Morally Obligatory Marriage


     Our title consists of three increasingly unpopular words. The concept of human morality has been revised so much by our American society and resident free thinkers until the concept of morality is becoming antiquated and resented. The so called "new morality" advanced to the "amorality" level, and now we are witnessing the militant anti morality condition. "Obligation" is almost a thing of the past. We now have the impetus "If it feels good, do it" and everybody is entitled to "do their own thing." In view of the increasing sociological problem of cohabitation or shacking up, marriage is now increasingly being considered obsolete. Still, man remains a social being, having sexual appetites.

     Sociologists are watching the cohabitation trend, attempting to document and project future demographics.

     An article that appeared in Rocky Mountain News (Denver, Co.), August 24, 2002, p. 23A, by Terry Mattingly, titled "Religious Community Reluctant to Criticize Cohabitating Couples" reflects the seriousness of cohabitation.

     Mattingly wrote in quoting Michael McManus, founder of Marriage Savers ("Helping Your Friends and Family Stay Married"):

"Some church leaders have fallen silent on this issue because they no longer believe that sex outside of marriage is a sin. Their silence is understandable." (See I Corinthians 7: 2-5.)

     Mattingly statistically observed:

"The Marriage Savers network is active in 163 cities and towns in 39 states and, wherever he travels to speak, McManus said he never sees more than one or two hands raised when he asks, 'How many of you have ever heard a sermon on cohabitation?' McManus is convinced most pastors simply do not know that 5 million unmarried Americans - 60 percent of all couples - are living together."

     Of no surprise, as just living together without any real commitment increases, so does the sad consequence of illegitimacy. In doing research for this material, I discovered some very disturbing statistics regarding illegitimacy. I shall now insert excerpts from one such article titled, "The Bastardization of America."

"A harshly-worded title, yes, but sadly, statistics indicate that each year in the United States there are more children born out of wedlock than the previous year. In a report released yesterday by the National Center for Health Statistics, almost 1.5 million American babies were born in 2004 to unmarried women, which is twice the number of illegitimate babies born in 1980Ö.

     There has also been a doubling in the percentage of illegitimate births to total births (approximately 4.1 million) with approximately 18 percent in 1980 to approximately 36 percent in 2004. From another perspective, in 1980 fewer than one in every five babies were out-of wedlock. Last year, more than one in three were illegitimate.

     All percentages listed reflect increases. Like clockwork, the percentage of births to unmarried women increases. It's 36 percent now. Trending forward, the illegitimate birth rate in the U.S. will exceed 50 percent by 2020. From a different perspective, when last year's newborns reach adulthood, most of the babies born in America will be bastards."

     I admit that quoting statistics can be tricky; however, based on a total review of my findings as of this date (December, 2007), the foregoing statistics are basically accurate (see addendum 1). Allow me to hastily inject that these babies are innocent and do not deserve the treatment that is being inflicted upon them by selfish, lustful, and really uncaring individuals! Yet, the term "bastard" is a biblical one and the consequent disadvantageous condition of being a "bastard" is set forth in the Bible (cp. Heb. 12: 8f.). Illegitimacy is a plague on any society and all must pay for the effects of this condition in terms of increased crime, welfare expense, and drug abuse, to mention some areas. Allow me to temporarily depart from the terrible matter of illegitimacy and introduce some relevant, but too often totally rejected biblical teaching.

     Under the Law of Moses, when one enticed a virgin and thus committed fornication with her, he was morally obligated to marry her, all things equal and understood (see addendum 2).

     "16: And if a man entice a maid that is not betrothed, and lie with her, he shall surely endow her to be his wife: (Ex. 22).

     If the moral teaching of Exodus 22: 16 were applied today, as it used to be by many in society, there would be no shack up situations and, hence, a substantive decline in the percentage of illegitimate babies. The need for state or government sponsored welfare would plummet, the crime rate would seriously decline, and drug abuse would appreciably be affected.

     I have been asked, "Don, do you really believe that when a male robs a female of her virginity, that he is morally obligated to marry her?" My answer is, "Yes!" Old fashioned? Yes, but it is what the Bible teaches. Even many in the Lordís church have departed from this moral teaching and are now labeling such teaching as I am herein doing as radical and too demanding. It is sad, indeed, how religious people have compromised and have become part of the hedonistic, immoral society in which we now live.

     So many cases today, in spite of all the so called sex education in schools, teaching about how to do it, but no moral training, such as we are noticing in this article, of fornication include pregnancy.

     I think in forty years of full time preaching and working with people in all manner of conditions that I have heard the range of excuses as to why Johnny should not and does not have to marry the girl he has caused to be with child, some of these we shall momentarily address (see addendum 3).

     Other than marriage, what options are there? An option that many elect is abortion. Let me be plain, abortion is nothing, as too often practiced, but legalized murder! The unborn child is a human, possessing life (see Ex. 21: 22-25). There could be a case where adoption might be the best thing.

     Objections to the old-fashioned, biblical practice of marriage. "I do not believe in forced marriage, it simply will not work!," we often hear. America is inundated with the so called "romantic view" of marriage. "Two people fall in love and they marry" (now it is too often shack up). "Love" has been reduced to lust and the exercise of animal desire with no concern for any possible consequence. Johnny must not be taught and, yes, "forced" to face the consequences of his action (fornication). This is the society in which we now live, alas. Regarding physical attraction, it would seem to me that Johnny has some requisite duty in this area; after all, he became "one flesh" with the girl! The truth is most marriages will not work and will end in failure. However, in the circumstances being studied in this material, there is moral obligation to marry. There is a plethora of excuses not to have Johnny marry. "They do not have enough money," "Johnny needs to finish college," and, "they are too immature," are just a few of the many. May I remind us that almost every young couple just starting out does not have enough money, need more education, and possess a relative degree of immaturity. Remember, there is moral obligation to marry.

     We think of Johnny, poor, poor Johnny who has his whole life to live. However, there are others to consider other than Johnny. How about the girl whom he has caused to be with child, does she matter at all? Imagine the range of emotions that most girls experience when a boy impregnates them and then leaves them (the "love them and leave them" philosophy so common today in America). Consider what she as a single female parent is facing, try to imagine the hardship. How about the parents of the girl, do they count at all? However, there is one that is most often not considered, one who is very important, entirely innocent, and does not have a say, yet, they are potentially affected more than Johnny, the girl, and all others. Of whom do we speak? The unborn child! I have heard it said by various ones in the scenario being discussed, "While we shall not promote marriage in this case, we shall see to it that the needs of the baby are taken care of." Is that so?

     I become so tired of the selfishness of our age. "Johnny has a right to finish school, etc.," well, how about the "rights" of the baby? Does not the baby have a right to be born having his fatherís name and not being a bastard? Does not the baby have a right to a home, having two live in parents? Does not the baby have a right to the "nurture and admonition of the Lord" in the God appointed family environment (Eph. 6: 4)? There are so many things that cannot be provided short of a home atmosphere. For instance, it is in the functioning and intact home that the baby learns love and headship (Eph. 5: 22-6: 4). Sociologists are very concerned at all the illegitimate babies today and single parent situations. Some are saying that we are as never before breeding generations that lack natural affection. These are the future gang bangers that shall maraud the streets of our cities. Young people who have no conscience and experience an intense hatred and disrespect.

     Like it or not, there is such a thing as morally obligatory marriage. It is high time that we awake out of our selfishness and start responsibly acting. We need to teach our little Johnnies early in life the sinfulness of fornication and how the sex act is limited to marriage. We need to teach them to accept the consequences of their action and be concerned for others other than themselves! Professing Christians, elders, and preachers must return to the morality taught and enjoined in the Bible and combatively address all deviations. We are truly facing an epidemic, remember the predicting statistic of over 50 percent of all children born in America being illegitimate by the year 2020? What a shame and disgrace!

     Addendum 1: "Fornication" is present in these shack up arrangements. Fornication is illicit sexual intercourse and is condemned in the scriptures (I Cor. 7: 1f.). God ordained marriage, a state consisting of two eligible people, male and female, who have committed themselves one to another in the marriage state, complying with all applicable civil requirements, is the only relationship in which sexual intercourse is allowed (Heb. 13: 4, Gen. 2: 24).

     Addendum 2: There are certain laws and teachings resident in the Hebrew scriptures that obviously constitute what are called "moral laws" (see, "A Study of Moral Law"). Such teaching is indigenously true, regardless of the dispensation or circumstance in which given. For instance, love of God and fellow-man was pronounced by Jesus in Matthew 22: 34f. as a matter-of-fact. All are under the responsibility of Jesusí teaching, the Jew to whom he spoke, under the Law of Moses, as well as Christians today. Regarding Exodus 22: 16, I do not see any Mosaic Jewish restriction on the verse as far as obligatory marriage in the discussed circumstance is concerned, again, all things equal and understood. There is a correlation, I believe, found in the obligatory marriage teaching of Exodus 22: 16 and the "one flesh" teaching of I Corinthians 6: 16. "One flesh" in I Corinthians 6: 16 is referring to sexual intercourse, which does not automatically constitute marriage, as Exodus 22: 16 shows, but does indicate the seriousness of the act of sexual intercourse, an act only reserved for marriage.

     Addendum 3: Allow me to inject that there could be a condition that precludes marriage. For instance, Johnny may have fornicated with an already married woman or a put away woman (Matt. 5: 32, 19: 9). Even the moral teaching of Exodus 22: 16 allowed some exceptional provision (Ex. 22: 17). Notice, though, that the male is held responsible and is punished for his sex act in the teaching of Exodus 22: 16, 17.