Get Married and Save the World

Update posted by Thomas Ackerman On Sep 30, 2018

This is a longer review of chapter 4: One Flesh until Death. It summarizes the chapter and gives some good insights and commentary. it is by Jack Shannon, author of Contra Mundum Swagger. I am very grateful for the time he took to write such a detailed review.

Review of Chapter 4:

My earliest memories as a child are of watching the first Iraq war on the nightly news with my father. Ever since, I have been interested in world events, cultural shifts, politics, and anything related to what is happening on a large scale. To put it in interrogative form – what is going on in the world and why? The answer to that question is God, and what I have discovered is that we would rather there be any other explanation. But His sovereignty orchestrates all things for His glory, and His word gives us almost unbearable insight into the effects of obedience and sin.

There is an endless amount of cultural commentary from pastors, theologians, pundits, bloggers, YouTubers, politicians, actors, musicians, on and on it goes. And most of it rubbish, shallow, reactionary, and banal. Some of it is simply a description of symptoms and perhaps advice on how to manage them. Even conservative Christian men, who should have some insight into how the world their God has created works, only scratch the surface when they give us their best effort at insight and wise counsel. But they have not discerned the times. They are dumb dogs unable to bark.

Thomas Ackerman, on the other hand, is not one of these men. In this chapter, he deals with the heart of our societal degeneracy – the rejection of God, His Word, and specifically what He has revealed and commanded regarding marriage. This takes wisdom and courage. Both are present here.

He begins with the words of Christ which teach that from the beginning man and woman who marry are one flesh until death. He illuminates what this means for us by giving us vivid examples from creation and experience. He shows us how natural revelation teaches the indissoluble one-flesh union of marriage. His method of argumentation is rooted foundationally in special revelation, but he supplements his arguments with a landslide of natural revelation. He cites reliable and respectable studies which are essentially sociological ways of reiterating what God has already told us. When we study creation, it always affirms the Creator. He shows us how deviation from God’s law is ultimately destructive for everyone involved. And he shows us how adherence to God’s law is ultimately immensely beneficial for everyone involved. There is life, peace, and safety in the commands of God.

Ackerman interacts with the pertinent passages in Malachi and alerts us to varying modern interpretations and takes a closer look at the Hebrew. He defends the traditional rendering and understanding of these passages, that God hates divorce and he rightly situates the modern church in the place of unfaithful Israel at the time of Malachi. I appreciate his acknowledgement of the modern disagreements on translation, particularly with Malachi 2:16, but I was not entirely convinced Ackerman proves that the modern translations are wrong. He makes strong points in his favor, however, especially in pointing out the incentives modern translators have to soften words. However, there are older translations, like the Douay-Rheims, which correspond with the newer translations. Either way, I don’t think this takes away from the rightness of Ackerman’s comprehensive conclusions if the modern translations are correct. It is a difficult passage in the Hebrew.

He then proceeds to tell us how he, a man who once believed what the church currently teaches, believes, and practices, changed his mind. He states the typical prooftexts which formed the basis of his pervious beliefs to justify divorce and remarriage. Namely, 1 Corinthians 7:15 and Matthew 19:9. He shows us the foolishness of relying on three words to build an entire doctrine. Not that it’s a matter of quantity, but that the defenders of divorce and remarriage use these three words in a vacuum to override any cohesiveness with other texts. They ignore the full counsel of God, the thousands of words which contradict their erroneous and destructive interpretation. Rather, these three words must harmonize with the rest of Scripture. This is a reformed hermeneutical principle called the analogy of faith. Ackerman assumed this hermeneutic and began to see that the New Testament clear passages on this issue were at odds with the current consensus on divorce and remarriage.

Next, he began to study the history of belief on this issue within the Church. He saw the overwhelming opinion from the past was in favor of lifelong marriage, but that the church slowly became less faithful, especially in the last 50 years or so. He provides a brief overview of historical thought on the issue, quoting several ante-Nicene and post-Nicene Fathers. This survey is pretty much done in any book talking about this issue, and those familiar with this type of literature will most likely already be acquainted with such a survey. But those unfamiliar with the history of thought on this subject will be astonished to see the Christians of the past speaking about this issue so differently than our modern leaders.

He goes on to give us a survey of the plain and unambiguous New Testament texts where he provides brief commentary on each passage. Then he addresses Matthew 19:9. Specifically, the three words frequently employed in that passage to justify divorce and remarriage – except for porneia. Ackerman shows his fairness and knowledge of the issue by presenting us with the historic and betrothal interpretations.Additionally, his commentary on the rest of passage in Matthew 19 further shows us how the exception to remarry is not in view. This is an important observation, as one has to do quite a bit of twisting and violence to the text in order to make it fit a permissive interpretation.

In the next section, which is not very long, Ackerman forces the reader to consider the logical application of these truths. The majority of Christian leaders and writers today do not apply these truths logically, and more importantly faithfully, because they are weak and cowardly men. Ackerman does the right thing here and lovingly shows us the Scriptures which inform us of the consequences of adultery and our obligation as born-again Christians to not continue in sin. He doesn’t shy away here and speaks truth in the most difficult place concerning this issue. Don’t assume the brevity of this section means equates to it having less importance.

Ackerman then writes a weighty section on forgiveness. Even without the explicit passages prohibiting divorce and remarriage. Divorce and remarriage is such an obvious departure from the life of the Christ-follower, especially with regards to forgiveness. Ackerman walks us through the Scriptural passages about forgiveness. Among other passages is the command to forgive coming closely after Jesus’ teaching on divorce in Luke. He also points out the obviousness of our Lord’s instruction in how to pray. The Lord’s Prayer is at odds with permission to divorce and remarry. He walks us through several more New and Old Testament passages which clearly and repeatedly teach us to forgive like God has forgiven us. He rightly calls the Church to repent of its practice and teaching of unforgiveness. It is a breath of fresh air compared to the putrid filth that comes from popular pastors and teachers. Ackerman gives a wonderful comment about the seeming impossibility of our ability to forgive and the supernatural enabling Christians possess. He says, “What special secret is there to being able to forgive? It seems like the hardest job for the average Christian. Like having to lift a great heavy stone. No man could lift it. Yet we know with the right leverage a man can move stones of many tons, and spin them around like a toy.” This is simply fantastic. Inviting us to walk in the Way of our Master. Showing us that the burden is supernaturally light and freeing. We are new men in Christ and as such are able to do the impossible with the grace of God.

He follows this section up with an examination of Mark 10 and, similar to this section on Malachi, masterfully places the modern Church, the modern Christian, in the place of the Pharisees. This is highly appropriate to do. We truly are doing the same things as the Pharisees of the first century. There is an overuse of labeling theological opponents Pharisees, which has caused the term to be diluted of power. But when we examine the errors of the people of God in the first century, there is remarkable, almost identical, overlap to the errors of the people of God in the twenty-first century. This is an appropriate comparison if ever there was one.

Ackerman then goes on to address what is known as the Pauline Privilege in 1 Corinthians 7:15. This passage never explicitly gives permission to remarry. To read it in a way which permits remarriage, one has to infer it at the expense of other texts which prohibit it. So, the passage in its context means that a believing spouse is not bound to follow an unbeliever who wishes to leave. Ackerman comes to this conclusion, and I believe it is the correct conclusion. This interpretation also has a strong historical pedigree. However, I will register my disagreement with his word study concerning the key words of this passage. I don’t think it’s a necessary argument to make. Nothing is lost if his word study is not entirely accurate here. The larger context of Scripture as a whole and the immediate do not permit a remarriage.

Next, Ackerman addresses an astonishingly common, but absurd argument that an adulterous marriage is punctiliar, that it is only adulterous at some point in time and then becomes lawful. He dismantles this easily. The next smaller section traces out the consequences of these two exceptions, and how it inevitably leads to divorce and remarriage in all cases.

Another short section follows where he teaches about the difficulties of being one-flesh for life, and by doing so invokes in the reader the same reply the disciples gave to Jesus, “If this is the case, then it’s better not to marry.” This is a powerful apologetic for the strength of the one-flesh for life position. He also treats the goodness of celibacy with fairness here, which I appreciated as a single person, and also because Ackerman speaks glowingly of the goodness of marriage. We live in a time where people can’t seem to affirm the goodness of both of these paths, so I’m glad to see Ackerman affirming them in the same way we see in Scripture.

The following brief section is Ackerman acknowledging his “ordinary brother” status in the church, and yet speaking more truth than most pastors. As Ackerman says, our pastors lie. They are liars. And Ackerman points this out without anger or sarcasm or bitterness, but out of a sincere love for the Word of God and an accurate statement of our reality.

Next, he gives us another sociological look at the benefits of marriage as well as the covenantal benefits. Following this he gives us several true stories about the destruction and death associated with adultery, and he bolsters these stories with passages from Scripture which tell us these things, too. I appreciate this section as Ackerman shows us how sin severely and adversely affects not only us, but our children, our spouse, our families, and neighbors. I have seen far too many Christians simply shrug their shoulders and believe they are in the place of Job when tragedy happens. But Scripture is filled also with warnings that sin truly brings calamity.

Following this he shares incredible insight into the nature of man, his desire for conquest, and marriage. He contrasts the way non-believing men act this out and believing men act this out. Here is an excerpt, “a man only has ONE conquest in his life. And that is his wife. The man who tries to have many conquests has none at all. That’s because a conqueror does not only come in and take the land. A conqueror actually stays, and he rules the land and he governs it. That is what a conqueror does. Fornication is not a conquest. It is more like a raid, like what the Comanche or the Magyar or the Vikings did. They charged in, they took what they wanted, they destroyed things and then they left. That is not a conquest. That’s a raid. That’s theft. A man has only ONE conquest in life and that is his wife, whom he conquers, he governs and he rules.” This is profound wisdom. And there is much more that corroborates this in Scripture from a typological viewpoint. I also appreciate his not shying away from speaking about men as ruling and governing their wives. This kind of language won’t win any cool points with the spirit of the age, but it is the way the God speaks in His Word.

While Ackerman says he is only an ordinary brother, in the remaining sections he gives more pastorally wisdom than I have seen from most extraordinary brothers. He encourages those who have been divorced to remain faithful to God. He acknowledges how difficult this is and then encourages the seeker of truth by comparing their situation to the prophet who wrote Lamentations. That if the prophet can praise God and remain faithful in the midst of unimaginable tragedy, surely we can remain faithful to our marriage covenant when it also enters into tragedy.

While the majority of wicked pastors in our nation encourage God’s people to remain in adulterous marriages, Ackerman does not shy away from speaking the truth to God’s people. He calls the people of God to repent of their adultery by forsaking the sin, by separating. And in doing this, Ackerman is doing more to preserve families than any mega pastor could. “Those who refuse to instruct the remarried to either remain celibate or separate claim they are preserving marriage. Yet the opposite is true. They are justifying destroying a covenant marriage, and defending keeping adulterers together. It is they who break up families.”

Ackerman ends the chapter with a sobering note about the destruction of Israel for their unfaithfulness, but he also encourages the believer to obedience, an attainable obedience. He strikes a pastoral balance that is reminiscent of the prophets – rebuke and warning coupled with comfort and encouragement.

Overall, Ackerman points out what is actually quite easy to understand, but difficult to implement. The facts are there. The Scripture is there. It is not difficult to understand. But it is difficult to believe and implement because it costs a man his life. But Christ tells us that if we do not pick up our cross and follow Him, then we are not worthy of Him. Ackerman is faithful to the imperatives of our God and assists the saints in seeing this clearly and lovingly. Ackerman has done a great service to the Church with this chapter. I am looking forward to reading the rest of this book in its entirety.

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Update posted by Thomas Ackerman On Sep 28, 2018

Below is a short review of Chapter 4 of my book, which is about the lifelong nature of marriage. It is by Jack Shannon, who authored the book Contra Mundum Swagger and pastors St. Athanasius Reformed Catholic Church in Fort Collins, CO. Jack Shannon also calls the Church to repent, end its adulteries and respect the marriage covenant. I will post his much longer review this weekend.

Review

Ackerman has written carefully and insightfully on marriage in a way that is not mere abstraction, but is earthy and integral to living out our trust in God. Ackerman writes engagingly and gives us one perspective and insight after another concerning the nature of a one-flesh union. His use of metaphor, anecdote, and analysis of texts made for a smooth and rich read. The prospects of a healthy, successful, godly marriage seem slim in our degenerate culture and wicked churches, but Ackerman inspires us with the faith and assurance of that ancient sturdy trust in the Word. His is a vision of biblical marriage infused with Holy Spirit power, which far exceeds our low expectations.

He writes with an even-hand in dealing with alternative readings of texts he discusses. He acknowledges differences and nuances. It demonstrates that he has read widely on these issues. Ackerman masterfully dismantles the pervasive weak arguments in favor of divorce and remarriage. He brings the whole counsel of God to this question, as opposed to only a few words. This chapter is a comprehensive teaching on the nature of marriage that is a true service to the Church. I eagerly await the publication of this book as I have no doubt it will be truly pleasurable and edifying to read.


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Update posted by Thomas Ackerman On Sep 15, 2018

I just found out some sad news about the young man who inspired my book. As I mention in the Introduction, the spark for this book was a young man I know who made a girl pregnant out of wedlock. I spoke to him fervently about the need to marry, and about his ability to obey God and take care of the mother and child. I spoke with him about the ability to redeem with good what had been done wrong in the past. Well, he was moved enough that he looked into buying a ring and asked the father for his daughter’s hand in marriage. Believe me, at this point, I was praising God, and in absolute adoration of God’s mercy and power.

Well, the latest news I’ve heard is that the father would not permit him to marry the girl until he gets his college degree. Now this does not make it an impossibility, but it puts a major block before the process. It also means a young woman – of Christian parents – will be raising a child without a father. There is no law of the land or of ethics that says you cannot marry without a college degree. Nor is there any law that you have to have one in the first place. A man can go to work or start his own business and earn money that way. However, the most difficult challenge is that over this time – and four years is plenty of time – either one of them may be tempted away from the other, or the young man, being discouraged and having poor influences on his life, may become apathetic about being a husband or father.

There is great danger for these two and their child, and it was not Atheists who made it difficult for a young man to marry the mother of his child. It was – once again – Christians who did this. And they’re doing this all over. When they are not ending marriages after they happen, they are preemptively making sure they do not happen in the first place. They are letting their daughters join the ranks of the world in being single mothers, perhaps perpetually. They are making sure little children don’t have a father to speak of, and don’t have both their parents together. They are making sure the risk is high that children will grow up not with one father and one mother, but simply with a mother, and multiple men in their lives. This is 21st century Christianity for you, brethren. And obviously, that form of Christianity is also part of the reason I have written Get Married and Save the World. We need a radical change of attitude and behavior. What’s going on in the Church is sick. It has to stop.

I don’t give up hope for either one of them. I continue to pray for their marriage, and lifelong witness as a family. I hope one day to share great news about them. But this is a big letdown, though not wholly surprising. I don’t believe I will put this news in the book. I’ll probably leave the Introduction as it is, since that’s based on the situation as I knew it at the time. Perhaps if there is a sequel for the book, I will bring the situation fully up to date.

Thank you all. I hope you are blessed.

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Update posted by Thomas Ackerman On Sep 08, 2018

I have spoken with several brothers in the permanence of marriage movement about my book, some of whom have been enthusiastic about it. One question I get a lot though is what explanation I use for the “exception clause” in Matthew’s Gospel. In this book, I actually present BOTH of the most common explanations side by side, and I explain what they mean, and how they are in harmony with the rest of Scripture.

I give the historical explanation – that the exception is for divorce in the case of ongoing adultery, but NOT for remarriage, since the New Testament plainly states remarriage is adultery many times – and the betrothal view – that the exception is for fornication before marriage, such as during the Jewish betrothal period or discovered immediately after marriage, which in a sense is really an annulment since the man had been defrauded into marrying to begin with. I probably spend more time on the latter explanation. I also give many of the quotes from the Early Christian Fathers, who deal explicitly with this issue, and whose understanding is from the historical view.

Personally, I formerly accepted the historical view, and these days lean toward the betrothal view, but both views of the exception clause come to the same conclusion and are in good harmony with Scripture. This is in contrast to the permission of remarriage, which plainly breaks the Word of God and amounts to approving adultery. Naturally, in presenting the permanence of marriage, I point out that taking a second husband or wife is ongoing adultery, not merely a one-time sin, and I explain why. The couple that is living in a second “marriage” needs to repent, and end the intimate relationship which God calls adultery. However, if there are children who have come from their adultery, those children are still theirs and should be loved and cared for by them.

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Update posted by Thomas Ackerman On Aug 21, 2018

I've asked two friends who have published their own books on marriage to write reviews of Get Married and Save the World. They've been kind enough to accept the task and I expect to be able to share the reviews by this fall.

One review is on the permanence of marriage chapter. the other is on the whole book. I hope they let our audience get to know the book better, and decide whether they'd like to support the publishing effort or buy the book.

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Update posted by Thomas Ackerman On Aug 09, 2018

I want to thank the several friends who have made suggestions about my book, both before and after reading some of it. I have indeed written several paragraphs here and there in response to these good ideas. I definitely appreciate thoughtful suggestions.

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Update posted by Thomas Ackerman On Aug 05, 2018

The tree featured in the photographs is a giant banyan tree at a park near Yangshuo, China. I use the banyan as a metaphor in the book, of the one flesh nature of man and wife. The roots of the banyan tree grow down from the limbs of the tree itself, and embed themselves in the ground. Then they nourish the tree and grow strong themselves, over time looking like small trees themselves. A large banyan can look like a small forest.

Since the woman came forth from man, being made of his flesh, she reminds me of the roots of the banyan, which come from the tree’s own flesh, and help it live and grow. So I see the banyan as a picture of marriage. The two united as one.

Anyway, even if you’re not fond of the metaphor, it’s an amazing tree, and the one pictured is one of the largest in China. The biggest banyan in the world is in India.

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Update posted by Thomas Ackerman On Aug 05, 2018

You can read all the samples from my book in one place at my holiness website right here: https://www.holinessofthebride.com/wp-content/uplo...

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Update posted by Thomas Ackerman On Jul 29, 2018

Obedience in Christ

Jesus commands obedience and repentance. The book of Acts commands obedience and repentance. The Epistles command obedience and repentance. Revelation commands obedience and repentance. The fact that a single act is not the source of our justification is irrelevant. Good works are a necessary part of our life in Christ, and we fool ourselves if we think we do not need to do them. The Christian must live a holy life. He must live the way God has called him to live. The idea that one can sin freely as a Christian, and without repentance, is as anti-biblical and anti-Gospel as you could imagine. A Christian who sins without shame refutes his own faith. He denies his faith. He denies that Christ does what He says He does. A born again soul must live like one born again. If not, then no one in the world has a real reason to believe he is actually a Christian.

Some churches today like to teach that you can be born again, then end up sinning shamelessly for many years, and choose to dedicate your life to Christ later one day. This is a complete lie. A person who is born again is ALSO dedicated to Christ. That is the nature of the new birth. We are a new creation and God will be our God and we will be His people. (Jeremiah 31:33) We live in the newness of Christ’s life. It may be true there is a learning process, but that learning process is actually uphill. It involves actively seeking the good we should desire on our heart. It means hating and staying away from the sins and temptations which could rob us of our goal. It means sorrow and repentance when we sin. That’s an upward climb. The idea that a born again soul can flat-line for years is in great conflict with Scripture. For the Bible teaches that good fruit comes from a good tree. Bad fruit comes from a bad tree. A good tree cannot put forth bad fruit. A bad tree cannot put forth good fruit. (Matthew 7:16-20) The Christian who thinks he can flat-line and sin without repentance for years is not a Christian. His fruit is not Christian. His fruit is the fruit of the damned. The lost. It is bad fruit from a bad tree. The REAL Christian is already dedicated to the Savior, even if it takes some time to learn and grow. He is already doing that.

For those Christians who like to imagine their own sins as very small things, not like murder and rape, remember that is a false and overly convenient categorizing of sin. It is not just murderers who die and end up for eternity in hell. The Bible says that liars do not enter the kingdom of heaven. It says that fornicators and adulterers and sodomites do not enter. It says those practicing idolatry, drunkenness and other sins are not going where Christians end up going. There is no rest for the wicked. The Christian life should not just be free of murder. God forbid. It should be as stainless as our persistence and hard work can make it. Paul spoke about how he pressed into perfection, although he had not attained it. (Philippians 3:12) So should we. Don’t forget, the same arguments the Christian make about how he can be saved and sin freely can likewise be made by the murderer, rapist or pedophile. Anyone can play that game. I’ll just do evil for now, and I’ll dedicate my life to Christ later. Well, you could die tomorrow. How about that? And God says if you do, you are not entering into His kingdom. To believe in God is also to obey God. Any Christian who doesn’t know that needs to pick up his Bible again and read it through. You’re not going to miss it.


Note: These portions have been edited, but not necessarily a final edit, so the book version may be slightly different.

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Update posted by Thomas Ackerman On Jul 29, 2018

Without attempting to get into every doctrine, I include this statement of faith to let you know I accept orthodox Christian theology, from the Protestant arena

The Bible is the word of the living God, and is infallible and inerrant in its autographs

God is by nature spirit, is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, immutable and infinite in glory

God has made all creation ex nihilo, and is distinct from His creation

God is perfectly one in His nature and exists eternally in three Persons, the Father, Son and Spirit. They coexist and commune eternally and are equal in glory.

Mankind through his fall is alienated from God, suffering death, the moral corruption of his nature and being under condemnation of the Almighty

God became incarnate in the womb of the virgin Mary through the Holy Spirit

Jesus the Messiah is fully human and fully God

Jesus lived a sinless life and died on the cross as an atoning death for man’s sin

Jesus rose from the dead on the third day, appeared to His disciples and to the multitudes and ascended into heaven

Jesus is the only way to the Father, not one of many ways

The Holy Spirit dwells in the believer in Christ, leading him in truth and sanctifying him

Repentance from sin must come together with faith in Jesus

The dead will be raised, both the just and the unjust, before the final judgment of mankind

The Lord Jesus will return again in glory to judge both the living and the dead

The soul will reside eternally either in heaven or in hell

Moreover, the moral law has not changed, either in the prohibition of sodomy or the nature of marriage being one man and one woman for life.

While I respect other historical views, my understanding of the working of God’s grace is Reformed.


Note: These portions have been edited, but not necessarily a final edit, so the book version may be slightly different.

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