The Wanderer

As I walked through the wilderness of this world …

Defining marriage

with one comment

For British readers (although I am not sure how this impacts upon the Scots), the issue of how marriage ought to be defined is a current and significant concern. It is presently the subject of a government consultation with a view to potential ‘redefinition’ providing for a shift away from the notion of marriage as “the voluntary union for life of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others” toward something that would provide for homosexual couples to marry (as opposed to the current provision for so-called “civil partnerships”).

How ought Christians – individually, as citizens of a particular earthly nation as well as citizens of heaven, and corporately, either as concerned groups or as churches, conducting their business as such – to respond to this? To some extent, this will depend on your view of the relationship between the church and the state, and the rights and responsibilities of believers – individually, corporately, and ecclesiastically – to address the powers that be.

There have been at least two responses with differing emphases.

The bigger and more prominent of the two to date has been the Coalition for Marriage (C4M). My sense of this organisation is that it addresses the matter primarily as a civic issue, relies more on general revelation (depending primarily on traditional and evidential arguments), and thereby and therefore embracing quite a broad sector of religious and irreligious persons who support the notion of marriage, an expression of an extensive co-belligerency (for example, the prominence of Roman Catholics has been noted by some commentators).

However, others – while not necessarily rejecting the propriety and reasonableness of such an approach – have wished to make a more distinctively Christian response on the grounds of special revelation (drawing arguments from the Word of God and seeking to express convictions either as a church or as individuals that reflect the convictions of evangelical, Bible-believing Christians) and therefore and thereby expressing a more pointed response which addresses the responsibilities of the civil magistracy to the God who appointed it. In this regard, my attention was recently drawn to Real Marriage, a relatively new player on the field, and the brainchild of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of England and Wales. Rejecting the Romish, Erastian and radical Anabaptist perspectives on the relationship (or lack of it) between church and state, their website allows for individual Christians to sign a petition calling for the preservation of the existing definition of marriage on Biblical grounds, and further provides for churches which consider it legitimate to be involved to identify themselves as supporters. My understanding is that these brothers would encourage people to sign the C4M petition, but also to sign their petition as a more distinctively Christian expression of concern.

I imagine that most of the readers of this blog would believe that citizens of heaven have certain duties and obligations and responsibilities grounded in a right relationship to the God-appointed civil authorities. However, of those, some may feel conscience-bound not to embrace the co-belligerent approach of the Coalition for Marriage, others would be happy to make an individual and/or ecclesiastical statement through something like Real Marriage (perhaps in addition to the C4M approach), and perhaps others still would wish to operate entirely outside such organisations.

So, if for some reason you have been wrestling with this matter and have been trying to work out how to respond in principle and by what means to do so in practice, I hope that by drawing your attention both to the Coalition for Marriage and Real Marriage, you will find illumination on the former and perhaps an opportunity for the latter.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Friday 9 March 2012 at 12:21

Posted in Current affairs

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One Response

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  1. Thanks for that, Jeremy. It’s interesting to see what is happening in the UK regarding this issue. The federal parliament here in Australia currently has 3 bills before it, regarding the redefinition of marriage. It’s almost certain that the issue will be voted on sometime this year (although the Labor Government may balk at voting on it, because they are a complete mess and don’t want to further antangonise voters). There are some good groups over here who are taking a traditional, Judeo-Christian view of marriage and lobbying. One is the Australian Marriage Forum. They seem more like the Coalition For Marriage. They are linked to the Australian Christian Lobby. Unfortunately, I don’t know of any big groups who are taking the distinctively Christian route, although the Australian Christian Lobby do their own work on the issue also. We are writing on the issue on our church blog. I think that, by and large, the church is very weak on this issue in Australia. That’s why we are so close to legalising an abomination.

    Simon

    Sunday 11 March 2012 at 22:52


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