In an episode of the Ask Pastor John podcast on Monday, pastor and theologian John Piper weighed in on whether God recognizes the marriage of two non-Christians as legitimate. Piper’s address was in response to a listener’s question.
The listener wrote in to describe a conversation he had at work, saying, “A coworker asked me if I thought God honored secular marriages. My gut reaction was yes. My coworker said no. He believes that if two parties don’t believe in God, then God is not in that marriage, and therefore God does not recognize the marriage.”
Admitting that he wasn’t sure how to respond, the listener asked, “Is there biblical backing for the legitimacy of secular marriages?”
In his response, Piper began by saying, “This is one of those classic instances where disagreement precedes definition, or where conflict precedes clarification.” Piper then added, “This is my plea: insist on definition and clarification before you disagree. For example, what does this person mean by saying, ‘God is not in the marriage’? What in the world does in mean?”
Nevertheless, Piper sought to answer the question based on what he imagined the questioner meant, saying, “My guess is that he thinks something like this: Romans 14:23 says, ‘Whatever is not from faith is sin.’”
Piper went on summarize the hypothetical argument. “Therefore, if faithless people marry, they are sinning. And since God disapproves of sin, He, therefore, disapproves of this marriage. And then the leap is made: and therefore it’s not a marriage,” Piper said.
Disagreeing with this line of reasoning, Piper said, “They have real marriages — even though they are not ideal.” According to Piper, any marriage between one man and one woman can legitimately be recognized as a marriage.
However, Piper did clarify that he doesn’t recognize “so-called ‘marriages’ between two men or two women or a person and an animal. That’s not marriage.”
Expounding on the idea that anything not done from a place of faith is sinful, Piper conceded, “So, if an unbeliever eats God’s good gift of meat, or drinks God’s good gift of wine or orange juice, that act, not done in faith, is a sinning act.”