Dr. Paul J. Dean Christian Blog and Commentary

Marriage and Cultural Engagement

It is not new to point out that we live in a postmodern culture. Dr. Albert Mohler in a recent commentary on postmodern spirituality noted, “The most hard-core forms of postmodern thought are generally limited to academic campuses, but the postmodern worldview is trickling down in various forms to the popular level.” His remarks come on the heels of the release of Darrell L. Bock and Daniel B. Wallace’s book entitled Dethroning Jesus. They argue that pop culture is on a quest to “unseat the biblical Christ,” and they are no doubt right in their assessment.

The popularization of postmodern thought and the fact that pop culture is on a quest to unseat the biblical Christ gives Christians opportunity to present our worldview and seat Christ again, as it were, through practical means. One such way is through our faithfulness in marriage. Part of being salt and light is understanding the purpose for which God has given us good things including the gift of marriage and living out that understanding. Such dynamics are part of the solution in reeling in this breakaway amalgam of people we call American Culture for God’s glory and their good. Consider just a few thoughts.

First, God ordained marriage as a display of His goodness and the goodness of His gracious plan. God is the One who ordained marriage and performed the first marriage and gave away the first wife to the first husband (Gen. 2:21-22). The marriage relationship brings great joy to those who understand it rightly (2:23). It is also a picture of God’s covenant relationship with His bride, the church, and therefore a picture of the gospel itself (2:24; Eph. 5:31-32). We preach the gospel when we are faithful in our marital relationship. We are sinners who are constantly reconciling by the grace and power of God in the wake of our own selfish attitudes and acts.

Second, the marriage relationship is that unique place in this life where two people can truly be naked together and unashamed both literally and figuratively. Adam and Eve felt shame when they saw their nakedness after the fall because they had broken their covenant relationship with God and with one another. They realized they could disobey God and hurt one another (Click here to see John Piper's comments that have spurred some of my thinking in this area).

To be naked is to be vulnerable. Only in the marriage relationship can a man and a woman be naked together without sinning. At the same time, we open ourselves up to be shamed as it were. When love is expressed and not criticism or condemnation, we experience the beauty of the one flesh relationship grounded in covenant. Again, we have here a glorious picture of the restorative power of the gospel. We can be naked and not ashamed only by virtue of the forgiveness we have in Christ.
Practically, these types of dynamics are important to remember when going through tough times in a marriage. Husbands and wives must concentrate on making sure that they live in such a way that they can be together so as to always, in a sense, be naked and unashamed. In other words, what can a husband do to make sure that his wife will never be put to shame by him? How can he show her God’s goodness? When he does, not only does he have a God-glorifying and happy marriage, but he also has a marriage that speaks to a self-centered and perverted culture.

Third, God gave human beings a mandate to have dominion over, subdue, and populate the earth. He then gave Adam a helper for the dominion task who was the perfect complement. A man and a woman are designed by God as the perfect complement to and for one another (Gen. 2:18). They are to share life and fulfill God’s plan for them together. The biblical answer to cultural egalitarianism with regard to the roles of men and women is complementarianism. The husband and wife complement one another perfectly. They complete one another and shine forth with resplendent glory the goodness of God in this unique relationship.

This dynamic has implications for issues such as feminism; homosexuality; the confusion of gender roles in the church, in the home, and in the culture at large; the ideal family; etc. When men and women abandon their God-given roles the only possible result is great difficulty.

Moreover, it is important to note that the same arguments that liberal theologians used to ordain women to the pastoral ministry are the same arguments being used to support the ordination of homosexuals to pastoral ministry. To go outside of the authority of Scripture is to get on a slippery slope. The results are things that are not good including confusion, strife, disease, heartache, and a denial of our creatureliness as persons take the place of God in the determination of their relationships and interactions with one another.

When Christian couples are faithful in marriage, all of these issues are confronted squarely. We say to our world, “There is a better way. Walk in it. And, you can only do so by the power and grace of Christ.”

Implications abound as we consider cultural engagement, but one dynamic looms large in light of current issues. Marriage was created, designed, and defined by God. Neither the culture at large nor the government has a right to inject themselves into God’s arena. Ultimately, biblical marriage puts the gospel, and therefore, God’s goodness on display. When we involve ourselves in that dynamic, it is we who are putting God’s goodness on display before a watching world.

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