Christianity,  Politics

A Succinct Case for Traditional Marriage

As arguments for traditional marriage fall on deaf ears in our culture, I believe that love requires us to make the case nevertheless (1 Cor. 13:6). To that end, we need to marshal all the arguments at our disposal—both biblical and natural law arguments. The natural law case has been made most effectively in the recent book What Is Marriage? This book makes the case without appealing to religious authority but with an exclusive appeal to a “publicly accessible” rationale for traditional marriage.

One of the co-authors of that book, Ryan Anderson, has also just recently published an article that distills the case for traditional marriage into twelve pages. It’s published by the Heritage Foundation, and it’s a resource that I heartily commend to you. It’s titled “Marriage: What It Is, Why It Matters, and the Consequences of Redefining It.” Here’s the abstract:

Marriage is based on the truth that men and women are complementary, the biological fact that reproduction depends on a man and a woman, and the reality that children need a mother and a father. Redefining marriage does not simply expand the existing understanding of marriage; it rejects these truths. Marriage is society’s least restrictive means of ensuring the well-being of children. By encouraging the norms of marriage—monogamy, sexual exclusivity, and permanence—the state strengthens civil society and reduces its own role. The future of this country depends on the future of marriage. The future of marriage depends on citizens understanding what it is and why it matters and demanding that government policies support, not undermine, true marriage.

Here’s an outline of the argument:

I. What Is Marriage?

Marriage exists to bring a man and a woman together as husband and wife to be father and mother to any children their union produces.

Marriage is based on the anthropological truth that men and women are complementary, the biological fact that reproduction depends on a man and a woman, and the social reality that children need a mother and a father.

Marriage as the union of man and woman is true across cultures, religions, and time. The government recognizes but does not create marriage.

Marriage has been weakened by a revisionist view of marriage that is more about adults’ desires than children’s needs.

II. Why Marriage Matters for Policy

Government recognizes marriage because it is an institution that benefits society in a way that no other relationship does.

Marriage is society’s least restrictive means of ensuring the well-being of children. Marital breakdown weakens civil society and limited government.

Marital breakdown costs taxpayers.

Government can treat people equally—and leave them free to live and love as they choose—without redefining marriage.

We reap the civil society benefits of marriage only if policy gets marriage right.

Redefining marriage would put into the law the new principle that marriage is whatever emotional bond the government says it is.

Redefining marriage would weaken monogamy, exclusivity, and permanency—the norms through which marriage benefits society.

Redefining marriage threatens religious liberty.

III. The Future of Marriage


  • James Giordano

    Today’s (March 11, 2013) Focus on the Family radio broadcast touches on many of the same points. Law professor and religious rights advocate Helen Alvare describes the cultural sea change surrounding the purpose and sacredness of marriage, and how the court system has undermined its divine, God-intended purpose.

    Helen Alvaré is an Associate Professor of Law at George Mason University School of Law, where she teaches Family Law, Law and Religion, and Property Law. She publishes on matters concerning marriage, parenting, non-marital households, abortion and the First Amendment religion clauses.

  • James Bradshaw

    Gay people exist. They can either remain celibate bachelors for the entirety of their lives or enter into a heterosexual marriage with someone for whom they have no emotional or physical bond. Gay marriage is, in fact, the conservative option for them: it channels their drives and carries an expectation of commitment and sacrifice for the good of another. It’s hardly a life that can be described as selfish or indulgent. After all, if all one wanted was pleasure, why marry with all of the risks and complications? Just sleep around with strangers and give them a fake phone number when they leave. Is that preferable?

    If God is truly “Love”, I’m sure He’ll understand.

  • Kathryn Elliott Stegall

    I have just seen the movie and am reminded that Anna Karenina is about all these modern ideas of what love really is (perhaps laying some groundwork for considerations of SSM) even though it was first published almost 150 year ago. Marriage as only romantic love vs. marriage as a committed loving partnership for the foundation of civilization is the main theme of Anna Karenina. People see in this story what they want to see. Some will see a love story they want to bravely emulate. Others will see the sadness of broken marriage in a fallen world.

    The question is: Given that the world is fallen, which path will lead to the most stable and satisfying community, Romantic love or moral marriage? Which will most clearly reflect our creator and conform to his image? The Bible and Jesus himself have already answered that question of us in Matthew 19:1-12.

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