 3, 2015

      Not really, I am afraid. Sorry!

    • Hannah
      Dec 6, 2015

      Are you familiar with Rosaria Butterfield?

      • steve
        Dec 6, 2015

        In a word, no. Should I be?

  4. Mike
    Dec 3, 2015

    Steve, thank you for this post. For me, it is profound in numerous ways, which, as you alluded to, maybe says more about our current Christian cultural milieu than anything else. Based on the substantive metaphor of marriage throughout Scripture, I may prefer to nuance your statement to say, “Because Jesus is risen, marriage is good, but unnecessary” but that is probably splitting hairs. This is my first time reading your blog (I saw how Wes raves so I had to come over) and I will plan to stop by more often. As a Protestant, I’ve only recently started to check out Catholic descriptions of all of this, and was pleased by their description of both marriage and celibacy as complementary in their recent preparatory catechesis for the world meeting of families”Love is our Mission: The Family Fully Alive” (Philadelphia, 2015). Chapter 6, “All Love Bears Fruit” was phenomenal and your thoughts here reminded me of that. It’s important we think well about these issues, because as they say in their catechesis (#108), “The possibilities for life which young people find imaginable depend on the examples they see and the stories they hear.” Steve, thanks for being a good example to me. After all, I am one of those young people looking for good Godly examples.

    • steve
      Dec 3, 2015

      Thanks for stopping by, Mike. I don’t know the Philadelphia meeting you reference; I’ll look it up.

      • Theodore M Seeber
        Dec 3, 2015

        Also known in the mass media as the visit of Pope Francis to the United States.

        • steve
          Dec 3, 2015

          Thank you – being neither Catholic nor American I might have missed that…

  5. Nienna
    Dec 3, 2015

    Very thoughtful. Both marriage and celibacy are difficult! Celibacy is not a walk in the park as this article, written by an evangelical Christian woman, makes plain:

  6. Luke
    Dec 3, 2015

    Thought-provoking post; thank you.

    What about God’s joining Adam and Eve to one another in marriage (and the procreative mandate) coming *before* Genesis 3?

    • steve
      Dec 3, 2015

      Yep. You will have noticed I specified a silence in Gen. 2. I guess the question runs on how we parallel to the creation accounts, but the point is not decisive for my argument, merely illustrative, I think.

      • Steve
        Dec 24, 2015

        At first I thought this was decisive for your argument, but perhaps it’s simply wording. Could you please elaborate on your phrase “Of course, they belong together; the begetting of children is, prior to knowledge of the resurrection, the only possible human response to death.”

        Reading it a 3rd time, it seems you could be saying two things: 1) that the only point of begetting children is as a response to death, or 2) that begetting children has many good uses, but is the only real thing that humanity can do to respond to death (in an “under the sun” sense, apart from grace).

        I’m confused by your flow of thought after that statement as well, where you tie the death of Death with the end of child bearing, as if they were tied together, that begetting children had no further use, since Death will be dead; but then, what about those other good uses? When God gives the command to be fruitful and multiply, you don’t (explicitly) address how that is achieved outside of child bearing. Since you don’t do that work, it sounds reductionistic of sex and procreation, that they only are responses to Death.

        Perhaps you might say, and I might agree, that the purpose of procreation, to fill the earth with God’s glory vis-a-vis the Imageo Dei in Mankind, is ultimately achieved through the Spirit (John 1:13) and therefore, that Good purpose of procreation, pre-Fall, is completed in His election of His Body/Bride throughout time and space.

        Saying something like that might be a way to reconcile the good calling upon Adam and Eve pre-Fall, with the survival response to Death through the begetting of children. Then we could make the move that, in the Kingdom, the world will be filled with the renewed humanity and the goal of the calling in the Garden will be achieved. Combine that with your point about no longer needing to respond to Death, and we might have a more comprehensive doctrine on why there is no child bearing in heaven.

        Ok. So that’s part of my challenge in reading your essay. The other flows from this, because I would propose that a reason Christians marry and have children now is to be a part of the Spirit’s work in calling His Sheep, by participating in God’s ex-nihilo creation of His image bearing people, and the Spirit’s effectual calling of those people through the faith community of Family.

        I appreciate your correct emphasis on the common sanctifying purpose of both celibacy and marriage, and I would like to hear your thoughts on how celibate believers are called to participate in this aspect of “being fruitful” (probably something along the lines of evangelism in its various ways, participating with the Spirit in His work of regeneration).

        And, while you are correct that “Children, in the light of the resurrection of Christ, are not a way of responding to death, but an opportunity for our crabbed and incurved selves to be opened out in love.” I think you could go further, as you might guess by my earlier paragraph, in that not only are they a foil for the Spirit to sanctify us, but they are also His Creation, and, hopefully, His New Creation, whom we are to serve and instruct, just like we would have done pre-Fall.

      • Barry
        Jan 6, 2016

        A nice piece, Steve, though I do have a quibble about your assertion of a silence in Gen. 2 about childbearing. Yes, nothing is said explicitly in that chapter. But in the first two lines of 3.16, in the judgment of the woman, it is stated that “I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children” (NSRV). In other words, though it is not mentioned in the second chapter, it would seem that it is taken for granted with the changed circumstances after eating the proverbial apple.

  7. Travis
    Dec 3, 2015

    Thanks for these excellent thoughts on the subject, Steve. Reading this makes me curious what the panel discussion was like. Do you follow some of the fathers and think that sexual intercourse only occurred after the fall?

    • Travis
      Dec 3, 2015

      I’m also very glad that you are bringing your perspective and scholarship on this and other subjects to ETS, which is desperate for deeper and broader discussion on most topics.

  8. Robert
    Dec 4, 2015

    Very well said! This is something I’ve thought for a long time. It somehow seems a bit ironic that third-wave feminism may proffer a more solid intellectual footing for embracing a Christian view of marriage and sexuality than the “biblical” (Freudian) views espoused most commonly by evangelicals. As you note, the evangelical sexual ethic is much closer to something that one would expect to observe in fertility cults and not within the communion of those who believe in the resurrection of the dead.

  9. Timothy Wright
    Dec 4, 2015


    Really enjoyed your thoughts and pleased that I found this blog. Looking forward to coming back. I would like to bring to your attention: Ezekiel 36:26

    You write: Our hearts are stony and our desires misdirected; this is true of us all, without exception and without distinction.

    This is of course in contradiction of what scripture teaches us. My heart is not my enemy, before I receive the Holy Spirit it is but after, I desire to walk in His ways. To the degree that my life has been enveloped in His love, not in a cognitive sense but an experiential sense, I am free to live in a mode of continually receiving and unveiling of all that I have been give from the Father through Christ.



  10. Chris Dahm
    Dec 9, 2015

    Dear Steve,

    I also was directed here from Spiritual Friendship and Wesley Hill’s comments. I really appreciated what you have said. I am planning on having my teenagers read this and for us to discuss it as a family. Thanks again.

  11. Blair
    Dec 10, 2015

    Hi Steve,

    thanks for posting this. I put this comment at the bottom of the (superb) ‘Queer Hippo’ post, and am still hoping you might answer my question (or even say why you won’t!):
    …I’d like to thank you for the above post and for the way you write and think. Just one question – you write, “if the Christian tradition is to come to regard faithful and exclusive gay and lesbian relationships as appropriate, it should only be because we have discovered ways in which these too can be lived as gospel-shaped and heroic regulations of personal desire that tend to conform us to Christlikeness”. My question is, do you think it is possible for such relationships to be lived as gospel-shaped? If you don’t think it’s possible, would you explain why?
    in friendship, Blair

  12. Steve Graves
    Dec 11, 2015

    I just read this, so I’m not sure I will get a response, but I have a question. When looking back at Genesis, you talk about marriage existing prior to the fall (it is not good for man to be alone), but then go on write as if marriage is a result of the fall because it is not necessary after the resurrection. How would you describe marriage pre-fall and how does that relate to the non-existence of marriage post-resurrection?

    • Steve
      Dec 24, 2015

      I was curious about this as well, looking back over his essay I saw that he did not spend much time on the goodness of marriage in Gen. 1-2, but he does call it “paradise” and then also writes “the easy companionship of the marriage relationship [is broken]”. If I could hazard a guess, I believe he would affirm the goodness of marriage pre-Fall, as obviously ordained by God for numerous reasons. I would expect the author to the ultimate goal of marriage is union, in the case of Adam and Eve, 2 become 1. Post-fall, marriage is a kind of “school” for how to be in union with another, and celibacy is also a “school” of a similar kind to marriage, both callings lay on individuals the need to empty themselves (as Christ did) and serve another(s). For all believers, we are growing in to the union with Christ the Spirit has wrought, and in the Resurrection Era, all that hinders us from this union will be removed. The union with Christ will be consummated and the good will be subsumed by the Greater Marriage to Christ.

      But I am curious for steve’s response. Funny how we have 3 steve’s writing in this comment.

      • Sam
        Jan 3, 2016

        I’m interested to hear Steve’s response as well – especially in reference to Genesis 1:28 and Genesis 2:18/24


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