Monday, January 7, 2013

A Look at the Heart of God in Marriage and Divorce: A Look at Anthropology

In Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 Moses recorded the creation account.  In these two chapters people are given the first institution ordained by God. “This is why a man leaves his father and mother and bonds with his wife, and they become one flesh.”[1]  At the end of His sixth day of creation God instituted the sacred union between a man and woman known as marriage.  It is unfortunate that marriage has constantly been treated with disdain, even in religious circles, as marriage impacts not just society, but also represents the relationship between Christ and the Church.
It is important to understand the purpose of marriage before one begins to sort through the challenges to the theology of marriage.  Hazel Perkin said:  “Marriage is established by God for the good of mankind.”[2] Dr. Granberg and Mr. Root explain “To be made in the image of God is to be made as a social being capable of relationship.”[3] They go on to explain that marriage is the “most significant expression” of relationship.[4]  The Bible provides great teaching on the issue of marriage, although in the New Testament the focus is more on how the husband and wife should respond to each other.  In the Old Testament the children of Israel were provided requirements and limitations, although in a very limited sense.  The restrictions included whom you should marry based off of closeness of family, and in relation to those not of Israel.  Restrictions also included the issue of divorce, adultery, homosexuality, just to name a few.
There are at least two perspectives in the Church about what constitutes marriage.  Although not necessarily debated, they are very distinct views and both have some defense in Scripture.  “Some, arguing from 1 Corinthians 6:16, maintain that marriage is effected through sexual intercourse.  A person is considered in the eyes of God to be married to that member of the opposite sex with whom he or she first had sex relations.”[5] This view is not supported in society today, and not even necessarily in the Church.  There are some who might argue that this would be the correct view, however there is another view that has equal support.  Granberg and Root provide a second perspective, and one also supported by Scripture.  “Others consider marriage to be brought about as the result of a declaration of desire to be married,”[6] Even at the Old Testament Law there is a support for this view.  Exodus 22:15-16 the issue is brought up about a man seducing a virgin.  In verse 15 there seems to be the support that he is to pay the bride price and then take her as his wife, however, verse 16 puts that choice upon the father of the virgin who can chose not to let her be taken as the man’s wife, but the man who seduced her must still pay a penalty for his sin and no restriction is placed upon him, or the virgin in regards to marriage.
Unfortunately the Church is plagued by the issue of divorce just as much as society in a whole.  Of course people will point to the issue of adultery as an acceptable cause of divorce as shown in 1 Corinthians 7, Matthew 5:31-31, and Matthew 19:3-9.  Although divorce is allowed it is not commanded.  Dr. Atkinson takes a view that many believe is more in-line with the heart of God. “However, taking the divine covenant as our guide, divorce is never obligatory, even the sin of sexual unfaithfulness can be an occasion for forgiveness and reconciliation.”[7]
In general I believe that marriage is not based off of sex.  Those who hold to a different position would use 1 Corinthians 6:16 their response.  I point out that fornication is a sin equal with all sins.  I then argue that if one is going to hold to a verse that is not in the context of marriage between a man and a woman, but instead as a picture of our relationship with Christ that we need to look at the whole teaching on marriage and a man or woman is bound by a choice of who they will marry as they are bound by a choice to be united with Christ.
In the issue of remarriage I think that the Word of God does cover this issue in great detail, and that those who divorce due to sexual sins in their marriage, people who are divorced from an unbeliever, and those who are widowed are all allowed in Scripture to remarry.
Marriage and divorce are issues of great importance.  The impact of divorce in society is very evident in how people relate to each other, and to God.  People should not enter into the covenant of marriage lightly, but with a heart of obedience to the LORD Jesus Christ, because marriage is the greatest picture of God’s relationship to His people.

Atkinson, David. "Divorce." In Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. 2nd ed, edited by Walter A. Elwell, 345.-48. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2001.

Granberg, Lars, and Jerry Root. "Theology of Marriage." In Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. 2nd ed, edited by Walter A. Elwell, 743-45. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2001.

Perkin, Hazel. "Marriage, Marriage Customs in Bible Times." In Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. 2nd ed, edited by Walter A. Elwell, 740-43. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2001.

[1] Genesis 2:24; Holman Christian Standard Bible
[2] Hazel Perkin, “Marriage, Marriage Customs in Bible Times,” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd ed., ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2001), 740-43.
[3] Lars Granberg and Jerry Root, “Theology of Marriage,” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd ed., ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2001), 743-45.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ibid
[6] Ibid
[7] David Atkinson, “Divorce,” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd ed., ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2001), 345.-48.

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