Theological Absurdities

This is a continuation of a long discourse on marriage. To catch up on past postings please click the links at the end of this article.

There are all sorts of funky theology out there concerning marriage, and they’ve been around for some time. These malevolent theologies seem to hang in the air, afflicting generation after generation of Christians. They create sorrow, contortions and disruptions. A wrong philosophy of marriage wreaks havoc. To be honest some of the theologies are silly. But the people who propagate them ideologize them. Their outlook is totalitarian if not cultist in flavour. And it’s oppressive to women. Some came about because of poor literary capacity. The 17th century English of the King James Bible is very daunting to many but it’s the bible of choice. That’s likely because it has phonic gravitas. Some of the theologies came about from dreadful theological mining. Digging deep for revelation many a young men and women landed in subterranean error.
The central issue in these obtuse theologies is the will of God. It is the lens through which every thought is processed. It is the underpinning of the masochist philosophy of matrimony – the philosophy of pain and difficulty. The deductive scheme of that philosophy is that God is sovereign, knows what’s best for us, we don’t and can’t know what we need; and so God can impose a spouse on us, even someone we don’t want or like because he knows what’s best for us. God will add love to the marriage down the line. This is the philosophy of marital punishment and grief with the pseudo comfort of submission to the will of God. When that deductive scheme is applied retroactively it makes nonsense of the love of Jacob and Rachel. The marital philosophy does not recognise love and affection. According to the theology Rachel could not be the will of God for Jacob. He chose her, God didn’t choose her for him. And more so because “she stole her father’s idols,” as one of the proponents wrote on Facebook. And it is dreadfully theologised Rachel was barren for years because she was not God’s will for Jacob. She couldn’t be “Jacob’s ordained woman” either, after all she died on the way to Bethel. The insensitivity in that statement is axiomatic of the troubling philosophy. She died giving birth to her second son. Rachel’s beauty is condemned too – “Beauty is deceit” one guy wrote. This ideology disdains aesthetic appreciation, and if it all begins to sound so contrived and so nonsensical it’s because it is. This is a philosophy that bleaches beauty, love and happiness from marriage. Some even insist neither Rachel nor Leah was God’s will for Jacob. The basis for that assertion is understandable from the philosophy. And yet those two women produced three-quarters of the patriarchs of Israel. Through Rachel and Leah God fulfilled his promise to make Jacob into a nation. The names of those patriarchs are written on the gates of the New Jerusalem. Revelation 21:12. Even the lineage of our Lord Jesus Christ is traced to the children of these women.
The rightful label for these theological absurdities is “Perfect will of God syndrome” – PWOGS. It comes from Romans 12:2. Someone didn’t understand the textual construct of Romans 12:2 in the King James Bible and ended up mutilating that scripture. An absurd theology was generated in consequence. The King James rendering of Romans 12:2 is as follows: “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” It is from the misunderstanding of the passage that the abominable theology of the three grades of God’s will emerged – the good, the permissive and the perfect. It was a popular teaching in the 1980s and early 1990s, but what Romans 12:2 is actually saying is better captured by the New Living Translation: “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.” It’s the knowing of God’s will that is “good and pleasing and perfect” not the will of God. God has only one will, he doesn’t have three. There’s nothing like the perfect will of God, or three types of the will of God, or three grades of the will of God. There’s only one will of God. His will is his will.
The retroactive application of this erroneous doctrine to the matrimonial choices of the patriarchs cannot and does not make sense. Jacob died in 1445 BC, Paul wrote about God’s will in 57-58 AD. This apart from the fact the narrative of the story of Jacob’s marriages has no bearing on the search for God’s perfect will – the notion makes no contextual sense to the whole story. But hidden in all these is an underlying narrative the difficulties in our lives are the result of misalignment with “God’s perfect will.” It’s allegedly why Jacob lost Rachel. She wasn’t God’s perfect will. But the Bible teaches no such thing. The Bible says we will experience difficulties in life. John 16:33. Not even the apostles were spared. Of the twelve apostles (Paul inclusive), only John died in his bed. They all died gruesome deaths. And the reason John was spared was because he miraculously escaped from a vat of boiling oil. Does it then mean the apostles were out of God’s will?
The masochist matrimonial doctrine insists only Isaac’s marriage was aligned with God’s will. That’s probably because the servant sent to procure a wife for Isaac prayed to God for help and God helped. Genesis 24:12-14. Jacob is therefore condemned for falling in love with Rachel, as if falling in love is ungodly. But the proper reading of the procurement of wife for Isaac is that it was an arranged marriage. It was based on customary law. Isaac’s marriage is no different from an arranged marriage in India or any other country today. If Isaac’s marriage is held up as the scriptural standard I wonder if these proponents would subject themselves to an arranged marriage. How many of them would trust the taste of their uncle to bring a wife from the village? The procurement of a wife for Isaac is consistent with his sheltered background. He was more or less an only child of a stinkingly rich father. His mum always protected him. Genesis 21:9-10.
The whole point of these injurious interpretations of scripture is to prove God can give a man a wife he doesn’t want or like, after all God’s will is sovereign. One must of course ask why that sovereign will always has to have the flavour of a bitter malaria medicine. In pursuance of the theology, the marriage of Adam to Eve is cited as example of the manual overwrite of man’s desire by God. It is asserted God chose Eve for Adam, Adam didn’t exercise choice. Only that that ignores what preceded his marriage. In the search for a companion for Adam God constantly sought his input and opinion. It’s why Eve was created in the first place. Adam couldn’t find intimacy with animals. And when Eve was presented it was Adam’s approbation that swayed God. When he saw Eve, Adam declared, This is NOW bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. Genesis 2:23. He was part of the process. Adam’s input and opinion mattered. He apparently fell in love with Eve, from day one. He would later fall on the sword for her. Adam died for love. He wasn’t deceived by the serpent the Bible says. 1 Timothy 2:14. Adam disobeyed God wilfully. And so from his creation, to his choice of companion, to his fall Adam exercised freewill. How can Adam then be cited for lack of freewill in marital choice?
Interestingly the phrase, bone of my bones has been developed into a theological absurdity too – the idea every man has a proprietary rib. (Eve was cloned from Adam’s rib). In some circles it is taught there’s a particular woman earmarked for every man, that one shouldn’t end up with another man’s rib. It’s become a folksy saying and it’s all nonsense. If indeed there’s only one particular woman for a man, what happens if the man dies before marriage? Does that mean such “ribs” are destined to be husbandless for life? Or are some women dedicated spare ribs? This is reductio ad absurdum but the absurdity is obvious. Some things just don’t make sense and should never be taught.
There is nothing wrong with meeting someone and falling in love. It is not ungodly. God has no issues with your taste either. He gave us personality. And we have different exposures and background. To bleach personal taste and desire from matrimonial choice is pseudo spirituality. Some men prefer light skinned women, and some prefer ebony women. Some like slim, some like plus size. It’s not a sin. The real sin is hypocrisy, and God hates hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is why Jesus had constant run ins with those Pharisees. They were quite a hypocritical lot. He never had kind words for them.
If you get marriage wrong the consequences are dire. The primary affliction in an unhappy marriage is depression. And depression is horrible, so horrible God included it in the package of atonement. Isaiah 53:4. It is important you’re happily married. Marry the person who will make you happy, someone who will give you joy, who will give you peace. Don’t allow anyone spiritually blackmail you into marriage. Don’t buy into the doctrine of unhappy marriage. Marriage is not bondage.
You cannot afford to marry a stranger either – someone you hardly know. Marriage is too intimate for that kind of thing. Know the person you want to marry before saying yes. Unless of course you like surprises.
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 |