NOTE: This post is more philosophical, less practical. (i.e. it won’t help you get laid, but you might find it interesting.)
What creates a marriage?
It’s a simple question, but one that reveals a lot of confusion when you try to answer it.
It also has practical significance. What is your duty as a husband? Under what circumstances is a man legitimately no longer responsible for a woman?
The other week I got in a brief debate with a Christian red pill blogger by the name of “Artisanal Toad.” He caused quite a stir in the comments section on Dalrock’s blog a few months ago with his “eligible virgin” theory.
You can read his argument here. Basically, he’s taking the common “sex = marriage” to it’s fullest, strictly technical conclusion.
If Artisanal Toad’s argument is correct, it has some shocking implications. Specifically…
- If a woman is raped, she is automatically bound to the man who raped her
- If a man marries a woman who was previously penetrated by another man (including rape) he is committing adultery
- If a Christian man is married to a woman who was raped, he must divorce her if he’s going to remain a Christian
If these conclusions sound absurd…well… they are.
But I chose to engage with his argument because he is arguing from a common premise. Many Christians who deny that the state creates a marriage believe that sexual intercourse creates a marriage.
While I acknowledge that ideally, sex and marriage would always be one and the same, I find several probelms with Toad’s argument and the sex = marriage belief.
Toad’s argument doesn’t pass my basic “sniff test.”
The Apostle James tells us that wisdom from above is “gentle” and Christ says that “his burden is light.”
Toad’s teaching, if taken seriously, would place a heavy burden on any Christian married couple where the wife was not a virgin (either through rape or prior promiscuity). Fathers would have to tell their children, “well, we found out that your mother is not actually my wife so I’m going to have to divorce her. Sorry kids.”
That just doesn’t seem sensible to me or consistent with God’s character, so my B.S. detector immediately kicks on.
Much of Toad’s argument depends on Old Testament laws about marriage, rape, and virginity. Such as this often misunderstood and abused law:
If a man finds a girl who is a virgin, who is not engaged, and seizes her and lies with her and they are discovered, then the man who lay with her shall give to the girl’s father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall become his wife because he has violated her; he cannot divorce her all his days.
But Toad ignores the basic principle for applying Old Testament law given to us by the Apostle Paul in 1 Timothy:
But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers…
Those who marry in order to find an outlet for their sexual passion are doing the righteous thing. But Toad is twisting the meaning of his proof texts by inducing guilt on those who are righteous and providing a loophole for those who are promiscuous.
I think it is clear that the Old Testament texts about rape and marrying the virgin were intended to prevent young alpha males from using the “pump-and-dump” strategy to getting laid. If a man could be legally forced to marry the young virgin he seduces, it forces him to consider the needs of his neighbor… even if only out of self-preservation.
We know that a righteous person will not be promiscuous. (If they are, they are not righteous by definition.)
But what happens when unbelievers marry (or co-habitate) and then one becomes a Christian?
Paul tells us the believer is not bound to the unbeliever if the unbeliever does not wish to continue living with the believer. The believer is then free to remarry. I see no reason why this principle wouldn’t also apply to unbelievers engaging in promiscuous sex and “long-term relationships” prior to becoming a Christian.
I find Toad’s argument rather weak when you strip away all the rhetoric. His argument is essentially:
1. daraq means sex
2. Genesis 2:24 describes the creation of a marriage and uses daraq
3. Therefore daraq = marriage (i.e. A includes B; therefore B = A)
4. Now look at what these laws mean with this new definition in mind
5. No one can disprove what I’m saying, therefore I’m right!
He pulls a persuasion trick by getting his readers to “think past the sale.” His opposers argue about his application of the individual Old Testament laws. But he’s framed the argument in a way where no one can disprove his interpretation because they implicitly accept his definition.
Furthermore, Toad ignores evidence that contradicts his theory, such as Matthew 1:
“And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son”
So here, we have a clear case where marriage was not created by sex.
Also, we have a case in 2 Samuel where penetrating a virgin was presumed to be a separate act from marriage with Tamar and her step-brother:
“No, my brother, do not violate me, for such a thing is not done in Israel; do not do this disgraceful thing! As for me, where could I get rid of my reproach? And as for you, you will be like one of the fools in Israel. Now therefore, please speak to the king, for he will not withhold me from you.”
Tamar knew she was about to be raped and pleaded with her step-brother to marry her instead. There would be no point for Tamar to plead this if marriage was created by penetration.
So What is a Marriage?
All that said, I must credit Toad with bringing to my attention an important question: what defines a marriage?
My current belief is that a marriage occurs when a man agrees to allow a woman to live with him. This includes providing her with food, clothing/shelter, and regular sex. (per Exodus 21:10).
If a man has sex with a woman outside of this household provision and protection, he is committing the sin of fornication. If he has sex with another man’s wife, he is committing adultery.
Any time a man and woman separate (i.e. no longer live together) this is a divorce in God’s eyes. (Paul explicitly states in 1 Corinthians 7:11 that a wife who leaves her husband (unlawfully) should remain “unmarried” or be reconciled to her husband.)
Two righteous spouses will never divorce. But a righteous person may no longer be bound to an unrighteous spouse in certain circumstances.
Obviously, God’s design was that sex and marriage would be one and the same. But I believe in His wisdom, he makes sensible exceptions for us on account of living in a sinful world.
As far as I can tell, this view is most consistent with Scripture and accounts for all the difficult gray areas.
Hopefully, there will be more discussion of this in the fledgling Christian Red Pill space. I’m surprised there’s been so much confusion on the matter for so long.