February 17, 2002 / Volume 2, Issue 7
THE ATHEIST'S COMPLAINT:
Is marriage a good thing (Proverbs 18:22) or a bad thing (1 Corinthians 7:1, 2, 27, 39, 40)?
Is there a contradiction?
The Bible consistently speaks of marriage as a good thing, even from the very beginning of creation (Genesis 2:24-25). The apostle Paul, who wrote the words under consideration by the question in 1 Corinthians, certainly did not think it wrong to have a wife. In the very same letter, he asks, "...do we have no right to take along a believing wife, as do also the other apostles, the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas?" (9:5). If it were wrong or bad to have a wife, he certainly would not speak of his right to have one.
The words in 1 Corinthians 7 must be understood in their historical context. He says "...I suppose therefore that this is good because of the present distress -- that it is good for a man to remain as he is..." (1 Corinthians 7:26). Indeed, there were circumstances that faced the church at the time of Paul's writings which dictated the tone of his words regarding marriage.
Further to that, Paul speaks as he does that the saints might "...be without care." (1 Corinthians 7:32). And again, he says "...this I say for your profit, not that I may put a leash on you, but for what is proper, and that you may serve the Lord without distraction." (1 Corinthians 7:35). He understood that one who was married must seek to please his spouse (1 Corinthians 7:32-34), which could be a distraction to serving the Lord. However, this very same apostle commands elsewhere, "...wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord... Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church..." (Ephesians 5:22, 25). He was by no means opposed to marriage, nor did he think it a bad thing.
There is no contradiction.
This article is a response to Skeptic's Annotated Bible