“What issues do you see on the national and international scene that will require decisive action by Christians?”
An Essay by Jeremy Weaver for
Introduction To World Religions/Philosophy 201 submitted on March 4, 2014
“For Many in Western Europe, the Reformation in the sixteenth century was not only a rediscovery of the heart of the Gospel…, but a recovery of a fully biblical view of marriage” (Haykin 2009, xvi). These two issues that faced the church in the sixteenth century are the same issues that face the church today. It is evident that even as a form of Christianity is growing in the United States and in Africa, it is often unclear to many that what is growing is not really Christianity at all. It is a distortion of the Gospel and in our own nation I believe that it is a distortion that is resulting in current “attacks” on marriage. Just as the reformers of the sixteenth century fought to recover a biblical Gospel and view of marriage, modern Christians will need to address these two issues in order to remain faithful to Christ.
The first issue facing Christianity that will have to be dealt with decisively is that of a diminished Gospel. A diminished Gospel is a distortion of the biblical Gospel. It is diminished because whether it has been added to or taken away from its fullness has been lessened in some way.
The Gospel is this; as sinners we are deserving of God’s wrath. But God has not left to our own devices. He has done something to save us from His wrath. He sent his Son into the world to live a sinless life of perfect righteousness, die as a sacrifice for our sin, and rise from the dead as a sign of the completion of our salvation. That’s the gospel. But what are the conditions of the gospel? God says that he will apply all of his Son’s accomplishments to us if we will repent of our sin and believe the gospel. Those are the terms. We must repent of our sin, our rebellion toward God, and turn in faith toward his Son as we believe and trust in his accomplishments for our salvation.
However, in our time this Gospel has been diminished by many. For some the terms are changed from, “Repent and believe”, to, “Ask Jesus into your heart.” Some change the benefits of the gospel from eternal life in Heaven and an escape from Hell, to, wealth and health in this life. For others the message is changed from, “Christ accomplished salvation for all who believe in him”, to, “Jesus did all he can do; now it’s time to do your part.” Still others have changed the good news from, “God saves us by sending his son to accomplish our salvation”, to, “God saves us by giving us an example in Jesus.” All changes diminish the Gospel. Changing the Gospel lessens the sufficiency of Christ’s redemptive work, the demand for righteous living, the reward of the believer, the power of Christ, and our responsibility and guilt for sin.
Diminishing the gospel in any way changes the heart and cornerstone of Christianity. If the trend continues we will soon have no Gospel at all. We have already seen the fruit of no Gospel as some who call themselves Christian are seeking not only an ecumenical unity within the ranks of “Christianity” regardless of belief in the Gospel, but also a kind of religious syncretism where all beliefs of all religions are valid and no one is wrong. As Pi’s father told him in the movie, Life of Pi, “Believing in everything at the same time is the same as not believing in anything at all” (Hussein 2012). If Christianity is to survive we must recover a biblical gospel.
There is probably not one issue in our nation, other than the diminishing Gospel, that is more significant for our times than the current debate about marriage. Dr. Haykin rightly concludes, “With the significant increase of divorce in Western societies during the past fifty years and the call for the legal recognition of gay and lesbian unions, there is little doubt that marriage in general is under heavy attack in our day” (Haykin 2009, xix). Since Christians believe that marriage is the bedrock of society, it is important that we act upon our beliefs and meet the current “attack” on marriage head-on. To do so we must understand the basics of the Christian notion of marriage. The Christian view of marriage is at once simple and profound. Its simplicity is evident in the formula; one man, one woman, one lifetime. Its profundity is found in the twin truths that God ordained it and presided over the very first wedding, and that marriage is picture of Christ’s love for His people, the Church. The ideal Christian marriage will be based upon these two truths.
The ideal Christian marriage finds its basis in the first and second chapters of Genesis. In Genesis 1:27-28 the first intimation about marriage is made. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them…And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth…’” (Gen. 1:27-28a ESV). After God created Adam, He brought all of the animals to Adam to be named. The text tells us that among those animals there was not a helper found that was “fit” (Gen. 2:20 ESV) for him. God caused Adam to fall into a deep sleep and removed one of his ribs and from that rib created the first woman, Eve. Then God brought Eve and presented her to Adam. Upon seeing Eve, Adam said “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh…” (Gen. 2:23 ESV). The next verse explains, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24 ESV).
The ideal Christian marriage finds its significance in the picture of the marriage that exists between Jesus Christ and His Church. In Ephesians 5:22-33 we have the clearest teaching in the Bible about the beauty and significance of marriage. The Apostle Paul teaches in these verses that marriage represents the union and bond of love that exists between Christ and his church. The explanation in Genesis 2:24 that “they shall become one flesh” is repeated by Paul in reference to Christ and his church. Marriage, then, is not primarily about us but about Jesus. That is why conservative Christians are so adamant about the definition and the proper subjects of marriage.
In addition to the teaching in this passage about union of Christ with his church we have the truth that marriage also pictures the Gospel. “Husbands love [their] wives” (Eph. 5:25 ESV) because this models the kind of love that Christ has for His Church. “Wives submit to [their] …husbands (Eph. 5:22 ESV) because the Church submits itself to the headship of Christ.
Now that we have explored the basics of marriage we can look to the current challenge against the Christian view of marriage. The big issue of the day is same-sex marriage. Once we understand that God ordained marriage and that He purposed marriage to be a reflection of Christ’s love for the Church, then we begin to see that same-sex marriage is a contradiction in terms. God created man and woman and said that this woman was a fit helper for man. God ordained marriage and so that through pleasure of man and woman the world would be filled with humanity. God purposed marriage to reflect the difference in roles and relationship between Christ and His Church. A same-sex marriage cannot be what it calls itself, that is, a marriage, because it cannot fulfill any of these definitions that have been given to it by God.
For the Christians to be faithful to her Christ, we will have to take a decided stand for biblical marriage against all of the challenges that we face. This means teaching the origin and purpose of marriage. It means we will have to offend many. It means that we will have to hold Christians accountable in their own marriages. Then the world will see that marriage really means something more than benefits granted by society. Then the world will see Christ crucified for the salvation of His Bride.
Haykin, Michael A. G. “Introduction.” In The Christian Lover; The sweetness of love and marriage in the letters of believers, by Michael A. G. Haykin and Victoria J. Haykin, xvi. Orlando: Reformation Trust Publishing, 2009.
Life of Pi. Directed by Ang Lee. Performed by Adil Hussein. 2012.