I had a recent conversation with a pastor from The Village Church in Texas. (Some of you may recognize this as the church Matt Chandler leads.) Anyway The conversation we had sparked some more thinking on my position on marriage, nothing monumental changed, but I thought I'd share the exchange with you here.
Kevin, Thank you for writing. I think that the article stands or falls on thestrength of the distinction between legal and sacramental marriage, a distinction which is not evidenced within the biblical text itself. Asthat is our ultimate authority for faith and practice, I would becareful lest we restrict that which was intended as common grace to onlythose who are believers. Most theological reflection on marriage overthe past 2000 years has leaned toward it being a gift to humanity ingeneral and not specifically to the elect. Though there are deeperimplications for the elect, the gift is still never restricted in thetext. Adam and Eve represent all humanity as our ancestors, not simplyChristians. I don't know that we have any biblical merit to limit thatwhich was given to them.I have never wrestled through the implications of Canadian law in thisarea, but I would want to make sure that giving up the right toperformmarriage was done with pure motives and not simply fear of reprisal(legally or otherwise). That would be where I would be wrestling. Wearecertainly called to give up rights at times for the good of others,butI'm not sure that I see giving up ordination as an example of such atime. What decision best exalts the glory of Christ and the good ofyourfellow man (believer and otherwise)?I feel for you and for all who desire to be faithful in environmentsmore restrictive than my own. Thanks for writing. Let me know if thereis anything else we can do to help.Grace and peace. --geoff
The guy's name is Geoff Ashley, he raised a number of good points that I hadn't really thought through or articulated fully, so I replied...
Geoff, Thanks so much for getting back to me so quickly. I wanted to send you a message saying how much I really appreciated your input, you made me think through a couple of things and hopefully come up with a better way to articulate some of them. You're definitely correct that there is no biblical distinction between legal and sacramental marriage. There is simply the gift of marriage offered by God to His creation. Where I see a distinction is in the culture. The marriage God gave was set up as a covenant (See Genesis 2 and most of the book of Hosea) but our culture sets it up as simply a contract which can be broken for any reason (literally, I don't know about Texas, but up here, all you need for a divorce is to live apart for a year). On this is my heart and the crux of my argument. The marriage that God gave was set up as covenant. The marriage we as clergy solemnize is seen by the solemnizing state as a simple contract. Christians then, who are seeking marriage are bound by both; marriage as covenant as God gave, and marriage by contract as Romans 13: 1-2 (and any number of practical reasons) dictates. The need for the distinction between legal and sacramental marriages, in my view, is becoming more pronounced with governments moving away from the biblical standard of marriage as covenant. You were right to challenge my motives as well. It is important that we don't compromise scripture for the sake of our comfort. I'd be lying, though, if I said I didn't recognize that my stance on this conveniently avoids the gay marriage question. My motivation though comes not from this question, alone, but from what the government has historically been doing to marriage (specifically in the realm of divorce) that has made marriage into something that is not the same as what God gave. That said, I certainly wouldn't force a "remarriage" on a married couple who comes to faith, I'd simply explain that the marriage they have is not a contract, but rather a covenant. It's this fundamental difference (contract/covenant) that motivates my position regarding solemnizing marriages as clergy. I believe that we (at least in Canada) are sending mixed messages when we will perform one ceremony that is the solemnization of a legal contract while at the same time preach and teach about marriage as a covenant.
I found Geoff's insights to be really thoughtful and I'd value more thoughts on the topic.