2. Marriage and Man

Man can be understood only in terms of God and His sovereign page 342 purpose in man’s creation. According to Genesis 1:26-28, man was created to exercise dominion over the earth and to subdue it, and the command to "be fruitful, and multiply" was an aspect of the call to exercise dominion over the earth. Man therefore is to be understood in terms of God’s kingdom and man’s calling therein to manifest God’s law-order in a developed and subdued earth.

Man is thus primarily and essentially a religious creature who is truly understood only by reference to his Creator and his ordained destiny under God. Man’s destiny, to bring all things under the dominion of God’s law-word, confronted man from the beginning of his creation. To subdue the earth and exercise dominion over it, as the task was assigned to Adam in Eden, had two aspects. First, the practical aspect: man was required to take care of the Garden of Eden (Gen. 2:15). Urban man tends to forget that fruit trees, vegetables, and plants require work and care, even in the perfect world of Eden. Adam was given the responsibility of dressing or tilling the garden and keeping or taking charge of it. Second, the cognitive aspect: man was required to name the creatures. Names in the Old Testament are descriptions and classifications, so that to name anything meant to understand and classify it. By work and knowledge man was called to subdue the earth, develop its potentialities, increase and multiply in order to extend his dominion geographically as well as in knowledge.

This then was man’s holy calling under God, work and knowledge toward the purpose of subduing the earth and exercising dominion over it. Thus, any vocation whereby man extends his dominion, under God, to God’s purpose, and without abuse of or contempt for the earth God has ordained to be man’s domain under Him is a holy calling. The common opinion in every branch of Christendom that a Christian calling means entrance into the ranks of the clergy could not be more wrong. Such an attitude leads to the supplanting of the Kingdom of God by the church, to ecclesiasticism as God’s purpose in creation.

Thus, man was created, not as a child, so that he cannot be understood with reference either to a primitive past or to his childhood, but in terms of mature responsibility and work. Man realizes himself in terms of work under God, and hence the radical destructiveness to man of meaningless or frustrating work, or of a social order which penalizes the working man in the realization of the fruits of his labors. Similarly, man realizes himself as he extends the frontiers of his knowledge and learns more of the nature of things and their utility as well. Men find an exaltation in a task well done, and in knowledge gained, because in and through work and knowledge their dominion under God is extended.

The earth thus was created to be God’s kingdom, and man was created page 343 in God’s image to be God’s vicegerent over that realm under God. The image of God involves knowledge (Col. 3:10), righteousness, and holiness (Eph. 4:24), and dominion over the earth and its creatures (Gen. 1:28). Thus, while Adam was shaped out of dust, or the topsoil, the red earth, he was still ordained to a glorious nature and destiny under God.

Man was required to know himself first of all in terms of his calling before he was given a help-meet, Eve. Thus, not until Adam, for an undefined but apparently extensive length of time, had worked at his calling, cared for the garden and come to know the creatures thereof, was he given a wife. We are specifically told that Adam named or classified all the animals, a considerable task, prior to the creation of Eve. However general and limited this classification was, it was still an accurate and over-all understanding of animal life. The Adam of Eden was thus a hard-working man in a world where the curse of sin had not yet infected man and his work.

Thus it must be noted that Adam was given Eve, first, not in fulfillment of a natural or merely sexual need, although this was recognized (Gen. 2:20), but, after delay, in fulfillment of his need for a "helpmeet," which is what Eve is called. She is thus very clearly a helper to Adam in his life and work as God’s covenant man, called to exercise dominion and subdue the earth.

This means, second, that the role of the woman is to be a helper in a governmental function. Man’s calling is in terms of the Kingdom of God, and woman’s creation and calling is no less in terms of it. She is a helper to man in the subduing of the earth and in exercising dominion over it in whatever terms necessary to make her husband’s life and work more successful. The implications of this will be discussed later in relationship to woman in marriage.

Third, God created Eve only after Adam had proven himself responsible by discharging his duties faithfully and well. Responsibility is thus clearly a prerequisite to marriage for the man. Hence, later, the dowry system required the bridegroom to demonstrate his responsibility by turning over a dowry to the bride as her security, and the children’s security, for the future.

Fourth, since man is called to exercise dominion, and marriage and his government of the family is a central aspect of that dominion, the exercise of dominion in work and knowledge precedes the exercise of dominion as husband and father. The covenant family is central to the Kingdom of God and hence marriage was at its inception hedged about with safeguards in order to establish the precedent of responsibility.

Fifth, marriage is clearly a divine ordinance, instituted, together with the calling to work and to know, in paradise. page 344

Sixth, marriage is the normal state of man, for, according to God, "It is not good that the man should be alone" (Gen. 2:18). Unless men are physically incapacitated, or else called by God to the single estate (Matt. 19:10-12) marriage is their normal state of life. Only in an age of studied immaturity do men mock at marriage. What they are saying, in effect, is that responsibility, or more simply, manhood, is bondage and permanent childhood freedom. Such persons are not worth answering.

Seventh, while the family and dominion therein are a part of man’s calling and a very important part thereof, it is far from being the totality of his calling. Whereas the woman’s calling is in terms of her husband and the family, the man’s calling is in terms of the vocation he assumes under God.

Eighth, man, before marriage, is called, as we have seen, to demonstrate two things, the pattern of obedience and the pattern of responsibility, and he is then ready to establish a new home. Genesis 2:24 makes clear that a man shall leave his parental home and cleave unto his wife. Basic to the development of man’s dominion over the earth are change and growth. Family systems which do not permit the independence of the young couple seek to perpetuate an unchanging order, whereas change and growth are ensured by the Biblical pattern which requires a break with parents at marriage. The break does not end responsibility to parents, but it ensures independent growth.

Ninth, the Hebrew word for bridegroom means "the circumcised;" the Hebrew word for father-in-law means he who performed the operation of circumcision, and the Hebrew word for mother in law is similar. This obviously had no reference to the actual physical rite since Hebrew males were circumcised on the eighth day. What it meant was that the father-in-law ensured the fact of spiritual circumcision, as did the mother-in-law, by making sure of the covenantal status of the groom. It was their duty to prevent a mixed marriage. A man could marry their daughter, and become a bridegroom only when clearly a man under God.

Thus the parents of the bridegroom had an obligation to prepare their son for a life of work and growing knowledge and wisdom, and the parents of the bride had a duty, under Biblical standards, to examine the faith and character of the prospective bridegroom.

Maturity thus is not only basic to manhood but also to marriage. The maturity required is more than physical maturity. In other eras, marriages have often been contracted in the early teens, as in some frontier situations, but in many such cases the males were experienced and working men, the girls trained and capable women, whereas in other eras immaturity is the chronic and chosen condition of men and page 345 women. Certainly, physical maturity is wisest, but without a maturity of faith and character the marital relationship is plagued with conflicts and tensions.

Since marriage is so closely linked from creation with God’s covenant with man, it is especially fitting that the Roman Catholic service, in the Blessing which concludes the Marriage Mass, should invoke the Old Testament covenant phrase. In the wording of the New Saint Andrew Bible Missal,

May the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob be with you, and may he fulfill in you his blessing, so that you may see your children’s children to the third and fourth generation and afterward possess everlasting and boundless life. Through the help of our Lord Jesus Christ, who with the Father and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, God, forever and ever. Amen.

Finally, it must be noted that, while marriage is the ordained sexual relationship between man and woman, it cannot be understood simply in terms of sex. When marriage is reduced to sex, then marriage disintegrates as an institution and amoral sex replaces it. Marriage has reference first of all to God’s ordination and then to man and to woman in their respective callings. Because man is to be understood in terms of his calling under God, all of man’s life is to be interpreted in terms of this calling also. Dislocation in a man’s calling is a dislocation in his total life. When work is futile, men cannot rest from their labors, because their satisfaction therein is gone. Men then very often seek to make work purposeful by working harder. Frustration in terms of his calling means poor health for man in terms of his physical and mental health, his sexual energy, and his ability to rest, whereas success in work means vigor and vitality to a man. Every attempt to understand marriage only in terms of sex will aggravate man’s basic problem.

If marriage cannot be reduced to sex, neither can it be reduced to love. The Scripture gives no ground whatsoever to the idea that a marriage can be terminated when love ends. While love is important to a marriage, it cannot replace God’s law as the essential bond of marriage. Moreover, a woman can make no greater mistake than to assume that she can take priority in her husband’s life over his work. He will love her with a personal warmth and tenderness as no other person, but a man’s life is his work, not his wife, and the failure of women to understand this can do serious harm to a marriage. The tragedy of an apostate age is that women see the futility or emptiness of much of man’s work, but they fail to see that a godly man’s answer to a sick world is more work. Because work is man’s calling, men often make the serious mistake of trying to solve all problems by working harder, whereas, in the same situation, the woman is all the more con- page 346 vinced of the futility of work. But to tell a man that work is futile is to tell him that he is futile. A basic and unrecognized cause of tensions in marriage is the growing futility of work in an age where apostate and statist trends rob work of its constructive goals. The area of man’s dominion becomes the area of man’s frustration. There are those who can recall when men, not too many years ago, worked ten hours or more daily, six and seven days a week, often under ugly and unsafe circumstances. In the face of this, they could rest and also enjoy life with a robust appetite. The basic optimism of that era and the certainty of progress, the stability of a hard money economy, and the sense of mastery in these assurances, gave men a satisfaction in their labors which made rest possible. An age which negates the meaning and satisfaction of work also negates man at the same time. Not all the more desirable conditions and hours of work can replace the purpose of work. Dostoyevsky pointed out that men could be broken in Siberia, not by hard labor but by meaningless labor, such as moving a pile of boulders back and forth endlessly. Such work, however slowly or lazily done, destroys a man, whereas meaningful work strengthens and even exalts him.

Because of the centrality of work to a man, one of the chronic problems of men is their tendency to make work a substitute religion. Instead of deriving the meaning of life from God and His law-order, men often derive their private world of meaning from their work. The consequence is a disorientation of life, family, and order.

Whether retired or actively working, a man’s thinking is still in terms of the world of work, and he continues to assess reality in the same terms. Man, having been called to exercise dominion through work, is tied to work in thought and action alike. But there is no true dominion for man in and through work apart from God and His law-order.

A final note: men have through the centuries felt so closely linked to their work, that for them there has been a particular satisfaction in being near their tools. To this day, in some parts of the world, men take pleasure in having their tools close at hand. Some resistance to the Industrial Revolution came from men who enjoyed having their workshop in their home and felt a loss at moving into other premises. Not uncommonly, doctors carry their little black bags with them on a vacation, and a high point of a European tour for one doctor was the opportunity to use his medicine. Many men rest better if their tools are close at hand.

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