Divine Mercy: A Guide From Genesis To Benedict XVI takes you on a tour of Divine Mercy throughout salvation history, spanning the Old and New Testaments, in the writings of ... Read more
Part 10: God's Creation Blueprint
By Dr. Robert Stackpole, STD (Feb 24, 2016)
The following is the tenth in a series on Homosexuality and God's Merciful Love. You can follow the entire series here.
It is futile to try to understand the negative prohibitions in the Bible of various kinds of sexual behavior apart from God's positive teaching about the meaning and purpose of human sexuality revealed in the Creation story in Genesis 1 and 2. As we have already seen, Jesus Himself explicitly endorsed this teaching (Mt 19: 3-9), and all Jewish and Christian writers in biblical times accepted it as true and normative.
In Genesis it is absolutely clear that God's plan for human sexuality is that it is meant to bond together male and female in a loving, lifelong, complementary (heterosexual), exclusive, and fruitful union (that is, open to the gift of children). There is no wholesome, natural, alternative sexual lifestyle given to us by our Creator. He would have told us so if there were. Genesis gives us the "manufacturer's operating instructions," the Creator's own blueprint for human fulfillment and peace of heart in this important aspect of our lives.
In his excellent book What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality? (Crossway, 2015), Kevin DeYoung provides us with a handy summary of what this Genesis blueprint involves.
1) The way in which the first "woman" was created shows that she was to be the man's divinely designed equal and complement. Both are fully human, but in different and complementary ways. De Young writes:
What makes the woman unique is both that she is like the man (expressed in the ... statement "bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh") and that she is differentiated from the man. The text [of Genesis] has this sameness and difference in view. Adam delights that the woman is not another animal and not another man. ... She is [in the Hebrew text] an ishah taken out of ish, a new creation fashioned from the side of man to be something other than man (2:23) (p. 27).
2) The nature of the "one-flesh" union for which God designed them presupposes two people of the opposite sex who are biologically and sexually "made for each other." As DeYoung says, "When Genesis 2:24 begins with 'Therefore (or 'For this reason'), it connects the intimacy of becoming one-flesh (v. 24) with the complementarity" of ish and ishah (v. 23). The statement in the Bible that Adam and Eve were made to be "one-flesh," therefore, points both to sexual intimacy and natural, biological complementarity (also suggested by the reference to "naked without shame" in verse 25). In a similar way, St. Paul uses the language of "one flesh" when he warns the Corinthians against being "joined" to a prostitute (I Cor 6:15-16) — a demeaning kind of one-flesh sexual union that God did not intend. Clearly, same-sex relationships cannot be expressions of natural, biological complementarity.
3) Only two persons of the opposite sex can fulfill the procreative purpose included in the one-flesh union. Reading Genesis 2 in the light of Genesis 1, God created the man and the woman in such a way that they could "be fruitful and multiply" (Gen 1:28). As DeYoung puts it: "Clearly, we are meant to see offspring issuing from the union of the uniquely fitted ish and ishah. ... Marriage by definition is that sort of union from which — if all the plumbing is working properly — children can be conceived" (p.29). Needless to say, same-sex unions also cannot share in this aspect of the one-flesh union in God's plan. Indeed, Adam and Eve were to form a family: a little community of life and love open to the procreation and nurture of children, so that the earth would be filled with more and more creatures made in God's "image" (Gen 1:26-27). Procreation and nurture are only possible if the foundation of the family in God's plan is a lifelong, heterosexual union.
4) Jesus endorsed the Genesis creation blueprint for human sexuality and marriage in Matthew 19:3-9. He first reminded his audience that God had made human beings male and female "from the beginning," quoting directly from Genesis 2:24. As DeYoung tells us: "In Jesus' mind, to answer the divorce question necessitates a right understanding of marriage, and to get at the nature of marriage one must go back to the beginning, where we see God instituting marriage as the lifelong union of a man and a woman" (p. 31).
The New Testament then reveals a further dimension to god's original, creation design.
5) St. Paul teaches that marriage is meant to be a symbol, and a sharing in the mystery of the spousal love between Christ as the Bridegroom and the Church as his Bride (Ephesians 5:22-33). This clearly implies that marriage is a lifelong, loving heterosexual union. Two men or two women cannot be "bride" and "bridegroom" to each other. Moreover, as the heavenly Bridegroom becomes one-flesh with His Bride the Church in the Holy Eucharist (Jn 6:53-57), only an earthly bride and bridegroom can become "one-flesh" in true conjugal love.
This is the "big picture" of the mystery of why God made the human race "male" and "female" to begin with. And it is a picture of tremendous beauty. He could have made us creatures that just reproduce by a process of cloning or cell-division (like amoeba). Instead, he wove into all of creation, human procreation, and the new creation in Christ, a mystery of spousal love.
In other words, God wants to marry us! The goal of life is to accept his invitation, receive and return his love as a bride receives and loves her bridegroom, and ultimately join him in heaven at the great wedding feast of the Lamb (see Revelation 19:6-9; 21:2). Human sexual intimacy is meant to be a participation in, and celebration of this great spousal mystery: an earthly icon of the union between heaven and earth.
As if that wasn't enough, there is even more meaning and significance to human sexuality! But to go further, we need to turn to the help of Philosophy. And what we find is that our Creator's biblical blueprint for human sexuality actually finds an echo in what philosophical reason can discern about it all.
The fact is that the human sexual act naturally signifies something — even for people who have no idea about any "Genesis blueprint" or "spousal mystery of the universe." Sex is simply a created form of "body-language." And body language, of course, is a universal, human phenomenon. All over the world, wherever you go, a smile expresses happiness and friendliness, and if someone spits in your face, it is an expression of hatred and contempt.
The sexual act too is natural, human body language. In true conjugal love, a man and a woman give themselves completely to each other, body and soul, in the most intimate expression of caring commitment of love possible between them — their bodies have the capacity to express this complete gift of self. The bodily act says: "I give myself completely to you, with nothing held back, and I accept your complete self-gift too." That's one reason why the sexual act is appropriate only in the context of marriage: because only marriage is a complete, exclusive, lifelong commitment of love to another person. It is the only kind of love that fits the "body-language" of sexual intercourse.
Thus, even those who do not read the Bible, and who might only have some vague belief in God, can appreciate, at this level, the special significance of the sexual act. Catholic author Melinda Selmys put it this way in her book Sexual Authenticity:
Sex is not a more or less irrelevant toy. It is a life-making technology; an intense form of interpersonal communication; a tool for joining together disparate human persons into one; a transcender of subjectivity. It is a work of art, full of symbol and purpose, created by the highest of all Artists, and then given to humanity as a gift, in order to allow us to participate in the transmission and creation of our own species. It is not a bit of biological flotsam to be disposed of how we will. ...
This is the sort of love in which you actually give your entire self, and the body is the means by which this is demonstrated. Two lovers, in one another's embrace, hold nothing back. The body is naked, its most precious recesses are shared, its highest capacity — the capacity to give substance to another life — is exercised. Two become one, and in becoming one, create a third. The gift is made concrete ... in the conception of the child (pp. 93 and 102).
The point is: Any loving married couple can appreciate and experience this. You don't need to know much about the Bible or the Catechism to know at least this much about the meaning and purpose of human sexuality.
Next time: Why Same-Sex Unions Cannot Express a Total Gift of Self
You can follow the entire series here.
Robert Stackpole, STD, is director of the John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy, an apostolate of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception.