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Al Mohler on Marriage, Part 1

with Al Mohler | March 25, 2010

The redefinition of marriage is more than a matter of personal rights. Today, Dr. Al Mohler provides a concise and challenging analysis of marriage’s role as a foundation stone of civilization. In this historic address delivered to the signatories of the Manhattan Declaration, Dr. Mohler defends the traditional definition of marriage, as he outlines the opportunity every Christian has to add his voice in support of the Manhattan Declaration.

The redefinition of marriage is more than a matter of personal rights. Today, Dr. Al Mohler provides a concise and challenging analysis of marriage’s role as a foundation stone of civilization. In this historic address delivered to the signatories of the Manhattan Declaration, Dr. Mohler defends the traditional definition of marriage, as he outlines the opportunity every Christian has to add his voice in support of the Manhattan Declaration.

Al Mohler on Marriage, Part 1

With Al Mohler
|
March 25, 2010
| Download Transcript PDF

Bob:  The institutions of marriage and family ordained by God are what root us as a part of the human community.  Here’s Dr. Al Mohler.

Al:  Marriage allows the proper human connection in time and in place it looks back to our ancestors as we are commanded to honor our fathers and our mothers and looks forward to our progeny.  The dissolution and subversion of marriage threatens to turn asunder the central bond not only that holds the human family together but also establishes ancestry and descendants, and family.

 

Bob:  This is FamilyLife Today,for Thursday March 25th.  Our host is the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey and I'm Bob Lepine.  Dr. Al Mohler today makes a compelling case for why the biblical view of marriage and family is the view that we need to embrace as a culture. 

And welcome to FamilyLife Today thanks for joining us.  There are sometimes on FamilyLife Today when you’re listening to a program and a particular speaker is on or somebody’s sharing out of their life and their experience, and it’s pretty easy to listen to.  You can just sit back and relax and listen and enjoy.

Dennis:  Yes.

Bob:  Other times when you need to kind of strap it on, pay attention…

Dennis:  This is one of those times.

Bob:  Yes, we’re going to be hearing a powerful message on a critical issue in our day.

Dennis:  We are.  Back last September, Barbara and I were invited to a meeting and a gathering of a number of people who were concerned about the assault on marriage in this post-modern American culture.  We came out of this meeting with what has become known as the “Manhattan Declaration.”  We’ll have some information about that at the end of this broadcast that our listeners, I think may want to consider.

One of the messages given was a message given by Dr. Al Mohler.  Dr. Mohler is the President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.  It is the largest seminary in the world.  Dr. Mohler has been on FamilyLife Today a number of times.  He’s become a good friend and as I was sitting there that evening listening to this message I thought, “I want every listener of FamilyLife Today to hear this message.”  Now, it really is a heavy message.  It is articulate, it is profound, but it is an apologetic of sorts for why marriage must be defended from the scriptures.

Bob:  We live in a culture today where as we’ve said many times here, marriage is being redefined and reinterpreted and I don’t know that as a culture we have stopped to consider the dramatic impact that that redefinition will have on civilization.

 

Dennis:  I’m going to tell you Bob, it’s frightening as I think about my children, and my grandchildren, and what they’re going to face if there is a redefinition of marriage embraced by the nation.  This is not a light issue.  This is a big time culture changer.  I mean, you do not change the definition of marriage without altering a civilization profoundly. 

The Bible is God’s word.  It tells you how to put together things that work.  How to build civilizations and life around, for instance the Ten Commandments, so people can relate to each other in a civil manner.  You can’t redefine marriage without dramatically impacting civilization.

Bob:  Well, we’re going to step aside and let our friend Dr. Albert Mohler address his issue as he does so eloquently in this message.  Again, this was presented at a gathering of leaders in New York City back in September of 2009.  Here is Dr. Al Mohler.

 

Al:  It is such a high honor to be here with you, and for us to be together on an occasion like this.  A part of the joy of being here tonight, is knowing how many people are scratching their heads if they could just see.  I even had a member of the staff of the club ask me, “What in the world is this?”  It’s not mine to explain, frankly.  Nonetheless, those who think it’s a conspiracy, to them I can only say, “I certainly hope so.” I am highly honored to be with the rest of you co-conspirators here. 

It is an open conspiracy.  It is our open declaration that marriage matters.  And, that we intend to dedicate our lives, our ministries, our churches, our souls to the task of defending and defining marriage in biblical terms, Christian terms.  The terms set forth by our creator and embedded in every atom and molecule of this creation.  I am thankful to be with you here. 

The title of my address is “Let Us Be Agreed: Marriage, The Gospel of Christ, and the Test of Faith.”  For many people in this society, especially for those in the elites, there is a new normal.  Having been at war since the sixties against any norm, or notion of normativity, there is now a new norm.  There’s a new normal, there’s a new moral state of affairs, and civilization pivots on such distinctions.  And even moral relativists have an absolute morality.  It’s just selective. 

In that selectivity, in that great reversal in this seismic shift that we have experienced, that which was considered good by virtually all peoples and all civilizations and all cultures and all societies everywhere throughout time, is now seen as an impediment to human happiness and self-fulfillment and human expression, and of course, with the feminist assault, marriage is limited as inherently patriarchal, and along will come the deconstructionists who say it’s hegemonic and totalitarian and oppressive. 

And here we are.  The world’s turned upside-down.  Let me suggest first of all that we must be agreed that marriage matters.  The basis for our own understanding of marriage is not merely sociological, is not merely phenomenological, or anthropological, or legal or cultural or social or much less a matter of mere social etiquette.  It is deeply theological.  I’m here tonight to speak of a very theological vision of marriage that should undergird us as we are reminded of why this is important.  Not only for ourselves, but for all creation.

We believe that marriage is a central gift of God to His human creatures.  It is God’s gift for the flourishing of his human creatures.  The conjugal union of one man and one woman is essential.  It points beyond itself, but it can never be reduced smaller than itself.  It is not a human invention, it’s not just a sociological adaptation, it’s not just the process of some kind of cultural evolution.  Human beings in terms of their social development and not merely find the convenience of pair reproduction and then of committed monogamous pairing and then of romantic marriage and expressive marriage…  No, marriage as an institution is given to us by our creator. 

It is a demonstration of God’s fatherly love for his human creatures.  It is not a prison of patriarchy, it is a gift wherein we find human joy and health and human flourishing.  Now, in the background to our conversation of marriage is something as basic as gender the two sexes, the fact that God, by his own declaration made both men and women in His image.  But, he did make us as male and female. 

Gender is a part of the goodness of God’s creation; again it’s not some kind of accidental by-product of a naturalistic evolution.  It is a part of the reflection of the glorious purpose for us.  Our embodiment is a part of the revelation God speaks to us, and the theology of the body is absolutely necessary if we are to understand the importance of marriage, also the importance of what it means to be human.  Marriage is a demonstration of the creator’s fatherly love for us. Gender is a part of the messaging that indeed our creator is giving to us.  Marriage is a covenant, and a conjugal bond, and it is both of the glory of God, and to the glory of God. 

The church has recognized three great purposes of marriage throughout history.  The first of these is the procreation and the nurture of children.  If God should grant children to the marriage.

This purpose is dishonored by many, but it is honored among believers and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Children are to be welcomed as gifts to the institution of marriage, transforming husband and wife into father and mother.  In our anti-natalist age some see children as impositions or worse.  The denial of a procreative orientation for marriage, every marriage genuinely open to the gift of children is a denial of the biblical vision of marriage itself.

A second great purpose of marriage as the ancient language expresses it is this:  “It is as a remedy against sin and to avoid fornication, the believers might marry and keep themselves undefiled members of Christ’s body.  Marriage a remedy for sin?  What a very interesting notion, a biblical notion.  This purpose is ridiculed among many but it is honored among Christ’s disciples. 

This is exactly what the apostle Paul took as his concern in writing to the church at Corinth.  Confused and seduced by sexual sin, that church had compromised its own ability to represent Christ.  Paul pointed to marriage as a means of channeling sexual desire into its proper context, lest believers burn with passion and sin against God.  Our culture, we might notice, turned burning into passion as an art form and an industry.

The third great end of marriage is companionship throughout life, through good and bad, comfort and loss, sickness and health, until death parts husband and wife.  The mystery of completeness is expressed in this statement:  “That two shall become one when a man and woman exchange marriage vows they become one solitary unit after the exchange of these vows we no longer speak of the husband without the wife or of the wife without the husband.  They have become one both in the physical union of the marital act, and in the metaphysical union of the marital bond as a married couple, husband and wife they will live to the glory of God with each other for each other and to each other.”

How does marriage glorify God?  As Tertullian says, “How beautiful then the marriage of two Christians.  Two who are one in home, one in desire, one in the way of life they follow, one in the religion they practice, nothing divides them.  Either in flesh or in spirit, they pray together, they worship together, they fast together, instructing one another encouraging one another, strengthening one another. 

“Side-by-side they visit God’s church and partake God’s banquet.  Side-by-side, they face difficulties and persecution, share their consolations.  They have no secrets from one another, they never shun each other’s company, they never bring sorrow to each other’s hearts.  Seeing this Christ rejoices, to such as these he gives peace.  Where there are two together, there also He is present.”

Second, let us be agreed that marriage is now a central question for our civilization.  In a sense to say civilization requires us to save marriage.  One of the most important things we can affirm as we’re together at this occasion is that there can be no civilization without the proper understanding of recognition of and granted status to marriage. 

As Pitirim Sorokin the founder of the department of sociology at Harvard University pointed out: “Civilization is possible only when marriage is normative and when all other sexual behaviors and relationships are censored.  Marriage requires men to channel their energies and commitments toward the care of their offspring.  Marriage offers protection to both the husband and the wife, not only the sexual protection of the conjugal bond and it’s monogamous purity, but also protection against all of the whims of the world and its evils.”

Will and Ariel Durant talking about their review of the history of civilization as amateur historians said that “Sex is a river of fire that must be banked and cooled by a hundred restraints; marriage being the most important of those restraints.  And we are unbanking the river.”  The regulation of sex is a part of every society.  There is no society that does not regulate sex.  The question is how is sex to be regulated, and who will do the regulation and what relationships are going to be considered legitimate and licit.

Every society has regulated reproduction and procreation.  Every society has regulated in some way, not only child bearing, but child rearing.  The institution of marriage has been the central means whereby civilizations have begun the task of civilizing.  It is indeed the civilizational DNA of our social genetic structure.  Law, custom, the habits of the heart, all of these come into a proper alignment only if there is the institution of marriage rightly recognized at the very center of a culture’s civilization life and essence.

Thus, when marriage is subverted, civilization itself is subverted.  Marriage must be the great narrative that frames adult experience and expectation.  It must be the great narrative that displays the notion of the good life.  It must be the great narrative that explains the expectations of responsibility and moral probity.  It must be both for those who are married, and for those who are not married, the central symbol of adulthood.  Thus when marriage is subverted, all of these things are lost, the essential bonds are weakened, the great central institutions of society beyond marriage are subverted when marriage is subverted. 

“Same-sex marriage” is not marriage.  It is a repudiation of marriage.  It is the deliberate subversion of our central civilizational institution.  It is the direct and deliberate rejection of the gift of God to His human creatures.  The character and essence of marriage as the conjugal bond between one man and one woman for life cannot be replicated in any other institutional form, and it cannot be defended when marriage itself is subverted.  The subversion of marriage is both, we should note, an effect and the goal of those who are pushing the agenda.

Marriage allows the proper human connection in time and in place, in space and in history.  It looks back to our ancestors as we are commanded to honor our fathers and our mothers and looks forward to our progeny.  Known and yet unknown to generations yet to come.  And, the dissolution and subversion of marriage threatens to turn asunder the central bond, not only that holds the human family together, but it also establishes ancestry and descendants and family.

Now, why would it be so?  Why would there be such a central assault upon marriage?  It must be because marriage is identified as an instrument of oppression.  That is exactly the ideological subversion that we witness.  The feminists suggest that it is an institution of patriarchy and they can certainly ransack the history of humanity and come up with any number of arguments concerning patriarchy.  But, their central argument, at least for those of the radical feminist wing will suggest that marriage is an irretrievably patriarchal institution and thus it must be eliminated for women to be liberated.

But it’s not just feminism and its ideological acids.  It is also the concomitant strains of individual autonomy and personal fulfillment.  All of these things have subverted marriage by pointing us away from the things that we are called to, and indeed even determined for, created for, and instead to an endless voyage of self-discovery and self-expression, in which we now claim to be the lords of our own destiny, and we will be the inventors of our own selves, sexual and otherwise and of course now in terms of gender as well.

Because the very existence of marriage declares an objective truth.  The very existence of marriage is a moral witness to the fact that there is one normative relationship.  The very fact of marriage reveals that in law and in custom, in habits and etiquette, in language and in cultural forms and cultural narratives, this one thing continuously cries out that it and it alone deserves this place.  That it and it alone deserves these protections, that it and it alone deserves this status, what we have here are forces that together see advantage, mutual advantage in the dissolution of marriage, in the de-centering of marriage in the subversion of marriage, each group to its own ends.

Bob:  Well, we have been listening to part one of a message from Dr. Al Mohler on the nobility of the marriage relationship.  And, you know I was sitting here thinking, Dennis, if the purpose of life is me and my self-fulfillment and my desires being met, then I’d be on the side of saying “Redefine marriage however you want, as long as those goals are kept in mind.”  But if you have a biblical worldview, you say the purpose of marriage is not ultimately me, my self-fulfillment and my own desires being met.  It’s God and others and with that in mind, you’ve got to keep marriage the way it’s intended to be.

 

Dennis:  It’s two people learning the art of self-denial, and learning how to love and passing that message on to future generations.  What Dr. Mohler has shared today is that there is an assault taking place on marriage and its definition.  He also talks about how there is an assault on the Christian community and the failure of its marriages to live up to the standard we espouse.  So what’s happening here, the Christian community is attempting to stand up and raise the standard but the non-Christian community is going, “You’re hypocrites.  Your marriages are shredded by divorce.”

So in reality I want to turn at this point to our audience to say, the reason I played part one of this message here on FamilyLife Today was first of all to make you aware of what’s at stake.  I think there’s a lot of minimizing of what’s taking place Bob.  But then secondly—and I think frankly this may be the most important of all—secondly I wanted to talk to husbands and wives, parents, grandparents and single people to say, you need to have a firm conviction about what the Bible teaches about male and female sexuality, about marriage, you need to know what you believe the scripture teaches, and you need to pass it on to the next generation.

Because—I’m going to tell you something—the Christian home is powerful.  It is the most powerful grass roots movement in the world.  I fear, Bob, we’re allowing the assault to kind of take away our sword, which is the scriptures and the absolute truth of the Bible, and we’re kind of cowering in the cave like Saul’s army was doing while the Philistines were walking up and down the valley cursing God and saying that our standards don’t really matter.  Well, you know what, they do. 

Christians need to stand up and that’s why we’d encourage folks to go take a look at the website for the Manhattan Declaration, read it over, take a look at it, Barbara and I decided to sign that declaration and put our names in that declaration saying, “You know what, we stand for the beliefs represented here.  We want our names associated with that.”  For individuals to do the same thing as they think about what they believe.

 

Bob:  You can sign onto that document online. Right?

 

Dennis:  That’s correct.

 

Bob:  All you have to do is go to FamilyLifeToday.com, there’s a link there that will take you to the Manhattan Declaration website, and you can read it over and decide whether you want to sign on as well.  Again our website is FamilyLifeToday.com, find the link to the Manhattan Declaration, look it over and see what you and your family might want to do in terms of adding your signature to that.

Let me also mention that on our website, there’s a link to a document that we have online called “The Family Manifesto.”  It defines for individuals or for churches what the Bible has to say about things like, the role of the husband, the role of the wife what a mom and dad have been created by God to do.  It really looks at what the Bible teaches about marriage, and family.  So, look for the link to “The Family Manifesto” when you go to FamilyLifeToday.com.

Let me also mention that Dr. Mohler is going to be speaking next month at the Orphan Summit in Minneapolis that FamilyLife is helping to support through our Hope For Orphans® outreach.  This takes place in Minneapolis April 29th through the 30th and along with Dr. Mohler, John Piper is going to be speaking, Mary Beth Chapman’s going to speak, Steven Curtis Chapman is going to be providing music. 

If you are involved in your local church with orphan care or adoption, this is a great event for you to attend to help you better network with and understand what’s available to churches so that the needs of the orphan can be met by churches from around the world.  Find out more when you go to FamilyLifeToday.com, and click on the link that will take you to the Christian Alliance for Orphans website where you can find out all you need to find out about Summit Six coming up in Minneapolis. 

Again our website FamilyLifeToday.com, if it’s easier for you to get in touch with us by phone, toll free number is 1-800-FLTODAY, 1-800-358-6329.  That’s 1-800 F as in “family” L as in “life” and then the word TODAY. 

By the way that is the same number you would use if you wanted to call and make a donation to help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today.  We are listener supported and if you make a donation of any amount to help support FamilyLife Today, we would love to send you as a thank you gift a copy of the new movie, Magdalena, which tells the story of the life of Jesus through the eyes of Mary Magdalene.  All you have to do is call 1-800-FLTODAY, make a donation and ask for the DVD and we’ll send it out to you.  Again it’s our way of saying thanks for helping support the ministry of FamilyLife Today.

If it’s easier to donate online, you can do that as well.  Go to FamilyLifeToday.com, make your donation and just type “MAGDVD” in the online donation key code box, and we’ll be sure to send you a copy of his DVD that you can watch together with your family, and then pass along to others as well.  Again, let me just say thanks for your financial support of this ministry.  We appreciate those who partner with us, and make the ministry of FamilyLife Today possible. 

And, we want to invite you back tomorrow when we’re going to hear part two of Dr. Al Mohler’s message on marriage.  I hope you can join us for that.  I want to thank our engineer today Keith Lynch and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine.  We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of Familylife of Little Rock, Arkansas.

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Fun, engaging conversations about what it takes to build stronger, healthier marriage and family relationships. Join hosts Dave and Ann Wilson with FamilyLife Today® veteran cohost Bob Lepine for new episodes every weekday.

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