Friday, May 15, 2009

5/15- Calvin on the importance of marriage

(Young Calvin speaking to a family)

Marriage should be honored by all and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. (Hebrews 13:4)

Calvin: Paul lists marriage among the virtues of the bishop; the papists teach that it is an intolerable fault in the church order. And, please God, not content with this general blame, they call it in their canons uncleanness and
pollution of the flesh.F441 Let every man ponder from what workshop these things have come! Christ deems marriage worthy of such honor that he wills it to be an image of his sacred union with the church [Ephesians 5:23-24, 32]. What more splendid commendation could be spoken of the dignity of marriage? With what shamelessness will that be called unclean or defiled in which a likeness of Christ’s spiritual grace shines forth!

It is clear that Calvin held marriage in the highest regard. He lived his life that way. For most of his life he was celibate, but he was married nine years to Idelette de Bure, a widow of an Anabaptist. It is clear that he loved her though she was sick most of their lives together.
For Calvin, God created marriage as a blessing for human kind. He thought the Roman Catholics were being overly-harsh and going beyond scripture in their restrictions on celibacy with their clergy. In his day marriage was being degraded to the laity, while the spiritual elite (priests, monks, nuns) were called to something higher. He noted that one of the reasons there was so much sexual immorality in his day was the uncelibacy, unchastity, and sexual immorality of the clergy of his day. While the ideal for the Roman Catholics was chastity, the ideal for Calvin became marriage (or chastity outside of marriage). Calvin and Luther both married and saw the family unit as an encouragement against the world.
It is amazing to me today how marriage is held in such disregard. I have been frankly, upset that the churches seem so intent on making money on marriage. I have done what I can to keep prices down in my own church (somewhat unsuccessfully). Some do not get married because they see weddings as so expensive. Some do not get married because of the emotional and economical costs of divorce- which has been hovering at 50% for all marriages in the U.S. for years. For the first time, recent studies show that births to unwed mothers have gone to 40% (it was 33% for about ten years). Fully 60% of kids by the time they are 18 have seen their parent’s marriage breakup. The economic costs to this is staggering, for poverty tends to follow divorce- not just in the short run. In a poor economy, one of the best things we can do is to uphold marriage, and we are doing the opposite! Michael Novak said that marriage is the first department of Health, education, and welfare. Laws do not uphold marriage as much as the church should and does. There is still a strong correlation with church attendance and staying married. However, many churches are following the world’s lead in this. I guess the best thing we can do is thank God for marriage and family, and do all we can to uphold it ourselves, and to encourage those we know who are married. Hebrews said that “marriage should be held in honor by all people- even those who are not married.

Prayer- Lord, strengthen our country’s marriages. Bless those we know who are going through hard times in their marriage because of the economy. Be merciful to our families and to us.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for putting this blog together. It has been a real joy to get to learn more about Calvin and his view on God and the Christian life.

    What advice do you have for a young man wanting to be a pastor?