Sex and Marriage in the Protestant Tradition: 1500-1900

Adrian Thatcher, ed., Oxford Handbook on Theology, Sexuality, and Gender (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), 204-223

Emory Legal Studies Research Paper No. 14-311

43 Pages Posted: 2 Nov 2014 Last revised: 17 Jun 2016

See all articles by John Witte

John Witte

Emory University School of Law

Date Written: 2014

Abstract

This Article analyzes the mainline Lutheran, Calvinist, and Anglican models of sex, marriage, and family and their gradual liberalization by Enlightenment liberalism. The theological differences between these models can be traced to their grounding in Lutheran two kingdoms doctrines, Calvinist covenantal theology, Anglican commonwealth theory, and Enlightenment contractarian logic. Lutherans consigned primary marital jurisdiction to the territorial prince or urban council. Calvinists assigned interlocking marital roles to local consistories and city councils. Anglicans left marital jurisdiction to church courts, subject to state oversight and legislation. The early Enlightenment philosophers, many of them Protestants, pressed for a sharper separation of church and state in the governance of marriage, and for stronger protections of the rights and equality of women and children within and beyond the marital household. But they maintained traditional Protestant prohibitions extramarital sex and no-fault divorce in an effort to protect especially women and children from exploitation.

Keywords: Anglicanism; Bible; Calvinism; canon law; Catholicism; celibacy; child custody; child support; children’s rights; church and state; common law; covenant and marital covenant; coverture; commonwealth; David Hume; divorce; Henry Home; hierarchy; impediments and annulment; John Calvin; John Locke; Luth

Suggested Citation

Witte, John, Sex and Marriage in the Protestant Tradition: 1500-1900 (2014). Adrian Thatcher, ed., Oxford Handbook on Theology, Sexuality, and Gender (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), 204-223; Emory Legal Studies Research Paper No. 14-311. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2517754

John Witte (Contact Author)

Emory University School of Law ( email )

1301 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30322
United States
404-727-6980 (Phone)
404-712-8605 (Fax)

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