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Archive for February 26, 2015

Feb 26

Marriage, Human Flourishing, and the Benevolence of God

2015 | by Trent Hunter | Category: Sermon Follow-Up

As Christians, we believe that God’s Word is not only true but good. We also believe that what is good for us individually has social consequences. We do, after all, live together. Careful Christian reflection on the meaning and consequences of such things as marriage is a means of loving our neighbors.

In Sunday’s sermon, “The Heart of Marriage and Divorce,” Ryan pointed to the social consequences of divorce for people, especially women and children. This is a sensitive topic and you should listen to the sermon if you weren’t able to join us. On the subject of divorce and its social consequences, this was especially true in the first century, but it is true today as well. This is evident from our own experience with divorce, even if there are obvious exceptions, but it is also evident in studies that have been conducted.

In his article, “The Social Costs of Abandoning the Meaning of Marriage,” Ryan Anderson writes:

[Marriage is] a personal relationship that serves a public purpose. According to the best available sociological evidence, children fare best on virtually every examined indicator when reared by their wedded biological parents. Studies that control for other factors, including poverty and even genetics, suggest that children reared in intact homes do best in terms of educational achievement, emotional health, familial and sexual development, and delinquency and incarceration.

The breakdown of marriage most hurts the least well-off. A leading indicator of whether someone will know poverty or prosperity is whether, growing up, he or she knew the love and security of having a married mother and father. Marriage reduces the probability of child poverty by 80 percent.

Anderson linked to two studies that ground this claim.

First, in, “Marriage and the Public Good: Ten Principles,” the Witherspoon Institute offers these ten principles with a bundle of social science research to substantiate them:

  1. Marriage is a personal union, intended for the whole of life, of husband and wife.
  2. Marriage is a profound human good, elevating and perfecting our social and sexual nature.
  3. Ordinarily, both men and women who marry are better off as a result.
  4. Marriage protects and promotes the well-being of children.
  5. Marriage sustains civil society and promotes the common good.
  6. Marriage is a wealth-creating institution, increasing human and social capital.
  7. When marriage weakens, the equality gap widens, as children suffer from the disadvantages of 
growing up in homes without committed mothers and fathers.
  8. A functioning marriage culture serves to protect political liberty and foster limited government.
  9. The laws that govern marriage matter significantly.
  10. “Civil marriage” and “religious marriage” cannot be rigidly or completely divorced from one another.

Then, at the Heritage Foundation, Robert Rector’s study, “Marriage: America’s Greatest Weapon Against Child Poverty,” offers this abstract of the substance and application of his findings:

Child poverty is an ongoing national concern, but few are aware that its principal cause is the absence of married fathers in the home. Marriage remains America’s strongest anti-poverty weapon, yet it continues to decline. As husbands disappear from the home, poverty and welfare dependence will increase, and children and parents will suffer as a result. Since marital decline drives up child poverty and welfare dependence, and since the poor aspire to healthy marriage but lack the norms, understanding, and skills to achieve it, it is reasonable for government to take active steps to strengthen marriage. Just as government discourages youth from dropping out of school, it should provide information that will help people to form and maintain healthy marriages and delay childbearing until they are married and economically stable. In particular, clarifying the severe shortcomings of the “child first, marriage later” philosophy to potential parents in lower-income communities should be a priority.

God’s Word is true, and it also works. For the Christian, while our interest in marriage does not stop with our own individual marriages, our own individual homes are the most important place for the application of God’s Word to life. Not only has God given marriage to us for our good, which is demonstrably true, but he has given it to us that we might have the honor of living out a picture of his love for us in Christ (Eph. 5:22-33).

If you missed Sunday’s sermon, we would commend it to you. Listen here.