Crisis and Kairos
Marriage for Sale
And with this, the war begins. To admit that there is a unifying definition of marriage which is binding for both the church and the world is to reconcile what the Enlightenment sought to separate: that every object and action has a purpose for being within the whole of the created order. In other words, nothing and no one is absolutely autonomous. Being and doing are critically linked, and attempts to separate them fortify the facade that each individual possesses both the right and the ability to create acceptable ethics apart from revealed truth.
Seeking to shore up support for the one-man-one-woman-for-life doctrine has come on hard times. How this could be in an age when evangelical ministries abound with marriage conferences and targeted communication techniques designed to make every marriage happy is no longer a mystery. For few churches teach why marriage fits into the overall purposes of God, how it squares with the whole of biblical theology, and what purpose it serves as an aid toward greater and more meaningful service in the Kingdom of God.
The church, like the world, seems to have bought into the philosophy that marriage has no deeper theological purpose than making the couple happy and fulfilled. To think beyond that point—theologically or otherwise—renders many modern evangelicals mute on marriage other than, of course, an adherence to "secular" reasoning. The result of such teaching is that many church members behave in like manner as Spears/Alexander and Kardashian/Humphries. In this light, exactly what difference does marriage make? Why bother?
A defense of marriage on its demonstrable value to civilization might be a viable strategy for public engagement, but ultimately it stands on weak and arbitrary foundations if not grounded on ideas above sociological and psychological constructs. Marriage, naturalistically defined, is a merely human invention. As Ash rightly points out, the search for an ethical foundation for marriage is doomed for all who would seek to locate the creation and purpose of marriage "only in human beings."
It was none other than Michel Foucoult who, in his famous three-volume work The History of Sexuality, insisted that sexual identity is a work in progress—always changing and never given to one dominant view. Philosopher W.A. Meeks states in his defining work, The Origins of Christian Morality, that "the process of inventing Christian and human morality will continue."
To the contrary, marriage is created by God for a certain end. For Christian and non-Christian alike, marriage, rightly understood as a creation ordinance, is to be enjoyed and used as an aid toward true love, loyalty, stability and intentional selfless service to one another. Christians should take heed of Ash's warning: "Marriage lived in the light of the purpose of God will be dynamic and actively teleological; marriage considered only in terms of rules and definitions may be coldly static."
While the all-important work of public policy should continue to fortify the legal definitions and standing of marriage, local congregations should also be working to strengthen their own understanding of biblical marriage. Perhaps then, familial stability and parental duty will be founded on a biblical ethic that will transcend political pressure and outlast ballot initiatives.