Video: What Is Meant By Calling Marriage A Natural Institution?

Today’s question: “If marriage is a pre-political institution then none of the measures laid down by the state (e.g. registration, marriage certificates etc.) make a marriage legitimate in God’s eyes. In which case, what does constitute a legitimate marriage in God’s eyes? One answer I’ve been given, based on Genesis 1-2, is something along the lines of: a man and a woman who make promises to each other before God and some witnesses. What are you thoughts on this, and which passage(s) would you use to make your case?”

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About Alastair Roberts

Alastair Roberts (PhD, Durham University) writes in the areas of biblical theology and ethics, but frequently trespasses beyond these bounds. He participates in the weekly Mere Fidelity podcast, blogs at Alastair’s Adversaria, and tweets at @zugzwanged.
This entry was posted in Audio, Creation, Culture, Ethics, Podcasts, Questions and Answers, Revelation, Scripture, Sex and Sexuality, Theological, Video. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Video: What Is Meant By Calling Marriage A Natural Institution?

  1. cal says:

    Everything you said is right, but I thought you missed some more complex questions when you spoke about consensus and legality. Of course we might say that positive law can’t enforce things in reality despite the juridical state violence behind it. Laws establishing gay marriage don’t make it so. But, what about various other man-woman arrangements. For a long time there were laws against miscegenation as “against nature”, which delegitimated any unions. And yet we might, intuitively, support legal restrictions barring levels of cosanguinuity (cousins marrying is gross and incestuous), age limits (a 14 year old is not capable of making a decision about sex, let alone entering marriage) or polyamory (polygamy is weird and should be illegal).

    The last one raises even more interesting questions because Jesus seems to reframe marriage around monogamy (Adam and Eve is specific appeal) with heavy restrictions, even barring, divorce. And for the latter point, divorce was a pretty common practice in various societies, though with different legal procedures (for many North American Indians, it was as simple as lack of interest).

    Which is all to say: maybe Jesus’ appeal puts a particular Christian gloss and structure upon what is otherwise simply natural. Thus we’re required to live a particular way, but its dependent upon a revelation of life in light of the Messiah’s atoning death, resurrection, and ascension. But even so, it doesn’t delegitimize various other forms of marriage as unnatural, even if they’re not good. In a parallel example, self-preservation is always natural, but can be virtuous or sinful depending on the manner it is practiced and how it is ordered in light of other realities.


  2. Pingback: Alastair on Themes of Household and Sexuality – A Pilgrim's Missives

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