Re: Shapes of a Wedge

From: George Murphy <gmurphy@raex.com>
Date: Wed May 26 2004 - 16:13:08 EDT

----- Original Message -----
From: "Innovatia" <dennis@innovatia.com>
To: "ASA Listserver" <asa@calvin.edu>
Sent: Tuesday, May 25, 2004 1:52 PM
Subject: Fw: Shapes of a Wedge

> In regard to marriage, family, and state, the key issue is one's doctrine
of
> God and government. If our political
> loyalty goes exclusively to God's kingdom (which is the normative
Christian
> position), then our obedience also goes exclusively to his laws (i.e.,
> biblical instruction). Your lord is the one whose laws you obey.
>
> I build my understanding on these grounds (see below), which leaves no
room
> for a state in rebellion against God's law on marriage to be obeyed. This
> includes any state laws that go beyond biblical law, for God prohibits
both
> taking away from and adding to his law. Furthermore, God's law makes no
> provision for community involvement in marriage other than possibly to
judge
> family disputes, and that assumes the civil court is under God's law. Such
a
> state court cannot be found in the developed world today.
>
> Dennis Feucht
>
> Marriage (excerpted from my book, XLM, "Family and State")
>
> "What God has joined, let no man put asunder." So goes the typical wedding
> vow. This vow, and marriage as a biblical institution, leaves no room for
> the State to be a party to the marriage. Christians who take the above vow
> are to also voluntarily and decidedly keep the State out of their marriage
> as a third party, by avoiding a wedding license. God instituted marriage
> long before the State as we know it existed. What possible jurisdiction
> could the State have over a pre-existing institution, one that biblically
> places God as the foundational third party?
>
> Many American "churches" will not marry a couple who has not obtained
> permission to marry through the purchase of a license from the State prior
> to the wedding ceremony. A wedding performed by an "ecclesiastical
> organization," an incorporated entity of the State, performs civil
marriages
> as an agent of the State and not under the sole authority of Christ.
Almost
> all marriages are performed by these organizations under the authority
> vested in them and their ministers by the State, for which they have
agreed
> to act as agents. This makes the minister an officer of the State,
carrying
> out official duties of the State. In effect, it is the State, not God, who
> has joined the consenting individuals.
>
> This ungodly joining of the State to matrimony has serious consequences.
The
> license is not a mere formalism, a piece of paper. It is evidence of a
> signed agreement that entangles spouses with the State, so that the State
is
> given an interest in the marriage. As stated in Roberts v Roberts, 81 CA2d
> 871 (1947); 185 P2d 381:
>
> The state is a party to every marriage contract of its own residents as
> well as the guardians of their morals.
>
> Christian morality is derived from biblical authority, and not from what
the
> State tells us is moral.
>
> Furthermore, from Hendricks v Hendricks,125 CA2d 239 (1954); 270 P2d 80:
>
> A marriage contract differs from other contractual relations in that
there
> exists a definite and vital public interest in reference to marriage
> relation.
>
> The "public interest" is, of course, referring to government interest and
> jurisdiction in matters of marriage. While biblical law does not deny the
> legitimacy of community adjudication in family matters, what is at issue
is
> the legitimacy of the authority structure within the family itself. These
> human laws open the door for courts to intervene where parents or the
father
> has the rightful biblical authority.
>
> Such laws are the legal basis for why Child Protective Services can remove
> children from their parents. Horror stories are accumulating of the Youth
> Police kidnapping children from Christian (and other) parents who have
> applied biblical practices in their child-raising. Spanking a child is
> grounds for State removal from parents, though the parents have clearly
the
> greatest interest in the well-being of the child. (State orphanages are a
> disaster and a breeding ground for child molesters.) Radio law-school
> teacher George Gordon points out consequences of the licensed family:
>
> So what happens to the children that come out of this corporate family?
> Health, education and welfare statutes come into play now, because you
have
> agreed, via the marriage license - you have, like the driver's license,
> agreed to join the State in a regulated enterprise, and the children you
> produce are the fruits of that enterprise, and belong to the State. That's
> why the State will take them away from you and put them into a foster
home.
> And it's so rare that someone will knowingly choose these days to not
apply
> for this privilege of a marriage license, that if you choose to do so, you
> may have to fight it out on the courtroom floor. I see too many people
> taking their children out of school and educating them at home, without
> first divorcing the State or rescinding the license. And of course, they
get
> embroiled in the legal problems, and wonder why they have these problems.
>
> Christian marriage involves Christ, not the State, as the third party.
From
> a legal standpoint, a marriage independent of the State is a "common-law
> marriage," an expression which in polite "moral" society is regarded with
> disdain. The Tennessee Law Review (volume 19, page 83) excerpts what their
> State court had to say about common-law marriages:
>
> No particular form was required to be observed by the parties entering
> into a common law marriage. A simple agreement by a man and woman that
they
> would live together as man and wife, at common law constituted a valid
> marriage.
>
> However, Tennessee is one state that legally forbids such marriages, and
> thus directly opposes biblical authority given to families. For those who
> train their consciences according to biblical law, common-law marriage
> avoids government licensing and can be a form of godly marriage. To accede
> to the State an authority in marriage vested biblically in parents is to
> deny God's law in favor of worldly authority and to willingly subject
> children to the State.

        Yes, marriage is theologically prior to the state. This is not only
the case for "Christian" marriage but for _any_ marriage, which is something
given in creation. A Hindu man and woman who get married in a Hindu
ceremony, or an atheist man & woman who don't go through any public ceremony
at all but make a lifelong commitment to one another are as married as any
Christian man & woman who get married in a Christian church. Which is not
to say that Christians shouldn't get married in church & explicitly ask the
blessings of the Trinity & support of the Christian community for their
union.

        It also doesn't mean that marriage is something that is independent
of Christ. Marriage, like the state, is really an "order of preservation"
rather than an "order of creation" (though the sense of that is somewhat
different in the two cases) because its purpose is to "preserve" creation
for Christ - & that's true of Hindu marriages as well as Christian ones.

        I think your whole formulation in terms of "God's laws" and an
implied antithesis with the laws of the state is problematic. Many of the
laws of the Old Testament are simply the civil law of ancient Israel
(inspired as they may be) and are no more binding on Christians - or any
state today - than the laws of China are binding on a citizen of Sweden. On
the other hand Romans 13:1-7 clearly indicates that Christians are to be
subject to the state as a ministry intended by God - with the condition, of
course, that obedience is not required if it would conflict with the known
will of God (Acts 5:29). & the state Paul is speaking of was, of course,
the pagan Roman Empire.

        Furthermore, marriage by its nature is involved with issues over
which the state has some legitimate authority - property, inheritance, &c.
Thus it's appropriate for the state to define who, in its eyes, is legally
married. But the state's definition may differ from the church's.

        Some may wonder what this whole discussion has to do with science &
theology. For one thing, it helps us to avoid the popular idea that the
doctrine of creation just has to do with what happened at some time in the
distant past, or is something to be discussed only when the subject of
evolution comes up. I think it would be well for people involved in
theology-science discussions to realize that the doctrine of creation is
considerably broader than it's usually pictured in those conversations. (&
for that matter the way we understand marriage has to take into account
evolution. But that's for another day.)

Shalom
George
http://web.raex.com/~gmurphy/
Received on Wed May 26 16:13:39 2004

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