Wednesday, December 19, 2007

How Christians view marriage, part 1

...Protestants traditionally have interpreted marriage as a necessary way to quell the temptations of the flesh or as a natural union that will be dissolved in the afterlife...

Laurie F. Maffly-Kipp, in "A Mormon President? The LDS Difference" from The Christian Century, August 21, 2007.

While I'll admit that this statement is not intended to be comprehensive-- and, in context, emphasizes an important difference between Protestant Christian views on marriage from Mormon views-- I would argue that Ms. Maffly-Kipp misses much of the core meaning of marriage for Christians, and thus misrepresents marriage entirely.

The view espoused by Ms. Maffly-Kipp is taken primarily from a single verse, 1 Corinthians 7:9, wherein Paul is discussing how unmarried and widowed believers should approach singleness. Paul says, simply, that for the service of the Lord it is better to remain single (v.8)-- this removes the divided focus of attention that marriage and family inevitably brings. Paul says, though, that if self-control is an issue (and here he means, subtly, sexual control) then they should marry, for it is "better to marry than to burn with passion."

Thus, one can argue that the above claim about the Protestant view of marriage is biblical. Why do I claim it to be inaccurate?

If for no other reason, than this is a chief concern: we should be very cautious (as in, I'll stop just short of saying "never do it") about deriving doctrines and positions from single verses. One of the key principles to understanding the Bible that we should all regularly employ is to let Scripture interpret Scripture-- in other words, the Bible, collectively and in context of itself, will instruct us on how to understand the meaning of texts.

In this case, one could argue that 1 Timothy 5:11 supports this claim of doctrine or position-- thus letting Scripture interpret Scripture. But in the whole context of the New Testament (and, indeed, the whole Bible) a much bigger and fuller sense of how and why Christians should marry emerges. In fact, a more comprehensive-- and I would say healthier-- view of sex emerges, as well.

Perhaps that's what bothers me the most about this quote: it seems to take a fairly cynical view of both sex and marriage, neither of which are portrayed in the Bible as the sort of annoyances that Ms. Maffly-Kipp seems to imply.

In a future post, I'll work through what I see as the "fuller sense" of how the Bible portrays marriage. Meanwhile, what are your thoughts?

No comments:

Post a Comment