So the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.
–2 Kings 6:15-17 ESV
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses …
–Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV
Oftentimes visual symbolism can discourage and defeat. Whether ages ago a Captain in the British Navy who, through his telescope, sees that a new flag of the enemy has been raised ashore in his home port. Or, in our own day, an opposing team and their fans storm the court after a major road win—and with the irony of opposing colors overtaking the colors of home sinking in to help the fan realize this loss is not a dream.
Or, perhaps in the wake of a major Supreme Court decision on the definition of marriage, the full impact and intent is on display as a rainbow flag of colors engulfs the home of the most powerful leader in the world.
In days like these, where the recent redefinition of marriage can often discourage, it is helpful and grounding to remember that there are scores of spiritual forebears, a great cloud of witnesses, though now invisible, who sought to define and stand for the original definition of marriage.
Even though today one might feel as if he is standing alone while those with alternative views fly their victory flags, the truth is, and like Elisha saw, there are the legacies of those who have gone before standing like a cavalry of horses and chariots all around.
Thus, in an age of gusting gale-force winds of moral change, those committed to the Bible need encouragement from others to ensure that they stand strong and weather well. Also, that they understand that it is not those who are storming the fields in victory who they are to stand against but rather against their arguments (2 Cor. 10:5) and the father of lies behind them (John 8:44).
For in the spirit of the words of Elisha, we are not to be afraid or downcast for, with eyes to see, those who are with us are more than those who are with the evil one. This essay is presented to that end and will seek to answer for such encouragement in a time like ours, how have Baptists thought of Marriage and Family from the Reformation to the present?
First presented at the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society in November 2015, this essay was recently published in full at Canon & Culture. There I present in four sections how Baptists have articulated marriage and family century by century. Following that historical exploration, I conclude that Baptists through the centuries have regularly asserted a common belief in marriage and family. I then attempt to categorize those under four headings:
- Baptists have sought to define marriage and family according to the Bible:
- Created by God
- One wife, one husband, in monogamy not polygamy
- Believers should marry believers
- Baptists have consistently addressed marriage and family in light of cultural concerns
- Baptists have worked to articulate marriage and family in conjunction with other traditions
- Baptists have largely affirmed complementarity in marriage roles that, in families, seek to give care for the spiritual formation of their children.
Lest one grow too weary when looking at the surrounding culture and feel like the enemy’s flag has been raised once and for all in one’s homeland, it is helpful to remember that what is not seen is more real than what is seen. For as Martin Luther said, “Our striving would be losing were not the right man on our side.” Thus, as we strive for truth, let us remember that we do not strive alone. For, if we have eyes to see, like Elisha, there is a great cloud of witnesses, of horses and chariots, of men and women who have gone before who surround and stand with us. Yet, even more, there stands that Right Man on our side, and very soon, He will come and make all things right and new.
To read the full essay, visit Canon and Culture.