First, get the marriage right...

(by Tim) A woman named Liz left this comment under our post, Be Fruitful and Evaporate, and I'd like to ask our kind readers to respond. What she says is perfectly in tune with the thinking across the church today and I'm hopeful some of you would be able to provide helpful direction to Liz, as well as the many others who, like her, are in churches where pastors, elders, and older women are equally confused on these matters. Here's what Liz wrote...

Would it not be better to have a happy marriage first before children are brought into the picture?

Have we not all learned that things and people are not what make us happy. Each individual is responsible for their own happiness. A child will not bring happiness any more than a cute puppy would.

This study, if true, is quite beautiful. Because it shows that for a couple to live in complete harmony they must be willing to shoulder the burdens and responsibilities of something that seems so insignificant - sharing chores. If a couple cannot settle on who is going to do what chores then why would anyone think that a child would bring happiness to their marriage. They are at odds from the very beginning.

Would anyone of you who have reacted negatively to the study suggest to a young, battling couple to have children to solve their marital woes? I think not. Sane people would tell them to work out their differences first.

The last time I will say it: Children will not bring happiness to a marriage. The happiness needs to be there already.

And having children is not the purpose of marriage. It may have been in ancient times but it is not now and I am very thankful for that.

So now, if she were your daughter, how would you respond to Liz?

Comments

I would say to Liz that she is 100% right, children will not bring happiness to a miserable marriage.

I don't have time to respond to every point she made... but I did want to say this:

Children may not be THE purpose of marriage, but they are A purpose. Oneness is a purpose. Being a human example of the relationship between Christ & the church is a purpose. Relationship is a purpose. But children are indeed a purpose.

They're a built-in, natural part of the deal, given by God as part of the marriage relationship (yes, there are exceptions, due to barrenness and the rest that comes from living in a fallen world, but on the whole, children are a natural outcome of marriage). It takes an unnatural process in order to block the natural, God-given outcome of sexual intimacy that comes with marriage.

My first, off-the-cuff response is: "ARE there chores when a couple doesn't have children?" I spend most of my days picking up after, hauling around, washing the clothes of, preparing food for, reading to, disciplining, and playing with my children. If it were just my husband and I at home, "chores" would be done in a very few minutes. Sharing the burden of those few minutes hardly seems to be the basis of a happy marriage.

And in some way, this flippant comment ties in with a more serious one. Children are a blessing in part because they take away almost all of the time you might otherwise spend on more selfish activities. God weans us from our deep love for ourselves with our children, and with our husbands. He places an absurd love in our hearts for the crying, pooping, vomiting, screaming babe, and with that love, pushes out some of the malignant self-love that we are infected with. More importantly, He causes us to come to the end of our stubborn self-reliance, to wake in the middle of the night in cold sweats when we realize we can't keep our children from danger, we can't be 100% certain a child molester won't find them and harm them, we can't love them enough or teach them enough or discipline them enough, and, most importantly, we can't offer them salvation. We see with our children our desperate need for a sovereign God's sovereign will to reign supreme in our small, insignificant lives.

God sanctifies those He has chosen with or without children, but for those who are His own, who are married, children provide one of His primary means of teaching us that we need Him, that our husbands need Him, and that our children need Him. Children are a blessing from the Lord, and in participating together in this blessing, a husband and a wife experience a marriage that is strengthened through its dependence on the Lord, strengthened more than it could ever be by any get-away vacation, counseling session, or self-help book.

I think I missed that memo about children not being the purpose of marriage anymore. Anyone know who sent it out?

Mal 2:15 Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth.

I completely agree with Barbara. Nothing weeds out selfishness and navel-gazing than a baby. Things you used the think were the "be all, end all" of life (aka..selfish pursuits and desires) seem to fade when you are loving and raising children. In the book of James, he talks about how selfishness and evil desires are at the root of our quarrels. Oftentimes, when a husband and wife are blessed with a baby (and even an unexpected one, at that!), the level of selfishness and the care for that baby cannot coexist. One of them has to go. When the selfishness is paired down, there is more unity between the husband and wife, and you realize how much God gives grace and mercy in the midst of sin and frailty.

Barbara gave a beautiful response above. Happiness is all relative and subjective. What made me happy at 24 when I got married seems so silly and inconsequental today. In fact I have very little time (or the extraneous income) anymore to indulge in the pleasures that made me happy as a young adult now that I have children.

As far as not being able to decide amiably on who does what chores in a marriage seems a silly prerequisite to childbearing. I don't remember having any disagreements with my husband over who would do what chore aside from him grumbling a bit when he has to clean the bathtub because I'm too pregnant to do it or when I mow the grass for him because I'm not the one who is highly allergic to it.

The Bible is timeless and doesn't change so saying that having children was the purpose of marriage in ancient times but now indicates that you are willing to question the authority of Scripture in other areas of your life.

I seem to have missed something, but whoever said marriage was about happiness in the first place?

Kamilla

First of all, there's a lot of disagreement about "happiness" in general. Given each person's definition, it might not be something to always be pursued. "Happiness" connotes a certain superficiality, and it is a criteria that doesn't necessarily assume obedience to God's Word. It also isn't even promised to faithful believers (i.e. most of the psalms are laments, etc.). We always hear the distinction between joy and happiness, and it's a useful one, but I think a lot of people (such as possibly Liz) use the word happiness interchangeably with joy. For the sake of this discussion, I will assume the best of Liz's meaning. Here's how I think the Bible responds to Liz:

Have we not all learned that things and people are not what make us happy. Each individual is responsible for their own happiness. A child will not bring happiness any more than a cute puppy would.

This is a partial truth, that has been distorted for the sake of this argument. First of all, in one sense, this is true. Fancy cars, good wine, a beautiful and loving wife, obedient and loving children, all cannot satisfy the person who was made to glorify and enjoy the living God. In a life in rebellion against God, these will not satisfy. However, regarding a life lived in obedience to and communion with the true God, these things are good, and do bring a large measure of happiness. As much happiness as a new puppy brings, fellowship with other people is much better. Perhaps nowhere is this seen better than in a husband and wife bringing up children (and seeing their children's children, etc.). It is truly a joyful thing. And negatively, barrenness is sad. The Bible is clear on this as well (see Rachel and Leah, Elizabeth, Sarah, Samuel's mother, etc.). You aren't going to help any people suffering like this by telling them that they don't have cause to be unhappy. Furthermore, happiness is NOT to be found within oneself, but in enjoyment of and gratitude for God's good gifts and in obedience to him. Since God does command husbands and wives to be fruitful and multiply, then the precise thing a husband and wife ought to do is obey the Lord, and enjoy doing so.

I will skip down to the last paragraph: And having children is not the purpose of marriage. It may have been in ancient times but it is not now and I am very thankful for that.

Obviously, fruitfulness and multiplication were not the only things that Adam and Eve were put in the garden for, but why does that mean it is not at the core of what they were there for? Your statement was not true in ancient times, but neither is your application true today. If you mean to speak against the relevance of Scripture to life today, then that is another question. However, Paul says to Timothy that all Scripture is God-breathed and useful and profitable for teaching, for correction, and for training in righteousness.

Sorry for the dis-jointed-ness of all this, but, Liz, children are a blessing from the Lord. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them. And what a happy delight and blessing it will be to see your children's children! Therefore, in obedience to our good creator, be fruitful and multiply, for the Lord desires a godly seed.

Liz,

It is Biblically wrong to approach marriage like coffee and children as something similar to cream and sugar. One group of people have their coffee with cream and sugar and the other prefer it jet black. Whatever makes them enjoy there coffee, right? Maybe at Starbucks but not with the marriage covenant. Marriage, sex, and children are a package deal. To attempt to seperate any of them from the other two is to misunderstand and do great injury to the whole. It may make you happy but it displeases God. Children aren't the cure to unhappy marriage but they are to be part of every marriage as God enables. This is the clear teaching of God's Word and no matter how ancient it may be it still stands true forever.

So, we figure out who's in charge of what chores and feel sufficiently ready to have kids - then who's going to get up in the night for a teething baby who cannot be consoled? How are we going to divide diaper duty, excess laundry, temper tantrums...a whole new bundle of problems arise, with the birth of a child.

Our experience has been as with most of our friends, the marital problems began after the babies came...there is no preparing for that. However, a right view on a few things would be essential. So I will teach my children that:

1. Marriage is not about our happiness it is about reflecting Christ and the Church: glorifing God.

2. Marriage (and children) is one of the greatest means God uses to sanctify us. The result is greater dependance on Him, more self-denial and More glory to God.

3. Marriage and Children go hand in hand - can't have one without the other, unless God Himself intervenes and closes up wombs, but the absence of children in these cases brings dependance on Him and self-denial that purposeful childlessness does not bring.

4. Marriage and Children, like any other circumstance can bring great joy and great sorrow, but they are not the cause nor the answers to our problems. True joy and happiness can only be found in Christ, and our greatest need has been met on the Cross, where He saved us from our sin. This is where our hope must rest.

Dear Liz,

I agree that children are not the sole purpose of marriage, but they are_a_purpose (as others here have said.) Having said that, I think it is very important to realize that anybody willing to take on the responsibility of marriage (including sex) must take on the consequences that follow from that--children.

I also agree that children will not bring happiness to a marriage. Children are hard work that will strain any good relationship and teach parents how to sacrifice their own needs for somebody else's. However, if a marriage is at the point where the couple is looking to something external to bring happiness to it, there are other issues at stake. And, children will bring great joy over the long run. I have no personal knowledge of this, since my children are 4 and under, but I have seen the great joy on the faces of their grandparents, who spent years raising me and their father and now get to reap the benefits of sacrifice and toil.

I disagree very strongly that "the happiness needs to be there already" in order to have children. It's funny to me that you use the example of chores. My husband and I spent our entire first year of marriage battling over chores, and they were ugly fights. Who would've thought that doing the dishes was something that involved tears and pleading (and thinking myself the martyr if ever I did them unasked)? That year was rotten (due to many selfish factors, along with chores), and the only thing that kept me going was the knowledge that I had vowed in front of my family and friends that I was never going to give up on our marriage. Our son was born 13 months after our wedding, and finally, things started improving. We were a "young, battling couple", and our son was a colicky, cranky, picky, unreasonable baby--anybody's nightmare. God used him to bring us together in a way that never would've happened otherwise. We had to band together and deal with him for survival. As hard as he was, I am thankful that God used him to point out our deficiencies, selfishness, and lack of love for each other.

You ask, "Would anyone of you who have reacted negatively to the study suggest to a young, battling couple to have children to solve their marital woes? I think not. Sane people would tell them to work out their differences first." I'm not sure that I would tell them to have children, but I want you to see that God can use children to help a struggling couple. Their differences most likely involve pride and selfishness, and children are an amazing cure for that.

God tells us that children are meant to be raised within the context of marriage (unlike so many in our society today), and that many children are a great blessing to their parents. Joy (and hardship) comes from following God's commands. Be fruitful and multiply.

Kindly,

Anna Talcott

I'd put a slightly different spin on this; perhaps one reason so many couples squabble in their early years together (despite basic immaturity born of our current culture) is that we're not being faithful to "be fruitful and multiply" and provide "Godly seed"?

Are they enjoying each other less because their "birth control" is a barrier, or because it doesn't allow the woman to ovulate (her most sensitive time of the month)? Are habits of sloth enabled by the fact that the husband does not physically NEED to take out the garbage while his wife recovers from childbirth?

Kids don't solve everything this way, but they sure can be helpful.

Mr. Perry commented on birth control that prevents ovulation, and I wish to add to his comment by saying that it is a shame how very few women are warned against hormonal birth control pills, shots, and patches, and yet all of these methods of managing fertility actually change the very make up of God-given femininity: our sensitive balance of ebbing and flowing hormones. It is no wonder that all of western civilization rapidly began to decline around the time that the pill was offered to the mainstream. How incredibly efficient, to allow women the "freedom" from having children at the same time the very hormonal make-up of their feminine selves was being altered. I often joke that the decline of civilization happened when women put away their pill box hats after JFK was shot, to show their affection for Jackie, but, really it had to do with the epidemic of women choosing to alter their hormones for the sake of convenience. With hormonal manipulation, we are less vulnerable, less tender, less sensitive, less emotional, and ultimately, less ourselves. And eventually this alteration becomes commonplace and all of humanity begins to forget what modesty and gentleness and vulnerabilty look like.

Very interesting comments.

But I will have to set the record straight: I have been married for 28 years come this October; I have three children ages 18 to 26 and two grandchildren, 4 and 3. And another grandchild on the way. I love them all with all my heart.

So I have taken a few laps around the track.

To Barbara: You have to love yourself. If you don't why would you think anyone else would? You are confusing loving yourself with narcissism and self-centeredness, truly undesireable traits. And yes, Barbara, there are chores when there are no children. I'm sorry that you thought that my comment was flip, it was not meant to be.

To Mark: A couple decides before they marry that they do not want children. They do not have the temperament for kids. They are not selfish. They just simply know that children are not for them. They want to share a commitment with each other and pursue their dreams. They go to Africa and work as volunteers, they are involved in their community. They retire and help organize fund raising drives to purchase computers for schools and libraries. They work at their local animal shelter caring for the dogs and cats that other people throw away. They are HAPPY. But it would seem that you would not think this couple are married because they chose not to be fruitful.

To Rebecca: Read above. This couple does no navel gazing. And to imply that any childless couple is self-absorbed is rather unfair and without basis.

Kamilla: Wow! Bad morning?

Rich: Yes, for some people children are a joy; for others, well you know. The consistent theme I see here is that you all believe in a one size fits all world. Some you might have noticed that it is not.

But before I go on, let's get this out in the open: having children, until not too long ago, meant little workers in the field, passing on your goats or camels or your newspaper or hotel empire. Keeping the money in the family. And the infant mortality rate was incredibly high. Go google Eleanor of Castile. She had 16 children. Six survived into adulthood. Sixty-two percent of her kids would never reach puberty. Not very good odds. So what's the point? "Be fruitful and multiply" and here is the part you don't hear, "because there is a good chance that more than half the kids you have will end up dead before they reach the age of ten." It is hard for me not to put the bible into its historical setting and then not realize that we have come a long way.

Happiness: People are responsible for their own.

Marriage: A shared commitment between TWO people. Two people. It is a physical impossibility for two objects to share the same space. You have not become one. You are two. Respect the other for the individual that they are and forget all the flowery poetry. Again, two people. Not three, or six or sixteen.

Children: They can be wonderful, and fun, cute, burdensome, aggravating and interesting. But don't expect them to bring you fulfullment. That is not their job and if you burden them with that responsibility, what kind of parent are you?

Liz,

Is a married couple that avoids having any children faithful? In determining the answer, to whom do you turn for guidance? I was simply pointing out what God desires from a marriage. If happiness is the standard then things begin to break down. There might be any number of things that I would find make me happy, like keeping the tithe to spend on a good dark beer.

By the way, are you saying that in ancient times any married couple that didn't have children wasn't really married? I ask because you suggested that the purpose of marriage back then may have been to have children. For the sake of consistency you might want to hold that it has never been the purpose of marriage to have children, otherwise your question to me works against you. Of course such a position would be a glaring contradiction to God's commands.

Liz,

Not a bad morning at all, in fact it was a remarkably good one - my question was in recognition of the fact that marriage has never been about happiness. That is, it wasn't until the present generation. Marriage is a partnership, a union of two lives from which children naturally proceed. It's also a crucible God sometimes uses to make us holy. You want say you want to put the bible in its historical context but then you add to the text in some places and ignore it in others (the Holy Scriptures do indeed say that the two shall become one flesh, try Genesis 2:24 for a start).

Happiness is greatly overrated and largely misunderstood. Better Aristotle's eudaimonia, better still holiness.

Kamilla

P.S. Oh, and by the way, deciding before marriage that one doesn't have the "temperament' for children is the height of selfishness - puttng the self and one's own judgent above God's.

Hi Liz,

You've written to me that "You have to love yourself. If you don't why would you think anyone else would?"

In this comment you've neatly wrapped up a world view that is most common today, and one that is at the center of a modernity that teaches self-love to be a moral obligation.

Of course, I "have" to love myself, in the same way that I "have" to empty my bladder when it is too full. It is part of my human make up to love myself, and Jesus understood our "natural" self-love and used that as a basis for repeating the command from Leviticus to "Love your neighbor as yourself."

You said, "You are confusing loving yourself with narcissism and self-centeredness, truly undesirable traits." Perhaps, but I believe our tendency is to love ourselves too much rather than too little, to be selfish with our time and our affections, to prize our own thoughts above those that come from others, to think more highly of ourselves than we ought. I know that this is my tendency. That is why we do not read in Holy Scripture commands to love ourselves, but rather we read, "Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves" (Phil. 2:3).

Finally, I can assure you that those who love me do not love me because I first loved myself. They love me because there is a merciful, gracious Father in heaven who has placed love for me in each of their hearts, love that comes ultimately from Him.

More importantly, God Himself loves me because He is God and in His sovereignty, He has chosen me to be His own. Why me? Not because of my merit or my qualities or my deserving, certainly not because I first loved myself well enough, but simply because He is God and He has chosen. My trust and faith is in Him and the eternal truths of His Word, rather than in any fleeting worldly wisdom, no matter how pervasive it may be.

"To Rebecca, Read above: This couple does no navel-gazing."

Wow. Are they not human?

...or perhaps they were mysteriously born without belly buttons.

Liz,

You said to me: "Yes, for some people children are a joy; for others, well you know. The consistent theme I see here is that you all believe in a one size fits all world. Some you might have noticed that it is not."

In response to your first sentence: I have already said why this is not a joy for some. True joy can be found only when grounded in communion with and obedience to God. Child-bearing, as we are able, is part of obedience to God. Obedience to God in this way, just as fellowship with others, love, etc., are indeed universally joyful and obligatory. The Ten Commandments apply universally, as does the rest of the moral law. No person is given the right, based on their personality, to decide which of God's commands to obey. No person is made to enjoy anything other than what God has ordained for them to enjoy. And all people made by God are made to both glorify and enjoy him. It is striking that you would claim to know more about the enjoyments of God's individual creatures than does the creator who fashioned their desires.

The second sense takes another partial truth and distorts it. Of course there is diversity within God's creation. Not all people like dark chocolate or puppies. But this is a diversity within a unity. Not all people go together best with people who talk a lot (some do). But all people are made for community. God made Adam and Eve for a very broad purpose, and within that is great diversity for each couple. But within that creation mandate are the words "Be fruitful and multiply." This is not the only command or promise given regarding children in Scripture, but it does demonstrate the universality of the application. It is God's will that we raise and live in families. It is so central to his creation, that even in redemption, God puts us in families. And this is for us to delight in obediently.

Not knowing how truly accurate such a survey is, I'd have to say the results are sad indeed. As someone suggested, the wording of the questions could have skewed the results slightly. Hard to imagine children coming after sharing of chores.

That being said I would not put children as the primary purpose of marriage but rather it's natural and joyful desire. So that man should not be alone is the primary Biblical purpose of marriage and in order to be properly devoted to one another that should be kept as a loving thankfulness. When children arrive then the heart and home expand. When children do not arrive though the loss is regretful, there is still the comfort of two who love each other. And that example of godly devotion is really the center of the life of the marriage that needs to be shared with any children who arrive. The marriage is the purpose of the marriage; the children are the natural outcome.

Liz, I'd love to respond to your notes point by point, but something constrains me here; the simple fact that you're more or less talking around "be fruitful and multiply", as well as the comment Malachi 2:15 makes about children being a central purpose of marriage.

In other words, you're progressing from something of a different authority than I am, and hence I don't know if it makes a whole lot of sense to debate this with you. You're more or less assuming that God's Word is abrogated by modern circumstances, and I can't go that route.

Liz,

As Lutheran scholar Allan Carlson documents in his excellent book, "Conjugal America," the church fathers would strongly disagree with your claim that "having children is not the purpose of marriage." John Chysostom taught that "there are two reasons why marriage was instituted, that we may live chastely and that we may become parents."

Likewise, Augustine maintained that offspring were the obvious and first good of marriage: "What food is to the health of man, intercourse is to the health of the human race, and each is not without its carnal delight which cannot be lust if . . . it is brought to natural [procreative] use."

And let's not overlook Martin Luther, the great Protestant reformer, on the subject: "We are all created to do as our parents have done, to beget and rear children. This is a duty which God has lain upon us."

Babies will usually make a marriage happier-- if your marriage is rotten, they would at least be a distraction-- but that is not the point, and is a very bad reason to have children. The real question in the original letter seems to be this:

"Babies now, or babies later?"

The unspoken assumption seems to be "Babies later, because maybe we should try out the marriage first, and there's a good chance we will get divorced." That is a wicked attitude. You should make up your mind before marriage, not afterwards. Wait six months if you need to. Or six years, if necessary. Then commit yourself wholeheartedly.

Keep in mind too that the timing may not be up to you. Maybe you're not as fertile as you think, and once you decide to start trying, it may be too late. Or maybe one of you will lose the ability to have children.

Babies will usually make a marriage happier-- if your marriage is rotten, they would at least be a distraction-- but that is not the point, and is a very bad reason to have children. The real question in the original letter seems to be this:

"Babies now, or babies later?"

The unspoken assumption seems to be "Babies later, because maybe we should try out the marriage first, and there's a good chance we will get divorced." That is a wicked attitude. You should make up your mind before marriage, not afterwards. Wait six months if you need to. Or six years, if necessary. Then commit yourself wholeheartedly.

Keep in mind too that the timing may not be up to you. Maybe you're not as fertile as you think, and once you decide to start trying, it may be too late. Or maybe one of you will lose the ability to have children.

Or maybe your child--and in the case of David's and my father and mother, three of them --will die. Then how do the parents look back on the decisions they've made in the past about putting off fruitfulness?

Man does not control his destiny. God does. And what is not of faith is sin.

Liz:

But I will have to set the record straight: I have been married for 28 years come this October; I have three children ages 18 to 26 and two grandchildren, 4 and 3. And another grandchild on the way. I love them all with all my heart.

So I have taken a few laps around the track.>>>>

Am I correct to assume that you have never struggled with infertility? Not being able to have children puts a strain on a couple.

Liz:

Happiness: People are responsible for their own.>>>

Are you happy? If so, what makes you happy?

I would like to point out that Mrs. Talcott posted under her husband's authority.

Hooray the Talcotts.

And congratulations, the Talcotts! They had a new baby girl today.

Far above in the comments, "Martin" writes:

* * *

…I would not put children as the primary purpose of marriage but rather it's natural and joyful desire. So that man should not be alone is the primary Biblical purpose of marriage… The marriage is the purpose of the marriage; the children are the natural outcome.

* * *

Elsewhere on another's blog, a contributor to the comments here responds to what I've written, stating in his own blog's post, "So No, Tim Bayly, children are not the purpose of marriage."

But where have I said this? Nowhere. Children are not *the* purpose of marriage, but *a* purpose of marriage.

I get so tired of this misrepresentation. It's really not difficult to get it right, particularly when the most frequently cited theological document of reformed Protestants speaks with such clarity on the issue: "Marriage was ordained for the mutual help of husband and wife; for the increase of mankind with a legitimate issue, and of the Church with an holy seed; and for preventing of uncleanness."

Three purposes--not one.

And in your correction of something I never said, where is your citation of the classic text of Scripture on this subject, Malachi 2:12,13?

* * *

"…(T)he LORD hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant. And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth."

* * *

Fruitfulness is central to God's purposes for marriage. God has commanded us again and again to "be fruitful and multiply." He has explicitly told us that He makes us one for the propagation of a godly seed.

To twist such statements to the end of making it seem as if they conflicted with the other two purposes of marriage, let alone the ontology of the Trinity, is absurd.

I'm sorry, but this misquotation has to stop. It's the indefinite--not the definite--article.

Well, it's not going to stop, is it? You know you're being watched by self-appointed guardians of Matthew 18 correction and other nanny types. As, I am sure, are many of us who post here. And you do know it is really rather difficult to distinguish "a" from "the" when you have such muddy filters to read through.

Funny, but I've been thinking about this thread and last night something occurred to me. "First, get the marriage right?" That's impossible - a marriage which isn't open to children will NEVER be right.

Kamilla

Liz,

Your responses to other postings reveal a world of errors with a common root. I would like to address some of them but will do so out of the order in which they occurred as that is the most logical order of progression.

Your response to Mark:

Your views on marriage reveal very modernist presuppositions. You seem to have the Freudian view that marriage, at it’s most basic level, is simply “a good solution to the sex problem” and we are all free to manipulate it to our own perceived benefit. For the record, marriage is a covenantal institution created, defined, administered, and ruled by God. It is not ours to put our own individualistic spin on in an attempt to secure some fleeting satisfaction of our selfish desires that we may mistake for happiness. You seem to feel that in the case of the couple described, charitable social activism is the proof of a “happy” marriage and evidence that rejection of God’s plan for marriage is not only acceptable but may in fact be a higher level of self sacrifice for the good of unloved kittens and disenfranchised library porn surfers. The couple you mention are still “married” in that they have taken marriage vows and they are obligated to keep them. However the word “marriage” itself must be taken tongue-in-cheek within the context since the couple rejects the authority that defines the institution. Similarly, I would say that a man who jumps off a bridge is flying. He presents with many of the characteristics of flight, however, the end result doesn’t really qualify as a real flight does it?

Yours response to Kamilla:

Kamilla touches on a very legitimate point. Just as you observe that children do not bring happiness to marriage, neither does marriage bring happiness to bachelorhood. Both of them can bring a measure of happiness but as king Solomon wrote, they can also both bring a great measure of misery. To be sure, it would be reasonable to say that nothing brings happiness if you perceive happiness to be a goal in itself. Pursuit of happiness as an end is sure to bring mostly misery (just ask Hollywood). Enduring and real happiness can only be obtained as a fruit of godly obedience. We call it “joy”.

Your response to Rich:

In your acceptance of Biblical authority on the subject of marriage you are at best very confused. You acknowledge that marriage is between two people (and two only) although stopping short of stating that it would be specifically one man and one woman (this of course is a Biblically defined principle). You then go on to explicitly deny the Biblical teaching that these two become one flesh and instead maintain that they continue to be two distinct individuals with very distinctly individual lives. I don’t know what your exact views are on homosexual marriage but I can tell you that if you are not self-consciously an advocate of it at this point, you are already 95% of the way there.

Your confusion is further evidenced in the rejection of a “one size fits all” approach since you yourself impose several universal constraints on marriage such as the aforementioned “Two people. Not three, six, or sixteen”. By what authority do you impose such constraints?

Your response to Barbara:

Here we have a true modern delema… Once the truth of the Bible is rejected it is replaced with the purportedly higher wisdom of the declared “experts” of a given field. Having rejected biblical authority in matters of marriage, where then do you derive authority to state that “loving yourself with narcissism and self-centeredness” are undesirable traits? Are you saying that to do so while engaging in socially generous activities and finding a measure of “happiness” would somehow be bad? Or are you saying that narcissism and self-centeredness can’t bring happiness in a marriage, and if so, how can you know that for sure?

“You have to love yourself. If you don't why would you think anyone else would?”

This alibi is as watertight as the Titanic. The problem with this humanistic approach to self-esteem is that it assumes the false paradigm of either loving one’s self or hating one’s self. It should be obvious to even the psychology student at the very bottom of the class that the more someone loves themselves, the less lovable they are to everyone else. Furthermore, the Bible instructs us that no one really hates himself. Given the 11th commandment of the humanistic age (thou shalt feel good about thyself) it is hard for many to see how this Biblical wisdom could be true. Careful observation though will reveal that behaviors that are considered to be indicative of self-loathing are actually varying manifestations of selfishness. This topic in a Biblical paradigm would be to either love yourself or love Christ and having loved Christ, we become very much more loveable to others.

Fred:

Father O'Malley said in my eighth grade catechism class that is was important that you love yourself because Christ loves you and if you hate and reject yourself you are hating and rejecting what God has made and loves. Go argue with Father O'Malley.

That being said, how arrogant to say that only through loving Christ are we more loveable. There are plenty of people out there who don't give two hoots and holler about Christ but are far more loveable than those that "live the word".

What could be more self-centered than a belief system that states if we all would be good boys and girls that in the end we will get our reward. So when the sun finally sets on your time it is all about YOU. The couple I mentioned in my post are unconcerned about eternal salvation. They do the things they do because it is their belief that it is the right thing to do. They expect no reward. And yet some here would question their happiness and their humility because they chose a different path?

You want to look at the world through only your lenses and seem unable to accept that each of us can see our universe in their own distinct way. Yours is through a conservative Christian viewpoint and you are unable to accept that there are people that can live without the dictates of an ancient book. And they thrive. They are not mean or perverted or dishonest.

I read in an article a while back that there might be evidence that some people are hard-wired to believe in the supernatural. If that is true, you are. I am not. I tried, I asked, I prayed but, to put it in the vernacular, I never felt the love. It would be pleasant to think that when we die we could all go to a wonderful place and see all the people we love once again. I do not see that happening.

But I am willing to let you believe that it is your duty to populate the world with as many children that you can sire. That is what your book tells you to do and that you believe that you are doing the right thing by the world. Why can' t you accept that there are plenty of people out there (and their numbers are growing) who live perfectly decent lives without God or gods or Christ, Zeus or Thor or any of the other mythical beings.

Dear Liz,

Well, now the cat's out of the bag, isn't it? Many loving souls have spent much time leading you to the Cross of Jesus Christ, and you've despised their loving labors. Now, then, it's time for you to hear the rest of Scripture--those places where the wrath of God is revealed against all the ungodly.

* * *

(Psalms 53:1-6) > The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God,” They are corrupt, and have committed abominable injustice; There is no one who does good.

God has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men To see if there is anyone who understands, Who seeks after God. Every one of them has turned aside; together they have become corrupt; There is no one who does good, not even one.

Have the workers of wickedness no knowledge, Who eat up My people as though they ate bread And have not called upon God? There they were in great fear where no fear had been; For God scattered the bones of him who encamped against you; You put them to shame, because God had rejected them.

Oh, that the salvation of Israel would come out of Zion! When God restores His captive people, Let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad.

* * *

Also:

* * *

(Isaiah 45:1-14) 1 Thus says the LORD to Cyrus His anointed, Whom I have taken by the right hand, To subdue nations before him And to loose the loins of kings; To open doors before him so that gates will not be shut: 2 “I will go before you and make the rough places smooth; I will shatter the doors of bronze and cut through their iron bars. 3 “I will give you the treasures of darkness And hidden wealth of secret places, So that you may know that it is I, The LORD, the God of Israel, who calls you by your name. 4 “For the sake of Jacob My servant, And Israel My chosen one, I have also called you by your name; I have given you a title of honor Though you have not known Me. 5 “I am the LORD, and there is no other; Besides Me there is no God. I will gird you, though you have not known Me; 6 That men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun That there is no one besides Me. I am the LORD, and there is no other, 7 The One forming light and creating darkness, Causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the LORD who does all these. 8 “Drip down, O heavens, from above, And let the clouds pour down righteousness; Let the earth open up and salvation bear fruit, And righteousness spring up with it. I, the LORD, have created it. 9 “Woe to the one who quarrels with his Maker-- An earthenware vessel among the vessels of earth! Will the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you doing?’ Or the thing you are making say, ‘He has no hands’? 10 “Woe to him who says to a father, ‘What are you begetting?’ Or to a woman, ‘To what are you giving birth?’” 11 Thus says the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker: “Ask Me about the things to come concerning My sons, And you shall commit to Me the work of My hands. 12 “It is I who made the earth, and created man upon it. I stretched out the heavens with My hands And I ordained all their host. 13 “I have aroused him in righteousness And I will make all his ways smooth; He will build My city and will let My exiles go free, Without any payment or reward,” says the LORD of hosts. 14 Thus says the LORD, “The products of Egypt and the merchandise of Cush And the Sabeans, men of stature, Will come over to you and will be yours; They will walk behind you, they will come over in chains And will bow down to you; They will make supplication to you: ‘Surely, God is with you, and there is none else, No other God.’”

* * *

Liz, turn from your idols to Jesus Christ. He is the only true God. All the gods of the nations are idols and there is none righteous--no, not one.

How do I know this?

Because the Bible tells me so.

So, dear woman, flee to the Cross for the forgiveness of your sins while it is yet day. The night is coming quickly.

With prayers in Jesus name said in your behalf,

Tim Bayly

Liz,

Allow me to respond:

I am sorry that you were catechized by someone who, despite his good intentions, probably did as much to misinform you than to educate you about the Bible. For example, “Father” O’Malley may have done well to begin with Matthew 23:9 “And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven”.

Not nearly as arrogant as thinking that I possess within myself, all that I need to become more loving towards my neighbor.

A belief system that establishes myself as the arbiter of what is right and wrong, true and false, sin and righteousness. And I am sorry, I thought I was very clear that it’s not about me, it’s about Christ.

Thank you. I consider that observation to be complimentary. However, I would strongly caution you not to apply personal possessives to the universe, it’s just really weird.

This is an interesting observation that could potentially be considered secular reverse-engineering on the Biblical teaching of predestination. The trouble is that it Does matter which path is taken to reach the conclusion. (John 14:6 I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.)

Actually, that would be a distortion of what the Bible teaches but nevertheless, I would say that I am not interested in doing the right thing by the world but rather The Word. The issues of my acceptance and your growing numbers are interesting ones that I could throw about ten pages into but I think it would only make you really angry. Suffice it to say that I do accept as a reality that there are people who have opposing views and that I don’t think your democratic view of an attrition war of worldviews has been thought through to it’s logical conclusion. As for your “mythical” statement, I would caution you with the following passage from the Gospel of John chapter 3:

“16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God."

You can't use the bible to prove the existence of God.

It would be like using the "Lord of the Rings" to prove the existence of hobbits.

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