Reasons for Creeds — Of Marriage and Divorce

Creeds are simple statements of belief. The word “creed” comes from the Latin word “creedo,” which means “I believe.” Since the church is confessional, we have always had creeds in that we had to be able to express what we believed in order to be a part of the church. In other words, confessing to one another what it is we actually believe about the Bible, what is most essential there for eternal life and happiness. It just so happens, that the creed I subscribe to is the Westminster Confession of Faith. This is helpful because it is the statement that I have promised before God to believe, uphold, and teach. If you want to know what I believe, read the WCF.

Given the recent state of affairs, there are those who are advising that we need to have our beliefs on marriage stated in our bylaws. Just given that I’m part of the Presbyterian Church in America, shows that I already have our statement on marriage, and have for some 400 years. The following is our belief on marriage:

Of Marriage and Divorce.

I. Marriage is to be between one man and one woman: neither is it lawful for any man to have more than one wife, nor for any woman to have more than one husband at the same time.

II. Marriage was ordained for the mutual help of husband and wife; for the increase of mankind with a legitimate issue, and of the Church with an holy seed; and for preventing of uncleanness.

III. It is lawful for all sorts of people to marry who are able with judgment to give their consent. Yet it is the duty of Christians to marry only in the Lord. And, therefore, such as profess the true reformed religion should not marry with infidels, Papists, or other idolaters: neither should such as are godly be unequally yoked, by marrying with such as are notoriously wicked in their life, or maintain damnable heresies.

IV. Marriage ought not to be within the degrees of consanguinity or affinity forbidden in the Word; nor can such incestuous marriages ever be made lawful by any law of man, or consent of parties, so as those persons may live together, as man and wife. The man may not marry any of his wife’s kindred nearer in blood than he may of his own, nor the woman of her husband’s kindred nearer in blood than of her own.

V. Adultery or fornication, committed after a contract, being detected before marriage, giveth just occasion to the innocent party to dissolve that contract. In the case of adultery after marriage, it is lawful for the innocent party to sue out a divorce, and after the divorce to marry another, as if the offending party were dead.

VI. Although the corruption of man be such as is apt to study arguments, unduly to put asunder those whom God hath joined together in marriage; yet nothing but adultery, or such willful desertion as can no way be remedied by the Church or civil magistrate, is cause sufficient of dissolving the bond of marriage; wherein a public and orderly course of proceeding is to be observed; and the persons concerned in it, not left to their own wills and discretion in their own case.