Tom Usher on One-Flesh "Marriage: Where Do We Go From Here? The pro-marriage case can win — if we don’t give up on it." By Ryan T. Anderson

A snippet:

The conjugal view of marriage, we argued, has long informed the law — along with the literature, art, philosophy, religion, and social practice — of our civilization. So understood, marriage is a comprehensive union. It unites spouses at all levels of their being: hearts, minds, and bodies, where man and woman form a two-in-one-flesh union. It is based on the anthropological truth that men and women are distinct and complementary, on the biological fact that reproduction requires a man and a woman, and on the sociological reality that children benefit from having a mother and a father. As the act that unites spouses can also create new life, marriage is especially apt for procreation and family life. Uniting spouses in these all-encompassing ways, marriage calls for all-encompassing commitment: permanent and exclusive.

The state cares about marriage because of marriage’s connection with children and its ability to unite children with their mother and father. After all, whenever a baby is born, there is always a mother nearby: That is a fact of reproductive biology. The question for law and culture is whether a father will be involved in the life of that child and, if so, for how long. Marriage increases the odds that a man will be committed both to the children that he helps create and to the woman with whom he does so. Marriage, rightly understood, brings together the two halves of humanity (male and female) in a monogamous relationship. Husband and wife pledge to each other to be faithful by vows of permanence and exclusivity. Marriage provides children with a relationship with the man and the woman who made them.

The revisionist view, on the other hand, has informed certain marriage-policy changes of the past several decades and is embodied in much of Hollywood’s productions. On the revisionist understanding, marriage is essentially an emotional union, accompanied by any consensual sexual activity the partners may desire. Such romantic unions are seen as valuable while the emotion lasts. The revisionist view informs some male-female bonds, not just same-sex ones, as both involve intense emotional bonding, so both can (on this view) make a marriage.

But comprehensive union, we argue, is something only a man and woman can form. For this reason, enacting same-sex marriage would not expand the institution of marriage, but redefine it. Finishing what policies like “no-fault” divorce began, and thus entrenching them, it would finally replace the conjugal view with the revisionist emotion-based account. This would multiply the marriage revolution’s moral and cultural spoils, and make them harder than ever to recover.

Source: National Review Online | Print.


Tom Usher

I don't agree with every last aspect of Ryan's article but do believe he's done a good job of explaining the conjugal view of marriage versus the revisionist/consent-based view.

I've been thinking lately about the difference and what term will need to be used when expressing marriage as Jesus intends. "Conjugal" is a good term but can still be claimed by the revisionists. It doesn't capture every New Testament sense of "marriage," as marriage is used in parables to make both literal and figurative points, but in it's traditional usage, it does capture the very literal idea that is the basis for those parables: the exclusive union of one man and one woman: that one flesh to which Jesus referred.

I think "one-flesh marriage" is the appropriate term.

The revisionists' view, as Ryan correctly suggested, opens the door also to other than monogamy. ("... the logic of marriage redefinition ultimately leads to the dissolution of marriage into nothing more than a social mess of consenting adult love of manifold sizes and shapes.") Concerning that, I am moved to state the following additional refutation of self-styled Christian-polygamy advocates.

And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery. (Matthew 19:9 KJV)

You see there the logical preclusion of polygamy. Otherwise, a man would be free to simultaneously be married to another solely where one wife hadn't committed fornication (which in the ancient Greek here means adultery or what we call cheating). You will note that it is adultery to marry another because in the eyes of Jesus, the man is still married and can't also be married to another.

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  • Tom Usher

    About Tom Usher

    Employment: 2008 - present, website developer and writer. 2015 - present, insurance broker. Education: Arizona State University, Bachelor of Science in Political Science. City University of Seattle, graduate studies in Public Administration. Volunteerism: 2007 - present, president of the Real Liberal Christian Church and Christian Commons Project.
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