When Time Magazine rolled out its November 29, 2010 issue asking “Who Needs Marriage?” the evangelical blogsphere was teeming with responses. There is much I could say about this article and the varying responses to it; however, at the present I want to briefly dissect one common theme found in many evangelical responses. The idea that marriage is the central institution of society.

First, I am dumbfounded as to where the concept of marriage as an institution finds its origin. Okay, so I have a couple of guesses but I think this terminology is misleading at best and profoundly deceptive at its worst. After all do we refer to parenthood as an institution? What about the institution of brotherhood? Or to take this to a trivial extreme would we ever speak of pet owners as partaking in some longstanding institution? Maybe marriage has become an institution, a civil agreement whereby two individuals procure various civil benefits, which may be the case. I think all of this goes to demonstrate that at its core marriage is about a relationship. And that is what we find in Scripture. Indeed within the creation account the civil magistrate is nowhere in view; instead what we find is the creation, cultivation, and consummation of a relationship between man and wife.

Second, viewing marriage as the central relationship, because I have already shown that it is not an institution we must update the phrase in question, of human society is a most clever form of subversion. In our attempt to uphold something that is important and valuable we have actually subverted the whole of scripture and performed a tremendous disservice to the proclamation of the gospel. Clearly societies have varying conceptions of marriage ranging from monogamy and cohabitation to polygyny and polyandry. From a purely functional perspective this statement is unintelligible do to the varying and often contradictory understandings of marriage. From a biblical perspective, which is my central concern, we find that “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” In arguing that marriage is the center we have unwittingly committed idolatry. The Triune God is the center, not man. All our relationships are patterned after the relationship between the Father, the Son, and the Spirit and all of our relationships will be judged upon how accurately they portray the one, meaning three-in-one, whose image they bear.

If we endeavor to answer such questions as posed by time magazine from this perspective then we will have much to say. And ours will not be a message of legalism proclaiming the necessary reclamation of a lost institution or fading moral conscience. No, ours will be a message of hope; a message about a relational God who reconciles broken relationships at a great cost to Himself and enables us to do likewise to His eternal glory.