The Presbyterian Church (USA) on Tuesday formally redefined marriage as a “commitment between two people,” thus declaring itself officially outside the Christian tradition and the Word of God (though it is unlikely to put it quite that way.) The change will take effect on June 21.
I hear it now. “How dare you judge them?” “Who are you to decide how marriage is defined?”
That’s the point. I can’t define (or “redefine”) marriage—and neither can PCUSA.
The idea that the Presbyterian Church, or any church, or any person–or any state, for that matter—can redefine marriage presupposes that the defining entity defined it in the first place. The definition of marriage belongs wholly and solely to the One who defined it first—God.
Now, people are free to believe what they like. You can believe there is a Flying Spaghetti Monster, or honest Democrats. But PCUSA has already said that it—and its members—believe in the Bible and in Christ, so it doesn’t have that freedom. In order to be Christian, it has to retain some connection to the Bible and to Christ. But, this week, it told the world that none of that matters.
Commenting on the change, the Covenant Network of Presbyterians (you had me at “coven”) stated, “The change aligns the church’s constitution with a reality that has long been true: both same-gender and opposite-gender couples have been living in relationships that demonstrate covenant faithfulness, shared discipleship, and mutual love.”
How nice for them. That’s not marriage. That’s friendship.
For God, marriage is the prerequisite to being fruitful and multiplying and subduing the earth.
In the first chapter of Genesis, God explains our instrumental purpose on Earth:
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
—Genesis 1:27-8, King James Version.
The earth was made for man, not man for the Earth (sorry, Al Gore). The purpose of humankind is to reproduce and, basically, run the world. But this partnership, male and female, is also defined by God. According to the Bible (which you may or not believe, but the Presbyterian Church USA claims to), the origin of marriage dates back to the beginning of time. Before there was work, before there were children—and before there was even sin or shame–barely two chapters into history, God introduces what we would soon call “marriage.” And even before there is marriage, there is “wife”:
“And Adam said, ‘This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’ Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother and shall cleave unto his wife; and they shall be one flesh.”—Genesis 2:22-4, KJV.
Therefore, if one believes in the authority of the Bible (as PCUSA claims to do), and you include in that Bible the book of Genesis (which, as far as I know, PCUSA still does), it seems difficult to find a way to define marriage as a “commitment between two people” (as PCUSA has now done) and still claim to be Christian.
Perhaps PCUSA has decided that the relationship of man and woman that forms the basis for our right to have dominion over the earth and which is intended to define our purpose for existence is not “marriage.” In that case, I would like PCUSA to please explain what they would like to call the relationship that has been known as marriage from the dawn of time (literally), so as to distinguish it from the polite and civil and wholly-unsanctioned-by-God relationships it now intends to place its stamp of approval upon. Moreover, PCUSA should keep in mind that, Biblically, it has now declared to those it would bless into such unions that they are no longer authorized to “have dominion” or “subdue the earth.”
If PCUSA is to “redefine” marriage (well, not “if”—“since,” I guess) as something significantly less defined and less momentous than the traditional definition of Christian marriage, I suppose a vital question arises. How should the rest of Christendom view such relationships?
Given that they do not fulfill the essential requirements for a Biblical union—involving a man and a woman—should we view them as marriages at all? Or are they—regardless of whatever high-church trappings may be employed, regardless of what the Officiant may call him or her-self, and regardless of the feelings of the two (or more) people involved—no more theologically valid than the imaginary wedding of a pair of children holding hands on a beach, one saying to the other “Now you’re Mrs. Me?”
It is one thing for secular governments to engage in such foolishness—and, don’t get me wrong, I am vehemently opposed to that, as well—but it is an order of magnitude more serious when the people we entrust with the glorious faith of Christ abandon the Scriptures and declare (to put it bluntly and Biblically), “we will do what is right in our own eyes.”
That never ends well.