Opinions on faith and life

Analysis: Modern Gnosticism and the Family as Contract

2012-05-13

This is my commentary on an article by the same name at American Thinker, a conservative political site. While I believe that religion must not be excluded as part of our culture and history as a nation, I also believe that unless God is directly running the government it should keep its nose out of religious issues as much as possible. To be fair, there has never been such a government; even atheists would bring their extra-governmental personal convictions into it, and absence of formal religion is no guarantee of freedom (e.g. the old USSR, China, N. Korea, etc.). But though there are certain moral issues that seem to be common to most views (laws against murder or theft for example), some are not so clearly defined. And as a Christian, I often cite Paul’s words at the end of 1 Cor. 5: What business is it of mine to judge those on the outside? Are we not to judge those on the inside? In other words, we need to stop expecting unbelievers to act like believers.

The writer, Keith Riler, focuses on whether marriage should be seen as a contract. Yet few people know that the idea of a contract for marriage, in modern times at least, came from the Reformers. In the book The Reformers and their Stepchildren (my comments are here), Leonard Verduin gave a history of non-RCC and extra-Protestant Christianity. And in chapter 8 he explains that it was the Reformer clergy who invented the marriage contract as a way to keep control of society and remove the legitimacy of any marriage formed outside of that control. Having a marriage license signified the couple’s acquiescence to the church authorities, which always have tried to infuse themselves into government in order to have the power of the state to enforce its rules. (Of course, the Roman Catholic Church is much more guilty of this, but my point is that the Protestant churches are only different in degree.)

Now it’s the secular world wanting state sanction (at first due to our ridiculous tax laws, but now for ideological control), yet at the same time the churches want to retain it for themselves. Yet as I’ve asked many times, where are the New Testament instructions on marriage ceremonies, certificates, or presiding officials? For something many Christians today want to defend so strongly, the NT is conspicuous in its silence about the details. The only teaching is that it is one man and one woman, who must both be faithful to each other. (There is no question about what it teaches regarding other sexual unions; see Rom.1:27-32.) Nothing is said about legality or state law; rather, the emphasis is on singleness as the ideal (1 Cor. 7) and faithfulness as the requirement if singleness is not possible.

I also disagree with Riler that a secular contract necessarily objectifies the children. It should go without saying that many traditional marriages have resulted in abused or neglected children, who are often objectified through their parents living vicariously through them via sports, business, or grandchildren. And since there is no statistical difference between Christian and non-Christian divorce rates, what protection is offered by a contract--- which takes the form of spoken vows in the presence of witnesses? Whether religious or secular, marriage vows or contracts do nothing but give social legitimacy and tax advantages.

I don’t see what any of this has to do with Gnosticism. One does not need to be Gnostic in order to devalue life or morality; in fact, modern immorality seems to stem more from hedonism, affluence, and political indoctrination. Why they would push for marriage contracts is their business, but it’s time for the churches to ask themselves why they push for the same thing yet think it’s not a contract because it isn’t written down. The quote of someone named Morse presents only false dilemmas: not all contracts are of limited duration; not all contract children are objectified; not all biological parents connect with their own children; not all parents of contract children can easily get off the hook of being responsible for the children’s well-being.

Riler adds that he believes contract children are only a lifestyle choice, yet what about biological parents choosing if, when, and how many children they will have? If this were true, it leads directly to the awful and wicked Quiverfull theology where wives are consigned to pump out babies till they die, and husbands are expected to make more and more money in order to support what amounts to not a family but a litter. How can anyone deny the lifestyle charge if they don’t follow this line of so-called reasoning to its logical conclusion, married in a church or not? And the bullet list following this lifestyle statement has further flaws:

Riler’s objection to the Biden quote regarding homosexuality is something every Bible-literate Christian would affirm, but the requirement of love is something sorely missing from many professing Christians’ marriages. Promising to love someone won’t magically force it to happen, and a written contract won’t magically prevent it from happening. Biden would be wrong if he were professing to be a Christian, and if he does, he is defaming that Name. But as either a sorely-backslidden Christian or an unbeliever, he is on the outside and cannot be expected to live as a Christian should.

As for marriage being a procreative calling, this again is unaffected by the presence or absence of a contract. No one with half a brain can deny that society has been reaping the consequences of its rebellion against all that is holy or pure, but again, this has nothing to do with contracts. And in spite of his earlier admission that traditional marriage is not necessarily protective of children, he states at the end that it is. It certainly should be, but since it isn’t, we are once again asking ourselves what new problem the use of written contracts will cause. Morally, our society is circling the drain already; exactly how can it get worse, especially by the use of written contracts?

We Christians need to know the boundaries of our faith community; there is, according to the apostle Paul, an inside and an outside, and the outside is not our problem to solve. Rather, by teaching and example, we are to spread the gospel and change hearts and minds instead of trying to put our energy into fighting laws that will have no bearing on matters of the heart. We need to purify our own society first, by turning away from the seeker mentality which infects our fellowships with politically-correct tolerance of all kinds of sins. If we were to clean up our own houses first, then like it was when the church was brand new, the world around us would want what we have.

I often see unbelievers cite the high-profile multiple divorces of conservatives and Christians as the hypocrisy it really is. Of course the political left has many more skeletons in its own closet, but if being conservative or Christian means objecting to amoral society, then we’d better stop quacking and waddling like amoral society. Want to stop the public secular endorsement of evil? Start at home.