The orthodox Christian theology of Hadley Robinson

Sacred Marriage

by Gary Thomas

Reviewed by Hadley Robinson

Thomas' most important paradigm shift from the majority view of modern evangelical Protestants is his assertion that marriage should be a discipline that God uses to help us grow up in Christ. For evangelicals, this is a radical departure from the endless "what's in for me?" attitude which characterizes the essence of most of their evangelism, typified by such organizations as Campus Crusade for Christ. For this, Thomas should receive praise and deserves it.

On the other hand, despite his claims of wanting to learn from the teachings and traditions of the Church (which he then ignores), he presents the modern line of American evangelicalism without a toe out of line. He fails to note, for example, that the Early Church was unanimous in teaching that nothing but death dissolves a marriage. The Church Fathers should know as Biblical Greek was their first language. His respect for the Fathers is but hollow praise. His exegesis and use of Scripture is, regrettably, often shallow and insipid.

Rather than carefully start from Genesis 2 with what the man and woman are, the purpose (in particular) for the creation of the woman, the man's and woman's roles in marriage, and the like, he begins with stories mixed with some Bible truth. This diet of anecdotes is popular fare for the American church. As Hebrews exhorts, people want milk, not solid food so that they might grow beyond infancy.  As Scripture says, most want their ears tickled -- it sounds good and, fortunately, action is not required.

Thomas accepts without question the Reformation's novel view that marriage is dissolved by adultery (how is it then sacred and like the bond between Christ and His Church?) But Thomas is a disciple of James Dobson and his quirky mix of the Christian faith and modern humanistic psychology so we should not expect that marriage is permanent or that the woman is the glory of the man and should fully, as a servant, submit to him (1Pet. 3:5-6).

His long quote of John Barger's experiences is the classic modern demonization by humanists with a Christian accent of godly men who know how to lead their women and families with grace, truth, and love. Godly men do not scorn their women nor exploit them – they firmly and lovingly lead them as sheep through a spiritual wilderness. American women – generally – know little of obedience and submission and are largely shunned by pious women everywhere else in the world and from every era because their example is so bad.  Godly cultures resist their rebellion and poison.

On the other hand, Sarah is the model (1Pet 3): She called her husband "lord" – the exact word used by the disciples in their address to the Son of God. Sarah, if she were alive, would have some words for the average church woman here.  Should Christian women call their husbands "lord?"  Certainly.

Submission to authority, to one's husband, and the like are 180 degrees out of whack with the Reformation and the religious humanism and egalitarianism that wormed its way into the doctrines, creeds, and Bible translations of the time. American evangelicals, including Gary Thomas, should note what is the fruit of their syncretistic doctrines by observing what has become of the Church in Europe. Unless there is a major turning around, the glorious temples built by church leaders here, like in Europe, will become mere museums or ruins.  They may be turned into mosques.

Nonetheless, Thomas' point that one cannot expect of one's spouse what he should only expect of God is a good one.  He should follow the paradigm further, starting with such Scripture as 1Pet 2:13ff.  Marriage is not a particular source of discipline in our learning to live holy lives, as taught by Thomas.

Instead, the Bible says that it is the blood Christ that makes us holy – not any person on earth.  That American evangelicals would be surprised that marriage is not endless fun is a pity and Thomas correctly points this out.

But Thomas stops too soon:  Suffering is to what we are called (1Pet 2-4) and it is good for the Christian – what another surprise.  Wives submitting to heathen and harsh husbands and experiencing suffering as a result – yet remaining faithful and chaste – is good in God's sight and is their duty (yet another surprise).  Husbands loving rebellious, disrespectful, and ambitious wives is just the same as Christ's love for the Church (Eph. 5). Sad to say, the American Protestant church does not look at it this way. And the downhill slide continues (Jer. 18:11-12).

Nonetheless, if Thomas' book can result in the married merely beginning to serve each other with the man holding his woman fast in undeviating love and loyalty1, then a read may be worth it.

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1The correct Hebrew meaning of the verb inadequately rendered "cleave" or "be joined" in Gen. 2:24.