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Does Marriage Matter?

Posted by Scott on January 28, 2008

The “My Turn” column in each week’s issue of Newsweek is always one of the most interesting features in the magazine, and it is often the first page I read. The January 14, 2008 edition featured a column that demands attention — and has attracted plenty.

In her article, “Yes to Love, No to Marriage,” Bonnie Eslinger writes of choosing love but insists that she has absolutely no need of marriage. “I am a 42-year-old woman who has lived life mostly on my own terms,” she explains. “I have never sought a husband and have still experienced intense, affirming love. I have explored the world and myself and sought understanding, knowledge and a sense of how I can best contribute. Ten years ago I left a New York career to return to California and pursue a writer’s life.”

She also became a foster mom to a teenage girl . . . and then she met Jeff. As she recalls, “Meeting Jeff–an intelligent, creative, thoughtful man–became the icing on the rich cake of a life not wasted cruising singles bars and pining over lost loves.”

As the relationship moved forward, Jeff thought of marriage and then asked Bonnie to marry him. Here is how she tells the story:

Last year Jeff asked me to marry him, and I willingly gave my heart to the intent of his question. We are committed to spending our future together, pursuing our dreams and facing life’s challenges in partnership.

Yet I do not need a piece of paper from the state to strengthen my commitment to Jeff. I do not believe in a religion that says romantic, committed love is moral only if couples pledge joint allegiance to God.

Bonnie Eslinger willingly gave her heart to “the intent of his question,” she insists, but not to marriage. Her explanation is straightforward — she has no need of “a piece of paper from the state” and is not a believer in any religion that would demand that romance, sex, and “committed love” be restricted to marriage — a couple’s “joint allegiance to God.”

In one sense, the column is not shocking. Rates of heterosexual cohabitation are growing annually. Marriage has been subverted by easy divorce, pummeled in the mass culture and in entertainment, confused through debates over same-sex relationships, and sidelined by a generation that is extending adolescence past age thirty.

In another sense, Bonnie Eslinger’s column is surely noteworthy for its candor — and its evasions.

Her candor is bracing at points.  Consider this section:

I don’t need a white dress to feel pretty, and I have no desire to pretend I’m virginal. I don’t need to have Jeff propose to me as if he’s chosen me. I don’t need a ring as a daily reminder to myself or others that I am loved. And I don’t need Jeff to say publicly that he loves me, because he says it privately, not just in words but in daily actions.

Few paragraphs offer such eloquent testimony to the absolute victory of personal autonomy as an ideal.  The first-person pronoun appears no less than eleven times in that short paragraph.

Where is Jeff?  Bonnie Eslinger argues that she responded positively to “the intent of his question” when he proposed marriage.  But, if marriage was his question, how can his “intent” be so easily reduced to cohabitation?

Marriage is not primarily about what we as individuals think we want or need.  It is about a central public commitment that the society needs, that couples need, that children need, and yes, that the spouses need.  Marriage is a public institution, not merely a private commitment.  It identifies the couple as a pair committed to lifelong marriage and thus to be respected in this commitment.  The fact that our society has weakened marriage offers only further incentive to get it right and to strengthen this vital institution.

The traditions of the wedding ceremony are important as a part of solemnizing and recognizing this covenanted relationship — but the traditions are expendable.  Marriage is not.  There is a universe of difference between a private promise and a public pledge.  Marriage is about a public vow made by the man to the woman and the woman to the man whereby they become now husband and wife.

Bonnie Eslinger’s column has sparked controversy on both sides of the cultural divide.  Ironically, one interesting piece of testimony to the enduring power of marriage is the fact that, even in 2008, this column has met resistance as well as agreement.  There are things we really cannot not know, and one of these truths is that marriage really does matter.


We discussed this issue on Monday’s edition of The Albert Mohler Program [listen here].

-Scott Bailey 2008


11 Responses to “Does Marriage Matter?”

  1. I found your site on google blog search and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. Just added your RSS feed to my feed reader. Look forward to reading more from you.

    – Randy Nichols.

  2. Matthew said

    As a man going through a divorce I would like to offer one counterpoint.

    Marriage has been subverted by easy divorce, pummeled in the mass culture and in entertainment, confused through debates over same-sex relationships, and sidelined by a generation that is extending adolescence past age thirty.

    I don’t believe that marriage has been subverted by easy divorce… I think marriage has been subverted by easy marriage. It was entirely too easy to get married and it is ridiculously difficult to get a divorce. I don’t believe that rushing into marriage (or being rushed into it by a Christian culture that denies sexuality) is any less harmful than divorce. I don’t believe that marriage has been “confused by debates over same-sex relationships”. People always say, “Gay marriage is harmful to the sanctity of marriage” but I have never had that statement explained to me. How exactly is gay marriage harmful to the sanctity of marriage? Jesus never spoke against gay marriage. There are more teachings against divorce and re-marriage in the Bible than against gay relationships.

    I’m not saying homosexuality is good or right or bad or wrong. I’m just trying to be like Jesus.

    Thanks for reading.


  3. qbaileys said

    Well, Matt, another question first would be does God see homosexuality as sin? Does the scriptures support that homosexuality is sin? Does two men or two women having sexual relations change the natural order set in place by God when He created man and woman (Adam & Eve)? What impact does two men as a married couple have on children that come into play or the same for two women? In 50 years what do you think the impact would be if the sanctity of marriage as between a man and woman was not preserved? I think you could find the answer to your question in the scriptures. Jesus was not confronted with two gay women or two gay men asking to be married that was recorded in the bible, but He did address sinfulness and Jesus never went against His Father or the law nor did He condon sin at all. Read the story of Lot in the old testament concerning Sodom & Gomorah (not sure that is spelled correctly). It was fairly plain what was going on in that town and the fact that God wiped them off the face of the earth is a good indication of what His views on perversion and homosexuality is today and Jesus and His Father are one, so see if you can study on those areas to find good direction if you are wanting to be like Jesus. All this being said, Jesus would not shun someone aside for being gay…this is an example all Christians can learn from. He would not condone two gay men or women living openly in sin either. This goes against His character as God. The woman that the Pharisees dragged to Jesus to try and trap Him is a good example. Jesus did not condemn her, but He instructed her to go and “sin no more”. This did not stop any of the actions of the consequences of her sin, but I believe if she stopped living the way she was living, God would then honor her and restore her life for full service to Him. This we do not know about her, but it would be the same with a couple found in a homosexual act and dragged before Jesus….He would not condemn them, but He would not condone their sin either and would instruct them to stop living in sin, too.

    Secondly, this article you are referring to was written by Dr. Al Mohler, Jr. a renowned radi host and blogger not to mention big in the Baptist denomination…I just want to clarify that up front.

    Thirdly, I will agree that marriage in many cases is easy to get. My wife and I are working on our 18th year of marriage. We knew each other 11 and half months before getting married…engaged about 4 months. We now have 10 beautiful children with the oldest nearing 17. We had two hours of the most boring and unnecessary counseling I have ever had to endure. If a couple is going to get married these days it seems only appropriate to spend more than 2 hrs in counseling for it to be affective. However, the problem as I see it is in the upbringing…I am saying this as the average not the unusual circumstances. What was your parents and grand-parents view of marriage and life? Was it looked at as a holy event or tragic event in their lives? Did they bring the couple up with a Christian world view or worldly world view of everything? My wife and I went into the marriage understanding divorce was not an option for us in the beginning…it was settled in the beginning (not withstanding any unusual sin in our lives that makes the marriage absolutely unthinkable to continue and that we cannot reconcile). This is not to say that many others have attempted the same thing and still ended in divorce, but we had grand-parents that stayed married through their entire lives on both sides and my parents are working on their 46th anniversary and my wife’s parents are coming upon their 40th anniversary. One of my grand-fathers out lived two wives and had 9 children at his death at the age of 82. So, what I am getting at here is that how we are brought up believing about marriage determines alot of how we treat our own marriages. This is in no way trying to explain the issues in your marriage that has caused a bitter divorce, which I have no clues about. I do empathize with you in this and hope that in some way I can walk along side you in this difficult time of your life and your sons life.

    I just challenge your thought on the entire process of what God intended marriage to be and who it was designed for, what are God’s views on divorce, homosexuality, and these issues we are facing daily. In my quest for holiness it has drawn me back into the scriptures in a large way, both old testament and new testament. I also gather a tremendous amount of godly guidance from the scholars, theologians and preachers of the past and present. I will not spend alot of post on this blog on specific sins, but will back away from including some in my articles or the articles of others. That seems to be a huge problem with the evangelical church today. They are afraid to call sin what it is “sin”. They are afraid of offending someone that might be setting in their congregation that is living in that particular sin….I am sorry, but we cannot water down the word of God over the threat of offending. God’s word will convict us of sin…it is that simple. Bringing up Jesus in a conversation many times will cause problems, but that is the cross we must bare.

    Thanks for the comments.


  4. qbaileys said

    Further comments on marriage. Do not exquate the amount of content spent on gay marriage or the gay life style in the scripture to determine what you think Jesus believed about this matter. Most of what He addressed were the greatest problems of that day. When trying to seek out what Jesus thinks or would do, you look at the characteristics of God Himself…do not go forward trying to find specific scripture that supports your belief, but look into the scriptures to find out who God is, how big He is, how big His love is. Take the focus off your particular problems, issues or trials and go into your prayer time praising and thanking God for who He is, how big He is, and the like. Our problems next to our God is like a spec of dust on a spec of dust next to the universe as we know it…!

    You cannot view marriage, the Christian life and sin based on a society driven world view…it must come from a biblical world view. Simply put is that “it is not about us”.


  5. Matthew said


    Thanks, brother, for participating in this discussion with me. I don’t want to debate whether or not homosexuality is a sin. You suggest that we should infer Jesus’ responses to things HE wasn’t confronted with and I don’t feel comfortable doing that. You also suggest that gay marriage/relationships weren’t an issue in Jesus’ culture when, in fact, homosexuality isn’t anything new and if Jesus had wanted to make a point about it, HE would have.

    What I really want, if I may be so bold, is to understand “how” gay marriage/gay relationships damage society. There is no data (to my knowledge) that suggests gay relationships have higher rates of child or spousal abuse than their traditional counterparts. There is no data (to my knowledge) that suggests the children of gay couples are less adjusted, less well-behaved, less socialized than their counterparts from traditional families.

    Also, for what it’s worth, my parents and my ex’s parents are still married and have been for close to 40 years. My maternal grandparents were married until my grandfather’s death. My ex’s grandparents who are still living are still married.


  6. qbaileys said


    Here again I must clarify what I was speaking about. First, I was not saying homosexuals was not an issue back in Jesus day, but I do not think in the territory Jesus was ministering in had openly gay people, Greece yes, Israel no and you certainly did not have 150,000 gay couples marching down the main streets of Jerusalem in protest. Jesus could have addressed alot of things in the scriptures if He had so desired, He is the sovereign God of this universe and beyond.

    Congrats on having great parents. As I stated in my comment that I was speaking of the average not all cases. However, my comment was the quality of the marriages, what you were able to observe in those marriages. Of course, in your case your ex or soon to be ex may not have observed her parents or grand-parents marriages. You said she is anti-Christian…so, that speaks volumes on your divorce.

    As far as the damage that gay marriages do to society. I would have to refer you to anyone that has done research on this. I am sure it is out there. I remember hearing a year or so ago, that children in these relationships were suffering some issues, but I cannot tell you what that was or where I was reading or listening.

    Do you believe they are different degrees of sin? Does two sinful people committing to live an entire life in sin make that union right? Does the fact God sees homosexuality as sin matter at all to you concerning gay marriage? Do you believe in the wrathfulness of God? Regardless if society is hurt by it or not, I still do not believe gay marriages are right for the one reason that God sees that life style as sin. If it was not, I would have no opinion of it all. In the last days we will see more and more of this and most likely the evangelical church will embrace it during the end times as an acceptable way of life. Many Christians will abandon what they know as truth for a lie that society bombards us with daily. This is a sorrowful time as I can see it rushing into the church in large waves. Many churches today are transforming themselves to look like the world to attract the world….the world is looking for entertainment and a bar rather than truth and God. Becoming like the world is not the answer…the church most remain different from the world, because God’s ways are not mans ways.

    Really I don’t care what they do as long as it is NOT taught to my kids that is “OK” and the church I attend turn their heads the other way and teach that is “OK”, which in our church you will never hear that gay marriage or the gay lifestyle is “OK”.

    One thing I have strived to avoid on this blog is focusing on anything like this…singling out specific sin as though this one is worse than lying, cheating, stealing, adultry or any other sin is why i try to avoid it as much as possible and now I am speaning alot of time on this one subject. My focus has mainly been on deepening my theology and doctrine of the scriptures and passing that along to others. I pray daily for God’s wisdom as I study the scriptures for His truth and knowledge. However, I do pass along articles I find interesting and may address issues of the family, children, husbands, dads, and moms. I want to know my Lord in the deepest cracks of my heart and move towards holiness and godliness. I am far from it of course, but the goal is still there.

    I do have hot buttons when it comes to trying to bring sin into my home around my family. The gay lifestyle and homosexual marriage are areas that I want out of my house…we do not set around talking about all the time, but my kids know where I stand on the issue and why. I am not here to convince anyone one way or another outside of my home, but I do have deep convictions that if that lifestyle is sinful, then the marriage of two people living in that lifestyle must be sin as well, whether God has stated “Thou shalt not be gay or have gay marriage” or not….I look much deeper on something like that.

    Do we think the God that destroyed two ancient cities for their sinfulness is somewhat different and made that simply an old testament issue…I think not.

    I will err on the side of caution and that the gay lifestyle and marriage is not of God nor will it ever be ordained by God as right. The gay lifestyle as any other sinful act from love of money, sex with many women, to cheating to any other sin is simply mans surrendering to their own lust and pleasure. Titus 3:3 ask a question “Whose servant are you?” 2 Timothy 3:4 has Paul telling us not to be “lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God.” Peter tells us in 1 Peter 2:11 to “Abstain from fleshly lust which was with the soul.” 1 Corinthians 9:27 tells us to keep our bodies under control and bring it into subjection. Colossians 3:5 speaks of “Mortifying (put to death) our sinfulness, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual sin, impurity, lust, and shameful desires.” I could go on and on concerning this as I see the gay lifestyle as feeding the lustful selfishness of man…for them to marry is only feeding that same lustful seflishness further. Marriage between a man and woman has been ordained by God from the beginning. Whether they live in marriage to each other for 50 years or not has no baring on the fact that it is the God ordained course of life.

    Paul addresses this throughout his letters. In Colossians 3:18-19 Paul speaks of wives submitting to their husbands and husbands must love their wife. Why is it that it does not address the “alternate” lifestyle everyone wants to defend? Never in all of scripture does any of the apostles or Jesus refer to two men or two women in marriage or being a proper way of life. I believe it would have been used as an example by Jesus or other writers of the scriptures if it was “OK”.

    Read Romans 1:18-32…pretty strong language about homosexuality there. God allows us to make choices….those that decide to live in the gay lifestyle have been given over to that sinfulness. Does not mean God will zap them from heaven nor does it mean if they are married He will zap them of society will fall apart….immediately! People will push the truth of God’s word away from themselves. God has put the knowledge of His natural course of life in our hearts…we have no excuse that He did not specifically say the “Gay marriage is sin or not OK”. God has planted in our hearts to know Him already. It speaks in verse 26-27 about how sinful this lifestyle is. It states that “God abandoned them to their shameful desires”. How can anyone think that gay marriage would “ok” when the lifestyle is so strongly abhored by God Himself? If our country was to legalize gay marriage as “OK” do you think that God would simply turn His head and say “Oh well it is just a little sin?” I do not have to address anything about whether the kids of a gay couple turn out alright or not…the simple fact that the lifestyle is wrong is enough for me. Anything that comes from that lifestyle can be used by God for good or bad…it is totally up to the perfect plan (providential power) of God. God is sovereign and His grace can overcome any kind of sin, even homosexuality…this includes two people of the same sex marrying….He can and will forgive if we ask him to, but how far are we going to push God before He says “enough is enough”.


  7. Matthew said


    I want to respect your desire to avoid a “one topic” blog. However, I would like to respond to just a couple things you said. It’s your blog and you are welcome to the last word, I probably won’t respond on this topic after this post. It’ll be time to move on to something else. I really enjoy reading what you write, it makes me think!

    To clarify, I don’t believe in degrees of sin. I also have difficulty with a wrathful/vengeful GOD. I believe that “God is Love” and I have a hard time reconciling that with the barbarism of the Old Testament.

    I haven’t been convicted one way or the other with regards to homosexuality as a sin. I realize that it is a “no-brainer” to you but it isn’t to me. I have known too many gay couples who love and serve Jesus and who are active in their churches and who have ministered to me, personally. I also don’t believe a person’s rights as an American should be based on anything other than their being human. Race, creed, color, religion or sexual orientation are not a basis for discrimination.

    Regardless, the bible teaches we are not to resist an evil person. (Matt. 5:38-40)We are not to judge or we will be judged. (Luke 6:36-38)We are not to repay evil with evil, but overcome evil with good. (I Peter 3:9 and Romans 12:21) You suggest reading Romans 1. I did that, then I read Romans 2. Check it out. It is not my job to point out the sins of others. It isn’t my job to tell others how they have it wrong. It is my job/duty/calling under CHRIST to serve everyone, to love everyone, to come to the aid of the oppressed, to mimic CHRIST who died for those who crucified HIM.

    You ask, “how far are we going to push GOD before HE says ‘enough is enough’. New Testament GOD doesn’t ever say ‘enough is enough’. New Testament GOD has provided the ultimate measure of HIS grace through HIS son. That grace is poured out for EVERYBODY! Old Testament GOD is said to have destroyed cities and peoples and even the whole world. Old Testament GOD bears very little resemblance to New Testament GOD. That is another part of being a Christian which is hard for me. I’m still struggling with that one.

    Scott, that’s all I have on this discussion. I’m just a sinner saved by grace and I don’t have any answers, just more questions. I look forward to reading more about being a Christian Dad on your blog. You are a blessing to me.


  8. Matthew said

    So sorry, I said I was done… I was just re-reading your last post and something jumped out at me that I just had to respond to. You wrote:

    “If our country was to legalize gay marriage as ‘OK’ do you think that God would simply turn His head and say ‘Oh well it is just a little sin?'”

    God doesn’t punish our nation because of sin. God has no vested interest in the United States of America. God’s interest is in people. The laws that are passed or not passed by any government in the world have no use to God. There is no good government on this earth. Our national government isn’t any better or worse in God’s eyes than the Taliban, or Saddam Hussein, or Jugo Chavez. We are not a Christian nation, we never have been, we never will be. There has only ever been one nation chosen by God and that was the Ancient Hebrews (Jews).

    Sorry… that’s a soapbox/hot button issue for me.


  9. qbaileys said


    Just stay in God’s word from the Old Testament to the New Testament….if you really want to know what God thinks on any given subject, He will show it to you in His word. No new revelations….it is all there between the pages of the bible already. God will reveal what He is saying there though.

    God does punish nations…he punished Germany twice in WWI and in the 1940’s WWII for their involvement in murdering jews and other innocent people….He also punished the individuals involved even more harshly, but the entire nation suffered. He will punish this nation as well….if we put on our money “In God We Trust” yet we do not trust, do not think for a moment you can wish away that God will not puinsh this great nation. If we as a people of God make loud bold statements and laws that are contrary to Him, rest assured He will punish the people and the nation as one. I am not exactly sure who you are reading, but I would encourage you to put down any book besides the word of God and spend several months there seeking out the knowledge and wisdom of God in these matters.

    He has harshly punished many other nations besides Israel over the course of history. One thing I have learned from history is that men do not learn anything from history….we continue to put blinders over our eyes and deny that God will not or cannot punish a nation or that God really does not care about the affairs of the people or nations…what a tragic lie to believe. I hope others do not follow that pattern of earthly thinking or we may well see sooner than later His intentions.

    God created man for His purposes no tour purposes. God is love, true! God is also the judge, most powerful, awesome, jealous, etc. I have heard so many times people say the same things about how God is love not war or no hate or other terms like this. You must see God in all His glory not just a part of it. I am not stating here that we are to be vengeful on others, haters of others, and so on….we are commanded to love one another…that includes homosexuals. I to have been aided by homosexuals…not ministered to by them, but helped by them and I do not hate them. One of my favorite teachers in school was a gay man. I still consider him a good friend of mine, however, his lifestyle I could never agree with and he understood that. This has nothing to do with how I was raised or what I see on television or read in papers….my view of this sinful life comes directly from God’s word. We cannot pick and choose that which we want to agree with from the bible…God’s word is holy from beginning to end. His word is the entire truth not just parts of it that fit what we want to believe.

    I will end this conversation with this point that we must choose who we are going to serve…God or the world! For me and my house we will serve the Lord. One thing I have come to understand is that God does NOT need you or me….but we certainly NEED Him!


  10. qbaileys said

    Matt, I want you to know that you have revealed a great deal about you to me in your comments. Do not hesitate to comment on anything within this blog…I may comment right back and I may not….just depends on time and the subject.

    I do sense you are seeking after truth and if you continue within God’s word you will find it there every single time. So, keep reading, meditating and praying. Some things are very cut and dry for me when it pertains to sin…I do NOT mess around with sin. This is what separates us from God…thankfully we have Jesus that has reconciled us or redeemed us back into His glorious prescence.


  11. qbaileys said


    A great book I would encourage you to read once you have emmersed yourself in the scriptures for a long time is “Holiness” by J.C. Ryle. This would be excellent reading for you and it will not lead you astray.

    “God is love” is the most misunderstood attribute of God. God is not only love…the complexity of His character and the mystery of who He is are far too large for a simple statement like that. God is far more than just love.

    It is God’s nature to love us. Love Permeates who He really is. I want to give you four disections for this in order for you to think further about.

    1. God’s eternal love is for Himself first and foremost!
    This is not a selfish love of self like we would think of on earth. God knows that He is the greatest. God knows that He is the only true God. God knows His power is unmatched by any other in heaven or on earth. God knows He is the creator. These are truths we can live by…these are factual statements.
    John 3:35, 5:20,23, 14:31

    2. God’s providential love is for all creation!
    This directs the awesome power of God. Psalm 145:16 – Matthew 7:28-30

    3. God’s saving love is for the lost!
    1 Timothy 2:3-5 – John 3:16 – 2 Peter 3:9
    God even in His wrathfulness loves us. His wrath must remain as we are a rebellious people. His wrath keeps us lined up with Him. He loves us far too much to let us continue in our sin without consequence. It is not in His character to just look over our sins and embrace us anyway. We come before Him as a child of His cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ otherwise God could look upon us. This part of the message seems to be widely left out of the pulpits today. God is disgusted over our sinfulness and yet He still sent Jesus to die for us because He first loved us…we are His chosen ones.

    4. God’s particular love is for His chosen (elect) people.
    John 15:9
    As we have the love of God within us we are to love others with that same love as testimony of God’s love in us. We are to love others enough to help them out of their lifestyle of sin. This is not for us to be judgemental of others or legalistic about our walk. Love is not easy nor does it just look over someone elses sinful life and let them stay there. To let someone remain in their sin without bringing it to their attention is not love, but selfishness or timidity. God says we are not to be timid about His word or His love.
    I am not speaking about someone letting a cuss word slip out or a mistake that occurs one time. I am speaking of a sinful lifestyle. An example would be homosexuality, guy and gal living together in sin(not married), a fellow brother or sister in Christ getting drunk on a weekly basis, a person that is a habitual gossip or slanderer….these are just a few examples of lifestyles that are what we call “living in sin”. Love the person enough to bring this to their attention and walk with them for a while to see them out of that sin. If they refuse you will have a choice to make of walking away from them until the Holy Spirit has convinced them of their sin and they repent or at times they may never change or staying with them and risking your spiritual well being. Your association with them should be very limited in that case lest you fall into that sinful lifestyle with them or receive the reputation of living or condoning that lifestyle. Do not allow anything to ruin or tamper with the testimony God has given you in Him. Guard your relationship with God. Do NOT let someone elses sinfulness to cause you doubt or come between you and God. This is a dividing line where you must make a decision to follow Christ or man. People you call friends will sometimes pull you away from Christ with their sin. This is not simple as it may seem, because it can require years of prayer and consultation in order to see the change in them God would desire. It is left up to the Holy Spirit to take God’s word into the deepest cracks and holes of our mind to then penetrate our hearts. To walk with someone living in open sin is difficult and should not be attempted alone. The only way for you to remain pure in this is to stay emmersed in God’s word on a daily basis, meditating on His word daily, praying at great length daily about others and yourself, and praising Him for His total awesomeness.

    Yes, “God is Love”, but you cannot stop there. He is far greater, far more awesome and far more holy than just the love we can see here.

    Pressing on,

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