Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Gnosticism and courtship


In my book, The Twilight of Liberalism, I observe that

"The Eucharist, and indeed all the sacraments, have become especially troubling among evangelicals for whom the matter/spirit dichotomy is the uber-presupposition. Since modern evangelicals find it offensive that God’s grace would be mediated through physical means or instruments (even as classical Gnosticism found it offensive that God would be incarnated in flesh), so the sacraments are reduced to mere symbols for what goes on inside the individual. As Ollif points out, the “physical manifestations” are simply epiphenomena of a relationship that can be fully defined apart from those physical manifestations. The Protestant tendency to separate spirit from matter means that the Eucharist can become merely an appendix to the Word, a disguised sermon or an approximation for our own spiritual interiority but certainly not a rite that objectively conveys grace."

This Gnostic uneasiness with God working through physical means also manifests itself in popular approaches to marriage within the conservative evangelical community. It is not uncommon to hear statements like, "God will provide a spouse for you," or "you need to trust God to provide the right person at the right time" offered to give peace to a single person, or offered as encouragement to a Dad whose grown daughters are ready to be married but without suitable mates within their particularly demographic community. The Gnosticism creeps in when such statements of assurance are given to justify inaction on the part of the parents or young people who might otherwise be proactively searching for potential partners. It is inbred within evangelicalism that it is more spiritual for the will of God to happen independent of physical means, and that trusting God to do so in the area of marriage is somehow more preferable to less passive measures. To justify such passivity, Jonathan Lindvall appeals to the example of Adam who, when ready for marriage, went to sleep.
What would we say to an unemployed father who, instead of filling out job applications, said, "I'm just trusting and waiting for God to provide the right job at the right time"? We would say, "Get off your backside and DO something about it." Similarly, if there is a deficit of suitable marriage partners within one's social sphere, it is time for the parents (or the young person, depending on the dynamics of the relationship) to become pro-active, exactly as Abraham did when he wanted a wife for Isaac. And in today's world, with things like the internet and the ease of travel, that isn't hard to do.

See also:

Emotional Purity and Broken Heart Syndrome

Betrothal and Emotional Purity: is it Biblical?


The Way of a Man With a Maid

Bill Gothard and ATI

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