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Author Topic: The view of marriage in different Christian churches  (Read 15377 times) Average Rating: 0
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The Iambic Pen
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« on: December 25, 2007, 01:56:03 PM »

I have been thinking for a few days about the view of marriage in different Christian bodies.  In my search for the Church, I have found myself troubled by both the Catholic and Orthodox views, and find myself again attracted to my old Evangelical Protestant thoughts on the matter.

I admire the Catholic view that marriage is for life, and that a civil divorce has no power to end a marriage.  However, I am very wary of the annulment process, which seems to be able to declare just about any marriage as never having existed.  This means that, while marriage is a wonderful, blessed thing, almost no one actually experiences it.

I think the Orthodox allowance of divorce is a more honest approach, though I have a much greater admiration for the Catholic ideal.  I am very troubled by the view I heard expressed on this forum, however, that marriage is eternal.  This seems to contradict Christ's words to the Sadducees, and I find it to be a very odd belief in a Church that allows for more than one marriage.  Is only the first marriage eternal, with any subsequent marriages being nothing more than a Church-approved "shacking up?"

In my studies of the Church, I have seen that Catholics and Orthodox alike, dating back to the days of the united Church, are extremely uncomfortable with the idea of sexual intercourse in marriage.  Perhaps this is more the case in the west, but sexual intercourse seems to be portrayed as something dirty and possibly sinful, redeemed only by its role in procreation.  This attitude shows itself in the apparently common view that Adam and Eve did not have intercourse until after the Fall (and how would we have any way of knowing this?), along with the insistence that Mary and Joseph could not have possibly slept together as husband and wife.  The latter view has more support, of course, as this seems to be the consistent teaching of the early Church.  However, the insistence upon it, as if it must be so, is something I find odd.

And, if one wants to get Catholics and Orthodox alike riled up, one simply needs to make the suggestion that maybe, possibly, sexual intercourse exists in some form in Heaven.  Personally, I'm not arguing for this, as I have no idea what Heaven is like.  Of course, neither does anyone else on Earth.  The point is that I have seen Catholics and Orthodox act quite horrified by the suggestion.

As an Evangelical Protestant, I believed that when people married and said "till death do us part," then they should stick to that.  When people divorced, it was a very sad thing, though sometimes necessary (particularly in the case of abuse, for example).  After healing and repentance of the sins that led to the breakup of the marriage, if people desired to marry again, then they should be free to do so.  Why should they spend the rest of their lives alone, after all?  And, when it came to sexual intercourse, within marriage it was a complete good.  There was nothing whatsoever wrong with it, and a husband and wife need feel no shame.

My current view is basically the same as when I was fully Protestant.  The only difference is that, having studied Catholic teaching on the matter, I see the importance of being open to life, and I am very uncomfortable with the use of contraception (though I am not yet prepared to label it a sin).  Other than that, I affirm that marriage should be for life, that sexual intercourse within marriage is praiseworthy, that children are a blessing, and that marriage does end with death.  The last part is important, because it means that in Heaven, we will be able to fully love everyone, without having to hold back and focus on just one person.

I believe that God is more concerned with how we live than with what doctrines we hold to be true.  This is why the one true Church's view of marriage is far more important to me than its thoughts on the filioque, papal infallibility, or exactly how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.  Any thoughts?  I'm sure I'm misrepresenting both Catholic and Orthodox teaching on this, so I welcome correction.  Truth is my goal here.

God bless!
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ytterbiumanalyst
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« Reply #1 on: December 25, 2007, 02:10:33 PM »

First of all, this issue has been debated many times here. Click on some of those tags below and you may find a thread that has some answers to your several questions. Here I'll try to answer just a couple.
And, if one wants to get Catholics and Orthodox alike riled up, one simply needs to make the suggestion that maybe, possibly, sexual intercourse exists in some form in Heaven.  Personally, I'm not arguing for this, as I have no idea what Heaven is like.  Of course, neither does anyone else on Earth.  The point is that I have seen Catholics and Orthodox act quite horrified by the suggestion.
I am quite horrified by the suggestion.  Wink Grin

Quote
As an Evangelical Protestant, I believed that when people married and said "till death do us part," then they should stick to that.  When people divorced, it was a very sad thing, though sometimes necessary (particularly in the case of abuse, for example).
Isn't setting up an end date for the marriage (in the wedding ceremony, no less) the first step toward divorce? I'm not saying that all parties who say this vow are intending to divorce, but the mere assertion that a marriage can (and indeed, should) end, and especially the vowing to make it so, may subconsciously infuse the marriage with the idea that it might not be so bad to end it a few years ahead of time.

Contrast this with the Orthodox wedding ceremony, which contains no vows of any kind, much less vows to end a marriage. We simply appeal to God to ordain the marriage. When there will be no end to marriage, ending it at all for any reason is a solemn event indeed, and not to be taken lightly.
« Last Edit: December 25, 2007, 02:11:28 PM by ytterbiumanalyst » Logged

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The Iambic Pen
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« Reply #2 on: December 25, 2007, 02:30:03 PM »

I am quite horrified by the suggestion.  Wink Grin
Grin

Quote
Isn't setting up an end date for the marriage (in the wedding ceremony, no less) the first step toward divorce? I'm not saying that all parties who say this vow are intending to divorce, but the mere assertion that a marriage can (and indeed, should) end, and especially the vowing to make it so, may subconsciously infuse the marriage with the idea that it might not be so bad to end it a few years ahead of time.
That makes sense, though I think perhaps the "till death do us part" bit would make at least some people less likely to divorce.

At any rate, I'll do some browsing around the site... Smiley
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Nyssa The Hobbit
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« Reply #3 on: December 26, 2007, 08:16:44 PM »

Iambic, I know EXACTLY what you mean because I struggle with these very things.  My view of marriage has always been much like yours, because that's how I was raised.
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« Reply #4 on: December 27, 2007, 12:39:28 PM »

Something to remember:

A lot of writing on marriage was done by monks, which does have a slant to it.  However, if you read the early monastics, they mostly talk about gluttony.

If you look at Greco-Roman society's attitude to sex (and our modern society is making that easier to see), you put these comments in context.  For instance, it was ILLEGAL not to marry and produce children, with severe penalties.  Throw in some temple prostitution, fertility cults, etc. and you get the idea how the Fathers, devoid of this context, might seem odd now.

The Church's imagiry is nuptial.  Christ comes from forth from the tomb like a Bride groom from the Bridal Chamber. And what happens in the Bridal Chamber. Shocked

The Fathers use the same term ("yoked") for the link between the married couple as for the link between the Persons of the Trinity.
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« Reply #5 on: December 28, 2007, 06:07:11 AM »

There is a very good book from SVS.  I can't remember what the book is called, but it explains the differences in the view of marriage between the east and the west.
One thing that I really like about the Eastern view is the man and woman enter into the church together, as equals. 
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The Iambic Pen
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« Reply #6 on: December 29, 2007, 02:49:23 PM »

I thank everyone for the comments.  I have done some browsing through a few threads on marriage and sexuality, and I am a bit disturbed by what I have read.  There seems to be strong elements of gnosticism in Orthodox thought about marriage, as if the physical was somehow evil.  Many posters spoke of detaching ourselves from all that is physical, in order that we may be more prepared for the spiritual life in Heaven.  To this I ask, what about the resurrection of the body?  What about, "God saw all that He had made, and it was very good?"  I am again reminded of why many Evangelicals are reluctant to put too much stock in the speculations of the early Church fathers.  Are celibate men, writing during times of persecution--when having a stable, normal family life was very difficult for any Christian--really the most qualified people when it comes to speaking about sex and marriage?

I see the value in a celibate life, as one is able to more fully focus on God.  Paul speaks of this, and I fully agree with what he says.  However, for most people, getting married, having children, raising crops, building houses, etc. are important parts of their lives.  We can't all sit out in the desert and practice asceticism to the point where it damages our health and leads us to an early grave.  We are not to be of the world, but we still must live in it.

Just my thoughts...

God bless!
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ialmisry
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« Reply #7 on: January 10, 2008, 05:49:27 PM »

I've noticed that on another forum police where anullments are towted, that a great deal of emphasis put on that after the divorced spouse dies one is completely free to marry.  This fits into the anullment scheme, but doesn't say a thing about how the Fathers view remarrage after death: digamy.
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A hasty quarrel kindles fire,
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The Iambic Pen
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« Reply #8 on: January 10, 2008, 07:09:44 PM »

So, is it fair to say, then, that the Catholic Church and Orthodox Church are both wrong?  They both allow remarriage after the death of a spouse, the Catholics without difficulty and the Orthodox begrudgingly.  At least that's my interpretation of what I have observed.
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ialmisry
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« Reply #9 on: January 10, 2008, 08:13:34 PM »

So, is it fair to say, then, that the Catholic Church and Orthodox Church are both wrong?  They both allow remarriage after the death of a spouse, the Catholics without difficulty and the Orthodox begrudgingly.  At least that's my interpretation of what I have observed.

No, it is a concession which has Apostolic sanction.  The problem with the legalism in Latin Rome is that the marriage with the deceased might as well not have existed, a sort of anullment by death.

I don't have time to look up the Latin canons: does the process go on if one party dies.  I mean, why not (divorce in the state still goes on), and the death shouldn't affect whether the marriage was valid or invalid.
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Question a friend, perhaps he did not do it; but if he did anything so that he may do it no more.
A hasty quarrel kindles fire,
and urgent strife sheds blood.
If you blow on a spark, it will glow;
if you spit on it, it will be put out;
                           and both come out of your mouth
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