Doug Wilson on “old school” marriage.

Something recent by Wilson that I wanted to comment on.

==Sexual Intercourse, Old School
Culture and Politics – Sex and Culture
Written by Douglas Wilson
Wednesday, May 25, 2011 6:34 am

In order to do a better job defending marriage we have to do a better job defining it. What is marriage anyway? Because false understandings of marriage are common, even among conservative Christians, we are frequently caught flatfooted when it comes to things like the gay marriage debate.==

False understandings of marriage are common, says Wilson. This is true. And he is one professing Christian who has a false understanding of marriage. And however one interprets Romans 13:1-7, what is clear is that the governments job is NOT to define marriage. Marc had written the following back in November of 2006:

How about homosexual marriage? I think I mentioned this before in a post, but I’ll just briefly talk about it. Government has no right to define what marriage is and is not. It’s not their function. Thus, if two homosexuals want to “marry” (in their own minds, not according to the Bible, of course), then the government has no business interfering with it or legislating against it. In the same way, the government has no right to say that homosexual “marriage” is legitimate, just like it has no right to say that heterosexual “marriage” is legitimate. The whole homosexual marriage thing is blown way out of proportion by conservatives. How many of them would say that government should get out of defining marriage altogether? Instead, you find them advocating for a constitutional amendment to define marriage!! Government is not to define marriage.

Lastly, if homosexuality were outlawed, what good has it done? The reconstructionists would say that the nation is now “more in favor” with God because it has outlawed homosexuality. But has it made the nation more moral? Has it made people stop being homosexuals? Of course not. It’s just the self-righteous hypocrites who think they’ve somehow gained some favor with God by doing this.

Now back to Wilson’s comments:

==A marriage requires two components or elements. The first is old school sexual intercourse and the second is a socially recognized set of vows, committing the couple to a legally recognized and protected state of marriage. If one or the other is missing, then so is the marriage.==

If true Christians have to form culturally or socially recognized marriages in order to obtain certain benefits (medical, dental, financial, etc.), then fine.

==To use the language of philosophy, each of these is a necessary condition for marriage (without which, not), but not a sufficient condition. In other words, you can’t have a marriage without the presence of both of these elements, but the mere presence of one of them does not constitute or create the marriage. The absence of either will result in no-marriage, but the presence of either does not automatically result in marriage. You must have both together.==

The Lord willing, we’ll see a bit later whether or not the act of sex alone is a “sufficient condition” to constitute or create the marriage (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:15-16).

==The first element is the one flesh union (Gen. 2:24). And the first thing to note is that it is possible to be sexually immoral without a one flesh union occuring. This occurs, for example, with porn, or with heavy petting, or with oral sex, etc. So the one flesh union is not defined by the presence of one or more orgasms; it is defined by a heterosexual sexual union, as classically understood. If Christians allow their definitions of the one flesh union to broaden, such that it includes “messing around,” the problem is that homosexuals can mess around also, and in exactly the same ways. Only heterosexuals can be married because only heterosexuals can perform the central act that is necessary to the establishment of marriage. Homosexuals can’t be married for the same reason that bolts are useless without nuts — key equipment is missing.==

Doug Wilson mentions what he calls the “first element,” which is “the one flesh union (Gen. 2:24).” Both Paul and Jesus refererence Genesis 2:24 — Paul in 1 Corinthians 6:16 and Jesus in Matthew 19:5-6.

P1 Sex alone makes people “one flesh” (1 Corinthians 6:16).
P2 “One flesh” is the marriage union (Matthew 19:6; Genesis 2:24).
C1 Therefore, sex alone makes people married.

==The second element would be the vows, legally recognized as such. By vows I do not mean the promises that Billy breathes into Sally’s albaster ear in the back seat of the car, to wit, promises to love her “forever and a day.” I mean vows and promises that are recorded, however their society records such things, and which are enforceable should one or the other of the parties try to walk away from their promises.

Marriage is a public, social act, and not just a private sexual one. More completely, it is a public act that depends for its authority upon a private sexual act, one that will be performed shortly after the reception.

If a couple have sex without the vows, they are not married. They are not “married in God’s sight.” ==

They ARE married in the Biblical sense (i.e., “God’s sight”), which is NOT to say that the marriage is necessarily pleasing to God (cf. Hebrews 13:4). Of course, sex alone makes them married (whether lawfully or unlawfully) in God’s sight, but not necessarily married in the sight of the society or culture’s sight.

==They are one flesh, sure, but that by itself is not marriage.==

That’s a tellingly HUGE concession, Wilson. They ARE ONE FLESH, sure, he says. What exactly does it mean to become ONE FLESH, Wilson? I suppose I could just repeat the syllogism here and invite Wilson to refute the logic:

P1 Sex alone makes people “one flesh” (1 Corinthians 6:16).
P2 “One flesh” is the marriage union (Matthew 19:6; Genesis 2:24).
C1 Therefore, sex alone makes people married.

== Paul says that a man who sleeps with a hooker is one flesh with her (1 Cor. 6:16), true enough, but that does not make them married.==

It doesn’t make them married? Really? Then WHY does Paul cite Genesis 2:24 in order to make his point? And perhaps to head off a misunderstanding here: To say that a man becomes one flesh with a hooker — that is, “married” in God’s sight; “married” in the Biblical sense of that term — does NOT mean that this marriage is pleasing in God’s sight (see passages such as 1 Corinthians 6:18 and Hebrews 13:4).

==If a young man seduces a girl, they are one flesh, but it is still open question whether they will get married or not (Ex. 22:16-17; Dt. 22:29). Particularly in the Exodus passage, you can see that the reality of the one flesh union does not force the father’s hand — and if the young man in question is a 14-carat schlub, it must not force the father’s hand. The father does not “have” to give permission on the basis of wrong assumptions about them already being married in some mystical way.==

It is NOT an “open question” whether or not they have formed a ONE FLESH union of marriage (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:6; 1 Corinthians 6:16); BUT IT IS an “open question” on whether or not they will now form a socially or culturally recognized marriage. Of course, I already addressed Exodus 22:16-17 and Deuteronomy 22:29 in my “What Constitutes Marriage?” article. Already “being married in some mystical way,” Wilson? You mean, like the two becoming ONE FLESH? Do they literally become one flesh, somehow morphing into literally one person? Of course not. That they are married is the correct “assumption.” But as the two passages in question show, the correct “assumption” that they are married does NOT force the father’s hand in demanding that the man and his daughter are now to “marry” in the culturally or socially recognized sense.

==So then, in summary, if a man and woman have sex, it does not make them married. If another couple exchange vows, but never have sex, then they are not married either. In the latter case, if a couple separate because of his impotence (say), that is what annullment is for. That would not be a divorce, properly speaking.

You can see how these definitions help us when we work through how various relationships might end. A man visiting prostitutes should repent and stop it.==

Thus, to Wilson, a man could “visit” 100 prostitutes and then repent and believe in Wilson’s version of the gospel. And after doing this, the man could find himself a woman to marry in the socially recognized sense and then consummated by the “one flesh” union sense. Of course, remember how Wilson says that there are *two elements* that constitute a marriage — so the man cannot just “marry” in socially recognized sense and be “truly married” — he has to add in the other element of sexual intercourse (one flesh union) to bring the “marriage” to completion. But in Wilson’s view, this man would not be considered an adulterer — one who married while previous spouses were still alive — since those 100 prostitutes were not considered previous spouses *despite the fact that the man had formed one flesh unions with all of them (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:15-16).

== A man sleeping with his girlfriend should repent and stop it. If marriage to her is wise and/or lawful, he should then marry her. If it is unwise or not lawful, then they should break up, and not look back. A man who exchanged vows with a woman who then (for whatever reason, it happens) would not let him sleep with her should seek an annulment. A man who exchanged vows with a woman and had sex with her is . . . married. And in order for that relationship to end lawfully, it would have to be a biblical divorce — for infidelity or desertion.==

As I said in my article on marriage:

“Before we get into the Biblical definition of marriage, we need to say that everything that the non-Christian does is sin (Proverbs 21:4). So even if two married non-Christians are not living in adultery, their marriage union is not pleasing to God. God hates all workers of iniquity (Psalm 5:5-6). This article is in no way intended to say that if a non-Christian abides by any of God’s marriage laws it is somehow pleasing to God. It is not” (“What Constitutes Marriage?”).

With the above preface stated, I’ll just say that Wilson is here advocating the Wicked Westminsterian view of marriage, divorce, and remarriage which Marc refutes in his article on marriage ( and which I refute in my article on the Westminster Confession of Faith (

Doug Wilson concludes his blog post:

== So there you have it — old school marriage. ==

Yeah. Old school marriage based on the traditions of men. Just like the Pharisees of old, many professing Christians like Wilson ask us:

“Why do you transgress our marriage tradition? For by saying that sexual intercourse is what constitutes marriage you are advocating ‘shacking up’ and ‘fornication.'”

We respond with:

“Why do you also transgress the command of God on account of your marriage tradition? For God commanded, saying, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘the one who marries her who was put away commits adultery.’ But you say, ‘I am not committing adultery with my present wife, because all of that stuff in the past as a non-Christian was merely a bunch of non-committed sexual relationships’ or ‘I am not committing adultery with my present wife because my previous relationship didn’t fulfill all the conditions of marriage.'” And thus these people annul the command of God on account of their marriage tradition.