Friday, March 24, 2023
It's Friday, March 24th, 2023.
I'm Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
Marriage, the Keystone and Primeval Institution of Society: The Benefits of God’s Good Gift of Marriage Appears in an Unexpected Place
Sometimes there are deeply embedded moral truths that are found in unexpected places, and that's just one of the realities of looking at the world by means of a Christian worldview. You sometimes see things and you say, "You know, that is deeply resonant with biblical truth". Or sometimes you hear something, you see something, you observe something and you say "That is absolutely contradictory to biblical truth."
I want to look at an article from an academic journal that's getting a little bit of attention and that article is in a journal which is entitled Global Epidemiology. So again, I repeat the name of the journal, an academic journal, Global Epidemiology, and so you understand this is about disease, it's about public health, it's about a global perspective on such things.
So why are we talking about this on a Friday edition of The Briefing? It is because in the kindest, most God glorifying, honest way without any intention of seeking to support a biblical worldview when it comes to marriage, this article does just that. It is an incredible common grace testimony about the glorious good that God gave his human creatures in making us male and female and giving us marriage.
Now, in typical academic jargon, the title just might not tell you exactly what's going on here. Here's the title of the academic article published in the journal Global Epidemiology, just a matter of a few weeks ago. Here it is, "Marital Transitions during Earlier Adulthood and Subsequent Health and Wellbeing in Mid to Late Life among Female Nurses, an Outcome Wide Analysis."
So again, you look at this, who would think this would be interesting? Who would think that this would even in the most unusual way, display biblical truth and testify to the glory of God?
Again, "Marital Transitions During Earlier Adulthood and Subsequent Health and Wellbeing in Mid to Late Life Among Female Nurses." We're told that the study is what's defined as an outcome wide analysis. Several scientists are behind this particular report, but I just want to tell you how it starts. So we're talking about this article because it reveals something of deep moral importance that is rooted in creation and just comes out in this article in the journal Global Epidemiology.
Here is how the article begins, "'Marriage represents the keystone institution for most societies,' observes anthropologist, Joseph Hendrick 'and may be the most primeval of human institutions.' Marriage in its diverse forms arguably remains our species' most durable solution to the interconnected problems of nurturing children, socializing sexuality and furnishing social support in many parts of the world."
Now from a Christian perspective, that might be a little bit of an understatement, but it actually just needs to amaze us that that much concentrated common sense in creation order in Christian worldview shows up in the opening words to an academic article, which is supposedly about epidemiology, but turns out to be about marriage.
Let's look at those words again, "Marriage represents the keystone institution for most societies," and the article is there citing anthropologist Joseph Hendrick. Now you look at that for a moment. Well, that's absolutely true and it's not accidentally true when you look at the fact that marriage represents the keystone institution for most societies. And "keystone" in this sense means foundational, fundamental, absolutely necessary.
There is a reason for that. It is because God gave us marriage as one of his first gifts and as the very first means of ordering what human beings would come to know his civilization. It is to the man and the woman in the marital bond to whom children are given and thus is the assignment for the raising and the nurturing of the young. Now this article quotes the anthropologist Joseph Hendrick, who went on to say that "Marriage may be the most primeval of human institutions."
Now as a Christian, don't you kind of get a smile on your face when you hear that here is an anthropologist just writing as an anthropologist, presumably primarily to other anthropologists saying, you know, there's something interesting about marriage. It turns out to be the keystone institution for most societies and maybe the most primeval of human institutions, which means the oldest. That's just another way of saying the oldest of human institutions. Now, where would you get that idea? I just want to underline for Christians again with a slight smile that glorifies God on our face. It is because it is as primeval that is marriage is as primeval as Genesis 1.
Now let me just remind you of that title again, "Marital Transitions During Earlier Adulthood and Subsequent Health and Wellbeing." So the "health and wellbeing" is why this is in the journal Epidemiology and this particular study is a study on the impact of early adulthood marriage on the subsequent health of individuals in mid and late life. But remember those words, "subsequent health and wellbeing in mid to late life among female nurses."
So this is just the way scientific research is done. You have to have a particular research question and you have to focus that question on a particular group. This group turns out to be mid to late life female nurses. Well, again, if you think about it, this just makes sense because if you are trying to do this kind of research on epidemiology and you're looking at the impact of marriage on health and you're looking for a public you might study, well, if you're in a medical context, guess what? One of those publics you might study would be female nurses. They are right there and available for the research.
But it's also really interesting to see that even in the opening paragraph to this article, we are told that marriage in diverse forms arguably remains our species' most durable solution to the interconnected problems. Well, what would these problems be? Of nurturing children, socializing sexuality and furnishing social support in many parts of the world.
Now wait just a minute. How in the world did all of a sudden that sentence end up in many parts of the world? That certainly piques the Christian curiosity because we understand that marriage is given in creation to all people in all parts of the world, but that's just an interesting kind of scientific hedge saying at least where we're doing this study. It appears that marriage turns out to make a very big difference.
Just a few paragraphs later, "In addition to its social effects, marriage also shapes individual health and wellbeing. A large body of literature on prevalent marital status has suggested that married individuals often have lower rates of mortality and better physical and mental health outcomes such as lower risks of cardiovascular diseases or depression as compared to those not currently married, with the association, stronger in men than women."
Now speaking as a man who is very thankfully married, I want to say that this makes perfect sense because it is simply true for men writ large that if our wives did not make our medical appointments, we probably wouldn't ever go. The fact is that someone is looking out for us and guess what? It makes a difference and it turns out that it makes more of a difference for the man in a marriage than it does for the woman in a marriage.
But remember that this entire study is actually about the impact of early adulthood marriage on the subsequent health and wellbeing of mid to late life female nurses. So it's actually looking at the other side of the equation and again, the nurses are available for this kind of research and the research turns out to be very clear, the bottom line in the research is that early marriage turns out to have very beneficial health results.
As you look at that population, and again, remember this is about global epidemiology, and so as you're looking at the problems of all kinds of health challenges around the world, here you have the serious argument being made in a secular context that may be marriage and particularly early adulthood marriage turns out to have lifelong health impacts and for good.
Now let me just drop back for a moment. Let's leave global epidemiology for a moment and let's think as Christians based upon a scriptural worldview, one of the things we need to understand is the unity of the goods according to Christian truth. So the unity the goods means that marriage is a good and it contains other goods. So marriage becomes a nexus or an intersection, a sanctuary for those goods. And so as you're thinking about the fellowship that a man enjoys with his wife, when you think about the relationship that they enjoy, the nurture, the emotional support that they enjoy, the commonality of purpose that they enjoy, even as you're looking at the other benefits, including the fact that she says to him, take your pills and the husband brings protection and other factors into the marriage and into the family.
As of course there's the transition to becoming not only husband and wife, but also father and mother. There is the tremendous challenge of raising children and yet there's the tremendous blessing that comes through those children into the lives of their parents. And it is clear, it's obvious that parents are important in the nurture of their children, but it's also true that children are important in the satisfaction of their parents.
So the unity of the goods reminds us that we should expect where you have the most flourishing marriage culture, you're going to have moral benefits, you're going to have emotional benefits, you're going to have health benefits, you're going to have all kinds of benefits coming not only to the couple, not only to their family, but to the entire neighborhood and the civilization beyond because marriage rightly ordered, brings about many moral goods and marriage brings them about together.
Now, it's just true that many Christians might not get to public health issues immediately in thinking about the goods that come to us by marriage, but here you have the academic journal Global Epidemiology that says it turns out marriage has important health effects, even measured in terms of epidemiology.
Now I'm going to fast forward from the beginning of this academic study several pages to the end where I read these words, "To conclude: This study provides evidence that entering first time marriage in earlier adulthood is associated with subsequently lower risks of mortality in cardiovascular diseases and greater psychosocial and mental wellbeing, whereas marital dissolution," that means separation and divorce "is related to lower psychosocial wellbeing and greater psychological distress among women with these associations persisting well into mid to late life."
Just fascinating, I wanted to draw attention to this academic research because it was cited in the Wall Street Journal in an article that summarized at least part of the findings, but I'm very glad I went to the academic journal itself because it truly contains material that I would not have wanted to miss.
One of the things that is very clear in the academic article is that this is not just about marriage and its benefits, it's about marriage in early adulthood and continuing what we as Christians would call faithful marriage throughout the adult life cycle. And this points to two things that many Christians increasingly need to talk about that aren't talked about enough.
One of them is that marriage is a good not only for a man and a woman, but particularly when you have a man and a woman enter into marriage as young adults I often say that one of the things you see in scripture is that marriage is intended, just say first of all, in terms of age for young people who are immediately capable of having children and raising those children and who grow up together in one sense through the process of entering adulthood together, making adult decisions together and bonding, establishing a deeply satisfying relationship by, in a very real sense inhabiting adult lives that have never really been without the other.
Now, this isn't to say that older people shouldn't get married and that there won't be benefits to older people getting married midlife even later in life. It is just to say that when it comes to many the goods of marriage, those goods are predominantly located particularly in the having and raising of children in the earlier stages of adulthood. Now, that's just a biological fact, but it turns out it's not just about the kids. It turns out it's not just about sociological data. It turns out it is about even the health of the man and the woman who enter into marriage in young adulthood and find that a deeply satisfying experience.
But I want to go back to something even more fundamental before we move to questions today, and that is this. The article begins with the assertion that it just might be that marriage is fundamental to society and as the anthropologist said, might be the most primal of human institutions.
That's where we as Christians, again with a kind smile on our face, at least think to ourselves, yes, it is indeed the most primeval of human institutions. It is so old, it is dated. Genesis 1 elaborated upon in Genesis 2. The two Harvard researchers who wrote the summary piece in the Wall Street Journal, Brendan Case and Ying Chen point to the marginalization and weakening of marriage in our society and they raise clear alarm bells about that and importantly enough, based upon epidemiology in health concerns.
But they conclude with these words, which I think you will find very encouraging. "Our findings added to an already extensive literature showing the value of marriage ought to serve as a wake-up call for a society in significant denial about this crucial element of flourishing, what to do about the problem?"
They continue, "One route would be for politicians to implement and fund policies and interventions that promote healthy marriages. Another perhaps more important change would be for our cultural and economic elite who are disproportionately likely to be stably married, to preach what they practice to not only enjoy the benefits of marriage in their private lives, but also to advocate for them in public."
So yes, you actually heard all this. You heard a testimony to the goodness of marriage as humanity's most primeval institution as cited in an academic journal, global epidemiology and is summarized in the Wall Street Journal by two academics at Harvard University. They didn't tell us what we didn't as Christians already know, but it's fascinating to know that they know this and have the courage to say the truth out loud.
Should Christians Continue to Honor the Sabbath as Described in the Old Testament? — Dr. Mohler Responds to a Letters from Listeners of The Briefing
Now let's turn to questions. Always appreciate the good and thoughtful questions. So many of them sent in by listeners to The Briefing.
Eddie wrote in and asked, should Christians continue to honor the Sabbath as described in Exodus 27:11? In other words, shall we cease our working to honor it every Saturday? Well, there is no doubt that the Sabbath day according to the Old Testament law was the seventh day, and so that would be Saturday. And that's by the way, very clear in both the Old and New Testaments. It's very clear even in what we would call that last week of Jesus' life, when you look at the facts of his death, burial and his resurrection from the dead, they are dated to the days of the week.
But that actually points to something fundamental and that is at the Christian Church all the way back into the time of the New Testament, we now know saw the first day of the week, not the seventh day of the week as the particularly Christian Day, the day to be devoted to worship and particularly to the proclamation of the word. And so that's why Christians have gathered on Sunday.
Internal biblical evidence to this effect is found in text such as for instance, Revelation 1:10, when John spoke of the vision that he received when he was in the Spirit on the Lord's day. And so we not only have the fact that it's the first day of the week, which we refer to as Sunday, but in the Christian tradition it is spoken of specifically as the Lord's day.
Now here's something to just keep in mind when you look at the Sabbath command as part of the 10 Commandments, and by the way, it was actually a part of the structure of creation because God himself rested on the seventh day and then gave to humanity, and in particular to those we would come to know as the people of the old covenant, the Jewish people, the institution of the Sabbath, and it became constitutive absolutely essential to the obedience of Israel. It was also considered a gift from God to Israel, his covenant people.
Now that does raise a huge question and that is how in the world does the Sabbath command apply to Christians and in what sense? And here we're informed most importantly by Scripture, we have to go to scriptures are fundamental authority. And in Scripture we also see the beginnings of church history and we come to know that Christians gathered together for what we would call church. They gathered together for worship. They gathered together for fellowship on the Lord's day, and they did so in honor of the fact that the first day of the week was the day in which Jesus Christ was raised from the dead.
Now, here's something else to understand. That is not simply as so many Christians believe, it wasn't simply the shift of the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday. It wasn't just the shift of the Sabbath from the seventh day to the first day because the Lord's day is not precisely a Christian Sabbath. So you say, where did the Sabbath go? Well, the Sabbath command is there and not one jot or tittle of scripture will pass away until all is fulfilled.
So where did the Sabbath go? Well, the Sabbath went to the cross and was resurrected on the third day because the Sabbath is Christ and the salvation that he achieved for us. Now you say, where in the world is the textual basis for that? Well, you will find the biblical basis for that in the book of Hebrews chapter four, the writer of the book of Hebrews, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit writes, "Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands," that is rest meaning salvation and that means eternal salvation in Christ "while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it for good news."
Verse two, "for good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them because they were not united by faith to those who listened." Now, the point here is that salvation is described in terms of being our Sabbath rest and Christ himself is described as being our Sabbath rest.
Now, just remember that in the gospels, Jesus had already in his public preaching redefined the Sabbath. First of all, he declared himself Lord of the Sabbath. He was not submitted to the Sabbath rules. He was the Lord of the Sabbath and thus he did things on the Sabbath that offended the Pharisees and others who were operating simply on the basis of the law. But Jesus said something else in the gospels, he said, "Do you not know that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath?"
And so Eddie, I'll just say, let this answer go over long. There is New Testament basis and abundant evidence in the entire history of the Christian Church that Christians have met together for worship and for the fellowship of the saints and for all that the church does and is on the first day of the week in light of the fact that it was on the first day of the week that Jesus Christ, our Lord was raised from the dead. The Lord's Day as it is known, is not a replacement for the Sabbath. It is not a second or a new Sabbath because the Lord's Day is not our Sabbath. Christ is our Sabbath.
Now in the Protestant and in the Puritan tradition, the understanding is that the priority of what we are assigned to do on the Lord's day in honor of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead, and this means the preaching of the gospel, the fellowship of the saints, the gathering together of Christ's people obedience to the ordinances that this comes as a matter of priority even as rest was the priority for the Sabbath, so Christian worship becomes the priority for the people of Christ.
That also means that it is not wrong to say that we set apart this day for the prioritization of the worship of the one true and living God and the fulfillment of the command that we gather together in Christ's name as believers. But Christians cannot be legalist about this in particular where you look even at the old confessional heritage of the church, it speaks of the fact that Christians rightly may rest and certainly set aside the priority of the gospel work for the Sunday, but at the same time, works of necessity and urgency are accepted.
And so as you look at the early church, it is likely that many people had to work on the Lord's day. They were just commanded to do everything possible to make the priority of worship clear. It is clear right now that we need people actually to work on the Lord's day in hospitals and police cars and elsewhere, but it is for Christians the positive obligation to honor the Lord's day in every way that we possibly can.
So I want to thank you for the question, Eddie. And by the way, this question comes recurringly, and so I just wanted, at the right time to give enough of an answer. I hope it will be a both help and assistance to listeners.
Are There Too Many Denominations Within the Protestant Church? — Dr. Mohler Responds to a Letters from Listeners of The Briefing
Micah wrote in saying, "I recently had a conversation with a friend from college about a struggle that this friend and her husband have been having, he has trained as a Wesleyan minister, but recently has been reading the church fathers and he has begun to feel convicted about the number of denominations in the Protestant church. As a result, they've been splitting their time between a Wesleyan church and a Catholic one." Well, the question goes on to say, "I want to be prepared to give this couple a good answer, that is good counsel."
Well, I'll do my best to give some good counsel here and advise some good counsel. This is not an unexpected question, and as a seminary president, as a theologian, as a preacher, and just in terms of being involved in Christian conversation, this is the kind of thing that comes up again and again.
So there are important words you've embedded in your question. First of all, we're told that this person is a Wesleyan minister. Now, that may or may not be determinative here, but it just may mean that this particular minister doesn't know exactly what to do with the centuries of the Christian tradition between say the end of the New Testament era and now.
We're told that this Wesleyan minister and his wife are now convicted about the number of denominations in the Protestant church. Well, let's just point out that this is not a problem unique to Protestantism. If you are looking at theological diversity and a lack of unity right now, all you have to do is look at the Roman Catholic Church. As you look at the synodal way that is going on in Germany and the bishops in Germany, you're looking at the response from bishops in Africa and elsewhere to those German bishops. You are looking at disunity not unity.
The other thing you have to face is that the Roman Catholic Church makes an official claim to being the steward of doctrine and doctrinal change over time. The Protestant impulses actually very different. It is to go back to biblical authority and to stand on biblical authority alone. Now, if you do that, guess what, you're going to end up with different churches, different denominations. I will simply say that is a far lesser price to pay than a false uniformity, which isn't actually based on biblical truth.
Now, I've got many Catholic friends and I've got Wesleyan friends, but it's hard to imagine what it means for a couple to split their time between a Wesleyan church and a Catholic church. I think there's probably a lot going on here. Part of it may be a bit of theological confusion. Part of it may be a hunger for tradition and substance. That's something you see among many Protestants who frankly aren't aware of the Protestant tradition and its fullness and aren't aware of how Protestants understand the Christian tradition and our stewardship of that tradition from the time of the early church consistently through centuries all the way until today.
But Micah, I just want to encourage you to give them a gospel answer. Give them a scriptural answer and just remind them that our priority as Christians is to know what the gospel is and to know how we know what the gospel is, which takes us to Scripture and the gospel. And I am not an accidental Protestant. I am a convictional confessional Protestant. I'll say one final thing related to this question. It just might be that what you have here is a Wesleyan minister that needs to become deeply familiar with the Christian tradition, including the Reformation Protestant tradition and the basis of those beliefs and doctrines in Scripture.
In any event, I am glad that you are their friend and that you are going to be in conversation about this together.
Does the Gospels Retelling the Parables of Jesus Each in Their Own Way and in a Different Order Destroy the Inerrancy of Scripture? — Dr. Mohler Responds to a Letters from Listeners of The Briefing
Jerry writes in asking, "Does the fact that the Gospels relate stories and parables about Jesus in a different order in each book, that means the four Gospels destroy the inerrancy of Scripture?" He said, "It had to have happened only one way."
I'm going to answer this very quickly, Jerry. The doctrine of the inerrancy of Scripture says that all of Scripture is true. Every word is totally true, and there is no untruth in it, period.
It is based upon the verbal plenary understanding of the inspiration of Scripture that tells us that God inspired not only the thoughts but the words of Scripture and that every word of Scripture is true. And I'll simply say, Jerry, there are no insurmountable differences at all in trying to understand the relationship of the four Gospels each to the other. For one thing, everyone looking at this tends to understand that Matthew, Mark, and Luke stand apart from John in the fact that John arranges so much of his Gospel doctrinally and thematically, whereas the other three Gospels often refer to as the synoptic Gospels, as in seeing through one eye, they relate things in a more historical progression.
But as you're looking at this, we need to recognize that there is no insurmountable problem here. You can look at any good evangelical commentary on the Gospels and come to a real reassurance about this fact.
But I want to look at the last words of Jerry's statement. "It had to have happened only one way." I'm going to press back and say that's not exactly true. Yes, in one sense it happened only one way, but there is no absolute way of knowing that Jesus didn't tell this parable twice. That's something I had to face in writing.
The recent book that I wrote and was published on the parables, Tell Me the Stories of Jesus. It's just good for us to know right up front that the doctrine of the inerrancy of Scripture helps us to confront Scripture with confidence that even as we cannot answer all of these questions, these questions are actually answerable in a way that underlines and affirms the total truthfulness of the word of God.
Are We All God’s Children? — Dr. Mohler Responds to a Letters from Listeners of The Briefing
Finally, for today, a question from Susan.
And the question is this. She says, a family member said, we're all God's children. Question is, "Are we really all God's children, even those of us who will not stand up to what's right, those of us who do not claim Christ is our savior?"
Great question, Susan. I think this is an easily answerable question by understanding that there are two different senses in which it means to be a child of God. In one sense, just to be created by God, means to be God's children, and you see evidence of that kind of affirmation and Scripture, but the New Testament takes the picture of the gospel into a far, indeed, infinitely greater sense in telling us that we are adopted as God's sons and daughters, as we come to faith in Christ. In Christ, we are adopted and we become God's sons and daughters.
Susan, the confession of faith in my own denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, that confession by the way is known as the Baptist faith and message, I think expresses this just accurately and it's under the doctrine of God and in the section God the Father, I read these words, "God as Father reigns with providential care over his universe, his creatures, and the flow of the stream of human history according to the purposes of His grace. He is all powerful, all knowing, all loving and all wise, God is Father in truth to those who become children of God through faith in Jesus Christ. He is fatherly in his attitude toward all men."
I think that's just absolutely right in biblical terms. God is Father to those who become his adopted sons and daughters in the Lord Jesus Christ by faith, but even by giving life and the sustenance of that life, the conditions of that life, God is fatherly towards all his human creatures.
He is Father to those in Christ. He is fatherly to all humanity.
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Thanks for listening to The Briefing. For more information, go to my firstname.lastname@example.org. You can phone me on Twitter by going to twitter.com/albertmohler. For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to sbts.edu. For information on Boyce College, just go to boycecollege.com.
I'll meet you again on Monday for The Briefing.