The One Flesh Argument
for Accepting Same-Sex Marriages
The phrase "one flesh" in the Bible is a reference to the bonding that unites two individuals. This bond is the essence of marriage. According to Brownson, this bonding can take place between two individuals of the same sex because there is nothing in the Bible which prohibits the bonding found in same-sex unions. This “kinship” bond is evidence arguing in favor of the acceptance of same sex unions. In Scripture the one flesh bond is a kinship bond. The focus in Genesis 2 is not primarily on the complementarity of male and female, but on the similarity (Brownson, page 86). A second important fact to note is that the “one flesh” union flows from the sexual union but is at the same time distinct from that union. The biblical usage of the word “clinging” indicates it is primarily a way of referring to the kinship ties which are relevant to the union of man and woman. This union includes sexual intercourse but is not limited to that. (Brownson, page 87.) This whole discussion of one flesh in Genesis is described without reference to procreation. Women were created, not to fulfill the command concerning fruitfulness but as a solution to the problem of man’s loneliness. (Brownson, page 89.) This emphasis on bonding is the essence of marriage. There is nothing inherent in Scripture which excludes committed gay or lesbian unions as one flesh unions. Conclusion: what is normal in the Bible is not necessarily to be considered normative. The fact that the Bible uses the language of "one flesh" to refer to male-female unions normally does not inherently indicate it uses such language normatively. In other words, the fact that it was normal, it was the norm during the times of the Bible for the phrase “one flesh” to refer to male-female unions does not necessarily mean it was the Bible’s intent for that to normative, for that to be a principle restricting one flesh unions for all times to be only between two people of the opposite sex. There are a number of examples of this kind of thing in the Bible. For example, the Bible everywhere assumes that the sun moves around the earth. Yet Copernicus forced the church to change its understanding of the relevant biblical passages. Nowhere does the Bible envision the elimination of the practice of slavery. Without exception the Bible urges slaves to obey their masters. The silence of the Bible on issues never envisioned by the Bible, such as the abolition of slavery, is not a compelling argument. What is normal in Scripture is not necessarily to be considered normative. Is there anything inherent in the Bible's discussion of one flesh unions that not only assumes but also requires such unions to take place only between a male and a female? Kinship argues for same-sex marriages. Loving, committed, long-term mutual same-sex unions are capable of fulfilling the kinship obligations such as the presence of mutual love, the cultivation of the bodily form of communion and self-giving, and the desire for a life of fruitfulness, hospitality, and service to the wider community (Brownson, page 108). "Cling" in Genesis 2:24 reflects association and connection. The Hebrew word "cling" used in Genesis 2:24 to describe the relationship of the man and the woman does not carry sexual connotations. It reflects the desire for association and connection that is characteristic of kinship. Due to the fact that kinship is the heart of the one flesh union, same-sex unions involving long-term commitments to shared life can fulfill this requirement. For this reason same-sex unions, although not anticipated by the words of Scripture, do fulfill the essential requirements of one flesh unions. (Brownson, page 107.)
It is one thing to make a case for the position e.g. that bonding is at the heart of biblical kinship above and beyond being of the same flesh and blood. It is quite a different matter to exclude something from the essence of marriage. Christianity has always maintained that one aspect of the essence of Christian marriage is that it is between one male and one female. A person could take what Professor Brownson has written about bonding in the kinship relationship and conclude that the unitive aspect of bonding is more important for a married man and woman than whether or not they are physically united into one flesh and also more important than if they are able to procreate. To say that bonding is the essence of marriage really doesn’t argue against the historical position that marriage being between one man and one woman is of the essence of marriage. Historical Christianity's commitment to the tenet that it is essential for marriage to be between one man and one woman rules out the possibility by definition of gay marriage. Therefore, logically speaking, Professor Brownson's arguments for bonding being of the essence of marriage cannot contribute to his ultimate goal of serving as evidence that the church should accept gay marriage. Professor Brownson's one flesh argument is not in and of itself a positive argument compelling the church for moral reasons to open up the institution of Christian marriage to gay couples. It must also be pointed out that the main endeavor of Professor Brownson’s book is to determine if gay marriage is permissible. It does no good to state as fact that the Bible does not prohibit gay marriage – that is what is being debated here. The Bible does prohibit same-sex erotic actions in Leviticus and Romans. Based on the biblical evidence presented there, this section should be considered false.
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