Saturday, February 04, 2006

C. S. Lewis on Christian Marriage

Lewis on Christian Marriage
Says he doesn’t want to deal with marriage
1) Christian doctrines are very unpopular
2) He’s not married,(at the time) so he can only speak secondhand.

Man and wife are a single organism, one flesh
Christians say that Christ was not speaking a sentiment but rather was stating a fact
Lock and key, violin and bow

Monstrosity of intercourse outside of marriage is that one is trying to have one kind of union, the physical, while isolating it from all the other types of union that go along with it. It is like chewing food and spitting it out. (Keith Parsons, in “Why I am not a Christian,” complains that this example is refuted by chewing gum).

Some Christian denominations do not permit divorce at all
Others permit it reluctantly in special cases
Those that permit it regard divorce as cutting up a living body; like an amputation
(Lewis’s eventual marriage to Joy Davidman was to someone who had been divorced, but this is over a decade in the future).
Modern view: it’s just a readjustment of partners
You should be able to get divorced when you are no longer in love
Faithfulness in marriage is not just a matter of chastity it is a matter of justice
Justice is the keeping of promises
Everyone who marries in a church has made a solemn promise to stick to it until death
If the sexual impulse is like our other impulses, then of course we should allow that impulse to be constrained by the duty to keep promises
If it s morbidly inflamed, as Lewis believes, then we should be especially careful not to allow it to lead us into dishonesty
Some people make the promise in church without intending to keep it? Who are these people trying to fool? God? Themselves? Probably the public. People want the respectability that goes with marriage without intending to pay the price.
Who would urge the hard duty of chastity on those who are unwilling simply to be honest?
If people really don’t believe in marriage they should just live together. Then they will be fornicating, but at least they won’t be making their fornication worse by making promises they have no intention of keeping.
Is “being in love” the only reason for marriage? People in love tend to make promises.
No one can promise to go on feeling the way that they did when they first fell in love.
But why should people stay together who are no longer in love?
Being in love is a good thing, but you can’t make it the basis of your whole life.
Principles last, habits last, feeling come and go.
“A quieter kind of love takes over, not the intense feeling you might have had at the beginning, but a firm resolve to stand by a partner even in the face of conflict between the two, remains. It is a deep unity, maintained by will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by (in Christian marriages) the grace which both parents ask and receive, from God.”
People who don’t realize this keep seeking after that feeling of “being in love” with new people.
Let the thrill go, seek the quieter kind of love, and the thrills will come along to go with it. Keep seeking thrills, and you will get bored and disillusioned.
Are passions for people irresistible? People break their marriages because they think that their love for someone else is inevitable and irresistible.
We do have a choice as to whether the new attraction turns into “being in love.”

To what extent should Christians, if they are voters, should try to make the Christian concept of marriage normative.
Christians should frankly recognize that most British people are not Christians. There should be two kinds of marriage, one conceived by the Church the other by the State. The distinction should be sharp, so that a man knows which couples are married in a Christian sense and which are not.

(Arizona, I believe, has covenant marriages which are harder to get our of than ordinary marriages. Though why do you need the state to create that kind of marriage. Lewis is suggesting that it’s a Church thing).

Would Lewis oppose civil gay marriage? The state already sanctions marriages which are by all Christian accounts blatantly adulterous. (No-fault divorce) Can anyone give me a good reason to believe that the state should refrain from holding couples to Christian standards in cases of heterosexual adultery, but insist on Christian standards when it comes to homosexual relationships? If you say that the State should be the guardian of marriage, shouldn’t you insist on strict divorce laws as well as prohibiting gay marriage?

Lewis defends the idea that men should be the head of the household. There has to be a head because in cases of unresolvable conflict there has to be a head-someone has to have the last word. (Do there have to be unresolvable conflicts? I’m not convinced).

It has to be the man, because in relations between the man and the outside world, the woman will protect the family, while the man can be counted on to be more fair to the outsiders.


John H. Watson said...

"Can anyone give me a good reason to believe that the state should refrain from holding couples to Christian standards in cases of heterosexual adultery, but insist on Christian standards when it comes to homosexual relationships?"

It's a tricky business to predict what Lewis would have said. I agree the state should have stricter divorce standards if it is in the marriage business.

But the best answer to your question, and I think it's an answer Lewis would have sympathy with, is that one need not apply "Christian standards" to withhold state recognition to homosexual relationships. We can believe that homosexual relationships are not morally ideal and deserving of state sanction through means other than Christian revelation. Both the Dalai Lama and the Cherokee Nation have come out strongly against homosexuality. Neither quotes Romans.

KevinNickoson said...

Lewis makes a point to say, and I'm paraphrasing from memory, that ideally and probably most of the time a married couple wouldn't have unresolvable conflicts. But it surely is possible. Any situation where there are only two choices, and both are dead set on each one. Think of choosing schools for children, if there are only two options. Etc.

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