The Eagle and Child: S1E19 – “Christian Marriage” (Part 2)



This week Matt and I conclude the chapter in “Mere Christianity” on the subject of Christian marriage.

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Episode 18: “Christian Marriage (Part 2)” (Download)


— Show Notes —

• My outline for today’s chapter is available here. Thankfully, once again, there’s a C.S. Lewis doodle!

• Lewis asks whether or not the Christian conception of marriage should be enshrined in law (particularly with regards to divorce). Lewis thinks it should not:

“A great many people seem to think that if you are a Christian yourself you should try to make divorce difficult for every one. I do not think that. At least I know I should be very angry if the Mohammedans [Muslims] tried to prevent the rest of us from drinking wine”

–  C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (Book 3, Chapter 6)

• Jack goes on to say that he thinks the two different kinds of marriage should be very clearly distinguished from each other:

“My own view is that the Churches should frankly recognise that the majority of the British 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”

–  C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (Book 3, Chapter 6)

• I pointed out that Lewis’ distinctions between the two different kinds of marriage played out in his life. He had a paper marriage to his friend, the American Joy Davidman, in order to allow her and her sons to remain in England. However, several years later the two fell in love and entered into a real, Christian marriage.

• Part of me found Lewis’ argument for separating the different kinds of marriage very compelling. By separating civil marriage from the sacrament of matrimony, you protect the influence of the state over Christian marriage. However, I argue against this using principles which Lewis has established in earlier chapters. If the Christian conception of marriage is in accord with the Moral Law and it is, in fact, the ideal plan for the “running  the human machine”, why wouldn’t you enshrine it in Law, so as to reflect the Moral Law and aid in the successful running of society?

• Others have pointed out the difference between Lewis and Tolkien on this subject.

• Matt argues that it would be better to work on the inner character of people, rather than to simply legislate. He drew upon the analogy of the convoy from Episode 13 (“The Three Parts of Morality”).

• Matt said that an atheist would say we should make laws which are for the good of society, so I raised the fact that we live in a no-fault divorce state. Is the swift break-up of marriages a good thing for society or a bad thing? I suggested that it’s a bad thing…

• The final sensitive issue of this chapter was the subject of “headship” in marriage:

“Christian wives promise to obey their husbands. In Christian marriage the man is said to be the “head.” Two questions obviously arise here, (1) Why should there be a head at all -why not equality? (2) Why should it be the man?”

–  C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (Book 3, Chapter 6)

• Although I don’t think Lewis gives this subject sufficient attention after raising it, Jack does do a good job of addressing each of these questions in turn…

1. Does there really need to be a head in marriage?

○ Lewis explains that in a two-vote system, one person must necessarily have the casting vote…

“…as long as the husband and wife are agreed, no question of a head need arise; and we may hope that this will be the normal state of affairs in a Christian marriage. But when there is a real disagreement, what is to happen? Talk it over, of course; but I am assuming they have done that and still failed to reach agreement.  What do they do next? They cannot decide by a majority vote, for in a council of two there can be no majority. Surely, only one or other of two things can happen: either they must separate and go their own ways or else one or other of them must have a casting vote”

–  C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (Book 3, Chapter 6)

○ Matt explains that a 50:50 business partnership rarely works in the long-term.

○ I recounted the story of when a girl I was dating told me that she believed in Christian headship in marriage.

○ We briefly discussed St. Paul’s words to the Ephesians about husbands and wives. Once again I encouraged listeners to get Brant Pitre’s talk “Wives have to do what?!”. You can also watch the trailer for it, or even watch the entire talk online.

2. If there does, does it really need to be the husband?

○ Jack begins by asking whether or not anyone really wants this…

“…as far as 1 can see, even a woman who wants to be the head of her own house does not usually admire the same state of things when she finds it going on next door…I do not think she is even very flattered if anyone mentions the fact of her own “headship.”…the wives themselves are half ashamed of it and despise the husbands whom they rule”

–  C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (Book 3, Chapter 6)

○ Matt says John Eldredge speaks a lot about men being “domesticated” and that, once this has been achieved, women typically fall out of love with the man they married.

○ Lewis offers a final thought, suggesting male headship as a moderating influence over the fierce natural love which a wife has for her husband and children:

 If your dog has bitten the child next door, or if your child has hurt the dog next door, which would you sooner have to deal with, the master of that house or the mistress?

–  C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (Book 3, Chapter 6)

○ Matt shared his thoughts on the prospect of being the “head of the household”. The world makes a profound mistake when it frames headship in terms of a power-play, rather than in terms of responsibility and self-sacrifice.

○ I explained that the Pope, who is the visible head of the Catholic Church is also at the “bottom of the pyramid”, so to speak, since one of his titles is “Servant of the servants of God” (in Latin, “Servus Servorum Dei”). I also gave the example of when Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, once he ascended to the throne of Israel. Despite being king, the advice he was given was to be a servant to the people:

Then King Rehobo′am took counsel with the old men, who had stood before Solomon his father while he was yet alive, saying, “How do you advise me to answer this people?” And they said to him, “If you will be a servant to this people today and serve them, and speak good words to them when you answer them, then they will be your servants for ever.” But he forsook the counsel which the old men gave him, and took counsel with the young men who had grown up with him and stood before him.

– 1 Kings 12:6-8

Christ is the head of the Church, but he still described Himself as a servant:

“For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

– Mark 10:54

• I said I would include a link to the video of the discussion William Lane Craig and Barron. It’s a wonderful discussion between a Protestant philosopher/apologist/evangelist and one of the most recognizable names in American Catholicism today.

• We’ll plan a mailbag episode soon! Send us you questions and comments!

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