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Topic: COMMENTARIES by S. Michael Craven

Marriage Survives! Can it Endure?

November 10, 2008
S. Michael Craven
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At the conclusion of my series In Defense of Marriage this past August, I wrote that the outcome of California’s Proposition 8 would figure prominently in the future of marriage in America. If the proposed amendment establishing that “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized” was defeated, I predicted it would be nearly impossible to halt the radical homosexual movement and their efforts to redefine marriage and the natural family.

In a momentous turn of events, Proposition 8 passed! The citizens of California—forced by circumstances—have codified what has been a self-evidential social norm throughout human history. Similar measures passed overwhelmingly in Florida and Arizona, bringing to 30 the total number of states that have amended their constitutions in order to protect marriage from special interest revisions. And in Arkansas, citizens voted to protect children by barring their adoption by homosexual couples. We should all be mightily encouraged by these events.

However, these political victories will be temporary if we do not strengthen the cultural understanding of and commitment to marriage. There is a distinct difference between politics and culture, one that I think we in the church often fail to understand. Politics always follows and reflects culture—it does not create culture. This has been the case throughout history. A demographic breakdown of the vote relative to Proposition 8 equally confirms this point. Six out of ten voters over 60 supported the measure; among those between 30 and 60, the margin was slightly more than half. Among those under 30, sixty percent opposed Proposition 8. Zogby International surveyed high school seniors and found that 85 percent believe homosexuality is an “acceptable lifestyle.” The next generation will not hold this line against homosexual marriage unless there is a significant change in their worldview.

You can see the trend. There has been a failure to transmit the values, customs, and beliefs (i.e., culture) of one generation to the next, and this cultural shift is then reflected in their politics. So how do we accomplish true cultural change versus only temporal political victories, which evidence indicates will only diminish?

For the last two millennia, the Christian community, educated with ideas drawn from Scripture and applied to every area of life and reality, has been the most powerful culture-forming agent. In other words, the church is the instrument by which God brings forth His kingdom and as the kingdom spreads, the culture is Christianized. In a world of false ideas competing to explain the world, it was Christians, armed with the energy of an all-embracing life-system (i.e., Christian worldview) that shaped Western culture. This energy—now severed from its historic understanding—has been depleted in recent generations through spiritual sloth, theological ignorance, anti-intellectualism, and cultural apathy.

If we hope to preserve the biblical and historic understanding of marriage, we must create a culture that honors marriage in the form established by God. To be clear, this effort is not collateral to the gospel and therefore dispensable, but rather it is an essential part of the gospel.

Drawing from the words of Jesus, the gospel cannot possibly be understood apart from the kingdom. Jesus always described the gospel in relation to the kingdom. In Matthew 24:14 Jesus says, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world …” Matthew described Jesus’ ministry by saying: “And Jesus went about all Galilee … preaching the gospel of the kingdom …” (4:23). Matthew reiterates this theme again in chapter 9 verse 35 when he writes, “Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages … preaching the gospel of the kingdom …” (NKJV, emphasis mine).

Jesus told his disciples to “preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand’” (Matthew 10:7). Mark writes, “after John [the Baptist] was put in prison, Jesus came … preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God” (Mark 1:14, NKJV, emphasis mine). Clearly, by Jesus’ own words and the testimony of the apostles, Jesus was preaching the good news that through him God’s reign (i.e., the kingdom) has been initiated.

The gospel (or good news) is the fact that in Christ, the reign of God is at hand and is now breaking into the world. His kingdom, which has come, continues to come forth and will be fully consummated on the day of Christ’s return. This is the good news! The promotion of God’s design for the family is part of that kingdom come that penetrates and transforms the fallen world in which Christ is making all things new.

So how do we, the church, create a culture that embraces the kingdom view of marriage and family? First and foremost, we bear witness to the kingdom by living under the authority of the king within our own lives. This means we do not engage in sex outside of marriage. It means we do not cohabitate prior to or in place of marriage. It means we properly prepare those in the body of Christ for marriage and all of its responsibilities. It means we fight as a community for every marriage within the body that is in crisis. It means we exercise church discipline when necessary and it means we exalt and teach the biblical view of sex and marriage to the next generation so they are inoculated against the fickle cultural winds.

It is our own conduct within the church that must set the example and thus define marriage first. It is the height of hypocrisy to attempt to instruct others about sexual ethics and marriage when our own behavior falls so short. Numerous studies reveal that premarital sex, cohabitation, divorce, and pornography are as pervasive within the American church as they are among the unchurched! A compromised church cannot produce a chaste and moral culture that upholds and honors marriage, much less advance the kingdom.

Finally, this compromised state undermines an essential part of the Christian witness. Jesus himself established the fact that our conduct and relationships are a necessary component in our witness to the world (see John 13:35, 17:21–23). If we continue to fail on this vital point, the political winds will continue to shift, marriage will falter, and in the absence of this crucial cornerstone, our society will follow the path to ruin like so many before.

© 2008 by S. Michael Craven

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Responses
Response from : John H. Armstrong  

November 10, 2008 8:34 AM
 

You are absolutely right in saying that politics always follows culture. When the Labor Movement wanted FDR's support for change in 1933 he told the leaders, "I am convinced of your position. Now go out and change the culture so they will force me to change the direction of the country." FDR was an astute politician regardless of your views about him. The same was true with Civil Rights. When MLK and his companions changed enough minds and hearts the political leaders were forced to move with the change. Conservative Christians do not seem to grasp this in our day. We can never impose our views, or God's law, on anyone. We can and must speak and live the truth, especially in our communities of faith. This will be a window through which the leaders will see the "righteous deeds" of the saints and glorify God on the day he visits us. What we need is a divine visitation, not a political movement.

In fact, the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a Democrat, said liberals want to change culture by changing politics and conservatives know you can only change politics by changing the culture. Somehow modern "so-called" conservatives lost this and thus lost their way. Could it be we "fight" for the culture since we no longer pray deeply and pursue one another in the love that creates unity among all true Christians?

http://www.johnharmstrong.com

 
Response from : Linda Pate  

November 10, 2008 8:42 AM
 

I agree. I am trying my best to get the message to high school girls. I am involved in an abstinence conference called IT"S A GIRL THING! What would be so helpful is to have a way that is user-friendly to present the message. To make it fun in its presentation, to have a power point that is 2 minutes long. We need to understand our target audience and to fit the presentation to them. We all agree on the substance but now must take it to the next step to compete with the media and exposure that bombard them. It would be so cool to have a sitcom that deals with this message. But it would have to be fun and there is is the problem; the Godly lifestyle isn't always as enticing as sin. But we do need to offset the message to the under 30 crowd and encourage critical thinking for them. The question is how.


 
Response from : Julie  

November 10, 2008 8:48 AM
 

I am concerned with the HS statistics shown here. Do you have any specific materials that can be used with church youth groups with regards to attitudes towards homosexuality; sexuality in general for teaching the Biblical truths to teens? Thank you, Julie Hamilton

http://Fremont, NE

 
Response from : Greg Williams  

November 10, 2008 9:03 AM
 

Thanks for another great article. I believe beyond a shadow of any doubt that the mass deception displayed throughout this campaign and during and after the election lays squarely at the feet of the Church as the 'keepers' and 'purveyors' of the Truth and the nearly wholesale failure to speak that Truth across this country! How else can you explain the obvious deception that was either ignored (willful sin) and/or completely unknown (lack of wisdom and discernment that comes from the Truth)?

I also believe that this is a wake up call from Christ to His Church!

Thanks for all you do and God bless in Christ!

In His service

Greg Williams

http://www.ip315.org

 
Response from : S. Michael Craven  

November 10, 2008 9:05 AM
 

Dear Julie,

Thank you for your inquiry. In fact, in my forthcoming book, Uncompromised Faith, I address—in detail—the shift in sexual ethics and the history of these ideas and how they emerged in contemporary culture. In addition, I address the many myths and misconceptions surrounding homosexuality in a way that does not alienate those who are sympathetic to the gay movement. I have found this information very helpful in correcting the thinking of youth about such things as marriage and sexuality. You can pre-order at a discounted rate here: http://www.bookschristian.com/se/product/books/S_Michael_Craven/Uncompromised_Faith/561747/Uncompromised_Faith_Paperback.html

I hope this is helpful.

Blessings,
Michael

http://www.battlefortruth.org

 
Response from : William  

November 10, 2008 9:15 AM
 

Michael. I just wanted to make an observation. My life from birth to age 6 was extremely turbulent, including two adoptions and numerous 'temporary' homes. From the age of seven I was raised in a Christian home. Although we didn't have a TV in our home growing up, I was so captivated by TV that I managed to find homes where I could watch TV throughout the neighborhood. When I established my own bachelor home I immediately purchased a TV. This attraction for TV continues into my married home. I felt cheated if I didn't watch 5-7 hours of TV daily. Movies were the same. During this time the Lord was active in leading me to an understanding of His desire for intimate relationship with Him. One day, while mowing, I 'accidently' mowed the cable from the antenna that was required to receive local stations. Suddenly, no TV! My wife and I had been challenged recently to observe a 40 day media fast to see just how much impact TV was having in our lives. This broken cable proved to be just the reason to engage in the 40 day media fast. We did, and quickly realized the HUGE impact TV was having. It wasn't just the quality of the programming, but the impact on our time and focus. From being a confirmed TV/Movieholic to being TV deprived, I have been set free! And my life in Christ grows stronger daily. I have come to believe that TV and movies are the MOST pervasive tool of satan to turn God's people away from Truth and into compromise. We still have a TV and DVD/VCR and watch movies, but we're very careful what movies we watch, and a majority of the time the movies we do watch are older ones we own (I've watched 'Facing the Giants' at least twenty times, one of my favorites). I'll take the risk of making a catigorical statement here: It is nearly impossible to maintain the kind of intimate relationship God desires with us while mainstream TV (network) and non-descretionary movie watching are part of your life! This is not the only descipline needed in our lives, just one important one.
Thanks! Bill


 
Response from : Tambra Wohlenhaus  

November 10, 2008 9:25 AM
 

What a GREAT article. I just love the work you do Mr. Craven and pray for your strength and God's wisdom to continue to share and strenghten marriages -- and our society in general. Keep up the good work!


 
Response from : Don  

November 10, 2008 5:14 PM
 

Your statement "by living under the authority of the king within our own lives" really calls us, the church, to get our lives right first. A true call to personal holiness is essential for our walk with Christ and as an example to the next generation. Thanks for the reminder. Yours in Christ, Don


 
Response from : Christian Love  

November 10, 2008 9:24 PM
 

I have been a Christian all my life. I ashamed at the way you put down homosexuals. You should educate yourself about the culture you are attacking. If Jesus was as exclusive as you how would the Gospel message have been spread? Love all God's children and learn something about a social group before you attack all of them as immoral sex freaks. Closed minded Christians like yourself are what is pushing us youth away from the church in the first place. Shame on you!


 
Response from : Kenneth Tremble  

November 11, 2008 2:41 AM
 

Due to example of some ministers & preachers younger generations do not know what it is to be totally committed to their spouses because they are not totally committed to our LORD Jesus Christ as evidenced in so many voting for Obama. They have false Shepherds for their Pastors.


 
Response from : S. Michael Craven  

November 11, 2008 8:33 AM
 

Dear “Christian Love,”

I appreciate your comments, however it isn’t love to obscure or subvert the truth in an effort to avoid offending people. You suggest that I should “educate” myself about the culture I am “attacking.” First , to offer a contra position is not attacking, second I might suggest the same to you as it relates to Christianity. Either the Bible is a true and reliable source of truth or it isn’t. If it is, then homosexual behavior is no more consistent with God’s moral nature than lying or adultery. Your issue is not with ME; it is with Jesus Christ and what you believe it means to follow him.

I offer for example, If your friend were an alcoholic and this friend said to you, “If you love me, you will let me drink myself to death.” Would you? Would “supporting” your friend in his desire be an act of love? No! True love would compel you to intervene—to act in spite of your friend’s request. You would attempt to persuade him, you would likely take steps to eliminate any opportunities for your friend to acquire alcohol. You would do everything you could to oppose your friend’s desire if you truly loved him. He would likely be angry with you; it would be painful at times but “love endures all things.” This is love! It is not loving to condone behaviors that violate God’s law and destroy human beings. I sense you are young and you believe, as do many, that being “gay” is synonymous with any other romantic relationship. But this bears no relationship to the realities of a lifestyle that begins in pain, exists in pain, and tragically often ends in pain. There is propaganda and there is truth. I would encourage you to transcend the former in order to discover the latter. In this way, you will truly love people.

Blessings,
Michael

http://www.battlefortruth.org

 
Response from : Timothy Brinson  

November 18, 2008 4:19 PM
 

All I can say is thank you and praise God that there's a elite group of believers who will not compromise the word of God. To satisfy the cravings of the flesh. Thank you so much for if we won't stand for something we will compromised and go along with anything. Why not stand on the truth of God words to his covenant believers.


 

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