Mixed Marriages argued from 1 Cor. 7

Discussion in 'The Law of God' started by Afterthought, Mar 5, 2019.

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  1. Afterthought

    Afterthought Puritan Board Junior

    I'm working through finding the flaws in some arguments in favor of Christians marrying unbelievers, and I have run out of time to keep studying it on my own. Apparently, papists allow special "dispensations" for it, and having heard about that, out of curiosity, I looked around, and it appears some Christians will argue in favor of mixed marriages from 1 Cor. 7. Obviously, there is a "biblical theology" that uniformly and strongly condemns the practice, but focusing on 1 Cor. 7....

    1) Does "marry in the Lord" in 7:39 mean marrying a believer (as it seems most understand it, including the WCF, it would seem), or does it merely refer to marrying according to the Lord's will? (Clearly, if it did mean the latter, it doesn't help those who wish to justify mixed marriages too much.) Are there good reasons for holding to the former, majority view over the latter?

    2) It is argued that since mixed marriages are holy, even holy enough so that the believer is not to divorce the unbelieving spouse (a change from Ezra 10), so it must be justifiable to enter into such a marriage bond; hence, mixed marriages are permissible and either an exception to being "unequally yoked" or not in view by Paul when speaking of being "unequally yoked." What are some good examples of marriages (or other commitments/states) being entered into sinfully that must be honored? Off the cuff, **maybe** polygamy could work as an example. Any others? (I ask this last question because 1 Cor. 7 addresses the married and gives a condition of divorce; so any use of the passage to justify mixed marriages must be an inference; showing the inference does not follow defeats the use of the passage in favor of mixed marriages.)

    As a bonus:

    3) Suppose one argued that Ezra 10 **does** still apply: that is, it is lawful and necessary for a Christian to divorce an unbelieving spouse that they married while a believer. In other words, this proponent of divorcing idolaters would say that 1 Cor. 7 addresses the case of those who had been married while unbelievers and then one of the parties converted; it does not address the case of a person who is already a believer who married an unbeliever, so Ezra 10 applies to that case. Reponses? My own thoughts would be: if the mixed marriage is sanctified by the believer (a general statement), then it would also apply to the case of a believer having sinned by marrying an unbeliever; so Paul's instructions in 1 Cor. 7 to not divorce apply in this case also.
  2. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    The I Cor. passage means that even if you marry an infidel, your child is not illegimitate. It is not an endorsement, however, of marrying an unbeliever. If the unbelieving spouse abandons you, then you are free.

    In Ezra 10 the Jewish men and leaders were not just told to divorce and put away their pagan wives, they also their children born from these pagans, and to abstain from all the people in the land (Ezra 9:1-2; 10:3, 11). It seemed to be a time-specific pagan purge and not for all believers today.
  3. DTK

    DTK Puritan Board Junior

    They permit allowances for most every imperative of Holy Scripture. I'm interacting with some at the present with respect to 1 Timothy 3:6, where the Apostle prohibits a novice from the office of bishop. But in the world of Roman apologetics there's not a single precept of Holy Scripture, or even an unwritten dogmatic pronouncement, that isn't subject to the death of a thousand qualifications, because every obvious objection to the practice of Romanism remains, no matter how much it appears to the contrary, compatible with that system.

    It's a Walter Mitty world in the arena of Roman apologetics! Shades of Bellarmine & Loyola! Wonder of wonders, vices can be good and black can be white!
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  4. TheOldCourse

    TheOldCourse Puritan Board Sophomore

    My pastor just preached a sermon on this text this past Lord's Day. You mention Biblical theology and I think that it is important here. 1 Cor 7 has a background of the whole history of God's covenant people and, as my pastor argued, other than Adam's first sin, there is no other sin that has done more harm to God's people from Genesis onward as spiritually mixed marriages. The line of Seth was almost extinguished by it, leaving only one faithful man on the face of the earth. When Balaam couldn't curse Israel, the Midianites effectively conquered the people of the Lord through their unbelieving women. Arguably the lowest spiritual point in the covenant people's history, the time of the Judges, was according to the text brought about by their intermarriage with the idolatrous people of the land. Unbelieving women turned the wisest man who ever lived and the one who built the temple of the Lord against his God. Are we holier or wiser than Solomon that we can save ourselves from this end? Mixed marriages brought Israel and Judah into idolatry almost over and over again until the land vomited them up. The Jews returning to this heinous sin after returning from the exile drove Ezra and Nehemiah to despair. The number of times it has nearly ruined the people of God are almost too numerous to count in the Old Testament.

    The Corinthians passage isn't an off-hand piece of good advice, it is an absolutely necessary prerequisite for the maintenance of a faithful church. If an unbelieving girl/boyfriend is already tempting one to violate this commandment that the Lord takes so seriously that it is repeated so many times throughout redemptive history, why should we expect it to stop there? It's horrifying how lightly we often take this error.
  5. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritanboard Commissioner

    I am astonished that anyone would consider arguing that marrying an unbeliever was anything other than sin. I can understand people being tempted to the sin, but not pretending that it is not a sin.
  6. Edward

    Edward Puritanboard Commissioner

    Where is there room for ambiguity?

    2 Cor. 2:14 "Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?"

    Mal. 2:11-12 "For Judah has profaned the sanctuary of the LORD, which he loves, and has married the daughter of a foreign god. May the LORD cut off from the tents of Jacob any descendant of the man who does this, who brings an offering to the LORD of hosts!"
  7. Afterthought

    Afterthought Puritan Board Junior

    Good point.

    It is astounding to me to hear that even in obvious things from God's word that they will find "exceptions." Simply amazing!

    So basically, instead of attacking the "necessity" of the inference, one can attack its "goodness." Also, of course, using the background material for interpreting the passage. Good point.

    It really is. Some papists will say that although it is not a sin, it is foolish. I also found a website of a large non-denom that argues it is not a sin (although I don't recall if they condemned it as foolish).

    I believe they would answer as follows.

    1) The marriage in 1 Cor. 7 is said to be holy, so this passage cannot apply to marriages (instead it applies to other relationships).
    2) If the marriage made one unequally yoked, then it would be sinful to be in such a marriage: the only way to repent is to divorce, but that is not what 1 Cor. 7 says.
    3) The same argument as 2), except it might be stated that "unequally yoked" is something that applies in the present tense (two people in a mixed marriage not only became unequally yoked but are unequally yoked), so the mixed marriage would inherently be sinful, requiring divorce, etc.

    This is also a good point, although as a Presbyterian I would quibble about "illegitimate." Strictly speaking, the unbelieving spouse is said to be sanctified by/put to a holy use by the believer (or the believer's holiness covers the unbelieving spouse such that their impurity does not defile the believer or the children) such that the children are holy: the mixed marriage itself is not said to be holy, neither is an endorsement of deliberately generating the situation to be found in the passage. So the inference fails.
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2019
  8. Afterthought

    Afterthought Puritan Board Junior

    I think polygamy definitely works as an example here, although it may require some effort to show it was always sinful (depending on the Scriptural knowledge of the proponent of mixed marriage, which, given their position, might not be much), so it might not be as useful/forceful an example in dealing with people. Once shown it has always been sinful though, it is obvious that the marriages were viewed as legitimate and tolerated by God. It was wrong to contract the marriages, but once contracted, it was seen best to tolerate them (especially considering the issues with divorcing all the extra wives). So it would seem that in OT polygamy--as with certain other non-ideal circumstances Christians may find themselves in (1 Cor. 7)--the believer is called to peace.

    To answer this...

    It should be noted from the description Paul gives in 2 Cor. 6 that those in a mixed marriage are in fact unequally yoked. This being the case,
    2-3) If being unequally yoked in the present tense was inherently sinful in a marriage, requiring divorce, then Paul's counsel in the case of an unbeliever that was converted while married to another unbeliever should have been to divorce the unbeliever ("do not be unequally yoked"). But Paul says to not do so. So it must not be inherently sinful to be unequally yoked in the present tense, which means repentence (in the case of a believer marrying an unbeliever) is a) not of presently being unequally yoked but instead of having become unequally yoked and b) even if being unequally yoked in the present tense was sinful (which is mind-boggling), then repentance cannot take the form of divorcing, else Paul would have counseled divorce in the case dealt with in 1 Cor 7.

    1) The marriage bed is said to be holy. As already noted in a previous post, the children are said to be holy. The unbeliever is said to be sanctified by the believer. However, nowhere is an endorsement made of the situation. Also, if being unequally yoked in the present tense was not inherently sinful (as I noted above), then of course the marriage would be viewed as legitimate, although given 2 Cor. 6 (and even contextual clues in 1 Cor. 7; why would this even be a question if everything was okay in such a marriage? why is no charge made to reconcile husband and wife when the unbeliever abandons the marriage, unlike with the believing ones?), it is not endorsed as a condition that a believer should seek. So 1 Cor. 7 does not prove to be an exception to 2 Cor. 6 and Malachi 2, etc.

    Edit: Another example, a rash vow. If the matter of the vow is lawful, it must be honored, even to the swearer's hurt (Psalm 15). This is another example of something sinfully entered into that nevertheless is sinless in and of itself. Indeed, what if the rash vow involved an unequal yoking with unbelievers in some business venture? Certainly, repentance would involve being free of the yoke when possible, but it may involve certain commitments that must be honored.

    Edit 2: Another example. Fatherhood is a good condition in and of itself. It is possible through fornication or adultery to sinfully enter that state. However, that state still carries with it certain obligations: repentence does not involve throwing off those obligations in order to entirely relationally (although not biologically) leave that estate.
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2019
  9. Edward

    Edward Puritanboard Commissioner

    Creative mental gymnastics there by libertines seeking to justify sin.

    Let's see what they can do with Deuteronomy 22:9-11 and Leviticus 19:19.
  10. Jo_Was

    Jo_Was Puritan Board Freshman

    It seems prudent also to consider the context in which Paul was speaking, where much of the church was comprised of first-generation believers, many of which likely converted to Christianity post-marriage and children! He seems to be speaking to a growing church where there is starting to be a transition. It's one thing to already be in a mixed marriage and come to Christ and having to still deal with the ramifications of that sin (you can't just absolve yourself of the legal/social responsibilities of spouse or parent just because the circumstances to becoming such were in sin/pre-regenerate) and so that's what he seems to be talking about when making one's spouse holy through one's own faith, etc. The practical advice for many spouses it seems was to be in prayer and to witness to their unbelieving spouse, though for some it meant they were put away and made free to remarry by their unbelieving spouse leaving them. But he still speaks to those who are seeking marriage and are Christian to seek holy marriages with another Christian. He's not making mixed marriages the ideal, but seems to be providing pastoral care to those who are in those situations of having an unbelieving spouse and how to deal with it in the church.

    I think that's helpful to think of in the present time, when these situations can be "mucky" for lack of a better term. For instance, it's not always as simple as two being intentionally unyoked, but perhaps there was a pretense of faith by the parties, but is later revealed to not be a "persevering faith" by one or both of the parties. I think that's an easy trap that happens in the Bible-belt, Christian-America sort of culture we can have sometimes in our conservative Christian circles--and I think many young people are susceptible to coming into marriage without truly examining their own faith and the faith of their prospective spouse, and may ride into marriage on cultural assumptions. I had a young friend recently confide in me her relationship struggles with a man seeking her hand who seemed on paper and socially to be "an equal yoke" to her. She confided with me reservations, and it seemed to shed light on how they really were not on the same page and this young man does not seem to be in a proper place to match her, much less lead her, in spiritual things. But I don't know how many "young Christian seeking young Christian" situations have these conversations before marriage is already on the table, or passed.

    I think this difficulty is expounded in modern Evangelicalism when there is much lack of church discipline and oversight, and where it is something we take for granted that many do associate themselves with a church, but that might not really mean much in the in-and-out culture we have of church. It takes a lot more discernment for a young person to find a mate in this context of cultural Christianity. And in the face if increased secularism, it might even be more tempting to latch onto the first seeming-Christian that comes along without recognizing the cultural baggage we have to sometimes sort through.

    I say all that also glad for our blessings that there are many faithful men and women of the faith. Certainly in Paul's time, and in some areas of the world today, the "pickings are slim" unfortunately for those who are seeking marriage. In the book Jesus in Beijing (published early 2000s), I think it quotes something like 80% of the Chinese church is women. Included there were several testimonies of women prayerfully asking God for a godly spouse, and how hard that has been for many of them. Perhaps our brothers and sisters in these contexts that more resemble the early church growth might resonate with Paul's admonitions.
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