Every Child Needs a Mom and a Dad—and so Did Jesus, Part 2

Joseph
Integrity, Strength, and Safety: The Legacy of a Father

Joseph, although not the natural father [of Jesus], was the legal father and responsible for Jesus’ safety and well-being.
Sharon Beth Brani


Key point: The Gospel accounts of Jesus’ birth and early years demonstrate forcefully that even though Jesus was God in the flesh, He needed an earthly father. Every other child born into this world is unlike Jesus in that he or she isn’t, and never will be, God. Yet each one, like Jesus, needs a dad.


All the articles in this series are available here.

“Joseph! Get up and take Jesus and His mother to Egypt, and remain there until you receive further instructions! King Herod is out to kill him!” The tone of the angel’s voice—not just his words—carried a special sense of urgency.1 Joseph was asleep when he received this message, because the angel appeared to him in a dream; but the young carpenter, who now also was a new husband and father, wasted no time in heeding it. Matthew, the Gospel writer who penned the Christmas story from Joseph’s perspective, tells us Joseph “took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt,” and they stayed there until Herod had died. Then, significantly and somewhat surprisingly, Matthew added, “that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, ‘Out of Egypt I called My Son.’”

Dream of Flight by Daniele Crespi, c. 1625

A Prophecy Fulfilled

The passage Matthew quoted is Hosea in Hosea 11:1:

When Israel was a child, I loved him,
And out of Egypt I called My son.

Noting that “Hosea 11:1…does not seem to be a prophecy in the sense of a prediction,” Bible scholar Louis A. Barbieri, Jr. observes that Matthew gave Hosea’s words a deeper understanding. Originally, Hosea was not speaking of—or was not aware that he was speaking of—the Messiah, but only of the nation of Israel. Matthew indicates that Hosea wrote of both. The Gospel writer

viewed this experience [of the flight to and return from Egypt] as Messiah being identified with the nation. There were similarities between the nation and the Son. Israel was God’s chosen “son” by adoption (Ex. 4:22), and Jesus is the Messiah, God’s Son. In both cases the descent into Egypt was to escape danger and the return was important to the nation’s providential history. While Hosea’s statement was a historical reference to Israel’s deliverance, Matthew related it more fully to the call of the Son, the Messiah, from Egypt. In that sense, as Matthew “heightened” Hosea’s words to a more significant event—the Messiah’s return from Egypt, they were “fulfilled.”2

Let us not miss the truth that God used Joseph to bring about the fulfillment of Hosea’s prophetic word. As significant as this was, it represents only a small portion of Joseph’s contribution to the Christmas and to the life of Jesus, his adopted Son.

A Child-King Protected—in One Instance After Another

This wasn’t the only time Joseph received a divine message in a dream; it actually was the second of four. Here are all four instances. With the dreams, we mark the phases of Joseph’s journey and his contributions of leadership and strength to his fugitive family.

The First Appearance: “Go Ahead and Marry Mary”

Matthew 1:20-21:

20 But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”

Luke 1:26-38 and Matthew 1:18-25 provide the context for this appearance. Having become engaged or betrothed to Mary, Joseph discovered she was going to have a baby. Mary hadn’t been unfaithful to Joseph but was pregnant by the Holy Spirit—a once-in-history occurrence. Joseph, however, did not know this, although he knew he wasn’t the father. Thinking Mary must have become pregnant by another man, Joseph resolved to call off the wedding; but as a righteous and caring man he didn’t want to make things any harder for Mary than they already would be. He decided to divorce her quietly.

Joseph was in for a surprise! As “he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”

www.lumoproject.com

All of this was happening, Matthew states, to fulfill Isaiah’s prophetic word that a “virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” While Isaiah’s prophecy could have had an immediate fulfillment that didn’t involve a woman who never had been intimate with a man, it clearly had its ultimate fulfillment in Mary, who became pregnant as a virgin in the absolute sense.

Joseph not only married Mary, but he refrained from having sexual relations with her until after Jesus had been born. About this, Matthew is explicit. While only a few would understand this at the time, the details of this couple’s circumstances would testify that, without any question, Jesus had been born of a virgin!

The Second Appearance: “Flee to Egypt!”

Matthew 2:13:

Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.”

Luke 2:1-38 and Matthew 2:1-18 provide the context for this second angelic appearance to Joseph. Mary and Joseph had made their way from Nazareth to Bethlehem to participate in the census ordered by Caesar Augustus. Soon after they arrived in Bethlehem, the baby arrived. Angels told nearby shepherds about Jesus’ birth, and they made their way to the stable to pay homage to Him.

The Angel Appearing to the Shepherds by Govert Flinck, 1639

Eight days later, Jesus was circumcised and officially received His name. At least 41 days following His birth, Mary and Joseph took Him to the temple in Jerusalem to complete Mary’s purification ceremony. It was here that Simeon and Anna encountered Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.

After these events, the family made their way back to the place they were staying in Bethlehem. Probably several months after that, wise men, following a star, made their way to Jerusalem looking for the newborn King.

The Magi Journeying by James Tissot, c. 1890

King Herod heard of their search. He felt threatened by all the talk about a newborn king. Herod learned from Jewish scholars that Bethlehem was to be the place of the Messiah’s birth. He asked the wise men to return to him after they had found the new King so he also could go and worship him as well. Needless to say, he was lying! With the aid of an especially bright star, the wise men found Jesus in Bethlehem, and they gave him expensive gifts. The wise men also received a divine message from God in a dream, one in which they were instructed travel home by a way that bypassed Herod. At this point, Joseph also was directed in his sleep to flee with his family down to Egypt.

The wise men heeded their warning, and when Herod realized he’d been ignored, he was livid. He arranged for all the boys in Bethlehem who were two years old and younger to be slaughtered. Talk about feeling threatened! With Herod’s massacre of the boys of Bethlehem, one of Jeremiah’s prophecies was fulfilled. The prophet had written,

A voice was heard in Ramah,
Lamentation and bitter weeping,
Rachel weeping for her children,
Refusing to be comforted for her children,
Because they are no more.

“Scholars” who have been reluctant to believe in the historical accuracy of the Bible have pointed out that no extra-biblical historian records Herod’s murderous tirade against the young boys of Bethlehem. Keep in mind, though, that the absence of a parallel account outside of Scripture does not mean the event did not occur. The truth is that this is exactly the kind of thing that Herod was known for, and it is reasonable to assume other similar actions on Herod’s part overshadowed his slaughter of innocent Bethlehem boys in historians’ accounts.

The Flight to Egypt by Carl Spitzweg, 1875-79

Originally, Jeremiah’s words referred to children’s deaths at the time of the Babylonian captivity centuries earlier. Once again, innocent children were perishing. Moreover, many thought of Rachel as Israel’s mother. She could not be comforted and wept without restraint.3

Against this backdrop, Joseph was told how he, in his specific situation, could most effectively do what men are divinely equipped to do for their wives and children—protect them from impending danger. Joseph obeyed, and considering that we’re talking about his protecting Jesus from life-threatening dangers, the importance of his role cannot be overstated. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) essentially acknowledged this, stating that Joseph was an essential part of God’s plan to send Jesus to earth as a human being, and a baby in particular. Had Mary not been married, she would have been stoned by the Jews. Moreover, Aquinas affirmed, in the years He grew from boyhood to manhood, Jesus needed the love, care, and protection that only a human father could give.

Joseph the Carpenter by Georges de La Tour, sometime in the 1640s

Joseph was told to do the very thing men are divinely equipped to do for their wives and children—protect them from impending danger.


The Third Appearance: “It’s OK to Return to Israel”

Matthew 2:19-20

19 Now when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20 saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the young Child’s life are dead.”

The context for this appearance is Matthew 2:16-21. Feeling threatened by the recent birth of the One people were calling the “King of the Jews” and having become angry over the wise men’s failure to return to report to him, Herod, as we have noted, “sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men.” Because Joseph had heeded the angel’s warning and had fled with his family to Egypt, Jesus, and Mary as well, were safe. After Herod died in 4 BC, Joseph received divine instructions in a third pivotal dream. The angel told the man who had become Jesus’ father by adoption, “Arise, take the young child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the young Child’s life are dead.”

The Return of the Holy Family from Egypt by Jacob Jordaens, around 1616

How long did this special family stay in Egypt before returning to Israel? Putting the pieces together regarding Jesus’ age helps us answer this question. In all likelihood, the Savior was born between 6 and 5 BC, with a time frame of between 6 and 4 BC also possible. This timetable fits, if not with pinpoint accuracy, then loosely; one biblical historian says the family’s flight to Egypt likely took place 2 or 3 years before Herod died (in 4 BC) and that their stay in that land “must have lasted some years.” Certainly Mary, Joseph, and Jesus were in Egypt long enough for their departure to fulfill Hosea 11:1, the prophecy we cited earlier through which God declared, “out of Egypt I called my son.”

Once again, we see Joseph’s strength manifested in his protecting the members of his family, especially his adopted Son. We see his decisive leadership as well, a leadership that put the members of his family first and was dedicated primarily to their well-being. Joseph was a man fulfilling roles given to husbands and fathers by divine design.

www.lightstock.com

Joseph’s strength was manifested in his protecting his adopted Son. It also was manifested in his effective leadership, a leadership that put the members of his family first and was dedicated primarily to their well-being. 


The Fourth Appearance: “Avoid Living too Close to Archelaus”

Matthew 2:22:

But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea instead of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And being warned by God in a dream, he turned aside into the region of Galilee.

Matthew 2:16-23 showcases the context for this, Joseph’s fourth angelic encounter. The danger had not completely subsided following Herod’s death. Herod’s son Archelaus ascended to the throne, and he, too, was exceedingly cruel. Wisely, having heard of Archelaus’s ascent to power and having received a divine warning in a dream, Joseph returned to Israel—but not to Bethlehem. Instead, he and Mary made their home in Nazareth, a town located in the region of Galilee in the northern part of Israel. This was Joseph’s hometown, the place from which he and Mary had traveled to Bethlehem just before Jesus was born.

The family’s moving to Nazareth fulfilled yet another Old Testament prophecy regarding the Messiah: “And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, ‘He shall be called a Nazarene.’” These specific words

were not directly spoken by any Old Testament prophet, though several prophecies come close to this expression. Isaiah said the Messiah would be “from [Jesse’s] roots” like “a Branch” (Isa. 11:1). “Branch” is the Hebrew Word neser, which has consonants like those in the word “Nazarene” and which carry the idea of having an insignificant beginning.4

Born in a stable and placed in an animal’s feeding trough, Jesus, we can see, did have an insignificant beginning by conventional standards. However, appearances often deceive. He would grow up to live a sinless life and to offer Himself as a sacrifice that would pay the price for human sin. What Jesus would accomplish would be infinitely significant and consequential.

At this point we cannot help but connect the dots! Joseph was involved in Jesus’ life in ways that made it possible for his adopted Son to live beyond childhood. Thus, it’s difficult to see how Jesus’ adopted father’s role could have been any more significant than it was.

Joseph’s Dream by Rembrandt van Rijn, about 1645

Summary and Conclusion

In the New Testament, we hear only a tiny bit more about Joseph after he and Mary returned to Jerusalem in search of Jesus and found Him in the temple conversing with the teachers of the law. This information is contained in the first of these two statements made by Luke. Luke referred to both Mary and Joseph with the pronoun them. He also made an important but sweeping, general statement about the years that remained in Jesus’ life before He entered His public ministry. It would be the last thing Luke would write about Jesus’ youth.

51 Then He [Jesus] went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them, but His mother kept all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.

What happened to Joseph between this event and the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry? Most likely, he died at some point during the “silent years” of Jesus’ life. Yet Joseph’s role in God’s plan to pave the way for the salvation of humanity is both critical and foundational. For starters, as we have said, Joseph’s actions protected Jesus from life-threatening dangers. Furthermore, it is crystal clear that “Joseph was a devout follower of the customs of his religion with his observance of Passover.…[It also is apparent that] Joseph made certain of good spiritual training for the children in his family. Joseph proved his integrity and willingness to be obedient to God’s direction and guidance.” Therefore, Joseph’s influence enhanced Jesus’ increase “in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (Luke 2:52).

Holy Family with the Holy Spirit by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, 1675-1682

That’s just the beginning. Much, much more can be said about both Mary and Joseph and what their roles in Jesus’ life imply about the needs of children everywhere, in every culture.

The events leading up to and surrounding Jesus’ birth demonstrate that even God’s Son needed a male and a female parent when He came into the world and during His early years. Although He was God, Jesus also was a human being who made His entrance into the world, not as a powerful king, but as a helpless baby—in the same way as all of us have made our entrances. Inherent to healthy journeys through babyhood, toddlerhood, and childhood—stages all people go through—are a mother’s loving nurture and a father’s protective strength. We readily acknowledge that in a fallen world not every child can have both of these positive influences. Even so, the Christmas story demonstrates that even Jesus needed them.


Inherent to healthy journeys through babyhood, toddlerhood, and childhood—stages all people go through—are a mother’s loving nurture and a father’s protective strength. We readily acknowledge that in a fallen world not every child can have both of these positive influences. Even so, the Christmas story demonstrates that even Jesus needed them. If He needed them, then so does every child.


If He needed them, then so does every child. To he greatest degree possible, individuals and society must work to affirm and uphold the essential contributions of both moms and dads in parenting—for the benefit of of both children and society at large.


All Word Foundations Christmas posts and articles are available here.


 

Copyright © 2017 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture has been taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Notes:

1A few dramatic liberties have been taken in this account, but the substance is true to the original.

2Louis A. Barbieri, Jr., “Matthew” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, New Testament edition, John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, eds., (Victor Books, 1983), 22-23.

3Barbieri, 23.

4Ibid.

top image: In his painting Anno Domini (1883) British artist Edwin Long depicts the arrival of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus in Egypt.

 

Every Child Needs a Mom and a Dad—and so Did Jesus, Part 1

Mary

The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.
Gabriel to Mary in Luke 1:35, announcing to her she would become Jesus’ mother—


Key point: Only a woman could be Jesus’ mother, and Mary was God’s chosen individual to fill that critical role.


All the articles in this series are available here.

One aspect of the Christmas story that sermons and Bible studies often overlook is the contrast between the responses of Mary and Joseph to the birth of Jesus and the differing roles that each individual filled. Such information is extremely insightful in light of our current series on myths that led to the Supreme Court’s redefining marriage in the United States. One overarching myth is that gender differences are irrelevant in parenting. The biblical account of Jesus’ arrival on earth as a helpless baby, as well as Joseph’s responses to subsequent efforts to kill Him, demonstrate that even God’s Son needed both a mother and a father—just as all children do.

What do Mary’s and Joseph’s unique roles in Jesus’ arrival and earliest years teach us? In this post we will consider Mary; next time, Joseph. In all but one instance—Mary’s Quiet Reflections—we’ll mark Mary’s journey with the names of individuals who played important roles in her life.

Gabriel and Elizabeth

The Annunciation by Eustache Le Sueur

Mary was taken aback when, in the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, the angel Gabriel appeared to her suddenly and announced that she was highly favored and would become the mother of the Messiah. Luke records the events from Mary’s perspective.

Mary was submissive to God’s plan, readily expressing a willingness to fulfill her role in it—as awesome as that role was. In fact, she rejoiced in being given both the responsibility and the privilege of being mother to God’s Son.

La Visitation by Philippe de Champaigne

The woman who could understand her situation best was her relative, Elizabeth, of whom Gabriel had declared, “Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.” While it was true that Mary’s and Elizabeth’s situations were more different than alike, they were similar enough to provide the foundation for a special bond between the two women.

Mary was indeed favored by God, but her situation also involved great risk. She was certain to be misunderstood. Pregnancies occur as a result of intimacy between a man and a woman. This was going to be a once-in-history exception—but only Mary and a select few in her life would have to understand this. Of course, Joseph, Mary’s husband-to-be, would have to be one of those select few. Many people never came to understand. Years later, the Pharisees would subtly accuse Jesus of having been conceived illegitimately (see John 8:41; context vv. 31-41).

Joseph

Joseph would believe and support Mary and marry her as planned, but understandably, God had to intervene to confirm to him what actually had happened. Joseph would be used of God to meet some very critical needs that arose in the early years of his adopted Son’s childhood.

We’ll consider Joseph’s roles of husband and father next time. For now, let’s reflect the swirl of events that culminated in Jesus’ birth and the arrival of shepherds at His bedside. The events we recount here are recorded in Luke 2:1-52.

Robert Campin, 1425-1428

Caesar Augustus issued a decree that the Roman world would be registered, and residents had to travel to the places from which their ancestors came. Joseph, who had descended from David’s line, traveled with Mary, his wife, to David’s hometown, Bethlehem. Mary was quite far along in her pregnancy by this time, so the journey had to be difficult. After arriving in Bethlehem, the couple faced an urgent situation. The time for Jesus’ arrival had come! Unable to find lodging in a local inn, they had to settle for a stable, and there God’s Son was born into the world as an innocent, helpless baby. Let’s put it another way. Mary became the “doorway” through which Jesus, God’s Messiah, entered the world. Only a woman could be used of God in this way.

The Shepherds

That same night, as shepherds were keeping watch over their flocks in nearby fields, a messenger from God—an angel—suddenly appeared! The shepherds were astonished, but the angel reassured them,

10 “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”

The Shepherds and the Angel by Carl Bloch, 1879

After making his announcement, the angel no longer was alone, but joined by an army of angels who praised God and spoke of peace on earth “to those on whom his favor rests” (vv. 13-14, NIV). The shepherds wasted no time in making their way to Bethlehem and finding Mary, Joseph, and the Baby, who was lying in an animal’s feeding trough, just as the shepherds had been told.

The shepherds’ lives were forever changed! Surely they talked for the rest of their lives about this otherwise ordinary night when the sky had split open and an angel announced the birth of the One who was the Savior, the Christ, and the Lord. Momentarily, we’ll see evidence of their inability to keep quiet. “Lying in a manger,” He Himself would be a sign to them!

Adoration of the Shepherds by Gerald van Honthorst, 1622

The shepherds found things exactly as the angel had described them. After seeing Him, they “made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds” (vv. 17-18). In addition, Luke tells us, “Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them” (v. 20).

Mary’s Quiet Reflections

“But Mary,” Luke writes in verse 19, “kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.” The translators of the New International Version render this verse this way: “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

I believe Mary was doing something here that’s is especially characteristic of women. Their ability to do this is such a wonderful trait! It isn’t that men never reflect on things; but, generally speaking, men are practical—action oriented. Joseph had to be. Next time we will see this when we consider him.

Mary, of course, had a great deal to ponder. Author and Bible teacher Beth Moore writes this of her reflection.

Pondered. It is a wonderful word. It is the practice of casting many things together, combining them, and considering them as one. In that moment, a host of memories must have been dancing in Mary’s head. The angel’s appearance. His words. Her flight to the hill country of Judea. Elizabeth’s greeting. Their late-night conversations. The first time she noticed her tummy was rounding. Joseph’s face when he saw her. The way she felt when he believed. The whispers of neighbors. The doubts of her parents. The first time she felt the baby move inside of her. The dread of the long trip. The reality of being full-term. The first pain. The fear of having no place to bear a child. The horror of the nursery. The way it looked. The way it smelled.

The way He looked. God so frail. So tiny. So perfect. Love so abounding. Grace so amazing. Wise men bowed down. Shepherds made haste. Each memory like treasures in a box. She gathered the jewels, held them to her breast, and engraved them on her heart forever.

Soon Jesus’ mother would have even more on which to reflect—some very heavy realities, indeed.

Simeon

Mary would be called by God to endure a much, and she soon would hear an aged man of God speak of her burden. The Lord had promised Simeon that he would not die before seeing God’s Anointed One. When he saw Jesus at the temple following His birth, Simeon rejoiced and declared to the Lord he was ready to “depart in peace.” He’d now seen God’s salvation, prepared for people everywhere,

“A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles,
And the glory of Your people Israel.”

Simeon in the Temple by Rembrandt van Rijn, 1631

Mary and Joseph marveled at what was said about Him. Simeon blessed them both, but then he spoke directly to Mary. “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

How would Simeon’s prophecy be fulfilled? Bible scholar John A. Martin writes,

Throughout His ministry Jesus proclaimed that the only way to the kingdom, something the nation had long sought, was to follow Him. The ones who did so would receive salvation; they would “rise.” But the ones who did not believe Him would not receive salvation; they would “fall.” These consequences would reveal what they thought about Mary’s Son.1

Lamentation by Pietro Lorenzetti, about 1310-1329

New Testament scholar William A. Hendricksen observes,

In a parenthesis Simeon, in addressing Mary, states that a sword would pierce her soul; in fact, as the original indicates, a large and broad sword, the symbol of intense pain, of frightful and piercing anguish. For the fulfillment see John 19:25-27.…

What Simeon said was true. But he did not see everything. He did not see that even in the midst of Mary’s sorrow she would receive a measure of comfort. At the suggestion of the crucified Savior the disciple whom Jesus loved would take her to his home. Is it not possible that the very memory of Simeon’s prophecy strengthened Mary in the moments of her deepest agony, proving to her that this too was included in God’s plan and would therefore work together for good? Best of all, because of the resurrection on the third day Mary’s sorrow would subsequently be changed to rejoicing and strengthening of faith.2

There was much that neither Mary nor Joseph understood. Yet Jesus’ parents—His mother and his father by adoption—sought to be the parents to Jesus God wanted them to be. When “they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own city, Nazareth. And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him” (vv. 39-40).

Jesus as a 12-Year Old Boy

Lightstock

The family made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to participate in the Feast of the Passover. When Jesus was 12, Mary and Joseph discovered Jesus was missing on the journey back. Returning to Jerusalem and finding Him in the temple actively engaged with the teachers there, Joseph and Mary were amazed. Mary asked Him, “Son, why have you done this to us? Look, Your father and I have sought You anxiously” (v. 48).

Luke records, And He said to them, ‘Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?’ But they did not understand the statement which He spoke to them” (vv. 49-50).

Had Mary and Joseph not been bewildered enough already, they sure were now. But the time for the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry was still years away. Scripture implies that even then, Mary would not fully understand her Son. Yet for now, He “went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them, but his mother [—again—] kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (vv. 51-52).


Living with His parents, Jesus “increased in wisdom and stature, and win favor worth God and man” (Luke 2:52).


Virgin Mary by Giovanni Battista Salvi da Sassoferrato, 1640-1650

It’s important to understand that we cannot be faithful to the Scriptures and attribute any divine characteristics to Mary. She was a sinner in need of a Savior like every other human being. Yet she was God’s instrument to bring Jesus into the world and to provide the nurture and assistance only a mother could provide. God needed her in this sense, and He used her to accomplish these wonderful purposes.

Moreover, as the Anointed One of God who came to earth as a human being to die to pay the penalty for human sin, Jesus needed Mary as well.


Mary was God’s instrument to bring Jesus into the world and to provide the nurture and assistance only a mother could provide.


Next time, we’ll consider Joseph. As a man and as Jesus’ adopted father, he was well-equipped to protect and provide for his family. And he did these very things in this real-life, cliffhanger drama.


All Word Foundations Christmas posts and articles are available here.


 

Copyright © 2017 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise noted,  Scripture passages are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Scripture passages marked NIV or New International Version are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Notes:

1John A. Martin, “Luke” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, New Testament edition, John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, eds., (Victor Books, 1983), 209.

2William Hendriksen, The Gospel of Luke, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1978), 170, 171.

top image: Holy Family with Bird, c. 1650, by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo

Myths that Led to Recognition of Same-Sex Marriage in the United States, Part 2

Several years ago I had the honor of hearing one of the world’s most distinguished scholars of natural law expound the nature of the basic good of marriage. Considering the times, a great portion of his lecture had to be devoted to why marriage is intrinsically heterosexual. The talk was perfectly logical, but to most people it would have seemed esoteric. During the discussion period, therefore, I asked him how he would make the case to ordinary people.…He thought for a little while, and then said, “I think it makes its own case.”

Exactly. And that is the classical approach. One cannot convince people of what they grasp already; one can only draw it out of them.

—J. Budziszewski1 (pronounced Boo jee shef skee)—

Key point: Same-sex marriage denies the importance of male and female differences in the marriage relationship itself, in parenting, and in the nurture and upbringing of children. Also, it robs children of either a mother or a father. By contrast, all of these are affirmed and upheld in natural, man-woman marriage.

Go here for summaries of all the articles in this series.

We are considering myths that led to the Supreme Court’s redefinition of marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges two-and-a-half years ago, a decision that departed a great distance from sound legal reasoning. Last time we highlighted four myths related to the Supreme Court, government, and the law, including the US Constitution. Here is a review.

  • Myth #1: Marriage is a government construct over which government and government alone has oversight.
  • Myth #2: The federal government, especially through its court system, has absolute authority over marriage.
  • Myth #3: The government bestows rights; therefore, the government can take them away.
  • Myth #4: The Supreme Court is the final arbiter of disputes in the United States.

While in this article we will refer to the decision of the Court in at least one instance, I’d like for us mainly to think logically about marriage itself, including what nature tells us about it and the implications that arise for marriage when a same-sex relationship is considered a marriage.

Nature Has a Great Deal to Say About Marriage

In the 1970s and even into the 1980s, a series of advertisements featuring Dena Dietrich as Mother Nature promoted Chiffon Margarine. The ads told us that Chiffon Margarine tasted so much like butter, it fooled even Mother Nature herself. She was incensed! It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature! Here is one of those ads.

The truth is that no one ever can fool Mother Nature. Efforts to do so, however well-intentioned they may be to produce outcomes believed to be beneficial, backfire anyway. Such is the nature of reality when we push against it by pretending that it is something it is not or that it is not something it is. This is the situation with regard to the redefinition of marriage in the United States.


No one can fool Mother Nature. Efforts to do so, however well intentioned they may be to produce outcomes believed to be beneficial, backfire anyway.


Myth #5: Gender is absolutely meaningless in marriage.

Fact: Gender and gender differences—physical, emotional, psychological, and relational—form the bedrock foundation on which marriage rests! The innate differences between men and women

  • set the stage for interdependency in a marriage, and thus a journey away from selfish independence and toward oneness;2
  • set the stage for practical needs to effectively be met within the family unit, which often includes innocent, vulnerable, and helpless infants and children;
  • set the stage for God to display His image through the couple’s relationship. While this is true especially in Christian marriages, even non-Christian marriages offer a picture of God’s qualities and character.
Lightstock

Men are strong and independent and often are initiators. Women are intuitive, relational, patient, and supportive. This doesn’t mean that men can’t be relational or that women can’t ever lead. It does mean that, generally speaking, the husband is better suited to be the protector and provider of his family, and the wife is better equipped to be the nurturer and the source of warmth and encouragement in the home.

From Christian psychologist W. Peter Blitchington, we gain a great deal of insight into how male-female differences help foster emotionally healthy individuals and a healthy society—and how, from a Christian perspective, certain aspects of God’s image are reflected in each partner.

To Eve, and to women in general, God gave this important role—the ability to create new life; to deliver a unique human being, fashioned after his initial design. Woman represents the life-giving, nurturant side of God’s nature. Her capacity to give birth to a child represents God’s ability to give life to an entire universe. She represents God as the life-giver. The roundness and softness of woman were not designed just for the enjoyment of man alone (although that was part of the plan); they are also symbols of God’s tenderness and gentleness.…

Lightstock

But God didn’t stop there, for he is the life-sustainer as well as the life-giver. He could have made us without the capacity to create children after our own image; or he could have made us so that we give birth to independent, self-sufficient children who need no care or nurturance from their parents. But God chose to create us so that we would produce helpless, dependent children who needed our care and love in order to grow and develop. And so a woman’s breasts were created not to be mere ornaments but as life sustaining organs—reminders that every object in God’s creation is not made just to be selfishly admired and enjoyed (as important as beautiful things are), but to be used for others in some capacity. And appropriately, he placed those life-sustaining organs right over the heart of woman.

But the woman’s nature didn’t reflect God perfectly because it didn’t contain his power and strength, his initiatory activity and energy—in short, his masculinity.

So God created Adam—man—to reflect this side of God’s nature. He made Adam taller, more muscular, signifying the man’s role as the protector of his family. He was to be the first link in God’s chain of authority. God also created man to be more aggressive and dominant, more logical and analytical. All of these traits complemented the female traits perfectly. Adam submitted to God and Eve to Adam. All were in harmony. Since neither sex could fully represent God’s character alone, a unity between the two was required. Thus by his plan of marriage, God insured that there would be an opportunity for continual growth within the family.3

Holy Trinity, by Szymon Czechowicz (1756–1758)

Let’s be sure we don’t overreact to the word submitted in this last paragraph. According to Christian teaching, within the Godhead—God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit—the Father is the decision-making member of the Trinity, or the initiator. For the Son and the Spirit to submit to the Father causes no strife or resentment. Thus, since marriage is to reflect the diversity and unity within the Godhead, the idea of submission ought not to create strife in a marriage.

Also in Christian teaching, marriage depicts Christ’s relationship with His bride, the church. Is it a burden for the church to submit to Christ, the One who laid down His life for her? Not at all! It is a joy to submit to Christ. Christ is Lord, but He doesn’t “lord it over” anyone. Similarly, since the husband is to love his wife as Christ loves the church and gave himself for it, there should be no bitterness on the part of the wife responds positively to her husband’s leadership. Would any woman married to a man who truly loves her as Christ loved the church have difficulty responding positively to his leadership? How could she, unless she already has resolved to remain independent of him? Yet marriage is about unity and oneness, not individual independence.

Myth #6: The fact that procreation occurs naturally only through heterosexual intercourse has nothing to do with marriage and the family.

Fact: The fact that procreation occurs naturally only through heterosexual intercourse is a part of nature’s testimony that marriage can only be between a man and a woman. In 2003, a BreakPoint commentary by Chuck Colson emphasized this strong testimony. The commentary read in part,

The first line of yesterday’s Associated Press story says it all: “An appeals court ruled that Canada’s ban on homosexual marriage was unconstitutional, and hours later two Canadian men tied the knot in the country’s first legal same-sex wedding.”

This is the beginning of a vast social experiment initiated by judicial fiat. Canadian Justice Harry LaForme wrote in his opinion, “The restriction against same-sex marriage is an offence to the dignity of lesbians and gays because it limits the range of relationship options available to them. The result is they are denied the autonomy to choose whether they wish to marry. This in turn conveys the ominous message that they are unworthy of marriage.”

The argument, you see, is that to deny homosexuals marriage is manifestly unfair. But it’s not unfair. Gays and lesbians are not unworthy of marriage; they are incapable of marriage.


Gays and lesbians are not unworthy of marriage; they are incapable of marriage.


In his wonderful new book, What We Can’t Not Know, University of Texas professor J. Budziszewski states that the purpose of marriage is procreation—the begetting and rearing of children. The future of the human race depends on marriage understood as the union of one man and one woman. Relationships between two men or two women are by their very nature sterile and, thus, not marriage.

Budziszewski writes, “To call procreation the purpose of marriage is not arbitrary; alone among all forms of human union, the union of the sexes produces children.…A legislature [or a court] can no more turn sodomitical unions into marriages than it can turn dogs into cats; it can only unravel the institution of marriage by sowing confusion about its purpose.”


A legislature or court can no more turn sodomitical unions into marriages than it can turn dogs into cats; it can only unravel the institution of marriage by sowing confusion about its purpose.
—J. Budziszewski—


J. Budziszewski

Budziszewski makes this case for heterosexual marriage on page 188 of his book.4 Just prior to making it, he describes the cultural backdrop with regard to the debate over marriage and shows how it has been rigged. A noble ideal, marital purity, in this case—the self-evident meaning of marriage as a permanent commitment between one man and one woman—is attacked in the name of another noble ideal, that of fairness. It isn’t fair, we’ve been told, to honor the request of a heterosexual couple desiring marriage while denying the request of a homosexual couple saying they, too, want marriage. We see this idea in Colson’s commentary in this sentence: The argument, you see, is that to deny homosexuals marriage is manifestly unfair. Yet this argument distorts the true nature of fairness. The principle of fairness in its truest form does not forbid treating people differently, but arbitrarily treating them differently. Likewise, fairness prevents us from arbitrarily treating people the same. Context is important.

Here’s an illustration. If we totaled up the score between two opposing football teams at the end of a game, divided it by two, and awarded each team the same score, that would not be fair. Why? Because competition is one of the inherent purposes of football. Such an approach would obliterate competition from the mix and change the very nature of the game.


If we totaled up the score between two opposing football teams at the end of a game, divided it by two, and awarded each team the same score, that would not be fair. Why? Because competition is one of the inherent purposes of football. Such an approach would obliterate competition from the mix and change the very nature of the game.


A fundamental inherent purpose of heterosexual marriage is producing children. While it may seem fair recognize a same-sex relationship as a marriage, doing so obliterates from marriage one of its inherent purposes. Same-sex couples, by the very nature of their relationship, cannot procreate! Yet they can be married? This stands contrary to reality!5

Myth #7: Gender is absolutely meaningless in parenting.

Fact: Mothers are not fathers, nor can they be fathers to their children. Similarly, fathers are not mothers and cannot act, in any ongoing way, adequately in the mothering role. This is not to say that moms can’t ever challenge their children to take reasonable risks or that dads can’t ever be nurturing. It is to say that men are equipped physically, emotionally, and relationally to be dads, and women are equipped physically, emotionally, and relationally to be moms. Men and women parent differently, and children of both sexes need the nurturing love of a mother and the strength, safety, and challenge a father will give. Children need both parenting styles for emotional balance and healthy development.

What are some specific ways men and women parent differently? Glenn Stanton, social researcher at Focus on the Family, names several in a must-read article. Here we summarize some of his major points.

  • Moms and dads tend to approach their children’s play differently. From Mom a child learns the importance of equity, security, and building bonds through shared experiences. From Dad the child receives encouragement to compete and to strive for independence. Also from Dad, a child learns how strength and safety can be intertwined. Roughhousing with Dad teaches the child that Dad is both strong and safe. This is foundational for self-assurance and confidence.
  • Moms tend to encourage and offer security while dads tend to push their children to move beyond their comfort zones to accomplish what they’re capable of achieving.
  • Moms are verbal and personal in their communication style; dads use fewer words than moms and tend to be more direct or “bottom line.”
  • “Dads,” Stanton writes, “tend to see their child in relation to the rest of the world. Mothers tend to see the rest of the world in relation to their child.”
  • Moms provide a gateway for their children to view the world of women; dads provide the gateway for them to view the world of men. Because all children are, generally speaking, surrounded by women in infancy and in their earliest years, it is understandable that dad’s connection to the world of men is especially important for young boys. In another article, Stanton discusses the truth that boys must learn to be men. How else can they learn this essential skill unless they spend time in the company of other men?
  • When children see their opposite-sex parents interact in healthy ways with each other, they learn much more than the relational dynamics involved when two people interact; they get to observe the core qualities and subtle nuances of interaction between the sexes. Though this interaction, kids learn what mutual respect for members of the opposite sex looks like and feels like.

Stanton’s conclusion offers this key statement: “When we disregard the gender distinctions of parental influence as unimportant or unnecessary, we seriously diminish the proper development of children.” In addition to Stanton’s article, this piece is well-worth reading.

Myth #8: Marriage is really all about adults—not children.

Fact: You won’t find advocates of same-sex marriage actively promoting this idea as expressed here. In fact, a focus on the needs of children has been at the forefront of the arguments for same-sex marriage. Read this portion of Justice Kennedy’s decision in Obergefell. Writing for the majority, he said,

[M]any same-sex couples provide loving and nurturing homes to their children, whether biological or adopted. And hundreds of thousands of children are presently being raised by such couples…Most States have allowed gays and lesbians to adopt, either as individuals or as couples, and many adopted and foster children have same-sex parents…. This provides powerful confirmation from the law itself that gays and lesbians can create loving, supportive families.

Excluding same-sex couples from marriage thus conflicts with a central premise of the right to marry. Without the recognition, stability, and predictability marriage offers, their children suffer the stigma of knowing their families are somehow lesser. They also suffer the significant material costs of being raised by unmarried parents, relegated through no fault of their own to a more difficult and uncertain family life. The marriage laws at issue here thus harm and humiliate the children of same-sex couples.

We readily acknowledge that the first sentence we have cited here is correct: A great many same-sex couples do indeed provide loving and nurturing homes for their children. This and a generous number of other statements in the majority opinion reflect concern for children’s well-being. Even so, the question is not whether homes with same-sex parents can meet a wide range of children’s needs and offer a loving and caring environment. They can and they do! The question is whether we are willing to acknowledge the critical element that is lacking for children in every same-sex-parent home.

Every home run by same-sex parents not only fails to provide a fundamental need children have; it actually denies children this need. Children need both male and a female parents, parenting together, and only an opposite-sex couple can meet that need. Please reread our discussion about myth #7 and consider it in light of myth #8. As noble as statements about the needs of children sound, it is crystal clear that same-sex marriage, because of what it is, shortchanges children by placing the desires of adults above the needs of their children.


Same-sex marriage shortchanges children by placing the desires of adults above the needs of their children.


I cannot express it any better than Katy Faust and Dawn Stefanowicz have in this video, which is produced by Alliance Defending Freedom. You can learn more at marriageisourfuture.org. You can hear them tell their own stories of growing up in homes with same-sex parents here.

There are even more aspects to this myth. This isn’t just about the impact of same-sex marriage in homes with same-sex couples; it’s also about the message that society sends to everyone in the culture, especially to members of future generations. In their excellent book, Marriage on Trial: The Case against Same-Sex Marriage and Parenting, Glenn T. Stanton and Dr. Bill Maier answer the question, “How could same-sex marriage harm my children?”

Same-sex marriage teaches children and their generation that marriage is merely about fulfilling adult sexual and emotional desire, nothing more. Many approaches and philosophies of heterosexual marriage already teach this, and same-sex marriage will only help solidify it.

Same-sex marriage—like easy divorce, cohabitation, pre- and extramarital sex, and unmarried childbearing—relativize family relationships. It promotes a smorgasbord mentality for family life: choose what suits your tastes, and one choice is as good as another. But no society has ever been able sustain itself with such a view of family life.

Same-sex marriage will teach little boys that the idea of being a good family man—caring and sacrificing himself for one woman and their children—is not expected or even virtuous, but merely one’s lifestyle choice among many. Same-sex marriage teaches our daughters that being committed to and helping socialize a husband and bearing and raising children with him is also only one family lifestyle choice among many.

In short the entire meaning and significance of marriage itself, and what it means to be male and female, will be radically changed. So will the choices and behaviors of those who grow up within that altered social context.6

We now have considered eight myths, but we’re only about halfway through our list. Next time, we’ll turn our thoughts toward Christmas, but soon thereafter we’ll resume our quest to expose the harmful myths responsible for redefining marriage.

Stay tuned!

 

Copyright © 2017 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture has been taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Notes:

1J. Budziszewski, What We Can’t Not Know: A Guide, (Dallas: Spence Publishing, 2003), 204-205.

2W. Peter Blitchington, Sex Roles and the Christian Family, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1981), 51.

3Blitchington, 52.

4J. Budziszewski, 188.

5Budziszewski, 187-188.

6Glenn T. Stanton and Dr. Bill Maier, Marriage on Trial: The Case Against Same-Sex Marriage and Parenting, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 55-56.

 

Myths that Led to Recognition of Same-Sex Marriage in the United States, Part 1

Marriage is what one man and one woman establish when, forsaking all others and pledging lifelong commitment, they found a sharing of life at every level of being—the biological, the emotional, the dispositional, the rational, the spiritual—on a commitment that is sealed, completed and actualized by loving sexual intercourse in which the spouses become one flesh, not in some merely metaphorical sense, but by fulfilling together the behavioral conditions of procreation.

No one has a civil right to have a non-marital relationship treated as a marriage. Marriage is an objective reality—a covenantal union of husband and wife—that it is the duty of the law to recognize and support for the sake of justice and the common good. If it fails to do so, genuine social harms follow.

The Manhattan Declaration, released in 2009—

Key point: The Supreme Court ruling that changed the definition of marriage in the United States to include same-sex couples is based on numerous myths, including myths that have misinformed and misled people in the United States about the role of government, the nature of rights in relation to government, and government’s responsibility to respect the sacredness of marriage.

Go here for summaries of all the articles in this series.

Now known as the “father of infection control,” Ignaz Semmelweis (1818-1865) wasn’t always well-respected. A native of Hungary, he earned his medical degree in 1844, and in 1847, through an appointment, became an assistant professor at a highly regarded teaching hospital in Vienna. His area of expertise was obstetrics, and he soon became alarmed about the mortality rate at his hospital among the women whose babies were delivered by doctors and medical students. It was between 13 and 18 percent! By contrast, the mortality rate was just 2 percent among the women whose babies were delivered with assistance from midwives or those learning to become midwives.

Ignaz Semmelweis

Noticing that it wasn’t unusual for medical personnel to perform autopsies before delivering babies, Dr. Semmelweis began requiring all doctors and students to wash their hands before assisting the hospital’s patients. The mortality rate plummeted to 2 percent—as low as the rate for the women assisted by the midwives. As wonderful as this was, Dr. Semmelweis wasn’t through. Now, medical instruments would be washed as well. After this requirement took effect, the death rate dropped down to just 1 percent.

Louis Pasteur

The good doctor, though his policies, had saved a significant number of lives. With our modern understanding of infectious diseases, we readily can see this; but at the time, sadly, Semmelweis’s supervisor did not. A new ventilation system had been installed in the hospital, and he believed it was responsible for the improved statistics. Apparently, Semmelweis could not convince him otherwise.

Joseph Lister

Unfortunately, Semmelweis’s appointment to teach and work at the hospital was a 2-year appointment that wasn’t renewed. To his credit, the doctor continued to make his case for handwashing among medical personnel. In 1861, he even wrote a book about it. Dr. Semmelweis was right, but his book was not well written and was met with skepticism. Only a few years later as a patient in a public insane asylum, Dr. Semmelweis died. He was only 47 years old.

Florence Nightingale

We all can be glad the story doesn’t end there. Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) entered the picture not many years later. While Semmelweis’s policies had produced positive results, the good doctor couldn’t articulate the reasons why. Pasteur was able to do this by explaining the germ theory of infectious diseases. Relying on Pasteur’s investigations, Joseph Lister, a British physician who lived from 1827-1912, was able to convince his medical colleagues to adopt effective sanitation procedures. Florence Nightingale (1820-1910), the medical pioneer credited with founding modern nursing, also promoted sanitation guidelines in the medical profession.1

Myths and the Dangers They Pose

It took some time, but Ignaz Semmelweis was vindicated. Many lessons arise from his story—not the least of which is that failure to believe and act upon the truth can be quite costly. While we’ve cited from his story just one false belief in a single situation, false ideas sometimes grip entire cultures. When they do, they can be extremely dangerous and hazardous. Moreover, the more ingrained an erroneous belief is in people’s minds, and the more widespread it is, the greater its potential to harm and destroy. We often call an erroneous belief that has widespread acceptance a myth.


The more ingrained an erroneous belief is in people’s minds, and the more widespread it is, the greater its potential to harm and destroy. Such beliefs often are called myths.


In this and subsequent posts, I’d like to examine at least 16 myths that paved the way for the Supreme Court to redefine marriage two and a half years ago in Obergefell v. Hodges. In the United States we did not arrive overnight, but over time, at a place where judicial decree could redefine marriage. Even so, this process has taken place at amazing speed. Only a scant few decades ago, the idea of same-sex marriage was totally unthinkable. Since then, the culture’s prevailing underlying assumptions about marriage were challenged, attacked and ridiculed, and then pushed aside—both forcibly in the courts and subtly in the culture.


Over time, the culture’s prevailing underlying assumptions about marriage were challenged, attacked and ridiculed, and then pushed aside—both forcibly in the courts and subtly in the culture.


In this article, we will examine 4 myths about government, law, and the US Constitution. In subsequent posts we’ll examine the remaining myths on our list, these having to do with the nature of marriage itself. We will see how these myths, both individually and especially through Obergefell, actually are a threat to the well-being of individuals, society, and individual liberties. Proponents of same-sex marriage are not exempt from these threats. Those who worked hard to promote the redefinition of marriage are not as free as they think they are. Falsehoods enslave, but the truth liberates!

Here goes.

Myth #1: Marriage is a government construct over which government and government alone has oversight.

Fact: Marriage—the lifelong union of one man and one woman—is not at all a government construct, but an institution that preceded government, and an institution that preceded the United States government by thousands of years. Moreover, marriage and the family is society’s most important and most basic institution. Despite any and all appearances and sentiments to the contrary, without healthy marriages and healthy families, societal stability cannot be maintained.

This is not to say that government ought to have nothing to say about marriage. It is to say that government should respect marriage for what it is rather than seeking to manipulate it to meet the demands of a select few.

Charles Colson, one of the drafters of the Manhattan Declaration

In the Manhattan Declaration (2009), the section on marriage first cites two Bible passages—Genesis 2:23-24 and Ephesians 5:32-33.  Then, the initial paragraph on marriage begins with these three sentences.

[1] In Scripture, the creation of man and woman, and their one-flesh union as husband and wife, is the crowning achievement of God’s creation. [2] In the transmission of life and the nurturing of children, men and women joined as spouses are given the great honor of being partners with God Himself. [3] Marriage then, is the first institution of human society—indeed it is the institution on which all other human institutions have their foundation.


Marriage…is the first institution of human society—indeed it is the institution on which all other human institutions have their foundation.
—The Manhattan Declaration—


Clearly from the context, the word first in the term “first institution” means both first in time and first in importance.

Similarly, the Pledge in Solidarity to Defend Marriage states,

On the matter of marriage, we stand in solidarity. We affirm that marriage and family have been inscribed by the Divine Architect into the order of Creation.

Marriage is ontologically between one man and one woman, ordered toward the union of the spouses, open to children and formative of family. Family is the first vital cell of society, the first government, and the first mediating institution of our social order. The future of a free and healthy society passes through marriage and the family.

Marriage as existing solely between one man and one woman precedes civil government.

In the spring of 2015, Dr. James Dobson wrote the following in a letter to supporters of his ministry, Family Talk.

The institution of the family is one of the Creator’s most marvelous and enduring gifts to humankind. It was revealed to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and then described succinctly in Genesis 2:24, where we read, “For this cause, a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife, and they shall be one flesh.” With those 20 [-plus] words, God announced the ordination of male-female marriage, long before He established the two other great human institutions, the church and 
the government.

At least 5,000 years have come and gone since that point of origin, yet every civilization in the history of the world has been built upon it. Despite today’s skeptics who claim that marriage is an outmoded and narrow-minded Christian concoction, the desire of men and women to “leave” and “cleave” has survived and thrived through times of prosperity, famine, wars, peace, epidemics, tyranny, and every other circumstance and human condition. It has been the bedrock of culture in Asia, Africa, Europe, North America, South America, Australia and even Antarctica. [Note that this has been true even in countries that aren’t predominantly Christian.]…

Admittedly, there have been various societies in history where homosexuality has flourished, including the biblical cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, in ancient Greece and in the Roman Empire. None of these civilizations survived. Furthermore, even where sexual perversion was tolerated or flourished, the institution of marriage continued to be honored in law and custom. Only in the last few years has what is called “gay marriage” been given equal status with biblical male-female unions.…God help us if we throw the divine plan for humankind on the ash heap of history.

In the months prior to the Supreme Court ruling of June 26, 2015, that redefined marriage nationwide, the dominoes were falling in states where the people had amended their state constitutions to say unambiguously that marriage was between one man and one woman. Judges—especially members of the federal judiciary—were overruling the people almost en masse. Observing this judicial tyranny, Dennis Prager lamented,

Society is no longer being permitted to define marriage in the only way marriage has ever been defined in the annals of recorded history. Many societies have allowed polygamy, many have allowed child marriages, some have allowed marriage within families; but none in thousands of years has defined marriage as the union of people of the same sex.

None of this matters to these judges or to all those who seek to redefine marriage and can’t convince a majority of their fellow citizens to agree.


Many societies have allowed polygamy, many have allowed child marriages, some have allowed marriage within families; but none in thousands of years has defined marriage as the union of people of the same sex.
—Dennis Prager—


Given what marriage is, and what it has been for millennia, and the good that results when it is respected and honored, it is fitting that the Pledge in Solidarity to Defend Marriage would say forthrightly to the Supreme Court of the United States,

Our highest respect for the rule of law requires that we not respect an unjust law that directly conflicts with higher law. A decision purporting to redefine marriage flies in the face of the Constitution and is contrary to the natural created order. As people of faith we pledge obedience to our Creator when the State directly conflicts with higher law. We respectfully warn the Supreme Court not to cross this line.

Myth #2: The federal government, especially through its court system, has absolute authority over marriage.

Chief Justice John Roberts

Fact: This myth is completely unconstitutional. Courts do not have authority to make laws. Moreover, the Tenth Amendment of the US Constitution states, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.” The Constitution is silent about the matter of marriage, and that alone places marriage out of the reach of the federal judiciary, including the Supreme Court.

In his dissenting opinion in Obergefell, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote,

[T]his Court is not a legislature. Whether same-sex marriage is a good idea should be of no concern to us. Under the Constitution, judges have power to say what the law is, not what it should be. The people who ratified the Constitution authorized courts to exercise “neither force nor will but merely judgment.” The Federalist No. 78, p. 465.

Justice Scalia, dissenting, wrote,

Associate Justice Antonin Scalia

Today’s decree says that my Ruler, and the Ruler of 320 million Americans coast-to-coast, is a majority of the nine lawyers on the Supreme Court. The opinion in these cases is the furthest extension in fact— and the furthest extension one can even imagine—of the Court’s claimed power to create “liberties” that the Constitution and its Amendments neglect to mention. This practice of constitutional revision by an unelected committee of nine, always accompanied (as it is today) by extravagant praise of liberty, robs the People of the most important liberty they asserted in the Declaration of Independence and won in the Revolution of 1776: the freedom to govern themselves.

Associate Justice Samuel Alito

Justice Alito, dissenting, wrote,

Today’s decision shows that decades of attempts to restrain this Court’s abuse of its authority have failed. A lesson that some will take from today’s decision is that preaching about the proper method of interpreting the Constitution or the virtues of judicial self-restraint and humility cannot compete with the temptation to achieve what is viewed as a noble end by any practicable means.

Myth #3: The government bestows rights; therefore, the government can take them away.

Fact: The Declaration of Independence is correct when affirms the self-evident truths

that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed….

The government never will admit to taking away rights—only to granting them. Yet, in the very act of creating rights outside its authority, it tramples on the inherent, God-given rights of others.

This isn’t all. In state after state, unable to convince the people to change the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples, advocates of same-sex marriage went to the courts to get the judiciary to reshape and change marriage. They demanded that the courts make of marriage something it is not, and in doing so, they relied on government to create rights it has no authority to create.

In his dissent, Justice Clarence Thomas was especially articulate in highlighting this myth and warning of its dangers. Thomas, dissenting in Obergefell, wrote,

Associate Justice Clarence Thomas

The Court’s decision today is at odds not only with the Constitution, but with the principles upon which our Nation was built. Since well before 1787, liberty has been understood as freedom from government action, not entitlement to government benefits. The Framers created our Constitution to preserve that understanding of liberty. Yet the majority invokes our Constitution in the name of a “liberty” that the Framers would not have recognized, to the detriment of the liberty they sought to protect. Along the way, it rejects the idea—captured in our Declaration of Independence—that human dignity is innate and suggests instead that it comes from the Government. This distortion of our Constitution not only ignores the text, it inverts the relationship between the individual and the state in our Republic. I cannot agree with it.

Thomas went on to demonstrate just how far out of bounds the Court went when it changed the definition of marriage to grant “rights” to same-sex couples. He also emphasized the threats to religious liberty and rights of conscience the court’s overreach created. Please read more from Justice Thomas’s brilliant and articulate dissent here.

Go here to read about the differences between the Founders’ view on rights and the contemporary American view. Unfortunately, we have exchanged the Founders perspective on rights—a view of rights that fosters genuine liberty—for one that eventually will give way to tyranny. All the while, this has been done under the mantra of freedom and rights!


Unfortunately, we have exchanged the Founders perspective on rights—a view of rights that fosters genuine liberty—for one that eventually will give way to tyranny.


Myth #4: The Supreme Court is the final arbiter of disputes in the United States.

Fact: The Founders of our country never intended that the Supreme Court of the United States would acquire the power it now has. Often, we hear that the Framers established “equal” or “co-equal” branches of government—executive, legislative, and judicial. Even if it were true the Founding Fathers intended for them to be equal, our government has departed from this principle. The courts have stepped way beyond their constitutional authority.

In the Federalist Papers—initially anonymous articles published by a New York newspaper that encouraged New York to ratify the proposed US Constitution—Alexander Hamilton wrote,

Alexander Hamilton

It proves incontestably, that the judiciary is beyond comparison the weakest of the three departments of power; that it can never attack with success either of the other two; and that all possible care is requisite to enable it to defend itself against their attacks. It equally proves, that though individual oppression may now and then proceed from the courts of justice, the general liberty of the people can never be endangered from that quarter; I mean so long as the judiciary remains truly distinct from both the Legislature and the Executive. [Federalist Paper #78].

James Madison said this: “In republican government, the legislative authority necessarily predominates” [Federalist Paper #51].

Thomas Jefferson

Another Founding Father, Thomas Jefferson, became alarmed about the growth of judicial power he himself was witnessing, and he openly expressed his concerns. Each of the following is a quote from the third US President.

  • We already see the [judiciary] power, installed for life, responsible to no authority…advancing with a noiseless and steady pace to the great object of consolidation. The foundations are already deeply laid by their decisions for the annihilation of constitutional State rights and the removal of every check, every counterpoise to the engulfing power of which themselves are to make a sovereign part.
  • [T]he opinion which gives to the judges the right to decide what laws are constitutional and what not, not only for themselves in their own sphere of action but for the Legislature and Executive also in their spheres, would make the Judiciary a despotic branch.
  • To consider the judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions; a very dangerous doctrine indeed, and one which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy.…[T]heir power [is] the more dangerous as they are in office for life and not responsible, as the other functionaries are, to the elective control. The Constitution has erected no such single tribunal, knowing that to whatever hands confided…its members would become despots. It has more wisely made all the departments co-equal and co-sovereign within themselves.…When the legislative or executive functionaries act unconstitutionally, they are responsible to the people in their elective capacity. The exemption of the judges from that is quite dangerous enough.
  • It has long been my opinion, and I have never shrunk from its expression…that the germ of dissolution of our Federal Government is in the constitution of the Federal Judiciary – an irresponsible body…working like gravity by night and by day, gaining a little today and a little tomorrow, and advancing its noiseless step like a thief over the field of jurisdiction until all shall be usurped from the States and the government be consolidated into one. To this I am opposed.

In an extremely insightful Prager University video titled “Why We’re Losing Liberty,” Dr. Robert George, Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University, explains that the Founders never foresaw that the Supreme Court would become the entity it is today, exercising unrestrained power. He says that “now, most Americans think of the Supreme Court as the ultimate arbiter of almost every social and political dispute. The Founders never envisioned the court in this role.” Go here to watch this excellent presentation.


Now, most Americans think of the Supreme Court as the ultimate arbiter of almost every social and political dispute. The Founders never envisioned the court in this role.
—Professor Robert George—


These four myths not only led to the Obergefell ruling; they also are being reinforced by that ruling. It is time for the American people to understand the limitations the Constitution has placed, and places, on the federal government, particularly the judiciary. Furthermore, it is time for the people to demand that these restraints be honored and respected.

It is difficult to think of a matter that could be more out of bounds for the federal government to manipulate than marriage.

Next time, we’ll expose several myths that relate to the nature of marriage itself. Be sure to return for our critically important discussion.

 

Copyright © 2017 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.

Note:

1Safe Exit: Balancing grace and truth on the complicated subject of same-sex attraction, (PFOX—Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays, 2015), 56. Go here for more information.