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Saturday, September 05, 2009

Just Because

Have you ever considered what we take for granted as a given may not be? There are so many things in our culture that we simply accept without analysis and say, "That's the way it should be." If someone comes along and questions it, they're likely loony because "That's the way it should be." But, truth be told, we never figured out why we think that's the way it should be. We just do because that's the way it is.

Take, for instance, retirement. Americans assume retirement. We all know that we will retire some day. Retirement looks like the ultimate leisure time. You're not expected to do anything anymore. That portion of your life is simply extended vacation. That's it. If it doesn't work out that way for you, it's a crying shame. We ought to do something about it. The government needs to intervene. It's a problem that needs to be fixed. Or is it? Why is "retirement" a given? Who ever said that we should able to retire? Our modern society assumes it; why did no previous society? In older times, those who were no longer able to work were still expected to contribute to society. They would share their wisdom, teach, encourage, mentor. Before the '60's when America decided that we couldn't trust people over 30, older generations were venerated. That's where you went to learn the secrets of life. Some today are suggesting that "retirement" is the perfect opportunity to thoroughly invest yourself in new ventures. When you're raising a family, you need to work hard at it. In your later years, though, you may have the wherewithal to go to the mission field or spend your time as a full time volunteer. You can really invest your life in caring and sharing rather than working and supporting. Where did we get the idea that retirement was a divine right?

Or how about "the honeymoon"? We all know that when you get married you're supposed to go away on a honeymoon. Oh, yeah, sure, some can't or don't, but we consider them either slighted or confused. The norm is the honeymoon, and any good marriage starts with it. But I can't say why. Think about this. Marriages usually run into trouble not from too much community, but from too much isolation. They don't share their problems with folks. They internalize them. So, starting with the honeymoon, we encourage couples who just left a very public ceremony to withdraw from public view and complete privately what they started publicly. Is that really the right thing to do? I'm not saying that couples shouldn't be alone, or shouldn't have a private time away. I'm just wondering what the rationale is to hurry off the very first night from the very thing that will more likely cement their relationship than any other -- community. I'm not even saying I'm right. I'm simply pointing out that no one is asking.

Here's one -- dating. It is a given that we "marry for love". Everyone knows that. Not even a question. (The fact that this is a relatively new concept on the historical scene doesn't cause us to bat an eye.) So the first thing we have to do is start ... shopping. You see, "love" is about "chemistry", and "chemistry" is the word we use because, frankly, we're completely unclear on what we're talking about. I mean, we don't know what it is; we just know it when we feel it. So let's take our young people in the midst of raging hormone storms and convoluted questions about their role in society (not quite children; not quite adults) and surround them with ambient pornography (at least) and toss out parental input and control and see how this turns out for the best. They'll find their "one true love" (??) and get married for life. Seriously, in what world does this make any sense? But, again, I'm not saying I'm right. I'm saying that no one seems to be asking.

I am not actually saying that all of these things are wrong or that I'm right. I'm saying that these (and many more) are generally accepted as "good" simply because they are "present" in our society. There is a whole host of things that we just accept as "good and right" because they are, not because we've thought about it. We don't evaluate them. We don't examine them. We don't question them. We just ... assume. I wonder how much our assumptions have twisted our thinking to drag us away from biblical thinking and pushed our society away from optimum society. I really wonder.

21 comments:

Sherry said...

Interesting, Stan! I grok! Quite a lot of people do and believe quite a lot of things "just because", seldom questioning why.

Years ago I compiled a long list of "good and right" things that seem to be expectations of what it takes in many peoples' minds to be considered "good" Christians. Most weren't bad or wrong things at all! Most were GOOD things, with logical and sometimes very wise reasons for doing them! Some of these things that we expected of ourselves or of others were gained by suggestions we had heard or read. Some were sort of garnered subliminally as things we think we are supposed to do "just because" others we have observed and admired do them or have been doing them for as long as we can remember. My beef was that they were things I did NOT find specifically spelled out in The Bible itself. It didn't mean they were wrong, only that they just weren't in there!
That much longer and better-thought-out list disappeared in a computer crash, but it contained things such as: You must read your Bible every single day, and have a devotional and prayer time every day. Attend church at least once a week. Join a church so that you are a member somewhere. Be able to pray well in front of others. As a child, be able to do well in Bible drills and have the books of the Bible memorized. Be up on the Christian music scene and who's who in Christian literature and television evangelism so that you can speak knowledgeably about these things. Be of good cheer or at least approachable, even if you aren't in a particularly good mood or set of circumstances in your life at the time. Be well read -- possess several different Bible translations, concordances, Bible dictionary, commentaries, Greek and Hebrew lexicons, and familiarity with all well known authors such as C.S. Lewis. Have a testimony. Be able and willing to pray well out loud. Those are only a few that come to mind right off. People tend to judge others by such things, even though I don't see in scripture that they are measures or requirements of intimate relationships with God or men.

Depending on the particular denomination in which you were raised or are involved, there are differing expectations of course. But WHERE exactly ARE some of them in The Bible itself? Some are man-made things that either we or our societies have put upon ourselves and, now, like you say, Stan, that's the way some of us too often think things are just supposed to be!

Sherry said...

Stan, in regard to your comments on dating and honeymoons:

My sister doesn't think her 3 pretty daughters should have to date (and possibly go through some devastating heartbreaks) before marrying. She doesn't see the necessity for them to "try out" lots of men in order for God to someday bring each of them almost straight to the men He has for them to marry. When she stated this in a recent family gathering, it struck most of her listeners as outrageous that her girls (2 of them 19 and 15 already) might actually adhere to that crazy belief themselves and be denied the great privilege of shopping around for how ever many years it might take to find the best deal! But, I think there might be a whole lot more intact marriages and content spouses these days if so many of us hadn't spent years doing just that, don't you?! We kind of thought we were actually supposed to do that! Growing up in the church I was repeatedly told it was wise not to date unbelievers because I might end up falling in love with one and then I might end up married and unequally yoked. But, hey, nobody ever said I shouldn't date lots of believers.

Personally, I think taking off on a honeymoon the day you are married is a pretty stupid tradition. If, for years, you have had all of your friends and family nearby and you see them all VERY frequently and will live amongst them when you get home, maybe it's fine and perfectly understandable! But in today's mobile society most of us don't have that anymore. Families get spread out all over the country.

A couple hours down the road, away from my wedding reception, 30 yrs. ago, I suddenly and sadly realized that was the ONLY time in my whole life I would ever have THAT MANY of my loved ones together in one place. It would have made MUCH more sense to have stayed in town for at least a full day or two with our wedding guests, THEN to have left on our honeymoon. Some had traveled clear across the country! And even those who arrived a day or two before the wedding didn't have my undivided attention because of all the last minute wedding details that occupied my head. My new husband and I were going to have the whole rest of our lives together!
If I had it to do over again, the next day we would have still been in town and the joyful visiting and rejoicing over our union and the partying would have gone on!

Our bridesmaids, groomsmen, ourselves, and friends and family could have all laughed TOGETHER about all the little things that went wrong, etc. My grandmothers and aunts might have wanted to impart some of their marital wisdom to me in person, face to face, rather than putting down a few lines inside of a wedding card. Instead, we were hours away from everyone, off looking at a waterfall or herds of elk, alone. Not that our honeymoon wasn't nice! It's just that all their loving faces really would have beat any scenery we saw. But, we left everyone a few hours after our wedding, "just because" that's what people generally do!

At the end of our honeymoon we settled down in a town hundreds of miles from all family members, so the day of our wedding was the last time we saw some people before they died, but my husband and I are STILL beholding each other's smiling mugs every single day. That's good; I find his to be a loving, comforting mug! :o) But, if even 1/4th of those so-very-dear-to-me people travel to attend my funeral someday, I STILL won't be there to enjoy their company!

Okay, bye.

Stan said...

As always, Sherry, I enjoyed your comments. I am really curious, though, about the one about your sister and her daughters. She doesn't think they need to date. God will just bring them THE man? Did I understand you correctly?

I've seen some interesting discussions among believers. One group believes in betrothal, which aligns essentially with arranged marriages (and, by the way, the biblical examples). Others are against "dating" in favor of "courting" (which, I have to confess, I am unsure about the difference). It's an interesting topic.

David said...

My understanding is that courting is dating with the intention of marriage. Merely dating to 'test the waters' or just to have fun is foolish and a destruction of people. How many people are scarred from bad dating relationships, I'm pretty sure its far more than are scarred from broken marriages, and probably those scars lead to those broken marriages. This idea that we need to "fall in love" is also foolish and overly romanticized. The Bible is quite clear that love is a choice. But I won't go any further on that since that could lead to pages and pages of text.

Unknown said...

'One group'... like me, eh Stan :)

Yes, I do advocate Biblical Betrothal. We don't call it 'arranged marriage', altho I do understand why others do. I would be glad to discuss with David why courtship is unBiblical. Actually we have been searching for someone, anyone, to give us a Biblical defense of Courtship vs Betrothal.

The 'honeymoon'... not as currently practiced but still, does have Biblical roots.

Stan said...

Well, you would be a member of "one group" ... but you don't, all alone, constitute "a group". :)

Unknown said...

Oh, I was just teasing you because 90% of the site you referenced was written by me. Doesn't mean I am alone, was just funny.

Unknown said...

much longer and better-thought-out list disappeared in a computer crash, but it contained things such as: You must read your Bible every single day, and have a devotional and prayer time every day. Attend church at least once a week. Join a church so that you are a member somewhere. Be able to pray well in front of others. As a child, be able to do well in Bible drills and have the books of the Bible memorized. Be up on the Christian music scene and who's who in Christian literature and television evangelism so that you can speak knowledgeably about these things. Be of good cheer or at least approachable, even if you aren't in a particularly good mood or set of circumstances in your life at the time. Be well read -- possess several different Bible translations, concordances, Bible dictionary, commentaries, Greek and Hebrew lexicons, and familiarity with all well known authors such as C.S. Lewis. Have a testimony. Be able and willing to pray well out loud. Those are only a few that come to mind right off. People tend to judge others by such things, even though I don't see in scripture that they are measures or requirements of intimate relationships with God or men.

We get things both directly and, as the confession says, by inference. Many of the things you list her are 'by inference'.

The doctrine of sufficiency applies here.

David said...

Song of Solomon seems to be a courtship model. They don't appear to be betrothed or arranged. Now, I haven't done my research, but I don't know that any system of finding a spouse is Biblical. The problem I have with betrothal is, what if one of the couple aren't even CALLED to be married? Paul tells us that in the service of the Lord it is better to not be married. Betrothal expects marriage and doesn't allow for personal conviction. That being said, I think parents should be involved in helping their child choose a mate when the child expresses an interest. But back to the point, I don't know that God says anywhere in Scripture "Thou shalt choose thine children's spouse for them."

Stan said...

David: "The problem I have with betrothal is, what if one of the couple aren't even CALLED to be married?"

Reasonable question. Of course, it presumes an absent God, doesn't it? ;) (The idea is that the parents would know their children, be aware of what's best for them, and be ardent in seeking that best ... with God's guidance.)

Joshua Ohlman said...

'I don't know that God says anywhere in Scripture "Thou shalt choose thine children's spouse for them."'

Not everything in scripture is as clear cut as the ten commandments. For example, consider what Paul says here:

1Ti 5:17 Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.
1Ti 5:18 For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward.

Stan said...

CodeWriter,

At what point are we in danger of imposing on others rules (laws) that God never intended to impose? I think we're pretty safe in the "Thou shalt" and "shalt not" areas, and there is a lot more "less clear" that isn't really debatable. I can even find reasons to support the betrothal concept. It's that step of making it "law" that I won't take because God didn't and I fear to make rules where He never did.

Joshua Ohlman said...

It's that step of making it "law"

It all depends on what we mean by 'law'. For example, there are some things that I think should be made law, as in 'law of the land' (death penalty for murder, for example). There are other things I would say are 'law' as in, the church should enforce them, the Mathew 18 kind of issues. Then there are things which the family should make law. Each is a different kind of law. If (as is really happening) the government makes a 'law' what the father should make that is bad, not because it shouldn't be law, but because it is not the governments jurisdiction. The same with this issue. It depends on whose jurisdiction it is. If I believe betrothal to be scriptural, and if I have jurisdiction over that area, then I should enforce it. Of course, if you can't agree on whose jurisdiction it is, then you have a problem.

There are a lot of things which I should do, but which you shouldn't force me to do. That doesn't mean I shouldn't do them, or even that you shouldn't encourage me to do them.

Stan said...

I'm speaking of the kind of "universal morality" type things. When I reference "making it 'law'", I'm referencing things that are moral for all people. When I refer to making it law, I mean to say, "It is wrong for anyone to find a spouse by other means." I'm not referring to "This is the way we do it and we obviously think it's the best way."

Joshua Ohlman said...

Ah, well in that case it is debatable. It might be(in fact I would argue it is) the best way in most circumstances. But it is admittedly not absolutely clear.

I guess my statement would be "It is the best process scripturally that I could find, therefore, until I find otherwise, it is the only right way." (This is obviously debatable, since we don't know how good my scriptural research is)

Stan said...

Reasonably fair, CodeWriter. Here's the question. Would you say, "Christians who do not do it this way are sinning"? That is what I had in mind by "law".

Joshua Ohlman said...

I would say a couple of things:

As James said:
Jas 4:17 Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.

I would say that if I know what the best way is, or if I know what my best guess at the best way is, and I don't do it, then I'm sinning. And, if I don't try to find out what the best way is, within the constraints of time etc. Then I am sinning.

So I would say, that I think this issues is clear enough in scripture that those who don't follow it are probably sinning.

(Of course, I'm probably missing myriad other issues just as clear, so I can't claim to be 'less sinful than thou' as a result of following scripture here)

One interesting point, I believe that this is the kind of sin we are supposed to be trying to avoid by 'iron sharpens iron'.

Unknown said...

To answer for Codewriter, which I have some authority to do, let us suppose:
1) That you pick up a book, "All about Eve' and begin reading it, thinking it is a historical fiction Christian book about Adam and Eve. Suddenly, at about page 7, you realize that it is a non-Christian pornographic treatement of the story. ooops. you put it down.
2) You tell me that that is what it is and I, when you are not looking, pick it up and read it... starting on page 7.

Now, is reading 'All About Eve' sin? I would argue that it wasn't for you, and was for me. Not because the book itself isn't sin. It clearly is. But you read it in ignorance.

Now let us suppose that one of my children, who know that their books need to be vetted, start reading the book. They have sinned. They, no more than you, didn't know it was porn. But they knew they were supposed to 'check it out' first.

So you and I both married, I suppose, because of dating first. I would argue that was unScriptural. However at least in my case I followed my Christian parents advice and counsel.

So, should Christians date or court? They shouldn't. Should they check out what Scripture says about these issues? They should.

However a baby Christian, or one who has not yet even thought about studying these issues... say one where God is in the process of rescuing them from porn or alchoholism, might not be sinning by dating or courting.

Does that makes sense?

Stan said...

The problem, for me, is that I don't see any indication in Scripture that this process is commanded. Wise? I've already given reasons for that. The only biblical example? Sure. But we can't operate on "the only biblical example" as a command, or we'd necessarily eliminate automobiles, airplanes, or any other modern option that was never illustrated in Scripture. If you argue that courtship is "unbiblical" because it isn't in the Bible, then you will also argue that our modes of transportation can only be those that are in the Bible, too, right? So I am hesitant to call it "sin" without a reason to see it as commanded.

Of course, for the most part it's moot. If a Christian says, "I will only marry who my parents say to marry" and their parents don't do it, what happens? Since most parents don't see this and most kids don't see this it's a long way from where we are today to "anything but betrothal is sin".

Joshua Ohlman said...

Sure. But we can't operate on "the only biblical example" as a command, or we'd necessarily eliminate automobiles, airplanes, or any other modern option that was never illustrated in Scripture. If you argue that courtship is "unbiblical" because it isn't in the Bible, then you will also argue that our modes of transportation can only be those that are in the Bible, too, right?

No, we operate on the best application of scriptural principles.

I believe that scripture is sufficient for everything we do, but that doesn't, obviously, mean it's an exhaustive reference. Instead, scripture teaches us principles, through precepts and patters, which we then apply to our situation. This is what we have tried to do with Betrothal.

We looked for general principles first, if this was all we had found, we would have applied the general principles to marriage, and to our particular circumstances, and we would have made our best guess at what the marriage process should look like. But we didn't just find general principles, we also found specific examples, the example of Christ and the Church, and examples of earthly marriages in scripture, then we combined the general principles, and the specific examples, and we made our best guess at what the marriage process should look like; betrothal.

So, now that we have our best guess at the best process for getting married, it would be a sin for us to do it any other way, unless there are some other circumstances. In the same way, if we had deliberately not looked for the scriptural process, we would be sinning.

But here is where I think you misunderstood us, we aren't saying that you have to only do things which have an example in scripture. We're saying you have to do what you know to be the best course of action based on scripture. For example, in the case of marriage, we know that the exact way we choose to get married is a reflection on Christ and the Church, that the process we choose needs to properly reflect Christ and the Church, but in the area of transportation we need to honor God not with the specific mode of transportation, but with how we choose our mode of transportation, with what we see as important in the area of transportation, etc. But not with the specific mode of transportation.

One of the key differences between an issue like marriage, and one like transportation is that scripture makes it clear that marriage is an area where the exact process matters, matters a lot. Wheras, in the area of transportation, it is not the exact process, so much as the surounding actions which matter, a particular form of transportation is not wrong in and of it'self, it is wrong if it takes you to the wrong place, or at the wrong time, wrong speed, wrong way, etc. Whereas, in marriage, it matters very much exacly what kind of process we use, for getting to marriage, and for everything else relating to marriage.

Also, note that I'm not calling betrothal a command, so much as the only (and best) option that I see aligns with scripture.

Stan said...

And note, if you will, that I gave a more recent post on behalf of betrothal over other systems.