Is Marriage a Religious or Civic Issue? Why Evangelicals See It as Both

Marriage Heart Health

The past few weeks I have noticed a good deal of debate on the Internet among Christian and non-Christian friends about the importance of marriage. Some claim that the biblical definition of marriage is merely a religious perspective on the institution and should not be interwoven with the fabric of civic expectations or norms. Others claim that some Christians place an undue emphasis on sins related to marriage such as homosexuality and polygamy while ignoring other sins such as greed or gluttony. However, most evangelical Christians would disagree with these aforementioned statements based on the fundamental importance of biblical marriage not just in a spiritual sense, but in a civic/societal sense as well.

In his commentary on Genesis 2 (where God creates the institution of marriage), James Boice writes a single paragraph that seems to clearly show why marriage is so important and why most evangelicals hold the position on marriage that they do. Here is the paragraph:

“God established marriage as the first and most basic of all human institutions. Long before there were governments or churches or schools or any other social structures God established a home based on the mutual respect and love of a husband and wife, and all other human institutions came from it. From the authority of the father there developed the patriarchal and later tribal systems of human government. These gave rise to monarchical systems and then democracies. From the responsibility of parents to raise and educate their children came more formal systems of education: academies, institutes, colleges, and centers of higher learning. From the need to care for the family’s health came hospitals. From the obligation of parents to educate their children in the knowledge of God and the ways to worship came synagogues and then churches. One cannot think of a contemporary social or cultural organization that does not have a derivative relationship to the home and marriage.”

I think Boice captures the essence of why marriage is so important to evangelicals and why it cannot be limited to merely a religious issue, but is a core component in the fabric of a healthy society. Just about everything we know and do as a civilization can be traced back to this one fundamental institution that was created and defined by God. There is ample evidence from history and many reasons to believe about the future that the demise of marriage as defined in the Bible will lead to the demise of society.

In regard to making sins related to marriage more important than other sins it is true that sin is sin and all sin should be spoken against and avoided. Yes, Christians must be careful not to harp on one sin at the neglect of others especially if those sins are being practiced or latent in their lives. And yet, the sins of greed and gluttony (just to name two) are not the sins being championed by those who wish to undermine or destroy a biblical worldview. In other words, sins related to marriage get so much time and attention in the debate because that is the issue being pressed by secularists and non-evangelicals.

I know there will be some who read this who strongly disagree with me. I do not offer this post to be combative, but to simply try and show why evangelicals think marriage is so important because of the critical part it plays not just in religious belief, but in society as well.

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