On Doctrine & Dating

September 3rd, 2009 § 7 comments § permalink

Recently, a respected friend of mine began teaching a group of college students about dating. Though I don’t disagree significantly with much of what he said, I sometimes found myself disagreeing with why something was the case. (Though sometimes I did also agree with what was said.) The primary point of disagreement that I had with him was why the man should take the initiative and why he should lead in beginning the dating relationship.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. The primary point of his lesson was one with which I most thoroughly agree. The dating relationship (or whatever fancy moniker you want to through throw on that thing that a guy and a girl are before they are engaged or married) is meant to investigate intentionally the possibility of marriage. If marriage is not going to happen, then that sort of relationship needs to end. Here we agree: dating is for marriage.

But before we go any farther, we need to figure out just a bit more what this marriage thing is. What is it that we are going for? What is our aim? We cannot begin to discuss the means before we have at least a basic understanding of the end. If we were told that we needed transportation for some reason, we might consider a unicycle. But if we’re told that our destination is Japan, that could drastically change our discussion of means. So let’s consider our destination for just a bit before we talk about means.

Ephesians 5:32 is the pivotal verse for understanding marriage. Everything about our goals and purposes changes when we read this verse. In this verse, Paul tells us that the marriage relationship is a picture of Christ and his church. If a marriage is functioning properly, it should look like a picture of the gospel. People should see a relationship of love and forgiveness not because that’s what is needed for a marriage to work, but because that’s what the relationship between Christ and his church is like. A successful marriage isn’t the solving of problems and the having of happinesses; a successful marriage is a picture of God’s redemptive grace and active intervention in a fallen world.

One of the first things that we must realize about the Gospel is that is it entirely a divine work. There is nothing in me that turns God’s love toward me in this special work. There is nothing in me that merits his favor, nor is there anything that I have done (to any degree whatsoever) that has aided in the salvific process. Most importantly, (for the purposs of this discussion) the process of salvation begins with God, before the foundation of the world, in the act of election.

Election simply means choosing. It is the doctrine that God chooses all who come to him. We also refer to this doctrine as predestination. (As Charles H. Spurgeon once said, this doctrine is “written in scripture with an iron pen.”) This choosing is the beginning of salvation; without it none would come to repentance. In a relationship intended specially to be a picture of the Gospel, the beginning of marriage also includes a choosing, and the choosing is done by the Christ figure in the relationship—the male.

Now there are a whole other host of reasons we can give for this choosing. For example: that’s how the patriarchs did it. The guys (or their dads) chose the bride. But I do not think that this is point of any of the narratives. It is simply a cultural habit which seems to be viewed with neither approbation or disapprobation; it is simply a part of the story. It is what happened. (This seems to be much the same as their polygamy which never quite seems to be condemned. Yet we disapprove of it quite thoroughly despite the fact that the Old Testament text seems merely to report it, like the weather or a sports score.) Therefore, the example of the patriarchs is a rather weak foundation upon which to build a case for male initiation.

Another reason we might consider for male leadership could be more of these verses in Ephesians 5. Men, we are told, are the head of the wife, much like Christ is the head of the church. No doubt the head has something of a leadership role, but that isn’t actually Paul’s main point here. Rather, he is saying: “How stupid must a man be that he would hurt his own body! Everyone loves his own flesh and nurtures it; so must a man love cherish and nurture his wife, because his wife is the body of which he is the head!” The fact of headship here isn’t being used by Paul to argue for leadership, but rather for love! (Curiously enough, guys don’t seem to need to be told they are to lead, but the wife, in the preceding verses must be told that she is to submit. The guys are here really only exhorted to love radically, like Christ who gave himself out of love for his body.)

To temper the preceding paragraph: I do believe that there is a definite notion of leadership inherent in headship. The church is Christ’s and must submit to him. To be an accurate representation of this relationship, a marriage must similarly have submission to its head, the husband. But lets not hijack this text and make it all about leadership; it is not. The husband’s exhortation is all about love because a head must absolutely love its own body. Anything other than that would be ludicrous and self-harmful. No right thinking person looks down and his body and chops off an arm or a leg, just for kicks. To hurt one’s wife is to do just that! It’s ridiculous! That said: headship includes leadership, but let’s not do Paul the injustice of making this passage (or headship) about leadership.

So where then must we go if we are to seat leadership on a solid foundation? If we are to divide up roles between to equal partners, and make one a leader, why do we pick the male to lead? Simply this: divided roles in marriage are necessary to showcase the gracious and divine act of salvation. In the beginning of marriage, before a marriage even has begun to be, there is to be a choosing, and that choosing belongs to the man, that the relationship may shine with the glory of the gospel to a world that barely can understand the beauty it is just beginning to see, when a man chooses a woman, just as God chose the elect.

“Something to Pass the Time”

September 1st, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

I’ve been tagged. (See http://ladyoftheforest.blogspot.com/2009/08/something-to-pass-time.html for details.) Here goes.

  1. Orthodoxy
  2. Les Miserables
  3. Romans
  4. The Knowledge of the Holy
  5. In the Shadow of the King (first book I cried while reading)
  6. HTML for the World Wide Web with XHTML and CSS 5th Edition
  7. Ephesians
  8. War and Peace
  9. Freedom of the Will
  10. Anna Karenina
  11. The Way of Truth (by Parmenides, not sure if this counts as a book…)
  12. Sacred Marriage
  13. Perelandra
  14. The Once and Future King
  15. Lord of the Rings

I think that took more like 20 minutes. I just don’t do well under pressure. And I cheated by going up to look at my book shelf. (Other than LotR, those books literally will be with me forever, barring a fire or some other cataclysm.) It still feels like a poor representation of my reading.

I’m not a tagger, so nobody gets tagged.

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