15 July 2015

A Humiliating Death

by F. X. Turk

Back in 2008, Newsweek published an atrocious hack-job against Christian ethics for the sake of villainizing (of all things) traditional marriage.  Of course, we covered it here.  From my perspective, everybody wringing their hands about the current state of "marriage" in the laws of the United States ought to re-read that post, and all the comments which followed, for the sake of hitting their own reset button on this topic.

But because I am taking a little summer vacation from my permanent hiatus, I have a few more thoughts on this topic not-quite-a-decade-but-more-than-an-epoch later.



The first thought is this: it's critical to keep in mind that the facts of the matter are that those who express serious judeo-christian fidelity are still the least likely to divorce.  From a merely-sociological standpoint, that item is constantly eroded by false declarations by biased advocates who are trying to poison the well against the strongest advocates for the view of marriage which made Western Civilization possible.  And let's be clear: I list among those detractors the Barna Group, which is the worst wolf among the sheep when it comes to understanding who Christians really are.

But the follow-up to that note is critical: "divorce" is a terrible measure of whether or not people are doing what they ought to do in marriage.  It's like measuring the competency of drivers by how few people they kill while driving.  Since a lot of people lately have been worried about what Jesus might have said about this subject, when the Pharisees asked him about divorce he said to them, "Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery."  If what we're trying to measure is hard hearts, maybe divorce is a good key indicator.  A measure for great marriages ought to be looking for something else.

Let me suggest something to you which will make everyone angry -- which is the only good reason to take a break from hiatus anyway.  The proper measure of whether or not there are good marriages in the ranks of actual Christians ought to be whether or not husbands love their wives the way Christ loves the Church.  The rest of this post is for our primarily-male readership.  I have 4 good reasons for this, so if you're not already rolling your eyes you can at least hear me out.

First, the idea in Christian thought that the good of the marriage is the responsibility of the husband is not any kind of new idea.  That's actually the problem: it's an old idea which is somehow out of vogue, and those trying to rehabilitate it are, if I may say so, doing it wrong.  The prototype in Scripture for what we ought to mean is, of course, Jesus -- but before He did what He does, Hosea was out there doing it Old Testament style.  Let me tell you something, fellas: it doesn't matter what sort of woman your wife is.  Your marriage is not ruined because of what kind of wife your wife is.  It can only be ruined by what kind of husband you are to her.  And to put a fine point on it, it is also made into something else by the kind of husband you are.

In the example of Hosea, God tells the prophet (which, btw, this is a great object lesson for people who want God to give them a word of knowledge: if you really want to know what God knows, you are bound not to be made famous and well-regarded by it; you are likely to wind up doing something everyone else will see as a terrible idea) to "Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms: for the land hath committed great whoredom."  From God's perspective, His wife -- that is, his chosen people with whom he has a covenant -- is not merely a bad housekeeper or a lousy cook.  God's covenant partner has sold what belongs uniquely to Him to everyone for money and nice dinners.  And in that circumstance, God doesn't pretend that His wife has done nothing wrong -- but He also does not pretend it is her problem to make it right.  It is His problem to make it right.  And when He makes it right, it will be Right:
I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness.
You may not like this example because God actually promises to punish Israel for what they have done, and that's fine -- I understand we are all squeemish about Old Testament modes of Justice.  But Hosea doesn't punish Gomer: he buys her out of slavery, and when she returns to her old life, he goes and does it again.  And when God tells the prophet how to reflect on this, here's what he says:
How can I give you up, O Ephraim?
    How can I hand you over, O Israel?
How can I make you like Admah?
    How can I treat you like Zeboiim?
My heart recoils within me;
    my compassion grows warm and tender.
I will not execute my burning anger;
    I will not again destroy Ephraim;
for I am God and not a man,
    the Holy One in your midst,
    and I will not come in wrath.
Look: faithfulness has to come from someplace.  The foundation of the promises your marriage is based on have to come from someplace.  In an original sense, they come from God.  In the immediate sense, somebody right here and now has to start by being the ordinary means God intended for marriage.

But look at this, fellas: this is what it means in the Old Testament for God to love his people.

When we turn to the New Testament for our second example, it doesn't actually get any easier for you -- because the model of Hosea is multiplied by the moral perfection of the bridegroom.  The example of Jesus (as we read Ephesians 5) is of the perfect bridegroom who makes his bride his own flesh.  And the example Jesus sets is this: while we (the church) were yet sinners, He died for us.  At the right time, Jesus (the holy and righteous one) died for the ungodly.  Certainly: Jesus died for our sins and in that condemned our sins.  He made it clear that what we were doing was wrong -- but therefore paid the price for our sins so that we would not be put to death for them.  He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  And in case you missed it, we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.  Mercy and Love are the way Jesus sanctifies the church, nurtures her, takes her out of sin.

What if, in your family, you were the guy who humbled himself in obedience to God to the point of humiliating death for the sake of your wife?  Do you think your family would look and act differently, or would they just be the same ol' people just like the folks down the street who are closet egalitarians (or maybe open egalitarians) who have nice, middle class economic goals and cut their grass twice a week?

Third, if we are measuring how good our marriages are, or we want to gauge them in some way, measuring the other people in our family is a fine form of legalism.  It is not a fine form of faith.  Reforming other people is for Politicians and other Charletans.  It also is a great way to create enemies.  We have a saying at our house: "You" is a full-time job.  Stick to your full-time job, and I suspect that what will happen is what God expected to happen when husbands love their wives the way Christ loves the church.  Everything else aside, the husband's job is to love his wife the way Christ loves the church.  Like his own body.  Not like a contractor.

Last, one of the most sickening things that has happened in the last 4 weeks is the way marriage has, again, been watered down in order to make sense of what has apparently happened by force of legal caveat.  Back in 2012, I was trying to help to think through what we were talking about when we said "marriage."  A highlight was this:
Now fire up your imagination for a second.  Imagine you are at dinner with some other person, and you've been thinking about this for a long time.  As the waiter leaves with your order of eats for the evening, you clench up a little, and then screw your courage to the sticking place.  You take a deep breath and you begin, "What I really want is to avoid incest, and embrace endogamy.  I want some rights and duties regarding sexual intercourse and property, and to establish a nominal division of labor.  I want a visible household economy.  And you seem like exactly the right person to do that with, at least for now.  Will you marry me?" 
Is there anyone who would really say that, or really want that?
The answer is apparently "yes" right now, except for the endogamy part.  Maybe the re-write from the script of the victors in this skirmish would be, "What I really want is for other people to celebrate all my urges, all the things I think I deserve including sexual pleasure.  I wants rights over property and to make sure someone doesn't cheat me out of it.  I also want someone to share my living expenses with in a way that the law will enforce, and a way to make them settle up like any contractor if they don't live up to their end of the bargain."

I bring it up as my last reason here because let's face it: what we ought to have makes that look like the corrupt and morally-blighted trap it is obviously intended to be.  If husbands loved their wives as Christ loves the church, when some famous idiot goes on TV and tries to make anything else look like that, what it really is gets painted with neon colors and stands out like an Easter egg on a putting green.

We ought to want to do that, gents.  We ought to want to expose the unfruitful works of darkness, exposing them to the light with the light which is Christ in us.









35 comments:

Michael Coughlin said...

That's good stuff!

Dave Leland said...

What if, in your family, you were the guy who humbled himself in obedience to God to the point of humiliating death for the sake of your wife?

Some practical, specific examples of what that looks like would be most helpful.

Frank Turk said...

What if you gave up something you like, Dave, for the sake of giving something your wife needs and would cause her to see that you value her more than you value any other thing?

What if you quit blogging even though you're nearly famous for it because that time and energy is something she deserves, and you are spending it on strangers who think "tone" is an argument against truth?

Marla said...

Thanks for the vacation from your hiatus. Also, thought your remark about Barna was worth admission for me. Now I know I'm not alone.

George Douglas said...

Hi Frank,

Please let me suggest that you reconsider this post and do a follow-up on it. Yes, husbands should love their wives as Jesus loved the church (Eph 5:25), and divorce is wrong (Mal 2:14-16, among others). But neither these passages nor Hosea's situation support what you said:

"...it doesn't matter what sort of woman your wife is. Your marriage is not ruined because of what kind of wife your wife is. It can only be ruined by what kind of husband you are to her. And to put a fine point on it, it is also made into something else by the kind of husband you are."

Well, not always. There's no indication in Hosea that Gomer ever repented, or that Hosea's marriage to her ever rose above a ruined state. More importantly, Eph 5 has some clear commands for wives as well about submission and respect for husbands. And 1 Cor 7:15 clearly contemplates that there will be times when a wife, as well as a husband, will unjustifiably depart ("But if the unbelieving partner separates...). Jesus himself acknowledged divorce as a remedy for infidelity, which necessarily contemplates there may be times when a wife, as well as a husband, may be unfaithful to her vows in spite of her husband's love (e.g., Gomer).

We should also acknowledge that even if a wife does not leave the marriage, she can still "ruin" it by any ordinary meaning of the word. In that case it is still the husband's duty to forgive (whether 77 or 70x7), but he will be in a "ruined" relationship regardless.

David Guzik's commentary says, "It wasn’t that Hosea found a fallen woman and through love and kindness restored her to virtue. He married a prostitute - no doubt hoping she would give up her sin and be devoted only to him - and she stayed a prostitute." In other words, if Hosea is our example then he didn't get the result which your post seems to envision.

So yes, absolutely, a Christian husband's duty is fully as deep and wide as you have said, but it does not guarantee that a wife can't "ruin" a marriage all by herself. Hosea needs to be seen as a model of God's electing love in salvation, not a model of marriage.

Grace to you and yours.

Frank Turk said...

My first response to George is this: it seems odd to me that the kind of people who read TeamPyro would ever resort to an argument which says, in effect, that the church can ever ruin what Christ has done for it.

My more-complete response will follow after I clean some things up at work this morning.

Frank Turk said...

Given my first response to George, You might think that I am about to bring out the merciless beating for him, but that’s not the case. Here is what he asks me to do:

| Please let me suggest that you reconsider
| this post and do a follow-up on it.

There’s nothing wrong with asking, and there’s nothing wrong with asking because one particular post may seem unbalanced. He continues:

| Yes,
| husbands should love their wives as Jesus
| loved the church (Eph 5:25), and divorce is
| wrong (Mal 2:14-16, among others).

I have already stated my major objection to George’s concerns, but let me say it another way right here: the problem with the quick take George has made here is that it completely overlooks to whom those concerns are voiced. The charge in Malachi is not to married couples who have somehow drifted apart: it is to husbands who have abandoned the wives of their youth. The confrontation between Jesus and the Pharisees over divorce is not about wives who become unwifely: it is about men who have hard hearts and divorce their wives for any reason – a problem which Jesus says was not how it was made to be.

So when we look at the Scripture to see how it thinks about divorce, it is thinking in terms of a husband who must be husbandly in order that his wife can be wifely. The husband is not given an inspector’s license and a checklist, and when his wife reaches some critical mass of wifeliness he ought to then kick in some catalytical husbandry to keep things working.

Scripture makes the husband the one who has the responsibility for marriage. Trying to spin it another way makes every place where the analogy of the bridegroom is used unintelligible.

| But
| neither these passages nor Hosea's
| situation support what you said:
|
| "...it doesn't matter what sort of woman
| your wife is. Your marriage is not ruined
| because of what kind of wife your wife is. It
| can only be ruined by what kind of
| husband you are to her. And to put a fine
| point on it, it is also made into something
| else by the kind of husband you are."

Well, let’s see your case, George.

| Well, not always. There's no indication in
| Hosea that Gomer ever repented, ...
I don’t think I said that there was. What I said was that God Himself said that in spite of the kind of woman Gomer was, Hosea was to go and get her and bring her back – and using that as his analogy, his object lesson, God then says to Israel, “How can I give you up? How can I forsake you? I love you because I love you – I will take care of you forever.”

And the point of God saying this is not that Gomer will repent.

| ... or that
| Hosea's marriage to her ever rose above a
| ruined state.

I have a few words on this when you get to Guzik’s commentary, but in plain language, so what? Was Israel’s commitment to God better than Gomer’s to Hosea? How does God think about His promises when Israel is a whore?

[more]

Frank Turk said...

[continued]

And in that, I want to point the reader at Mal 2, since George brought it up:

{{
Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the 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. For the Lord, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the Lord of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.
}}

God expects husbands to keep faith with their wives – they are the ones he holds accountable for the state of the marriage. The why is not made utterly transparent until we get to Eph 5, but it is clearly intimated in the message here and in Hosea. Husbands are the ones tasked to keep good faith with their wives – which is to say, to keep their word. That’s the opposite of “treachery”: good faith. Covenant keeping.

| More importantly, Eph 5 has
| some clear commands for wives as well
| about submission and respect for
| husbands.

This is the part which really bothers me in George’s complaint, and I want to make sure I cover it with real care for his concern. I read his concern to mean that wives are not entirely without responsibilities in marriage, and I have said that effectively, they can just do as they please. I think he is right to worry that some might read what I have written to mean that wives should just expect a lot from their husbands and they have a blank check. That’s how some people are, and we should worry about them.

The problem with using Eph 5 as an argument that the responsibility is somehow even or mutual is this: the responsibility in the analogy Paul uses is nowhere near mutual. There is nothing synergistic in Christ’s work, right? Jesus doesn’t meet the church half-way, and then he’s waiting and wanting and willing to save her but darn it, if she would only come! That’s why I dumped all the long versions of Paul’s exposition of the Gospel into the post – so that we didn’t just nod our heads at Solo Christo and wonder what we just agreed to.

Paul spends almost 200 words in the Greek on this instruction about marriage, and only about 20 of them are for the wife. The other 90% of this passage is for the husband – and he says that Jesus is the exemplar of husbandly care. So where is our high-brow Reformed theology and systematics about Jesus when suddenly the place where men are qualified to become elders in the church (you know: husband of one wife) is here said by Paul to be of the same kind of thing as what Jesus does for the church?

And the point is clear, it seems to me: wives should have husbands who deserve honor and respect the way Jesus deserves honor and respect, and therefore they ought to give that honor and respect. The church does not follow Christ because he demands it: they follow Him because he loved us first, and gave himself up for us. He did it first. He did it first, and is still doing it now even when we are only watching TV or only puttering around in the garage.

[more]

Frank Turk said...

[continued]

| And 1 Cor 7:15 clearly
| contemplates that there will be times when
| a wife, as well as a husband, will
| unjustifiably depart ("But if the unbelieving
| partner separates...). Jesus himself
| acknowledged divorce as a remedy for
| infidelity, which necessarily contemplates
| there may be times when a wife, as well as
| a husband, may be unfaithful to her vows
| in spite of her husband's love (e.g.,
| Gomer).

This is perfectly true in and of itself – but think more pointedly here: in 1Cor 7, this is the unbelieving spouse who departs. Jesus has no obligation to stay united to those in the world. He stays united with those who are actually his body. Paul’s instruction is that if the unbeliever departs, let that person go.

It’s not v 15 we should be stuck on here: it’s verse 27.

| We should also acknowledge that even if a
| wife does not leave the marriage, she can
| still "ruin" it by any ordinary meaning of the
| word. In that case it is still the husband's
| duty to forgive (whether 77 or 70x7), but he
| will be in a "ruined" relationship regardless.

I will come back to this in another comment or blog post. It is worth working out – because there is some “is” here which is missing in the “ought” we receive from Scripture.

| David Guzik's commentary says, "It wasn’t
| that Hosea found a fallen woman and
| through love and kindness restored her to
| virtue. He married a prostitute - no doubt
| hoping she would give up her sin and be
| devoted only to him - and she stayed a
| prostitute." In other words, if Hosea is our
| example then he didn't get the result which
| your post seems to envision.

George says this, but he omits Guzik’s comments on Hosea 11: “The longsuffering, forgiveness, and compassion of the Lord toward His people seems unbelievable until we recognize that He is not man, but God. His love and forgiveness are of a different order.” And this, btw, is the actual point: not that Hosea reformed Gomer, but that Hosea did for Gomer what God does for Israel – and it is not because Israel deserves God’s extravagant love, but because God cannot forget His love for Israel.

And that, at the end of it, is what the husband is meant to do for the wife according to Paul.

| So yes, absolutely, a Christian husband's
| duty is fully as deep and wide as you have
| said, but it does not guarantee that a wife
| can't "ruin" a marriage all by herself. Hosea
| needs to be seen as a model of God's
| electing love in salvation, not a model of
| marriage.

The unfortunate fact is that God’s electing love in salvation is actually what Paul says is the model for marriage. That’s an inescapable reading of Ephesians 5, and it makes complete sense when we pair that with Paul’s qualification of elders. Guys who can be the kind of husband they ought to be (loving as Christ loves the church) are the kind of guys who are suitable to lead the church.

So I thank George for his objections (and I still have one more comment to make about them, as I said above), but the problem is not that I have let anyone off the hook: the challenge is that men are supposed to be the ones responsible for their marriages.

More later.

[-fin-]

Michael Coughlin said...

Sounds easy enough, doesn't it? :)

Frank Turk said...

Now that I have probably made George very angry at me for making my point clear that the primary duty in marriage is a husbandly duty, let's think about this thing he said which has the look of the real world about it:

| We should also acknowledge that even if a
| wife does not leave the marriage, she can
| still "ruin" it by any ordinary meaning of the
| word. In that case it is still the husband's
| duty to forgive (whether 77 or 70x7), but he
| will be in a "ruined" relationship regardless.

I have more than one thing to say about this as a witness to it in the real world, and the first thing is this: I have no doubt that Hosea was not thrilled to be God's object lesson to Israel. I don't think he enjoyed it any more than Elijah did when he was hiding in a cave begging to die. If I can say this as clearly as possible, I don't think Jesus enjoyed going to the cross. You know: the problem we face in this world is sin, and the solution to sin is the Gospel. But to say that all those who seek to lead a godly life will be rewarded with your best life now is a denial of Scripture.

I know a guy who has loved his wife for decades, and she is liar and a malcontent. She literally hurts him every time he is nice to her -- and not carelessly, but intentionally. In George's view of it, that marriage is ruined. When I look at it, I see a few things:

-- I see a picture of Jesus which makes me reconsider daily whether I really believe that His grace is sufficient for me. When I open my eyes in the morning, and I take that first breath, Jesus is merciful to me. Am I grateful? How do I show it? Do I care that the wounds on His body at the cross are because of my ingratitude, or am I somewhat pleased to hear the sound of the hammer on the spike when I see what He has done for me?

-- I see a kind of love that the world can't even ape. It can't even imagine it -- because in the world's book (and movie, and music, and conversation) love is about making me happy rather than making me holy. Think about how it must be to love someone who thinks they are entitled to your love but doesn't have any love to give back. "Thankless" doesn't even approach it, but that's the point: love doesn't require a thank you, but Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

-- What a marriage like that lacks, frankly, is joy. I think that's what George means by saying it is "ruined," and if we are only moderately-informed about Scripture, it says the same thing. (cf. Prov 19:13, 21:9, 25:24, 27:15) It is a shame to have to live like that, and I don't envy anyone who does. But this is the world's complaint about marriage: what good is it if it is not making me happy? And I think that when we are somehow seeing a holy thing the way the world sees it, we are doing it wrong.

So my opinion is that, in the real world, there is no question that a wife can make a marriage into something it ought not to be. That simply does not give the husband the license to therefore call it "ruined" and to walk away from his responsibility to un-ruin it. In doing what he ought to do, he is preaching the Gospel in a way that merely saying the words does not. he lives as if the words are true, and that Christ is Risen indeed.

Frank Turk said...

Honest-to-Pete last word as a response to George:

{{
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
}}

The one thing that strikes me about this passage is not the word "submit". It's the word "savior". When I stopped being an atheist and started being a Christian, here's exactly what did not happen: I didn't read about Jesus, and then wait for him to make some improvements in me, and then in the same measure that Jesus sanctified me I was more submissive to him. I threw myself at his salvation of me from the first moment I laid eyes on it. I had no idea what it would mean or if anyone else even believed what I believed about Jesus. I only knew that what he had: I needed it. And I pleaded with him for it.

When we can see that what this passage requires first is a "savior," we can see that "submission" is not something like "slavery" or "oppression." It's actually just being unwilling to fight off salvation - to act like you are being saved rather than to act like you are being trod upon.

So first thing of the last thing: waiting for your husband to be a perfect savior before you are even moderately submissive seems to miss the point by a lot. If you really want that from him, the way you want to be saved and forgiven by Jesus, try acting like that's what you want.

Second thing of the last thing: Does Paul "command" this of wives? To be sporting, I'll say, "yes, of course he does." But look here: what sort of person doesn't want to be saved? Gomer did not want to be saved - does that seem like a good role model? What's the difference between Gomer and another prostitute in Scripture, known as Rahab? This are good inductive Bible study questions, so they should help you see for yourself what Scripture is saying.

Last thing of the last thing: in the same way that there are husbands tasked with a thankless role in a marriage, there are wives tasked with a thankless role in a marriage. I promise you that I do not want anyone to have a thankless marriage, but you cannot repay evil with evil and expect the Gospel purpose in marriage to somehow miraculously spring up in that sort of relationship. All the love stuff I have said above applies here, too.

Thanks much to George for asking a good question, and I pray I have given profitable answers.

George Douglas said...

Hi Frank,

I had to go out this morning and am just now seeing your comments. Thanks for reconsidering and following up, albeit by way of your comments, which is fine. My thoughts, without restating yours:

1. I did not say the church could ruin what Jesus did for her, and that's not a fair characterization of what I did say. But since you mention it, the church sometimes does ruin that in a temporal (though not ultimate) sense. Examples abound. Yet although Jesus continues to be faithful to His bride as a husband should be, nevertheless the present relationship is frequently not what it could be, or what it will be at the end of the age.

2. I reiterate my belief that although a husband bears primary responsibility for the quality of a marriage, I have seen and read of too many instances where a contentious wife simply will not accept her husband's love and his role. Surely you have as well. Perhaps we can invite a reader's poll, sort of a cyber honk-if-you've-seen-this-too thing.

3. I hope you don't really think I "spin" things.

4. The "so what" to my suggestion that Hosea never had anything but a "ruined" marriage to Gomer is that there is nothing in the book which remotely suggests that Gomer's attitude was Hosea's fault – is there?

5. You did agree (I think) that there may be times an unbelieving wife leaves – at that point the marriage is clearly "ruined". Whose responsibility is that?

6. I know I said I wouldn't restate your comments but I have to here:
FT: " So my opinion is that, in the real world, there is no question that a wife can make a marriage into something it ought not to be. That simply does not give the husband the license to therefore call it "ruined" and to walk away from his responsibility to un-ruin it."
Me again: Yes, that's what I'm saying, and the difference between us is how we define "ruined". Certainly the husband can't simply walk away – I never said or implied that. But he can't "un-ruin" the marriage on his own, as your own example points out as to the guy married to a malcontent wife who continually hurts him.

7. I never said or implied you can repay evil with evil, or unkindness with the same.

So there! Just kidding – I hope you have a great day, and keep blogging. Do not be discouraged that someone like me may occasionally misperceive what you're trying to say – even where, as here, you're wrong. (No, just kidding again).

Perhaps we could leave it at "Guys, love your wives like Jesus loves the church, and be as patient and gentle with them as He is with you. And in some cases, don't expect too much too soon."

Grace and peace to you and yours!

Eric O said...

what? Your marriage is not ruined by what kind of wife your wife is?
Real world example.
A godly man has a wife who hates God, his word, the church and anything to do with the faith.
This man was saved while in marriage.
The wife goes off, has affair, can't live with man of faith, so she leaves him.
Demands divorce.

How has this wife not ruined the marriage?

Frank Turk said...

My first reactions to Eric O:

-- It's a shame that God did not tell Hosea this. It would have changed everything.

-- it's a good thing Jesus does not feel this way about the Church. Otherwise, Arminianism would be too optimistic about the kind of salvation Christ offers.

-- this takes all the heat of the guy, because now he doesn't really have to do anything and he can just wait until his wife gives up for any reason. Just like Jesus does for the church?

Frank Turk said...

Here are my more-sporting reactions to Eric O's comment:

1. Please search this page for the text "I know a guy who has loved his wife", and read that response to this concern. I am fully-aware that some women are faithless in marriage. I think the Bible is clear that even if the woman is faithless, the husband has a Christ-like calling in the marriage which is not a conditional responsibility.

2. There's a very clear passage of Scripture dealing with how to be united with an unbeliever -- which is what the problem here is if she "can't live with man of faith" -- (1Cor 7:12-16) which says that a believer is "not enslaved" to an unbeliever who will not stay. While it may be hurtful to the believer, the message of Scripture is clear: if you loved and the other left in unbelief, you are free. So is a marriage spoiled? Let me say it this way: I think that a marriage looks like Rom 8:28-29 when a man is faced with a wife who doesn't do what Eph 5:22-23 says to do but he is utterly Christ-like to the end. The idea that this "spoils" the marriage is founded on the (secular) idea that marriage is only supposed to be happy.

3. I want to take the example given and make it a little more interesting. Let's say that there is a marriage, and the wife becomes chronically ill. Imagine that she loses the ability to do anything but the most-essential personal hygiene and that she can feed herself, but anything else -- any other labor which would make living with another adult a partnership -- is impossible. To make it even more interesting, let's say that the reason she got sick was because of something she did prior to being married. Her actions in the past have done something to this marriage which have all the look and feel of abandonment -- except that she is physically present and in fact more needy than the wife who actually packs up and leaves. Is this marriage ruined? If not, why not -- and be careful, because if your answer is some cognate of the idea that her feelings haven't changed, you have just played all the way into the logic of same-sex marriage.

My response to this hypothetical is that the marriage is only ruined if the one tasked to keep faith in the covenant (which is Christ in the Christ/church model, so it is the man in the man/woman model) behaves "treacherously" (cf. Hosea) and ruins the covenant.


[more]

Frank Turk said...

[continued]

4. Here's what I think everyone really wants me to say: "Marriage is a two-way street, and the partners are equal partners, and that means both have to do their fair share." My first reaction to that kind of advice is that I don't see how that is distinct from egalitarianism, and I don't see how we can read that out of Gen 1-2-3, let alone Eph 5. I don't see how that sort of defining of marriage roles doesn't allow for same-sex unions, or doesn't allow for polygamy. That advice has forgotten everything about the highlights of the Gospel and how it applies in real life to real people.

Look: you personally have never spoiled the covenant Christ has with you in your salvation, and anyone reading this blog who thinks that it can be spoiled probably needs to read more of this blog. Moreover, the Church has never spoiled the covenant with Christ -- and that's saying something because, let's face it, LBCF XXVI.3. But why is this true? It's true because Christ keeps the covenant. He is the one upon whom the covenant-keeping is necessary. That doesn't mean that the Church and you personally are somehow without any role in the covenant, but it does mean that one side does the necessary work, and the other side does something that requires the other work first.

If you don't understand where this comes from, see here:

{{
Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies.
}}

Look: I didn't invent this analogy. Paul (and the Holy Spirit) did. And Jesus was the one who said that somehow it's the hard heart of men which spoils marriage. Coming out now as people who don't believe this stuff is only proof that the culture didn't invent it's new marriage rules: they learned it from us.

5. Last of all, the one thing this world truly hates is men who are truly heroes. I don't mean Captain America or Superman, but men who have a faith in the true and eternal, a mind set on what God loves and wants, a heart for the things in this world God has given us as a gift of grace, and the willingness to live and die for those things. These men are truly Christ-like because they know what it means to lay down one's life for another. These men are ridiculed, and demonized, and made out to be all sorts of things which the world says ought to be illegal and shameful. The first guy to be like that was Jesus. And when Jesus came, what He did not say was that as soon as people get their countenance in order, he would be willing to discuss if he would lead, and when he would lead, and how he would lead, and when he would stop if the people around him didn't carry their part of the load. He said this: I will build my church, and death cannot stand against it, and Heaven will pour out of it, and I will suffer and die to make sure of it.

If men are standing around waiting for better wives in order to be even decent husbands, forget it. The game is over.

[-fin-]

Michael Coughlin said...

Let me ask you this, lest there be any misunderstanding.

If a wife turns out to be a dirty scoundrel, is it always the husband's fault?

Or it is possible to be doing what you can as a hubby and the wife still fails?

George Douglas said...

Well, Frank - to quote that well-known theologian Pat Robertson, if your wife has checked out physically or mentally then you're free to do whatever. Really, he said that, sometime earlier this year I think. So the video clip with my own eyes.

Seriously, I agree, you are not free, because God has not party do you by death. BUT... this example does not get you down off the petard onto which you hoisted yourself in the beginning, because the marriage is still ruined in a practical sense. Yes it is a marriage, and yes it is not any fun, and yes it is an assignment which God has obviously given you to carry out, but it is ruined, at least in my my view. As I have repeatedly said, it depends on how you define "ruined".

Honestly, I do not think you have a theological disagreement who is anyone on this blog, or vice versa. I think we are simply talking about what some people would call ruined, or not.

Frank Turk said...

There is something weird going on here, and I want someone else to check it: did I say anything was the husband's "fault", or did I say it was his "responsibility"?

I thought I said this:

{{
Let me tell you something, fellas: it doesn't matter what sort of woman your wife is. Your marriage is not ruined because of what kind of wife your wife is. It can only be ruined by what kind of husband you are to her. And to put a fine point on it, it is also made into something else by the kind of husband you are.
}}

But if I said it was the husband's "fault," I need to know where I said that.

Frank Turk said...

George is being quite a persistent fellow here, and again I want to treat him with good will. He says:

{{
this example does not get you down off the petard onto which you hoisted yourself in the beginning, because the marriage is still ruined in a practical sense. Yes it is a marriage, and yes it is not any fun, and yes it is an assignment which God has obviously given you to carry out, but it is ruined, at least in my my view. As I have repeatedly said, it depends on how you define "ruined".
}}

I would define "ruined," in this case, as something like this: "having disobeyed God's vision for marriage as an example of redemptive love." I mean: that's what Paul says marriage is, right? So it's not ruined when the husband or wife dies. It's not ruined when they have children. It's not ruined when anyone gets sick. It's not ruined when they sin if there is repentance and forgiveness, and especially if the husband is the one who initiates the redemptive process. What ruins the marriage in the definition of ruined I have presented here is when the husband, as the one representing Christ, does unChristlike things. Look: the church is always responding to Christ -- sometimes poorly, sometimes rightly. In that, the wife has a lot of room to be imperfect as long as she is working on following her Husband's lead in a redemptive pattern. But she can't possibly do that if her husband is not leading in a redemptive pattern.

So in a very real sense, I think a wife cannot ruin her marriage. She can make it unrewarding, and painful, and many other things which frankly are disobedient to God, dishonoring to her husband, and dangerous to her own soul. She can actually violate the promises she made when she participated in the ceremony. Looking at Hosea, what does God say about a wife who is a whore? A lot. Does he say that the covenant is ruined? He does not. He says that the covenant is based on who He is, not on who she is. The covenant between Christ and the church is not based on who we are, but on who He is.

Carry that weight, and stop trying to quibble over what qualifies as "ruined." God takes people who are ruined, and pays all the cost to make them right again, even up to the point of dying when they ought to be put to death. Nothing is ruined as long as God is working on it and saving it. In the words of Paul, be an imitator of God.

Michael Coughlin said...

So you are saying "no" it is not the husband's fault? I hate to craft an answer for you, but in the absence of a clear answer that's all I can guess based on your reply.

I think it is phrases like "Your marriage is not ruined because of what kind of wife your wife is. It can only be ruined by what kind of husband you are to her." -- which would lead someone to think of the concept of fault.

Nevertheless, I didn't say you said that, brother. I asked for clarification because I can see how your comments could be construed that way, maybe just because we're all stupid, but I wanted you to get to clarify that point.

I am reading and re-reading this. It is good stuff. But, as you must know by your own extensive comments, there is still plenty of room for discussion and clarification.

Frank Turk said...

This is my last pass on this today, and I'll stop back in on Monday to see what else has sprung up if necessary.

I know a guy who married a girl and had children with her, and she literally had a dream one night in which a talking creature told her she needed to leave him. She told him that story and left him with the kids. When he asked me what to do, I told him: you need to plead with her to come back, because that is your job -- but she's obviously not a disciple of Christ, so if she will not come back, you are free from her. His job was to seek to redeem. Her job was to be redeemed. She didn't just refuse redemption: she literally listened to another god -- maybe one that only existed in her own convoluted head -- and followed its advice.

The problem here was not that she was merely an unfaithful wife: she was an idolater. Her sin was not against this fellow: it was against God. Was the marriage ruined? It was certainly voided - Paul says so in 1Cor 7. Was it ruined? Only if you measure such things with a metric that says that a man's willingness to follow God into the worst possible place and do what God asks him to do is not a valid measure.

There are a lot of bad marriages. I think Scripture says that they are only ruined when Men participate in them with hard hearts rather than with the love of Christ.

George Douglas said...

OK, I am going radio silent. Frank can say anything else he wants to - after all it's his blog.

As I said innumerable posts ago, follow Jesus; love your wife as He loves the Church; be as gentle and patient with her as the Lord has been with you if that were possible; and don't expect too much too soon if you are in a difficult relationship.

Over and out. Grace to all of you.

Michael Coughlin said...

But isn't the real point that hypothetical situations and worst case scenario "I knew a guy stories" simply provide an extreme basis from which to argue (usually)?

Because isn't the idea that we are each daily supposed to be doing "these things." It's real easy to say "Oh yeah, I'd seek to redeem the wife if she did that."

But it's a lot harder to say, "I'll shut my mouth when she's driving or let her handle the remote control tonight or rub her back when I'm tired after a hard week or {GASP} log off twitter."

One of those can be verified today in each of our lives by someone who maybe we aren't always sure thinks we are as great as we think we are. Maybe her standard for judging us is different from our own, if we even care to ask.

Most of us never experience the worst case hypothetical so we can say, yep, I'd lay down my life for her. And we believe God gives special grace in those circumstances, at least I do. But the same God offers the same grace to die daily to self and live these things out. We just think we can handle it in our flesh (generally).

I should get my own blog.

Frank Turk said...

OK - I'm back early.

I think that the argument that it's 50/50 and the wife has to do her part too is really a cover to say that the wife should do her part -first-. I object to all versions of that argument.

I think that the extreme cases I have presented here are examples that the husband can and should, even in the worst cases, love first, love more, love up to and including death. That it also applies to your wife's smaller faults ought to therefore seem easier when you apply it to your normal sort of relationship and life -- but I suspect that most people reading this do not see it that way.

Here's why I think so: most people are also averse to loving the church. Most men assume that they don't have to belong to the church unless it is first more pure than they are, so I think that they are also not very enthusiastic about being christ-like to their wives under every circumstance.

The reaction I get to this stuff is the same reaction I get when I start trotting out the letters to Thessalonica and to Titus and Timothy. So when I am reasoning from Scripture through the worst scenario to whoever you are who is reading this, I'm saying you personally, in all situations, out to the worst cases, but especially today on payday when it counts.

leyitdown said...

Right on. Thank you. I have been saying for years that the main responsibility for the success of the marriage rest on the husband, but not so eloquently or cogently. Every Christian husband, and wife, should read this. What wife would not melt in the arms of a man who loved her in this way? What women would want to leave such a man?

Neal Doster said...

Thanks Frank

The high calling in Christ for husbands is well represented in your article and blog responses. It was a blessing to be reminded of the extent of grace we are called to. It seemed to me that the argument over “ruined” was a semantic one and somewhat detracted from the idea that we (husbands) are to love our wives to the extent that Christ loves the church (at least in effort). While a wife can be at fault for a “ruined” marriage we (husbands) often find ourselves running out of grace long before Christ. I’m grateful for the reminded that Christ like love is tenacious. May our love for our wife or ex-wife endure until we are supplanted (by another husband). Even then compelling us to pray for her. Your thoughts help us to see that the bar is a lot higher than we often think. God bless

Daryl Little said...

Frank,

Thanks for writing this, and for your further expansion in the comments.

It has been a great encouragement to me. Far more than the many books on how to be a great husband and father, a reminder of what it means that I am to love my wife as Christ loves the church is both a challenge and an encouragement.

I am blessed to have a wife who believes that I do this for her...at least that's what she lets on. But I know my weakness and how easy it is to step aside for a while.

My boys will be reading this one...

Frank Turk said...

From a reader who e-mailed:

{{
This is meant for your marriage post on Pyro, but I really don't understand more than basic technology and don't want a blogger account to post a comment. But I really wanted to respond to a comment made by George which provided much fruitful discussion about so called "ruined" marriages.

My thought initially is that they are all ruined to some extent, given that we are hopeless sinners, but some are more ruined than others and we aren't given permission to bail when the going gets tough. I particularly wanted to remind George that when he wants to complain about having to fix his marriage alone, he isn't ever actually alone if he is in Christ. That is the good news of the Gospel. None of us can foresee the future, and I married as a young know-it-all bride, new in the faith, to an unbeliever. Whilst I have had many years to repent of that sin, the Lord has been gracious and merciful and I depend upon Him to see me through. I pray daily for the redemption of my husband, and I can honestly say that this dependence on the Lord has been very good for me. Even through our trials the Lord is good. Could you pass on these thoughts to George?
}}

Food for thought.

George Douglas said...

Responding to the gentle reader who said just above that "I particularly wanted to remind George that when he wants to complain about having to fix his marriage alone, he isn't ever actually alone if he is in Christ." To quote that great theologian Yogi Berra, "I didn't really say everything I said." Or as Yogi also said, "this is like deja-vu all over again."

To reiterate what I did NOT say, I never said, nor do I think, that anyone can "fix their marriage alone." I also did NOT say, nor did I imply, nor do I believe, that any believer is "alone" in their marriage if they are in Christ.

Now think this out. Do you think Mary and Martha prayed for Lazarus before he died? Do you think that the woman who was bent over for 18 years, and blind Bartimaeus, and the man paralyzed for 38 years, didn't have enough faith? Be careful what you say, because a mustard-seed's worth is all it takes. Of course they had enough faith -- yet God allowed their lives to be "ruined" in the ordinary sense of that word "so that the works of God might be displayed". Read the book of Job again.

Here's where I'm pushing back at Frank:
The theology that says "it's always the husband's fault if the marriage isn't what it should be" (i.e., if only the husband was a good enough husband) necessarily denies that there are things which happen that are neither the fault of, nor caused by, any lack of faith on the part of the one whose life is "ruined". Because the flip side of that argument is, "well if only Mary had more faith, Lazarus wouldn't have died, and the bent-over daughter of Abraham would have straightened up too." Really? Because the logical progression of that argument is "if only you were better, or had more faith, then you wouldn't have lost your baby, or been in that awful car wreck, etc."

Here is what I DID say in my very first comment:
We should also acknowledge that even if a wife does not leave the marriage, she can still "ruin" it by any ordinary meaning of the word. In that case it is still the husband's duty to forgive (whether 77 or 70x7), but he will be in a "ruined" relationship regardless.

David Guzik's commentary says, "It wasn’t that Hosea found a fallen woman and through love and kindness restored her to virtue. He married a prostitute - no doubt hoping she would give up her sin and be devoted only to him - and she stayed a prostitute."

So if Hosea is our example then he didn't get the result (a marriage which was "fixed") which Frank's post says should happen when the husband is doing what he should.

To reiterate my previous reiterations of what I originally iterated, "...absolutely, a Christian husband's duty is fully as deep and wide as you have said, but it does not guarantee that a wife can't "ruin" a marriage all by herself. Hosea needs to be seen as a model of God's electing love in salvation, not a model of marriage."

Frank and I both have the same high view of what Scripture says about marriage -- we just have two different definitions for what "ruined" means.

Grace to alll of you -

George



Frank Turk said...

Frank Responds:

I am still puzzled by the statement that I have said anything is anyone's "fault." I have said it's the husband's /responsibility/ to uphold the covenant, not that anything is his fault.

Think of it this way: in any business, things go wrong. And while there is probably someone who is tactically tasked to accomplish certain things, but the person who supervises them is actually responsible for the completion of the task. The supervisor is not responsible for personally laying hands on the task, but he is responsible for the task being done. When one of his charges gets it wrong, it is not his fault that they got it wrong, but he is responsible for fixing the problem.

The process of continuous improvement in any work flow is a process where whatever the fault is, assigning fault is not the objective: owning the outcomes and being responsible to fix it is.

The husband is the owner of the process, in that parlance.

P{lease stop saying I have assigned fault to anyone. It gets the whole theology of marriage wrong.

Frank Turk said...

Also: I object to using Guzik's commentary are the best reading of Hosea, but that's an incidental complaint.

George Douglas said...

Dear Frank,
True, you did not use the word "fault" in your original post. What you DID say was "It [a marriage] can only be ruined by what kind of husband you are to her. And to put a fine point on it, it is also made into something else by the kind of husband you are." I read this as "fault", whether you actually used that word or not.
You also said "... Stick to your full-time job [loving your wife as Jesus loved the Church], and I suspect that what will happen is what God expected to happen when husbands love their wives the way Christ loves the church." My last point was that Hosea -- your example, not mine -- did that, but what you said was a model for us guys did not produce the result you said you expected.

My quotation of Guzik was not to quote him as an authority, but simply to let him restate the obvious from the book of Hosea -- that nothing changed with Gomer as far as we are told in the book. Any other reading of it puts weight on the account that it will not support.

Frank Turk said...

My dear George:

It really does matter whether I used the word or not, because "fault" means "responsibility for wrongdoing," and "responsible for upholding the covenant" means, well, "responsible for doing the right thing in all circumstances." The difference is obvious to anyone, it seems to me, who has not inserted words I purposefully did not use.

As to the second point of what will happen when you do what God says to do, are you saying there are examples of marriages where the husband loves his wife indefatigably and God is therefore dishonored? Because I have also said pretty plainly the comment I posted at 8:46 AM, July 16, 2015, I suspect that you are after something else -- you just want me to say that a marriage in which the husband is faithful and the wife is terrible is a ruined marriage.

I refuse. Why? I think I have said why already, but I'll say it again here as clearly as possible: the purpose of marriage in this fallen world is not your best life now. The purpose in this fallen world for marriage is for the Gospel to be explained and lived as if it was true and not merely a religious story. The husband who loves his ungrateful, uncaring, unsupportive, cold, shiftless, ill-tempered wife has something Christ has: a bride who is utterly beneath him, except for the fact that he has given her love and made her a promise.

A ruined marriage is ruined when it makes hash of the teaching picture Paul gives us in Eph 5. In Paul's analogy, the wife has a savior whom she should follow -- that is, "be subject to." As we see all over Paul's letters, Christ's bride usually has a mixed bag of being subject to Christ. But who is constant? Christ is. And if He is, we ought to be.

The marriage is not ruined if the wife makes it hard: it is the picture of the Gospel when she makes it hard. But if the husband abandons it? You tell me if that looks like Christ and the church.

In that, Hosea is exactly like Christ. The example stands exactly as I intended it. Your view is that somehow I am saying that we will get "happily ever after" if we follow Eph 5, and since it wasn't clear above, I'll say it clearly here: we won't. Happiness is not the point. Holiness is the point - and it's the point which can and must convict the world.

As to citing Guzik as stating the obvious, his interpretation that Hosea expected all things to turn out nice for him and for his wife to reform are only his opinions - they are not found in the text. That's my objection to citing him. Further, that somehow you think I have read Hosea to mean that Gomer ever reformed, you need to (again) read what I wrote.

Thanks for your feedback. I think we have covered it encyclopedically.