The Religion & Culture Web Forum
More than a Mere Contract:
Marriage as Contract and Covenant in Law and Theology
John Witte, Jr.
The May issue of the Religion and Culture Web Forum is adapted from John Witte, Jr.’s recent book, God’s Joust, God’s Justice (Eerdmans, 2006). In this essay, Witte uses the adoption of covenant marriage statutes in Louisiana, Arizona, and Arkansas as a starting point to discuss concepts of marriage in the three Abrahamic faiths, contrasting those views with the twenty-first century legal version:
While, historically, the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim traditions found ways to reconcile the contractual and covenantal dimensions of marriage, American law today juxtaposes them. In all but three states, parties who wish to be legally married must choose the state’s contract marriage option. Contract marriage has minimal rules of formation and dissolution and hundreds of built-in state and federal rights and duties for the couple and their children. Couples may add rights and duties beyond those defined by the state’s contract marriage law. These can be set out in prenuptial contracts negotiated between the parties. Or they can be set out in the religious laws and customs of the community of which these marital parties are voluntary members. But, even here, the contractual dimensions of marriage are preferred.
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