Thoughts on (same-sex) marriage (Pt. 2)

[This post continues immediately on from where the previous one left off, outlining a second distinction that I think we need to bear in mind as we discuss the issues surrounding the UK’s redefinition of marriage. A final post will be upped tomorrow.]

2. New creation trumps old creation.

Holy Spirit depicted in
a stained glass window

New creation has set in motion a new order in the world energised by the Spirit of the God of love and peace and equality. Old creation ordinances (I’m looking at you ‘traditional marriage’) and OT laws are no longer determinative; they are not ultimate.

The first churches had to reckon with the arrival of new creation in the midst of their (Old creation) values. How did they understand the laws that ostracized Gentiles and forbade certains foods because they were unclean? Would they practice the definitive boundary marker of circumcision? How did they regard Sabbath and other festivals? How did the radical equality of new creation reckon with gender differences and class distinctions?

These questions are worked out on the pages of the New Testament in places such as Acts 10 and 15; Galatians 1-3, Ephesians 2 and Romans 1-5 amongst others. The movements of the Spirit of Christ was effecting new creation in light of Christ having fulfilled, ceased and redefined the Law for the church. God’s Spirit came upon Gentiles as they were and because of that they were welcomed into the church and were not bound to the Law. Old creation was undone, women were Apostles (Rom. 16:7), slaves were experiencing equality (Phile.). The church was the hub of a new eschatological reality that God was opening up in the worlds very midst.

And while the NT never reckons with the issue of same-sex marriage as we encounter it, I believe ‘the law of Christ’ (Gal. 5:14, 6:2), to “love one’s neighbour” and “do to others as you would have them do to you”, sets the precedent for us to proceed as being the eschaton anticipating people of liberating new creation.

Many will want to retreat to the OT and it’s creation ordinances (authoritative principles for how things should be because that’s how they were created) and laws (Lev. 18:22). I understand this, the Scriptures are important and illuminating but the NT would have us know they cannot be arrived at without first letting them be redefined by the life, death and resurrection of Christ and his Spirit. The OT marks out old creation, the NT witnesses the coming of new creation – and new creation is what the church is a people of, to retreat to the OT without a thought for what the Christian is primarily – a person of new creation, bound to live only by what we bind and loose with the Spirit from the OT; we cannot and should not embrace all we find there – is to be less than Christian.

For example, Genesis 1:26-28 is commonly viewed as what is normative for Christian marriage. The image of God looks like male and female, they get busy and have kids; they too bear the image of God and so are brought up (Deut. 6) to continue to rule and subdue the world on God’s behalf; that (it is said) is a central part of how and why marriage functioned Old Testamentally. (I am primarily thinking in terms of functions as opposed to relations.) But what does the NT affirmation that the image of God is found fully and completely only in Christ, and that by the Spirit people are conformed into his likeness, do to the OT thoughts on marriage? It is the Spirit’s job to make image-bearers who are declared Christ’s “brothers and sisters”, who are then enabled to carry out Christ’s role; it is no longer our job to pass on the image of God and the role it requires of us. How does this impact considerations about OT creation ordinances in regards pro-creation and marriage? I think it is safe to say, in short, that it re-prioritizes them.

New creation truncates and redefines the patterns of the old. As such, this new creation assertion reconfigures and challenges what many so often want to extrapolate directly from the OT and old creation. New creation is determinative for the church and as we employ the hermeneutic we will find much challenged.

So, if the Spirit comes upon LGBTQ couples as they are, in relationships, while they belong to churches, as they are awakened by the Spirit to bear the image of Christ and God, can you deny what the Spirit has done (Peter couldn’t in Acts 10)? If those people are moved by the Spirit to embody and practice the Spirit inspired self-giving, mutually up-building, sacrificial love of Christ, as “straight” couples might, where can you rightly bring division or denial of equality (Gal. 3:28)? If the OT ordinances, laws and practices have been transcended by the Spirit in a multitude in the NT, why not on this one? Is sacramental marriage not for those embraced by the Spirit? Are we not witnessing an expansion in who we welcome into the people of God and how we practice body politics, much like the Early Church did with Gentiles? Are we not following the NT new creation and liberation paradigm, which led to the abolishment of slavery and the recognition of the equality of women?