Inellectual Inertia

Gary at Country Keepers had an intersting post the other day on gay marriage. Gary takes on an article at a pro gay marriage site by someone who claims to be a Christian. While I agree with Gary's conclusions on the relevance of scripture despite technological advances, I'm not sure I'm with him on how he gets there. But that's a post for another day. What I'd really like to talk about is the article that Gary refers to. It's a great example, I think, of the power of what I call Intellectual Inertia.

What I mean by that is we all have convictions and opinions on a variety of things. What comes with that is the desire to believe that we are right in our opinions, intellectual inertia. That's why once we buy something, it's the best one available, no matter how good it actually is. If we really want something, we can convince ourselves that we can afford it whether we can or not. A few months before we bought our house, we signed a contract for a new house with a local builder. We had it all worked out; it would be fine even though it was $35,000 more than the house we ultimately bought. We would have been in deep financial doo-doo if it weren't for some very good, and very persistent, friends who worked through the numbers repeatedly until we 'got it'. The desire to believe was powerful and blinding.

This desire can apply to our faith as well. We want to believe that our church is the right church and we have a lock on what the Bible says on a subject. But before you spout your opinions or even before you look up the scriptures, ask your self, "What do I want to believe about this?" Be honest, because only when you've identified your bias can you begin to honestly read the scriptures to discover the truth. As Jesus said over and over and over and over, "he who has ears, let him hear." The challenge is to have ears that truly hear and eyes that truly see.

Let's take the article in question. The writer's main point is that the current definition of 'Biblical Marriage' is contrived to match what is acceptable by modern society and that actual, Biblical Marriage is something that society would reject. He set out to study what biblical marriage really was and came up with the following 12 Biblical 'Principals' of marriage:

1 - Marriage consists of one man and one or more women

2 - Nothing prevents a man from taking on concubines in addition to the wife or wives he may already have

3 - A man might chose any woman he wants for his wife - Provided only that she is not already another man's wife or his [half-]sister, nor the mother or the sister of a woman who is already his wife. The concept of a woman giving her consent to being married is foreign to the Biblical mindset.

4 - If a woman cannot be proven to be a virgin at the time of marriage, she shall be stoned

5 - A rapist must marry his victim - Unless she was already a fiancé, in which case he should be put to death if he raped her in the country, but both of them killed if he raped her in town

6 - If a man dies childless, his brother must marry the widow

7 - Women marry the man of their father's choosing

8 - Women are the property of their father until married and their husband after that

9 - The value of a woman might be approximately seven years' work

10 - Inter-faith marriages are prohibited

11 - Divorce is forbidden

12 - Better to not get married at all - Although marriage is not a sin

To call these Biblical 'principals' is a stretch of the term in the very least. Some of them are actual principals, or teachings, of the Bible (#4, #5, #6, #10 and #11, although only #11 is a New testament teaching.) Some are examples of bad, although technically acceptable, ideas (the bigamy mentioned in #1) or just plain sin (#2 - As far as I can tell, God never sanctioned concubines, which would seem to be adultery, although many prominent men of the Bible had them.) Many are examples of differences in the culture of the day and now (#2, #3, #6, #7, #8 and #10). Others are simply his attempt to show that the Bible does not hold marriage in the high regard that it is usually portrayed. (#1 - I don't think a marriage can be between a single man and multiple women, although a man may have many marriages. I don't think that women were banned from polygamy, they were just smarter. #9 - At least he put the word 'might' in there.) The facts of the Bible show marriage always to be between one man and one woman, sometimes men have multiple marriages and in the past those marriages have been arranged, but that is not a Biblical requirement.

It seems that Mr. Roste went into this study with an end in minds and therefore the truth of the scriptures was of no use to him. What scares me about this is not that there are others like him willing to make the Bible say what they want. No what scares me is that I can be just like him. I get attached to these ideas and I believe that I am right and then I go out looking for scripture to back me up, not really asking the questions that lead to truth but only those that lead to the conclusion that I've already made. It scares me because our Lord warns us where that road of pride ultimately leads:

"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!' - Matthew 7:21-23

So I've learned to question everything, especially my own motives.

2 Comments

Thanks for the link and mention, Doug. Great start to your weblog (not the linking to me part!). The stuff you've written is good.

I had never read this before! Intellectual Inertia! Genius! But boy is this a great heart check. It makes me think of James 3:16, "For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice."

Thanks for the post!



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  • I had never read this before! Intellectual Inertia! Genius! But boy is this a great heart check. It makes me think of James 3:16, "For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil ...

    Paul Frederick
    Inellectual Inertia
  • Thanks for the link and mention, Doug. Great start to your weblog (not the linking to me part!). The stuff you've written is good....

    Gary Petersen
    Inellectual Inertia
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