I’m studying the nature of marriage and ‘covenants’ this week, and turned to my favorite teacher on the subject — Dr. Paul Eddy of Bethel University. Here’s a great summary by Ben Malley of a presentation Dr. Eddy gave awhile back. -JB
Dr. Paul Eddy has been passionate about God’s promises, called covenants, since his days in seminary in his early 20s.
Dr. Eddy has been studying the theology of covenants for decades as a Professor at Bethel University, and as the Teaching Pastor at Woodland Hills Church, and he believes studying covenants gives believers a better sense of God’s heart for how He shapes relationships.
Dr. Eddy defines covenant as a committed, community-based, kinship-creating, agape love relationship. But he says it can be simplified down to two simple words: love formalized.
At his Covenantal Theology training at City Church on July 13, Dr. Eddy shared how we can improve our marriages by accurately viewing them as Kingdom-oriented covenants. Through that Kingdom-oriented lens, sex within a male-female marriage becomes the sign of the covenant (Gen. 2:24, 1 Cor. 6:16-17).
Throughout history, Dr. Eddy argues there have been three marriage models that have evolved with society.
Marriage Models through History
- Traditional Marriage – focuses on the extended family. “It’s about strengthening the family relationships, the clan,” explains Dr. Eddy.
- Romantic Marriage – focuses on the couple and protecting the nuclear family. “For a lot of us today in Christian circles, we still operate in the romantic marriage model,” said Dr. Eddy.
- Consumer Marriage – focuses on the individuals themselves. “What is fundamentally important in this model is the individual achieving personal fulfillment and happiness,” explains Dr. Eddy.
But which of these models is the right one for a Christian marriage? None of them, answers Eddy.
“My sense is every single one of these models can foster love in them, but every single one of the can foster selfishness,” said Dr. Eddy.
He urged pastors to teach their congregation about a fourth model he calls a Kingdom Marriage. Kingdom Marriages puts the Kingdom community and the imaging of the triune God at the center of it.
“Here we can re-envision marriage as something of a temporary dress rehearsal to our eternal marriage to Jesus Christ,” explained Eddy.
Practical Suggestions for Church Leaders
- Teach and model a Kingdom Marriage model.
- Focus on the Kingdom community – with the goal to successfully image the agape-love and unity of the Triune God.
- Start your premarital program in elementary school. “We’ve got to detox our kids from all of the stuff in our culture that sets them up for the Cinderella-fairytale marriage, and teach the expectation that marriage is a place where you ‘come and die to yourself,’” said Eddy.
- Cast a loving and logical vision of sex as the covenant sign of marriage.
- Embrace, teach and model a “third way” in response to the polarizing ‘sexual cultural wars’ that divide the Church today. “Sexuality is an area of equal opportunity brokenness for all of us,” said Eddy.
Covenants beyond Sex and Marriage
Dr. Eddy encouraged the Church to recover a clear and compelling vision for living as a fully relational, sexual being outside of the male-female marriage covenant. The Church needs to acknowledge that other forms of covenants are Biblical and healthy.
- Committed Friendship – teach and model the value and principles of committed friendship.
- Explore the possibility of encouraging and publicly celebrating covenantal friendships.
- Study the intimate friendships in the ancient world: David & Jonathan, Ruth & Naomi, friendship Proverbs, Jesus and his friendships.
- The Church as a covenant community – recover an authentic “covenant family” model of the Church.
- Dr. Eddy warns this will be a significant challenge in our culture.
- Jesus birthed a New Covenant family (Mark 3:31-34) in his teachings.
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