In Case You Missed It (Another Marriage Mandate Brouhaha)
God wants people married. I'm not a "marriage mandate" advocate by any means, but I do see how God expects people to marry. He's commanded it in Scripture (Genesis 1:27-28) and affirms it by putting into the vast majority of us the passionate desire to "know" (in a sexual sense) another person intimately. [emphasis original]In the comments, Chizadek asked Ted the same question that came to my mind:
Ted, what's your understanding of the marriage mandate position? You say that those who burn with passion should marry, so I'm not sure what distinction you are making [about not being a "marriage mandate" advocate--A.N.]Unfortunately, we have yet to get answer to that question.
In the comments that ensued, one fellow ("David") had the temerity to suggest that some at his church have found that marriage isn't all that it is cracked up to be and that the single life isn't so bad. The marriage mandate proponents predictably excoriated this poster for simply stating the obvious. Ted Slater went so far as to declare:
David -- thank you for writing.A nightmare of heresy? So those who don't find marriage to be "all that and a bag of chips" are now to be ranked with the Gnostics and Arians? Oh my.
I'm pretty distressed about your comment, frankly, that your pastor and the men in your church would have such a low view of marriage, and falsely ascribe that low view of marriage to Paul.
Paul, a single man, *highly* esteemed marriage. God has given us a gift in marriage, not a curse. I'm sorry so many around you feel it's a curse.
Consider leaving that church, if you are able to. Seriously. It sounds like a nightmare of heresy.
But all was not lost. Wombatty and Adam (aka "Puritan Calvinist") stepped in to counter some of the faulty thinking. I, myself, was fortunate to have one comment published. I said this:
A few observations:
1. Genesis 1:27-28 is not a command for us today. Those who say otherwise must account for the following: (i) Similiar language in pronouncing blessings which contradicts any notion of imperative language (Gen. 1:21-22; Gen. 24:60); (ii) the context, which shows it was given to Adam and Eve ("and God said to THEM"); (iii) the connection with filling the earth and having dominion over it (which the Bible declares is a done deal: Gen. 9:19; Psalms 8:4-8); (iv) and as one person mentioned here, the fact that our Lord and Savior said some could "CHOOSE" to be "eunuchs" (Matt. 19:12).
2. 1 Cor. 7:9 - "if they cannot" is a misleading translation. The passage is better translated - "if they will not contain." Gordon Fee in his scholarly commentary on 1 Corinthians (which Debbie Maken cites, by the way) has the following to say:
"For many later Christians this has been the troubling verse. Paul is seen to be arguing in v. 8 for all singles to stay that way, then as making allowance for marriage for those who cannot remain continent, for it is better to be married than to be consumed with sexual passion. But it is doubtful whether Paul's point is quite so stark. In the first place, Paul does not say (as the NIV), 'if they cannot control themselves.' Rather he says, 'if they do not, or are not practicing continence (or exercising self-control).' The implication is that some of these people are doing the same as some of the married in vv. 1-7, practicing 'sexual immorality,' that is, probably also going to prostitutes. The antidote for such sin is to get married instead.
"With an explanatory 'for' Paul appends a reason: 'It is better to marry (or to be married) than to burn.' This final word is the difficult one. The usage is clearly metaphorical, but it could refer either to burning with desire or burning in judgment (cf. 3:15). Since both of these can be supported from Jewish sources, that evidence is not decisive. The question must finally be decided contextually, and by Paul's usage in 2 Cor. 11:29, which is almost certainly a metaphor for inner passion. Even though the larger context, including the warning in 6:9-10, could be argued to support the judgment metaphor, such an idea is missing from the immediate context altogether. It seems more likely, therefore, that Paul intended that those who are committing sexual sins should rather marry than be consumed by the passions of their sins.
"In this case, then, Paul is not so much offering marriage as the remedy for the sexual desire of 'enflamed youth,' which is the most common way of viewing the text, but as the proper alternative for those who are already consumed by that desire and are sinning." (Fee, 288-289)
I will also add that the Sexual Desire interpretation doesn't work for the simple fact the Paul speaks of the "burn" NEGATIVELY. Equating it with sexual desire means married people would have to stop wanting sex once they got married. Not a tenable position, to say the least.
3. Marriage mandate proponents often quote passages about marriage and children being a blessing and call into question whether or not others respect God's wisdom in that regard. However, this ignores Paul's statement that not all things that are lawful are expedient (1 Cor. 6:12). 1 Cor. 7:27-28 furnishes us with an approved apostolic example of turning down something that is a blessing in principal because of practical considerations ... and leaving that choice to the people involved. It's a principle that blows a hole a mile wide into any thinking that automatically translates God's "gifts" into a matter of duty.
I will also note that I do not see marriage mandate proponents chastising those who go on diets for refusing God's bountiful blessings of food and drink. Why? Aren't food and drink to be received with thanksgiving? But 1 Tim. 4:3 is only quoted against those who don't want to marry. Sheer inconsistency.4. Marriage in principal may indeed be ordained of God, but so is the Church. Some marriage mandate proponents would have us condemn any admission that one's marriage is unhappy or that one wishes they were single. Any criticism of marriage in today's society is considered verboten. But a thing as it exists in this fallen world is not always the same as its ideal. Really, shall we time warp back to Luther's day and tell him that his criticism of the Catholic Church was wrong because he was insulting the bride of Christ? Marriage is indeed instituted by God, but the current configuration as it is seen in our Western society isn't.
[What answer did I get from the marriage mandate proponents? They kept on posting as if I had never even responded. Predictable, but sad.]