what is marriage?

I aimed for a heavier topic in this Our Daily Journey devotional. I haven’t submitted it yet, so if you see something, say something.

French president François Hollande was caught cheating on his long time mistress with a younger actress. Worse than the scandal itself was the reaction of the French public. Novelist Jean-Marie Rouart explained, “The whole problem with this Hollande scandal is that he is not married. Had he been married, this affair would never have been revealed. In France, having a mistress is not considered cheating.”

Hollande’s dalliance demonstrates the world’s confusion about sex and marriage. The traditional view of marriage held that sexual union is necessary to consummate a marriage and should be saved for that end. Jesus referred to this when he cited Moses’ instruction that a man should leave his parents and become one with his wife (Genesis 2:7).

This conjugal view of marriage is rapidly being replaced by a revisionist notion that claims marriage is merely a heightened form of emotional intimacy. Sexual union is not required, for two people of the same gender may marry each other. Since sexual union is no longer a vital element of marriage, it might easily be enjoyed elsewhere, as Hollande (and several U.S. Presidents) proved. Marriage has become nothing more than a romantic attachment, which is why so many people mistake butterflies for love and leave their spouse to pursue a fleeting feeling.

We have not yet reaped the whole harvest from these seeds of confusion, but we have already damaged marriage and friendship. We no longer know what marriage is, so we are less able to achieve it. How can we aim at a target we can’t see? And since marriage is merely a passionate commitment to one’s closest friend, friends must be careful lest their friendship be mistaken for something more. Only the conjugal view of marriage can liberate us to have passionate, intimate friendships with people of the same gender. The love between David and Jonathan would seem normal in a world that understands what marriage is.

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Lutheran Humor

I missed these guys. Their Trinitarian spoof is great (“that’s modalism, Patrick!”), and this one is pretty good too.

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Gnostic Noah

I haven’t watched a movie since I fell asleep during Lincoln (it was long, it was late and his voice was whiny). So I haven’t seen the Noah movie, but I suspect this is the best review of that movie that you will ever read. It confirms what I’ve been saying for 15 years, evangelicals are Gnostic and don’t even know it. How can so many Christian leaders watch this film and not notice its pagan message?

Update:  the review I linked to above has received some push back from other movie reviewers (see here and here). There are reasons to think the Noah movie isn’t Gnostic, though still influenced by Jewish mysticism. Gnosticism remains a large problem in our churches, as evidenced by the songs we sing, though it may not be a big deal in the Noah movie. I will have to watch the movie to find out for myself, but I’m kind of busy right now. At least its presence in theaters may present conversation starters with non-Christians.

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unringing the bell

I just heard the breaking news that World Vision has reversed its decision about hiring practicing homosexuals, and I’m not sure what to think about it. On the one hand, it’s obviously good to obey God. On the other hand, it’s hard to avoid thinking that they believe what they said on Monday more than what they said today.

Did evangelical criticism lead them to change their views on marriage, or did it merely prompt them to do what is politically expedient? Christian charity urges us to believe the former, while Christian wisdom suspects it’s the latter.

I could be wrong, but my initial reaction is that it would be difficult for either side to trust the current leadership. Those who favor gay marriage want leaders with a stronger spine, while those who think it’s a sin know that compromise comes easier the second time. Besides, the fact that World Vision thought such a change was necessary indicates they may have already crossed this line in their hiring practices.

The current leadership at World Vision is probably fatally compromised. What does World Vision really believe? It may be hard to tell for a while. You can’t unring the bell.

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it’s not me, it’s you

That didn’t take long. Two weeks ago evangelical Christians were debating whether a Christian florist should violate her conscience and festoon a chapel for a gay wedding. Suddenly we are debating whether the happy couple should be employed in a Christian parachurch organization.

One day after World Vision announced it opposed sexual immorality but not gay marriage, the “evangelical” world seems decidedly split. I don’t know what the percentages are, but I’ve seen a fair amount of passionate posts on both sides. Neither side can quite believe the other. I think World Vision’s decision is an obvious case of theological liberalism, and said liberals respond that my side obviously doesn’t care about people. I think this charge is preposterous, and they think it’s preposterous that I think it’s preposterous. There’s no persuading the other.

So why try. The evangelical church is rapidly dividing along liberal (or progressive, if you prefer) and conservative lines, just as it did in the first decades of the twentieth century. We have different views of Scripture, authority, humanity, sin, salvation, and Jesus, and there is no bridging this divide. It’s out in the open now, both sides are dug in, and there’s no getting along.

So let’s separate. Let’s agree that we can’t agree on enough essentials of the Christian faith to do gospel ministry together, and bid each other goodbye. We conservatives will focus on living as exiles in Babylon, and the progressives can enjoy whatever cultural favor they can obtain. They can have their own churches and aid organizations run their way, and we can run ours in the way we think is right.

The downside of giving up is that we sacrifice the hope for unity in the body of Christ, which is a tragedy and a scandal. But seeing how neither side thinks the other is thinking or acting Christianly, we’ve implicitly already crossed that bridge. The upside of giving up is that we may be able to call a truce. If we acknowledge that we really are promoting different gospels, then we might feel less inclined to urgently post “Can you believe what (famous Christian leader) just said!” on our blogs. I’m not optimistic, as some celebs seem to make a good living by criticizing the leaders on the other side. But if their base gets tired of constantly haranguing people who are too far away to count, then maybe they’ll run out of steam and be forced to come up with more original ideas.

This truce may lead to a cooling off period, which may eventually lead to both sides talking again. So unity might one day be possible, just not now, no how. The one thing we can agree on is that the breakup is the other’s fault. It’s not me, it’s definitely you.

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benefit of the doubt?

The Gospel Coalition posted my review of Greg Boyd’s book, Benefit of the Doubt. Boyd’s book came out a month before my Despite Doubt, and it illustrates the main problem I aimed to correct.

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Adam and Madam

Tonight our class will discuss Zondervan’s new, Four Views on the Historical Adam. As with Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy, this is an important book. Here is a quick run down.

Dennis Lamoureux says he believes in biblical inerrancy but not a historical Adam (63). He argues that God was merely intending to communicate theological rather than historical points, and these theological points don’t depend on the underlying historical facts to be true. Lamoureaux says God was accommodating himself to an ancient audience that believed in geocentricity, a three-tiered universe, and an original first pair. Since no one today believes in the first two, why should we still believe in the last one? (41, 46, 49, 57, 62).

C. John Collins replies that divine accommodation does not mean God said things that weren’t true, and that Paul’s reference to those living “under the earth” in Philippians 2 is not necessarily his understanding of the physical world. This “poetic hymn” is “exalted prose,” and we shouldn’t read too much into it (72-75).

A good response to Lamoureux’s claim is Philip Ryken’s concluding essay, which lists the many biblical and theological consequences from denying a historical Adam. Ryken’s chapter is a nice corrective to Greg Boyd’s preceding essay, which claims we don’t need to believe in a historical Adam because C. S. Lewis didn’t and we can be saved without it. Boyd confuses what is essential to the Christian faith with what is the bare minimum one needs to be saved (259, 260, 265).

The most interesting part of the book may be the contrast between Ryken’s and John Walton’s chapters. Walton teaches for Ryken at Wheaton, and I imagine they’ve had some conversations since this book was released. Walton says he believes in a real Adam and Eve who brought sin and death into the world, but they may not have been the first humans nor even our ancestral parents. In fact, it’s possible that humans were dying and doing things that we would consider sin, even before the fall (106, 107, 114-15).

Collins replies that Walton’s view doesn’t fit with Scripture’s teaching on the original goodness of creation, the unity of the race, or the foreign intrusion of sin into our world. The very existence of Old Testament sacrifices implies that sin is unnatural (130-31, 160).

Collins’ chapter is an example of generous orthodoxy, not in Brian McLaren’s heretical style but in Francis Schaeffer’s method of drawing lines, stating preferences, and then leaving the door open for other potentially orthodox views (168, 173). Collins defends the traditional view of an original Adam and Eve who sinned and brought death into the world, though he remains open to some forms of evolution and the possibility that there may have been other humans with them (32).

Bill Barrick argues for the young earth creation view, and is largely dismissed. The others think he unfairly lumps them with other views and then defeats them by dismantling those other views (230, 237).

This is an important, mind spinning book, which taught me some things even in the introduction. Did you know that around 1960 Moody Press refused to publish Whitcomb and Morris’s The Genesis Flood because they feared the book might offend their constituency? Did you know that William Jennings Bryan believed in an old earth? (19). Me neither. This book contains many surprises, and if the back and forth is any indication, there are many surprises yet to come.

Posted in book review, Christian Worldview, Theology | Tagged | 2 Comments