Re: Shapes of a Wedge

From: Innovatia <>
Date: Fri May 28 2004 - 15:10:17 EDT

From: "George Murphy" <>
> Yes, marriage is theologically prior to the state. This is not
> the case for "Christian" marriage but for _any_ marriage, which is
> 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
> 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
> blessings of the Trinity & support of the Christian community for their
> union.

> It also doesn't mean that marriage is something that is
> 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.
> 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,
> 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.

Two issues here:

1. If God's revealed will in scripture - i.e., his law - is not the
Christian's standard for determining what is right and wrong, then what is?
"Family values"? a "Conservative" viewpoint? the prevailing view among
contemporary Christians? Love? The moving of the Spirit? Luther and the
Reformers recognized the third use of the law. Jesus came to establish the
law, as I read the NT, not destroy it. Of course, the law can be used
illegally, as did the Galatians, but that's another matter. But it is still
the Christian's reference for what is right and wrong, no?

2. Both Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2 qualify that the "higher powers" (hyperecho
exousia), whoever they may be, have the characteristic of favoring those who
do right and punishing those who do wrong. But by who's idea of right and
wrong - i.e., by who's law? They can only be referring to God's law since
they are Christians writing to Christians. Can't be a pagan state's idea of
right and wrong, eh?

While both Paul and Peter describe normative government, few states have met
their description very well. I would agree that to the extent the state
enforces biblical law, Christians are to submit to it. The concept of govt,
as P & P describe it, is biblical. However, the state is clearly not in
accord with biblical teaching in inserting itself into marriages and
therefore should not be heeded in this matter. It has no jurisdiction there.

> 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.

The problem for Christians is that if the State acts outside of God's
revealed will in the area of marriage, how much more should we be careful to
avoid its unbiblical handling of other family matters? And as my excerpt
alludes, the CPS is anything but biblical.

> 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.)

Agreed on both counts. Perhaps our tendency to focus narrowly on sci-Xny
issues in ASA (me included) fails to put them in a larger context which I
notice, in reading Church history, the earlier Christians seemed more apt to


Dennis Feucht
Received on Fri May 28 16:30:43 2004

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