Biblical Marriage – It’s time for Christians to define marriage

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The United States is poised to turn marriage into a civil proposition empty of any religious significance. Never mind what the Supreme Court decides, marriage has been sliding into secularism for decades. The recent wins for gay marriage rights are just a final knockout blow. Marriage has been captured by the humanists and stripped of its holiness. It’s now time for the Christian church to abandon what cannot be kept, to let go of what’s already been lost, to divorce the toxic union of church and government at the wedding altar, and set the definition of marriage straight.

Let go. The civil cooperation with holy matrimony is over. From now on the governing authorities will sanction whatever unions the prevailing opinions allow. Right now it’s heterosexual and homosexual marriages. With the Bible out of the way, the push will come for many other flavors of civil unions. I don’t know how quickly they will be allowed, but I’m sure there will be movements for multiple spouse marriages and unions with minors. What else? Just use your imagination. The point is that this arena is no place for holy matrimony. Let it go. Return sacred marriage to it’s home in the church.

Define marriage. The civil unions granted by and regulated by the government have no spiritual significance. They are political creations. Biblical marriage was created by God and is sanctioned by the church. It begins with the design in Genesis (For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh). It culminates in the wedding between Jesus Christ and the church which is the pattern for, not a reflection of, God-ordained marriage. Because sacred marriage exists by God’s design, he endows it with spiritual blessings that civil unions can never convey. These include the grace of God which believing partners shower on each other, the cooperation of these partners in spiritual activities of eternal significance, the raising of children according to Biblical principles, and the formation of the Christian home with all the blessings it extends to those whom it touches.

Biblical marriage is defined as the union of one man and one woman, according to God’s design as described in the Bible, and overseen by the local church. Some of the key characteristics of sacred marriage include:

  • It unites two believers.
  • The union is permanent, until one of the partners dies or is proven to be unfaithful.
  • The union conveys all of the spiritual blessings mentioned above, but is independent of any civil or governmental sanctions or benefits.

Since Biblical marriage is independent of civil marriage, married partners may need to pursue civil recognition of their union in order to obtain benefits that flow from the civil union. These include tax advantages, insurance benefits, inheritance matters, and rights pertaining to spouses and children.

Further discussion is needed on the problem of spousal abuse, both physical and emotional. My opinion is that this requires separation of the partners until the problem is resolved, but it may also require divorce if the offending party is unrepentant. Divorce is biblically approved, but not required, for adultery. Other than these reasons, divorce should not take place in Biblical marriages. The frequency of divorce among Christians has been said to be the same as non-Christians, about 50%, though more recent statistics say it is closer to 30%. Even that rate is a disgrace. It indicates rampant infidelity in Christian marriages or an abandonment of the Biblical charge that the two should remain one.

Much work will be needed to make sacred marriage a meaningful alternative to civil unions. Right now many Christian marriages suffer from the same failings as secular marriages. Christian marriages have moved away from the auspices of the church. Some, perhaps many, Christian couples will object to the church having any authority over their union, especially its termination. Some will object to the exclusion of non-believers. Some will not understand the distinction between civil and holy matrimony. What church leader or organization will champion these changes, especially in the light of many denominations abandoning the Biblical definition of marriage?

To do nothing, however, is to give in to the secularization of marriage with all its ungodly variations. The shock of the recent rapid abandonment of traditional marriage may be just the push we need to inspire us to act.

Image by Chris Hearn on Flickr, CC by-sa 2.0

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14 thoughts on “Biblical Marriage – It’s time for Christians to define marriage

  1. I don’t agree with every detail of your post, but I agree with the general thesis: It’s a mistake for us to involve the state in a matter of the family. It’s always been a mistake – a mistake we made six hundred years ago, maybe, back when we were the state, but a mistake nonetheless.

    And now it’s biting us. Homosexuality is wrong; we cannot teach otherwise. But that’s a truth for the church – a teaching for those who already accept that Christ is the authority. It’s not there for us to impose on everyone else, with the threat of government force backing us up. The popular conception is now that Christianity is something akin to racism – that we stand now in the same position as those opposed to civil rights, or interracial marriage, did sixty years ago. That’s appalling – and most critically, it obscures the gospel.

    We can’t go back to what we had in the 1900s. More, we shouldn’t want to.

  2. This has nothing to do with equality, or inclusiveness, or fairness. This has everything to do with how Satan is sensing the end is near, and how he must wage war against the Church. He cannot wage war against Christ, and he knows it. He can only battle man and the Church. How ironic that our country that was founded on a tenet of religious freedom, will become an instrument of religious persecution.

      • Respectfully, I can’t agree. It seems to me that reducing this discussion to Satan and the church makes the millions of human beings involved into non-actors. It treats them as the front to a shadow-play: volition-free agents of the enemy, whose concerns are really just a front for his activity.

        And that’s… well, it’s not accurate. The argument for gay marriage actually makes good sense if you discount scripture as a source of moral truth. Why shouldn’t two consenting adults be able to form a bond, declare each other to be family, raise children, receive tax benefits? Why should a genetic coin-toss stand in the way of that?

        I don’t agree with those arguments, because I have a different set of starting moral premises – but I can understand them just fine. And there’s even some legitimacy to them; in a political sense, there’s no good reason that our one religion should get to declare restrictions on the tax- and child-rearing-benefits for everyone else. The argument is persuasive!

        This is about fairness. It is about freedom. These are real values actually held by actual human beings, not demonic finger-puppets, and there’s real, genuine frustration in their voices when they hear arguments like those we’re presenting here and say, “It’s not about you.” We can’t lose sight of that.

        Does that change the fact that marriage – real marriage, of the sort that God created – is only possible between men and women? No, of course not – but as the original post says, we need to recognize that state approval and real marriage were never the same thing. Does it mean that the devil isn’t working against the church? No, of course he is – but we do ourselves no favors by reducing every opposing viewpoint to enemy action.

      • As you initially pointed out to me, this post aims to distinguish between God-ordained and government-ordained unions. I think we have already lost the argument about the civil unions.

      • I feel like we might be missing each other’s points, a little bit. I was specifically trying to respond to this:

        This has nothing to do with equality, or inclusiveness, or fairness. This has everything to do with how Satan is sensing the end is near, and how he must wage war against the Church… How ironic that our country that was founded on a tenet of religious freedom, will become an instrument of religious persecution.

        The point I was trying to make is that we can’t reduce this issue to “Satan’s actions” and “the church’s actions.” The people pushing for government unions, though, aren’t Satan, and they are not (by and large) secretly trying to accomplish his purposes while talking about “equality” and “fairness” as a smokescreen. Most of them are just normal people who say, “Well, why shouldn’t two men who love each other be able to get married? That doesn’t seem fair.”

        And I think that one of the reasons we’ve lost the national conversation on this subject is that we focus on the devil and ignore the beliefs of the actual human beings – we say, “This isn’t about freedom, it’s about persecuting the church,” and average people who (1) are thinking about rights for gay people and (2) are not interested in persecuting the church look at us like we’re crazy.

        Maybe an analogy helps here: let’s say you have a pastor who, in the course of his duties, becomes overwhelmed and falls into depression and sin. Is that a result of the devil wanting to destroy the church? Well – very plausibly, sure, there might be some demonic influence contributing to that result; it’s hard to say definitively. Is it helpful to way of the situation, “This isn’t about your depression; this is about Satan attacking the church”? Well, no; the pastor’s still a human being, and in a very real sense, it is about his depression. That’s a real belief of his that we have to engage – and he certainly doesn’t hold that belief in order to damage the church. I think support for gay marriage is something similar.

  3. How about this: Christians abandon all forms of civil marriage, and only marry in the eyes of God. No paper trail, no marriage tax penalty, only a private religious ceremony that has no civil name. The rest of society can go on marrying, divorcing, marrying 13 wives, pets, whomever they desire. Chistians will marry privately, before two or three witnesses, and before God.

  4. I would however state, that the Bible does not profess that marriage is only between one man and one woman. For bishops, yes, for the rest of us, not clearly stated. Polygamy runs rampant. The intent seems to be there, and this is how the Magisterium, guided by the Holy Spirit, can proclaim a truth not explicitly stated in scripture. Luther admits to this, interestingly enough. As scripture states, the Church is the foundation of the truth, not scripture. But the Church embraces all: Church, Tradition, and scripture, guided by the Spirit, to arrive at the truth. You cannot get there with scripture alone.

    • Or, possibly, God doesn’t actually have a moral problem with polygamy.

      Which is not the same as saying that it’s not a really bad idea – it is! But perhaps the reason we never see God say a word forbidding it, despite detailed marriage laws and many examples of polygamy among the patriarchs, is that it’s not sin.

      Anyway, maybe we could save Magisterial arguments for another thread? It feels like that starts to stray pretty far from the thesis of this one.

  5. Actually, it is the central point of this thread, that scripture alone cannot not define this truth, government cannot define this truth, only the Church can. And for doing so, She will be persecuted.

    • I don’t agree. The church doesn’t define marriage. It can’t – marriage predates it. The church can (and should!) recognize marriage – but it’s recognizing a pre-existent thing. The marriage doesn’t exist because the church recognizes it – rather, we’re obliged to recognize it because it factually does exist. We have no power over it!

  6. The original Biblical plan of marriage was simple, between a man and a woman, with happy consequence. Man has made “marriage” complicated and unhappy. Man cannot blame God for the mess he has made and will inevitably bear the consequences.

    Galatians 6:7 (NIV)
    Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.

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