Thursday, January 06, 2011

Till death do us part?

I've been corresponding with a friend about the question of postmortem marriage. I'm posting my side of the correspondence.

I've blogged on topic on at least two other occasions. My correspondence takes for granted that prior analysis:






1. The traditional interpretation may be correct. However, it’s striking how an entire, unquestioned edifice has been erected over a single, brief, somewhat enigmatic statement. It’s usually considered shaky theological method to have only one prooftext for your position, especially a major position.

2. Moreover, as is often the case in the gospels, we’re probably getting a condensed version of what was said, rather than a full transcript.

3. One of the basic interpretive questions involving Mt 22:30 (and synoptic parallels) is the nature of the comparison with angels. What particular aspect of angelic nature is analogous?

i) In principle, it could be incorporeity. Indeed, considered by itself, that would be quite logical. There is no sex in the afterlife because the saints are sexless (like angels), and the saints are sexless because they are discarnate spirits (like angels). Asexual in practice because asexual in constitution.

So that would be a very logical way to ground the notion that there is no sex in the afterlife.

But while this is, in some ways, the most straightforward explanation, it’s generally rejected since the synoptic discussion centered on the resurrection of the just. That would be a reembodied state.

ii) Of course, one reason Jesus uses the angelic comparison is to take a swipe at Sadducean disbelief in angels. It’s a comparison by way of contrast–in contrast to the Sadducean belief.

iii) Most likely, the intended analogy is immortality–the saints and angels are both immortal.

And that would eliminate the need of remarriage to replace a dead spouse–a la levirate marriage.

Likewise, although this goes beyond the immediate scope of the synoptic discussion, it would also eliminate the need of marriage to replace dying members of the older generation (or, for that matter, those who die young).

iv) On the other hand, (iii) falls short of eliminating possibility or potential value of sex in the afterlife. Even in this life, barren couples have conjugal relations. Indeed, Scripture mentions such cases, with no hint of disapproval.

4. On a related note:

i) Does death automatically dissolve marriage? Or does remarriage dissolve the previous marriage? The Sadducean question is couched in terms of death followed by remarriage, not merely the death of the spouse.

Death frees the widow/widower to remarry, but is death itself what dissolves the marriage–or remarriage occasioned by the death of one’s spouse?

ii) Theoretically, the woman in the Sadducean hypothetical could still be married to her final husband, since each remarriage dissolves the prior marriage. And theoretically, if she hadn’t remarried, she could still be married to her first husband. The Sadducean dilemma, considered on its own terms, is a false dilemma. Of course, one can challenge the framework, but that’s a different issue.

iii) Also, it may be that death is analogous to adultery in the following sense: adultery doesn’t ipso facto dissolve a marriage; rather, adultery renders a marriage dissoluble. But it’s still up to the aggrieved party whether or not to actually divorce the adulterous spouse. The marriage remains intact unless and until he/she takes the next step.

Likewise, death might render the marriage dissoluble, without dissolving it. Additional conditions would have to be met to dissolve it.

5. There is also the question of what point Christ is trying to make. Commentators agree that he changes the subject. He’s really making a point about the reality of the resurrection, in opposition to the Sadducean denial thereof.

6. Unfortunately, the traditional interpretation forces otherwise levelheaded commentators and theologians to wax giddy about the superior and surpassing value of platonic love in the afterlife. You have Peter Kreeft extolling the virtues of “spiritual intercourse” between men and women in heaven, or even “spiritual intercourse” with God. I wonder how many men have been alienated from the faith by that kind of rhetoric.

14 comments:

  1. There are a couple of other observations here, Steve that may or may not help.

    1. Adam and Eve first procreated (in a carnal sense) only after their sin. You correctly ask would they have procreated had they not sinned?

    That's a good question. I'd add, if so, How?

    Up to that point God was in the Garden with Adam, and Eve. Could His mere presence have provided some other avenue of procreation? Until that point only Adam and Eve had been created, and neither in a traditional sense. Was that because God could, or because they were the first two?

    2. From verses such as [Isa 54:4-5] we can see that God represents His relationship to His people as a marriage. Although, it is a metaphor, it is important to realize that the 'signifier' is His relationship to us, and the 'signified' is marriage itself.

    This means that our marriage, our husband/wife relationships, are modeled on our relationships to God.

    3. In resurrection, our relationship to God, though fundamentally truer, more perfect, will substantially not change, save in perfection only.

    Looking at verses such as [Gen 2:24][1 Cor 6:16][Matt 19:5-6][Mark 10:8] and [Eph 5:31] we see that the husband/wife marriage relationship is seen as one flesh (where one in Hebrew was absolutely indivisible). What isn't so obvious is that the husband/wife marriage relationship is also seen to be one spirit according to [Mal 2:15].

    It is this one spirit component that is modeled on our relationship to God [Eph 4:3][Phil 1:27].

    So what will marriage look like in resurrection?

    I expect, something like a candle beside the sun (from verses such as): [1 Cor 10:17, 12:12-14, 20, 25][Eph 2:16] and [Col 3:15].

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  2. I hope there will be marriage after the resurrection. Many married people have said that it doesn't make sense to them that God would have them foster a deep and intimate relationship with another person in marriage and then abruptly end it upon death such that their future relationship will amount to being a brother-and-sister-like relationship in the eternal state. Nevertheless, God is free to do things counter to our expectations.

    One of numerous possible interpretations of Gen. 6 is that the "sons of God" were fallen angels 1. who demonically possessed human beings Or 2. who impregnated human women by use of their supernatural bodies. With respect to option 2, maybe angelic substance is like physical substance but just in another "dimension" (for lack of a better word) rather than being "non-physical" and spirit like God is spirit. Maybe by "nature" (or in this case, by "supernature") they have sex organs. Moreover, there have been claims (even by professing Christians) of angelic visitations or appearances of female looking angels. Of course, some or all of such cases could be demonic since nowhere in Scripture are angels portrayed as female, but always as male.

    Maybe angels have "promiscuous" sexual relations with each other and it's not forbidden by God because they are fixed in their moral purity. Human marriage might be an ordinance or institution of God because of a fallen world and all it entails. If so, maybe something similar is the case with regard to the sexual relationships of the saints in heaven. Maybe this is what Jesus was alluding to when He said "they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven." I don't know. I'm just speculating.

    An obvious problem would be if a potential sexual partner were a relative of some sort (say, descendant or ancestor like in Robert Heinlein's novel "Time Enough For Love"). Nevertheless, the suggestion of promiscuous sex among the saints in heaven doesn't seem to make sense. Especially in light of how we Christians have criticized Muslim theology for inconsistency and hypocrisy when Muslim men abstain from fornication and then martyr themselves in order to obtain 40 houries in paradise for sexual gratification. In keeping with that kind of reasoning, it follows that homosexual relationships will continue to be forbidden in the final state since while polygamous marriages were acceptable to God prior to the Mosaic Covenant, homosexual activity was abominable to God in every age/dispensation/administration. Sex between redeemed humans and angels would likely be forbidden after the resurrection too if this particular interpretation of Gen. 6 is correct (cf. Jude 1:6-7). Besides, the Mosaic Covenant taught the principle of not mating two different species.

    Continued in next post:

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  3. Annoyed Pinoy, I take Jesus' words about marriage in heaven to mean simply that once united with God, all other relationships will be insignificant in comparison.

    I do take Steve's point though, that His comments may have been restricted to the Levitical provision of marriage.

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  4. ekk,

    You don't know that Adam and Eve had relations only after the Fall. That's when it gets mentioned, but that's a mere argument from silence.
    It's right along with all the other questions in the vein of: What did A & E do in the Garden? How long before Satan tempted them? Did they fall after his first attempt or were there other attempts before that? Etc.

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  5. At the present time, there are sinful polygynous, polyandrous, polyamorous, and polygamous relationships. Under the New Covenant polygamous relationships are forbidden (with the possible exception of someone (only a man?) who leaves paganism/heathenism and enters the Christian life with existing multiple spousal relationships and children from them).

    I don't see polygamous marriage as necessarily sinful under the Old Covenant. Some have said it was a concession on God's part. Other that it was with God's positive approval. Though, clearly under the New Covenant, we should only promote monogamous marriages. But will there be polygamous marriages in heaven? It would seem unlikely since we will remain under the New Covenant.

    Here's a hypothetical scenario of monogamous marital relationships in the final state.

    What if Arnold married Amy. After Amy died, Arnold married Barbara. But when Arnold died, Barbara married Benny. Eventually both died (doesn't matter who first, but the one left didn't remarry).

    Now, in the resurrection, are Barbara and Benny still married? What about Arnold? Is he not married to anyone any more because 1. the marriage with Amy was dissolved when he married Barbara after she (Amy) died; and 2. his marriage with Barbara was dissolved when she (Barbara) married Benny when he (Arnold) died? So, Barbara gets to be married in the eternal state, but not Arnold?

    I suppose Arnold can marry someone else. Maybe someone who never married on earth. But what if he really loved Amy? Can he remarry Amy because his marriage with Barbara was dissolved when he died? Or what if Arnold and Barbara loved each other the most and best? Is Barbara stuck with Benny, even though her heart loves Arnold more?

    Maybe the main thing that led to Barbara marrying Benny was out of financial need as a widow who had children to feed. Maybe, IF she had KNOWN that if she never remarried and died in that state and would eventually be reunited with Arnold for all eternity, then she might have never even considered marrying Benny. Yet, Scripture didn't give her enough information about the eternal state to give her an informed decision. Would God do that? Again, God is free to do things counter to our expectations.

    Another question: Does Isa. 56:3ff have any bearing on the eternal state?

    Isa. 56:3 Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the LORD say, "The LORD will surely separate me from His people." Nor let the eunuch say, "Behold, I am a dry tree."
    4 For thus says the LORD, "To the eunuchs who keep My sabbaths, And choose what pleases Me, And hold fast My covenant,
    5 To them I will give in My house and within My walls a memorial, And a name better than that of sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name which will not be cut off.

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  6. Rhology said: "You don't know that Adam and Eve had relations only after the Fall. That's when it gets mentioned, but that's a mere argument from silence."

    Yes, you're right. That's true.

    Steve also points out that [Gen 1:22] happens before the fall.

    Even so, much of this is speculation. My reading of Genesis has Adam "knowing" his wife in [Gen 4:1] as the first successful instance of [Gen 1:22].

    It's not certain, as you point out, but its not unreasonable either.

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  7. Rhology, another thought though - if Adam and Eve had procreated prior to the fall, that raises a plethora of theological issues.

    Such as; Where there other sinless humans other than Adam and Eve, prior to Jesus? or Would God have expelled everyone from the Garden if the first sin was restricted to Adam and Eve alone?

    Contemplating the possibility of procreation before the fall is messy I think.

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  8. ἘΚΚΛΗΣΊΑ SAID:

    "You correctly ask would they have procreated had they not sinned? That's a good question. I'd add, if so, How? Up to that point God was in the Garden with Adam, and Eve. Could His mere presence have provided some other avenue of procreation?"

    Perhaps, had they not fallen, they would have mated like Coneheads, by honing their cones. Gyneconics. The possibilities are limitless.

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  9. EKK,

    The creation mandate was given before the fall, be fruitful and multiply. Furthermore, part of the curse was "pain in childbirth will be greatly multiplied."

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  10. Steve said: "The possibilities are limitless."

    Indeed, but the issue is really whether or not the mandate to multiply would be carnal without sin.

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  11. Messy like all of life is?
    I don't see much of a problem.
    No there weren't others. You don't have kids every time you have relations.
    Adam qua federal head would, by "virtue" of his fall, would've meant all the humans would be expelled from Eden, I should think.

    And you're right - no way to know one way or th'other. I was just pointing out that you don't know either. :-)

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  12. Ekklesia said:
    ---
    Rhology, another thought though - if Adam and Eve had procreated prior to the fall, that raises a plethora of theological issues.

    Such as; Where there other sinless humans other than Adam and Eve, prior to Jesus? or Would God have expelled everyone from the Garden if the first sin was restricted to Adam and Eve alone?

    Contemplating the possibility of procreation before the fall is messy I think.
    ---

    That's not at all messy if one understands Federal Headship. There could have been billions of people in the Garden (there weren't, mind you) and Adam's sin would have affected all of humanity due to his "office" (for lack of a better word) as a representative for all of man.

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  13. Peter said...
    There could have been billions of people in the Garden (there weren't, mind you) and Adam's sin would have affected all of humanity due to his "office" (for lack of a better word) as a representative for all of man.

    I take it then that you subscribe to creationism rather than traducianism. I lean toward that position too. Though there are good arguments for the latter position. But if creationism is true, and Adam Fell when there were (say) 100 descendants, then while all would become guilty, not all would inherit a nature that had a bent toward sin. Those born after the Fall would, while those born before the Fall wouldn't, right?

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  14. At the risk of inciting "giddiness" on the less than platonic side- we have John Calvin speculating:

    And hence is refitted the error of some, who think that the woman was formed only for the sake of propagation, and who restrict the word “good,” which had been lately mentioned, to the production of offspring... and that Adam was hitherto free from lust.

    http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/calcom01.viii.i.html

    And from my post-
    http://vanberean.blogspot.com/

    Kreeft could use a little giddiness.

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