Union University
Union University Dept of Language

Evangelogia



"One is the loneliest number . . ."

by JUSTIN D. BARNARD
Director of the Institute for Intellectual Discipleship

May 22, 2013 - Political “conservatives” (i.e., those who love mammon more than God) are fond of pointing out that Americans are increasingly a society of takers - a people who view themselves as being entitled to be on the receiving end of coerced generosity (i.e., government tax dollars).  To whatever extent such sweeping claims about societal grasping are true, the realities to which they point (again, if true) should not be surprising.

The decline of traditional marriage (i.e., husband, wife, children) in our culture is well-documented.  Everything from divorce, indefinite cohabitation, deliberately childless marriages, and same-sex partnerships have eroded our cultural capacity to apprehend what marriage is for.  What has not been sufficiently appreciated is the relationship between this particular form of social or moral decay and the purported economic one.

The relationship is simple.  Among other things, marriage is a means by which God purges human beings of their latent self-centeredness.  Traditional marriage and family life requires a radical death to self and a deep orientation toward others which, apart from a special dispensation of Divine grace, cannot ordinarily be formed in any other way.  

Theologically, marriage is arguably the normal state of man as made imago Dei, both creationally and eschatologically.  After all, Adam’s singleness is the one thing God describes as being “not good” in an otherwise wholly satisfactory creation (Genesis 2:18).  Moreover, the entire narrative of Scripture culminates with the marriage supper of the Lamb, celebrating the wedding of Christ and his bridal church.  

Though undoubtedly provocative, perhaps it is not hyperbolic to say that man was made to be married.  Yet such a claim must be understood theologically, not romantically.  For the claim that to be fully man, man must marry, is rooted in perichoretic relations of the persons of the Godhead, the deep character of which is self-emptying Love.  Thus, in the mathematical logic of the Trinity, unicity is not overcome by mere multiplicity.  Rather, a perpetual union of plurality is generated by mutual outpouring.  

Sub-eschatologically, this is why nothing less than traditional marriage will do.  It is not an accident that Eve is “taken out” of Adam.  For this creational movement together with her distinctness from Adam, signals the de(self)centeredness that becoming “one flesh” requires.  The parody of so-called “same-sex marriage” cannot, by its very nature, capture the moral logic pictured here.  Metaphysically, it is merely a form of self-love.  

Of course, the theological truth does not, by itself, entail the requirement that all who are single find and procure earthly mates.  (Paul, for instance, thought his bachelorhood “good” - I Corinthians 7:8.)  However, it may very well entail that all seek to discipline themselves in conformity with the vocational demands of marriage, even though single.  At a minimum, this seems to require a deliberate apprehension of one’s single condition as one of betrothal to the Bridegroom.  For the absence of this consciousness puts the single man or woman at risk of remaining in that condition of self-centeredness that marriage was created to overcome.