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Monday, May 30, 2011

Part 2 of “What I Believe About Marriage”

As I described in my last post, which kicked off this series, I believe that marriage was God’s idea and that he designed it to operate in a specific way. In saying that I don’t mean at all to say that every marriage should be the same. Rather, I mean that I believe God designed specific principles to undergird and strengthen the marital covenant relationship between a man and a woman.

For the most part these marriage-strengthening principles are on display for us in the relationship between Jesus and the church. I strongly believe that passionate, intimate and lasting marriages are best built upon the foundation of these truths.

It is these truths that I am attempting to unpack in this series.

But before I continue with laying out the specific principles I believe are most important for enjoying a great marriage, I want to address something I’ll call “the theology of the gap.”

Theology formed in the Gap

What do you do with the gap between something you believe to be true and what you see with your eyes or experience in your own life?

Whether it is the belief that God wants to heal our diseases, that God wants to bless and prosper us, or that God never leaves us or forsakes us, there will be times when that doesn’t “seem” to be true based on our experiences and circumstances.

What do you do with that?

Typically, what we tend to do is form some kind of less than ideal theology to “fill the gap” between what we see and what we think is true. We will tend to dumb God down or make excuses that rob the Gospel of its power and life. There is all kinds of bad theology that gets formed in the gap. Often times this theology is formed out of fear or the desire to explain and control our circumstances in a way that makes us feel less vulnerable.

The same is no less true for biblical marriage principles.

I’m sure we can all point to Christian couples with dreadful or failed marriages. Maybe you are in one (or were in one). Maybe they (or you) even tried to apply some of the biblical principles I espouse here at Journey to Surrender to no avail.

So, some may conclude, biblical marriage principles must not work.

The Challenge of Faith

As long as marriages involve people - real, broken, imperfect people - there is going to be a gap between the ideal biblical marriage, which I say is modeled for us in the bridal relationship between Jesus and the church, and what we are able to experience here on earth.

The question is what do we do with the gap? Isn’t it really a question of faith?
What is faith? It is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen. It is the evidence of things we cannot yet see.
Hebrews 11:1 (NLT)

Just because you aren’t yet able to “see” perfection in your marriage as you walk toward a biblically–based relationship, it doesn’t mean these principles don’t work.

I call this blog Journey to Surrender on purpose. Marriage is definitely a journey, a process of growing and maturing toward the ideal. This side of heaven we won’t get to experience marriage perfection, but that doesn’t mean we should give up on what we believe.

A Typical Example

I’ve seen more bad gap-theology around the topic of biblical order in marriage than on any other topic. The principles that surround authority, headship and submission stir very strong emotions in most people.

I don’t like painting with broad strokes, but I will say that most of the blogs I read by women who most vehemently speak against a husband's authority in marriage have been admitted victims of abusive, controlling, manipulative and unfaithful husbands. Because if you believe that God has ordained an order in the home, it gives power to husbands to do lots of really bad things, therefore, some will form a theology that removes authority altogether from husbands in order to protect themselves against future harm.While I understand why that might be, I don't think it is best to form our marriage belief system around fear or around the abhorrent behavior of a few men.

There is plenty of bad theology I’ve heard that swings the other way too. It’s the kind of gap-theology that comes in response to overly controlling women, portraying submission as subjugation, leaving wives as powerless doormats for their husbands, in order to eliminate any threat to their manhood. Men who fear strong women will tend to form theology that marginalizes rather than leverages the strengths of women.

I’ll get into more on what I believe about the question of authority in marriage in my next post, but I wanted to use this contentious example as a way of cautioning you away from forming theology around your negative experiences.

Instead, I encourage you to form your beliefs about marriage around the Word of God, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Because God designed marriage (remember that understanding forms the core of my own marriage belief system), it makes sense that he would only design it to operate in accordance to his own nature. The more you know about who God is, the more you’ll know about marriage.

What about you? Can you identify places in your own belief system that were formed out of your negative experiences and circumstances rather than on what God says?

Continue to Part 3:  The Bridal Paradigm


Tom and Debi Walter - The Romantic Vineyard said...


Thank you, thank you, thank you, for being a voice for marriage the way God has defined it in His Word. Every sentence you've written above is cause for great contention in those who aren't Christians, and sadly, in many Christians who don't understand God's ways.
Honestly, no one understands His ways; He even told us so, "My ways are not your ways!" This is why He is God and we are not! It all comes down to trust. Can we trust a great God or do we only trust our experience. I believe to trust God is safer, because He is good. I am not. Even on my best days, I'm often motivated to do good for the wrong reasons. I need a Savior and so does my marriage in order to be one that glorifies God and succeeds, not for my happiness, but for my holiness. This is primary.
Tom and I can't wait to continue down this path with you, and we pray God will help you answer those who struggle to believe the Truth of marriage rather than their experience of marriage.
Blessing to you and your wife,

Scott said...


Thanks so much! Your encouragement means a lot!
I have to believe that enough voices proclaiming the truth will make a difference for marriages and for the Kingdom! Equal blessings to you and Tom in your ministry as well.

Strong Man said...

As usual, this is very well done. I've seen both extremes put forward and both are not accurate to God's intentions for marriage.

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