Did We Miss May?

All the talk about religious freedom has turned the calendar ahead to June — the traditional month of weddings. Kevin DeYoung reminds us why marriage ceremonies are so important:

A wedding ceremony, in the Christian tradition, is first of all a worship service. So if the union being celebrated in the service cannot be biblically sanctioned as a an act of worship, we believe the service lends credence to a lie. We cannot come in good conscience and participate in a service of false worship. I understand that sounds not very nice, but the conclusion follows from the premise; namely, that the “marriage” being celebrated is not in fact a marriage and should not be celebrated.

Moreover, there has long been an understanding that those present at a marriage ceremony are not just casual observers, but are witnesses granting their approval and support for the vows that are to be made. That’s why the traditional language speaks of gathering “here in the sight of God, and in the face of this congregation.”

This is true.

But have Christians truly been relying on such convictions in the way they practice wedding ceremonies? When my brother was married in 1973, the ceremony was simple and the reception even simpler — cake and punch in the church basement. (For all fathers with daughters out there, one phrase — “cake and punch, cake and punch.”) By the time of mine eight years later, we upgraded to upscale finger food, and a trio of string instruments at an offsite location — one that wouldn’t allow champagne or wine (which was just as well because both sets of parents were abstainers). Today, a Christian family can’t hold a wedding and reception for under five figures — or a good down payment on a home, and the list of guests is a sign of which friends and family need to be honored or included.

In other words, Christians have hardly preserved a distinct way of doing marriage but have joined the surrounding culture in turning it into something excessive — sort of the marriage version of the Super Bowl.

So if Kevin wants us to go back to simpler times, fine and good. But let’s not act like Christians have been preserving the sanctity of ceremonies or vows or commitments. And let’s not forget the way gay marriage has spooked us into rethinking marriage. We didn’t object to weddings when our non-Christian neighbors invited us to the local mainline Protestant church for the ceremony and the country club for the reception. But now we do.


79 thoughts on “Did We Miss May?

  1. The real issue for Kevin is not how Christians celebrate weddings, it is what weddings the government will recognize.

    As for Christian weddings, his point that it should be a worship service is not necessarily germane to simple inexpensive weddings the latter of which I prefer both as a participant and a father–didn’t get my wish as a father. We could say that even Christian weddings are more a reflection of our culture than of what the Scriptures teach. The weddings revolve around the bride and groom and their love for each other, rather than on how God’s love sustains us especially when our “love” for each other fails.

    BTW, the wife’s and my wedding was not elaborate because we were paying for it and neither of us wanted elaborate anyway. I provided most of the music and we used some Jazz. And we had a Jazz pianist play the reception. My grandmother really loved the Jazz pianist and that was important because she use to play the piano for a movie theater when the movies needed musical accompaniment.


  2. I agree completely. Evangelicals’ recently-discovered convictions regarding marriage strike me as little more than an excuse to express selective moral disapproval of people whom they simply don’t like. DeYoung’s argument falls flat for several reasons.

    First, even if we accept DeYoung’s premise, no one views the ancillary service providers as also lending moral approval to the marriage. Bakers, caterers, photographers, and florists don’t typically interview the couple in advance of the wedding to ensure that they can lend their moral approval to the nuptials. Nor would anyone in the office expect them to. In fact, I suspect that the Christian bakers, caterers, photographers, and florists of the world have served any number of couples whose marriages were sinful by DeYoung’s standard. When gay people are the only sinners to whom one is refusing service, it looks a lot less like a religious objection and more like invidious discrimination.

    Second, the “marriage tradition” to which DeYoung refers has been dead for decades. Today, even in evangelical churches, we construe marriage ceremonies as extravagant celebrations of the two individuals’ decision. The whole thing drips with Freudian-romantic assumptions about love, sexuality, and marriage. In an ironic sense, marriage is much more traditional in most western European countries, focusing instead on pragmatic considerations and third-party obligations. They construe opposite-sex marriage as a prosaic institution, which is open to all without regard to sexual orientation. In contrast, we construe it as a romantic institutions, which centers on the celebration of heterosexual desire.

    Third, the culture knows that DeYoung and like-minded Christians are lying. They may well have deluded themselves, such that they’re not as cognizant as they should be about how ridiculous these arguments appear. Or perhaps they live in something of a subcultural bubble, where everyone is simply playing along with the lie and refusing to name the sham for what it is. But the culture isn’t buying it! And this dishonesty brings the name of Christ into disrepute. If conservative Christians were to abandon the Freudian-romantic view of marriage, then these arguments would have a bit of persuasive force. But evangelicals are often the most strident defenders of the Freudian-romantic view. And, if you’re going to cling to this godless, modernist view of marriage, you waive any right to object to same-sex marriage on so-called traditionalist grounds.

    At the end of the day, evangelicals have to get over their love affair with Freud. I’m not a fan of same-sex marriage, as I believe that men and women complement each other in any variety of ways, most of which have nothing to do with sex. But I reach this conclusion by assuming that marriage is a prosaic, pragmatic institution. If evangelicals, however, are going to insist that marriage remove around sexual desire and that entry into that institution center around the performance of certain sexualized gender roles (Piper’s Christian-hedonistic interpretation of gender roles), then same-sex marriage starts to make a lot more sense to me…even if its only purpose is to mock the ridiculous and godless way in which evangelicals have come to construe opposite-sex marriage.


  3. The traditional Lutheran rubrics calls for the ceremony to be held immediately before Divine Service, so not part of worship at all. No unity candle, no special music (maybe one hymn the couple requests). The pastor may or may not preach a “marriage-themed” sermon, depending on the text for the day. Basically, 10 minutes of wedding, then church.

    (Only a few nerdy seminary types are reviving this tradition. Most LCMS still do the Saturday 1 hour wedding)


  4. “so not part of worship at all. no unity candle, no special music”

    can’t remember if there have been posts here on what worship is


  5. “In other words, Christians have hardly preserved a distinct way of doing marriage but have joined the surrounding culture in turning it into something excessive — sort of the marriage version of the Super Bowl.”

    Yes, marriage, “Celebration” worship services, book sales, sermon series…etc.


  6. In using the word “prosaic” again and again, it reminds me of why American Christianity annoys me.

    The chief problem with the liberalism that Machen fought was that it abandoned a realist estimation of the human condition, replaced it with an idealist estimation, and sought to remake Christianity the institutional embodiment of those ideals. Machen offered a realist alternative.

    But evangelicals, including most in the OPC and PCA, have misunderstood Machen’s objective. He wasn’t simply objecting to the content of the ideals toward which such idealist thought trended; rather, he was objecting to the wholesale abandonment of a realist estimation of the human condition. Missing this point, evangelicals have largely followed the erstwhile liberals’ lead. They, like the liberals of yore, have abandoned realism in favor of idealism, but have simply selected a set of ideals that tend to justify, rather than question, conventional middle-class values.

    That’s what interests me about Darryl’s project. He’s one of the few Christian voices who’s actually calling for a return to a more realist, earthy faith, and not simply a faith that presents a different set of ideals.


  7. I wish more people would pick up and read Bavinck. We act like the stuff going on today is somehow new and not questioned or asked by generations before us. Oh well, I guess it get’s peopel to click on blog websites..

    What has been is what will be,
    and what has been done is what will be done,
    and there is nothing new under the sun.
    (Ecclesiastes 1:9 ESV)


  8. I don’t represent the hetero community. Maybe Sean does. But I have no solidarity with the hetero community over against the gay community when it comes to who does marriage worse. I don’t think there’s any cause-effect relationship between bad hetero marriage and the introduction of gay marriage, although they might both flow from the same source. So let me out of the dynamics & rhetoric of the current debate.

    Bobby talked about Freudian influence but it’s probably not any deeper than Walt Disney. Shallow culture we will always have with us, and this is a comfort for those who would grind their teeth over it. Oh, let’s get serious, I’ll grind my teeth over it too, but then unclench my jaw to laugh at it.

    Perhaps the best case scenario is to think through and clarify marriage as individual denominations.


  9. a.,

    Lutherans don’t hold to the RPW. I’m not describing the wedding practices of the Reformed, but pointing out how the other marriage-isn’t-a-sacrament tradition historically married their parishioners, distinguishing marriage from any rite of the church . Our service begins after the Confession and Absolution, which isn’t considered part of the service proper, and everything (hymns, Psalms, canticles) revolves around Scripture/Sermon–Sacrament. We (again, historically) don’t improvise with special requests to honor the couple who just happened to be married right before Divine Service began, other than appropriate hymns and maybe a mention in the sermon. All to communicate: “This joining is not part of church, or a special worship service, but distinct.” I believe even some northern medieval churches married their children on the church steps in front of the whole village (witnesses) before everyone went inside.

    I understand having a wedding on Sunday morning is complicated by the modern dilemma of many, many guests being not of one’s communion, or even Christian at all.

    (We get kind of twitchy even by using the word “worship,” but that’s another topic.)


  10. Z, a gay Reformed wedding would be confusing enough, but your Subaru would make things confusing beyond repair.


  11. DG, I was really taken aback with the author saying a wedding is first and foremost a worship service.
    Isn’t he a PCA minister? It is not our common understanding in the OPC or PCA that a wedding is a worship service. And he says the union is being biblically sanctioned as an act of worship?!? What does that even mean? Yikes.


  12. Please tell me that was OLTS’s first ever proposal (and subsequent rejection). I don’t want to know about any marriages that came about because of people meeting out here. I’ll stop right there.


  13. These guys never let me down:

    Is a Wedding a Worship Service?


    Is a wedding a worship service? What is the position of the OPC and of the historic Reformed Church?


    Thank you for your question. The answer is fairly simple. To the first part I answer, No and Yes. No, it is not considered a stated or called worship service, the non-attendance of which would be sinful, i.e., neglecting the assembling together of the brethren. There is no command in Scripture that a wedding be held in a formal worship service. And yet, it should be a worship service because we are celebrating the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman, vows are being made, and all of this had better be to the glory of God! (1 Cor 10:31).

    The position of the OPC and the historic Reformed Church is stated in the regulative principle—whatsoever God has not commanded in a worship service is forbidden. God has not commanded us to hold a formal wedding service. But we encourage a public declaration of vows for the glory of God and the edification of his people, not to mention to fulfill the commands to rejoice with one another and encourage one another in love and good deeds.


  14. oh Katy, I was just commenting because of recalling my daughter’s wedding being a great recent worship event . It was outside, so I remember looking up to the heavens overcome with gratitude for her life and for all the answered prayers for her, includng her mate. It was a worship event too for all those there who had prayed for, nurtured, instructed , and encouraged her in the Lord and otherwise. Marriage is God’s creation,He says it is a mystery Gen 2:24, and represents another mystery Eph 5:32, all reason wedding ceremonies are worship for believers.


  15. “let’s not act like Christians have been preserving the sanctity of ceremonies or vows or commitments. ”

    DH: Sorry, but this is bullshit. I come from a family with Evangelicals, pagans, Baptists, etc. And the earnest Christians have consistently had modest weddings that reflected the modest budgets of the families: cakes and punch. Sure, others have elaborate affairs — I catered these for years as a food service person — but Christians as a social class have not in fact sold out across the board. My extended family’s weddings have actually encouraged me on this front. I love most of your observations, but please … Maybe your bow-tied crowd is super – socially conscious, but in Indiana, country music and Kiwanis Halls are still a staple. You don’t have to be contrarian for the sake of being contrarian, even if TKNY is a bit to popular for his own good.


  16. Linda, what can I say? But if vows are as important as the Confession says, marriage vows might go well in a worship service the way Lutherans practice it.


  17. Among my secular law firm colleagues, small destination weddings have become the trend. I went to two last summer. One was in a Habsburg-era manor in the Transdanubian Mountains (30 minutes west of Budapest) and the other was in Bermuda.


  18. “We didn’t object to weddings when our non-Christian neighbors invited us to the local mainline Protestant church for the ceremony and the country club for the reception.” Well, we were uneasy–at least I was. But we didn’t want to be rude or gauche & made no issue of it. Repentance is good, but we should be sure that we express it across the board & not only in relation to homosexual practitioners. How many of us have a problem with participating (in the DeYoung sense) in weddings where the couple have executed a prenuptial agreement?
    -from a coffee-&-cake in the basement veteran.


  19. And I was looking forward to it, CW, When it got cancelled it was like “oh well, back to smoking cigars by the dryer vent.”


  20. Erik, so glad you still post your thoughts. When your pingbacks hit, it’s like your spirit is hovering over the OLTS waters. Props, bro! From down here in the mud of the combox, to your ethereal dwelling, Peace, Andrew


  21. Thanks AB, no and yes. I’m OPC too and love the Q/A section of our denoms website but that read a bit squishy.


  22. Chris, as I’ve mentioned before, my wife wrote in and only told me about it after she was published. It was more regular (weekly) but lately not so much. It’s fun to see what people write in with. It provided good dinner convos for me and the missus. Now I just wait to see who shows up at OLTS, same idea, public discussion of reformed theology, but here one gets an almost immediate response from DGH or anyone who may chime in. What a riot, these interwebs. OPC – the only church for me! Nice to “meet” you. Peace.


  23. A wedding in the bible is a public declaration of the personal commencement of the covenant bond begun in the garden and sealed by sexual union. Both can happen for no money and practically no material preparation in an hour or two. I actually agree (pretty much) with Curt. American, even Christian weddings largely miss the point at best and are full on idolatry at worst.

    That said, 1st century Jewish weddings like at Cana were a rousing party down, not necessarily fully sober good time. The word become flesh and dwelling among us had no problem with participating.

    “We could say that even Christian weddings are more a reflection of our culture than of what the Scriptures teach. The weddings revolve around the bride and groom and their love for each other, rather than on how God’s love sustains us especially when our “love” for each other fails.”
    Very VERY good Curt. A Christian wedding is the celebration of Christ’s flawlessly faithful love for His precious church bride. We are honored with the opportunity to portray that faithful love and forgiveness before a wicked and self worshiping world by our commitment to Him in each other for His glory.


  24. Oh yeah. Zrim.
    Erik tells me that to lure you back into the debate you ran away from like a little girl at his place because you are being mercilessly humiliated by me, that I should come over here and call you chicken.


    Let’s see if the ol boy was right.
    (my tongue is back outta my cheek now)


  25. @CW

    Notwithstanding the sarcasm, Budapest is an awesome place to visit. People are friendly and it’s still fairly affordable, although not 1991 affordable. You can even take a side trip to Debrecen in eastern Hungary (and near the Tokaj wine region). It’s the home of eastern European Calvinism. Most of Transylvania was once Calvinist until the Treaty of Trianon improperly awarded it to the Romanians.


  26. I wonder how Kevin De Young would speak to the case of a man who took another man’s wife, impregnated her, and then sent her husband into the fiercest fighting of the nation at war during that time……..and then took the woman as his wife…..from which union ultimately came our Lord Jesus Christ……..

    or of C.S. Lewis, who married Joy Davidson purely to help her gain a new life in Britain at first…..no emotion or deep love, romantic feelings……….J.R.R. Tolkien said that Lewis actually struggled with feelings that he had done something very wrong deep within him after marrying Joy…….of course,we all know the beautiful transformation of Lewis’ heart for Joy…..

    or of Luther – who said, I marry to spite the Pope….as for Katie, I find her repulsive……I cherish my wife, but I am not infatuated (paraphrase)……..and again, of course, we all know that theirs became a beautiful marriage, even with their arguments and contentions they worked through….

    Kevin’s inclinations make me think that God could only honor what transpires between 2 people when there is no doubt at all, no mixed motives, or any sin/transgression at all in thought, word and deed before or during the ceremony, because that is how Pietists’ look at worship. Is there anyone out there who fits the bill for no doubts, mixed feelings, motives, sinless during the wedding ceremony or the worship service?

    Even when Kevin says things which are accurate, there always seems to something which is constricting about his commentary/views – they just don’t minister to me.


  27. But let’s not act like Christians have been preserving the sanctity of ceremonies or vows or commitments.

    Which Christians?

    And let’s not forget the way gay marriage has spooked us into rethinking marriage.

    Who is “we?”


  28. Semper, I just happened to be reading Lewis yesterday on “being in love.” In the voice of Screwtape he writes:

    …humans can be made to infer the false belief that the blend of affection, fear and desire which they call “being in love” is the only thing that makes marriage happy and holy. … They regard the intention of loyalty to a partnership for mutual help, for the preservation of chastity, and for the transmission of life, as something lower than a storm of emotion.


  29. Semper R: I wonder how Kevin De Young would speak to the case of a man who took another man’s wife…”

    the way the Lord does:
    Then the LORD sent Nathan to David. And he came to him and said,“There were two men in one city, the one rich and the other poor.The rich man had a great many flocks and herds. But the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb which he bought and nourished; and it grew up together with him and his children. It would eat of his bread and drink of his cup and lie in his bosom, and was like a daughter to him. ow a traveler came to the rich man, and he was unwilling to take from his own flock or his own herd, to prepare for the wayfarer who had come to him; rather he took the poor man’s ewe lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him. Then David’s anger burned greatly against the man, and he said to Nathan, As the LORD lives, surely the man who has done this deserves to die. He must make restitution for the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing and had no compassion. Nathan then said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the LORD God of Israel, ‘It is I who anointed you king over Israel and it is I who delivered you from the hand of Saul. I also gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your care, and I gave you the house of Israel and Judah; and if that had been too little, I would have added to you many more things like these! Why have you despised the word of the LORD by doing evil in His sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword, have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the sons of Ammon. Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised Me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife. Thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you from your own household; I will even take your wives before your eyes and give them to your companion, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight. 12 Indeed you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, and under the sun.’” Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” And Nathan said to David, “The LORD also has taken away your sin; you shall not die. However, because by this deed you have given occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also that is born to you shall surely die. 2 Sam 12:1-14


  30. Greg The Terrible
    Posted April 11, 2015 at 5:58 pm | Permalink
    Oh yeah. Zrim.
    Erik tells me that to lure you back into the debate you ran away from like a little girl

    Greg, you just can’t resist the ad-homs, can you. Watch out-TVD is lurking, he may write you up if you aren’t careful.

    Who’s next?


  31. @Semper


    The key problem with the TGC/CBMW view of marriage is that it makes marriage all about sexual desire, and takes little account of what marriage looks like after that desire subsides. It’s basically the same view of marriage adopted by middle class, except that the TGC/CBMW crowd would oppose pre-marriage test drives (which admonition is ignored by 93% of all evangelical youths).

    Traditional marriage takes the opposite approach. It places very little emphasis on sexual desire, and primarily focuses on compatibilities that contribute to long-term stability.

    I’m no fan of same-sex marriage. But I have a hard time seeing it as any more ridiculous than the view of marriage promoted by middle-class Americans and by most evangelicals. The upper classes still tend to place less emphasis on sexuality in selecting a mate. In that sense, you’re probably much more likely to find traditional marriage played out in an old-money ECUSA church than in an evangelical church. They hold better cocktail parties too.

    I have a proposal for the OPC. Perhaps it should simply try to emulate the old-money ECUSA, but with better theology. I’d be there in a heartbeat. I visited an OPC church this morning for kicks. Some number of the women were wearing doilies on their heads (for some reason unknown to me), and about half of the men appeared to suffer from Asperger’s. I felt like I stood out in my product-infused hair, tailored suit, and cufflinks. One guy mentioned that he used to attend a CREC church (Doug Wilson’s denomination), but that he left after it had gone liberal. I tried to introduce myself to one women, but she told me that she’d need to get her husband’s permission to speak to me.

    Sorry, but that’s not my flavor of Presbyterianism. It’s different from the PCA, which, in my view is indistinguishable from the SBC in most cases. But it was definitely not my crowd.


  32. Bobby,

    I’m at my OP right now.

    Come join the OP and make us better. We aren’t going anywhere, and need all the help we can get.

    Thanks for trying it out! [2]


  33. Bobby: “I visited an OPC church this morning for kicks. Some number of the women were wearing doilies on their heads (for some reason unknown to me), and about half of the men appeared to suffer from Asperger’s…One guy mentioned that he used to attend a CREC church (Doug Wilson’s denomination), but that he left after it had gone liberal. I tried to introduce myself to one women, but she told me that she’d need to get her husband’s permission to speak to me…Sorry, but that’s not my flavor of Presbyterianism.”

    GW: Not your “flavor” of Presbyterianism? Isn’t that rather consumerist of you, thus not very old-life-ish. I wouldn’t judge all OP churches by your experience in just one. It might surprise some outside of OP circles, but in my experience you won’t find all that many doillie-wearing, strongly-patriarchalist, Doug Wilson-loving, socially-awkward members in most OP churches (though obviously you will find some). But you will find plenty of members with other flaws and oddities, including perhaps those who like cats and enjoy wearing cufflinks.

    Your proposal that the OPC seek to emulate old-money ECUSA is intriguing. Having been raised in that tradition in an upper middle-class suburb, at one level I understand the appeal — things like the fine architecture of the sanctuary, the pageantry of the stately liturgy, the great organ music, the well dressed congregants (including some who wear tailored suits), the bells-n-smells. But the outward pomp and circumstance was accompanied by a high-brow snobbery, an elitist pseudo-sophistication, and an oppressive spiritual shallowness. Sorry, if the OPC were to emulate what I experienced in the ECUSA, I’m afraid that would not be my “flavor” of Presbyterianism (my turn to be consumerist).

    I’d rather worship in an OP congregation where you might see a few sisters wearing doillies, encounter some brothers with minimal or non-existent social skills, and witness some of the men wearing cheap suits, than to spiritually suffocate in an atmosphere of high-brow elitism. Since God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the strong, and the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, should we not also choose to associate with congregations filled with “the lowly” (1 Cor. 1:26-31)?


  34. Too bad Erik is done comboxxing. He was a sight to see sometimes.

    Now, he’s retired to a life, acting like this guy.

    Kinda Tom Van Dykish, to be honest.

    That’s three.


  35. I didn’t suggest that it be emulated in every respect. But when it looks like folks are intentionally trying for the opposite, it raises my suspicions.

    By the way, at 5′ 6″ and 120 lbs., I have no choice but to wear tailored suits. Fortunately, the wonders of the Internet and international shipping allow me to do that at half the price of the “executive cut” suits at BB.

    Shallow things used to bother me more when I was younger. I feel like depth is often overrated, now that I’m older. Earnestness is certainly overrated.


  36. “Shallow things used to bother me more when I was younger. I feel like depth is often overrated, now that I’m older. Earnestness is certainly overrated.”

    But good hair conditioner is essential


  37. Sorry to take so long to get back – appreciate the replies and the encouragements.

    Muddy, Thanks for sharing from Lewis – very encouraging and reinforcing. That’s the way I have always felt about marriage – which parallels the thought that God gives us what we don’t have for marriage through Christ Alone.

    Thanks Bobby, I don’t like the CBMW stuff either. Not a fan of TGC. Also, some say that I should be gun-toting, axe, rod, reel, and 4-wheel-worthy……….nothing against guns, or gun rights, but I just don’t like shooting them. By the way, CBMW Board Member Ligon Duncan said in Harry Reeder’s Embers To A Flame that Sanctification is 100% God’s Work and 100% Man’s (Our Work) (paraphrase mine). Harry Reeder uses this stanza all the time, and wrote a book about Biblical Manhood.

    No one is bigger in my hero book than Charlton Heston, Alain Delon, Steve McQueen, or Clint Eastwood, but I can’t drive a Ford LTD down Lombard Street at 45 mph or a Chariot in the Cinecitta……..

    a., Thanks for your reply – good answer, got the Law, but –


  38. Bobby, your slum trip to the OPC makes us PCA exiles feel/look a little better aesthetically and socially, but it’s the doctrine and administration of the means of grace that matters, no?


  39. “a., Thanks for your reply – good answer, got the Law, but –“


    1) And Nathan said to David, “The LORD also has taken away your sin; you shall not die.

    2) However, because by this deed you have given occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also that is born to you shall surely die.


  40. Well, my little comment here is a tad late for this thread, but back to the Q&A from Galatic Headquarters that Andrew posted, here is a little different take on the question. (DG, how does EdComm decide who answers these questions?)

    Question and Answer
    Serving communion at a wedding


    Is having communion at a wedding appropriate? I have seen weddings where the bride and groom receive communion together during the service. I have also been to weddings where the bride and groom have served the elements of the meal to those gathered after the sacraments were blessed by the minister. This act served as a symbol of their commitment to being servants together for the Lord in their congregation. What is OPC’s stand on this subject?


    In response to your question, here are a few thoughts:

    According to the “Suggested Form for the Solemnization of Marriage” (found in our Book of Church Order) it is clear that “marriage is not a sacrament: nor is it peculiar to the church of Christ. For this reason, marriage ought not to be solemnized during the Lord’s Day assembly for public worship, and it is best that it not be solemnized on the Lord’s Day.” From this it is clear that while the marriage ceremony contains elements of a covenant-binding and vow-taking, it is not a “worship service” in the sense that it is a called service for all of God’s people. In fact, the very fact that certain individuals are invited to attend (and others are not) means that even though it is often conducted by an ordained minister (with a message from Scripture and prayer), it is not a service of the church.

    When the Apostle Paul writes concerning the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, he mentions something very important in 1 Corinthians 11:18 and that is “when you come together as a church…” In other words, it is within the context of the gathered assembly of the church (overseen by duly ordained officers) that this sacrament is to be celebrated. By implication, it is inappropriate for it to be administered (ordinarily) outside of congregational worship. Our doctrinal standards, the Westminster Confession of Faith, confirms this when it states: WCF 29:4

    Private masses, or receiving this sacrament by a priest, or any other, alone, as likewise, the denial of the cup to the people, worshipping the elements, the lifting them up, or carrying them about, for adoration, and the reserving them for any pretended religious use; are all contrary to the nature of this sacrament, and to the institution of Christ.

    In short, the sacrament is the participation in the benefits of Christ in the assembly of the church of Christ.

    Although the OPC has no “policy” on this practice, it would be highly unusual in my estimation to find the Lord’s Supper administered to the bride and groom by an OP minister. The sacrament of the Lord’s Supper is not meant as a sentimental symbol to be used to seal any “common grace union” (as we consider marriage to be), but it is to seal the benefits of redemption and communion in the body of Christ (cf. 1 Cor 10:16). As summarized in the Westminster Shorter Catechism 96:

    Q. What is the Lord’s supper?

    A. The Lord’s supper is a sacrament, wherein, by giving and receiving bread and wine, according to Christ’s appointment, his death is showed forth; and the worthy receivers are, not after a corporal and carnal manner, but by faith, made partakers of his body and blood, with all his benefits, to their spiritual nourishment, and growth in grace.


  41. Linda,

    When my wife wrote in, we got a response from the minister who was responsibile for answering it.

    One time, I egged a friend on to ask whether Christ’s atonement was salvific for hypotetical space aliens. They routed the question to the OP minsiter who is most into Sci-fi, so ergo, I got to exchange some sci-fi thoughts as well as theology with the particular man.

    I’ll let DG respond, but I think the “about” section does justice to what that part of the galactic headquarters website is about. Take care.

    About Questions & Answers

    “Questions and Answers” is a weekly feature of the OPC website. At least one new question is posted each week, so there should always be something new here for you to read. (For those people who would like to look at previous questions and answers, they will continue to be available as well.)

    The questions come from individuals like yourself. If you have questions about biblical and theological matters, you are invited to send them by e-mail by using the “Pose a Question” link on the OPC home page or by clicking here.

    The purpose of the OPC website’s “Questions and Answers” is to respond to biblical and theological questions. Matters of church discipline, disputes, or debates go beyond the scope of our work. We recommend that you present your concerns in these areas to the appropriate judicatory. In most cases this will be to a local pastor, elder, or session. We do not want the website to replace personal involvement in, or commitment to, the local, visible church.

    While we will respond to every serious questioner, we are not bound to give a substantive answer to every question, should we deem the question to be beyond the scope of our purpose or our own ability to answer.

    You will receive an answer by e-mail. Please be patient as many of our respondents are busy pastors. The response to your question may take up to two (2) weeks. Some of the questions submitted will be chosen to be posted here, along with the corresponding answers.

    The answers come from individual ministers in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church expressing their own convictions and do not necessarily represent an “official” position of the Church, especially in areas where the Standards of the Church (the Scriptures and the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms) are silent.

    Note that the “Questions and Answers” posted on the site have been edited—all personal references are removed, Scripture references or from some source may be added, and sometimes portions are expanded—to make the questions and answers more useful to a larger audience.



  42. Linda, I actually think this is also a good answer. It does comply with the BCO and common practices. But I wouldn’t mind seeing marriage as an exchange of vows by members of a specific congregation with the rest of the church acting as witnesses. But that’s not the way Americans practice weddings.


  43. @CW @Semper

    When I lived in the South, I couldn’t really distinguish the PCA folks of the Reeder/Duncan ilk from Southern Baptists. I suppose I could agree with that view, if by “100 man’s” they mean partaking of the means of grace faithfully.

    Regarding the OPC, I think there’s a fair bit of variation. The one nearest to my house is a fine church with a pastor who’s bright and affable. I was curious to visit the other church after looking at its website and getting the sense that it would be an “interesting” place.


  44. Bobby,

    And now you get to share with all your OLTS buds about ehat losers they are at that church you specifically picked so you could witness the weirdness.

    Jesus is proud, man. Enjoy your PCUSA. Homie.


  45. @AB

    My point is that folks in the PCA/OPC are often so sensitive about “going liberal” that they’re willing to ignore all kinds of departures from Reformed orthodoxy. That is, as long as those departures couldn’t reasonably be construed as leading toward liberalism. So, you’re more than willing to proffer blanket criticisms of the PCUSA, but are more than happy to fellowship with Calvinistic Gothardites, Vision Forum types, the Baylys, etc. For example, read the recent piece by Valerie Hobbs, entitled “Women on Trial” and published on the PCA’s official unofficial news site (the Aquila Report) in February 12 of this year.

    I don’t stay in the PCUSA because I think it’s a perfect denomination. Rather, I stay in it because I believe that being a Christian has to be something more than a rear-guard reaction to perceived cultural ills (i.e., liberalism). And, yes, I wish that my fellow parishioners were a bit more biblically literate. Even so, they’re often much more acute observers of the world around them than evangelicals. That’s because they don’t live life defensively, and have a genuine interest in why the world works in the way that it does. In other words, they’re actually interested in learning something from the world around them rather than setting out on some biblicist-gnostic quest to divine “the singular biblical way” to do this or that.

    I agree that Machen’s actions in 1936-37 were defensible. That being said, many of the problems that led to his unfortunate (and improper) suspension in 1936 had been remedied within 10-15 years. Further, I suspect that the OPC moved in a much more sectarian direction under Van Til’s putative leadership than it would have under Machen, which explains Ed Rian’s return to the mainline denomination in 1947.

    I think there are great benefits to ecumenical dialogue. Our job is not to immanentize the eschaton. Nor is to section ourselves off and shut our ears to everything that doesn’t fit with the party line. We’re rarely as prescient as we think we are. In my view, we need play at the margins so that we can avoid making ourselves too captive to sectarian interests. I’m not saying that the PCUSA does that perfectly. But it’s at least open to the notion. So, until I’m convinced that orthodoxy is no longer possible in the PCUSA (which isn’t the case, by a long shot), I’ll stay put.


  46. Bobby,

    Ok, thanks. My mother was raised PCUSA, went fundy, and that’s where I found myself when I met the OPC in 2001 via my GF at UCSB. I think I have a great great great uncle that was a PCUSA elder in Michigan in the mid 19th century, my grandma gave me the PCUSA book of confessions and prayer book she had on her shelf (they gave to her when she became a member) because she knew I am a theology nerd and she wanted to hand them down. I agree, Ecumenism is important, but not at the sake of purity (you know this too).

    Grace and peace, man. Thanks again for writing all that, it’s more than you needed to. I need to take it down a notch sometimes, I know. Thanks also for trying it out, hope you do it again!


  47. Bobby, your perplexity is understandable. Had you been raised Southern Baptist (like too many of us) the differences would have been more apparent and the similarities would have been even more exasperating.


  48. Bobby I got your prot liberalism as a Vat II RC, I’m certain you have no hope of orthodoxy. I do understand, however, the distaste for SBC, Fox News Xians, and being led by the nose through losing actions in the culture wars and naming that Christian.


  49. sean
    Posted April 14, 2015 at 5:40 pm | Permalink
    Bobby I got your prot liberalism as a Vat II RC

    I only got my prot liberalism as a high school philosophy student. Glad I grew out of that (thank you OPC!)

    You gotta believe tho..there’s simply no competing with sean, here. Well, except when it comes to Spurs/Warriors..


  50. And to make it three on this thread for the day..

    I agree that Machen’s actions in 1936-37 were defensible. That being said, many of the problems that led to his unfortunate (and improper) suspension in 1936 had been remedied within 10-15 years. Further, I suspect that the OPC moved in a much more sectarian direction under Van Til’s putative leadership than it would have under Machen, which explains Ed Rian’s return to the mainline denomination in 1947.

    You should read lost soul chapter 5. Darryl’s writings are really remarkable, if you read LSAP, I think it will help you understand a little better our perspective at Orthodox Presbyterians. It’s one of his better books, IMHO, and explains a lot the thought he puts out in this blog. Take care, Bobby.


  51. Patheos did the math (doeznt look good for Presbys, even if you should never count the little guy out, like the movie
    Rocky V):

    What are America’s biggest Christian groups?

    April 7, 2015Leave a Comment
    by: Richard Ostling
    What are the major Christian denominations in the U.S.?

    Numbers. Numbers. The Pew Research Center snagged some headlines April 2 with projections on world religions as of 2050 that are worth pondering. Among other things, we’re told high birth rates will make world Islam almost as large as Christianity, India will surpass Indonesia as the nation with the biggest Muslim population, Muslims will constitute 10 percent of Europeans, and will surpass the number of religious Jews in the U.S. See http://www.pewforum.org/2015/04/02/religious-projections-2010-2050.
    Rachael’s question brings us back to the present day, to just the United States, and to Christians only. This has long been an easy topic thanks to the National Council of Churches and its predecessor, the Federal Council, which since 1916 issued yearbooks stuffed with statistics and other information. These annuals became more vital after 1936 when the U.S. Census stopped gathering data from religious groups. Unfortunately, the N.C.C. hasn’t managed to issue its “Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches” since 2012 due to shrinking staff, budget, and program, and has no firm plans for any future editions. Any volunteers out there to produce this all-important reference work?
    Some data were outdated or rough estimates, but it’s what we’ve had and, on the whole, reasonably representative. Here were “inclusive” memberships for U.S. groups reporting at least 2 million members in that latest and perhaps last yearbook from 2012:

    Catholic Church 68,303,492
    Southern Baptist Convention 16,136,044
    United Methodist Church 7,679,850
    Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 6,157,238
    Church of God in Christ 5,449,875
    National Baptist Convention USA Inc. 5,197,512
    Evangelical Lutheran Church in America 4,274,855
    National Baptist Convention of America 3,500,000
    Assemblies of God 3,030,944
    Presbyterian Church (USA) 2,675,873
    African Methodist Episcopal Church 2,500,000
    National Missionary Baptist Convention of America 2,500,000
    Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod 2,278,586
    While Pew looked ahead to 2050, Rachael and others may be interested in looking back to the yearbook’s top nine denominations as of 1918, said to encompass 77.2 percent of U.S. memberships for all religions:
    Catholic Church 15,742,262
    Methodist Episcopal Church 3,718,396
    National Baptist Convention 3,018,341
    Southern Baptist Convention 2,711,591
    Methodist Episcopal Church, South 2,108,061
    Presbyterian Church in the USA 1,613,056
    Disciples of Christ 1,231,404
    Northern Baptist Convention 1,227,448
    Protestant Episcopal Church 1,098,173
    Adding in smaller denominations, the 1918 yearbook listed four major categories of Protestants:
    Baptists (17 groups) 7,236,650
    Methodists (17 groups) 7,165,986
    Lutherans (21 groups) 2,463,265
    Presbyterians (10 groups) 2,257,439
    A few broad comparisons of 1918 and 2012 without getting too far into the weeds on changing names, mergers, and all that: Due to immigration and counting of all baptized infants (including the Religion Guy’s own mother, a lifelong loyal Baptist!), the Catholic Church achieved the largest on-paper membership of any denomination by the mid-19th Century and has never lost first place since then, though always surpassed by Protestants collectively. (In Canada its 13 million far exceeds the United Church’s 1,248,500.)
    The U.S. religious scene has seen massive changes and growing complexity since the World War One era. The past century was good for Baptists and especially Pentecostalists (e.g. Church of God in Christ, Assemblies of God) who had barely begun in 1918. Also good for the thriving Latter-day Saints (“Mormons”). Things were not so hot for the Episcopalians, Presbyterians, and Methodists, though the latter two did overcome Civil War splits. Lutherans declined less than some and achieved major consolidation among branches. The Disciples of Christ actually report fewer members today than a century ago.
    Over-all, moderate to liberal “mainline” Protestant groups that dominated American culture in 1918 began steady numerical declines in the 1960s, while in the decades since most (not all) conservative and “evangelical” groups expanded or at least held their own. Other Protestant patterns: Compared with 1918 there’s less lifetime commitment to one denomination, countless young evangelical congregations are independent of denominational affiliations, and there’s stronger left-vs.-right conflict within denominations than the old-style rivalry among the denominations.
    Though Rachael didn’t ask about this, the U.S. Christian total vastly surpasses that for Judaism, which remains America’s #2 religion whatever we might see by 2050. However, statistics are complicated and disputed, as with #3 Islam on which see “Q and A” for May 14, 2013:


  52. @CW

    I’ve spent my life in a fairly moderate-to-conservative mainline setting. I would call my parents NPR-style conservatives. I didn’t have significant contact with evangelicals until I went to college. Even then, I went to a mainline church. I have some significant sympathies for more conservative variants of Calvinist theology. I like Meredith Kline a lot. I also like Peter Leithart. But, yes, the polity of most PCA and OPC churches is more evangelical and populist, which is a bit disconcerting to us wine-and-cheese types.


    The PCUSA is probably mainstream among corporate professionals, although I’ve rarely worked in an environment in which practitioners of progressive Judaism didn’t outnumber mainline Protestants by a healthy margin.


  53. Bobby, I’m working on Kingdom Prologue.

    I found the PDF online.

    Kline was brilliant, capital B. I’ve started listening to these:

    Scholars will be studying MK for many years to come.
    His work, it seems to me, lends itself to much further reflection which can bear fruit.

    Dr. Lee Irons also has been blogging lately to defend repub. You should find his latest stuff. Again Brilliant.

    I’ve spoken too much..take care Bobby.


  54. And bobby, if you are into social media, maybe join the kline facebook group. Dr. Irons comments out there. You might check out what his wife Misty blogs about. She played piano at the service where he preached, when he was OP. Oh, and no head covering 😉



  55. Per DGH: “… Bobby, you think the PCUSA is mainstream? Have you done the math? …”

    This came up for discussion once before. I was confused about it then and I’m confused about it now. What is the proper classification of “mainline” (or “mainstream”)? A Wiki-search (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mainline_Protestant) yields the definition,

    “… The Mainline Protestant churches (also called mainstream American Protestant and “oldline Protestant”) are a group of Protestant churches in the United States that contrast in history and practice with evangelical, fundamentalist, and charismatic Protestant denominations. Mainline Protestants were a majority of all Christians in the United States until the mid-20th century, but now constitute a minority among Protestants. Mainline churches include the United Methodist Church (UMC), the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) (PCUSA), the Episcopal Church, the American Baptist Churches, the United Church of Christ (Congregationalist), the Disciples of Christ, Reformed Church in America, and Hicksite Quakers, among others…”

    No, according to the numbers alone the PCUSA doesn’t account for much, but neither do the numbers for the UCC or the Disciples of Christ, yet their classified as part of the “Seven Sisters of American Protestantism.”

    The Wiki references go on to further elaborate on the classification,

    “… Mainline churches share a liberal approach to social issues that often leads to collaboration in organizations such as the National Council of Churches. Because of their involvement with the ecumenical movement, mainline churches are sometimes (especially outside the United States) given the alternative label of ecumenical Protestantism. These churches played a leading role in the Social Gospel movement and were active in social causes such as civil rights and equality for women. As a group, the mainline churches have maintained religious doctrine that stresses social justice and personal salvation. Politically and theologically, mainline Protestants are more liberal than non-mainline Protestants….”

    Please elaborate on the definition.


  56. DGH:

    “if 100 families in Christendom throw a five figure wedding and reception, will this not be bullshit? 50 families? 10? 1?”

    Touché. On the other hand, was not this just what Abraham and God discussed about Lot. And I think the Lord accused, sort of. Of course, Lot also proved a rather wobbly player, but hey…


  57. Oh, that Christians speaking in public could be as judicious and biblical (as in “all is vanity”) about the marriage debate as Noah Millman:

    Think about the pace of change. Brown vs. Board was 1954. Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg was in 1971. In 17 years, we went from a society that promulgated racial separation and white supremacy from childhood onward, to a society committed to using the force of the law to undo and reverse what the earlier social and legal system had forcibly imposed, and to indoctrinate children in the opposite ideology. Loving v. Virginia was in 1967, a time when the defense of segregation was still active and violent. After Loving, how long was it respectable for a public figure to say that sexual relations between blacks and whites was wrong, and a threat to American civilization? Five years? Ten?

    Considering the depth and longevity of official white supremacy in American history, we broke with the past with what one might call “all deliberate speed,” and moved quickly to moral condemnation even though huge numbers of people stubbornly refused to change their no-longer-respectable views.

    Now, I’m not arguing that the analogy is a good one in all respects. In particular, the social and legal disabilities that gay people and black people suffered under in American history are wildly disparate in their operation and effects. I’m just saying that the end of legal and social support for miscegenation in America was radical. It didn’t radically redefine what marriage was – but it radically redefined what the United States was. It made it impossible to argue that the United States was a country by and for white people, and arguing that the United States was precisely such a country had a long, long history in America.

    And, let me note that I am suspicious of claims that gay marriage radically redefines marriage as such. It seems to me instead that it’s a capstone achievement of the “Romeo and Juliet revolution” that treats marriage as rooted in love, and that sees its legal purpose as an institution for mutual aid and responsibility between individuals (particularly for child-rearing), rather than as a means of securing legitimacy for heirs and the continuity of extended family lines – and, not at all incidentally, of the feminist revolution that questions any distinction between “natural” male and female roles as likely to be a way of enforcing an inegalitarian distribution of power.


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