Call To Die

Then [Jesus] said to them all, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24, HCSB)

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Follower of Christ, husband of Abby, member of Kosmosdale Baptist Church, and tutor/staff member at Sayers Classical Academy.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Contrast of Teaching on Whether Pastors Should Perform Weddings Between Two Unbelievers: Dr. Samuel Waldron and Dr. Russell Moore

Posting yesterday concerning a contrast in teaching between Dr. Adrian Rogers and Dr. Russell Moore reminded me of another blogpost I've been meaning to write: this one regarding a difference in teaching between Dr. Samuel Waldron and Dr. Russell Moore on whether pastors should perform weddings between two unbelievers.

Two things prompt me to write this post:

First, I've had family members and friends in ministry who have had to grapple with this issue, and I have seen that it is difficult to find biblical counsel in regards to this matter; a good deal of advise that a Christian minister may encounter when thinking through whether he should perform a wedding in a particular circumstance seems to be based on worldly pragmatism rather than biblical principles.

Second, I find, in studying this issue, that I am persuaded by Dr. Moore's argument, rather than Dr. Waldron's; this is interesting to me because, while I have a tremendous amount of respect for Dr. Moore, in the very few matters on which Drs. Moore and Waldron disagree, I virtually always more closely identify with Dr. Waldron's position (the issue examined in this post is, to my knowledge, the only exception to this rule).

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Regarding the question of whether pastors should perform weddings between two unbelievers Dr. Waldron's answer is "YES" [as the reader can hear HERE], a conclusion he reaches in the following way:

1. The Bible only contains a prohibition against a believer marrying an unbeliever, not a prohibition against two unbelievers marrying.

2. Marriage is a creation ordinance rather than a church ordinance and so marriage should not be withheld from unbelievers.

3. Therefore, while a pastor may deem it wise to refuse to perform a wedding in a particular case due to certain circumstances, he should not feel prohibited from performing a wedding for unbelievers.

Dr. Moore agrees with the first two points made above, and mentions them near the beginning of his article on this subject. From these two points he reaches a conclusion with which Dr. Waldron would agree:
It is good for unbelievers to marry rather than to live in immorality. It’s good for them, for their children, and for society as a whole.
But Dr. Moore argues against the further conclusion articulated by Dr. Waldron; while marriage IS good for unbelievers, Dr. Moore argues that a Christian minister should NOT be the one to perform such a marriage. Dr. Moore reaches this conclusion as follows:

1. The pastor's authority is "rooted only in the message he proclaims and in his calling from the church;" the pastor is recognized by a specific church as a minister within that church [this is consistent with the New Testament principle of local church autonomy, which Baptists have championed through the years].

2. "A minister is not [properly understood as] an agent of the state" [this is consistent with the New Testament principle of church/state distinction/separation, which Baptists have also championed throughout the years].

3. "In the New Testament, the marriages of church members are the business of the church community," whereas the marriages of those outside the church are not (Dr. Moore cites 1 Cor 5:12-13 as proof for this argument).

4. Therefore, a minister of the state (i.e., a Justice of the Peace), rather than the pastor of a church, is the appropriate person to perform the wedding ceremony for unbelievers.

I encourage anyone reading this post to listen to Dr. Waldron's argument and read Dr. Moore's blogpost and to prayerfully consider this matter for yourselves.

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