A Response to Marriage Made in Eden: A Pre-Modern Perspective for a Post-Christian World -- By: John K. Tarwater

Journal: Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood
Volume: JBMW 09:2 (Fall 2004)
Article: A Response to Marriage Made in Eden: A Pre-Modern Perspective for a Post-Christian World
Author: John K. Tarwater

A Response to Marriage Made in Eden: A Pre-Modern Perspective for a Post-Christian World1

John K. Tarwater

Adjunct Professor of Christian Ethics, Southeastern College Wake Forest, North Carolina

In their most recent work on marriage, Alice Mathews and Gay Hubbard—professor and guest lecturer at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary respectively—explore God’s design and purpose for marriage. Having received positive reviews from several leading evangelical scholars, such as Stanley Grenz, Gordon Fee, and Vernon Grounds, Marriage Made in Eden warrants considerable attention. Because Mathews and Hubbard’s book represents a significant argument supporting egalitarianism, it also deserves a serious response. In this article, I will concentrate my analysis on the book’s contribution as it relates to the role of women, which appears to be the driving issue for the authors. I will divide this article into two sections. In the first, I will present the contents of the text, giving special attention to the arguments in favor of egalitarianism. In the second, I will evaluate and respond to the authors’ rationale.

Arguments in Favor of Egalitarianism

Mathews and Hubbard claim that the purpose of the book is to explore “what God had in mind when he designed marriage and how the purpose of marriage is both to transform us and to witness to God’s grace and power in a sinful world” (19). In order to accomplish this task, they seek to answer two questions: “First, what is marriage as a social institution in this present culture? Second, what does marriage for God’s people look like in this present time, in this present culture” (20)? Organizationally, this becomes the outline of the text: Culture’s case against marriage and God’s case for marriage. Ironically, a large portion of their egalitarian position finds its support in the section on culture’s case against marriage (91–152) rather than in the section on God’s case for marriage (153–250).

Mathews and Hubbard seek to justify their egalitarian position by utilizing arguments from history, from psychology, and from Scripture. Although they do not explicitly express this intention, these three lines of argumentation are clearly evident.

Arguments from History

Mathews and Hubbard develop their case for egalitarianism from history along two fronts. First, in their presentation of culture’s case against marriage, they suggest that record numbers of women chose not to marry and chose to divorce during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, primarily because of the Doctrine of Separate Spheres. The Doctrine of Separate Spheres, according to Mathews and Hubbard, is the ...

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