What legitimizes a person to give marriage?

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Roman

Puritan Board Freshman
Greetings!

What makes a person legitimate to give marriage? Here are two examples to explain the question.

Person A:
  • Is a pastor in a large church that has thousands of members and is part of a larger church structure;
  • Has a degree from a well-standing seminary;
  • Has a wide following and recognition as a church leader.
Person B:
  • Started a church by himself, that has only a handful of members;
  • The church is independent;
  • Has no theological education;
  • Has little experience as a pastor.
Normally, there would be no question that person A is legitimate to marry others. On the other hand, what about case B?


Thanks in advance for the answers!
 

VictorBravo

Administrator
Staff member
The general answer is it depends on the state’s law. I doubt that any state requires a particular education. States generally recognize “ordained ministers”, judges, other public officials, and maybe ship’s captains.

Other states recognize a competent adult as one who can officiate the wedding.
 

Edward

Puritanboard Commissioner
In addition to what Vic said, in a handful of states, no outside authority is needed to confect a llegal marriage - the couple can declare themselves married. But it doesn't seem worth the legal risks to try to save a few dollars on filing fees. One should certainly consult a qualified domestic relations attorney before attempting that route.

In Florida, any Notary Public can officiate; most states require at least a Justice of the Peace for a civil ceremony. (According to the internet, two other states allow Notaries to conduct weddings, other internet sources say three others.)

It may be tempting to reference sites such as https://www.thespruce.com/recognized-marriage-officiants-2300735 but I can state after glancing at it that it is not entirely accurate, and again that a qualified attorney should be consulted if something unusual is contemplated.
 

Edward

Puritanboard Commissioner
@Roman It appears that you may be in Europe. If your country is like Germany, then the legal ceremony would be the one that takes place at the government office, and the religious ceremony may have no legal effect. If your question was to obtain information as to how it works in the US, be aware that there are at least 55 jurisdictions with differing laws governing marriage in this country. And some jurisdictions may vary within that state/territory/district.
 

Roman

Puritan Board Freshman
Thank you, @Edward and @VictorBravo , for your responses! Sorry, I did not clarify the question enough.

I am not asking about judicial side of marriage, only about the marriage as a union before God. Legal side can be ignored altogether. The word "legitimate" was probably confusing one to use. In my question, by "legitimate" I meant legitimate when it comes to marriage as a union before God, and not "legitimate" in the sense of legal side of marriage.

the legal ceremony would be the one that takes place at the government office, and the religious ceremony may have no legal effect.
This is exactly the case. In fact, the legal ceremony was already done. That is also why the question is solely about marriage as a Christian union before God.

I would appreciate if you could answer the question in this clarified sense.

Thank you!
 

VictorBravo

Administrator
Staff member
Marriage is very simple in Scripture. Basically:

Consent
Repute (intentions made publicly known)
Consummation.

No formal rituals or titles needed. Look at Isaac and Rebekah in Gen 24.

She agreed to marriage. She came home to Isaac. They went into "his mother's tent."

Nothing more.
 

Ryan&Amber2013

Puritan Board Junior
Marriage is very simple in Scripture. Basically:

Consent
Repute (intentions made publicly known)
Consummation.

No formal rituals or titles needed. Look at Isaac and Rebekah in Gen 24.

She agreed to marriage. She came home to Isaac. They went into "his mother's tent."

Nothing more.
That's very interesting when you put it that way. I wonder if that has implications on the way God sees a lot of couples, compared to the way the state sees them?
 

Andrew35

Puritan Board Sophomore
That's very interesting when you put it that way. I wonder if that has implications on the way God sees a lot of couples, compared to the way the state sees them?
I think that's where the notion of "common-law marriage" came from. I.e., the state as a legitimator of marriage is, I believe, a historically novel concept.

I went through a thought experiment a few years ago re. whether a couple on a desert island could be legitimately married. I concluded they could, provided they explicitly or implicitly invoked witnesses to their commitment (Victor's "Repute").

Maybe even invoking heaven and earth as witnesses, a la Moses in Deuteronomy, barring any other recognized parties present (Christians could, of course, presumably call on God as a witness).
 

VictorBravo

Administrator
Staff member
That's very interesting when you put it that way. I wonder if that has implications on the way God sees a lot of couples, compared to the way the state sees them?
To put it simply, if you don't comply with the laws of the civil authority, it will not consider you married. Whatever advantage society would confer upon the union would not be yours. If you are not in a common law jurisdiction, I think holding yourself out to be married even though not following the laws of the jurisdiction would be rebellion and possibly fraud. Not a good witness.

The various marriage laws all end up formalizing the elements I listed. Public repute is handled by registry/licensing, whatever. Consent is required before you get the license. Annulments are part of every law I'm aware of if consummation is an issue.

Until recently in history, it was not so much state definition vs God's definition. The states, whether consciously or through habit, systematized what has been fundamental since Genesis: a man shall leave his parent...the two become one.

"Male and female he created them...." was always a plain, observable fact.

I have strong opinions on state recognized marriage these days, which will lead me quite astray. But suffice it to say that in the US and most of the world, what the governments call "marriage" is not at all the analog God gave us for his union with his people.
 

Ryan&Amber2013

Puritan Board Junior
To put it simply, if you don't comply with the laws of the civil authority, it will not consider you married. Whatever advantage society would confer upon the union would not be yours. If you are not in a common law jurisdiction, I think holding yourself out to be married even though not following the laws of the jurisdiction would be rebellion and possibly fraud. Not a good witness.

The various marriage laws all end up formalizing the elements I listed. Public repute is handled by registry/licensing, whatever. Consent is required before you get the license. Annulments are part of every law I'm aware of if consummation is an issue.

Until recently in history, it was not so much state definition vs God's definition. The states, whether consciously or through habit, systematized what has been fundamental since Genesis: a man shall leave his parent...the two become one.

"Male and female he created them...." was always a plain, observable fact.

I have strong opinions on state recognized marriage these days, which will lead me quite astray. But suffice it to say that in the US and most of the world, what the governments call "marriage" is not at all the analog God gave us for his union with his people.
Hypothetically, if two people desire to marry, and are sexually active, does God see that as a marriage?
 

VictorBravo

Administrator
Staff member
Hypothetically, if two people desire to marry, and are sexually active, does God see that as a marriage?
I'll be blunt. It sounds like the two people are playing games to satisfy lust.

We know what our Lord said about that.

They desire to marry, but won't go through the steps required? Then they dishonor the laws of their jurisdiction and rebel against the magistrate.

Historically, the marriage laws were a civil blessing to maintain order in society. Nowadays, not so much. If you play at marriage without going through the steps, and if one of the parties decides to change his or her mind, they may find themselves in the state's court anyway, under the theory of "meretricious relationships."

So, they have made some kind of a commitment, even if in rebellion. They also get no formal acknowledgment or benefits (like tax or retirement benefits) from the state. They are lone rangers, as it were.

Paul in 1 Corinthians 6 speaks about joining with a harlot--using the phrase from Genesis they "shall become one flesh."
It is pretty clear that his argument was not if you sleep with someone you automatically become married to them. On the contrary, he was emphasizing the requirement to flee sexual immorality.

Playing games here insults the purpose of marriage, which, as I noted, is an analog to God's union with his people.

Hosea was told by God to marry a harlot. This was a specific object lesson for Israel who had likewise taken her vows lightly and committed adultery. They were indeed married, but were married as a shameful example for us to learn about God's remarkable grace.
 
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