N.T. Wright on Same-Sex Marriage

wedding-ringsBelow is a brief video clip in which New Testament scholar, N.T. Wright, engages a question from British evangelist, J. John. The question revolves around the major hot-button issue of western culture today: same-sex marriage.

I appreciate what Wright has to offer, for he looks to approach things from a big-picture perspective. It’s not just about engaging a handful of verses scattered throughout Scripture (though we can and should dive into particular passages). Rather, it begins with the larger, sweeping narrative of the story of God playing out amongst the people of God and the world. What is the grand narrative of Scripture telling us about this most holy thing we call marriage?

I’ve never offered any thoughts on this discussion (or debate!) of same-sex marriage. My perspectives would dovetail in to those of Wright’s. I would want to understand the over-arching communication of Scripture. But I’m also very interested in looking at our human story from a general, or “natural,” standpoint. I am no biological scientist nor able to properly analyze humans psychosomatically (the inner and outer makeup of human beings). But something in nature seems to clearly point to the fact that my whole self (including, but not limited to, my body) was not made for intimacy with another man.

Yet, I also think we get off track with our insatiable desire to define ourselves by such truncated sexual descriptors. We commit idolatry over our sexual identities – heterosexual, homosexual, straight, gay, lesbian, transgender, etc. Many have literally bowed to these identities, whichever side of the fence they lie on. Yet, the reality is that our identities run much deeper than these. And we could make similar idols out of our nationality, skin color and a whole host of other things. Lo and behold, we’ve done that plenty of times in our history! So I think we, on all sides (there’s always more than simply 2 sides to every issue), get caught up in conversations that never engage the larger issues of humanity and identity. Any descriptor can get very problematic and idolatrous.

However, let me say that our track record as Christians (even more in the southeastern U.S. where I reside) has not been great as we engage with those of a same-sex orientation and preference. If you want a taste of such, read this article from Christianity Today by Jonathan Merritt. He notes how our mantra has always been, “Love the sinner; hate the sin.” Yet when you do a search around the terms “Christians” and “gays,” you find an overwhelming amount on “hating the sin” and very little on “loving the sinner.” Merritt’s story is unique because of his confessed struggle with same-sex attraction. This is why his article will stir your heart (it’s ch5 of his newest book, Jesus Is Better Than You Imagined)! Oh, for the day that we stop pointing fingers and listen, which could (most likely would) open the door for better dialogue and movement forward to God’s best of humanity.

In all, watch this short video clip of Wright’s response. I think he has some solid comments to offer, though, like this article, they are brief.

HT: Justin Taylor

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9 thoughts on “N.T. Wright on Same-Sex Marriage

  1. when I first began to face this issue, I found his translation refreshingly clear and his comments in his romans commentary very helpful. those of a revisionist mindset have generally be suprised he is straightforward (apologies for the pun) on this issue as Im sure many thought he might not be.

    • I think if we listen carefully, what’s being done is not saying that “those who support same sex marriage are like the Nazis,” in some exact and equivocal manner. He’s saying the concept of completely redefining words can be quite problematic, and here are some examples of where that’s been done where it has been very harmful. Thus, we should take pause to think through the action of redefining major words that have stood the test of time for millennia. It’s not a concrete, empirical argument. But it’s asking us to reasonably think through the massive shift in redefining what marriage has meant for millennia.

      • I get that and absolutely hear that. I think the danger is also how this comes across for Wright, particularly for LGBTQ Christians. Whether he ‘meant’ that direct comparison or not (and I see where it can lean towards not), people wrestling with coming to terms with their sexuality are met (yet again) with a hard statement to swallow. Granted there are many ways and directions one could take what I have just said.

        I get that redefining words can be problematic. However, even not ‘agreeing’ with SSM or the re-defining of the word, one cannot deny the injustice those in committed, longterm, same-sex relationships deal with especially when it comes to legality. A partner gets very sick, dies, and then legally the other partner has no legal right to take care of things as agreed. Instead, the deceased partner’s legal decisions might go back to a family who may have rejected that person years ago. We are also dealing with a justice issue. One might argue: does a Christian have to completely agree with someone to fight for their justice?

        So again, I get that Wright may *not* be directly comparing, but his language still leans towards condemning these people and using a comparison which is pretty drastic.

        I only say this for the point of thinking about. It’s a hard topic, one that should not be taken lightly, and honestly it is one that people who do not identify with LGBTQ have an incredibly hard time understanding (or being compassionate).

    • Eric –

      Thanks for the link. As I replied in the Facebook threads: 1) I don’t think much could be said in a 5 min segment. There’s nothing “empirical,” in what he said, but the redefinition aspect is worth putting on the table. 2) I’m not sure the article you linked to a) showed the holes in Wright’s argument very well nor b) present well his own position as a counter (if he did at all).

      • Hi, Scott!

        First time poster, here! I enjoy many of your posts!

        With respect, I think I heard empirically based claims in the clip you posted, even if Wright didn’t cite his sources. He talks about his concern with redefinition, but then immediately buttresses it with claims about how re-definition brought physical harm to groups of people. He stops short of making that claim with the redefinition of marriage–but his rhetoric leaves a fear-based logical trajectory.

        Second, he is wrong about marriage “always being” male+female cross culturally. In fact, many cultures have quite complicated rules about who can mate with whom, and it focuses less on sex (biology) as it does on gender (social roles and functioning). For example, a biological male can function/be raised as a woman, and ‘he’ will be allowed to marry a warrior-male. But two warrior-males are not allowed to marry (even though they might be permitted a sexual relationship). So the “radical” thing is that same-*gender* relationships are being accorded the label marriage, not that marriages must always contain two people of different *sexes*. I’m also not persuaded that ‘complementarity’ is actually a biblical concept. It seems to be much more Victorian than biblical. (James Brownson talks about this in his book _Bible, Gender, Sexuality_.

        Third, just because the metaphors in Scripture are always heterosexual, it does not follow that heterosexism is divinely revealed. I suspect the fact that we make the ‘givenness’ of maleness and femaleness central is actually idolatrous, too–after all, where do intersex people fit in? And what do we do with Jesus’ statement that people neither marry nor are given in marriage? If that is the case, why does the marriage metaphor carry so much weight in our tradition?

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