My Bias on Biblical Marriage
I told you last Sunday I was going to do some posts on what the Bible says about marriage. Of course, that is really going to be what I think the Bible says. I work hard to see what is there and separate it from my biases, but being human I’m sure I fail. So today I want to give you my history with this issue and how I have come to see and understand it.
I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s in a Presbyterian church in Austin, Texas. Austin was (and is) a very liberal place, surrounded by a very conservative state. In the 70’s Austin was known to be more gay-friendly than San Francisco and more green than Portland.
Our church didn’t talk about marriage (or sex), so I didn’t get any teaching on this until I changed churches at 20. Looking back I would guess most of the couples were somewhere middle of the road in terms of how they went about their marriage. Most would have given lip service to the husband as the head, but I don’t know how much it was lived. My parents tended to default to egalitarian, but there were times when my dad took a stand. When that happened mom followed along, but I suspect it cost him when he did it. (And I am deeply grateful for the times he did that on my behalf.)
At twenty I moved to a much more Bible-based church. They were certainly complementarian. A few years later I joined a pastor who was forming a new church. This group was legalistic, and I’d say they were close to patriarchal in their approach to marriage. I met Lori at that church, but I left it shortly after that because I was seeing significant problems both in terms of how the teachings failed to line up with the Bible and some issues of integrity. When Lori left that church later we started to date. We attended a variety of churches as we dated and when we were first married. These churches were complementarian, but not as far over as the one where I met Lori.
So early in our marriage, we were pretty hard complementarian – usually, more so than most of the folks in our church. Then I made the mistake of starting to compare what I believed to what the Bible says. I did this with most of my theology, one issue at a time. But the time I got to marriage I was well used to finding out that what I believed and or had been taught was less than 100% compatible with the Bible. Some was close, some was skewed, some was not to be found at all in the Bible.
What I found as I looked at marriage in the Bible didn’t line up well with that I thought, with what I had been taught the last few years, or with what I was living. It wasn’t horribly out of line, but it didn’t fit right either. I saw, and still see, headship as a truth shown throughout the Bible. However, much of what I was taught about headship was at best added to what is in the Bible. Some of it seemed right, some did not, but most of it went beyond what is actually written.
I’ve studied this for 25 years now, and I still feel I’ve only scratched the surface. I have learned that much of what we teach is based on poor or iffy translations and a total lack of understanding of the audience to whom it was written. Often it makes sense when taken out of context, but doesn’t work when held up against the Bible as a whole.
As a non-marriage example of this consider Matthew 25:31-46. If we had read only those verses and knew nothing else of the Bible, we would logically conclude that salvation is based solely on our works. It’s the only conclusion we could reach from just that bit of scripture. If we know the Bible as a whole we know that interpretation can’t be right, and we can then dig to find the truth that is there for us.
Some of the most common passages about marriage are the same way; what some claim they say makes sense if all you look at is the passage. However, if you know the Bible as a whole some of those claims don’t fit. A few are contrary what the Bible says, and many are contrary to the tenor of scripture as a whole.
So what do I believe today? I haven’t found a label that fits. I believe that headship is a valid principle, but I don’t think God intends us to have a total top-down hierarchy. I think Scott Means put it very well in his The Problem With Roles in Marriage post when he said of marriage passages “you will find that these scriptures describe attitudes of the heart, not some kind of organizational chart or list of tasks for him and her“. It’s about the heart, not who’s in charge. If we ask the wrong question we can never learn what God has for us. The question I now ask myself is “Lord, how do you want me to treat my wife?” Then I look to the Bible for the answer to that question.
Current TMB Survey:
Premarital Sexual Experience Before you were married what did you do with your spouse? What about with others?
Great tweet of the week:
Never use the faults of others as an excuse to turn negative.@Leadershipfreak
Links to blog posts that stood out to me this last week:
Featured Post – A must read article I saw this week:
Kevin A Tompson postedThe Question No One Asks…But Should ◄ Best thing I have read in a very long time.
Protect Your Kids From Porn Start Talking About Sex ◄ Telling them porn is wrong is not enough!
4 Reasons People Don’t Connect During Sex ◄ Connecting makes sex way better.
10 Ways to Prepare Before You Confess Porn ◄ Solid advice from a woman who has talked to a lot of women about this.
Blessed Are The Pure Of Heart
Your Dying Spouse 457 – I Shall Be Released, But Not Yet ◄ The power of love.
The Curmudgeonly Librarian
Of Marriages and Splinters ◄ Your spouse is not perfect, and neither are you!
Fierce Marriage ◄ This blog has moved to podcasts. Due to very limited bandwidth I am unable to listen. But they do great stuff, please check them out!
The Generous Wife
Heaven Made Marriage
Who Goes First? ◄ The part of headship no man wants to hear.
Hot, Holy and Humorous
The Biggest Challenge to My Sex Life (That I Never Told You About) ◄ When health issues interferer with sex.
Q&A with J: Doesn’t She Really Want a Bigger Penis? ◄ No, and maybe NO WAY! (Read the comments)
5 Ways to Get Your Church to Address Sex ◄ Because we desperately need to talk about it.
Intimacy in Marriage
Wives Who Fake It. But Really WANT to Come ◄ Far more common than you think it is.
4 Phrases That Make You Your Wife’s Hero ◄ Don’t just memorize these, understand what they mean to her.