Marriage is becoming an important topic for everyone. The day is fast approaching when you will be unable to not have an opinion on marriage. As a result your position will define you, and will marginalize you.
However, it is important to determine your where you stand on marriage before you are grouped with someone or some group that you disagree with.
How do you define marriage?
This question was asked this morning in a conversation Dr. Evan Lenow and Michael Saltsman had at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. You can read about the genesis of the conversation on Dr. Lenow’s blog.
I do not believe that Mr. Saltsman gave a good definition. IN fact, I didn’t really follow his definition. What I can tell you is that he relies heavily on what he terms civil marriage.
For me personally here is my definition.
Marriage is the union between a man and a woman in a covenant relationship designed by God, and regulated by government authorities for the purpose of strengthening society and raising the next generation.
I personally define marriage as a covenant. I do not view it as a contract as many people do, and in fact the idea of marriage as a contract is fueled by the need for a marriage license. Effectively state permission to be married. Which is understandable in many ways.
The view of marriage as a contract I think has also lead to the almost universal adoption in the United States of no fault divorce.
However, from my definition above you can tell, I hope, that I also incorporate the authority of the government. I’ll return to this in just a minute.
Marriage is at its heart a covenant between a man and a woman as established by God in scripture. Twice scripture refers to marriage as a covenant Proverbs 2:17 and Malachi 2:14. In both of these verses scripture not only calls marriage a covenant, but shows what happens when the covenant is broken.
What is a covenant? According to scripture four items make a covenant. Those are an intimate relationship, a public oath, coordinating sign(s), and perpetual obligations.
Each of these are fulfilled in a marriage.
First, you cannot have a marriage without an intimate relationship. A married couple fulfills this by being in love prior to marriage and engaging in sexual intercourse after marriage.
Next, coordinating signs are present at every marriage ceremony when the bride and the groom exchange rings.
A public oath is taken during a wedding ceremony when the couple exchange vows.
Finally, the perpetual obligations are accomplished in several ways in a marriage relationship. These include embracing God’s design for marriage in the complimentary roles of men and women, fidelity to each other, and the obligations established in the vows. To love and to cherish until death just as one example.
Even though I hold to a covenant view of marriage I respect the authority of the government to regulate marriage. After all if you didn’t have to obtain a marriage license you could have a wild west time of marriage with men and women moving to another marriage partner as the idea suited them.
Michael Saltsman is an economist, and I commend him for coming to an admitted hostile environment where probably 99% of the room disagreed with him, but I couldn’t help but think that he felt more comfortable in the realm of economics rather than theology.
I do think an Oxford style debate on the issue of marriage equality would be interesting to host at Southwestern, and I would even be willing to be the moderator.