Saturday, July 5, 2014

on the origin of marriage

Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck on the institution of marriage (Gen 2)...

"A third particular of this second chapter of Genesis is the gift of the woman to the man and the institution of marriage. Adam had received much. Though formed out of the dust of the earth, he was nevertheless a bearer of the image of God. He was placed in a garden which was a place of loveliness and was richly supplied with everything good to behold and to eat. He received the pleasant task of dressing the garden and subduing the earth, and in this he had to walk in accordance with the commandment of God, to eat freely of every tree except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. But no matter how richly favored and how grateful, that first man was not satisfied, not fulfilled. The cause is indicated to him by God Himself. It lies in his solitude. It is not good for the man that he should be alone. He is not so constituted, he was not created that way. His nature inclines to the social — he wants company. He must be able to express himself, reveal himself, and give himself. He must be able to pour out his heart, to give form to his feelings. He must share his awarenesses with a being who can understand him and can feel and live along with him. Solitude is poverty, forsakenness, gradual pining and wasting away. How lonesome it is to be alone!

"And He who created man thus, with this kind of need for expression and extension can in the greatness and grace of His power only choose to supply the need. He can only create for him a helpmeet who goes along with him, is related to him, and suits him as counterpart. The account tells us in verses 19 to 21 that God made all the beasts of the field and all the fowls of the air, and brought them unto Adam to see whether among all those creatures there was not a being who could serve Adam as a companion and a helper. The purpose of these verses is not to indicate the chronological order in which animals and man were made, but rather to indicate the material order, the rank, the grades of relationship in which the two sorts of creatures stand over against each other. This relationship of rank is first indicated in the fact that Adam named the animals.

"Adam therefore understood all the creatures, he penetrated their natures, he could classify and subdivide them, and assign to each of them the place in the whole of things which was their due. If, accordingly, he discovered no being among all those creatures who was related to himself, this was not the consequence of ignorance nor of foolhardy arrogance or pride; rather, it stemmed from the fact that there existed a difference in kind between him and all other creatures, a difference not of degree merely but of essence. True, there are all kinds of correspondences between animal and man: both are physical beings, both have all kinds of need and desire for food and drink, both propagate offspring, both possess the five senses of smell, taste, feeling, sight, and hearing, and both share the lower activities of cognition, awareness, and perception. Nonetheless, man is different from the animal. He has reason, and understanding, and will and in consequence of these he has religion, morality, language, law, science, and art. True, he was formed from the dust of the earth, but he received the breath of life from above. He is a physical, but also a spiritual, rational, and moral being. And that is why Adam could not find a single creature among them all that was related to him and could be his helper. He gave them all names, but not one of them deserved the exalted, royal name of man.

"Then, when man could not find the thing he sought, then, quite apart from man's own witting and willing, and without contributive effort on his own part, God gave man the thing he himself could not supply. The best things come to us as gifts; they fall into our laps without labor and without price. We do not earn them nor achieve them: we get them for nothing. The richest and most precious gift which can be given to man on earth is woman. And this gift he gets in a deep sleep, when he is unconscious, and without any effort of will or fatigue of the hand. True, the seeking, the looking about, the inquiring, the sense of the need precedes it. So does the prayer. But then God grants the gift sovereignly, alone, without our help. It is as though He conducts the woman to the man by His own hand.

"Thereupon the first emotion to master Adam, when he wakes up and sees the woman before him, is that of marveling and gratitude. He does not feel a stranger to her, but recognizes her immediately as sharing his own nature with him. His recognition was literally a recognition of that which he had felt he missed and needed, but which he could not himself supply. And his marveling expresses itself in the first marriage hymn or epithalamium ever to be sounded on the face of the earth: “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of man.” Adam therefore remains the source and head of the human race. The woman is not merely created alongside of him but out of him (1 Cor. 11:8). Just as the stuff for making Adam's body was taken from the earth, so the side of Adam is the basis of the life of Eve. But just as out of the dust of the earth the first man became a living being through the breath of life which came from above, so out of Adam's side the first woman first became a human being by the creative omnipotence of God. She is out of Adam and yet is another than Adam. She is related to him and yet is different from him. She belongs to the same kind and yet in that kind she occupies her own unique position. She is dependent and yet she is free. She is after Adam and out of Adam, but owes her existence to God alone. And so she serves to help the man, to make his vocation of subduing the earth possible. She is his helper, not as mistress and much less as slave, but as an individual, independent, and free being, who received her existence not from the man but from God, who is responsible to God, and who was added to man as a free and unearned gift."

--Herman Bavinck, from “Origin and Purpose of Man”, a chapter in Our Reasonable Faith (originally published The Great Works of God [Magnalia Dei], 1909)

No comments: