Can Marriage Be Redefined?

Posted: April 1, 2013 in Apologetics, Christians & Culture, Homosexuality & Same-Sex Marriage, Politics


The latest issue of Time Magazine tells the story of how in just two generations, same-sex marriage went from the unthinkable to reality – one of the fastest moral transformations in history. And with a Supreme Court decision on California’s Prop. 8 coming soon, the issue remains front and center. In light of this, I want to address and challenge a few assumptions often made in this controversy and hopefully provide some clear thinking on the issue. In this post I will cover the definition of marriage, and in subsequent posts I will discuss things like the government’s role in marriage, rights, are homosexuals born that way, etc. Most of this material can be found in a booklet form that you can download for free here.

According to the latest polls, over half of Americans are supportive of same-sex marriage, including our current president and vice-president. An even larger percentage of young Americans are in favor, ensuring a continuation of this trend for decades to come. But can marriage be redefined and reshaped to accommodate the preferences of culture? Is this an unalterable, natural institution or a mere social construction, subject to change at the whims of the majority?

Consider for a moment the notion that marriage is not a fixed natural institution, but rather an invention of society like parks, blue jeans, or perms. To begin, this idea is rooted in a worldview void of a purposeful creator; therefore, man can do as he pleases and define any morality that suits him. Second, this elastic view of marriage opens the door to all sorts of possible arrangements: same-sex marriage, polygamy, polyamory, incest, marriage to children, marriage to pets, etc. Many will interject at this point, stating these examples are extreme, but the logic of this subjective view leads us down this road. If marriage is not an objective, fixed reality, what prevents man from making it anything he pleases?

But regardless of the logical slippery slope the social construction view of marriage creates, reality reveals that marriage is a fixed, natural institution, incapable of being redefined. As a rule, as a group, and by nature, a man and woman in a long-term committed relationship bring forth the next generation. Society is built upon this unique institution. Therefore, when we look at the union of a man and woman and the critical role it plays in society, we call this marriage. We do not create marriage or define it, but rather give a name to something that already exists. Greg Koukl, founder of Stand to Reason, states the argument this way:

“The truth is, it is not culture that constructs marriages or the families that marriages begin.  Rather, it is the other way around: marriage and family construct culture. As the building blocks of civilization, families are logically prior to society as the parts are prior to the whole. Bricks aren’t the result of the building because the building is made up of bricks. You must have the first before you can get the second. Societies are large groups of families. Since families are constituent of culture, cultures cannot define them. They merely observe their parts, as it were, and acknowledge what they have discovered. Society then enacts laws not to create marriage and families according to arbitrary convention, but to protect that which already exists, being essential to the whole.”[1]

Society may attempt to redefine the cultural meaning of marriage, but whatever additions they include will not be marriage, indeed they cannot be marriage, for marriage is a natural institution uncreated by man. In the same way, paper and plastic can be eaten, but that does not make them food. People may observe and celebrate this wonderful institution; however, they have no right or ability to redefine it any way they please.

Jordan Tong

[1] Greg Koukl,, accessed August 10, 2012.


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