Earlier this week, I wrote about evangelical churches “holding the line” on same-sex marriage while adopting virtually every other wrongheaded aspect of our culture’s view of marriage. I mentioned several aspects of our cultural redefinition of marriage and how evangelicals have been affected by these shifts.
At the end, I made this suggestion:
We underestimate just how much cultural cultivation we have to do if we think success is just getting people to say “no” to same-sex marriage. We need the wider narrative of Scripture, and the bigger picture of marriage, if we are going to make sense of Christianity’s vision for family.
We are not called merely to reject wrong views of marriage; we are called to build a marriage culture where the glorious vision of complementarity, permanence, and life-giving union of a man and woman, for the good of their society, can flourish.
Success is not having church members say gay marriage “is wrong.” Success is when the Christian vision of marriage is so beautiful that revisionist definitions of marriage “make no sense.”
If you’re like me, you may be thinking, Great! Where do I sign up, and how do I start? Here are five resources for helping us go behind the gay marriage debate to the fundamental, beautiful truths about marriage and why they matter.
This new book by Jonathan Grant, an Anglican leader in New Zealand, will make my list of top 10 favorite reads this year.
Grant does two things well. First, he “maps the modern sexual imaginary” and shows how our culture views sexuality within a philosophical framework of consumerism, liberty, and technology. In other words, he shows how our culture arrived at this point, and why we think and act the way we do.
Secondly, Grant “charts a new course for Christian formation” in a way that goes beyond the do’s and don’ts of Christian rule-keeping and toward a comprehensive vision of desire, sexuality, singleness, and the role of the church. Part 1 of the book is descriptive (here’s where we are); Part 2 is prescriptive (here’s what we should do).
This is not a book about gay marriage or homosexuality. It’s about the bigger picture of sexuality, marriage, singleness, and how these fit together according to our culture, in contrast to how the Church is to put these things together in our own community. I say “start here” because Grant offers us the foundational pieces of the puzzle that help us understand our context and how we can be faithful in it. Really, get this book and read it twice.
Tim and Kathy Keller’s book on marriage is my all-time favorite. What the Kellers do so well is affirm what the culture gets right about marriage, and then challenge the cultural assumptions that lead to marriage breakdown. Here’s just one quote:
As a pastor I have spoken to thousands of couples, some working on marriage-seeking, some working on marriage-sustaining, and some working on marriage-saving. I’ve heard them say over and over, “Love shouldn’t be this hard; it should come naturally.” In response, I always say something like, “Why believe that? Would someone who wants to play professional baseball say, ‘It shouldn’t be so hard to hit a fastball?’ Would someone who wants to write the greatest American novel of her generation say, ‘It shouldn’t be hard to create believable characters and compelling narrative?'”
Andrew Walker and Eric Teetsel have done evangelicals a service by showing how marriage matters to communities. It’s more than a private relationship between two consenting adults; it’s a public institution that recognizes the familial bonds that form the foundation of society.
Marriage matters for human flourishing, for social justice, and for future generations.
Walker and Teetsel want evangelicals to recover a culture of marriage in the local church that invigorates evangelical passion for both the personal and social dynamics of marriage. After all, there is social, not just personal, significance in saying, “I do.”
If you haven’t seen these videos, you need to watch and learn. The Humanum series brings together representatives from major world religions and from various points on the globe in order to speak of the glory of marriage complementarity.
The six-part series that showcases the beauty and significance of marriage is the place to start. After that, you may want to check out some of the Christian explanations of marriage and why it matters. One highlight is N. T. Wright showing how marriage is one of the central threads of the Scriptural story line. Another is Russell Moore’s address on marriage and the mystery of Christ.
John Stonestreet and Sean McDowell accomplish many things in this book. They work through the arguments for same-sex marriage, show where they came from, and how Christians can respond. They place current debates in perspective.
More than that, they offer a vision for marriage in general, and they call for Christians to rebuild a marriage culture and offer it as a gift to a disintegrating world. They are charitable, convictional, and compelling in their presentation.