Why Christians Don’t Want Government Defining Marriage

Paul Dean
Paul Dean
2011 3 Sep

The issue of marriage with particular reference to a constitutional amendment banning homosexual marriage is dangerous for conservative Christians who disagree with the majority who are in favor of such an amendment. It’s dangerous in that one who is not in favor of banning homosexual marriage is considered to be in favor of homosexual marriage, liberal, and unbiblical, none of which is the case. To favor a ban on homosexual marriage is actually the unbiblical position despite the fact that homosexuality is indeed sin and not marriage according to God Himself. Let me explain.

This issue comes up most often in conversation surrounding political candidates and their positions on social issues. It’s not uncommon for Christian pundits to agree with certain candidates who are conservative in a number of areas but castigate them profusely when those same candidates don’t support a government ban on homosexual marriage. The argument in favor of the ban usually centers on two issues: the fact that homosexuality is sin and the assertion that government has a responsibility to promote the general welfare by promoting institutions that give stability to society.

Let’s take the issue of homosexuality first. As noted, the Bible is clear that homosexuality and homosexual marriage is sin. Scriptures could be marshaled from both the Old and New Testaments. Despite the fact that liberal and unbelieving theologians have unsuccessfully tried to twist the plain meaning of Rom. 1:26-27 in which God condemns homosexuality, 1 Cor. 6:9 boldly says that homosexuals will not inherit the kingdom of God. Christians cannot support homosexual marriage. Such a marriage is not only sin but not marriage at all. God defines marriage between a man and a woman (Gen. 2:24; Eph. 5:31). However, that does not mean Christians must favor a government ban on homosexual marriage. Stay with me . . .

What about the assertion that government has a responsibility to promote the general welfare by promoting institutions that give stability to society? While the Constitution does say one of the reasons it was established is to promote the general welfare, the founding fathers did not define that promotion as broadly as some do today. They did not conceive of entitlement programs or policies that restrict liberty as part of government’s role. (And, while marriage is a stabilizing force in society in the sense that long-term commitment of men and women raising children fosters stability, banning homosexual marriage won’t keep homosexuals from living together or somehow stabilize society. A ban won’t change their behavior).

But, regardless of what the founders meant, or what a ban on homosexual marriage may or may not do, what does the Bible say? Where does the Bible say the role of government is to promote the general welfare? Where does the Bible say the government has a responsibility to promote institutions that give stability to society? You can’t argue from the Old Testament; America does not stand in the same covenant relationship with God that Israel did. America is not a theocracy. You can’t argue from the New Testament; no where does it say government should promote the general welfare. Even Rom. 13:4 doesn’t say that.[1]

God says that Christians who practice homosexuality must be disciplined by the church and even put out if they don’t repent. But, nowhere does God say the government should ban homosexuality. He does say that Christians should call homosexuals to repentance and faith in Christ but no where does He say Christians should outlaw their behavior.

Let’s talk about marriage then. Marriage is defined by God, not the government. As noted, homosexual marriage then is not marriage before God. So how should Christians think about homosexuals who “get married?” We think about them the same way we think about other sinners and their sinful activity. People do all kinds of things contrary to the Word of God and we try to persuade them through the gospel to repent and look to Christ for salvation. Just because a homosexual couple calls themselves married doesn’t mean they are. And why would we ban them calling themselves married? Do we want the government to ban heterosexual couples living together; or unbiblical divorce; or adultery; or pre-marital relations? What would be the penalty for pre-marital relations? We have to be consistent if we go down the road of banning immoral behavior.

Now, does that mean we’re in favor of unmarried couples living together, unbiblical divorce, adultery, or pre-marital relations? Of course not! It simply means we don’t want the government forcing our moral choices. Christians have the responsibility to tell people what’s right and wrong, not force them by the government to conform to our moral standard. Certainly the government must protect us from things like murder, theft, rape, extortion, etc. But that’s what it means to be free. We’re not free to infringe on someone else’s liberty and right to life, property, and pursuit of happiness. That’s why we can’t murder (abort babies), steal, or . . . ban homosexuals from living together or marrying. Again, we’re not in favor of homosexual marriage any more than we’re in favor of pre-marital relations. But, neither are we in favor of government imposing a moral standard on us. What happens when the government’s moral standard is different than ours? What if the government decides it’s immoral to read the Bible, homeschool my children, or teach them Christian values?

But more importantly than what we want is what God wants. He wants us to persuade others with the gospel to make good moral choices, not force them through the government.

Finally, here’s the real implication of banning homosexual marriage or letting government say anything about marriage at all: if we allow the government to define marriage, we allow the government to usurp God’s role and authority. It is not the government that defines marriage but God. Let the government stay completely out of it. Practically, do you want the government telling you who you can or cannot marry; that you can or cannot get married? Do you really need a license from the government to get married? Didn’t God ordain marriage before human government came along? And theologically/philosophically, if we allow the government to define marriage, then it can define it any way it wants to.

No, we have the right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness granted to us by God, not the government. If government grants those rights, then the government can take them away. Let’s not go down that road. Let God be God and let Him define marriage and what’s right and wrong. Let the government stay out of God’s business and maintain liberty by protecting us so that we can persuade others what marriage is and what’s right and wrong and to give their lives to Christ. When others give their lives to Christ, that’s when society will be more moral and truly more stable.

[1]See my article here(“Does God Say Government is to ‘Do Good’ for the Citizens?”) for a fuller explanation of that text and government’s role. 


Dr. Paul Dean invites you to discover more about the role of Government, the role of the church, and the role of the market  . . . and develop a Christian worldview. Dr. Dean is a pastor, cultural commentator, and author. Please visit http://www.governmentcurrentevents.com