Bible Studies/Biblical View of Unmarried Motherhood
Hello Marilyn: Over the past years, there are fewer and fewer children born to married parents. When I grew up, most kids had two parents, but that is not the case these days. I have read secular articles that point out how much better off children in intact families do. However, I had wondered if there is a biblical perspective to this issue. Thank you.
There is no verse in the Bible that obviously and without question that explicitly states God wants children raised in families consisting of a married man and his wife, but it is in there if we're willing to dig a little. Bear with me please.
When looking for an explicit, obvious declaration that marriage consists of one man and one woman the only verse that makes this abundantly, obviously clear is, "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and cleave unto his wife and they shall be one flesh," Genesis 2:24. In his letters the Apostle Paul elaborates on how a husband and a wife should behave toward one another and what a marriage means in the context of their relationship with God and the world, but there's no outline for a wedding ceremony like there is for a baptism: "I now baptize you in the Name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit," Matthew 28:19.
You and I might think the verse in Genesis and others that reference it and elaborate on it, Matthew 19:4; Mark 10:7 and Ephesians 5:31, make it pretty clear what God calls a "marriage." But for some people, this is just not enough--it's not explicit enough. It could be argued that living together meets the requirements of Genesis 2:24. The questions, “What is marriage?” and “What is family?” require deep examination of Scripture--deeper than most people have time to go or care to go.
How to conduct a marriage ceremony or how to make it "legal" before God are humans constructs. Don't get me wrong, the marriage license, the wedding ceremony and all that goes with it--even if the ceremony is conducted before a Justice of the Peace--they’re good and needed. Society set up these kinds of cultural and legal mechanisms because long, long ago people understood the importance of family and the sinfulness of human beings. The laws and traditions around marriage give the protection of witnesses who saw the ceremony and heard the promises who can hold the groom or the bride accountable when they pretend nothing happened and the force of the state added to the marriage contract protects the vulnerable wife with small children, the children and sometimes the husband.
As you pointed out, it doesn't take much to realize children do better in homes consisting of Mom and Dad who are committed to one another in marriage, but to get to what the Bible says about it will take examination of the very core of what it means to be a human being created in the image of God. So, get ready--here we go. (I use the NIV Bible.)
In Genesis we read that God created human beings in His image. This information is shared in two places, each with its own unique twist. Genesis 1:26 & 27, “Then God said, “Let Us make man in our image, in our likeness and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him, male and female He created them.”
In this passage the Hebrew word, “bara,” translated “created,” is used. Bara means “to make something out of nothing.” (The English translation of the Hebrew typically uses “created” when “bara” is found in the text, so when David says, “create in me a clean heart,” he means “make me a clean heart out of nothing,” Psalm 51:10.) Notice how the text tells us that God created “him,” then it says “male and female He created them.”
Genesis 2:7, “And the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living being.” Here the Hebrew word “yatsar” is used and means “formed from existing material.” The name, “Adam,” essentially means “mud man” or “man made out of dirt.” The words, “breath of life,” in the Hebrew is actually plural, it says, “breath of lives.” The Hebrew word is “chayeem” (this word all by itself tells us a lot about what God gave to Adam. God gave to the man the capacity to begat new souls. This is an awesome power men typically have not appreciated throughout history. In other words, God breathed into Adam all the breaths of life for every human being who would ever be born. Every fertile man carries countless generations in his sperm--the sperm is what causes life to be begotten.). “And man BECAME (“lamed,” meaning “changed in form from what it was before”) TO a living soul, another speaking spirit.”
This passage speaks of something that God had formed--perhaps a primitive man-like creature--becoming something entirely different, new and unique when God breathed into it the chayeem. From this I conclude that the part of a human being which is made out of nothing is the eternal human spirit which God placed in Adam in potential, the way a spark is the potential for a fire should the right conditions exist. (See “The Science of God” by Gerald Schroeder.)
The word translated “image” is “selem,” a “sculpture.” In Genesis 1 God made a human being from nothing and made that human being in His image--a sculptural copy of Himself. “Likeness” is translated from the word “demut,” which means “something that is similar, often used to indicate similarity in external appearance.” NT Wright speaks about God creating us to be His “image bearers.” As image bearers we are God’s representatives here on planet earth and gave us dominion--we’re in charge here on the planet, if something is messed up, it’s because we did it, we’re in charge. We can get help from God--He wants to help!--but since He put us in charge He won’t interfere if we don’t ask Him to. Psalm 8:5 & 6, “You made him (man) a little lower than elohim (I'll explain “elohim” in a minute). You made him ruler over the works of your hands.” In Psalm 82 we are called “gods” and the Psalmist discusses what little “g” gods are supposed to be doing on planet earth as the image bearers of the big “G” God who is the Over King or High King over us all. In the book of John, Jesus’ battle with the Pharisees gradually heats up chapter by chapter. In chapter ten, verses 22-39, He refers to Psalm 82 and challenges the Pharisees at their own game. They want to know by what authority He teaches and does miracles and He throws it back in their faces--you were created to be God’s representatives and since you’re not doing God’s work why are you angry when I do it? They understand His meaning because when He finishes speaking they try to seize Him and He does that jumper thing where He just goes poof--gone--where did He go?
We’re God’s image bearers, we’re His little “g” gods of planet earth, we are not only made to look like Him, but we are given the power to speak and similar to Him, we have creative powers and the capacity for faith and love and so on--copies of Him who are supposed to be the picture of Him in the earth. We were created to be the picture of God--the mirror reflection of God--think about that for a minute.
The name “elohim” is a plural noun. It is first used in Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God (Elohim) created the heavens and the earth.” This name is also used in passages referring to angels. Thus, translators have confused Elohim, God, with elohim, angels in some passages. We’re already established that human beings are a god-class creature, that is made for fellowship with God, capable of creative works like God, given free will like God and endowed with the power of speech. Hebrews 1 tells us that angels are God’s servants and also serve His people. We cannot be created lower than angels if they are our servants, therefore, the passage in Psalms quoted above and the spot in Hebrews where this verse is quoted is saying we are created just a little below God.
In Genesis 2 we read, God made Adam first, then took some flesh from under his rib and formed the woman. There’s no indication that He breathed into her as He did in Adam, so the implication would be that He took one of the breaths He’d already breathed into Adam and used it to give life to Eve. This is wild. Eve is not only a sort of clone of Adam, but she’s sort of his daughter. She wasn't born by being begotten. Well, we’re all breaths of life that were breathed into Adam and we marry and give birth to boys who carry breaths of life within them.
The way it’s worded in Genesis 1 God sees the man and the woman as a whole--together they make the image of God. This puts the woman as equal value though of different status (the man is supposed to be the head of the marriage unit and the family) and gifted with different inclinations and abilities. Together, in marriage, the man and the woman reunite the two halves of the image of God He separated when He took the woman out of the man. This does not mean that a man or a woman by themselves are not whole and entire alone, but it means that there's another level of being in the image of God that comes with marriage when two become one flesh again. A married couple is the image of God, the representation of God, a reflection of the kind of a Being He is, how He might think, act, discipline, have fun, love, etc. etc. This is why the married couple is the basic and most essential unit of a healthy, happy culture. When the Image of God is properly reflected to the world at large, to the local community, to the children of the home and the extended family--the order of human beings in relation to one another and to God is in proper fit and everything will function as it should--or as nearly as it can in humanity’s fallen state.
The Image of God has been under assault in the US now for quite awhile. Two men or two women in marriage is a slap at the Image of God, a perversion united two of the same halves of the image of God into a sick whole. This kind of union will generate perverted results in the family, the community and the world. A single parent can only model one half of the Image of God and thus, the child grows up only understanding half of what God might be like and thus, unless there are surrogate moms or dads in the child’s life, his whole outlook on everything is skewed, it’s off kilter and he will have difficulty achieving all he was created to achieve, unless he receives healing from God as an adult. If a child has no experience with the masculine side of God or he lacks experience with the feminine side of God, he only has half of the image presented to him. Our present culture has skewed the formula to promulgate children who don't know what it means to have a father and thus do not understand Father God.
We’ve seen the results of this in the black community where welfare policy that began in the 60’s under Lyndon Johnson (give money to unwed mothers) has devastated a population that actually was doing better in many ways before welfare was offered. The black community, already in a lower economic standing than other communities has suffered more from this than any other. The government’s policy to give money to unwed mothers meant that low income fathers saw themselves as useless--the mother can get more from the feds than he can provide--so black men stopped marrying the mothers of their children. Now we have generations of black children who have no idea what it is like to have a father to discipline, guide and love them. They form gangs trying to find that father they lack; they kill one another trying to prove who’s a “man.” Young men who don't have older men around to show them how to be manly and chivalrous they have no idea how to be men so they become miserable, over-grown children who take out their anger and hurt on whoever is around them.
The image of God is the core, not just of the family, but of the culture, the society and of humanity throughout the earth. The image of God is the most awesome responsibility and the greatest gift ever given to living beings. When the image of God is not in proper mettle, human civilization, the family, the community and the nation suffer and begin to fail.