More Garden Theology: Creation Order and Covenant

August 12, 2011

An interesting question was asked during the July 29 Appeal Hearing which bears some amplification. As background, we had presented the message of Scripture as being univocal and unambiguous on three points:

1. Marriage is always based on a male/female prerequisite;

2. Every command regarding homosexuality is a prohibition in the strongest terms; and

3. There is not a single biblical passage that affirms homosexual practice of any kind.

A judicial commissioner inquired as to which theological starting point anchors this view, “orders of creation” or “covenant theology.” My mental wheels started turning, and I realized that the questioner presented these two ideas as mutually exclusive, that it was actually a choice between the two. But was it?

An argument from the orders of creation is based on the Genesis 1 and 2 narratives that describe God’s fashioning of man and woman:

“So God created humankind in his image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them. (1:27)
“Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner’ . . . So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said,
“‘This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
this one shall be called Woman,
for out of Man this one was taken.’
“Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed.” (2:18-24)

This account affirms the intentionality of God’s design in creating male and female complementarity, yes including physical complementarity and functional partnership.

An argument from covenant theology is a bit more round-about. It usually starts with God’s relationship with Israel, always initiated by God with expectations for the living out of covenant relationship.  As my mental wheels turned, I realized the possibility that my questioner might be applying “covenant theology” to marriage between two people (not necessarily male and female). In fact (checking later), David Myers and Letha Scanzoni, in their 2005 book What God Has Joined Together, wrote:

Perhaps rather than thinking in terms of gender, we might instead consider the characteristics of that covenant [between God and Israel] …. justice, fairness, love, kindness, faithfulness and a revelation of God’s personhood. … If these characteristics define an ideal marriage, might two homosexual persons likewise form such a union? … If we can think in those terms, might we … accept these (same sex) covenantal relationships as indeed a joining of two persons by God?

In contrast to this view, I said at the hearing, “Our view of marriage and sexuality is rooted in both the orders of creation and covenant theology. Both started in the Garden and cannot be separated. Orders of creation and covenant comprise one narrative, not exclusive of each other. God is always the initiator of covenant, and obedience to God’s covenantal terms is always expected.”

In our Christian understanding, “the covenant of marriage” involves three parties, the man, the woman, and God. Or, in another sense, two parties: God and the couple. Whatever God is a party to (in covenant) must be consistent with his design for creation, because God is never at odds with himself.

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One Response to “More Garden Theology: Creation Order and Covenant”

  1. Ron Says:

    “God is always the initiator of covenant, and obedience to God’s covenantal terms is always expected.”

    In our Christian understanding, “the covenant of marriage” involves three parties, the man, the woman, and God. Or, in another sense, two parties: God and the couple. Whatever God is a party to (in covenant) must be consistent with his design for creation, because God is never at odds with himself.”

    I was just studying that God is the covenant initiator in the WCF study.

    Also it’s interesting that the inconsistency of God in the Trinity is at the root of the Arminian view discussion.

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