Civil partnerships have finally arrived and there is a predictably mixed response in the secular and Christian world. The BBC reporting Scottish Same-Sex Partnerships is typical of the secular coverage – a triumph for equality.
As a Christian seeking to uphold the teaching of the Bible, I would find it difficult to support same-sex marriages – which despite the ‘civil partnership’ label is effectively what we now have. As Christopher Ash clearly argues in his Marriage book, Marriage is a creation ordinance, and so is relevant for all people – not just the redeemed people of God. Therefore, it is right that Christians should be proclaiming God’s standards in this debate.
However, as he also clearly argues, marriage as part of God’s creation order:
“exists as a significant institution in the world whether or not societies conform to its free constraints. So when as Christians we seek to persuade society about this moral order, we are not defending the institution of marriage, as though the God-given institution of marriage were under ontological threat. If ethical systems were voluntarist contructs, that is indeed what we would be doing, engaging in a power struggle for the convictions of the people. But it is not within the power of humankind finally to destroy the created order. It was given to humankind in creation, it stands above human history and the human will, and finally it will be restored and transformed in the new heavens and earth. No institution that is part of the created order can be destroyed by human disobedience. Human noncomformity leads not to the destruction of the order, but to judgement on human beings. No Christian movement needs to defend marriage: rather we seek to protect human beings against the damage done to them by cutting across the grain of the order of marriage. That knowledge takes a burden off our shoulders. When teaching ethics we are engaging in proclamation of a given order and appeal to men and women to live in believing obedience to that order in Christ; we are not engage in a desperate attempt, like King Canute, to turn back the tide of social affairs.”
Christopher Ash, Marriage: Sex in the Service of God, IVP 2003, p82.
Phew, and Amen!