Of Heresy and Marital Ontology

Well, Doug just posted some excellent thoughts on marriage and the recent High Court ruling. Here’s my 2 cents (the going rate I might add, a bargain? You decide)

Over and over and over from the Christian opposition to SSM we hear that they (we) oppose same sex marriage (and indeed relationships) because homosexual sex is sinful. This is the wrong reason, I think. Yah yah, that’s a sin. But … look at it this way. If you have one individual, in one universe he gets married to another dude. In another he doesn’t. It’s not unlikely that he has a similar quantity of sex in both universes, but in the first … its less random, less disconnected, with fare fewer people, and possibly ultimately less sinful. That homosexual sex is sinful isn’t what is wrong with same sex marriage. It’s not like you and I don’t breed sin in our lives like Fibonacci’s rabbits ourselves (don’t look at me like that). What is wrong with it is that it promotes and continues to solidify a wrong conception of what marriage is about (this post says more about this point better than I could, so go read it, then come back).

If you study church history, you will discover that every historical Christological heresy (the nature of Christ, human, divine and such) was and often is still being recapitulated as an ecclesiastical heresy (That is to say, what is the Church?). There is a good reason for this. The reason for that is pretty obvious when it comes down to it. The body of Christ on earth (after Ascension) is in fact, the Church. So there should be no surprise that heresies (wrong notions) of “what is this called Christ” copy over to heresies of what is this same thing (Christ) here still on earth. What does this have to do with marriage? Well, for the current marital discussions we recall Paul teaches us, in marriage after some subtle instructions on how to treat with each other, that the husband is to the wife as Christ is to the Church. Furthermore that this relationship is a mystery. Now, first off, don’t get too worked up about the term “mystery”. Remember the best definition of mystery is a thing that you can’t explain very well, or at all, in words but must experience to understand. But the connection to Christology is the same. We are discovering that these Christological hersesies? Well, they are recapitulating as “What is marriage” heresies for exactly the same reason. Fortunately, as in the prior paragraph, another author at the site linked above explains that point from the Orthodox perspective far better than I can.

Ultimately this is the reason Christians, cannot back down on the marriage question (for there is little question about balancing the small good of perhaps less sin, if the consequence and mechanism for that is promulgating heresy). This thing the state and for that matter the left elite and many others calls marriage. How they define it. How they understand it. Well, it’s a is indeed a”thing”. But that “thing” isn’t the same as what we understand the word marriage to mean. It might have been better if the Supreme court had nationalized a legal structure called fleem. In which two persons, the glissord and the fleeger are contractually (until they choose to dissolve the fleem) bound together and enjoy the following state privileges (and it will be up to the legislature now to go to their chambers and define for us what privileges are granted to those joined in fleemhood.) Well, actually they did exactly that. But instead they chose to confuse all of us and not use a new word. They didn’t call it fleem or even iglifu. They used a word that used to and for many still does mean something completely different. Keep that in mind in the discussions that follow.

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11 comments

  1. Boonton says:

    In your essay I’m not really seeing anything relevant to SSM. I think you believe you covered it in detail but if you reread your work, you may be surprised to find you haven’t really touched the issue.

    Likewise the blog you cited is interesting but again not really connecting:

    In the Orthodox tradition, consent was less pivotal in defining a marriage. The clerical officer (bishop or priest) representing the Church, blesses and marries the bride and groom, and the couple is by this act bonded as husband and wife to Christ and the Church. The conjugal love union, and not consent or contract, is understood to be the very heart of marriage. Marriage is a sacrament of love, but not just any sort of love. This love union is founded and grounded in God’s will, in His creative act of making mankind male and female, so that, through their love for each other and their sexual union, a man and a woman may become “one flesh.” Consent and contract more properly belong to betrothal (though Orthodox marriage rites include consent often by inference – and in some cases, as in the Slavonic version of the Byzantine rite, explicitly).

    I think this is a pivotal paragraph giving the Orthodox view of marriage and the other paragraphs are good offering the more pragmatic approach taken by Roman law and later European law and Christian thinking.

    What I’m taking from this is that the view is that marriage is not really a contract between two parties but a bond created by God. This, of course, means that we don’t really know who is married. The married couple next door may appear just like you…but do we know if God bonded them together or are they just a man and woman living together, having kids and filing taxes? Likewise how do we know the same-sex couple living on the other side of the street isn’t in fact ‘bonded’ by God’s will?

    The Orthodox answer appears to be that the Church speaks for God so they will tell us who God binds and doesn’t bind. Hence they can provide us with helpful rules like “God will never bond two people of the same sex” to help our town clerks keep the paperwork at least somewhat in line.

    How is this answer sufficient, though, for our legal system? Or anyone’s legal system for that matter? Even long before religious freedom was seen as a human right, people’s ability to be married was recognized everywhere. Absent going to a theolocracy under Orthodox control, which is unlikely to happen in the US, exactly how can this work?

    It sounds like the author would be more comfortable if there was no legal concept of marriage at all. If we just called all civil marriages something like ‘civil union’ we could let the Church tell us who is Married and who is just living together…from their POV.

    But if you want to make that case make it for everyone, why is SSM so special?

  2. Mark says:

    Boonton,
    You didn’t read it all. The salient sections start with “An Orthodox Theology of Marriage” through “Three Key Actions”. Christ has two natures, the Church has two natures, husband and wife have two natures. My contention is that SSM recapitulates Docetism (denying Christ’s two natures).

    It sounds like the author would be more comfortable if there was no legal concept of marriage at all.

    Hmm. Shall we call it fleem?

  3. Boonton says:

    Christ has two natures, the Church has two natures, husband and wife have two natures. My contention is that SSM recapitulates Docetism (denying Christ’s two natures).

    Clearly not the same two natures. Christ is man and God. Husband/wife are male and female. Church is bride to God?

    So clearly the same ‘two natures’ are not a requirement to marriage here (if they were, then you’d have to consider, say, the husband to be God and the wife to be ‘human’ or vice versa…..if Christ is male then the clergy of the Church would have to be female….which is not required). So a lifetime bond created and blessed by God again falls back to the question of how do we know? The article does seem to say, at the end, we know because the Orthodox Church tells us they know. That’s fine but how exactly do you run a society that way?

    Hmm. Shall we call it fleem?

    I suppose civil union would work for him. At the end he calls for ‘no cooperation’ between the Orthodox church and civil marriage. I imagine by that he means he would have the Church issue their own marriages but decline to sign off on any state marriage licenses. That would produce some people who are married only in the Orthodox church, some who are married civilally and some who are married by both.

  4. Mark says:

    Boonton,
    So the essay wasn’t clear. Cliff notes.

    1. SSM is not wrong because homosexual congress is sinful.
    2. Christological heresies are recapitulates by Ecclesial heresies due to the parallels between the nature of Christ and the Nature of the Church. Inasmuch as marriage is also another Icon of Christ we find Christological heresies are *also* recapitulated in mistaken notions of marriage, of which both SSM (and for that matter Catholic defense of marriage which locates marriage as primarily procreative).
    3. Conclusion, or what to do. The small gain in sin is offset/overweighed by the heresy problem, so Christians should oppose thinking of SSM as marriage. In fact, perhaps we should reject the Derridan “power” grab that is going on and call this SSM/state marriage thing by another word, instead of letting them redefine it themselves.

    Does that make it clearer?

  5. Boonton says:

    #1. I think you mean to say SSM is wrong because gay sex is sinful. That’s fine, but again we know that because the Orthodox Church tells us so. Not everyone is Orthodox and there’s lots of Christian churches which don’t speak with a single voice on that issue….and, of course, not everyone is Christian to begin with.

    #2. You’re saying that since the Church and Christ are married, errors about Christ’s nature become errors about the nature of the Church because on some level the two are intertwined. From there you seem to be saying that errors about Christ/Church also become errors about marriage since marriage is analgous to the Church and Christ. But reasoning by analogy is not strictly logical. Because two things are analogies does not make them equal in all respects and you cannot conclude as such. For example, the Christian view of marriage is that it ends with the death of one or both spouses (I’ll leave aside Mormon notions of marriage in the afterlife). Yet that doesn’t mean Christ and the Church ceased to be married at his death on the cross.

    #3 Whose grabbing what power here? As I pointed out the problem with this view of marriage is that it is essentially unobservable. The married couple next door might look and act just like you and your wife yet the view of marriage presented here would require that for them to be married they must be bonded by God. If they are not they are just a man and woman living together. One solution would be to give all the power to the Church and let them tell us which couples are really married or not. But as your author pointed out, the older notion of marriage was essentially our notion. A man and women live together under a promise (formal or informal) to make a household together. If you were walking around in year 0050 AD that’s what most people you talk to would view as marriage. If you started telling them the only married people were those your Church said were bonded by God (and only your Church was authorized to speak on God’s behalf), they would think you were trying to pull off a rhetorical power grab.

    The two questions here are what should we as a society do and what should Christians believe. I have no problem with Christians who assert that, say, Elton John is not really married even though he thinks he is or ones who assert that Newt Gingrich is a bigamist whose current marriage is illegitimate since his first wife is still alive. But at the same time should the mechanics of civil society be reorganized around that? Should the Christian who works at the IRS refuse to process Donald Trump’s tax return because they don’t accept his state as truely ‘married’? There I’d say no.

  6. Mark says:

    Boonton,

    . I think you mean to say SSM is wrong because gay sex is sinful.

    No. Actually I wasn’t. I was saying gay sex is sinful, yes, but that SSM doesn’t promote more gay sex, just a likelihood of gay individuals having a smaller number of partners, which I suggest in fact would be somewhat less sinful.

    You’re saying that since the Church and Christ are married

    No. I’m saying the Church Is the body of Christ and as such is subject to the same (or parallel) heresies about what “Church” means as were found about what Christ was and is. Paul teaches that the relationship between husband and wife is as Christ’s relationship to the Church. These relationships aren’t just “analogies” they are icons or types. I’m talking about this as a way of explaining why in the Orthodox view marriage is always between man and woman. To suggest otherwise is a heresy, you can see that by the other parallels we find in other Christological heresies.

    Whose grabbing what power here?

    Those redefining existing words, that is to say, those who think marriage is a thing which can occur between two individuals of the same sex. Seems to me if you’re not changing the definition of existing words, you’re not grabbing power.

    If you started telling them the only married people were those your Church said were bonded by God (and only your Church was authorized to speak on God’s behalf), they would think you were trying to pull off a rhetorical power grab.

    And if you started to tell them you and George were married they’d figure you had a problem with the meaning of words. Oh. Wait. Yah wanna try again?

  7. Boonton says:

    Those redefining existing words, that is to say, those who think marriage is a thing which can occur between two individuals of the same sex. Seems to me if you’re not changing the definition of existing words, you’re not grabbing power.

    I’m just going by the piece you cited, which you said explained the Orthodox position better than you could.

    First, the piece was quite clear, the Orthodox position is and was a power grab. Before marriage was typically seen in the Roman and Pagan world as something people did. A man and woman moved in together, agreed to live together as a couple for the rest of their ives etc. This was/is a very observable definition. The Orthodox position is that marriage is a bond by God between two people. That is not observable. People who thought they were married, if they take the Orthodox stance at the words as they were presented, could not be so sure after reading the piece.

    The second piece was as explicit but it certainly is implied…the Church, no doubt, asserts it can speak for God about who may or may not be ‘bonded’ by God. So there’s a power grab, something that was previously in the hands of individuals has now been moved to someone else’s hands. Don’t get all worried about the phrase “power grab”, it is just a statement of fact in this case. If marriage is defined by God and the Church does a better job making judgements about God than individuals then you can say the ‘grab’ is justified.

    Now you raise the question of whether SSM is a ‘redefinition’ and is that in itself a type of ‘grab’. I’m going to say no.

    I recall reading a while ago about an anthropologist who was studying a primitive tribal people and set up a TV/VCR and played King Kong for them to see what they would make of the movie. He asked why the ape took the girl? They answered “because she is his mate”…. Assume for a moment “mate” and “married” are more or less interchangeable in their language. What were they saying?

    Well they clearly were saying the ape, at least, wanted to be married to the girl (the movie isn’t quite clear what the girl thinks). Does that mean the tribe practices beastiality? No. Does it mean they approve human-animal marriage? No. But they knew exactly the word to use to express what was happening in the story. Note that this was spontaneous so they didn’t sit around thinking about political implications of the definition used, they just leaped for the definition that was already in their mind.

    So IMO there is no redefinition in play. If there was those using the old definition wouldn’t be able to make sense of those using the new one. Suppose I asked you:

    “Don’t you agree that colorless green ideas sleep furiously?”

    Your answer is not disagreement but perplexment. How could something colorless also be green? How do ideas have a color? How does something sleep furiously? How do ideas sleep? If you don’t think I’ve lost my mind, you’re going to ask for more context on the assumption that at least a few of these words were ‘redefined’ and you can’t speak to the question unless you understand what is happening. Even then has ‘power’ been taken from you?

    But no one is perplexed by what SSM means. In fact, the right was probably the first to use SSM arguing back in the 70’s that the Equal Rights Amendment would mean SSM! You can agree or disagree that marriage can be applied to same-sex couples but that’s not a redefinition but a debate about whether a definition that already exists can extend to certain categories or not.

    And the definition your source provided fits this too. Why can’t you have a lifelong bond between two people of the same sex? Because God decided he didn’t want that? That’s like saying dinner can’t be at 8PM because your household always does it at 7PM. That’s not a definition of dinner but how it is applied and not applied under your authority. Certainly you aren’t claiming God is unable to create a lifelong bond between two if he wanted too?

  8. Mark says:

    Boonton,
    You make an odd argument. Apparently Christians redefined marriage 1600 or more years ago, yet the “change” in the past decades is not a power grab or a change at all, because King Kong grabs Fay Ray and that is “mating”. If he grabbed the expedition leader, oddly enough, nobody on the planet would see it as mating. Apparently this notion of mating in fact does presume male/female relationships.

    My primary argument was that sin is not the problem with SSM, in fact “sin” may decrease, but heresy. And that this argument was a “within” the Christian community itself.

    Certainly you aren’t claiming God is unable to create a lifelong bond between two if he wanted too?

    Hmm. And if an Global/Pan Orthodox council met, claimed this was so and it was accepted by the laity, oddly enough we’d be saying he did. But it hasn’t so He hasn’t.

    In fact, the right was probably the first to use SSM arguing back in the 70’s that the Equal Rights Amendment would mean SSM!

    I don’t recall those arguments, but then you can’t recall that “ice age” was what the climate change people were raising alarms about either. I don’t recall equal rights discussions in my high school days. Perhaps it wasn’t the thing you think it might have been.

  9. Boonton says:

    You make an odd argument. Apparently Christians redefined marriage 1600 or more years ago, yet the “change” in the past decades is not a power grab or a change at all, because King Kong grabs Fay Ray and that is “mating”.

    Again nothing is redefined. When someone says “should we or should we not have human-animal marriage” you are able to immediately provide an answer to that question. How? If the question presumes a redefinition then you should not be able to answer it so easily. “What do you mean human-animal marriage?” Yet need no explanation. On the other hand, my question about colorless green ideas does require some explanation. What are “green ideas”? Environmentalist ideas? New ideas? What does ‘sleep furiously’ mean? That they simmer under the radar of mainstream view? Only upon understanding the unique definitions being used could you even start to agree or disagree.

    The question is easy for you to understand, you are only trying to figure out whether or not the definition should extend or be allowed in various cases.

    Now your own source doesn’t claim Christians redefined marriage but he is upfront that the Orthodox view at least was a redefinition. Something that people thought was marriage (i.e. man and women living together as a household) was no longer marriage and (this is where a ‘power grab’ comes) a method of determining whether or not a couple was married (a common person just needed to look at them or ask them) was no longer valid with the only valid method being checking in with clerics.

    Hmm. And if an Global/Pan Orthodox council met, claimed this was so and it was accepted by the laity, oddly enough we’d be saying he did. But it hasn’t so He hasn’t.

    Indeed, so SSM isn’t a redefinition. God could join two men in marriage if he saw fit to do so, you’re just saying the Pan Orthodox Council (plus some fuzzy number of laity) is able to tell us if he did or didn’t. That is the very definition of a non-redefinition!

    Now he is upfront that this view of marriage is unique to the Orthodox. That Roman Catholics and many other types of Christians take the more Roman ‘contract’ view. So no problem there, he is quite clear that he thinks many people are mistaken about marriage long before we even start talking about SSM.

    This is your argument. Since SSM is a heresy allowing it is a problem, however why are you limiting this duty to SSM? If the Orthodox position is that marriage differs from our everyday understanding of it then not only should SSM be opposed but also ‘common marriages’ that conflict as well. You can’t say you’ll tolerate heretical marriages of non-Orthodox for your heterosexual friends but not for you gay friends.

  10. Mark says:

    Boonton,
    Apparently you think this is a recent power grab. Perhaps you’ve heard of Henry the VIIIth? Apparently he thought the church defined marriage. As I said, the notion that marriage is between two opposite sexes is indeed “the definition”. You’re redefining it now. The “redefinition” that the church did is long ago in ancient history. It was the definition so long it’s no longer a “power grab” (power grabbed perhaps, but not a current grab).

    Indeed, so SSM isn’t a redefinition. God could join two men in marriage if he saw fit to do so, you’re just saying the Pan Orthodox Council (plus some fuzzy number of laity) is able to tell us if he did or didn’t. That is the very definition of a non-redefinition!

    I’m not getting this. If a council redefined marriage they wouldn’t be redefining it. Riiight. And black is white right just ask Mr. Winston Smith.

    That Roman Catholics and many other types of Christians take the more Roman ‘contract’ view.

    Hmm. Guess you’ll have to quiz some Roman Catholic priest on how the church views “And the husband is to his wife as Christ is to his Church?” eh? Or an evangelical?

    When someone says “should we or should we not have human-animal marriage” you are able to immediately provide an answer to that question.

    Yah. The answer is no. That’s not marriage and it’s not right.

  11. Boonton says:

    Apparently you think this is a recent power grab. Perhaps you’ve heard of Henry the VIIIth? Apparently he thought the church defined marriage.

    Or he thought the Church controlled marriage. You seem to be confusing rules with the definition of something. For example, the law generally does not recognize contracts minor children enter into unless their parents agree as well. That doesn’t mean a contract is *defined* as an agreement between people over 18. It is defined as an agreement. And your source defined it as a bond between people by God.

    If a state altered contract law to allow 17 yr olds to form contracts, that wouldn’t be ‘redefining contracts’ but simply altering the rules they apply to contracts. As you pointed out, God could choose to bond together two men or two women. So from the Orthodox POV the question isn’t if marriage is defined as between a man and woman but knowing whether or not God does in fact bind men, women or only opposite sex couples. Of course there’s the question of which opposite sex couples God does in fact bind as well. Likewise the Roman view the author cites in contrast leaves a marriage as essentially a verb, one that means forming a household with someone under the context of a lifelong committment. Roman Catholicism differed with Pagan Romanism on how that should be done, but that is not essentially a different definition.

    Hmm. Guess you’ll have to quiz some Roman Catholic priest on how the church views “And the husband is to his wife as Christ is to his Church?”

    That sounds like an analogy and analogies only apply so much. As I pointed out, if the Church is supposed to be a bride and brides are females then wouldn’t that imply both the Orthodox and Roman Churches should have only women clergy?

    Keep in mind that we are talking about two possible ‘universes’ here. One is the one where you say SSM is wrong and should not be permitted. Another is where it may not be wrong and should be tolerated. If we live in the 2nd universe it would look a lot like the first. In the 2nd universe the vast majority of marriages would be male-female ones and the phrase ‘married couple’ would usually bring to mind a male-female pair since that would still be something like 96%+ of all marriages.

    People who put a lot of heat up about how much they oppose SSM rarely seem to have considered if they happen to be wrong, the universe would look very much the same as the one they live in. Given that fact, the reason for people to be certain should be lower rather than higher.