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Volume 16, Issue 2: Husbandry

Keeping the Hetero in Heterosexual

Douglas Wilson

Biblical marriage thrives on godly differences, which is implied in the word hetero—the Greek word for other. In a godly marriage, there is someone else there, someone who thinks, responds, emotes, and anticipates differently than I do. This is a design feature; it is not an indication that something has gone terribly wrong.

Marriage is therefore an assigned task of singing harmony. Two different people have to hit two different notes, and they they have to do it in a way that sounds good together. After a few failed attempts at this, a husband and wife may begin wishing that it could be possible to bring about a false unity by simply "singing in unison." It is not nearly as challenging in one sense, and it appears far less risky. The problem is that in order to do this the man has to sing falsetto, or the woman has to sing bass. Or perhaps they could settle for singing an octave apart.
This kind of thing happens when the man demands unity in the home through his wife conforming her perspectives, gifts, insights, intuitions, etc. to his perspective. In other words, this occurs when the man browbeats the woman into submerging her gifts and identity. She has to pretend to be something other than what God created her to be in order to have peace in the home.
But the problem can go the other way also. There are many marriage counselors in the Christian world who simply assume that the feminine perspective on the marriage is the accurate one, and that the job of the man is to find out what that perspective is, and then go conform himself to it. And unfortunately, there are many wives who accept this false doctrine and browbeat their husbands into accepting an identity that is alien to them.
Both such responses are ungodly and selfish (obviously), but there is a reason for this. They are not wrong because they are found on a list of prohibited attitudes; they are wrong because they contradict the way God is. They are contrary to what the Bible reveals about the nature of God. Our Triune God glories in both unity and multiplicity. This is not a hassle for Him; He does it in and through sheer, inexhaustible love. In love, the Father begets the Son. In love, the Son honors and obeys the Father. The Holy Spirit is the mutual love of both the Father and the Son. In other words, the infinite love of Father and Son for one another is so substantial that this love also is an infinite Person, the Holy Spirit. Following Augustine, this is what we mean when we say that the Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son.
Now the Bible tells us that mankind was created in the image of God, "male and female created he them" (Gen. 1:27). We learn here that man and woman together constitute the image of God, and we learn that they do so in a way that emphasizes both their similarity and dissimilarity. "There is a woman over there, who was not there before, and yet she was taken from here, from my side." The woman was therefore bone of Adam's bone, and flesh of Adam's flesh. Unity was the foundation of the division into two, but then the two were fashioned in a way that enabled them to come back together again into one. We see that in Trinitarian categories, which is surely what the imago Dei must be in, there is no war between one sex and the other sex. This hetero thing is a necessary outworking of what God is like.
Sin resents what God is like and tries to suppress what He has done in this creational glory. Extreme cases of this resentment are seen in homosexuality, discussed at length elsewhere in this issue. But my concern is with what may be called a quasi-homosexuality, a problem that exists in many Christian marriages. When a man browbeats his wife, demanding that she be something other than his other, he is demanding that she act as though she really thinks like a man. When a woman gets her husband to crawl around her feet emotionally, she is demanding that he think like a woman. When either sex falls into this type of sin, they are resisting living and sleeping with someone who is genuinely different.
This is why the Scriptures forbid a perversion at the opposite pole from homosexuality—which is bestiality. The scriptural word for this is profound: "it is confusion." But we should think of this as Christians who believe in the Trinity. Homosexuality is resentment of the other, insistence upon sameness. Bestiality is a rejection of sameness, and insistence upon complete otherness. There is no way to marry same and other except in the creation account of Genesis. Woman is the same for she was taken from man. Woman is different for she was taken from man. Man and woman may come together for they are the same. Man and woman may come together for they are not the same. Our God confounds the wisdom of the wise.
Sexual security is not threatened by otherness, for we are the same. It is not threatened by sameness, for we are other. A man and woman may come together in harmony for they both know that the other is not threatened either.
The way God made the world is simply to be accepted and enjoyed.

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