Matt Lee Anderson on Gay Marriage

My friend and fellow Mere Fidelity participant, Matt Lee Anderson, has published a lengthy article in which he presents a case for his opposition to same sex marriage. Matt’s argument is almost certainly not one that you will have heard before and is worth engaging with. I would be interested to hear people’s thoughts upon it, both critical and appreciative. Matt is a smart and thoughtful guy and, whether or not you agree with him, his is the sort of substantial case that should provoke stimulating and illuminating dialogue, so I will be following the comments beneath it closely.

About Alastair Roberts

Alastair Roberts (PhD, Durham University) writes in the areas of biblical theology and ethics, but frequently trespasses beyond these bounds. He participates in the weekly Mere Fidelity podcast, blogs at Alastair’s Adversaria, and tweets at @zugzwanged.
This entry was posted in Controversies, Culture, Ethics, On the web, Sex and Sexuality, Society, The Blogosphere, Theological. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Matt Lee Anderson on Gay Marriage

  1. Cal says:

    Even though it’s probably more fruitful to comment over on the original, I’ll suffice to put some thoughts here.

    I could resonate with commentors who found the argument to be flowery, gushing, and highly Romantic. While this sort of piece is perhaps the kick-start to begin a questioning process, I think the end-road it leads down will be poor.

    Aesthetically, it is florid, and tries to imitate the whimsy and fairy liteness of Chesterton. Yet this was not Chesterton and tended to assume not the Roman Catholic imagination which made him more compelling. The Evangelicalism (I am not hostile, just an aesthetic note), especially the notes of family-oriented erotic love combined with the primacy of sex, leaves it stale. I guess the difference is when a Catholic (or any more sacramental and/or aesthetically deepened tradition) speaks, it tends to be displayed like a fine chalice of mousse, and what I received was a stale bowl of lucky charms. Sweetness, yes, but Saccharine, also yes. It is kitsch. This is my aesthetic review, take it worth a grain of salt.

    Intellectually, I’m not sure this is the way to argue. I think an appeal to the dyadic nature of man-woman, and the creational aspects is the ground. Matt does this occasionally. But then the Christian view is injected into this ordinance that has existed. So in terms of this paper, I think the cart ended up before the horse. I don’t think we can adequately argue against homosexuality, no matter how hard we try to attempt, when it is rooted in an appeal to merely nature.

    I’m not anti-eros, but it can’t be the basis for an understanding of marriage and complentarity between men and women. Augustine’s temper has to be weighed, not giving into idealism (and maintaining a healthy pessimism) and yet being enraptured by beauty. Ideas should not move us, but the loving call of God. I know Matt’s not saying this exactly, but this is what allows us to be staid from fantastical absorbtion in the “beautiful” and “just’ (ala. Plato). We do not need to inhabit fairy tales. Instead, maybe we need better story-tellers of the world we do inhabit. But that’s my instinct as a historian and as someone who enjoys the play of an active imagination.

    This appeal, as heartfelt and genuine as it was, will only evoke eye-rolling by those opposed, and commendation from those who enjoy the particular style and already agree with the conclusion. It was a good attempt to move the debate forward, but I don’t think it will.

    Alastair, I’m more intrigued in potential work through otherness in the dualism of man-woman that you broached awhile back (connecting to a French Roman-Catholic (name escapes me) who interacted with Levinas)


    • Cal says:


      1) I’m not against seeing truth in Creation, but such is dictated by the working “presuppositions” we have in play. The Creation is, to put it one way, a text. We can only understand it if we know the Author’s intention. What I’m criticizing is Matt’s approach, not the fact that he appeals to the creation.

      2) I’m also not anti-fairy tale, but I think the real world is full of stories that are much more fascinating than any fantasy. I love stories of elves, dwarves, magical swords, and dragons. But they nowhere compare to the depth, bizzareness, and bewildering stories our own world has. The shame is that these stories are told, so often, shabbily.

    • mnpetersen37 says:

      Hadjadj is the French Catholic philosopher.

  2. evan773 says:


    I had precisely the same reaction…as an evangelical Protestant. In my view, the focus on eros is part of the problem with the prevailing culture’s view of marriage. Peter Leithart is quite right in derogating such eros-focused views of marriage as “pornographic.” Thus, Anderson implicitly ends up elevating heterosexual erotic desire to a status wherein it comes to define the essence of our humanity. But any reading of Paul would suggest that that can’t be right. And what do we say about Jesus’s singleness? Was he not as fully human as we suspect because he failed to avail himself of the “moral opportunity” afforded to him in an eros-centered marriage?

    I do give some credit to Anderson on one point, however. He implicitly admits that the standard evangelical rationales for opposing same-sex marriage do not square so well with our tendency to construe opposite-sex marriage in fairly romantic, eros-focused ways. It seems that Anderson is trying to articulate a position that allows evangelicals to maintain opposition to same-sex marriage without abandoning pornographic marriage for opposite-sex couples. Anderson made a valiant (and florid) effort. But, in my view, he comes up empty.

    Besides, given that this debate has raged actively for three decades or more, I find it hard to accept that there is any cogent and novel argument left to be made.

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