From a biblical standpoint, the state has just as sacred a role in society as the church.
- Bryan Fischer
Why it's a mistake to get pastors out of signing marriage licenses
A rear-guard movement has recently emerged to get the state out of the marriage licensing business altogether, in what will prove to be a vain attempt to slow down the rampage to impose sodomy-based marriage on the entire country.
Alabama’s state senate has made the latest foray in this direction by passing a bill that makes marriage a mere matter of contract. Under this bill, the state would no longer issue marriage licenses but simply enter privately forged marriage contracts in some kind of registry. Civil government would not be approving of such marriages, it would only be recording them.
In practice, this means if the Supreme Court imposes sodomy-based marriage on the entire nation next month, Alabama would instantly become the easiest place in America for two homosexuals to get married. All they’d have to do is sign a piece of paper and turn it in. Easy-peasy. I don’t think this is what the well-intentioned legislators in Alabama have in mind. But that’s what they will get.
Other voices are urging pastors to get out of the role of signing wedding licenses on behalf of civil government, as if this represents some inappropriate mixing of church and state. They want a wedding to be a purely spiritual, religious affair with no involvement, participation or recognition by civil government whatsoever.
This, however, ignores the likelihood that gay activists would still go after pastors to press them to do purely religious ceremonies for them. Eventually, they will find a judge who will order pastors to perform such purely religious ceremonies, on the grounds that a (counterfeit) constitutional “right” to have a homosexual wedding ceremony trumps the actual constitutional right to decline to perform one.
Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, has already threatened a pastor with 180 days in jail and a $180,000 fine for declining to perform a gay wedding. Getting the license out of the equation might slow them down but it isn’t going to stop gay activists and pro-sodomy public officials.
While getting pastors out of signing government-issued wedding licenses may sound like a solution, it isn’t. It represents a major surrender to the homosexual lobby, a surrender made without firing a legal shot. And I submit it represents a failure to understand the proper role of government according to Scripture.
Proponents of getting churches and pastors out of participating in the legal solemnizing of marriages have forgotten that civil government is God’s idea. It’s not a bad thing, it’s a good thing. God invented it and designed it for our good. (We can stipulate that not every government is good any more than every church is good, even though both exist by God’s design.)
The state has a proper spiritual as well as civil role in God’s economy. Romans 13:1-6 tells us that because civil government is God’s invention, God’s creation, it serves as his “servant” (we get our word “deacon” from the Greek word used here) and his “minister” (we get our word “liturgy” from the Greek word used here).
From a biblical standpoint, the state has just as sacred a role in society as the church. Serving in the state house, if the Bible is to be believed, is just as sacred an occupation as serving in the pulpit.
There is no spiritual distinction, in God’s economy, between what we mistakenly think of as the “secular” (civil government) and the sacred (the church). Both are God’s idea, and each has a distinct and complementary God-ordained role to play in society.
In these roles, they are designed to mutually reinforce God’s values and standards in community life. Now there is nothing more sacred than the marriage union between a man and a woman, and it is an entirely appropriate function of God-ordained civil government to recognize and affirm that.
And it’s entirely appropriate for one minister of God (a pastor) to work in collaboration with another minister of God (civil government) to solemnize marriages. There is nothing wrong and everything right about a minister of the gospel serving as an agent and representative of another servant of God in sealing marriages both legally and spiritually.
In fact, according to 1 Peter 2:14, civil government has a sacred obligation, as God’s minister, to “punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.” So it is entirely appropriate for the state to reject what is evil (homosexual behavior) and to praise what is good (man-woman marriage).
So when civil government issues a wedding license to a man and a woman, it does a noble, sacred, God-honoring thing, whether the clerk issuing the license is aware of it or not. When it issues a wedding license to two men or to two women, it does an ignoble, pernicious, God-dishonoring thing by giving its approval to behavior it ought to condemn.
What the good legislators in Alabama do not seem to realize is that they will have reduced marriage to something with no more significance than signing a credit card receipt at the local Stop-and-Go. The sense of sacredness that ought to be attGeached to marriage will diminish. Marriage itself will decline even further in value, domestic relationships will become even less stable than they are now, and a devastating toll will be wreaked on vulnerable young children who find themselves in increasingly chaotic environments right at the time in their lives when they most need stability.
Folks who think the best thing is just to get God’s servant, civil government, out of the marriage business altogether don’t realize that it’s impossible. To begin with, registering these contractual marriages at the local county courthouse involves civil government right out of the box.
And if somebody decides to terminate one of these contracts, and the other party doesn’t, who is going to end up deciding whether the contract is to be enforced or canceled? Who is going to end up deciding which spouse gets custody of which children? Who is going to decide who gets what part of their shared property? A judge, of course, who is an agent of the government.
In other words, civil government is going to be involved in marriage whether we like it or not.
Bottom line: if state governments don’t want to recognize sodomy-based marriages, the solution is simple: they just shouldn’t do it. Period.
They shouldn’t try to finesse the issue, or come up with some clever workaround, they should just exercise their constitutional rights under the 9th and 10th amendments and reserve the right to define marriage for themselves. As servants and ministers of God, it’s the least they can do.