Theology of Marriage
- What is God's intention for marriage?
- Isn't divorce just as prevalent in the Church as it is in society?
- Isn't gender just a social construct, and aren't men and women interchangeable in marriage?
- Why should Christians care about the institution of marriage?
What is God's intention for marriage?
Then the LORD God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him." Gen 2:18 (ESV) Just as the Triune God dwells in eternal community with himself, so too he created mankind to live in community. This community was first expressed in the marital relationship of Adam and Eve. God designed marriage as a covenantal relationship that reflects his nature to the world (expressed in the unity of both the masculine and the feminine) and as a way to complete or to cover the weaknesses of each gender. God also designed marriage for our enjoyment, as a means to make us holy (so explains Gary Thomas in Sacred Marriage) and as the vehicle by which the human race is continued through child-bearing. In the New Testament, we see another layer added: marriage is a representation of Christ's loving relationship with the Church (Ephesians 5:22-33).
Isn't divorce just as prevalent in the Church as it is in society?
Divorce in the church is far too prevalent, which is why so many ministries exist to strengthen marriage. However, it is a common misconception that divorce occurs as frequently in the church as it is in the culture. In reality, couples that regularly attend church services and are intentional in practicing their faith have significantly stronger marriages and are less likely to divorce. Professor Bradley Wright, sociologist at the University of Connecticut, explains from his analysis of people who identify as Christians but rarely attend church services, that 60 percent of these have been divorced. By contrast, of those who attend church services regularly, only 38 percent have been divorced. Similarly, W. Bradford Wilcox, sociologist at the University of Virginia, has found that "active conservative Protestants" who regularly attend worship services are 35 percent less likely to divorce compared to those who have no affiliation. Nominally attending conservative Protestants are 20 percent more likely to divorce compared to secular Americans. (For additional reading, see: http://guyonfamily.com/2011/04/27/the-christian-divorce-rate-myth-what-youve-heard-is-wrong/)
Isn't gender just a social construct, and aren't men and women interchangeable in marriage?
Far from minimizing distinctions between the genders, the Bible insists upon them. The biological, physiological, emotional and spiritual differences between men and woman are God's design and gift to us. According to Renato Sabbatini, Ph.D., of Brazil's Institute for Education in Medicine and Health:
"... neuroscience has made great strides in the 90s, regarding the discovery of concrete, scientifically proved anatomical and functional differences between the brains of males and females ... this new knowledge may help physicians and scientists to discover new ways to explore the brain differences in the benefit of the treatment of diseases, the personalized action of drugs, different procedures in surgeries, etc. After all, males and females differ only by one Y chromosome, but this makes a real impact upon the way we react to so many things, including pain, hormones, etc."
Pastor and author Stu Weber explains, "Gender is primarily an issue of theology. And theology is the most foundational of all sciences. Gender is at the heart of creation. Gender is tied to the image of God. Gender is central to the glory of God." Men and women each bring important, unique contributions to the marital relationship and to the rearing of children that (often) accompanies it. A home headed by two men or two women cannot, by God's design, provide the same uniquely masculine and feminine childhood formation as a home headed by a married man and woman. The differences between the genders bring glory to God by reflecting his image, and from a biblically faithful perspective, these differences can not be diminished or interchanged.
Why should Christians care about the institution of marriage?
Christians must care about marriage because God cares about marriage. The marital relationship is the clearest image we can present to a watching world of how Christ loves his Church. (See Eph 5:21-33) Additionally, the Bible is clear that marriage is good for men and women and the children born into the married family. Social science confirms this truth, and whether or not one is a Christian, there is no disputing the evidence that marriage has innumerable benefits for men, women and their children (see FRC's Marriage and Religion Research Institute, marri.frc.org, for hard science supporting this claim). Conversely, the dissolution of marriage or the bearing of children out of wedlock is associated with numerous social pathologies, and is particularly devastating to children. By seeking to uphold and strengthen the institution of marriage, we are also working to reduce childhood poverty, truancy, domestic violence, and male incarceration rates. We have a culturally compelling interest in seeing marriages succeed and thrive.
FRC's Dr. Kenyn Cureton responds to our readers' questions:
"My parents are divorced, why should I take the risk of getting married?"
Perhaps more than anyone else, children from broken homes understand the pain of divorce. It's understandable that some would question the wisdom of getting married at all. Why risk more pain? Christian author and apologist C.S. Lewis once wrote "Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable." The Bible is replete with passages that showing that marriage matters to God, and that he designed men and women to thrive in that covenant relationship. Every marriage has its low points, but God's word is clear and social science confirms that marriage has innumerable benefits for both men and women, and their children. "He who finds a wife finds what is good." [Prov 18:22] FRC strongly recommends that couples considering marriage meet with a committed and wise Christian pastor or counselor prior to their trip to the altar, and also that they jointly read some books written about Christian marriage. Also, our Web site has links to pro-marriage organizations that can provide excellent resources.