Dr. Preston Sprinkle joins Dr. Mark Turman to discuss his book Does the Bible Support Same-Sex Marriage, how to have uplifting conversations about controversial issues, the Bible’s view of marriage, and common objections to the “historical” interpretation of marriage.
Dr. Preston Sprinkle covers his reasons for writing Does the Bible Support Same-Sex Marriage, how to have a loving, respectful conversation about tough issues, and how he became an author and speaker in this field (2:42). He talks about the need for graciousness, humility, and genuine curiosity, how Gen Xers and Boomers can easily fail at this (12:40). They speculate as to why Christians, and everyone else, seem so bad as having hard conversations (21:17). Dr. Sprinkle defends his using secular psychology and why he uses the term “historical Christian view” (24:19). They turn to discuss singleness, and why life without sex or marriage is still fulfilling in the Christian worldview (34:59). Dr. Sprinkle reflects on the foundational chapters, how to have a healthy disagreement and the foundation for the Bible’s view of marriage (40:06). They hone in on two conversations: could Paul have known about sexual orientation and why some people think the evangelical view is dangerous (48:19).
NOTE: We’ve launched our summer campaign. As a 100-percent donor-supported ministry nonprofit, we rely on believers like you to give toward our calling “to equip the saints for the work of ministry” (Eph. 4:12). If our work has encouraged or inspired you, please give today.
Resources and further reading:
- Does the Bible Support Same-Sex Marriage?: 21 Conversations from a Historically Christian View, Preston Sprinkle (available August 1st)
- Center for Faith Sexuality and Gender
- Embodied: Transgender Identities, the Church, and What the Bible Has to Say, Preston Sprinkle
- People to be Loved: Why Homosexuality is Not Just an Issue, Preston Sprinkle
- “What does the Bible say about homosexuality?” Dr. Jim Denison
- “Sex, singleness, LGBTQ+, and marriage idolatry: A conversation with Lou Phillips” Podcast
- Theology in the Raw, Podcast
About the host
Mark Turman, DMin, is the executive director of Denison Forum. He received his DMin from Truett at Baylor and previously served as lead pastor of Crosspoint Church.
About the guest
Dr. Preston Sprinkle is a biblical scholar, speaker, podcaster, a New York Times bestselling author, and the co-founder and president of The Center for Faith, Sexuality & Gender. He earned a Ph.D. in New Testament from Aberdeen University in Scotland (2007) and has taught theology at Cedarville University (OH), Nottingham University (UK), and Eternity Bible College (CA).
Preston has written a dozen books, including Erasing Hell (with Francis Chan), Nonviolence, Scandalous Grace, People to Be Loved, Living in a Gray World, and Embodied. Preston also hosts a popular bi-weekly podcast titled Theology in the Raw, where he engages in honest conversations with interesting people.
Transcribed by Otter.ai
Mark Turman 00:01
If the Denison Forum Podcast is an instrumental part of your understanding of today’s news, culture and faith topics, please consider a summer campaign gift to Dennis and poram. We’re looking to raise $474,000 By the end of July, so that we can continue our work and keep expanding our efforts to be digital salt and light your culture in need of both. If you stand with us, please give today at DIA podcast.org. And know that any gift today will be doubled by a generous matching grant of $75,000 visit de F podcast.org. to partner with us today. Welcome to the Dennis and Forum Podcast. I’m Dr. Mark Turner, the executive director of Denison forum, and the host for today’s conversation. at Denison forum, we are seeking to provide transforming content that’s Christ centered, that will equip you to be a transforming culture changing Christian, to be salt and light as Jesus called us to be. And we hope today’s conversation will help you do that. I’m excited to introduce to you welcome to our podcast, Dr. Preston sprinkle. Sprinkle is the president of the Center for faith, sexuality and gender. And the New York Times best selling author. He’s written more than a dozen books. And those books include the very popular people to be loved, and award winning book on faith and homosexuality. Preston and his wife, Chris live in Boise, Idaho with their four kids. And Dr. Sprinkle has been a very significant and rising voice within the church, about issues of confused and broken sexuality. I actually used some of his resources in a doctoral project that I did a few years ago. I’m excited to introduce him to you and have this conversation about his most recent book that is coming out called does the Bible support same sex marriage 21 conversations from a historically Christian view, I think you’ll find this conversation to be fascinating, helpful, clarifying and strengthening as you seek to walk with Christ, and to represent him in all of your opportunities and relationships. Dr. Preston sprinkle Welcome to the Denison Forum Podcast. We’re thrilled to have you.
Preston Sprinkle 02:38
Thanks for having me on. I’m excited about the conversation.
Mark Turman 02:42
Yeah. And as I was sharing with you before we got on air, just greatly, greatly an admirer of your work, and really have been blessed by it. And we’ll share a little bit more about that as we go along. But you’ve got another book coming out. And we’re excited to talk about that. The Bible, the book is entitled, does the Bible support same sex marriage and then the subtitles intriguing as well. 21 conversations from a historically Christian view, now you’ve written I’ve read a number of your books, use some of your material in small group settings and, and in other things that I’ve been a part of. I know that you’ve written various parts of this already. What’s new about this book?
Preston Sprinkle 03:28
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. So back in 2015, I published a book called people to be loved, why homosexuality is not just an issue, and it was my kind of holistic approach to the question of the Bible, and homosexuality as a whole had a lot of, you know, biblical investigation, probably 70% was, you know, looking at the Bible, more in a kind of deductive manner, you know, and also, we’ve been in a lot of discussions around, you know, gay identity and what, you know, what does it mean to have, you know, be gay and or same sex attracted, and also believe in Jesus? What does that look like? And, and many other kind of pastoral questions. So it’s kind of a holistic approach to the question of the bible and homosexuality in the church. So since then, 2015 I’ve done a lot of speaking in different churches, conferences, leadership forums, and everything. And over the last, you know, 789, ish, seven, eight year years, I’ve gotten a lot of questions, right, like, what about this? What about that kind of push backs to various things I’ve said, and so over the years, I’ve kind of kept a mental list of what are some of the main counter arguments to the traditional view of marriage. One man, one, one woman. So this book is basically that it’s kind of, you know, people to be loved my previous book kicked up a lot of dust. And this book is kind of responding to maybe at least the theological and biblical portions of that of that dust. So it is more narrowly focused on you know, Addressing wrestling with the arguments that are often used to, to disagree with the traditional marriage or to advocate for same sex marriage by using, you know, biblical texts as, as their argument. So most of them is there some, you know, more just general like love is love, you know, is that a valid argument for same sex marriage and other ones? So, yeah, that’s where this comes in. I was originally going to do kind of a series of blogs kind of responding to all the main arguments, but then someone said, Well, that’s, that’s great. It’s free, you know, but it’s like, it’d be way easier if someone had a nice, somewhat short, accessible, you know, one stop shop where they can go to for further so that’s, that’s where this, that’s where the book came in. So
Mark Turman 05:45
almost a field manual, at least from a pastor’s perspective, maybe that’s kind
Preston Sprinkle 05:50
of what the kind of the idea it was more, more designed, almost like a reference book. I mean, it does. It’s organized where you could read it cover to cover. In fact, I’ve had early readers say they read it cover to cover that they loved it. But it’s also designed to be Yeah, if you want kind of a quick, you know, go to response to, you know, the argument that, for instance, I’m sure we’ll get into some of these, but like, you know, in the ancient world, consensual, same sex relationships didn’t exist, you know, the nature of same sex relationships back then was non consensual was older man with having sex with younger teenage boys, you know, or, or prostitution, you know, so whatever Paul is prohibiting it can’t be what we’re talking about today. You know, two people falling in love, same status, same age, you know? So I think that’s conversation number four, something you know, so. Yeah, so somebody has a specific question that somebody threw out them, and they want a quick go to response. It’s designed for that as well.
Mark Turman 06:49
Yeah, okay, well just paint the background a little bit more in in the event that some of our audience is not familiar with the larger scale of your work, the previous book, people will be loved. The great thing is about that is is the personal nature of this, that these are people that we’re talking about people that we know, people that we care about, or at least we should care about, and not simply an issue to try to figure out who’s right or most right. But I’m curious, what’s the backstory of how you came to found to be the president of the Center for face sexuality and gender. I’m just thinking that there was never a day when you know, 20 years ago, you said, I’m going to become, I’m going to become a biblical expert in sexuality. No, it doesn’t sound like that was fine. That was not the plan when you were, you know, in college, I don’t think, no,
Preston Sprinkle 07:43
it was not. No, it’s not No, no, I, you know, I sort of fell into the conversation in researching and writing my book people to be loved. And it were, I mean, that book really captures are kind of almost a personal journey of like, what do I think the Bible says about this topic? I knew what I grew up believing. But I’ve, I feel like I’ve been on a 25 year mission to figure out what does the Bible actually say about all these topics? Like, rather than just absorbing or assuming certain things that I grew up believing? I want to make sure I know what the Bible says. So this, you know, questions around sexuality and marriage were part of that journey. And for me, it started just as a interesting theological question. But I quickly got into relationship with LGBT people, talk to them, listen to them, hear their stories, found out that the overwhelming majority of LGBT people were raised in the Christian church and had a really bad relational experience, not just certain theological disagreements, although that’s can be there too, but. But the relational experience they had was, on many levels, just pretty bad to horrifying, you know, in some cases. So that’s, you know, that’s long story. Like I am both passionate about getting the Bible, right, understanding this on a theological level, but also embodying the radical grace and kindness and compassion of Christ, toward a group of people that, as I’ve learned, have not experienced that for the most part from most or many churches. So all that so that led to, you know, Well, to answer your question, I was teaching at a Bible college, all throughout, you know, writing that book, but moved to Boise, Idaho started an extension campus for that Bible college that didn’t last last a couple of years didn’t really get off the ground. And so I was kind of out of a job. Now, I had already been doing a lot of traveling and speaking and writing on the topic kind of on the side, but this beta kind of created a perfect opportunity for me to figure out a way to do this full time. So in 2017, me and some friends started the Center for faith, sexuality and gender. So that’s been my full time job now since 2017, helping the church arch, engage LGBTQ related questions with theological faithfulness and courageous love. So Grace and Truth, the twin pillars I see in this conversation.
Mark Turman 10:11
Yeah, and such great work coming out of there not only books, but courses that can be used in small group or church settings. And then you also have a podcast that I highly recommend to people called theology in the raw just love the name, which is largely about issues of sexuality, but not exclusively, right, you take up other topics and talk about various
Preston Sprinkle 10:34
I try to do I try to keep the sexuality podcast episodes to try to do like less than 20%. Just so I do address, you know, other other topics. I feel like in the month of July just so happens that there’s a lot of sexuality episodes coming out.
Mark Turman 10:48
Right, right. Well, one of the things precedent that I’ve greatly greatly, I think really was the thing that drew me toward your work, once I kind of bumped into it was just the tone. And the Spirit by which you come at these very important and very difficult, very emotionally charged issues, and anybody that’s been in anywhere close to this, if you’ve had personal experiences, as I was sharing with you, I’ve got a number of people in my life at very close levels that are gay, and some of them in gay relationships, and even considering marriage in that in that regard. But what I’ve always in the last 567 years, since I came across your work, just the spirit of compassion, both joy, just general joy, as a believer, I’ve never yet had any experience where you were speaking or doing a podcast or anything else, where there just wasn’t a lot of joy in it. Because that’s just seems to be the spirit that you have. But a great, great desire to say, You know what, at the end of any conversation, we may not agree, we may not be any closer in our beliefs, the Alliance theologically than what we were, but hopefully we will be better friends, no matter who you’re talking to. And that, and that’s what I heard in, in the way you describe this book, that the very first part of the book is about a foundation of setting yourself up for healthy conversations with people who don’t necessarily see the world as, as you do. From a biblical standpoint, can you kind of unpack that? What, what what is that first part, that first pillar of the book really about?
Preston Sprinkle 12:40
That? I personally am probably most excited about that first chapter because it’s something that I’ve thought, for years I’ve read up on, and also just intuitively, in my, you know, decade now in this conversation, you know, you pick up things that like, Oh, this is an effective way to approach this topic. And this really isn’t effective. And so I was really happy to put that all into a chapter put it on, you know, as you know, you get ideas in your head or whatever it’s in you. But until you get it on paper, it’s kind of you know, you haven’t really worked out all your thoughts. So yeah, the first chapter is, well, there’s two foundations and then 21 short chapters where I deal with the arguments. So the first foundation is how to have a profit, profitable conversation. The second foundation is just laying out what is the historically Christian view of marriage? So we know what it is. Others are even arguing against? Maybe so right. Yeah, the first chapter how to have a profitable, profitable conversation. I just, I draw from a lot of psychologists who have studied kind of the nature of belief, why do we believe things we do? Why do you one of my favorites, psychologist, Jonathan heights, you know, he wrote a book called The righteous mind, subtitle why good people disagree on politics and religion, one of my hands down favorite books. But he talks about him like, Why Why can he get to good people, to smart people that are looking at the same facts and come to wildly different conclusions on this? And so he unpacks why that isn’t it ends up leading really helpfully to helping us understand if you’re actually trying to maybe change someone’s mind or you want them to actually consider a different perspective. You have to kind of understand the nature of belief. So those kinds of questions go into that first chapter. How can we have a profitable conversation, you know, so talking about various principles, like Are you a good listener? Like are you are you actually listening to someone else’s viewpoint doesn’t mean you agree with it. I mean, their viewpoint could be toxic could be terrible. Sure, but until you genuinely listen to it and are curious about it. What makes you think they’re gonna do the same to you like, don’t you want them to do that to you be curious about what you actually believe and actually be able to repeat back to you what you actually believe well, let’s we need to do that to other people be able to understand something before we refute it. Even the last principle, I talked about opening chapter, you know, not being overly confident or dogmatic in your viewpoint. And I even in my podcasts I talk about, you know, Gen Xers like myself and Boomers like my age and older. This is
Mark Turman 15:22
you talking about me? Yeah. You start talking about me, I’m 60 You’re stepping on my toes a little bit, for sure.
Preston Sprinkle 15:34
I think I even said, I’m a Gen X or would you know, but I feel like I think like a boomer, a lot of times I have that.
Mark Turman 15:40
You let it let us boomers be the judge of that precedent.
Preston Sprinkle 15:45
But the kind of like, 100% you know, when a preacher was like, 100%, certain and, and would preach the truth, and black and white, and I was groomed on you know, John MacArthur and John Piper and you know, these both loud, you know, the louder the yell, the more I believed him like, that’s, that’s how I’m wired. But I’ve learned having for Gen Z kids and working with a lot of younger people. It’s just that is not compelling to them at all. I’ve seen it happen over and over and over again, if you’re come off very black and white, very overly confident, they get suspicious. They’re almost like, huh, I don’t trust this. But if you demonstrate some, some, like, you know what, here’s where I’m at, in my journey. And you know, the but there’s good people who disagree with me, and they’re smart, and you should consider different viewpoints. But here’s why I believe what I do if you have a much more gracious and humble approach, your viewpoints are actually way more believable. So this is where some people misinterpret kind of me being unkind or trying to be understanding is like being weak, or you don’t really have conviction or whatever. It’s like, no, actually, it’s the opposite. It’s I’m not only do I have conviction about the truth, but I actually want other people to believe that. But I know that the manner in which we go about this is really significant for for putting positioning people in a place where they can actually consider what you’re trying to say. So anyway, so the first chapter really could be written. You know, regarding a book on politics, it could be written on climate change, you know, like, any contentious issue, we need to, I think, learn how to have maybe better, more fruitful conversations. So
Mark Turman 17:20
Well, when I, when I hear you talk about that, it really goes, again, back to what drew me to your ministry years ago, which is, you know, for us at Denison forum, we hardly have a conversation or a day that goes by that we don’t, quote, Ephesians 415 of speaking the truth in love, that we want to be, we want to be radically, radically committed to the truth is the Bible reveals it and as God gives us the ability to understand it just unapologetically. And in many, many Christians, maybe all people are that way. They want to be committed, they want to know the truth, they want to be committed to the truth, but then try to share it not. It’s what you described in some of the things that I saw and heard about this first part of the book is, it’s almost like a practical guide for how to live Ephesians 415. You know, in some of these things we’ve heard before I can remember Stephen Covey talking about the principle of seeking to understand before your understood, you know, that you that listening principle. So some of these things, like I said, are not just unique to this very emotional conversation of sexuality, but really apply in other places. It’s just how to be a person who can witness and share and talk to people with the goal of, of having a loving relationship, rather than an impossibly winning, winning their way of thinking to your Biblical understanding. But, but it even if it doesn’t result in that, it still results in a healthier relationship where there’s respect, it’s almost kind of like when you were talking min ago, it’s like, okay, well, this is the living out of the golden rule in conversation. Is, is this what you want to be? Yeah. Is this the way you’d want to be treated? If somebody was talking to you about something that they thought you were wrong about? Right?
Preston Sprinkle 19:21
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Yeah. If you’re not curious about somebody else’s viewpoint, what makes you think they’re gonna be curious about yours? So a lot of this, and that’s a graduate and think about like that the golden that’s exactly what it is. It’s what is the golden rule look like in these kind of tense conversations? And, you know, it’s not only not not only do I believe it’s way more effective for having a profitable conversation and getting somebody to consider your viewpoint like, it’s, again, my ultimate goal is I want all of us to embrace the truth and I, I mean, this sounds arrogant, but it should be a no brainer, but like, I think my beliefs are true, otherwise, I wouldn’t believe them. Right. And somebody else might think the same thing about that, but I want people To see the truth. And so I want to position I’m going to go about conveying the truth in a way that’s going to be most effective. But also, one thing I guess I’ve known over the years from my academic study of the New Testament, but I haven’t really applied it to this until a kind of what this chapter is. We see the New Testament writers, tapping into the rhetorical devices of their day all over the place. Paul, well known in Corinthians, he’s using all kinds of rhetorical devices that were known to him in the first century. Galatians reads differently than Corinthians reads differently than, you know, Fi Lehmann. He’s a lot more kind of, like Galatians he’s just apostolic here, you know, hardcore Philemon, he’s like, kind of like, he’s wanting Philemon to come to the truth on his own terms, kind of, he wants him to see it, you know. So yeah, and the Corinthians uses all kinds of sarcasm and all kinds of device. So he tapped into the resources available to him to to not just preach the truth at the same way to every single person, but to, you know, do so in a way that is nuanced and careful, and he wants people to actually see the truth. So that’s all I’m doing in this in this first chapter trying to imitate,
Mark Turman 21:17
you know, what do you think it is that, that we particularly Christians, evangelical Christians, particularly, why do you think we are so lousy at this, we, you know, particularly think if we go back, just go back to the start of the pandemic, if we go back to 2016, whether it’s politics, or COVID, and vaccines or broken sexuality? I mean, we could have an endless parade of people talking about how their Thanksgiving dinners had been obliterated by bad conversations. Right? Why do you think we are so lousy at having healthy conversations about difficult topics?
Preston Sprinkle 21:55
i That’s a, I don’t know if I I have some thoughts. But no more than just that. I actually think it is a it is a human problem, not just a church problem, where I get discouraged, I’m like, good, but the church, we have the resources to do it differently. You know, like when you see a political debate, you know, I’m thinking back to like, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton or whatever, you see any politician, just slinging mud and dehumanizing and all this, you know, just polarizing rhetoric. And I, it’s almost like, okay, from a secular society, I would expect that’s not shocking. It’s sad. It’s like, that’s not how you treat one another. But. But it’s not shocking. It’s not shocking when you listen to Fox News. And you end up just hating anybody on the left, and he listened to CNN, MSNBC, about hating all these problems, you know, like, these forums are kind of designed, they’re incentivizing anger, right. They’re tapping into our anger, or bitterness or fear, because these things keep you scrolling and clicking on ads. And I mean, there’s a whole kind of, that’s a whole nother conversation. But I think that there is the way things are set up very polarizing, very, you know, not geared towards humanizing another person, loving your neighbor, loving your enemy. It’s just sad to me, when the church just adopts that very same posture in our disputes, whether it’s our political disputes or theological disputes. I mean, so yeah, well, I think why I think we, you asked the question, why are we so bad at it? I think maybe we’re not. Yeah, I think we’re being discipled by a broader, increasingly polarized culture, and we need to be more vigilant and not letting you know, this polarization interrupt our discipleship, you know, but yeah, absolutely. The pandemic, the pandemic. Were you a pastor during the pandemic? Are you so passionate that time? Yes. And I always like to tell him to turn it around. But I every pastor I talked to says this was the most challenging, not just that, I mean, a pandemic itself challenging, but just the way it just blew up all these divisive divisions and stuff, and it churches dividing over not the Trinity, not salvation by grace through faith, but like whether they should wear a mask or not, or something. Yeah.
Mark Turman 24:19
A six by four piece of cotton, you know? And so fighting the bride. Yeah. And I tell you, you know, just I was in a conversation with about a as in a room with about 30 pastors, and we were probably 20 months or so post, the start of COVID. So, you know, we feel like we’re coming through it to a certain extent at that point, but anyway, about 2030 pastors in the room at that point, and one of them said to the guys leading the conversation, he said, you know, in all the two, three decades can’t remember what he said, of leading a church. I’ve had the hardest and harshest. things said to me as a pastor that I’ve ever heard. And then somebody else in the room piped up and said, Hey, I’ve had exactly that experience. But I’ve had the harshest things said to me by my best, strongest, most core leaders in the church. And, and, and everybody just kind of took a deep breath just like that. And so, you know, for what it’s worth, we we seem to have gotten past a good bit of that. But, you know, a lot of this, a lot of times, we’re lousy at things in terms of walking with the Lord the way we should, because we’re afraid. And a lot of that is what this is. Now, before, before we move on. I had a question for you on this. Yeah, everybody has their critics, I’m sure you have yours. But in this first part of the book, where you’re relying on some of the work of Jonathan Hite and others, somebody’s gonna say, Well, Jonathan heights, not a believer, why are you using his work? How can that be helpful? Are you anticipating that kind of a pushback? If you are, how do you respond to that? Yeah, I you know,
Preston Sprinkle 26:07
I first I didn’t, but as I was writing that chapter, I was like, oh, yeah, certain people are not going to be convinced if I’m drawn on secular psychology. I mean, I was raised in an environment that didn’t believe in secular psychology, like it’s all about the devil, you know, so. So I do have a short section in that chapter, titled, isn’t this all secular? psychobabble? You know, and I kind of respond to the very question. So yeah, my response? I guess it’s twofold. Number one. I think our doctrine of general revelation allows us to see, to seek and find truth in, you know, outside the church outside of Christians, I think we can, you know, and again, this is disputed, but I think we can draw on secular psychology. Obviously, they say something that conflicts with a biblical worldview, then within we don’t believe it. But I think, you know, all people are created in God’s image. God reveals Himself through creation, including other creatures, you know, Psalm 19. Other passages x 15. Romans, one’s a big one. So I would feel logically I would say, No, I think it’s, it’s good and should be pursued to try to draw wisdom from outside, outside the church, it as long as it doesn’t conflict with a biblical worldview. So that’s part one. Part two would be just kind of I said earlier, that we see biblical authors doing that when it comes to not not the content of the truth. We don’t go to Plato to determine our beliefs, but we can use played or I guess, a better example would be Aristotle on on effective forms of communication. Right, even our logical reasoning, are very hermeneutic. You know, there’s, I mean, our hermeneutics, which we learn in hermeneutics class, ultimately comes largely from Francis Bacon, who determined who kind of came up with a lot of kind of interpretive principles that aren’t Christian at all. I mean, they’re just how to read a text, you know, and, and a lot of exegesis is kind of drawing on some of those logical things that we mean. So yeah, so we have both biblical precedent to draw on secular psychology and also just the doctor general, every revelation, I think, allows us or even encourages us to do that.
Mark Turman 28:26
Yeah, that’s so good. So good. Well, the second part of the book is really very important as well, because it’s, it gives really a theological foundation to understanding marriage. And when I was doing doctoral work in this area, this was one of the things I thought was really great, which is to move us past as Christians, past a simple companionship idea about marriage, that there’s actually, in the Christian sense, something much, much bigger, something much, much deeper, that I think most Christians really don’t have a handle on, which is the uniqueness of Christian covenant marriage. And you kind of deal with this from the standpoint of what what I think you use the term historical Christian view. I’d be curious why you use, you know, some people would say, well, the biblical Christian view or anyway, or the traditional or the conservative view, why did you why did you use the historical Christian view? And then what do you mean by that?
Preston Sprinkle 29:33
That’s a guy. So I love that question. By the way, I have thought through this a lot, what is the best term to use? So yeah, I’m very intentional on the terms that I use and I don’t think there’s any perfect term, you know, biblical. It’s, I don’t mind that as long as I get to define it, but can also be Well, in my experience, people throw around the term biblical to rubber stamp, their beliefs, or the term biblical can be synonym myths with just kind of conservative, theological doctrines. Right? Or even maybe I say conservative. I mean, both theologically, and maybe politically, even sometimes we’ve done political views that just aren’t in the Bible. And it’s like, so I actually think biblical does have baggage and how it’s being used, I should go without saying, anybody who’s read me for more than five seconds. The authority of Scripture is by hands down. That’s, that’s, that’s the foundation for for everything. So, personally, I wouldn’t have that. You know, I think it’s biblical. Yeah, absolutely. But the way the terms used, I think it can be it can kind of cause an eyeroll among other people, when you say biblical, and it because it’s been used, I think, in an unhealthy way. Also, you know, some people pointed out, well, we have polygamy in the Bible. Does that mean That’s Biblical? It’s in the Bible. We have, you know, a brother in law marrying, you know, raise it up. See, you know, for his, what is it his, his brother, sister in law’s brother’s wife or whatever? Yeah, delivery law. I’m blanking on the exact formula. But there’s certain things in the Bible regarding marriage that we don’t really say, oh, yeah, that’s not biblical. It’s in the Bible. So trigger ideas, traditional view of marriage, sometimes. I’m okay with that. As long as we don’t understand that we believe it simply because it’s our tradition. Right? Historically, Christian, to me is the one that has the least baggage and is I think the better of the various options. I don’t like conservative marriage, either. Because it’s more conservative. It’s just so political, that I just, I avoid conservative, as much as I can. So historically, Christian, historically, Christians have believed that sex differences part of what marriage is, and that same sex, sexual relationships are forbidden in every scenario by God. So I’m not rubber stamping everything. Christians have said about marriage and sex historically. And I addressed that in the chapter that I don’t mean, right, historically, everything but specifically when it comes to is sex difference necessary for marriage? And does God ever allow for same sex sex relationships, the global one might say, multi ethnic, multi denominational church for nearly 2000 years, as far as we can tell, didn’t question those two core doctrines. So I think historically, Christian, or historical Christian is the best of the of the options. So yeah, so I lay out five, well, yeah, I’ll keep this short. But that the main, I guess, already said that the main central question is, is sex difference part of what marriage is? And is sex has God designed sex to belong within that covenant of marriage? So I’m not even sure I can sell that without you mentioning homosexuality or whatever? Because I’m not really I’m ultimately trying to say, what is marriage? What is it for? And what is God’s designed for sexual relationships? So yeah, so I do think that the Bible teaches that Marriage is a union between two people of different biological sexes and that sexual relationships should be limited to that covenant union is the most succinct way I can, I could put it.
Mark Turman 33:22
So see if we can try to bring this out of the theological cloud a little bit. When when you say that sex difference is intrinsic to a view, a biblical historical view of marriage? Why is sex difference intrinsic or necessary to that understanding of marriage?
Preston Sprinkle 33:48
So that’s a complicated, not not unclear, but it’s very complex. Question I got it goes to what is the purpose of marriage in the first place? And I do talk about this toward the end of the chapter kind of and this is something that Christians have wrestled with historically, what is the purpose of marriage is, is marriage? Is it a lesser vocation than singleness? Some early church fathers kind of right? They didn’t they kind of have a kind of a negative view on marriage. They still believe sex differences part of marriages, but they kind of like the marriage is like the lesser vocation than single Yeah. Which
Mark Turman 34:24
is, which is an ironic way when, you know, like said I’ve pastored evangelical churches, primarily in the suburbs of big cities. And, you know, in the, in the city where I live today, it’s very hard to be a single Christian. Yeah, and I think we, at least in my lifetime, as a Christian since the 80s, it’s almost like we’ve unintentionally idolaters arised, the whole married with 2.5 kids and the white picket fence,
Preston Sprinkle 34:56
and why, and I think and what
Mark Turman 34:59
we’ve done there We made it very difficult to be legitimized in the in the local church as a single person. I’m thinking of a couple of people that I know that are single in the church that I pastored. But that’s that’s the ironic way of reading particularly First Corinthians seven, right? Where we’re Paul, basically my understanding he approaches this as okay, what’s God calling you to? Is he calling you to be single? Or is he calling you to be married? Both of them are callings. You just need to figure out which one you’re called to any any if at least by volume of material in First Corinthians seven, the larger, the larger affirmation goes to those who are single. And it seems to be one of the ways you can read that chapter, right is is that the Corinthians were saying, hey, this, all this sex stuff is so messed up and so corrupt, wouldn’t we be more spiritual if we just left all of it behind? And we were all single? And that that may be the way that they were posing the question to Paul. Others would debate that, but that may be one way but you do a good job of pointing out that for there’s a strong, strong tradition in the Christian church. That singleness is a highly, highly noble way to live and have a fulfilling way to live. Right?
Preston Sprinkle 36:17
Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, Christianity stands out is very unique among religions. In elevating singleness as high as it did, to my knowledge. I mean, I feel free to fact, check me on all in on this. But as far as I know, I mean, the biblical view of singing the New Testament is singleness, really, really unique, especially in that day and age. So yeah, I think we’ve very much under appreciated that and I think we have to be careful in how sometimes when we cry, I use the phrase, you know, idolatry of marriage and elevating singleness. And some people think I’m, I’m speaking negatively of marriage. And to me, it’s like, I’m not. I think marriage is incredibly high calling and I want to preserve God’s design for marriage. I don’t want to bring that down to where singleness is, I want to bring singleness up to say this is equally valid. Calling and impulse even borders on border, maybe you just said you know it’s better. You know, it’s not wrong to be married. But if you really want to, you know, live it up for the kingdom, you know, the single life’s where it’s so Jesus was single, you know, and we all know that. But I don’t know if we appreciate the theological implications of that. And people, some people say, Wow, he, you know, he was, he was a sinless Son of God, he can kind of gotten married and like, so you’re saying marriage is a sin? There’s another Genesis to pre fall. And I don’t claim to have the answer. But I think that there’s, I think Jesus was saying something really powerful by his very singleness. So yeah, going back. What was you? You raised the question, though, that I was gonna Oh, the purpose of marriage, like, why is sex difference? I, you know, I talked about three different kinds of purposes of marriage. The main one would be procreation. You know, I think. And I think God designed marriage to be the location where offspring would be produced and raised. And sex differences necessary, both for producing the offspring and for, by extension, on reflect the craters designed for raising that, that offspring. And so you put all that together, and that’s kind of the obvious one, like sex differences is an essential part of that. I also think, you know, you see, throughout Scripture, human marriage being used as almost like a metaphor, a symbol of God’s love for His people, right our way toward Israel, Christ and the bride. And even there, I would say that sex difference in the marriage metaphor is necessary to make that metaphor to make it work, really. And this gets into complicated, you know, just Christ and the bride and the man and the woman is I mean, the man is Jesus and the woman is the, the, you know, the church raises some questions within that. But if we just stand back 30,000 foot level does seem that if marriage was a sexless institution that would we would have to kind of it would mess with the metaphors that are so essential to the biblical storyline, the one purpose of marriage. Another one I discussed is companionship. You see, in the Song of Songs, hardly mentioned offspring. Some people say there’s no mention of procreation. There’s a lot of romance on intimacy, sexual intimacy to people enjoying each other and and some people would say that, you know, two people the same sex can do that right companionship and I’m gonna say, Yeah, I think I think they could. But that’s not the only purpose of marriage. In our modern culture. We kind of say it’s all about romance and can sensuality but the Bible just doesn’t. It’s it is that but it’s more than that. More than that, so gotta go to primary procreation is to me the big one though.
Mark Turman 40:06
Yeah, but that to that point it goes back to the idea that you know, the of jing of Jesus being choosing to be single, and yet experiencing the highest levels of, of connection, what he prays about in terms of oneness. In John 17, he experienced the greatest levels of oneness both with his with God as His Heavenly Father, but also with other human beings with his apostles in a completely non romantic, sexless kind of way. Jesus knew how to build relationships without sexual engagement, which kind of goes to this interesting point that you make that marriage. And this is really countercultural, in some ways to the American culture, that marriage and sex are not essential for human flourishing in our culture just really struggles with that point, although you may be seeing this as we are with some of the work in Gen Z. Gen. Z is kind of saying, you know, what, I don’t have to run after all, that they’re in some polls, they’re delaying their experiences with sex, they’re certainly delaying their pursuit of marriage. And some of that is is not for biblical reasons. It’s because they’re disillusioned with all of it, they’ve been so saturated with it. But they’ve lost some of the enchantment around it. But it does open up the conversation that, you know, you can have a very full and, and flourishing life without being married and without ever having sex. Yeah, and most people in our culture, don’t accept that.
Preston Sprinkle 41:43
It’s so counterintuitive, if you’re just bathing in the cultural paradigm. And when I say culture, I mean, both secular culture and in church culture, you know, you know, we do kind of, or at least I grew up, and you probably grew up to just, it was just kind of is just kind of assumed that, right, you know, follow Jesus, and you don’t go past first base with your girlfriend, and God will reward you, with this amazing spouse, your soulmate, you can have a flourishing sex life. Just Just wait, just wait, wait, wait. And if you wait, it’s kind of like this transactional, God will bless you. But there’s, there’s not a single verse that supports that. And while it’s true that I would say the majority of humans will probably get get married, and and I don’t want to deny, you know, the joys that come with romantic and sexual intimacy. But yeah, I think just theologically and practically, yeah, I don’t think you need to be married and have sex to flourish as an individual human being. And that’s, you know, that’s an important caveat, obviously, for humanity to flourish needs people to be married and having offspring, otherwise we’d die out. But for each individual, that’s, that’s not. That’s not necessary. In fact, it can be really destructive when we explicitly or implicitly give people the impression that if you just follow God, well, he will bless you with a partner that satisfies your desires, you know, because, right, that’s great until it doesn’t happen, or you think it happens, and then two years in your marriage, like, isn’t happening, you know, or seven years or I mean, yeah, so I think we we do you need to cultivate a more robust, biblical biblical view of? Yeah, God’s designed for marriage, you know, including not idolizing it. So,
Mark Turman 43:30
yeah, absolutely. Yeah, we need we need a big, a big installment of the theology of marriage and some better thinking. And like you said, I, I’ve heard you refer to this, you know, and that means, sometimes leaning on some of our friends from the Catholic tradition, they, in some ways, done some more thinking on this that we would learn from. But there there are, there is some great work out there and some, some fresh thinking going on that we would do well to embrace. And again, it’s just so important to kind of know what you’re arguing for, if you’re going to be in conversations where people don’t agree with you. And a lot of this, you know, just thinking through this with you that, you know, a lot of the folks that we are talking with and may have opportunity to talk with that are coming from different viewpoints. They have some thinking to do on their own. It’s not like they’ve gone to some kind of big catechism where they’ve been trained to really disassemble this, this historic view, a lot of it is driven by emotion. A lot of it is driven by a love, love in the first part of the book, he talks about, you know, hey, just think about if the person you’re talking to or you were to significantly change your position, what would that do to all the relationships around you? What happened to the emotional reality and the communal reality? You know, of, of what your world would become? Right? And the number one number one thing people are really concerned about is is loneliness. You know, there’s a reason why the Bible says it’s not good for us to be alone. But but you get to the last part of these 21 conversations, and a lot of people I get, I get envision a number of people I know rushing to this part of the book, they just skip over the first part and, and they say, Okay, give me give me the explanations that I want to have with my co worker or with my Gen Z college age. Child, right? Tell us about that part of the book, and how you would want people to engage with that part.
Preston Sprinkle 45:41
Yeah, so I’m fine with people jumping ahead and reading chapters. But what I do tell them is read the first two foundations, the two first few chapters like those are, those are essential, because I, I’m assuming a lot of stuff we talked about there when I get to the 21 argument. So at least do that. And it’s not terribly long. So. And one of the when I so I, you know, over the years, I’ve kept kept a mental list of all the main push backs I’ve gotten over the years regarding traditional marriage. So that’s what those 21 short chapters are is, is my response to all the What about this? What about that? What about this, you know, now, in those chapters, I call you, I call them conversations, you know, right, more, I could say arguments, but then again, it’s not I want to kind of wean people off the kind of thinking an argument is argumentative, you know, right. That kind of spirit I’m trying to wean people off of so conversations, you know, one thing I talked about in the opening chapter, though, is is can you find some point of agreement? In the argument you’re trying to think through and perhaps refute? Okay. So I tried to take my own advice there. And so the 21 chapters are set up in three parts. Number one, I briefly summarize the argument. And I try to I try extremely hard to what I call steel man rather than straw man but steel man of the other viewpoint, can I be so well represented that somebody who actually believes in that argument would say, yep, that’s exactly what I would say that that is my viewpoint, like, I want to accurately represent the viewpoint. I don’t want to straw man it. And then the second short part, just maybe paragraph, you know, is, what are some points of agreement I might have with this argument? And I do and every single one, I try to find something that I can say, you know, that’s a good point, oh, I resonate with that perspective. And then I give a more lengthy, okay, within that, here’s my response, which is more of a critical, you know, slash refutation of the argument. Yeah, so that’s how it’s set up. Some are. Some of those are, you know, they deal with some really technical academic stuff, I really tried to still make it accessible. And readable. Other ones are very kind of just not really academic kind of, like, love is love. You know, there are there’s another one, you know, if God, if God made some people gay, then why would he say it’s not okay to be in a same sex relationship. So those are more, you know, on the relational, maybe even psychological side, and but others are dealing with, like, this Greek word, you know, has been mistranslated or something you know, so it’s a range of, you know, more in depth, some are a little lighter.
Mark Turman 48:19
Well, let’s, let’s take an example. Just jump jump into one of these witches. And I’ve heard this argument from friends, right, which is, hey, the Bible didn’t know anything. Like we know, today. We’re, we’re modern, sophisticated people, we’ve, we’ve advanced to the place of understanding human development. And, and the Bible just didn’t have any grasp of what we understand today about sexual orientation. And so the Bible never spoke to it, because it just the people were too primitive in their understanding to be able to think that way. We’ve now advanced as a society and as a culture, to where we now understand orientation, sexuality much better. And that’s why the biblical historical view is no longer relevant. How do you How did you
Preston Sprinkle 49:13
get good? Good, I was wow, that’s a good summary. That’s good summary. Yeah, you know, just add to give a quick thought, you know, some people say, you know, if Paul knew what we knew today that some people were simply born with an innate, unchangeable sexual orientation, he wouldn’t have said these things he did. So we need to kind of kind of reread the by read the Bible as this ancient text, but we can improve upon maybe its thinking on this topic, because we now have better knowledge. So points of agreement. Yeah, sure. It’s true. Absolutely. It’s true that we know a lot more about human sexuality, how the brain and body works. We know about how different life experiences can shape us sexually. We know how certain traumatic events can affect their sexuality. And yeah, we know that for what reason some people have unchosen attraction to the same sex, you know, and that’s just, it’s complicated. Where’d it come from? What cause is nature nurture? And all these questions, you know, so? Yeah, we we’ve got a lot more maybe in depth knowledge of human sexuality. And I don’t want to just project that on the, on the Apostle Paul as if Paul would be, you know, very familiar with, like the American Psychological Association statement on sexuality. You know, obviously, he didn’t have that knowledge. Now, I would quickly turn the corner and say, I want to be careful, being overly confident that our current knowledge now is all that amazing, you know, like, there can be I think, CS Lewis talks about, you know, chronological snobbery that like, we goes backwards into people that don’t know anything, we have all this enlightened knowledge and like, yeah, we’re, we’re kind of messed up to it, our enlightened knowledge keeps shifting and changing. And who knows what we’ll think in 20 years about sexual orientation. So let’s, let’s at least keep that a little bit. With an open hand to like, well, we’re not maybe as enlightened as we think we are. The big one for me, though, is, as a, you know, biblical scholar and historian is historically speaking, while the modern concept of sexual orientation in its current form, you don’t see exact statements like that in the ancient world, but you do see many ancient texts talking about how some people are born with an innate desire for the same sex in terms of some kind of sexual desire, like, it’s just kind of, there’s a lot of them, I don’t want to get too technical, but you know, astrologically astrological texts, where people would kind of read the signs in the sky, and if someone’s born under this constellation, then they would be born basically desiring the same sex, you know, which, I’m not validating that on a scientific level, but I’m saying they had con, they had categories that some people were innately wired for the same sex so that did Paul, believe that, that he know about it, I don’t know. What we can’t say, though, is historically these categories didn’t even exist in the ancient world, we can’t say that historically, there were categories similar to what we would call sexual orientation in the ancient world. So and I guess my theory quickly, I don’t I think this argument assumes that an innate desire would should validate inaction. In other words, we determine whether an action is correct or not based on is it the byproduct of an innate, strong desire. Okay, but that’s not how biblical ethics work, no biblical writer reasons that way, like right now, you know, beginning with the sort of holiness of the innate desire and then saying whatever that desire is, the action must be okay. It begins with evaluating does a certain behavior, a certain action, resonate with God’s design? And then it’s kind of like, I don’t want to say, I mean, it’s almost like irrelevant, whether you desire it or not like that doesn’t determine whether the thing is good or not. So,
Mark Turman 53:18
right. Yeah, which is, which is completely counter to the way we see a lot of thinking going on in our culture, which is very with this, with this idea that all truth is subjective, and therefore, all truth is, is personal, and therefore whatever I want to do sexually is completely up to me because nobody really can have a real handle on anything called objective truth. And so it’s just my truth versus your truth. And that’s where a lot of our our thinking is going at this point. We do a lot of conversations here, Preston at Denison forum around the idea that holding to a historical view, whole historical Christian view of marriage is in many people’s minds today at best naive, and in other people’s minds is actually dangerous and damaging to other people. What would you say about that in about Christians who are concerned about that? We now you know, obviously, we had the Supreme Court and the Obergefell decision. We’re now seeing you know, even recently, the the former mayor of New York saying that he’s had he’s going to open up his 30 year marriage into consensual non monogamy, I believe is the way the writer or reporter described it. And again, this this whole idea that what has for four centuries now been the historic Christian view now look, looked upon as not just maybe irrelevant, but actually damaging and dangerous to people. Yeah. Do you have concerns in that direction?
Preston Sprinkle 55:05
Yeah. So that’s, I think it’s just that in chapter 19, is the traditional view of marriage harmful towards gay and lesbian people? And there’s another argument in a different chapter, you know, are we on the wrong side of history? I guess, because of what you’re bringing up is kind of a blend of both of those. So there’s kind of different responses. So points of agreement, first of all, and you know, the stories yourself. I mean, has the church have Christians done things that have been damaging and harmful towards LGBT people? Absolutely. A big part of my ministry is trying to help the church to not do that, you know, sometimes it’s unintentional. We just use the words or we say things we don’t realize are just really offensive and shameful. And sometimes it is intentional. We’re just saying things that are really rude and obnoxious. And so to me, that’s Yeah. Has there been harm done? Yes, absolutely. But the specific question is, is that harm based on simply believing in a historically Christian view of marriage? And that’s where I’m like, Okay, so now we’re on now we’re taking this observation of harm done towards LGBT people. And now we’re using it as part of an intellectual argument. So that’s when I’m going to Okay, well, let’s evaluate the the logical consistency or biblical consistency of that argument. So yeah, so the state my conclusion, I don’t think simply believing that sex differences, part of what marriage is, and that all sexual relationships belong within that covenant bond, I don’t think that that belief necessitates me doing harmful things toward gay and lesbian people like that. If that is my response, and that’s theirs. That’s not intrinsic to the doctrine. That’s my misreading of it. That’s my humanity, my flesh doing something wrong with it. So we do need to, we do need to you know, logicians often talk about you know, correlation versus causation. Just because two things can be correlated, doesn’t necessarily mean one is causing the other. Do Christians who hold your traditional view? Do they sometimes do harmful things? Absolutely. But that’s correlation. We need to show that it’s their traditional belief that’s causing that I think that’d be that’d be a hard thing to show anyway. But yeah, so I addressed that pretty pretty thoroughly in the book. I even you know, sometimes people cite certain sociological studies that have been appealed to, to show that, you know, gay lesbian people when they’re in non affirming religious environments, then it increases their suicidality, depression, self harm all these things. So I actually looked at a lot of those studies, and I think they’re largely used either out of context. Or they’re cherry picking certain studies to back up that point. I read many studies done along these lines, and some are better than others, some come to different conclusions. One study said it was on the happiness of LGBT people. And they the authors of the study, were shocked that religious LGBT people demonstrated higher levels of happiness than non religious LGBT people. And they even said, it didn’t matter whether the religious context was more progressive or more conservative. They were they were shocked at that. We also see in some, some of the most progressive environments, like the Scandinavian countries, Holland and others, in the area, that gay and lesbian youth have much higher rates of self harm, depression, suicidality than older, gay and lesbian people, the same society. So you think about that, like, here’s a very accepting society that is getting more and more accepting, you would expect if it’s simply, you know, society that’s making it harmful, that it’s causing unhappiness among gay and lesbian people, you would expect to see those rates going down, not up. So then it raises the question, well, sure, maybe simply being accepted, and affirmed, which is, which again, lesbian people do all over the place in these countries. Maybe that’s not enough to produce happiness and flourishing. So. So it’s yeah, it’s a it’s a very complicated argument. And I would say at the heart of this argument is often a story. And this is where I wouldn’t race to the studies when race Did you know repeating everything I said, here to refute an argument I would really want to get to know why somebody raising is have they had a bad experience? Have they been mistreated by another Christian? You know, usually there’s a story behind the argument.
Mark Turman 59:53
Yeah, yeah. Well, really great stuff. I wish we could talk about all 21 conversations because I know there’s, I’ve been in some of those conversations and there’s really great importance to kind of work your way think your way through all of that. But we’re about out of time the book is Preston sprinkle. Does the Bible support same sex marriage 21 conversations from a historically Christian view, it’ll be available at all the major booksellers, right? And also available. Yep. And also available on your own website. This the it’s the Center for faith or is it center for faith, gender and sexuality? Give me the right website
Preston Sprinkle 1:00:34
center for faith, sexuality and gender is the name The website is simply Center for faith.com.
Mark Turman 1:00:39
Okay, and you can check out Preston’s new book as well as his other work and I highly, highly recommend it very, very helpful in every way present. Thank you for making room for the conversation and we pray that God will just continue to bless your work your books, your writing. Very, very helpful, joyful and clarifying and I’m a big fan I know others are as well. Thank you for being a part of the conversation. Thank you to our audience. If this has been helpful to you. Please rate review us on your podcast platform, share it with family and friends. Help them to find the conversation as well and we’ll see you next time on the Denison Forum Podcast.