I really appreciate a point that Preston Sprinkle made when I interviewed him on the Stand to Reason broadcast recently. Even if you set aside the (at least) five biblical texts that prohibit same-sex relations, you can still make a solid case against pro-gay theology by simply looking at Scripture’s teaching on marriage.
It turns out that 3,500 years of Judaic teaching and nearly 2,000 years of Christian teaching have univocally upheld that marriage is only between a man and a woman. The Genesis account of creation, where God establishes marriage as a heterosexual union (Gen. 1:27–28, 2:22–24), alone rules out the possibility of man-man or woman-woman marriage. Jesus even cited the Genesis definition and upheld this view during the New Testament era (Matt. 19:4–6). Since the closing of the canon, the Church uniformly taught that marriage was between a man and a woman.
Preston also made the point that there aren’t a ton of theological topics that the entire Church has agreed on for two thousand years. There have been different understandings of the Lord’s supper, baptism, eschatology, etc. When it comes to marriage, however, there is universal agreement on its definition as a heterosexual union. That’s amazing and significant.
Only during the last few decades—a mere 0.8% of Judeo-Christian history—have there been some Christians advancing pro-gay theology. Not coincidentally, this teaching comes after the sexual revolution and just when secular culture has begun celebrating homosexuality and pressuring everyone else to do so.
To be clear, I’m not arguing that because Judeo-Christian doctrine has a longstanding teaching on something, therefore that teaching is correct. My point, as Preston Sprinkle also made clear in our interview and in his book, is that it’s hubris to think a 21st century American can simply upend 3,500 years of Judeo-Christian teaching on marriage with, “Well, I read the Bible and think it can be interpreted in a gay-affirming way.” I’m not saying Church tradition can’t be mistaken, but you better have an amazing, crystal-clear argument to warrant such a monumental reversal.
Plus, how is it that God could be so misleading and unclear? To suggest that 3,500 years of biblical teaching has been incorrect means that God is one of the worst communicators in the universe. You’d have to believe that although He intended to inspire the biblical authors—by the Holy Spirit—to write down a definition of marriage that could include same-sex couples, the writers ended up foiling His plan and penning a definition of marriage that excludes same-sex couples. Because the biblical witness on marriage was clear to them, every Jew, rabbi, church father, and early Christian thinker would interpret this teaching in only one way: marriage is between a man and a woman. This, of course, doesn’t even include the fact that every other time a Holy-Spirit-inspired author addresses homosexual relations, they mention it in a negative and prohibitive way. Scripture never affirms same-sex relations and always condemns homosexual behavior.
It’s hard to believe God would be so unclear about an institution, like marriage, that is so fundamental to the church and to all of society. It makes more sense that God knew what He inspired the authors to write, they wrote it, and for thousands of years the Church understood what He said. That’s where we are today, with the exception of a vocal few who want to amalgamate secular standards of sexuality into biblical ones.
It’s true our culture has changed and begun to affirm same-sex relations. That has prompted many believers to take a second look at Scripture to make sure we’ve gotten its definition of marriage correct. It’s fine if we check to make sure we’re not missing something or misinterpreting God’s word. When we do, though, we come to the same conclusion that Jesus came to in Matthew 19:4–6, that marriage is between a man and a woman. The biblical view might not win the approval of the world or be “on the right side of history,” but that’s not our concern. We’re not trying to win the approval of man, but of God (Gal. 1:10).