The Biblical Definition of Marriage, Part 1: Introduction

Comments made by Dan Cathy, President of Chick-Fil-A, recently brought the debate over gay marriage back to the forefront.  Again.  As usual, most people split into one of two camps: those in support of legalizing same-sex marriage, and those in support of “the biblical definition of marriage,” including restricting legal marriage to those who fit that definition.

The term “biblical definition of marriage” is bandied about with great authority, but every time I hear it, I also hear the voice of Inigo Montoya saying, “You keep using that word.  I do not think it means what you think it means.”

In popular usage, the “biblical definition of marriage” appears to be shorthand for “marriage between one man and one woman.”  That’s the definition that some want included in a constitutional amendment addressing the issue.  However there are some who also include the submission of wives to their husbands, the restriction of women to the traditional roles of homemaker and mother, as well as an absolute prohibition of divorce in the “biblical definition of marriage.”  In a land of majority two-income households, where more women are graduating from college than men, and where roughly half of all marriages end in divorce, I can’t see a whole lot of public support for those aspects of the “biblical definition of marriage.”

So what is the actual biblical definition of marriage?

Sadly, when I went to my concordance and looked up “definition of marriage,” nothing came up in the entire bible.  Of course the answer’s not that easy.  So this can’t be answered in a single post, even one of my marathon-length ones.  But it’s important.  The issue at stake, as Dan Cathy puts it, is whether or not we’re “shak[ing] our fist at [God] and say[ing], ‘We know better than you what constitutes a marriage.'”  The issue, simply put, is whether or not we are redefining marriage in direct opposition to how God has defined it.  Therefore, this is the beginning of an ongoing series in which I’m going to explore the bible and see what it really says about marriage.  I don’t expect these posts to settle the question once and for all, but I do hope that those of you who read them will think about your own assumptions, and be willing to think critically about what you believe and why.

My intention is not to attack or ridicule those who are earnestly trying to live according to biblical principles.  I myself am a faithful Christian trying to live according to biblical principles.  I’m doing this primarily because I believe there is a lack of knowledge and understanding about the bible, especially among those who use it to justify their own political positions.  Perhaps I’m about to join those ranks, but I’m tired of having a vocal minority define for the world what my faith is.  If we’re going to use the bible to defend our positions, let’s take a look and see what the bible actually says about those positions.

I welcome you to join the discussion in the comments section.  As always, please keep it civil.

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