Protestant leaders defend marriage at Vatican conference | WORLD
Sound journalism, grounded in facts and Biblical truth | Donate

Protestant leaders defend marriage at Vatican conference

Pope Francis speaks at the World Meeting of Families at the Vatican as Saddleback Church pastor Rick Warren listens from the front row. Associated Press/L'Osservatore Romano, HO

Protestant leaders defend marriage at Vatican conference

Unbiblical sexuality promotes a broken image of the gospel, obligating the church to defend traditional marriage, Protestant evangelical leaders affirmed during a three-day marriage conference at the Vatican that ended today.

The conference sought to strengthen natural marriage and drew participants from a variety of faiths that promote marriage between one man and one woman. It featured 32 speakers from a variety of religious backgrounds, including two prominent Protestant evangelicals: Rick Warren, senior pastor at Saddleback Church, and Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Both men affirmed that complementary marriages form the foundation for healthy societies. “But all of us in this room share at least one thing in common,” Moore said in his address. “We recognize that marriage and family is a matter of public importance, not just of our various theological and ecclesial distinctive communities, since marriage is embedded in the create order and is the means of human flourishing.”

Society’s current “culture of the temporary” has created a crisis for marriage and family because many have forsaken marriage as a public commitment, Pope Francis said at the conference’s opening. “This revolution in manners and morals has often flown the flag of freedom, but in fact it has brought spiritual and material devastation to countless human beings, especially the poorest and most vulnerable.” Families form society’s foundation, and children have the right to a family with a mother and father, he added.

Warren and Moore agreed with the pope, but they also said biblical marital intimacy portrays the gospel by reflecting a Christian’s unity with Christ.

“This is the strongest reason marriage can only be between a man and a woman,” Warren said. “No other relationship, including the parent-child relationship, can picture this intimate union. To redefine marriage would destroy the picture that God intends for marriage to portray.”

The Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians compared the union between Christ and the believer with sexual union, Moore said. And today’s sexual liberality actually represents men and women searching for “a cosmic mystery, for a love that is stronger than death.”

Rather than providing the freedom many desired, Moore said, the sexual liberality encouraged by the Sexual Revolution has resulted in male empowerment: “In the wake of disappointment sexual libertarianism brings, there must be a new word about more permanent things, such as the joy of marriage as a permanent, conjugal, one-flesh reality between a man and woman.”

As a result, the church must continue to publicly defend marriage, rather than shirk from addressing sexual sins. “We must keep lit the way to the old paths,” Moore said. “To dispense with marriage is to dispense with a mystery that points to the gospel itself.”

Reflecting on the pope’s address, Owen Strachan, an assistant professor of Christian theology and church history at Boyce College, said on his blog at Patheos that sexual complementarity is central to marriage: God made men and women for union with each other. “The Vatican and dozens of religious traditions are not giving up on these truths. Evangelicals—at least some of them—are celebrating these realities,” he said.

But more is at stake in defending complementarity than societal stability and the health of children.

“Great as these stakes are, they go higher,” Strachan said. “What is at stake is the image of Jesus Christ and his blood-bought church, the complementary union that humanity alone has the privilege to image—and the responsibility to guard.”

Courtney Crandell Courtney is a former WORLD correspondent.

An actual newsletter worth subscribing to instead of just a collection of links. —Adam

Sign up to receive The Sift email newsletter each weekday morning for the latest headlines from WORLD’s breaking news team.

Please wait while we load the latest comments...