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Biblical Worldview: Marriage as the Foundation of Civil Society


“Marriage is not, as some argue, a ‘pre-political’ institution. No, it is the first and most fundamental political institution — established by God at the creation of the world. Everything else in society is built upon marriages. If you pull out that foundation, if you redefine marriage, if you redefine ‘man’ and ‘woman,’ all of society will crumble.”


Everywhere we look today marriage is under attack. In fact, the very reality of what marriage is has been fed through a woodchipper in America, one labeled Obergefell with rainbow-colored letters on the side. What God joined together and told no man to separate has instead been recklessly “redefined” by five Supreme Court justices acting like “philosopher kings” who thought they held the power to manipulate matter and alter the very fabric of the universe.

No matter what the world does, as Christians, we know that we must allow God’s Word and the creation order to define marriage for us. Marriage is one man and woman joining together in an exclusive, monogamous covenant before God and man, with the intention of producing children and jointly caring for any offspring that may result from their union.

In his recent article, “Biblical Worldview: Marriage,” my Freedom Center colleague Dr. Tim Yonts covered the basics of this angle of the marriage debate in defending Christian marriage. He explains,

“According to the Bible, marriage is a life-long, covenant union between a man and a woman (Gen. 2:24; Matt. 19:4-5), joined together by God (Matt. 19:6; Mal. 2:14), whose relationship is one of exclusive love and provision (1 Cor. 7:2-4; Heb. 13:4), and that supersedes all other human relationships in life.”

In this piece, I don’t intend to rehash that argument (Tim does it very well), but rather to build on it. I want to help you understand how a biblical worldview also shows that God designed marriage — and the family — to be the irreplaceable foundation of civil society.

Marriage makes families. And families are the most basic unit of society. Countries, kingdoms, and empires are ultimately built upon the family.

This is clear from Scripture (and I will go to the Bible to establish this as a biblical worldview issue), but it is also discernible from nature. Many great conservative thinkers of the past have acknowledged the importance of families and defended them against the great liberal onslaught of modernity.

The prolific 18th-century English conservative philosopher Edmund Burke (1729—1797) referred to the family as the “little platoon” of society and insisted that it demands our greatest affection and sense of obligation. In Reflections on the French Revolution, he says,

“To be attached to the subdivision, to love the little platoon we belong to in society, is the first principle (the germ as it were) of public affections. It is the first link in the series by which we proceed towards a love to our country, and to mankind.”

Reflecting on this, the more recent conservative thinker Russell Kirk (1918—1984) elaborated on Burke’s phrase and point by writing that the family

“is held together by the strongest of human bonds—by love, and by the demands of self-preservation…Its essential function is the rearing of children. Those societies of the past and the present which we call good societies have been strongly marked by powerful family ties. These have been societies possessed of a high degree of both order and freedom. Societies in which the family has been enfeebled have been disorderly and servile societies—lacking love, lacking security.”

Pay attention to that last sentence: Kirk argues that societies in which the family has been “enfeebled” (an older term that simply means “weakened”) soon become disorderly.

Now, the family is, of course, more than married couples, but it is not, in fundamental form, less than that. The family starts with two people — one and one woman joined together in the bond that we call marriage.

How do we know this? Well, because along with nature, the Bible tells us so. Look at Genesis 1:27-28:

“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.’”

These verses comprise what is known as the “Dominion Mandate.” What is the Dominion Mandate? It is God’s command to Adam and Eve, as the first married couple, and the first household — the first ever “little platoon” — to “subdue” the earth, fill it with more image-bearers, and build society. They were placed in a garden but commanded to expand that garden, so that the entire earth would be full of the glory of the Lord.

Christian political theorist Dr. Stephen Wolfe explains how the Dominion Mandate was intended by God to be fulfilled through the proliferation of households — that is, families — built on marriages:

“Hence, the divine task given to Adam and his race is reducible not to the efforts of individuals but of domestic teams—of husband and wife. The household is the basic unit composing civil society; it is a society of households. We speak more properly, therefore, of households filling the earth rather than individuals filling the earth.”

In Well Versed: Biblical Answers to Today’s Tough Questions, Pastor James Garlow makes a remarkably similar point to Wolfe. He explains that “In spite of the fact that we are created by God individually, we express the fullest image of God only when the two halves of humanity complement each other and become one.”

Now, none of us is saying that single individuals are any less valuable in the eyes of God than married couples. But the point is that it’s not just “people” in some loose, undefined contractual relationship that form the foundation of society and fulfill the Dominion Mandate. No, without a family, without man-woman marriage, this would be an impossible task.

Marriage is the cornerstone of civilization — and it always has been. That’s why it matters so much that the government “gets it right.” Sometimes I hear libertarians argue that “the government needs to stay out of the marriage business.” Nothing could be further from the truth! Because without “the marriage business” there is no government…well, no good government, anyway.

Marriage is not, as some argue, a “pre-political” institution. No, it is the first and most fundamental political institution — established by God at the creation of the world. Everything else in society is built upon marriages. If you pull out that foundation, if you redefine marriage, if you redefine “man” and “woman,” all of society will crumble.

Jesus Himself reminds us of the inescapable gravity of marriage in Matthew 19:4-6:

“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.’”

Now, Jesus is addressing divorce here, but the principle, which is that biblical marriage is something instituted by God and should not be tampered with by man, stands. It’s woven into the very fabric of our nation, over every nation, because it’s woven into the fabric of creation. And if we keep unraveling this thread, there is no telling where the stopping point may be.

Follow William on Twitter! @William_E_Wolfe

Ready to dive deeper into the intersection of faith and policy? Head over to our Theology of Politics series page where we’ve published several long-form pieces that will help Christians navigate where their faith should direct them on political issues.

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