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human study

What Should Christians Teach on Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage?

When Marriage Goes Wrong: The Right Way to Respond

Someone was crazy enough to ask me about my position on marriage, divorce, and remarriage. I struggled because my answer was short and lacked context. Later, it made me think that we Christians need to adjust how we think about marriage. Too often we focus first on the posed situations. “When can people get divorced?” “Which marriage is recognized by God?” “Can marriage survive without love?” If we’re answering wrong, we build a list that shows what to avoid and when you’re okay. Indeed, we don’t have 613 laws for tough questions. We need to start elsewhere. (tl;dr)

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human

Sex Without Strings: A Theological View of Vasectomies

We are expecting our fifth child. That’s not an apology. Almost every time someone hears that I have more than two children, eyes widen, jaw drops, and questions are raised about my sanity. At the very least a suggestion is offered that my wife and I find a new hobby.

And, more often than not, men have recommended a vasectomy.

A vasectomy is a lightly invasive surgical procedure that makes men infertile. The man can do everything he could do before the surgery except (in a few rare cases) get a woman pregnant. At the end, couples can enjoy sex without the expectation that they’ll get pregnant. As such, there have been reports (surveys and some anecdotal—offered to me in sage counsel) of greater sexual enjoyment.

In this post, I want to offer my personal struggle with vasectomies, tubal ligations and any other forms of self-imposed permanent contraception. This is not a defense of the Quiverfull movement. It is a man wrestling with a specific issue.

Two up-front warnings: (1) although this post will not be needlessly graphic it is necessarily sensitive; (2) this post is long.

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christ church human

An Open Letter to My Children: Should Christians Support {Blank} Marriage?

Kids, you guys are growing up fast and you’re starting to see things with your own point of view. I’m not sure I’ve done my best raising you. I’m not sure any parent feels sure about that.

We parents give it a go and we pray that we haven’t messed up too badly. We ask that God is merciful. We keep praying for your protection and that God allows you guys to do better.

And the reason is clear: we’re afraid that you guys will follow too closely to our (often poor) example. We’ve messed up. We’ve been angry. We’ve made you cry. And then we realize our mess-ups years later: too late.

You guys are young right now. Too young for me to be talking about some of the stuff that I’m going to write in this long letter. God willing, I’m still around when you guys are old enough for us to be talking about this stuff but, even if I’m not, I want to leave you this letter.

The world has been changing pretty fast in recent years. People say things like “we must show tolerance” but then become very intolerant1: against religious things, especially Christian things. Some people aren’t allowed to post job openings2; other people can get fired for saying some of these things. Right now people have even been cleaning their online accounts to make sure that they don’t get turned down from jobs just because of what they believe. 

I’ve been seeing more and more Christian people not wanting anything to do with traditional beliefs3. People are changing the meaning of things that have been believed by the Church as a whole and pushing it on other people without their knowing. Some Christians in Christian schools have been making groups against the school’s position4. Then there’s the mess of other Christians who are just itching to get a new opinion.

With the Internet in my day, they don’t have far to go to find one.

Why I’m Writing

So I’m writing this to you because I don’t know what’s next. I write because I don’t know if the Christianity you’ll start to see in your day will be better or worse.

I’m writing because I don’t know if you’re looking for answers. The way things are going, I can’t really imagine any younger people listening to the older generation to find out what things really are “of the faith” and I hope that in your search, you stop by here, your dad.

I’m writing because I want to warn you about the things that might be coming up in your, or your kids’, day.

It’s about stuff that deals with views of sex: generally about marriage, possibly specifically about pedophilia, bestiality and polygamy.

But I’m not only writing about those things. I can’t imagine what other forms of marriage people will think up but I hope that you’ll be able to apply what I’m saying in the right way.

Now, in my day, people find these specific things deplorable. Pedophilia is illegal so far because they say it harms children and it disgusts people. Bestiality is illegal with no real arguments but a general sense of disgust. Polygamy is illegal with no real arguments but it also disgusts most people.

But there are shows that praise polygamy and its making a come back in some circles. There’s pornography that features bestiality and I can imagine it coming into the limelight. And there are support groups that argue for Man and Boy Loving each other in what they say is a non-harmful relationship. I’m no prophet but I can see these things all bearing fruit in the future.

Right now, there are questions about sexual attraction and what it entails. In your day it might mean exploring if people are born being sexually attracted to children, animals or multiple wives (or whatever). In my day it was a different, yet related, question.

Wrong the Right Way and Right the Wrong Way

The thing is those questions really don’t matter to their rightness or wrongness. Neither does the question “is this against the country’s law?” or “since this disgusts us should it be illegal?” The laws stand until people start accepting wrong as okay. Since it feels right, it shouldn’t be wrong: so the law changes.

There have been times where the smartest people made the best rules and plans to do horrible things. When the wrongness of something is ignored because it feels right, that doesn’t make it right.

I hope they still teach about the Holocaust5 when you’re reading this. Or Kosovo. Or what happened in the Sudan. Or the Spanish Inquisition. These people did wrong while following their laws.

Maybe their conscience was clear that way. Doesn’t matter. They were still doing wrong.

Part of the problem is that people want to be allowed to do wrong. Even when they know what they’re doing is wrong.

It should make you wonder why that is.

Remember when you guys would get in trouble and I’d take your toy or something? The next day one of you would sneak into my room and take it back. You would maybe say to yourself “Well, Daddy didn’t tell me that I couldn’t do this today.” But you knew that what you were doing was wrong. 

People are like that sometimes: they know what’s wrong but they want to allow things because today, things are different.

That’s not the only way people want to be allowed doing things. The other way is by trying to find that whatever they were doing was never disallowed anyway. In other words they’d think “we didn’t realize it until today but this was always okay.”

That one is probably easier to fall into.

It’s funny (and yet scary) when I think about it how the raging liberal and the extreme fundamentalist go to the same Bible with the same purpose of finding a verse with an explicit command.

The fundamentalist takes the command to show that there is a law that should not be broken. But then, when they don’t find a command against a sin that has come up, they stammer. The wrong thing is left without an answer.

The liberal takes the command to show that it was commanding against something else. Since there’s no command against a certain thing, there is now (they teach) freedom. The wrong thing is left as right without questions.

While I write, I think the right people went off and did wrong by emphasizing some right things the wrong way and to an unfortunate end. That’s confusing. My generation is living it out but the problem probably started a couple generations back when finally Christians started thinking about the joys of marriage then thought marriage could be (wrongly) dissected. Still confusing.

In one of my favorite stories the Grey Wizard Gandalf confronts the White Wizard who now calls himself Saruman of Many Colors. Gandalf tells him “He that breaks a thing to find out what it is has left the path of wisdom6.”

Imagine a shiny glass ball that glows. You want to find out what it is so you throw it against the ground and examine all the bits. But now, the ball doesn’t glow. In fact, it’s no longer a ball.

That’s what happened to marriage.

There were no lesson plans involved. There were no preached messages. But the lesson was taught and the message preached. Romantic love, a good thing, was wrongly set up as the goal of a real marriage. Sex is good, but movies and songs praised sex apart from marriage. Things were also made that let people enjoy sex without enjoying children.

Marriage became one thing. Sex was something else. And Having Children was something else. Sex you could do with someone you love. Marriage you did when you found someone you love and could stay with. And Having Children became something you did when you were the right age.

Then people got unhappy: they didn’t have enough love, or enough sex, or too many kids, or they never got married. Then a hunt for all those rights: divorce made more sense, so did the hope of finding someone who would reflect happiness in all those broken pieces.

Christians finally ran with it. They rightly saw that they should enjoy sex as a married couple but then made sex something that had nothing to do with having children. Christians rightly saw the idea of loving one’s spouse but then hunted for the rush of emotion that was the marks of their initial love. Dissatisfaction increased. Divorce increased.

And now, you guys are seeing more of the results. Just like in my day. People just want to be happy and they think that means that everyone should have a right to do whatever they want with marriage.

And since Christians bought into it, no holds were barred. Christians should have been different.

Jesus’ Mission

Let me tell you what Jesus, the Son of God, taught.

People might be saying a whole mess of things about Jesus. I know they’re saying it in mine. Jesus had no problem with this or that. Or Jesus would have supported this or that. Or out of all the things Jesus dealt with, he spent most of his time dealing with hypocrisy. They’ve probably even thought up more stuff to say by the time you’re reading this.

What they keep ignoring is that Jesus, the Truth7, was on a mission and his mission was to perfectly represent God the Father8 to a people who were turned away from Him, to then be rejected, pinned to the cross9, and to rise again from the dead as the same person who went into the grave10 but now with complete authority11.

In other words, Jesus didn’t come down here to straighten things up. He didn’t come down to fix our tax codes, or our education system, or our constant need for war, or even our constant hunt for what we want. He didn’t come to fix marriages or government. He came to rescue people from this system of death under sin by making them aware that they were under that system in the fact that they rejected him12.

But that doesn’t mean he was okay with this or that. After pointing out the hypocrisy of men itching to stone an adulteress he made sure to tell the woman that she was to stop her sinning13. He was never okay with it.

He wasn’t going out of his way to deal with every detail of our problems since the problem was more basic.

It’s sort of like going into a house and worrying about the paint, or the crown moldings, or how the cabinetry is crooked, or the fact that the roof needs a lot of work when the problem is that the house is rotting.

That’s not to say that these things (pedophilia, bestiality, and polygamy) are mere side issues that you can ignore; He would deal with questions people asked him but that wasn’t the Big Picture.

Christ’s work was specifically tied to saving humanity. That means that dealing with this or that sin wasn’t the main problem. The problem was that people, as unbelievers, were already condemned and dying underneath the sin system.

Going back to the rotting building, imagine that the reason it’s rotting (and all that other stuff is going on with the paint and moldings and cabinetry) is because it’s on fire and the entire structure has been compromised. It’s all fire rot.

It doesn’t merely need renovations. It needs to get overhauled and rebuilt.

That’s how bad it is.

Our Mission

But his rescue mission didn’t mean that we have no mission. He wasn’t coming to take people out of this place. He came to rescue people because the whole system is being replaced but he left people here with a purpose14.

Our future is not a bunch of people in clouds; we’ll be people living here in a new and fixed world15. We won’t have the problem of tears. Or death. We’ll have bodies that can properly enjoy this new place. So this place, this world that we’re rescued from, is the very same locale where the future world will be. That’s partially why Christians and Non-Christians are still here.

Another reason why Christians are still here is because of the growing Kingdom. The place is still collapsing but not yet overhauled because of what Jesus did at the cross but also what he now does at the right hand of the Father. As a King who is currently reigning, he gives opportunity for more people to be saved.

We’re to live in this world, not like we’re part of it but as people who represent the coming Kingdom while teaching and making disciples of our reigning king16.

So we’re rulers in training for the coming world and we’re co-heirs of the king that is in charge right now. Everything here, especially what we do, matters.

That means that I, as a Christian, have to stand up and point out that this entire system is coming down, but at the same time, while interacting with others, I have to point out that their actions are not actions that are allowed in God’s coming kingdom. I have to point out where this world is doing wrong but also have to ask forgiveness for how Christ’s fellow rulers have done wrong. I have to point out the sinfulness in the system while simultaneously highlighting how the system should look. Merely pointing to law does not do this; it entails underscoring fundamental morals.

I don’t do it to be nitpicky.  Pointing out wrong by saying what is right is God’s way to tell people they need him17. It sometimes is God’s way rescue people from this burning house18.

I’m not sorry then if this all sounds old-fashioned to you. I just hope that you take some minutes to consider the New Fashion that’s coming looks something like the way things were fashioned of old. Yeah, that’s confusing, but I’ll get to that.

Jesus On the Future of Marriage

So here’s a point where Christ wound up answering a question about a practice. It was about a woman who married a man. The man died and she married the man’s brother19.

In that culture, a man helped a widow by making sure that the family of his dead brother continued20. He would marry her. So they asked him “what if she marries and becomes widowed seven times then dies: whose wife is she in the resurrection?”

The question is about the coming world, God’s set-up kingdom. She had been married seven times, so in this perfect Kingdom—the New Fashion as it were—whose wife would she be?

If Jesus said that she was the wife of the first husband, it means that all the other marriages weren’t legal. If Jesus said that she was the wife of only the last husband, then that means only the last marriage mattered and carried into the new age: how is that a real resurrection of the dead if all the other guys come back? And if they were all alive in the resurrection, then wouldn’t she be married to all seven men at the same time? That was ridiculous to them.

Maybe, right now, some people are arguing that polygyny (one man, multiple wives) is okay but polyandry (one wife, multiple husbands) isn’t. I don’t know. But that’s all beside the point of what’s going on in this passage.

Because here Jesus says that these teachers (1) don’t know the Scriptures and (2) and the power of God. They were wrong on both counts. They had misread the Bible (which means that there is a right way for it to have been read which they should have understood) and they didn’t know how God operates or have knowledge of his authority in the matter.

Jesus then points out that when the dead rise, people won’t marry or be given in marriage.

The future world won’t be like that. That all comes to an end.

Jesus On the History of Marriage

At another point these guys had come up and asked Jesus if it is okay for a man to divorce his wife. They knew that the Law said that divorce was allowed but they also knew that Jesus’ interpretation of Scripture was exceedingly sharp: even lusting after a woman is adultery21.

Jesus turned it on them asking them what Moses allowed. They answered that divorce was allowed in the Law. And here Jesus then shows why it was allowed: because their hearts were hard.

But this, says Jesus, was not the way God made people.

In the beginning (of old) God made (fashioned) human (not animal) people as the gender (it was part of their identity as persons) of man and woman (in all their maturity), and the two (not more than two) would be united as one (a package that actually unites) flesh.

If he divorces her and marries someone else, he commits adultery against her; if she does that to him, she commits adultery.

The point here is that the current world, the one prior to the coming kingdom of God, is one that was created specifically to display marriage a specific way. It was in that way that God wanted people to persist.

But people were hard and he gave a law through Moses that managed divorce. That’s not a matter of God allowing a little bit of evil in the law because he just knew how hard hearted people were. It’s rather that God knew what men would do, so he set up a system whereby these women (1) wouldn’t just be left when someone got tired of them and (2) be properly provided for.

Some stuff we can see here: God’s plan is that Marriage is between a woman and a man, two as one flesh; God’s plan is that Marriage is not for the coming world. It’s like Jesus brackets off history in the beginning and the end but he doesn’t fill in the blank in the middle.

Nothing about romantic love. Nothing about fulfilling the sexual wants (labeled “needs”) of people. Nothing about them being sexual beings in the Resurrected life. Nothing about animal-human marriage or kissing siblings or even same-sex relationships. Just that in this world, the way it should be was the way God set it up—two sexual beings, a man and a woman, who join as one flesh under the God ordained institution of marriage; in the next world that institution is no longer the case.

Now kids, that leaves a lot unsaid, raising questions even, but it should now be questioning in the right direction. It shouldn’t be causing you to wonder “Should Christians support pedophiliac marriage?” or “Should Christians support bestial marriage?” or “should Christians support polygamous marriage?” It should be causing you to ask, “If marriage isn’t for Then but it is for Now, what is it for?” or “what’s the purpose of marriage anyway?” and maybe even “is marriage really all that serious?”

Marriage In The Image of God

I want you guys to go back to the beginning that Jesus mentioned. It’s in that book that lots of people in my day think are old-fashioned myths. Worse, it’s in those early chapters, which many in my day are writing off as senseless poetry22.

It says that God made man in his image, male and female, and they were to populate the planet, and rule over it—all under God. There’s no explicit statement here on how the population is to be produced but it seems to be an unstated assumption: they are after all male and female.

Then the story goes on to explain the origin of Man. Man is created and then looks for a mate that would be suitable for him. It’s not another animal. It’s not even his reflection in the pond. Something was missing and God went out of his way to let the man see this. That’s when God makes woman and presents her to man and we get the words that Jesus cited: for this reason, this woman, would man leave his family and be joined with his wife and the two would be one flesh.

It was God’s plan, he explicitly made them that way, that in the union as a married couple they would have sex and this was the means for children to be produced.

And the whole scheme was supposed to reflect God23.

Everything about us, part of us, reflects the image of God. We are creative because God is creative. We act because God acts. We have eyes because God sees everything; we have ears because God hears everything. In the marriage union we get that all out picture of the God who is a community whose love produces fruit. We see that at the point of maximal difference, men and women find some of the greatest enjoyment that results in new life. He made the picture that way. This picture shouldn’t be adjusted, as if we can do some color correction to make it better—the way God wanted his image portrayed in the marriage unit was one woman and one man whose relational activity together is directly tied to his mandate.

This is more than the Levitical law. This isn’t God only orchestrating how his covenant community was to function by branching them off from the nations around them. This isn’t only some aspect of God’s moral law that winds up being repeated in the New Testament. Nor is this some sort of cultural norm that is getting foisted on other cultures. This is explicitly God’s picture being reflected to the world by means of marriage.

Jesus, God’s Son, who spoke only what the Father wanted thought so.

Which is why messing with that picture is so bad.

There is some deep theology going on here. It’d probably take a lot of reading and some fixing on our thinking on some things. I definitely won’t be able to explain every detail to you guys. But I think I can pick up threads for you so you can weave the thing together.

Think about it: if God made marriage to reflect his image, his picture, and that union was the means for producing children, all part of the picture, what does that tell you about all the ways we’ve broken up marriage?

I don’t only mean divorce and adultery. I mean things like birth control pills that allow people, even the married, to display part of God’s image (the union) while marring the rest (the reproduction). Or test tube babies, or surrogate mothers, which allow part of God’s image (the production of children) but refuses the other (the proper union of man and woman). What does it tell you about our piecemeal approach to sex and reproduction? What does it tell you about our perspective of God?

Or what does God’s mold tell us about people forcing things to fit? People taking things that don’t fit together (animals, multiple people, same sexes) and forcing a fit (thus creating a false union) and then a system that panders to it by offering reproduction from elsewhere (be it adoption, or surrogate mothers, or whatever comes along). Or a man (in the image of God) taking a child (not yet a woman or even a boy) and thus forcing a fit to reproduce.

It’s not that the actions are merely naughty rule breaking (they might be24). It’s not even that they’re abominable in themselves (they might be). It’s that they’re taking God’s image and saying “We know better” and drawing over it. In some cases it’s taking God’s image, trampling it down and setting something else in its place.

Ancient Israel did this. There they were, rescued by God but they were alone. They decided to take some gold, melt it and see what they got. Seeing how nice it came out, they called it God and said He rescued them.

Ultimately, playing with God’s image in marriage, is idolatry—that stuff that people did by carving out their own Gods and bowing down to them—but in this case they’re bowing down to their own concept of what God is to be. He happily fits their mold; not the other way around.

That makes the entire bang-shoot abominable. It’s likely the reason why Sodom and Gomorrah’s acts are so bad25. Sure their fundamental sin was pride. It was expressed in a way that turned everything God meant to be upside down (intention of sex was changed, violence was embraced, hospitality was denied) and they proudly thought that was the way things should look like. God’s image trampled by insolent people.

Last area of questioning would be in regards to purpose: why is God so concerned with this picture in this world and not in the other? What is changing?

Jesus says that his true worshipers will worship in spirit and in truth26. He also winds up being a model for our own physical resurrection from the dead. He is still a man.

But he is a man with power. With authority. Not held down by the system of sin. Immortal. Conquering over death. And the sender of God’s Spirit to dwell within people as a down payment for the future.

Is it possible that we will still be men and women who reflect God’s image but then have the unfiltered Holy Spirit unfiltered to engender that union which marital sex was to depict27? I don’t know what that all will entail, but is it possible that this future union is so deep that no amount of marital sexual act that brings enjoyment during the act and after the act can mimic it? In other words, is our marital union that results in joy at all sides merely a dim shadow of the future union with God’s people and God Himself as a community who reigns28?

Like I said, there are some deep theological threads there. I’d probably start with Jesus’ own words in John 17 and work my way right up to the celestial city in the last book of the Bible.

I know hearing your father talk about this stuff so bluntly is embarrassing. Believe me, you guys being young right now is not the only reason I’m writing these things down. It’s embarrassing for me too. And honestly, it shouldn’t be. This is really all about God’s picture, how he fashioned us of old, and what he wants that picture to look like in the future. That picture doesn’t look like the way people are trying to make it in my day or in yours. It looks distinctly old-fashioned. But that old-fashioned picture is the way things were meant to be. And as Christians, who are joined in Christ by the Holy Spirit, we shouldn’t be embarrassed by saying “This is what God wants us to look like.”

Marriage in the Image of Christ

There’s one last theological bit that people, Christians too, tend (or want) to ignore when it comes to marriage. God is an all-powerful and all-knowing God. We know that Christ was killed according to the predetermined plan of God. That means God knew what was coming and planned with it in mind.

In Ephesians 5, Paul talks about marriage, about the way the husband should treat the wife, how the wife is to treat the husband. He does this all while looking at Christ, you think, as an example. But right when you think he’s just talking only about marriage he tells us that he’s actually talking about Christ and the Church29. And then in light of that the individuals are to act in that way in marriage.

Paul then calls marriage a mystery. When Paul talks about mystery it’s something that God had hidden in the past but then revealed when Christ showed up. Marriage he says was the mystery (why male and female in union anyway? Why not reproduce like asexual amoeba?) and the revelation was Christ and the Church.

The main point is this: Christ didn’t come to be an example for a good marriage; marriage was built with Christ and the Church in mind. The image of God was also to be the image of Christ and the Church.

And that image, that picture, of marriage was to show not only the love and the self-sacrifice of individuals. The husband was to reflect the head, which is Christ, who gave himself for the Church. The wife was to depict the Church who respects the Head30. The love for the other was to be like the love for one’s own body—presenting their wives as unblemished and blameless. The marriage union (sex, bodies, everything) was to reflect the indwelling of Christ in the church. The marriage union (sex, bodies, everything) of husband and wife was to show how we are one member with Christ.

Being one man and one woman in a marriage union separated from their own families and starting a new family is a high calling. It was to show the stamp of God in how it was built and it was to show a picture of Christ and the Church in its very mold.

That dovetails back to our practical questions: if God built marriage in the beginning in the mold of Christ and the Church, what right do we have to change that mold? What right do we have to depict a different picture?

At this point, the people who would want us to change God’s picture of Christ and the Church would say that it is impossible for someone who loves children, or animals, or multiple spouses (or anything else that is imagined) to love. That they are banned from loving.

That is a lie.

They have taken that dissected idea of marriage—the broken globe—and taken a definition of love that is only tied up with personal attraction31, and made that the basic meaning of love. Since they’re not attracted to the person then they can’t love.

But that is not God’s picture of love in Christ. Christ wasn’t attracted to the Church. The world was made up of the ugliest, vilest sinners. There was nothing lovely in this world of sinners that Christ was drawn to. But God loved that ugly, despicable, violent world even knowing what they would do to his Son. And Christ loved his Father and that world while they were still sinners, and Christ gave himself.

That is love.

Love isn’t a package Something that satisfies, it is a practice and process that magnifies. It is an active, full-bodied thing that goes beyond attraction and self-gratification. It believes what’s best. It hopes for the best. It aims for the best. And it gives of itself unceasingly and without qualification. This kind of love bears fruit.

Dealing With Questions

I’d guess that at this point you guys are wondering about kids. If marriage, the way God made it, was to be between one man and one woman becoming one and having children, what about the people who can’t have kids? Does that mean their marriage isn’t real?

That’s probably the same argument that people like bringing up to allow any marriages. It’s that dissected view of marriage looking at a single aspect (Having Children) and making it the defining quality. But like I said, the picture of marriage included all those things.

And that’s where the problem of not-having-kids shows up. Some people just can’t have kids and they don’t know it until they’re married.

After Breydon was born we had some questions for a fertility doctor. They told us that we were lucky to have one kid, let alone the amount we had. With our first, it took a while to get pregnant. Same thing with our second. I don’t think it was luck; I think, ultimately, it was God.

When we got pregnant with our fourth we were happily surprised.

But these other people might not ever have kids. That doesn’t mean that these people stop being a married couple. It doesn’t even mean that they stop trying to have kids. It means that they keep relying on God while doing things that married couples do. After all, God is the one who is behind pregnancies and not-pregnancies alike.

That doesn’t mean that he will automatically give these couples children. He might have some bigger plan that goes beyond this age but includes the patient training from this world: only God knows. The fact is, God knows best. It’s not for us to redefine things just because the relationship isn’t bearing the fruit of children. Let’s never forget that Marriage is a package designed by God.

I bet you’re also wondering about people that really don’t want to marry a person they’re not attracted to. Well, that doesn’t mean that they can’t love (remember that dissected definition is just not what love is) but it does mean that whatever love they employ might not include attraction.

So let’s say that the lack of attraction is so bad that it’s disgust. They not only aren’t attracted to being with the other person, they’re outright grossed out by it. That still doesn’t mean that they are banned from loving. It might just mean that they will have to live on being a single person.

That’s a tough pill to swallow, but it might just be the case. It’s exactly what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7. It sucks that the person is left by their spouse, but remain in the state they have been called. And that calling might not be an internal sense of being celibate but a situational realization.

There are people that are born unable to go out in public and others who are born with a constant desire to steal and yet others who are born without the ability to walk. Their life might have to be set up around those things so that they don’t walk and they don’t get put in positions where they might steal or they don’t spend time in large crowds.

In so doing, these people might be examples of the Gospel at work promising the future age in this present age. The person walks around as a co-heir of Christ and, even better, a huge billboard of the cross. This person is really bearing their burden, refusing self-satisfaction, and moving ahead showing that God has given them an opportunity to lay down their own life as a living sacrifice. Imagine preaching the Gospel to an audience and saying “this is what I want, but I know it is not the way God created humans to be: therefore I lay down my life and present it to all of you. I am weak, but in Christ I am made strong.”

I hope you see what I’m doing with these answers. I’m not really saying “this is wrong” or “this is right”. That’s already done by the theological groundwork above. Here, I’m trying to show how all that theology up to this point winds up dealing with the questions. The questions don’t immediately cause us to hunt for verses, but they have to be filtered through what the theology established by God in Scripture and reflected by Christ’s own confession.

The Gospel ensures that things will be a certain way in the future but it also reveals the way they should have been now, in our day. As Christians heading towards the future and living now, we shouldn’t be looking for ways to work around the now. We should be looking for ways to reflect the purpose of the now in light of the future.

I admit, this isn’t always easy. Some things are obviously against the pattern God established; others might be much harder. What if science figures out a way to make real men pregnant? What if people make robots that they want to marry, and these robots have reproductive systems? What if we could make humans that are basically tailored to suit this or that want? You guys might even be dealing with harder questions that I can’t imagine. But like I said, I hope this post helps direct your ideas. The footnotes will link to other material .

I’m still praying for you guys.

Endnotes

1 If you get a chance, check out Don Carson’s (http://amzn.to/Nuf0yP ) Intolerance of Tolerance or, for a quick hit, search for the audio lectures on the same subject.

 

2 From the minutes of the APA Board of Officers: “The Board passed a motion amending the APA Nondiscrimination Statement to disallow JFP advertising by institutions that would not commit themselves to complying with the Nondiscrimination Statement.” (page 40 of the May 2012 Proceedings) http://bit.ly/LXKVoc and http://bit.ly/LcZHaJ

 

3 Most of the argument can be read in this article http://www.gaychristian.net/justins_view.php  even though there are some responses linked to from there, there are actually more fundamental problems with the argument. James White gets into that in a five hour examination on a young man who does the same thing here http://www.aomin.org/aoblog/index.php?itemid=5086

 

4  In my day they had a site over here http://biolaunderground.webs.com/ which stated: “To clear up this issue, we are in favor of celebrating homosexual behavior in its proper context: marriage. We do NOT believe that being gay or queer is a sin, whether in a relationship or otherwise. We do NOT believe that “acting upon” homosexual desires for intimacy in a loving marital relationship is wrong. We hold to the already stated standards of Biola that pre-marital sex is sinful and outside of God’s plan for humans and we believe that this standard also applies to homosexuals and other members of the LGBTQ community. We believe that the Bible is God’s Holy Word, we simply hold a different interpretation of the scripture on the issue of homosexuality.”

 

5 Quote (http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005143  ): The Holocaust was the systematic, bureaucratic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of approximately six million Jews by the Nazi regime and its collaborators. “Holocaust” is a word of Greek origin meaning “sacrifice by fire.” The Nazis, who came to power in Germany in January 1933, believed that Germans were “racially superior” and that the Jews, deemed “inferior,” were an alien threat to the so-called German racial community.

 

6 Tolkien, J.RR. Fellowship of the Ring “The Council of Elrond”

 

7 John 14:6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

 

9 Acts 2:22-24; 1 Corinthians  1:18-31; 2:6-10;

 

11 The reference here is specifically to Paul in Romans 1:4 but I wrote some on the importance of the resurrection of the dead (http://biblearchive.com/blog/2010/christ/easter-blogging/ ) because it’s important. (http://rreynoso.com/reysapoint/church/the-resurrection-and-me/ )

 

13 I’m not basing any theology on this passage. Even though the story might be historical, there’s just not enough textual evidence in my day to think it’s actually part of the original Gospel of John. Check Wallace, Daniel B. ‘Reconsidering “The Story of the Adulteress Reconsidered.”’

New Testament Studies 39 (1993): 290–96.

 

19 Luke 20:27-36 Asked by the Sadducees who deny the Resurrection of the Dead

 

21 Matthew 19:3-12, Mark 10:2-12 “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”(Matthew) and ““Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” (Mark)

 

22 Genesis 1 – 4

 

26 John 4

 

27 “Sexual eros points to something deeper in a second way. As we have just seen, it is a sign or type of a deeper reality, a kind of love for God of which we now just have hints and intimations. It is also a sign, symbol, or type of God’s love—not just of the love God’s children will someday have for him but of the love he also has for them. “ Alvin Plantinga, Warranted Christian Belief, p318.

 

28 John 17

 

31 Here’s someone named Matthew Vine from my time that pretty much argued that the problem is that people who practice homosexuality just wanted to have the right to love someone like heterosexual people do: “Straight people are never really forced to think about their sexual orientation as a distinctive characteristic, but it’s still a part of them, and it affects an enormous amount of their lives. What sexual orientation is for straight people is their capacity for romantic love and self-giving. It’s not just about sexual attraction and behavior. It’s because we have a sexual orientation that we’re able to fall in love with someone, to build a long-term, committed relationship with them, and to form a family. Family is not about sex, but for so many of us, it still depends upon having a companion, a spouse. And that’s true for gay people as well as for straight people. That is what sexual orientation means for them, too. Gay people have the very same capacity for romantic love and self-giving that straight people do. The emotional bond that gay couples share, the quality of love, is identical to that of straight couples. Gay people, like almost all of us, come from families, and they, too, long to build one of their own. But the consequence of the traditional interpretation of the Bible is that, while straight people are told to avoid lust, casual relationships, and promiscuity, gay people are told to avoid romantic relationships entirely. –Matthew Vine, http://matthewvines.tumblr.com/,  College Hill United Methodist Church”

 

32 Pope John Paul II gave a bunch of teaching on the Theology of the Body. Some of it goes way out there and you probably won’t agree with it, but it’s probably some of the best thinking on sex, marriage, and the body for a long time. If I were you guys, I’d try to look some of it up to see the things he highlights.

 

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human quotables

Quotables: Morality of The Marriage Act

quotables

Every now and then I like posting something incisive that was written in the past because it speaks so well into the present. The sweet thing about this is that these guys, who are often waved away today, have dealt with a lot of the same issues while remaining simultaneously (by the modern mind) ignored. This one comes from Pope John Paul II.

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quotables quotes

Quotables: Early Church on Sex and Marriage

quotables

Modern readers may imagine that until recently pastors never dared to provide sex and marriage counseling. Not so. These selections from the earliest period of the Christian pastoral tradition (pre-Nicene, before 325 a.d.), will provide glimpses of the sort of counsel Christian pastors have been giving from the very outset of the tradition. It should be kept in mind that much of the writing of this period was done under hazardous conditions of persecution and social stress, when the Christian community was a tiny minority in a hostile political environment. Our purpose for including these selections is not to imply that a completely adequate view of sexuality was worked out by these earliest pastoral writers, or one that could be adequate for all other historical situations. At least they demonstrate that the need to provide guidance and understanding of sexuality has been perceived from the beginning of Christian pastoral activity.