Composing a Doctrinal Statement [section 9 part 3 — on Gender, Family, and Divorce]

Composing a doctrinal statement (or any other essential documents) can be one of the most arduous (but crucial) projects undertaken by a church. In this series, I’m sharing my own doctrinal statement in an attempt to provide a helpful example of a detailed statement that is worded positively, but articulated precisely enough to exclude certain theological positions for the protection and unity of the church.


Gender Relationships: We believe that God has created both men and women in His image — equal in value and in standing before Christ — but that He has delegated differing and complementary functions/roles to men and women within the family and the church. God created the man to be head over the woman as Christ is head over the church, and this headship is to find expression in both the marriage relationship and in the church. We hold to and affirm, in full, the Danvers Statement on manhood and womanhood [1].

(Genesis 1:27–28; 2:20–23; Deuteronomy 22:5; Romans 1:26–29; 1 Corinthians 11:3–16; 14:34; Galatians 3:28; Ephesians 5:18–33; Colossians 3:18-19; 1 Timothy 2:8–15; 1 Peter 3:1–7)

Family Relationships: We believe that God has ordained the family as the foundational institution of human society. The husband is to lead his wife, and to love her as Christ loves the church. The wife is to respect her husband, and to submit herself to the Scriptural leadership of her husband, as the church submits to the headship of Christ. Children are a heritage from the Lord, and are to be viewed as a blessing in fulfillment of the creation mandate for the glory of God. Parents are to seek to cultivate wisdom and virtue in their children by developing within them rightly-ordered beliefs, morals, and affections, that they may better know, glorify, and enjoy God. Parents are responsible to oversee their children’s spiritual and moral instruction, which includes a consistent lifestyle example and appropriate discipline (including Scriptural corporal correction).

(Genesis 1:26–28; Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 6:5–9; Psalm 127:3–5; Proverbs 19:18; 22:6, 15; 23:13–14; Mark 10:6–9; 1 Corinthians 7:1–7; Ephesians 5:18–33; 6:1–4; Colossians 3:18–21; 1 Peter 3:1–7)

Divorce and Remarriage: We believe that God disapproves of and forbids divorce, and intends marriage to last until the death of a spouse. Divorce is regarded as adultery except on the grounds of sexual immorality or the abandonment of an unbelieving spouse [2]. However, marriage to an unbeliever is not solely a legitimate ground for a divorce [3]. Reconciliation should always be the first recourse [4], with divorce being only a last resort, since any breaking of the marriage covenant is a grievous violation of God’s intended design [5]. Divorce is also permissible when a believer is in an ungodly union, such as a homosexual “marriage” [6].

(Malachi 2:14–16; Matthew 5:31–32; 19:3–12; Luke 16:18; Romans 7:1–3; 1 Corinthians 7:10–16, 39; 1 Timothy 3:2, 12; Titus 1:6)


Notes:

1] Remember from the statement on the Scriptures that you can use a statement like this to reference an external document which then becomes as binding as your doctrinal statement.

2] There is a legitimate interpretation that views the abandonment of an unbelieving spouse (1 Cor 7:13–16) as the only ground for an allowable divorce (viewing Jesus’ statement regarding immorality as merely referring to when the adultery has happened, as opposed to giving a ground for acceptable divorce); however, I don’t hold this view, and instead interpret Jesus as allowing for divorce in the case of unrepentant sexual immorality on the part of one spouse.

3] I’ve heard of people using this as an excuse to get a divorce. However, Paul doesn’t seem to allow for the believer to initiate the divorce, but rather to merely agree to it if the unbeliever insists.

4] In fact, if a divorce happens and it was unbiblical, the two parties are to remain unmarried in order to allow for reconciliation. It is only after reconciliation is no longer possible (such as when one person wrongfully remarries) that the other person is biblically allowed to remarry.

5] If we took this to heart, there would be far less divorce in the church.

6] This statement explains how the church can respond to the situation of a homosexual couple that gets saved and wishes to conform their lives to God’s standards. The church can, and should, counsel that couple to legally end their union. This is allowable because we understand that, according to the biblical defintion, a homosexual union is not a true marriage in the first place, and the couple is living in a sinful, though legal, union that must be broken off in order to obey and glorify Christ and pursue a life of discipleship.

Composing a Doctrinal Statement [section 9 part 2 — Marriage and Sexuality]

Composing a doctrinal statement (or any other essential documents) can be one of the most arduous (but crucial) projects undertaken by a church. In this series, I’m sharing my own doctrinal statement in an attempt to provide a helpful example of a detailed statement that is worded positively, but articulated precisely enough to exclude certain theological positions for the protection and unity of the church.


Marriage: We believe that the only biblical marriage is the formal union of a man and a woman in a lifelong, exclusive, comprehensive covenant. [1]

(Genesis 2:24; Malachi 2:14–16; Matthew 19:4–6; Mark 10:6–9; Romans 7:2–3; 1 Corinthians 7:10–11, 39; Ephesians 5:22–33)

Human Sexuality: We believe that any other sexual activity, identity, or expression outside of this definition of a biblical marriage, including those that are becoming more accepted in the culture and the courts, are contrary to God’s natural design and purpose for sexual activity, and thus are sinful. Any form of sexual perversion such as (but not limited to [2]) fornication, adultery, incest, homosexuality, bisexuality, bestiality, pedophilia, pornography, any attempt to change one’s sex or gender, or disagreement with one’s biological sex, are sinful perversions of God’s gift of sex, gender, and marriage. God has created us male and female, and he desires that we find joy and contentment in His design.

We believe that gender is God-given, not socially constructed or self-determined. Gender distinctions are rooted in creation, and manifested in biological, emotional, and constitutional differences [3]. Being created as a man or woman is an essential [4] aspect of our identity, transcending social customs and cultural stereotypes.

(Genesis 2:18–25; Exodus 20:14; Leviticus 18:1–30; Matt 19:4–5; Mark 10:6–9; Romans 1:26–29; 1 Corinthians 5:1; 6:9–10; 1 Thessalonians 4:3–8; Hebrews 13:4; Jude 7)


Notes:

1] Having a clear, biblical definition of marriage will not make your church popular, but it will mean standing on the authority of the Word of God and not compromising truth for approval. Having clear statements on marriage and sexuality also serve to protect the church in matters such as hiring staff and hosting weddings, and are the first line of defense against related legal issues. If you have a simple policy that anyone the church hires must agree with and conform to the church’s doctrinal statement, you avoid alot of agony in court. If you have a facilities use policy that the church building is not to be used for anything that goes against the church’s doctrine, then you protect yourself from lawsuits for refusing to host homosexual weddings and the like. At least right now, this is still an effective means of legal protection for the church. The day is coming very soon when churches will lose tax-exempt status over these issues. But for now at least, why not use the simple provisions our legal system has in place (left over from a time when the government thought that freedom of religion was something worth protecting, and that churches were a good to society) to protect your church from unneeded attack and hardship in these moments before the unavoidable persecution arrives? Here is a great resource on the matter.

2] It’s helpful, but not necessary, to have a list of some specific things you’re referring to, though there is no way to mention every variety of sexual sin individually, but we acknowledge that we live in a Romans 1 society in which people are inventing new ways to distort God’s design every day. The best way to cover it all is to say that any sexual activity outside of a biblical marriage is sinful.

3] That is, the makeup of maleness and femaleness is fundamentally different at the foundational, essential (see next note) level.

4] I’m using “essential” here in the technical sense of the word — that is, not to mean “really important,” but rather having to do with one’s essence, one’s ontology. In other words, we are not just created as humans, we are created as male or female humans.