Given how emotionally unstable the more rabid apologists on the internet are, this post requires me to make the following disclaimer: I am not a pedophile, I find pedophilia to be highly dangerous to children, and I do not condone sexual conduct between adults and children.
A popular maxim adhered to by most fundie Christians is as follows (in link-form for those who want to know its history):
A mainstream apologetics organization provides its own definition of essential doctrine. CRI
What this means when carried out in practical life is that if a person claiming to be a Christian, agrees with you on matters that you feel are essential biblical doctrine, then you cannot question her salvation if she disagrees with you on biblical matters that are non-essential. For example, most Baptists don’t think speaking in tongues is for today, but they do not question the salvation of Pentecostals on the basis that they speak on tongues, since Baptists view the matter of tongues as a non-essential.
Where does the bible provide a clear statement on the deity of Jesus Christ?
That’s easy, right? John 1:1, John 8:58, etc, etc,. For this reason, the deity of Christ is an essential, amen?
Where does the bible provide a clear statement on the minimum age God requires a girl to reach before He will approve of her having marital sex?
Not exactly ‘easy’, right?
God allegedly approved of the ancient Israelite men gaining wives by purchasing girls from their fathers:
7 “And if a man sells his daughter as a female slave, she is not to go free as the male slaves do.
8 “If she is displeasing in the eyes of her master who designated her for himself, then he shall let her be redeemed. He does not have authority to sell her to a foreign people because of his unfairness to her. (Exo 21:7-8 NAS)
Let’s put the question another way:
If an Israelite man living in the days of Moses purchased as bride for himself, a six-year old girl from her father, then underwent the required marriage ritual, whatever that was, then sexually consummated that marriage on their wedding night, what law of Moses would that act of pedophilia have violated?
You may say God never specifically condemns pedophilic marriage because he thought it was too obvious an immorality to need specifying. But that logic doesn’t hold water: Most of us would agree that bestiality is “obviously” immoral, yet God specified that particular act as sin regardless: Leviticus 18:23. So it is not entirely certain that God was silent about pedophilic marriages due to believing it was too clearly sinful for humans to need guidance on. Most of us don’t need guidance to know that sex with animals is wrong, but that doesn’t stop God from specifying it as a wrong anyway. Hence God’s silence does not necessarily imply divine disapproval of sex within adult-child marriages.
If the bible contains neither law defining minimum marital age, nor law condemning sex within adult-child marriages, then the matter cannot be considered any type of biblical “essential”. What sense does it make to say that a matter that the bible is virtually silent on, should be considered just as essential as the matters it speaks clearly on?
For those fundies who follow the above-cited maxim “In Essentials Unity, In Non-Essentials Liberty, In All Things Charity”, they must view the subject of what age God requires a girl to reach before he will approve of her having marital sex, as a non-essential, which means they cannot refuse fellowship to a Christian man who believes God either used to, or still does, approve of sex within adult child marriages.
The fundie reader will object: “Romans 13:1 !! We must obey the governing authorities, and pedophilia is condemned by nearly all governing authorities on earth!”
But that response does nothing but increase the fundies problems:
- What worldly governing authorities choose to criminalize, does not argue that God thinks those acts are sinful. Some areas of fundamentalist Arabia and Iran declare Christian evangelism a crime. Must we thus conclude God thinks Christian evangelism is sinful?
- If the example of fundamentalist Arabia criminalizing Christian evangelism proves God’s viewpoint on a matter cannot necessarily be found by consulting worldly governing authorities, then we aren’t necessarily finding out what God thinks about pedophilic marriage when we consult current US law, anymore than if we consult current extremist Muslim law. For that reason, the question of what God thinks about pedophilic marriage is better answered by appeal to the bible.
- How could a fundie appeal to Romans 13:1 have helped them defeat this argument if they were trying to do so in Delaware in the early 1800’s, when the age of sexual consent was 7 years? Wikipedia. Actual New Your Times article (pdf)
- Based on # 3, if obedience to civil authority is required by God, then what about the Christian man who renounces his citizenship and moves to a bushman tribe in Africa where the governing authorities have set the age of sexual consent for girls at 10, who then marries such a girl and then sexually consummates that marriage on their wedding night? On what biblical basis could you either refuse fellowship with him, or question his salvation?
The fundie reader may say Jesus advocated a terrible death for anybody that would ‘offend’ a little child (Matthew 18:6), but that is an invalid argument. It only establishes that Jesus highly disapproved of those who offend little kids…it does not establish what acts Jesus thought constituted an offense to a little kid. First demonstrate that Jesus would have viewed pedophilic marriage as an offense to a child, then you have biblical room to use Matthew 18:6 as rebuttal here.
A fundie may say that because a female child is incapable of physically accommodating an adult male penis, the nececessary physical trauma resulting from sexual consummation of such marriage constitutes a clear “offense”. Ok, what if the adult husband engages in sex acts with her that do not injure her physically? How would Matthew 18:6 condemn that sort of arrangement? It wouldn’t unless you blindly presume Jesus and you surely agree on what constitutes an ‘offense’ to a child. The bible often mentions divinely sanctioned infanticide (Numbers 31:17, 1st Samuel 15:2-3), so did Jesus disapprove of those too? Or maybe he forgot that sometimes, when people kill kids, they are carrying out the orders of Jesus’ Father?
It doesn’t even matter if you find biblical texts that imply a minimum age for marital sex, those texts are not sufficiently clear that their teaching on the matter would be binding on modern-day Christians, and for that reason they cannot be shown to rise to the level of “essential” doctrine. For all these reasons, I confidently argue from the biblical silence that God approves, or at least used to approve, of pedophilic marriages among his followers, where the secular authorities, if any, did not condemn the practice.
You are positively certain that God has always condemned all sex within adult-child marriages, but you have no biblical basis for holding that view. Because you hold a view about God that has no clear biblical basis, you are probably more correctly classified as a liberal, not a fundamentalist.