St Paul or Celestial Bodies?

I took a break from checking the Orthodox Bridge site.  That they scorn true dialogue is fully apparent to even their supporters by now.  I have nothing more to add on that front.  (Incidentally, I noticed that the last comment was another moderating warning to me, and that was over a week ago.  I hate to say it but I am the reason that site was interesting.   Whenever they’re are 70+ comments, I am sure you can find the reason why).

I was interested to see an article on the Orthodox view of marriage.  I’m actually quite grateful.  It is very hard to find good Orthodox presentations of that, especially from the mainline level.    Much of the article is a summary of Trenham’s book on Chrysostom, and much of it is quite good.  I want to call attention to the Hellenistic Chain of Being Ontology that explicitly governs their views on marriage.

They write,

This is why the Orthodox Church discourages (but does not prohibit) re-marriage after the death of a spouse.

But what did the apostle Paul say?  True, he had concerns but they were more of a temporary and logistic nature, and not because marriage is “less than” celibacy.

They write,

A second or third wedding ceremony (no fourth is allowed) has a somewhat penitential character, recognizing human weakness.

So, are the sexual urges and physical union “dirty?” or not “as good?”  I know they will declaim gnosticism, but it’s hard to see why on their gloss.  This specifically says that married sexual urges (or sexual urges seeking climax–sorry, bad pun–in marriage) are human weaknesses.  Chain. Of. Being. Ontology.

St. John urged the young widow to whom he wrote to remain faithful to her husband (the title “husband” is used even after his death), in order to keep alive their bond of love, and eventually to be re-united with him.

This is the exact opposite of the New Testament.  Paul says that death cuts the covenant bond.  But Orthodoxy is anti-Covenantal (sorry, no other way to say it).  This is partly why I no longer take the majority of the fathers seriously.

The Orthodox Church forbids re-marriage to widowed clergy, as a way of upholding this ideal.

I can only surmise why not.  This is an example of being holier than the apostles. It is interesting that Orthodox (and Romanists) base a lot of their rites off of the Levitical code (never mind that the book of Hebrews said that is done away with).  Let’s go with that for a moment.  Leviticus 21 gives the qualifications for priestly marriage.  While strict, there is no prohibition against remarrying a virgin, etc.

First, the language of the sacrament does not contain the phrase, ‘Till death us do part. In fact, there are no  vows at all taken by the couple, except to certify that they come to the marriage of their own free will, and have not promised themselves to anyone else.

Tell any lawyer that isn’t a vow and then come back to me.  I understand why they don’t use that language, even if they don’t:  vowing until death is covenantal language.  The covenant is usually dissolved by physical death, but sometimes it is dissolved by judicial death.  Covenant, moreover, is Old Testament language.  I’ll let you draw your own conclusions from there.

The vows of the Catholic and Protestant West give the marriage a more legal emphasis, rather than the Eastern Church’s emphasis on the blessing of God to effect the union.

This snide tone towards “legal” is at its root rebellion against God’s law.  If God is King then his Word is Law.

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9 comments on “St Paul or Celestial Bodies?

  1. Trent says:

    ” This is partly why I no longer take the majority of the fathers seriously.” Can you expand upon this please in other realms of Christian doctrine?

    • I have no problem in respecting the labors of the Fathers in ironing out tough doctrine. But when it comes to the words of Scripture, especially relating to God’s law, sex, and predestination, they complete invert the text. It all comes down to chain of being. Someone could say I am being selective because I agree on the Trinity but disagree on sexuality in marriage. Fair enough. Paul told me to test all things and I stand or fall before my own master.

  2. Andrew says:

    How would you address the biblical, certainly NT, picture of the one flesh union being created by the sexual act – which would seem to suggest that sex has an ontological import? So, the RCC allows annulment where a marriage hasn’t been consummated &c.

    The negative of marriage, on this basis, isn’t limited just to the promoting of celibacy but also to the extent that the one flesh union is made to point beyond itself, not ultimately to the service of God in fulfilment of the creation mandate, but to being qua being – where the one flesh union is to bring its participants closer to god. And obviously in the RCC this is bound up with its sacerdotalism and its self-referential ‘sacramentalism’.

    • I was aware of that union. I would say, as the NT seems to say, or actually says, that the union is severed at death. This makes more sense of Jesus’s words that there won’t be marriage in heaven.

  3. Andrew says:

    That’s an important point, and it does seem clear, especially in the passage about Levirate marriage to which you refer. If one takes marriage to be a sacrament then I suppose it is just like other sacraments with regard to heaven. But there would still be the question about the union in this life – what kind of union is it?

    And I guess what I’m interested in is, if the union is ontological (in this life), what does that mean and why is it the case? Antecedently, what does this mean for anthropology? That there is a becoming in the sexual act, irrespective of intention or covenant, must mean something about the type of creatures we are and the kind of world we live in.

  4. Trent says:

    I was reading this again and thought, if the Orthodox are right about this then maybe the Mormons and their magic underwear are on to something! Lol

    • You’re right. Both groups see sex creating an ontological union that survives death. THis is also what the Saducees presupposed towards Jesus, and Jesus explicitly rejects it. The difference is that Mormons actually have a higher view of sex than EO.

  5. Matthew C says:

    I think your comments are needed on that site. I am sympathetic to Orthodox theology, but the triumphalism of Orthodox Bridge gets a bit sickening. I’m not sure those guys there are all that willing to address with the weak points of Orthodoxy.

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