Should the church ‘get out of the marriage business?’

certificateBy Andrew Walker

Christians are frequently tempted to excuse themselves from the kerfuffle over same-sex marriage by insisting that the church should get out of the marriage business altogether. Many suggest that we should separate the conception of marriage into the “sacred” and the “secular.” These evangelicals aren’t questioning the Scripture’s teaching on homosexuality. Some Christians just want to bypass debate and focus on weightier matters within the church’s walls—like preserving the theology of marriage from being corrupted by democratic fiat.

This argument assumes that Christians can maintain and safeguard their own definition of marriage by refusing to impose a particular viewpoint in the public square. Often with good intentions, some Christians wish to privatize marriage into a strictly ecclesial practice, treating it like we would the Lord’s Supper or baptism.

But therein lays the problem: The church’s theology on marriage, while certainly ecclesial, isn’t sectarian. Marriage leads one outside the walls of the church and into the public square because marriage, by design, reveals a certain cosmology about our essence as being made male and female. Marriage has an innately public purpose by bringing together the two halves of humanity. If you embrace man as man and woman as woman, you might be on the losing end of a culture war over marriage, but you’ll be on the side of truth when the dust settles about human nature.



Comments 1

  • What the government gives, the government can take away. In the state of Ohio (where I serve), I must apply to the Secretary of State and pay a fee for a license to solemnize marriages. As state laws defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman fall like dominoes, how long will it be before Ohio tells me that I may not discriminate in solemnizing marriages or I will not be allowed to solemnize any? I am not advocating that the Church refuse to try to “impose a particular viewpoint in the public square”; rather, I support getting out of the business of acting as agents for the state lest the public square impose its particular viewpoint on the Church.

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