marriage

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marriage under fireI am a short term pessimist about the future of western civilization in general, and the United States in particular.

The culture war was lost in the 1960s & 1970s. Everything since has been a rear-guard, fighting retreat.

The Obergefell decision was not the Rubicon. We crossed the Rubicon 50 years ago.

The normalisation of sexual amorality and promiscuity began in the 1960s. Marriage was the primary target, and sustained shock after shock.

Promiscuity, unfaithfulness, abandonment, abuse, all contributed to the destruction of marriage. Sneering at it, demonizing it, jeering at it, and refusing to take it seriously all came long before the beginning of the new millenium.

Abolishing marriage legally came only after a substantial portion of the population had been persuaded to abandon it.

And this should not have been surprising. Marriage was and is the first institution. It is the institution upon which all other institutions, and indeed civilization itself is built.

Marriage precedes the state, in time, in the created order, and in importance. God did not say, on the 6th day, “Behold, I have created government, and it shall look after you and provide for all of your needs.”

To add the capstone of God’s gift of marriage, Hosea in the OT, and Paul in the NT, tell us that marriage is a picture of God’s relationship with his people and Jesus’ relationship with his church.

God, of course, knew what he was doing. Marriage is a great gift. It is for our good. It blesses us, it blesses our children, it blesses our community.

Those committed to the biblical view of marriage are an increasingly embattled minority. And that is why I am pessimistic about the short term future of civilization. The attacks on marriage, its abandonment and eventual abolition have left us in a dire situation.

men and marriageThe most imporant book you should read about the current collapse of civilization in the west (and in the USA in particular) is George Gilder’s Men and Marriage (original title: Sexual Suicide).

Gilder makes a compelling case that marriage is the tool that women use to civilize men. Take away marriage and young men remain uncivilized barbarians. Take away marriage, and older, rich men will commit serial polygamy – abandoning the wives of their youth and the mothers of their children for younger playthings – whom they will eventually abandon as well (after thoroughly exploiting them). Hint to women: The Sexual Revolution is not your friend.

In our current circumstances, marriage will not and cannot be restored by a political victory.

Christians are going to have to learn how to live as an oppressed and despised minority. We have once again been tagged as “haters of mankind.”

What to do?

I suggest reading the history of the persecuted church – across time and across geography.

The church converted the urban population of the Roman Empire, from 33AD to 300AD. It took several centuries. Constantine, the first Christian emperor, was not the cause of the conversion of so many Roman citizens. He was the result.

The church converted the barbarian tribes from 400AD to 600AD.

The church converted the Vikings, from 750AD-900AD.

That’s why I’m a long term optimist.

Committing to a biblical marriage may well be the most revolutionary thing you can do.

How do we then live? I would call you, my brothers and sisters, to commit to marriage. Honor it as an institution. For those who enter in to it, take the vows and the promises seriously. Committing to a biblical marriage may well be the most revolutionary thing you can do. Model for your children what love and commitment look like. Deny yourself for your spouse, and for your children. Be the living model of Christ’s love for his bride, the church.

Unless and until we do these things, we will have little impact on the culture.

We should not cease to have an answer for the hope that is in us.

We should not cease to proclaim the good news of the kingdom of Jesus, the Christ.

But we must show by our lives, as well as proclaiming with our lips, the good news of the kingdom.

 

 

 

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photo by Perry Harmon

Our daughter got married Friday night. It was a beautiful wedding (and reception) thanks to the help of family and friends (and the amazing Cyndy). We really like (and are impressed with) our new son-in-law. He came to visit us last February (not the first time we’d met) and went to breakfast with me, showed me the engagement ring he had bought, and asked me if he could propose to our daughter on Valentine’s Day. I was impressed. Since he was with us for the weekend, all of our daughter’s younger sisters got to see the ring before she did! Everybody sat around the telephone on Valentine’s Day waiting for the phone to ring with the CALL from our daughter.

I performed the ceremony (I’ve been ordained since 2000), and used the Anglican Prayer Book Service, with only a few minor edits. The liturgy is beautiful. It does an excellent job of presenting the biblical foundation for marriage and sets the proper solemn tone. I was struck by the fact that there are really three sets of promises that the couple make to each other. The first is called the “Consent” and comes at the beginning of the service. The bride and groom are each asked, “Will you, N., have this woman/man to be your wife/husband…” The second is the “Marriage Vows” in the traditional formula of “I, N., take you, N. to be my lawful wedded wife/husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health.” The third set of promises come with the “Exchange of Rings,” and includes the phrase “with all that I am and all that I have, I honor you.” Each set of promises adds to and enriches all that has come before. As intended, the service caused me to reflect on my own vows to Cyndy, spoken 31 years ago this month, and renewed and strengthened at the wedding of our daughter this past Friday night.

photo by Perry Harmon

I learned two other things this past week. One: Marrying a daughter is different from marrying a son. (can you say, “emotional roller coaster?” me, not her!) and Two: I am Steve Martin.

– Rob Shearer
Director, Schaeffer Study Center
Publisher, Greenleaf Press

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