Dark Brightness

Bleak Theology: Hopeful Science

Around the traps.

I am taking a break from analysing data and writing reports to go through some of the more interesting critiques in the last week. David French starts us rolling with his fairly blunt criticism of the mores of contemporary evangelism.

I have my own explanation for these trends, but first let me clearly state that I know there is no such thing as a utopian church. We are still fallen people living in a fallen world, and there will always be premarital sex and unplanned pregnancies. But with that caveat, I think it’s fairly clear that not only can we do better, we’ve done better before.

But why are we doing so much worse now? I tend to think it’s a logical result of the “everything but” culture that’s overrun much of the church. In other words, “We Christians live just like you, but without the sin.” … …Similarly, within the world of Christian marriage, it’s impossible to overstate the extent to which healthy marriage is discussed within secular frameworks of happiness and fulfillment, with scripture providing the holy means for gaining secular ends.

In short, Christians lost the culture but kept adapting to its demands. In the aftermath of the sexual revolution, the culture was bound to postpone marriage, and Christians postponed marriage. In the age of no-fault divorce, the culture was bound to view marriage as more contract than covenant, and Christians viewed marriage as more contract than covenant. But clawing back will require us to do something most of us haven’t been willing to do — give up our cultural “relevance,” give up our one degree of deviation from the mean, and rethink our relationships from inception to conception — and beyond.

Now, the question has to be.. how to rethink it? The Biblical answer to this is tradtional marriage. This involves submission. And no one who goes down that path considers it easy. But there is some witness — that it is worthwhile.

There’s no flow, and the purpose of WHY we do these things has been relegated to the merely utilitarian

Exactly, and that was my motivation for this article. Everyone IRL says, “If you had to do it again, would you?” Sometimes if I’m bored, I’m tempted to say, “No way! I’d stay single and travel and work at a glamorous job.” Or if I’m stressed out, I’m tempted to say, “No way! I’d join a convent and spend my life in contemplative prayer.” But if I’d done either of those things, then I’d be complaining about wanting children, or being lonely, or being bored, or missing sex and romance, or whatever.

I do know that my particular marriage has offered me plenty of chances for spiritual growth because so few things have worked out according to my carefully-laid plans. God apparently knows how to reform me and He seems to have a deep sense of irony. All vocations offer that benefit because choosing a vocation and remaining faithful to it requires you to mature and grow into your new role, even if things don’t really work out.

That’s why a vocation is different than a “job”. If you have a job, you can always change jobs if things don’t really work out and you aren’t having fun. But if you have a vocation, then you’ve made a commitment, and you have to stick it out. You can change your vocation, but it’s not as simple. People try to take that “job” mentality into their vocations, and it causes a lot of grief. That’s why you see people discarding their marriages as if they were shoes that didn’t fit properly. “Oh, we didn’t get along.” “Oh, I had to go find myself.” “Oh, I just thought there might be someone better out there.” These aren’t serious people.

Going into marriage with the expectation that it’ll make you happy just sets you up to be miserable. Being married will make you married, and whether or not you’re happy is mostly up to you. Realizing that has actually made me much happier. I used to get into a bad mood and then get resentful at everyone around me about my mood. (Women, especially, seem prone to this, because we’re so coddled and it can lead to spoilage.) Now if I’m in a bad mood, I just think (or have someone tell me), “Stop being so grumpy!” and then I eventually get over it.

Well Dalrock has been thinking about advice for young women. And he has some trenchant points to make about submission. He states

While wives submitting to their husbands is a clear command in the new testament, very few devout Christians even take this seriously in practice. It flies against the norms of our culture, and even those who are very traditional are likely to be alarmed by the statement.

In fact, (submission) should frighten you. If it doesn’t, you likely aren’t understanding the gravity of the situation. I’m assuming it immediately raised questions in your mind like:

What if he is abusive?
What if he won’t take her needs and wants into sufficient consideration when making decisions?
What if he is prone to make risky or irresponsible decisions?
What if he isn’t faithful?
What if he isn’t motivated to work to provide for his family?
What are his religious and moral values?
Is he a kind person?
Is he mentally and emotionally stable?
Is he capable of leading her in a way which she is comfortable following? (leadership style/game)

The proof that this is the right process is that these are all of the right questions. These are the questions women looking to marry should be asking but very often aren’t.

This also resolves the problem of the wife potentially moving in a different direction than her husband over time. If she is following his leadership, while change is nearly guaranteed they will be changing together. In picking him she is both making a guess at the kind of life she hopes to live and picking someone she trusts to work with her while navigating the process. In the true spirit of one and done marriage, she is hooking her wagon to him for the duration. For richer or poorer, in sickness and health, they will succeed or fail together.

I think Alte is correct: marriage is a vocation and it should be a one-way door. And being married changes you. Having kids changes you. If you are married, then you have to, have to consider your spouse. (And yes, this applies to men — our command is to love our wifes, not oppress them, and give up our lives for them. Neither role is easy).

But… this has been lost in the idea that marriage is about personal growth or fulfilment. It is about being happy. We have forgotten that you cannot chase joy. We have lost our love, We have been compromised: we walk within our society and it has made us dirty. The very idea that we can commit to one person, follow or lead one person, be accountable to one person — in all areas — frightens us. We have been trained to be selfish. The old divines knew of this.

They have lost their clear discovery of Christ. They see Him but dimly. They have lost the sight of His beauty — the savor of His good ointment — the hold of His garment. They seek Him, but find Him not. They cannot stir up the heart to lay hold on Christ.

The Spirit dwells scantily in their soul. The living water seems almost dried up within them. The soul is dry and barren. Corruptions are strong: grace is very weak.

Love to the brethren fades. United prayer is forsaken. The little assembly no more appears beautiful. Compassion for the unconverted is low and cold. Sin is unrebuked, though committed under their eye. Christ is not confessed before men. Perhaps the soul falls into sin, and is afraid to return; it stays far off from God, and lodges in the wilderness.

Ah! this is the case, I fear, with many. It is a fearfully dangerous time. Nothing but a visit of the free Spirit to your soul can persuade you to return. Is it not a time for this prayer — “Wilt thou not revive us again?”

It is no point, at present, looking outwards and arguing against the corruption of our society, and the compromises we are being told to make on issues such as gay marriage unless we are prepared to sit down and weep for our own failures, for our own faults… individually and as a congregation.

A divorce should be a time of mourning and repentance not celebrated and called growth.

Men need to look at hat is the nature of women, in general, and how to lead women. We need much more biblical teaching on this than on how to act in the bedroom. In a similar manner, older women need to obey the clear command to teach younger women how to love their husbands and children. You see, caring for the other does not come naturally. Infatuation can only take you so far. In the end, you need to see marriage, as Alte wisely says, as a vocation.