Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Bullinger on Marriage

Bullinger’s treatise on marriage Der Christlich Eestand was translated into English and was widely consulted in England. See Carrie Euler’s helpful article “ Bullinger’s Der Christlich Eestand: Marriage and the Covenant” in Gordon and Campi (eds.) Architect of Reformation.

The following is taken from Selderhuis’ Marriage and Divorce in the Thought of Martin Bucer (1999):

“Bullinger continually stresses that the character of marriage did not alter after the fall. This is also the fundamental motif of his theology of marriage. Marriage, as divine institution, did not suffer because of the fall, but this is true of human beings and hence of married human beings. Marriage itself remained a gift of God, given for the benefit of humankind, and a means by which people can attain to eternal life because it keeps them from much sin. Married persons are enabled by it to fulfill essential demands of God. Accordingly, marriage is not an emergency measure, necessitated by sin, to restrain sin as much as possible.

Bullinger frequently cites the saying of Hebrews 13:4, which requires that ‘marriage be held in honor among all.’ The very Creator of marriage and the place where marriage was first instituted make clear how highly marriage is to be esteemed. Furthermore, asked Bullinger, is not the fact that the greatest believers in Scripture were married a powerful witness to the value of marriage?

Marriage is an image of the relation between Christ and the believer. The covenantal character of marriage, accordingly, means that sins committed against marriage are simultaneously sins committed against Christ, for one who sins against marriage ‘violates the grace of Christ and desecrates the holy covenant made between him and Christ.’ Bullinger stresses that fornication is an act of breaking that covenant: ‘Fornication makes us into covenant breakers and dishonors the grace of God and members of Christ.’”

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