But suppose there is no child; do they remain two and not one? No; their intercourse effects the joining of their bodies, and they are made one, just as when perfume is mixed with ointment.” (John Chrysostom, Homily 12 on Colossians)

Tobias Haller has an excellent post up at IN A GODWARD DIRECTION in which he riffs on the above quotation from The Church Fathers. It is, as always with Tobias, erudite, beautifully argued and complete in itself. I strongly recommend that you check it out. It certainly got me thinking and I am going to add my own two penneth to the debate.

Babies are (sometimes) made in the act of sex between a man and a woman. To state that procreation is the primary function of marriage is to state that marriage is primarily about sex. Anybody who claims this to be true is basing their morality upon the promiscuous paradigms of our time which are at variance with the teachings of Jesus Christ (in particular his words on adultery).

I am, and always have been, monogamous (the thought of being anything else scares the living daylights out of me). I have had a sexual relationship with three people in my life and I was madly in love (at the time, at least) with each of them. Furthermore, I did not enjoy sex with any of my partners until I was in love with them and had got to know them well. I am not the sort of person who can jump into bed with a stranger on a first date as I need to be comfortable and relaxed with a person before I can "perform" so to speak. I don't think I am unusual in this respect and it was certainly the way things where done when I was young and in my prime. In fact, I regarded myself as very modern and sexually enlightened because I had sexual relationships before marriage. My parents generation had usually insisted on marriage before penetrative sex.

Therefore, the traditional view of sex was that it was something that came after two people had fallen in love and had decided to spend the rest of their lives together forsaking all others. In other words, sex was secondary to both love and marriage - a bonus, in fact. Children were a bonus (ideally) of the bonus of sex. Therefore, anybody who regards procreation as a primary characteristic of marriage, rather than a possibility of marriage is placing the sexual act above love in importance and is, in essence, reflecting in their morality the promiscuous morality of modern, western, secular society.

However, such people can claim to have precedent for their moral beliefs in both history and scripture. In England, there was a tradition among our aristocracy of regarding procreation leading to a male heir above all other functions of marriage. In fact, if a male heir was not forthcoming from a marriage it has been known for a man to divorce his wife (my church owes its foundation to such an act of marital betrayal). Furthermore, as marriage was often entered into for political and procreative reasons, husbands (and sometimes wives) would seek love and loving sex outside of their marriage. In the Old testament there are examples of men having sex outside of marriage in order to make sure they have a male heir.

But are such traditions really what modern Christians regard as acceptable behaviour? I don't think so. I believe that promiscuity and casual sex are bad things because they can, too easily, lead to hurt being caused. I believe that two people should only move into a sexual relationship after they have fallen in love with each other. I believe this because of what I was taught when I was still a child by my parents and by Jesus Christ.

Ideally, love should precede committed relationship should precede sex should precede children. And the greatest of these is love. And the least of these is children.

It is only when we turn our backs on the immorality of both "the world" and those within the Church who see marriage as primarily functional rather than primarily loving, that we can make logical decisions regarding the morality of same sex marriage (and for that matter all childless marriages), decisions that reflect the teaching of our bridegroom, Jesus Christ, Son of the God who loves us even though he does not want to have our babies.



  1. In the old days of subsistence farming, it wasn’t really possible to live on your own; looking after the house was a full-time job, so was growing food. Then who would look after you in your old age? People got married for economic necessity, not marriage. My wife’s from a culture where arranged marriages are common; her attitude was that you got married first, and love came afterwards. Love, of course, being about commitment, not emotions.

  2. Well, and if marriage is just about producing children, it looks like my grandparents’ marriage (on my father’s side) was null and void. Dad was adopted, and my grandfather (who had been married twice – his first wife died and he later remarried) had no children with either of his wives. Go figure. They were straight, married in church, etc etc, but I suppose in the eyes of some people, as long as they had no children of their own (as opposed to adopting) their marriage was pointless.

    Which is, of course, ridiculous.

  3. Just because same-gender couples can’t make babies apart from modern medicine, doesn’t mean they’re not trying.

  4. It’s always a delight to see an argument for the primacy of child-bearing shredded so succinctly, but the argument only exists to justify hatred of gays and lesbians. Arguments for equity, civil or canonical, collide with the childhood indoctrination of those who believe in the moral superiority of the dominant sexual orientation. I can imagine some self-loathing blended into that position. Go for the jugular: talk about the hatred and the justification of it through the idolatry of Biblical literalism. Just a suggestion.