The Insidious Logic of the Court’s Marriage Decision

July 10, 2015

The writers who composed The Phantom Menace knew what they were doing when giving the nemesis of the Jedi Order the name Darth Sidious. Anything with sidious in it must be bad and the term insidious is no exception. Insidious is an adjective referring to something stealthily treacherous, and the tortured logic of the Court’s recent marriage decision was that and more. It was not only mistaken but deceptive, and not only deceptive but malevolent. Let me explain.

The Supreme Court, on June 26, 2015, issued a decision forcing all 50 states to redefine marriage contrary to history, tradition, biology, and the Bible. A bare majority of five justices did this by creating a new right in the Constitution based on nothing other than their feelings. In dissenting, Chief Justice Roberts said, “the majority’s decision is an act of will, not legal judgment. The right it announces has no basis in the Constitution or this Court’s precedent” but relies on nothing more than “its desire to remake society according to its own new insight.” Similarly Justice Alito observed that, “for today’s majority, it does not matter that the right to same-sex marriage lacks deep roots or even that it is contrary to long-established tradition. The Justices in the majority claim the authority to confer constitutional protection upon that right simply because they believe that it is fundamental.” Roberts also said that “neither petitioners nor the majority cites a single case . . . providing any basis for such a constitutional right” because “none exists,” and criticized the decision’s blindness to the difference between affirming the long established right to marry and generating a new right to force states to abandon “the meaning of marriage that has persisted in every culture throughout human history.”

How did the Court’s bare majority, consisting of Justices Kennedy, Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan, justify their radical conclusion with no factual basis or grounding in precedent? They did it insidiously by creating a problem that did not exist in order then to fix it by fabricating a new right so “fundamental” it overrides universal history, all legal precedent, all state authority to regulate civil marriage, the democratic process, and even the religious liberty written into the Constitution. This involved a chain of logic, but the whole thing depended on that insidious first step of creating a problem needing to be solved.

The Court majority decided that, under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment, same-sex couples have “a fundamental right to marry.” But since traditional marriage is structured for having and raising children there is no injustice. Same-sex relationships are simply irrelevant the same way that friendships and adulterous liaisons are irrelevant. So to generate a problem needing solution Justice Kennedy, writing for the majority, redefined marriage giving it a different meaning than it had in the laws he wanted to change. His logic began by assuming the historic meaning of marriage has no rational basis and instead assumed his conclusion to reach his conclusion. That is, Kennedy began his analysis by redefining marriage in order to redefine marriage, claiming the Court simply knew (with no supporting argument) that marriage is nothing more than a bond by which couples find “freedoms” unrelated to sexual difference. That is, to generate a problem by which to reach a desired conclusion, the majority assumed the meaning and structure of marriage was already changed in the way petitioners wanted it changed before changing it. In response Chief Justice Roberts said, “today’s decision rests on nothing more than the majority’s own conviction that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry because they want to,” and Justice Scalia was incredulous asking, “Who ever thought that intimacy and spirituality [whatever that means] were freedoms? And if intimacy is (a freedom), one would think Freedom of Intimacy is abridged rather than expanded by marriage.”

By redefining marriage only to concern private happiness and contributing nothing of public significance to society (like having and raising children to become responsible citizens), the majority gave itself a problem to solve. After redefining marriage other than what marriage meant in the laws petitioners were challenging, then and only then was the majority able to say that, because there is “no difference between same- and opposite-sex couples” with respect to marriage, it therefore is unjust to deny same-sex couples “the constellation of benefits that the States have linked to marriage.” But that was not enough. Minor problems do not warrant the Court’s attention, so the majority fabricated a new right from what they called “a better informed understanding of . . . liberty” with no precedent in history, social practice, or law. And they claimed it to be so “fundamental” it required states to abandon the way marriage was defined for millennia in order to affirm private hopes couples desiring to marry have for themselves. Reacting to this Scalia blistered the majority asking, “How can a better informed understanding of how constitutional imperatives [whatever that means] define [whatever that means] an urgent liberty [never mind], give birth to a right?”

The illogical logic of the Court’s marriage decision was not just deceptive but evidently malevolent in three ways. First because the majority linked invalidating procreationally structured marriage with how the Court previously invalidated racist marriage laws, which makes prospects for honoring religious liberty exceptions rather dubious. Justice Thomas said, “The majority’s inversion of the original meaning of liberty . . . threatens the religious liberty our Nation has long sought to protect,” and Roberts held that, “unfortunately, people of faith can take no comfort in the treatment they received from the majority today.” Alito added that, because “the majority compares traditional marriage laws to laws that denied equal treatment for African-Americans” this decision “will be used by those who are determined to stamp out every vestige of dissent.” Second because it expressed distain for traditional marriage by dismissing “the connection between natural procreation and marriage” as “counterintuitive” while offering no support for such hostility. Third because it disparaged as “wholly illogical” all questions about how redefining marriage could harm the “the Nation’s social order.”

So what should we make of this? In view of the way the Court’s marriage decision realigns our most essential social institution, how should Americans committed to the common good and even more to the gospel, react to how this changes our circumstances? What does dual citizenship in a darkening world require, and how should we behave as effects of this decision play out around us? Let us determine first of all not to bemoan our marginalization or to act as victims demanding favors that only reinforce public irrelevance. Christ sent His disciples into the world “as sheep among wolves” (Matt 10:16) telling them to be shrewd and harmless. But He never bemoaned mistreatment by those in power and did not teach His disciples to seek or expect favorable treatment by pagan politicians.

Next we should realize that, no matter what else changes, nothing in this world ever lessens the obligation we have as Christians to live in the true, the good, and the beautiful. The Court did not change true marriage or anything truly true about true marriage. The true meaning, nature, purpose, and structure of marriage all endure whatever misconceptions arise and however confused laws become. The goodness of real marriage with its ability to ennoble the man-woman bond and to dignify the union of sexual difference also endures no matter how strongly others deny it. And the beauty of procreationally aligned marriage endures, not only when biological parents are blessed with well-behaved children, but still more as real marriages last into later life when children turn into responsible adults and the inner relationship of husbands and wives, nurtured over a lifetime, emerges with a glory impossible to ignore even as their bodies decline.

No matter how the culture changes, living in the truth is essential. We must not accept or support lies about the meaning, nature, and structure of marriage no matter how maligned or coerced. True marriage and truths about true marriage do not come from man and cannot be changed by society, lawyers, or whatever couples choose, and lying about marriage is not truly loving. True marriage and truths about true marriage are matters of reality that may be confused or denied but never changed, and accepting lies can never be loving no matter how strongly others want to believe them. But standing for truth is just a beginning and will not stop the culture from sliding. False views of marriage are spreading and will spread faster especially since legitimized and fueled by the insidious logic of the Court’s marriage decision. So, while standing for truth is essential, it is not enough. We must also affirm the good of real marriage. Real marriage is not just good but uniquely good. Man-woman marriage is not just “as good” or “good along with” the alleged good of same-sex intimacy, but is uniquely good in a way not just better but entailing something different the other does not have at all. And yet, while we affirm the uniquely different good of real marriage, many friends and neighbors will deny it shifting attention to other relational goods (like friendship and caring) unrelated to sexual difference. Which leads us to consider the power of beauty to penetrate this growing darkness.

Understanding the limited ability standing for the truth and good of real marriage have for getting through to a culture sinking headlong into darkness leads me to a final observation, which is that, as the insidious logic of redefined marriage spreads through our culture, the most powerful strategy we have for penetrating the darkness and leading “many to righteousness” (Dan 12:3), is not focusing so much on what is true and good (though we must affirm both and keep doing so however difficult it becomes and at whatever cost) but is focusing rather on demonstrating the undeniable beauty of real marriages—those that are practiced by imperfect human beings in ways that portray the meaning, nature, purpose, and structure of the unchanging unchangeable plan established by our Creator, Who in fact knows us better than we know ourselves, still runs things His way, and laughs at those who imagine otherwise (Ps 2:1-4).

Daniel R. Heimbach

Daniel R. Heimbach, senior professor of Christian ethics at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, is an ordained Southern Baptist minister, fellow of the SBC Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, chairman of the Christian ethics planning unit for the Evangelical Theological Society, general editor of the B&H Christian Ethics series, referee for … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24