The Two Shall Become One Flesh: Reclaiming Marriage

By Neuhaus, Richard John; Colson, Chuck | First Things; A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life, March 2015 | Go to article overview

The Two Shall Become One Flesh: Reclaiming Marriage


Neuhaus, Richard John, Colson, Chuck, First Things; A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life


In the Gospel of St. Màrk, the Lord Jesus teaches that "from the beginning of creation 'God made them male and female."' He then declares a great and beautiful truth inscribed in creation: "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh" (Mark 10:6-8).

For centuries, Christians have proclaimed these words at weddings, for they express the gift of marriage long recognized by all hurtianity and acknowledged by men and women of faith: Marriage is the union of a man and a woman. This truth is being obscured, even denied, today. Because of that, the institution of marriage, which is essential to the well-being of society, is being undermined.

As Christians, it is our responsibility to bear wit- ness to the truth about marriage as taught by both revelation and reason-by the Holy Scriptures and by the truths inscribed on the human heart. These age-old truths explain why Christians celebrate marriage-the coming-together of a man and woman in a binding union of mutual support-as one of the glories of the human race. Marriage is the primordial human institution, a reality that existed long before the establishment of what we now know as the state.

As the most venerable and reliable basis for domestic happiness, marriage is the foundation of a just and stable society. Yet in our times this institution has been gravely weakened by the sexual revolution and the damage it has done to marriage and the family: widespread divorce; the dramatic increase in out-of-wedlock births; the casual acceptance of premarital sex and cohabitation; and a contraceptive mentality which insists that sex has an arbitrary relation to procreation. In this environment, families fragment, the poor suffer, and children are especially vulnerable and at risk. The decline of marriage culture is evident throughout the world, and where it is evident, the common good is imperiled.

Christians have too often been silent about biblical teaching on sex, marriage, and family life. Too many have accommodated themselves to the spirit of our age. As Evangelicals and Catholics who speak to and from our various communities of faith, we are committed to setting forth the Christian teaching on marriage. In a few matters, we do not speak with one voice: We hold somewhat different views about the morality of contraception, the legitimacy of divorce, and clerical celibacy. But on the crucial and fundamental truth that marriage is a stable union based on the complementarity of male and female, we are fully united.

In this statement we speak as Christians to Christians, using the language of the faith. Our hope is to clarify and reclaim the truth about marriage. If we are to remain faithful to the Scriptures and to the unanimous testimony of Christian tradition, there can be no compromise on marriage. We cannot allow our witness to be obscured by the confusions into which our culture and society have fallen. Drawing our confidence from the Lord's own word, we take to heart the apostle's injunction: "Preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching" (2 Tim. 4:2).

MARRIAGE, CHRISTIANLY CONSIDERED

God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply." (Gen. 1:27-28)

Maleness, femaleness, and their complementarity are among the central organizing principles of creation. When, in the biblical flood account, Noah brings the entire animal kingdom onto the ark, he does so in pairs: male and female. Maleness and femaleness are essential components of our unique dignity as human beings created in the image of God, for through these realities we participate in the divine creativity and its fruitfulness. Thus, from a Christian point of view, sexual union must be approached with reverence and in recognition of its intrinsic potential for new life. …

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