Why Holy Matrimony-rather than “Christian Marriage”

Today, government officials and even the general populace want to make marriage flexible enough to incorporate nearly any kind of relationship. Certainly the innovation of claiming covenanted same-sex unions as “witnesses to holiness,” and of blessing them in the Name of Christ, is a serious threat to biblically-based, natural-law based, and traditional Christian teaching on sexuality. Thus right-minded Anglicans are absolutely right to oppose this innovation in their midst, even as they should also, at the same time, treat all fellow Christians who embrace the innovation with respect and compassion.

Believers, however, must maintain firmly that marriage has a divinely determined purpose. It is called holy matrimony for a reason: the Lord has set apart the one man-one woman marital bond as a one-flesh relationship to communicate spiritual realities. These realities include God’s deep love for His people, the exclusivity of the Christchurch bond as the ordinary arena of salvation, and the faithful devotion that the covenant community owes its covenant Lord (Gen. 2:24; Hos. 2:14–23; Eph. 5:31–32). Far from being a changeable cultural phenomenon, marriage is the means by which the created order depicts the relationship between Jesus and His church.

The difference between modern “Christian Marriage” and traditional “Holy Matrimony” may be stated generally in these terms: “Modern Christian marriage” sees marriage as a means to one or more ends and not an End in itself. “Holy Matrimony” sees marriage as an End and intrinsic Good in and of itself .”

Holy Matrimony is based on the word of the Lord God in Genesis (2:24), a word repeated and underlined by the Lord Jesus Christ (Mark 10:1ff.; Matthew 19:3ff.): A man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. The Good or End or divine Purpose of the marriage of a man and a woman is that they become one-that is, two-in-one-flesh. Here there is sexual complementarity, with permanence and fidelity; and as a result of the two-being-as-one-flesh there is union of hearts and bodies, with the openness to procreation. Then children are raised in the nurture and admonition of the Lord within the stability of this continuing, permanent union. Here divorce is an absolutely last resort and is only for the most serious of reasons ( e.g., sustained adultery) and re-marriage is only after the death of one spouse.

In great contrast, “Modern Christian Marriage,” following the cultural trends in law and society, sees marriage as instrumental, that is, as the means to various possible ends or objectives (which may be judged by others as good, bad or indifferent). Prominent in modern approaches to marriage are those wherein it is seen in terms of a voluntary contract (made before witnesses or before witnesses and “God”) between two persons primarily for their own happiness, fulfillment and satisfaction. Here the union as one flesh is seen not as an End in itself, a true, intrinsic and permanent Good, but as a means to various ends, primarily ones of erotic pleasure, and of friendship, and only sometimes one of procreation (as is well demonstrated by the low birth rate in the West). And the contract in place is not an enforceable one-as with contracts in most other areas of life-for it is governed by “no-fault” divorce law, which allows either partner to dissolve the instrumental union at will. Thus couples marry, recognizing that if it does not work out, then they can make use of divorce and start again, usually also knowing that they can go back to church a second or third time for the blessing of priest or bishop.