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What is Marriage?

Discovering a Definition from the “Bottom-Up.”
By: Jonathan Harris

Geometrical Definitions

While in my second year of highschool, I was exposed to a subdivision of arithmetic known as geometry. To my adolescent horror, I would be responsible for constructing various “proofs” based upon postulates, on a daily basis . For those who don’t know, postulates are statements assumed to be true derived from definitions. While I considered the work to be tedious, grueling, and nothing short of slave labor, I later understood the value in my hours of study. I had discovered that behind every mathematical formula existed a postulate(s), and behind every postulate stood a definition(s). A few years later in physics lab, during my first full semester of college, I experienced first-hand verification for the mathematical formulas I had discovered in geometry. I realized that although definitions were technically “unproven,” they were legitimately true because they corresponded to reality. Natural law had set the guidelines for definitions, and to avoid confusion, etymology had given us the terms used to designate them. For instance, in the English language, the term “ line,” can be defined as the “shortest distance between two points.” Based on this definition, it is reasonable to postulate that two lines can intersect at only one point. The building blocks of the most complex mathematical formulas are therefore derived from reasonable assumptions considered to be “self-evident.”

Self-Evident Truths

It is with this basic understanding of natural law, that Thomas Jefferson affirmed the concept of “inalienable rights” in our Declaration of Independence. Of course, natural revelation is only one aspect of God’s disclosure to mankind. There’s also what Theologians call “special revelation” in the form of the Bible. Utilizing both Divine sources, it is without question, possible to systematically set the parameters for an authentic definition of marriage.

For the last decade, conservatives have parroted the “majority” argument in favor of traditional marriage. This “top-down” approach is essentially “upside-down” in regards to the proper way in which to deduce a conclusion about anything. Unfortunately, as a result, most conservatives haven’t been exposed to a basic “bottom-up”reasoning system for holding to heterosexual marriage. A bottom up approach starts with premises, just as a mathematical definition starts with presuppositions about the natural world (that it’s orderly, etc.).

Premise 1- The Universe is Designed. (Natural Revelation)

A System of Mechanisms

Every system in the material word fulfills a basic function. Most functions are simple to realize. The water cycle, photosynthesis, and even tiny bacterial flagellum, demonstrate that something or someone’s intentions are being carried out on a daily basis. When it comes to human beings, it is obvious that reproduction is the result of a sexual practice in which two individuals of opposite genders mate. Inside this reproduction mechanism, is a pleasurable natural incentive. Sexually parallel differentiated organs are part of the blueprint every male and female are born with. Intuition dictates that these specialized organs, natural incentives, and resultant byproducts are the result of a correctly functioning mechanism intended to produce offspring. Once progeny are born, they come into the world in a rather “feeble” state. There exists no natural arrangement by which babies can care for themselves. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the development of sexual organs within human beings occurs within specific time parameters; starting at the commencement of the period in which he or she will be fully capable of caring for offspring. Natural law has also dictated a basic arrangement in which offspring are to be cared for.

Observing the System

In Walt Larimore’s, MD book “His Brain, Her Brain: How Divinely Designed Differences Can Strengthen Your Marriage,” a case is made that men and women have a mutually beneficial relationship based upon the difference granted them by nature. In, “The Differences Between Men’s and Women’s Brains,” Whitney Hopler summarizes some of the key points made by Dr. Walt.

“Male and female brains are dramatically different anatomically, chemically, hormonally, and physiologically. Those differences cause fundamentally different ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving.”

Such differences include the fact that, “Men are wired to provide financially for their families, while women are wired to provide the emotional security of a peaceful home.” When speaking about the differences between male and female brains, Hopler writes:

“The male brain is highly systemized, with a high ability to compartmentalize, a low ability to multitask, a high ability to control emotions, a low relational orientation, a high project orientation, a high ability to “zone out,” a tendency to act first and think later when faced with stress, an aggressive response to risk, and a tendency to compete with other males. The female brain is highly empathetic, with a low ability to compartmentalize, a high ability to multitask, a low ability to control emotions, a relational orientation, a low project orientation, a low ability to “zone out,” a tendency to think and feel before acting in response to stress, a cautious response to risk, and a tendency to cooperate with other females.”

These differences have a profound impact on communication, sexual activity, and nearly every aspect associated with a relationship between two humans of the opposite gender. Dr. Larimore’s conclusion is that natural differences, when coupled with humility, serve to strengthen relationships.

Biological science has verified many of these observed natural differences. In the sub-field of biochemistry it has been established that women produce the hormone oxytocin during labor and lactation. It was discovered that both men and women also secrete this hormone during sex, relaxation, massage, touch, warmth, and light pressure on all parts of the body. This particular hormone drives the “tend and befriend” emotions under stress mediating maternal behavior, facilitating bonding, and actually allows adult pair bonding. This is thought to increase the survival of the individual and her offspring. Men, on the other hand, due to a different set of hormones, react to stress with the emotions associated with the more aggressive “fight or flight” mentality. Testosterone is also known to negate the effects of oxytocin. A study done using prairie Voles (a monogamous rodent) showed that oxytocin also reinforces monogamy The presence of this hormone is one of the reasons women tend to be monogamous. This is also just one example of how biologically, women are hardwired for the care of offspring.

In the book “Why Marriage Matters,” Glenn T Stanton examines research by the APP concerning children in non-traditional environments. Stanton states:

“We find that when children grow up any time without their biological mother or father, that they face serious declines in a whole host of important well-being measures. Kids who grow up with both biological parents tend to do better in every important measure of well-being.”

It ought not to seem “unnatural” that since the beginning of recorded history, the “family” unit has existed, and ensured the survival of proceeding generations. Nature has mandated the function of producing offspring solely to heterosexuals; in addition, creation has revealed a preference for monogamous heterosexuals in the function of nurturing offspring.

Pat Buchanan unapologetically declared this verifiable premise on the April 16th edition of MSNBC’s Hardball.

Chris Matthews: “. . . don’t we have cases where there’s civil decisions about marriage that depart from church doctrine?”
Pat Buchanan: “I’m not talking about church doctrine, I’m talking about natural law Chris. The law of human nature, which is designed by God. . .you can redefine it and say what it is, but that’s playing ‘let’s pretend’. . .A relationship between a man and a woman for the procreation of children is natural.”

Premise 2- The God of the Bible is Its Designer. (Special Revelation)

Biblical Authority

The Bible has proven itself authentic in every area in which a test can be performed. Historically, scientifically, prophetically, textually, and applicably, the Bible has stood the test of time, meeting every qualification required to satisfy the status of “truth.” Hundreds of fulfilled prophesies, scientific truths proclaimed thousands of years before science discovered them, and martyrs who went to their deaths refusing to deny the miraculous, are just the drop in the bucket of mounting evidence for Biblical authority. However, it is not because of evidence that the Bible is true; rather, evidence exists because the Bible is true. Assuming that the Bible is true, let us examine what the God of the universe says about the institution of marriage.

Marriage and the Bible

Quoting from Genesis, the Apostle Matthew records Jesus Himself explaining the institution of marriage.

“And He answered and said, ‘Have you not read, that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh’? ‘Consequently they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.’” – Matthew 19:4-6

The union of man and woman is therefore an institution which God himself sanctions. Therefore, no governmental or religious institution can change God’s decree; all they can do is either recognize or repudiated what is already established. It should be obvious that the union which took place between the first man and woman was a universal blueprint for a all of mankind. Neither Adam, nor Eve had parents, however it was from their juncture that God declared:

“For this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” – Gen. 2:24

The previous verses indicate the “cause” for which marriage is established.

“And the man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh at that place. And the Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. And the man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man.” – Genesis 2:20-23

Women are therefore “suitable” helpers. But what “help” was woman supposed to assist man in accomplishing?

And God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” – Genesis 1:28

One of the very first commands in Scripture (sometimes referred to as the “Adamic Dispensation”) requires a heterosexual relationship. The command to produce children, and rule over creation, is still in effect today. This command to be fertile goes beyond merely the production of children. It also encompasses training them.

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth. And, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger; but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Ephes. 6:1-4

The survival and success of offspring depends very much on the parent’s example and instruction. Another important purpose for marriage can be found in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians:

Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her; that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she should be holy and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body. For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh. – Ephes. 5:22-31

Many modern critics of the Bible tend to focus in on, “Wives, be subject to your own husbands,” forgetting to read the passage in context. Paul is postulating a parallel comparison to be made between the relationship between Christ and the Church, and between husbands and wives. Even the non-Christian marriage demonstrates a picture of the love Christ has for His church, when he loves his wife.

“Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge.”- Hebrews 13:4

We can see from this passage that God holds marriage in a place of “honor.” It is a sanctioned institution for the purpose of procreation, conservation of creation, and a picture of the relationship Christ has with His church.

(Since the purpose of this article is to define what marriage is, and not to examine homosexual practices, we will not go into any of the natural or biblical consequences or punishments reserved for a sexually deviant lifestyle.)

Conclusion: It’s What He Said!

Based upon these premises, it can clearly be seen that there exits an institution arranged by nature and sanctioned by God, for the intention of producing and raising children, being good stewards of the earth, and mirroring the relationship that Christ has with His church. This institution has, throughout the human experience, been designated by different names. In English, the name is “marriage.” The1828 edition of Webster’s dictionary, describes marriage as:

“a contract both civil and religious, by which the parties engage to live together in mutual affection and fidelity, till death shall separate them. Marriage was instituted by God himself for the purpose of preventing the promiscuous intercourse of the sexes, for promoting domestic felicity, and for securing the maintenance and education of children.”

This universally accepted term for marriage, has only met challenges in recent times. The current edition of Webster’s Dictionary describes marriage as:

“(1): the state of being united to a person of the opposite sex as husband or wife in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law (2): the state of being united to a person of the same sex in a relationship like that of a traditional marriage ”

The adjustment for same-sex relationships aside, what basis is being cited as having the authority to define what marriage is? In the 1828 edition, God set the terms. In the current edition, man sets the terms by means of “law.” Of course, if the two premises described in this article are true, then a horrible error has occurred. Man has replaced God as the authority.

To me, definitions are important. Without them we couldn’t communicate. The Pythagorean Theorem would be impossible to prove if there was no consensus on what a line truly was. If one person said a line was a curve in between two points, and another said it was the shortest distance between two points, very different outcomes would become prominent when it came time to apply these definitions. Applying this concept to marriage, Alan Keyes brilliantly stated in a 2004 debate with Barack Obama

“If you are saying that that’s (referring to same-sex unions) a marriage, you are saying that marriage can exist in principle apart from procreation. You have changed its definition in such a way as in fact to destroy the necessity for the institution, since the only reason it has existed in human societies and civilizations was to regulate from a social point of view, the obligations and responsibilities attendant upon procreation.”

No matter how human beings try to twist words around, the universal facts will always remain – both lines, and marriages, are straight institutions. Changing the definition of the word, won’t change the self-evident law of nature, or that of nature’s God. We can, as a people, either affirm what is true, or stick our heads in the sand in rebellion.

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