Joshua Ohlman is the 22-year-old, eldest son of Vaughn and Mary Ohlman, and is currently living in Lubbock, TX. He currently attends South Point Bible Chapel. Following is a transcript of a live phone interview. Candidness was retained as much as possible. The interview is presented in five parts.
What are your views on what a biblical marriage is? What does that look like? What is the purpose of marriage? What is your picture of a biblical marriage?
I would say that’s a pretty big question; so there is a lot more that could be added to that. But I think that the core of a biblical marriage revolves around two things: One is the covenant to a biblical marriage (and that is more of a definitional thing than an actual description). And the other thing I would say—well, I’m trying to think through this because I’ve actually helped work on answering this question in writing, and I want to be careful because it's an important question. I would say a biblical marriage is about the actual marriage relationship, as in the physical relationship; it’s about commitment and covenant; it's about being fruitful and multiplying, having children, it's about it not being good for man to be alone and that he needs a help meet. I would say that these four principles are part of the definition of marriage.
So, to answer that question more fully, I’d really like to—probably there is a section in “The Covenant of Betrothal” that would answer that, and I would probably agree with that 100%.
To follow up on that, if you could put it in one or two sentences, how would you answer the question “Why did God institute marriage and the family?”
I would say God instituted marriage and the family to glorify Him (that’s the general reason), to fill the earth, to provide a helper for the man, and—this purpose is sort of after the Fall; so I don’t know if it exactly fits into the question—but the last answer would be to prevent fornication.
Briefly state your belief regarding the path to marriage. How do you believe one should go from being unmarried to married?
I believe that you should do that according to the principles that Scripture lays out and that some of those principles take precedence over others. But primarily I would say that, biblically-speaking, it’s the father’s role to initiate the process and to provide a wife for his son, and it’s the father of the bride’s role to be (as it were) the “authority” in that the marriage happens when the father of the bride says, “Yes, it’s going to happen.”
I think the key principles that I believe in are: one, that marriage should be happening young, and that’s obviously a bit of a subjective term there, “young”. But I think that at least, I would say, that the Scriptures say they should be happening young. I would say that of either of the two parties, the man or the woman, the man should be the one taking the initiative if the fathers aren't taking initiative. In a lot of ways, one thing my dad and I have always been talking about and trying to correct is the idea that the exact process is important.
But, the examples that we see in Scripture are several different processes that all followed a very similar set of principles but that were different in the way they worked out.
So, the “skeleton” is the same, but the “meat” hanging on it is maybe a little different?
Right. And part of the problem, since we’re going from examples, we have to have wisdom to decide which part of the example is one of the principles that it shared with the other examples and which part is specific to this story and has some other importance. So, for example, the marriage of Isaac and Rebekah as opposed to the marriage of Jacob and Rachel—we don’t see clear indications in either of those stories that say “yes, you should do this” or “no, you should not do that”. Obviously we can surmise that Isaac’s story was better for a variety of reasons, but when we go to actually saying “Which principles do we do?” it is a little bit harder. And I think that that in itself is probably a sign that the exact process—you know, “Step 1 is A, and Step 2 is B, and Step 3 is C…”—is not as important as the idea of “OK, here’s the principles.”
And so, one of those principles obviously, I mentioned, is young marriage. Another one I would say is the idea that the marriage process should be avoiding the temptation and the opportunity for fornication. I think that if you look at Isaac’s marriage, you’ll see “well, wait a minute, Isaac didn’t get involved at all”, and so there was no opportunity for him to do anything. If you look at what’s important in Scripture, one of those things is a big emphasis that fornication is a bad thing.
So, let me see if I can think of a few more principles that I would say I definitely hold to. One of them is the idea that it’s better if there is a real solid covenant at the earliest state possible. If you look at the three example marriages (Adam and Eve, Isaac and Rebekah, Christ and the Church), all three of those were founded on covenants that existed long before either of the parties met each other. Obviously you could debate whether Christ—Christ obviously knew about His bride before He came, but in the case of two of those stories, the bride was actually created after the covenant was made. And so, I think that’s a clear principle that says this whole idea that we should be forming quasi-relationships beforehand is out of whack.
So, obviously the betrothal process is quite a bit different from what most people are doing today. Have you always held to this view or have you believed that other processes were equally good at other points in your life?
Well, I sort of started thinking about this issue about the same time that my dad started thinking about betrothal. And so, I can remember way back in the back of my mind having this kind of a “courtship” idea. And I remember at the time we as a family had discussed it just a little bit, and I remember the kind of idea that the girl was not going to be involved, you know? And as we went on to study it, it actually became an important issue to me. We suddenly started going “oh, wait a minute, how about this whole ‘betrothal’ thing?” And so, while in some ways you could say that I did have a prior idea, which was a little more like courtship, and at one time I think I even had—I remember my dad saying something like “Big boys don’t cry. Save those tears for when your girlfriend breaks up with you or something SERIOUS like that.” So, there is that cultural history.
But from the time that I started saying, “OK, what is the RIGHT way to go about getting married”, almost at exactly that same point, we started studying betrothal. So, obviously in the process of studying it we were sort of holding our beliefs in suspension, like “OK, we’re studying this right now, so obviously we don’t have a real firm position just yet.”
Note: Since this post was published Joshua has since gotten married.
 Note by Joshua:
I couldn't find the section in covenant of betrothal that I was looking for, I was probably thinking of these paragraphs that I wrote around the same time that I was helping to edit the covenant of betrothal:
God has ordained marriage for his own glory. Marriage glorifies God as a metaphor of Christ and the Church and the marriage of God and Israel. Marriage also glorifies God through the way’s in which it benefits man, by providing him with a help meet, enabling him to raise up a Godly seed helping him fulfill the dominion mandate, and preventing uncleanness. (1 Cor 7:2,9; Gen 1:28; Gen 2:18; Eph 5:22; Pro 31:10-31; Pro 5:15-20)
Every marriage consists of a covenant and a consummation.The biblical pattern consists of the covenant first before the consummation and is a metaphor and reflection of the marriage of Christ and the Church and the marriage of God and Israel. (Eph 5:22-33; 2 Cor 11:2; Gen 24:50-51,64-65; Mat 1:18; Luke 1:27)
Written by: Jeff Woodward (interviewer) Approved by: Joshua Ohlman Approved by: Vaughn Ohlman