Marriage by Biblical Covenant not State License
How long will you falter between two opinions? If the LORD is God follow Him...
1 Kings 18:21
We live in a statist culture. Christians who develop their worldview self-consciously understand this fact of life to one degree or another. The problem is, Christians in this country have only ever lived in a statist culture. It is normal to us. We like the leeks and melons. Just like the frog in the pot slowly brought to a boil we sometimes cannot even recognize the danger of our cultural environment. So, we end up baptizing our secular - often thoroughly pagan - activities and think all is well with our Christian life.
The modern state does not care how we interpret our actions or view our relationship to it. We can think what we want. It only cares that we act in obedience and consent to its claims by signing the form. We are so used to the signature ritual, we seldom ask what we are signing away, or signing into. It's all so normal, you see. Everyone does it.
Have you ever asked yourself why Christians get a marriage license when they get married? A license is defined by Black's Law dictionary as;
"The permission by a competent authority to do an act which, without such permission, would be illegal, a trespass, or tort.... Certificate or the document itself which gives permission."
Now, that's interesting. When a Christian couple asks their state government for a marriage license, they are asking permission in law from that state to get married. Of course, the state doesn't care how future Mr. & Mrs. Christian interpret this act. They can think what they want. But what is important is that they sign the form.
States call this agreement a Marriage Contract. Contracts are always made between or among parties. Do you know who is always a party to any marriage contract? It is not just an agreement between Mr. and Mrs. Christian. (If it was then why would you need to sign the form offered by the state?) It is an agreement among Mr. and Mrs. Christian and the state. There are three parties to every marriage contract.
In the Bible it is very clear the civil government is to enforce the institution of marriage. The civil government is a minister of God. We support and uphold that legitimate function of the state. But is there justification for the idea that the state owns marriage, in such a way that citizens must ask permission from the state to be "lawfully married"? Again, a license is permission to engage in an activity. This claim is not irrelevant, it is real - printed neatly in black and white. And when Christians - whether they understand it or not - ask permission for a marriage license they are agreeing to the claim of the state as sovereign and creator of the marriage agreement. Is this Christian or pagan?
How about the idea that the state, together with the man and woman is a party to the marriage? This gives a whole new meaning to being in bed with the state! To press the metaphor further, this logically means they have a legal claim to the progeny of that agreement. This is why the state is justified in using force against godly Christian families (eg. homeschooling issues). The parents voluntarily gave authority over their children by making the State a party to the contract that produced them. It is time to recognize paganism for what it is. Let's go further. It's time to stop acting like pagan state worshipers when it comes to marriage. Since marriage is a picture of Christ's intimate union with his bride, the Church, inviting any other into this lawful union profanes and adulterates it. In so doing we present a false gospel picture to the world and to ourselves.
Marriage is not a contract designed for convenience. It is not the property of the state. It is indeed ordained for three parties but we dare not substitute the "state" for our Lord, Jesus Christ. There is no biblical justification for Christian participation in marriage licenses and contracts. They are pagan to the core. They testify to the "god-state", not to the reality of Christ's relationship to his Church.
What we offer here is a biblical alternative. You can't beat something with nothing. We believe it is a consistent outworking of Christian theology, and specifically, covenant theology. We recommend using this covenant, or something similar in the place of marriage contracts and licenses. The common law of each of the fifty states will recognize this as a lawful marriage, as long as it is signed by two witnesses. By using this marriage covenant in the place of the marriage license Christians avoid state worship in their actions. We have found this document to be helpful. It has been used in our community by five families. We believe it has been a blessing to re-center marriage in our lives the way it was given to us by God. It highlights a neglected concept: covenant. For too many Christians covenant theology is what happens in the mind. This is a way to actually live covenant theology.
May God be glorified as we think Christ's thoughts after him concerning marriage.