One thing emphasized by the leaders of the Gospel Alliance is the desire to be known for what it stands for rather than what it is against. Choosing to be for something, however, always results in rejecting other choices or options. This idea of saying “yes” to something resulting in saying “no” to other things first became clear to me in my high school microeconomics class, as I was introduced to the idea of “opportunity cost” – you give up alternatives when you make any choice. So if you choose to make widgets, then you choose not to make doohickeys. This idea is found elsewhere in our world. When you buy a house or car, you choose not to buy the other cars or houses for sale. When you accept a job, you are saying no to other jobs and options available to you. A student’s choice of a particular major in college means that she or he is rejecting the other majors offered at the school (unless she/he chooses to double major,but the overall point still holds, as choices are limited). When you choose to watch a certain TV show, you choose not to watch any of the other TV shows on at the same time (or any of the other streaming options that you may have at your disposal). Whenever we say “yes” to something, we say “no” to other things.
One thing that the Gospel Alliance is in favor of (or says “yes” to) is the need for the church to “solemnize a marital union between a man and a woman to reflect the covenantal love of Christ and His Church.” The Alliance says “yes” to this because of what is taught in Scripture, which defines marriage as the joining together of two people of different genders into a union that reflects Christ and the church. As Preston Sprinkle notes in his book People to Be Loved (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015), Genesis 2 uses the Hebrew word kenegdo (p. 32) to speak of Eve being similar but also dissimilar to Adam.Since Genesis 2:24 grounds marriage upon this account, it seems that the “sexual difference” is an integral element of a marriage (p. 33). Sprinkle also highlights that the creation account itself stresses the idea of “unity in otherness” (p. 34), further supporting the idea that marriage displays a unity in the midst of gender differentiation. Jesus’s words in Matthew 19:3-11 and Mark 10:2-9 about divorce also stress the idea that marriage consists of a man and a woman. In fact, Jesus’s reference to Genesis 1:26-27 introduces the importance of different genders in the design of marriage in a situation in which reference to gender was not necessary. Paul’s teaching on the meaning of marriage in Ephesians 5 also assumes gender differentiation – a husband and a wife—as it connects marriage to Christ and the church. In addition to comparing the relationship between Christ and the church, Ron Citlau also highlights how the union of people of different genders in marriage “is a small echo of what God experiences within the Trinitarian community” in that the Trinity features distinct persons who are one substance (Hope for the Same Sex Attracted [Bloomington, MN: Bethany House, 2017], p. 42). Therefore, there is a constant thread in Scripture of marriage involving people of different genders; this thread is alongside of a consistent teaching that the context for human sexuality is the marriage relationship. The idea of the solemnization of marriage between a man and a woman thus is a call to teach and model marriages built upon biblical imagery.
Upholding this view of marriage will result in ruling out other definitions of marriage, such as that marriage is a union of any individuals who love each other. Ruling out this view, however, does not mean that one is primarily standing against it, as choosing to be for something always results in rejecting other choices or options. When someone makes a choice for something, people typically do not focus on what is excluded by the choice but rather what is included in that choice. The reason for rejection of certain options or ideas is not malice or hatred of other options (and those who support them), but rather the logical implication of the choice that has been made. Therefore, it is important to recognize that the idea of solemnizing marriage as the union of a man and a woman is not about being against something but rather being for something.
In being “for” this view of marriage one must also call out other ways in which marriages fall short of God’s design. Therefore, this call for the solemnization of marriage is not only about the need for different genders within a marriage but also for the conduct of these different partners to reflect God’s design for this institution. Husbands and wives need to be faithful to their covenant vows, reflecting the imagery of Christ and the church, and the church must teach this in all areas of its ministry. This involves not only teaching the definition of marriage, but also giving examples of it and providing ongoing support to help these marriages grow and flourish. May marriages that reflect the covenantal love of Christ and his church be something that the church is known for.