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It is evident that an acquaintance with natural laws means no less than an acquaintance with the mind of God therein expressed.
—James Prescott Joule1—
Marriage exists to bring a man and a woman together as husband and wife to be father and mother to any children their union produces. It is based on the anthropological truth that men and women are different and complementary, the biological fact that reproduction depends on a man and a woman, and the social reality that children need both a mother and a father.
—Ryan T. Anderson2—
Nature Affirms God’s Design
We note that the Bible is crystal clear in both the Old and New Testaments regarding what marriage is; it is the union of one man and one woman for a lifetime. Yet, even without the Bible, the Creator’s design for human relationships, including the fundamental role marriage plays for the benefit of individuals and society, would be abundantly evident. It should not surprise us that the Bible and nature say the same thing, because God is the author of both.
Let’s consider several realities.
First, a man and a woman fit together physically. We see this most clearly in the outlines of the genitalia of a male and a female. This is a fitting that obviously is not present with two men or two women. Moreover, sexual intercourse involves precisely one man and one woman. The human bodies of the man and the woman therefore point to monogamy and sexual exclusivity—and those of same sex couples point to abstinence from sexual activity altogether.
Second, sexual encounters between a husband and wife enhance their relationship by bonding them together physically, emotionally, psychologically, and on many other levels through sexual intercourse. Sexual pleasure is an inseparable part of these experiences. The man and his wife must learn how to pleasure each other, certainly; but their bodies cooperate naturally as sexual arousal occurs. Physical gratification, though, is not the only purpose for sex.
As the male and female bodies are aroused, they also set the stage to increase the chances that fertilization and pregnancy will occur. (Read more here about some of the physiological miracles that occur as a husband and wife come together sexually—but be aware at the outset that this material is explicit). This is the third point we should consider. Only a heterosexual union can produce a baby. Infertile couples certainly do exist, but they do not negate the general rule that when one man and one woman come together and share themselves with each other intimately and sexually, the way is paved for conception, pregnancy, and the eventual arrival of a child. The “one flesh” union, therefore, isn’t just about a couple’s coming together and uniting their bodies sexually; it’s also about the “one flesh” person that can and often does result from the sexual experiences they share. As Ryan Anderson has said, “The lovemaking act is also the life-giving act. The act that unites a man and a woman as husband and wife is the same act that can make them mother and father. This begins to tell us something about what the marital relationship is ordered toward.”3
Fourth, the baby, when it arrives, is totally helpless. She needs nourishment on a regular basis. He needs to have his diapers changed—repeatedly. We are truly deaf and blind in the most extreme sense if we fail to see that nature’s way of bringing a new human life into the world also makes a clear and bold statement about who should have the primary responsibility to care for newborns when they arrive. Moreover, this isn’t just about caring for babies and children so they will grow up to become responsible individuals; it’s also about maintaining a healthy society for years to come. The future of the human race depends on reproducing it so those dying out can be replaced. This can occur only with heterosexual couples. As Charles Colson put it, “The survival of the human race depends upon marriage as the institution by which we procreate and perpetuate civilization.”4
Fifth, men and women are different in ways beyond their obvious biological differences. Creation and practical experiences testify to this, despite cultural efforts to wipe out references to these contrasts. Today we even know that male and female brains are different,5,6,7 but historically we also have recognized a variety of distinctive traits in each gender. A man is uniquely equipped to meet the needs of his wife, and a woman is uniquely gifted to meet the needs of her husband. Moreover, each one has specific attributes that serve to meet the needs of the children that come into the family as a result of the couple’s sexual union. Every child needs both a mother and a father. Certainly single parent homes exist, and we credit single moms and single dads with all they do to effectively rear their children. Even so, a woman cannot be a dad, nor can a man be a mother.
Celebrate the Differences!
This last point calls for some elaboration. In his insightful book Growth into Manhood,8 Alan Medinger, a former homosexual, devotes an entire chapter to masculinity and its qualities. Medinger emphasizes that masculinity, and femininity, for that matter, are broad concepts—certainly broader than the concepts of male and female. We can understand the traits of one better when we contrast them to the characteristics of the other. Both men and women have masculine and feminine qualities, but in men, masculine traits predominate, and in women, feminine qualities prevail. God, having made both men and women in His image, embodies both masculine and feminine traits (see Ps. 103:13; Matt. 23:37), although He has revealed Himself as Father (Eph. 4:4-6).
Medinger makes four points. These insights are politically incorrect today, but they nevertheless ring true in our lives and in our experiences.
First, while the masculine focuses on that which is external or is “outer directed,” the feminine emphasizes the internal, for it is “inner directed.”
The masculine faces the world: It is oriented to things; it explores; it climbs. Its energy is directed toward the physical: measuring, moving, building, conquering. The feminine looks inward toward feeling, sensing, knowing in the deepest sense. Its energy is directed toward relationships, coming together, nurturing, helping. Rather than moving out into the world, it draws the world around it into itself. Both the masculine and the feminine are relational, but the masculine relational drive is toward the physical, toward working and playing together; the feminine drive is toward being together. In fact, another way to describe this same contrast is masculine doing and feminine being.9
Medinger goes on to say that male bodies, which are stronger, are equipped to engage in masculine activity. Female bodies, by contrast, are equipped to facilitate the enhancement of relationships at a deeper level. He is analytical; she has intuitive insight. He is well-suited to protect, she to bear children and to nurture and comfort. His communication is straightforward, hers warmer and more intimate.10 Both are equal in importance, and both are necessary, but each is different from the other.
Second, the masculine initiates and the feminine responds. Accordingly, generally speaking, men plan and move out to accomplish new projects. They embark on new quests and adventures. The feminine acts to assist her male companion in accomplishing those goals through encouragement, support, and practical help.11
At this point we can expect to get a great deal of flack from those who see the traditional home as oppressive to women. We are not saying that a woman never initiates anything or that a man never responds to his wife. Nor are we saying that the role of the initiator is superior to that of the one responding and helping. Both are important and necessary, and both are of equal value.
When Focus on the Family relocated to Colorado Springs from Southern California in the early 90s, the move was exciting for Dr. James Dobson, its founder and president at the time. “For me,” Dobson remembers, “it took fifteen minutes to get used to the idea.” Dobson’s wife, Shirley, had difficulty. Dr. Dobson knew her perspective was different from his. “She’d have to start over. She had envisioned continuing to make memories in the same house where [we had] raised the kids. Plus, Southern California had more culture than Colorado Springs. I brought my ‘culture’ with me, in Focus.” Shirley had long known that relocating was a real possibility, and she maintained the perspective that she and her husband were a team. After the move and the departure of their adult children from the home, Shirley began to write books and to find fulfillment as chairman of the National Day of Prayer. Of course, she continued to be her husband’s chief supporter as well.12
As a side note, Medinger observes that since God is the ultimate initiator, it is entirely appropriate that He would reveal Himself in the masculine role of Father. We, as responders to God, are all feminine in this sense. How fitting, therefore, that we who are followers of Christ are called His bride (see Eph. 5:31-32).13
The third point highlights the immeasurably significant influence a wife has over her husband. The masculine embodies authority, and the feminine embodies power. We see masculine authority in initiation and in decision-making, and we see related masculine power in physical strength. These aren’t the only kinds of influence, however.
There is the power that is physical strength that can lift two hundred pounds or open the pickle jar, but there is also a power that endures, that does not vacillate, that is like glue or solder that holds things together. This is the power of the feminine. In the family, the woman, the one primarily embodying the feminine, is the one in almost all cultures who holds the family together. She makes the home and does the most to establish relationships among husband, wife, and children. This takes a special kind of power that is less often present in the man.14
A wife wields great influence over her husband. Despite all the talk about the benefits of cohabitation and how marriage is oppressive to women—and the perspective that biblical submission keeps a wife from reaching her full potential—marriage actually gives women great leverage. In his book, The Ring Makes All the Difference, social researcher Glenn Stanton describes a scenario in which a woman cohabitating with her boyfriend asks him to don a Barney costume to entertain the kids at her niece’s upcoming birthday party. He objects. He has plans to fish. Besides, Brittney isn’t his niece—she’s his girlfriend’s niece! Now, think how this conversation would go if the two were married. A husband cannot refuse his wife as readily as a guy can turn down his girlfriend.15 Stanton observes, “Contrary to stereotypes…a man with a ring on his finger will spend up to eight more hours a week washing dishes and cleaning clothes, floors, and bathrooms than his shacking-up peer.”16 Marriage really isn’t as oppressive as we’ve been led to believe! Feminine power is powerful indeed!
Fourth, the masculine uphold truths while the feminine emphasizes and offers mercy.
This contrast between the masculine and feminine is the stuff around which dramas are written. The father discovers that his beloved son has committed a terrible crime and forces him to turn himself in to the authorities. The mother pleads with him not to. The masculine operates on principle; the feminine is moved by compassion. The masculine looks to the long-term good; the feminine looks at the immediate human need. The masculine has a passion for truth, the feminine for love.17
Keep in mind that we never would say that men are totally without mercy or that women completely lack the ability to confront with the truth when necessary. At the same time, this difference and the others we have named are prevailing trends that should be acknowledged and celebrated. Why? They benefit couples, families, society, and humanity at large. Minimizing them is both foolish and detrimental.
We stated earlier that God embodies both the masculine and the feminine. This is a good place to illustrate this truth. Consider Psalm 62:11-12, which presents the perfect balance between contrasting qualities.
11 One thing God has spoken,
two things I have heard:
“Power belongs to you, God,
12 and with you, Lord, is unfailing love”;
and, “You reward everyone
according to what they have done” (NIV).
Were God powerful and strong but not loving, He would destroy us all. Were He loving but not powerful, He would desire to meet our deepest need but would be unable to do so. Thankfully, He possesses both strength and love. Moreover, in His design for the family, He has provided for a balanced representation of essential contrasting qualities like strength and love, and truth and mercy. This is important for both the husband and wife, for each provides a check against the excesses of the other; and it’s essential for children, whose views of God are first based on what they observe and experience in their relationships with their parents at home.
Nature Also Warns Against Departing from God’s Plan
We have seen a variety of ways in which creation testifies to God’s clear definition of marriage in Scripture. One more thing we must do is contrast this to homosexuality, which today purports to be just as natural, normal, and healthy as heterosexuality. Nothing could be further from the truth, and examining a few of the things that happen physiologically when two men come together sexually will demonstrate just how far homosexuality departs from God’s design. It is diametrically opposed to God’s intentions and plan. Nature affirms this clearly, reflecting precisely what the Bible teaches with regard to behavior to emulate and actions to avoid. Be forewarned! The quote I am going to present is explicit, but necessarily so. Yet it also is limited, for much more could be said. Still, enough will be said to vividly illustrate creation’s reflection of God’s design and the cost of departing from His plan. Go here to read these important statements.
We Have a Duty to Point Out Nature’s Lessons Regarding Sexuality
In an article titled “Homosexual ‘Marriage’ and Natural Law,” blogger Kevin Kukla does a good job of summarizing two of the major points we have attempted to make: “The female body and the male body are designed to operate sexually in union with each other. Homosexual activity defies the innate design of the human body.”18 It logically follows from these two truths that we do well to heed what we learn from nature about sexuality and human relationships.
Even though “common sense” has become all too uncommon today, it can be restored as we raise our voices to declare the obvious. Let us raise them lovingly, forthrightly, consistently, and persistently. As the apostle Paul wrote, “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart” (Gal. 6:9).
Copyright © 2015 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All Rights Reserved.
top image: Signing the Register, painting by Edmund Leighton (1853-1922)
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture has been taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Scriptures designated NIV are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
3Ryan T. Anderson, Truth Overruled: The Future of Marriage and Religious Freedom, (Kindle Edition: Regnery, 2015), loc. 411.
4Charles Colson with Anne Morse, My Final Word, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015), 142.
5Walt Larimore, MD, and Barb Larimore, His Brain, Her Brain: How Divinely Designed Differences Can Strengthen Your Marriage, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008).
8Alan Medinger, Growth into Manhood, (Colorado Springs, CO: Shaw, 2000).
12Dale Buss, Family Man: The Biography of Dr. James Dobson, (Wheaton: Tyndale, 2005), 118-119, 245-247.
15Glenn Stanton, The Ring Makes All the Difference: The Hidden Consequences of Cohabitation and the Strong Benefits of Marriage, (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2011), 41-42.