Society decides for the church on how the marriage vows ought to reflect the
ATTENTION: Civic and Church leaders; Surely, the recent news must sound an alarm - Priests and Pastors are no longer free to read Jesus' own words about holy matrimony when conducting marriage ceremonies.
Lukas Berggren: What constitutes a marriage (Holy matrimony) ?
On 1 April 2009, the Swedish Parliament decided to revise the marriage law. Previously, the marriage vows were the lawful union between a man and a woman. But now even same-sex couples, a man and man or a woman and woman, can enter and exchange matrimonial vows.
In Sweden we live in a positivistic legal tradition and culture. In such a culture there are no right or wrong standards decided on purely natural (logical) laws, but matters are deemed right or wrong by law. It provides people with a very strong , yet vulnerable position . Decision made by ‘we people’ in a democratic spirit decides for us, ‘makes it right’. Every other option is wrong . Until we the people change again and shape new laws. Then it becomes right (again). And what we previously believed in is now wrong. Such a culture is, of course, very susceptible to future trends and whims. Vulnerable to ambush.
Logically , the idea is remarkable . Can something really be deemed legally right if only to 51 percent of the political representatives think so? Or even if 90 percent determine it to be so? Or even 100 percent ? Can laws be right for a while only, and then suddenly become wrong ? For those who believe in an objective morality, it is obviously problematic. And an objective morality presupposes a God who established and ensures valuations to values. Without God all is up to us humans, then human dignity and other values are simply social conventions. By what right then might we condemn evil ? Would we even be able to talk about good and evil, right and wrong?
Against the ‘right’ positivistic thinking is natural law, where things don’t become either right or wrong, but are right or wrong . There are certain values that are eternal. There are objective values that remain firm over time and cannot be altered by the vagaries of political majorities . A democratically elected assembly sharing such thinking can not change what nature deems right or wrong. Right can never be wrong, and wrong will never be right .
It’s important to note is that it was the legal definition of marriage that was changed in 2009, not the theological definition. And a change in the legal definition of marriage does not mean an automatic change of the theological definition. For us as Christians jurisprudence can never shape theology. A marriage is a marriage. Marriage is of God - an objective value - that protects both spouses and children . Thus, it is not up to us the people to define marriage , it's up to Him who ordained it .
A marriage , in the theological sense, is still a union between a man and a woman. The Creation procedure still applies. Jesus' words about marriage in Matthew’s nineteenth chapter still apply. Therein Jesus quotes from Genesis, and thus confirms the order of creation , when he says : “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
Priests who officiate at same-sex marriages can no longer use this quote because the text confirms the order of creation - man and woman. Consequently, rather than resist pressure from the political majority, one gets to sort through the Scripture, and discard those definition of marriage that no longer seem or sound to ‘right’. Surely, there must be a real alarm set off when priests can no longer read Jesus' own words about marriage in a marriage ceremony? The theological legal positivism will undoubtedly have far -reaching consequences. Instead of letting the political forces shape theology, we should, of course, ask God , "Lord constitutes holy matrimony (a marriage) ? "
On Sunday we will celebrate Matrimony Day throughout the country . For fear of offending the political majority, we have too often been silent. Marriage is constituted, in the deepest sense, whether in politics or law. It is God's grand original concept for the ‘man – woman’ relationship, the relationship that our whole future depends on . Marriage is worth celebrating.
(Translated from the Swedish; Sven Ljungholm)