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Marriage, Family, Divorce, and Sexuality:

Summary Principles

In all these Summary Principles, they are not necessarily listed in priority order. In fact, priorities within families and churches are likely different. But, consideration should be given to the full application of all these principles, as a beginning exploration into each worldview area. The author is interested in feedback where error, weakness, or omission may occur.

1. Marriage and Family: The Creation Mandate. Immediately, during the week of creation on the sixth day, God commanded man “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Genesis 1:28). Through the birth of children within the commitment of one man and one woman in marriage for life, God commanded that His Creation Mandate be fulfilled. That mandate was not abrogated by the Fall of Adam and Eve nor by the Flood, after which God re-stated it in more detail (Genesis 9:1-10). Marriage is thus a covenant with three parties: the husband, the wife, and God.

Currently, on an average, at least 2.1 children must be born to each family in order to maintain a population at its current numbers. Thus, “to be fruitful and multiply,” each family should have at least three children. Since God’s Kingdom work is primarily through His people, the argument could be made that Christians should have “many” children. They are a “heritage” and a great “blessing” in the Lord (Psalm 127:5). Expansion of families may occur through the adoption of children. These children should be given the full rights and responsibilities of “naturally” born siblings.

The primary intention of marriage is not procreation, but companionship and wholeness. God said, “And the LORD God said, ‘It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him’” (Genesis 2:18). While the remainder of the creation was “good,” even “very good,” it was “not good” that neither man nor woman be alone. In addition, both need a “helper” to complete what the individual lacks in their own abilities. God intended marriage for a lifetime. Children are present for only a part of that time. They are to work to fulfill the Creation Mandate, even after their children have formed their own families.

2. Marriage and Family: The Great Commission. God’s primary mode of evangelism is through the family from generation to generation. The Bible is clear that saving faith is to be passed from one generation to the next (Deuteronomy 6:1-9; Acts 2:39; Ephesians 6:4). In the Old Testament, explicit responsibilities of the covenant (land, laws, Levitical priesthood, etc.) were passed in this way. This continuity and expansion is missing from many churches in the modern era in their emphasis on the Great Commission as one of seeking individual converts and treating their own children, as being “unsaved” until they make their own profession of faith. In a real sense, this individualistic emphasis has increased the need for evangelism, as God’s intended plan of the continuity of families has been minimized and neglected.

The power of this intergenerational commission and covenant has been lost. The Creation (Cultural) Mandate is fragmented and lost each time the succession of spiritual generation fails. The individualism of the 19th century evangelism and its virtual abhorrence of studied theology has crippled the ability of the Church to advance God’s Kingdom, as a continuation of His original Mandate. The Church and families must reform their thinking to this intergenerational plan of God from “The Beginning.” One concrete goal could be that parents strive to give their children a more Biblical foundation than they themselves had.

3. Marriage and Family: Government. God has ordained government in four spheres: the conscience of self-government, the family, the Church, and the State. Another great error of Christians in the modern era is to think of government as synonymous with the State. Again, this error has led to social discord, as the other three spheres of government have been neglected. The husband is the head of the home, the wife his help-meet, and children are to obey their parents and be nurtured in the admonition of the Lord. Wives and children may disobey their husband/father only when his directives violate clearly Biblical instructions.

4. Marriage is the norm, not singleness. Singleness can occur for a variety of reasons: lack of someone of the opposite sex to offer marriage, death of a spouse, divorce, or one’s calling (Matthew 19:10-11; I Corinthians 7:7, 32-35 -- see below). Thus, it can be legitimate. However, God’s overwhelming priority for His Kingdom on earth is the family.

(1) The Creation Mandate with all its directives is given to the family, for only within the family are children born legitimately (above). (2) In both the Old and New Testaments, the family is assumed in ownership of land and its inheritance, the propagation and raising of children, and the primary unit of economy and governance. (3) Young widows are instructed to re-marry, not remain single (I Timothy 5:14). This admonition would include those Biblically divorced , as well. (4) Singleness for work in the Church and the Kingdom is such that a special gift is required (I Corinthians 7:7).

5. Marriage is for one man to one woman in unity for life. The marriage of a man and a woman forms a unique relationship within mankind. There is a complementarity and completeness of the two which exceeds what each is individual (Genesis 1:18-25). These two people, acting and interacting together as they should, begin to think, act, and feel as one person (“one flesh”). This unity must be established with priorities that separate themselves from those families from which each spouse came (Genesis 2:24). Today, there are often conflicts early within a marriage because one or more of the spouses gives priority to one or more member of the family from which he or she came.

Acts of sexual intimacy between a man and a woman may be expressed only after they are married. All other acts of sexual expression (pornography, homosexuality, bestiality, etc.) are biblically proscribed.

The modern concept of “dating” has no Biblical warrant. The only Biblical relationships between men and women are as relatives (both genetically and spiritually) and as husband and wife (assuming engagement as a prelude to marriage). “Dating” sets the stage for sexual immorality and severe emotional trauma. Any idea that “dating” is preparation for marriage is erroneous and a gross distortion of the concept of marriage.

6. God designed marriage for the life of the husband or wife (Romans 7:1-6) with only the two exceptions (following).

7. God allows divorce for sexual infidelity and desertion by an unbelieving spouse. While forgiveness with restitution is the norm for offenses, God does not mandate that the offended spouse accept back the sexually unfaithful offender (Matthew 19:9). However, the offended spouse may do so under the application of forgiveness (Luke 17:1-5).

While we should not speculate about God’s intentions in His design, from a human perspective there are conditions that are unique to this situation. First, sexual immorality brings the possibility of sexually transmitted diseases that are debilitating and even fatal for the innocent spouse. Second, the ripping and tearing of the “one flesh” nature of marriage in sexual infidelity is the breaking of the most intimate of human relationships. This former union is not easily restored.

A believing spouse may allow the unbelieving spouse to leave and divorce him or her (I Corinthians 7:15). If a believing spouse decides to leave, however, that believer’s church must become involved to make every Biblical effort to restore the marriage. If that believing spouse will not repent, then the church is to follow formal steps of discipline and excommunicate him or her (Mathew 18:15-20). Once the church has declared this offender an unbeliever, then the same passage (above) applies as to an unbeliever.

Nuances. Certainly, I have presented here a summary of principles. There is much Scripture, counseling, prayer, and possibly church discipline in actual situations. However, I have summarized the biblically allowable options. For a more detailed discussion of these issues, I highly recommend Jay Adams’ Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage…. (See References below.)

8. Biblical grounds for divorce. For centuries after the Reformation, covenants were made between a man and woman engaged to be married. Those covenants should be re-instituted today with sanctions against the party who breaks the contract. There should be no particular ownership of any property by either spouse while the marriage lasts. The State’s only role in marriage is to enforce the sanctions of the contract, if violated by either party and the church is unable to settle disputes. The State has no role in setting conditions for any marriage before the covenant is established. Current civil law has greatly promoted the breakup of the family in our times with easy divorce, based on such nebulous concepts as “no-fault” and “incompatibility.” Divorce should be final: all contact of the guilty spouse with the children should be cut off. He or she has divorced himself or herself from the family by their unrighteous and hardened behavior. This total separation is not possible today because of the state is not guided by Biblical principle. (Transported from Civil Government Summary Principles.)

Is spousal abuse grounds for divorce? One has to proceed carefully on this issue. It does seem justifiable that where a spouse’s life or those of their children have been threatened and that threat has been acted upon in some tangible, physical way, the Sixth Commandment to prevent the taking of life would apply. John Frame has discussed allowing divorce on the grounds of desertion on page 31 of the reference below "MarriageDivorcePolicyPCA."

James Jordan also argues for divorce on the grounds of "serious maltreatment."  (James Jordan, The Law of the Covenant: An Exposition of Exodus 21-23 (Institute for Christian Economics, 1984, page 87.  This book may be found online below.)

9. Parents are responsible for the education of their children, primarily that which is spiritual. “Education” has come to be equated with formal education of primary, secondary, and university levels. However, the most important directive to parents is the spiritual education of their children (Deuteronomy 6:1-25; Ephesians 6:1-4). Tragically, the priorities for Christians are reversed today. More attention by parents is given to the education of their children towards “jobs and careers,” rather than “serving the Living God.” In this role of spiritual education, the man must lead.

Spiritual education is unavoidable, as “discipling” is more important than formal education. Parents are instructing their children from the time that they are born by their words and behavior, whether such is intended as education or not. Essentially, they are “discipling” as powerful authorities to their children. This “discipling” is far more influential than their speech, especially in the children’s early years. Thus, the true “spiritual” commitment of the parents will be seen by their children and compared to what the parents espouse verbally. Children have an innate wisdom in the interpretation of hypocrisy, and they will tell you so!

All Christian parents should determine early in their children’s lives what their goals for their education should be. How many older Christians regret “the years that the locusts have eaten?” Not too many decades ago, children achieved Biblical, theological, and classical education by their late teenage years. The breadth and depth of what children may achieve should not be underestimated, especially in Biblical and theological studies. Some Christian schools and home schoolers are beginning to recognize this potential, but it needs to be far more widespread and more fully developed than is current in most places. While the Church may or may not be directly involved in this education, its leaders should be encouraging and making opportunities for the achievement of this level of education.

Wasting time and evil education. “The years that the locusts have eaten” includes wasting time on studies that are not important to the life of a Christian. While specific subjects are far beyond our scope here, some examples may suffice. Why should Christian children study “social studies” and “abnormal” psychology which are thoroughly pagan in concept and even evil (“anti-God)? There is a place for the study of these in contrast to the Biblical worldview, but that approach is not taught in public schools and many Christian schools. So, the focus of parents should be as much on “wrong” studies, as “right” studies.

Vocation. Parents will know their children quite well, as they observe them over their childhood and adolescence. They should apply this knowledge to help their children discover their vocation and avocations, that is, their “calling(s)” relative to God’s design for their lives. The Biblical concept is that all moral occupations should be seen as working towards the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God, not as just a means of income. (See Vocation -- Link to same.)

State schools? This entire section brings serious question to the children of Christians being in state schools which today are consciously anti-Christian and anti-Biblical.

10. The husband is the head of the home. The husband is head of the home (Ephesians 5:22-24, 6:4). However, this headship bears not only authority, but the love, tenderness, and sacrifice that Jesus manifested for His Church (Ephesians 5:25-33, 6:4).

This headship is a criterion for leadership in the Church and the State. The determination of whether a man is able to lead the Church is reflected in his proven ability to lead and govern his family (I Timothy 3:4, 12), as well as his proven spirituality (Exodus 18:21). This criterion should also be a requirement for leadership in any authoritative position in society and in state government. While this application is not explicit in Scripture, it is an inescapable conclusion of Scripture with the role of the man throughout the Old Testament in the family, the government of Israel (Exodus 18:13-27), the Levitical priesthood, and the government of Israel in the Sanhedrin. Rationally, no people should want someone over them who has failed in this most important area to those who should be most dear to him.

This criterion does have a limit. There are occasions when evil children come from a Biblical home. Hardened, recalcitrant children who are older, probably even “adults” by age, were to be disinherited (see below) and even stoned (Deuteronomy 21:18-21). And, it cannot be denied that every child has a sin nature that he will follow or one that he will “deny” and follow Christ and His Word. Some children will follow that sin nature in their adult years. But, while children are in the home, the father should have control and discipline of them.

11. Marriages are not to be unequally yoked. Christians are to marry only Christians (II Corinthians 6:11-18). While this criterion applies primarily to believers, it is valuable advice to unbelievers, as well. Marriages that involve different religions are surely to involve conflict. And, a covenant of marriage is required by God for any child to be considered legitimate (Genesis 2:24).

12. Consanguinity is forbidden by God and supported by nature. God has declared that marriage of close kinship is forbidden (Leviticus 18:1-18; Mark 6:18). The genetic problems that have occurred demonstrate that consanguinity is against nature, as well. This association of law and nature clearly demonstrates that God’s laws are for the good of mankind, not just restrictions on his “freedom.”

13. The modern state violates its God-directed mandate to enhance and protect marriages and families, and thus, has become an enemy of God and the family.

A. The State has flagrantly violated the integrity of the home by forcibly removing children for acts of corporal discipline, spiritual instruction, circumstantial sexual abuse, and other allegations that violate the integrity granted to the family by God Himself. These intrusions violate a number of principles of Biblical justice, as well. The only justification for State intrusion into the home is the substantiated threat to the life of one or more family members and instances of sexual abuse of children that can be clearly documented.

B. The State has failed to enforce judgments against spouses who have divorced and failed to support their respective spouses and children financially. The large majority of these cases of injustice are women.

C. Tax codes fail to give adequate consideration to the costs of child-raising in its legal deductions, especially where both spouses have earned income.

D. The State has facilitated easy divorce through laws that allow it for virtually any whim or desire of one spouse.

E. Numerous laws in the name of “health,” violate the integrity of the family. For example, vaccinations are mandated solely on the expectation that all children will become sexually promiscuous (hepatitis B and HPV) or intra-venous drug addicts (hepatitis B). Any girl, regardless of age, may be treated by a health care worker for a sexually transmitted disease, have an abortion, or receive any form of birth control without parental knowledge or consent in any of the 50 states.

F. Current laws make alternatives to public education legally restrictive and expensive.

G. Current laws mandate studies in public education that are anti-God, anti-family, and immoral.

H. The legalization of abortion is the social justification of murder, the destruction of the life-giving essence of a mother to her unborn child, and the obliteration of God’s creating activity (Psalm 139:13-16).

14. Family economics. Primarily, the husband is to provide for his family (I Timothy 5:8) and the wife is the homemaker (I Timothy 5:10, 14; Titus 2:3-5). However, the wife has great latitude in assisting in this role and being involved in many endeavors (Proverbs 31:10-31). A modern danger for both spouses is the lure of “making money” or “career advancement” to the neglect of each other and their children. Too many excuses and false justifications are used by one or both for these pursuits. Social studies actually show that most successful men are good fathers and husbands.

Children are to provide for their parents, as needed, later in their lives. Parents are to make every attempt to provide for themselves in their latter years and to provide an inheritance for their children (II Corinthians 2:14). However, such financial planning is not always successful. Their children are to guarantee that they are loved and that their needs are met until their deaths under the provisions of the Fifth Commandment and the Great Commandment “to love your neighbor as yourself.”

15. Spiritual endeavors should not encroach on family responsibilities. The primary spiritual roles of husbands and wives are those for each other and their children. Ministries, including missionary activities, may never justify the abrogation or substitution of these activities over family responsibilities. The attempt to meet many “spiritual needs” of others has caused worse needs, including divorce, in the families of those who were the ministers. The busy, busy local church calendar can be such an encroachment.

16. Older, spiritually mature women are to teach younger women (Titus 2:2-4). This role is one that is not common to the Church today. There is a great deal for a young woman to learn about being a wife, mother, and homemaker. She needs help and instruction. God has commanded that older, spiritual women come alongside of them in assistance and teaching. Thus, the teaching of adult women by adult women has a Biblically defined curriculum. The teaching of women by women does not include broad, doctrinal teaching which is the responsibility of the husband (I Corinthians 14:35).

17. Discipline of children. The first thing to say about discipline is that it has a positive side, as well as a negative side. The positive side has been covered under “education” among these principles. The negative, or corrective side, is what is usually connoted by “discipline.” The Bible is clear that inflicting pain on children because of their violations of God’s instructions through parents is more than warranted, as God demands it. The consequences of not applying corporal punishment is severe. “To spare the rod” is to hate one’s children; “to apply the rod is to love them” (Proverbs 13:24). Certain dimensions of “foolishness” will be retained in children, if physical punishment is not applied (Proverbs 22:15). The “rod” is one means by which a child’s soul is delivered from Hell (Proverbs 23:14). Corporal punishment is one mean’s of implanting wisdom in a child (Proverbs 29:15).

However, in today’s climate of political correctness, parents must be careful where and how they physically punish their children. Children may be legally taken from a home where such punishment is carried out. And, it should not need to be said, but physical punishment should be properly given without severely harming the child and not as the only form of corrective discipline used. Rewards, restriction, retribution, and other avenues should be used, as well.

The ultimate act of discipline is disinheritance. There may come a point in the later years of a child’s life when they become incorrigible, not accepting of any form of discipline. This application is the same as that of Matthew 18:15-20. In the Old Testament, it was “putting one outside the camp,” for example, Numbers 5:2-4. The greatest seriousness of this act is spiritual condemnation, not the physical separation. This act is disinheritance from the Kingdom and God and consignment to Hell, that is, spiritual separation from God and from His people forever. Today, some parents need to disinherit their children, painful though it may be. They live unproductive, profligate lives with their parents always bailing them out (literally and figuratively) and continually providing for their wants and needs. The continued support by parents is support of activities that are unproductive, immoral, and sometimes illegal. It is support of Hell on earth. It is shaking one’s fist in God’s face, as the provision for such a life is to support lives and actions that are anti-Christ.

18.  Historical note: The Reformation established freedom of sexuality in marriage.  Most of the church fathers, including Augustine, Athanasius, Tertullian, Ambrose, Aquinas, and Gregory the Great, considered sexual expression with any passion or enjoyment as "evil," "sin," "befoulment," and "adultery."  Consistently, virginity and celibacy were highly honored.  These attitudes became entrenched within Roman Catholic teaching, writing, and tradition.  Even the Council of Trent, the Roman Catholic response to the Reformation, upheld celibacy and by implication, its attitudes towards sexuality within marriage being restricted to the conception of children.

But, then came the Puritans.  The Puritans were anything but sexual prudes (as they are often confused with the Victorians who were dishonestly prudish).  The men highly valued their wives and proclaimed the passion and enjoyment of sexuality within marriage.  Women expected, and sometimes demanded, regular sexual activity with their husbands.  Thomas Hooker wrote:

The man whose heart is endeared to the woman he loves ... dreams of her in the night, hath her in his eye and apprehension when he awakes, museth on her as he sits at the table, walks with her when he travels ... She lies in his bosom, and his heart trust in her, which forceth all to confess that the stream of his affection, like a mighty current, runs with full tide and strength.

After all, this attitude of sexual pleasure in marriage is only a reflection of what God intended and what He portrayed in Proverbs 5:18ff and The Song of Solomon!

[These thoughts and quotes for this section come from Leland Ryken, Worldly Saints: The Puritans as They Really Were (Zondervan Academie Books, 1986), Chapter 3.]

 

Resources

http://www.reformation.net/

Click on “COR Documents” in the left hand column, then scroll down to “The Christian Worldview of the Family”

http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/MarriageDivorcePolicyPCA.pdf

An excellent resource for the role of the local church in pre-marriage counseling, counseling of intact marriages, and church discipline in marriages that are in difficulty.

Adams, Jay E. Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage in the Bible. Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1980.

Jordan, James.  The Law of the Covenant: An Exposition of Exodus 21-23.  Institute for Christian Economics, 1984.  Found online at www.freebooks.com.

Ray, Bruce. Withhold Not Correction. Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1978.

Sutton, Ray. Who Owns the Family: God or the State? Dominion Press (Blueprint Series), 1986. Also, available online www.freebooks.com


 

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