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Marriage on the test – A Ethicist tries Theology



The marriage should be put to the test. A self-confessed feminist calls for the abolition of the classic marriage between man and woman. Marriage only promotes discrimination against women. A Protestant ethicist tries to accommodate his worldview and biblical answers on this subject.

An evangelical ethicist explains

The evangelical church is thinking about marriage, which is now under discussion. Should marriage in its official form be abolished or retained? Could there be a satisfactory compromise? The Protestant ethics columnist Alexander Maßmann worked on this question. According to the description, Maßmann received his doctorate from the University of Heidelberg, Germany, in the field of Protestant ethics and dogmatics. He published in the fields of theological ethics, theology and natural sciences.

In a column for the Online-Magazine evangelisch.de the ethicist compared the possible answers for the future of marriage and tried to balance the ethical aspects with the requirements of the gospel. The steep template came from the political scientist and feminist Emilia Roig, who caused a sensation with her new book “Das Ende der Ehe” (“The End of Marriage”). In it, the author calls for the abolition of all duties and privileges that come into play after the marriage certificate has been signed. In her view, the legal form of marriage is a “pillar of patriarchy”.

Wives have to endure many disadvantages

Traditional marriage is anathema to feminists

Maßmann counts among the concrete effects derived from this the income gap, in which married women earn less than men and are therefore more often affected by poverty in old age. In addition, there would be more caring tasks and, in particular, the suffering of violent partners. Marriage is a burden for many women.
But with the “good old family” there is no other way of life that is so closely linked to a Christian life. From a traditional point of view, marriage is also an instrument to avoid poverty in old age as far as possible.

Let’s simply assume here that the ethicist means the wage gap that is open for the same work, the same qualifications and the same employment history and not the “woods and meadows” wage gap that has already been worn out by populists across the undifferentiated overall picture. Reality shows that poverty in old age can hardly be prevented, regardless of whether you are married or single. If it weren’t for “basic security” (German social system for retired people) in old age, children would long since come back into play as providers. This is also visible when it comes to the assumption of care costs. Here, the social welfare office first knocks on the children’s doors.

Prevention of poverty in old age

The ethicist questions whether it would not be better “from an ethical point of view” to no longer uphold legal and cultural rules while maintaining reliability and loyalty, in order to abolish an important factor that “encourages violence and poverty in old age”.

Today, gainful employment is a much clearer option for women than it was 50 years ago, “when their dependency on men was less questioned,” says the ethicist.

At this point one asks oneself in which time and in which society the evangelical ethicist actually lives. A glance at the development of salaries and prices over the past few decades is enough to recognize that a “classic” spouse household can hardly make ends meet if there is only one employed person in the household. The classic family of a working father, the mother who organizes the household and two children, possibly still in a mortgaged home, is simply no longer possible. In any case, the campaigns surrounding feminism are suspected of being a cover for the actual generation of more value-adding and tax-paying individuals.

Flexible marriage in a cemented environment?

“Because the traditional provider marriage enjoys tax breaks, women face a higher barrier, economically and psychologically, to breaking out of such a marital prison. As a society, we give the man too much power over his partner,” says the evangelical ethicist.
Why is marriage actually being questioned and not the state-created environment for marriage? Be it tax models, obligations or privileges. These seem to be cemented in the arguments surrounding marriage. Such regulations are much easier to modify than the marriage that has been practiced for thousands of years.

The Christian Aspect of Marriage

Maßmann also took the Bible to hand in order to derive the basis for a marriage from it. This marriage was traditionally made to avoid poverty in old age. The children are according to the Bible and the Fifth Commandment responsible for the care of the parents. In the creation report in Genesis 1 and 2, God creates human beings “ideally as male and female”, according to the ethicist. Marriage is not expressly mentioned in the creation account, since there is no “Bible-Hebrew” word for marriage anyway, but it seems self-evident that man and woman enter into a permanent bond. Maßmann quotes Genesis 2:24 that the man is to leave his parents and join the woman’s household. The husband should therefore move in with the in-laws.

Here the evangelical ethicist is somewhat wrong. So says Genesis 2:24:
“Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.”
It is clear that the husband will leave home to cling to his wife. Where does it say anything about the household including in-laws? In addition unequivocally and also emphasized in the Bible, they will be ONE flesh. This statement is far more than just an assumption of a permanent bond!

“Hebrew Bible” an obsolete reading?

Marriage also has an important spiritual aspect in the gospel

The ethicist continues: “In contrast, the Hebrew Bible assumes elsewhere that a wealthy man can also have several wives, but not vice versa. Marriage with children also speaks for the fact that one needs the work capacity of the children. Child mortality is high, however, and so marriage and family are given special legal protection.”

An emphasis is obviously placed on “Hebrew Bible” as if there were other variants. Or is Maßmann implying that the Old Testament is merely a historical reference work for occasional stimulus by cherry-picking certain verses and is irrelevant to Christianity today?
There are many more “elsewhere” in the “Hebrew Bible” that show that the polygamy of rich men ended at the latest with the 10 stone tablets on Mount Sinai for the people of Israel. Indicated by the Seventh Commandment (Thou shalt not commit adultery!).

Gospel only partially taken into account

A really positive aspect of this column is the gender limitation to male and female. But it is clear that Alexander Maßmann is far more an ethicist than a theologian. The predicate “Protestant” is only cosmetic. Marriage has a much deeper meaning than the carnal relationship between man and woman. Here the evangelical church has to take a hard look at itself.

Totally ignored the spiritual aspect of marriage

Just as Jesus Christ meant a spiritual temple with the new construction of His temple in just 3 days, in which He Himself is the cornerstone and the people of God are the building blocks, marriage also has such a spiritual background.

Jesus Christ also refers to His people as His bride and He is the bridegroom. Such statements can already be read in the “Hebrew” Bible, for example in Isaiah 62:5:

“For as a young man marrieth a virgin, so shall thy sons marry thee: and as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee.”

According to Matthew 25, Jesus Christ told a parable in which 10 virgins were waiting for the bridegroom. The bridegroom is Jesus Christ himself and the virgins are the people of God. Some of it has enough oil (Holy Spirit, firm faith) and some doesn’t.
With this, Jesus Christ announced the situation after His return, made clear in Revelation 21:9:

“Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife.”

Paul clarified the spiritual background of marriage between a man and a woman in Ephesians 5:31-32:

"For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.
This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.

EV churches should exercise their position

Loyalty to God, or "cheating" with other gods or idols. In the spiritual sense adultery and also fornication. It is precisely at this point that the evangelical church should take a step back in order to recognize the where it actually is.

Neutrality? None!

In response to this column, the online magazine immediately felt compelled to start a reader survey on the subject of maintaining or abolishing marriage. The choices were as follows:

  • Yes - that would finally mean real gender equality.
  • Compromise - individual rules need to be reformed; the institution of marriage itself remains.
  • No - without spouse splitting or a widow's pension, many women would be in a much worse position.

The question here is a self-disqualification. The intention to determine the survey result from a neutral position is absolutely not recognizable here.

Bible verses from King James Version

Marriage on the test – A Ethicist tries Theology
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