Thursday, August 21, 2008

What is "Godly Marriage"

One common question that I run across when debating same sex marriage, sexual immorality, and the like, is what exactly is "marriage"? Or more specifically, what does God recognize as a marriage? Can any combination of people count as a marriage in God's eyes, or is there a universal rule, a concrete definition that sets the standard around which the debate must revolve? I believe God does indeed set such a standard. In this post, I would like to discuss that standard and the typical objections to it.
Genesis 2:24 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. (NASB)
There is little doubt in my mind that this is indeed the definition of marriage from God's perspective. One will note two things about the relationship described - it is monogamous, and it is heterosexual. It is an undeniable fact that every relationship described as a "marriage" in the bible fits this pattern. Conversely, any arrangement that does not fit this pattern is not recognized by God as a marriage. What society wants to call it is irrelevant if we are considering God's stand.

The Objections

I have run across five main objections to this verse as being the definition of marriage from God's perspective. I would like to tackle each in turn. The first two will be dealt with in this post and the remaining three in a subsequent entry.

1. The verse doesn’t mention marriage, so it is not about marriage.

Of course, the knee-jerk reaction to this protest is simply "if not marriage, then what is it about". Thankfully, God provides us ample confirmation in his word that the verse is indeed about marriage and only marriage.

In Matthew 19 (and the parallel in Mark 10), Jesus quotes Genesis 2:24 when discussing divorce. Jesus describes divorce as the rending asunder of that which God, exemplified by the Genesis definition, has joined together. Jesus universally associates Genesis 2:24 with God recognized marriage.

Paul echoes Jesus' use of Genesis 2:24 in even more conclusive terms. Paul repeats the marriage definition in the quintessential marriage passage - Ephesians 5:22-33. Paul is talking about nothing but marriage here, and puts force behind his message by reminding his audience of the initial, and unchanging, definition given to us in Genesis.

2. There are other relationship configurations that the bible calls "marriage".

This is what I call the "polygamy defense". The argument goes - "since polygamous unions are called 'marriages' and violate the 'one man; one woman' rule, Genesis 2:24 is not all inclusive of God's perspective". The extension of the argument, then, is: “if polygamy is also ‘marriage’ in exception to Genesis, there may also be other unions which qualify as marriage.”

This is a flawed argument because it actually incorrectly defines polygamy. Polygamy is not a marriage of a man to a group of women, but a group of simultaneous marriages between one man and individual women. Therefore, the one man; one woman paradigm is in tact.

It should be noted that although polygamy was culturally accepted in ancient times, there is no indication that God actually approved of it. Just like divorce, it seems likely that God merely tolerated the practice due to the hardness of the human heart toward God's "good" design. That being said, polygamy did not violate the definition of marriage, even though it certainly negatively impacted the "one flesh" potential of each individual union.

(go to Part II)

No comments:

Post a Comment