17 December 2017

Redefining Marriage

If you have been following developments on the political arena during 2011, it won’t have escaped your notice that plans to massively overhaul family law in the UK have been grabbing the headlines.

In September the Scottish Parliament launched a public consultation on plans to redefine marriage to include homosexual and lesbian couples. Weeks later Lynne Featherstone MP, Equalities Minister at Westminster, announced to the Liberal Democrat Party conference that the Coalition Government will be launching a similar consultation in England in March 2012. Her comments were echoed by Prime Minister David Cameron who told the Conservative Party conference of his support for same-sex marriage.

If marriage is redefined to include homosexual couples in Scotland, England, and Wales, then huge pressure will be exerted upon Northern Ireland to follow suit. So why should we be concerned? What does the Bible have to say about this issue?

Firstly, marriage is foundational, as Genesis 2 records that it was instituted by God at creation and hardwired into human society. Marriage is not a social construct that evolved over time. It was established to fulfil the creation mandate, to fill and subdue the earth.

In the New Testament our Lord Jesus Christ and the Apostle Paul both refer back to Genesis as the foundation of our understanding about marriage (Matthew 13:5; Mark 10:7; I Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 5:31). The Lord Jesus Christ affirmed that marriage is foundational.

Secondly, marriage is universal. Some things in Scripture are only meant for believers. The Lord’s Supper is not meant to be observed by everyone, but only by Christians. But other things in the Bible are meant for all people everywhere. The law of murder, for example. You don’t need to be a Christian to know that murder is wrong.

Marriage isn’t something peculiar to Christianity. It is a creation ordinance. Throughout history and throughout human cultures it is universal. Since the dawn of time men and women have been committing themselves to each other in marriage.

The universality of marriage is clearly taught by the Lord Jesus Christ that men and women will be “marrying and giving in marriage” right until the end of this world (Matthew 24:37-39).

We should not accept the false divide between civil marriage and religious marriage. Some people have said that civil marriage is a matter for the state, and therefore religious groups should keep quiet about it. But marriage is universal, and it cannot be split along secular/religious lines. There is only one definition of marriage: A man and a woman joined together for life, to the exclusion of all others. The definition stands, whether the ceremony is religious or civil.

Thirdly marriage is beneficial and designed for the mutual help and support of husband and wife. It provides for the procreation of children, who need a mother and a father. The Bible speaks of those beneficial aspects of marriage in Genesis 1:28, Genesis 2:18, and I Corinthians 7:2-9.

When marriage is undermined, we see the effects on our streets. We see heartbreak and wreckage left behind. Nobody has a perfect relationship, but good marriages help to tackle the selfish attitudes of the human heart. It’s no coincidence that the breakdown of marriage in our society has been matched by increasing self-centredness in our culture.

Christians oppose the redefinition of marriage out of love. We do so out of a genuine belief that marriage is foundational to happy lives and good communities.

We disagree with homosexual activists who are pushing for marriage to be redefined. But disagreement is not hatred. We defend the true definition of marriage out of love for God and for our neighbour.

If marriage is redefined to include homosexual liaisons, then the implications for our society would be colossal. The legal rights and privileges of marriage are already available to same-sex couples through civil partnerships, so redefining marriage is not about granting or denying legal rights. It is about changing a culture.

According to the last census for which data is available, only 0.2% of households across the UK are headed by a same-sex couple. Imagine a town of 500 households. Should one household be allowed to redefine marriage for the other 499? Should one household be allowed to redefine marriage for the whole town? Yet, this is what is will happen if these plans become law.

If marriage is redefined in law, then this new definition will be the definition promoted by Government-funded bodies, local authorities, and statutory agencies. Christians employed in the public sector may well find that their freedom of conscience is eroded in the workplace.

If marriage is redefined then schools will be obligated to teach the new legal definition. Already the gay rights group ‘Stonewall’ is campaigning for primary schools to use picture storybooks with children such as ‘Daddy’s Roommate’, which is about a father who divorces his wife and starts living with another man.

Once marriage becomes detached from nature, once it becomes all about the rights of adults, what’s to stop it from being redefined further? If two persons of the same-sex can marry, what about a polygamist who wants to marry a string of wives? Homosexual marriage was introduced in Canada a few years ago and now a Mormon in British Columbia has launched a court case to have his polygamous marriage legalised.

Please pray that marriage will not be redefined in any part of the UK. To keep up to date with developments on this issue visit The Christian Institute’s website: www.christian.org.uk.

Callum Webster