Thursday, August 11, 2016

C.S. Lewis on Marriage

In light of our current cultural dilemma over marriage, I found C.S. Lewis thoughts on Christian Marriage from Mere Christianity insightful and especially relevant for today.


“[The] Christian doctrines on this subject are extremely unpopular.

[A] man and a wife are to be regarded as a single organism…[God] was not expressing a sentiment, but stating a fact…The inventor of the human machine was telling us that its two halves, the male and the female, were made to be combined together in pairs, not simply on the sexual level, but totally combined.

Christianity teaches that marriage is for life…[They] all regard divorce as something like cutting up a living body.

Consider [marriage] in relation to another virtue, namely justice. Justice…includes the keeping of promises. Now everyone who has been married in a church has made a public, solemn promise to stick to his (or her) partner till death…If people do not believe in permanent marriage, it is perhaps better that they should live together unmarried than that they should make vows they do not mean to keep. It is true that by living together without marriage they will be guilty (in Christian eyes) of fornication. But one fault is not mended by adding another: unchastity is not improved by adding perjury.

The idea that “being in love” is the only reason for remaining married really leaves no room for marriage for a contract or promise at all. If love is the whole thing, then the promise can add nothing; and if it adds nothing, then it should not be made…As Chesterton pointed out, those who are in love have a natural inclination to bind themselves by promises…The Christian law is not forcing upon the passion of love something which is foreign to that passion’s own nature: it is demanding that lovers should take seriously something which their passion of itself impels them to do.

A promise must be about things that I can do, about actions: no one can promise to go on feeling in a certain way.

[Ceasing] to be “in love” need not mean ceasing to love. Love in this second sense – love as distinct from “being in love” is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit… They can have this love for each other even at those moments when they do not like each other.

A great many people seem to think that if you are a Christian yourself you should try to make divorce difficult for everyone. I do not think that. At least I know I should be very angry if the [Muslims] tried to prevent the rest of us from drinking wine. My own view is that the Churches should frankly recognize that the majority of…people are not Christians and, therefore, cannot be expected to live Christian lives. There ought to be two distinct kinds of marriage: one governed by the State with rules enforced on all citizens, the other governed by the Church with rules enforced by her on her own members. The distinction ought to be quite sharp, so that a man knows which couples are married in a Christian sense and which are not.”

The statement calling for "two distinct kinds of marriage" is especially relevant. As we are all aware, recent legal rulings have changed the definition of marriage. So how should our culture acknowledge an institution that is recognized both as a religious rite and as a legal agreement? Wouldn't recognizing two kinds of marriage satisfy both the church that holds to the "extremely unpopular" doctrine and those who wish to enter into "marriage" relationships outside of that religious doctrine? Would this not satisfy the "separation of church and state" on this issue? What do you think?

Having recently celebrated 34 years of marriage, you can take my word for it. But if you're not sure about my word, read the book, don't wait for the movie.

Have a little hope on me, Roger

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