On a recent Oprah Winfrey show, Kristen and Rob Bell make a lavish use of “values language,” in an attempt to justify same sex marriage. Kristen stated: “Marriage, gay and straight, is a gift to the world because the world needs more not less love, fidelity, commitment, devotion and sacrifice.” Who does not want to see more love in the world, but do the terms like “love,” “commitment” and sacrifice” need a lot more definition? Do the millions watching Oprah deserve a better defense of biblical sexuality? Indeed, the “made-for-TV” superficiality of these arguments is staggering and is part of the trend in certain evangelical circles mentioned in my previous comment Evangelicalism in Crisis? to accept the homosexual agenda as perfectly in line with the true meaning of Christianity.
In the same interview, Rob Bell provides an equally misleading defense of same sex marriage. Irresponsibly picking and choosing between Bible texts that agree with him, and those that do not, he dismisses Paul’s teaching as mere letters from 2000 years ago that no longer apply, and then chooses a 3500 years old text with which he agrees, namely Genesis 2:18, which states: “Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.’” In a sentimentalizing interpretation of this foundational text, Bell launches into an emotive appeal for companionship, perfectly suited to his Oprah-taught audience. “One of the oldest aches in the bones of humanity is loneliness…Loneliness is not good for the world. Whoever you are, gay or straight, it is totally normal, natural and healthy to want someone to go through life with. It’s central to our humanity. We want someone to go on the journey with.” Bell argues that the Bible, like all warm-blooded human beings, is in principle opposed to psychological loneliness, and thus implicitly endorses all forms of “marriage,” heterosexual, homosexual or poly-sexual.
One clear implication from Bell’s interpretation is that there is no place in inspired Scripture for singleness or celibacy, and that Jesus himself doubtless would have done better, speaking of “love,” “commitment” and sacrifice” with a companion to do the work he came to do. Moreover, Jesus was surely wrong in what he taught about the value of singleness (Matthew 19:11-12).
But let’s look more carefully at the Genesis text Bell cites. In his superficial approach, this is just a pretext, not an inspired text, granted what he now believes about Scripture. In Genesis 2:18, Eve is identified specifically as a “perfectly-fitted helper” (Hebrew, ezer) for Adam. In other places in the Old Testament, this term is used for God as “helper,” not for mere emotional support against loneliness but for the life and death defense of Israel from her enemies (Deuteronomy 33:26-29). For this reason Israel raised to the Lord, their deliverer, a monument, an eben-ezer “a stone of help” (1 Samuel 7:12). But back to Genesis. This same term, ezer, is used in the Genesis text with regards to Eve two verses later: “The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper (ezer) fit for him” (Gen 2:20). When compared to the animals, and what they could offer, Eve’s “help” takes on a very specific function for which animals were useless. The help intended was not to lift Adam’s endless sense of loneliness, like a puppy dog, though companionship is a wonderful secondary aspect of marriage, but to take up the massive task of the creation mandate, formally given to Adam in Genesis 1:28: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” The future of humanity, for which the Bells show little concern, depended not on the elimination of solitude by any kind of companionship but on the heterosexual ability to make babies, according to the cosmic formula, egg + sperm = civilization.