More PCRT Q/A: Does Christian Marriage Require a Civil License?

Rick Phillips
Here is another question that did not get answered in the Grand Rapids PCRT: 

"A recent conversation with a family member centered around whether we still need to have a civil license of marriage since the government of states are redefining marriage.  Is it okay to be "married in the eyes of the Lord?"

In answering this question, I would say that while the church and the state both have interests in marriage, they do so in different spheres.  So I would not see why a Christian marriage requires a government marriage license.  However, I also can hardly think of a reason why Christians who are married in the eyes of God and the church would not also want that marriage to be reflected in their public, secular life.  Moreover, I do not see why Christian ministers should refuse to sign marriage certificates simply because a minority of people have gained the legal right to marry contrary to our convictions.  Now, if the occasion arose where the state was compelling Christians to violate our consciences by affirming or supporting homosexual marriage in order to sign marriage licenses, then I suppose that I could imagine a pastor marrying a couple without signing such a license.  The couple would certainly still be married in the eyes of God and the church (i.e., they would be married).  But they might then want to make some separate arrangement for state recognition, if that was possible without their consciences being violated.

In general, however, I do not think the church should seek to be combative in the area of performing godly marriages.  We would want the state to recognize biblical, Christian marriages as a way of positively serving the society in which we live.