The Pattern of Creation
Text: Genesis 1: 26-27;2:4-25
Traditional viewpoint: What we see in the creation story is God’s definitive design for the human race: Man and Woman. One man + One woman = Normal. Any variation (i.e., man-man, woman-woman) is a violation of creation’s pattern.
In this view, there is usually the implied (or stated) supposition that the original, ultimate intent of the man and woman relationship was procreation, since that’s a central part of the story. (cf: 1:28) Many (especially from the Roman Church tradition) will argue against same-sex relationships because of the inability to produce offspring.
Those who espouse this view are typically the ones who will remind us (as if we’d never heard it before): “God created Adam and Eve, not blah, blah, blah.” The clear deduction is that same-sex couples are not God’s design.
Note: This argument definitely comes in when discussing same-sex marriage. The argument is if you can’t produce children, you should not be allowed to marry. Obviously, it’s an inconsistent premise, but it is used often, in preaching and in politics.
For me, this Traditional approach actually creates its own set of challenges:
1. Beyond the Scope. Genesis, which meanings “beginning,” is about human origins; an explanatory account of how our world came into existence, with an emphasis on God's involvement. Some take it literally; others symbolic or figurative. But it’s difficult to see the intention of this story as a textbook or manual; certainly not as a blueprint for marriage and family. To construct definitive conclusions about something as complex as sexuality (and sexual orientation) solely from this simple story requires some out-of-the-ordinary interpretation and application.
2. Ignores God's Intention for Individuals. Lest we get too focused on the fact the God didn't create Adam and Steve, let’s take one step back in the story. One of the key elements of the story is in the words “It is not good for the man to be alone.” Before there was a gender issue, there was the divine desire for the created individual to have a companion. And God promised to bring a “suitable helper” companion. (KJV uses the term “help meet” and NASB uses “suitable”) In the original Hebrew, the word connotes a custom-designed counterpart, something that is made to order, made to fit. Again, it’s a beautiful illustration of God’s power and design; one size doesn’t fit all, so God makes sure that our “helper” (partner, mate) is customized especially to fit us. For the Adam in the Genesis story, it was Eve. He saw her and knew they were “connected.” But for another Adam, that sense of completeness may well be Steve. And a different Eve would be given the customized counterpart of Anna. In other words, our inherent need of loving, supportive relationships transcends the gender of the couple.
There are some in the church today who will yield slightly, saying that homosexuality (indeed, any variation from the original design of the creation story) is the result of humankind’s fallen state and the desires now come from fallen nature of the human heart. “It’s not God’s best,” is their way of noting the distinction. (“And we should only seek God’s best” their implied conclusion!) In some cases, they might even concede the reality of a same-sex orientation. However, they will continue to point to this story as THE pattern, and therefore stress that a homosexual—though created that way by God—must remain celibate.
Again, this ignores a salient point in the Creation Story: “It is not good…to be alone.” Such a rigid position denies that the very fabric of who we are was intended for relationship, including the intimacy of physical, sexual relationships. In essence, while they might acknowledge the reality of same-sex attraction, they insist that the homosexual can never experience the fulfillment of God’s original intention. In their adapted (and warped) theology, it IS good for the homosexual to be alone! In fact, it is required.
Author's Note: To me, it’s much like the discussion in John 9, when the disciples asked Jesus about the blind man: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?” In their mind, there had to be a direct connection between the man’s condition and some aspect of sin. Jesus gave the surprise answer: “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” In other words, it’s not always that easy to connect the dots!
3. Inconsistent with Narrative. As a writer, I know that every story should have a goal, and a target audience; the two should be consistent. The purpose of the Creation Story is to tell how the world came to be, and the "listeners" were the people of God. Since the primary command was to “be fruitful and multiply” in the new world, of course it would involve a heterosexual couple. (Adam and Steve can’t reproduce! But then, neither can elder couple Arthur and Evelyn.)
Question: In a later story (Abraham and Sarah) God used an older, barren couple to show divine power in procreation, but we should not use that as the required pattern for all older couples.
4. Forces Misapplications. If Genesis is to be seen as THE blueprint for marriage and relationships, then we are forced to ask some difficult questions about how to apply this in other situations:
Do we limit “sanctioned” relationships to only those couples who have the possibility of procreation in their marriage? If so, that would forbid marriage to senior adults, infertile couples or couples who choose not the procreate.
What about familial coupling? If we take the passage literally, Adam and Eve’s children had to mate with one another. Today, we have laws that forbid this action, but if this story present THE pattern, shouldn’t such relationships be allowed...even encouraged and celebrated as fulfillment of God’s design?
In the story, we are told that God created Eve and brought her to Adam. How does that work in today’s dating culture, where we are investing time and money into finding our soul mate? How would that impact computer dating services…even Christian services, where we are seeking “the one?”
Author's Note: Lest you laugh at this, I can say that back in the 70s, when I was in Youth Ministry, there were many voices who advocated such an approach.
5. Restrictive Intimacy. We do an injustice if we see our need for relationship only in terms of physical or sexual; it can also be celebrated in close friendships. And though the story does includes the command to “be fruitful and multiply,” we cannot conclude that “procreation” is God’s only intention for sex. In fact, as a study of the entire canon of Scripture reveals, the Bible actually presents various reasons for sex:
- Pleasure (Genesis 18:12)
- Expression of love (Proverbs 5:18-19; Song of Solomon 2:3-6;4:1-15; 5:10-16)
- Intimacy/Union (Genesis 2:24)
- Physical release (I Corinthians 7:1-9)
6. Arguing from Silence. As with any subject, it’s difficult to argue a case out of the silence of this (or other) biblical passages. Following that logic, since this story only mentions coupled relationships, does that mean that single-ness is outside the will of God? Forbidden by the Pattern of Creation?
Taken literally, I think the Creation Story would have some “creative” problem elements. But when we look at the story as a tribute to God's handiwork, apart from tedious discussions about sexuality, there are some wonderful, important, and obvious lessons for us:
- The Presence and Power of God. “In the beginning, God…” When there was chaos, God brought order and structure. When there was nothing, God created. The Genesis story gives us a secure foundation for our faith, and a potent vision of God.
- Diversity in creation. God made Adam. God made Eve. But is that the full scope of God’s creativity? We certainly don’t see that kind of limited design in all the other aspect of divine creation. There are a variety of animals, and multiples of variations within those of the same species (felines have lion, tigers, cougars, cheetahs, etc.). God made plants, but we have flowers, fruit, grass, bushes and trees. We can celebrate the majesty of the horse, as well as the functionality of the porcupine. We can gaze on the beauty of a rose, but also appreciate the stark simplicity of moss. We can enjoy the fruit of the grape vine, and avoid the berries on the holly bush. Why is God’s crowning creation—the ones made “in the likeness of God”—restricted to only male and female heterosexuals? We acknowledge divine, infinite diversity that includes the color of our eyes, our hair, our height, our talents/abilities, our temperaments, our skin pigmentation. Why are we so intent on limiting divine creativity when it comes to sexuality?
- The inherent dignity of human-kind. We are created in the image of God and God’s assessment was “It is good.” What a glorious reality, and one we should not abandon to those who seek to make us feel differently about who we are! I can rejoice with the Psalmist: "I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well." (Psalm 139:14 NASB)