Robert A. J. Gagnon, Associate Professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, was asked by Peter Smith, Religion Editor for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, to comment on the upcoming decision by the Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUSA)1 to approve “‘gay marriage’ by deleting from the Directory of Worship the definition of marriage as between one man and one man.” The following is the full response Professor Gagnon gave, “probably only a line of which will be published in the Post-Gazette.”
In taking this action, the PCUSA has incurred a serious self-inflicted wound. It has diminished its own effectiveness as a vehicle for manifesting God’s purposes in the world.
Any denomination that eliminates a male-female requirement for marriage breaks faith with a foundational element in our Lord Jesus’ sexual ethics. It breaks faith also with the apostolic witness to Christ in the New Testament, the Hebrew Scriptures that preceded Jesus, and the historic tradition of the Church universal.
Jesus regarded God’s creation of “male and female” (Genesis 1:27) as the foundation for all other sexual commands. According to Jesus, God’s creation of two complementary sexes is our best indication that God intended marriage to be limited to two persons. This suggests that for Jesus homosexual practice was a more severe violation of God’s will at creation than unions involving there or more persons, because it strikes at the very foundation of marriage.
In the Greek and Roman world from which the New Testament emerged, many people were aware of committed homosexual relationships with consenting adults and some were able to conceive of same-sex attraction as an orientation subject to biological influences. Arguments alleging “new knowledge” about homosexuality today, which allow us to circumvent the witness of Christ and Scripture, have ignored or falsified historical evidence.
The Apostle Paul teaches that for a person to attempt sexual union with someone of the same sex is to “dishonor” or “degrade” oneself, for it treats one’s sex or gender as only half intact in relation to one’s own sex as opposed to the other sex. Rather than have the two halves of the sexual spectrum, male and female, unite to form a single sexual whole, a homosexual union presents a bizarre picture of two incomplete half-males attempting to become a single whole male or two incomplete half-females attempting to become a single whole female. Approving homosexual practice in the church is the antithesis of love because it celebrates that which dishonors the God-bestowed stamp of gender.
Even from a social-scientific standpoint it is not loving to provide cultural supports for homosexual practice. Homosexually-active males and homosexually-active females experience disproportionately high rates of measurable harm, but do so in ways that differ according to gender type. Homosexual males have much higher numbers of sex partners over the course of life and markedly higher rates of sexually transmitted infections (even relative to homosexual females), while homosexual females enter relationships of lower longevity and experience higher rates of mental health issues (even relative to homosexual males). The results are exactly what one would expect from a union bereft of a true gender complement, where the extremes of a given sex are not moderated and the gaps in a given sex are not filled.
- The PCUSA is a very liberal denomination and should not be confused with the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC), and other Bible-believing orthodox Presbyterian denominations. [↩]