Thursday, September 29, 2005

What God has joined together

Ben Witherington (top class scholar) has just posted on what Jesus and Paul have to say about Marriage. He thinks that the NT era means that we are no longer required to 'Be fruitful and multiply', at least in the same way as Adam did. Which is intriguing. But he has some other thoughts as well, including:

Not all persons who get married in the church building have been "joined together by God". Think about it. In the first century A.D. when Jesus and Paul were speaking there were no church buildings, there were no certificates of marriage that were just like modern ones, and weddings, at least in early Judaism, did not require ordained rabbis to solemnize them. What then made a marriage a Biblical marriage if it wasn't the officiants, the piece of paper, or the locale where it transpired? The answer is that God led two people to be together, they made vows and promises in the presence of God and human witnesses and they agreed to 'plight their troth' to one another. That's it.

In fact, I would stress that a lot of Christian persons have raced into marriage ceremonies without really seeking out the spiritual basis for what they are doing, without really asking, Is God leading us together? Even Christians are capable of coupling themselves together, just as non-Christians do, without the permission, guidance, or blessing of God. If God has not joined them together, or if they are not prepared to submit their relationship to God after the fact and beseech God so he will indeed join and bless their togetherness, then they do not meet either the pre-requisites for what Jesus and Paul say about marriage, or the pre-requisites for what they say about divorce.

Now I don't know about his application to today, but I have never really thought through in what way the married are 'joined together by God'. I have always assumed that it is because men and women were created to be 'joined together', so if they do get married they are automatically joined together by God. I may be wrong though, but I don't see any biblical justification for Ben Witherington's own idea in the two NT texts using this terminology.

On the subject of what constituted marriage in biblical times, I am no scholar but I always found 1 Corinthians 6:16 ('Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, "The two will become one flesh."') thought-provoking. It uses the phrase 'one flesh' which is used with both the 'God has joined together' passages. Sex it would seem is important to God, because it means quite a lot.

I am hesitant to post this post as I am not in the least qualified, being 100% single, and having not even read I Kissed Dating Goodbye! But I don't think it can do too much harm, although feel free to correct me.


At 10:14 pm, Blogger J's Girlfriend said...

I always thought that God doesn't really care too much about the ceremony; imagine if you were shipwrecked on an island with your loved one but no priest; I'm sure He would appreciate your commitment to your partner in the absence of a church.

Back when the Bible was written, fidelity and marriage was a lot more important to the structure of society, as a single mother might have few means of supporting herself or her children.

I think God just wants us to love each other and be true to him and ourselves. The whole ceremony thing is probably just an invention spiralled out of control by people who want to be powerful or make money....

Then again, my faith is probably not as firm as yours so who am I to say. The bible also says we shouldn't eat creatures with more than six legs as far as I know, but I don't think God really cares if I have the odd prawn. Feedback appreciated; I really wish I had more direction in my faith.

At 11:28 pm, Blogger Dave K said...

You are right that God doesn't care about the ceremony in itself, but rather about intentions and actions.

I also think you are right that 'when the Bible was written, fidelity and marriage was a lot more important to the structure of society' although I have two buts...

1. Although it is less important now that doesn't mean it is unimportant.
2. I suppose the Christian perspective means that the structure of society is not our only concern, rather reflecting the glory of our Father is. And the bible regularly ties in our relationships to this purpose.

Having worked in a hotel for a long time which involves serving lots of weddings, I can see how the money-making urge has created much of what people think a marriage day includes. Similarly I can see that (especially in the past) it has been used by some as an instrument of power. Having said that though, I have attended some really beautiful, and moving weddings.

You said: I think God just wants us to love each other and be true to him and ourselves.

Which I agree with...I think! It partly depends what you mean by 'just'. Also being 'true to ourselves' can mean either being true to the original design and purpose of our loving creator and redeemer, or putting our own desires above everything else. I hope you meant the first of those, not least because in the end that is the only way our desires will be really fulfilled.

You said: my faith is probably not as firm as yours so who am I to say

First off, who knows! You only see me as I want you to see me as this is the internet.
Secondly, every day my faith falters, especially if you understand ‘faith’ to mean more than belief but ‘trust’ as well. True, today (although I have had my bad days and months) I am confident in the existence of God and Jesus, but so are the demons, but today I also don’t love that truth as I ought. Thankfully I am loved despite all this.
Thirdly, our weak faith is something that can be strengthened by the Holy Spirit’s indwelling of our heart, so it is not something to accept and then move on, it is something to struggle against in prayer to our Father who will listen. Thank God.

You are not the first to wonder about whether we should ‘eat creatures with more than six legs’! However, Jesus, and his apostles, were the ones who revoked the law, so it is biblical to eat creatures with more than six legs! This may seem like a contradiction, but I think it comes from the fact that the bible was written over a large period of time. Before the Holy Spirit was indwelling the whole people of God, and changing their lives, God wanted to distinguish his own people, from those who hated him. So for this earlier time God had different laws to now to achieve this – like not eating prawns. It may seem strange but I think that is at least part of the explanation. Not that I’ve got it all sewn together as my comment on the ‘be fruitful and multiply’ command demonstrated. I try and trust God has it all sewn together though!

Finally at the end of a really long comment, if you want more direction in your faith, I think you can get it.

The bible is there for you, and though bits are strange it is how God has chosen to speak to us, and he has lots to say which we need to hear. Also he has commissioned a host of teachers to explain and apply his message to us. Is there a church you go to where you listen to these teachers and meet others with the same God as yourself? If so milk it!

If I have missed the point of your comment, please tell me and I’ll have another shot.

At 10:38 am, Blogger Dave K said...

Having just read the entire content of your blog, I am reminded again of how my style of writing is sometimes ridiculously analytical. I suppose it comes from being a Maths graduate. Sadly the only other way I know to write resembles a scattergun...

I wish I could get write with your flow.


I also can't help wondering how you came across my blog, moving as it does in a very small, and very different circle to yours.

Finally I also can't help feeling that I am the most unqualified person in the world to be asking for thoughts on God and relationships.

PS I also appreciate feedback.


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