Monday, December 3, 2012

Modern Marriage and Modern Theology

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. [Ephesians 5:22-27] 
In the course of my upcoming marriage, I've been doing some thinking about how society perceives marriage, and the similarities we have to our concept of God and our interaction with God.
  1. The bride and groom choose one another. In Christ's time, the bride was chosen by the father of the groom. Now, I'm not proposing we go back to arranged marriages, or that women shouldn't be allowed to choose their husbands, but this difference leads into the realm of theology as well. With Semi-Pelagianism (and at times rank Pelagianism) infecting the church and Christian evangelizing movements, the idea of God's calling (whether you want to go at it from effectual grace or prevenient grace) is left out. Indeed, many are outright horrified by the idea. To them, nothing is more offensive to them than the words of Christ to the disciples, when he said, "You did not choose me, but I chose you" (John 15:16a). Instead we desire a Savior that we can play "hard to get" with, and whom we can choose when we personally feel we are good and ready. 
  2. So much focus is on the bride. Every notice how everything involves the bride these days? The bride makes the final call on everything, most of the decisions regarding the wedding are made by the bride (or her family), and on the day of ceremonies, everyone is focused on the bride. What is considered one of the most climactic moments of the wedding is not when the groom appears, but when the bride appears. Everyone is focused on how lovely her dress is, how beautiful she looks, how happy she is, etc. How unfortunate this circumstance is in the divine marriage as well: so much emphasis is placed on the church itself (specifically, it's members). People want a flashy praise band, smoke machines, dirty jokes during the sermon, and generally want all the focus to be on them. It's not about Christ, it's all about them, and what Jesus can do for them (that is, in an earthly sense). People as a whole desire Christianity to be about them and what they want - Christ just needs to stand up there in the tux and passively go with the flow.
  3. There are no specific roles. In this day and age, many consider it extremely sexist to suggest that, in a marriage, a husband plays a significant role particular to him, as does the wife. Here I have to be careful, as many, upon hearing about marriage roles, jump to the extreme of a man on a couch watching football and yelling to his wife, "GIMME A BEER!" However, as Paul explained the verses cited above, there are distinct roles between the husband and wife, and they are similar to Christ and the church. That is, the wife submits to the leadership of husband, as the church submits to the leadership of Christ, and husbands nurture and edify their wives, just as Christ nurtures and edifies the church. However, many today desire far more passive men who become in essence walking doormats. Therefore, not only do we expect a passive groom, but we expect that passive groom to be a passive husband the day after the wedding. In the same fashion, many today desire Christ to be a passive groom in the divine marriage between himself and the church: we don't want a Messiah who will condemn some to hell; we don't want a Messiah who gives us a guide on how to discern the morality of our lives; we don't want a Messiah that tells us the sins we love to do, or what sins our friends do, are wrong; bottom line, we don't want a Messiah to whom we should submit. Rather, we want the Messiah to submit to us
  4. Loyalty to one another is minimized. In college I used to hear guys with girlfriends (or even wives) say, "Just because you're on a diet doesn't mean you can't look at the menu." The idea is that, so long as you aren't doing anything physical, it's perfectly fine to look at and lust after other women. Some would probably even say emotional affairs or flirting is all right, so long as it doesn't lead anywhere physical. To the Christian worldview, this is completely false: Christ clarified to us that looking at a woman with lust made one guilty of the act of adultery, as if they had performed it (Matt 5:27-28). Many today - even many so-called Christians - therefore desire a sort of "permissible adultery." For those in the church, this extends to the realm of loyalty to Christ. Why can't we take a gander at New Age theology? Why can't we make worldly philosophy even more important than studying scripture? Why can't we place our favorite pastor on equal with Christ's authority? Why can't we listen to a heretical teacher so long as he says "Jesus" a few times? The bride's loyalty to the groom is not seen as highly important...indeed, she can toy around with other suitors as much as she wants.