This week I have been studying for a midterm in my Marriage and Family class (through SEBTS under Dr. David Jones). Though there was a host of informative facets, the three most popular models of marriage were particularly helpful for understanding some of the current moral decay of marriage. I have included a brief summary of these models below.

Firstly, the three most popular models of marriage are the sacramental model, the contractual model, and the covenantal model. [these are answers to the question: what is marriage?].

The Sacramental Model of Marriage

  • This view holds that marriage is a sacrament that confers grace upon its participants. [what is a sacrament? Something that has saving power- something that gets you saved, gets you to heaven, a works based salvation scheme].
  • –the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “These sacraments are efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the church, by which divine life is dispensed to us” (1131). [The seven sacraments are: baptism, confession (penance, reconciliation), holy eucharist, matrimony, holy orders (ordination), last rites (extreme unction, anointing of the sick)]
  • This view is rooted in the church father Augustine’s (AD 354-430) work entitled De bono conjugali (On the good of Marriage).
  • Augustine was the first theologian to attempt to systematize a biblical theology of marriage. (summarise his opinion on marriage and family) He identifies three purposes of marriages: procreation, avoidance of sexual sin, and establishment of a sacramentum. (establishing a holy bond or a holy tie- being about forming a one-flesh union). By using the term sacramentum Augustine was communicating that marriage creates a holy, permanent bond between a man and a woman, which depicts Christ’s union with the church.
  • The Roman Catholic Church  codified its view of marriage at the council of Trent (1545-1563). The Roman Catholic Church built much of its theology upon the writings of Augustine. The Roman Catholic Church identified three results of marriage that purportedly (that is, because they don’t and Augustine never said that) correspond to Augustine’s three purposes of marriage –these were, children, fidelity, and salvation. Jerome had used the term sacramentum to translate the Greek Term in Eph. 5:32 in the Vulgate (“This is the great sacramentum) an attempt to justify what already was in place in the church.
  • This view holds that marriage is solely a Christian institution under the spiritual and legal control of the church.

Problems with the sacramental model:

  • This model distorts the purpose of marriage, defining it as a means to salvation. Marriage is a creation ordinance, given to humanity to produce new physical life; it is not an ecclesiastical ordinance given to the church for the production of new spiritual life.
  • The first couple, who received the institution of marriage prior to the fall (cf. Gen. 2:24), would have had no need for saving grace.
  • In defining marriage as an ecclesiastical ordinance; this model subjects the husband-wife union to the control of the church.
  • The institution of marriage is limited to those within the Corpus Christianum. (the visible body of professing Christians- limits marriage to those who have access to a priest- if you do not have access to a priest, you cannot get married. People with access to the church).
  • This model effectively limits obedience to God’s command to procreate and subdue the earth  (cf. Gen 1:26-28; 9:1, 7).
  • This model of marriage opens the door to pagan sexual morality by improperly connecting sexuality (marriage) and spirituality (salvation).
  • Properly understood, the spiritual (i.e. God) has given humanity the sexual (i.e. marriage), but this relationship is from spiritual to sexual, not vice-versa.
  • Sex is holy because it is from God, not because it is a means to God.
  • Another great resource, The soul of Sex– by Thomas Moore (former catholic priest)- why you need to embrace this.

The Contractual Model of Marriage

  • Marriage is a bilateral contract that is voluntarily formed, maintained, and dissolved by two individuals. (marriage is just like any other contract you would enter here in the US-like the cell phone company-you sign a contract to get a cell phone). The essence of marriage is just a contract.
  • One should not confuse “marriage being a contract” with a “contract to marry” (e.g., Luke 1:27; 2:5), for one can contract to marry in almost any model of marriage.
  • A key concept behind the contractual view of marriage is anthropocentrism, as this model views marriage as contract created by two individuals, rather than an institution in which two individuals participate. (completely man centered). Marriage is ultimately not about you. It is for our knowledge of Him.
  • This is the prevailing model of marriage in Western Culture. [the state controls this- hand out marriage licenses and divorce contracts]
  • The contractual model roots marriage in civil law with the state having the authority to grant marriages licenses and certificates of divorce. Marriage may be given a religious veneer, but the power to marry rests solely with the state. Parties are free to marry in a place of worship, such as a church. The officiating minister only has power to perform the wedding by the authority vested in him by the state.
  • This model of marriage is rooted in Enlightenment era thinking and in the medieval ecclesiastical courts. [this model came from a lifestyle in which church and state were the same].
  • This model arose with the separating of church and state in the Enlightenment. This view was not clearly developed until the seventeenth century, at the earliest, and was not widespread until the nineteenth century. State control of marriage was not logistically or technologically possible prior to modern times.

Problems with the contractual model:

  • Scripture reveals that marriage is a creation ordinance, not a federal ordinance. Note that there was no state in existence when marriage was given.
  • If marriage is a federal ordinance, then all varieties of marital distortions are possible simply by altering civil laws.
  • This view of marriage was not clearly developed until the 17th century, at the earliest, and was not widespread until the 19th century.
  • Given the importance of marriage in the divine economy, this model seems unlikely, for this model bases the security of the institution of marriage on the ability of sinners not to sin.

The Covenantal Model of Marriage

  • The covenantal model of marriage views marriage as a creation ordinance, rooted in divine law, which creates a permanent bond between a man, a woman, and God.
  • The covenantal model is the only major model of marriage that teaches that marriage is not about self but about God.
  • The covenantal model of marriage, it will be argued, is the model of marriage presented in the Bible.
  • This model of marriage was the prevailing model in the church prior to the development of the sacramental and contractual models of marriage.
  • Over the past couple decade or so, this model has been rediscovered by many within evangelicalism, and is currently in a state of development and codification.  [this is an area that is being attacked, just like the doctrine, justification by faith]
  • While marriage is given to humanity as a whole, and this is under the legal auspices of the state, as a biblical doctrine the institution is under the spiritual oversight of the church.
  • The state has been entrusted by God with maintaining order in society (cf. Rom. 13:1-4; 1 Peter 2:13-17).
  • The church is “the pillar and the ground of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15)
  • One should always obey the state unless the authority is causing you personally to sin, or someone who you are over (your wife, children)- or preventing you from righteousness. The state cannot trump God, it is a minister of God. – the state is not making marriage, just administrating marriage.

Overview of Biblical Covenants

  • -The Bible does not contain an explicit definition of the term “covenant” rather, covenants naturally occur throughout Scripture. [they just knew what they were during Bible times so there was no need to write about it, our study is hence therefore inductive].
  • -The primary Hebrew word for “covenant” (berith) occurs some 267 times in the OT and the Greek word for “covenant”  (sunathekain) occur a combined total of 34 times in the New Testament. [sometimes covenants are implied though the word isn’t used- like in 2 Sam 7:12, the Davidic Covenant; also Ps 89:7].
  • (the primary mechanism that God interacts with humanity- through covenants)
  • -The first explicit reference to a covenant in the Bible is at Gen 6:18, the inauguration of God’s covenant with Noah.
  • -God seems almost always to reveal himself to mankind covenantally, as covenants occur at nearly every major juncture in redemptive history.

Major Biblical Covenants:

  • -Adamic  Covenant (Gen 2:16-17; Hos. 6:7)
  • -Edenic Covenant (Gen 3:15)
  • -Abrahamic Covenant (Gen. 12:1-3; 15:7-18) [historically this is the granddaddy of covenants- primary!]
  • -Noahic or Noahian Covenant (Gen. 6:18; 9:9)
  • -Sinaitic or Israeli (Ex. 19:5-6; 34:27-28)
  • -levitical or Priesthood (Num. 25:12-13)
  • -Davidic (2 Sam 7:12-16; 23:5)
  • -Palestinian (Ex. 6:4-8; Deut 1:8)
  • -New (Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 11:19-20)
  • – Covenant of Redemption (John 6:39; Titus 1:2)

  1. The majority, if not all, biblical covenants appear to be connected to one another in some fashion.
  2. – the majority, if not al, biblical covenants share at least two commonalities– All biblical covenants seem to be about God’s revelation of himself to mankind.–All also seem to relate to the Lord creating a people for himself and the furtherance of His Kingdom.

One of the reasons I am taking this class because I think it is important to understand why we believe what we believe (i.e. in this case Marriage and what I believe concerning it). I hope this information was helpful to you.

What are your thoughts/questions?

Thanks for reading!