Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Principles of Conduct - Creation Ordinances: Procreation & Marriage

If you had to write a basic job description for humanity, what would you write?

I have been working in management for nearly all of my career. When a business wants to hire someone, one of the first things that management is called upon to do is to write a job description. What will be the responsibilities of this new hire? What will the scope of their job involve? What duties will they be expected to perform?

Mankind, if you will, also had an original "job description." These are the things we were made for. And while these original requirements are not comprehensive of the entire Christian ethic, they are at least an appropriate place to start any study of this kind.

John Murray's second chapter in Principles of Conduct is entitled "Creation Ordinances." Specifically, he is looking closely at Genesis chapters 1 & 2, and asking "what is our purpose?" His assumption, and I would agree, is that ethics begins where mankind begins.  And while there are a number of specific commands to mankind in Genesis 1 & 2, he basically narrows down the "Creation Ordinances" into 3: 
  • Procreation & Marriage
  • The Sabbath
  • Labor
In this chapter Murray just touches on those mandates that have their origin in Creation itself. He doesn't extensively discuss their ethical character and demands, as that will be addressed in subsequent chapters.  Here he just shows how the roots of some of these very important principles of conduct are grounded in Creation itself.

In this post I'll quickly review what he says about procreation and marriage.


The first of these "Creation Ordinances" he addresses is procreation and marriage. The texts in which these mandates are found are:

Genesis 1:28 "Be fruitful and multiply..." [i.e. Have kids!]
Genesis 2:23-24 "23. And Adam said 'This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman because she was taken out of man.  24. Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall be one flesh." [i.e. Get Married!]

When is the last time you heard a sermon entitled "Get Married & Have Kids!" I suspect you haven't. And while there are additional factors to consider respecting these commands (i.e. they are NOT necessarily for everyone) - there is nevertheless something fundamental here related to God's purpose for mankind. 

Murray points out that the language of 2:24 ("therefore a man shall leave...") leaves open the question whether Adam said these words, or were they added by the inspired author (Moses). If not spoken by Adam, the question then is whether or not Adam understood the implication of his words to the marriage institution. 

Murray then takes on the role of a theologian and professor and makes the following 2 points:


Point #1: Adam, in Murray's opinion, understood the marriage institution in the Garden of Eden

Murray argues that Adam would have known that his statement in vs. 23 ("bone of my bone...") implied the marriage institution of vs 24, since 24 is a conclusion built on the statement made in verse 23. Also, add to that the fact that Jesus refers to Genesis 2:24 in Matthew 19:8 when he says "from the beginning it was not so." The logic is that if the implication of verse 24 was not known to Adam, how could Jesus say, referring to this verse, that "from the beginning it was not so?"

Point #2: Marriage, as instituted in Creation, was intended as a monogamous ordinance

Murray sees the language of the text of "two becoming one flesh" as allowing for only a monogamous option for marriage. But he adds to that several New Testament passages which clearly indicate the monogamous expectation of marriage (Matt 19:3-9, Mark 10:3-9, Eph 5:31), and that the authors of these statements (Jesus and Paul) both point to Genesis 2:24 as the origin of the marriage institution.


I should point out again that Murray is NOT saying that the Bible tells EVERY person to get married and have kids. Christian ethics involves looking at the WHOLE Bible, and in the chapter on marriage there will be some important references made to individuals who should NOT get married.

Nevertheless, mankind had a job description in Creation which included the marriage of a man to a woman, and procreation within this context. This is not Murray's final word on marriage, as he will devote his next entire chapter to "The Marriage Ordinance," but here he just shows that the roots of marriage began at the very beginning of history and was part of God's design.


It is not hard to see how the culture of fallen mankind has opposed this concept of marriage from the beginning. Polygamy is just one example. Society has sought many substitutes for it, delayed it, denied its necessity, corrupted its purpose and mocked its importance. Marriage, however, is God's idea, not ours. As such, love to God and love to others will seek to maintain God's ideal and purpose for this institution. The forthcoming chapter on marriage will focus on some of the specific ethical expectations are with respect to marriage.

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