Pondering the matters of sexual differentiation and family, one recalls that the Jesus traditions in the synoptic gospels show a remarkable tension. One the one hand, when asked about divorce, Jesus uses the ancient and widespread argument based on the structure of creation. Drawing on the book of Genesis, he says:
From the beginning of creation [there was no divorce] God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mothers and be joined to his wife ... (Mark 10:6-7; NRSV; Gen 1:27; 2:24)
On the other hand, when told that his biological mother and brothers are outside the crowded house in which eh is teaching, Jesus is far from presupposing the creational basis of sexuality and marriage. On the contrary, he refers to what one might call the new-creational family:
And he replied "Who are my mother and my brothers?" And looking at those who sat around him, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and my sister and my mother" (Mark 3:33-35; NRSV).
The traditions about Jesus find him arguing both on the basis of creation and on the basis of the gospel's power to bring about a new creation - the eschatological family - and between these two kinds of arguments there is a discernible tension.
One can sense a similar tension in Paul's letters, if one takes them as a whole. In Rom 1:18-32 Paul uses an argument explicitly based on creation, drawing certain conclusions from "the things [God] has made" in "the creation of the cosmos" (Rom 1:10). In effect, Paul says in this passage that God's identity and the true sexual identity of human beings as male and female can both be inferred from creation.
What a different argument lies before us in Gal 3:26-29; 6:14-15! Here the basis is explicitly not creation, but rather the new creation in which the building blocks of the old creation are declared to be nonexistent. If one were to recall the affirmation "It is not good that the man should be alone" (Gen. 2:18), one would also remember that the creational response to loneliness is married fidelity between man and woman (Gen 2:24; Mark 10:6-7). But in its announcement of the new creation, the apocalyptic baptismal formula declares the erasure of the distinction of male from female. Now the answer to loneliness is not marriage, but rather the new-creational community that God is calling into being in Christ, the church marked by mutual love, as it is led by the Spirit of Christ (Gal 3:28b; 5:6, 13, 22; 6:15).
A tension between new-creational argument and creational argument is not to be found, however, within Galatians itself. In writing to his church in Corinth, for example, Paul will negotiate the relation between new creation and creation by advising married people to be married as though not being married (1 Cor 7:29). For the Galatians he provides no such finesse. Indeed, in writing to the Galatians Paul avoids two things. He does not demonstrate the tension that can be seen between a creational argument and a new-creational one. And, correspondingly, he does not provide a way of relating the one to the other, as though in some manner new creation could be added to creation. Here he argues uncompromisingly on the basis of God's new creation.
The result of such a radical vision and of its radical argumentation is the new-creational view of the people of God harmonious with the one we have seen in Comment #37. Just as, in Galatians 5:13-14, the need to surmount loneliness is now met not by marriage, but rather by the loving mutuality enacted in the new creation, the church of God, so the corresponding need to belong to a coherent community is not met by the making of a people ethnically and religious differentiated from other peoples, but rather by the community of that new creation that God is calling into existence in Christ throughout the whole of the world. Thus, this corporate people is determined to no degree at all by the religious and ethnic factors that characterized the old creation (5:6; 6:15). This people is determined solely by incorporation into the Christ in whom those factors have no real existence (380-382).
Second, I was raised in the church and have attended various well-known evangelical institutions. Marriage is glorified, for better or for worse, in both the church and evangelicalism as a whole. I'm confident that most would not disagree with me when I say that it is not uncommon for Christians to believe that the norm for a theology of marriage is based upon a creational model as Martyn outlines above. And I always hear Christians trying to explain aware the radical elements of Paul that Martyn mentions in the Corinthians passage as if Paul was not really with the general ethos of the biblical witness and Paul can only be trusted for a theology of marriage when he speaks positively about it (Galatians 5, for example). So there is never even real discussion about a possible tension that Martyn talks about between a creational argument and a new-creational argument in relation to marriage. The tension between the two that you find in Jesus' words within the Gospel narratives and Paul in his epistles is bad enough when trying to think about what marriage might look like. What does marriage even mean when you have a tension between the two? And how are married people, if they are following Paul's teachings, supposed to act as if they are not married? Seriously?
But if you just turn to Galatians alone, as Martyn does here, that already seemingly impossible tension for the existence of marriage doesn't even exist anymore. There is no longer this tug of war between creation and new creation. In Paul's vision, there is now only new creation. And Martyn is right to call this "radical." So what would marriage look like in the new creation? Moreover, would it even exist? And for the community of believers who are in Jesus Christ and called to witness to the Gospel, are we not to witness to this new creation, however feebly, in our very lives?
I'd be interested to hear your thoughts about this.