Politics According to the Bible–Marriage

Posted: December 9, 2010 in Uncategorized

Dr. Wayne Grudem opens chapter 7 of his new book Politics According to the Bible (Zondervan, 2010) by asking the question, “Should government define and regulate marriage? And how should marriage be defined” 

Professor Grudem argues that Scripture clearly defines marriage as one man and one woman (Gen. 1:27-28 and Matt. 19:3-6).  The bond, according to the Bible, is eternal with the exception of infidelity (Matt. 19:9) or abandonment (1 Cor. 7:15). But should a secular government care?

Grudem argues, “Among the most important purposes of civil government, according to the Bible, are (1) to restrain evil, (2) to bring good to society, and (3) to bring order to society…[o]n all three grounds, a Christian should conclude that it is right for government to define and regulate marriage.”  Why?

“First, marriage restrains evil by promoting sexual faithfulness between a man and a woman, by establishing a legally binding commitment for parents to care for their children, by establishing a legally binding commitment for spouses to be financially responsible for and to care for one another, and by providing a legal protection to keep women from being exploited by men who might otherwise enjoy a sexual relationship for a time and then abandon a woman and any children she may have borne from that union.

Second, marriage brings good to society in multiple ways–in promoting social stability, economic well-being, educational and economic benefits for children, the transmission of moral and cultural values to the next generation, and a stable social unit for interactions within society…

Third, the establishment of marriage brings order to society so that the general public will know who is married and who is not…so that in various ways the society as a whole can know who is responsible for the care and protection and training of children, and the care of spouses who have medical or financial or other needs.  In this way, defining and regulating marriage gives stability and order to a society…”

Grudem goes on to argue that government is the only institution that can define and establish marriage for the whole society and that there are a number of specific practical benefits to it doing so.  For example, studies show that “married couples raise and nurture children far better than any other human relationship”

But why limit it to one man and one woman? Why not allow same-sex marriages? Here is where things potentially become heated! 

Grudem cites the research of psychiatrist Jeffrey Satinover who presented an exhaustive study in the 1990’s purporting to show that homosexual behavior is emotionally and medically unhealthy.  Grudem then argues that “laws in any society have a “teaching function” and that if homosexual relationships are affirmed by law then government assists in creating a culture that promotes a lifestyle that is physically and psychologically damaging.

Many Americans will become incensed by Grudem’s assertion but I have yet to see a careful, objective response to such an argument that it based in science.  I hear a lot of loud, rude yelling about homophobes and caustic commentators like Bill Maher cite the “gay gene” study that was actually disproved but little or nothing of true substance.  Of course, God’s Word trumps any purported study but without anything but a gut-level feeling from which to argue, I fail to see how anyone can disagree with Dr. Grudem.

Moreover, he has a point that laws have a “teaching function” in that they help define what is acceptable in a society.  For example, the number of abortions performed in America rose drastically after the Supreme Court handed down their decision in Roe v. Wade even in states where abortion was already legal.  Roe helped make abortion culturally acceptable and expanding the definition of marriage will potentially do the same for non-traditional relationships.

Grudem goes on to analyze the Constitutional questions regarding same-sex marriage but I will wait for everyone out there to take a deep breath and allow myself time to delete the nasty comments that will inevitably be posted to this post before moving on to that question.  Until then, grace and peace.

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