The Future of Marriage and Religious Freedom

41Ypdk6iCfLTruth Overruled: The Future of Marriage and Religious Freedom
by Ryan T. Anderson
Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing, 2015
256 pp. | $16.99

Ryan Anderson must have had his book Truth Overruled poised for publishing when the Supreme Court made its decision in Obergefell v. Hodges on June 26, 2015, because it hit the market three months later. Anderson cites both oral and written arguments in making his case for a definition of marriage which is in opposition to the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling. Anderson is the William E. Simon Senior Research Fellow in American Principles and Public Policy at the Heritage Foundation. He is a graduate of Princeton University and earned his Ph.D. from the University of Notre Dame.

The Supreme Court, according to Anderson, opted to endorse the consent-based definition of marriage. He says, “The consent-based view of marriage is primarily about an intense emotional union—a romantic, caregiving union of consenting adults” (p. 15). It is about companionship. “Marriage has what all other relationships have, but more of it” (p. 15). Anderson argues, however, that this definition of marriage “cannot explain or justify any of the distinctive commitments that marriage requires—monogamy, exclusivity, and permanence—nor can it explain what interest the government has in it” (p. 15). He wonders why it should be an exclusive sexual union. He also wonders if marriage “is simply about consenting adult romance and caregiving, why can’t three, four, or more people form a marriage?” (p. 15)

Anderson proposes that the superior view of marriage is the comprehensive view:

Marriage unites spouses in a comprehensive act: marital sexual intercourse is a union of hearts, minds and bodies. Marriage (like the marital act that seals it) is inherently ordered toward a comprehensive good, the creation and rearing of entirely new human organisms, who are to be raised to participate in every kind of human good. And finally, marriage demands comprehensive norms: spouses make the comprehensive commitments of permanency and exclusivity—a comprehensive throughout time (permanent) and at every moment in time (exclusive) (p. 19).

According to Anderson, this has been the position based on human nature that is found among ancient Hebrews, Greeks, and Romans. It is found among Christian thinkers, Enlightenment thinkers, and Eastern thinkers. It has been part of canon law of the Church, common law of England and America, and the civil law of Europe. Anderson would also give credence to the fact that it is the view supported by the Bible and those who follow the Bible.

Anderson addresses multiple issues that need to be faced in light of the recent Supreme Court ruling. He argues that the consent-based view serves the desires of adults, not the needs or rights of children. Religious liberty will be threatened. The ruling, he argues, has clearly overreached its authority. Adoption and foster care religious entities will be forced to abandon their ministries if they don’t comply with the ruling. Religious schools are now vulnerable. Christian business people have had and will have major decisions ahead.

An entire chapter addresses the issue of comparing sexual orientation to racism. Anderson argues that bans on interracial marriage were based on racism and had nothing to do with marriage. “The understanding of marriage as the union of a man and a woman . . . has been the norm throughout human history, shared by the great thinkers and religions of both East and West and by cultures with a wide variety of viewpoints about sexuality” (p. 135).

Anderson’s discussion of the definitions of sexual orientation and gender identity is valuable. Ongoing dialogue concerning these issues is inevitable, and the degree to which such discourse will be fruitful depends, at least to some degree, on whether some agreement regarding definitions can be had.

One of the most stunning portions of the book is found in chapter seven, “The Victims.” This chapter asks the question, “Is there a difference for children who are raised by a same-sex couple or by their married mom and dad?” In reply, Anderson asserts the following:

As of April 2015, only eight studies have been conducted using rigorous methods and robust samples, and, when properly analyzed, they all support the previous consensus: children do best when raised by a married mother and father (p. 154).

These studies and the implications, however, have created a serious battle among social scientists with regards to sample selection, methodology and conclusions.

In conclusion, in light of what has been presented in the book, Anderson calls for the following responses:

  1. We must call the court’s ruling in Obergefell what it is: judicial activism.
  2. We must protect our freedom to speak and live according to the truth about marriage.
  3. We must redouble our efforts to make the case for it in the public square (p. 200).

In reading this book, I have been challenged to clarify my own definition of marriage. Anderson’s comprehensive definition of marriage is sound and I embrace it. I’ve also concluded that the biggest apologetic for a gospel-centered definition of marriage will be healthy, God-honoring marriages among Christ-followers.

In my mind, this book is a must-read.


About Ron Marrs

Ron Marrs is presently a Professor of Youth and Pastoral Ministry and Chairman of the Center for Ministry and Leadership at Western Seminary, Portland, OR. Ron is the leader of the Portland Youth Workers Network. He served at Westwood Baptist Church, a Converge church, for 24.5 years primarily as the youth pastor and then as executive/worship pastor. He has been married to Becky for 35 years, has three children and three grandsons. He is an elder at Hinson Baptist Church. He recently completed doctoral research in which he interviewed 26 people about their rookie youth pastor experiences along with 24 of their supervisors.