Marriage Makes a Poor Idol

Tim Keller, in a 2009 sermon:

Kathy and I, before we were married, had really good prayer lives. Neither of us really thought we were going to get married to anybody. We got married, and without our knowing it, our prayer life kind of went into the toilet.

Why?

Well, why do you have to pray to God when all you could do is just call on the phone?

John Newton said the worst thing about a good marriage is the problem of idolatry. For many years, we had no idea how poor our prayer life was because we had made idols out of each other. We didn’t see it that way. We didn’t understand that. But when bad sickness came to both of us we realized our prayer life was nothing like it should have been. The best thing that happened to us was our idols were in jeopardy. It gave us a prayer life back.

Awakening to a false sense of security in a spouse is often gauged by the erosion of the personal prayer life. It’s a hard lesson, but a good one.

The First Sin and Unequal Yoking

Writes Francis Schaeffer in his book Genesis in Space and Time (IVP, 1997), page 86:

Paul in 1 Timothy 2:14 points out: “And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.” Temptation is extremely hard to resist when it is bound up with the man-woman relationship. For example, in Exodus 34:16 we are warned not to let the man-woman relationship lead us into idolatry.

Two great drives are built into man. The first is his need for a relationship to God, and the second his need for a relationship to the opposite sex. A special temptation is bound up with this sexual drive. How many young women are faithful as Christians until they come to a certain age and feel with their whole being, without ever analyzing it, the need for marriage and are then swept over into marrying a non-Christian man. And how many men are faithful until they feel the masculine drive and give up their faithfulness to God by marrying a woman who carries them into spiritual problems for the rest of their life.

I look upon such young men and young women as I see them going through this, and I cry for them, because in a way there is no greater agony than suddenly to fall in love and then to realize that one must say no to this natural drive because it leads in that particular case to a severing of our greater relationship — our relationship to God.

While what happened in the Garden of Eden was a space-time historic event, the man-woman relationship and force of temptation it must have presented to Adam is universal.

Marriage in the Cosmic Plan of God (Article)

Recently I was honored to contribute an 8,500-word article titled “Marriage in the Cosmic Plan of God” in the new issue of The Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (Fall 2012, 17/2). My goal was to evaluate complementary roles in the husband/wife relationship within the much broader theological scope of Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians. Too frequently the marriage passage in Ephesians (5:22–33) gets dislocated from the massive gospel themes in the letter. And yet if we keep the cosmos-altering gospel in view, we discover that God has wrapped marriage up into his plan in Christ. Which is to say there’s a way of understanding marriage through Christ’s cosmic work in which the husband’s headship and the wife’s submission are reflective of their posture under Christ. In January I’ll have more to say about why I wrote this, but for now I simply wanted to mention it, and to make it available as a download here (1.4 MB PDF).