Consequences Trump Intentions

A Book Review:  Same-Sex Marriage by Sean McDowell and John Stonestreet

If Siskel and Ebert could ever have agreed on a movie to watch together, and then have agreed in their enjoyment of the movie and let the world be privy to their discussion of that movie, it might have sounded a bit like McDowell and Stonestreet in their dialogue on so-called same-sex marriage.  Somehow, while scratching their heads about how they even came to be talking about it, this pair of apologist/cultural commentators hold Romans 1 in one hand and John 3:16 in the other, and manage to arrive at a helpful, practical, and yet scholarly consideration of an issue that will inevitably affect all biblically sensitive Christians — if it hasn’t already.

As I read their Guidance for Everyday Questions (Chapter 12) my mind was drawn to a Marvin Olasky interview that I recently read in World Magazine in which Jay Richards from the Institute of Faith, Work, and Economics made an important point about economics which applies to any intellectual discipline:  God cares about both intentions and consequences, but in matters of legislation “the motives of the members of Congress who vote on the bill do not matter.  They could have 535 different motives, but that policy is going to have the same effect either way.” In this vein, McDowell and Stonestreet argue very effectively that compassion, recognition of true and abiding love, and concern for the “rights” of an individual, while they sound like moral high ground and win support, do not hold a candle to three facts that require a descriptive approach to the subject of marriage (because it is a feature of reality like gravity) rather than a definitive approach (because it is not a cultural construct we can redefine at will.)  These are:   (1)sex makes babies; (2)society needs babies; (3)babies deserve mothers and fathers.   Through creative use of humor, personal experiences, and excellent interviews with authorities from a variety of disciplines, they demonstrate that the Christian is called to a life of love, regardless of essential disagreements among individuals, and that the issue of so-called same-sex marriage is “a fruit, not the root” of a culture that has been marinating in wrong ideas about marriage, love, relationships, and commitment for decades.

Now, having said that, I will confess that the sheer simplicity of that argument left me numb by the time “What is Marriage?” had been dissected, poked at, and analyzed from three different perspectives, rather like what happens in the brain when pondering the spelling of a common word.  What is marriage anyway?  However, I believe that the authors’ risk of reductionism paid off in the end, demonstrating that what we are really lamenting is not the introduction of a “different view of marriage” but, instead, the loss, over time, of the willingness to fight for strong marriages — especially in the church, where we think we know better (and should).

Perhaps this book’s greatest offering is its first and last chapters.  It opens with an historical perspective on the breakdown of marriage and ends with a Q&A approach to rubber on the road — how does a thoughtful, compassionate, and biblically astute person respond to everyday scenarios involving same-sex couples?  The authors do not bash or rant; they promote clear thinking on a sensitive and potentially divisive topic. They concede, realistically, that “same-sex marriage” is here; it is a consequence of our nation’s journey “away from God’s intent for sex and marriage,” fueled by legislation and judicial action that may or may not have arisen from good intentions.  There is, however, no admission of defeat, but instead, a message of hope:  it is not too late to build, pray for, and “stir up one another” toward a positive and healthy marriage culture, lived out before a bruised world in need of the truth.


Disclosure: I received this book free from Baker Books through the Baker Books Bloggers program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

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