A confessional text on marriage, natural law & human law


Since Lutherans believe that marriage is a civil ordinance rather than a sacrament (though still established by God that speaks to us of Christ and the Church), they have traditionally looked to the state for marriage laws.

But now that the state has legalized same-sex marriage, contrary to the Scriptures, this would seem to have put Lutherans in a bind.

But, as Rev. John Hill has pointed out in his lectures on truth, the Lutheran confessions do offer a framework for addressing this.

In Article XXIII of the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Philipp Melanchthon explains why priests should be allowed to marry, despite the prohibitions of canon law.

In doing so, he discusses natural law (who says Lutherans don’t believe in that?), its connection to divine law (since God created the natural order), and how human-made laws must not conflict with them.

I know how liberal Lutherans will take Article XXIII:  As it says, lifelong celibacy is impossible for most people.  That would include homosexuals.  Marriage is God’s provision for sexual desire.  Therefore, homosexuals should be allowed to marry each other, and human laws against it should carry no weight.

But Melanchthon is specifically talking, in detail, about the sexual love between men and women.  This is what is grounded in natural and divine law, and nothing else.  Human laws that teach something to the contrary, including no doubt laws with a different definition of marriage, should carry no weight.  Melanchthon also discusses “concupiscence,” which is disordered sexual desire, which would include all kinds of sexual immorality.  I suspect he would include homosexuality in that category.

Read the Apology, Article XXIII, after the jump. [Read more…]

Marriage Is a Civil Matter, Not a Church Power


With the government legalizing same sex marriage, many Christians and their pastors are asking, what does marriage have to do with the state?  It’s a religious institution.  Let the church marry people and the state can stay out of it.

Some pastors are marrying couples who aren’t bothering to get a marriage license.  In some cases, elderly couples are asking pastors to marry them “in the eyes of God, but not the state” so that they can avoid the legal entanglements and financial issues that come with an official, government sanctioned marriage.

But Rev. John Frahm explains why the church cannot marry people outside of the civil ordinances.  If you are a Catholic, believing that marriage is a sacrament, that might work.  But not if you are a Protestant.  This was actually an issue during the Reformation.  The church had so many restrictions and so much control over marriages that the Reformers pushed for the civil authorities to regulate and conduct marriages, which would then be blessed in a church service.  (Or conducted in a church with the pastor functioning as an officer of the state.  “By the power vested in me by the state of Oklahoma, I now pronounce you husband and wife.”)

Lutherans particularly cannot “leave the government out of marriage.”  Their confessions and theology don’t let them.

This by no means diminishes the value or significance of marriage, which was established by God and which mirrors Christ and the Church.  God is still the One who “joins together” (Matthew 19:6).  It’s just that God uses the civil realm to bring men and women into this vocation.

But what if the state interferes with God’s design, as it is doing with same sex marriage, easy divorce laws, and the like?  Pastors mustn’t cooperate with those.  But that doesn’t negate the state’s general responsibility for marriage.

Read Rev. Frahm’s discussion after the jump.

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Exploding myths about cohabitation

1171173373_12cd9932e3_zUniversity of Virginia sociologist Bradford Wilcox has published a study of the effects of cohabitation, couples living together without marriage.  He especially looked at the impact on children when their parents are not married.  He quantified his study by examining what percentage of children over time are still living with their parents.

Now one could deduce using common sense that couples who are not married are going to have less stable families, with children being adversely affected.  This study, though, gives an abundance of empirical data.  Not only that, it looks at cohabitation globally, finding consistent patterns across nationalities and cultures.  And it explodes at least three common myths that people had assumed about cohabitation.

The complete study is here.  Read an interview with Prof. Wilcox on his findings after the jump.

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The two kinds of romantic love

8096547973_367546a4eb_zOne kind of romantic love leads to life–to marriage, fruitful sexuality, children, family, virtue.  The other kind of romantic love leads to death–to sin, sterile sexuality, abortion, family destruction, ruin.

These two kinds of romantic love are explored in one of the most morally illuminating books of literary criticism I have ever read:  Love in the Western World by the Swiss Christian scholar Denis de Rougement.

A romance novel will often set up a triangle in which a woman has to choose between two suitors:  One is a good guy who cares for her, whom her parents like, and who would make a good husband.  The other is nearly a villain, an “anti-hero” who sometimes mistreats her, is a social outcast from her circles, and who even seems dangerous.  Young adults novels are often built around the same pattern,  with the choice between an all-American popular boy and a troubled, misunderstood, passionate “bad boy.”  Many literary novels have been about a happily married man who is lured away from his angelic wife by an exotic, sensual, forbidden beauty.

Sometimes the characters make the right choice in committing themselves to the good person.  But, more often than not, they choose the one who is bad “in society’s eyes,” but who offers them excitement, passion, and the thrill of transgression.  Romance and young adult novels often stop when the choice is made, imposing a “happily ever after ending.”  But honest works of literature, like Anna Karenina, show what happens next, with the forbidden love resulting in ruin, despair, and even death.

More importantly, the pattern keeps asserting itself in real life.   [Read more…]

Pastors have happier marriages, stronger families than usual

Luther_im_Kreise_seiner_Familie_musizierendBarna Research has published a new study on the problems, challenges, and personal life of pastors.  (You can buy the study here.)  Among many other findings is that, on the whole, pastors have much happier marriages and much better relationships with their children than typical Americans.

And yet, despite their strong families, pastors report that their ministries have sometimes put a strain on their marriages and children.

[Read more…]

The ethical non-monogamy community

Carl Trueman reflects on an interview with a member of “the ethical non-monogamy community.”  That is, a married mother who has sex with men she isn’t married to and who argues that her promiscuity is good for her children because it makes her a better mother.  (Should this be another protected sexual identity?)

She claims to be “sex positive”–that is, that she has a positive attitude towards sex–but Prof. Trueman shows that she is really “sex negative.” [Read more…]