Friday, November 19, 2010

Biblical Theology of Creation - Part 3.

IV. “Created” - How?
1. By Divine Action - ברא
The universe was created by God’s exclusive divine action; no partners can be ascribed to God, not even matter.1 This contrasts the ancient near eastern tales of creation which occurs due to sexual procreation as well as pantheism, emanation, and immanence. Bara seems to indicate that God actually wanted to create and didn’t create out of necessity to him.

This concept that God “created the heavens and the earth” seems very important to the prophets, especially Isaiah’s “council of the gods.” Rather than necessarily emanating the world, God created it for his own glory. This glory is not only for the father, but also for the Son as “all things were created by him and for him.”2

Paul’s new creation is also by divine action since “no one seeks after God” and “that is set on the flesh … does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.”3 Thus for Paul the new creation is not a synergistic union between God and a partner, rather God recreated man by his grace and for his glory.4

2. By Divine Word - אמר
The world was also created by divine word.5 God simply spoke and there was light, he spoke and the grass grew. This sentiment is repeated in the psalms, where the psalmist, speaking of the love of God, exclaims the might of the LORD in creation. Who else has ever spoke and it came to be, commanded and all creation stood firm?6 Such implies that the word of God is absolutely powerful to fulfill all that it goes out to do.

In a similar fashion the new creation by the foolishness of the proclaimed gospel. It is not by the weapons of this world, but the divine word working in the hearts of men that they are recreated. The word will not return empty but accomplish that which God purposes and succeed in that which it has been sent for. Hebrews phrases it this way: “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.7

3. Dramatically and Aesthetically Joyful and Beautiful
This means that God took the initiative to create the world not because He had some extra stuff lying around but to share Himself with others. One might say that God created the world that creation could experience the joys of the divine love. Solomon tells us that God is a joyful craftsman, rejoicing in his inhabitant world, and that He has made it absolutely beautiful in its time.8 The psalmist sings that creation declares the glory of God and such glory is beautiful.9 Also we see a highly poetic structure in the genesis creation accounts.

Further the new creation is something that is intended to be beautiful, that God takes joy in. Nehemiah writes anticipating the fully revealed new creation that our not only is the joy of our redemption God’s but that joy is our strength that we partake in. With the victory won we rejoice in the Lord.10

V. “The heavens and the earth” - What?
1. Entire Material Universe
“The heavens and the earth” of Genesis 1:1 may refer to simply our galaxy, however it is more likely that this includes the entire material universe because of the parallel in John 1:1-3. Genesis 1:14 suggests that the lesser and greater lights might have been created “in the beginning” and not on the fourth day of creation. Rather on the fourth day they were given a purpose, which is to define the months and seasons.11 Psalm 104’s creation account supports this conclusion since there is no reference to the greater and lesser lights, however on the “fourth day” the moon marks the seasons.12 Creation culminates in God’s personal creation and planting of a garden for man.13

In the new creation scripture appears to teach that all of creation will be reborn. Paul wrote, “the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.”14 This new freedom approaches its climax with the new heavenly garden city of Jerusalem. Being very similar to Eden with the tree of life at the center giving life and healing. Rather than yielding one fruit it yields twelve. There is no sun but the city is eternally lit. This is the telos of all of scripture and creation.15

2. Nature of Creation
All of creation was made good. This includes matter, which stands opposed to the neo-platonic notions of Gnosticism and eastern religion. Thus even the physical world corresponds with the divine intent and is empowered to fulfill its divinely intended functions. God had a purpose for his world, from the lilies of the field, to the sparrows of the sky, to mankind. Man does however play a special role in the creation. Man was created in the image of God; with dominion over the world that we might guard and serve creation. Being created in God’s image we have his sense of moral character.16

Due to the fall of Genesis 3, the image of God is marred in man but not all together lost. Thus men are being conformed to the image of the perfect man, the image of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The new self is being put on that their minds might be “renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.”17 While men in the original creation had dominion over the earth the new man will be reign as king and priest over the earth, being already seated in the heavenly places with Christ.18

V. Conclusion
Creation is not just a one-time act for God, though his methods might change, he is constantly acting and recreating men in his image. In all things it is essential to remember that God is sovereign over creation, forming it and shaping it for his purposes according to his will. Perhaps the most difficult thing for many people to grasp is the simple words “In the beginning God,” because it puts God on a level entirely different than our own.

1) While some might note that the etymology of bara deals with cutting, during the creation account it is never with accusative of matter. - Return to text
2) Isaiah 43:7 cf. Colossians 1:16 - Return to text
3) Romans 3:11; 8:7 - Return to text
4) Romans 5:2 - Return to text
5) Genesis 1:3; John 1:3 - Return to text
6) Psalm 33:6,9 - Return to text
7) Hebrews 4:12 cf. 1 Corinthians 1: 18ff; 2 Corinthians 10:4-5; Isaiah 55:11 - Return to text
8) Proverbs 8:30-31 cf. Ecclesiastes 3:11 - Return to text
9) Psalm 19:1 cf. Psalm 48:2 - Return to text
10) Nehemiah 8:10; Psalm 20:5 cf. Romans 8:37 - Return to text
11) John Sailhammer, “Genesis” in The Expositor's Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1990), 33-34. - Return to text
12) Psalm 104:19 - Return to text
13) Genesis 2 - Return to text
14) Romans 8:21 - Return to text
15) Genesis 2 cf. Revelation 21-22 - Return to text
16) Genesis 1:26-27; 2:15 - Return to text
17) Colossians 3:10 - Return to text
18) Revelation 5:9-10; cf. Ephesians 2:6 - Return to text


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Biblical Theology of Creation - Part 2.

III. “God” - Who?
1. Character of God
The creation accounts emphasize the character of God as both transcendent and eminent. This accounts for the back to back creation stories in Genesis 1 and 2.

a) אלהים – Genesis 1
The general flow of Genesis 1 indicates that God is before all creation.1 God is not seen as engaging in specifics of creation but the universals. In verses 3-5 we see God creating time,2 then in verses 6-8 God creates the waters and the air. This pattern of general creation continues throughout Genesis 1. The term Elohim is used to express God as the transcendent creator of the universe, distinguishing his otherness from it. It has also been noted that this plural usage in the singular might be seen Trinitarianly, or simply that Elohim is the supreme being.3 Sometimes this is called the greatness of God.

God’s greatness is echoed elsewhere in scripture. God through Isaiah proclaims rhetoricly:
Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and marked off the heavens with a span, enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance?4
Further the Psalmist explains the that “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.”5

b) יהוה – Genesis 2
In Genesis 2 we see a second account of creation, unlike the first account. Here we see God taking a particular interest in the specifics of man and where man is to live. We see God planting a garden6 rather than simply speaking it into existence.7 Furthermore in contrast to Genesis 1 we now see the word YHWH being used of God.8 This is the personal covenantal name of God9 used throughout the Old Testament.10 This second rendition of creation brings the reader to grips with the eminence of God, interacting and caring for His creation.

God is relational; the first thing in all of creation that He says is not good is that man is alone and thus not in relationship. God remedies this problem as a great surgeon.11 The care of God in the garden and the specific detail a close and loving side to Him.

c) Consistency of Genesis 1 and 2
Some theologians seem to pit Genesis 1 against Genesis 2,12 however if such were the case the foundation for our whole doctrine of God would fall apart. If one takes the view of Genesis 1 alone they would see God only as Voltaire’s watchmaker and not from the beginning relational. If one takes Genesis 2 alone we may see God as a grandfather type in the sky, without ever seeing the majesty of God. The two stories are consistent as they bring the universal and the particular together.13 This is in contrast to many ancient gods who are either personal or infinite but only the Judeo-Christian God is both.14 We also see God’s character show up as one who is willing to die for sinners in order to bring about his new creation.15

2. God as Foundational
The Bible does not give any background for the creation or formulation of God rather it begins with a bold assertion that God exists.16 The writer of Hebrews picks up on this notion, “whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists.”17 The nature of such an account requires one to approach the text in faith. It also breaks with the ancient near east being monotheistic and not poly and pantheistic.18

This also breaks from the man centeredness of what most new creation stories entail. Jesus said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.”19 If new creation is a synonym for the entire process of salvation, then it is only by God’s active will that men are made new and not by their own fruition which is at such utter odds with the mindset of both the Pharisees of Christ’s day and the culture of our own.20

This is prophesied when Ezekiel writes, “And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” Here God is speaking about his restoration efforts in the new covenant, and he attributes the work of new creation to himself, and not to man in any way.21 Paul echoes this when he states that we are “God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works.”22

3. Trinity in Creation
All the members of the Trinity are both present and active during the creation of the world. God (the Father) and the Holy Spirit are explicitly presented in Genesis 1:1-2. There is also an allusion to the Trinity in Genesis 1:26, “let us make man in our image.” The grammar suggest that one being is actually saying this, therefore the distinctness of personalities, a plurality within the unanimity of being can be argued from here. However other interpretations suggest that the “us” are angels of some form or even other gods.23

In the New Testament Christ is the agent through which God creates the world. The most obvious parallel to Genesis 1:1-3 is John 1:1-3. Paul also picks up on this in Colossians 1:16-17 asserting that Christ is not only the creator God but also the sustainer God.

Furthermore we see Trinitarian formulas tied with the new creation, in many of Paul’s letters. In Galatians Paul wrote that it is the Father who sends the Son, gives the Spirit to redeem and recreate sinners.24 The classical view of the atonement, which brings salvation, echoes these verses, in that the Father gives the Son, the Son buys the saints, and the Holy Spirit indwells them.25

1) This idea is echoed in places such as Isaiah 45:18 - Return to text
2) While specific time references are not used Earthly creations tell time by the movements of the sun and the stars. - Return to text
3) BDB, s.v. “430”, 43. - Return to text
4) Isaiah 40:12, All Citations ESV unless otherwise stated. - Return to text
5) Psalm 90:2 - Return to text
6) Genesis 2:8 - Return to text
7) Genesis 1:11 - Return to text
8) LORD God statements beginning in Genesis 2:4 - Return to text
9) BDB, s.w. “3068-9”, 217-218. - Return to text
10) Genesis 15, 17, Exodus 3, etc. - Return to text
11) Genesis 2:20-2 - Return to text
12) This is mostly liberal scholarship though one theologian of note might be Dr. Michael Welker of the University of Munster, as seen in his article: Michael Welker, “What Is Creation? Rereading Genesis 1 and 2”, Theology Today 48/1 [1991]: 56-71. - Return to text
13) R.Alter, The Art of Biblical Narrative (New York: Basic Books, 1981), 141-217. - Return to text
14) The pantheon of the Canaanites and the unmoved mover of Aristotle express this point, the former being personal but not infinite, the latter being infinite but not personal. - Return to text
15) Romans 5:7-8 - Return to text
16) Genesis 1:1 - Return to text
17) Hebrews 11:6 - Return to text
18) Ancient myths such as Enuma Elish contain many gods who are part of the creation. - Return to text
19) John 6:44 - Return to text
20) John 5-6 - Return to text
21) Ezekiel 36:25-8 - Return to text
22) Ephesians 2:10 - Return to text
23) The position of other gods is defended mostly by Dr. Michael S. Heiser of where much of his work is available. - Return to text
24) Galatians 4:4-6 cf 2 Thessalonians 2:13-15 - Return to text
25) Westminster Confession of Faith, xvii, 1. - Return to text

...To Be Continued...

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Biblical Theology of Creation - Part 1.

A biblical theology of creation often encompasses only the process by which God created the world. While such studies are important they often miss a fundamental thought of New Testament, that is New Creation. A biblical theology of creation, and new creation, can be expressed in the fundamental of Genesis 1:1. This provides the framework of “when”, “who”, “how”, and “what” that are dealt with in creation and new creation.

II. “In the beginning” - When?
1. Absolute Beginning?
There are two major positions when it comes to if this is an absolute beginning or not. This argument springs from the translation of בראשית. The first position translates this word as an independent clause or “In the beginning God created...”1 The second position translates this word as a dependent clause or “When God began to create…” 2
The implications of these two different translations is of great importance, insomuch that being mistaken here will take effect not only creation but also God.

a. Independent Clause
The independent clause implies that creation is ex nihilo, that God is before matter and creates the heavens, earth, darkness, deep, and waters. Thus the beginning spoken of is the absolute beginning of time and space. This is the traditional view of creation. Support for this position includes all ancient translations of the text, the grammar and syntax of the text,3 the styalistic structure of Genesis 1,4 and the obvious parallel in John 1:1-3. This view leaves us with a theology of the transcendence of God. He is Lord over all that is not He, since no partners can be ascribed to Him.

b. Dependent Clause
This view is based mainly on a theory that Moses, or the writer of Genesis5 borrowed from neighboring cultures when writing the creation account in Genesis. Since most other ancient near eastern creation accounts start “when on high” an independent clause in Genesis 1:1 would make the Biblical account absolutely unique when compared to other ancient views of creation.6

c. Conclusion
The evidence leads to the affirmation of the historical view of creation unless one is willing to set the standard for biblical interpretation by ancient parallels to scripture. However holding such a position the biblical writ would amount to nothing more than a slightly demythologized version of ancient theologies and philosophies. Thus the stark contrast against the cynical view of reality and eternal view of matter supports the independent case against unbelievers who suppress the truth about God.7

2. Literal Beginning?
One might not think this is important after establishing that creation was an absolute beginning; however without the literal beginning there is no literal end. Also while the Doctrine of God was largely dependent upon the absolute beginning, the doctrines of man, sin, salvation, judgment, and the Sabbath all hinge upon the understanding of the literalness of the beginning. The use of תולדות (generations) in Genesis 2:4 seems to indicate that the author intended the creation account to be just as literal as any other narrative in Genesis. Further it would appear that the historicity of an event is often underscored by a poetic nature. Thus most historic accounts in Hebrew thought are filled with theological implications.8

Furthermore the usage of “morning and evening” tends to lead us to believe that this creation took place in seven literal days. Also while the word יום (day) can be used to express and extended period (e.g. Genesis 2:4) when ever it is used with an ordinal number it is always a literal twenty four hour day, also when it is plural it is always literal.9

Additionally if these days were not literal then the Sabbath law of Exodus 20:8-11 would make little sense at all. Here we find Moses equating the days of the of the work week with the days of creation, if the seven day creation were simply figurative periods or epochs then such an exhortation would seem out of place. Also the New Testament writers seem to affirm a literal history of Genesis.10

Finally some who hold to a non-literal position submit that Genesis 1:1-2:3 is simply a mythology. Others seem to think of it as poetry, while still other regard it as symbolism or theology.11 The only consistency among these is that Genesis 1:1-2:3 cannot be literal. Now those who hold to a literal creation do not assume that it cannot be literal, symbolic, poetic, and theological. In fact the more one studies the text the more they will be inclined to believe that it is indeed all of these things.

Some have suggested that verse 1 and verse 2ff are two different acts of creation. This is known as the “Active Gap” or “ruin-restoration” theory. The theory essentially assumes that God had a first act of creation in verse 1. Then for billions of years creation was perfect. Then when Satan fell from heaven (Luke 10:18) sin entered the universe. God judged the rebellion and sent the creation into the chaos of verse 2, “the earth became without form and void.” This brought about a second act of creation starting in verse 3. Unfortunately the grammar of verse two contains three circumstance noun clauses that describe a state and not a sequence, therefore they must be translated “was” and not “became.”12

The more traditional view sees a unity between verses 1 and 2. Verse 1 declares God’s general creation out of nothing of the original matter that is called heaven and earth, thus their absolute beginning. Verse 2 then clarifies that when the earth was first created it was in a state of being unformed and empty.13 Finally verses 3-2:3 describe God’s forming the unformed and filling the empty matter.14 There are two variations of this view, the first, referred to as the “no gap” interpretation sees verses 1-3 as the first day. The second sees verses 1-2 chronologically separated by a gap of some amount of time from the first day described in verse 3. This is usually called the “passive gap” interpretation. The author will assume the passive gap interpretation though both views are solidly within orthodoxy and fit the grammar of the text as it is ambiguous in this matter.

3. Recent Beginning?
The Genealogies of Genesis 5 and 11 are very unique and are unlike all other genealogies in the Bible. Unlike other genealogies these have unique features that seem to indicate a specific chronological time to make it clear that there are no gaps between generations. The form is very particular15 in that its interlocking features suggest that there cannot be generational gaps, rather there is a complete chronological sequence from Adam to Abram via direct biological fathers and sons. This evidence suggests a recent beginning to the earth of around 6,000 years ago.16

Creation culminates itself in the new creation of the New Testament. Paul indicates that this creation process was at least planned for from before the foundation of the world.17 This creation started with Christ at his resurrection and begins in the believer at their conversion.18 Thus new creation is littered with the already not yet tension of the New Testament where the new creation is constantly being formed in the image of Christ, yet it is already raised with Christ and seated in heaven. 19

1) As seen in the King James Version (KJV), Revised Standard Version (RSV), New International Version (NIV), English Standard Version (ESV), Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB). - Return to text
2) As seen in the New Jerusalem Bible (NJB), New American Bible (NAB), New English Bible (NEB), Anchor Bible Project (ABP). - Return to text
3) Millard J. Erickson , “God’s Originating Work: Creation,” in Christian Theology: Second Edition [Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2007], 394-396. - Return to text
4) Charles E. Hummel, “Interpreting Genesis One,” Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation 38.3 [1986]: 178. - Return to text
5) JEDP and Tablet theories do not attribute authorship of Genesis to Moses; this however is moot at this juncture since the underlying presupposition is that “all scripture is God breathed.” - Return to text
6) See Plato’s Tiamus, the Babylonian Enuma Elish, et cetera. - Return to text
7) Romans 1:18 - Return to text
8) R.M. Davidson, “In the Beginning: How to Interpret Genesis 1”, Dialogue: An International Journal of Faith, Thought, and Action 6/3 [1994]: 9-11. - Return to text
9) The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. (Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 2006) s.v. “3117”, 398-401. (BDB henceforth) - Return to text
10) While very reference the seven day creation specifically they do reference the Sabbath (Mark 2:27, Matthew 12:28, Hebrews 4:4,9), the creation of Man (Mark 10:7, 1 Corinthians 6:16, 11:8-9,12) , and the Flood of Noah (Matthew 24:37-38, Hebrews 11:7, 1 Peter 3:20, 2 Peter 2:5 - Return to text
11) Scofield Reference Notes: Genesis 1:2 - - Return to text
12) H.F.W. Gesenius, Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 454. - Return to text
13) This lends to the poetic structure as תהו andובהו rhyme in Hebrew. - Return to text
14) Hummel, Interpreting Genesis One, 179. - Return to text
15) Form: patriarch lived x years and begat a specific son; after he begat that specific son he lived y more years begetting sons and daughters; all of the years of patriarch were z years. - Return to text
16) This of number can vary by 1,000 years depending on the text being used of the difference in the dates. However for our purposes 1,000 years really does not matter since even a 10,000 year old earth is still a young earth. - Return to text
17) Ephesians 1:4 - Return to text
18) Colossians 1:15; 18; 2 Corinthians 5:17 - Return to text
19) Romans 8:29; Ephesians 2:6 - Return to text

...To Be Continued...

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Legacy of the Reformers on Courtship, Engagement and Marriage - Part II

John Calvin: The Making of a Covenant.
Calvin’s basic understanding of marriage as is covenant. The concept of covenant has long been taught in western Christendom and Calvin applied this structure to the contractual obligations of marriage. Using Malachi 2:13-16, he insisted that the relationship of a covenant was not simply on the vertical plane between God and man but also on the horizontal relationships between husband and wife. As God draws the elect into covenant with him, he also draws man and wife into covenant with one another, by their mutual consent as well as through other regulations, or as Calvin put it:
But in order to press the matter more on the priests, he calls their attention to the fact that God is the founder of marriage. Testified has Jehovah, he says, between thee and thy wife… Hence Solomon, in Proverbs 2:17, calls marriage the covenant of God, for it is superior to all human contracts. So also Malachi declares, that God is as it were the stipulator, who by his authority joins the man to the woman, and sanctions the alliance: God then has testified between thee and thy wife, as though he had said, "Thou hast violated not only all human laws, but also the compact which God himself has consecrated, and which ought justly to be deemed more sacred than all other compacts: as then God has testified between thee and thy wife, and thou now deceivest her, how darest thou to come to the altar? and how canst thou think that God will be pleased with thy sacrifices or regard thy oblations?"
Unlike Rome and Luther, Calvin saw some separation of the Church and the State as a biblical and good thing, which informed his theology of marriage. Marriage was not a divine institution but the social one. Calvin, like Luther did not see a sacramental purpose in marriage rather it served the function of procreation as well as a way to build and strengthen love between husband and wife. Celibacy was the exception not the rule, and that it was an equal calling as marriage, not more, nor less.

Calvin also sought the consent of both parties involved in the marriage, which was radically different from the Popish tradition which only required permission and consent of the parents. Though Calvin wished for consent from both the parents and the lovers, he did not require parental sanction. He did however believe these brash marriages to be ill advised. Calvin drew on the story of Caleb as justification for this view, since it was Caleb who held his daughter out as a prize without her consent. This was despicable in the Frenchman’s eyes.

Calvin however was not without his own brand of impediments and he even agreed with Rome on many of them. In his 1546 Marriage Ordinance he declared that marriages of young people were null and void, that is women under the age of 18 and men under the age of 20, though the age of consent with parental approval may have been younger than that.

Another barrier Calvin set up was one of mental ability or inability. While not a clause as we might assume in our modern times, this allowed for the annulment of an engagement contract by those who were drunk or had their minds temporally impaired. There is no record of Calvin ever actually annulling a marriage or engagement for the reason of mental deficiency as defined in the twenty-first century.

A third impediment was against that of polygamy or even previous engagement. In the case of previous engagement this was not another engagement that had been annulled, but one that was current. If such a contract were found then the latter would be annulled. Other than this Calvin wrote little on the subject, however when it came to polygamy Calvin wrote extensively. This is probably because the Anabaptists and Lutherans of the day began to practice it and delve into a theology allowing it. Most sources seem to generally agree that the theologians were drawing on the examples of Old Testament patriarchs and kings. Calvin thought that men ought not to follow the example of these heroes of the faith in this manner because God created monogamy as part of the order of creation. The basis of his argument comes from Genesis 2:24 where God institutes marriage as a holy ordinance condemning polygamy with the imperative “the two shall become one flesh.”

To marry more than one wife was not simply to mock God but also to court trouble. Calvin drew upon the patriarchs showing that they lived in disorder and their lives were filled with strife and hostility. Further that not only was the marriages horrific on the husband but also upon the wives paying special attention to Leah and Rachel, two sisters who hated each other and competed with each other for their husbands love.

Another impediment Geneva set up was the fitness for marriage, that is a barrier against one who lacks virginity, is sexually incapable, contagion, or disparity in age. For Calvin, one’s virginity was not necessarily essential for marriage. If one presumed to be a virgin and was found to have lied about this to their potential spouse, on this Calvin did not discriminate. This was not the same as premarital sex between the two, which Calvin also spoke harshly against, but rather this was deemed premarital adultery, which Calvin thought desecrated the body and soul of the adulterer.

The 1546 Marriage Ordinance restricted marriage to “capable persons.” Those who were deemed incapable were those unable to produce children for any number of reasons including emasculation, impotence, permanent injury to genitals, etc, were seen as "incapable." The ordinance called for the annulment of all such marriages and by implication engagements. Calvin deemed all those with such disabilities as eunuchs and drawing from the words of Christ in Matthew 19:11-12 inferred that they were not men (or women) and were not fit for marriage. Thus, all marriages involving such were automatically annulled.

Those with incurable diseases, especially contagious ones, were also not allowed to enter into marriage in Geneva. That being said if one were to contract a disease that were not contagious the spouse was not allowed to annul the marriage or abandon their partner. For Calvin marriage was “in sickness and in health” as the saying goes. Therefore, it was only engagements which were annulled. However, if disease was contracted during the marriage that threatened the safety of the spouse or children, separation was allowed but not annulment or divorce.

As for those whose ages were drastically different and seeking an engagement and marriage, Calvin often saw it as a lust after the flesh and not something fit for the church of God. Calvin was so vehement about this that he risked losing his life-long friendship with William Farel, when he sought to marry a girl four decades his junior. Calvin sought to find a way to automatically annul this engagement, which took quite a toll.

On the taboo subject of incest Calvin also weighed in. However on this subject he threw his lot in with Luther, mostly. Taking a more “protestant” view of incest, and limiting the degrees of separation to those specified in the biblical write, (e.g. Leviticus 18, plus three, prohibiting marriages between fathers and daughters, uncles and nieces, and first cousins.) Geneva was stricter, still calling for prohibitions against not simply a son’s widow, but a grandson’s, a nephew, and a grandnephew’s. Likewise it paralleled this with a by forbidding a woman to engage her daughter’s, granddaughter’s, niece’s, or grand niece’s widower. Further, fathers and mothers were not allowed to have relationships with their step children. Calvin once again drew upon biblical stories, mainly that of Moses who delivered the Law, including the law which forbade incest, though He himself was a product of an incestuous relationship.

Calvin’s final impediment was that of interreligious marriage. The Protestant ought not to marry a Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Jew, Muslim, Pagan, or unbeliever. However if one found that they were married to a member of these other faiths they ought to remain married. This position comes from the biblical passages of 2 Corinthians 6:14 and 1 Corinthians 7:12-16.

Calvin breaks this into a before and after picture of marriage. In the former passage he says Christians are to do everything they can not to marry one who is not a Christian. Further, they ought to seek to marry pious Christians. On the flip side though he sees those who have already entered into an interreligious marriage as required to stay within it, because a zealous, pious Christian will sanctify the marriage far more than the unbeliever will disgrace it.

For Calvin the joining of opposites seemed to glorify God in many ways. The husband, with the “helpmeet” of his wife, was appointed to look up to God in reverence. The two would complete each other, steering one another from sin, preserving integrity, build and fortify love, sanctify and edify the members so long as the remained in the faith.

Marriage in American Evangelicalism
We believe the bible not the traditions of men. Again and again we hear this refrain, but do those who espouse it actually believe what they are saying? Perhaps if they did there wouldn’t be such a high divorce rate, just over 45%, among Americans and 32% amongst professing Americans Evangelicals. It is time that we sought to develop a theology of engagement and marriage that resembles any of our forerunners. Pulling from the traditions of the Catholic, Lutheran, and Reformed, as well as other traditions, such as the Anglican or pietistic and formulate a proper theology of marriage rather than a theology where marriage is very easily annulled almost any reason.

This theology of marriage would include a covenantal setting between the members as well as the approval of their pastor. Further unlike Luther an ample courtship ought to be required. Much of the modern divorce mess is because the two people do not know one another nor do they understand the gravity of the covenant. Restoring the understanding that their marriage is not about their happiness but God’s glory is vital to the success of that marriage. This alone will allow frustrated husbands to love their wives. It will also allow those upset wives to respect their husbands.

A final improvement on the marriage system in the American Church would be an increased difficulty to divorce. The any rhyme or reason annulment system in place currently does not take to heart the notion of a Covenant between man, wife, and God. If a contemplative period were required I believe that the divorce statistics would drop dramatically in America.


Friday, November 12, 2010

The Legacy of the Reformers on Courtship, Engagement and Marriage - Part I

The Western Epidemic.
Western civilization owes much of its culture, values, and advancements to the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century. However what affect, if any, did this movement have upon the thought of sexuality and gender roles? How did Luther’s priesthood of the believer affect the home life and what effect did Calvin’s semi-theocratic Geneva have upon a culture breaking away from years of sexual renunciation? While not a central or even a tertiary tenet of the Reformation, the sexual ethics and attitude in the west owe much of their freedoms to the Reformers, their legacy is as inescapable in the history of sex as it is in the history of theology.

We believe the bible not the traditions of men. This is and other similar sayings are often the cry of western evangelicals who are ignorant of their history, from the King James Version Onlyists to Baptist perpetuity movement to the anti-intellectualism prevalent in many denominations. Courtship, engagement and marriage are no exception to the rule. Our tradition shapes our thought even in this aspect of theology. However because of our “tradition-less” tradition we have lost a sense of where we come from and even why it might be that we ought to return at least portions of our history unto our thought and theology about marriage.

Canon Law: From Whence We Came.
The canon law of the Catholic Tradition had a great affect on the reformers in this specific area of theology. Foremost the Catholic Church distinguished between an engagement contract and a marriage contract, the former being much easier to annul than the latter. The engagement contract often had many clauses and could be added to often and for many reasons, such as job security, parental conceit, and time limits. Furthermore there were fourteen main reasons that the engagement might be annulled, including youth of the members, polygamy, incest (including sisters of your brothers wife and spiritual sponsorship), disease or deformity, physical desertion (consisting of two years or more), failure to meet the terms of the contract, expiration of the contract, cruelty, fornication, special affinity (a more serious form of fornication), entry into the clergy, entry into a religious order, or mutual consent.

Clearly it seems rather simple to annul, engage, and it was also rather simple to consummate a marriage. A couple did not need the blessing of a priest or patristic or even a public ceremony if an engagement contract had been accepted. A marriage was considered consummated if the engaged couple acted out their marital relations. Though for two who were not engaged this would have been considered premarital sex, and would fall under the same punishment as fornication. Of course, a woman could escape the marriage if she could show that her fiancé raped her.

Once a marriage had been consummated it was far more difficult to annul. Many of them were simply retroactive versions of the engagement impediments. The first was the ability of either of the parties to choose to enter into the marriage. If one of the parties was shown to have entered the marriage under compulsion of sort then the marriage could be annulled. The second defined if either the members could actually have given their consent. If one of the members was not a baptized member of the Catholic Church they could not enter into the sacrament of marriage. The third impediment dealt with the sanctity of marriage, this included the use of contraception or promiscuity among either partner. The final impediment forbade bigamy and polygamy in all forms. This included any prior marriages, which were not annulled by the previous spouse’s death.

Martin Luther: The Beginning of Reform.
Martin Luther owes much of his theology of marriage to the Canon Law and rightly so as he was an Augustinian Monk who sought, not to break from the church, but reform it to scripture. He brought many of the same impediments to marriage, though he did not list as many for the contracts of engagement. He insisted on a less separation of incest moving out of the context from four degrees of blood separation to only forbidding those listed in Leviticus 18:6-13. He also denounced the further use of incest which forbade marriage to a brother’s wife’s sister or the like, seeing this as neither commanded nor forbidden by scripture. Further Luther could not understand why anyone who was baptized by another could not be married to him or her nor his or her son or daughter? If all were baptized into the death of Christ then were they not all spiritual sisters or brothers by the common baptism? Thus he rejected this popish stipulation upon marriage:
So away with this foolishness; take as your spouse whomsoever you please, whether it be godparent, godchild, or the daughter or sister of a sponsor, or whoever it may be, and disregard these artificial, money-seeking impediments. If you are not prevented from marrying a girl by the fact that she is a Christian, then do not let yourself be prevented by the fact that you baptised her, taught her, or acted as her sponsor.
Luther further saw no merit in the premise that one might not be able to marry their adopted children or non-believers, criminals, those who had at one time taken a vow, such as nuns or monks, servants, priests, the formally engaged, et cetera. Perhaps the most interesting objection is to those who are engaged to one and marry another, because he takes a relative view of this marriage. In his opinion the man should stay with the first girl if at all possible, however, he cannot forbid the man from accepting the latter as his true wife and rejecting the former engagement.

Luther also simplified divorce, stating that adultery was the main grounds for divorce in staunch opposition to the Canon Law of the Catholic Church. He also taught that the state ought to make adultery a capital offense as it was during the theocracy administered by Moses. His other allotment for divorce was the failure to fulfill the marital duties. This could consist of many things, including marital relations, provision, and child rearing.

Luther thought that marriage ought to be for the glory of God and the sanctification of the believer however not sacramental as the Catholic Church held. Luther rejected the notion that marriage was simply for procreation and a form of lust control. While he did see childbearing as a main tenet of marriage he also submits that “he who recognizes the estate of marriage will find therein delight, love, and joy without end.” Thus, to Luther marriage is a holy institution and ordinance. Where the Roman Church saw marriage as what was often bestowed upon those who could not endure celibacy, Luther saw it as a place in which to display the glory of God.

...To Be Continued...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Dangerous Christians...and other Scare Words!!! - Part 1

StumbleUpon is a great tool to find useless information online. However the other day when stumbling across the internet I came across this article on "The Guardian." The title, Some Things Children Should Not be Taught, amused me. Here we are at a liberal website where the only heresy seems to be intolerance being itself intolerant. Ironic how that works. So I read Thomas Prosser's article fully expecting to find something about how teaching children Christianity amounts to their intellectual anathema. I did find that however I found something even more interesting. Thomas writes:
Such figures should make the antennae of secularists twitch, for they suggest that taking on religious faith is often done by minors who are emotionally and intellectually vulnerable to the claims of adult religious authorities.
Did you catch that, Mr. Prosser is suggesting that faith is a result of emotional and intellectual vulnerability. I agree.

Now before you get the stake light the fires allow me to elaborate. Would a Christian have a problem with the following statement:
Such figures should make the antennae of Evangelicals twitch, for they suggest that taking on atheistic prospective is often done by minors who are emotionally and intellectually vulnerable to the claims of adult secular authorities.
Notice anything? Different statistics, same argument. This is the same argument about Christian children turning to atheism that is being used by Ken Ham of Ken argues that the decision is made by middle school concerning how trustworthy the bible is, and the kids are being told it is not trustworthy five days a week and it is on average one or two. He then argues that this decision directly relates to why Christian Children loose their faith in college, perhaps even at Christian schools. But I digress.

My point is that on both fronts, the religious and secular, faith in either, autonomous human reason and its doctrine, or the Bible and its doctrine, is established very early and when children are emotionally and intellectually vulnerable. I do have one question for Mr. Prosser and Mr. Ham, intellectually speaking for what reason ought we not teach, form, and inform a child's emotions and intellect based upon Christan or Secular ideas respectively? I can answer this from the Christian prospective however I have yet to find a persuasive reason to not teach Christian ideas, such as the final judgment, from a secular prospective. Indeed most is empty rhetoric.

... To Be Continued...

The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. - The Apostle Paul