Presbytery of Maumee Valley: Authoritative Interpretation

The Rationale opens with the following paragraph.

When a couple seeks to be married in the church, rather than in a civil setting, they want the support of the people of God for their pledge of lifelong commitment. Will we continue to withhold this support, or will we welcome them fully and give a blessing to the gift of love that God has placed in their hearts? Will we encourage them to fully participate in the life of the church and to raise children in the body of Christ? There is no stated “biblical definition” of marriage. Indeed, much of what the Bible describes as marriage or intimate relationships—bigamy, polygamy, concubinage, socioeconomic bridal negotiations, levirate marriage—is no longer part of Christian matrimony. Where do we go from here, then?

Were we to simply accept this paragraph’s argument, then, absent a stated “biblical definition,” the standard for solemnizing a marriage relationship rests on the desire for “support of the people of God for their pledge of lifelong commitment” to “give a blessing to the gift of love that God has placed in their hearts.” The begged question is thus by what standard do the authors limit the involved parties to a couple? Can’t three (or four, or more) people meet this standard just as well as two?

And yet, in this presumed definition-less Christian situation, the authors list numerous types of “marriage” and “intimate relationships” that have by some mysterious means become “no longer” a “part of Christian matrimony.” We are left wondering how this situation could have possibly arisen.

Of course, there is a “biblical definition” of marriage, provided by Jesus Christ Himself and clearly stated in our Confessions.  It is the application of this standard that explains the relationships that are no longer part of Christian matrimony.  Is it really possible that no one in this Presbytery knows about Matthew 19:4-6 and the associated Confessional passages? If they did, is it really credible that they are incapable of differentiating that which is simply described in Scripture from that which is clearly stated, by Jesus Christ Himself, as the definition of marriage? If they did not, should we grant them the slightest credibility on the topic of what is or is not stated in Scripture?

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