Sunday, May 20, 2007

Sun. May 20 (Bruce Hiebert)

Bruce Hiebert [no relation to the webmaster] spoke on The Politics of Christian Marriage. About 20 years ago, John Howard Yoder challenged Christians to examine current thinking and assumptions about marriage, and to compare that thinking with what scripture actually says. Although this exercise may not lead us to change our thinking, it is an exercise well worth undertaking. Though Bruce most definitely did not advocate bigamy, he reminded us that Paul specifies that only bishops are not allowed to have multiple wives. On the other hand, there were several indications that the early church was changing its thinking on marriage, quite possibly moving towards only the ideal of monogamy. For instance, one direct quotation Jesus made from Genesis has urged the historic church to permit only monogamy (as did Roman law; this remains a dilemma for some new Christians in Africa). Essentially, scripture seems to insist that one is 'married' to anyone with whom you have had sex, and that you bear this special responsibility for the rest of your life. In other words, we are to take all our relationships seriously, for life, and not in the more casual manner of today's society. There are a few passages in the New Testament which unambiguously advocate that remaining single and practicing chastity are the very highest ideals imaginable (does today's church ever preach singleness as the highest ideal, as taught by Paul?). Bruce put all of this into context nicely by reminding us that our primary relationship is with God, our secondary relationships are with our neighbors, and that each of us is called to a life of discipleship. Within this framework, those Christians who marry are to take their responsibilities seriously at every turn, for their partners becomes their closest neighbors and couples are both expected to serve God as disciples. The way in which marriages do or do not work directly affects the emotional and spiritual health of the entire fellowship. Bruce therefore portrayed Christian husbands and wives as walking the road of life together, encouraged by God, with Christ at their side, and ideally enjoying the support of other believers. Bruce challenged us to build the kind of fellowships which engender honesty, even about marriages and relationships, for both congregations and families are a microcosm of the Kingdom. [JEK] Listen to the sermon audio MP3 recording from Sunday May 20th using your browser's preferred media player and read Bruce's sermon notes and responses to questions (7 page PDF).



Blogger zalm said...

I am impressed with the level of detail Bruce brought to the message, even while I'm not sure that Genesis 2 directly addressed polygny, rather than monogamy. There is no reference to any other partner than Eve. Granted, polygamy was common in the culture that lived the Genesis tradition, but it is not impossible that monogamy existed in this culture as well.

June 8, 2007 at 1:53 AM  
Blogger Gastown said...

"Monogamous couples have to choose, again and again, to direct their sexual energy only toward each other." -- Regina Lynn, Sex Drive columnist for WIRED magazine in Sex, Lies and Cyberspace (09.08.06)

June 8, 2007 at 5:40 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I see this as the beginning of a conversation on the meaning of marriage in Mennonite perspective. My frustration is that Mennonites have not developed their own theology of marriage, but have absorbed a secularized proto-catholic but non-sacramental theology of marriage without thinking about it. What would happen if we started thinking about marriage from the point of view of following Christ/discipleship? I suspect we would do a number of things, the first of which would be to subordinate marriage to singleness. The second of which might be to decide that heterosexuality is secondary to sexuality. I think we would also relax our abhorence to divorce, while at the same time putting in place the supports to make marriage more a function of the community, not some burden only of the married persons. Much needs to be done and we have not done it.

June 9, 2007 at 11:05 PM  
Blogger Gastown said...

My wife and I benefited a lot from pre-ENGAGEMENT counselling, which I think is even more important than pre-MARITAL counselling. Once a couple is engaged there is a lot of momentum behind the wedding train and objectivity may be lost (a lot of public embarassment is at stake to call it off).

June 18, 2007 at 7:41 AM  
Blogger Rosie Perera said...

There are some interesting thoughts on polygamy in points 2 and 3 of this Psychology Today article "Ten Politically Incorrect Truths About Human Nature": 2. Humans are naturally polygamous; and 3. Most women benefit from polygyny, while most men benefit from monogamy.

Also on the them of marriage, I've just been reading As For Me & My House: Crafting Your Marriage to Last by Walter Wangerin, Jr., and I can highly recommend it. (No, I'm not about to get married; I'm writing an article on Wangerin and am trying to read as many of his books as I can in preparation.)

July 11, 2007 at 12:38 AM  

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