That's the question of this post.
To be honest, when I first read this article a few days ago, I really didn't know how to process this issue. I've thought about it, ran it through several Biblical filters and here's where I land right now. It's wrong. And there's a reason why a good many pastors will not do a marriage ceremony for two unbelievers.
Let's start with two pretty key paragraphs of the article:
Traditionally, many pastors choose not to perform a wedding ceremony for unbelievers. A Christian wedding is a time of commitment—man to woman, before God and the church. Therefore, it makes sense for a minister of God to reject two people who are not part of the church and don't conform to Christian standards. These people are outside acceptable boundaries of the marriage institution, and many Christian pastors won't support such a union.But would you serve this couple asking for help on their wedding day? I wholeheartedly would. I believe God created the institution of marriage long before our Christian faith developed conditions or boundary markers for it. And in our country, marriage is a legal contract. Couples get married all the time without the church, and they will continue getting married with or without our help. Here's a few reasons why I believe you and I, as Christian pastors, should welcome this responsibility.
Let's talk about the statement: "God created the institution of marriage long before our Christian faith developed conditions or boundary markers for it"
Didn't God's command in the Garden and creation itself set the boundaries for marriage and really all of life. I'm not sure of the logic here or the reasoning behind the statement, but it seems false. God gave Eve to Adam and ordered them to be fruitful and multiply. At that time, still perfect, still sinless, in God's design for marriage if you were. Then the fall, then corruption of not just marriage but all of life in general, thus necessitating Jesus.
Now, onto the next sentence: "Couples get married all the time without the church, and they will continue getting married with or without our help."
Well okay, if that's really the logic you want to use, then we can make this argument all the time about sin and unbelievers. Let's just say that "they're gonna get drunk anyway, so WE might as well be the bartenders so at least they have a Christian influence while they're imbibing" Is it just me, or does that line of reasoning sound utterly ridiculous when you frame it in any other life context.
Now onto the really damaging paragraph in the article:
"If two unchurched people are living together, pastors cannot expect them to cease living in a way the couple thinks is right. Instead of placing conditions upon them—"I will not officiate your wedding unless you two stop co-habiting"—we as pastors should help them move toward a marriage commitment, and therein, help them take another positive step toward Christ."
You can't place conditions on them? You can't possibly call them to repentance can you? You can't ask them to stop sinning? Really? Are you serious? Sin all you want, and we'll be there to condone the behavior. That's the most ludicrous thing I've ever heard. And if you say, well Jesus didn't ask people to stop sinning before he helped them, you're wrong. Not only did he help them, he most certainly said on numerous occasions: "Go and sin no more".
And by the way, marriage isn't an institution. It's a covenant. One God has joined together.
Let's look at this through the lens of the Gospel. How can God possibly take delight in joining two unbelieving people who stand as objects of wrath in their unrepentant, unregenerate state. How in the world can that possibly happen. And I further the argument that the whole idea of marrying unbelievers becomes more palatable as you weaken the Gospel and begin to turn it into a good or service to be consumed or accepted on man's terms.
One final paragraph, and this certainly speaks volumes of the author: "I urge you to consider planting such seeds of faith in unbelieving couples seeking your help. I echo Rob Bell when he says in his book, Velvet Elvis (Zondervan), "I am learning that the church is at its best when it gives itself away."
That pretty much says it all. Your helping them couldn't possibly be sharing the Gospel and calling them to repentance. Your helping them couldn't possibly be lovingly declining to lower God's standards and condone a marriage of two people who don't understand what marriage truly is. Nope your help has to be pushing them into a committment they'll never be able to keep and to further a life apart from Jesus.
If it's a legal contract, then let the courts do it. If it's to be honoring to God, if it's a God ordained covenant, if it's a Biblical "institution", then encourage them to slow down, examine the Gospel, and go from there. That's the most caring, loving, pastorally correct, and Biblically sound thing you can do.