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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How can God love the world?

We often speak of God’s presence in vocation, of His providential “providing” for His creation, of His care for non-believers as well as believers, and other manifestations of God’s love for the world.  But how is that possible?  The world is fallen.  God is holy.  Holiness cannot abide sin.  So how is it that God can love the world?

David Scaer gives a startling answer in his book Law and Gospel and the Means of Grace. [Read more…]

The candidates and the Two Kingdoms

I’ve been studying the Lutheran doctrine of the Two Kingdoms, which has some interesting applications to our controversies today.  Christian defenders of Donald Trump are saying that his sexual transgressions show that he isn’t a saint.  But he is well-suited to the pragmatic, rough-and-tumble world of secular government, and that’s what we need in a presidential candidate.

Well, according to the doctrine of the Two Kingdoms, God’s spiritual Kingdom is ruled by the Gospel, but His earthly Kingdom is ruled by the Law.  That is to say, morality does apply precisely to secular government.

UPDATE:  Specifically, the first use of the Law, the civil use, which curbs external vices.  Though it cannot justify or get at our internal sinfulness, it restrains the outward expression of that sinfulness.  Such restraint and self-control can be practiced, to a certain extent, by all members of society, which depends on some kind of moral order.

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Christian leaders threaten civil disobedience

A number of prominent Christian leaders are threatening civil disobedience if the Supreme Court rules that gay marriage is constitutionally mandated.  Here is the statement and here are the signers.  I’m curious what acts of civil disobedience they have in mind.  An account of the pledge after the jump.

I didn’t notice any Lutheran signers.  Why would that be?  What would a Two Kingdoms approach to the current controversy look like?  [Read more…]

Christianity’s relationship of opposition

The Orthodox Rod Dreher, who quoted Bonhoeffer in an essay on Christians separating themselves from the world, quotes another Lutheran, Søren Kierkegaard.  In his Attack upon “Christendom”, his devastating critique of the Danish state church and “cultural Christianity,” Kierkegaard argues that inherent to the faith is “a relationship of opposition” to the world.  He also makes the point that the final apostasy will not be when everybody renounces Christianity but when everybody claims to be a Christian. [Read more…]