Some Christians argue that the first few chapters of Genesis offer conclusive proof against homosexual marriages. They suggest that the relationship of Adam and Eve, prior to the “Fall”, is the ideal model of an human sexual relationship and so, even though we now live in a fallen world, the relationship of Adam and Eve continues to set the standard for our sexuality. This, they argue, is the original, and good, ‘order of creation’, and this is the order that we must follow.
Boiled down into more polemical, popular discourse, this is the theological argument that underlies the assertion: “Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve! Duh!”
Granted, the popular rhetoric is a little more offensive (although, it should be noted, the original argument is also offensive to a good many people), but it does a good job of highlighting how facile this position might end up being.
So, to be clear, I don’t find this argument from Genesis and the ‘original order of creation’, to be at all convincing. Here’s why.
(1) What was created in the beginning was good; it was not perfect.
Christians do not look back on some primordial “golden age”. The garden was a good beginning, but it was only a beginning. There remains a trajectory to be followed, a story to be developed, a telos to be pursued. Or, stated more simply, the middle — the process wherein the good is transformed, expanded, and refined — and the end — wherein the good is consummated — have not yet occured.
[Furthermore, Gen 1-2 is not even the beginning that matters the most in Christian Scripture. The central beginning for the New Testament is the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Jesus (coupled with the pouring out of the Spirit at Pentecost), and the central beginning for the Old Testament is the exodus of the Hebrew slaves from Egypt. These are the beginnings that are the most formative for the people of God (granted, the beginning related in Genesis is important, but even this bit of theological poetry is crafted by authors who have the exodus in mind).]
Thus, Christians hold to a linear, not cyclical view of history. We’re not simply going back to where we started, we’re moving on from there to something better.
(2) As the good pursues this trajectory, there is a great deal of room for creativity and innovation.
Yes, the order created in the garden was good, but there is a great deal of room for creativity, innovation, and additions — all of which can be equally good — to this order. Perhaps the most notable example of this is the way in which the garden of Genesis gives way to the city, the New Jerusalem, of Revelation. If we were simply clinging to the original ‘order of creation’, then we would be obliged to continually try to ‘get back to the garden.’ The city would have to be seen as a perverse addition to God’s good order, an addition that would have to be condemned and, ultimately, destroyed. However, despite the many critical things that Scripture has to say about cities, the city itself is caught up into God’s good order.
The same could be said of other innovations — music, architecture, even clothing, all of these things were absent in the garden but are incorporated into the biblical vision of the consummation of creation. In the end, we’re not going to be walking around nude — even though we were orginally nude, and even though our current justifications for clothing will have disappeared; clothing is an innovative, and good, addition to God’s order.
(3) There is nothing in Genesis 1-2 to prevent us from considering homosexuality as one of these creative and good innovations.
Here a few subpoints must be made:
(3a) By arguing that homosexuality can be considered a creative and good innovation, I am not arguing that homosexuality is a ‘choice’. Granted, sexuality is a notoriously difficult thing to figure out, but I am of the opinion that both ‘nature’ and ‘nurture’ effect us in this regard. For some people, I suspect that homosexuality is something of a choice, for other people, I know that it is not. Consequently, I would suggest that the fact that many are ‘born gay’ (i.e. are gay by nature) is simply a reflection of God’s ongoing and innovative creativity in the world.
After all, to call God, ‘Creator,’ is not simply to assert that God created all things ‘in the beginning.’ Rather it is to assert that God is continually creating us anew, continually sustaining his creation, continually giving birth to new life, continually offering us good gifts, and so on and so forth. God is the God of creation, and new creation, and Genesis 1-2 gives us no reason reject homosexuality — it could simply be a part of God’s creative activity that continues after Genesis 1-2. Indeed, it could be one of the good gifts that God has given us!
Thus, even those (the minority) who ‘choose’ homosexuality, have not done anything wrong. They too are simply engaging in an act of creative, and good, innovation — and are mirroring God’s actions by doing so.
(3b) Inevitably the question of children is raised at this point. Gay couples, it is argued, cannot procreate, and so homosexual relationships must be considered illicit (or at least subpar) because God intends marriage, and sex, to be a part of the process of reproduction, and of fulfilling the mandate to ‘fill the earth and subdue it.’
Now, let us recall that the creation mandate itself is one that is good, but not perfect. That is to say, it is not one that applies at all times, in all places, to all people. If this was the case then infertile people shold be prevented from marrying (or their marriages should be considered subpar), and the whole idea of sex as an expression of intimate love, and as an experience of pleasure, becomes problematical. Yes, marriage is a good place for sex to occur, but sex isn’t something we practice solely in order to have children (and those who would suggest otherwise had better take another look at Paul’s words in 1 Cor 7). Those who can’t have children, and those who are uninterested in having children, are still free to practice sex. Thus, I believe that gay marriages should be blessed by the Church. A creative, and good, innovation.
Furthermore, it should be noted that, at this stage of history, the earth is rather amply ‘filled.’ This was not the case when the events of Genesis occurred, nor was it the case at any other time in biblical history. When a people, and a community, is struggling for survival, having kids is pretty important (although, even in this situation, not having kids can be a good act of faith). When a people, and a community is well-established, things change. Thus, I think couples, be they hetero- or homosexual, are now free to not have kids.
Indeed, there are now so many kids who do not have families, that the creation mandate, when applied today, might be to adopt children rather than having our own. Why bring more children into the world when so many children are unloved today? Why not offer ourselves to these unwanted children? Isn’t the choice to have children, rather than adopt children, simply an expression of selfishness — of only wanting to love what is mine? It very well might be.
Of course, if this is how we approach the having and raising of children, it should quick be noted that homosexual couples, can offer a home that is just as healthy, and just as loving, as heterosexual couples. Thus, I believe that gay couples should be able to adopt children. Another creative, and good, innovation.
In conclusion, I end with one of Paul’s doxologies (for the recognition of God’s creative, and good, innovation should always lead us to worship). Romans 11.33-36:
Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.