iSoul In the beginning is reality.

Tag Archives: Marriage

Vital records of society

Vital records are the official documents of the birth, marriage, divorce, and death of members of a society. They are currently kept by an office of state government, but before the 19th or 20th century these documents were under the control of religious institutions, i.e., churches. For example, the state of Nebraska has birth and death records only since 1904, and marriage and divorce records only since 1909. Since marriage required a license, marriage certificates are often available since the 17th or 18th century in the older states.

State and national governments, however, have done poorly at this basic task. They have not recognized the personhood of children in the womb, they have made divorce “no-fault” and easy to get, and they have redefined marriage to eliminate the sex requirement. In some states, lawful death has been redefined to include assisted suicide.

With this in mind, it is time for religious institutions to take back the keeping of vital records. While legal requirements must still be met, religious requirements are different and need their own certificates and vital records. This is an opportunity to show the importance of recognizing the humanity of children in the womb by issuing a Life Certificate. It’s an opportunity to show the necessity for marriage to be kept for opposite sex couples only, and not same-sex or changed gender couples. It is an opportunity to set the requirements for divorce. And accurate death records would discourage the pretexts of assisted suicide.

Although religious institutions bear responsibility for this task, the operation may well be contracted out to a business. Because people move between the states and change church affiliation, it is best that a national database be established. This national database of vital records should be maintained with the highest integrity to safeguard how society treats the unborn, the institution of marriage, and the dying.

Christian marriage

I have written a number of times about marriage, especially about the oxymoron “same-sex marriage.” Do a search on the word “marriage” to find them.

Marriage is a social matter; societies formalize and recognize marriages within a society. There have been significant differences between societies, such as including polygamy or not. Modern societies have civil procedures to ensure the minimum qualifications are met: age, sex, and no other concurrent marriage. Recently this has been relaxed so that sex is no longer a requirement for civil marriage in many countries.

Christianity honors marriage and acknowledges that it was established by God for our first parents. But marriage remains primarily a social matter: it is society that decides who is married and who is not. While same-sex marriage expands the concept of marriage to an extreme, if that is what a society decides, then members of that society should accept that, though not necessarily approve of it. Such a dilution of marriage is worse than polygamy, which has been widely condemned.

What is most difficult about this is the misapplication of the language of marriage. It is like society deciding that parents are no longer mother and father but parent 1 and parent 2 — which is taking place in some birth certificates (see here and here). Will Mommy and Daddy be replaced by Oney and Twoey? The long tradition of marriage between a man and a woman cannot be jettisoned so easily; it will no doubt return someday.

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Marriage as a sacrament

The dissertation When Two Become One: Reconsidering Marriage as a Sacrament in Protestant Theology by Adam Neal is online here. What follows are excerpts from the conclusion, pp. 304-310.

This study has set out to provide a coherent presentation for why Christian theology should consider marriage as explicitly sacred, and, in particular, advanced comprehensive argumentation for renewing its place as a sacrament in Protestant theology.

In addition to building a cohesive and comprehensive textual argument in favor of defining marriage as a divinely mandated sacred institution, this study has provided substantive historical research that challenges the sacramental theology established by the Scholastic tradition to which the Reformation reacted even while assuming certain untenable definitions.

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Marriage and semi-marriage

In abstract algebra, a semiring is an algebraic structure similar to a ring, but without the requirement that each element must have an additive inverse.

Analogously, what could be called a semi-marriage is like a marriage, but without the requirement that the persons be of opposite sex. (Compare here.) How would this work?

First, a marriage is also a semi-marriage so the legal requirements that apply to a semi-marriage apply to a marriage as well. For example, age requirements for semi-marriages would apply to marriages also.

Second, a semi-marriage is not necessarily a marriage so one cannot assume that every property of a marriage is also a property of a semi-marriage. Each property of a marriage must be evaluated to determine if it applies to a semi-marriage. For example, a business that offers services for marriage ceremonies may not need to offer the same services to semi-marriage ceremonies.

The law may focus on semi-marriage rather than marriage because semi-marriage has a larger extent. Yet it would be possible for some laws to apply to marriages but not semi-marriages. The decision as to which way to go is up to the political process.

In the U.S. since the Obergefell decision, civil marriage is semi-marriage.

Marriage explained

The four explanatory factors (aka four causes) Aristotle described can be used to explain marriage in a time in which people have forgotten what marriage is. The ancient book of Genesis provides the explanation, so it’s not a recent attempt to promote an agenda. Societies through the ages have implicitly followed the explanation, which may have led to complacency concerning what marriage is all about.

Genesis 2
18 The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a companion for him who corresponds to him.” 19 The Lord God formed out of the ground every living animal of the field and every bird of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them, and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20 So the man named all the animals, the birds of the air, and the living creatures of the field, but for Adam no companion who corresponded to him was found. 21 So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep, and while he was asleep, he took part of the man’s side and closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the part he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. 23 Then the man said,

“This one at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
this one will be called ‘woman,’
for she was taken out of man.”

24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and unites with his wife, and they become a new family. 25 The man and his wife were both naked, but they were not ashamed.

The material factor is male and female: no companion who corresponded to Adam was found, unlike the animals who already had males and females. Without male and female sexes, there is no marriage.

The efficient factor is a voluntary union “of the flesh” (as the more literal translations have it), i.e., sexual intercourse. Without such a “conjugal act” the marriage is unconsummated. Without the possibility of such a union, there is no marriage.

The formal factor is a lifelong commitment, “until death do us part”. Although there is the possibility of divorce for cause (e.g., unfaithfulness), without an intention for a lifelong relationship, there is no marriage.

The final factor is the various purposes for marriage, including companionship, fulfillment of sexual desire, generation of offspring, nurturing of a family, and stability for society. The listing of these purposes does not limit the purposes of marriage; it only indicates some of what marriage can mean. Those who argue that a particular purpose could (or could possibly) be met in other ways are missing all the purposes of marriage.

Defenders of marriage have put too much stock in nailing down the purpose of marriage – that is only one factor of marriage; there are three other factors to consider. Until those who wish to redefine marriage meet the other explanatory factors, they have failed and marriage, real marriage, is the same as it always was. Legal fictions do not change reality. Marriage is still a voluntary union of one man and one woman for life.

Marriage, social and otherwise

God created marriage, but civil marriage was invented by man. With the French Revolution, religious marriage ceremonies were made secondary to civil marriage. This spread to other countries in the 19th century. Today, outside of the Middle East, civil marriage is the only legal marriage; religiously recognized marriage has no legal status.

With the rise of same-sex marriage, the tables are beginning to turn: civil marriage may not be recognized by some people if it lacks religious authorization. There is no question that the state has a right to recognize whatever marriages it wants for its own purposes. But the question is about what may be called social marriage. What does society recognize as a marriage?

Compare this with driving. The state issues driver’s licenses, which authorize people to drive on public roads. This license does not apply on private roads. For example, the owner or operator of a race track sets the standards for who may race, not the state.

Similarly, the state issues marriage licenses, which authorize people to be married for public purposes. When income taxes are filed, for example, those the state has authorized may file as a married couple. But what about when people enter private property? What about private purposes? That is a different matter.

Society, through religion, custom, and tradition determines who is married for social purposes, not the state. Whether by religious authorization or common-law marriage or whatever custom people follow, society determines who is married for social purposes. Society may follow the state — or not.

The end of civil marriage

At first civil unions were allowed in several states for same-sex domestic partnerships. Then judges said they were equivalent to civil marriages. Now the U.S. Supreme Court has redefined civil marriage to include same-sex domestic partnerships. Essentially the Court has downgraded civil marriages to civil unions.

States should respond by replacing civil marriages with civil unions. Why? That would be using the correct term. And that would preserve the traditional understanding of marriage as only for a man and a woman. Marriage would be returned to society, to be defined as people use the term and not how five judges want the term used.

Religious wedding ceremonies would still inaugurate marriages, which could be registered as civil unions as well. What about secular people? There are secular religions for them, and social organizations could also hold weddings.

Civil unions need to cover only matters of interest to the state: taxes, property ownership, child custody, inheritance, etc. The social aspects would be left to society, as the religious aspects would be left to religious organizations. Marriages would be society’s business, not the state’s business.

Sex and marriage

Human beings certainly have a greater variation of behavior than other kinds of organisms but that should not obscure the existence of norms. The norm for human beings is monogamy: a marriage of one man and one woman. The existence of variations from that norm and failures to adhere to the norm do not invalidate the norm. Monogamy is rooted in biological, social, historical, legal, religious, and moral realities. There is nothing unfair or unjust about monogamy. It is fully justified, rational, and moral.

‘Sexual’ is a biological term that refers to the way a species reproduces. Sexual reproduction means reproduction by two members of a species who are of different types (called sexes), one male and one female. Other animal species also reproduce sexually. Some plants are asexual, meaning each member has the means to reproduce alone.

The term ‘heterosexual’ is a redundancy. ‘Hetero’ means ‘other’ or ‘different’ but that is just what sexual reproduction means so ‘heterosexual’ means the same as ‘sexual’. The term ‘homosexual’ is a contradiction in terms. ‘Homo’ means ‘same’ so ‘homosexual’ would mean reproduction by two members of the same sex, which is not sexual reproduction. So it is self-contradictory or means something like ‘anti-sexual’.

Polygamy is a primitive form of marriage that allows more than one man and/or more than one woman in marriage. So-called same-sex marriage is thus a form of polygamy. This is not progress–it is a turn toward primitive ways. Since marriage is foundational for societies, this indicates that modern societies are betting the farm on sexual tomfoolery.