Common Marriage | A Biblical Theology of Marriage – Part 2

The only proper place to begin this study on marriage is in the garden. Marriage is not something which only belongs God-fearing Christians; it has been given as a gift to all of human creation. Romans 1:26-27 speaks of men and women who have exchanged natural relations for unnatural relations among the same sex. Although it is not the point which Paul is making, inherent to that statement is the understanding that the fundamental principles of sexual relations have been revealed to all of humanity in nature. Sexual relationships and marital union are intimately intertwined in the scriptures. It is presented as the climatic cause of the union as well as a barometer for understanding the health of the relationship (Gen 29:20-25; SOS 5:1; 1Cor 7:1-11). In the last 60 years the secular culture has made a concerted effort to destroy this relationship separating sex from marriage, and in response, contemporary pop Christian culture has failed to defend the unity of the two from a biblical perspective.[1] The close relationship between sex and marriage in the scriptures should allow for some measure of interchangeableness in texts like Romans 1. Therefore, what is revealed in Genesis 2 and nine concerning the institution of marriage should support and clarify the natural law applicable to all men, and not be positive revelation specific to the people of God in that day.

Even in the ideal world of the garden, it was not good for man to be alone, and the God who provides sought to supplement Adam with a helper. God also put forth a cultural mandate and task for this couple in Genesis 1:28; advising them to be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over every living thing. This cultural mandate stayed in effect for the covenant transgressors even after the fall and until the flood. After the flood in Genesis 9 with the remnant left behind, God reinstitutes the same cultural mandate, also telling Noah and his sons to fill the earth so that humanity flourishes. Without this cultural mandate in place, the arrival of the seed of the woman promised in Genesis 3:15 would never happen. Acting against the social order would be not only a violation of the command but also an act which seeks to disturb the salvific purposes of God. Paul’s distaste for homosexuality should be understood in light of the unique way purposes choosing to marry a helpmate and procreate hindered the use of God in promising the seed of the woman, as well as the promulgation of societal good which would have been the expectation of the original Edenic order.

To be unable to procreate, would mean that you are unable to fulfill the Noahic covenant’s cultural mandate concerning the world which is passing away.[2] Therefore, there is an imperative drive from the indicative of who image bearers are; to find a spouse, a helpmate, with whom each can engage in subduing and filling this earth, because everyone, not only the people of God, are included in the Noahic Covenant. Every person has a right to marriage, and since it is not a theocratic institution, the state is supposed to encourage proper practices, which are aimed at the ultimate good of the Common Grace Kingdom.[3] Under the Noahic Covenant engaging in the practice of marriage is ultimately for the benefit of society and the greater good, until the prophesied final judgment.

Footnotes

[1] Lewis B. Smedes, Sex for Christians: the Limits and Liberties of Sexual Living, rev. ed. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1994). Smedes does well to establish that marriage occurs even when that is not the intent. That sexual intimacy corresponds to the union of two fleshes into one. Scripture does not present a wedding ceremony as that which binds. 1Cor 6:16 expresses that union between a man and his prostitute is put in effect by a third party. Cf. Leslie Ludy, Answering the Guy Questions (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2009), Ludy presents that a union of two only occurs after the minister pronounces them man and wife, while intersex relations, even the hug between brother and sister are sinful till after that pronouncement.

[2] In addition to notion of being cursed with barrenness, willfully choosing to not have children or care for them when able to do so would be a sinful act against the purposes of God.  Participating under the practice of being fruitful was a societal good; i.e. continued care for the elderly is akin to a pyramid money scheme.

[3] While the state is responsible to maintaining social order, and encouraging right practices, the debate becomes over whether or not homosexual union can provide the social order and benefits that a monogamous heterosexual marriage historically tends to provide. In his essay on marriage William Kynes details much of recent research in this regard citing the works of Don Browning and Elizabeth Marquardt stating that if a system of marriage were to be developed out of the blue then marriage between one man and one women would necessarily be the best system. As well when it comes to raising children, there is much benefit to the sociological effect of kin altruism in the relationship between biological parents and their children.  Kynes states that it should be the right of every child to be raised by their biological parents. Therefore he concludes that the state should be encouraging the practice that leads to best overall social result, and nothing less. Cf. Kynes, William L. 2007. “The marriage debate: a public theology of marriage.” Trinity Journal 28, no. 2: 187-203. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed April 15, 2013); and Don Browning, Elizabeth Marquardt, “What About the Children? Liberal Cautions on Same-Sex Marriage,” Meaning of Marriage: Family, State, Market and Morals, Ed. Robert P. George and Jean Bethke Elshtain, (Dallas, Tex.: Spence Pub, 2006)

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