Saturday, December 13, 2014

N.T. Wright on Marriage

I really like N.T. Wright's broadly stroked sketch of the whole Bible, save for the conclusion at the end, where to me he abuses his own argument, and ends up not following his own wisdom.

He mentions sea and dry land, and animal/vegetable, and heaven and earth, and marriage between man and woman, as symbols, signposts pointing towards something profoundly true. Blazed across the whole Bible is God's attempt to reach out to God's offenders, to establish a marriage, a covenanted relationship, with those who are offensive. There is something complementary in the relationship between opposites, between the infinite and the finite, between heaven and earth, between God and God's enemies, between us and ours. Out of their confrontation within a marriage something can be born that wasn't in the cards for either one alone. It is the supreme act of creation.

All good. Language often pulls metaphors out of something visceral whose functional logic parallels that which is being talked about. For example, we might say "we're all in the same boat, don't rock it" using a physical analog to describe a social situation. Indeed every marriage between a man and a woman is a symbol of complementarity, of the productive coming together of things that are radically different, and of the commitment it takes to make that complementarity work.

But that doesn't logically imply that gay marriage is wrong. Just that gay marriage isn't as strong a metaphor for the commitment and value of a complementary relationship, as is hetero marriage. We don't conclude from the truth of "we're all in the same boat" that we shouldn't "think outside the box." A good metaphor doesn't amount to a normative claim. Rather, this overarching biblical theme of the value of difference implies we must forge a committed relationship with those whose perception and experience of the world is radically different from ours. Within the warm community of the church, we commit to confrontation, transparency and struggle with each other over our differences, and to depend on each other's different perceptions in our mutual discernment of what to do next in healing this world. It is the supreme act of creation.