I’m devoting this post to Donal, who had some problems with my last post.
Here’s his second comment, in its entirety:
What I have a problem with is the game of fingerpointing that discussions tend to devolve into – and the fatalistic, might as well jump off the dock attitude.
I agree. Blame games are rarely helpful. And whining helps no one. But there is something in your response I must disagree with:
If God wants you to have a good spouse, you’ll get a good spouse.
You complain about fatalism, and then offer this? It sounds biblical at first (Proverbs, right?). But its not. Because it ignores human agency. There are a lot of things that happen in life that God wants, but there are a lot of things that happen that God doesn’t want. God has given us Free Will, or Agency, or whichever term you prefer. Either way, we can choose to follow Him, or choose not to. And oftentimes when we choose not to, others, especially the innocent, suffer.
The idea that if God wants people to marry well, then they will marry well is based not on any solid theology, but on wanting to feel better. This notion allows the proponent to feel better about themselves, because it tells them that if someone who otherwise seems worthy doesn’t marry (or marry well), then it must have been what God wanted all along. And if God wanted it, then it can’t be bad, right? It is founded on a refusal to acknowledge that there are those who should marry, whom God would want to marry, but don’t because of the actions of others. It is a refusal to acknowledge the oft-times cruel nature of life.
Marriage isn’t the end-all, be-all. It’s not a prerequisite for having a godly life. It’s not even a prerequisite for having a good life. It’s one of many very good things. God made a lot of good things for us to turn our hands to, to spend our lives doing.
If you don’t feel called to fix marriage, I understand. But you seem to downplay it here Hearthie. Very few Christians have the so called “Gift of Singleness.” Most should marry, and downplaying marriage and its importance helps no one. A visiting priest once explained to me that marriage is an institution created to help men and women alike get into heaven. It provides a means a man and woman to aid each other, to compliment each other, and to help each other avoid sins and to walk the difficult path we as Christians are called to walk. Stated simply, marriage, when done right, helps us get to heaven. And when the institution is in such a state as it is today, then the souls of many are in jeopardy.
We shouldn’t idolize marriage, as is often the case in this culture. But we need to acknowledge its importance and centrality to our lives as Christians. Calling it just one good thing among many is a terrible mistake.
1) Thank you for your comment! My worst sin as a writer is my tendency to run headlong past things I should discuss in greater depth, assuming that my reader understands what I mean. You’re holding me to account, and I appreciate that.
2) The nature of causality is something that the best minds in Christendom have debated for centuries. I’d enjoy discussing it, but that’s not really the point of my post. Yes, I believe in the free-will of Man, and that free will has unpleasant consequences for the innocent. I also wholeheartedly believe that God can do whatever He chooses in our lives. I refer you to Romans 8:28, “works all things together for good…”
So we could say that *in general* that God intends for most of His children to marry. We can certainly agree that the fallen world we live in has made finding a suitable mate difficult, and maintaining a godly marriage a constant challenge. However, I believe that God works in the specific. He doesn’t want you to “get married” – He wants you to marry Emily. Is that more clear? Of course both of you can assert your free will and harm the other thereby… but “be anxious for nothing”.
3) I do think marriage is very important. And I work to encourage young women to be good wives, occasionally I write about it, I strive to be a good wife, and I raise my kids in a home where there’s a lot of love and they are given a good example of a healthy marriage. I do not have the power to restructure the world to make it more conducive to Biblical marriage – I do have the power to encourage women to become more godly in all things so that they can be better wives, mothers, friends… etc.
4) That brings us to the center point. Good marriages stem from two people who love God and are willing to obey Him in all things. If you’ve got a godly character, good actions will flow. A fig tree bears figs, yes? So – what I’m saying is that we are chasing the effect when we should look more closely at the cause.
Example: Wife doesn’t have as strong a sex-drive as her husband. She’s a godly woman, who will obey the Bible. Elder woman hears that she isn’t providing this to her husband as much as she ought, because she’s been miseducated. Elder lady gives her chapter and verse about not depriving your mate. Godly wife repents – because God says to do something that she is not doing – and provides more intimacy for her husband. What is her motivation? That she is disobeying God. Give her the correct information, she steers right back on course.
Same problem, but the wife is only wearing the name “Christian” rather than in total submission to God. Wife argues that husband is unreasonable, that God didn’t really mean that, that it’s Tuesday and she’s over burdened and…
What’s the problem? The problem is the heart. Fix the heart, the behavior falls in line.
5) “One good thing among many” – okay, I’ll take that one on the chin. Yes, that was an exaggeration for effect. But don’t worry – this is far from the last lance in my quiver. Marriage was just my first target.
If, instead, I said that God is the top of the pyramid, and the other things are on the second tier, that would be clearer and closer to my intent.
6) I am a Protestant, so the only thing that helps me get to Heaven is Jesus’ shed blood on the cross. I’ve already got my passport, I’m just waiting for the boat to leave. Meantime, I’ve got work to do.
What I am calling my readers to is a faith that shocks the world around them. I want to talk about being so very different from the World in our every attitude, every action, that the World can’t help but notice the difference. So – I’m going to talk about ways that Christians have let the World’s priorities sneak in……