I am now blogging at a new blog: erdman31.com

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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Love and Adultery and Ethical Scenarios

Eve had known about Adam's affairs for years now. He was an important man, and she perhaps should have known better than to expect fidelity. But when you are young, you are usually naive. Initially, she had confronted him, threatened to leave, etc. But eventually she just kind of accepted the fact. Her little boy, Paul, was the love of her life. He had such energy and passion for life; like his father, perhaps. So Eve stayed. Yes, she loved Adam; and she loved Paul. It was difficult, but all things considered, she counted herself lucky to experience the love of her son, and their bond was exceptionally strong and unusually intimate, even for a mother and son.

When Eve began her affair with Doctor Robert, she never questioned the ethics of the situation. Adam and Eve had an unspoken agreement.

Robert and Eve cared about each other. His affection was sincere, and he understood Eve's desire to hold together her family. It was painful for him, but he understood. Robert and Eve just got each other; it clicked. Eventually, though, the heavy feeling of watching Eve leave him became too much for Robert. He had to move on; he had too leave.


daniel said...

As do I have to leave! yes/no

tamie said...

I feel like one of Jesus' clueless disciples, asking to have the parable explained.

Melody said...

Yeah, I don't get this.

Jonathan Erdman said...

This post bounces off of our conversation at Law-Freedom-Spirit-Freedom.

Remember? We were talking about adultery, etc.

My question is this: Did Eve sin with Robert? If so, why?

Melody said...

Is infidelity still a sin?

samlcarr said...

I like Paul and Jesus on this type of issue. 1) Don't judge 2) Pull the log out of your own eye.

For me, if I was Eve, it would be a sin. But that also brings up an interesting question: Is living a lie less sinful?

Jason Hesiak said...

A) Love is about committment. Love is not to react to Adam's sin by sinning. Love abides.

B) Erdmanian...dude...where r u in relation to all the crazy flooding. I've been thinking about you and the water and what-not...???

Jonathan Erdman said...


Thanks for your thoughts. I'm fine. No flooding in our neck 'o the woods.

Jonathan Erdman said...


Who is being unfaithful?

Melody said...

Both of them.

Jonathan Erdman said...

What exactly is Eve obligated to be faithful to?

Adam broke the marriage covenant of fidelity. Is Eve obligated to be faithful to a broken covenant? Is the U.S. obligated to be faithful to treaties signed two hundred years ago? Was God obligated to keep the covenant w/ Israel when they broke it?

In my scenario, Adam and Eve had an unspoken understanding about fidelity; affairs for them would not dissolve their marriage. It was certainly not Eve's first choice, but was her adultery "wrong" in this context?

Jason, It occurs to me that perhaps there are many different forms of love (cf. C.S. Lewis's various forms). In this story, I would say Eve was committed to Adam; but he was not 100% committed to her. Over time, their commitment to each other evolved and changed. Eve adjusted her expectations of what constituted a loving, marital relationship w/ Adam. One might suggest that her affair w/ Doctor Robert may have saved the marital relationship w/ Adam.

Melody said...

Adam broke the marriage covenant of fidelity. Is Eve obligated to be faithful to a broken covenant?

No. I can't think of a culture or religion that would prohibit her from divorcing Adam under those circumstances.

But staying in the agreement to be faithful means that when she is unfaithful it's still cheating.

I don't really think it matters that Adam & Eve have agreed to infidelity. If I agreed that you could hit me as long as I could hit you back - that wouldn't make either of us right.

Jonathan Erdman said...

But the agreement is not an agreement of fidelity. It's an agreement to stay together, not to be exclusive w/ each other....and on that note, there are some marriages that are "open," whereby partners have the freedom to see other people. If sexual fidelity is not a part of the agreement, then I don't know that there has been a covenant violation.

Melody: If I agreed that you could hit me as long as I could hit you back - that wouldn't make either of us right.

Unless, of course, it was a boxing match. There always seems to be a context where "wrong" is "right."

Melody said...

I realize that marriage as we know it is a legal agreement, but if we're talking about sin I think it's fair to recognize marriage as something that God created and set the rules for. I don't think we get to redefine it to suit our own wants.

There always seems to be a context where "wrong" is "right."

Mmm, yes, like racism or child molestation.

Of course those are big cultural taboos right now, but they had their eras of seeming right.

tamie said...

As far as God creating and setting rules for marriage, hm. This isn't my area of expertise, but it seems like polygamy was the accepted norm in the OT. God didn't seem to have problems with it, as least not God as understood by the writers of those scriptures. In fact, God fully operated within both the system of polygamy and concubines. Islam, which follows those scriptures among others, has no problem with polygamy. But we have big problems with it culturally. Another interesting example is having sex before/outside of marriage. My understanding is that this was not taboo or thought to be sin for centuries and centuries of Christian history. So much of what we think was ordained and set and created by God just seems to be cultural norm.

tamie said...

One more thing. As to whether Eve "sinned." I think we need a definition of sin. And we need an explanation of why it matters. If it's just a matter of God telling us not to do something, just because God said so...I mean, in a certain sense, who cares? I'm not very interested in an authoritarian God. But if we understand "sin" as something that causes others unnecessary/unwarranted/unjust pain, or is against the alignment of love, or breaks wholeness, etc. etc....then that's a definition I can get down with, and care about.

It's interesting to think about Eve's actions within this latter definition of sin, especially given what Jonathan said to nuance the situation. I'd like to ponder what this experience was like for Eve. Was it good for her soul, necessary for her journey and development? Perhaps so, definitely perhaps so. Did it also cause her to act deceitfully, to live a lie, and therefore to be unfaithful to the truth within her? Almost definitely. But then again, it sounds like her marriage was doing the exact same things...she was lying to herself within the marriage; she was being unfaithful to her own soul.

Just...thoughts. No conclusion.

samlcarr said...

I can't think of a culture or religion that would prohibit her from divorcing Adam under those circumstances.

There are many. When I was growing up (long, long, ago) divorce was not allowed in 'serious' Christian community even in situations of adultery or domestic violence. One just grinned and bore it...

Jesus seems to have been an advocate of 'no divorce under any circumstance', the consensus on the "except adultery" is that this was tacked on later and is not original.

I am quite amazed at conservative and even fundamentalist Christians easy acceptance of divorce.

derdsgirl said...

I don't often comment, but this is interesting to me. I think what would be telling in this case are 1. are they Christians?, meaning do they use God's standards of marriage as their own, in which case adultery is wrong, and 2. what did their marriage vows say with regards to adultery? did they vow to each other, before witnesses and before/to God (if they believe in Him) that they would only unite with one another and not any other person until death do they part kind of thing?

If they aren't Christians, likely it doesn't really matter to them about sin the way we care about it, though yeah, both of them sinned from a Christian standpoint. They both committed adultery.

If their marriage vows specifically stated something about remaining faithful to one another (instead of a more open vow), then they both broke their vows.

If they didn't say anything about faithfulness in their vows, then they haven't broken any "rules" of the marriage, if you will. Maybe at first they had an unspoken rule of faithfulness, and later it turned into an unspoken rule of unfaithfulness but not leaving, but it would not have been a vow in this case.

I also think it is interesting that you ask if she sinned when she started her affair with Dr. Robert. Personally, I think when you say

Her little boy, Paul, was the love of her life.

she sinned. Maybe I just take my vows super seriously or whatever, but my husband should always come before my children, and God before him. She had already replaced the love and connection she had with her husband, with her son. She relied on her son for the emotional support she needed not her husband, to whom she should have placed that responsibility.

Adam broke the marriage covenant of fidelity. Is Eve obligated to be faithful to a broken covenant?

I think it is important to remember that just because someone broke their vow to you does not give you free reign to break yours to them. Especially if that vow was also made before, and to the Lord. When Adam had his affair, when he replaced his love for his wife with a love for another woman, he broke his vow (assuming they actually vowed this, which most marriages probably do) to his wife and to God (again, assuming he is a Christian and made his vows to God as well). Eve still has to hold true to the vows SHE made to her husband and to God. This means she still can't have an affair just because he did, and also, at least in the vow I took, she can't divorce him b/c she probably said 'til death to us part, or something like that. She has to remain faithful to her word. Adam's marriage covenant to Eve may have been broken, but it doesn't give her the right to break her own covenant.

One last thing, I think it is wrong as well that she never said anything to Adam (in a productive way - threatening to leave is never really productive or at least not a positive and healthy way to do things). I don't know if it is a sin necessarily. My husband is also my brother in Christ, and if I see him sin, I should help him see what he is doing is wrong. This, to me, is part of my walk as a christian, also as a wife, a helpmeet, but mostly as a christian. I try and help when I can to all my brothers and sisters in Christ, and I expect them to do the same.

I'm finished now. I had a lot more to say than I thought.

Melody said...

About Polygamy, that's a complicated issue. And I know we've discussed it before without coming to any actual conclusions (we never do). I'm a little loathe to start that discussion again.

As far as the sex outside of marriage bit, I have no idea what centuries you're reffering to.

In the old and new testament there are specific laws and/or warnings against adultery and any other kind of unmarried sex.

Might it be a cultural norm that has led us at sometimes to believe that God really doesn't mind so much who we're messing around with?

About sin,

1. I don't much know if it matters if you want an authoritarian God. He either is or He isn't and if He is it isn't as if you could change that by wanting it or by any other means.

2. I'm bad at definitions, but my understanding is this - sins are basically things that God finds abhorant.

And since God is good anything God abhors is bad.

It might also be noted that God is love and that love is the fulfillment of the law - so it isn't as if anything God abhors is something we need and are missing out on and it isn't as if anything that God loves is going to destroy us. Quite the reverse, actually.

I'll finish later, a friend just dropped by

ktismatics said...

You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour. - Exodus 20:17

This was commandments 9 and 10 when I went to catechism; Wikipedia tells me that most Protestants lump wife and goods into a single commandment -- is that right? It's notable that wives really are lumped in with other possessions, so adultery was more like stealing than cheating. Also notice that no mention is made of coveting your neighbor's husband -- women didn't own anything, not even their husbands.

tamie said...

I'm intrigued by what Melody said, about that we can't choose whether God is authoritarian or not. I see your point, of course. Just like I can't choose whether my cat is black or my boyfriend selfish. They are what they are.

But then again, not. As Lemony Snickett says, "There are many things in life that become different if you take a
long look at them." For example, the selfishness of my boyfriend is undoubtedly a very complex matter, and mostly in the eye of the beholder. As for the blackness of my cat, one need only study color theory, or heck quantum physics, to realize that a cigar is not always a cigar. As it were. Black is rarely black, when it comes right down to it.

Anyhoozle. It seems to me that we choose the God that we want to worship, follow, and imitate. We choose the way that we interpret Scripture; we choose the way that we interpret the events of our lives and the natural phenomena of the world. Of course some choices are better than others, although even that is not arguable on objective grounds. For example, who says that I should take Scripture as the inspired word of God? Certain traditions say that, and that's about it. So I *choose* to take Scripture as inspired, or not. And then, once I've taken it as inspired, which version of the text do I adhere to? Which textual variants do I accept? And do I accept the Israelites' vision of God as the Truth, or should I understand Scripture as the recorded history of a people struggling to understand the Divine? Is God a God of revenge and cruelty, as God seems to be in much of the OT? And if so, does this justify, for examples, the Israelis' hateful treatment of the Palestinians, as many contemporary Zionists claim? The Zionists indeed have an authoritative God, and on God's authority many of them want to annihilate the Palestinians. I have to ask myself whether this is the will of God, or whether this is perhaps the will of a furious people who pawn off their tendency for violence onto God...People do choose the understanding of God that they prefer (often on an unconscious level), based on so many factors (upbringing; education; culture; preference; conviction, etc.). I like what Merton says: "Every man becomes the image of the God he adores."

The human of understanding of God has changed and changed and changed throughout human history. Slave-owners sure were convinced that their actions were sanctioned by God. Jihadists are convinced of the same. Homophobes sure are certain that their convictions are correct. Who's been right?

tamie said...

One more thing. I was remiss in not acknowledging that while we choose the kind of God we want to live with, God is also busy choosing us. Somehow, inexplicably, God is choosing us. Just like that old saying that inasmuch as we interpret the text, we also must allow the text to interpret us.

Jason Hesiak said...

Welcome there Erdmanian...glad to hear everything is OK...that water is still a nourishing thing for you :)

As for the various forms of love and the whole 100% committment thing...if you ask me any and all committment is modeled after God's committment to us/Israel. Which did not, does not and will not fail. Obviously none of us will live up to that, but I can tell you that I hope that my wife and I are able to live somewhere close to that when we are married. Becuase I'm fairly certain that I will violate her sense of intimacy with me in one way or another (my guess is probably not with sexual infidelity, but still, who knows), and I would certainly hope that she would exhibit the compassion and love of God...because otherwise I'm most certainly screwed. And it probably goes the other way around, too. And Erdmanian, I would guess that you would hope to have the same characteristic in your wife, no? Who doesn't want to be loved unconditionally...and not be let go! (one word, HOSEA?

Jason Hesiak said...

oh and erdmanian there's a conversation on gadamer happening over at church and postmodern culture :)

Melody said...


You quoted Lemony Snickett as saying, "There are many things in life that become different if you take a long look at them."

Do they actually become something different...or is it just how we see the thing that is different?

I was shopping with a friend last week for a pair of black pants. She asked me, "Are these black or navy?" In one light they looked black. In another they had a distinctly blue tint..but the color of the pants hadn't really changed...just the way we saw them.

It's true that we see God in the light of our own culture. It's true that we choose how we'll see God and how we'll think of Him...but having the choice doesn't mean we can't choose wrongly. It doesn't mean who God is, is dependent on how we decide to see Him.

You're right though, God chooses us...much more than we choose Him, I would think.

Anonymous said...

Is it okay for a complete stranger to comment?

This conversation has sparked several scattered thoughts for me.

1) It seems to be the general assumption that Adam and Eve are followers of Christ and are therefore bound by the standards of life and behavior that he set forth. From this arises a discussion of the nature of covenant and the obligation of both parties to uphold a mutual covenant, based on God's obligation (or lack thereof) to Israel. Someone asked if God is "obligated" to Israel after she has "broken" "her covenant" with him. Israel made no covenant with God. The covenant was one-sided. In the Abrahamic covenant, God made a promise to Israel (his people, however we define it today) that was unconditional. I don't think the literary device of using human marriage as a metaphor for this covenant (Hosea, etc.) necessarily means that the human marriage covenant is sufficiently analogous to the Abrahamic covenant that we may make inferences about one based on the other. This asks too much of the Bible as a piece of literature and misses the point of its various literary devices.

2) Derdsgirl raises a good point: in a marriage between followers of Christ, the first priority is to sharpen each other in walking with him. It is not to enjoy the other's perfect fidelity. When my brother in Christ behaves toward me in a way that hurts me, it is not my right to behave this way back (the status quo in the American, even Christian, marriage--nay, relationship in general). Instead, it is my obligation to lovingly help him to change. If my husband and brother in Christ seeks sexual gratification outside of our marriage, breaking the promise he made to God, to me, and to the body of Christ, regardless of my pain, I must be loyal to him, my brother, and attempt to correct the situation. He does not exist to meet my needs and to coddle me, nor I him. In this way, marriage is unique in the body of Christ. If I am not loyal to him, I break the promise I made to God, to him, and to the body of Christ. I am not saying that divorce is categorically wrong in all circumstances, but if people did not view marriage as being all about having one's personal needs met, divorce would be far less prevalent.

3) If this couple are not followers of Christ (and based on their behavior, I assert that they are probably not) and therefore not bound by his standards for life and behavior, we should not yoke them to any specifically Christian burdens. In our culture (assuming that the couple in question belongs to our culture), monogamy, even after a promise regarding it has been made, as well as truth in word and expected standards of behavior are all flexible, negotiable, situational, and personal. One takes care of one's own needs and desires and values oneself above all else. Without a commitment to a moral code, all bets are off. And if Adam and Eve do not subscribe to a certain moral code, why are we even discussing anything? What's "best for them" is perfectly fine, as long as "nobody gets hurt." "Who are we to judge?" etc. ad nauseum.

4) I offer a bit of pragmatic food for thought:
I knew a couple very personally, now both deceased, who had an "open" marriage. Their only expectation of sexual fidelity was that each spouse approved of the other's partners. They exercised this freedom fully and also had one of the strongest relational bonds (based on outward appearances) that I've ever seen. They were married for 49 years, parted by death. However, their three children are some of the most messed-up adults imaginable. The only one with the courage to have children of her own lost them to the state due to physical abuse that was the direct result of her hostility toward her parents. The other two are hateful, self-centered, angry, neurotic, antisocial people. Thank goodness they don't have children.
Whereas one scenario does not define the entire issue, it can illustrate some dangers inherent to Adam and Eve's "lifestyle choices."

Melody said...

Sure, strangers can comment.

I'm just going to go ahead and answer for Jon, since he's busy with a boring conversation about why "our" church is the spawn of the devil.

It's be nice if we had a nickname or something for you, though. I'm just going to go ahead and call you Nony till you come up with a name of your own.

So Nony,

I can't speak for anyone else, but for me personally I hadn't really made that assumption (in 1.). I'm just assuming that right and wrong are not dependant on what we believe.

Now, certainly if this were real life and I were actually dealing with friends or family members in said situation - it would make a great deal of difference whether they were Christians or not.

But for hypothetical "is this upsetting to God?" type conversations...I don't think it matters what they believe - though possibly God is more upset by his children's sins than by other's.

I think I pretty much agree with you about 2.

Of course, in this particular instance scripture would back this lady up in getting a divorce. I just don't think there's any backing for an "open marriage" or for pretending to be faithful while you both mess around.

The idea of "Well he's sleeping around so I can too!" just seems very tit-for-tat.

Nony said...

Hmm, Nony. I like it.

Touche. Right and wrong are not dependent on belief.

Though I usually work from the assumption (which is biblically based in my interpretation) that sin for the unbeliever is more a status than an action. God is grieved over the collective lack of repentance and sanctification, the outworking of which is the sinful act and attitude. This may be a reaction against the Catechism I received as a child that involved a "sin account" and a "grace acccount" for every human being (the way my CCD teacher explained works-based salvation). So I have a hard time holding individual sins against people who have neither the knowledge to care nor the power to do anything about it (another tip of my interpretive hand). Rebellion against God is the essence of the unredeemed state, and a life the a pleases God is evidence to the contrary. If an unredeemed person committed fewer "sinful" acts, would God be less grieved by him or her?

derdsgirl said...

Melody -

You say:

Of course, in this particular instance scripture would back this lady up in getting a divorce.

I just wonder what scripture there is to back up her getting a divorce. I haven't ever read any scripture (NT) that backs divorce of any kind. The only thing I have read is that if there is a marriage between a christian and a non-christian, and the non-christian wants a divorce, the christian can give it to them. I think I remember that the christian shouldn't initiate the divorce though.

I may just not have read/studied any verses that actually condone divorce in certain situations, so really I ask this because I truly wonder if I am missing something.