This is a continuation of a long discourse on matrimony. If you’ve not been following please scroll down and click on the links at the end of this article.
I thought the masochist theology of matrimony ended in the 1980s until I came across some comments posted by some young men and women on Facebook. They were advocating the failed matrimonial ideology of the 1980s. The famed method of proposal among Christians on university campuses in those days was, “Thus saith the Lord.” A more lenient version was couched as “God’s leading” – the young man will tell the sister, “God is leading me to you.” That system of proposal eliminated personal desires and aesthetic appreciation. It advocated God can lead you to marry anyone, even someone you’re not attracted to, and someone you don’t desire. As can be expected it struck terror in the heart of many a young Christian. What if God told me to marry that sister I don’t consider pretty, or that brother who dresses slovenly, they wondered. It never occurred to these young Christians to cross-reference the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:9-11: “You parents – if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not!” Matthew 7:9-11 NLT. Obviously God is not a sadist.
The holy grail of this matrimonial philosophy was the search for the “perfect will of God,” which said phrase is a mangling of Romans 12:2: “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Romans 12:2 KJV. This passage was interpreted to mean there are three grades of the will of God – the good, the permissive and the perfect. The confusion comes from a poor appreciation of the 17th century English used by the King James Bible. A better rendition of Romans 12:2 is, “Don’t copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” (NLT) There is no gradation or decimalisation of the will of God. There is no “perfect will of God.” His will is his will. But that passage – Romans 12:2, presented other problems as we shall soon see.
This is the deductive scheme of the matrimonial ideology:
1. God is sovereign.
2. God has a carefully thought out plan for everyone.
3. God loves us more than we love ourselves.
4. Man by himself does not know what he needs. There’s a way that seems right to a man but the end is death.
5. Therefore God can instruct you to marry who you don’t want, who you don’t love, who you’re not attracted to, and who you don’t desire. He knows what’s best for you.
6. We must be broken to accept God’s will for our lives. In due reason the purpose for the marriage will become obvious.
7. God will increase the love in the marriage in the future. It’s more about the future than the now.
That’s the logic of a dangerous matrimonial ideology masquerading as submission theology. As can be expected it produced monumental issues, one being depression. As knowledge increased many realised they had married under false assumptions. There is no telling what feeling that might have produced in marriage. Some of course worked out, but that’s because of other fundamentals.
When it became obvious some of these marriages were failing, with some ending in remorse and divorce despite claims of the perfect will of God, the proponents came up with a maintenance patch: the couple must get to know each other very well before marriage even if God said so. Or it wouldn’t work, they said. And so AFTER the prophetic proposal the couple must get to know each other before going into marriage. This was called “courtship,” and for many reasons. According to them Christians don’t do boyfriend and girlfriend they get “engaged,” hence “courtship.” But that word “engaged” is not even as generally understood. There’s no getting on the knee and proposing. There’s no ring either. Truth is, this “courtship” was dating by another name. The word “dating” was considered carnal and worldly. Romans 12:2 says not to be conformed to the world after all. There was thus need for differentiation sociology. This “courtship” was inversion of natural order, or as some saw it, inversion of commonsense.
And it was a long drawn out system. “Courtship” can last three years or more. Even the gap between proposal and the beginning of the courtship can be up to eight months, as the sister sought the will of God during this period. It is after acceptance of proposal, during “courtship” that basic stats, including bio data are found out, facts that should have been known before acceding to the marriage proposal. Facts like, where are you from, who are your siblings, how many are you in your family, what did you study, what do you do for a living, what are your likes and dislikes, what are your aspirations, are learnt AFTER COMMITMENT to marriage! Essentially the matrimonial system advocates putting the cart before the horse.
Just a few days ago a proponent of the system cited her personal testimonial. She said, “After three years of courtship, we were convinced, satisfied, loved each other, got rigorous godly counsel and got married properly.” But if it was God’s revelation and command why all the EFFORT put in BEFORE tying the knot? Why not walk straight to the altar upon proposal? And why spend three years getting to know each other? Why even go for counselling? Is God’s will no longer perfect? I submit that if such marriage works it is more because of those three years of getting to know one another rather than any divine mandate. The question we should naturally ask is, if at any time during that “courtship” the man turns out to be an abuser, a monster, would our sister still go on with the marriage? The answer is not so pert because a major component of the system is self-conditioning. Many will tell you it wasn’t easy at first but they adjusted over time. The danger in this philosophy however is that it paints marriage as something to endure, something unpleasant that one is forced to adjust to. This is a marital ideology of adjustment to pain and difficulty.
Those who oppose the ideology are said to oppose the leading of the Spirit. But the real problem is an intellectual challenge and it centres on inviolability of freewill. Without a doubt God gave us freewill. We regularly exercise it in our daily life. In fact following the leading of the Spirit is itself exercise of freewill. I can choose not to follow. We do that regularly. If I have freewill I should be free to marry whom I choose. Are the leading of the Spirit and the exercise of freewill therefore opposed to each other? Are freewill and leading of the Spirit mutually exclusive? The answer is no. We don’t have ANY scriptural authority on God forcing anyone to marry anybody. And so the notion of God commanding a marriage is obviously false, irrespective of any claims made by man. The Bible is our authority not denominational ideology.
But here’s the mistake some make: they don’t realise that the fact God acts in an advisory capacity with respect to a marital prospect doesn’t mean he’s commanding the other party to marry them. The counterparty can say no, has the right to say no. It’s advice not a mandate, and it’s from one perspective. It’s why the word “wooing” exists. Wooing is another name for gentle persuasion. We call it toasting. You send flowers, buy gifts, send cards, write poems, send texts, emojis… If you mention a name to the Holy Spirit he can give you an affirmative nudge on the inside, or try and dissuade you. Depending on your relationship he may even offer an opinion, sometimes a strong one. If you have given God power of attorney over your life he can frustrate your effort in a wrong direction. He’ll exercise that right. But in all of these your freewill still subsists. Just as your freewill subsists when God tells you to give a certain offering or send a financial gift to someone and you refuse. If there’s no freewill the Holy Spirit won’t need to lead you. God will just command you and force you to do what he says. And isn’t it ironic that the only time we’re most concerned about the leading of the Spirit is when we’re considering a marriage partner!
The Bible recommends wisdom for life. God devoted an entire book to that topic. It’s called the Book of Proverbs. The Bible recommends fact finding. It’s called commonsense. Get to know the person interested in you before you say yes to a marriage proposal. That seems pretty commonsensical. It’s why we date. This is what the Bible says about commonsense: “For the Lord grants wisdom! From his mouth come knowledge and understanding. He grants a treasure of commonsense to the honest.” Proverbs 2:6 NLT. The question is, are you going to be honest with God about your feelings or not? Or are you going to “spiritualise” things?
If you’ll like to receive Jesus into your life please pray this prayer: “Father I acknowledge that I am a sinner, that Jesus died for me, that you raised him from the dead. Father please forgive me. I accept Jesus today as my Lord and my Saviour. Amen.”
© Leke Alder | firstname.lastname@example.org.
The fact God acts in an advisory capacity with respect to a marital prospect doesn’t mean he’s commanding the other party to marry them. Click To Tweet