How I know marriage will stand

March 16, 2015

“Marriage under fire”

“Government to hear testimony on the re-definition of marriage”

“Biblical definition of marriage questioned”

I didn’t rip these headlines from today’s blog roll. Not yesterday’s either. Yes, I know they are an accurate description of the state of the marriage debate our country is currently facing, but we’re not the first society to wrestle over the subject of marriage.

These headlines describe what was happening in 16th century England during the English Reformation. In case it’s been awhile since you sat in a world history class, here is a crash course. Pay attention to the parallels between what was happening then and what is happening now.

Ultimately, Henry split from the authority of the Pope and the Catholic Church and created the Church of England to get his annulment. Why am I taking us so far down this ancient path?

The battle for biblical marriage is not new

Let’s take a slightly shorter trip into the history books and hop back a few decades. In the 1970s and 80s cultural forces converged to create skyrocketing divorce rates. The “no fault divorce” was introduced, and the effect worked like tidal wave in American homes. Almost half of couples who got married in the 70s and 80s divorced. That number stuck in the American psyche and caused much hand wringing, especially in the church.

I was a preschooler in the 80s, too young to be aware of any debate in the public sphere. As the 90s hit, I still didn’t care much about public opinion and was not yet a Christian, but I knew that my parents were divorced, and it was devastating. I started paying very close attention to how people talked about marriage. I picked up on a tone that seemed to say, “Marriage is a doomed institution and married people are more likely to win the lottery than to stay happy.” Needless to say I headed into my own marriage with great fear and low expectations for success.

Now sociologists are telling us there is good news. The divorce surge is over. But for those of us in the church, there is still a great deal of hand wringing and head shaking.

The definition of marriage is still being debated. Is marriage strictly between a man and a woman? Can it be between two men? Two women? One man and multiple women? Is marriage forever or just for now? Is divorce healthy or devastating? Should individuals have the freedom to choose what marriage looks like or do we need to agree on a consensus?

Just like in Henry VIII’s time, the government is involved in the discussion. The church leaders are involved. The public is involved and fractured. Yet, as Christians, we know that, though people have been trying to re-define God’s plan for marriage for centuries, God’s plan still stands.

A house that must be built

Several months ago, I read through the book of Ezra. It’s a short Old Testament book that outlines the rebuilding of God’s temple by a ragamuffin crew of exiled Jews. God’s people begin to rebuild his place of worship. They stake their claim. Draw their lines in the sand and declare, “We will do what God calls us to.”

“Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah and made them afraid to build and bribed counselors against them to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia” (Ezra 4:4-5).

The general public tried to block God’s people. They wrote accusatory letters, convinced that the remnant was intolerant. There were decrees from kings to cease and desist. The cause looked hopeless more often than it looked hopeful. And yet Ezra 6:16 says, “And the people of Israel, the priests and the Levites and the rest of the returned exiles, celebrated the dedication of this house of God with joy.” Despite resistance from kings, the pushback of public opinion, and the unpopularity of their cause, God’s people were not stopped.

As I finished the book of Ezra, one theme came into clear focus: The plans of God cannot be stopped.

When it comes to marriage, that’s the good news, but of course there is bad news. Marriage may always be in the sights of the enemy who seeks to kill and destroy all that God has made (John 10:10). That’s because it’s a picture of God’s unbreakable covenant with his people (Eph. 5:32). There have been and will continue to be causalities, marriages that break or miss God’s mark, but all of history will end with the marriage between God and his people. Marriage will stand.

But what should we do in the meantime?

Committed to the Word, prayer and God’s people

Ezra takes the lead in rallying the people toward God’s purposes in the book of Ezra. As Christians in an anything goes world, we’d be wise to take our cues from him.

“For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel” (Ezra 7:10). Ezra studied God’s Word and taught it faithfully. Even when that was unpopular.

He also prayed like crazy. In fact, at the dedication service for the temple that cost so much blood, sweat, and tears to build, Ezra is deeply broken on the issue of marriage. He realizes that God’s people have intermarried with the pagan people around him and his reaction is anything but passive. He tears his clothes and yanks the hair from his head and beard (Ezra 9:3). He fasted and then he fell on his knees and prayed this prayer: “O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift my face to you, my God, for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has mounted to the heavens.”

Verse after verse, Ezra goes on about the sin of his people, but this is not a “get em’ God” prayer. There was no “us” versus “them.” Ezra lumps himself with his people and asks for mercy in spite of the prevalence of marriages that don’t stick to God’s plan. What happened next?

“While Ezra prayed and made confessing, weeping and casting himself down before the house of God, a very great assembly of men, women, and children, gathered to him out of Israel, for the people wept bitterly.”

The people repented.

They committed to marriages that honored God.

The tide turned.

Marriage will stand, but there is a battle to be fought for it. God’s plans will not ultimately be thwarted.  Kings cannot stop the plans of God. Neither can angry mobs. Cultural trends do not change his mind or dilute his message. That knowledge is enough to stop the hand wringing. And yet, there are many who would come against God’s plan for marriage? What should we do about them? Lets pray like Ezra and watch for the tide to turn.

Erin Davis

Erin is a speaker, author and blogger who addresses women of all ages nationwide and is passionately committed to sharing God’s Truth with others. She is the mother of three boys and the author of 13 books which can be found on her website. Erin lives on a small farm in rural Missouri and … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24