More on marriage

Empath and Cane have written some criticisms of my stance on marriage and divorce, in response to me specifically asking for a scriptural argument to support Empath’s claim that cohabitation is a sin. Now, the fact that both of them are willing to have this conversation shows that they care far more than most in this perverse generation about the sanctity of marriage. While I find both of them to be soft on divorce, I recognize that they are not soft on the divorces that they are willing to recognize are divorces. In fact, at least for Empath, the softness on divorce seems to come from a desire not to be soft on divorce.

What I dislike is the inconsistency the women of the church are able to exploit when this distinction between state marriage and “spiritual marriage” is raised. They use it in frivorce….”the marriage was over long ago, the legal part is formality”. Then, if he reconcile, they go straight back to sexual relations with the husband never seeing the contradiction. Truly they operate under a -whatever-it-takes- set of rules. —Empath

Empath is afraid that recognizing that the state is not the arbiter of who is and is not married will lead to more divorces, as women will feel freer to obtain a government document formalizing a divorce if they believe a divorce has already occurred. However, this logic is simply closing the gate after the horse has bolted. In his scenario, the government document formalizing divorce would never have been obtained were it not for the original condition of divorce. By preventing this condition of divorce, we also prevent the government document. High standards lead to high performance. Low standards lead to low performance. If you want more people to achieve the relatively low bar of not getting a divorce decree from the government, hold them to the high standard of “what God has joined let no man put asunder.”

Now, on to Cane’s points. Per usual, he is more verbose than Empath. Originally, I responded to his points in the order he wrote them, but then I saw this:

I did respond holistically to you; that is to the aggregate of your recent comments and post. They’re related.

And I’m very earnest in my advice to you. I hope when you compose your reply that first you try to understand what I’m saying; imagine I’m right, and see where that leads you. Argue my case to yourself, and then you’ll know better if, how, and where I’m wrong.

What Cane likely did not guess is that not long ago I held a position quite different than the one I now hold. I won’t say I held the same position as Cane does, because I don’t know all the nuances of his position, but I believed that Biblical and government marriage were synonymous, rather than two parallel but separate institutions. To that extent, I believe the old me would have agreed with him. It was a process of about five years of studying my Bible (in general, not just this particular topic), and adjusting my opinions based on things I found, that brought me to my current understanding, which continues to be adjusted. Thus I cannot quite do what Cane asked without risking setting up my own already-invalidated beliefs as a straw man for Cane’s position.

Therefore, what I will do instead is first address the passage that in my previous debates with myself was my strongest argument against the understanding that I have adopted, and then work through the arguments that Cane presented by first trying to find the points of agreement.

The verse to which I refer is, of course, John 4:18:

For you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; this you have said truly.

Clearly, in this verse Jesus says that it is possible for a woman to live with a man and that man not be her husband. How then was I to understand this verse in the light of other verses that seemed to make it clear that God joined a male and female together in marriage through the sex act? More study was necessary. It was the story of John the Baptist’s death that gave me understanding.

For Herod himself had sent and had John arrested and bound in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, because he had married her. —Mark 6:17

Herod had married Herodias, yet she was not his wife, but rather his brother’s wife. In other words, Herod (the one she now had) was not her husband, but Philip was. God had joined her to Philip, and that joining can only be severed by death. Sex outside that marriage is adultery.

So then, if while her husband is living she is joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is not an adulteress though she is joined to another man. —Romans 7:3


On to Cane’s points.

Or is it merely our feelings which so many have made into personal gods? Don’t fall for the foolishness that you have access to some insight or knowledge that you did not get from another. God speaks to individuals EXTRAORDINARILY rarely, and when He does it is audible (according to the reports we have been given in the Bible), and shortly after followed by visibly miraculous signs that other witness and can testify to their super-nature. It is the way of charlatans to say that “God spoke to them” with emotional nudgings. He speaks to us through the Bible; which He in His divine wisdom and mystery chose the words and voices of mere men; testified and acknowledged by other mere men. Amen.

Where I agree: Many have made their thoughts, feelings, and emotions out to be God. This is wrong. You are correct to call such people charlatans. One of the primary ways that God speaks to us is scripture, and this is our bedrock. There is a reason that the majority of my posts are filled with green links–the vast majority of those links are to Bible verses. Many of my posts can only be understood superficially without the verses to which I link.

Where I disagree: God speaks to individuals regularly. Paul writes that the entire church can and should have the gift of prophecy. He instructs us to be eager to prophecy and to strive especially for it. Joel writes that the spirit of prophecy will be poured out on all flesh. Amos asks rhetorically “Who can but prophecy?” right after saying that God does nothing without revealing it to the prophets. Besides the Bible and speaking audibly, God also speaks to individuals through visions and dreams. To deny these things is to despise the gift of God.

These things are not the understanding of the Church; nor do they even pass a test of simple reason. Question, but don’t disregard Christian tradition as worthless, when our Bibles tell us that the Holy Spirit resides in the Christian community–not in individual Christians alone, but in the Christian community. Tradition and history are how we tell ourselves about ourselves, and how to know the movement of the Holy Spirit; specifically as prescribed in the Bible. Did you write the Bible yourself? Did you teach yourself Greek, Hebrew, or even English? You are too quick to dismiss what greater men than everyone on this blog, my blog, and your blog combined have said on the subject.

You are right: I quickly dismiss what far greater men than I have said. There is no way that I can claim to have the intelligence and knowledge of many of the people whose ideas I dismiss. I will openly disregard the claims of science, as well as philosophy and tradition. However, I only do this when what they say conflicts with what the almighty Creator God of the universe says. When it’s Moose Norseman vs Cane Caldo, I’ll gladly put my money on Cane Caldo. But if it is Cane Caldo vs the Almighty God, well, no offense but I’m not putting my money on you. “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” 

Just as when the Israelites demanded a king–and Samuel rebuked them–God let them have their king, and the king’s authority was real. While God has allowed our formation of marriage to change, government itself has no less authority. In New Testament times government presided over marriage, and there is not word spoken against it. In fact, we are called multiple times and in strict terms to obey the government in all things. It may be a shame that government presides over marriage in the place of community, but that does not make it un-Scriptural, or idolatrous.”

I agree. We are to obey the government. You are correct. But the government does not require us to get a marriage certificate in order to engage in Biblical marriage. If it did, I would be telling people to get marriage certificates, just as I tell people to get a CCW permit in states that require one. But the government does not require the certificate to engage in the activity. In fact, nine states in the US will recognize your marriage the same as if you did get a certificate. I am not against getting a certificate from the government. I am against lowering God’s standards to match the governments. Idolatry lies not in choosing to participate in a government institution as well as God’s institution, but in pretending that the government has authority over God’s institution.

Yes, we must be diligent to test the spirits. Yes, there are numerous churches today who do not have a spirit from God. Yes, churches can be wrong about things for a very long time. Part of what we should learn from that is that if so many Christians can get it wrong for so long, then what confidence should we have that our own interpretation are correct? Do we have different Bibles than they did/do?

We can have confidence that the Spirit of Truth will guide us into all truth. I don’t claim to be better or smarter than those who went before us. I only claim to read the Bible and attempt to live by it.

It’s beyond arrogant to say that over 2,000 years later you’ve figured out what the Apostles themselves did not teach. There is a world of difference between saying adultery is like divorce, or is a divorcing act, from saying it is divorce.

I’ve figured out nothing. I simply re-iterate the words of Christ. What God has joined shall not be separated.

If adultery alone makes divorce, then why are both God and Jesus so clearly “mistaken” to “allow” divorce in the case of adultery?

Perhaps I haven’t been clear. The word divorce comes from the same root as divert and diversion, and literally means “to turn aside.” I don’t believe that this turning aside ends a marriage–God joins with a stronger bond than that. I believe that divorce is a sinful condition that exists within a marriage, and which should be rectified where it exists. I believe that only death and adultery can end a marriage. It is only when the marriage is over that the condition of divorce is acceptable.

If sex alone makes a marriage, then why does God make the “mistake” of requiring the father’s approval needed for marriage even after sex?

The passage to which you refer specifically stipulates that this is the case if the woman is not betrothed. Interestingly, the second instance of this law omits the bit about the father’s ability to refuse. However, it is not a mistake. The woman belongs to her father until he gives her in betrothal to her husband. In this situation, the man has taken what was not given to him, but what could be given to him. Therefore he must pay the brideprice even if her father utterly refuses to give her to him. There is no penalty whatsoever for the woman. If the woman has already been given to another in betrothal, then his penalty is death and the penalty for the woman is also death, unless it happened where her cries for help could not have been heard. God joins through sex, but that does not mean that a man can join himself to another man’s daughter without that other man’s permission, just as a woman cannot join herself to another man when she is already married. I have no more right to take a man’s daughter without his permission than I do to take his boat or car without permission.

One more thing: Government has replaced a role in marriage, but it is not God’s. They have replaced the community. Rather, communities chose to hand over their sovereignty and responsibility to government in this matter; as in so many others. Like church, marriages are matters personal, communal, and divine. There is no such thing as church alone or marriage alone.

What role did “the community” play in Adam and Eve’s marriage, the original model that God designed? Look as hard as I might, I see only three parties: God, husband, and wife.


I’ve tried to work from agreement, and I’ve tried to avoid assuming anything other than what was written about Empath and Cane’s positions. But here’s what scares me about their positions as I see them:

I can tell the divorcee that she is still married and must return to her husband or remain celibate her entire life. I don’t think they can.

I can tell the young man living with his “girlfriend” and child that he is subject to the exact same responsibilities as he would be with a marriage certificate, and that he has no right to abandon his family. I don’t think they can.

I can tell the young woman living with her “boyfriend” and child that she is married and has no right to “go find herself.” I don’t think they can.

I can explain why the Bible never actually condemns “pre-marital sex” (because it is an oxymoron). I don’t know how they would explain that.

I can call out a couple for living in a condition of divorce, even if the government says they are married. Can they?

I can coherently explain to my sister why who she loses her virginity to is a decision that that will impact the remainder of her life. Could they?

How do they deal with the states where common-law marriage can be contracted?

Cane asked me to try to imagine he was right. I have. If I imagine Cane is right, if I imagine that the government can set the requirements for God’s institution of marriage rather than just for its own separate institution, then I can see no harm to anyone from me holding them to the higher scriptural standard–a standard that would eliminate serial monogamy. If, however, I am right and the higher standards found in scripture still apply, then I can see a harm that would come from telling people that those old standards are obsolete and have been replaced by newer, easier standards.

You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you —Deuteronomy 4:2

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28 thoughts on “More on marriage

  1. @MNM

    A thoughtful response.

    The verse to which I refer is, of course, John 4:18:

    For you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; this you have said truly.

    Clearly, in this verse Jesus says that it is possible for a woman to live with a man and that man not be her husband. How then was I to understand this verse in the light of other verses that seemed to make it clear that God joined a male and female together in marriage through the sex act? More study was necessary. It was the story of John the Baptist’s death that gave me understanding.

    Herod had married Herodias, yet she was not his wife, but rather his brother’s wife. In other words, Herod (the one she now had) was not her husband, but Philip was. God had joined her to Philip, and that joining can only be severed by death. Sex outside that marriage is adultery.

    So then, if while her husband is living she is joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is not an adulteress though she is joined to another man. –Romans 7:3

    You are blasting right past the fact that they are joined; they are married. So, they are in a state of both marriage and adultery. It’s an abomination; a thing that should not exist, but does. Just as Jesus says to the woman with five husbands, and another man to whom she is not married.

    It seems to me like you’re looking for the “system” of how marriage works; what it’s essential parts are. That’s as wrong-headed to me as looking for the essential parts of work, play, or any other state of being, action, etc. Marriage is about: sex, union, children, family, pleasure, fulfillment, and whole bunch of other things. The Roman Catholic church (for example) is wrong not only on which is the telos of sex or marriage, but to even seek to separate one part as essential, and the other as happy accidents. You’ve laid out a case for a similar error here by making sex the telos of marriage.

    God speaks to individuals regularly. Paul writes that the entire church can and should have the gift of prophecy. He instructs us to be eager to prophecy and to strive especially for it.

    Yes…in church. That part is very important, and is central to what I’ve said. It’s not an individual gift. It’s a gift to an individual, but for and among the body of believers; even among a particular body, i.e. the local church.

    Besides the Bible and speaking audibly, God also speaks to individuals through visions and dreams. To deny these things is to despise the gift of God.

    You didn’t address my full statement which included the ensuing witness by others of supernatural events following close on the heels of God’s speech to humans; whether audible, dreamt, or whathaveyou. My point wasn’t that God never speaks to people unless it is audible, but that when He speaks it becomes manifest; it has sound; causes miracles; the prophecy comes true in a discernible way; etc.

    What role did “the community” play in Adam and Eve’s marriage, the original model that God designed? Look as hard as I might, I see only three parties: God, husband, and wife.

    1) They were un-Fallen, and in full communion with God. Not just the Holy Spirit, but also God the Father and the Son.

    2) God was more literally their father than any human until Jesus Christ became flesh; i.e., He was their community.

    3) Adam and Eve were in fact the whole of human community.

    I can explain why the Bible never actually condemns “pre-marital sex” (because it is an oxymoron). I don’t know how they would explain that.

    The Bible condemns all extra-marital sex; all sex outside of marriage…even merely sinful thoughts of it.. Lust, fornication, adultery, rape, incest, etc. are all forms of extra-marital sex, and they are condemned.

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  2. @ Cane

    You are blasting right past the fact that they are joined; they are married. So, they are in a state of both marriage and adultery. It’s an abomination; a thing that should not exist, but does. Just as Jesus says to the woman with five husbands, and another man to whom she is not married.

    Could you expound here? I’m honestly not sure what you are saying, or else I don’t see how what you are saying is different than what I said.

    It seems to me like you’re looking for the “system” of how marriage works; what it’s essential parts are. That’s as wrong-headed to me as looking for the essential parts of work, play, or any other state of being, action, etc. Marriage is about: sex, union, children, family, pleasure, fulfillment, and whole bunch of other things. The Roman Catholic church (for example) is wrong not only on which is the telos of sex or marriage, but to even seek to separate one part as essential, and the other as happy accidents. You’ve laid out a case for a similar error here by making sex the telos of marriage.

    I have no personal experience with either sex or marriage, so I’m an outsider looking in. That may make me blind. But the questions that drive my theology here are questions of techne rather than telos: I ask not “what is the purpose of marriage?” but rather “When does God consider a couple married?” “Does the government have the authority to declare a couple no longer married?” “Would it be adultery for me to marry a woman not a virgin?”

    (I certainly don’t argue that sex is the telos of marriage–I would say that the telos of marriage is to accurately reflect the image of God. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” Certainly reproduction is a part of that, as the ability to create life is one of the characteristics of God. However, it is certainly not His only characteristic, nor is it His most important characteristic. So we agree there: sex is not the telos of marriage.)

    The Bible condemns all extra-marital sex; all sex outside of marriage…even merely sinful thoughts of it.. Lust, fornication, adultery, rape, incest, etc. are all forms of extra-marital sex, and they are condemned.

    Surely this is a bit hyperbolic. Lust is sex? If that was true, why would it be included in the tenth commandment rather than the seventh? Why would Paul say “I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.” instead of “I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not commit adultery?”

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  3. Could you expound here? I’m honestly not sure what you are saying, or else I don’t see how what you are saying is different than what I said.

    I’m saying that divorce and adultery are distinct (though very related) things. So, Herod was actually married to Herodias, and even while she was married to Phillip. They were committing adultery through marriage. We don’t have to say that Herod and Herodias aren’t “really” married; that their marriage was not valid. Rather, they are guilty of adultery and polygamy; and not mere polygyny, but two husbands. The same situation as the woman at the well.

    In this case, I’m just pointing out that while sex and marriage are intricately related, sex alone neither creates nor destroys a marriage. Sex does not cause marriage, and is not a form of marriage. Sex alone is not God joining two together.

    Surely this is a bit hyperbolic. Lust is sex?

    Lust is certainly sexual; albeit corrupted.

    “Matthew 5:27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

    By definition adultery is sexual; as the relationship between a man and a woman is inherently sexual.

    Why would Paul say “I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.” instead of “I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not commit adultery?”

    This is the paradox of eating the Fruit of the Knowledge of Good and Evil; that knowledge tends to make people haughty; like teenagers. Adam and Eve were not perfect before they ate the fruit, but rather innocent. They were open to quick and easy correction; like a child. So, having disobeyed they made the Law necessary, but because the law gives knowledge of imperfection, It thereby condemns those previously unknown and therefore forgiven imperfections.

    “Romans 5:12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— 13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law.”

    It’s awesome you referenced Romans. It is really good stuff; very dense. It’s the most in-depth and careful explanation of Christ’s work and why we need it.

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  4. Lust is certainly sexual; albeit corrupted.

    “Matthew 5:27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

    By definition adultery is sexual; as the relationship between a man and a woman is inherently sexual.

    Most people seems to read Matthew 5:27 as saying that he who lusts has committed adultery. I read it to say that he who lusts has the condition present in his heart necessary to commit the sin of adultery. This is because of what Jesus said directly prior to this. In the same “you have heard it said/but I say” construction that he uses for adultery and lust, He addresses murder, saying that he who says to his brother “you fool” is in danger of hell fire. He does not say that using the phrase “you fool” makes one guilty of murder, but rather places one in danger–because the condition of the heart that is necessary for murder is present. We know this is the case because later in Matthew (23:17) Jesus himself uses that phrase “you fools” to the pharisees, and Paul uses the phrase to the Galatians (3:1). And we know that sin proceeds from the heart (Matt 15:19).

    [quoting me] Why would Paul say “I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.” instead of “I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not commit adultery?”

    This is the paradox of eating the Fruit of the Knowledge of Good and Evil; that knowledge tends to make people haughty; like teenagers. Adam and Eve were not perfect before they ate the fruit, but rather innocent. They were open to quick and easy correction; like a child. So, having disobeyed they made the Law necessary, but because the law gives knowledge of imperfection, It thereby condemns those previously unknown and therefore forgiven imperfections.

    My point was that Paul clearly considers lust to be covetousness rather than adultery. Still a sin, but a sin of desiring rather than of doing–a sin that occurs in the heart only and not in the actions. This is corroborated by the fact that the version of the commandments found in Deuteronomy (why is the Exodus version used so much more often?) lists “neighbor’s wife” as the first thing we are not to covet (5:21).

    “Romans 5:12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— 13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law.”

    It’s awesome you referenced Romans. It is really good stuff; very dense. It’s the most in-depth and careful explanation of Christ’s work and why we need it.

    Did you miss the references to Romans in the original post?

    I like how KVJ and NASB render 5:13–“sin is not imputed when there is no law.” It is counted, but not against the account of the sinner. And while I agree that Romans is an awesome book, to say that it is “the most in-depth and careful explanation of Christ’s work and why we need it” strikes me as somewhat slighting towards Hebrews, which is fully as good.

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  5. Most people seems to read Matthew 5:27 as saying that he who lusts has committed adultery. I read it to say that he who lusts has the condition present in his heart necessary to commit the sin of adultery.

    I looked at five translations, and each one translates the adultery as a past event, e.g., “has already committed adultery”.

    My point was that Paul clearly considers lust to be covetousness rather than adultery. Still a sin, but a sin of desiring rather than of doing–a sin that occurs in the heart only and not in the actions.

    I get it. But in this instance you and I are talking about lust/covetousness of sex, but not covetousness/lust of other things. Jesus says that it has already happened (and I think it is safe to assume that lust/covetousness of other things has already happened; which would be theft, idolatry, etc.

    Matthew 5 is not just instruction on what to do and what not to do, but is also showing how we have no hope to ever satisfy or obey the law. Therefore, we must depend upon God’s grace and forgiveness alone. That gets back to what I was saying to you before about Galatians 5 and the uselessness trying to satisfy the OT Law.

    By the way, I keep forgetting to say: The OT Law are not the commandments of Jesus. Some of the commandments of Jesus are: ““You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” “Love your neighbor as yourself.” “Feed my lambs.” “Tend my sheep.” “Feed my sheep.”, etc. As well, the inferences and commands of what to do and what not do in the Sermon on the Mount, etc.

    Those are the things which–if we keep–the whole law is satisfied; not by our keeping of them, but still yet by Christ and our proximity to Christ gives us freedom from the Law; not unlike when the Disciples walked with Jesus and “harvested” grain on the sabbath.

    Did you miss the references to Romans in the original post?

    No, I saw it. I was praising and encouraging you generally for it.

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  6. I looked at five translations, and each one translates the adultery as a past event, e.g., “has already committed adultery”.

    Past event, yes. However, the operative words (which are in every version available on biblehub) are “in his heart”

    By the way, I keep forgetting to say: The OT Law are not the commandments of Jesus. Some of the commandments of Jesus are: ““You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” “Love your neighbor as yourself.” “Feed my lambs.” “Tend my sheep.” “Feed my sheep.”, etc. As well, the inferences and commands of what to do and what not do in the Sermon on the Mount, etc.

    Certainly you recognize that some laws in the OT, such as the Ten Commandments, came directly from the mouth of the Almighty God who does not change? You asked me earlier about the Sabbath. I honor the Sabbath for the same reason that I honor my parents, do not murder, do not steal, do not bear false witness, etc. Previously the law was external, something that people were made to follow. Now the law is internal, it is followed not out of fear of punishment, but out love, joy, and thankfulness for salvation. What has changed is not its requirements, but our relationship to it. See Jer 31:33 and pretty much all of Hebrews, but especially chapters 8-12

    Edit: Since you’re a Romans guy, I ought to also point out that after Paul spends all of Chapter 3 establishing that no one can be saved by following the law, he writes in verse 31 that faith does not make the law void, but rather establishes it. Following the law cannot save us. That doesn’t mean we ought not follow it.

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  7. Pingback: Interesting Conversation | Loving in the Ruins

  8. Past event, yes. However, the operative words (which are in every version available on biblehub) are “in his heart”

    Unless you’re going to argue that sin committed in the heart is not as eternally consequential as sin(which you shouldn’t because it contradicts what Jesus clearly says), then you’re trying to quibble over something we actually agree upon.

    Certainly you recognize that some laws in the OT, such as the Ten Commandments, came directly from the mouth of the Almighty God who does not change? You asked me earlier about the Sabbath. I honor the Sabbath for the same reason that I honor my parents, do not murder, do not steal, do not bear false witness, etc.

    The Ten Commandments have always pointed to “Love shall the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.”, and, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If we do those two things, we can never fall afoul of the Ten Commandments or the Law.

    You seem to be missing the overall point, and going exactly backwards. What I hear you saying is that if we follow the Law then we show or prove our love. That’s not what Jesus says. Jesus says if you love me, obey my commandments. There really is a New Covenant that is a spiritual outgrowth of the Old Covenant.

    Under there OT it was not only possible, but nearly impossible to avoid breaking one of the Ten Commandments. What does it mean to keep the sabbath holy? And if your father tells you to work on the sabbath, which commandment do you break? If someone is hurt and they need to be taken to a healer: Which commandment takes priority? Even merely trying to keep the law becomes a condemnation of our imperfection. Whoever is perfect doesn’t even have to know the law; much less try to obey it.

    The priests, scribes, pharisees, and sadducees decided that a more intricate set of rules would solve this problem. When Jesus arrives he retorts with the parable of the Good Samaritan. The Samaritan works on the sabbath and he makes the Innkeeper work; while the lawyer and the priest pass by and “keep” the letter of the law.

    Except they don’t because the letter of the law cannot be kept, and on top of that they have violated the spirit of the law; which is to Love God and love your neighbor. Jesus explains that whoever does the will of His Father is the righteous one; regardless of what day it is. God is the God of the sabbath, and the sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath. Therefore it is impossible to violate the sabbath for whoever is doing the will of the Father. Both the spirit and the letter are kept. If you aim to keep the law, you are dooming yourself because the law was made for that very purpose: To express God’s righteousness and every man’s unrighteousness. The law is good because it shows us this truth about our desperate state, and helps reveal that the only possible salvation from judgment is Christ and His atonement for our sins.

    So, no, we are not to follow the law. We are to follow that to which the law points: Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ’s commandments are not to follow the law, but “You shall love the Lord your god with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might”, and “Love your neighbor as yourself.”; to pray like the tax collector who beat his chest and asked for God’s forgiveness, and not like the pharisee who was proud and deceived to thank God that he was better than the tax collector.

    This is not because the law is done away, but because it is fulfilled. Neither your interpretations, actions, nor even obedience to the law can satisfy it further; nor can you make yourself holier; nor more loved by God than He was went He sent His only begotten Son to die on the cross for your sins. We are saved because He loved us, not because we love Him. We do not much yet love Him. We barely know Him yet.

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  9. The whole point of the law was to show that we could not keep it. Making that the aim point now is setting you up for complete failure since you cannot keep it perfectly. Note that we are told you are guilty of it all if you fail in a single part.

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  10. @ Cane

    This is not because the law is done away, but because it is fulfilled. Neither your interpretations, actions, nor even obedience to the law can satisfy it further; nor can you make yourself holier; nor more loved by God than He was went He sent His only begotten Son to die on the cross for your sins. We are saved because He loved us, not because we love Him. We do not much yet love Him. We barely know Him yet.

    You seem to be responding to someone else. Following the law is not making oneself holier, or more loved of God. It is about using God’s revealed character as a guide for molding my actions.

    I follow the law not in order to, but because.

    Not in order to gain salvation, but because I have been given salvation as a gift.
    Not in order to become righteous, but because I have been made righteous through the blood of Jesus Christ.
    Not in order to gain the love of God, but because of His incredible love.

    For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,
    …sin is the transgression of the law.

    If I choose to willingly live contrary to the law, I am rejecting Christ’s righteousness, which is what allows me to keep the law. “So that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”

    “The servant who knows the master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what the master wants will be beaten with many blows.” To disregard the law is to disregard the express will of God. It is to despise the Spirit of Grace. It is to make of no effect Christ’s blood, which is what enables us to keep the law.

    Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

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  11. You seem to be responding to someone else. Following the law is not making oneself holier, or more loved of God. It is about using God’s revealed character as a guide for molding my actions.

    I follow the law not in order to, but because.

    No, I’m responding to you because if you are in the will of God–in the Spirit–the letters of the law would be of no consequence to you.

    Obeying the law and fulfilling the law are the same thing. If you obey the law then you are attempting to fulfill it; which is a repudiation of Christ’s fulfillment of it. Like I was saying above about marriage being about sex, children, union, family, enjoyment, etc.–that it is about all those things and never about less than any of those things–so also is fulfillment of the law about keeping the law, satisfying it through sacrifice, filling in the gaps where the law is not explicit to us. Obedience to the law itself is not an expression of love, but that you can add to Christ’s obedience, and not only His obedience, but His transcendence of it by His perfect sacrifice.

    For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,…sin is the transgression of the law.

    No, sin is being separate from God. Transgression of the law is a description of that separation. To a lawyer, it seems like the thing for a person to do is stop transgressing the law, but from a father’s perspective it’s to beg forgiveness, accept that his judgment is good and sound, and do what he says from now on. The rules–the law–can neither touch nor compare to one who does that.

    Parents often give their children a bunch of rules when they’re young; don’t hit, don’t bite, say you’re sorry when you offend, share half your cookies, say “Happy Birthday”, etc. If the child hits, then they are spanked. But it’s not in the parent’s mind to have children who grow up and do not hit each other. What they want is for the children to love each other. Those rules aren’t destroyed by maturity and love between the siblings, but rather uphold the righteousness of those rules and the parent who gave them.

    “The servant who knows the master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what the master wants will be beaten with many blows.” To disregard the law is to disregard the express will of God. It is to despise the Spirit of Grace. It is to make of no effect Christ’s blood, which is what enables us to keep the law.

    No, Christ has kept and keeps the law. Not you; not me; not anyone else. You are not empowered to keep the law, but rather have been freed from the law. To obey the law is to be a slave to the law. Christ came to make us friends and brothers of Him. This family servanthood to Christ is freedom from the law; Christ is a greater power than the law, and can do this legally, even. Similar to how those who uphold the law are not as restrained by it. It is illegal for Cane to lock someone in a closet, but if I were a cop, Officer Caldo would be allowed to throw someone in jail. Are those officers breaking the law? Of course not! Similarly, it is assault to just run up and kiss someone, but no law restrains family in this way.

    Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?

    Moose Norseman, pay attention! This passage is talking about those who try to obey the law! It’s talking to you! This is what I have been saying to you. Obedience to the law is not in keeping with the Spirit of grace. In this comment you have argued that wherewith what has sanctified you (Christ’s sacrifice) you are now enabled to follow the law; which is to do that which is despite the Spirit of grace!

    You can understand this, I am sure. Normally I don’t carry on this long, but I believe I will see you bear fruit.

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  12. Norseman, in arguing that sex makes the marriage, you’re ignoring Genesis 2:24, which states that “for this reason a man shall leave father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh”. Notice that becoming “one flesh”–a Hebrew idiom for having sex (and there are a few of them, just like in English)–is not the cause of a state of marriage, but is rather the consequence of the state of marriage already being contracted. There is a commitment required for marriage, which is why Paul can tell people (1 Cor. 5) to flee from fornication.

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  13. @ Cane

    Moose Norseman, pay attention! This passage is talking about those who try to obey the law! It’s talking to you! This is what I have been saying to you. Obedience to the law is not in keeping with the Spirit of grace. In this comment you have argued that wherewith what has sanctified you (Christ’s sacrifice) you are now enabled to follow the law; which is to do that which is despite the Spirit of grace!

    “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.” 1 John 3:4.

    “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin [transgression of the law] so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” Romans 6:1-2

    “What then? Shall we sin [transgress the law] because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.” 15-18

    Shall I murder? Commit adultery? Worship idols? Covet? Bear false witness? Dishonor my parents? Steal?

    “For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law.” 5:13

    We are not under the law, therefore sin is not imputed. Halleujah! Yet that does not mean that sin does not exist. Just as sin existed before the law was given, so it exists for those of us who are not under the law. Just because my sins are not imputed unto me does not mean that I should abuse that grace and willfully sin. I break the law, and Jesus covers me with his sacrifice. Yet “if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins” Heb 10:26. We must “joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man” Rom 7:22, even while the outer man is falling short.

    Normally I don’t carry on this long, but I believe I will see you bear fruit.

    Cane, I have a lot of respect for you. Hence, I enjoy the conversation. Yet I fear that in this case you preach that which cheapens God’s grace and diminishes His power. In the words of Bonhoeffer:

    In such a Church the world finds a cheap covering for its sins; no contrition is required, still less any real desire to be delivered from sin. Cheap grace therefore amounts to a denial of the living Word of God, in fact, a denial of the Incarnation of the Word of God.

    Cheap grace means the justification of sin without the justification of the sinner. Grace alone does everything they say, and so everything can remain as it was before. ‘All for sin could not atone.’ Well, then, let the Christian live like the rest of the world, let him model himself on the world’s standards in every sphere of life, and not presumptuously aspire to live a different life under grace from his old life under sin….

    Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: “ye were bought at a price,” and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.

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  14. Pingback: Marriage | Reflections on Christianity and the manosphere

  15. Cane, I have a lot of respect for you. Hence, I enjoy the conversation.

    And I you.

    Yet I fear that in this case you preach that which cheapens God’s grace and diminishes His power.

    It is surely the case that whatever I say–or even can say–is not the full expression of God’s grace and power. I trust He will take it from here.

    The Scriptures you have quoted testify against you! That sounds like a bad thing, but I think it is very good. As I said: You will get this. You’re already looking in the right places, and you have shown yourself to be diligent and earnest; willing to struggle to arrive at the truth. We should all be so blessed.

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  16. Norseman, the entire context of Genesis 2:24 is God’s creation of Eve to be Adam’s helpmeet. Eve is Adam’s ‘ishah, and the use of the possessive form almost always means “wife”. She was joined to him by no less than God before she became flesh with Adam.

    Now if sex created marriage, the Torah would not tell the seducer that he must marry the seduced only if her father allows, and the very use of the word fornication (sexual immorality that is not necessarily adultery) in the Scriptures makes it very clear that sex does not make marriage. If it did, sex would be either contraction of marriage or adultery–there would be no such thing as fornication in that definition.

    So really, the very structure of the language used to describe sexual immorality means that marriage is a commitment (leaving father and mother and being joined to one’s wife) followed by sex, not vice versa. Sorry, but Biblically speaking, this doctrine is not obscure–you find it in the Torah, as I’ve noted, in the books of history, in the prophets, and throughout the New Testament.

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  17. @ Bike Bubba

    She was joined to him by no less than God before she became flesh with Adam.

    No, the joining made them one flesh. This is apparent from 1 Cor 6:16 “Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her? For He says, ‘THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH.'”

    Now if sex created marriage, the Torah would not tell the seducer that he must marry the seduced only if her father allows

    It doesn’t. Instead it says that he is to pay the bride-price, and that in the eventuality that her father utterly refuses (not just refuses, but utterly refuses), he still must pay the bride price. Big difference. Also the version in Deuteronomy 22:28-29 refutes your claim. “And to him she is for a wife; because that he hath humbled her.”

    And the very use of the word fornication (sexual immorality that is not necessarily adultery) in the Scriptures makes it very clear that sex does not make marriage. If it did, sex would be either contraction of marriage or adultery–there would be no such thing as fornication in that definition.

    Are you serious? Have you never read 1 Cor 5:1? “It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife.” Clearly, fornication as it is used here is not “sexual immorality that is not necessarily adultery” unless you are prepared to argue that it is “not necessarily adultery” for a woman married to one man to sleep with another–which is the fundamental definition of adultery.

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  18. Am I correct in boiling down the position of Moose Norseman’s opposition to it being a sin to try to obey the ten commandments?

    Most any Christian can go down the list something like this:
    – Don’t have other gods. Check
    – Don’t make idols. Check.
    – Don’t take God’s name in vain. Check.
    – Honor my parents. Ehhh… Check.
    – Don’t murder people. Check.
    – Don’t commit adultery. Check.
    – Don’t steal stuff. Check.
    – Don’t tell slanderous lies. Check.
    – Don’t covet. I don’t know what that is, but I don’t think I do it, so check.

    But then they go back up the list to the one that they skipped, and their eyeballs start twirling like pinwheels while steam issues forth from their ears. REMEMBER THE SABBATH DAY? DON’T WORK ON SATURDAY? WHAT!??!??!?!?!??!? IMPOSSIBLE! CANNOT BE DONE! HA! WHAT DOES GOD THINK I AM? PERFECT OR SOMETHING? TIME FOR SOME RATIONALIZING, METHINKS!

    Is this because they mistakenly believe the pharisaical Sabbath laws to be Biblical? I cannot comprehend this. And the position that it is a sin to try to keep the law at all is even more mystifying. Trying to keep the law is a denial of Christ’s atoning sacrifice? By the same token, then — Let us break the law as much as we can! It was a big sacrifice, so we had better make it worth it for the poor fellow! I shall blow off the head of a hated enemy posthaste. And screw the neighbor’s wife in a stolen Lamborghini while whispering prayers to Odin.

    What about Enoch? I may read too much into his story as it is only like one verse long. But he had to have been doing something right such as, perhaps, obeying the law. I suppose that one could argue that the law did not exist at that time since it had not yet been written out. There’s always a perceived loophole to cling to when denying the validity of the fourth commandment.

    Mr. Caldo has demonstrated a much greater literacy for the Bible than I have with all of the verses that he has referenced. But keeping the commandments seems to be the simplest interpretation of the scriptures. All else appears gymnastic.

    As for BradA’s supposition that the law existed to prove that the law could not be kept: The Associated Press reports that archaeologists have recently uncovered a heretofore unknown eleventh commandment which states, “On six days art thou compelled by the Lord thy God to whistle underwater.”

    The reasoning that goes into reasoning away the validity of the commandments is more difficult to understand than the “impossible” laws themselves.

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  19. Do none of you in this discussion understand that all of the verses you have been quoting are from Jews talking to Jews? What does that conversation have to do with us, unless we likewise are Jews?

    The Law of Moses – from which come the 10 Commandments – was given only to the Children of Israel. It was given to no one else. The Gentiles (New Testament Church) were/are bound only by the four requirements listed in Acts 15:20 – which are subsets of the Noahide Law. Any church that does not teach this cannot be considered a New Testament church. Any layman who does not let this truth inform his debate cannot be said to really understand the point of the New Testament. See my quotes from the New Testament below. See in particular Acts 15:9-10.

    If you seriously are interested in how you are not bound by the Law of Moses, read through these two links for an introduction to this. If you already know all of this, then nevermind.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_Laws_of_Noah

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Law_of_Moses

    Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. (Romans 2:14; NIV)

    From Acts 15: (NIV) The early church leaders met in Jerusalem and decided that, indeed, the Law of Moses did not apply to the Gentiles (non-Jew).

    5 Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to keep the law of Moses.”

    6 The apostles and elders met to consider this question. 7 After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. 8 God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. 9 He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. 10 Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear [the Law of Moses]? 11 No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”

    13 When they finished, James spoke up. “Brothers,” he said, “listen to me. … 19 “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. 20 Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood.

    That’s it. No 10 Commandments. But abstain from sexual immorality.

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  20. @ RichardP

    Acts 15 and the conversation there is specifically about circumcision. To make it about the 10 commandments is mistaken. James said it was not necessary to remind the Gentiles about the law, because in every city it was preached on every Sabbath. (v 21)

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  21. @RichardP

    “Do none of you in this discussion understand that all of the verses you have been quoting are from Jews talking to Jews? What does that conversation have to do with us, unless we likewise are Jews?”

    So, are you saying that God is a Jew or that Moses lied about the law being dictated by God?

    “The Gentiles (New Testament Church) were/are bound only by the four requirements listed in Acts 15:20… That’s it. No 10 Commandments. But abstain from sexual immorality.”

    Then let me align my previous hypothetical situation: I shall blow off the head of a hated enemy posthaste. And covet the neighbor’s wife in a stolen Lamborghini while whispering prayers to Odin.

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  22. I’m a little late to the discussion, but I’ve also come to believe that marriage is caused by the sex act. It may have already been cited, but I’ll offer the following:

    Genesis 38:8And Judah said unto Onan, Go in unto thy brother’s wife, and marry her, and raise up seed to thy brother.
    Great discussion.

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  23. I’m also a little late to the party, but I enjoy the back on forth between you and Cane on both of y’all’s blogs. In any case, I was wondering about the practical ramifications of MNM’s assertions here.

    I thought I was fornicating throughout most of my 20’s by sleeping with a number of girls, but in actuality I was marrying them when we had sex, we were divorcing when we split ways, and ending that marriage whenever either of us took on a new sexual partner? Also, myself and all past partners are all currently adulterers unless we’re chaste until we’re the last person standing (at least amongst those of whom we were the first to find successor partner)? I’m asking this in all seriousness, although my mind is muddled from lack of sleep and typing this on a public library where apparently it’s ok to play rap fairly loudly. But I’m not trying to parse the letter for any loophole, but find the true spirit behind it. I’m also wondering where I went wrong to begin with. I’m assuming it was when I accepted the modern standard of serial monogamy until we find DA ONE, and I willing entered into my first sexual relationship with a young woman whom I knew would not be around forever, and had had previous sexual partners.

    I’m also curious what the next step would be when one marries a person (in either way) and they decide to “transition.” Paul says (admitting it’s not directly from God) that we should keep an unbelieving spouse if they wish to stay, and in doing so we sanctify them, but if they transition to a point that they start to resemble the same sex as their spouse, then you could be presenting a stumbling block to Christians with homosexual tendencies unless there was some sort of church discipline for said spouse (presuming they were a part of the church). I believe the “cis”woman would have to rely more on the church, but the “cis”man could exercise his authority as husband to stop his wife, or at least cause him/her to divorce (in both ways) due to “abuse.” Of course this says nothing of the person who converts after willingly participating in a sexual relationship with a trans person who was originally presenting as the opposite sex from the spouse. I guess it ends up in the same conundrum in my previous paragraph.

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  24. @ Kilrud

    Here’s the spirit: when a woman gives herself to a man sexually, she is his. God joins them. She is no longer free to give herself to any other man. Likewise, no other man is free to take her. The implication for women is to make sure they give themselves to a good man–it’s a lifelong gift. The implication for men is to make sure they only take a good woman–he will be obligated to provide for and protect her for the rest of his life.

    Now, in your case, I think your assessment of where you went wrong is about right. You went wrong when you thought you could separate marital relations from marriage.

    As to your question of how to handle a spouse who wants to change sex:

    Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit. –James 5:14-18

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  25. I understand the your position on the spirit as to what one should do before ever having sex, but I’m asking about guys in my who were either rebellious or woefully lacked instruction (a little of both in my case) with our original “spouse” long gone and probably not a virgin to begin with. I’m also curious as to how this differs for women.

    Thanks for the verses on the transgender stuff. But I get that church should be heavily involved in such a situation, but it seems that would not apply to one who was never in a church, or decided to exchange for an obviously apostate church which accepts him or her.

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  26. @ Kilrud:

    If the question is whether a man with a sexual history is free to marry, here is how I would approach it. First, he needs to determine if any of the women he has slept with have any claim to his resources and protection. Based on the verses mentioned above, in the comments on Emath’s post, and in my previous posts, I believe that if a woman left you, or was put away by you, and has since given herself to another man and become his, you are released from responsibility. This is because marriage is a hierarchy. No man can have two masters, but many men can serve the same master. It may be that after consideration, a man finds that none of the women he has slept with have legitimate claims on him. If so, very well. It does not negate the sinfulness of the previous actions, but I see no reason that he could not move forward in a new life that includes a new marriage. However, a man may find that one or more women do still have legitimate claims on him. The downside of the hierarchy for men is that he may have responsibilities towards multiple woman. This is a sobering and scary fact. Some speak of the fact that the Bible permits (not recommends, permits) multiple wives with a sense of ecstatic flippantness. While the fact they state may be true, they themselves are wrong. Husbanding is a heavy (but worthy) responsibility. In today’s world where even the best men have had their capacity, ability, and willingness to properly lead, protect, and shepherd a wife undermined by laws, customs, and culture, doubling that responsibility is not something to be taken lightly. However, a man may find that his past actions place him in the un-enviable position of having more than one wife. Much as he may regret the decisions that placed such responsibility upon him, it is his place as a man to live up to those responsibilities. If, on consideration, a man finds that he has legitimate responsibilities of husbandry towards one or more women already, I would strongly advise him not to unwisely expand those responsibilities.

    As to the other question. This blog is written primarily for my two high-school age brothers. I am profoundly grateful when it can help others, but the primary audience drives the focus. For the unmarried man, being careful to select a woman who is both a believer and feminine ought to largely negate the contingencies you mention. The majority of women who decide to become men are not the most feminine women beforehand. Now, for the man who is dealing with past mistakes, I think it would be important for him to be masculine, so that his wife feels secure and complimented in her femininity. Masculinity brings out femininity, and femininity brings out masculinity. However, if the desire to “change” is raised, and the wife is an unbeliever, my recommendation would be for the husband veto the request and enlist the prayers of as many of men of his church as he can. I know it can seem like a cop-out answer to someone in a hard situation, but “the effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” is a powerful promise, and Jesus has told us that what is impossible with man is possible God, and that all things are possible if we only believe.

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