Rawlings School of Divinity
Doctor of Philosophy in Theology and Apologetics (PhD)
Augustine, Christian History, Hebrew Bible, Marriage, New Testament, Sacrament
History of Philosophy | Metaphysics | Other Philosophy | Philosophy
Neal, Adam, "When Two Become One: Reconsidering Marriage as a Sacrament in Protestant Theology" (2018). Doctoral Dissertations and Projects. 1645.
Protestant theology has historically rejected marriage as sacrament, a rejection which continues to resound in the majority of contemporary Protestant scholarship. Yet many, if not most, arguments against sacramental marriage tacitly follow an outline set forward by Luther and Calvin which, if examined with critical scrutiny, is based on a problematic soteriological premise. In light of this, the present study sets forward a comprehensive argument in favor of Protestant theology reaffirming marriage as a sacrament through systematic investigation into the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament), New Testament, and Christian history. After developing a critical hermeneutic founded on realist epistemological grounds, a continuous line is drawn from Genesis to Revelation that affirms marriage as not only sacred in a general manner, but specifically designed by God for the welfare of human society, both physical and spiritual. This consistent thread is shown in the fabric of early Hebrew society, despite its historical acceptance of polygamy as a social necessity, and served as a central symbol of the prophetic rebukes of Israel/Judah. A yearning for a spiritual aspect of marriage that transcends even death can be seen arising from the eschatological hopes of the Israelite textual traditions, which come into further expression in the New Testament. While the words of Jesus concerning the fate of the remarried widow are often used to negate or dismiss eschatological expectations for marriage, a positive evaluation is given that provides a historical context for interpretation which affirms rather than denies eschatological hope. Celibacy, the only other acceptable Christian sexual pattern, is developed by Paul in 1 Cor 7 as a careful balance of issues that does not relegate marriage as spiritually inferior, as it is often taken. On the basis of these scriptural traditions, the historical development of the sacramental theological tradition is presented with emphasis on the contributions of Augustine of Hippo whereby marriage is part of the larger sacramental fabric while still maintaining a special place due to its pre-fallen origin and symbolic import. In contrast, the Scholastic tradition sought pseudo-empirical formulae whereby sacraments served as instrumental causes of Grace. It was on this basis that the Protestant tradition, originating initially in Luther and Calvin, rejected marriage as a sacrament due to its apparent disassociation with the instrumental transference of Grace, which they reserved for baptism and communion. As a consequence, the Protestant tradition inherited problematic theological bases that have in turn opened the door to divorce by functionally allowing secular society to determine marital norms. In contrast, the present study provides a positive presentation for a cohesive view of marriage derived from Scripture that advances marriage as a special and sacred institution much in need of revitalization and respect.