Continuing our tea-ological discussion of the Holy Trinity, we turn now to the threeness, the tri-personality of the one God. Grab your cup and contemplate the mystery of the Almighty!
We’re back with another Tuesday Tea-ology! The glorious mystery of the Trinity lies at the heart of the Christian faith. We cannot, and must not, dissolve this mystery; but we can begin to trace it out. We begin with the oneness of God.
I recently wrote a little essay on the meaning of matrimony, and want to follow that up with a few thoughts about its significance in terms of human culture. If, as Scripture teaches and history bears out, marriage is the fundamental human society, the health and solidity of the institution of marriage will have a profound influence on society more broadly. This gives us a lens to understand so many of our culture’s ills, and offers a prescription for addressing them.
The family is the basic social unit. Here the fundamental diversity of humanity as man and woman shows its complementarity in the unity of marriage; this unity is (normatively) fruitful. Thus husband, wife, and children, the basic society, form the cells of a healthy social body on the larger scale. In the mutual love and support of the family an environment is created that is naturally conducive to human flourishing—naturally, because this is the divine design.
In saying this, I do not mean to deny the great value of extended families, close friendships, neighborhood communities, and all the rest. I only point out that the core human society is the nuclear family, and therefore that marriage has a social significance frequently neglected in the contemporary west. This is the fundamental building block of a healthy society, and our long denigration of the institution of marriage has, it stands to reason, a sizeable share in the blame for the extent of our besetting social ills: poverty, drug abuse, abortion, suicide, and so on.
The project of rebuilding western civilization, which we might fruitfully consider, would need the restoration of marriage as a core tenet. Bear in mind that all of this assumes a true understanding of marriage, a Christian understanding of marriage. Marriage with the gospel at the center is the kind of marriage we need.
So, in the first place, churches should invest heavily in nourishing strong Christian families. Every marriage truly consecrated—Christward, God-centered marriage—is a fortress built in the kingdom of God’s invasion of this dark world. Here a tree has been planted to bear fruit in the midst of the desert. Here a sanctuary has been fenced to raise children who will be protected and loved and taught to stand straight in a culture enslaved, who will know the truth, and by God’s grace may believe the truth. Here a banner has been raised to declare the Lordship of Jesus Christ, and the wonder of the Spirit’s transforming power.
Secondly, we should oppose any ideology, force, or movement that aims to displace or dismantle the family. This is a typical tendency of contemporary secular social philosophy; the family is to be denounced as an artificial construction, and its functions outsourced to the community or the government. We see this in educational agendas, political policy, and social advocacy, to name a few. But any denigration of the family is fundamentally misanthropic, and must be resisted.
Thirdly, and most importantly, we must see the implications of this for the family of the church. In our fallen world, human society will never be as it ought. God is at work to repair what sin has broken, and this is primarily exercised through the community of the faithful. The church, in fact, supersedes the biological family (without nullifying it); separated from the family of God, the family of man will be inevitably dysfunctional. The church must be family for all the families of the church, and for all those who have no other family.
For in His love, God has made a way for us to come into His family. In the church, we realize now a foretaste of the fellowship of the family of God. For all those who are lonely and lost, for those whose families are broken or abusive, God reaches out with His gospel of love, forgiveness, acceptance, and healing. This is the message that transforms lives, communities, even cultures; this is the message of Christian marriage and the proclamation of the church: God has made a way, in Jesus Christ, for us to be reconciled to Him and adopted into His family.
God has worked to draw us to Himself. That is the testimony of matrimony.
Climb aboard for another exciting Tuesday Tea-ology! Two more Earl Greys (Earls Grey? Earl’s Greys?) enter the fray! Then we get serious: first thoughts on the great mystery of the Trinity! What does God’s Triunity have to do with Christmas?
“For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding” (Proverbs 2:6, ESV).
One of the greatest needs of the contemporary evangelical church is wisdom. A long emphasis on practical, even managerial, church leadership has put us in prime condition to be blind-sided by worldly ideologies. The notion that theology is somehow antithetical to vital spirituality is perhaps as much to blame. Whatever the cause, it is far too common today to see men in the highest levels of leadership taken in by worldly ideologies. American evangelicalism is intellectually vulnerable in two of the areas where we most desperately need to be strong right now: the meaning of the gospel and the nature of humanity.
As for the gospel, there will always be the temptation to add to it whatever cause is popular in broader society at the moment, to make the gospel the announcement of God’s gracious redemption in Jesus Christ, plus X–and X will vary as social emphases shift. X may usually be a good and worthy cause, a natural implication of the gospel; but, when it is transposed into the gospel, it tends to displace the actual proclamation of eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.
As for the human person, that is the current locus of numerous attacks from worldly ideologies–from the sexual revolution to critical race theory to outright Marxism. When Christians carelessly adopt ideas and categories from these movements, often unwittingly, they introduce into their understanding of humanity elements that purport to be liberating, but are actually destructive to human flourishing.
The truth is that Scripture speaks clearly on both of these matters, and that theological resources for developing a robustly Christian understanding of humanity and the gospel abound. Yet we must take what we have been given; we must awake to the pursuit of godliness in the life of the mind.
God gives wisdom. Let us attend His Word, so that we will not be deceived by the voice of the world.
I officiated a wedding this week, and it was a wonderful, joyous occasion—as a Christian wedding should be. A man and a woman united in holy matrimony. But what is marriage, this marvelous joining of two lives? It is a remarkable union, and it has a remarkable message.
Marriage is the key and foundational relationship in human life. It is not God’s design for everyone—and those God has designed for singleness have a special gift, and a special honor. But God’s normative design for man and woman is marriage, and out of this union (normatively) emerges the family. We see this design expressed in the beginning.
When God created the world and all the creatures that inhabit it, He made mankind as the pinnacle of His creation, creatures distinct from all other creatures—creatures made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27). And when He created the first man, we read that “the LORD God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him’” (Gen. 2:18, ESV). None of the other creatures were fit for that role (vv.19-20), so God created woman from out of man (vv.21-22). Man and woman are the same and also different: equally human, equally made in the image of God, equally possessed of all the dignity that implies, yet different from one another.
There are some differences that make it hard for things to fit together. But man and woman are made for each other; man and woman are complementary. In marriage, these two, different and complementary, are united—the two become one.
Husband and wife enter into a life-long covenant union, forged in love, bound by promise, and blessed by God Almighty. That is the wonder and splendor of marriage.
The spiritual message of this union is that it is a picture of the union with God for which mankind is created, which we have lost in the fall, for which we long, and which the Christian finds in the gospel, by faith in Jesus Christ, for the church is the bride of Christ.
And so this union of marriage is a holy parable of the divine design. Every Christian marriage, grounded in the love of God, strengthened by the gospel of Jesus Christ and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, is to be a testimony to God’s creative power and redeeming work.
Authority, Bible, Biblical Interpretation, Christianity, Church, Church of England, Faithfulness, God, Homosexuality, Humility, Liberalism, Progressive Christianity, Same-Sex Marriage, Scripture, Sexual Immorality, Sexual Revolution, Theology
This week’s Tuesday Tea-ology focused on the finality of Scripture; the relevance of this aspect of the authority of God’s Word is easy to illustrate. Consider, for instance, the current convulsions in the Church of England.
The C of E has seen tragic theological degeneration over the years—though, like many liberalizing Christian bodies, they have remnants of orthodoxy in the ranks. And, like other liberalizing bodies, the temptation to compromise with the world is very strong in the area of sexual morality.
At the beginning of 2020, I saw with some surprise that the C of E managed even the banal statement that “Sexual relationships outside heterosexual marriage are regarded as falling short of God’s purpose for human beings”—a notably anemic statement compared to the strong words Scripture has for homosexual relationships, but more orthodox than I would have expected from the Church of England.
But the pleasant surprise of orthodox theological anthropology coming from the C of E was short-lived. The archbishops of Canterbury and York swiftly apologized for having been so insensitive as to maintain basic Christian moral teaching. Such a move, they hold, was inappropriate, considering that the C of E is presently engaged in deciding whether or not they still hold to Christian sexual ethics—these matters are being re-evaluated in something called “the Living in Love and Faith project.”
That is the setup. The other day, news came that this project has yielded up its fruits, and the C of E will now, according to the Christian Post, “begin a formal ‘discernment and decision-making’ process ‘about a way forward for the church’ in regards to its teachings on sex, sexuality and marriage.” Though the description is broad, and apparently does consider the issues generally, same-sex marriage appears to be the focal point.
Considerable sophistry can be involved in these situations. A discernment process sounds careful, perhaps even reverent; but, when what you are trying to discern is whether or not to obey God, it turns out to be a process of deliberate rebellion. Engaging in a thorough discernment process to decide whether or not to declare stealing or adultery valid, to offer a parallel example, signals not wisdom but moral frailty. Even considering redefining marriage to accommodate sexual immorality is a denial of God’s authority, of the finality of God’s Word.
From the description, this discernment process is based on a three-year study “to help people participate in honest discussions, listen to life stories and understand each other’s views.” Honest discussions are good (much better than dishonest discussions!); listening to people’s stories is important; understanding one another’s views is valuable. But none of that has any bearing on the church’s doctrine regarding human sexuality.
That is the application of the finality of Scripture. God’s Word is final. The authority of Scripture overrules human experience, and declares us in the wrong when we attempt to contradict God. The Bible also overrules human rationalizing, theorizing, moralizing, philosophizing, obfuscating, and platituding—any and all reasoning and rhetoric that goes against what God has spoken. God is God, and what He says goes.
God created human beings, He knows what is best for us, and what He says goes. He designed man and marriage; they are not ours to redesign or redefine. To re-evaluate marriage in light of honest discussions, life experiences, and our views is to reject God’s authority as Maker and Master, Lord of life. God has spoken very clearly about these matters.
And God’s Word is final.