What God has Joined Together:
Neocalvinism, Christian Libertarianism, and the State

While preparing for a law exam, Joshua Claybourn stumbled across an intriguing quotation from the federal case, Maynard v. Hill, 125 U.S. 190 (1888):

Marriage, as creating the most important relation in life, as having more to do with the morals and civilization of a people than any other institution, has always been subject to the control of the legislature. That body prescribes the age at which parties may contract to marry, the procedure or form essential to constitute marriage, the duties and obligations it creates, its effects upon the poverty rights of both, present and prospective, and the acts which may constitute grounds for its dissolution.

Josh notes that even though the ruling is over a century old, most people would find ‘

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Joe Carter

Joe Carter founded Evangelical Outpost in 2005. He is the web editor for First Things and an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. A fifteen-year Marine Corps veteran, he previously served as the managing editor for the online magazine Culture11 and The East Texas Tribune. Joe has also served as the Director of Research and Rapid Response for the Mike Huckabee for President campaign and as a director of communications for both the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity and Family Research Council. He is the co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicaton.

  • http://TheEverWiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    An interesting post Joe. Here I thought we were going on yet another gay marriage bender but you produced an insightful post that shows how a society is made up of different but overlapping institutions. Just a few thoughts:
    Each also has its locus of sovereignty which is derived not from another structure by from God alone. Schools, for example, may be overseen by state or federal agencies but their true authority is not derived from the government. Societal pluriformity maintains that such institutions are non-hierarchical structures whose authority is ultimately derived from our Creator.
    But before you write:
    In its most basic sense, societal pluriformity is the idea that the interaction between people in community leads inevitably to the formation of various distinct social structures. Families interact with other families, for example, to create distinct communities such as the tribe, the city, and the state. What is created is a unique institution or structure that is not reducible to other institutions. Each of these structures (or spheres of influence) has its own autonomy and responsibility; it is

  • http://hereisangela.blogspot.com angela

    You might be interested in a very fine Weekly Standard article summarizing the brewing tension between religious freedom and same sex marriage: http://weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/012/191kgwgh.asp.

  • http://www.gryphmon.com Patrick (gryph)

    (1) The institution of marriage is created by God; its authority and parameters are therefore derived from God.

    But which God are we talking about? The God of Islam says different things about marriage than the God of Christianity. Is it then in the States purview to decide which God will determine how to define marriage? Does religious freedom have no part to play in this? If Marriage is this ultimate expression of Divine Will as you describe, then surely you cannot invalidated a form of marriage without invalidating the God behind it. So today, the god of Isalm and the god of the Mormans are both invalid in the United States going by Joe’s logic. And Joe’s ideas can also be used to validate Islam’s vision of Sharia. Where there is no clear border between State and Religion.

  • ex-preacher

    And even if everyone agrees that the God of the Bible sets the rules, one must choose between the rules he sets down in the Old Testament (which allowed for polygamy and divorce) and those in the New Testament. And if the New Testament, shall we follow the teaching of Jesus in Mark that divorce is never permitted or the teaching Matthew that allows for divorce in case of adultery? And who shall decide what divorces and/or remarriages are scriptural?

  • http://TheEverWiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    Ahhh but Joe said that institutions are created through individual interactions with other individuals. The ‘rules’ therefore are coming from what people do, not directly from God. God, if anything, is simply ratifying what humans are doing or did. This could make some sense of why some Christians here are aghast at the idea of polygamy yet God doesn’t seem to have much to say about it in the Old Testament.
    Joe seems to be contradicting himself on this. On the one hand its pretty sensible to argue that social institutions derive from human interaction. This is nice idea that is conservative too…giving tradition and custom a respected place (but not absolute). I don’t know where Joe came from with his statement that God not only established marriage but also its parameters. Where? When? How do we know wht those prameters are? Everything he said in the rest of the post argued for the total opposite. Where did Joe get that? Force of old habit perhaps?

  • Barrie

    Libertarianism with regard to marriage can only lead to a chaotic society, since that society may practice any and all religious rites, or no rites at all.
    The liberty about marriage is circumscribed in the New Testament by the comparison with Christ and the Church, His Bride. Christianized societies have reflected this in various idealistic ways, including the high view of women in chivalric medieval literature.
    Of course The Way of Christ is not coercive or legalistic, but it must remain the touchstone for marriage rites in a Christan society -because it is true to human nature and everyone’s destiny!
    Non-Christians must expect Christians to express freely their ideology politically in this area, as in others. Marriage may be creational and so not specifically Christian, but to deny the Christian view is like denying the 10 commandments apply to maintaining a good society.

  • http://TheEverWiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    How did people ever manage to get married before Christians came along? Is it me? Am I the only one who understood what Joe wrote or am I missing something??? Or both?

  • dgsinclair

    Joe et al.,
    I created a page for Cultural mandate over at wikipedia – it’s a good start, but lacks the level of information, not to mention documentation, that you and your neocal readers might have. I implore others to beef it up. Thx!

  • http://www.gryphmon.com Patrick (gryph)

    Marriage may be creational and so not specifically Christian, but to deny the Christian view is like denying the 10 commandments apply to maintaining a good society.

    I think Muslims would say exactly the same thing about the Koran and Sharia. Yet their marriage norms are polygamous, the supposed destination of our slippery Slope that will lead to “Liberatarian Chaos”.

  • http://mojowire.blogspot.com/ s9

    Joe Carter writes: “Although I have castigated that view on many occasions, I haven

  • http://mojowire.blogspot.com/ s9

    Really. I didn’t think it would be that hard to answer my question.

  • Barrie

    Patrick, you have not understood what I am saying. Please read all my comment. I am arguing that Christians must try to have their ideals reflected in the forms of marriage their society allows because they are good for any society.
    Sure there was marriage before Christ, and in Islam. But today the claim is that there is no true definition or ideal to act as the standard for a society. This is false.
    The 10 commandments are ancient, but still important for all of us too.

  • http://TheEverWiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    Are you saying that Christians must apply their ideal marriage model to the real life marriages they have or are you saying that they must push society to recognize only what Christian’s consider ideal marriages?