The Meaning of Marriage

In two years I’ll have taught in seminary for half my life. Many professors who have taught for a while develop catch phrases or inspirational sayings that are suitable for framing. Here’s mine: “The sand of heresy in the oyster of orthodoxy produces the pearl of right doctrine.”

I know, right? The point of this silly saying is that heresy serves a function. It prompts us to develop orthodoxy. If what they are saying is wrong, then what is right? We respond to error by studying and savoring the truth.

In the fourth century, Arius’ mistaken view on Jesus provoked the church to develop our doctrine of the Trinity. In the sixteenth century, the Roman Catholic Church’s corruption, sacerdotal system, and justification by grace and works prompted the Reformers to develop our Protestant doctrine of authority, sacraments, and justification by faith alone. And today’s confusion about humanity, including what is a man and what is a woman, is an opportunity for us to examine and appreciate why God made us as he did.

Our culture’s current confusion is dangerous. We are destroying the foundation of civilization. Until very recently, no culture questioned the definition of male, female, and marriage. Everyone from east to west, north to south, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, and what have you assumed basic biological facts. Now all of it seems up for grabs.

This is scary. But it’s also an opportunity for us to present a positive case for sex and marriage. No one thought to do this before because no one questioned this before. As the fourth century ended with a better understanding of the trinity, and the sixteenth century ended with a better understanding of salvation, so our generation should end with a heightened understanding of sex and marriage.

To this end, two weeks ago I posted a section from my recent sermon that discussed the differences between men and women. Today, I’ll post a brief section from our church’s new confession. Since sex is patterned after our triune God (Gen 1:27), I took the glory of the Father, the beauty of the Son, and the power of the Spirit as starting points for understanding the glory, beauty, and power of marriage. As time allows, I hope that myself or others might develop this further.

Here’s the confession:

God created humans as male and female. Our bodies are more than temporary residences for our souls. Our bodies are a vital part of who we are. Our bodies indicate whether we are male and female, and these hard facts take precedence over our feelings. We reject the Gnostic impulse that devalues our bodies and the physical world. Rather, we gratefully choose to love our body as God’s precious gift; love our differences as male and female; and love the spouse that we have chosen.

Monogamous marriage between one man and one woman is glorious. Tender and self-giving sexual union within these covenant bonds is an earthly echo of the perichoretic, interwoven union of our triune God and of Christ and his church. All other sexual unions are dehumanizing and degrading, idolatrous parodies of our highest and most intimate pleasures.

Monogamous marriage between one man and one woman is beautiful. Sameness is redundant, tiresome, and fruitless, so God built complementary counterparts into creation: heaven and earth, day and night, evening and morning, land and sea, work and rest, winter and summer, and male and female.

Monogamous marriage between one man and one woman is powerful. Only heterosexual union can produce life, and only heterosexual marriage supplies the father and mother that children need to become socialized adults who lead their own stable families that serve the common good.








One response to “The Meaning of Marriage”

  1. Tim Miskimen

    Thank you for guiding and filling the discussion with biblical patterns. May we be brave enough to state the obvious for the protection of our families and most particularly women and children.

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