Church authority vs. state authority over marriage

As gay marriage becomes the law of the land in many jurisdictions and, very likely in the near future, in the whole country, some Christians are saying, well, marriage is a religious function anyway.  Let the state do whatever it wants in regards to redefining marriage.  Or, better yet, let it get out of the marriage business.  We Christians will uphold real marriage, and we don’t need the state to let us do that.

Well, that might work if we were all Roman Catholics.  The church of Rome used to control and regulate all marriages.  But the Reformers took issue with that, insisting that the state should be in charge of marriage.

First, marriage is not a sacrament.  That means non-Christians no less than Christians can enter into this estate.  True, God is the one who joins together.  But the estate of marriage is a critical way that God governs His earthly kingdom.

Second, it follows that, according to the Reformers, the regulation of marriage specifically belongs to civil magistrates and NOT to the church.  This is reflected in the Lutheran Confessions at several points, perhaps most explicitly in the Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope:

77] There remains the jurisdiction in those cases which, according to canonical law, pertain to the ecclesiastical court, as they call it, and especially in cases of matrimony. This, too, the bishops have only by human right, and that, not a very old one, as appears from the Codex and Novellae of Justinian that decisions concerning marriage at that time belonged to the magistrates. And by divine right worldly magistrates are compelled to make these decisions if the bishops [judge unjustly or] are negligent. The canons also concede the same. Therefore, also on account of this jurisdiction it is not necessary to obey bishops.

78] And, indeed, since they have framed certain unjust laws concerning marriages, and observe them in their courts, there is need also for this reason to establish other courts. For the traditions concerning spiritual relationship [the prohibition of marriage between sponsors] are unjust. Unjust also is the tradition which forbids an innocent person to marry after divorce. Unjust also is the law which in general approves all clandestine and underhanded betrothals in violation of the right of parents. Unjust also is the law concerning the celibacy of priests. There are also other snares of consciences in their laws, to recite all of which is of no profit. It is sufficient to have recited this, that there are many unjust laws of the Pope concerning matrimonial subjects on account of which the magistrates ought to establish other courts.

via Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope – Book of Concord.

Now perhaps the church might have to retake control, at least over its members.  And, has been observed, this would also be the chance to re-assert its other teachings about marriage that have largely been forgotten, as in rejecting divorce.

But the state does have legitimate authority over marriage.  This poses a theological problem for Protestants and perhaps especially for Lutherans, since our confessional position is laid out so fully.  Could someone work out the parameters for this, taking into account the Doctrine of the Two Kingdoms?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Paul

    Might it be possible to distinguish between (1) the non-exclusive, civil contract of “marriage”, and (2) the exclusive, sacramental action of “Holy Matrimony”? Such a distinction appears justified for two reasons. First, while the State surely has power to govern, regulate, and administer the civil contract of “marriage”, the State does not invoke the Lord’s blessing or empowerment when executing its civil authority. Thus, even though the State may refer to “marriage” as “Holy Matrimony”, the State seeks only to act within a legal, civil sphere; there is nothing “Holy” about its authority – and the State would readily concede as much. More importantly, even if the State were, for some reason, to claim spiritual authority for the purpose of designating a civil contract as “Holy”, its claim would be hollow. Second, while “marriage” is by no means an exclusive estate, it would seem that those who, proclaiming Christ, enter into “marriage”, while specifically invoking the Lord’s blessing and empowerment, are seeking (through an effectual sign) something more than just a civil contract. Such people are entering into something that, by the grace of God, is truly “Holy”. For this reason, it would seem that “Holy Matrimony” necessarily includes, yet simultaneously transcends, “marriage”.

    Perhaps this approach offers a satisfactory means for beginning to reconcile the authority of the two kingdoms when it comes to marriage?

  • Dan

    I question the authority of the writers of the Book of Concord to give the state control of marriage. Of course had they realized what would be happening 500 years later they probably chosen their words more carefully. It is a perfect example of unintended consequences.

  • James Sarver

    “But the state does have legitimate authority over marriage.”

    I think that is overreaching, and not at all what the Confessions are attempting to address. The state does not have “authority” over marriage any more than it has authority over gravity or the laws of thermodynamics. The authority of the state to keep order among men flows from the authority of familes to do so (4th commandment) and families have their basis in marriage. Our modern thinking has this backwards. Not everything in the “kingdom of the left hand” is automatically the domain of human government.

    The LCMS CTCR has this to say (and much else) about marriage in its report on human sexuality:

    “The essence of marriage does not consist in legal requirements nor in ecclesiastical ceremonies. To say otherwise would be to retract the Biblical emphasis on marriage as a worldly or earthly institution. Not the pronouncement of a minister but the consent of the partners belongs to the essence of marriage.”

    I think they got it right.

  • Dan

    Good stuff James.

  • SKPeterson

    I believe that what the State has control over are the contractual obligations between man and wife entailed by marriage. It is providing the legal framework within which a household is established and how property and inheritance are to be dealt with. The role of the Church has been to bless such arrangements under the auspices of “what God has joined.”

    In this instance, the State could allow homosexual marriage to occur. However, that should not compel the Church to bless these marriages by requiring the use of church facilities or the presence of a minister, nor to recognize them as valid within the Church. The argument here again being “what God has joined” and not “what Man (or the State) has joined.”

    This gets all messed up when we look at the OT, though. We argue about Sarah and Hagar, or Rebecca and Leah, or the wives of David or Solomon. To be sure, the Bible never says that these marriages or relationships conform to God’s ideal, though we get a taste of that ideal with David, Uriah and Bathsheba. However, there is never any mention of a civil state or religious ceremony at the marriage, only indications of some wedding celebrations indicating that marriage was a common law contract between man and (well man, i.e. closest male relative) and wife.

    We could advocate returning to that state of affairs: common law marriage which would suddenly make lots of people married who assiduously avoid the trappings of “official” state-sanctioned marriage.

  • Carl Vehse

    “But the state does have legitimate authority over marriage.”

    But not the abuse and perversion of marriage, which is being attempted by the Traitorobama regime, assorted state and judicial obamawhores, and, of course, the Demonicrats.

    And not one imprecatory prayer from the CTCR against such wickedness.

  • Don

    The state may have legitimate authority over marriage in terms of enforcement of contractual agreements, administration and order. I do question that authority in terms of redefining the essence of marriage i.e. meaning.

  • Joe

    The state has authority over marriage because the gov’t has decided to attach legal rights, obligations and benefits to the married couple. As to these aspects of marriage, the state rules. The Church has authority over marriage because it on the basis of the Word recognizes rights, obligations and blessings that flow from God through marriage to the married people and to others. The fact that these two very separate institutions see marriage differently is no real surprise is it?

    In the Jim Crow South, were marriage better blacks and whites was illegal, do you think there were no churches who would marry an interracial couple? I would bet we could find church records of such things – they just would not have filled out the marriage license after the service.

    From a practical point of view, the gay marriage issue is just the opposite side of that coin. The state can marry who it wants, but the church need not recognize the marriage as valid.

  • Jon

    Let’s see: the state can control marriage, but not to define/determine who can and cannot get married?

    How does that work?

    No, I think Dan @2 might have a point.

  • Gene Veith

    This is helpful, everybody, and the kind of thinking we need to be doing. I especially appreciate what James Sarver says, that the laws of marriage are more like the laws of gravity, something built into the created order. Also, pertinent is the point that the “kingdom of the left” is not solely a matter of the state and its government. We can also think in terms of cultural norms and other social institutions, especially the family (though that’s exactly what’s at issue). And note that I am trying to think through all of this in terms of the Lutheran confessions, which I know that not all of you adhere to. I urge those of you of other persuasions to think about this in terms of your own theology. (For example, does your tradition think marriage is a “sacrament”? If you are Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox, that is going to be very helpful. If you are a Protestant–Baptist, Reformed, Pentecostal,or whatever–your theology doesn’t give you that option, unless you agree on that point with the Catholics.

    Let me try to advance the discussion by posing a different question: We can consider, “what is the state’s interest in marriage?” Perhaps we should also consider, “what is the church’s interest in marriage?”

    Yes, it’s established in the Word of God, but so are other ordinances and institutions followed by believers and non-believers alike (e.g., earthly government, economic activity, cultural productions).

    There was a time when the church dictated every aspect of marriage, with major restrictions on who could marry who and preventing large classes of people from marrying at all (namely, pastors, nuns, monks, and other church workers). The Reformers said the state should have jurisdiction to free up marriage. Now, arguably, there may come a time when the state is going to mess up the institution of marriage, and perhaps the church should assert its role. (In fact, if you read the passage from the Confessions closely, I think it makes provision for that.) But, again, how do we apply all of this? I think Paul, Joe, and SKPeterson have some helpful ideas.

  • James Sarver

    SKPeterson @ #5,

    “We could advocate returning to that state of affairs: common law marriage which would suddenly make lots of people married who assiduously avoid the trappings of “official” state-sanctioned marriage.”

    Common law marriage was/is simply the legal acknowledgement that marriage existed without the sanction or intervention of the state (or church). It is the attempt of the legal system to deal with demands for benefits or dispute resolution on the basis of something that exists outside of that system. That legal concept creates nothing. Most U.S. states no longer recognize it because it is a pain to make a legal determination of the intent of two individuals (regarding consent and permanence ). The states have largely said “Get a license in order to display your intent and get benefits.” That doesn’t mean nobody is married without it. The government does not own marriage.

  • James Sarver

    Joe @ #8,

    “The state can marry who it wants, but the church need not recognize the marriage as valid.”

    The state can also, in the interest of equal protection, declare that gravity must act upon all persons equally, regardless of body mass. It’s only fair, right?

    The interest of the state in marriage is the interest in preserving order, not in marriage itself. This is the concept of civil union. There was a time when this was pretty much synonymous with marriage but not so much now. The LGBT lobby could have civil union. Most Americans are in favor of equal protection. But that is apparently not satisfactory. Somebody else has something they want , marriage. They want to make us all say they can, as if that makes it so. Thus Justice Roberts’ comment about making a child say someone is his friend.

  • Steve Bauer

    Dan @2 has a good point. I think we need to remember that when Luther and the Confessions were considering these issues, they were assuming that the ruler was Christian or at least operating out of a Christian worldview. They assumed “Christendom”.

    The Church’s interest in maintaining the Biblical vision of marriage is that it is part of God’s gift of “oneness” to our humanity, He proclaimed it good, and it serves the neighbor.

    And, if you will, it is a “mystery” that reflects the relationship between Christ and His Church (Eph. 5:31-21).

  • Steve Bauer

    I meant Eph. 5:31-32. Sorry.

  • FWS

    This ignores, for Lutherans, THE larger issue.
    Lutheran Confessions (Large Catechism 4th Commandment, Apology art VII and VIII):

    1) There are three “ordos” or governments that God has established on earth: the Household, the Holy Catholic Church, and Civil Society.
    2) ALL three of these earthly governments are ENTIRELY Romans 8 flesh that will perish with the earth and pertain, alone, to this earthly life. They are , all, carnal righteousness. Marriage is no more holy than the Divine institution of secular government or the Church. The Church is no more holy or divinely instituted than the Secular Government. the LCMS is no more holy or divine than the IRS.
    3) Romans 8 “Spirit” is , Alone, faith, alone, in Christ , alone. alone alone alone. alone.
    4) Romans 8 carnal righeousness vs spirit is not the profane vs the churchly, civil vs religious, or even vice vs virtue. The movement in Romans 8 is the movement from Virtue and Morality and Righteousness to, alone, faith , alone, in Christ , alone.

  • http://www.redeemedrambling.blogspot.com Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist

    The problem here is that at some point someone will disregard his marriage vows and abuse his family or leave them destitute. When this happens someone must have the right of force to enact justice. Child support, wage garnishment – even prison. The church can never have that power. So, I have to agree with Dr. Veith, the state does have legitimate authority over marriage.

  • FWS

    Steve @ 13

    Vines and pig stomachs are also illustrations of the Divine Mysteries. The Gospel is often used to illustrate the Divine Law. Eph 5 is a great example of this being done.

    Marriage is , alone, Romans 8 carnal righeousness that is , always and alone, about mortification of the flesh.

    Marriage, as is every other government all has the eternal consequence of …. death.

    There is no Life in anything at all that we can sense in thought, word and deed.

    This is the larger Law Gospel point our Confessions make that is the essential take home point they Confessions seek to make.

  • James Sarver

    fws @ #17,

    “Marriage is , alone, Romans 8 carnal righeousness that is , always and alone, about mortification of the flesh. ”

    In light of that, is it your position that there was no marriage before the fall?

  • Dr Luther in the 21st Century

    @17 With the Gospel language of Ephesians 5 we cannot say marriage and specifically Christian marriage is only about the mortification of the flesh. You are pitting passage against passage and that isn’t right, by insisting it is only a matter of the Law. Ephesians 5 raises Marriage beyond the mundane of the flesh. It brings into marriage a powerful spiritual component in the Gospel expressed in water and word. If you insist on making marriage solely about the Law you make Baptism a Law and that is grave error. In the Gospel there is life, in a relationship built around the Gospel there is life. And in the Gospel we are made holy. And in Ephesians we see marriage elevated to a new realm for not just physical well being but also spiritual well-being for it becomes a vehicle to carry the Gospel.

    Does this mean one is saved by being married? By no means, marriage is also of the Law. As it is said it is better to be married than to burn up in lust, and it is commanded that a man should leave his family and that man and woman should be one flesh.

    For the unbeliever Marriage never goes beyond the Law. But for the believer it also becomes about the Gospel.

    “There is no Life in anything at all that we can sense in thought, word and deed.”
    Do you really want to go there, FWS? Are you really sure you want to go there? If you do – you have said there is no life in the Sacraments and you are denying the Gospel.

  • James Sarver

    Gene Veith @ #10,

    “(For example, does your tradition think marriage is a “sacrament”? If you are Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox, that is going to be very helpful. If you are a Protestant–Baptist, Reformed, Pentecostal,or whatever–your theology doesn’t give you that option, unless you agree on that point with the Catholics.”

    The RC sacramental view does allow for “natural” marriage otherwise it would run counter to RC views of natural law. This is not so different from Protestant ideas about “covenant” marriage as opposed to common marriage that have recently become popular. The point is that all of it is starting from the wrong place, mistakenly attempting to locate marriage in or divide it between the “ordos”.

  • Eric

    It might be a state function, but for the United States, it is not a federal government function. That authority was clearly delegated to the individual states. I personally would have no trouble with individual states deciding how they want to act and the federal government not conferring any special privileges or advantages to any specific segment of the population. If the federal government stayed within the bounds of the constitution, this would be trivial to accomplish.

  • JDB

    This is an interesting discussion, in part because it is going to create some really delicate situations for pastors and congregations that regard homosexual marriage as illegitimate and sinful. How do we deal with those who, in the eyes of the state, are in a legal, legitimate, and normal relationship? It could get dicey.
    With regard to the state’s interest, I agree with Paul @1 that its interest is to govern, regulate, and administer the civil contract. As such, it can technically give these to whom it wishes. The church, on the other hand, beseeches the blessing of God upon this union. As such, it would only perform weddings that it knows to to be pleasing to God, as regulated by the Word.
    However, what is being missed by such a delineation is the fact that the blessing and benefits of marriage are more than merely a legal or churchly matter. It is also a matter of society. Every society has the right to reproduce and propagate itself, and to raise up the next generation. And every society has the right to give preference to those relationships that do that best. Marriage between one man and one woman does this best. Raising children in a stable, two parent home is ideal; and the society has the right to look for the state to confer the benefits accordingly.

  • Martin R. Noland

    Dear Dr. Veith,

    Thanks for elucidating this difficult and controversial subject in a helpful way.

    If the Supreme Court should mandate the approval of gay marriage for all the states in the USA, or even it simply permits the individual states to approve the same, the result for Christian churches in those states will be that they have to rethink their relationship to the civil authorities in this matter.

    I can see at least four different approaches: Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Reformed/Evangelical, and Liberal Protestant. The Catholics will seek an answer to these problems from their Magisterium. Some of the Liberal Protestant churches have already, individually, approved of gay marriage far in advance of the courts or legislatures (specifically, the Episcopal, U.C.C., ELCA, northern Baptists, and PCUSA). I can’t speak for the Reformed/Evangelical churches.

    The Lutheran churches traditionally placed the administration of marriage in the state, as Dr. Veith has observed. Luther did not want the church involved in determining the civil law, because there were not enough true Christians to make it work: “Take heed and first fill the world with real Christians before you attempt to rule it in a Christian and evangelical manner. This you will never accomplish; for the world and the masses are and always will be un-Christian, even if they are all baptized and Christian in name. Christians are few and far between (as the saying is)” (Luther’s Works 45:91; see 90-93 for entire discussion).

    In his most comprehensive treatise on marriage, Luther concludes: “I advise my dear brothers, the pastors and clergy to refuse to deal with marriage matters as worldly affairs covered by temporal laws and to divest themselves of them as much as they can. Let the authorities and officials deal with them, except where their pastoral advice is needed in matters of conscience” (Luther’s Works 46:317-318). It seems to me that “gay marriage” is a matter of conscience, i.e., a matter of determining right and wrong, and thus the pastors and clergy will need to give “pastoral advice” at all levels of society if “gay marriage” is approved by law.

    For a very helpful discussion about how the Lutherans put these ideas of Luther into practice, please read: John Witte, Jr., “Law and Protestantism: The Legal Teachings of the Lutheran Reformation” (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), esp. pp. 199-256.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland
    Pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church, Evansville, Indiana
    Ph.D., Union Theological Seminary-New York (1996)

  • Grace

     ‏

     ‏  ‏ WAKE UP! It’s not just marriage, it involves our children as well.

    MSNBC Host: Your Kids Belong to the Collective

    Kurt Nimmo
    Infowars.com
    April 6, 2013

    “In the video below, college professor and MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry says your children are not yours – they are owned by the community. She says public education has failed because we have not allowed the state to confiscate more of our money.

    “We have to break through our private idea that kids belong to their parents or kids belong to their families,” says the professor of political science at Tulane University, where she is founding director of the Anna Julia Cooper Project on Gender, Race, and Politics in the South. Kids belong to whole communities, she insists, and once we realize this we’ll make “better investments” in government indoctrination of children.”

  • Grace
  • Joe

    JDB – How is it anymore dicey that dealing with no fault divorce? Or how does the Church deal with two consenting adults who are legally having sex but are not married? Or how does the Church deal with a women who has had a legal abortion?

    The answer is simple, it calls the sinner to repent and offers the healing salve of the gospel. Ultimately, where necessary, the Church goes through the process of excommunication in the hope that the person will repent and to protect the faith of the other members. State sanctioned gay marriage is not some strange beast that has no parallel in the history of the Church having to be the Church in a hostile political environment. It might do us some good to remember that the Church is, and always will be, counter-cultural.

  • Grace

     ‏‏

     ‏‏  ‏‏ Take no part in unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.
      ‏‏  ‏‏Ephesians 5:11

     ‏‏

    Check out #25 – – we wouldn’t be having a discussion about “marriage” if it were not for homosexuals demanding to marry one another.

     ‏‏   1963 COMMUNIST GOALS FOR AMERICA

    EXTENSION OF REMARKS OF HON. A.. S. HERLONG, JR. OF FL IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

    Entered into the Congressional Record–Appendix, PP. A34-A35 . On Thursday, January 10, 1963

    “’24. Eliminate all laws governing obscenity by calling them “censorship” and a violation of free speech and free press. ACLU & ALA in public & school libraries encourage obscenity to harm our children. Schools should not be free speech zones.

    -25. Break down cultural standards of morality by promoting pornography and obscenity in books, magazines, motion pictures, radio, and TV. [ textbooks]['Break down [family] standards of morality’] [MTV, cable & "R" rated trash.]
    ’26. Present homosexuality, degeneracy and promiscuity as “normal, natural, healthy.

    -32. Support any socialist movement to give centralized control over any part of the culture–education, social agencies, welfare programs, mental health clinics, etc. [ e.g. The unconstitutional Federal Dept. Of Education, funding, et. Al.]

    ’27. Infiltrate the churches and replace revealed religion with “social” religion.

    -28. Eliminate prayer or any phase of religious expression in the schools on the ground that it violates the principle of “separation of church and state.” [ This was a reality after the Court perjurously invented the “separation of church and state” in Everson v Bd. Ed 1947. Note: Engel v. Vitale, 82 S. Ct.1261 (1962) & Schempp, 374 U.S. 203 (1963),

    29 Discredit the American Constitution by calling it inadequate, old-fashioned, out of step with modern needs, a hindrance to cooperation between nations on a worldwide basis.”

    http://www.asleepknowmore.com/communist_goals_for_america%201963.htm

    Read the entire list, especially those that are underlined.

  • kerner

    Joe @26:

    I’m not disagreeing with you, but I see marriage related issues as being a lot more complicated than abortion. An abortion is a one time event in the past that can be repented of and left in the past (I know the psychological effects linger on, but I am talking about more concrete practicalities).

    When a person divorces his wife for sinful reasons, and remarries, maybe more than once, he now has problems that repentance does not leave in the past. Can he repent and be reconciled to his first wife, without sinning against his second wife? How does he ask the children of his first marriage for forgiveness when every day the effects of his sin hit them all over again?

    “Gay marriage” is going to impose this same set of problems on homosexual relationships. We can nowadays tell a person to repent of his/her sinful same sex behavior. But once that behavior is involved in something called “marriage” we are going to find ourselves with a whole raft of new moral problems to unscramble, some of which will not have obvious solutions. We will be essentially telling people that the only way to repent of sin A will be to commit sin B (break a lot of legally binding promises made to ones same sex partner). When there is no legally binding promise to a same sex partner, asking a person to repent of sin A is a lot easier.

  • Jon

    I’m not seeing which part of the Confession quote implicates that if the State messes it up, then they lose the right to govern marriage.

    The passage says that since the church and bishops messed it up by doing a list of “injusticies” that, therefore, by “divine right” another court (i.e., the state) was obligated to take the authority.

    Are you saying that it is implied that it “works both ways”–that there is some objective meaning of marriage from, perhaps, some type of a “natural order,” or a “just (proper) marriage” under Sarver’s “gravity” analogy, and that, therefore, whoever has the divine right to govern, be it the state or church, should they abandon it or otherwise muck it up, they then lose that divine right and it shifts back to some other “court” to take it up?

    Why didn’t the confessors just add that sentence at the end–that it could be taken from the state if they muck it all up?

  • Steve Bauer

    Joe @26,

    It is different because the churches have traditionally involved with the blessing of marriages (AND acting as an agent of the state in licensing marriages) but it hasn’t been so involved with divorces, abortions, etc.

    The church is going to have to distance itself from the state’s definition of marriage. This will ultimately loss of tax exemption status. That’s when we will see how committed to Christ’s Word churches are.

  • Joe

    Kerner – I see your point on abortion. But I think my point remains valid wrt to divorce. Yeah, its more difficult for the pastor and congregation when people take their sin down a legal road that causes even more sin. But the fact that something is hard doesn’t mean we get to ignore it or that we can force the secular world to see things our way. The living are called the Church Militant for a reason – its because the very nature of Christianity is a struggle against the world, the devil and our old Adam …

    Steve – I fail to see a distinction. The Church was a licensing agent for the couple that ends their marriage via no-fault divorce. It is still intertwined with a legal definition of marriage that is different than Christ’s definition. That pastor by officiating seal their promises to stay together until death. And, that pastor as agent of the state seal their promise to stay together only until “irreconcilable differences” popped up and ruined all the fun.

  • Grace

    Joe

    There is only one way one may obtain a divorce and that is adultery. They then have a Biblical divorce, which entitles the one who has been the victim to marry again.

    And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.
    Matthew 19:9

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com bike bubba

    It seems to me that the argument from the Book of Concord hinges on the unjustness and un-Biblicality of Roman Catholic law on marriage, and as a result delegates it to the state. By the same logic, when the state screws it up, you give the authority to…..someone else, but who? Put mildly, if I’m reading it correctly, it’s not the world’s strongest argument for the state’s involvement in marriage, Biblically speaking.

    I would argue that by 1 Cor. 7, Ephesians 5, and other passages, the Church retains some jurisdiction, at least over her members, and that because of what happens to “weaker vessels” when Dad decides he’s going to split the popsicle joint, the state gets some jurisdiction over marriage contracts under Romans 13–because it is a wicked thing to abandon the defenseless.

    And that leaves the third Court to be the final one, from which there is no appeal.

  • Gary in FL

    Jon @ 29–I see your point, however I would not agree with your conclusion. From the standpoint of Luther and the Reformers, I think it’s supposed to be more like if the State abuses it’s authority to recognize and regulate marriage (and it might easily be argued gay marriage constitutes such abuse), God will judge the State. Luther understands the State’s authority is delegated authority from God. If the State abuses its authority, God won’t retract it to give to the Church, He’ll bring down those in authority and raise up others. That’ is, Luther expects God will replace the office holders with those who will rule by exercising their authority appropriately.

    When the State willfully abuses it authority (including taking for itself powers not granted to it by God) to oppress its citizens/subjects, then it can be said to have become tyrannical. Luther holds Christians suffering under tyranny are not for that reason excused to take part in rebellion. He would have Christians pray for their rulers to repent, and refusing to repent, for them to be overthrown. (Conquering invaders, for instance, would be one way to accomplish that end.)

    So it appears to me that for Lutherans convinced gay marriage is sin, the legal recognition of it by the State could be seen as abuse of power, and therefore tyrannical. The Lutheran response to that would be praying for either the rulers to repent, or failing that, praying for the end of the United States, and its replacement with a new State more committed to upholding decency/godliness. At least that’s my understanding of how Luther’s Left-hand Kingdom works.

  • Joe

    Grace – I understand how Biblical divorce works. What I was pointing out is that when the pastor signs the marriage license he is not acting as a pastor at that moment – he is acting as an agent of the state. Thus, the church is already intertwined with the gov’t’s concept and definition of marriage which is extremely different than God’s concept and definition of it.

    I’m not advocating for no-fault divorce, I merely pointing out that those who are crying out, “Oh no! what ever will the church do if same sex marriage becomes legal” need to recognize that we have been living in a society that legalized non-Biblical marriage a long time ago. We may have to alter some of the practices that we undertake, but the Church will not fall because the state has made an unbiblical decision

  • sg

    The state may have legitimate authority over marriage in terms of enforcement of contractual agreements, administration and order. I do question that authority in terms of redefining the essence of marriage i.e. meaning.

    The essence of marriage is children. That is really all their is to regulate. The point of having the state (aka the powerful men of the tribe) regulate marriage is to make sure that men support the children they father. Now that is done through various measures other than marriage. There is no good reason for two independent adults to need the state to meddle in their affairs. The state’s interest in marriage is really just an interest on behalf of the children. No children = No legitimate interest. Since marriage has been perverted to such an unrecognizable extent, many have forgotten its purpose and are perplexed by these questions.

  • sg

    Luther understands the State’s authority is delegated authority from God.

    In the words of Louis XIV, “I am the state.”

    Or more accurately, we are the state. As such, we are responsible to enact the laws through our elected representatives. And yes, our authority originally comes from God. If only adult male heads of households could vote, we would have a vastly different country. To start with, we wouldn’t be paying women a premium to have illegitimate children outside of marriage.

  • kerner

    sg @36:

    A little simplistic perhaps, but basically correct. From an anthropological standpoint, if it were not for the unusually long period of time and degree of effort needed to raise human children to adulthood (and the need to support women while they are doing their share of that effort), unusual that is compared to other species, marriage as we know it would not exist. From a theological standpoint, God created us in such a way that marriage as it has been traditionally understood would naturally develop, and that must have been the way He wanted it.

    Therefore, by trying to address the support of children and the women who gestate, bear, feed, and care for them by means other than marriage and the family, we are basically demolishing the important social institution of marriage and the family and replacing it with something very different…friends with benefits. And this is a bad idea, but an idea that has been largely adopted in western industrial culture.

  • Grace

    Joe @ 35

    ““Oh no! what ever will the church do if same sex marriage becomes legal” need to recognize that we have been living in a society that legalized non-Biblical marriage a long time ago. We may have to alter some of the practices that we undertake, but the Church will not fall because the state has made an unbiblical decision”

    Homosexual marriage IF LEGALIZED have negative ramifications. One is, it will clear the way further, for those so disposed to teach homosexuality, gender identification and a host of other related sexual ideas to be taught in public school.

    Read my post at 27 “1963 COMMUNIST GOALS FOR AMERICA” ✔ out number 26 on the list.

  • helen

    sg @ 37
    If only adult male heads of households could vote, we would have a vastly different country. To start with, we wouldn’t be paying women a premium to have illegitimate children outside of marriage.

    Would you be expecting such men to enact laws to make themselves responsible for their children?
    There was a time, (Richard III, of undeserved calumny, comes to mind but it was not uncommon) when men brought their “by-blows” home, raised and educated them (though I believe they were not allowed to inherit the family property).
    Women do not have children by spontaneous generation, but sometime you’d think so, from what men write about it!

  • helen

    Grace @ 39
    Homosexual marriage IF LEGALIZED have negative ramifications. One is, it will clear the way further, for those so disposed to teach homosexuality, gender identification and a host of other related sexual ideas to be taught in public school.
    That philosophy has been spreading through the schools for at least 50 years. How do you suppose “gay rights” has won majority approval among the under 30′s? The pervasivness of the “education” reached critical mass, that’s all.

  • Grace

    helen @ 41

    “That philosophy has been spreading through the schools for at least 50 years. How do you suppose “gay rights” has won majority approval among the under 30′s? The pervasivness of the “education” reached critical mass, that’s all.”

    Not true helen, maybe where you lived, but not where we lived up and down the coast of California.

    The subject of “homosexuality” was never mentioned when I was in school, and it wasn’t brought up when my family attended school as well, by teachers or books. Children as well as myself and my husband were never subjected to the subject, either in middle school or high school, (public school) I was born and raised in California, considered one of the liberal states, it would stand to reason, we would have known – in fact all EARS would have been tuned in, had it been even mentioned in passing.

    Homosexuality was talked about (not in school) when referring to Hollywood, the fashion industry, those who performed in dance, on stage and in film. Middle school through high school wasn’t a venue until the past 20 plus years, when homosexuality was discussed, because of AIDS, which was published in the Francisco Chronicle in 1981. I remember it well, it was the Sunday section, it was a long article. Then it became a talked about sexual and medical problem.

    Make no mistake, when we were in San Francisco, even before AIDS was announced, we knew as young adults about homosexuality, the bath houses, the streets where they hung out, ETC.

    AIDS at 30: Strides in care, focus on prevention
    HEALTH

    Erin Allday, San Francisco Chronicle
    Published 4:00 am, Saturday, June 4, 2011

    Today marks the official anniversary of the AIDS epidemic, when the first federal report came out, in 1981, about a rare pneumonia that was striking gay men. It would be another several months before doctors identified a virus as the cause of the disease, and at least a year before the name AIDS, for acquired immune deficiency syndrome, stuck.

    http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/AIDS-at-30-Strides-in-care-focus-on-prevention-2369228.php

  • sg


    “We have to break through our private idea that kids belong to their parents or kids belong to their families,” says the professor of political science”

    Ach wehe!

    Has this nit wit never heard of the tragedy of the commons? It is “our” street, but I don’t sweep leaves from in front of all the houses on my street. I only sweep them from the front of my house.

  • Grace

    The VIDEO below has just a short clip of the one I posted @ 24, however there is much more.

     ‏‏

    Collectivism

    The Alex Jones Channel
    Published on Apr 6, 2013

    Historically,when tyrants take over they come for the children. The enemy is moving on all fronts, the fact that they are so bold is key. This is a hot take over. The Cold War against liberty is ending!

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    Keep in mind that the Reformers were dealing with at the very least “Christianized” leaders, and that nothing so abhorrent and filthy as gay “marriage” was even on the table.
    But to subscribe to gay “marriage” is to exalt man over God. It is a celebration of that which God specifically abhors. It would be tantamount to conceding to the legalization of serial murdering even though the Bible says Thou shalt not murder. You cannot impenitently condone what God condemns and claim to be His child; that is faithlessness.

  • Lumpenkönig

    I have always thought that the very nature of homosexual behavior was rampant promiscuity. Why else would “glory holes” exist in public bathrooms throughout the USA. How would “marriage” fit in with the multiple partner lifestyle. Married or not, the fact that homosexuals are allowed to adopt and to raise children is wrong.

  • tODD

    Lumpen (@46), if the existence of “glory holes” is all it takes to convict all homosexuals of “rampant promiscuity” (I’ve never seen them, but I guess I haven’t been paying as close attention as you have), then surely there is even more evidence with which to damn the “very nature of heterosexual behavior”.

    But your comment suggests that you are way more familiar with the sins of homosexuals than you are those of heterosexuals. That either tells us something about your own experience, or — and this is my guess — it tells us that you have one heck of a blind spot, and you don’t know it.

  • Grace

    Lumpen @ 46

    “Why else would “glory holes” exist in public bathrooms throughout the USA. How would “marriage” fit in with the multiple partner lifestyle.”

    Strange you mention these so called “glory holes” – my husband and I lived in the San Francisco area for some time, my husband has never observed what you describe. We were in the city of S.F. often. What is well known, because of news reports, especially the S.F. Chronicle report in 1981 were, as you call it “glory holes” but in ‘BATH HOUSES, in the homosexual community, NOT in public restrooms.

    Where did you get your information? That is far more interesting!

  • FWS

    jdean @ 45

    You are equating gay men and women getting a marriage license to serial murder.
    Wow.

  • Steve P.

    Lumpen, Todd:

    In the rural Midwest, they were in parks and roadside rest stops. tODD, if you are trying to imply that since Lumpen knows they exist he must have used them or taken a prurient interest in them you are even stupider and more evil-minded than I thought you were.


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