“The biblical view of marriage is part of the larger whole of new creation, and it symbolizes and points to that divine plan….Marriage is a sign of all things in heaven and on earth coming together in Christ. That’s why it is a tough calling. But that is why, also, it is central and non-negotiable. That, for me, is what it’s all about”.
Among the new discoveries of the past decade has been a whole series of sixteenth-century Protestant teachings on marriage that have had, and can have, an enduring influence on Western churches and states alike. It is now well understood that the sixteenth-century Protestant Reformation was a watershed in the history of Western theology and the law of marriage—a moment and movement that gathered several streams of classical and Catholic legal ideas and institutions, remixed them and revised them in accordance with the new Protestant norms and forms of the day, and then redirected them in the governance and service of the Christian West.
Historical survey in response to questions on monogamy and polygamy
On August 15, 1997, the State of Louisiana put in place the nation’s first modern covenant marriage law. The law creates a two-tiered system of marriage. Couples may choose a contract marriage, with minimal formalities of formation and attendant rights to no-fault divorce. Or couples may choose a covenant marriage, with more stringent formation and dissolution rules.
A century and a half ago, Mormons made national headlines by claiming a First Amendment right to practice polygamy, despite criminal laws against it. In four cases from 1879 to 1890, the United States Supreme Court firmly rejected their claim, and threatened to dissolve the Mormon church if they persisted…These old cases are still the law of the land, and most Mormons renounced polygamy after 1890.
In this Lecture, I would like to revisit the original Protestant case against clerical celibacy and for clerical marriage in its sixteenth century Lutheran Reformation context. I shall then draw out a few implications of the significance of these historical battles for the theology and law of clerical celibacy and marriage today.
What forms of marriage should citizens be able to choose, and what forms of religious marriage law should government be required to respect? These are “unavoidable” questions for any modern society dedicated to protecting both the civil
and religious liberties of all its citizens.