What is Marriage?

What does the institution of marriage have to do with society, with families and children, and with persons?

Established at creation and part of the created order, marriage’s foundation and definition may be found in Natural Law. The innate sexual, physical, mental, and emotional characteristics distinctive to each of the two sexes establishes the mutual complementarity of man and woman. The exclusive procreative attributes proper to the different, yet equal, counterparts of man and woman is constitutive of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. From this union of man and woman comes procreation—children are an obvious, distinctive, and natural gift of marriage, as in the natural course each child originates from the “one-flesh” union of the man and woman. The lifelong marriage union endures, just as naturally, as the optimal setting for the nurture of children.

As a matter of Natural Law,[1] the marriage of man and woman—as other matters of Natural Law such as the sanctity of the life and dignity of the person, the protection of family and home and of property and possessions—belongs to the authority of those placed in public office. Governments and public servants properly exercise their authority when they act to uphold and strengthen the institution of marriage (along with the other institutions of Natural Law) for the health of society and the benefit of families.

As Christian pastors, ministers, and priests (i.e., clergy of Trinitarian churches[2]) we speak clearly and with unanimity of what marriage is as revealed in the Sacred Scriptures. From the Bible we learn of marriage as the lifelong union of one man and one woman: the man and the woman are “one-flesh” according to God’s institution. The purpose of the institution of marriage is not only the mutual support and care of the man and the woman, but also the procreation of children and establishment of family.

No mere social construct, contract, relationship of choice, or personal convenience, marriage stands throughout history as an institution created by God and given to us for our good and society’s health and benefit.  God instituted marriage in his creation of man and woman (Genesis 1:27-28; Genesis 2:18-24; Matthew 19:4-6). In this way, marriage of man and woman extends to every time and place on Earth and includes every man and woman who are joined together in the one-flesh union—it endures as foundational to healthy society throughout history.

For the Christian, marriage stands not only as a fact of Natural Law and the created order, but also as an image of salvation given for the sinner and the blessing bestowed upon the Church. The Triune God reveals marriage as a picture of the union between Christ and his Bride, the Church (Ephesians 5:20-23). As Christ cares for the Church, so a man is given to care for and pour himself out for his own wife. As the Church loves and honors her Groom Christ Jesus, so a woman is given to love and honor her husband. Christ and his Bride the Church are the fullness of the God-given marriage union, so that from this knowledge the husband and wife are given the sureness that their marriage is instituted by the Lord with his blessing that this “one-flesh” union stands until death parts them. The marriage of man and woman is not denied or denigrated, nor redefined as something else, by Christians. Rather, the Lord’s institution of marriage is extolled and held in honor among all Christians (Hebrews 13:4; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-4; Exodus 20:14).

Marriage is instituted by the Lord for the benefit and health of men and women, families and children. The Triune God—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—instituted marriage as an exclusive, complementary, mutual, lifelong union of man and woman. The Lord’s statement that “What God has joined together, let no one tear apart” stands as his instruction and promise that he joins the man and woman together as “one-flesh”—a “one-fleshness” that belongs to nothing else in creation.

[1] See What is Marriage?: Man and Woman: A Defense, Sherif Girgis, Ryan T. Anderson, and Robert P. George (Encounter Books, 2012).

[2] Christian churches and congregations are those which confess the doctrine of the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed (the Nicene Creed with the filioque clause or without). I.e., Trinitarian.

* If you are a Trinitarian pastor, priest, or clergy of New Mexico and would like to sign onto this statement please go to the “Sign On” page and fill in the appropriate information.  After contact has been made with you to verify your desire to sign on to the statement your name will be added to the “SIGNATURES” page.

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