By Terry L. Sumerlin
I trust the reader understands, as I am convinced Brother Wright does, that I am not led to reply to the articles of my good brother in Christ by a negative attitude or a feeling of animosity toward one with whom I differ. My sole purpose is, rather, to present what I believe to be the truth on this subject, just as I endeavor to contend for the truth on any Biblical matter. With this in mind, I address myself to some final remarks regarding Brother Wright’s last article.
I ask that the reader take note of the fact that throughout this reply I will be following, for the sake of clarity, the subject headings used in the affirmative article. The usage of the word ‘misunderstanding’ in these headings, though, I believe, deserves a little consideration. This word, as it was used, implies one of two things: (1) The affirmative case was not stated clearly to begin with or (2) there was faulty reasoning in the mind of the one in the negative. Though I am not saying that something was deliberately insinuated in the usage of the word, I do think that these things should be brought to the attention of the reader so that he might be able to form his own conclusions relative to which one of the above things resulted in the “misunderstandings.” Now, we turn to the misunderstandings.”
Misunderstanding No. 1
In connection with this section, I wish to insert a statement, which was made by Brother Wright under “misunderstanding No. 5”: “I do believe the Christian who marries a non Christian commits an act of sin.” Though we will have occasion to deal with this statement more in detail when we come to it, I mention it at this point in order to show one thing: For the purpose of the statement of Old Testament passages in the affirmative case of this issue to be valid and useful, they must show beyond doubt that God has always condemned “mixed marriages.” (Otherwise, what is the point in using such passages except to add force to a line of suppositions, which are taken from the New Testament, which in reality would not need support from the Old Testament if they were anything more than suppositions?) Yet, if this fact existed before New Testament days, then everything said prior to such a time has to be consistent with such a supposed attitude on God’s part. Yet, such is not the case. As Brother Wright points out, there were “old worthies” who became involved in “mixed marriages,” to whom nothing was said about sin being involved as a result of the marriage, itself.
One is made to wonder, if such a marriage constituted sin on the part of Moses, why the sister of Moses, who seemed to have justifiable reason for objecting to the marriage of Moses to the Ethiopian woman, was made a leper instead of Moses. Notice, also, that in the same account, God said of Moses, “who is faithful in all mine house” (Num. 12:13). Such sounds rather strange as a statement in reference to one who had just sinned. Thus, I again reject such an interpretation of Old Testament scripture as has been considered, and submit my understanding of them as stated in my first review.
Yet, I call one thing more to the attention of the reader, in reference to these Old Testament passages: If for some reason I have erred in my reasoning on these passages (though I do not believe I have), such would prove nothing except the fact that I have erred. In other words, such would add no force to the opposite position. The burden of proof for the affirmative rests upon passages in the New Testament. If the passages necessary for proof cannot be found in the New Testament, the affirmative fails for lack of support. Thus, let’s see about the “support” of the affirmative.
Misunderstanding No. 2
I believe it is important that, in connection with 1 Cor. 9:5, as mentioned in this section, we focus upon the issue as to whether or not this is an approved apostolic example. This is the point of contention, which has to be resolved. I agree with Brother Wright in regard to principles on the establishment of authority and his application of such principles to singing, communion, etc. Yet, we also know that not all examples are approved apostolic examples binding. For example, I call your attention to the fact that we have often proven that the example of eating the Lord’s Supper in an upper room is not a binding one. Similarly, though 1 Cor. 9:5 is an example, I fail to see how it is binding, for the following reason: For an example to be binding, it has to be of such a nature that when it is bound it still harmonizes with all other teachings. Thus, if 1 Cor. 9:5 is a binding example, one has a contradiction between how one would repent of violating this law and scriptures which teach that fornication is the only grounds for divorce. Though Brother Wright, I feel, never gave full treatment to the idea of repentance (and I will deal more with this in another section), it is a serious problem when one starts talking about sin.
Misunderstanding No. 3
I must say that there appears to be more, problems with the sophistry that appeared in the affirmative under this heading, than there does with my “amplified translation.” First of all, Brother Wright tried to negate my point on “in the Lord” in 1 Cor. 7:39 by asking if I would take the same position on the expression as it is found in Gal. 3:27 as I do in its occurrence in 1 Cor. 7:39 and Eph. 6: 1. I feel confident that Brother Wright simply overlooked this fact, but the same expression is not in Gal. 3:27. Berry translates the expression to which Brother Wright referred in Gal. 3: 27: “to Christ were baptized.” He also translates the expression found in 1 Cor. 7:39 and Eph. 6: 1: “in (the) Lord.” I fail to see a parallel in wording or context. I have just shown the wording to be different, and ask the reader to examine the contexts.
Furthermore, if my “amplified translation” is incorrect, I wonder if “in the Lord” in Eph. 6: 1 is to be translated in the same manner as Brother Wright would translate the expression in 1 Cor. 7:39. If not, why not? The expressions are identical in construction and I fail to see how the contexts would alter the meaning of one or the other. Therefore, according to the affirmative, why would not Eph. 6: 1 mean that children are only obligated to obey parents who are Christians, as widows are only to marry men who are Christians? Beyond this, though, there is absolutely no way, assuming the affirmative’s position on the passage is correct, that anyone but a widow can be put into 1 Cor. 7:39, except by supposition!
Misunderstanding No. 4
In this section great effort was expended that the affirmative might be able to “have its cake and eat it too.” As I have previously stated, I disagree with the interpretation that Brother Wright has sought to place upon 2 Cor. 6:14. Yet, though I do disagree with such an interpretation, I do agree with the fact that in whatever sense the passage applies to marriage, it “does not apply to marriage alone.” Yet, if one is going to apply the passage to marriage in Brother Wright’s manner (in spite of the fact that it does not apply to marriage alone), he has to be consistent with the context. I also agree that we have to take all of what the scripture has to say on a given subject. Yet, when we find a passage that we think deals with that subject (in this case, the subject being: it is sinful for a Christian to marry a non-Christian), let’s take it all! I do not feel that Brother Wright has done such with this passage; and thus he has “jumped the track” on my argument.
Misunderstanding No. 5
This is the section, which I see as most destructive to the affirmative position. Brother Wright admits in no uncertain terms “the Christian who marries a non-Christian commits an act of sin.” From this point he proceeds to tell one about seeking forgiveness from such “sin,” while “hedging” I am sure in all sincerity) on how one repents. Brother Wright talked about the alcoholic repenting by quitting his drinking. Then he mentioned the fact that he still had to live with the physical problem of sclerosis, in many cases. While such facts may he true, I hasten to point out that he quit what caused the sclerosis. He could not have repented and failed to do this. In a similar fashion, if the Christian sins in marrying a non-Christian, the only way penitence can be shown is by divorce. Now if Brother Wright wants to parallel the problems of the drunkard, which he is forced to live with, with the problems that the Christian in a mixed marriage incurs, that’s fine. Yet, he will need to find the problems and not the cause. One repents of the sin, the cause of these problems (which are sometimes present in the “mixed marriage”). The sin is the marriage, according to Brother Wright. So, he will have to find other problems. Thus, I ask: How does one repent of this sin, in view of the fact that fornication is the only grounds for divorce?
It seems that with hardly an exception, those who take the, opposite view from mine talk as if those who are of my persuasion (1) walk on shaky ground and (2) wind up agreeing with them when kill is said and done. Thus, some words of clarification are in order. First, let me say that I will never agree (with my present understanding of scripture) with those who say that a “mixed marriage” is sin. I ask you not to confuse the fact that I say it is best for a Christian to marry a Christian with the conclusion that it is sin for a Christian not to marry a Christian. There is a difference in pointing out a way as the best of two ways, and pointing it out as the only way. It is at this point that I fail to see my ground as any shakier than those who differ with me. As I see it, the Bible condemns, just as surely, the binding of that which has not been bound as it does loosing what has not been loosed. All I am contending for is what I believe to be the truth, by which we determine who is a sinner and is to be dealt with accordingly, and who is not a sinner and should be left alone.
I assure you that my attitude toward Brother Wright (and all other brethren who do not hold my view) is only one of love, and ask that these things be considered in that light.
TRUTH MAGAZINE XVII: 26, pp. 11-13
May 3, 1973