Thursday, December 13, 2012

Exegesis and Eisegesis: a typical example.

  Archbishop Jerome Lloyd posted this Fifteen Arguments for Gay Marriage which he had received from a pro-Gay "Marriage" organisation on a Facebook group for someone to comment on and make a rebuttal. Since no-one did (presumably because they had better things to do) I thought I’d make some comments, especially as I have already written on the subject for the Diocesan Magazine. My thesis here is principally to condemn no-one. I am not in the business of convicting people of sin. I am rather trying to demonstrates that these arguments for Gay Marriage are not sound. Fifteen Theological Arguments for Gay Marriage
1. The fundamental purpose of marriage is companionship:
Then YHWH said, "it is not good for the Earth Creature to be alone. I will make a fitting companion for it." Genesis 2:18 The reason God creates Eve is solely to alleviate Adam's isolation. God's overriding concern is for Adam's/our well-being. God wants him/us to thrive and flourish and realises that this will not happen unless his/our loneliness is relieved by a soulmate. If God did this for Adam it is not credible that God would create homosexual people and then subject them to the pain of lifelong loneliness. For gay people the fitting companion, the soulmate, is necessarily somebody of the same sex.
I answer that: This does not speak about SEXUAL Relationships!! God crtainly created companionship and human beings to be companions but this argument says nothing about the relationship needing to be of a sexual nature.
2. A lifelong companion has to be someone compatible. Gender is not important.
The Earth Creature gave names to all the cattle, all the birds of the air, and all the wild animals. But none of them proved to be a fitting companion. Genesis 2:20 At first God tries to find a companion for Adam by creating the animals, but then realises that he needs someone like himself, another human being. So the essential point about Eve is not that she is female but that she is human. She is a human person like Adam.
I answer that: There is no actual argument for Gay Marriage here. The author is reading his interpretation into the text. There is no evidence to demonstrate that Eve’s humanity is the essential point over her femininity. In fact, the verse can be taken the other way. The companion for man has to be fitting. Why, then, is a female companion created to form a “fitting companion”?
3. The essence of marriage is mutual commitment and faithfulness
Adam exclaimed, "this time, this is the one! Bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh! Now, she will be woman, and I will be man, because we are of one flesh. Genesis 2:23 What matters here is that the human pair should commit totally to each other in a relationship of mutual dedication and faithful support. Widows, widowers and bereaved partners often say they feel only 'half a person' after the death of their spouse. 'One flesh' does not crassly imply the sexual act but rather the entire human union which the two people together created. Two men or two women can equally make such profound mutual commitment.
I answer that: Again, here is a blatant non sequitur. The scripture is talking about Male and Female. Again, the author is performing eisegesis, not exegesis: he is reading into one verse the question of gay marriage where there is only the notion of male-female relationships being spoken of in Scripture.
4. Procreation is not essential
There is no reference to procreation in the story of Adam and Eve until chapter three of Genesis, and even then it comes only as a sort of incidental afterthought. Its only mention is as a minor detail in the story of God's punishment of Eve for eating the apple proffered by the snake. To the woman God said, I will greatly multiply your pains in childbearing, you will bear children in pain. You will desire union with your man, but he will be bent on subjugating you. Genesis 3:16 Childbearing is therefore not an essential part of marriage. And indeed the Christian churches have long been happy to marry couples who cannot have children by reason of infertility or age. And of course protestant and reformed churches all approve of contraception which clearly demonstrates their view that marriage is not about having children. There can therefore be no objection to same-sex marriage on the grounds of inability to procreate.
I answer that: Sex only occurs AFTER the Fall, it does not happen before. By the same argument, sex is not essential in a marriage, yet sex is essential for children. Before the Fall, there is no mention of marriage either. All we know is that Eve is a fitting companion for Adam who, after the Fall has sex with him and bears him children. We know there is no marriage in Heaven either from the words of the Lord Jesus. The Fall changes the state of the relationship between Adam and Eve as the above scripture demonstrates. Childbirth occurs after the Fall, because Death enters into the world (“dust thou art”). Where there is death there must be new life with all the concomitant factors to protect that life.
5. There is no Biblical injunction on individuals to reproduce
There are two accounts of Creation in Genesis. In the first account there is no mention of Adam and Eve. God creates the heaven and the earth and then everything else including humanity, and then the text says: God saw that this was good and blessed them. saying, "Bear fruit, increase your numbers, and fill the waters of the seas! Birds abound on the earth!" Genesis 1:22 This injunction is addressed to whole species of creatures, and by implication to the whole of humanity, not to individuals. So there is no necessary implication here that every single person is supposed to be heterosexual or produce children. Indeed in the present circumstance of global overpopulation where the earth has been more than replenished, this commandment has been fulfilled and not having children might be considered the more godly act.
I answer that: Again, by the same argument, there is no injunction for a relationship to include sex. If we were to apply the Kantian categorical hypothesis, if everyone were to abstain from reproducing, there would be no propagation of the species. This argument is the same as saying “I won’t vote as my vote won’t make a difference.” That attitude cannot be morally supported. One may certainly find themselves called by God to marry, or called to be celibate, but that is God’s decision and not ours. God makes marriages and God makes eunuchs. However God is faithful and does not contradict Himself. One gives up good things for something better.
6. If marriage is a 'remedy for sin' for opposite-sex couples then it is equally so for same-sex couples
St Paul's view was that the sexual drive is so powerful that most people (he of course meant men) have difficulty restraining it, and so it is better for them to marry in order to avoid the sin of fornication. But if you cannot control yourselves, then you should marry, for it is better to be married than to burn with passion. 1 Corinithians 7: 9 Homosexual people are as much in need of this institutionalised channel for sexual expression as heterosexuals, and it is therefore as good a theological justification for the marriages of lesbian and gay people as it is for those of straight people.
I answer that: The author assumes what he is trying to prove and, further, his argument is not supported by the text. St Paul is talking about marriage between man and woman specifically. The author is taking the verse out of context, since verse I Cor vii.2-4 says, “But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband. The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife's body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband's body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife.” One might quibble and say that one partner of a homosexual paring is the “husband” and the other is the “wife” but the Greek genders make it clear that one is male and the other is female. The text then does not support the theological justification of gay marriage. Indeed, St Paul specifically warns against the practice of homosexual sex in I Cor vi.9.
7. Marriage is a partnership of equals
St Paul is usually read as a defender of patriarchy and female subjugation, but on the question of marriage he advocates equality, with each partner owning the body of the other. The husband's body belongs not to him alone, but also to the wife, and the wife's body belongs not to her alone, but also to the husband. 1 Corinthians 7:4 He even goes further to suggest that there should be equality in the sexual pleasure enjoyed by both partners, placing a duty on both to ensure that they think of the satisfaction of each other: Do not deprive each other (of sex), except by mutual consent and within a time frame, so that you can devote yourselves to prayer. But come together again lest you invite Satan to tempt you through your weakness. 1 Corinthians 7: 5 Since there is no gender differentiation in these injunctions they apply equally well to a faithfully committed same-sex couple. Some Christians, particularly evangelicals, believe that in Genesis, and in some of the writings of St Paul, God establishes what they call 'complementarity' between the sexes. This concept, for which in practice there is very little actual Biblical support, leads them to overemphasise the differences between males and females and ignore manifest historical and cultural variation, to believe that God ordained men to rule over women, and of course to argue that monogamous heterosexuality is the only divinely sanctioned erotic. They overlook both Paul's important statement that 'in Christ there is no male or female' and Christ's own words that there will be no marrying in the Kingdom of Heaven. This discredited idea is an interpretive imposition on the Biblical text and is not a sound basis for opposing gender equality and same-sex marriage."
I answer that: The author is assuming that a “faithfully committed same-sex couple” is permitted without proof. To say that there is very little support for “gender” [sic] differentiation, is not true. The words used to describe the couple are different - husband and wife, man and woman. The implication is that there is a difference between the couple, i.e. that they are not the same sex. The statement in Galatians that in Christ there is no male or female is a reference specifically to the salvation of all, not of the arrangements of marriage nor of ordination. The traditional Biblical injunctions have only been discredited by those who are assuming the things that they wish to prove, namely that two people of the same sex can be married.
8. The diversity of human sexuality is a gift of God
Paul believed that the second coming of Christ and the end of the world were imminent in his own times. He therefore thought it best that people should remain celibate in order to work for the coming of God's Kingdom, although he acknowledges that this does not suit everybody. Let me make a suggestion - it is not a decree. I would hope that everyone could be like me. But we all have our own particular gifts from God. One has the gift for one thing and anfother has the gift for another thing. 1 Corinthians 7:6 There seems to be an implicit recognition here that not everybody is the same. Some theologians have seen in this text an implicit acknowledgement of human sexual diversity as a gift of God. Not everybody is heterosexual and these differences should be respected because they are part of God's creation. The logic of the argument is that if marriage is the solution for heterosexuals then it is also the solution for those with other 'gifts of God', lest they too fall into sin.
I answer that: The problem here is simply labelling someone as homosexual emphasises just one aspect of their personhood, and even then not a well-defined aspect. One cannot label a human being as "homosexual" without examining every single attraction in their head. Not all are called to marriage as both the Lord and St Paul point out. Having homosexual desires, if God-given, are a sure sign of the call to celibacy which is by no means a miserable state, principally because there is a Biblical injunction against homosexual sex. There are many, many Catholic priests and Religious folk who simply do not believe that sex is a necessary part of an intimate and loving relationship between people.
9. Marriage is the union of two people who find each other sexually attractive, love each other and wish to commit to each other. It is not necessarily the union of one man and one woman.
A person does not marry somebody because they are the opposite sex. A man does not choose to marry a woman because she is female. He marries her because he is sexually attracted to her and loves her. Marriage is the union of two people who are sexually attracted to each other and who love each other. This works in exactly the same way for two homosexual persons as it does for two heterosexual persons. There is no difference. If God blesses the union of a man and woman who love each other and marry he will also bless the union of two men or two women who get married because they love each other. There is no 'missing ingredient' in homosexual unions which is present in heterosexual unions. Also, because marriage is the union of two human persons there is no 'slippery slope' into disorder. Marriage is an I-Thou relationship in Martin Buber's sense. This rules out all the usual claims about the recognition of same-sex marriage leading to the legalisation of pederasty, bestiality, polygamy etc.
I answer that: This, again, assumes what is trying to be proved. Since the earlier arguments do not stand, this one also has no basis in fact. There is no proof here that marriage is not necessarily the union of one man and one woman.
10. 'Traditional' marriage is constantly evolving
Historically marriage was seen in a socio-political and economic context. In Biblical times daughters were effectively owned by their fathers, and then 'given' in marriage to a husband who took over ownership. The main concern was control of property and obedience to authority. A thousand years ago most marriages were not celebrated in church. Right into the twentieth century many states in America prohibited interracial marriage. Being divorced used to be a barrier to remarriage. Now almost half of all marriages end in divorce, and serial monogamy has become normal, so in practice marriage is no longer a lifelong union of two people to the exclusion of all others. It is simply not the case that there is a 'traditional' concept of marriage which same-sex marriage threatens to destroy. On the contrary, the devotion and commitment of same-sex marriages will help to strengthen the institution.
I answer that: Traditional marriage does not evolve because sex has not changed. A homosexual relationship is as biologically sterile now as it always has been. Just because people get divorced easily does not mean that divorce is a moral right. There is a very simple fact that is being ignored: There are no biblical same-sex marriages!
11. The Bible does not support models of 'traditional marriage and the family'
The modern advocacy of the happily married heterosexual couple with two children is an invention of nineteenth century protestantism. Marriage appears nowhere in the Nicene Creed. Any claim that the Bible presents anything approaching consistent teaching about marriage is frankly incredible. Biblical men have multiple wives and many concubines, they marry and have sex with their relatives, they engage in forcible sexual conquest, and all apparently with the approval of the almighty. Jesus was certainly no nuclear family man. He sought no wife and had a particularly loving relationship with one of the disciples. He told his disciples to leave their families and said that nobody could be a disciple unless they hated their own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters. It is therefore simply not possible to argue that the Bible endorses heterosexual marriage and condemns gay marriage. There is no eternal divinely ordained form of marriage and therefore same-sex marriage is as Christian as opposite-sex marriage.
I answer that: Again, the point is missed that every marriage described in the Bible is between opposite sexes. The example of Jesus is that of love without the necessity of sex. Further, Our Lord was not in a same-sex marriage either! Since there is nothing specifically pro same-sex marriage, it is also impossible to argue that the Bible does not condemn gay marriage. In fact, we know that it does condemn fornication and homosexual activity.
12. Tradition and Christian Love: Orthodoxy and Empathy
Even if it were possible to demonstrate a continuity of tradition in marriage, the Christian approach would still be to consider the needs and wellbeing of those outside the orthodoxy. Many protestant and reformed churches believe in divorce, yet there is arguably a very clear Biblical injunction against it, and a centuries long tradition of legal prohibition. These churches have accepted divorce because of the pastoral need, and because they empathise with the pain of those caught up in it, whatever the orthodox teaching might say. On every occasion when Jesus had to choose between orthodoxy and empathy he chose empathy. The task of Christians is to proclaim the gospel afresh in every generation. In our generation empathising with the genuine love lived out by a faithful same-sex couple is a greater Christian imperative than rigidly adhering to a supposed traditional set of rules governing who can marry whom. The Christian churches therefore should recognise and celebrate the fruits of the Spirit evident in these faithful same-sex unions - love, joy, peace, patience, fidelity, kindness, goodness, constancy, tenderness, gentleness, self-control etc.
I answer that: Jesus did hold orthodoxy as well as empathy, he did not choose between the two. For the woman caught in adultery, there is forgiveness, but there is recognition that adultery is a sin. To the penitent thief, there is forgiveness of sin. Christ teaches to repent for the kingdom of God is near. The author does not seem to be aware that the Jewish Laws and Commandments were a joy to the Jewish people, and they still are to our present day Jewish brothers and sisters. Jesus came to fulfill the law and to obtain for us pardon from sin, not to abolish the Law whereby we know that we are in need of His grace being fallen human beings. He does not do this by forgetting what sin is, but by taking that sin onto Himself.
13. The LGBT communities need same-sex marriage
The LGBT communities suffer disproportionately high rates of problems relating to self-esteem, social integration and psychological security: alcoholism, drug abuse, mental illness, social isolation, self-harm and suicide etc. This cannot be God's will if we are to believe the Gospel. These sad statistics arise out of attitudes towards LGBT people in the wider society but they are also influenced by a lack of the sort of stability which marriage can provide. Marriage is good for the individual and good for the community. Including same-sex couples in the institution of marriage will help to strengthen it and will help also to stabilise networks of relationships within the LGBT communities themselves. It will also send a message that LGBT people are fully loved and valued as God intended.
I answer that: No-one “needs” marriage, yet marriage is necessary for society. Look at what Jesus tells us to do: fast, pray, give alms. We need food, but Jesus tells us that there are times we should abstain from eating. We are told to give away our money even if we need it (the widow’s mite). Some men make eunuchs of themselves, of each other and some God makes eunuchs. As long as sex is seen as a right in every intimate relationship, then there will always be this problem. Nowhere in the pages of the Bible is sex seen as a right for everyone. Indeed, in Nature, the vast majority of organisms die without breeding. Religious communities have demonstrated patterns of non-sexual societies for centuries. Why can’t the LGBT communities learn from them?
14. Civil Partnerships are not marriage
The term 'civil partnership' is essentially about a legal and financial contract. Marriage is also a legal contract but it carries a superstructure of social and cultural meanings about personal commitment, dedication, devotion and mutual love. with which many same-sex couples wish to identify themselves. And for gay Christians it is important that they make these marriage vows before God. Furthermore, while same-sex couples are barred from the institution of marriage there is still the implication that they are second-class. It is a form of segregation and discrimination, it is a manifestation of inequality, and it is a denial of the Christian birthright of all, evident in Christ's great commandment that we love our neighbour as ourselves. We are all God's children, gay or straight, and we should be treated accordingly equally.
I answer that: A homosexual “marriage” could not be seen as equal with a heterosexual “marriage”. A homosexual “marriage” is biologically sterile and theologically meaningless as Holy Scripture demonstrates. Marriage was given so that human beings do not fall into fornication which is a sin. Homosexual sex is precisely the same as fornication and those who enter into one-night stands are committing the same sin as two men who have sexual relations.
15. Same-sex marriage as much as opposite-sex marriage models the self-giving character of God
Any faithful loving relationship finds its raison d'etre, meaning and purpose in self-giving love for the other person. To enter into such a relationship is to experience at first hand the kind of self-giving which is characteristic of the three persons of the Trinity and characteristic also of the relationship between God and his Creation. In reality it has never mattered what the genders of the two people are. Many scholars believe for example that the relationship between the Roman centurion and his boy servant, whom Jesus healed, was a gay one (Matthew 8: 5-13) . What mattered was that here was true love and commitment. Everything therefore that the church has taught about opposite-sex marriage mirroring the love of God applies equally to same-sex marriage. The church also conceives of itself as the Bride of Christ awaiting the (second) coming of the bridegroom Christ. As a number of queer theologians have pointed out, this is in itself a decidedly gender-queer notion if we take it seriously from a traditionalist standpoint, since it implies that Jesus is going to marry the men in the church as well. Actually a stronger implication is, as has been said above, that gender is of no ultimate significance. All that matters in the end is the committed love of the church for the Creator and the reflection of this in the here and now in the loving commitment of two spouses of whatever gender.
I answer that: Why cannot the self-giving love of God be demonstrated in the same way as God Himself showed us in a celibate life filled with love but without the issue of sex ever becoming a problem? The author is displaying equivocation as to what he means by “love.” If sex is equated with love then there is a big difference between what Love God is and what we expect Him to be. The love that forms a marriage (eros) is fundamentally different from the self-giving love that God wishes us to display for everyone. Many scholars may indeed speculate on the relationship between the Centurion and his servant, but this is not clear in Scripture and so was not intended to teach us anything about the nature of homosexual relationships, but rather about the faith of the Centurion in his approach to Our Lord.

The running theme here in many of these arguments is the fallacy of assuming the conclusion. The author wants Gay Marriage to be right and so he reads everything in that light and thus finds what he believes to be support. This is eisegesis. Of course, one may say that I am doing something very similar in that, because I do not believe in Gay Marriage, I read Scripture in that vein. However, considering that I do not believe in Gay Marriage because it is not supported in Scripture and Tradition, I believe I escape the same mistake as has been made here consistently. This approach, I believe to be fair exegesis. There are times when Our Lord’s statement, “seek and ye shall find,” is true when one is deliberately seeking one’s own agenda. The Pharisees sought recognition and importance and they found it, much good this “reward” did them. Holy Scripture will tell you everything you want, if you choose to read only the words that suit you.

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