Christian Pilgrim


1. Arranged Marriages

The arranged marriage is the Christian way of doing things, as opposed to the way of the world, which waits until one "falls in love" first.

Genesis 6:2 - "the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose." 

Choosing a wife by oneself is sin - this is especially so in this verse as the "sons of God" i.e. the believers, chose wrongly, as the "daughters of men" were the unbelievers.

Genesis 24

This is the story of Isaac meeting Rebekah. Arranged marriages are the norm. Rebekah knew in the Lord's providence that it was right to marry Isaac even before she had ever set eyes on him.

Genesis 41:45 - "And Pharaoh called Joseph's name Zaphnathpaaneah; and he gave him to wife Asenath the daughter of Potipherah priest of On. And Joseph went out over all the land of Egypt."

Again we see that arranged marriages are the norm.

Judges 14:1-3 - "And Samson went down to Timnath, and saw a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines. And he came up, and told his father and his mother, and said, I have seen a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines: now therefore get her for me to wife. Then his father and his mother said unto him, Is there never a woman among the daughters of thy brethren, or among all my people, that thou goest to take a wife of the uncircumcised Philistines? And Samson said unto his father, Get her for me; for she pleaseth me well."

It is the father's duty to get partners for their children, not the children's duty to go out and find anyone they fancy on their own.

Judges 21:18-25 - "Howbeit we may not give them wives of our daughters: for the children of Israel have sworn, saying, Cursed be he that giveth a wife to Benjamin. Then they said, Behold, there is a feast of the LORD in Shiloh yearly in a place which is on the north side of Bethel, on the east side of the highway that goeth up from Bethel to Shechem, and on the south of Lebonah. Therefore they commanded the children of Benjamin, saying, Go and lie in wait in the vineyards; and see, and, behold, if the daughters of Shiloh come out to dance in dances, then come ye out of the vineyards, and catch you every man his wife of the daughters of Shiloh, and go to the land of Benjamin. And it shall be, when their fathers or their brethren come unto us to complain, that we will say unto them, Be favourable unto them for our sakes: because we reserved not to each man his wife in the war: for ye did not give unto them at this time, that ye should be guilty. And the children of Benjamin did so, and took them wives, according to their number, of them that danced, whom they caught: and they went and returned unto their inheritance, and repaired the cities, and dwelt in them. And the children of Israel departed thence at that time, every man to his tribe and to his family, and they went out from thence every man to his inheritance. In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes."

Again we see that arranged marriages were the norm. "Taking them wives" at dances is NOT the norm.

Falling in Love

With regards "falling in love", this is definitely the WRONG criterion to use in finding a marriage partner. This is indeed the way of the world, but the Christian way is very different. The main problems that there are with regards this are fourfold:

(1.) If someone thinks very highly of us, how can we have a proper view of our own depravity, when we are being confronted every day by our spouse telling us that we're quite nice really?!! God loves us without finding anything lovable in us at all. We find that impossible to do with each other - we always have to find something to love in a person before we can love them in return, especially before we marry them. This leads to the conundrum that we end up seeing something in a person that God does not see. How can this be right? Having too high a regard for someone is at the very least denying the doctrine of Total Depravity (which is believing a lie, and against the ninth Commandment), or at worst is blatant, overt idolatry (against the first Commandment). Either way, it is truly and properly sin.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism includes in sins forbidden under the first Commandment: "the denying or not worshipping and glorifying the true God as God, and our God; and the giving of that worship and glory to any other, which is due to Him alone." (Westminster Shorter Catechism, my emphasis). 

The Larger Catechism includes: "...setting our mind, will, or affections upon other things, and taking them off from Him in whole or in part..." (Westminster Larger Catechism).

Also, if someone thought too highly of me, I could not in all good conscience just sit back and lap it all up (much as my carnal nature would enjoy doing so!!), I would have to tell them that I'm not really like that. This would be purely for the sake of honesty and truth.

(2.) Let us call the rush of emotion that people get when they "fall in love" Factor X. It seems to be dominating personalities / those with the "gift of the gab," a "silver tongue" (call it what you will) that attract the opposite sex unduly, and produce this "Factor X" in them. Let's call this "gift of the gab," "Factor Y". Now, if "Factor Y" had no influence whatsoever over who gets married and who doesn't, one should find an even distribution of married people over the complete spectrum of temperaments (i.e. those with "Factor Y," those with varying amounts of "Factor Y" and those without "Factor Y"). We do actually find the distribution of married people skewed over towards those with "Factor Y" in a statistically significant way. People without "Factor Y" have little or no "Factor X" producing potential in others, and will tend to remain unmarried. My question therefore is, How much of "Factor X" is really a fatal attraction for people with "Factor Y"? This is not just a phenomenon in the world but just as prominent in the church as well.

(3.) Can "Factor X": 

(a.) fade over time (sometimes in one person and not the other)?
(b.) exist only in one party and not the other? If so, it is possible to be "hooked" on someone without any of the feeling being returned by them? Is this "Factor X"? Is it only "Factor X" when it is returned? Is it sin? Is it not sin only when it is returned? These questions need to be answered by the Christian, not ignored.

(4.) To have any form of intimacy with someone before marriage in order to determine whether that person is the one we should marry or not, is most assuredly wrong. This is because, if we come to the conclusion that it is NOT the person we should marry, we have then just been intimate with someone else's future wife. This is clearly against the seventh Commandment.

These problems make it certain that the use of our feelings for guidance in anything is completely wrong.

What does it mean in Genesis 3:16 when it says, "thy desire shall be to thy husband"? Most commentaries take this to mean a wife's simple subjection to her husband; but this is a Creation ordinance anyway, not a specific punishment for sin (which is what this passage is claiming it to be). The commentaries do say that it is an inordinate subjection here, a subjection with rigour, which I can understand, but I cannot help thinking there is also an element of inordinate desire for her husband too, i.e. a putting him too highly than she ought, and being enslaved by her feelings for him. This is against the first Commandment, a sore bondage, and, what's more, a result of the fall. For this reason it is wrong to think there ought to be a "Factor X" involved before deciding who to marry.

Rather the Biblical way is using the tools God has given us for the normal way of guidance in everything else - i.e. the Bible, providence and prayer. The Bible tells us what sin is, so we can avoid it; providence and prayer determine all other ways not sinful. This is exactly the same method we use when we look for a job or every other major decision we have to make in life. God's will in the whole thing should be paramount.

Note these Biblical examples of powerful feelings of hatred after powerful feelings of so-called "love." Reliance on feelings is most definitely NOT the way to decide on who to marry:

2 Samuel 13;15 - "Then Amnon hated her exceedingly; so that the hatred wherewith he hated her was greater than the love wherewith he had loved her. And Amnon said unto her, Arise, be gone."

Jeremiah 4:30 - "And when thou art spoiled, what wilt thou do? Though thou clothest thyself with crimson, though thou deckest thee with ornaments of gold, though thou rentest thy face with painting, in vain shalt thou make thyself fair; thy lovers will despise thee, they will seek thy life."

Ezekiel 16:37 -  "Behold, therefore I will gather all thy lovers, with whom thou hast taken pleasure, and all them that thou hast loved, with all them that thou hast hated; I will even gather them round about against thee, and will discover thy nakedness unto them, that they may see all thy nakedness."

Ezekiel 23:17,22,28 - "And the Babylonians came to her into the bed of love, and they defiled her with their whoredom, and she was polluted with them, and her mind was alienated from them.Therefore, O Aholibah, thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will raise up thy lovers against thee, from whom thy mind is alienated, and I will bring them against thee on every side;For thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will deliver thee into the hand of them whom thou hatest, into the hand of them from whom thy mind is alienated"

Nahum 3:6 - "And I will cast abominable filth upon thee, and make thee vile, and will set thee as a gazingstock."

Revelation 17:16 - "And the ten horns which thou sawest upon the beast, these shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire."

Macrae Mhor

A few years ago I read the biography of "Macrae Mhor" by G. N. M. Collins. "Macrae Mhor," or "Big Macrae" was a supposedly noted minister in the Free Church of Scotland in its heyday in the ninteenth century. As I am very interested in exclusive psalm-singing Presbyterianism, I thought it would be a good read. It was all very pleasant until I reached the point where the story is told of how he met his wife. Apparently, a friend of his asked Macrae to do him a favour. This friend was quite interested in a certain young lady, and asked Macrae, as his minister, to put in a good word for him. Macrae promised to do so. He duly met the lady in question, and, to cut a long story short, never put a good word in for his friend at all, but ended up marrying her himself.

Now, what is your reaction to this story? Are you just like G. N. M. Collins the writer, and think of it as just an amusing anecdote? Is your conscience at all troubled by this story? Mine most certainly is. Was it really right for Macrae to break his promise to his friend and go off with the lady himself - presumably because he "felt like it"? It was not right at all, but gross sin - even more so as it involved a Christian minister.

Until I read this passage I thought extremely highly of Scottish Presbyterian churches, but this was the first occasion when I saw that they were not all they were cracked up to be.

Not one person to whom I have told this story agrees with my point of view. Rather, everyone thinks of it as just an amusing anecdote, just as the writer intended it to be. I cannot in any way, shape or form have fellowship with any of these people. They have a fundamentally wrong view of life. How grossly wrong can they be?? Until I meet people who react to this story the way I do, i.e. by being extremely upset by it (especially as it goes under the name of Christianity), I cannot truly have Christian fellowship with anyone.

This is a good "litmus test" to discern a true believer. Do we follow our feelings, or do we do what is right? To me, the answer is simple. The wrong answer is just not Christianity.