Rev. Tristan Emmanuel
The Interim

In the current marriage debate, we have identified problems and rehashed history, but many social conservatives haven’t actually answered the most fundamental question of all: what is marriage?

The debate does beg this fundamental question. After all, there are a whole bunch of issues that Christians could rally behind. What makes marriage so unique that it deserves not only special status in Canadian law, but also special consideration in terms of its defence?

In the battle to save marriage, many Christians have lost sight of what they are actually defending. We are not trying to defend our right to use a word – this battle is not a turf-war over a definition, or over semantics. Definitions are important, and certainly we are trying to retain the integrity and etymology of the word “marriage,” but when we break it all down, I hope and trust that all our efforts, time, money and personal sacrifice aren’t spent arguing with the mindset that would say, “We have ‘marriage,’ the other side can have ‘civil union.’”

If all we are interested in is a defence of a piece of etymological turf, then we may as well call off the dogs, pack our bags and concede defeat. Whatever we do in this discussion must be much more than simply engage in battle for a definition, or settle for a symbolic victory. That would be the worst of tragedies, because in the end, we will have defended nothing — our cultural rot will continue, the government will forge ahead on its merry (and ungodly) way and children will be just as subjected to becoming victims.

Would giving homosexual couples the right to adopt children under the terms of a “civil union” be any less onerous or harmful to them than if they were adopted by a homosexual couple who had been “married”?

Defending the meaning of the word “marriage” is certainly an important aspect of the battle, but this is about much more than a definition. “Marriage” is ultimately about an institution, and the characteristics or qualities that make that institution unique and important. This institution has profound implications for our culture.

When homosexual couples get “married,” in principle, the institution of marriage is breached and in the long term ,this breach will devastate our culture. We simply cannot survive as a cohesive culture and nation if homosexual “marriage,” whatever name we choose to use to describe it, is sanctioned by law. Legalizing same-sex “marriage” will devastate our culture.

What is marriage? Firstly marriage is an institution, an entity so fundamental to society and to our own collective identity as human beings that it takes a place of priority over individual preferences and/or “human” rights. In other words, marriage is not a human right in the individualistic sense.

That’s why the “human rights” argument is a fallacy, because it turns marriage into an individualistic, personal playtoy when, in fact, it is an entity that presumes a special status. It has special protection precisely because it exists to serve and advance humanity as a collective. That means it doesn’t exist simply to make us personally happy and fulfilled (although it can and does do that). This is a fundamental point, and one we don’t often think about.

Our highly individualistic culture has truncated marriage, reduced it to a personal utility that serves only individual interests. Personal attraction and compatibility is not to be the end in itself upon which marriage is based. This is a fundamental part of the problem with the “human rights” argument. Too many marriages today exist only to satisfy personal interests and the idol of “sexual gratification.” This is the reason so many marriages end in divorce, even among Christians.

Marriage is a public institution, which no one has the right to unilaterally change simply to justify sexual proclivities or to make the point that truth applies equally to heterosexuals and homosexuals.

Marriage is also inalienable. That means it is non-transferable and unalterable. No one has the right to reorganize, redefine, or recreate it. It is what theologians call part of the “created order.” While it belongs to everyone in the human race, it belongs to no one individual or group to do with as they wish.

Many defenders of marriage don’t want to appeal to God or the Bible in defence of marriage because they think it doesn’t sound convincing to a secular mind. But it does come down to a question of ultimate authority.

Think about it. Who has the universal and ultimate authority to create and define marriage? Would that lie with civil governments? Only the Creator intrinsically has that authority. Efforts by any other group or body are a blatant attempt to usurp that divine authority.

All others are merely playing power politics. Those in power think they can determine what is right because they have the power to impose their will. Marriage is an inalienable institution, given to all humanity by God for the advancement of the human race as He defines those terms. By what authority does anyone else make this claim?

This leads to the third point about marriage: what are the terms? Marriage is an exclusive institution, which means that it discriminates for the purposes of human preservation and reproduction. These terms are found in the “created order” of “one-man-and-one-woman” – the “be fruitful” created order. These conditions correlate to human biology and sexual reproduction. Although sex is part of marriage, and is only lawful within marriage, it exists for the end of human reproduction.

The contraceptive industry is based on a rejection of the created order in marriage. Sex is not about being “fruitful,” they say; it’s about exploring one’s sexual freedom without the hassle of a pregnancy. It’s a licence to have sex with anyone you want without the consequences. But that ‘s a lie, one that clearly illustrates how at least some segments of our culture have come to hate children.

The potential of a pregnancy, and the commitment to remain faithful only to one’s spouse, is viewed as a liability to this notion of sexual “freedom.” It’s a limitation that sinful humanity refuses to accept. The Creator intentionally made sex within marriage pleasurable, yet with an eye to being fruitful. This is why monogamy is mandatory: children need committed parents – committed to one another first, so that they can be committed to their children. Marriage is the only environment in which sex is both a pleasurable and noble act, because it is about fulfilling the creative mandate to be fruitful.

What about those couples who can’t reproduce and who, through no fault of their own, can’t have children? Is their marriage legitimate? After all, if marriage is about being fruitful, what does this mean for those who can’t be? Those who are married according to the created order, but discover they cannot reproduce, are no less lawfully united. The unfortunate reality is that the created order was subjected to massive abnormalities because of human sin. When I speak of infertility being a consequence of sin, I’m referring to this in general terms, to the sin of Adam and Eve and how that has worked itself out in creation. This is not to suggest that couples who can’t conceive must have committed a sin that directly impacted their ability to be reproductive.

It’s important for us to draw a distinction between the legitimate marriages of heterosexual couples, who cannot conceive because of biological malfunctions, and homosexual marriages, where conception is inherently impossible because of the very makeup of the relationship – they are clearly not the same thing. Homosexual unions, by their very nature, do not qualify under the terms God established in the created order for marriage. These unions are an aberration from the created order and this aberration is merely illustrated by the intrinsic inability to conceive.

Which brings me to my final point. Marriage is sacred. Marriage, as an inalienable, exclusive institution set up for the common good of society, with a correlative purpose of biological reproduction, ultimately says something about God as the designer of this institution. Marriage is a sacred institution, because it is a reflection of the very nature of God. The notion that man and wife become one through marriage is a reflection of the absolute unity within the Godhead. Three very distinct persons – the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit – are intimately bound in the unity of the Trinity. Although they are different, they are essentially one and thus equal in being and importance, equal in substance and essence.

This oneness, on an analogical level, is reflective of God’s oneness. This is what gets to the heart of the sacredness of marriage. When we say that marriage is sacred, we must mean that it reflects not only God’s created order, but also the essence of his divine triune relationship. Therefore, because God has chosen to bless this union, and only the union between one man and one woman, it would be an absolute offence to God to suddenly and arbitrarily redefine it. To change this institution and allow for homosexual unions — sameness in being without distinction — is an absolute affront to God – in a word, blasphemy. He will not have his reflection — and those rites and ordinances that reflect his image and his unity in Trinity – perverted. Homosexual “marriage” is, quite simply, an abomination to Him.

Given this understanding of marriage, it must be argued that only marriage as traditionally understood deserves unique recognition in law. Governments have a fiduciary duty to defend this institution for all the reasons listed. Without strong and healthy marriages, society will crumble. A government that will not defend this institution is no government at all, in the true sense of the word. Government is about law, order, social stability and the protection of the innocent (this must, of necessity, include noble institutions like marriage). But rather than defending these noble ideals, the present Liberal regime in Ottawa is seeking to further its own perverse agenda. Christians must strenuously stand against the legislation of evil and stand in opposition like they have never done before in this country.

Christians of every generation have a choice. In fact, they must make a choice: to stand by while evil triumphs or to stop the floodgates from opening wider. Now we can begin to incrementally take back conceded ground. Let’s start taking our country back. The fight for marriage is not about a word, it’s about who we are.

Rev. Tristan Emmanuel is executive director of the Equipping Christians for the Public Square Centre and author of a forthcoming book on marriage, from which this article is derived.