A blog for Christian men "going their own way."

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Views on Marriage (Church vs. Culture)

I do not have to remind my readers that there is a difference between the spiritual realm and the secular realm, between what our faith communities uphold and what popular culture upholds. Scan the pages of church history and see what believing men of old have said about marriage, and compare their words to what the unbelieving voices of modernity have said. On one hand, we have these words ...
"Marriage is something more serious than the pleasure of two people in each other's company; it is an institution, which through the fact that it gives rise to children, forms part of the intimate texture of society, and has importance extending far beyond the personal feelings of the husband and wife."
"But for children, there would be no need of any institution concerned with sex, but as soon as children enter in, the husband and wife, if they have any sense of responsibility or any affection for their offspring, are compelled to realize that their feelings towards each other are no longer what is of most importance."
"I take this view because I regard marriage not primarily as a sexual partnership, but above all as an undertaking to cooperate in the procreation and rearing of children."
"Children are the purpose of marriage ..."
On the other hand, we have these negative statements ...
"The world is already full, and the population is too large for the soil."
"Grant this obtained; let us sketch a marriage in every way most happy; illustrious birth, competent means, suitable ages, the very flower of the prime of life, deep affection, the very best that each can think of the other, that sweet rivalry of each wishing to surpass the other in loving; in addition, popularity, power, wide reputation, and everything else. But observe that even beneath this array of blessings the fire of an inevitable pain is smouldering."
"If only, before experience comes, the results of experience could be learnt, or if, when one has entered on this course, it were possible by some other means of conjecture to survey the reality, then what a crowd of deserters would run from marriage into the virgin life; what care and eagerness never to be entangled in that retentive snare, where no one knows for certain how the net galls till they have actually entered it!"
"So many-sided, then, so strangely different are the ills with which marriage supplies the world. There is pain always, whether children are born, or can never be expected, whether they live, or die. One abounds in them but has not enough means for their support; another feels the want of an heir to the great fortune he has toiled for, and regards as a blessing the other’s misfortune; each of them, in fact, wishes for that very thing which he sees the other regretting. Again, one man loses by death a much-loved son; another has a reprobate son alive; both equally to be pitied, though the one mourns over the death, the other over the life, of his boy. Neither will I do more than mention how sadly and disastrously family jealousies and quarrels, arising from real or fancied causes, end. Who could go completely into all those details? If you would know what a network of these evils human life is, you need not go back again to those old stories which have furnished subjects to dramatic poets. They are regarded as myths on account of their shocking extravagance; there are in them murders and eating of children, husband-murders, murders of mothers and brothers, incestuous unions, and every sort of disturbance of nature; and yet the old chronicler begins the story which ends in such horrors with marriage. But turning from all that, gaze only upon the tragedies that are being enacted on this life’s stage; it is marriage that supplies mankind with actors there. Go to the law-courts and read through the laws there; then you will know the shameful secrets of marriage. Just as when you hear a physician explaining various diseases, you understand the misery of the human frame by learning the number and the kind of sufferings it is liable to, so when you peruse the laws and read there the strange variety of crimes in marriage to which their penalties are attached, you will have a pretty accurate idea of its properties; for the law does not provide remedies for evils which do not exist, any more than a physician has a treatment for diseases which are never known."
"If you do not throw into the fire wood, or straw, or grass, or something that it can consume, it has not the force to last by itself; so the power of death cannot go on working, if marriage does not supply it with material and prepare victims for this executioner. If you have any doubts left, consider the actual names of those afflictions which death brings upon mankind, and which were detailed in the first part of this discourse. Whence do they get their meaning? 'Widowhood,' 'orphanhood,' 'loss of children,' could they be a subject for grief, if marriage did not precede? Nay, all the dearly-prized blisses, and transports, and comforts of marriage end in these agonies of grief. The hilt of a sword is smooth and handy, and polished and glittering outside; it seems to grow to the outline of the hand; but the other part is steel and the instrument of death, formidable to look at, more formidable still to come across. Such a thing is marriage. It offers for the grasp of the senses a smooth surface of delights, like a hilt of rare polish and beautiful workmanship; but when a man has taken it up and has got it into his hands, he finds the pain that has been wedded to it is in his hands as well; and it becomes to him the worker of mourning and of loss. It is marriage that has the heartrending spectacles to show of children left desolate in the tenderness of their years, a mere prey to the powerful, yet smiling often at their misfortune from ignorance of coming woes. What is the cause of widowhood but marriage? And retirement from this would bring with it an immunity from the whole burden of these sad taxes on our hearts. Can we expect it otherwise?"
In the negative set of quotes, the first one is from Jerome. He is commenting on what a "present distress" means in terms of staying single (1 Cor. 7:25); in the same context, he quotes Jesus' statement on the "woe" of those who are "with child" and who "give suck" (Matt. 24:19). The remaining negative quotes are from Gregory of Nyssa's work "On Virginity." Both of these men are canonized saints in the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches. And for the first set quotes, which are more favorable towards marriage? They come from the book Marriage and Morals by Bertand Russell (an atheist).

You may ask, "What is the point? You've proven nothing. Anybody can quote somebody that agrees or disagrees with your beliefs." Indeed, quoting celebrated dead theologians in support of my position and comparing them to what an unbeliever might think doesn't say anything about whether I'm right or not. Who woulda' thunk it? Let him who reads this understand what I'm getting at.

17 comments:

Amir Larijani said...

Actually, Russell is also off the mark. In fact, he is off the mark for the same reason that Mohler is off the mark, because the two are not that far apart and both make the same fundamental error.

In fact, one can suggest that Mohler is committing the same error as Jerome.

At the end of the day, all sides seem to be in agreement: marriage is about children.

Well...I beg to differ. Marriage is principally about man having a help-meet. That's rooted in Creation. That children are the offspring of such relationships is a secondary factor, albeit a beneficial one according to Scripture.

Davout said...

amir,

Your argument (in your last paragraph) can be used to justify gay marriage too.

Amir Larijani said...

Davout: Baloney. I said, "Marriage is principally about man having a help-meet. That's rooted in Creation."

God-ordained marriage--rooted in Creation--is a man and a woman. There is no Biblical precedent for supporting homosexual relationships, let alone elevating them to marital status.

Gary said...

Amir,

You wrote, "Marriage is principally about man having a help-meet. That's rooted in Creation. That children are the offspring of such relationships is a secondary factor, albeit a beneficial one according to Scripture."

GOD's COMMANDMENT to the man and woman was, "Be fruitful and multiply." There's no scriptural reason to believe that children are a secondary factor. Children that are born from marriage also have their roots in creation...and in GOD's commandment.

Amir Larijani said...

Gary: You're looking at Genesis 1 without taking into account the details spelled out in Genesis 2.

The principal purpose for marriage--rooted in Creation--is man having a help-meet. Without that, there would be no "be fruitful and multiply".

The Scripture does not say, "God saw that man could not multiply, so He created woman."

In fact, God says, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him". (Genesis 2:18)

THAT is the reason given for the creation of woman. Reproduction is not listed as a reason, although the command for such came after the fact.

Woman was made for man. Any discussion of marriage must begin there. The command to reproduce is secondary, because minus the creation of woman--the given reason for the creation of whom is companionship--any discussion of reproduction is moot.

Davout said...

amir,

I'm approaching this from the POV of creating a secular case against gay marriage. Ergo, I was considering your argument without the Biblical connotations:

"Marriage is principally about man having a help-meet...That children are the offspring of such relationships is a secondary factor"

The people who are broadening the definition of marriage are entirely secular and so a secular argument will have to convince them, not a biblical one.

Christina said...

Not an entirely thought out argument (a bit stressed lately and trying to keep my head on straight...)

But...
The people who are broadening the definition of marriage are entirely secular and so a secular argument will have to convince them, not a biblical one.

THE PARTS DON"T FIT!!!

What else is left to be said???

Amir Larijani said...

Davout: When I said that marriage is principally about man having a help-meet, that was a Biblical proposition.

Against that backdrop, you countered that my statement--a Biblical proposition--is a case for gay marriage (the latter being a concept with no Biblical substantiation and in fact has ample Biblical opposition).

Now you are saying that you want a secular case against gay marriage.

Why do you even wish to continue to support the State regulation of the marriage institution? What is it about the State that gives you faith in their capacity to do this effectively, given that they have done such a wonderful job undermining traditional families for at least the last century?

Davout said...

amir,

I was referring to your argument:"Marriage is principally about man having a help-meet...That children are the offspring of such relationships is a secondary factor" bereft of its appeals to Creation and Scripture.

Your first point is a non-sequitur: even if Eve was Adam's help-meet, it does not necessarily follow that marriage is PRINCIPALLY about having a help-meet. Your second point ("That children are the offspring of such relationships is a secondary factor") is a bald assertion without supporting evidence. Where in the Bible is it explicitly said that marriage is primarily about a help-meet and only secondarily about children?

Even if your argument convinces a subset of believing Christians, how do you go beyond to non-abrahamic religions. How do you convince an atheist of the validity of your point?

Amir Larijani said...

Davout:

Actually, marriage is principally about man having a help-meet. That is what Scripture says.

In Genesis 2:18, God specifically says, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him". (Genesis 2:18)

God specifically created woman for man because He decided that it is not good for man to be alone. That--not reproduction--is the reason given in the passage. In fact, God never mentions reproduction until after the fact.

The command to reproduce is secondary, as it comes after the creation of woman, the reason for the creation of which was specifically stated as help meet provision.

As for convincing atheists, perhaps you are missing the point. Or are you just playing the baiting game. Which is it?

My point is that Mohler is wrong for the same reason that Russell is. This is because Mohler--who is supposed to be a theologian and therefore know better--has taken to a social agenda that suggests that marriage is principally about families and children.

Ergo, my original point--that marriage is principally about man having a help meet--is hardly a non sequitur. As I was addressing Mohler's fundamental error. (Russell's statements mean little to me, because his statements are not going to influence Christian thinking and teaching even close to the way that Mohler's ruminations will impact preachers and teachers in churches.)

You, on the other hand, are proving yourself to be even more off-base than Mohler. This is because, if you are looking for merely a secular case against gay marriage, the best you can get are the arguments provided by the New York Supreme Court: they suggested that--(a) as a general rule, it is better for a child to grow up with a man and a woman in the house, and (b) it is not their place to use the court to re-engineer the family in such a manner.

Argument (b) doesn't work because that was the same argument that whites used for opposing the integration of blacks into the military. Moreover, it's not like there is no legal precedent for courts intervening in family matters at micro and macro levels. Just ask any parent who has had to deal with Child Protective Services, and the legal precedents that have been set in that area alone.

Argument (a) is as strong a secular argument as you are going to get.

You have confused me as someone who gives a rat's rectum about gay marriage.

As a libertarian, I actually have no dog in that fight, provided churches do not have to recognize such marriages. Which they won't, depending on the extent to which they are married to their tax-exempt statuses.

Gary said...

Amir,

I'm not up-to-speed on the Mohler/Russell stuff that you mention, but this is a solid post, full of scriptural arguementation. Good job.

catwoman said...

Amir,

Re: "woman created primarily for man's helpmeet, secondarily for children"...

You base this argument on the order in which these purposes emerged? That's a logical fallacy -- the primacy fallacy. That's like saying that God created the sun primarily to give us light, when we depend on it just as much for heat, and without either, we die.

Davout said...

amir,

"God specifically created woman for man because He decided that it is not good for man to be alone. That--not reproduction--is the reason given in the passage. In fact, God never mentions reproduction until after the fact."

This begs the questions: “why was it not good for man to be alone?” and “what was the nature of the help?” Perhaps the nature of the help was to assist man AFTER the act of reproduction? I don’t understand how, specifically, a woman's assistance to man, sans reproduction, differs from that of another man.

"The command to reproduce is secondary, as it comes after the creation of woman…."

You are arguing:

A (man) then B (woman/help-meet) then C (reproduction/children), so B is more important than C.

Just because reproduction is consequential to marriage does not make it secondary. That’s a non-sequitur.

Consider the reductio ad absurdum to your argument: ubiquitous childless marriages. This would imply the end of humanity!

noseintheair said...

Catwoman, the heat from the sun comes from the light we get. I'm not a literalist reader of Genesis, but your comment couldn't escape notice.

catwoman said...

What happened on that great day that God created light is a mystery (or whether it was indeed the sun that was created that day), but it most likely went something like this:

"The first stars were created by the coalescing of hydrogen and a few other elements into large clouds. As these clouds became more massive the gravity they exerted began to squeeze these clouds into spheres. As this occured temperatures began to rise inside them. The denser they got the more matter was drawn into them, the larger they became, the more gravity they exerted, the hotter they got, etc. until the density became so great that the cores ignited and became self sustaining nuclear furnaces."

If this is how God created light, then it seems that he would have done so by using the gasses he had already created to produce heat, which then would have produced light as temperatures increased.

benjaminbeckley said...

Ditto what Gary said. Good job, Amir. I'll be looking into singlemind.net when I get home.

To those who would come wanting a secular-based argument against homosexuality, why do you come looking at a blog called Biblical Manhood? That's like hearing a minister preach against smoking and telling people to submit their wills to God, and then complaining because he didn't advocate "the patch".

If people's hearts are not after God, the value of convincing them to follow any of the moral tenants espoused will be of minimal value and may even be detrimental. If you can find a movie called "Time Changer", get it and watch it. It makes this point very well.

Davout said...

"To those who would come wanting a secular-based argument against homosexuality, why do you come looking at a blog called Biblical Manhood?"I was speaking of a case against gay marriage, not against homosexuality.

The secular case against gay marriage is made better by Stanley Kurtz (intentionally) and Peggy Drexler (unintentionally).

The argument with Amir was centered around whether marriage is principally about a help-meet or not. His is that it is about a help-meet. My argument is that it is principally about children.

The argument against gay marriage becomes stronger if marriage is principally about children because gays cannot have children without a heterosexual union of sperm and egg. The inability to independently create a family precludes the concept of gay marriage.

On the other hand, the argument will be weaker if marriage is defined as principally about a help-meet because gays can have help-meets without depending on heterosexuals (as they do for children).