Is The Bible inconsistent in its teachings on marriage?
The first image alongside is a sort of meme that has been doing the rounds on social media in an attempt to discredit Christian opposition to same sex marriage.
The thinking seems to go something like this.
The Bible itself promotes various types of marriages, none of which are espoused by those who are against same sex marriage.
Therefore, if The Bible does not promote a single view of marriage, Christians cannot and should not deny same sex couples the right to marry by insisting that there is only one view of marriage.
On the face of it this seems to be a legitimate challenge. After all verse after Bible verse is quoted showing that The Bible does indeed promote the idea that marriages can be of various kinds.
So how are Christians to respond?
First of all, Christians need to learn a fundamental principle: if a skeptic wants to show that The Bible is inconsistent in its teachings, then the skeptic has to first acknowledge that The Bible is true in its recordings.
In other words, if the skeptic wants to show that The Bible promotes various types of marriage, then the skeptic can only do that by presuming that such marriages were indeed practiced in ancient times and The Bible’s recording of these practices is accurate and truthful.
In other words, before the skeptic can show The Bible to be inconsistent, the skeptic has to presume that The Bible is historically accurate. After all, if The Bible is historically inaccurate about diversity of marriage practices then the skeptic cannot make any accusation of inconsistency.
Think of it like this. If you want to demonstrate that Roman Catholicism is hypocritical because its teachings on sexual abstinence are inconsistent with the rampant practice of child abuse, then you have to presume that the teachings and the practices are both true i.e. they have transpired as a matter of fact.
You cannot accuse the Roman Catholic establishment of inconsistency without first believing that their priests do indeed teach sexual abstinence and they do indeed practice child abuse.
To state it slightly differently, any accusation of inconsistency can only be made on the basis of historical accuracy.
Nine times out of ten, the skeptic will be loath to accept the historical accuracy of The Bible. In other words, they want to be able to critique The Bible for doctrinal inconsistency while refusing to acknowledge its historical accuracy. Which means they want to say that The Bible is inconsistent without having any historical basis for doing so!
So the first thing Christians need to understand is the underlying assumptions of the skeptic. Once this is done, the inconsistency of the skeptic’s skepticism can easily be demonstrated, thus rendering their challenge invalid.
But what if the skeptic accepts that The Bible has indeed recorded these events accurately? Well, that ought to be the subject of another post!
However, what can definitely be said is that if The Bible has recorded history accurately then these events need to be examined carefully in their historical context. If they are willing to do that, they will see that The Bible is not condoning all these types of marriages at all. Sure, the Bible does record these marriage practices, but nowhere does it hold them up as being the model to be followed.
In fact when speaking about Church leaders, the model for marriage is very clear: An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife — 1 Timothy 3:2
Since leadership sets the example for everyone else, it’s very clear that The Bible teaches that marriage is monogamous, and between a woman and a man.
So next time you’re confronted by a skeptic who accuses The Bible of inconsistency, gently expose the inconsistency of their skepticism.
Then, if they’re willing, walk them through the larger context to show how the holiness of God means He is never inconsistent in His dealings with us.