I attempt to derive my theology of marriage through Scripture as much as is possible, and ultimately find the opening chapters of Genesis (particularly 1-2) to be central to understanding God’s ideal for human flourishing, marriage included. In Genesis 1-2, God’s ideal for marriage is between two people who are both committed to God, God’s creation, and each other. When one of these pieces is missing, disorder ensues, or at the least a taste of shalom is stalled or thwarted. Humans were created to serve God, serve each other, and serve the earth.[1] We find the greatest satisfaction when we are doing all of these things.

Another important aspect of the Genesis account is the doctrine of the imago dei. In the Ancient Near East, humans were not held in the highest esteem, but this is where the Genesis account parts ways with its immediate context. The Genesis account, among other things, “provides for human dignity and the sanctity of human life.”[2] When it comes to marriage, we must always find value in our spouse, and they must also never forget whose image their spouse is made in.

My Experience

Though I strive to be objective, my experience colors my reading of Genesis 1-3. I grew up in a fairly egalitarian home which gave complementarianism lip-service at times. This may be why I tip my hat toward more egalitarian interpretations of the creation account, even though I am not so sure anymore that this text can really help us (in a decisive way) on the debate about women in leadership. When it comes to human identity and marriage, however, there is a lot more clarity.

Here in Genesis we find that the human identity is rooted in gratitude toward and adoration of God. Our natural human response to God is one of gratitude and trust, and out of this trust is birthed glad submission. But something went awry and the original humans went against their nature, their ingratitude setting loose uncreation into God’s good creation and into the originally-good human heart. In Eden, Adam and Eve denied their true humanity. When Jesus calls us to crucify ourselves, it is not a call to self-hatred. Rather he beckons us to return to our true humanity, the process of denying the uncreation which latches itself onto us. This is true of married and single Christians alike, but marriage will many times bring to the surface issues that were dormant. In marriage, both husband and wife process their story before God, and together are called to Christ-formation, which is a return to their humanity.

Cruciformity and Vigilance

Practically speaking, what does this mean?

Christian wives and husbands are collectively (and individually) called to put to death parts of themselves that stand in the way of God’s glory and our human flourishing (as well as our own joy, dignity, and purpose). The original husband and wife failed to do so, and darkness and chaos plagued that marriage along with the whole cosmos. Genesis 1-2 is a call for Christian couples to remain ever-vigilant for ways in which our sacred marriages may be under attack.

Sometimes this might mean seeking help for addictions, seeking counseling or professional help for behavioral issues and/or past trauma, or even having to put an end to certain relationships.

Failure to crucify our flesh and failure to remain vigilant in our marriages will ultimately result in marriages that bring about more death than life. Christians are called to mirror the Edenic vision that God lays out for us in the creation accounts. This means putting God’s purposes before our very own, as well as remaining in a posture of active readiness for subtle attacks on our sacred union.

[1] John Goldingay refers to Adam and Eve as the Garden’s servants; see John Goldingay, Genesis (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2020), 49-67. “Humanity’s relationship to the ground is one of service…” Goldingay, Genesis, 56.

[2] John Walton, Genesis (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001), 134.