Recent reading reminds me how thoroughly our world is committed to Darwinism. We see its effects in theories on a wide variety of subjects in the human experience. One such is the subject of marriage. I suppose we should not be surprised, but most of my reading focuses on Christian themes and literature, so it is jarring when encountered. I also suppose that my limited reading on the notion of evolutionary development of marriage only represents a handful of the theories propounded. Nevertheless, the fact that these teachings exist and (apparently) have a wide hold in popular belief serves to explain to some degree the massive confusion in morals and marriage these days.
To give a very rough summary of my reading, theories of the evolution of marriage seem to rest on the following observations:
- The relations of male and female animals, especially chimpanzees and the like
- The sociology of primitive tribes observed around the world in the last 150 years or so
- The history of marital practices in various civilizations, going back to the little we can glean from pre-historic shards to the annals of ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome, and then going forward through medieval and modern times.
The theory begins roughly this way: as primate slowly became humanoid then human, mating relations developed from the animal “anyone will do” to the more human (I suppose) “Me need woman to keep house.” From there, various societies develop various theories of marriage that include polygamy in the Strong Man/Tribal Era to the incestuous sister-marriage customs of ancient Egypt, and on into various developments in Greek and Rome. It is generally acknowledged that monogamy seems to be the best model for successful civilizations (not to mention for child development), so monogamy won the day in human evolutionary progress. Monogamy finds support from religion, but to some extent, this is not “natural” as we all “know” that religion is merely the expression of repressive tightwads.
Now my description above is a fairly loose summary of things I’ve been reading. Perhaps no one would express the theory exactly that way, but this is what I’ve understood from what I’ve read.
In any case, given the widespread belief in evolution and its progress in the world, recent redefinitions of marriage ought not to surprise, nor should widespread acceptance of the same be all that surprising. In an agricultural era, humans needed strong nuclear families just to survive; in our era, we can prosper very well on our own, thank you very much. We don’t need large families (cheap farm labour), we don’t need families at all, according to some. We need our “felt-needs” met, and any way we can find “consenting” compatriots to meet those needs is totally legitimate. So we get serial polygamy (the repeating divorce-remarriage cycle), we get no marriage at all, just animalistic coupling (we used to call this “shacking up”), and we get the so-called “gay marriage,” which of course is no marriage at all. All of this is perfectly natural if you accept the notion that life develops on an evolutionary continuum, so we are “past” those old notions that restrain us, and on to the new improved humanity of the 21st century.
For the Bible-believing Christian, this whole notion runs completely contrary to our worldview. Our worldview comes from God’s word. We start with monogamous marriage between two very human people, Adam and Eve. This marriage is God’s idea, and God set its bounds in the very beginning:
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. 25 And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.
Our Lord Jesus quotes this passage in teaching on divorce (Mk 10.5-9). By this, he gives the increased weight of specific divine sanction to Moses’ words. God’s idea of marriage finds its root in his creation, it is binding on all humanity, and anything contrary is a deviation from God’s plan.
Instead of evolution, the various abuses of marriage (i.e. monogamy) since creation are evidences of devolution and the marring of the image of God in consequence of the Fall. The supposed “advances” in marriage our culture revels in are in fact regressions that can only damage the participants spiritually, emotionally, and perhaps even physically. There will be an accounting for this behaviour one day, the Bible constantly assures us this is so.
What then should we do about it? Well, as Christians, first of all, we should “rejoice in the wife of our youth,” making every effort to build our homes and marriages in spite of our many faults. None of us are as good of husbands or wives as we ought to be. Beyond our own homes, we should labour with our struggling brothers and sisters (and our own young people) to help them see the sweet solace in following God’s will for their lives and marriages as outlined in the Bible. We should labour for the betterment of homes. We should encourage the faithfulness (and fruitfulness in God’s blessing) of Christian marriages. And beyond our churches and immediate circles of influence, we should support civic action (legislation, court proceedings, civil activism) that supports marriage. We should avoid speaking of “traditional marriage,” I think, although the term has common usage. We should instead simply support marriage; everything else is deviancy. There is no such thing as “gay marriage,” for example. It is a devolution from God’s norm, a corruption, not in any way an improvement.
We live in perilous days, but our God is on the throne. Let’s simply live our lives in faithful service to his ideals and see what we can do to make this world a better place. Until He comes!
Don Johnson is the pastor of Grace Baptist Church of Victoria, Victoria, BC, Canada.