A LOVE SUPREME

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Saturday, January 12, 2008

A Single Devotion

Paul says something interesting in 1 Corinthians 7:27

Do not seek a wife. (NASB)

What if, like, Paul meant this.

I kind of tend to think that he did, which puts Paul a bit at odds with the view of most religious communities in our day. Typically, religious-minded folk tend to desire the reproduction of their species; that is, Evangelicals want to perpetuate the Evangelical race, Mormons want more Mormon babies, Muslims want to see more young Muslims, Patriotic Americans want to see their offspring multiply, etc., etc., etc. We like to see fresh young faces come in to the religious fold because it gives us a sense of security that our religious tradition/institution will continue after we are gone. Our lives and meaning and purpose will thus continue after death and this helps to satisfy our desire for immortality: to leave something behind that lasts.

Marriage in most religious communities is encouraged as the norm: Find a like-minded believer and settle down for a good life and make babies and train (brainwash) them in the ways of the faithful.

But, like, what if Paul meant it? What if it is truly better to be unmarried? This puts him at odds with those who peddle religion to the masses. However, it is more in line with the spirit of the prophets (including Christ), who did not see religiosity as the primary objective; they always were digging for something deeper and more pure.

Here is some of what else Paul said in 1 Corinthians 7:

"32 I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord's affairs—how he can please the Lord. 33 But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife— 34 and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord's affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. 35 I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord." (TNIV)

The last phrase is interesting: that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord. I think this "undivided devotion" is the key to Paul's thought here: renouncing the hassle of married life for sake of devotion to the kingdom. Paul says this is the "right way," which flips the paradigm on its head. It is no longer a matter of perpetuating a religious tradition or institution; instead, the Christian life is about seizing every moment in our fleeting lives and putting it to use for Christ. This is 100% Pearl-of-Great-Price type devotion. It is rare. It is dangerous. It is risky. Paul's life was about the now. He lived this stuff and that's why he preached it.

It is far safer to make babies and pay dues to the institution than it is to renounce the things that drive us. There are many fundamental drives that marriage seems to satisfy, and this is why most get married. It is not for "love" or "friendship," etc. It is to satisfy our drives and desires: Sex, Companionship, Sex, Friendship, Sex, Security, Sex, Happiness, and Sex. This, of course, is fine for the masses. It is fine for the religious majority. I don't want to be overly critical here; I just don't want to soften what Paul says. It is clear: If you want to live undivided for the Lord then being single is the best option.

My mother, of course, would respond with something like the following:

"A Christian couple gets married because they can better serve God together than they can apart."

That's cool. And, I'm sure that this was probably true for my parents and other couples. But, let's be honest here. For most of the religious faithful, the statement my mother made is merely a cliche and an excuse to satisfy our human drives and desires. Again, that's fine for the majority. I don't mean to step on any toes. But what does irritate me a bit is when the religious mass either forgets these verses from 1 Corinthians 7 or else goes through an exegetical gymnastics routine to soften the blow. This is typical of the religious masses because they always want to be "giving their best to God." But when desires/drives come in to conflict with "giving their best to God" as defined by the scriptures, then they need to tweak their interpretation of scripture a bit so that they can fulfill their desires/drives, while still believing in their hearts and minds that they are "giving their best to God." But Christ was not blooded upon a cross so that we can have our cake and eat it to, as the saying goes.

Most of our lives are compromises made to satisfy our desires and still retain God as our number one. Mostly, we play politics with God: we give a little and God gives a little. In the end we can reach an agreement.

All I'm calling for here is a bit of honesty. There is a reckless, single-minded devotion to Christ. But it hurts. And you aren't going to find it in the cozy suburbs of the United States. Pure devotion is sacrificial. Mass religiosity is designed to soften the blow. We accept Christ's sacrifice as sufficient for our sins, but we maintain the right to withhold any similar suffering.

He was despised and rejected, and we esteemed him not.

41 comments:

T. Michael W. Halcomb said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
T. Michael W. Halcomb said...

Jonathon,

Interesting thoughts. I admire your desire not to "soften the blow". But here's the thing, you are overlooking the following verses. In vss. 6 and following, Paul actually defines marriage as a gift. He says he wishes that others had his gift of celibacy but that he knows this is not the case for everyone.

In other words, all throughout chapter 7, Paul says numerous times: "this is my opinion, it is not a word from the Lord nor is it a teaching of Jesus, it is from me, my opinion". In a way, this softens the blow because, even though it's included in a NT document, it is merely a human's opinion, not a direct command from the Lord.

To be sure, Paul was probably defending his celibacy here and may have even been challenged for not "filling the earth". In his culture, to be considered a good citizen even, one should procreate. In Judaism, this was a given. But Paul redefined this. He simply broadened the spectrum to include celibates.

I am not attempting to soften the blow here and I think that Paul meant what he said. But context is important here. This was Paul's opinion, which he makes clear--not a command or teaching of the Lord. Moreover, if he's defending himself and redrawing lines, then it is even less persuasive of an argument by Paul. Do I think that, like, Paul meant what he said? Absolutely! But I also believe that he meant what he said when he uttered: "I wish you were like me but I realize we often have different gifts: marriage for some and celibacy for others--they're both gifts from God.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Hi Michael,

Where do you get the idea that Paul believes that marriage is a gift? I interpret his comments in 1 Cor 7 as saying that singleness is a gift, not marriage. Marriage is the norm, and for Paul it is inferior: "I say this as a concession, not as a command. I wish that all men were as I am [i.e. single]." (v. 6) He follows this in v. 8 by urging the unmarried to remain unmarried. So, I think the gift (and the superior way of being) for Paul is to remain single.

Correct. This is Paul's opinion. But most of what Paul writes is his opinion. In the first chapter, for example, he expresses the opinion that the believers should be united. Because of Paul's revelations from Christ (Galatians) and his position as an Apostle, I don't know if this really counts as softening the blow. I would think the opposite would be the case: This is a suggestion of an Apostle who carried the Gospel all over the known world, suffered persecution and beatings for the Gospel, instructed the early church, deconstructed the hypocrisy of Peter in relation to the Legalism (Galatians), and penned much of the New Testament.

I think Paul says it is his opinion b/c marriage may be a legitimate option for some. However, I think he clearly believes it is not to be considered the norm for a believer. Marriage, by and large, distracts from the mission of the Kingdom; it does not advance it.

That's my interpretation of 1 Cor 7 at this point.

Emily said...

Don't hold anything back. Let us know what you really think.

Melody said...

Growing up there was a large emphasis placed on how singlness is a gift - therefore uncommon, therefore most people get married, therefore ignore that verse...it doesn't apply to you. And that always kind of annoyed me...because I do think Paul meant it.

On the other hand I think you're being kinda silly when you talk about it being a sense of security and immortality etc., etc.

I do think that in our American Christian culture there is kind of a feeling of, "Woo! When I get married it's all going to be perfect!" and I think that's plenty to keep little girls across the country praying, "God could singleness please not be my gift?" - without this business of immortality and whatever. Little girls aren't concerned with immortality - but they have their wedding planned.

Dru Johnson said...

Sidestepping Paul entirely:

1. I'm assuming you're not married and I can't believe you have children. Otherwise, how could one make a jejune statement such as, "It is far safer to make babies and pay dues to the institution than it is to renounce the things that drive us." Sorry, but my single-minded devotion to God was honed within marriage. I, like many young men, was entirely too narcissistic to see the depths of my sin and what real devotion looks like; i.e. I got to practice devotion within marriage. But this is just anecdotal.

2. I see what you're getting at in general and probably agree with the sentiment. But how does one square these isolated comments from Paul (and you) with the cultural mandate to be 'fruitful and multiply'? Or how do we fit this together with the very purpose of man's first recorded epistemic shift and its conclusion, "Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh,"?

3. How do we square this statement of Paul with the historical fact that God expressly and always uses families as the instrument of his salvific plans (Adam & Eve, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, etc). How did single-minded devotion work in these families? Or did it?

4. How do you square Paul's statement with the fact that at least several of the apostles were married? Do you believe that Paul is asserting his bachelorhood as a superior property of his apostleship above the other apostles?

I only ask these questions because I have struggled with what you posit here. I think that it is a good thing to struggle through these, even as parents who do not enjoy the gift of singleness. However, I cannot see that this as a universal point of application over and against the baby-making masses (which appears to be their 'religious opiate' per you).

i did find your comments about marriage and family being the 'sedative route' a bit amusing. Although family can certainly be abused as a neglect of every Christian's call, it ain't the easy road. I look back at my single days (and the lives of most the single men I pastor) as the selfish years, when I could do what I wanted. Even though 'doing what I wanted' included a higher devotion to the life of the church, it also meant a high devotion to the 'cult of me'.

So I'm just throwing these comments into the mix.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Melody:
On the other hand I think you're being kinda silly when you talk about it being a sense of security and immortality etc., etc.

Am I????

Is there anything more important or significant that we can leave behind after we die than a family? Plato suggested that leaving behind art or philosophy or ideas was a way to reproduce and leave something that lasts. He compared giving birth to art as giving birth to children. But in our culture I'm not sure we look at things the same way.

Don't you think there is an inward desire to leave something significant? To leave something behind? Isn't that one of the main reasons we have kids????

Jonathan Erdman said...

Dru:
2. I see what you're getting at in general and probably agree with the sentiment. But how does one square these isolated comments from Paul (and you) with the cultural mandate to be 'fruitful and multiply'? Or how do we fit this together with the very purpose of man's first recorded epistemic shift and its conclusion, "Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh,"?

I think the command to be fruitful and multiply no longer applies. I think it was an isolated command to Adam and Eve at a time when God wanted them to populate the earth. The earth is no populated--overpopulated, some would say--and therefore the command is null and void.

Dru:
3. How do we square this statement of Paul with the historical fact that God expressly and always uses families as the instrument of his salvific plans (Adam & Eve, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, etc). How did single-minded devotion work in these families? Or did it?

I think this was under the Old Covenant (or prior Dispensation, as your theology deems it).


Dru:
4. How do you square Paul's statement with the fact that at least several of the apostles were married? Do you believe that Paul is asserting his bachelorhood as a superior property of his apostleship above the other apostles?

Yes. I think Paul is saying that his singleness is a superior way of life for the Christian, and I think by default it makes him a superior Apostle. That's why he recommends it to others as a norm.

Paul, of course, didn't really think he was "worthy" of being an Apostle, however, so in some sense he had an inferiority complex that drove him to go above and beyond and push himself to the absolute limits for the sake of the Kingdom.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Melody:
I do think that in our American Christian culture there is kind of a feeling of, "Woo! When I get married it's all going to be perfect!" and I think that's plenty to keep little girls across the country praying, "God could singleness please not be my gift?"

That's kind of the vibe I get too. Well said!

Melody said...

Don't you think there is an inward desire to leave something significant?

Absolutely.

Isn't that one of the main reasons we have kids????

I don't think it is. Now, I could be incredibly wrong, because I'm not really the kind of person who gets whipped into a frenzy at the thought of burping cloths and diaper bags - so I personally haven't experienced a lot of desire to have kids, but...

I know some people who are that sort and they get phyched just being near a kid. It doesn't have to be theirs or even a child they will ever see again...or even one that's real. My roommate see's a baby in a movie and get's excited.
Forget legacy, the main reason my roommate is known to randomly sigh, "Babies!" is because she likes kids. A lot.

People adopt children - clearly not to leave a bit of themself behind because the kid isn't them, but because the thought of living life without having a child in their home is unbearable.

And whenever my mom tries to convince me that really I do want kids her arguements aren't exactly along the leaving a legacy line. They're more along the, "If I could do one thing differently with my life I'd have started having kids sooner because it's just that amazing" line.

It might be a bit different for guys...but I don't actually talk to guys all that much about why they want kids.

Dru Johnson said...

2. "I think the command to be fruitful and multiply no longer applies. I think it was an isolated command to Adam and Eve at a time when God wanted them to populate the earth. The earth is no populated--overpopulated, some would say--and therefore the command is null and void."

Multiplication of populace does not appear to the be concern of Genesis as you suppose. The fruitfulness of the womb is directly tied to the filling of the earth. This is reified in Babel, where God's solution with Babel was to scatter the people and fill the earth. There appears to be something much more than mere population control in the 'cultural mandate'.

As well, you still do not answer the enmeshment of a man 'leaving and cleaving' with the creational purpose of woman. If that is a dispensation, then it is the shortest one in history (for people who buy into that dispensational stuff to the hilt). Further, is the command to have dominion a dispensation of Adam and Eve only? If not, then how does one exegetically sever the first command (be fruitful) from the second (have dominion)?

3. "I think this was under the Old Covenant (or prior Dispensation, as your theology deems it)."

Dispensationalism could offer the easy answer to all these questions. But this certainly does not engage the reality described in the text. Obviously it was not Old Covenant, otherwise you would not see the most significant initial testimony about Jesus being his family (both immediate family and ancestry). Further, Luke considers it remarkable that the Holy Spirit came to entire households. But this is tangential to your point. I think if it is fair game to delimit the prescription of scripture to 'old covenant' or 'Adamic dispenstations', then how do we not equally limit Paul's spiel about 'singleness' as applying only to apostles.

Further, how do you get around Paul's argument that people have been called to different relationships: some single and some married (1 Cor. 7:7). He goes on to say, "Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches (7:17)." So if God has assigned me to a life of marriage and fruitfulness (through adoption and biological children), then how can it be an 'inferior call'.

Paul plainly instructs as a 'rule in all the churches' to live as God has called you, and this call clearly can be to singleness or marriage. To put this in the language of superior/inferior seems to betray the spirit of his message here.

3.5. As I previously pointed out and you neglected in your response, what are we to make of Paul's clear teaching that marriage is a part of and living analogy to Jesus' relationship to the church (Eph. 5). It's not just that Paul is accommodating us who cannot restrain our passions (which would be a misinterpretation to apply all who are married). Rather, Paul tells us that a marriage relationship mirrors Jesus' relationship to the church. This means that in marriage, I know something about Jesus' headship as the Christ that cannot be known outside of marriage.

Epistemically, singles are incapable of knowing a particular aspect of Christ's headship. Now some may say that's an aspect of superiority for us married folk, but again, I think that's the wrong language to apply here. To sum, in my marriage, I learned what it means to, "love my wife, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her." Paul does not talk about any other relationship like this and marriage acts as a unique institution to gain that insight.

In short, I would politely say that there is more going on in the covenants (whatever you want to call them) and in Paul's teaching than a mere uplifting of one lifestyle over and against the other.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Dru: First off, let me clarify that I am neither a Dispensational or Covenant theologian, so I've got no axe to grind either way on those topics. (I think they are both muddleheaded ways to approach history!)

Dru:
2.
Multiplication of populace does not appear to the be concern of Genesis as you suppose. The fruitfulness of the womb is directly tied to the filling of the earth. This is reified in Babel, where God's solution with Babel was to scatter the people and fill the earth. There appears to be something much more than mere population control in the 'cultural mandate'.

From my perspective, Dru, you answered your own question: God's command was to reproduce and fill. Because the earth is filled, the need to reproduce has vanished. It's like if I asked someone to fill up a bucket water. Once the bucket is full, the job is over.

Dru:
As well, you still do not answer the enmeshment of a man 'leaving and cleaving' with the creational purpose of woman. If that is a dispensation, then it is the shortest one in history (for people who buy into that dispensational stuff to the hilt). Further, is the command to have dominion a dispensation of Adam and Eve only? If not, then how does one exegetically sever the first command (be fruitful) from the second (have dominion)?

I don't know that I follow the 'leaving/cleaving' argument here.....In regard to the alleged connection between 'be fruitful' and 'have dominion,' I simply do not see those as tied together. They may have been issued at the same time, but the completion of two separate tasks does not negate them both. To return to my example, if I say, "Fill the bucket with watter and scrub the floors," you may complete the first task and yet have another task that is ongoing.

3.
Dru:
Further, how do you get around Paul's argument that people have been called to different relationships: some single and some married (1 Cor. 7:7). He goes on to say, "Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches (7:17)." So if God has assigned me to a life of marriage and fruitfulness (through adoption and biological children), then how can it be an 'inferior call'.

Paul plainly instructs as a 'rule in all the churches' to live as God has called you, and this call clearly can be to singleness or marriage. To put this in the language of superior/inferior seems to betray the spirit of his message here.


This is a good point to ponder. I'm not quite ready to give up the "superiority/inferiority" language yet.....Let's move on to your next point....

Dru:
As I previously pointed out and you neglected in your response, what are we to make of Paul's clear teaching that marriage is a part of and living analogy to Jesus' relationship to the church (Eph. 5). It's not just that Paul is accommodating us who cannot restrain our passions (which would be a misinterpretation to apply all who are married). Rather, Paul tells us that a marriage relationship mirrors Jesus' relationship to the church. This means that in marriage, I know something about Jesus' headship as the Christ that cannot be known outside of marriage.

Epistemically, singles are incapable of knowing a particular aspect of Christ's headship. Now some may say that's an aspect of superiority for us married folk, but again, I think that's the wrong language to apply here. To sum, in my marriage, I learned what it means to, "love my wife, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her." Paul does not talk about any other relationship like this and marriage acts as a unique institution to gain that insight.

In short, I would politely say that there is more going on in the covenants (whatever you want to call them) and in Paul's teaching than a mere uplifting of one lifestyle over and against the other.


First, it appears as though the 'bride of Christ' metaphor is taken from the existing institution and used as an analogy for the relationship with Christ. But like all analogies it probably is not meant to be exhaustive. There is probably more to the relationship between Christ and his church than the metaphor implies. So, I find it difficult to believe that, as you say, one can know something about Jesus' headship as the Christ that cannot be known outside of marriage: "Epistemically, singles are incapable of knowing a particular aspect of Christ's headship." It would seem that "epistemically" we need only reference the analogy, which does not mean that we need participate in marriage. For example, I can understand "headship" in marriage without being married. I can observe my friends and reference my own upbringing. Perhaps there are certain experiences that are not possible, but to understand the gist of the headship analogy seems fairly easy to do without having to participate in marriage, itself.

But even if I grant you (only for sake of argument) that there are things married people know that unmarrieds don't, then I think we can still retain the inferiority/superiority language.

In American Christianity most of us who are single understand the unspoken (and often not unspoken) rule: Get married and have babies. This is a general norm imposed from the outside. It is unfair, and this wrong-mindedness helps contribute to the fact that the vast majority of those Christians who will get married this year in 2008 will either be divorced or not happy. I'm reopening Paul's thoughts here b/c I really do think that he is suggesting that, for certain callings, marriage is inferior and singleness is superior. I think if we suggest that everyone is on the same level then we soften the blow of what Paul is going for, which is that a person can be more committed with their time, emotion, and energy if they don't have to worry about "pleasing" a husband/wife. "Pleasing" takes a heck of a lot out of you. And, yes, it helps build maturity and selflessness. But singleness still retains a real superiority. Is it for everyone? As you say, that depends on calling. God may call a fully devoted single person to marriage. But I think that, by and large, most singleness need to look at singleness as the default: Serve God 100% and let the chips fall where they may. This is where there is risk. The American church has it backwards: Get married, get a job, and build security for yourself. Then after that you can use the leftover time for Jesus.

Kenji said...

I have to agree with most all of what Dru has mentioned. I Cor 7:7 (see also vs 17) is vital to understanding the rest of the chapter. Paul is speaking of callings (multiple while supplying examples) that people receive, and that they should follow those callings and not seek to change them. If a person is called to be single, they should not seek marriage. If a person is called to be married, they should not seek to either be or remain single. The point is that they should live according to the calling God has given them.

Marriage is an institution given by God and is blessed and regarded as beautiful by him. To say that it is inferior is to say that God can create something that is either inferior or imperfect. This is walking a dangerous line.

One critique of what Michael Halcomb mentioned. He wrote

"This was Paul's opinion, which he makes clear--not a command or teaching of the Lord."

Often people note this point to show that this portion of text is not authoritative or at the same level as the rest of Scripture. I cannot tell for sure if this was Michael's intentions, but it is worth mentioning. The best interpretation I have heard relating to this is that Paul did not necessarily hear Christ give this directive, and therefore he is being careful to note that point. However, Paul was still writing under the inspiration of the Spirit and therefore the text does bear the same weight as the rest of Scripture.

The main point Paul is getting at is that we should live according to how God has called us and be satisfied in it, using that calling for the purpose of Glorifying God and ministering to others. Instead of focusing on finding a mate while we are single, we should be focusing on serving our Lord. Sure, while we are married much of our attention will be focused on our mate, but even in focusing on our mate we can still serve the Lord.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Ken,

Why do you call marriage an "institution"?

I don't know that marriage is an institution. That strikes me as a non-biblical term that Conservatives try to slide through on the sly!

Dru Johnson said...

Like I said, I am still thinking through this, and this conversation has been helpful. I do not think that he cultural mandate is relative to Adam and Eve, but humanity in general (both fruitfulness and dominion). I see that mandate playing out through the Tanakh, although I think the Hebrew MT makes it more plain than any English translation I know of. So we will just have to disagree there.

Two things:
First, knowing by analogy and by experience are two different things. These are my epistemological convictions, but convictions nonetheless. I know about adoption and its theological implications in embodied ways that could never be propositionalized (adoption by God) because I have adopted children. But I don't know the flipside (i.e. what it's like to be adopted) even though I could imagine it.

Is my knowledge of an adoptive father different from my knowledge of 'what it is to be adopted'? Absolutely they are two different sorts. That's why you hear people says things like, "I knew parenting was going to be like X, but I had no idea."

I am firmly convicted that our embodiment is epistemically enmeshed with our experience. So that my knowledge of the headship of Jesus is not just quantitatively different from a single person, but qualitatively different as well. The interesting point is how the analogy makes contact between those two realities. I have some blog postings about those matters of at 'abidedknowing'.

Second, although I wouldn't classify myself as 'covenantal' (because that means so many things), I do take the creation account to be sufficiently robust and primary in the canon. I do not think it operates in the same functionary position as Paul's comments about marriage, for example. The creation and the implications of every aspect given in that bizarre account do take some primacy in hermeneutics.

In other words, I could have lived a good life of single-minded devotion to YHWH or the Triune God with or without 1 Corinthians 7. I think it would be harder to make that case about Genesis 1-2 (or more properly, Genesis 1-4). It plays a primary role in the formation of any theology, hermeneutic, and epistemology, just as the incarnation plays the role of primacy. We might just have to fundamentally disagree on this point as well.

Before we start whipping out those 'all of scripture is important' arguments, I would suggest that the God-breathiness of scripture en toto does not necessitate all of scripture being functionally ubiquitous (re Ezekiel 23:20, "and she lusted after her gigolos there, whose members were like those of donkeys, and whose ejaculation was like that of horses.").

Thanks for responding to all my pedanticisms. I'm off to Brazil for 5 weeks.

Dru

Jonathan Erdman said...

Dru:
Like I said, I am still thinking through this, and this conversation has been helpful. I do not think that he cultural mandate is relative to Adam and Eve, but humanity in general (both fruitfulness and dominion). I see that mandate playing out through the Tanakh, although I think the Hebrew MT makes it more plain than any English translation I know of. So we will just have to disagree there.

Dru, I tend to think there is still time for you to wholeheartedly agree with me!

Even if the exhortation of Genesis is to humankind in general and not to Adam/Eve specifically, my point still holds: That once the exhortation to "fill the earth" is carried out, there is no need to continue filling. If I am ordered to fill the bucket with water, then by definition my task is completed when the bucket is full.

Dru:
First, knowing by analogy and by experience are two different things. These are my epistemological convictions, but convictions nonetheless. I know about adoption and its theological implications in embodied ways that could never be propositionalized (adoption by God) because I have adopted children. But I don't know the flipside (i.e. what it's like to be adopted) even though I could imagine it.

I would agree with your distinction here. I wonder if, in some sense, this goes all the way back even to Plato. That is, it seems as though we must have some sense of what we are discussing prior to our engagement with the subject matter--a preunderstanding of sorts. For Plato, this is something of a "recollection":

"And how are you going to search for [the nature of virtue] when you don't know at all what it is, Socrates? Which of all the things you don't know will you set up as target for your search? And even if you actually come across it, how will you know that it is that thing which you don't know?" Meno


In other words, I could have lived a good life of single-minded devotion to YHWH or the Triune God with or without 1 Corinthians 7. I think it would be harder to make that case about Genesis 1-2 (or more properly, Genesis 1-4). It plays a primary role in the formation of any theology, hermeneutic, and epistemology, just as the incarnation plays the role of primacy. We might just have to fundamentally disagree on this point as well.

Before we start whipping out those 'all of scripture is important' arguments, I would suggest that the God-breathiness of scripture en toto does not necessitate all of scripture being functionally ubiquitous (re Ezekiel 23:20, "and she lusted after her gigolos there, whose members were like those of donkeys, and whose ejaculation was like that of horses.").


I agree with you about the latter, that different portions of Scripture function differently--we should not treat all of the texts in the same manner. But it is precisely this reasoning that leads me to believe that for those of us in the post-Incarnation era the exhortation of Paul (that we consider singleness as a superior way of committing our lives to Christ) may be more important and directly applicable than a general exhortation to "fill the earth." This is particularly the case if the exhortation to "fill" has been carried out and the earth is, in fact, full.

Dru,
All the best to you on your trip to Brazil.

Dru Johnson said...

Just a technical note, the earth is not full. I been many places where I could have walked 100 miles in any direction and never seen a human. If you look at population growth (which I do not believe is the referent of Genesis 2), the earth's population has never filled the earth. Most population alarmists at the end of the 1990's were surprised when growth 'naturally' curtailed itself.

If the post-incarnation is where you like it, the earth was not filled then either (e.g. the U Michigan puts it around 300 million around 8 BCE). Again, I don't believe population was the issue at all for the Torah and current population is such a subjective qualifier that our attempts at thresholding what 'filled' means would be arbitrary beyond usefulness.

With respect to Plato, I would take the opposite approach. Plato outlines a pre-incarnative state for the formal soul that knows formal reality without the hindrance of the body and its senses. Knowing is fundamentally an anti-somatic ahistorical endeavor that draws upon reincarnative states of the soul. I think that is backassward and the major contributor to Enlightenment formation and thinking (which seems fraught with the quest for this kind of knowledge).

I am saying here that I know some things in the way that Thomas Nagel talks about in his renown article "What Is It Like to Be a Bat?" (I highly commend it). I know something about 'headship' (for instance) because I have lived it and can reflect on it and become a better knower of 'headship' through the process. Just like I can know what it is like to counsel someone through divorce because I have done it before and I now know what clues to pick up on, the pitfalls, the hallmarks, etc.

Further, and just as important, I know what it is like to be the head of the family or the adopter of children or the counselor. This 'knowledge' (although I hate epistemology in nounal form) is not the particulars, but the 'what it is like-ness' of the experience.

That makes my knowing and your knowing distinct both individually from each other and similar in that we have shared experiences of 'knowing what it is like to be a pastor' (for instance). I know something about Messianic headship in the sense of 'what it is like-ness' rather than understanding the functionality of it (which is just analogically understanding the component parts). Plato takes the exact opposite tack.

Lastly, if we want to stick to post-Incarnation (which is a hamstringed technique per me), Jesus' supposedly first miracle was affirming the celebration of a marriage (John 2). I don't want to 'open a can' here, but Jesus never indicates anything against marriage (presuming that he could have make some remarks against it). He does address marriage, divorce and remarriage with tacit approval (Luke 16:18). His chief concern is adultery, not whether or not disciples should be married.

He does speak of our relationship to immediate family relative to our devotion to God. But even his 'hate your brother, sister, wife' talk doesn't presume that they are no longer to be your brother, sister or wife.

I guess a major point of disagreement here is that I want to see motifs and trends in scripture in order to develop a theological position on the matter. Here, we are talking about one comment (1 Cor 7) to a sub-class of a group (those who cannot restrain themselves). Paul's comments would not apply, then, to people who were able to restrain themselves and still felt that God had called them to be married (which I would consider my personal story).

Paul gives the marriage to one wife as a qualification of elders and deacons (1 Timothy 2). It's not the case that they must be married, but if Paul were generally in favor of the superiority of singleness, would not we expect to see singleness listed as a qualification of an elder/deacon? Shouldn't it be placed alongside 'husband of one wife' , at the very least, if it played that prominent a role in Paul's thinking?

And anecdotally from the book of Acts, it is interesting to me that the call of God is explicitly extended to work through families. Peter says on Pentecost, "For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”

Is the promise not also for their children's children, or just for them and their children. It appears that the plan of God is intended to specifically work through families. This mirrors the language of Abram's call, "...in you, all the families of the earth shall be blessed (Gen. 12)." I just don't see God ever giving up on the family as the primary means of salvation to this world. Ephesians 3:14-15, "For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named."

Kenji said...

Jon,

First I'll just quote Merriam Webster's definition;

2 a: a significant practice, relationship, or organization in a society or culture [the institution of marriage]; also : something or someone firmly associated with a place or thing [she has become an institution in the theater]
b: an established organization or corporation (as a bank or university) especially of a public character.

You are right in pointing out that it is non-biblical, but not so much that it is something "conservatives try to slide through on the sly." It is a term used for much of english language history, and not just by conservatives. The hesitation with the word is not surprising because of the cultural movement against anything termed "institutional." The reason is that packed into the term is the idea of structured, social order and rules. The post-modern mindset is against anything rule-based, that goes beyond personal opinion and feeling.

However, marriage is something designed by God to operate in a particular manner within specified context. God designed it (instituted) as a union between one man and one woman, and the breaking of this covenant is divorce, of which God clearly hates.

Sure there are negative aspects to many institutions, but there are also many positive ones, and we live by both types every day.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Good thoughts Ken.

You note: You are right in pointing out that it is non-biblical, but not so much that it is something "conservatives try to slide through on the sly."

Fair point. I'll give it some thought.

Ken: It is a term used for much of english language history, and not just by conservatives. The hesitation with the word is not surprising because of the cultural movement against anything termed "institutional." The reason is that packed into the term is the idea of structured, social order and rules. The post-modern mindset is against anything rule-based, that goes beyond personal opinion and feeling.

I don't know that I would agree with your characterization of the "post-modern mindset." The suspicion that many theorists in the postmodern age have toward institutions and "structured" social order is not simply so that they can float through life on the whims of "personal opinion and feeling," as you suggest. (This seems to be popular opinion among conservative christians.) On the contrary, the concern is for the hypocrisy of the institutions of the past who have instituted norms that repress and oppress the minority for the sake of elevating the majority. The hypocrisy, of course, is that it is often done in the name of a higher morality, usually of the religious variety. For example, in the past it was God's will that the white man conquer and enslave savages of color. This and similar God-ordained values are institutionalized as norms and those who go against them are oppressed.

Jesus, of course, was anti-institutional and we have Gospel material full of the times he deconstructed the norms and institutions of his day.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Dru, I think you are overanalyzing the "fill the earth" language. As you say, the term is subjective, so back to my bucket analogy: I need to mop the floors and I give you an empty bucket and say, "Thanks for helping me, Dru, fill the bucket with water, put soap in it, and mop the floor." Would you ask me for a precise quantity for "full"? Would you ask me if I wanted 2.5 or 2.6 gallons? Probably not. Normal people know that "fill the bucket" is a nonprecise way of communicating the fact that the bucket is empty and it needs enough water in it to get the task done. Similarly, the earth was empty. "Fill the earth," simply means to get enough people in it so that there is a populace.

Also, I do not think a few barren areas is such a bad thing. We don't need people habitating every square inch of the globe, do we??!! Let's save some space for nature to grow wild.

You note: With respect to Plato, I would take the opposite approach. Plato outlines a pre-incarnative state for the formal soul that knows formal reality without the hindrance of the body and its senses. Knowing is fundamentally an anti-somatic ahistorical endeavor that draws upon reincarnative states of the soul. I think that is backassward and the major contributor to Enlightenment formation and thinking (which seems fraught with the quest for this kind of knowledge).

Good point. I just used Plato to suggest that the idea of preconceived ideas is something philosophers have been kicking around for a while.

Re: the bride of Christ metaphor

I'm still going to maintain that we don't need to get married to understand Christ's headship. I agree with you that there is a knowledge that is "what it is likeness." There is something like first hand experience (i.e., I am married) and there is knowledge by observation (i.e., I see people who are married, but I have not experienced it for myself).

I agree with your distinction, but the question is whether or not we need "what it is likeness" via direct first hand experience to understand Christ's headship. I would argue "no" for this reason: your hermeneutic is faulty.

In Romans 7 Paul uses marriage as an analogy in a very different way. Here he suggests that a married woman is not bound by law if her husband dies. She is released from the law that binds her to her husband if her husband dies.

Paul's point here is very important, and so understanding his analogy is very important. Without the analogy, we cannot get a good understanding of the critical issue of our obligation (or non-obligation) to law. But to get the analogy, do I need to have first hand experience? Do I need to be a married woman whose husband has died??? That seems silly. I think we would all agree that we can understand the analogy without first hand experience.

Dru: Lastly, if we want to stick to post-Incarnation (which is a hamstringed technique per me), Jesus' supposedly first miracle was affirming the celebration of a marriage (John 2). I don't want to 'open a can' here, but Jesus never indicates anything against marriage (presuming that he could have make some remarks against it).

Right. But bringing Jesus into this is a point for my side of the argument, I think, b/c Jesus was single. Why was he single? By all accounts it was to devote himself 100% to the Kingdom and to accomplish God's work. I have argued in this post that this is precisely Paul's point: You can do things single that you can't do when married. This makes singleness superior, at least in this sense. As Paul says, singleness ain't for everyone, but he does wish everyone were as he were. He may not be extrapolating a broad-strokes theology of singleness, but I think his comments in 1 Cor 7 should be taken more seriously than it typically is.

Dru Johnson said...

Well, let's end on agreement. I also agree that Paul's comments should be taken more seriously about singleness.

Also, I agree that you do not need 'what it's like' knowledge to understand something like 'headship'. I am just averring that there is a different knowledge going on between married and unmarried.

I still think you're writing off the creational mandates and the enmeshment of marriage with creation a bit too casually. But I think we've already made our way around that bush.

Daniel said...

This is a great discussion, one of the most intelligent I have yet to read on any blog, anywhere, anytime.

So much of worth has been said, as a married man with a young baby girl all I can add is that God is 100% in our family ("As for me and my house", but more importantly, HE IS THE MAIN MOTIVATOR).

This may not wash in comparison to others, but for us as a family and for me as a man it is God's will and he sure uses us to rub off, sharpen, grind away and otherwise polish one another, for the glory of His name and His Kingdom.

So I'll agree with Dru - God is dealing with my pride, insecurity, selfishness, and host of other sinful legacies through the beautiful "suffering" of marriage and parenting!

Before marriage although I was a Christian serving God to the best of my ability and not distracted by wife and child, however I was unaware of SO MANY WEAKNESSES AND PROBLEMS WITHIN ME, which were quickly brought to my attention after marriage.

That's just one side of it though, after all it's not all about me. There is a question of the effectiveness of our service to God in what Paul is saying, not "it's-good-for-my-soul" to be single.

I can see the benefit to the Kingdom of a majority of young Christians in today's world following Paul's example, however I can also imagine the possible negative consequences. Think other historical movements of men that have done so through Church history?

Still, there is a humility in Paul's celibacy that is admirable, as he lays down his life in this way. For other's though, and this is maybe the crux, marriage represents the same laying down of one's life. And as our pastor counselled us before marriage, "if you can't lay down your life for your spouse, don't expect to be able to lay it down for the rest of the world." From this point of view marriage is a kind of training and testing ground.

So much more could be said.

Here's looking forward to the consumation of time and the marriage feast of the Lamb!

Jonathan Erdman said...

Daniel,

Yes. I appreciate the testimony of some of the married men on this blog. However, I once heard it said quite simply: there are things that God can teach you only when you are married that he cannot teach you when you are unmarried; but, conversely, there are things God can only teach you if you are single that he cannot teach you if you were married.

There is much I have learned about myself that I know I would not have learned if I were married. There are struggles I would not have had if I were married. And I can tell that I have learned things that my married friends are clueless about (these are friends I have had since we were all single in college, and now they have families, children, et al). They probably think I'm clueless about somethings, but that's ok.

I guess the point is that, as you say, it isn't all about us and whether marriage or unmarriage is "better for us."

Daniel:I can see the benefit to the Kingdom of a majority of young Christians in today's world following Paul's example, however I can also imagine the possible negative consequences. Think other historical movements of men that have done so through Church history?

I can also see negative consequences. There is risk. But if something is risky does that make it not worth doing??? I am starting to think these days that the more risky an idea or action is, the more right-on it is.

Daniel said...

Hi Jon

I likewise appreciate your testimony, and believe the truth of important lessons to be learned about oneself and the world in both "states". Also, thinking through Church history there are also positive aspects of the men and women who have committed themselves to God as monks, nuns etc. so I wouldn't overlook that. It could be that the Kingdom could do with some of that emphasis and value for the single life again at this juncture. I can agree that for sure.

When our pastor counselled us as I mentioned, we had come to him to ask whether all the dreams we had for God would now take a backseat if we were planning to be married. My wife came to South Africa as a missionary and was a missionary at the time; I was en route to Trinidad to do some "Kingdom work", and my wife was en route to England to lead a school. These callings have been on hold ever since we changed our minds and put our relationship first. Acknowledging that God was calling us to lay down our dreams for one another, despite the fact that he gave us those dreams in the first place, was quite a challenge.

I agree with your value for risk, and that would be a good way to check one's motivation in these matters. For some, marriage is more risky, and for others, singleness. In my own case, marriage was super risky and a real step of faith. Its all about faith in the end, that's what pleases God! He will reward a life of faith.

Melody said...

Jon, I am starting to think these days that the more risky an idea or action is, the more right-on it is.

You going to start playing in traffic now, too?

Daniel,
I'm probably going to come off horribly rude, so I apolagize in advance, but this...


My wife came to South Africa as a missionary and was a missionary at the time; I was en route to Trinidad to do some "Kingdom work", and my wife was en route to England to lead a school. These callings have been on hold ever since we changed our minds and put our relationship first.


...makes me cringe.

I don't think I'm quite as emphatic about the whole singleness thing as Jon...you'd be hard pressed to find too many people as emphatic about it as Jon.

Even so, I can't help wondering what exactly is so important about you and your wife being married that God's decided to trade two missionaries doing His work to make it happen.

Like, I'm not saying He didn't want you to be together, clearly I would have no way of knowing, but, "God called us to stop working on our callings so we could be married" isn't a very compelling counterpoint.

I figure God needs/wants some people to be married to keep the earth populated...but what does he gain by you being married? If I were God, which I'm not, I'd have people who all ready weren't doing anything useful be the one's called to marriage. Maximizing resources and all that.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Melody: I don't think I'm quite as emphatic about the whole singleness thing as Jon...you'd be hard pressed to find too many people as emphatic about it as Jon.

There was that Jesus dude....he was kind of emphatic about a lot of stuff!

Jonathan Erdman said...

Melody: If I were God, which I'm not, I'd have people who all ready weren't doing anything useful be the one's called to marriage. Maximizing resources and all that.

That is hilarious! I couldn't agree more!!

Melody said...

There was that Jesus dude....he was kind of emphatic about a lot of stuff!

I don't recall Jesus having much to say about singleness.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Melody: I don't recall Jesus having much to say about singleness.

"If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple."

Melody said...

"If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple."

That's not about being single, Jesus doesn't care if you get married as long as you hate your spouse!

Daniel said...

Like, I'm not saying He didn't want you to be together, clearly I would have no way of knowing, but, "God called us to stop working on our callings so we could be married" isn't a very compelling counterpoint.

I figure God needs/wants some people to be married to keep the earth populated...but what does he gain by you being married? If I were God, which I'm not, I'd have people who all ready weren't doing anything useful be the one's called to marriage. Maximizing resources and all that.


You may not see it this way Melody, but I believe God is more interested in us as people, who we are and who we become in Him than in what we do for Him.

Melody said...

You may not see it this way Melody, but I believe God is more interested in us as people, who we are and who we become in Him than in what we do for Him.

I don't know exactly what you mean by that, but we're talking about calling, yes?

It kinda feels like you're saying that if Moses had said, "Actually God I'm not feeling so good about the whole going back to Egypt thing, why don't you send someone else?" That God would have beem, "Ah, ok, well if that's the person you're becoming in me, I guess you know...no pressure. I'm not interested as much in what you do as who you are."

Which, clearly is not how things went down...not only that but God has a pattern of not reacting that way straight through the New Testament.

Daniel said...

Hi Melody

It is interesting that you mention Moses: he had a high calling from God from birth, and was groomed for leadership from a young age by God's supernatural hand of destiny. Moses had the passion for the people of God and was ready to go for it - leading him in the heat of the moment to strike an Egyptian - but God had other plans, taking him into the wilderness for 40 years where he met a Godly family, married Zipporah, and was discipled by her father (Moses' father-in-law) Reuel. So, the Moses that was sent back to lead the Hebrew slaves out of Egypt was a different man, humble, and close to God. He had the same calling upon his life as ever, but his character had been shaped and made equal to the task.

As God's Kingdom is established in our hearts, so it can be extended on the earth.

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10)

If you search throughout the Bible Melody, you will see that God puts relationship and character before tasks and callings. Even in the beginning when He created Adam, he gave him Eve because He saw he was alone, and said "It is not good for man to be alone".

You will not find an instance in the Bible where God has a mechanical attitude towards his creation, treating us as "resources". He is a God of Love, not a task master.

Melody said...

If you search throughout the Bible Melody, you will see that God puts relationship and character before tasks and callings.

You're making this statement right after a verse about how we're created in Christ Jesus for good works, that God's pre-planned? And your story before that is about how Moses was picked out before hand to be a key player in the rescuing of God's people?

That doesn't sound like God's interested in character and relationship over calling. That sounds like God uses those things to get the calling done.

Not that I'm saying God doesn't care about relationships and character, I think He makes it clear that He does...but I don't think you've picked out real stunning examples here.

And, ok I want you to come up with one instance where God puts character and relationships before calling. One, because I'm having trouble thinking of any. Moses wasn't a great example, those relationships were interlinked with his calling.

How about Abraham? Well he left his family and was commanded to kill his son (never mind that it didn't happen, he was going to).

Jonah? It didn't seem to matter to God that Jonah was running in the other direction, He had a warning that needed delivering and by golly Jonah was going to do it.

God had Esther marry some king who she didn't know so that she could save the chosen people.

Job's kid's got killed so God could make a point. I mean, he gets more, but those relationships evidently didn't mean much.

So...resources or not...I wouldn't say calling's what has the low rung here.

Daniel said...

Melody, I'm not sure whether we are not posting at cross purposes here.

I'm saying we are first God's workmanship, before we are his workers.

What are you saying? :)

Melody said...

I'm saying we are first God's workmanship, before we are his workers.

Ok, well, "workmanship" can be kind of a vauge churchy word. I might think I know what you mean when you say that and be completely wrong, so why don't you define what you mean by "workmanship" before I go agreeing or dissagreeing with that statement.

What are you saying? :)

That it sounds nice to say God is more interested in us as people than in what we do for Him, but I don't think it's true.

I do think He cares about us as people, but I think in the end it's a lot more intertwined than that.

daniel said...

Hi Melody

I hesitated before responding to your last post because I was really not sure what to say.

Here goes anyway.

Maybe as a start it would be good to clarify something from my earlier post, about my wife and my callings being on "hold".

I said:

My wife came to South Africa as a missionary and was a missionary at the time; I was en route to Trinidad to do some "Kingdom work", and my wife was en route to England to lead a school. These callings have been on hold ever since we changed our minds and put our relationship first.

This calling upon our lives isn't "lost", as you put it, any more than Joseph lost his calling when his brothers threw him in the pit, or Moses when he was exiled in the wilderness, Job when he lost everything he had, Abraham taking his son to the mountain, even Adam when he sinned in the garden... God's purpose always prevails.

In the same way, I perceive God to be doing so many great things in our marriage, and still trust him for the day when we see our dreams fulfilled and those desires He placed in our hearts before we were married become reality.

I am still trusting him to go to Trinidad someday, and I believe my wife will have even greater opportunities in future. In fact I am confident that we will be ever more effective when God releases us to do these things (I would even concur with Jon's mom that "we will serve God better!").

My wife and I are a good match. And you should meet our daughter! What an inheritance from the Lord! She is gonna rock for the Kingdom of God! She is more blessed than both of us combined.

Melody, it is very clear to me that often God has to work on our character, moulding and shaping us, and that he considers this more important than getting the task done. I see this very clearly throughout the Bible and in my own life.

One of the reasons I believe God has this priority is because we often try and do things for God to please him, when he is only pleased by faith. We do things in our own strength, we try and do something and think it is sanctified because its a "calling", but that is not true. We are sanctified because of what Jesus has accomplished, and not by anything we could ever do.

And the main reason God treats us in such a special way is because he is a God of love. He is Love, in fact.

Moreover, God is a loving father. This is the primary distinction between the Jewish and Christian faith and other religions. There is no appreciation of God the Father in Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Paganism, Atheism (obviously), you name it.

Jesus came to cement this revelation, to show us the way to the Father. He taught us to pray "Our Father", and died to reconcile us to God the Eternal Father, to become the first-born of many sons. Jesus taught that God has many rooms prepared for us in his Kingdom. He taught us that God is looking out for each of us individually as our Daddy. This is central to the Gospel. Jesus wanted us all to have the same access and relationship to God that he had.

If God just wanted Jesus just to get the job done, why not let Herod kill him when he was 2 years old? He would have come to the earth born of a virgin and "skipped to the end".

But instead, Jesus lived a life of 33 years and "fulfilled all righteousness", before going to the cross and paying for our sins.

A loving father does not relate to his children as people to do things for him, even in an earthly context.

A loving father is interested in loving his children, teaching them, guiding them, raising them, filling them, satisfying them with good things.

How much more so our Father in heaven?

Melody said...

...even Adam when he sinned in the garden... God's purpose always prevails.

Yeah, yeah...I know. God can/does work with anything...it's part of the awesomeness. I know.

It's (extremely) comforting to know that I can't mess things up for the creator of the universe; however, the fact that God is not phased by my not listening to Him does not negate my responsibility to listen to Him.

Now, I'm not saying that by getting married you weren't listening to God...for all I know God wants you to have twelve kids and run an amusement park. Frankly, He's done weirder things.

But in that case you're a whole lot better off saying something a long the lines of, "God called us to enrich our ministry by getting married," than, "We decided God liked us having babies better than He liked us spreading the gospel to lost souls."

And I know I'm not sounding real friendly here, so let me just interject that I haven't done a whole lot of gospel spreading at all so it's not really a, "Oh-my-gosh you're so selfish" thing...it's a "That doesn't make sense to me" thing.

Anyhow, I don't think God doesn't care about

loving his children, teaching them, guiding them, raising them, filling them, satisfying them with good things.

I just think that doing what He asks us to do is kinda a essential part of that...like God wouldn't be interested in satisfying us with good things at the neglect of us listening to Him. Ya know?

Jonathan Erdman said...

Daniel said: This calling upon our lives isn't "lost", as you put it, any more than Joseph lost his calling when his brothers threw him in the pit, or Moses when he was exiled in the wilderness, Job when he lost everything he had, Abraham taking his son to the mountain, even Adam when he sinned in the garden

Daniel, Are you comparing marriage with all of these things: thrown in a pit, exiled, etc.?????

(Sorry, couldn't resist! ;-)

Dru Johnson said...

Just wanted to mention some others passages from that old dispensation. Nothing definitive here, but just some passages that make it difficult for me to believe that there is an arbitrary filling of the earth that has apparently already happened (per the blog author). I do believe that the only appropriate response to these passages is to either see them as a continuing principle into the NT. Or one can take Jon's approach and simply assert that this command to have children has already been fulfilled in the plain sense of populace. I am not sure how an ancient Israelite could understand the 'filling of the quiver' in a populace sense, since no such connotation exists. Nor could I understand how population control would be a fundamental and creational concern of YHWH. I'm just going to throw these in the mix for conversation pieces.

Psalm 127: 3-5
3 Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
the fruit of the womb a reward.
4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
are the children of one's youth.
5 Blessed is the man
who fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame
when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.

Proverbs 20:7
The righteous who walks in his integrity— blessed are his children after him!

Isaiah 65:23
They shall not labor in vain or bear children for calamity, for they shall be the offspring of the blessed of the Lord, and their descendants with them.

daniel said...

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters (Romans 8:28,29)

I agree with Melody that obediance is key. To this extent, I perceive a parallel between the command given to Adam (be fruitful and multiply) and the command Jesus gave the disciples (go and make disciples of all the nations). It would appear that we are to obey both simultaneously.

That God causes all things to work together for good, whether "good" things (like single devotion and marriage) or "evil" things (like slavery) demonstrates not only his sovereignty but also his priority for our character development, imo. Its like, why did he place the tree in the garden if it was just about filling and subduing the earth? Surely a larger purpose is at stake.

Again, we know that Jesus has won the ultimate victory at Calvary, and yet we are still called to disciple the nations. We will rule and reign with him: he wants us to share in this inheritance.

In my view, our inheritance is both our children in the natural, and our children in the spiritual sense. But I suppose I would agree with Jon that the emphasis should be on discipleship of spiritual children than on natural chidren, as far as these can be seperated - and bearing in mind that we are God's children and are under the ongoing tutelage of the Holy Spirit.

Marriage may be a "pit", "exile" or "belly of the whale" in that it ultimately gets you where God intends you to go. That is not to compare these things in daily reality! There is lots of fun and enjoyment in the companionship of marriage and the intensity of the marriage relationship, not to mention the rewarding joy and blessing of children. As Christians we are meant to exhibit our love for one another in all our relationships, not least in our own families.