The most exciting light-bulb-eureka moment for me in What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense was the authors’ declaration that marriage has an objective structure.1 Because marriage has an objective structure it has inherent characteristics. Marriage can never really be redefined, because you can’t change the reality of what is hard-wired into the relationship between a man and a woman that we call marriage. You can call whatever you like a marriage, but that won’t change what marriage is, anymore than you can change what a rose is because you decide to start calling all plants roses. In Propaganda Shell Games a.k.a. Finding Unicorns, I quoted a principle of general semantics from Charles Fleming, “The word is not the thing.” We can deny what marriage is— rename it or apply the word to any pair or group we please—reality casts the final vote.2 We have not changed what marriage is.
So what is this thing that we call marriage? First, look for a minute at the definitions of the words objective and inherent:
- not influenced by personal feelings, interpretations, or prejudice; based on facts; unbiased: an objective opinion
- of or pertaining to something that can be known, or to something that is an object or a part of an object; existing independent of thought or an observer as part of reality
- existing in someone or something as a permanent and inseparable element, quality, or attribute
Marriage has an objective structure with inherent characteristics derived, or born if you will, quite literally, from the very nature of the sexual union of a man and a woman. This union is absolutely unique— you can say what you want and say it’s not so, but you cannot change this objective reality that has nothing to do with opinion or interpretation.
From the reality of this objective structure flow the inherent characteristics of marriage that are permanent and inseparable elements of marriage. This was an eureka moment for me as I was reading, because I saw again what a former pastor said—God has morally underwritten His universe. This isn’t setting up a theocracy, this is the reality in which people live whether or not they believe in God. God wrote the reality of marriage into who we are when He created us as male and female.
One of my college courses was on human physiology, and the text discussed the many organic systems of the human body such as the cardiovascular system, the adrenal system, and the digestive system. Each and every one of these functions as a self-contained system within one body. There is only one human organic system that requires a second body to bring to com- pletion its organic function—you know where I’m going—the human reproductive system, which necessitates organic union between one male and one female. Cells in the human body are diploid, containing two sets of chromosomes, one set from the mother, and one set from the father—except for the gametes, the reproductive cells, egg or sperm, which each contain only one set of chromosomes.5 These haploid cells must be joined in an organic union between mother and father for the human reproductive system to achieve the goal of reproduction—the creation of a new human being.
It is in those three basic features of any bond— unifying activity, unifying goods, and unifying commitment—that marriage is comprehensive.
First, it unites two people in their most basic dimensions, in their minds and bodies; second, it unites them with respect to procreation, family life, and its broad domestic sharing; and third, it unites them permanently and exclusively.7
In my next post on marriage I’ll discuss these inherent characteristics of marriage from chapter two “Comprehensive Union,” with a few thoughts on why they are inherent and why attempts to sever and separate them from marriage have disasterous effects on human beings.
And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”Matthew 19:4–6
My posts on the book, What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense, are more than a book review or report. Because I think the authors brings so much help and clarity to the ongoing debate on marriage, I’m working through their arguments to support or augment your own thinking on marriage. I recommend buying the book and working through it on your own, and I hope these posts spark your interest. If anything is unclear, please let me know. Any misinterpretations of the authors’ intents are obviously my own, and I will correct any that I discover. Previous posts on What Is Marriage? and references for this post are listed below the fold.
- “What Is Marriage?”
- A Marriage Debate At Cross Purposes
- An Overview of the Consequences of Redefining Marriage.
- An Outline of What Is Marriage?
- Redefining Civil Marriage Guts The Rationale For Civil Regulation
Ceramic ornament used on the top of a wedding cake in Birmingham, England in August 1959, Andy Mabbett, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
1,6,7Sherif Girgis, Ryan T. Anderson, and Robert George, What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense (Encounter Books, New York NY: 2012) 16, 23, 23.
2I read this saying, reality casts the final vote, somewhere, but I cannot remember the author.
3“objective.” Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 14 Apr. 2013. <Dictionary.com http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/objective>.
4“inherent.” Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 14 Apr. 2013. <Dictionary.com http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/inherent>.
5This is not to obscure the fact of genetic anomalies such as Down syndrome or trisomy 13 or the existence of polyploid cells. If you’re interested in learning more, the Australian Centre for Genetics Education has a five-page PDF fact sheet, Genes and Chromosomes: The Genome. For the present, I’m also not going to get into cloning or any other methods devised in attempts to truncate human bodily function and design.