The Engage Family Blog

Official Blog of The Family Policy Council of West Virginia

Marriage: Its Foundational Importance

with 11 comments

On August 9th, 1173, construction began in Pisa, Italy on a building that is known today as The Leaning Tower of Pisa.  The original design for this 8 story tower was for it to stand vertically, and not leaning as it is today.  The reason that the tower is leaning is due to the meager three-meter foundation that was laid in weak subsoil (Wikipedia).  You see, the foundation of a building – whether it is for a house, tower, or office building – must be large enough to sustain the entirety of the structure. 

For foundations to be strong enough to support the structures erected over them, they need to be able to withstand erosion and damage, and they must be solid and not shift.  If extensive damage or shifting occurs, then the structure that is supported by them will ultimately fall.  

In the same way that foundations support and sustain structures, so too does marriage sustain and support societies.  To define marriage as anything other than its historical and universally accepted meaning would be to shift and weaken a societal foundation that must remain solid.  James Dobson, in Marriage Under Fire, said that “marriage represents the very foundation of human social order.  Everything of value sits on that base.  Institutions, governments, religious fervor, and the welfare of children are all dependent on its stability.  When it is weakened or undermined, the entire superstructure begins to wobble” (pg. 9).    

Since marriage (which also leads to the creation of families) is of such foundational importance, it is my desire to define what marriage is and why it is foundational for societies and their furtherance.

Marriage Defined and Universally Accepted             

Before diving into the definition of marriage and family, it is important to point out that this is the first time in the history of Western Civilization that people have been thrust into such a position of having to define what constitutes a marriage and family.  According to Andreas J. Kostenberger, who serves as Professor of New Testament and Director of Ph.D./Th.M. Studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary,

What until now has been considered a ‘normal family,’ made up of a father, a mother, and a  number of children, has in recent years increasingly begun to be viewed as one among several options, which can no longer claim to be the only or even superior form of ordering human relationships (Kostenberger, God, Marriage, and Family, pg. 25).

What is marriage?  How is it defined?  What are the different components of it? 

Currently there are two broad views of marriage: (1) the Relationship View; and (2) a Normative Social Institution.  Since my intent is to provide brief introductory remarks, I refer you to Maggie Gallagher’s What is Marriage For?  The Public Purposes of Marriage. 

Even though all societies do not define marriage in the same way, there are some basic components and features that can be deduced from them.  For example, Maggie Gallagher says in her afore-mentioned that,

… what every known human society calls marriage shares certain basic, recognizable features, including most especially the privileges accorded to the reproductive couple in order to protect both the interest of children and the interests of society…Marriage is everywhere the word we use to describe a publicly acknowledged and supported sexual union between a man and woman which creates rights and obligations between the couple and any children the union may produce (9).

What we see from this understanding of marriage is that there are commonalities that cross societal boundaries.  Cross-culturally, marriage is: publicly acknowledged and supported, between one man and one woman, and life-generating.  Marriage also includes spousal and parental responsibilities and privileges.   

These rudimentary elements of marriage exist in every known human society.  In fact, the anthropological evidence for marriage reveals that “the principle of marriage is everywhere embodied in practice” (Kingsley Davis, Contemporary Marriage: Comparative Perspectives on a Changing Institution, as quoted from Maggie Gallagher).  Only details, such as ceremonies and rituals, vary.   

Government does not, nor cannot, define marriage or family; these institutions were derived outside of the political realm.  Therefore, government should enact policies that recognize it, endorse it, encourage it, support it, strengthen it, and protect it – but not define it.

These commonalities of marriage can be considered the foundational tenets of marriage.  If they are to be tampered with or redefined, then the institution of marriage itself will crumble and fall, as well as the society around it.

In light of this definition of marriage, on Wednesday we will answer how the institution of marriage plays such a vital role to the wellbeing of society and in particular the citizens of West Virginia.  Come back then!  (for the second installment to this series click here and for the third installment click here)

Also, we would love to hear from you.  We encourage your feedback on each and every single post and look forward to engaging you in a conversation.    


Jesse Wisnewski serves as the Executive Administrator of Perrow Church in Cross Lanes, WV.  Jesse is married to his best friend Jessica, and they have two sons, Peyton, 10 and Jude, 9 months.  He is currently attending Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary – Charlotte and is completing coursework towards a Master of Divinity.   

add to : Add to Blinkslist : add to furl : Digg it : add to ma.gnolia : Stumble It! : add to simpy : seed the vine : : : TailRank : post to facebook


Written by Jeremy Dys

August 11, 2008 at 7:38 pm

11 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. I was with you up to James Dobson, although I wondered if you were headed to a nothing-must-ever-change conclusion.

    Our site takes a somewhat unbalanced view of Brother Dobson. Yours is considerably more charitable. Thanks for adding your comment to the blogging universe.

    Burr Deming

    August 12, 2008 at 11:15 am

  2. Even though you may possess a “somewhat unbalanced” view of Dr. Dobson compared to our more charitable one, I appreciate the fact that we can converse civilized. Thanks for stopping by and encouraging our take of things! Happy blogging

    Jesse Wisnewski


    August 12, 2008 at 1:44 pm

  3. […] Marriage: Its Foundational Importance […]

  4. […] Marriage: Its Foundational Importance […]


    August 16, 2008 at 1:52 pm

  5. […] tower was for it to stand vertically, and not leaning as it is today. The reason that the tower i Tower of Pisa Information Page – La Torre PendenteTOWER BASICS Official Name: TORRE PENDENTE […]

    leaning tower of pisa

    September 3, 2008 at 2:31 pm

  6. […] If you wouldl like to read the remainder of his first installment of the series then click here. For my own personal comments on the importance of the institution of marriage see Marriage: Its Foundational Importance. […]

  7. […] Marriage: Its Foundational Importance […]

  8. […] do we gleam from this?  That the well-being of marriages determines the well-being of society (see Marriage: Its Foundational Importance, Marriage is Foundational for the Well-Being of Society, and Marriage is Foundational for the […]

  9. ya dats true…..


    February 12, 2012 at 11:56 am

  10. ya dats true


    February 12, 2012 at 11:57 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: