Great Stuff — Out of the Marriage Game

June 26th, 2013 Post by

imoutofhere

Over at what looks to be his brand-new blog, “Lutheran Pastor Says”, Rev. Harrison Goodman writes that, “It’s time to get out of the marriage game. Let me clarify that. It’s time for the Church to get out of the State’s marriage game.”

Rev. Goodman writes that although the church and state may define marriage in different terms, God’s will for man and woman is clear:

The latest ruling is the freshest in memory. Is marriage between a man and a woman, or two consenting people? Today the Supreme Court made it clear that the State defines marriage differently than the Church.

Does it matter if two people are married? There are 3 states (Mississippi, Florida, and Michigan) that outlaw cohabitation, though none of them enforce this law. While the State has told us that marriage is everyone’s option, it is nobody’s imperative. The Church, in light of the 6th Commandment, calls us to fear and love God so that we would live a sexually pure and decent life in what we say and do, and for husbands and wives to love and honor each other. There is a proper way for a man and a woman to spend their lives together, and that is marriage. Apart from this, any sexual relationship, heterosexual or homosexual, is equally sinful.

Using an ancient, biblical, and especially powerful polemic by referring to the government as “Caesar”, he gives his idea for how the Church ought to respond to being at odds with the government:

What now? It’s time to call it like it actually is. Let’s stop pretending like the Government and the Church are performing the same function when two people say “I do.” Let Caesar be Caesar and the Church be the Church. It’s time for the Church to stop signing off on government tax breaks by performing civil marriages. What does that have to do with us? It’s time for the State to stop telling us what we may and may not believe about God and His Word. Isn’t there something written in the constitution about that?

Let’s bless the marriages we see as right before God. Let’s put forward a clear teaching about the blessings given by Christ to His church. Let’s proclaim this sacred union as is proper.

Yes, that means that people will have to get married before the state and not in a church. We already have a rite in our Agenda for blessing a civil marriage. We should be using it. Beloved Christian couples, go get married before the Government, get your tax breaks, have a party, and enjoy it. You should. Then, on Sunday, stand up (or maybe even kneel) before the Lord and receive His blessing in your lives together.
So head over to his blog, “Lutheran Pastor Says“, and read the whole thing.





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  1. Carl Vehse
    June 26th, 2013 at 15:54 | #1

    “It’s time for the Church to stop signing off on government tax breaks by performing civil marriages.

    There seems to be more than meets the eye in the “It’s time” claim. Why stop signing a legal license document for a marriage that the pastor is going to perform within the church’s rite of marriage anyway? And if the government provides tax breaks for legally married couples, what concern is that of the Church?

    Even though it’s not mentioned, one wonders if some kind of threat to the 501(c)(3) status of many churches and church organizations (such as the LCMS) has something to do with this urgent request.

  2. Joe Sarnowski
    June 26th, 2013 at 18:02 | #2

    Carl Vehse :
    “It’s time for the Church to stop signing off on government tax breaks by performing civil marriages.
    There seems to be more than meets the eye in the “It’s time” claim. Why stop signing a legal license document for a marriage that the pastor is going to perform within the church’s rite of marriage anyway? And if the government provides tax breaks for legally married couples, what concern is that of the Church?
    Even though it’s not mentioned, one wonders if some kind of threat to the 501(c)(3) status of many churches and church organizations (such as the LCMS) has something to do with this urgent request.

    The reason that we should stop signing the legal paper is because Caesar can force us to perform the ceremony for anyone he choses.

    However, if we “merely” perform the rite, without the legal aspect, then Caesar can not interfere. We are “merely” blessing an already existing situation.

    If I remember correctly, (Roman) Catholic charities in Massachusetts got out of the adoption business because the state was going to take away their tax exempt status because the agency wasn’t going to allow same sex couples to adopt.

    This “victory” will only make Caesar more bold, now is the time for us to be as innocent as doves and as crafty as serpents. Now is the time for the church to get out of the Civil marriage business, because there will be a point, especially under this current administration, where strong arm tactics will be used against us.

    Our rights mean nothing to those who oppose us, we can not rely on the constitution to defend us.

  3. mames
    June 26th, 2013 at 18:06 | #3

    BUT let no one be unaware that the demonic, immoral, DEVOID OF ANY LEGAL ARGUMENT instead arguing against the PRESUMED motives of the signers of DOMA (read Scalia’s opinion for clarity) and unconstitutional Supremes will not be content until we bow down to this depraved arrangement. It will not be enough to preach and teach Law and Gospel on this issue they will demand faithfulness to “Caesar”, pastors will be fined for hate speech (already happening in Canada) when they declare homosexual acts and thought to be sinful, folks in secular settings will have to agree and “prescribe” the new views or be held back or otherwise punished for taking the CHRISTIAN POSITION.

    IT OCCURS TO ME THAT WE ARE BEGINNING TO LIVE IN THE SAME setting AS OUR FIRST CENTURY BROTHERS who obeyed God rather than men. THEY PAID A PRICE.

  4. Carl Vehse
    June 26th, 2013 at 18:18 | #4

    @Joe Sarnowski #2 : “The reason that we should stop signing the legal paper is because Caesar can force us to perform the ceremony for anyone he choses.”

    Caesar and the Roman Empire died a long time ago.

    In the U.S., if the Traitorobama regime tried to force the Church to perform marriages for anyone (or thing), the Church should refuse and end its involvement in civil marriage. But that hasn’t occurred… as far as we’ve been told. Hence my query about whether a threat has, in fact, occurred.

  5. June 26th, 2013 at 18:40 | #5

    http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Government/2013/06/26/IRS-could-revoke-non-profit-for-religious-institutions

    “IRS could revoke non-profit status for religious institutions over same-sex marriage”

  6. Joe Sarnowski
    June 26th, 2013 at 18:41 | #6

    Carl Vehse :
    @Joe Sarnowski #2 :
    Caesar and the Roman Empire died a long time ago.
    I’ll grant you that Julius and company are long gone, I hope you’ll forgive me a little hyperbole.

    I think that even if the threat against the church hasn’t happened yet, it will, and more than likely sooner rather than later.

    I think that it would behoove us to be proactive rather than reactive.

  7. Matthew Mills
    June 26th, 2013 at 19:04 | #7

    @Joe Sarnowski #5
    I think it would behoove us to be faithful. Caesar can fine us, jail us or kill us, but he can’t force us to act against our consciences. It’s not for us to plot and strategize in order to avoid problems w/ the civil government. We do what we’ve been called to do, and let the chips fall where they may. This is a Matt 5:11-12 moment, not a constitutional law issue. We should thank God for the blessing of persecution.

  8. Rev. James Kusko
    June 26th, 2013 at 20:10 | #8

    When did it become necessary for the “state” it issue a marriage certificate? Did Luther need authority from the state to marry or was that authority totally within the church? Perhaps it would be wise to seperate the church wedding where a vow is made before God and the civil marriage contract issued by the state to provide rights and benefits according to the state.

  9. Mrs. Hume
    June 26th, 2013 at 20:44 | #9

    Norm Fisher :
    http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Government/2013/06/26/IRS-could-revoke-non-profit-for-religious-institutions
    “IRS could revoke non-profit status for religious institutions over same-sex marriage”

    Okay, but most have nothing to tax as in, they have no profits, only debts and expenditures. The IRS taxes profits not property. Local jurisdictions are the taxing authorities that would tax church properties, but they sure aren’t going to because those officials would be promptly voted out of office.

  10. Nicholas
    June 26th, 2013 at 20:55 | #10

    Churches should still perform wedding ceremonies, even if we start leaving all the “legal” stuff to the state.

  11. Nicholas
    June 26th, 2013 at 20:57 | #11

    Rev. James Kusko :Perhaps it would be wise to seperate the church wedding where a vow is made before God and the civil marriage contract issued by the state to provide rights and benefits according to the state.

    Amen!

  12. Pr. H.R. Curtis
    June 26th, 2013 at 21:05 | #12

    I would encourage folks to read the marriage section in both Melanchthon’s and Chemnitz’s Loci. Pieper has a fine summary as well.

    +HRC

  13. Pr. Robert Catherwood
    June 27th, 2013 at 06:52 | #13

    Luther refers to marriage as belonging to the left hand kingdom, of government. See his discussions of Adam and Eve, with family being the foundation of government. In Luther’s day, the couple was married by the local magistrate first, and then the vows were exchanged OUTSIDE the church, at the doors, before continuing into the sanctuary for the blessing of the union. This is still true today in most, if not all, of Europe today.

    If memory serves (but I can’t remember where I found this), the US is the exception to this rule, where the Pastor, in the case of a wedding, bears both swords. This has always made me a bit uncomfortable, especially since US evangelicals, and those influenced by them, have had a hard time understanding the difference/distinction between the two kingdoms, and the role of the Bride of Christ in the world. It often reminds me of the struggles between the popes and kings throughout history.

    It also brings to mind the distinction between the American constant demand for “rights,” as opposed to the Scripture’s (and therefore Luther’s) language of “duties.” The “rights” the church enjoys (by fiat of men, if we are honest) has proven to be a two-edged sword, as has been proven by the situations with the Roman Church recently. If the government is allowed “in the door,” so to speak, by any means (tax exempt status), they then have a hammer to wield upon the foundations. Pr. Hinton’s article is a fair word of caution toward our American churches and the conventional wisdom of demanding rights that come from a document paying lip service to “creation’s God,” but is not found in Holy Writ.

    IMAO, YMMV, grain(s) of salt, and all that.

  14. June 27th, 2013 at 07:38 | #14

    I think this is an interesting move. Unfortunately, if pastors did stop signing the state marriage paperwork, all of the public arguments over marriage would be that it is a contract, and as such, you would not have as strong an argument against redefining it. Where the fight would have to move is over the rights of children to be raised by the people who made them, which is still a worthwhile battle of course.

  15. June 27th, 2013 at 08:35 | #15

    @Pr. Robert Catherwood #12

    Marriage is part of the left-hand kingdom, but that does not necessarily mean the government. As you say, the family is more fundamental to that kingdom in Luther’s thought.

    Consider: The state does not currently offer marriage as the Bible understands it–they just certify relationships of two (for now) generic persons that can be dissolved at any time and for any reason (or no reason at all) and label that as “marriage”. Nevertheless, most Christians are instructed by Paul to marry (in the Biblical sense of the word).

    What then shall we do if we are to obey God rather than man? We must seek marriage elsewhere than the government. Perhaps it should be the parents rather than the Pastor who makes it “legal” in a left-hand kingdom sense. Nevertheless, given that it is at God’s instruction that we must establish a new tradition, the Church would be the logical place for it to begin.

  16. #4 Kitty
    June 27th, 2013 at 08:36 | #16

    @Derek Johnson #13

    Where the fight would have to move is over the rights of children to be raised by the people who made them, which is still a worthwhile battle of course.

    Sorry Derek, I’m not sure I understood you here. Would you mind clarifying?

  17. Carl Vehse
    June 27th, 2013 at 08:36 | #17

    One questions is how the Missouri Synod leadership and its individual churches are to act, and encourage individual congregational members to act within the two-kingdom perspective according to

    Indirect and Unintentional Influence,
    Indirect and Intentional Influence,
    Direct and Intentional Influence, or
    Direct and Intentional Action.

    Is the SCOTUS ruling and its effect on the institution of marriage to be considered a comparable issue to slavery in the mid-19th century, to women suffrage in the early 20th century, to racial discrimination in the mid-20th century, to requiring church-run adoption service to provide homosexuals with children, to legalized abortion-by-murder, to forcing church organizations to pay for abortions and abortifacients, or to the destruction of constitutional rights by the current regime?

  18. Pr. Robert Catherwood
    June 27th, 2013 at 10:10 | #18

    @Matt Cochran #14
    A quibble, perhaps, Matt, but Luther would not recognize the distinction you are making between earthly kingdoms (the government) and the left hand kingdom. He also doesn’t use “married in the eyes of God, but not in the eyes of the state” language, it would have been foreign to him. He was no stranger to the state defining terms differently than God’s Word does.

    This would seem to be a case, as he would understand under Romans 13, as (UNTIL the state CAUSES us to sin by their laws) subjecting oneself to earthly authorities. Pr. Hinton’s post anticipates, from a solid precedent, that the progressive movement will compel churches to wed homosexuals, because the two kingdoms have become intertwined in the business of marriage in the US.

    President Obama’s statement, “I wont make churches conduct gay weddings” is telling, considering his proven hubris. This statement has the ring of a magnanimous but capricious ruler, which by precedent has proven to be true time and again. The progressive agenda is not merely to normalize and legitimize what is held to be true, but to remove and destroy all opposition so that theirs is the only voice. Again, precedent.

    Perhaps the only way for the Church to disentangle herself from this problem in the US would be for her to reject all “privileges” extended to her from the state, eg. tax-exempt status, the ability to conduct weddings, etc. They are “nice,” to be sure, but not needful. Christians in the US forget that America is part of the world that hates God and His Word, and since it rejects His Christ, it will reject the Bride as well. The fact that the US may be “salted” with Christians does not change the fact.

    Again, etc., and apologies for running at the keyboard.

  19. Matthew Mills
    June 27th, 2013 at 10:56 | #19

    @Rev. James Kusko #8
    Dear Pastor Kusko,
    You might want to break out AE vols 44-46. I don’t recall which treatise it was, but Dr. Luther’s position was that the Church had improperly grabbed control of marriage from the state for the purpose of financial gain. Luther said that the state should have 100% control of marriage because it was a left-hand gift of God to His whole creation, and not a Christian sacrament. It’s fair to say that Luther never saw the US Supreme Court’s recent “repeal of biology” coming, but I’m not sure it trumps the theology in Luther’s marriage treatises.
    Pax Christi+,
    -Matt Mills
    (Personally, I’m hoping the Supreme Court repeals gravity next. I think it would be cool if I could fly my bike to work!)

  20. helen
    June 27th, 2013 at 11:16 | #20

    @Derek Johnson #14
    Where the fight would have to move is over the rights of children to be raised by the people who made them, which is still a worthwhile battle of course.

    How are you going to “fight” that one, when children are “made” in petri dishes by two, sometimes incubated by a third, for the benefit of a pair who couldn’t reproduce themselves?

    Children, as I heard on NPR this morning, are purchased like any other property. It’s called adoption but it’s gotten very expensive/profitable and some are more expensive than others.
    (They have also been trashed, if not wanted, like any other property, for forty years now, with no end in sight.)

  21. Richard Lewer
    June 27th, 2013 at 17:32 | #21

    The church is not required to do any weddings. I never did any “civil” weddings. They were all people who had gone though pre-marriage Christian wedding instruction. We are not even required to do weddings for all the actual members of the congregation. Why make this a problem?

    Some “mega-churches” do not weddings.

    The problem would be with those “religious” people who use weddings as a business.

    If you use weddings to make money for your church or pastor and invite anyone to be married there, then you might have a problem. In fact, if you do that, you already have a problem.

  22. June 28th, 2013 at 07:35 | #22

    Pr. Robert Catherwood :
    @Matt Cochran #14
    A quibble, perhaps, Matt, but Luther would not recognize the distinction you are making between earthly kingdoms (the government) and the left hand kingdom. He also doesn’t use “married in the eyes of God, but not in the eyes of the state” language, it would have been foreign to him. He was no stranger to the state defining terms differently than God’s Word does.

    I think you’re a little off base, pastor. Bearing and nursing a child is certainly a matter of the left-hand kingdom, and yet Luther would surely not see that as a responsibility of the government. Whether the two are “distinct” or not, the left-hand kingdom is simply broader than the state.

    And I did not use “married in the eyes of God, but not in the eyes of the state” language either, which leads me to believe you didn’t really get my point. Consider an analogy. Say my local government, due to budget restrictions, shuts down the fire department and leases the fire station to be used as a night club called “The Fire Station” (they play “Disco Inferno” every night). Then say my neighbor’s house catches fire. According to the 5th and 7th commandments, I should help my neighbor in this crisis even though the government still owns The Fire Station.

    Likewise, say the government no longer offers marriage as one of its services (even though it still uses the word for a completely different service). According to Luther, the 6th commandment indicates that marriage is a necessary walk of life commanded by God (albeit with a small number of exceptions). He also writes that it tells us that we must “defend, protect, and rescue your neighbors [from unchastity] whenever they are in danger or need, and, moreover, even aid and assist them so that they may retain their honor. Whenever you fail to do this (although you could prevent a wrong) or do not even lift a finger (as if it were none of your business), you are just as guilty as the culprit who commits the act. In short, all are required both to live chastely themselves and also to help their neighbors do the same.” Just as the 5th & 7th commandment may demand assistance from neighbors in the event of fire regardless of their holding a governmental office, the 6th also makes demands. When our neighbors need marriage, and find themselves in an extraordinary situation in which the government does not offer it, we still need to help them.

  23. Matthew Mills
    June 28th, 2013 at 10:48 | #23

    There are at least three good shortish treatises specifically dealing w/ marriage in AE vols 44-46 and several others that touch on marriage as well. We are not going to solve our society’s blind sickness here in the next week anyway, so I’d suggest we stop theorizing from memory, or extrapolating from the Pope, the Neo-Evangelicals, and/or the latest Republican political platform, break out our copies of AE vols 44-46 and brush up on what Luther actually wrote about marriage. See you in a week.

    Pax Christi+,
    -Matt Mills

  24. Robert
    June 28th, 2013 at 12:31 | #24

    @Matt Cochran #15

    When Matt writes, “Marriage is part of the left-hand kingdom, but that does not necessarily mean the government. As you say, the family is more fundamental to that kingdom in Luther’s thought,” he is absolutely correct.

    Luther never would have cottoned to the State redefining marriage to suit contemporary whims (a euphemism for moral perversity). Why? Because like others of his day (and a few others today), he believed that the State should rule based on natural law. That is, rulers should use their noggin’s to determine what is best for society ***in accordance with man’s nature.*** Man’s nature is male and female, and the “end” (telos, or goal) of that polarity is the natural family and a flourishing society.

    One need not be a Christian to see and believe that.

    What we have today is the government, which in the main believes in and acts (as does its people) on positive law (man determines what is right and wrong, based chiefly on the consequences or the desires of the populace), substituting itself for God’s eternal law, perceived through man’s reason.

    See Matt’s excellent chapter in “Natural Law: A Lutheran Reappraisal” (CPH, 2011).

  25. Pr. Robert Catherwood
    June 28th, 2013 at 16:42 | #25

    @Matt Cochran #22
    Matt,
    We might be misunderstanding each other, since agree more than we appear to disagree, and I think we are coming at the same thing from different directions.

    Tangentially, your example of “The Fire Station” (maybe because of the subject of discussion) conjured in my mind a gay bar, complete with fireman hats, speedos, and red suspenders. It made me laugh. Hard.

    +Dominus vobiscum+

  26. Robert
    June 29th, 2013 at 08:39 | #26

    Let me echo Rev. Curtis’s and Mr. Mills’s suggestions: Go back to Luther, Melanchthon, and Chemnitz. Here, I would also suggest Gerhard.

    The way our Lutheran forefathers spoke of marriage and chastity IS NOT THE SAME AS the way contemporary folks, even Lutheran Christians, speak of sexuality.

    Marriage and sexuality are not the same.

    Now is the time for we Lutherans to recapture our nomenclature AND OUR THEOLOGY of marriage and chastity. That’s why I’ve jump started lutheranmarriageinitiative.com.

    We can begin by defeating or amending Resolution 2-07, “To Emphasize Biblical Teaching of Sexuality, Marriage, and Family,” Today’s Business, pp. 64-65, which, while seemingly supportive of marriage, chiefly is an effort to minister to homosexuals.

    One of the members of the Same-sex (now “God’s Gift of Sexuality”) Task Force, Rev. Roger Sonnenberg, recently wrote that sex education is a part of the Great Commission:

    “God gave to the church the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19–20a. “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you.” Though the church carries out the directive to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them … ,” unfortunately we often miss out on the second directive of the Great Commission, “teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you.” The “teaching” all things includes the very thing he created within each of us — the gift of sexuality…

    LCMS “God’s Gift of Human Sexuality Task Force” member, the Rev. Roger Sonnenberg, in ““Sexuality: What Congregations, Parents, Pastors, and Teachers Need to Teach,” ISSUES in Christian Education, Spring, 2013, pp. 19, 23).

    Available at: http://www.cune.edu/about/publications/issues-in-c hristian-education/issues-spring-2013/. Accessed June 28, 2013.

  27. Carl Vehse
    June 29th, 2013 at 10:44 | #27

    @Robert #26,

    You’re right, Robert, in calling for the defeat (or MAJOR amending) of Resolution 2-07 (2013: Today’s Business, pp. 64-5).

    The Resolution is supposedly based on Overture 2-05, “To Emphasize Biblical Teaching of Marriage and Family” (CW, pp. 145-146), submitted by the Michigan District.

    What Floor Committee 2 did was take the title and a few of the mom-and-apple-pie boilerplates from Overture 2-05 and then tacked on the job justification for God’s Gift of Sexuality (née Same-Sex) Task Force along with Resolveds to give the the Task Force, including psychotherapy-degreed Sonnenberg, carte blanche.

    Let’s see. Who is the chairman of Floor Committee 2?

    Oh, yeah…. :-(

  28. Carl Vehse
    June 29th, 2013 at 19:31 | #28

    @Robert #26,

    The Chairman of Floor Committee 2 didn’t transform Overture 2-05 into Resolution 2-07 on his own. He was under orders (2013 Today’s Business, p. 18):

    Prepare a resolution responding to Ov. 2-05 on marriage issues, perhaps along the lines of the suggestions from the “God’s Gift of Sexuality: Hope for Those Struggling with Same-sex Attraction,” the President’s Task Force on same-sex issues. This is a mercy issue because the church needs to provide compassionate care for all people who are caught in sexual sins and/or struggle with same-sex attraction. Write a resolution that is not about defining our theology (we have already done that) but is about the church showing compassion to those in need and to those who are caught in this difficulty. We are a hospital for sinners, not an ivory tower for alleged saints.

  29. Robert
    June 30th, 2013 at 08:08 | #29

    @Carl Vehse #28

    Rick,

    Dr. Behnke’s explanation of the disposition of these two overtures, made to me by e-mail, seems plausible and reasonable. 2-05 had been previously resolved by a prior convention, and 2-06 was referred back to the IC.

    However, as we know, during the past three years the Harrison administration has not resolved the issue of Lutheran Children and Family Services of Illinois presumably violating the Scriptures and Confessions, as well as the express will of the Synod, by placing children into gay/lesbian contexts, which it has said publicly and repeatedly that it will do.

  30. Carl Vehse
    June 30th, 2013 at 14:02 | #30

    @Robert #29: “Dr. Behnke’s explanation of the disposition of these two overtures, made to me by e-mail, seems plausible and reasonable.”

    Whether a seemingly “plausible and reasonable” explanation (from a person who once claimed “The Muslim God is also the true God”) or a floor committee decision relying on numerology, oneiromancy, or extispicy, Overture 2-05 was significantly altered per an order (2013 Today’s Business, p. 18) into Resolution 2-07 to promote and advance a newly created task force and their agenda, which had nothing to do with the original overture.

  31. Robert
    June 30th, 2013 at 17:13 | #31

    Rick,

    I would agree. The proposed “God’s Gift of Sexuality Task Force” (whatever that is; formerly “Same-sex Task Force”) and its agenda (to offer ministry, presumably including psychological counseling services) to homosexuals, has nothing to do with either grass-roots resolutions regarding marriage or holding LCMS RSO Lutheran Child and Family Services of Illinois to account presumably for violating the will of Synod.

    The Task Force was created by President Harrison.

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