The "Lost" Purpose For Christian Marriage

Mar 18, 2022 by David Fowler

The "Lost" Purpose For Christian Marriage
I was frank last week about the sad state of evangelicalism, but today I will be frank about myself and the low view of marriage I held most of my life. It was driven home to me when a pastor who was interviewing me for a podcast mused that the way many Christians view marriage is no different from that of many same-sex couples. Based on my own experience, I think he may be correct.
What was striking about his observation is why he thought the two views—those of many Christians and same-sex couples—were the same, namely, that in both communities marriage is primarily about the emotions of the two persons (i.e. subjective-oriented); emotions we call or think of as “love” directed primarily to sexual intimacy and companionship.
Later, as I reflected on the pastor’s observation, I considered how I thought of marriage when I proposed to the woman who has been my wife for almost 41 years. First, my wife and I both believed that sexual intimacy was reserved by God for the sake of human flourishing to a committed marital relationship. Marriage allowed us to give expression to that desired intimacy without a guilty conscience before God.  Second, we really enjoyed each other’s company. We wanted to be together and in an exclusive way. So, we decided to marry to make permanent and public our commitment to each other in these regards. 
I suspect those thoughts are not unique to me within the larger Christian community, but what hit me was the striking correspondence between my thinking and that of the United States Supreme Court when, in 2015, it held that a state law limiting the issuance of marriage licenses to a man and woman was constitutionally unenforceable.

My Justification for Marriage Vis-à-vis that of SCOTUS for Same-Sex Marriage

Consider the rationale the Court employed in holding marriage should now be understood as a relationship between any two people regardless of their sex.
The Court said, “[T]he right to marry is fundamental because it supports a two-person union unlike any other in its importance to the committed individuals. . . . [T]hus [it] dignifies couples who ‘wish to define themselves by their commitment to each other.’ Windsor, supra, at ___ (slip op., at 14).”

Not much different from I wanted to do, make permanent and public a particular personal relationship. But it was to the two driving factors mentioned above that the correspondence between my view of marriage and that of many same-sex couples became most clear.
Marriage and Companionship

First, the Court said, “Marriage responds to the universal fear that a lonely person might call out only to find no one there. It offers the hope of companionship and understanding and assurance that while both still live there will be someone to care for the other.”

Sounds a lot like the companionship interest I had and perhaps that of many other Christian married couples.
Marriage and Sexual Intimacy

Second, the Court said, “same-sex couples have the same right as opposite-sex couples to enjoy intimate association. Lawrence . . . acknowledged that ‘[w]hen sexuality finds overt expression in intimate conduct with another person, the conduct can be but one element in a personal bond that is more enduring.’ 539 U. S., at 567.”

While Christians will say, “But our sexual intimacy is different,” that is not the point. Rather it is that sexual intimacy as such was a driving consideration in wanting to marry and perhaps the same has been true for other Christians.

The “Lost” Purpose for Christian Marriage

While companionship and sexual intimacy are aspects of a Christian’s marital relationship, even important ones, the pastor’s observation drove home what I had not considered 40 years ago (nor was ever told to me), namely, that the fundamental purpose of marriage, as with all things, is to bear witness to the glory of God.

For the Christian, marriage is to be a picture to a watching world of the glory of God, and Christian marriages should give to others a better understanding of what the glory of God looks like within a created order of things. 

For that not to be the purpose of marriage, for it to be merely about sex without guilt and companionship—is to have a low view of marriage, one that falls short of the glory of God that  He intended to reveal by and through what He created (Romans 1:20-3:23). Moreover, it is a me-focused (subjective) justification for marriage rather than a God-focused (objective) justification for marriage.

Why the “Lost” Purpose Distinguishes Christian Marriage from Same-Sex “Marriage”

It is this purpose alone that truly distinguishes a Christian view of marriage from that held by the LGBTQ community and the United States Supreme Court. 

Two people of the same sex, no matter how virtuous they may be in other areas of their lives and regardless of how much they may otherwise contribute to the public good, which Christians are foolish to deny, cannot reveal what is objectively true about the very being of God. 

Objectively, God is one in essence but distinct in persons. In other words, God is one in a certain way, but three in a different way. Thus, only in the union of a man and woman do we find a more complete picture or fuller representation of what it means for human beings to be made in the image of God. 

In man and woman there is a unity of essence—our being is derived from one substance, the dust of the earth, and woman derived from the side of man and man born of the woman—with a distinction of persons—male and female. 

Two people of the same sex may have subjective experiences similar to those of man and woman (companionship and sexual intimacy), but never can two people of the same-sex reveal, reflect, and demonstrate to a watching world a unity composed of distinctives of male and female persons, only sameness.


In sum, I believe the “problem” evangelical Christians have with same-sex marriage is not out there—with those in the LGBTQ community—but with us, with our less-than-the-glory-of-God justification of marriage. With same-sex “marriage” Christians may simply be reaping in culture a logical extension of the primary justification for marriage too many of us, including me, have held.

For me, this realization has been a call to personal repentance and a re-ordering of my thinking about my own marriage. 

It is also why the Marital Contract Recording Act is so important to me. It is a vehicle that I pray God will use to elevate among His people a focus not just on marriage per se or even same-sex “marriage,” but on the glory of God and seeing the glory of God resident in all He has made.

If God uses the proposed legislation to bring others to the “knowledge of the glory of God” (2 Corinthians 4:6), then it will have served a God-glorifying purpose regardless of whether it becomes law.

David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. 

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